Renovation is Outpacing
One characteristic of renovation is that contractors are more a jack of all trades, using a wider variety of tools than new construction workers and often dabbling in fields that are not their speciality. No one can keep up with the depth of changes in all the trades, and few have time to dwell at the renovation centre checking out new things—so let me raise some things that will be no surprise to a specific tradesman, but can be very useful for someone fighting with a toilet because they put in a tile floor. But first, let’s look at dust—the killer of customer relations for a renovator.
Wireless Control of CT Dust Extractors
The wonderful ability to plug a tool into a shop vac and to get them both working together didn’t used to work with cordless tools—until now. Festool is one of the first to build Bluetooth actuation into their new CT Dust Extractors (and have an add-on for their old units). They also have new batteries with Bluetooth built in; the battery ON turns the Dust Extractor ON, and then OFF. They even have a little accessory ring to put on the end of the extractor hose for manual ON/OFF right from the end of the hose—no wires. A dust-free site is a renovator’s calling card for repeat business.
Toilet Flange Bolts
Toilet flange bolts are difficult to install because the head keeps falling down below its slot, and difficult to remove because the bolt is rough cut off above the nut. In addition, raising the toilet attachments because of new tiles has not been simple.
Zero Cut Bolts by Danco are now available in renovation centres for $13 a pair. That’s expensive for two bolts, but worth it. The bolt head, which is now a nut shaped like the old bolt heads, goes into the flange and is held in place by a plastic screw down washer. The blue locator pin goes in the nut and the toilet is placed over the locator pins, which are easy to slide into position. The blue locator has a ring to tell you to use the bolt, or the extension and the bolt. A hard plastic washer/wrench is used to drive the bolt down without overly tightening and cracking the porcelain. The cap goes on and you go home. Fantastic.
SetFast Self-Adjusting Closet Bolts use the same concept of putting the flange-friendly nut on the bottom, but they also put a nut on the top so if the bolt bottoms out the nut lowers and you cut off the bolt as usual. I prefer the Zero Cut Bolt system and it is surprisingly half the cost. But at www.SetFastBolt.com you will find a video of the most useful renovation plumbing tool you ever bought, after the speedway wrench, of course—the Jam-Bar, sold on Amazon.ca for $47.
This thin hardened steel “fork” with teeth on one side allows you to slide under the slightly loosened old nut, keep the bolt from dropping down below the flange and prevent the bolt from turning. As easy as that you remove the old nut over the battered up bolt. These two products make taking the toilet off and then back on the easiest change-out you ever undertook.
Cutting Copper Pipe Clean in Tight Spaces
You probably all have this painful mini-cutter in your tool box. It is hard to turn the knob, and you go around and around to get the cut. Change it for the new round automatic cutters. Snap these over the pipe, make two revolutions and you are done—no odd-shaped knob to get stuck on the wall.
If you want to use shortened blades in a recip saw or bi-metal blades in an oscillating saw, remember that you must de-burr both the outside and the inside of the cut pipe. The outside is to get it to accept a fitting. The inside is to avoid the creation of turbulence and erosion of the pipe wall one quarter of an inch downstream of the inside burr. Also, drape the tool in plastic in case water starts to fly.
Spray on Fire Protection for Plumbing Work
From Bernzomatic comes a great thermal shield gel they call Cold Coat (found on Amazon.ca) or Worthington Cold Coat Gel Spray (found at Canadian Tire online). This is a spray gel that can protect wood from the plumbing torch, or prevent heat from moving down the copper pipe—and that protects rubber washers that are close to your soldering job, or even blocks the loss of heat to water in the pipe a foot away. In this photo you can see the gel on the plywood with absolutely no burn marks from the flame that is only an inch away. You can leave the gel to eventually evaporate. Products like this help us to solder quickly and safely with good results—keeping the heat where we need it.
We used to protect wood with asbestos sheets. Now these sheets are replaced by fireproof cloths that do a good job but are difficult to position, especially as in this photo where the pipe is practically sitting on the wood. The gel is a replacement—better than the sheets.
By the way, do always have a fire extinguisher right on hand when soldering around any wood. Such a precaution could have saved many a building.
For working trouble free with lead-free solder, look up solder at JonEakes.com.
Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert
Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.