Light Townhouse Rehab - Project #6, Weeks #12 and #13

My, isn't this project taking a while! Other projects and a week off on vacation have taken their toll on the progress.

After getting back from the trip on Friday, I picked where I left off on Saturday morning with installing the strips of drywall that had been trimmed from the bottom of each wall.I also installed the laminate wood flooring at the entrance of the house. The laminate will stand up to dirt and water being tracked in from outside much better than carpeting.

I also was able to install the remaining strips of drywall in the house. I also spent time "mudding" and patching drywall damage. Below is a picture of the basement, with the strips installed, walls mostly mudded where needed and a coat of primer rolled out. I say "mostly mudded" because once the primer is rolled out, the spots that were missed become apparent. Notice in the picture below that the corner has a spot that still needs some mud.

Next up on the list was to cut and install the new base trim. The trim I bought was made from MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), which is really nice to work with. It's also cheaper than solid or finger-jointed wood trim! Aside from cutting it to length, the only real trick is dealing with the corners. What it takes is a combination of mitering and "coping" the trim.

Mitering the trim refers to the practice of cutting both ends of the trim at complementary angles where the meet. With an interior corner, you would be tempted to think that the angle is 90 degrees, and that each mating piece should then be cut at a 45 degree angle. Well, in the perfect world with perfectly square and level walls, that would work fine. But we all know that walls are not square! Nine times out of 10, a pair of strips cut at a 45 degree would fail to fit together properly and the joint would look bad. You could fuss with it and try cutting one or both of the pieces at a different angle(s), but that takes a lot of time and effort. The solution to this problem is to "cope" the joints.

"Coping the joints" is a term named after the saw used to shape the trim. A coping saw has a deep throat and a skinny blade, which makes it possible to follow a pattern or line while cutting. When coping a joint, the first step is to nail up a section of trim that is cut to length. The ends of the trim will have normal 90 degree cuts on them, as seen below.

The next piece of trim will be coped to mate with the first that was already nailed to the corner. To prepare the "coped" end, use a miter saw to cut off the end at a 45 degree angle across the face of the trim.

Next, use the coping saw and cut along the trim, following along the edge of where the mitered cut meets the face of the trim. This creates a profile that will meet up with the first piece that was installed.

Trial-fit the trim pieces together and see what you get. In this case, the bottom of the trim is hitting first and preventing a tight joint.

A quick touch with the belt sander, and now they fit together nicely. Also notice that when installing the trim in a room that will be carpeted, the trim does not rest on the floor. I have spaced it up by 1/2 inch with scraps of drywall - this will give the carpet installers a place to tuck the edges of the carpet.

Backing up, here is a picture of the trim with the coped joint, all nailed up to the walls. There are some gaps at the top of the trim, and the joint between the two pieces in the corner are still slightly visible. This is a perfectly acceptable situation.

Using latex painter's caulk, apply a bead to fill in the gaps. Use your finger and smooth down the bead to produce a clean looking joint. Here's a picture of the exact same joint once it has been caulked.

I also started installing base trim in the bathrooms. In the bathrooms that have a shower or tub, I don't use wood base trim. You can purchase the same trim profiles made out of vinyl-clad urethane, and they will never rot, warp or otherwise get damaged by water. Since the trim already has an attractive bright white finish, I don't want to mess it up by nailing it into place. Instead, I use silicone adhesive to hold it in place. Just like the wooden trim, the edges are coped to fit. In the picture below, you can see the first piece up against the back wall, and the coped piece ready to join it. I run a bead of white silicone caulk in the corner joint, and all along the backside of the trim.

The second piece is set in place, and held against the wall for several hours until the silicone cures. To keep the trim in place while the silicone cures, I wedge pieces of wood against the trim and the opposite walls. While this installation method takes time, the smooth finish with no nail holes makes it worth the effort.

In the bathrooms, I also took the opportunity to replace the shutoff valves and the grungy escutcheon (trim) plates. This set was sticking out a bit too far for my taste, so I used a pipe cutter and simply trimmed off the old ones.

With the pipes trimmed, the copper is cleaned up to remove any corrosion or dirt. I'm using compression fittings here, which install without the need for any soldering. After putting on the new escutcheon plates, slide on the compression nuts, followed by small brass sleeves over the end of the pipe.

Next, the valves are slid onto the end of the pipe. Make sure to push them all the way against the end of the pipe - you should feel the pipe "bottom out" on the inside of the valve.

While holding the valve steady and bottomed out on the pipe with one wrench, use another to tighten the compression nut. As the compression nut is tightended, the brass sleeves are forced into tapered recesses inside both the valve body and nut. The tapers squeeze the sleeve hard enough to form a tight seal that is capable of withstanding several hundred PSI. Looking much better with them installed!

Next update, we will continue with putting the bathrooms back together, painting and preparing for the new carpet to be installed. Come back and see the progress!

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