Are FastCap’s Powerhead screws cost effective?

I’ve been a fan of FastCap LLC ever since I started in finish carpentry. I use several of their products daily. I simply will not hang upper cabinets without their 3rd Hand products. They lift heavy cabinet boxes into place and allow for precise adjustment without risking a back injury or hiring a helper. Their accuscribe pro is a great scribe tool for cutting filler panels. I’ve been curious about their Powerhead cabinet screw system for a while and after watching Ron Paulk’s video on them this week, I decided to order a sample pack and see what the fuss is about.

The powerhead line-up

The powerhead line-up

They’re obviously a great fastener, offering superior hold, excellent positive connection to driver bits, and a full range of cover caps to make them nearly impossible to spot–especially nice for glass-door cabinets. But are they cost effective? I did a comparison of their bulk packs against their nearest competitor, GRK fasteners, and I was surprised to find that the cost difference was negligible! Given the advantages of Powerhead, it’s kind of a no-brainer for the professional cabinet installer. But don’t take my word for it; here’s the data:

drive finish mfg length bulk qty price per bulk price per fastener price per inch price per install
T20 z FastCap 1.125 2,000.00 $142.56 $0.07 $0.06 $7.13
T20 z FastCap 1.25 2,000.00 $130.90 $0.07 $0.05 $6.55
T20 z FastCap 1.5 2,000.00 $148.29 $0.07 $0.05 $7.41
T20 z FastCap 2 2,000.00 $178.80 $0.09 $0.04 $8.94
T20 z FastCap 2.5 1,500.00 $110.88 $0.07 $0.03 $7.39
T20 z FastCap 3 1,500.00 $137.61 $0.09 $0.03 $9.17
T20 z FastCap 3.5 1,000.00 $128.04 $0.13 $0.04 $12.80
T20 z FastCap 4 1,000.00 $142.56 $0.14 $0.04 $14.26
#2R z FastCap 2.5 1,500.00 $110.88 $0.07 $0.03 $7.39
#2R z FastCap 3 1,500.00 $137.61 $0.09 $0.03 $9.17
#2R z FastCap 5 1,000.00 $121.00 $0.12 $0.02 $12.10
#2R BO FastCap 2.5 1,500.00 $100.80 $0.07 $0.03 $6.72
#2R BO FastCap 3 1,500.00 $125.10 $0.08 $0.03 $8.34
T20 yz GRK 1.25 4,000.00 $162.86 $0.04 $0.03 $4.07
T20 yz GRK 1.5 3,000.00 $140.68 $0.05 $0.03 $4.69
T20 yz GRK 1.75 2,000.00 $103.18 $0.05 $0.03 $5.16
T20 yz GRK 2 2,000.00 $122.84 $0.06 $0.03 $6.14
T20 yz GRK 2.5 1,500.00 $109.36 $0.07 $0.03 $7.29
T20 yz GRK 3.125 1,000.00 $98.83 $0.10 $0.03 $9.88
T20 ss GRK 1.25 4,000.00 $556.80 $0.14 $0.11 $13.92

 

How to: Setting a vanity cabinet

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Here’s the finished vanity securely fastened, level, plumb, and ready to be plumbed.

Setting a vanity is a great skill to have under your belt. Here I will go over my method of laying out the plumbing in the cabinet and cleanly cutting the pipes into the cabinets.

Tools Required

  • Drill and impact driver
  • 48″ level
  • Measuring tape
  • Square
  • Holes saws: 1″ & 2 1/2″
  • Taper drill bit (the size of your mounting screw’s shaft)
  • Paddle bit (the size of your mounting screw’s head)
  • Driver bits (in my case, T15 and T10)
  • Wood plugs that match your paddle bit size and wood grain (I make my own with a plug cutter
  • Wood glue
  • Stud finder magnet
  • Mallet
  • Clamps (I like the ‘quick clamp’ style)

fig 1. Hidden fastening has kept this install looking clean!

So, A word on fasteners. There are many different options on the market, but there is a difference between an economy screw and a premium screw. More on this in a future blog post. For vanity cabinets and all my euro cabinet installations actually, I use 1-1/4″ GRK trim head screws to attach cabinets to cabinets and either these or Spax MDF/Hardwood trim head screws for attaching fillers. There are many reasons for this, but to hit the high points, they can be made to disappear, they’re wicked strong, the torx drive doesn’t torque out (no strippy, strippy), and they’re easy to patch. As an added bonus, some amateur-hour crapenter probably won’t be able to come in behind you and mess with your work.

fig. 2: The wall floor is not level, so I marked a line from the high point in the floor (left) to level, all the way across. I measure down from this level line to find my vertical hole positions.

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fig. 3. Positions marked on the back of the cabinet.

 

Step by Step:

  1. Find the center of the wall. For a three-cabinet vanity like this (master bath), mark the center of the middle cabinet. Line up your marks.
  2. Check your middle cabinet for plumb. If it’s close, mark the sides of the middle cabinet.
  3. Measure from the middle cabinet’s sides out to each pipe’s center. Mark the measurements above each pipe
  4. Find the high point of the floor. To do this, measure your cabinet (here it’s 34 5/8″). Mark that height on both sides and use a level to transfer the mark across the wall. The higher of the two marks represents your high point. Start here and work across the wall. By starting and your high point and establishing a level line, you can shim up your low points to level! (fig 2.)
  5. Measure down from your level line to the vertical positions of your pipes. Always mark centers.
  6. From here, transfer the marks to the backs of your cabinets. Keep the cabinets in their same orientation to keep things easy. Connect your horizontal and vertical positions to form cross marks (figure 3), and circle the intersections
  7. Chuck up your hole saw. Doesn’t matter which. Drill the center of each mark through the backing, but don’t complete the hole!
  8. Now, drill through from the inside to the back of your cabinet with the correct size hole saw. This keeps your holes looking clean with no blow-out.
  9. Now find your stud locations. Lay these out on your top rail. Drill through the backing, back to front, with a taper drill bit to prevent blow-out. Now, use a paddle bit to remove excess material to allow your screw head to seat into the stud and your head to be hidden.
  10. Put the cabinets in place, clamp them together, line up the fronts, and screw them together with trim screws through the drawer slide hardware holes, or in front of the hinge mounting plates. That way, the holes will be hidden. (fig 1.)
  11. Shim, level, and plumb the cabinets, then drive the screws through your pre-drilled holes into studs.
  12. Measure the gaps to the walls on the right and left, top and bottom. Cut fillers to match and screw them into place with trim head screws.
  13. Replace drawers and doors. Adjust to perfect.
The finished product.

The finished product.

Aliexpress Tool Finds: new blog series

I’ve been curious for a time about the quality of tools that are available on import sites like AliExpress. I have a feeling that there are some gems out there to be found, and given the incredible prices on some of these items. In short, I’ve decided to give it a shot. I’ll be posting reviews of small hand tools and multitool blades here to start.

First up, some stop collars for drilling. Stop collars are cool because they allow you to have more control over your drilling depth without using a drill press. They’re good for doing repetitive tasks in the field especially. This set was $2.29 shipped to my door from China.

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Here is how they came. 8 collars and an allen key packed in a poly bag.

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Everything is as described. All the set screws are in place. Decent fit and finish.

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The verdict? Worth every penny! Do any of these look familiar?

Identical sets on Amazon.com

Identical sets on Amazon.com

 

Planning Your Kitchen Cabinets: 10 common mistakes

1. Top cabinet doors do not clear a ceiling light fixture

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Often there are issues when installing cabinets tight to the ceiling with hitting existing light fixtures. Many homeowners and interior designers alike overlook this crucial detail which can add hundreds of dollars to a project. Recessed can lights are a great solution to these situations and they can often be mounted in the same hole as the existing fixture.

2. Appliance doors allow for free movement of adjacent drawers and doors

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Oven doors and dishwashers in corners often pose problems for adjacent cabinet pulls. I have had to shorten drawers for clients who couldn’t open them after installing a new appliance! Apron sinks or “farm sinks” come with their own clearance requirements. Plan ahead!

3. Adequate venting for vent hood or microwave hood combo

There are recirculating options for venting, but nothing is quite as effective as a true vent stack in reducing smoke and grease in a well-used kitchen. There are many venting options, but often the cheapest is to vent directly out of the side of the house on the same story. If you plan for this, the vent could be hidden either on top of the cabinet or hidden within the cabinets for a cleaner look.

4. Valves and traps are already in place on sink plumbing

When the valves are already installed on sink plumbing, your cabinets need to be cut significantly to allow for these services to be connected. You also risk damaging the valves or gathering sediment in the exposed supply lines during your remodel. Ask your plumber to “stub in” your supply lines and drain instead, allowing you to cleanly install plumbing fixtures with minimal damage to your brand-new cabinets. Here’s what not to do:

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5. Dead corners are not utilized

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In a row of kitchen cabinets that turn a corner, at each turn there is the potential to waste space, commonly referred to as a dead corner. By using “lazy susan” fixtures you can reclaim some of that dead space and make it useful. Sometimes, facing the cabinet backwards into an adjoining room can even be a solution. Once, I installed a backwards corner cabinet that the client intended to use as a hidden litter box for their cats!

6. Top cabinet height is set without checking the ceiling and floor for level

You can run into a significant amount of additional expense fixing a wavy floor or ceiling when you’re budgeting for a cabinet install only. Trim carpenters charge a premium for “scribing molding” where they cut away parts of crown molding where it abuts a low point to create a seamless look. Wavy floors can result it abnormal toe-kick appearance or gaps over a long run of toe-kick on top of a sloping floor. Use a laser level to measure points along the run to spot any potential issues while they’re relatively easy to fix!

7. Not allowing clearance for your chosen faucet style

Many faucets are situated in front of windows with casings that may not allow free range of motion for the faucet style to rotate from hot to cold completely.

8. Covering floor registers without redirecting

Build a box that redirects the vent toward the toe kick and cut in a vent.

Build a box that redirects the vent toward the toe kick and cut in a vent.

Redirecting HVAC registers can cut down on your heating and cooling bills while keeping your living space more comfortable. Box around floor registers that are being covered and install registers in your toe kick to keep air flow at it’s peak efficiency.

9. Setting the footprint of the cabinets before addressing flooring issues

You may find that your new cabinets hide defects in your old flooring, or that your new flooring needs to run closer to the wall to not show a gap.

10. Not providing adequate space for appliances.

Built in ovens in particular need an air gap surrounding the appliance that is specified by the manufacturer. It’s important to keep these dimensions. Wood too close to extreme heat never ends well.

Deck Building: Updating a 3-level entryway using composite decking

 

 

 

 

Front entrance front entrance dimensioned

This was replacing an original deck built which was likely original to the home, built in 1974.

Before

There was a scissor jack holding up the top tier!

There was a scissor jack holding up the top tier!

There was severe sagging due to rot of critical structural members

There was severe sagging due to rot of critical structural members

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After

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How to Make an Outdoor Coffee Table / Ice Chest

13528357_10209532988311690_4485900526134981587_o 2016-06-25 17.55.18 2016-06-25 17.54.44 2016-06-25 17.55.13

My wife came up with this brilliant idea of combining an ice chest and coffee table to make our back patio party ready. I really loved the idea, so we put our heads together and made this project. It turned out great, so I wanted to provide a set of plans for those of you who would like to make one of their own. One caveat though, this was built around a galvanized trough that we had lying around, so it will require some adaptation to fit whatever bin you choose to use for the ice chest, but I’ve provided enough detail that I think you should be able to modify these plans to fit nearly any table application. To demonstrate this, I drafted up a farm table variant that showcases how this style of building can be adapted to other applications.

Materials

I chose to use rough cedar lumber such as is used for fences. I like working with it for a variety reasons. First of all, it’s naturally weather-resistant so I won’t have to worry about bringing it in out of the weather. Next, it’s very straight-grained, so cutting joinery is easy. You can even take some short cuts with cedar joinery, such as in cutting the shoulders of the rabbet joints, because they snap of straight with just a chisel and some leverage if the perpendicular face is cut. This is also an inexpensive and widely available wood that any of my readers can get ahold of without difficulty.

Bill of Materials (qty – length x width x height) :

  • 1 – 4″x4″x8′ Cedar Fence Post
  • 6 – 2″x4″x8′ Cedar Boards
  • 8 – 3 3/8″ wood screw lags (ledgerlok or similar)
  • 20 – 2 1/2″ coated deck screws*

Tools: 

  • Drill with countersink bit and driver for deck screws
  • Circular saw
  • Miter saw or 45 degree fence for circular saw
  • Table saw or router with edge guide

Process:

  1. Legs
    1. Cut 4×4 down to 1′ 6 1/2″ (4)
    2. Cross-cut 3 1/2″ from one end, 2 1/2″ depth
    3. Use a sharp, wide chisel and mallet to remove the cheek, starting 1″ in slicing through the endgrain toward your cut.
    4. Drill two holes diagonal from one another. Spacing is not critical, but should be >3/4″ from shoulder of the joint, edge of the leg, and top of the endgrain. Drill hole the width and height of the head of your lag, then drill a center hole slightly smaller than the shaft (not including the threads) of the lag.
  2. Rails
    1. Cut two pieces of 2×4 at 4’3″ and drill two holes at the ends of the boards, spaced 3/4″ in from the ends, equally spaced apart. I used a #8 countersink so that my countersinking screw heads would be flush with the face.
    2. Cut two pieces of 2×4 at 1′ 1 1/4″
    3. Screw the long rails into the short rails to make a box
    4. Drive the lag bolts into the rail assembly
  3. H-Stretcher
    1. Cut two pieces of 2×4 at 9 1/4″ and one at 4′
    2. Drill two equally spaced holes in the center of both 9 1/4″ pieces
    3. Screw the short pieces into the endgrain of the 4′ piece to form an “H” or “I” shape
    4. Toe screw the H-stretcher assembly into the legs, making sure that they are spaced equally in:
      1. height from the bottom of leg
      2. distance from the sides of the legs
    5. Make certain that all faces are parallel the adjoining faces. A bar clamp or pipe clamp can help hold the stretcher in place while you make find adjustments with a mallet.
  4. Top Frame
    1. Set up your table saw:
      1. blade height at 3/4″
      2. fence to the right of the blade at 1″ from the left side of the blade
    2. Run two 2x4x8’s through this set up to cut the shoulder of your rabbets
    3. While the saw is set up, run your top slats through on both ends and two pieces on 3 sides.
    4. Set up your table saw for the next cut:
      1. blade height at 1″
      2. fence to the right of the blade at 3/4″ from the left side of the blade
    5. Cut the perpendicular face of your first cuts. The waste may ride against the blade. Clear it with a long scrap. Don’t touch the blade. Keep your fingers; you’ll need them.
    6. Cut the miters on your top frame assembly. Remember that the short points of your miters face the rabbets.
    7. Pin nail the slats into place
    8. Optional: if you want the top to be removable, add a 3/4″ cleat to the underside of the lid. To permanently mount it, add a larger cleat and screw it to both faces.
Slats that make up the top have the reverse rabbet of the frame so that they sit flush and move independently of the frame to account for expansion and contraction. I just pin nailed these in.

Slats that make up the top have the reverse rabbet of the frame so that they sit flush and move independently of the frame to account for expansion and contraction. I just pin nailed these in.

Top frame components dimensioned

Top frame components dimensioned

Leg and rail parts labeled and dimensioned

Leg and rail parts labeled and dimensioned

Leg and rail assembly parts, labeled

Leg and rail assembly parts, labeled

Dimensioned isometric view

Dimensioned isometric view

Exploded view of all the table components.

Exploded view of all the table components.

Closed table in perspective

Closed table in perspective

The cooler / coffee table with the lid raised. If you just want to use this as a coffee table, you can stop here and call it done.

The cooler / coffee table with the lid raised. If you just want to use this as a coffee table, you can stop here and call it done.

Farm Table variant, drawn to scale but not dimensioned. Included in the sketchup file

Farm Table variant, drawn to scale but not dimensioned. Included in the sketchup file

Download the SketchUp File Here: cooler.skp

IKEA Cabinets: Mounting a Peninsula Like a Pro

 

 

Coming out of this corner, we are installing a dead-corner cabinet with a pull-out shelving system followed by a dishwasher on the end. Here’s a slick way to anchor in a cover panel to hide your seams while still creating a strong panel. These are all stock L-brackets from IKEA repurposed.

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And here’s a love note to the countertop gorillas to remind them to leave consistent spacing. 2016-04-20 16.29.34

Ikea Lighting part 1: Install Ansulta Puck Lights Like a Pro

 

 

Ikea’s kitchen lighting systems are a fantastic value, and can be a perfect solution to your cabinet lighting needs if you can install them easily and in a way that maintains the warranty and produces a really clean finished product. This is the Ansulta lighting system puck light that is commonly used in glass-front cabinets. It can look pretty slick if you go the extra mile and hide all the wiring.

 

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Notice the big extension cord thing on the right side. This is stock, but it can be plugged in or hard wired into a junction box above the cabinet for a much cleaner look. The electrician is still working on this project, so this is just for testing purposes to demonstrate that the lighting works.

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Here is the cabinet fully lit. There is still trim and a base cabinet to install. Note that the lights are centered on the doors, not the interior dimension of the cabinet. This is key. Since the thickness of the side panels is 3/4″, your interior dimension will be 3/4″ off.

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Your spacing from the back wall here is set by the length of your wire channel. It’s something like 3 3/8″ from the front of the cabinet. Note that there’s a 1/16″ reveal from the side panels to the bottom and top to account for.

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Once you hide the wiring in holes drilled through the top of the cabinet, it’s like they’re floating in the panel. No visible wires!

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Here we measure the cabinet first, 30″ total from end of door to end of door, 15″ from the edge, centered on the depth of the cabinet. Cross hairs will help you line up the bracket. It takes a fairly large hole to fit the wire and harness through the panel. 2016-04-20 12.23.52 2016-04-20 12.23.41

 

Deck Building: Tips for Pouring Footings in Winter

If you’re like me and live in a place where winter temperatures regularly dip below freezing, keeping the decking trade going through the off season can be challenging to say the least! To get a jump on the competition, here are a few tricks that will get your footings set before the first day of Spring!

Choose the right concrete mix
Quikcrete has a number of blends designed for specific applications. In the deck building industry, we use structural concrete blends such as:

  • Concrete Mix (No. 1101)
    Fast-Setting Concrete (No. 1004-50)
    FastSet™ Concrete Mix (No. 1004-51)
    FastSet™ DOT Mix (No. 1244-56, 1244-81-extended)
    Green Concrete Mix (No. 1101-63)
    QUIKRETE® 5000 High Early Strength Concrete Mix (No. 1007)
    Crack Resistant Concrete Mix (No. 1006-80)
    Fiber-Reinforced Deck Mix (No. 1251-80), Polymer Modified Fiber-Reinforced Deck Mix (No.1251-81)

But which of these set up in cold temperatures?
Concrete Selection Guide

 

Our options here are basically FastSet and 5000 if you’re looking for something that is appropriate for footings and sets in cold weather. The standard mix “concrete mix” is used for most applications in decking, and you’ll see from the data above that it sets to 4,000 PSI at 28 days, while 5000 mix sets to 5000 PSI. That’s a 20% improvement. Next, you’ll see that it reaches 1500 PSI 3x faster than standard mix. This is a huge advantage when you’re working in cold weather which can shorten cure times. In effect, you’ll have very little difference in how your footings set in winter if you simply change blends.

Add Heat and Insulation

Try concrete blankets, straw, or other heating solutions. The genius innovator Dr. Decks up in Washington uses upside down 5 gallon buckets with drop lights suspended in them to add heat to the top of the footings while they cure! There are also ICF forms that provide some insulating value, but I haven’t tried them.