How to Epoxy-Coat a Garage Floor

By Bud Coburn

Epoxy not only tops off the pro look of a garage but also resists oil stains, beads water, and wipes clean like a kitchen counter. Do the job in 3 days

  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • 9 hours over 3 days
  • About $120 to $160 per bay


You finally got the tools hanging neatly on an outlined pegboard, and all the paint is organized in carefully labeled cabinets. But now your car is jealous, sitting like a lump on the oily, dirty concrete slab. You still need to put the finishing touch on the garage cleanup: a colorful, shiny epoxy

floor coating that will have you—and your car—feeling like you’re driving into a showroom every time you come home.

Epoxy not only tops off the pro look but also resists oil stains, beads water, and wipes clean like a kitchen counter. Color chips and custom paint colors hide annoying imperfections in the concrete, and antiskid additives give you the grip you need on a snowy day. As This Old House technical editor Mark Powers shows on the following pages, you just need a weekend to sweep the dirt out and paint the epoxy on. Then the garage will finally be a space worth driving up to—and showing off.

Gray Flannel Epoxy Garage Floor Coating with granite color flecks, from Quikrete


overview of the step by step
Floor Finish Overview

Applying an

epoxy coating to a concrete floor is as easy as painting walls, but as with painting, the success is in the prep work. Once the calculations, color choices, and cleaning are taken care of, the actual application will seem like the easiest part.

To bond well, epoxy requires an even, slightly rough, and totally clean surface. That means patching any potholes and cracks and allowing them to cure fully. Concrete must be at least 60 days old and not sealed for the epoxy to adhere. You can tell if your floor already has a sealer if water beads on it or if you get to Step 2 in this process and the etching solution doesn’t foam; if that’s the case, you’ll need to take off the sealer with a chemical stripper or a special machine. (Painted floors can be recoated if there’s no peeling.)

Stripping the floor, however, does not clean it. Any grease or dirt will compromise the epoxy adhesion, so cleaning and etching is a step that should not be rushed. Different manufacturers offer different types of cleaners, so check out the ingredients before you choose what type is best for you. Chemical cleaners vary widely, from harsh degreasers and etchers to safer but less effective organics. You can cut down on the elbow grease by renting a machine called a floor maintainer for about $40 a day.

Epoxy coatings typically come in kits with everything you need. Once you choose one, determine if you’ll need to order extra supplies. Manufacturers may suggest two coats of the epoxy paint and top coat, but most standard kits only supply enough for one coat. If you choose to add color flakes, which will help hide concrete’s inherent imperfections, determine how heavily you’ll broadcast them across the floor so you don’t come up short. Also, if your garage’s foundation rises above grade at the bottom of the walls, you may want to consider coating another few inches up the vertical surfaces to make cleaning the garage easier. Then decide if you want to include an antiskid additive, granules that give the finished floor a sandpaperlike surface. This may be a good option in rainy or ice-prone regions.

Once the floor is clean and ready for its coating, it all comes down to timing. Choose a day to do the work when the concrete won’t be damp from rainy weather and when the temperature is between 50 and 80 degrees; otherwise the application can bubble and peel. Then, once you mix the epoxy paint and hardener, you only have about 2 hours to work with it, so you’ll need to plan out in advance how best to paint yourself out of the garage, starting in a back corner. The hardest part is waiting: The typical drying time between each step is 12 to 24 hours. And once the whole floor is done, you still have to hold off parking the car on it for another 72 hours.

Step 1: Prep and wash the area

prep and wash the area

Using painter’s tape, stick plastic sheeting to the walls along the edge of the foundation, or at the height to which you will apply the epoxy up the walls. Sweep the floor thoroughly to remove dirt and dust. Using an old paintbrush, dust out corners and seams. If your floor was not previously painted, skip to Step 2.

For painted floors: Using a floor maintainer fitted with a light-sanding pad, scuff the paint to degloss it. Sweep away the dust. Then, using a bristle broom, scrub down the surface with an all-purpose cleaner. Rinse the floor thoroughly and let it dry for at least 4 hours. Continue with Step 3.

Tip: To check if the floor is clean, stick a strip of duct tape to it once it’s dry, then peel it away. If you see any dust or particles on the tape, clean the floor again.

Step 2: Etch the floor

etch the floor with etching sloution and water

For new or bare concrete: Mix the etching solution with water in a plastic watering can, following the manufacturer’s directions. Make sure to wear protective gloves, rubber boots, and safety glasses when working with the chemicals.

Wet the floor with a garden hose. Pour the solution over a 10-by-10-foot area in the corner farthest from your exit point. Using a bristle broom, scrub the area in one direction, then go over it again in a perpendicular direction.

Continue etching the floor in small sections. Once you’ve finished the entire garage, rinse the floor with a garden hose, starting in your first corner and moving forward. Continue rinsing until the water runs completely clear. Allow the floor to dry at least 4 hours.

Tip: Stubborn, dark discolorations may be the sign of a set-in oil stain, which will require additional scrubbing with fresh solution.

Step 3: Mix up the epoxy paint

Mix up the epoxy paint

Open both the

epoxy paint and epoxy hardener cans. Begin stirring the epoxy paint, then slowly pour the hardener into it. Make sure to scrape out every last bit of the hardener into the paint.

Carefully stir the two components for 3 minutes until they are fully blended. Place the lid loosely back on the can and set it aside, away from the sun, for 30 minutes. The can may feel warm to the touch as the chemicals react with one another

Step 4: Paint on the epoxy

Paint on the epoxy using a 3 inch paint brush

Once the epoxy formula is ready, you must use it within 2 hours for it to cure properly, so work quickly. Always keep the garage well ventilated as you work.

Pour the epoxy into a roller tray fitted with a liner. Using a 3-inch paintbrush, cut in a line of epoxy around the border of the area to be covered, and paint it into seams and corners.

Step 5: Roll the epoxy paint

Roll the epoxy paint with a 10x10 inch roller

Move to the corner farthest from the exit. Using a 3/8-inch-nap roller fitted with an extension handle, roll a 10-by-10-foot section with

epoxy paint. The epoxy should feel slightly thicker and stickier than normal house paint. Rewet the roller and go over the section in a perpendicular direction, again feathering out uneven lines. Continue covering the floor section by section.

If you plan to use two coats, finish the entire floor, allow it to dry 12 to 24 hours (longer in humid or cold weather), then recoat it in the same manner.

Tip: Keep a wet edge as you move from section to section so there won’t be clear seams when the paint dries.

Step 6: Apply the color flakes

Apply the color flakes by sprinkling them lightly onto the epoxy-coated garage floor

As you apply the top coat of paint, stop after every section to put down the color flakes while the area is still wet.

Distribute the flakes over the area by first sprinkling them lightly, then slowly building up distribution until you have the right coating. Take a handful of flakes and shake them through your fingers the way you would sprinkle grass seed.

Work your way from the back to the front of the garage in conjunction with rolling on the epoxy. Once the entire floor is coated, allow it to dry for 12 to 24 hours (longer in humid or cold weather).

Tip: While most companies package their flakes in cans with a shaker top, broadcasting them by hand may be easier to control. Practice your technique on a tarp outside the garage.

Step 7: Prepare the top coat

mix the hardner and top coat

Pour the hardener into the clear top coat, making sure to scrape out all of it, and stir the mixture for 3 minutes until it’s completely blended. Place the lid loosely back on the can and set it aside, away from the sun, for 30 minutes. One minute before you are ready to

apply the top coat, stir the mixture for an additional minute. If you plan to use antiskid granules, add them now.

Step 8: Apply the top coat

apply the top coat

You’ll only have about 2 hours to work with the mixture. Using a clean paintbrush, cut in at corners, edges, and seams. Then, using a 3/8-inch-nap roller, start at a point farthest from the exit and roll on the clear coat in 10-by-10-foot sections as you did with the

epoxy paint. Work first in one direction, then in the perpendicular direction on each section, making your way forward until the entire floor is covered. The coating will appear white or milky at first but will dry clear. Allow 24 hours drying time for foot traffic and up to 72 hours before parking a car—longer in humid or cold weather.

6-Point Plan for Getting the Best Contractor

By Bud Coburn

Are you thinking about remodeling or doing a project around the house that will require a contractor?  The following guideline will surely help.

1.  The Selection Process

Conducting the Interview
Once you’ve settled on three potential contractors, arrange a time for each one to take a look at the project. You’re looking for someone with a good reputation who has the skills and experience to deliver a quality job at a fair price, sure, but that’s not all. The contractor and his crew will be spending a lot of time in your house, so ask a lot of questions.

Ask about anything you don’t understand, including terminology. He might refer to “bullnose” or “ogee” when discussing countertop edges, and if you don’t know the difference you might not get the shape you want. Ask about things you do understand, too — it’s a great way to assess the scope of someone’s knowledge. Gather information in one interview and use it in the next. If Contractor Jones says, “I’d replace that trim rather than trying to repair it,” ask Contractor Smith, “Do you think it’s worth repairing that trim, or should we just replace it?” There may be more than one right answer in a given situation, but the response will tell you if the contractor has the training, experience, and judgment to make decisions you’ll feel comfortable with.

Getting References
Ask any contractor you’re considering for at least five references; contact at least three. (“But ignore the first one, It’s usually the brother-in-law.”) The closer the projects are in scope and style to your own, the better. Get previous clients to give you details of the contractor’s dependability and workmanship, how he handled problems, whether the budget stayed intact, and if work progressed on or close to schedule. Bottom-line question: Would you hire the same person again?

Assessing the Bids
The low bid isn’t likely to be top-quality construction, and the high bid isn’t a guarantee of the best work. Some contractors submit a high bid if they don’t really want the job or don’t have time to come up with a more accurate proposal.  The ones in the middle are the most realistic.

Discuss up front how the contractor expects to be paid. Payments for large projects are typically spread out over three to six intervals, based on various completion benchmarks. The first payment is a deposit and seals the deal. The last is usually 10 to 15 percent of the total, delivered upon your approval of the project. Beware of anyone who demands cash payments; you won’t have any proof of how much you’ve handed over. A contractor who asks for his full fee up front is probably a crook.

2.  Contracts and Questions

Creating a Contract (and Yes, You Do Need One)
Every project, no matter how small, should be covered by a contract. It should include the basics — start date, end date, cost — as well as a clause stating the work will conform to all applicable building codes. The project description should be as detailed as possible. For example, a deck contract might specify: “Demolish old deck. Build new 10-by-12 deck.” Better would be: “Remove old deck, dispose of debris. Excavate site as needed, install new footings, posts, and handrails to code. Decking to be 2×6 cedar, custom knotty grade, nailed per code and finished with two coats of penetrating sealant.”

10 Essential Questions You Need Answered
The bigger the project, the more answers you need up front. Here’s a checklist of 10 essential questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line.

>> Timing
How long will it take? A good contractor can tell you when he can start and when he can finish, weather permitting. Find out if he’s working on multiple jobs at the same time, or if he will have to hire unfamiliar subs to handle the additional business. A schedule stuffed with too many projects may leave yours without his full attention.

>> Experience
How many projects like this have you done before? Whether it’s a whole-house remodel or just a built-in bookcase, an experienced contractor has already faced the typical problems and knows how to solve them. If he’s been working in the area for a while, he’s also more likely to know about local building codes and customs, and where to get the best materials forthe most competitive prices.

>> Supervision
Who’s keeping an eye on my project? Someone has to coordinate and review the work of the subcontractors while it’s going on, not afterward, when corrections may be impractical (and surely will be more expensive). Find out who will be the daily eyes on your job. That person should have the authority and willingness to resolve minor complaints, as well as be able to communicate effectively with you.

>> Permits
Will you obtain all necessary permits? If a contractor wants you to pull permits for any part of the job, it may cause problems down the line. Some towns require that the person who gets the permit is the one responsible for the work. Also, a handful of places, including New York City and North Carolina, have established funds to reimburse homeowner losses caused by faulty workmanship. The money may not be available if you pulled your own permit.

>> Collaboration
Have you worked with my architect before? Working with an architect calls for a level of cooperation that not every general contractor enjoys, especially if the architect is serving as a project manager. An established relationship between the two can help move the project along, whereas a frosty one can sink it.

>> Housekeeping
How will you protect my house and my family during construction? If the roof has to be removed to add a second story, exposed rooms must be protected from the weather. What would you rather hear: “We’ll throw a tarp over it” or “We’ll use 6-mil reinforced sheeting supported on a temporary framework and secure the tarp with battens nailed to the edge of the roof”?

>> Change Orders
What happens if I change my mind about something? All the details that looked so great on paper might not look as good when the project begins to take shape. Conscientious builders use written change orders to manage the process. The order describes the change and what it will cost, and both you and the builder sign it. Be wary of anyone who says, “We usually just figure it all out at the end.”

>> Liability
Do you carry liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance? If a worker is injured on your job, he or she should be covered by the contractor’s insurance, not your homeowner’s policy. Check with state or local authorities and find out what the minimum coverages are. Ask to see proof of insurance, such as a certificate with a current date. If you have any doubts, check with the carrier directly to see if the policy is in force.

>> Warranty
Do you guarantee your workmanship? Some builders consider themselves done after the final inspection. Others will come back to take care of any problems that crop up in the months following completion. You can also specify a time period for minor follow-up repairs in the contract.

>> Contact
How can I reach you? If you notice a problem, the best chance to resolve it is to contact the builder immediately. If the builder isn’t on site every day, will you end up leaving message after message on his voicemail? Find out if he’s reachable by cell phone. And after your first meeting, try the number to thank him for the visit — and to double-check that it works.

What to Do If Things Go Wrong
Many “problems” are simply misunderstandings that can be resolved through discussion. If that doesn’t work, put your concerns in writing and ask the contractor for a written response. Consult your contract. A good contract will not only specify materials and standards for workmanship but will also note how disputes should be handled — for instance, by an independent mediator or through a more formal process of binding arbitration. If no dispute resolution method is spelled out, contact the local contractor licensing authority and ask about filing a formal complaint.


How To Spot a Crooked Contractor

By Bud Coburn

National Association of Home Builders can help you spot a crook

As we’ve all seen in news reports, natural disasters attract predators en masse. Of particular concern are phony contractors, who knock on the doors of distraught homeowners and offer to repair damaged roofs or remove fallen trees. They take a hefty deposit, but never return to do the work. Of course, these fraudsters don’t just come round after bad weather. The following tips from the National Association of Home Builders will help you spot a crook under any conditions.

Beware of a contractor who:
+ Refuses to give you a copy of his license and certificate of insurance, which should include liability and worker’s compensation.

+ Has popped up out of nowhere, literally. You can’t verify any of her references or that she even has a fixed business address.

+ Rubs you the wrong way. Trust your instincts,. If something doesn’t feel right about the person, then it probably isn’t.

+ Is so eager to get things started that technicalities get brushed away—but not the fee. He’ll say you don’t need to sign a contract and try to get you to pay for the project up front.

+ Asks you to write a check directly to him for products, such as cabinets and windows, instead of to the company supplying the items.

+ Offers a bargain in exchange for using your home as an example of her work or tempts you with a low price that’s only on the table if you sign that day.

+ Tries to get you to buy stuff you already have. Don’t get talked into paying to install a new HVAC system if you like the one you have.

+ Asks you to pay for work that hasn’t been done yet or for materials that haven’t arrived. If you don’t see it, don’t pay for it.

+ Uses scare tactics to get you to sign off on extras. Your walls won’t crumble because you didn’t get that ultra-expensive siding.



All About Garage Doors

By Bud Coburn

No longer an afterthought, they’re stronger, more weathertight, and brimming with character. The experts at This Old House help you pick a new garage door to complement your home

illustration of sectional garage door anatomy

Anatomy of a Garage Door

A sectional door, the most common variety, rolls up and down on steel tracks.

1. Torsion Spring
Counterbalances door’s weight so that it can be lifted easily.

2. Track
Guides door up to ceiling and back.

3. Roller
Rides inside track. Steel ones are noisy; nylon is quieter.

4. Hinge
Connects horizontal sections.

5. Section

6. Lock Bar
Engages with track to prevent door from opening.

7. Weatherstripping
Seals door edges against air infiltration.


What’s it cost?
For steel and wood, the two most popular materials, expect to pay $250 to $2,500 and $1,000 to $10,000, respectively. Prices do not include installation.

DIY or hire a pro?
While some makers sell directly to homeowners, installation can be dangerous and should be left to a pro.

How long will they last?
Warranties on craftsmanship and materials (not finishes) range from one year for some wood doors to lifetime for some steel ones.

How much care?
It depends on the material and its exposure to the elements. Wood requires regular recoating to prevent decay. Steel only needs repainting if it rusts. Fiberglass and vinyl can be painted if they fade; glass needs only an occasional washing. Hire a pro to inspect the mechanical parts annually.

Type: Sectional

illustration of sectional garage door

The most popular type, these doors have horizontal hinged sections that are rolled straight up and then back along the garage ceiling, often assisted by a spring-balanced motorized door opener. One ¾-horsepower opener can raise a door weighing as much as 1,000 pounds and spanning 20 feet. Built-in weather-stripping seals out the elements.

Type: Swing Out

illustration of swing out garage door

Two doors hang from hinges on either side of the opening. To resist sagging, each door must be well built and should be at least 1 foot taller than it is wide. Best for mild climates because snow drifts will prevent them from opening. Can be operated manually or with a special remote control. Good at sealing out the weather.

Type: Sliding

illustration of sliding garage door

Like barn doors, these hang from rollers that ride along a track at the top of the opening. Doors hung this way can be quite massive and yet are easy to operate in all kinds of weather, manually or with a remote. Track length is about twice the door width. This is the least weathertight garage door.

Type: Bifold

illustration of bifold garage door

Like closet doors, pairs of hinged vertical sections fold back against the sides of the opening. Bifolds aren’t as heavy as swing-out doors and don’t open out as far, but snow buildup could still prevent them from opening. Must be manually operated; no remote opener available. Can’t be sealed as tightly as swing-out or sectional doors.

Material: Metal

metal garage door

Strong, long lasting, and virtually maintenance-free, steel is the most popular option and comes in a wide variety of designs. More likely to rust in seaside locations. Look for dent-resistant 24-gauge sections. Aluminum is light and doesn’t rust but costs more. Foam-insulated doors can have R-values as high as 17. Prices range from $250 to $2,500.

Material: Wood

wood garage door

Offers the widest selection of styles, shapes, and decorative add-ons. Paint-grade doors often use engineered woods and wood-fiber boards. Stain-grade doors are built of solid stock. Requires the most maintenance. Can be insulated to R-10. With prices up to $10,000, wood is usually the most costly option.

Material: Fiberglass or Vinyl

fiberglass garage door

Fiberglass can look like painted or stained wood, but it isn’t as heavy, won’t decay, and doesn’t dent or rust like steel. Vinyl doors have a stiff foam core that provides good insulation. Design options for either material are limited. Colors are subject to fading, but these doors can be repainted or stained. Good near the seashore, but they may crack in cold weather. Both can be insulated to R-12. Fiberglass starts at $1,500, vinyl at $600.

Material: Composite

composite garage door

Cellulose fibers fused with resins create a material that won’t crack, warp, or rot like wood, or rust or dent like metal. Each section has a foam core for stiffness and insulation. This low-maintenance material is also used as trim over wood and steel doors. Can be insulated to R-8. Prices start around $1,500.

Material: Glass

glass garage door

Panels of tempered glass (or a tough plastic) mounted on a rustproof aluminum frame fill garages with light. Choose clear, frosted, or opaque single-pane or double-pane panels. Wood-clad frames are also available. Because of their weight, glass doors require heavy-duty springs. The R-value for single-pane glass is a minimal 1.5; double-pane glazing is R-4. Pricing is similar to composite doors.

Getting the Door

garage doors

No matter what size or shape your opening, there’s a door to fit your budget and taste.

What to measure. Before you shop for a sectional door, the only type that comes in stock sizes, measure the height and width of the opening to see if you need an off-the-shelf or a custom size. Most stock sectional doors cover openings 7 to 8 feet high and 9 to 16 feet wide. Doors for much bigger openings and nonsectional doors are custom built, so have a pro do the measuring.

Where to buy. Find stock and semicustom doors for standard openings at home centers, window-and-door retailers, and garage-door distributors. The salesperson can recommend an installer, who should double-check everything before you place the order. Order custom doors directly from a manufacturer or through its distributors.

How long it takes. Stock steel doors can be delivered as soon as the following day or up to two weeks after the order is placed. Semicustom steel takes three to six weeks; a custom wood door, eight to nine weeks. Professional installation takes about half a day, regardless of type.

What’s included. New tracks, rollers, spring, and hinges are typically part of the door’s purchase price. Installation and removal of old doors are not. Expect to pay $100 to $500 to have the new door put in and $75 to $200 for the old door to be taken away.

Paint or Clear Coat?

garage doors painted green

No matter which you choose, keep in mind that a factory-applied finish ensures that your door arrives ready to install and will hold up better than a DIY- or pro-applied finish. For an exact color match, or to save a few bucks, order a primed or unfinished door.

Paint. It’s the most durable finish and the most colorful. Use it to visually tie the doors to the rest of the house. If you want a custom color or want to freshen a faded factory finish, you can apply two coats of acrylic latex over any door material, even fiberglass and vinyl. Sand and reapply the same type of paint every five to six years.

Clear coat. This is the way to celebrate the beauty of high-quality wood doors. It once took eight to 12 coats of spar varnish to get this look. These days, makers use high-build translucent alkyds, like Cetol Door & Window, which need only three coats. To maintain, apply a new top coat each year.

Style: Neo-Colonial

neo colonial style garage door

Looking like formal wall paneling, this door is in tune with the fluted columns, divided-light windows, and other colonial elements on this newer house.

Shown: Cambridge sectional insulated steel with composite overlay trim, $1,400;

Style: Traditional

traditional style garage door

Wood arch-top doors with divided-light windows and herringbone panels have the look of a Victorian-era stable.

Shown: Northwest Door Heritage Classic model C008C sectional insulated western red cedar, starting at $3,000;

Style: Craftsman

crafstman style garage door

A two-tone color scheme highlights the rectilinear shapes popular in the Arts and Crafts–style architecture.

Shown: Coachman Collection model CD12 sectional insulated steel with composite overlay trim, $2,400;

Style: Mission

mission style garage door

Iron strap hinges, handles, and decorative nailheads, known as clavos, evoke Spanish-Colonial style entry doors.

Shown: Mediterranean Collection model 6000A sectional in alder, $4,500;

Style: Modern

modern style garage door

Stripped to the essentials, this translucent glass door is reminiscent of a Japanese shoji screen.

Shown: Avante Collection sectional with frosted glass in a bronze, anodized-aluminum frame, starting at $1,500;

Style: Rustic

rustic style garage door

This informal style, with lots of knotty, rough-sawn wood, calls for an equally relaxed wood garage door.

Shown: Carriage House Door Co. model 3020K insulated wood sectional with reclaimed barnboard, $5,000;

Accessories: Pergola

garage accessory pergola

This classic structure shades the doors while providing support for a handsome garland of clambering vines, like clematis and honeysuckle.

Similar to shown: Attached pergola in cellular PVC, starting at $8,000;

Accessories: Lights

garage with accessory lantern lights

Sconces mounted above or to the side of an opening add a welcoming glow while making it easier to locate a handle or a keypad opener in the dark. For convenience, equip the lights with a motion detector so that they’ll switch on when you approach.

Similar to shown: Camelot model 1705BK cast-aluminum sconce, $440 each;

Accessories: Hardware

garage with accessory hardware

Decorative handles, latches, and hinges help give modern sectional doors a swing-out door look. They resemble wrought iron, but they’re actually made of no-rust cast aluminum with a black powder-coat finish. Find them online at or through garage-door dealers.

A. R.H. Hunt Clavos by Amarr, $10 per pair
B. Canyon Ridge Sliding Bolt by Clopay, $27
C. Spade Strap Hinge by Clopay, $66 for four
D. Santiago 12-inch Fleur-de-Lis Twisted Pull Handle by Amarr, $150 per pair
E. Santiago 5-inch Ring Handle by Amarr, $150 per pair

Safety Check

kids playing in front of garage

If, like most folks, you have a sectional door perched above your home’s busiest entry, make sure it’s secure.

Periodically test the opener’s photo eye by waving a stick across its beam as the door comes down. The door should automatically go back up. Also, check the pressure-sensitive function by lowering the door onto a roll of paper towel. The door should reverse itself when it touches the roll. In either case, if the door doesn’t back up, call a pro.

If your opener and remote are more than 15 years old, it’s time for a replacement. Ones made before 1995 have fixed security codes that can easily be accessed by would-be intruders. New ones have rolling codes that change with every click of the remote. As a further precaution, shut off the opener’s power switch whenever you leave on vacation.

A staved-in garage door puts an entire house at risk. Extra bracing and beefier hardware can earn a door a wind-load rating between 90 and 150 mph. If you live in a high-wind zone, check on the rating required by your local building codes before you buy a new door.




Notching a Joist

By Bud Coburn

When remodeling it sometimes require for a joist to be notched to move plumbing.  The following should be followed to maintain the structure and strength of the joist.

Residential Code book, which is probably on a reference shelf at your local public library. It shows exactly what you can do to a sawn-lumber joist without weakening it.

Here’s what it says about notching: No notches in the center third of a joist; and in the ends where you can cut notches, they can’t be any deeper than one-sixth the actual depth of the joist or any wider than one-third its depth. In your 7-1/2-inch-deep joist, that means the notch can’t be any deeper than 1-1/4 inches or any wider than 2-1/2 inches; too small for a drain pipe.

The code is more forgiving about drilled holes. They can’t be any closer than 2 inches from the edges of the joist, and their maximum diameter is one-third the joist’s depth. In ­other words, you’re allowed to drill a 2-1/2-inch hole, which should be just enough to accommodate your pipe.


How to Size Gutters and Downspouts

By Bud Coburn

Use this handy guide to make sure your rain collection is up to the task during even the heaviest storm

comparison diagram of two common gutter shapes

Five-inch K-style gutters or 6-inch half-rounds, the most common residential sizes, are able to handle the rainfall on most houses in most parts of the country. But houses with big, steep roofs or those located in climates prone to heavy downpours may need wider gutters and extra downspouts to keep rainwater from overflowing.

To figure out what size gutters you need, first you’ll need to calculate the square footage of the gutter’s drainage area. For a simple gable-end roof, you would only need to make two calculations, one for each slope. Hip roofs and intersecting roofs have multiple facets, and for those you’ll need to add up the area (length x width) of each surface within a drainage area to get the total square footage.

Adjusting for Pitch and Rainfall
Once you know the total square footage of drainage for each gutter, you’ll need to adjust for the following two factors:

1. Roof-pitch factor
The steeper a roof’s pitch, the more windblown rain it can collect. You can measure pitch with a 2-foot level and a tape measure: Hold one end of the level against the roof, level it, and then measure the distance between the roof and the underside of the level at its midpoint, which gives you a 12-inch run. A 5-inch gap, for instance, is a 5-in-12 pitch. Once you know pitch, you can find your roof-pitch factor in the table below.

Roof pitch     /     Roof-pitch factor
12 in 12 or higher        1.3
9 in 12 to 11 in 12        1.2
6 in 12 to 8 in 12          1.1
4 in 12 to 5 in 12          1.05
Flat to 3 in 12                1

2. Maximum rainfall intensity
The U.S. Weather Bureau records the maximum rainfall that could possibly happen in a 5-minute period, in inches per hour, for various regions. The higher the amount, the bigger a gutter has to be to keep from being overwhelmed in a storm burst. Download this handy table to find out the number for your area.

Sizing the Gutters
Multiply the drainage area by the roof-pitch factor and rainfall intensity to find out the adjusted square footage. Then use the chart below to see what size gutter you need. (If a roof’s various drainage areas call for different size gutters, go for the biggest one.)

5-inch      5,520 square feet
6-inch      7,960 square feet

5-inch          2,500 square feet
6-inch          3,840 square feet

For example: A house in Chicago has a roof whose actual drainage area is 1,000 square feet. The 6-in-12 pitch factor (1.1) multiplied by 1,000 yields an effective area of 1,100 square feet. Multiplying that number by the local maximum rainfall intensity (6.8 inches per hour) yields an adjusted square footage of 7,480 square feet. Therefore, this roof should be equipped with 6-inch K-style gutters.

Extra Capacity
What if the runoff is off the chart for standard gutters? You have three options:

1. Get 7- or 8-inch gutters. They’ll cost more and probably require a custom order through a professional installer.

2. Increase the pitch of the gutter. The standard is about ¼ inch per 10 feet. Increasing the pitch increases a gutter’s handling capacity, but the gutter may look askew over a long run.

3. Add downspouts. The above recommendations assume that you have properly sized downspouts every 40 feet. As with gutters, a downspout’s capacity must match or exceed the expected runoff. Use the chart below to figure out how many extra downspouts you need. Adding a 2 by 3 rectangular downspout, for instance, boosts your gutter’s capacity by 600 square feet of drainage area.

2 by 3 inches = 600 square feet
3 by 4 inches = 1,200 square feet

3 inches = 706 square feet
4 inches = 1,255 square feet


How to Install In-Ground Sprinklers

By Bud Coburn

Pop-up lawn sprinklers deliver a precise amount of water, then automatically shut off and drop out of sight

Installing Inground Sprinklers tout

  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • 16 to 20 hours
  • about $1,000 to $1,400 for a two-zone system
  • Tools
  • pvc pipe cutter
    PVC pipe cutter
  • 100-foot tape measure
    100-foot tape measure
  • trenching shovel
    Trenching Shovel
  • trenching machine
    Trenching Machine,
    rents for about $75 a day
  • adjustable pliers
    Large adjustable pliers
  • utility knife
    Utility knife
  • tongue-and-groove pliers
    Tongue-and-groove pliers.
    for tightening threaded PVC fittings
  • ratcheting screwdriver
    for installing the wall-mounted timer


  • Shopping Lists
    2. MARKER FLAGS for marking sprinkler locations before trenching
    3. FLEXIBLE PIPING connects sprinklers to PVC pipe
    6. GROUND STAKES to secure drip-irrigation tubing
    11. VALVE BOX for housing the valves
    12. BACKFLOW PREVENTION DEVICE keeps irrigation water from flowing into home’s water supply
    13. GRAVEL for spreading under the valve box
    14. BARK MULCH for covering the drip irrigation tubing

A landscape flush with green grass, healthy trees, and colorful flowers increases a home’s curb appeal. Automatic sprinklers are the best way to maintain such a luxuriant setting while minimizing water use.

Before you can begin your own project, you need a plan. Many manufacturers will custom-design a system for you that is specific to your yard and region of the country.

The manufacturer will supply instructions onhow to check your water pressure—typically, you need at least 30 to 35 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure and about 10 to 13 gpm (gallons per minute) of water flow to support a sprinkler system. They’ll also give you a template so that you can sketch your property boundaries. Send them the sketch and they’ll return a detailed plan for your landscape—including specific instructions—and a list of everything you’ll need to buy at the hardware store to put the system together.

sprinkler installation diagram

WARNING: Check with the local building department to obtain all necessary permits, and contact a one-call center to have the local utilities mark any buried electrical cables, gas lines, or

Step 1: Dig the trenches

Digigng the trenches to install an in-ground sprinkler

Locate the pipe for the water source that you’ll be tapping into. It might be at the water meter in the basement or buried underground.

Mark the locations of all the trenches and sprinklers with wooden stakes or plastic flags.

Call your state utility location number to have all underground utilities marked to prevent any potential damage to an existing utility line.  Some sates call them CBUD (Call Before You Dig)

Then use a gas-powered trenching machine to excavate the trenches to a depth of 4 to 12 inches, depending on the recommendation for your area of the country.

Tip: Most rental dealers will drop off and pick up the trenching machine for a small additional charge.

Step 2: Make the water connection

making the water connection when installing an in-ground sprinkler

Turn off the water to the house at the meter.

Cut into the main water line and splice in a tee fitting with PVC cement and primer. If the line is copper, solder on a copper tee.

Glue a 90-degree PVC elbow onto a male PVC adapter.

Thread the adapter into the tee fitting installed on the main water line. It’s okay to connect PVC to copper here.

TIP: If you are uncomfortable with this step, call in a professional plumber to tap into the main line for you.

Step 3: Install the zone valves

Installing the zone valves when installing an in-ground sprinkler

Dig a trench from the main water line to the valve box location, as indicated on your plan. At the end, dig a hole about 18 inches deep and 2 to 3 feet long.

Line the hole with 2 inches of gravel, then set the valve box into it. The box lid should be flush with the grass.

Next, following the manufacturer’s directions, glue together the manifold and attach the zone valves. Set the manifold in the valve box.

Run 1-inch schedule 40 PVC pipe from the main water line to a backflow-prevention device and then connect it to the manifold.

Dig a shallow trench from the valve box to the location for the timer, according to your plan.

Lay the 24-volt underground wire in the trench and connect it to the wires leading from each valve.

Step 4: Place the pipes in the trenches

Place the pipes in the trenches

Following the plan, lay PVC pipe in all the trenches leading from the valve box. If necessary, join pipe sections with couplings and PVC cement.

Wherever a pipe branches off to a sprinkler head, splice in tee fittings, then attach a short length of flexible piping, which will connect to the sprinkler head.

Where a pipe connects to drip-irrigation tubing, attach an upturned elbow, a short vertical pipe, and a pressure reducer with a microfilter.

TIP: Save money and avoid extra trips to the home center by buying PVC fittings in multipiece contractor packs.

Step 5: Connect the pipe at the valve box

connecting the pipe at the valve box

Use 90-degree elbows to join the PVC water pipes in the trenches to the zone valve pipes protruding from the valve box.

Once the piping is completed, turn on the water to flush any dirt or debris from the system. Turn the water off again to install the sprinklers.

Step 6: Install the pop-up sprinklers

Install the pop-up sprinklers

Attach a pop-up sprinkler onto the end of each length of flexible piping. Push the barbed fitting all the way into the pipe; no glue or hose clamp is needed.

Remove the cap from the sprinkler and install the appropriate spray nozzle, as indicated on the plan.

Step 7: Roll out the irrigation

Roll out the irrigation

At flowerbeds and trees, connect drip-irrigation tubing to the pressure reducer and microfilter coming from the underground PVC pipes.

Roll out the tubing along the flower bed, keeping it close to the base of the plants.

Keep unwinding the spool back and forth throughout the flower bed; space the tubing 12 inches apart.

If necessary, join one length of tubing to another with a push-in coupling.

When you get to the end of the layout, cut the tubing with a utility knife if necessary, flush it with water, fold it over, and slip on an end clamp.

TIP: Set the tubing in the sun for a few hours and it will soften and be much easier to install.

Step 8: Install the ground stakes

Installing the ground stakes

Once all the irrigation tubing is laid out, secure it with plastic ground stakes. Hook each stake over the tubing and press it into the dirt .

Space the stakes about 18 to 24 inches apart.

Note that it’s often necessary to place two stakes very close together and on opposite sides of the tubing to hold it down.

To prevent the water coming out of the drip-irrigation tubing from evaporating too quickly—and to help hide the tubing—cover the area with bark mulch. Spread it at least 4 inches deep and it will also deter weeds from sprouting.

Step 9: Connect the timer wires

Connect the timer wires

Mount the programmable timer on the house wall.

Strip the insulation from the ends of the 24-volt wires that lead from the zone valves to the timer.

Attach the wires to the timer terminals, as shown in the manufacturer’s instructions.

Hire a licensed electrician to run power to the timer, if necessary.

Set the timer and run a test to make sure that each zone and all the sprinklers are operating properly.

Finally, adjust any nozzles that are spraying off course.