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A Trio of Tips for Basement Renovation Success

Steve Maxwell, Canada’s Handiest Man, explains the top 3 basement renovation basics: junk removal, power actuated tools, cordless impact drivers.

Canadians love to finish their basements, and January is one of the peak months for do-it-yourself basement work. But before you get too excited about floor plans and wall treatments and furnishings for your new subterranean living space, you need to get familiar with some boring basics. I’ll help you with three of the most important basement renovation basics.

Junk Removal

Irhinobag_junk_removalf there’s one common factor in all basement renovations it’s junk. Most unfinished basements are filled with the stuff by default. You’ve got to move it out before construction begins, then move out more scraps as you work. Huge, ugly steel bins are the traditional approach to junk management during home renovation campaigns, but they present two problems for the do-it-yourselfer. They’re massive, often way too big for DIY basement reno duty. Also, they cost you rental fees just sitting there. This is fine for a contracting crew who can fill the thing in two days, but not so great if you’re a little guy picking away at a basement reno on your own.

This is where the Rhinobag can help.

  1. It’s a woven heavy-duty waste bag system that makes junk management easier for home improvement DIYers.
  2. You buy the bag at a hardware store ($30 for a 35” x 35” x 48” mid-size version that holds 2,000 lbs, or $40 for a 51” x 51” x 40” large bag that holds 3,300 lbs.), then take as long as you like to fill it up.
  3. When it’s time to get rid of the mess, contact the Rhinobag people (www.rhinobag.ca; 800-769-0149), pay for collection, then wave goodbye to the big yellow sac.
  4. At the moment pick-up service is only available in southern Ontario. Carting the thing away costs about $130 for the mid-size bag and $160 for the big one.
  5. Versions of bag systems like Rhino are a mainstay of the European renovation scene and collection services will probably spread to all populated Canadian regions quickly.

Powder Actuated Tools

Powder Actuated ToolEvery basement renovation involves connecting some kind of wall framing material – either wood or steel – to concrete floors. And the best way to make this connection is with the help of a tool that’s generically called a ‘powder actuated tool’ (PAT). Various companies make PATs and all use an explosive cartridge to drive nail-like fasteners directly through wall frames and into concrete without the need to drill holes. It’s fast and effective, but scary, right? Not really. No need to worry. Read the instructions, wear safety glasses, put on hearing protection, and keep bystanders out of the basement. You’ll be fine. You can even get a pretty good little PAT for less than thirty bucks. That’s what I paid for my trusty Remington and it’s worked perfectly for years.

Cordless Impact Drivers

Cordless Impact DriverAlthough you could join your basement wall frames and wooden features with nails only, you’ll do a lot better if you use deck screws in key areas. They hold better, they go in easier and you can take them out again if you need to adjust fit and location. The only thing better than screws is driving them with a cordless impact driver. These are now made by all major power tool companies and for good reason. Impact drivers are much better at driving screws than regular cordless drills.

  • They’re faster, they drive more screws per charge, and they keep the screwdriver tip where it belongs — engaged in the head of the screw. This last feature is the biggest advantage of an impact driver.
  • Where a regular drill simply rotates, impact drivers work by turning forwards then slightly backwards in a rapid, high frequency pattern.
  • This alternating motion effectively resets the screwdriver tip in the head of the deck screw as you drive it, virtually eliminating the hassle of a driver tip that slips and makes a mess of the screw head.
  • The only drawback of an impact is that most can’t hold an ordinary drill bit. The hex-shaped tip is made to grip standard driver bits directly. Hitachi is one company that makes impact drivers more versatile by offering a regular drill chuck that slips into their standard impact driver tool. You can drill holes and drive screws.

With all the boring issues covered, you’ll get to the fun part of finishing your basement quickly and effectively. Now how about a New Year’s resolution to keep the finished space as neat as it was when you emptied it out for construction?

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