The Dimension Bible for Remodelers and DIYers

The Dimension Bible is really 3 books in one. It is a type of building code book for single family homes written in English, so everyone can understand it, a how to or where to install things in your home book and a handy estimating guide for remodeling projects. Even saying that there is some general information that is included in the book that doesn’t fit into those 3 categories.

Dimension Bible

A Home Owner Building Code Book That Speaks English

The questions that every person who has ever remodeled or built anything has had; “Where do I install this, How high do I mount this, Where does this go, How do I calculate the material needed?” These questions and more just like them have puzzled remodelers and DIYers for ages. Author John Knoelk aka “Contractor John”doesn’t believe these questions should stop you from undertaking your project, or completing it in a professional manner. Building or remodeling a home or a room is something worth accomplishing, and he wants to be there for you every step of the way.

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In his new reference book, The Dimension Bible for the Remodeler and Do-it-Yourselfer, John presents readers with an all-inclusive building guide that goes from the inside out of building and remodeling. Whether it is creating that stylish, but functional, kitchen, to how to develop the most practical driveway, John answers every question of the reader through charts, measurements and a general insight in an understandable way.
“This book is the result of my forty years of remodeling and building experience. While no book can address every measurement for every situation, I believe within these pages you will find the vast majority of measurements, dimensions and formulas to calculate and arrive at the correct answer you will need to complete your project.”
 John approaches discussions of each area of the house in a clear and concise manner, thoroughly explaining each step for the new builder, DIYer, and the seasoned remodeler. As he has seen over his forty years of building, nothing is of greater satisfaction than seeing the project that is drawn on paper actually coming to life right before your eyes.


Visit ContractorJohn’s YouTube Channel for additional helpful videos


The Common Nail is Not So Common

There are so many types of nails; it is often difficult choosing the correct one for the job. Choosing the correct nail is critical if you want a joint that will stand the test of time. Choosing the correct nail will depend on the type of material you will be joining together and the application. Using the wrong nail for the job can cause damage to the wood and lack holding power.

Nail History 101
Wherever you buy your nails I am sure you have seen sizes such as 16d or 8d nails, or heard the term 16 penny nail.. Have you ever wondered how nails got their names? Let me explain the history.

There are a couple of schools of thought as to how the name “penny”, such as 16 penny stuck through the years. The most often and believable story is that since nails used to be sold by the hundred, the small nails cost less since they weighed less and a hundred two-penny nails cost two pence, a hundred eight-penny nails cost eight pence and so on.

In this day and age the “penny” notation refers only to nail length.  The most frequently used nails are the 16p which is 3 ½” long and the 8p nail which is 2 ½” long. Typically these types of nails will come in 2 types, a common nail with a disk-shaped head that is typically 3 to 4 times the diameter of the shank and a box nail which has a thinner shank. Box nails are not used for conventional framing because of this thinner shank, which simply equates to less holding power.

Typical Nail Sizes and Their Length in Inches

2d nail = 1” 9d nail   = 2 ¾”
3d nail = 1 ¼” 10d nail = 3”
4d nail = 1 ½” 12d nail = 3 ¼”
5d nail = 1 ¾” 16d nail = 3 ½”
6d nail = 2” 20d nail = 4” considered a spike
7d nail = 2 ¼” 30d nail = 4 ½” considered a spike
8d nail = 2 ½” 40d nail = 5” considered a spike


Holding Power

There is also a coating that can be added to common framing nails. Nails that are coated with this adhesive (cement) for greater holding power are called “cement coated”. This coating melts from friction when driven in, and when it cools it adheres to the wood. The “cement coating” color varies by manufacturer, although tan and pink are common colors for this coating.

A good rule to follow is to choose a nail that is three times as long as the thickness of the material you are fastening. If you want to hold 1/2″ drywall to a stud wall, the length of the nails should be at least 1 1/2″. This is a reasonable guide most of the time. When nailing very thin materials into wood, a minimum of 1/2″ of penetration is necessary.  If you are attaching something very heavy and the nail is the sole support or attachment point, consider using screws.

Other Types of Nails

Cut Nails were first used in the 1700’s. Cut nails are often used to attach wood to concrete block, mortar joints, and brick or to fresh concrete. For best results you want about 3/4” of penetration into masonry for good holding power. Cut nails are cut or sheared from steel plate and are generally hardened. They have a wedge shape with a square, blunt point which reduces spalling during penetration into concrete or masonry. Cut nails are thick and because they displace more wood fiber, they have greater holding power than standard nails. Since the end is blunt it tears through the wood fibers instead of spreading them like a pointed nail.

Duplex Head Nails are a specialty nail useful for temporary construction, such as concrete forms, or building temporary scaffolding. The nail’s double head (duplex) makes it easier to remove and pull out of the form boards or other temporary construction.


Drywall or Ring Shank Nails are another specialty wire nail that has rings on the shank providing better grip and additional resistance to pull-out of the lumber. This type of nail is also used for drywall nails or deck board nails because of the pullout resistant feature of the annular rings on the nail shank.

Brad Nails are used in light finish woodworking. Because of the small shank diameter and the small head, these nails greatly reduce the possibility of splitting when used in hard wood. Brads are ideal for general joinery and are usually countersunk below the surface of the wood and filled to give smooth appearance.

Casing and Finishing Nails are similar and differ primarily in the shape of the heads. A finishing nail has a small slightly rounded head just a tad bit bigger than the nail shank. The head is designed to fit into a nail set to be countersunk and the nail hole filled.

A Casing Nail is often used in exterior applications and is often galvanized. The nail head of a casing nail is tapered and may be set flush or just below the wood surface.

Roofing Nails are used to fasten shingles, roofing felt, or sheet metal to wood. The shanks can be smooth or ringed for increased pull out resistance.

Galvanized Nails are more a treatment to the nail rather than a different type, this type of weather and corrosion resistant coating can be attached” to the nail, through several different processes.

Specialty Nails

There are, of course, specialized nails for use with different materials, some of which we spoke about above, but there are many more. Nails are also made out of all sorts of metals… aluminum, iron, steel, and rustproof stainless steel. Some are coated with zinc, known as galvanized nails, to be more rust resistant. Some are hardened by heat so that they can be hammered into very hard materials, such as cement nails. There are also special nails for hardwood flooring, and upholstery. There seems to be an ever-increasing array of specialty nails, with new nails being developed as new products are also developed.

There is an entire family of nails for use in power actuated nailing guns. These nail guns driven by electricity or compressed air, use nails that are manufactured in strips, or coils. A nail gun can be used to install trim, roof shingles, or even in the framing of a home. They are very helpful but also can be dangerous if used improperly.

When you are going to fasten an unusual material you will want to check with the supplier or manufacturer to see if they have a speciality fastener. One such product that comes to mind is foam insulation board, or Celotex (brand name). There are specifically designed “cap nails”, a ring shank nail with a plastic washer about the size of a quarter that helps to keep the nail head from pulling thought the soft foam material

There you have it, a quick lesson on nail history and uses. If you need a few tips on how to hammer a nail, check out my video “How to Hammer a Nail” at the Contractor John Web Site.




Student Loan Debt Slowing Real Estate Market

The headline on a recent article I read was “Student Debt May Not Be To Blame for Housing Woes”. Seems an official from the U.S. Treasury Department pointed out it was the because of the higher education wealth building potential of these students it was not a problem to be burdened with college debt and that was not stopping them from buying houses. Her additional “logic” was “unlike many other forms of credit like credit cards, student loans fund an investment, rather than consumption”. With “logic” like that it is no wonder our government is in the mess it is in.

She went on to compare numbers from 2007 and 2012 and came to the conclusion that the 2012 borrower pays $800 more per year now than in 2007. That equates to $66.67 less per month for the mortgage payment. Take into consideration that the same $66.67 will equal $12,320 in lost borrowing potential.

The numbers above reflect only the increase in student loan payments since 2007. Add to that an average student loan amount of $28,400 which equals $151.48 in monies lost per month that are available for a mortgage payment. Adding these two figures up we arrive at $218.15 less a month to pay the mortgage with. Using a cost factor of $5.41 per thousand dollars borrowed you have $40,000 less in buying power in 2012 vs. 2007. Add to that the huge increase of college attendees from 2007 to 2012 and you begin to see the problem, and we haven’t even touched upon the huge default rate on college loans and how they affect a borrower’s credit rating, and consequently their ability to borrow and purchase a home.

I guess if you work for the government you can put the spin on anything to support your point of view.

The bottom line is that college debt is crippling our children, and it is negatively affecting many areas of our economy including the home building industry.

The governments “logic” doesn’t stand up to the facts.


Repairing Caulk Joints on Your Home’s Exterior

Spring is time to walk around your home and find the damage winter has done. If you are not in a region that has winter like conditions it is still a good idea to do a walk around inspection of your home 2 times a year. This quick video will give you ideas of the areas to look for caulking repairs.

Latest Housing Trends Q3 2014

The latest data has revealed 74% of respondents rated the current state of the remodeling market to excellent or good and 20% stating it was fair. The good news is that only 6% rated it poor. The horrible choice which was up to a high of 10% in 2011 was absent.

Trends in Kitchen remodeling projects show that changes in floor plan lead the way, followed closely by updating of cabinets and appliances. This speaks well of consumer confidence as floor plan changes are the most expensive type of kitchen remodel, next to additions which expand the kitchen footprint.

Bathroom remodeling saw furniture style vanities topping the trends, at 60%followed by his and hers vanities, 55%, and super showers, and customized storage at 46%. The note here is the top trend furniture style vanities in a non essential and non functional luxury feature which again speaks to consumer confidence.

Easy Custom Window Well Covers

In this article I will show you a quick and easy way to make your own window well covers, allowing plenty of light to enter the space, and allowing for the all important emergency exit. You can purchase most size window well covers at your local home improvement store, but not all.

Through the years I have found that making a template saves money in the long run. I strongly suggest you make yourself a cardboard template of the window well. Most large box stores don’t carry sheets of Plexiglas, so you will need to call your local glass company and order the piece of Plexiglas or Lexan you will need for this project. Be sure to order ¼” thick Plexiglas or Lexan, at a minimum. The difference in price between the two will be substantial, with Lexan being shatter resistant. I went the Plexiglas route, but you will have to decide for yourself. Cutting the Plexiglas is pretty simple and straight forward. Install a plywood blade in your circular saw and a fine tooth blade in your jig saw. If you’re not comfortable cutting it yourself, most glass companies will do it for you, for an additional charge. If you have them cut the Plexiglas, remember to bring your template for them to use, and don’t forget to ask for the cutoff pieces. You can use them for smaller fun projects like coasters and picture frames.

To begin the installation measure the distance across the back of the window well, the straight edge, against the house and install a length of (pictured) angled strut, to fit. You know the kind I am talking about, the metal angle that is commonly used to hang garage door tracks and openers. Anchor that angle to the back wall, so it will serve as a place for the new cover to sit on, making sure the top of it is level with the top of the window well. If the front edge is straight you can do the same to it. If you have a continuous curve then cut 2 or 3 pieces of strut about 1″ to 2″ long and attach them to the inside of the front edge, spacing them evenly, making sure you have at least 1 solid hole in each bracket.

Wall Angle Strut

Lay the newly cut Plexiglas cover on your new framed opening, carefully centering it into position, and making sure to keep it firmly against the back wall. You can drill down through the Plexiglas into the front edge angled strut a 5/16″ drill bit. When you’re done drilling drop a ¼” clevis pin into each hole. You can secure each pin in place by slipping the locking clips into a hole in the clevis pin, from the inside. Now place a liberal bead of silicone (100% pure silicone) along the back edge and onto the siding or brick. The silicone will work as a seal but still be flexible enough to allow movement.

Well there you have it, a quick and easy window well cover that allows plenty of light into the space while keeping the rain, snow, and leaves out, while allowing easy exit in the event of an emergency.

Landscaping Your Yard? Think Concrete

Stamped Concrete PatioWhen you hear the word concrete you may not think that it’s something you would want in your yard. Concrete landscaping has come a long way in the last 10 years or so, and now it’s all the rage. You can use concrete landscaping in many different areas of your yard as well as many different applications.


Most people use concrete landscaping design ideas for the walkways and paths that wind through yards and gardens.  An option for any size yard would be a very inviting stamped concrete patio. Stamping is a process where the concrete is impressed before it sets with different patterns, such as stone and brick. Color can also be added in several ways to add more depth and realism. There are plenty of additional options for those with larger yards.


Stone walls are another form of concrete landscaping that has really caught on like wildfire. These walls run the perimeter of your property, essentially framing your home. They are very attractive and set the tone for other landscaping in your front, side, and back yards. There are several other reasons to have concrete landscaping such as walls. These walls are perfect for keeping your pet in the yard. If you have a dog that is prone to running away, inquire about this kind of concrete landscaping. These types of walls are also very good for keeping intruders out. The harder your home is to get in to the less likely burglars will try.

You can also use concrete landscaping to keep your soil in place, or separate grass from landscaped areas. If there is a part of your yard that is prone to slipping, or washing out you can build a retention wall expressly for this purpose. One of the great attributes about concrete landscaping is that while it can be serving a necessary function, it can look attractive as well. There is so much that you can do with concrete in terms of landscaping in major part because it is relatively easy to work with.

Pre-cast concrete landscaping blocks can be stacked and used for retaining or decorative walls. You can even build an entire BBQ pit with these pre-cast concrete landscape blocks. There are several companies that manufacture custom concrete landscaping stones that are unique and creative and are available in different shapes and patterns.

There are few things as relaxing as inviting some friends over and having a little party out on the patio, overlooking a beautiful landscaped yard. Take some time to visit your local home improvement store and see what all is out there in terms of concrete landscaping, you might just be surprised.

Sell Your Home; Features That Help

We all have known for years that attractive and functional kitchens and bathrooms sell homes, and this general trend has not changed during the market downturn, but in a recent survey that rated key living spaces, another feature was tops in the results.

Rating on a 1 to 10 scale, features people most wanted in their home, master bedroom walk in closets came out on top with an 8.24 rating, followed by a great room, (kitchen, living, and dining combo space) at 7.77. Higher ceilings (over 9’) were next at 7.43 followed closely with energy-efficient features at 7.25.

In the continued shift towards working from your home, a formal office space without a separate entrance rated 5.88 as a key feature they needed. An informal office space or computer nook rated 5.75.

In the outdoor space category oversized garages topped the results with a 7.23, a 2 car garage rated 7.05 and a 3 car rated 6.96. We do love our garages.

Switching gears to key features in existing space, kitchen area islands were tops with 7.24 followed by a walk-in pantry at 6.98. Following the pantry was a breakfast nook or breakfast bar rated high at 6.59 and 6.58 respectively. Despite the Green movement a recycling center was rated at 4.55.

Not surprisingly a double vanity or double bowl in the bathroom was deemed necessary by a whopping 84% of respondents. A second bathroom with a tub/shower combo scored 7.23. Other high-ranking bathroom features were additional storage space 6.84 and universal design features at 5.61.

Although the trend towards slightly smaller homes has continued buyers continue to want upgraded features in their homes. Building these sought after features into a smaller footprint calls for creative design and flex space, but will be worth the time, energy and expense when it’s time to sell.

Unclogging a Toilet; Use The Correct Toilet Plunger

There are 2 types of plungers, one is for sinks and the other is for toilets.  I suggest you invest in both types of plungers.

Sink Plunger

Picture 1.1


The plunger that is shaped like a ball cut in half, picture 1.1 is a sink plunger.

Click on the picture to purchase.





Picture of Toliet Plunger

Picture 1.2


The plunger pictured in 1.2 with an extended throat, is a normal toilet plunger.

Click on the picture to purchase.




Bellows Toilet Plunger

Picture 1.3


Pictured in 1.3 is a bellows style toilet plunger, used to clear stubborn blockages. This type of toilet plunger can deliver up to 7 times the force in clearing a clogged toilet.
Click on the picture to purchase.






Side view of toliet drain

Picture 1.4


In picture 1.4 we show the side view of a toilet. The “S” section of the toilet is where the majority of blockages occur and a toilet plunger is adequate for removing these types of blockages.






Homeowner Toilet Auger

Picture 1.5
Purchase Here


If the blockage is at the bottom of the toilet where it transitions into the waste pipe you should be able to clear it with a tool called a toilet snake, pictured in 1.5. If it is further down the line you will most likely have to pull the toilet and rod the main line. This effort will require a plumber or at least a serious do-it-yourself person and a rented rodding machine.

Click on the picture to purchase.





To properly operate either type of plunger you will need to submerge it into the standing water, as I demonstrate in the video.  You  use the plunging motion to move the standing water into and through the drain and force the blockage down the pipe.


If by chance someone has dropped a toy,hairbrush, toothbrush, etc. you probably should spend some effort trying to retrieve it rather than pushing it further down the pipe. To do this slowly compress the plunger, holding it at a slight angle to the throat of the toilet and with it compressed slide it securely into the throat and let it pop up. This motion may help to suck the object back into the bowl.

I hope this article and my How To Use a Toilet Plunger video has helped you understand the different types of plungers and how to correctly use a toilet plunger.

A Quick and Easy Basement Ceiling Finsih

When you are finishing your basement there are a couple options to finish your ceiling. The obvious solution is installing drywall. If the electric and plumbing were routed with a drywall ceiling in mind this will work, but if there are water shutoffs, plumbing traps and electrical junction boxes you will have to access in the future a drywall ceiling is not the correct choice.

A second common choice is a drop or suspended ceiling. Typical ceiling tile size options are 2’x2’ and 2’x4’. These drop ceilings are available in many styles and finishes from relatively inexpensive to very expensive.

A simple and inexpensive solution that is used in some restaurants and bars is to paint everything above the top of the wall line in flat black. The eye will naturally go to the things on the walls and make the ceiling visually “disappear”. If you have a lot of pictures, memorabilia, other wall hangings or a busy flooring material it will help the eye to be drawn to it, look for this treatment the next time you are out to dinner in one of the chain dine-in restaurants.

I suggest you spray the paint on, with an airless sprayer. The last basement job I completed I burned up 2 Wagner sprayers, so I would recommend you rent a commercial sprayer. Another tip is to purchase double the amount of paint you think you will need, it goes fast when spraying. Since it is a stock color, flat black, you can return any you don’t use. Remember to keep some to touch up any new pipes or wires you install down the road.

A couple fans set up to blow overspray out an open basement window will help a lot. Don’t forget to cover anything left out with old blankets or plastic because the overspray will cover it. If you spray after you sand the drywall walls, the mess will be kept to a minimum.

There you have it, a quick and inexpensive way to finish your ceiling, and a very attractive one too.

Check out this video to see what the finished product looks like.      BasementCeilingBlackFinished

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