House Excavations, green border
family home projects work in progress

The Right Tool for the Job Makes All the Difference

From hanging the sheetrock, to taping and mudding it, we are making excellent progress on the dining room. And when I say “we,” I really mean Erik. Aside from helping hold up a couple of sheets of drywall so he could get the screws started and cutting a few pieces, I didn’t do much in the four days it took him to hang it all.

When it comes to taping and mudding, I know better than to work on that. I’m too sloppy. All thumbs with the tape and mud doohickey. (Spatula? Scraper? Knife? I had to look this up. There are putty knives and joint knives for applying mud.)

Up and down the ladder Erik went, applying mud and tape and mud again to the seams, corners, and screw heads in the ceiling and walls. It was brutal.

Southeast corner of the dining room with sheetrock that has been taped and mudded. July 13, 2022.
Southeast corner of the dining room with sheetrock that has been taped and mudded. July 13, 2022.

One of the things he said while installing the sheetrock on the ceiling is how much faster it would have gone if he had had a plank.

A plank is an extendable metal platform that is placed on the rungs of a ladder in order to create a place to walk to reach high surfaces. It’s great for jobs that require you to move back and forth, like mudding and taping a ceiling.

We had used a contractor’s plank for painting a stairwell once long ago and I knew we were likely to use one again, so we decided to order one. It came this past week.

Long cardboard box containing our new plank on the floor of the dining room. A ladder and stepstool are in the background to the left. Another ladder is off to the right. July 16, 2022.
Long cardboard box containing our new plank on the floor of the dining room. A ladder and stepstool are in the background to the left. Another ladder is off to the right. July 16, 2022.

 

The metal plank is on the rungs of two ladders. Erik is standing on the plank, holding a light up to the ceiling so he can find defects to sand out or fill in the mud. July 16, 2022.
The metal plank is on the rungs of two ladders. Erik is standing on the plank, holding a light up to the ceiling so he can find defects to sand out or fill in the mud. July 16, 2022.

 

A view of the end of the plank while it is held on the rungs of two ladders. This is a Little Giant brand plank, which can hold up to 500 pounds. July 16, 2022.
A view of the end of the plank while it is held on the rungs of two ladders. This is a Little Giant brand plank, which can hold up to 500 pounds. July 16, 2022.

We purchased a Little Giant brand plank because it was the only one we found that had a weight capacity of 500 pounds, which would allow both of us to stand on the plank at the same time. Most of the other planks we found only had a 250-pound capacity.

From the photos above, you can see that we put our plank to work immediately. It allowed us to look for defects in the mud so we could fill or sand them.

This was the final phase of mudding and taping, which occurs in several coats and involves sanding it smooth between coats.

In order to find the spots he had repaired, Erik used a trick he had learned somewhere along the way (YouTube University, maybe?). He mixed some blue chalk line powder into a small container of mud in order to give it some color.

Yellow and black container of Irwin brand blue chalk line powder behind a small plastic container of the blue powder mixed into sheetrock mud. July 16, 2022.
Yellow and black container of Irwin brand blue chalk line powder behind a small plastic container of the blue powder mixed into sheetrock mud. July 16, 2022.

He told me that he would not use red chalk line powder because it probably would bleed through the primer and paint. Blue was easier to cover.

Then we took a utility light up onto the plank and used it to create a raking light across the ceiling in order to find defects. As we found defects, he filled them with the blue mud. The blue mud would prevent him from having to re-sand entire walls and the ceiling.

A small pock mark in the mudded ceiling. July 16, 2022.
A small pock mark in the mudded ceiling. July 16, 2022.

 

The pock mark and another defect have been filled with mud colored with blue chalk line powder in order to find them again for sanding. July 16, 2022.
The pock mark and another defect have been filled with mud colored with blue chalk line powder in order to find them again for sanding. July 16, 2022.

 

Minor defects in the mudded ceiling are filled with the blue mud so they can be found later for sanding. July 16, 2022.
Minor defects in the mudded ceiling are filled with the blue mud so they can be found later for sanding. July 16, 2022.

The plank made this easy work because I could hold the light while he applied the mud and we could walk along it to do the full length of the dining room ceiling. We moved the ladders and plank only four times to work our way across the room.

I think checking the ceiling for defects took us less than an hour. I asked Erik if we would have finished as quickly without the plank. He said, “Absolutely not,” because he would have been going up and down the ladder and moving it continuously.

Obviously, the plank was the right tool for this job. It will also come in handy when we are painting. The blue chalk line powder was also the right tool for this job. We primed the room today and one coat of primer has covered the blue mud.

White powder from sanding mud is all over the dining room floor. July 16, 2022.
White powder from sanding mud is all over the dining room floor. July 16, 2022.

We left quite a mess on the floor from sanding the mud smooth. Not only was the dining room floor covered in mud dust, we tracked it into the kitchen on our shoes.

White powder from sanding mud tracked onto our kitchen rug. July 16, 2022.
White powder from sanding mud tracked onto our kitchen rug. July 16, 2022.

It was very satisfying watching Erik vacuum up the mud dust from the dining room floor. Our RIGID shop vac was yet another right tool for the job.

We’re excited by the progress we’re making on this project. We had another little surprise while we were in the middle of this work.

I looked out the south window, which overlooks the neighbor’s garage, and found a robin sitting on a nest it had built on some scrap lumber.

Wooden fence with the neighbor's garage behind it. Along the garage wall, there hangs a ladder at the top of the photo. Underneath is a set of boards attached to each other like a section of fence. On top of this is a robin sitting on its nest. July 16, 2022.
Wooden fence with the neighbor’s garage behind it. Along the garage wall, there hangs a ladder at the top of the photo. Underneath is a set of boards attached to each other like a section of fence. On top of this is a robin sitting on its nest. July 16, 2022.

The robin looks pretty content, not at all flustered by the activity in our dining room.

Thoughtful comments welcome.