Every building construction trade has its share of useful tricks that make life easier, and the job go faster! Here are a few gems I’ve learned through the years.
Making a 90 degree angle, or squaring a large area.
Every now and then you find yourself needing to make sure that the project you are working on is square. You might be building a deck, laying a concrete pad, or building a wall that you want square to another wall. If the area is bigger than you’re framing square how do you square it?
Use the 3-4-5 rule. A simple but very effective way of measuring a right triangle that works in any size as long as those increments are used. You can use 3x4x5, 30x40x50, or 300x400x500 inches or feet, the results will remain the same.
Measure over three feet, then four feet down, and finally close off the triangle by marking where a five foot line stretched from the outer end of either mark intersects the opposite angle at its far end. You just drew a right triangle.
You may have to adjust one of the legs of the triangle until the ends of the measurements meet to form the right triangle. A great thing for any do-it-yourself type to know!
There are times when you may need to find a plumb line straight down from ceiling to floor with no wall or other guide. A plumb bob, or a string with a pointed weight used to be the best way to do this, but now we have laser levels to work with! Simply set the level in place (as long as it is a self leveling model) and mark the floor or ceiling where needed. For most do-it-yourself types the laser level is an expensive toy that would not get used much.
The plumb bob is more patience intensive but still works. Keep the bob just above the floor and wait until it stops swinging, then either mark the floor, or if you need to find that spot on the ceiling move the string around until you find your spot on the floor with the plumb bob as still as you can manage. Small circles are ok as long as the mark is in the center. It helps to have two people when using this over longer distances.
The angle finder
A great device for matching angles needed to cut pieces to fit an angle. It usually has two arms and a lock nut to hold whatever angle you measured so that you can transfer it to your work piece.
Dividers come in many styles and sizes, but they all do the same basic thing, they draw circles. Dividers can be used to mark off specific distances by walking them, find the center of a work piece by making an arc from each side, and drawing a straight line between the two outer points where the arcs meet, and even draw… a circle.
However, if you need a really large curve or circle, a string attached to a stake or nail with a pencil attached to the other end will work wonders.
Levels come in many shapes, and each one has its own uses. A nine inch torpedo level is a handy item to have around and a magnetic one is perfect for certain things, but it is not a good idea to try leveling a large surface with one when a four or six foot level would give much more accurate results.
A line level is necessary when a string line needs to be level, and no other level is going to take its place in a pinch. They hook right onto the string, they are small, and they are cheap.
A graduated level is used for plumbing work and have marks to set the fall or drop of the pipe without having to constantly measure it, water after all does not flow uphill unless under pressure.
Laser levels are handy once again in certain places and can save you a great deal of time in many applications.
Home improvement is an ever present reality for most home owners, and knowing these tricks and special tools can make a world of difference when you really need one as any do-it- yourself home owner knows!