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Old 07-04-2011, 09:25 AM   #1
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Square/Level/Plumb


A comment was made by someone I respect a lot on this site even though he loves hanging paper more than painting. He made a comment, having been brought in to paper rather high end homes, that it seemed carpenters never carry squares anymore.

The last beauty of an old house I worked on gut toward finish, was a balloon thing constructed around 1898 around the shell of a Victorian. I guess with all floors involved it came to 2,000-2,400 sf or so by the time the basement was finished.

The amazing thing about the house? You could take a square to any joint. And up down and across---PERFECT. Every piece of antique trim was perfect to floors and ceilings.

The house had settled, perfectly square but toward one corner.

Things like the steel wheels and tracks for giant and beautiful pocket doors had to be adjusted for gravity of course. But...

The owner ran out of money. He had to sell and I stayed with the project until the the new owner came in with carpenters having pretty levels of all kinds. I just scratched my head as one leveled a floor for new tile and with a very nice laser level spun a line all around the room showing the trim was off, the fixtures were crooked. The paper hanger must have been drunk, etc. I pointed to the ceiling and suggested the angle might look weird if he did it his way.

I spouted off too many times and was finally asked to take my silly square and go home. Chalk it up to level headed thinking I guess.

Anyhow, I thought of commenting on a current thread about how to level a subfloor for tile with the newbie owner admitting he sees things off 1/4" here or there. Anybody ever seen thing off 1/4 that did not turn out to be more?

Was thinking a square a handy thing for people to have. Of course I have all sorts of laser and other levels but I adjust them for the way a house has settled. Especially if it has fallen more or less as a unit. I lay floors and even tin ceilings at times, square, not level. Paperhangers breeze through my projects. One tool.

A square. Levels and blumbobs only establish your relationship to true gravity which exists in no home for longer than minutes.
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Old 07-04-2011, 10:46 AM   #2
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and there is so much useful info on them

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Old 07-04-2011, 10:54 AM   #3
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Square, level, plumb, true, straight, and flush.

Trying to get all six is nearly impossible.
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Old 07-04-2011, 11:54 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sixeightten View Post
Square, level, plumb, true, straight, and flush.

Trying to get all six is nearly impossible.
i agree. my house was built in the 50's and things have settled over the years. i added a built in entertainment center with a closet, bi-fold doors and crown molding. the floors were flat but not level, walls were a bit out of plumb and some corners were a bit out of square. if i tried to do this with a level it would have looked out of place. the only true way to make this blend in was to use a square and tape measure to adjust and split some differences. everything looks perfect and i didnt even use a level.
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Old 07-04-2011, 01:15 PM   #5
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Just be sure the square you use is square to use: http://zo-d.com/stuff/how-do-i/how-t...ng-square.html

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Old 07-04-2011, 11:25 PM   #6
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Personally I get out the old framing square now and then.

When building I will usually rely on 3/4/5 off of whatever I want to be square to. your square is 3 foot by 4 foot, or 6 foot by 8 foot, Whether i'm building a partition wall in an older house, putting down a floor, even a paver patio coming off the back of a house.

level/plumb/square usually the name of the game, but old houses can be tricky.

I remember one place I did last year, was way out, exterior walls often out by a couple inches, each one. I was replacing some rotten exterior trim around corners and doors, and upgrading some door casings inside. What a pain, had to go with a nice reveal and leave the level at home. Have to think outside the box sometimes trying to finish a place where plumb/square/level doesn't exist.

Last edited by chrisBC; 07-05-2011 at 12:28 AM.
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Old 07-06-2011, 07:35 PM   #7
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Don't know how the younger boys do it, but us old boys always carry our squares.
I've had mine for a long, long time.
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:58 PM   #8
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I've given up on square level plumb. You kind of have to go with the flow of these old houses.
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Old 07-09-2011, 09:50 AM   #9
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I agree totally....I've used a square on every project. Let's not forget the speed square, I love that one
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Old 07-09-2011, 03:37 PM   #10
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When repairing an old house my goal is for my work to look square and level, something which often bares little relation to being square and level.

Trimwork especially needs to conform to its proper frame of reference - namely, the room that it's in. It doesn't matter if a baseboard is perfectly level, or even if it's perfectly rectangular; what matters is that it enhances the wall it's placed on.

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