Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nail Guns:To Use Or Not To Use

Whether you call them nail guns, air nailers, pneumatic air nailers, or just nailers, these tools have become a big part in the homebuilding process. Many if not all aspects of framing a house can be accomplished using a framing nailer. Most framing nailers shoot a wide range of different size nails, from 2" to 3 1/2" nails (6d to16d). Not only can these guns save time in framing a house but they can also save wear and tear on a framers wrist, elbow and shoulder.

Starting with the sill plate, the nail gun can be used to nail the floor joists to them. With the right nose on the safety, the joists can be toe nailed to the sill plate. The safety has a sawtooth configuration which allows it to dig into the work and not slide off during the toe nail shot. The nail gun can then be used to nail on the rim joists using 16d nails.

After the joists are nailed in, its time for the tongue and groove decking. To nail this down by hammer can be labor intensive. Time and labor can be saved by using a nail gun. The plywood or OSB can be tacked in place and one person can follow and nail off all the decking (using 8d nails).

When it comes to walls an air powered nailer can really be put to the task. A framing contractor may want to utilize two guns in this situation. Nail guns also come in handy when nailing the door and window headers together. A header for an opening as small as 36 inches can have as many as two dozen nails. A house can have 20 or more headers that size or larger. That can be a lot of 16d nails to drive by hand, not to mention the time it would take.

If the walls are to be sheathed with plywood, nail guns can cut your time down here too. Just like the plywood on the deck, time and labor can be saved using a nail gun.

Even though walls may be framed a little quicker using nail guns, there are still carpenters and contractors who still would rather frame walls by hand nailing. The reasoning behind this is they feel the joint between the plate and the stud ends can be drawn up tighter than with a gun. In some instances this is true.

When it comes to ceiling joists and rafters, hand nailing may be the preferred framing method. Ceiling joists and rafters involve a lot of toe nailing to fasten them to the top plate. Some carpenters feel it is easier to draw joists and rafters tighter to the plate and to the line nailing by hand. Using a nail gun could be awkward working at that height (two story) and dragging a hose around the framing could be a challenge. The hose could be a trip hazzard. Nailing the rafters to the ridge board is easier with a nail gun, especially if it involves nailing overhead, but there is still the hose to contend with.

Like the plywood on the deck and walls, nailing the plywood off on the roof is quicker with a nail gun. It can be done just like the deck. Tack it down and then have one man nail off the rest with the nail gun.

Nail guns aren't the answer for every homebuilding task,but they definitely have their place on the job. They can save time, labor and wear and tear on the body on certain parts of the process.

Mike Merisko (c) 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Installing An Exterior Door

Installing an exterior door is one of the easiest of all door installations. Whether the door is installed in new construction or in a replacement situation, there are a few factors that make this an easy task.

The biggest reason this is a simple operation is that these doors come prehung. What this means is the door is already hung in its jamb. The hinges are mortised into the door and jamb and screwed in place. The door is held in position by the hinge pins, leaving the perfect reveal around the door and the jambs top and sides. The holes are also bored for the lockset and if necessary, for the deadbolt too. Exterior doors come in wood, fiberglass, and the most popular, steel. The two sizes are normaly used for exterior doors are 32" and 36". With the sizes of todays furniture and appliances the smart choice is the 36" door. The standard height for a door is 6'8" but taller ones can be special ordered.

The exterior trim comes nailed to the jamb. This trim, called brickmoulding, is mitred and already installed, saving the installer(s) another step. These doors also have an aluminum threshold already attached to the legs of the jambs. All these things make the door and jamb one cohesive unit.

The standard jamb size is 4 and 1/2 inches wide. With the demand for a higher insulation R value in exterior walls, 2x6 framing is being used more frequently. Jambs to fit these walls, 6 1/2 inches, are becoming more common. Jamb widths can be made to order for whatever a projects needs are and would cost more.

To install an exterior door, first check to see if the rough opening is correct. The width of the opening should be 2" wider than the door itself (38" for a 36" door, 34" for a 32" door). For a rough opening height 83" will suffice for most door manufacturers. Also check to see if the framing and floor is reasonably plumb.

Door installation is easier with 2 people but can be done alone. Put the door in the opening from the outside. If you are working alone, tack the door to the wall through the brickmoulding, not driving the nails home. I like to use galvenized ring shank splitless nails that are used for cedar siding. They don't split the wood and the smaller heads are not as obvious to the eye. The ring shank feature gives them great holding power.

With the door tacked in the opening, go to the inside of the door and check the reveals around the door. There should be about an eighth of an inch all around the door. Shim the jambs of the door so the reveals are right. Check the door jamb on the hinge side for plumb. If it is not plumb, then the floor is out of level. One jamb leg or the other will need to be shimmed so the threshold is level. Now readjust the reveals by moving the door and jambs sideways in the opening to a point where the reveals are right. Once the door and jamb are in position, shim the jamb at each hinge and at the strike, top and bottom on the strike side. Nail the shims in place by nailing through the jamb, through the shims and into the framing. Check the door swing to see if it opens and closes properly. If all is well, go outside and nail through the brickmould using the splitless nails to nail the door frame to the house.

Most door manufacturers provide long screws that replace some of the shorter screws in the hinges on the jamb. The top hinge is the most important place to use one or two of these screws.
These screws go through the jamb and into the framing and keep the door from sagging over time.

Most doors come with an adjustable threshold. This may have to be adjusted up or down to create an airtight seal.

With the door securely in the opening, it is ready for door hardware installation.

Mike Merisko (c) 2007