Selecting Sheet Goods
Sheet goods are easy to work with and an inexpensive way to neatly cover large surface areas. For many applications, they provide the strength and appearance you need at a fraction of the cost of dimensional lumber. Plywood is made by laminating thin layers (or plies) of wood to each other using water-resistant glue. The plies are sandwiched with the grain of each successive ply running at 90 degrees to the grain of the previous layer. This gives plywood its tremendous strength, as you will find if you try to break a piece in two. The front and back surface plies may be made of softwood, usually fir, or hardwood. A plywood face surface rated “A” is smooth and free of defects; “B,” “C,” and “D” faces are progressively rougher. Both faces need not be graded the same, for example, “A-C.” T-l 11 plywood siding is made with exterior adhesive and a rough veneer.
Wood particles, sawdust, and glue are compressed and bonded together by heat to form particleboard and hardboard. This process produces a material that is hard, but easy to break. Hardboard comes in tempered (very hard) and untempered (softer) composition and is available in a variety of textures. Particleboard also comes in a variety of densities. Particleboard laminated with a plastic surface is handy for cabinet construction. Waferboard is made by a similar process, but with scraps of thin wood rather than sawdust, making it similar to plywood. Drywall, sometimes called wallboard, is made of gypsum powder sandwiched between layers of heavy paper. Cement board is made with crushed rock and a nylon
Selecting and Ordering Molding
All rooms use at least some molding, usually along the base of walls and around windows and doors. In those places, molding covers up gaps. Other molding protects corners from dents or protects walls from damage by chair backs. In other places, such as around mantels, along the ceiling, and where paint and wall coverings meet in the middle of a wall, molding serves a decorative function. The molding you choose goes a long way toward defining the look of a room, whether it’s minimalist or lushly decorative.
Molding is available in random lengths from 6 to 16 feet. Most is made of softwood, usually pine. Some popular types are available in hardwood, usually oak. These are a little more expensive. The cost of molding does add up, so make a list of each piece you need, rounding the length up to the nearest foot, then add 5 percent to allow for trimming and fitting.
Finger-jointed molding is made of short pieces joined end to end. It costs less than regular molding, but you may need to sand the joints smooth.
Plastic molding is inexpensive, but has wood-grain finishes that may not suit your style. (Some can be painted.)
If you plan to paint molding rather than stain it, you may be able to save time and money with a preprimed molding.
Paper-covered hardboard molding also costs less, but can be difficult to cut neatly and the paper may tear later.
Handling and Storing Materials
One of the joys of having your own shop is the pile of useful materials you collect over time. To ensure a safe, uneventful trip home from your home center, secure materials to your vehicle with rope, bungee cords, or twine. For large purchases or if your vehicle cannot handle the load, pay a little extra and have the materials delivered to your house.
When transporting or unloading sheet goods, have a helper on hand. If that’s not possible, lift a panel with one hand near the center of each long edge. Pick it up and rest it on your shoulder; avoid carrying it with a bent back. The exception is drywall; because it’s thin, heavy, and brittle, it can snap under its own weight. Get help with drywall. Take care not to damage the edges or scratch the surface of the sheets. Too quickly, however, your pile of material can become a headache and an eyesore. To keep boards and sheet goods easily accessible and prevent warping and other damage, keep these tips in mind:
Store materials in a cool, dry place, off the floor. Moisture can distort lumber, delaminate some plywoods, and render drywall useless. If your basement gets wet occasionally, store materials above the high-water line.
Ideally, sheet goods should be stored flat. Because most people don’t have room to do this, it’s best to stand sheet goods on edge, as shown below, as vertical as possible to keep them from bowing.
Build a storage rack like the one shown below to keep lumber at eye level. You want to see the ends of boards clearly and be able to pull out what you need easily.
If you don’t build a rack, store lumber flat and weight it down at each end and in the center to prevent warping and other distortions. Weighting is especially important if the wood has a high moisture content.