Author Archives: Thumb and Hammer

Episode022: Measure Twice, Cut Thrice

We’ve all heard the expression, “Measure twice, cut once.”  We all know what that means: double check your measurements before you make the cut.  Mistakes can cost you time and material.  In this episode of the podcast I share some of the measuring mistakes that I have made and the reasons for them.  Maybe it will help you avoid making the same mistakes.

Topics covered

  • The tape measure:  all those hash marks start to look the same at the end of a long day.
  • Keeping track of measurements: memory vs. keeping a cut list
  • What do The Temptations have to do with this?
  • Standard measurements:  whose standards?
  • How important is accuracy anyway?
  • One door for the price of two, one door frame for the price of three
  • Two ways to avoid measurement errors (one is to avoid measuring)
As they say on the tube in London: “Mind the gap”  This is what it looks like when you trim something that doesn’t need to be trimmed.



Tom Silva explains how to divide any measurement in half without math.


Tom Silva shares some cool measuring tricks in this video, including the elastic band technique for evenly spaced balusters.


Story sticks:  Article from Canadian Woodworking magazine.

Add Trim Without the Tape Measure (Our Home from Scratch)


Episode Partner  Shop a selection of high quality tile from the comfort of your own home.   Use the coupon code HAMMER at checkout to save 20% off your order.

021: Permits, legal stuff and DIY (podcast)

Just because you can “Do It Yourself” doesn’t necessarily mean you can do it yourself.

Before you start that home improvement project, do you know what permits are required?  Are you even qualified to legally do the work yourself?

In this episode of the podcast, I share some of my own experiences, some legal and some perhaps not so much.



  • Electrical work without permits, both DIY and “professional”
  • Unethical (and possibly illegal) advice from the building centre.
  • Undoing bad electrical work by previous owner.
  • Why we downgraded a panel upgrade (a 2×4 was involved).
  • A completely legal electrical panel replacement.
  • The strange law in Ontario regarding doing your own electrical work.
  • The strict law in Quebec regarding any electrical work.
  • What I learned from my interaction with the building department (spoiler alert:  permits aren’t the money-grab we accuse them of being).


Links, resources

Electrical Safety Authority (Ontario):  Regulator and advocate of public electrical safety in the province of Ontario, Canada

Legality of DIY Electrical and Plumbing Work (Jon Eakes)


Episode Partner

Paintzen takes the pain out of painting by providing a seamless process from start to finish.  Be sure to use the coupon code “HAMMER” to save $50 on your project.

020: What I did during my summer vacation (Podcast)

I had some ambitious plans this summer.  Stuff was going to get done.  In this episode of the podcast, I explore some of the reasons why I did not accomplish what I planned to accomplish during my summer vacation.

Topics covered in this podcast

Can’t be in two places at the same time:  It’s impossible to work on a project at the same time as running to the home center for supplies.

Project Creep:  Where does one project end and another one begin?

Time estimates and reality:  Television and videos can distort how long a project will actually take.  Whether it’s large crews working behind the scenes or simply fancy editing, you never really get a realistic picture of how long it will take you to complete a project.  I show my age here by referring to the “makeover in a weekend” shows like Trading Spaces and While You Were Out from back in the 2000’s.  Time flies.  It’s hard to believe those shows have been off the air for more than a decade.   Trading Spaces is coming back in 2018.

The boring stuff takes time too:  There are plenty of tasks that don’t make for exciting TV or video that aren’t shown.  But those tasks still need to be done.

Links and Resources

BluWood:  wood coating system that resists moisture and mould growth

Trading Spaces :  Wikipedia entry for the television show.

John Heisz :  Chainsaw Art – Spalted Maple Foot Stool Cut From A Log


John Heisz:  Talking About Subscribers And Other Stuff While Oiling My Stool


Episode Partner

Paintzen takes the pain out of painting by providing a seamless process from start to finish.  Be sure to use the coupon code “HAMMER” to save $50 on your project.

018: Allow me to vent (Podcast)

I didn’t realize until after I finished editing that there is a common theme running through each of the topics discussed in this episode.  Sort of.  Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch, but how else was I going to tie everything together?  I start with an update on the workshop as I look into options for heating it.  I answer an email question about insulation and ventilation in a 1-1/2 story Cape Cod.  And I comment on some news regarding the impending trades shortage, construction jobs and what the career choices of Millenials might mean for homeowners.

Listen to the episode


Topics Covered

3 options for heating a garage / workshop

The advantages and disadvantages of these popular heat sources.

  • Forced air gas unit (which needs to be vented)
  • Infrared Radiant Tubes
  • Mini-split Ductless

Insulating and Ventilating a 1-1/2 story Cape Cod

I received this email question a while back and thought it was worth discussing on the podcast.

  • How to fully ventilate the upper level (or “attic”) from soffits to peak.
  • Maximizing the insulation of a cathedral slope ceiling while maintaining that ventilation
  • No soffits? No Problem.  SmartVent by DCI is the solution.
  • Creating an “envelope” house by using spray foam as an alternative.  (No vents needed?)

Trades, construction and Millenials

We’ve known about the impending trades shortage for at least a decade as Baby Boomers retire.  The post-recession building boom is creating a lot of construction jobs that aren’t being filled.  And Millenials?  Well, they don’t seem to want to work in construction or in the trades.  What is that going to mean for us in the next decade or so and what can we do about it?  Not sure if this qualifies as a rant, but I guess you could say that I am venting.


Links and Resources

Insulating the roof above an attic knee wall (  includes diagram, which can also be found on this website here.

The entire attic renovation on from start to finish on this website.

SmartVent by DCI:  A solution for ventilation when no soffits exist.

Ace on the House Podcast episode.  Adam Carolla welcomes Doug McDonald of to discuss the “envelope house”

News article about Young Americans Unwilling to Work High-Paying Construction Jobs


This episode is sponsored by Thomas Avenue Ceramics

Browse their selection of beautiful, high quality floor tiles, wall tiles, back splashes and mosaics all from the comfort of your own home at   Everything you need is available at the click of a button and when you are ready to make a purchase, be sure to click through my link and use the coupon code “HAMMER” to save 20% off of your order.


017: Honey-Do or Honey-Done (Podcast)

The “honey-do” list.  What would our weekends be without one?

In this episode of the podcast, I talk about how I will actually write my own detailed list of everything I want to get done on a particular weekend.  And I discuss why this does not always work as intended and why it may sometimes be better to shift focus.

Also, I offer my own spin on a question that was answered by Adam Carolla on Adam Carolla and Friends Build Stuff Live.  What is the best solution when a washer and dryer are just slightly too deep for a laundry closet?

Meanwhile, in real life, I have turned my attention to the garage, which will become my woodworking shop.  I start this episode off talking about what is going on with that project.

Plus, as a bonus, you will also hear about my daughter’s broken toe.  (Spoiler alert:  her dad is a klutz).

016: If you ask me… (podcast)

I don’t consider myself an expert in home improvements, but I try to learn as much as I can and I would like to think that I have gained at least some knowledge in my 20 years of home ownership.

I listen to a variety of home improvement podcasts and radio shows and watch some television.  I have a lot of respect for the experts on these shows, but there are times that I find myself disagreeing with their advice.

In this episode of the podcast, I revisit a question that was originally featured on The Money Pit Radio Show, and offer my own perspective:  Is it okay to give up a second bathroom and convert it to a laundry room?

But first, I talk about the previous owner of our own money pit.  It was his handiwork that resulted in extensive structural damage to that house.  I explore some of my emotions and how they have evolved.  If you are having to fix problems caused by a previous owner, you will find this episode interesting.

Resources and Links

The Money Pit Radio Show: Live from New England (part 1):  The question and original responses regarding converting a bathroom into a laundry room can be found near the end of the episode.

Greetings from THAT House:  Episode of this podcast where I go into deeper detail about some of the problems we faced with that house, largely due to the previous owner’s handiwork.

Demolition of the ensuite bathroom:  This blog post will give you a better idea of what issues we were dealing with in the bathroom.

Key takeaways

From the first segment:  No do-it-yourselfer intentionally puts their family in danger.  None of us want our house to collapse around us.

From the second segment:  We put too much emphasis on the resale value of a house, instead of focusing on how the house is working for us while we are living in it.


This episode is sponsored by Thomas Avenue Ceramics

Browse their selection of beautiful, high quality floor tiles, wall tiles, back splashes and mosaics all from the comfort of your own home at   Everything you need is available at the click of a button and when you are ready to make a purchase, be sure to click through my link and use the coupon code “HAMMER” to save 20% off of your order.


015: Adventures in Moving and The Psycho Ex

Selling our house was like ending bad relationship.  No matter how hard we tried,  the relationship was never going to work.  We accepted the fact that it was best for everyone involved to just move on.

And move on we did.  We bought a new house and our house got a new owner.   But the transition was anything but smooth.

Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong will go wrong.  Were the events leading up to moving day simply due to Murphy’s Law?   Or did our house somehow become the psycho ex, making our lives miserable while it still could?  Okay, it was mostly Murphy’s Law.  It’s just easier to blame the ex.

This is the tale of the series of unfortunate events that occurred between the time we crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s on the real estate papers and moving day,  and which ones we could have avoided.


Topics Covered

  • Taking our time packing.
  • Why shopping for new furniture wasn’t the best idea.  Filling the house with new furniture caused more problems than it was worth.
  • The consequences of spending money before we had it.
  • Bad timing of breakdowns, mishaps and mortality.
  • It’s important to pay close attention to schedules.  We didn’t and this is what happened.
  • What we should have done differently to make the move easier.


Links to additional content

This podcast is the third in a series that covers our move from the money pit where we lived for almost 13 years to our current house.

Episode 13: Adventures in Real Estate covers the decision to put our house on the market leading up to the sale.

Episode 14: The DIY Shuffle covers the first year of ownership of our current house.


This episode is sponsored by Thomas Avenue Ceramics

Browse their selection of beautiful, high quality floor tiles, wall tiles, back splashes and mosaics all from the comfort of your own home at   Everything you need is available at the click of a button and when you are ready to make a purchase, be sure to click through my link and use the coupon code “HAMMER” to save 20% off of your order.


014 The DIY Shuffle (Podcast)

The Thumb and Hammer Home Improvement Podcast returns after a break of a little over a year.  And what a year it’s been.  The topic of this episode will be familiar to anyone who has read my blog, as I recently wrote a post about The DIY Shuffle.

What is the DIY Shuffle?  Well, it refers to the shuffling of stuff from one part of the house to another during home improvement projects.  Quite often some stuff gets moved around multiple times.   It also refers to shuffling from one project to another before the first project is finished.  For the last year, we have been doing both versions of this dance.

This is the story of how I managed to turn a house that was in “just-move-in” condition into a construction zone and what we could have done differently to avoid this mess.

Listen to the episode

Topics Discussed

  • The very first time we set foot in the house, I was already talking about doing some minor demolition and re-framing in the master bedroom, much to the horror of the real estate agent and my wife.
  • The very first day we owned this home, I started with that minor demolition.
  • Our ambitious plans for the first week of owning this house and how they were doomed to failure.
  • How a “weekend project” in the master bedroom escalated, and why it remains unfinished a year later.
  • The “shuffling” of our daughter’s bedroom and the guest room.
  • “Please don’t blame my doggy;  it’s not his fault at all….”  (Benny Hill fans will understand this reference).
  • Why I have trouble finding some of my tools.
  • Takeaways and lessons learned.


The DIY Shuffle (original blog post, contains photos)

The TripleSafe Sump Pump System from Basement Systems

Here is a good explanation of how a bridge loan works.  Our loan was for a period of one week.  That is, we closed on the house we were buying one week before we closed on the house we were selling.

The DIY Shuffle

Looking back on 2016…


So we bought ourselves another house– one that was not butchered by a previous owner.  It may not be perfect but at least it’s structurally sound.  So you would think we would just move in, breathe a huge sigh of relief, and enjoy living in a house that is not a constant construction zone before diving into some home improvements.

Well, you would be wrong.

I wish you were right.  I really do.  But it turns out that I am a sick man.  I cannot look at a house– any house– without seeing flaws.  And apparently I cannot live in a house– any house– without turning at least half of it into a big DIY project.


It started at the first showing

The very first time we set foot in this house with our real estate agent, I criticized the closet in the master bedroom.  The closet was six and a half feet wide, but the opening was only four feet and was over to one side, leaving 2 feet of closet space behind a wall.

No problem, I said.  I can re-frame that door opening.

Yes.  I was already talking about renovating a house we had only set foot in less than ten minutes before.  Our agent was appalled.

I also said I wasn’t crazy about the popcorn ceiling in the master but noticing the glares from both by wife and the agent, I quickly added that I could live with it.

We walked through the rest of the house and we loved enough about it to put in an offer that night, knowing that there was going to be a lot of competition for this particular property.


It started the first day of ownership

The same day we got the keys to the house, I started demolition in the bedroom to re-frame the closet doorway.  We had a bridge loan, so we actually owned both houses at the same time for a week.  Our ambitious plan was to paint the bedrooms and the family room, plus do this little framing project in the master before we had to be out of our old house.

closet demolition
First week of home ownership and demolition of the closet begins

We both took vacation time so it’s not like we were completely delusional.

However, the master bedroom didn’t stop with the closet.  I ended up scraping the popcorn ceiling and taking up the laminate floor which had some unsightly damage in a highly visible high traffic area.  The room was in construction zone mode when we closed on our other house and had to move the rest of our stuff in.

We were already down a bedroom and we hadn’t done any painting at all.

And thus began…..


The DIY Shuffle

So, what exactly is the DIY Shuffle?

  1.  Moving (or shuffling) stuff from one area of the house to another in order to work on a project in the first area.
  2.   Jumping (or shuffling) from one project to another without finishing the first one.  Having multiple unfinished projects going at the same time.

Both of these definitions apply.

Our house is a four level back-split.  Living room, dining room and kitchen are on the main floor.  You go up half a dozen steps to three bedrooms and a bathroom.  You go down half a dozen steps to the family room and a bonus room, and then down another half dozen steps to the basement, which has another family room, plus a large laundry room and mechanical room (picture a traditional ranch style house split in the middle with half of it shifted up half a storey).

We plan to use the rooms thusly:

Upstairs:  Master bedroom, daughter’s bedroom and daughter’s study.  Downstairs: the bonus room becomes the guest room.  And the second family room in the basement will become my home office.


Moving day (January)

The master bedroom is a construction zone so we put our bedroom in the study and set up our daughter in her bedroom.  The guest room is used for temporary storage of stuff until we can find a place for it.   And my computer and desk go down in the office.  Wall hangings are stored temporarily in the office area.  A lot of our stuff is in self-storage.  My larger woodworking tools are in storage.  The rest of my tools are either in the garage or in the laundry room.


The flood waters cometh (February)

A sump pump failure and heavy rains.  Hundreds of gallons of water.  It was a mess.

flooded basement
Water, water, everywhere

We manage to move stuff out of the basement but we quickly run out of places to put it.  We have now spread clutter throughout the house.

The waterproofing gets done in July but the walls still need to be repaired and new flooring needs to be installed.

french drain waterproofing
Waterproofing the basement with a French drain system (July)

A place for everything and everything in its place?  Nope!


Electrical work (April)

We needed a new panel and I wanted the garage wired for my woodworking shop so we hired an electrician.  To give him room to work in the garage, I move some of the boxes of tools to the garden shed.


The in-laws are coming (June):  we need a guest room

The master bedroom is not finished, but is done enough that we can move our stuff from the study to the master.

We were still using the future guest room for storage downstairs.  Our daughter’s bedroom was bigger than her future study, so we decided to make her bedroom the temporary guest room and moved her bedroom into the study that we had just finished using as our temporary master bedroom.

Future guest room was being used for storage, dumping ground.


School starts in September

Okay… I want my daughter to have dedicated study space separate from her bedroom.  She is in the ninth grade this year so this is a priority.

The plan is to replace the door.  The bedroom doors are just basic hollow core slabs that are not in very good condition.  Whoever installed the flooring didn’t undercut the door frames, so the flooring just goes up to the frame instead of under, leaving unsightly gaps.  We will eventually replace each door and fix up the floor at the same time.

I have matching flooring and a new door to make everything right for the bedroom.  I pry up the poor fitting pieces of oak flooring in the doorway, but in the process, I damage a piece of the bamboo floor in the bedroom.  No problem.  There’s some leftover bamboo flooring stored in the basement.  One thing leads to another– long story short, let’s just blame it on some sloppy work with the circular saw– and I now have half a dozen boards to replace.

Yeah.  That’s right.  Six.

bamboo floor
Bamboo floor: one damaged board leads to another which leads to another….

Tired?  Frustrated?  Work getting sloppy as a result? Making stupid mistakes?  It’s time to quit for the day, right?  But no.  I will not admit defeat.  At least not until half a dozen boards are damaged.

When it comes time to replace the boards– I am well-rested– the first two fit perfectly.  I’m feeling pretty confident.  But the next board is less than about 1/16 of an inch too wide.  It won’t fit.  I try it in another spot.  Nope.  So I try another board.  Same result.  And another….  The DIY gods are having a good laugh at my expense

After much thought and discussion, we decide to take up the bamboo floor and replace it with a high quality laminate.  And by we, I mean my wife and I make the decision but I am the one who takes up the bamboo floor (and the half dozen or so staples for each board).  Not fun.  Not fun at all.

I’ve wasted a lot of time and I am way behind schedule.

Before I can install the laminate floor I need to drop this project and turn my attention to the guest room on the lower level because in about 6 weeks we are going to have a…


House Guest Invasion

Our niece and her husband visit us for a week around the Canadian Thanksgiving.  And so do my wife’s parents.  We needed to turn that bonus room into a guest room.

Did I mention the bonus room only had 3 walls?

As the Tragically Hip performed their farewell concert in August, I was probably the only Canadian not at the show or watching it on television.  Instead, I was framing a partition wall.

Stuff stored in the bonus room had to be sorted, put away, donated or tossed out.  We moved a lot of it to other areas of the house.

Anyone else could have finished the project in a couple weekends, but I’m lazy and I’m a procrastinator.

Anyway, when our guests arrived in October, I had just finished hanging the drywall.  I am talking about the same day.  I was a sweaty gypsum covered mess when they rolled up in our driveway.

We set up an AeroBed in the guest room for our niece and her husband.  The room was far from finished but at least they had some privacy.

guest room
The guest room in the morning. House guests arrived in the afternoon. Drywall was hung and the room was cleaned out in time before they arrived.

Meanwhile, the guest room upstairs (which will become our daughter’s bedroom) was still set up as a guest room for mom and dad-in-law, but now it had a bare sub-floor.  Not exactly five star accommodations, but it would have to do.

Despite the primitive conditions, it was a wonderful visit.



With my wife’s folks returning yet one more time at the end of the year I really wanted to have the guest room completely finished in time for Christmas.  That didn’t quite happen.  I did finish the drywall and painting and installed the trim.

guest room
The guest room is finished except for the ceiling.

The only thing left to do is to install a SnapClip ceiling.

King of the unfinished projects

(I read that on a t-shirt once and it applies here)

You may notice a recurring theme here.

Of all the projects I started since we moved in, I have completely finished none.  I still have to install trim in the master bedroom and the flooring in our daughter’s bedroom.   There is still some work to do in the guest room.  I painted one side of the family room but not the other and I have yet to do any work at all in the basement.

I have jumped from one project to another without finishing anything.  And I have shifted “stuff” from one area to another area to another area, and it seems like nothing has yet found its permanent home.

Meanwhile, if I am looking for a tool, it will either be in the basement, in the garage, in the tool shed or in one of our two storage units. ….  No wonder I can’t seem to get anything done.  I spend more time looking for my tools than I do actually working on the projects, or at least so it seems.

It’s all part of the DIY Shuffle….