Things are getting a little frustrating here

(Updated below) I figure it’s about time for an update on the basement project. I finally got all the estimates I needed to get the building permit and the first load of lumber was delivered a couple of weeks ago. I just got enough for the first wall, thinking that would be a learning experience that might take a little while to finish.

And how.

Top plate

One of the pieces of the top plate was just slightly off kilter. But enough to cause problems when we go to hang the dry wall.

The first part went pretty well. I lined up the pressure-treated lumber for the bottom plate along the wall and then laid the pieces for the top plate right beside them. (This involved firing up the first power-tool – a circular saw borrowed from my father-in-law. So far, I have retained all my digits.) I marked the location of the studs so they would fall every 16 inches. Then I called on my wife’s assistance. With the air compressor fully charged and the nail gun loaded, I had her hold the first of the top plates up to the bottom of the trusses spanning the basement. I fired a nail into either end so she could let go, then put two nails about every 16 inches. Combined with a bead of construction adhesive, I’m confident the top plate isn’t going anywhere. We repeated the process for the other two pieces of top plate, taking care (as I recall) to line everything up just so before firing the first nail.

Well, whether it was the slightly too-short-for-the-job step ladder or my inexperience with the very large nail gun, not everything was lined up just so. I fretted over that for awhile, but set it aside to concentrate on getting the bottom plate put in. We had dropped a plumb line from the truss to mark the location for the bottom plate. I rechecked to make sure that was accurate, then glued the bottom plate, put it into place and pulled out the DeWalt hammer drill I had purchased for this job. I put on eye protection and drilled the first hole through the bottom plate and into the concrete. Drilling concrete is very loud. Once the hole was drilled (using the masonry drill bit that came with the Tapcon screws I bought at Lowe’s), I switched in a Philip’s head screw bit and set the first screw. Or tried to. With about a quarter-inch still out of the wood, the screw refused to budge any further.

I set that aside and drilled a second hole at the other end, wanting to get the bottom plate down so the construction adhesive would set. I drilled that hole without incident, then put in another screw. This one stopped more like a half-inch out. This was not going well. The bit was the right size. It had come with the screws, after all. I tried taking the screws out and drilling the holes even deeper. That’s when the drill decided it didn’t like being in hammer mode. The torque collar kept slipping from the hammer setting to the drill setting. A call to Amazon got a replacement drill on the way, but delayed any further work for a couple of days. In the meantime, I went back to Lowe’s and bought a longer drill bit.

A little reciprocating-saw action took care of the problem.

While I was waiting for the new drill, I talked to a DIY friend about the top plate. He recommended yet another purchase – a reciprocating saw. Thinking I would need that to take down some of the existing framing in the basement that we don’t want, I went ahead and ordered it. (Amazon is loving me these days.) It did the trick.

The new drill came and I redrilled the first hole using the longer bit. The screw went in almost all the way. Almost. I redrilled the second hole, just as deep, but the screw was still sticking out about a quarter of an inch. I finally Googled it, and it turns out the Tapcon screws do this a lot. There are a lot of theories – concrete dust falling into the bottom of the hole seems to be the likeliest culprit, though shooting compressed air into the hole didn’t make any difference. The best solution presented online appears to be going with a slightly wider drill bit – 7/32 instead of 3/16. So I went on a search for a 7/32 masonry bit. I couldn’t find one that was long enough that would fit my drill. I tried a 1/4-inch bit, but that was too wide. The screw went in all the way, but wouldn’t tighten. That might be ok for this application (as opposed to hanging something off a concrete wall, for instance), but I want to do things right. So, I wait for another order from Amazon to arrive.

If that solves the problem, I’ll get the bottom plate installed, put in the studs, and then order some more lumber.

So far, there’s been a lot of work and a lot of frustration with very little to show for it – other than hefty bills from Amazon and Lowe’s. But I have a feeling that real progress is just around the corner. Stay tuned.

(Update: The drill bit arrived late this afternoon, and it did the trick! The screws are set flush and tight. The rest of the bottom plate for the first wall will soon be in, with studs soon to follow. Progress, at last.)

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