Does the one coat solution of “top-tier” paint really work?

Big box store paints have appealing advantages to the average homeowner.  Yes, it is convenient to have all the items you need in one store.  At approximately $30-$40 per gallon for a supposedly top tier paint, the prices are competitive without question.  But on closer inspection, this deal is probably not so great.  I would like to point out at this time that many people, couldn’t careless about the quality of paint on their walls.   I think this is the case for good reason….who is really going to notice it?  It’s a fair question.  A better question is “Is someone else going to notice it?”.  It is curious characteristic of human nature that we only notice how bad something is when someone else points it out to you.  If you prefer your bliss, read another article.  If you to take bite of fruit from the paint tree of knowledge, read on.  Disclaimer:  painted fruit tastes funny, and is harmful to your health. Don’t bite it.  They belong on fridges pained by your niece or art by Paul Cézanne.

The one coat solution.  Why paint twice when you can paint only once?

It is appealing for sure.  Who in their right mind would choose to paint a room twice when you could do it once?  Honestly those people are suckers.  You could easily make fun of them for being out of touch with the latest paint technology.  “You paint a room like my grandparents, with lead!”.  Our culture is fixated on performing tasks faster whatever they may be.  The tag line goes something like “would you rather spend more quality time with your kids than painting?”.  It’s a fair point.  Can we really paint walls with only one coat, when we can paint it with two?.  Somewhere the idea was lost that maybe painting a room with your kids is better than for your kids.  Lets focus on the paint facts instead on what is ideally right.  If one coat is better that’s fine.  So let’s see if it is actually possible.

Here is the truth, paint, such as it is and how it is applied on walls today, with rollers, brushing and spraying will never…ever…be able to be applied effectively in one coat.  This has nothing to do with the chemical composition of the paint formula at all.  It has to do about the laws of physics, and the maximum thickness possible for one layer of paint before it gets too thick, and starts dripping off the wall.

Texture

Every wall you are going to paint has a texture that is not smooth as enamel or paint on car.  It is rough in texture, and has many crests and valleys.  This is a normal texture for a wall.  Below is a standard wall up close.  You can see the texture, and notice when a light is pointed almost parallel to the wall, the contrast is increased and you can really see the crests and valleys.

A black picture frame is on the left. The wall is pitted with crests and valleys.
A flashlight was shined parallel to the same wall as in the previous picture. You can really see the crests and valleys

 

This texture is even created on new drywall when the first coat of primer is applied.  Lets take a look at the existing conditions.  The following pictures is what the paint looks like if we look at the thickness of the materials only.  We will view a section through the wall in plan view (birds eye).  Notice that the tan/yellow coloured paint has crests and valleys like the previous picture.

Here is the tan / yellow coloured existing paint from the wall. The blue block represents the thickness of the drywall under the paint

 

Drill driver bits: Robertson (Square shape), Phillips (Cross shape), and Slot (flat head)

I want to start off by saying that this is not a driver bit manufacturer comparision article.  I am not interested in whose bit is best, whether it’s a Bosch, Dewalt, Makita or some other manufacturer.  Rather this is an article to show you how to identify what a good bit looks like.

Continuously replacing poor quality inexpensive drill bits can ongoing battle that never ends.  If you are fastening (driving) a screw with a cordless drill with a poor quality bit, you will notice your Robertson or Phillips bit drive damaging the screws making it harder to drive the next screw.  Sometimes the screws damage the bit and sometimes the other way around.  It is very difficult to work with a bit that is damaged.  If by chance, you are using an impact driver instead of a cordless drill, the problem is exacerbated big time, as the impact driver “hammers” the bit rather than providing a continual push (turn) like a cordless drill.  Without going into metallurgy on why cheap drill bits suck, take my word that it wastes more time than it is worth.  Nothing is worse than putting together an Ikea desk with odd screw sizes, and your cheap drill bit damages the oddball sized screw which can’t be replaced by your local big box store. (They do have a wide selection of screws, but not all metric sizes, threads are carried).

If you like, you can buy a more expensive pivot holder (I have the yellow dewalt one in the featured picture).  Most manufacturers make pivot holders.  A pivot holder allows you to change out tiny 1/2″ long bits in and out of the holder (if you go through them quickly), and potentially saving you some money.  I pivot holders are good if you are driving alot of screws in a very short time, as you can replay the tips only which works well.

Using the pivot holder and replacing tips are most useful also when removing old screws from decking that are sometimes rusted and/or in hard to reach areas and/or the screws are damaged themselves, it is very helpful to have a bit that has a perfect shape.   New bits can help provide that perfect shape which only lasts for only a handful of screws if it is of poor quality.  I don’t like that throw away mentality, but sometimes there is no other choice.  If the bit is not properly seated in the screw, the process can destroy even the best impact resistant bits if you are not careful.  Sometimes sacrificing one cheap bit to remove a screw is worth it.

Stop buying these “40 piece bit set for only $5” deals at your local big box.  When a drill bit gets damaged, it is useless.  If you say, “well I have 39 more bits to go”, fine, I will not argue with that lifestyle.  Remember the difficulty is not just the bits being damaged, but all of the metal filings that damage the screws as well.  Honestly, if a big box store offered me a no name 40 piece bit set for free, I would not take it.

How to easily identify a good drill bit.

You will notice that the cheap bit is a six sided hexagonal shape from tip to tip.  Good quality bits  always have a round shape in the middle to the tip.  If you are driving screws in a tight corner, the six sided bit can damage wood easily by the rotating hexagonal shank shaped section.

Section of wood damged by drill bit
The six sided bit dented the wood. I only used softwood rather than a finished stained hardwood for the example, because I don’t want to ruin any of my finishes!

 

Round sections don’t damage your work like six sided bits do.  The roundness of the bit is not the only reason why it is good, it is just a tell.  A good manufacturer who cares about the quality of their bits will spend the extra money to tool them correctly.   For those Canadians out there who use Robertson bits, bits labeled  as “square” rather than “Robertson” are not the same.  The Robertson bit is square shaped, but it is also tapered unlike the “square ” bit, making it easier to unseat the bit.  Square bits sometimes get stuck to the screw, and I also find that the corners wear down faster.  The Robertson screw patent is now more than 100 years old and should be public domain meaning anyone can make it if they so please.  I usually try to not purchase “square” bits..  The Robertson screw is a neat piece of Canadiana.  Here is a neat video on the history of the screw.

Just a small list of my good bit experiences.

Milwaukee shockwave, Metabo, Vega, Dewalt “impact ready” for ruggedness.  The Dewalt standard size (2″ long) non-pivot holder impact ready bits are the only manufacturer of this group that are not round.  Why?  I couldn’t tell you.

There are many other great manufacturers out there.  Marketing today will usually tout their best bits as compatible with impact drivers.  Not all impact compatible bits brands are good, so do your research.

Buildingology lessons learned

  • Bits that have a round shank are more forgiving with mistakes than their six sided counterparts if your bit is driving very close to finished wood.
  • Bits labelled “square” should be avoided.  Use Robertson instead because of the tapered head.
  • Impact driver compatibility is a good indication of a quality bit.  If you buy these, stick to well known brands, and you should be fine, but they are a little more costly.  Impact driver bits use a different type of metal, and the dead giveaway is that they have a black colour on the tip.  The Milwaukee shockwave in the featured picture of this article (top left) is one example of a “black coloured tip”
  • Price is a good indicator most of the time.  Only some very well respected brands will sell their lower tier bits at higher prices.  A good single drill bit will cost from $2 to $4 (rather than $0.25 for a cheap bits).
  • Most well known brands make bits that are good enough for the homeowner.  Some of the lesser known brands (metabo, vega, many others) don’t necessarily advertise impact driver compatibility, so ask your clerk at the hardware store about the quality, and he should be able to tell you.

 

 

Plumber’s putty or silicone around your toilet?

When installing a toilet, the final step involves creating a seal around the toilet to the floor.  Some plumbers use plumber’s putty, some grout the toilet to the floor and others use silicone sealant (caulk) for that final connection.  The application of silicone is much quicker and experienced plumber can probably do it in just a few minutes, where the plumber’s putty may take more effort and time.

You can see the plumber’s putty line. It is tan coloured, and slightly dirty.

Silicone

If you have any young children who like to flush things down the toilet, you may have to remove the toilet to remove a toy, or even car keys.  This is a very common issue.  The silicone sealant, can be cut really easily with a sharp knife, but when you have to put the toilet back on the floor, the old silicone is stuck to the toilet and floor, and can be really difficult to remove.  Yes, you must remove the old silicone before you put the toilet back on.  Don’t forget to use a silicone remover to remove the residue left behind on the toilet and the floor.  A product called “Silicone be gone” by DAP is a good product and is available at most hardware stores.  The biggest advantage to silicone is that the product is very sticky and is easy to achieve a good seal around the toilet.

Plumber’s putty

The putty provides a little bit of  stability in preventing your toilet from rocking back and forth ever so slightly when you sit on it (or stand).  The only issue is if the toilet is not tightly secured to the toilet flange and rocks, your seals is gone, where silicone may be a bit more forgiving, but not much.  You also have to contend with the fact that the putty gets dirty after a few years.   Also, the putty will dry out slightly after a few years, and shrinks ruining your seal.  If this really bugs you, you can always shave the surface with a knife and apply a fresh layer on top.  It takes about 10 minutes to do that.

Grout

This is something I have only encountered recently. It provides a perfect fit. Yes its a great seal, but how the heck will I ever be able to remove it?

I have recently switched to using silicone as a preferred method due to the fact that it maintains the best seal against sewer gases entering the home.  The cost?  A tube of quality silicone costs about $6.  The putty costs about $2.50 for a small container, so cost should not be an issue when considering this purchase.

Buildingology lessons learned

  • Silicone is easier to install, but more difficult to remove when servicing against plumber’s putty.
  • Silicone provides better seal to the floor during installation due to stickiness, and has better resistance to expansion after it sets, which for both reasons, it my preferred method.
  • Don’t use grout.  Ever.