Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wayne, Local Hardware Stores and Good Advice

You just don't get the service in big box stores, like WalMart or Home Depot, like you do in local community stores. Take Pete's Hardware or Workbench Hardware in Castro Valley, for example. Pete's is an Ace Hardware store and Workbench, on Center Street, is a True Value Hardware store. You get good service in these stores. Pete's is the larger of the two.
I'm not a “shopper.” I don't go to Macy's or WalMart just to browse. Home Depot is not a browsing store, either, where you try to find what you're looking for among all the labels on warehouse pallets. But, I can browse at Pete's or Workbench. There's something about Pete's that reminds me of a hardware store of my childhood, Marvel's Hardware in the early 50s, then Smith's Hardware into the 60s. Pete's is updated with the times. I remember stopping at that childhood hardware store after school on a cold winter day and standing over the big heat register in the back of the store to get warm. And, it was a daily thing to see a customer come in and say, “Hey Wayne, I need some nails to fix a window pane, [or door jam, or a squeaky floor, or whatever]. I need 10-penny nails.”
No, you need...” this or that size nails, and Dad would dig his hand in a bin full of nails, weigh them and bag them. Nails didn't come in boxes in the 1950s. Pete's sells nails in boxes, but it sells screws individually. I'm not aware that Home Depot sells screws individually. If there's one thing I hate, it's having to buy a box or a bag of screws, using only one or two, and then keeping the other 50 in the box on a shelf for the rest of my life. I usually forget I have them and buy another box the next time I need screws.
Most of the time, Dad would explain where to nail the window pane or door jam. “You don't use nails to fix a squeaky floor,” he'd say. “Got to use wood screws for that. If it squeaks with the nails that are already in it, it will squeak again with nails you put in it. But, the first thing you do is find the squeaky nail, pull it out, and re-nail it in the joist. It's squeaking because it just missed the joist in the first place.” Then, he'd explain how to cover the screw with a wooden plug cut from a wooden dowel. “Countersink the screw,” he'd say, “and cut off a plug from this.”
That's what you get at Pete's and Workbench hardware stores; specific instructions and good service. Try getting that at Home Depot. They, at Pete's, know everything. Like the other day when I had to fix a hole in the drywall. But, to tell that story, I have to go back to the beginning.
We're having some remodeling done, including a new vanity in the bathroom. New vanities, it turns out, are about five inches taller now days. That means that the wall-to-wall mirror that sits on it must be moved higher, and that means that the light fixture above the mirror needs to be moved higher. It was an old fixture anyway, so we decided to replace it. Doing that wasn't part of our contractor's contract, so I decided to do it myself. There are always surprises in life, and this was no exception.
I expected to find an electrical junction box behind the light, but what I found was a big foot-long hole in the drywall and the wire running around the front side of a two by six main support stud in a load-bearing wall, causing a six inch gouge through the finished side of the drywall, directly to the light. Our new light required a junction box, centered on the wall. This presented me with a whole new set of problems especially since I knew nothing about installing a junction box nor fixing a drywall hole.
I started with YouTube here , for installing a junction box, and here for fixing a drywall hole. These were okay, but they leave out a few necessary details which, as usual, are clear as mud until after the job is done. Shit. I should have done it that way (more on this later) . So, I went to Pete's with my problem and the light fixture bracket I had to attach to the junction box. If I knew what Kim, Jerry or Shawn, my nephews, know about this stuff, I wouldn't need help. But, while I'm handy with tools, I usually don't know what I'm talking about. I need help.
The name tag on the guy at Pete's who ask, “do you need help?” said “Wayne.”
Yea, I need help.” I explained my problem; no junction box, big drywall hole, I'll have to make a bigger hole for the junction box, can't center the box if I attach it to the two by six stud, need a spacer between the stud and the box, and on and on. Wayne figured out what I needed in two seconds, and a minute later I was checking out with my stuff; a drywall repair kit, a quart of joint compound (mud), a small roll of joint tape, a sheet of drywall screen (for sanding) and an 18 by 18 piece of sheetrock. Not only did I have the stuff, Wayne explained how to use it, including the repair kit that was more important than I thought. All the kit contains are six clips that attaches the existing drywall to the new patch to make the patch surface even with the other drywall. That's important! More later on that.
What about a spacer between the stud and the junction box?” I asked. “I need it moved over about an inch to center it on the wall.”
Use a piece of wood,” he said. Oh. I can do that.
The junction box YouTube video didn't explain other things, though, and it was too late to ask Wayne. For example, how do I make sure the box doesn't protrude beyond the surface of the drywall? Bob, my neighbor engineer who does his own remodeling and with lots of knowledge on this stuff, says, “See these bent tips on the bracket?”
Those are guides. Just line those up on the front corner of the stud, and it should work.”
Oh. Bob is handy. But, remember that piece of wood I had to nail to the stud to center the junction box? Maybe I was a bit off making sure it lined up with the stud, because I attached the box to “it,” not the stud. After all was done, I used a level on the box to see if it was straight up and down. It was a bit off.
I followed the YouTube instructions for the drywall patch, which says to simply nail or screw the patch to the studs. It turns out that doing that to a small patch doesn't guarantee that the patch surface is EVEN with what's already there. The repair kit does that. But, it's too late to use the kit after the patch is screwed in. There you go. I should have listened to Wayne. My patch was ¼ inch off on one side. That's a big difference! I hoped the joint compound would fill it in.
Next is the joint compound. The tools needed are a 3 to 4 inch putty knife, a 6 to 8 inch putty knife, a 10 inch or so putty knife and a mud pan. I had no idea if we had this stuff. But, since we have two estates of stuff, plus our own stuff, all crammed in our garage, I figured the chances were good that we had the knives. So, I went searching and I found suitable knives. But, a mud pan? Odds were against it, but I looked and poked through the shelves, not entirely sure that I would recognize one if we had one, and whoa-la! There it is. A pan about twelve inches long, four inches wide and four inches deep with a sharp edge on one side for scraping a knife on. That must be a mud pan! And, sitting beside the pan was a gallon bucket of usable joint compound! Go figure. Where did that come from? I could return both the kit and the compound I bought for a refund.
I suppose a skilled drywaller would have finished the first coat of joint compound in about five minutes. I finished it in twenty minutes. But, the peaks and valleys were not as prominent and a second coat would fill those in. Three coats of joint compound smoothed out the wall and another YouTube video on how to apply a knockdown texture. I was ready to paint.
My total time was about six hours. It could have been much less and easier had I listened to Wayne. Sorry, Dad. You tried to tell me once again and, as usual, I wasn't listening.

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