Tips for Installing Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring

So, I was going to replace the old bamboo flooring in the living room and vinyl tiles on top of linoleum sheet flooring in the dining and kitchen areas of my rental with tile but since I hate dealing with mortar and cutting tile, I asked some contractors to do it. Apparently they all want thousands of dollars so I decided to instead install luxury vinyl planks which are easy enough to do myself (or with a helper). I decided to go with this particular brand and color:

Lifeproof Dusk Cherry 8.7 in. W x 47.6 in. L Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring

It’s exclusive to the Home Depot and it looks pretty nice. It costs $2.99 per square foot but it comes with the underlayment pre-attached which greatly simplifies installation.

These planks are waterproof and float on the subfloor. No glue or mortar is necessary. The planks click and lock into each other.

Following are some tips I came up with after following the instructions and realizing the instructions could be better.

Subfloor preparation

Removing linoleum sheet / vinyl tile and adhesive

Don’t try to do this by hand. Spend a little bit of money ($85) and rent a power floor scraper. You’ll save a ton of time and energy.

Notice how the top part of the blade sits underneath the black curved deflector. This was problematic because vinyl tiles that were getting stuck where those two parts meet making it difficult to move forward.

To fix this, I unscrewed the bolts and put the scraper blade above the deflector.

This tool is loud and heavy and can’t reach into tight spaces. For tight spaces, I bought a pneumatic floor scraper from Harbor Freight.

This tool requires a compressor that preferably has a large tank. I have a small 2.5 gallon compressor and this tool would work very well at high pressure for about 30 seconds before losing strength. I’d have to stop for another 20 seconds for the compressor tank to fill up before proceeding again with high pressure. To address this, you can buy or rent a large air compressor.

Removing tile flooring and mortar

If you have a lot of tile to remove, you can rent a demolition hammer with the following scraper / breaker attachments.

Installing click-lock vinyl plank flooring

Cutting planks

The instructions say to use a utility knife to score planks on both sides and snapping them into two pieces. Though that works without producing any vinyl dust, doing this a lot can get tiring very quickly and is error prone. Instead, just buy a flooring saw like the SKIL 4-3/8-in 7-Amp Sliding Corded Miter Saw.

It’s lightweight and can do rip and cross cuts.

For clean cuts, place the plank face side down and underlayment side up.

If you need to cut irregular shapes or cuts that are difficult with a flooring saw, just use an angle grinder if the cuts don’t need to be perfect since they’ll be hidden underneath baseboard. I temporarily took off the blade guard so I could see where I was cutting.


You’re supposed to leave a 1/4 inch gap between the wall and the planks. At first I used the spacers that came with a flooring kit from Harbor Freight.

Though this kit is cheap, the spacers and the tapping block are no good. The red spacers keep falling out of place and the tapping block is made of rubber which helps protect the vinyl planks from damage but it makes it difficult to tap the planks together. Instead, by the following tapping block and spacers. Or, just buy the kit which comes with 2 other tools.

Pro Flooring Installation Kit for Vinyl, Laminate and Hardwood Flooring

The hammer doubles has a hard side for hitting the tapping black and a soft (mallet) side for hitting vinyl plank seams. Since I did not have this kit, I used a separate hammer and mallet.

Installation Steps

  1. First Row
    Starting at one end, place a spacer against the wall and lay planks down to lay the first row. Overlay the short end of the planks and tap them together using a mallet.
  2. Second and Even Number Rows
    Cut a plank in half or at least 8 inches from one end to stagger the placement of planks. Make sure that no plank pieces are less than 8 inches long, if possible.
  3. Install plank by wall
    Place a spacer by the wall, place a plank such that the long edge overlaps the long edge of the existing plank in the first row at a 45 degree angle.

Then, lay the plank down and tap down on the two long edges using a mallet.

  1. Install next planks
    The subsequent planks will have two edges that need to be snapped into place – a long edge and a short edge. Again, position the plank at an angle to get the long edge into the groove of the neighboring plank’s long edge. Then, slide the plank towards the short edge of the neighboring plank’s short edge. Lay the plank down and hit the short edge using a mallet.

Then, using a hammer, hit the tapping block so there’s no gap between the long edges of the plank.

Keep doing this until you get to the last plank in that row.

  1. Install last plank in row
    For the last plank in the row, you’ll likely need to cut the plank. Then, install the plank. If you notice any short edges of the planks in that row have a gap, you can close the gap by using the following method. Notice I put the tapping block underneath the metal pull bar which worked better than if you don’t use the tapping block.

Repeat above steps for each row till you’re done.

Measuring Water Usage in a Multifamily Building

If you own a multifamily investment property which you are renting out to 2 or more tenants, you’ll probably be disappointed to find out that there’s only one water meter (provided by the city) to the entire building located underground under the sidewalk. Following are some scenarios on how water pipes reach each unit and how to possibly measure each unit’s water usage.

Separate cold water pipes

Even though there’s only one water meter under the sidewalk, it’s possible that the downstream water pipe after the meter branches into multiple pipes, one for each unit, thereby creating multiple cold water networks If this is the case, then you’re in luck and you can install a water meter, e.g. Badger Model 25 or Neptune T-10 at each branching water pipe.

Shared cold water pipes, separate hot water pipes

If the cold water pipes from the city’s water meter go to all units in a shared manner, then it would be very difficult to measure water usage by unit. However, if each unit has its own hot water pipes that are not shared with other units, which would be the case if each unit has its own hot water heater, then you can measure hot water usage by installing a water meter at the cold water inlet to or the hot water outlet from the water heater.

Billing each unit for water

Usually there will be one water bill for a multifamily property. Since there are multiple tenants, you’d need to fairly split the bill among them based on each unit’s water usage.

Based on headcount

If both hot and cold water are shared among all units, then one common method is to bill each unit proportionally based on headcount (number of occupants). If one unit has twice as many people living in it as another, then that unit would pay twice as much for water. Of course, headcount can change over time so this would need to be updated whenever there is a change.

Based on hot water usage

If cold water is shared but hot water is separate, then you can split the water bill proportionally based on hot water usage. This would be more accurate that going based on headcount.

Water meters

Following are some popular water meters for residential use.

Badger Model 25

This meter has plastic threads and costs about $100.

Buy online – RC Worst

Buy online – QC Supply

Neptune T-10

This meter has metal threads and costs about $100.

Buy online

Smart Water Meters

The water meters above are manual read meters. To measure water usage remotely and see usage over time, you can buy a smart water meter. One of the best ones is Flume 2.

Flume 2 Smart Home Water Monitor

This smart water meter does not require plumbing as it is just attached or strapped around a compatible water meter. It costs $200.

Buy online

The Flume water monitor just straps onto an inline water meter. It reads the magnetic field generated by your water meter, which the company says can detect any water usage all the way down to one one-hundredth of a gallon — i.e. a slowly dripping faucet.

How to Buy a House Without an Agent

Many, if not most, people aren’t experienced with buying and selling a house. For that reason, they hire a real estate agent. However, once you’ve bought one or two houses, you’ll realize it’s not that hard. 50 years ago, when online MLS sites like Zillow didn’t exist, having an agent find a house for you was useful. However, nowadays, buyers can get notified instantly when a house matching their criteria comes on the market. This reduces the value of having an agent. Furthermore, in California, real estate agents get a 3% commission. Even though this is paid by the seller, in certain situations the buyer pays by having to offer a higher purchase price. By buying a house without an agent, the seller doesn’t have to pay 3% commission to a buyer’s agent which means you can offer a lower purchase price than other buyers who have an agent. For a $500,000 house, this can save you $15,000.

Below are steps to buy a house without an agent.

1. Get a pre-approval letter

Assuming you will be borrowing money to buy the house, as for most people, you need a pre-approval letter. This is for 2 reasons:

  • Find out how much of a house you can afford
  • Prove to the seller you can actually afford to buy their house

To get a pre-approval letter, you can submit an application to purchase a home on Zillow Home Loans. You can do the same at which is reportedly the second-largest non-bank provider of direct-to-consumer loans in the United States. Another option is to compare lenders based on interest rate offered. By filling out some information on Zillow’s Mortgage Rates page, you’ll be presented with multiple lenders and interest rates. You can then pick a lender, get in contact with them, and ask for a pre-approval letter at the rate they advertised. Here’s an example pre-approval letter.

A pre-approval letter is different from a prequalification letter. With a pre-approval, your financial situation is verified and your credit score is checked.

2. Search for a house

The easiest thing to do is search Zillow. You can also search Redfin, Trulia, and official MLS websites.


Note the automated estimates, e.g. Zestimate and Redfin estimate. They will give you a good idea of the value of the property. However, don’t assume they are correct. Sometimes, their algorithms use uncomparable properties to determine value leading to incorrect values, e.g. comparing a multifamily property or condo to a single-family property. You can see the properties each website uses to determine a particular value. If they don’t make sense, you can calculate the price per sq ft of similar properties recently sold and come up with a more accurate estimate. See an example. Based on the pictures, neighborhood and estimate, think of how much you’d pay for the property.


See my post on house-buying tips to learn more about certain things to watch out for.

3. Draft a purchase offer

Most offers in California are made using standard forms provided by the California Association of Realtors (CAR). You can see sample forms and buy the forms at exorbitant prices at

RPA – California Residential Purchase Agreement and Joint Escrow Instructions – 4 Pack

This form is the main form used for making an offer. It includes

  • (AD) Disclosure Regarding Real Estate Agency Relationship
  • (BIA) Buyer’s Inspection Advisory
  • (PRBS) Possible Representation Of More Than One Buyer Or Seller
  • (WFA) Wire Fraud Advisory


  • $170.98 (CAR Member Price)
  • $341.95 (CAR Non-Member Price)

Other useful forms

  • TDS – Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement
    The property disclosure statement is required by law in most residential sales transactions in California. It includes Seller’s mandatory disclosure of specified items and any known adverse material conditions, as well as sections for Seller’s and Buyer’s agents to comply with diligent visual inspection requirements.
  • BCO – Buyer Counteroffer
    Counteroffer form to be used when a buyer initiates a counter offer.
  • SCO – Seller Counteroffer
    Counteroffer form to be used when a seller initiates a counter offer.
  • WOO – Withdrawal of an Offer
    This form is used to revoke an offer or counter offer before the document has been accepted.

Important Terms of Purchase Offer

The standard California residential purchase offer form is written to protect buyers by default. Following are some key clauses.

  • Inspection Contingency
  • Appraisal Contingency
  • Loan Contingency

4. Submit the purchase offer

You will submit the purchase offer to the seller’s agent or, if it’s an FSBO (for sale by owner) listing, then to the seller directly.

Since you are submitting your purchase offer yourself without an agent, you should make it clear that your offer will not require the seller to pay a commission to a buyer’s agent. For a 3% rate, the seller could save $15000 on a $500,000 purchase offer. Below is an example cover letter for this purpose.

Note to Seller:

This offer is from a buyer with no agent. I (the buyer) am representing myself. As such, acceptance of this offer by you (the seller) would save you from having to pay a commission to a buyer’s agent. Since my offer is for $390K, assuming a commission rate of 3%, my offer would save you $390K x 3% = $11,700, and your total commission expense would only be $11,700 to your own agent (seller’s agent). Your net proceeds (excluding other expenses) would be $390K – $11700 = $378300 as shown below.

My OfferCommission to Seller’s AgentCommission to Buyer’s AgentSeller’s Net Proceeds
Purchase Price3%0%(excluding other expenses)

If there is another offer above $390K but below $403K and that offer includes a buyer’s agent, then you’d have to pay 6% commission (3% for each agent). In this case, my offer will net you higher proceeds as you can see from the table below.

Other OffersCommission to Seller’s AgentCommission to Buyer’s AgentSeller’s Net Proceeds
Purchase Price3%3%(excluding other expenses)

To conclude, my offer of $390K will net you a higher profit than any other offer up to $402K.

5. Do a home inspection

Inspections aren’t usually required by your mortgage lender, but they can reveal hidden issues that the seller might not know about. A typical home inspection covers surface-level elements of the home, including its plumbing, structure, heating system, and more.

You can search for home inspectors on Zillow’s website or Google.

Expect to pay at least $400 for a home inspection from a reputable company on an average 2,000-square-foot home.

6. Negotiate

If the inspection reveals an issue with the home, there are a few ways you can negotiate with the seller.

  • Ask For Repairs
    You can ask the seller to repair any problems with the home before closing.
  • Ask For Reimbursement
    You can ask the seller to reimburse you for the cost of repairs. This guarantees that you’ll get work from a quality contractor because you choose the professional. However, you might have trouble getting a seller to agree to pay a bill if they don’t know how much it will be.
  • Ask For A Discount
    You can ask the seller for a reduction of the sale price if there are significant repairs that need to be made.
  • Cancel The Sale
    If you can’t reach a solution with the seller and the issues are a deal-breaker for you, you can always cancel the sale.

7. Finalize financing and close

When you reach an agreement with the seller, it’s time to close on the loan.


Your lender will likely require you to pay for an appraisal. You’ll pay up to $500 and the lender will choose the appraiser. They do this to protect themselves so that if you default on the loan, they can reduce their losses. The appraisal report will also protect you so that you are not overpaying for the property. If the property isn’t worth what you’re offering, you can negotiate to lower the purchase price. Or, you can put a larger down payment if you really want the house.

Your lender will first give you a loan estimate. As soon as the appraisal and underwriting are cleared, your lender will send you a closing disclosure. Your loan estimate and closing disclosure tell you about the terms of your loan, your closing costs, your interest rate, and more. Compare the loan estimate to the final closing disclosure to ensure everything is as expected. If everything looks good, contact your lender and schedule your closing. The examples below are for a refinance but they are similar for a purchase.

Things to look out for

  • The loan should have NO prepayment penalty
  • The loan should have NO balloon payment
  • The loan should have NO demand feature

Quickly Create Photo Slideshow Video

This tutorial uses Corel VideoStudio Pro.

1. Add photos to project

Sort the photos as desired, usually by date, so they appear in chronological order.

2. Select and drag photos to video track

All photos will be added to the video track

3. Change duration of each photo

If the duration of each photo is too short or long, select all photos, right click and click on “Change Photo Duration …”. This will change the duration for each and all photos.

4. Add a transition effect

Choose a transition (a simple “crossfade” is the best”), right click and click on “Apply current effect to video track”.

This will result in the transition being applied to all photos.

5. Add Pan and Zoom effect

Select all photos, right click and click on “Auto Pan & Zoom”.

6. Drag audio file to music track

You can find some background music from Sound Cloud.

7. Add intro slide

Click “Instant Project” icon, click on “Beginning”, choose a template, right click and click on “Add at the beginning”.

8. Edit intro slide

Since the intro slide is a template, you will see placeholder content.

Drag a photo to the placeholder clip and hold “Ctrl” to replace the clip. This will cause the photo to be formatted to fit the template.

Double-click the text clip to edit the text of the intro template.

9. Add end slide

This process is the same as for adding the intro slide but click on “Add at the end” instead.

10. Add text to some photos

Click “Title” and then pick a title template. The one with a semi-transparent background is good. Drag it to the Title track where you want the text to appear.

11. Change text and background color

This title template animates the text.

Convert it to a simple fade in and out by clicking on the “Attribute” tab in the Options Panel for the title, click on “Attribute” tab, click on “Animation”, and disable animation by unchecking the “Apply” checkbox.

The background of the text is too light so let’s darken that semi-transparent bar. Double-click on the title clip and in the Options Panel, click the “Edit” tab, and click on the black color in the Text Backdrop context menu as shown in the screenshot below.

Double-click on the title clip again and edit the text.

12. Add more text

Copy and paste the text clip to other photo clips and edit the text.

13. Render video

Click the “Share” tab, choose a setting, and click “Start” button.

How to Make a Quality Video Presentation With Slides and Someone Talking

In this article I explain how to create a video presentation like what you see below. Features of this video include:

  • custom background (still image or video)
  • the presenter on one side
  • presentation slides on one side
  • clear audio


Following is the equipment I used to make this type of video.

Video Editing Software

Corel VideoStudio Ultimate – $80

Presentation software

Google Slides (online) – Free

Wireless Presenter Pen

This is used to change slides wirelessly.

Generic Pen – $11

Green Screen

I bought a 7’x10′ green screen. I got just the fabric because I semi-permanently attached it to my garage ceiling since I don’t plan on using anywhere else.

Generic green screen – $21

Learn how I set up my green screen

If you want a green screen that comes with a stand, there are many options online (Amazon, etc) but they are more expensive.


Lighting is key to getting good chroma key results and a good video overall. In particular, you want to eliminate shadows as much as possible.

Generic Softbox Photography Lighting Kit – $67

Background Image or Video

You can replace the green background with a still image or a video. One stock photo and video site is ShutterStock.

Video Camera

I just use my smartphone (Google Pixel 3 XL) to take videos.


In order to get clear audio, you need a microphone. You can get one with a 3.5 mm jack or a USB C jack, depending on your recording device.

USB C Lavalier Mic 10 feet long – $15

iBower Lavalier Microphone (IBO-MIC100) – $26

If your phone has a USB-C jack instead of a 3.5mm jack, you’ll need an adapter and an extension cable. I’m using the Apple – USB-C to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter – White ($9) and a 16′ long TRRS 4 pole 3.5 mm male to female audio extension cable ($9)

Important: the audio cables MUST be 4 poled TRRS cables / adapters, not 3 pole TRS cables / adapters. The extra pole is for the microphone.

Video Recording App

I use Cinema FV-5 to record video from my phone because it supports an external mic on my Pixel 3 XL.

Cinema FV-5 ($2.50)

An alternative to this app is Open Camera (free).


A tripod is necessary to hold your smartphone at the correct height to take videos.

AmazonBasics Tripod – $18

Tripod Mount Adapter for Smart Phones

This mount will allow you to hold your smartphone to the tripod.

Generic Tripod Mount Adapter for Smartphones – $10


I use a Lenovo with 16 GB of RAM and an SSD both specs of which are necessary for video editing performance. I got mine on sale from Costco.

Laptop Stand

I’m using a sheet music stand as a laptop stand.

GLEAM Sheet Music Stand Metal with Carrying Bag – $28


The overall workflow is as follows:

  1. Create presentations slides and export them as images
  2. Record video
    1. Stand in front of the green screen with softbox lights on
    2. Clip lavalier mic to shirt and connect it to smartphone on tripod (if necessary, using USB extension cables and an adapter).
    3. Place laptop on laptop stand outside the camera field of view
    4. In video recording app, ensure audio source is set to “external mic”.
    5. Press record and speak while reading and changing slides remotely using the wireless presenter pen
  3. Create final presentation video

Google Slides Tips

Export all slides as images

Creating slides in Google Slides is very similar to how you create them in other presentation apps like MS Powerpoint. In Google Slides, however, if you want to export all slides as images, you need an add-on. I use Slides Toolbox by Digital Thoughts. Once you’ve added that add-on, you can open it

and choose to export all slides as JPG or PNG images.

Set a background with transparency

Notice how in my final rendered video, the background video shows through the slides.

That was accomplished by setting the transparency of the background in Google Slides to around 70% opaque (30% transparent). If you want a semi-transparent background, then you must export the slides as PNG images rather than JPG images.

Test Slides

Download a sample presentation with semi-transparent background in ODP (OpenDocument Presentation) format which you can import into Google Slides.

You can also download the test slides in PNG format for importing into VideoStudio.

Video Recording Tips

  • Position the lavalier mic such that you don’t hear the sound of you breathing.
  • Stand far from the camera to record more of yourself. You can always crop the video later.
  • If you have a fast computer with plenty of SSD space, record your video in 4K for ultra hi definition (UHD) resolution. Otherwise, record at 1080p hi definition (HD).
  • Using the softbox lights, and other lights, if necessary, eliminate as many shadows as possible. For example, the picture below shows dark shadows which will be difficult to remove when you’re editing the video.
  • In the Cinema FV-5 video recording app, set audio source to “external mic”. When you push the cable into your phone, the wired microphone icon near the top-right corner appears in the app. This tells me the audio source will come from the external mic.

Video Editing Tips

NewBlueFX Chroma Key Filter

Use the NewBlueFX Chroma Key filter in VideoStudio to key out the green background. Read my blog post titled NewBlueFX Chroma Key to Easily Remove Green Screen in Video for step-by-step instructions.

Organize assets

Put all assets in a single folder. Below is a screenshot of my video assets which includes

  • 1 background video of the earth rotating
  • 5 semi-transparent presentation slides
  • 1 video of my giving a presentation in front of a green screen

For the background video, I picked a video that could be looped seamlessly.

Smart Proxy

Make sure to enable Smart Proxy in VideoStudio to improve video editing performance. For more information, read my blog post titled Improve Performance When Working with Large Videos in Corel VideoStudio.


When you export the video, you will have many settings and export presets to choose from. For each preset, you can see the estimated output file size. There’s no point in choosing a high quality output if the source video is low quality. In Windows Explorer, right click on the foreground video and click Properties > Details to see the video specs. The screenshot below shows that my foreground video taken on my phone was 1920×1080 with a bit rate of 22254 kbps (~22 Mbps) and a frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps).

For this, I chose the following spec which gave an estimated output file size of 252 MB for a 13 minute video.


In VideoStudio, my workflow is

  1. Create a new project
  2. Add all assets (videos, slides, etc) to the project
  3. Verify SmartProxy is enabled
  4. Add an overlay track so that I have 2 overlay tracks
  5. Drag the background video to the Video track
  6. Drag the slides to the Overlay 1 track in order
  7. Drag the foreground video with the green screen to the Overlay 2 track
  8. Crop the foreground video as necessary
  9. Using NewBlue FX Chroma Key filter, remove the green background so that it’s transparent
  10. Copy and paste the background video multiple times to span the duration of the foreground video
  11. In the Preview panel, drag the foreground video to the left
  12. In the Preview panel, drag the slides to the right and line them up using the grid that appears
  13. Preview the composite video and make changes, as necessary
  14. Export the video

How to Take Pictures to Get the Right Shot

Most people take pictures by just manually taking a shot when they are ready. Since many things could go wrong with taking just a single shot, e.g. the subject blinks or yawns, a car drives by, etc, then some people will take multiple shots manually – maybe 2 or 3. However, this still doesn’t necessary offer the best shot because the subject may not like how they look in a particular stance or the lighting may not be at their particular angle. Also, photos of people just looking straight at the camera or posing often look boring, as opposed to photos that appear to be taken randomly or without the subject knowing.

Snapshot from Video

To resolve this, you could take a 4K video from your mobile phone, open the video in a video play like VLC, scrub through the video and when you are on a frame you like, take a snapshot (not a screenshot).


  • many frames to choose from (usually 30 frames per second)


  • large file size
  • must open video and scrub through and pic from you like
  • videos are generally more compressed than images

Series of Still Images Taken Automatically

To get around the cons of the video approach, you can take a series of still images and just pic the ones you like. This is sometimes called “burst” mode. Ideally, you would be able to

  • set a delay timer (if you will put the camera down and be in the picture yourself)
  • set how many pictures to take, e.g. a max of 5 or 10 pictures or unlimited if you want to stop taking pictures when you push a button
  • an time interval between which photos will be taken, e.g. take a picture every 0.5 seconds, 1 second, 5 seconds, etc.

One app that meets these requirements is Open Camera. It’s free and looks well made. In the screenshot below. I enabled Face detection so that if the subject moves, like when you’re taking a video, the subjects face should always be in focus. I set Repeat to 10x to take a maximum of 10 pictures and I set Repeat mode interval to 1s so a picture will be taken automatically every 1 second.

In this example, I’d end up with 10 pictures. I could then just pick the best one and delete the rest.


To compare the picture quality of this method verses taking stills from a video, consider the following photos.

From video
From a series of still images

If we zoom in to 100% and focus on a small section, you’ll notice there are more artifacts and blurriness in the still taken from the video, not to mention the contrast and color looks much better in the still shot.

From video
From a series of still images

If I enlarge the images, the artifacts in the video snapshot become much more apparent.

From video
From a series of still images

If you set the Repeat to Unlimited and Repeat mode interval to No delay, the app will take as many pictures as it can until you push the stop button. For comparison, a 10 second 4K video consumed 61 MB whereas 10 seconds of unlimited, no delay pictures produced 23 images totaling 45 MB.

The next time you want to take a picture, you may want to try Open Camera and take a series of many pictures as your subject walks around or behaves naturally.

How to Install 4 Posts Square and Plumb (like for a pergola)

This weekend I built the frame of a pergola. The posts are 6x6x10 Redwood posts and they’re heavy. We had the posts go 15″ in the ground but before pouring cement, we wanted to make sure the posts were level and plumb.

To hold the posts in place while we measured, we filled buckets with dirt and temporarily secured each posts to them using either screws or clamps.

Once the posts were held in place, we installed the headers on top. This would hold the posts in place and, theoretically, help ensure the posts are plumb.

We then measured for level and plumb using straight levels and post levels.

We also measured the distance between posts to ensure corresponding sides were the same length. We could have also measure the two diagonal distances but we didn’t. We measured using a laser measure and a tape measure. Unfortunately, these can give inaccurate readings if, for example, the laser or tape measure isn’t perfectly level when taking measurements.

Despite measuring using levels and checking distances, we still found some posts were not lined up perfectly with other posts.

To make measurements easier, stick a nail near the top and bottom of each post at the same vertical position.

Then, hook the end of your tape measure to the nail head and pull to measure the distance to the corresponding nail on other posts.

Another, albeit extreme, way to ensure all posts are plumb and positioned perfectly is to use scrap 2x4s to temporarily secure all sides at the top and bottom. If you don’t have any 2x4s, you can use 2x3s. They are cheap at the Home Depot. If your 2x4s are not long enough, you can join / splice them together using metal plates or scrap plywood.

Again, you can temporarily secure the 2x4s to the posts with either screws or clamps. By securing these 2x4s around the top and bottom of the posts, and ensuring they are level, there’s no way the posts could end up being offset from each other or not plumb.

Make a rectangular hole in cement with clean edges

I wanted to build a pergola in my backyard. The patio is a cement slab. I could fasten post bases to it for the posts but I felt that that wasn’t as safe as having the posts sit 1.5′ in the ground. The control lines of the cement slab are just bricks with mortar. I figured I could just remove 3 bricks and dig to 1.5′ for each post hole. The concern was to not crack neighboring bricks and cement. Here’s how I managed to make rectangular holes with clean edges.


First, I drilled into a brick until I reached the dirt. This gave me an idea of how deep the slab was.

It wasn’t too deep.


I then used a cordless angle grinder with a diamond blade to score the perimeter of my desired hole. This was especially important so as to not crack the brick next to the hole.

You could also use a circular saw with a diamond blade.


I used a jack hammer to demolish the bricks.

I have the XtremepowerUS 2200Watt Heavy Duty Electric Demolition Jack Hammer Concrete Breaker which I got on Amazon.

It easily broke up the bricks into nice big chucks.

Below the brick was a layer of cement.

I broke that up, too, with the jackhammer.

The next layer was dirt.

I dug into the dirt using the Bosch Bulldog Extreme jack hammer and a heavy duty drill with an auger drill bit.

Result: nice clean hole. I’ll have to put back two bricks for each hole but that’s easy.

Secure Heavy Bags with Rebar Wire Ties

If you need to securely close a really heavy bag, one option is to use rebar wire ties.

You can buy a pack of 100 rebar wire tires at the Home Depot.

Grip-Rite 67/100 ft. 16-Gauge Rebar Tie Wire (100-Piece/Bag)

To secure, make a neck out of the plastic bag, fold the rebar wire tie around the neck, insert the screw end of a hook into a drill, insert the hook end of the hook into both loops of the wire tie, pull the trigger on the drill to twist the wire until it secures (chokes) the neck of the plastic bag.