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calendar   Monday - October 11, 2010

Never a Dull Moment

One thing I can say for being a handyman is that the work is never repetitive. Unlike the guys who work in factories, screwing the same 4 nuts to the same part 800 times a day, I never seem to do the same job twice. Well, except for cleaning windows. They’re all pretty much alike. Mostly.

Last night it was installing steel shelving and assembling a cabinet. Customer has one of those wall mounted pigeon hole racks used to keep thousands of paper folders in. Can I put one more of them up on the wall? Sure. I get there and find out that the racks are attached to each other with rivets. Rivets! So I had to drill them out and then figure out how to install new ones without the proper riveting tool. Answer, naturally, was a big old hammer. Then I had to put together one of those little wooden cabinets with drawers. Save money, put it together yourself! Great idea until the customer got overwhelmed by the fussy little parts and the two dozen pages of “insert tab A into slot B” instructions. So that was 90 minutes work for me and a couple hundred itsy bitsy little screws. Magnetic screwdriver bits are a blessing.

This morning it’s adjust a bi-fold door and replace a floor threshold. Oh fun. Nothing like lying down on the floor trying to work that finicky little adjusting bolt underneath. Followed by prying up a bunch of nails. And then getting paid to go shopping! Then later on I have to do the plumbing on a sink. Looks like the pop-up lever has worn out and it’s leaking, so I’ve got to put a new downpipe and lever in. Better find my little jar of plumber’s putty for that job.

Tomorrow? Who knows? Every time the phone rings it’s something new. Never a dull moment.


Update: two jobs down, mostly. Laminate flooring installers: I hate you all.

First, the bi-fold. It had popped off the mount. No big deal, 10 seconds to put it back on. Right? WRONG. The customer has been living for 20 years with a pair of bi-fold doors that would not close properly. And the right hand door was 3/4” lower than the left hand door. What is it with people that they will accept crap like this and just live with it?? So I fixed it ...

How To Adjust Bi-Fold Doors Properly: The $1 solution. Or the $1.50 solution if you’ve got the space.
Bi-fold doors are all pretty much the same. At the hinge end you’ve got a spring loaded plunger on the top that fits into a hole in an adjustable slider clamp that rides in the top track. At the bottom you’ve got some sort of socket mounted to the floor, and the door has a screw-in pin with some sort of collar on it. At the knob end of the door there is always a roller wheel on top that also rides in the top track. Installing a set of these doors is not hard, but adjusting them can be a right pain in the buttocks. They are fussy, and to make it look right you have to get both doors exactly the same.

So, here’s how to use that dollar. With the doors not yet mounted, use your long level to find where the bulges are in the side walls. Trust me, they are there. There is no such thing as a straight wall. Take a few inches of painter’s tape or masking tape and tape a quarter to the wall on the two highest bulges on each wall. 4 quarters = $1. Loosen the top adjustable slider clamp and slide it towards the middle of the track about a foot. Measure (A) the height of the opening from the floor to the bottom of the top track. Measure (B) the height of the door and (C) the height of the floor socket. A-B-C - 1/8” = D, the distance from the bottom of the door to the underside of the collar on the screw-in pin on the bottom of the door. Screw the pin in or out until you get that distance. Now comes the fun part. Fold the door panels mostly together and lift them up at an angle, like that Rosenberg photo of the Marines planting the flag on Iwo Jima. Insert the floor pin in it’s hole (if the floor pin socket rides in a track) or in the track (if you have the splined [grooved, looks like a pinion gear]) style floor pin. Slowly straighten the doors up towards vertical and get the top pin into the slider clamp. Now, with the outer panel in the half open position (about 45° relative to the top track) push the doors towards the wall until they contact the 2 quarters. Stop. Tighten the top sliding clamp. Push down on the roller wheel and maneuver the inner panel so that the roller snaps into the top track. Open the door fully and peel the two taped quarters off the wall. If you have the style that also has a slider clamp on the bottom pin socket then tighten that one now as well. You’re done. The quarters work as spacers, and give you the clearance you need so that the door doesn’t scrape the wall when you open an close it. That 1/8” of excess vertical distance can be adjusted out later if necessary. Repeat the process with the other door.

The other 50¢? Most bi-fold doors come in standard widths. Builders build to these widths, and they sometimes (ha!!!) take shortcuts. So sometimes the opening is a bit wider than necessary. Bi-fold doors do not have to contact each other to fit properly, but you want them to be pretty close to each other when closed. If you find that you’ve got a wider opening than the door minimally need, and that your two doors are closing and nearly hitting each other, then open one and tape a quarter to the top and bottom of the edge that the other door butts up against, and then adjust one of the doors over, top and bottom, so that it closes against the quarters on the other door. Tighten the clamps, remove the quarters. You now have clearance and the gap between the doors is even top to bottom.

Today I did not have clearance. These doors were a very tight fit to the walls. So I did the “quarters trick” with the thin blade of a wide drywall knife, and that gave me just enough room so that the doors now open and close without contacting the walls or each other. But damn, I couldn’t slide a dime between both doors when closed. But it is warm and humid today, so I’m guessing the wood is expanded, and a tight fit like that will only get bigger when the wood shrinks due to colder and drier weather. Good enough.

Oh, the one door being 3/4” lower than the other? Geex. Some whizbang decided that the door opening needed some fancy molding over the top to make it pretty. So they installed grooved molding horizontally over the opening, right down to the bottom of the track. Hides it real well, sure. And then they put those square wood rondel medallions on each end, centered on the height of the grooved molding. Which means that the end of the medallion hung down 1/2” lower. Below the edge of the track. DUH. So when Whizbang #2 installed the door, he mounted that side real low so that it cleared the medallion. DOUBLE DUH. I popped the medallion off the wall, raised it up a bit, then glued it back on. Then I adjusted that door up so that it just cleared the medallion and the track, and that fixed things so that the height difference between both doors when closed is less than 1/8” of a inch. Looks right, works right. Customer is very happy but pissed off at the guys who first installed the door and at herself for living with poorly hung doors for 20 years. “Everything’s fine now”, I told her, “they just needed a little love and attention.” And $50 in my pocket.

Oh yeah: my hating on laminate floor installers. You lazy bastards. You worthless twats. Every damn one of these things I run across is installed by drooling morons. Yes, I understand fully what a floating wood floor is and how they must be installed. You have to allow some edge room for the wood to expand seasonally. That’s why you take the baseboard molding off first and then measure and cut!!! ( and honestly, the less expensive laminate floors are just vinyl or veneer over pressboard, which doesn’t expand or contract for shit, so it can be cut to a tighter fit ) But oh no. Every last one of these rotters comes in, measures between the existing baseboard molding, then cuts the flooring a full inch less than that, both in length and width. Then they install the floor, hopefully over a membrane, and cover over the massive edge gaps with a giant ass strip of inch and a half quarter round. And they use the cheap crap too, which isn’t even wood. It’s wood tone vinyl over pressboard. So the customer ends up losing an inch and a half of room length and width because they now have two different kinds of baseboard molding. And it looks like total shite. Pull of the customer’s molding you lazy gits, put in the floor and then sell them some slightly thicker molding and install it and paint it. Use shoe molding if necessary. This quarter round “fix” is a kludge, not a solution.

I have to go shop for the replacement threshold now. The two I bought her were close, but not the best color match. And it looks like I’ll have to trim the flooring a little to get a best fit, and I’ll have to leverage the hardware store guy’s knowledge for some how to: the threshold installs over and between the end of the laminate floor and the carpet in the next room, but the subfloor for both rooms is all concrete from the same pour. That means there is no wood directly beneath the threshold. And that means I have to learn how I can nail the thing in to concrete. The old one gave the flooring guys fits. You can tell. First they tried to hold it on with glue. That didn’t work, duh. Then they tried to pin it on with a dozen brads from their air nailer. That didn’t work either; the underside of their POS pressboard threshold is littered with bent up brads that didn’t shoot into the concrete. Finally they just screwed the thing on with three massive black dual-thread concrete screws (aka backerboard screws). That held, but it looks like crap. There has to be a better way. And as part of my $75 for this job (plus parts), I’ll find it.

Off to the hardware store!


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 10/11/2010 at 11:40 AM   
Filed Under: • work and the workplace •  
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