Adventures in Drywall

As we stumble through our daily routines, most of us rarely look for something out of the ordinary. When was the last time you were picking up supplies and actually took a few minutes to walk the aisles and check out the new products? Then again, when was the last time a new product was brought in to your dealer’s stock?

While on a recent trip to Michigan, we tramped down the aisle of Menard’s in search of a bucket of mud. Menard’s is one of the few remaining building material retail outlets that has not only dodged the hand of “Depot” doom, but is reasonably thriving in the process. Its success appears to be the result of offering everything under the sun in an atmosphere where both men and women feel comfortable. You don’t feel the eminent threat of a pallet of sump pumps dropping on your head or the nerve-grating toyish toot of a forklift horn while you’re trying to navigate your way to empty your pockets at the register.

These guys really do offer everything. Usually, the big box outlet’s drywall section consists of just that: drywall. Since a lot of do-it-yourselfers don’t want to complicate the process of hanging and taping their own board, most stores just don’t dedicate a lot of their shelf space to it. Menard’s is different. And even if you’d never even conceive of actually buying a lot of what’s on the shelves, there are people who will, and you have to appreciate the choice.

Which leads us to the actual meat of this month’s article (which we usually skimp on). Among the many creative monikers our industry’s brand-naming geniuses have bestowed upon us, a yellow 4-ounce spray can with a red top caught our collective eye on this particular day. It was labeled “Good-bye Cracks,” with the requisite fault line graphic running through the word “cracks.”

Serious stuff

After a solid 10 minutes of knuckleheaded jokes about the name, most of which aren’t fit to print, we decided that we owed this product a chance. Yes, we were a little concerned about the warning that the product “may affect the brain or nervous system” if inhaled, but we reckoned that we wouldn’t be spraying it up our noses, and even if we did, we had nothing to lose. And once we saw that it was from the makers of the famous Goof Off, we were sold. Any company that can package our ultimate ambition is all right with us.

As we all know, cracks are the finisher’s nightmare. It’s among the first measures of quality that a building’s occupant sees, and though they usually aren’t the finisher’s fault, they become his or her responsibility. When the callbacks come, nobody blames the

70-percent-moisture lumber, the shaky footings, the hack-framing cuts or the weather. It’s always the finisher. We wanted to see if Good-bye Cracks was the answer.

We sought to test the product with our usual scientific approach. Buy it, take it to our respective homes, use it, see if it works.

So we did. The directions start by saying “… repair cracks in traditional manner.” Although we’re not sure whose tradition or what manner they’re talking about, we tried a couple of different applications. The manufacturer tells you that the product is not sandable, so the surface needs to be smooth, clean and dry when you get started. We sprayed it over several different areas—a mildly cracked-out corner bead, an off-angled transition area on a wrapped beam, a cracked butt joint under a window, and the ever-present diagonal crack on a header. We followed the instructions, which is something we all hate to do, but with this stuff it’s important. If you spray Good-bye Cracks and try to sand it, you’ll need a solvent to remove the mess you make.

Hey, it works

After mudding the blemishes and spraying the first coat and allowing it to dry, we applied a second spray coat of Good-bye Cracks to all of these areas. The packaging says to allow it to dry completely, which would probably vary depending on your application. When all of these areas were dry, touch-up paint was applied.

We found the stuff actually worked. OK, if you hold a 500-watt light up to it, you’ll probably see some telegraphing, but who cares? We’re talking quick fix here. And although these were all stress cracks and not the product of heavy coating, it looks like it’ll work on just about any hairline crack due to its elasticity. You probably won’t see 100 cases of this stuff show up on your next high-rise, but if you need to get out of a tight spot with minimal effort, Good-bye Cracks gets it done.

A visit to this company’s Web site reveals that these guys are NASCAR sponsors, and the product which appears to be their marquee, Goof Off, apparently does everything from cleaning valve covers to white carpet to linoleum. As soon as we can get our hands on some, we’re going to see if it will clean our reputation. As for Good-bye Cracks, keep a can on hand. Just remember that it probably won’t work on that unsightly plumber’s crack, and even if it did, we defy you to try and paint over it.

While you’re checking into Goof Off’s Web site, we would like to mention that the site for W&C has taken on a new look. We check in to the bulletin board from time to time. Once in a while, we may even be moved to the point of actually posting a message ourselves. When we do actually take the time to shut up and listen, we’re consistently hearing many of you say you have no place to air your issues. You feel you have no voice in what happens in your trade. The Walls & Ceilings Bulletin Board is a place to start. At last check, there were threads dealing with tools, advice on plaster repairs, women finishers (once again we check in with a “two thumbs up”), and new types of corners.

There are also a number of entries concerning the influx of uninsured and unqualified contractors by whom we find ourselves surrounded. This is a situation that plagues the industry as a result of building booms, and there are some great ideas for a remedy. While we acknowledge that Web discussions may not be the overnight cure for the world of wallboard woes, you have no room to whine if you don’t even check in and offer some sort of ideas to help find solutions. And just in case it might have slipped your mind, drywall’s not just a job … it’s your life.