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HOUSE WORKS: Choosing a multitool, painting posts and deck nails

Multitools like these are made my many companies and are helpful for cutting and sanding in close quarters during renovations.
Multitools like these are made my many companies and are helpful for cutting and sanding in close quarters during renovations. - Steve Maxwell

Q and A with Steve Maxwell

Cutting window frames

Q: What kind of oscillating saw should I buy? I’m rebuilding the window frames on my old wooden house. What brand and model of saw will work best for cutting off old trim and window parts in close quarters?

A: An oscillating tool is more commonly referred to as a multitool and you’ll find it very helpful for the job you’ve got planned. This category of tool is a relatively recent thing, coming into prominence over the last 20 years. Many companies make multitools these days — both corded and cordless — and all are able to accept different attachments. You’ll most often use saw blades for your work, but you’ll also find triangular sanding pads useful when it comes to refinishing. I get to test many different tools in my work, and right now my favourite multitool is the DEWALT 20 volt model. It’s cordless, but quite powerful. Cost for a kit that includes one small battery and a charger is $220 in Canada, but you’ll need to get a couple of larger batteries for the scale of work you have in mind.

This sanded, rough-cut post combines the rustic appearance of circular sawmill cuts with a smooth surface that can take a finish well.

Seasoning posts and beams

Q: When is it OK to paint fresh-cut posts and beams? My brother built a carport using fresh-cut trees a couple of months ago and had them sawn into beams with a portable sawmill. Should we paint before winter or wait until next year?

A: I’m glad you asked because you should definitely wait until next year for those posts and beams to dry. Big wood holds internal moisture for a long time, but eventually it comes out. If you were to paint now it would look OK for a while, but almost certainly flake off later as the moisture migrated outwards.

The best approach is to wait until late summer next year, then go over the wood quickly with a six-inch random orbit sander spinning an 80-grit disk. You won’t remove all the saw marks, of course, but the extreme roughness and prickliness of the rough-sawn surface will come off easily and quickly, leaving you with a nice surface for painting. I’d use the best primer you can find, followed by two coats of the best exterior latex you can find. Don’t skimp on cheap stuff because it won’t last as long. Even with great paint, eventually the posts and beams will start to peel and need to be stripped back before repainting. Depending on the design and look of the carport, you might consider an oil finish instead of paint. It would create a wood grain appearance, but oil never peels. You just add more coats.

This mechanical puller is very effective for removing large nails with minimal damage to surrounding wood.

Rusting deck nails

Q: How can I stop nails from rusting on my deck? Fourteen years ago my husband used non-galvanized nails for building and I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to stop them rusting ever since. I’ve put stain over them, and also drove them down below the surface, covered them with filler, then stained. Nothing works.

A: I’m afraid there’s no easy fix. Daubing on some zinc-rich primer to the bare heads of the nails before re-staining will help, but I suspect the rust will return in time. Pulling the nails and replacing them with hot-dipped galvanized or stainless steel screws is the only thing that will work for sure. Removing the old nails with a mechanical nailer puller will dent the wood slightly around each head, but with the right tools, I’ve seen it done reasonably well. Some kinds of rustproof deck screws have larger heads than others, and you’d want to choose the largest head size you can find. The bigger the head, the more of the old nail hole and denting it’ll cover. A good nail puller costs about $50, so it’s a reasonable price for freedom from rust forever.

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