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Frank Screws

A simple technique by Frank Caputo makes setting window stool a whole lot easier.

I’ve been working with my dad for 15 years. In those years, I’ve learned almost everything I know from him. But lately I’ve been picking up some great techniques from the JLC Forums, and they’ve changed the way we work. Yes, they’ve even changed my Dad’s approach to a craft he’s been practicing for over thirty years.

On a recent job, we were asked to install all of the window stool at the same elevation throughout the home, and tie together the stool on adjacent windows. I’ve done this same work before many times, using wooden shims. But that technique has always been frustrating.

Because the shims go in from the front, it’s easy to shim the front of the stool to exactly the elevation you want, but dialing in the rear surface of the stool—so it’s at exact the right elevation, which sometimes means tight up against the window sill—is next to impossible. And if you do manage to get the stool right where you want it, keeping it there is a bear—the stool often slips when you drive in fasteners.

Watching ONE video on the JLC website changed my whole approach to setting window stool. And I owe the whole technique to Frank Caputo. That’s why we have dubbed this technique installing Frank Screws. To see Frank’s video tip, click on this link.

The Frank Screw is a simple trim installation technique. While Frank demonstrated using a laser to set the screws, I only use the laser to check that all the windows are level and set at the same elevation. Then I use a gauge block (often a piece of the molding itself) to set the screws, driving the screw in deeper or backing it out until the top of the molding is at exactly the right elevation. It may sound too simple, but this trick saves us TONS of aggravation and speeds up our productivity on window trim and jamb installations. And trust me, there are many more places you will find to use a Frank Screw.

Continuous Stool

Recently I used this trick on a bank of Andersen Windows that came with supplied dado jambs (the extension jambs fit into a dado in the window frame). I wasn’t able to preassemble the extension frames with the trim attached, which is how I usually installed extension jambs. The trim on this job included tricky entablatures and the casing met in the corners, so we had to install the trim components one piece at a time.

On this job, we took care to install the windows perfectly level. All I needed to worry about was perfect reveal lines. And Frank Screws made that easy. In some places, the stool had to be scribed carefully to the walls, and the screws made it easy to dry fit each piece until it fit just right—without driving in even one temporary tack. I hate unnecessary nail holes!

Frank Screws came in handy especially because the stool was connected in many places.
I used a sample of the WindsorONE classical craftsman stool for my gauge block.

Since the stool is supposed to fit up tight to the interior flange of the window, setting these screws in positions was a piece of cake. I held the sample up in position along the sill flange, and then drove a screw right next to it. I adjusted the depth of each screw so that I could just barely slide the stool in between the top of the screw and the bottom of the sill flange. If the stool is installed separately from the frame, the screw can be left a little high because you can tip the stool into place.

But if the casing is already installed, don’t leave the screws too high or it’s tough to slide the stool in.

That’s it! In less than five minutes, I set three or four screws for each window and was ready to install the stool. Without using any shims, the stool came up tight against the bottoms of all the sills. The last step was driving fasteners up into the casing.

You can imagine how easy the installation was once the screws were installed.

Carpentry can be stressful, especially finish work. I’m always trying to make things perfect on imperfect jobsites. Frank Screws are one of those techniques I depend on to relieve the stress—I don’t have to worry about someone putting weight on the stool and ruining the reveals, I don’t have to spend hours on a job that I never have confidence in. Instead of a dreaded job, this entire installation was actually fun. And of course the windows turned out great.

Thank you Frank Caputo!

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AUTHOR BIO

Life has changed a lot for Jesse Wright. Not long ago he spent his free time skateboarding, snowboarding, and scuba diving—a passion both he and his wife enjoyed along the California coast. And then there was the paintball team—serious stuff on military bases with military friends. But all that changed when Olive arrived.

Now fifteen months old, Jesse’s daughter consumes most of his free time, and what remains he spends working on the home he bought last year, his first.

You can tell it’s Jesse’s house from the street, and from all the great photographs he’s published and shared on the JLC Finish Carpentry forum. He’s remodeled the house one room at a time, and outside, one wall at a time, from Craftsman-style tapered casing to eave brackets.

Jesse’s work continues to improve as his study and understanding of architectureal styles broadens. Always hungry for new ideas, Jesse prowls the internet for good books and haunts historic homes, from Pasadena to the Bay Area.

Comments/Discussion

19 Responses to “Frank Screws”

  1. Dez

    I can see the benefit of the screw. I would still more than likely use the flat shims that my father and I used for as long as I can remember. We cut up scrap plywood and paneling of different thickness and also used felt and other moisture resistant sheet material instead of tapered cedar shingles. Rock solid, no splitting and you can find many different thickness materials.

    Reply
  2. Joe Adams

    Jesse,

    Great technique! I will be using it on the next set of windows I trim. Also, thanks for sharing all the photos of your Craftsman bungalow renovation on JLC.

    Joe Adams
    Deep Creek Builders, Inc.
    Houston, Texas

    Reply
  3. Joe Stoddard

    Great tip – it also works for keeping baseboard from kicking in at the bottom, keeping wide extension jambs square to their units at the front of a jamb, etc.

    One additional tip – use galvanized or better yet – stainless screws around exterior openings. It looks like that’s what you’re doing in your article – but I learned the hard way plain old drywall screws won’t last where any kind of condensation can occur – like the window stool example.

    I Had a similar sill situation leveled with blue steel drywall screws… 3-4 years after installation got a call from very upset homeowner that their windows sills had “collapsed”. When I got there and took the sills and bottom trim apart, the screws were covered with rust and were loose enough in their holes and could be pulled out without tools. The original screws must have been driven in too far then backed out to level them. The wood dried, the screws got rusty from moisture (yes the windows were properly insulated, but this is still the bitter cold Northeast where warm moist indoor air meets jack frost in the winter) – but bottom line, under just a little hand pressure on the windowsill – they pushed in allowing a 1/2 gap. One sill actually cracked along a flat grain line, the others were just loose. We wound up re-doing all the windows that were set that way (a major PITA since many rooms were then wallpapered, etc), and every one showed the same signs of deterioration around the drywall leveling screws. These were Andersen Narrolines (dbl-hung) installed in 2×6 framing – a common set-up in this area.

    Reply
  4. Joe Stoddard

    I should add – we usually rabbeted the sills into the units (which wouldn’t require any support at the window) – on this job they were butted with a separate architectural stool applied.

    JLS

    Reply
  5. John Clark

    I have found that using screws just allows better control and tighter work. On exterior trim, using stainless screws on Azek/Koma is the the way to go. On setting doors, I use screws to lock jambs in place. I even even screw non- structual framing together on small projects. Franks screws is another great use for screws.

    :-)

    Reply
  6. Lavrans

    A good foam gun is also nice. I always fill space under sills and around extension jambs with foam. There might be some amount of insulation value to this, but the other benefit is that it removes the hollow sound from the extensions and also helps reduce compression, whether from being sat on or if someone uses a compression style window shade holder (uh, yeah… them things?).

    Reply
  7. Ray Menard

    I’ve used pocket screws for setting sills. The screw bites into the framing and pulls the sill to the unit tightly. We backed up with foam as Lavran suggests and gained added support by the apron. And yes, use screws that won’t rot. Pretty quick work.

    Reply
    • Chritian M. Whalen

      I have also used pocket screws for this sort of thing whenever there’s enough room. They also work well with extension jambs on basement windows if the framer leaves plenty of clearance. Otherwise I use various thicknesses of flat stock that I rip in 1/16th increments from scrap. I can see where this new technique could come in handy. Nice job.

      Reply
  8. Tim Uhler

    Jesse,

    Great article and pictures. I remember Frank’s article and talked to our finish carp then. He has used the same technique for years, but he said he prefers using roofing nails over screws. I don’t remember why, but I think it had to do with the larger head.

    Reply
  9. Jesse Wright

    Glad to Hear all the response! Thank you all for the comments! Perhaps we are spoiled in CA with our great weather I dont forsee having moisture affect these screws. However a great screw to use instead of stainless are GRK screws, they are coated with Climatek protectant. They are impressive and we use them for just about everything because they make so many varients. These would be ideal if moisture was an issue.

    Thank you for the comments!!

    Reply
  10. Mark Parlee

    Jesse
    Good article thanks
    Great picture of your daughter
    Enjoy her while she is young because all too soon they are gone doing their own thin.

    Reply
  11. Bruce A. Peterson

    Great idea and very similar to Gary Katz’s use of drywall screws behind baseboard, when there is a gap, to prevent the trim from moving.

    Appreciate the help.

    Reply
  12. Johnny

    I’ve been using this technique for a number of years, and I also find it to be really helpful when installing baseboard. Sometimes the drywall doesn’t come together perfectly, and a perfect mitre on an inside corner can be open on the top or bottom. Using the “Frank Screw” technique with a drywall screw before you place the base, you can easily close up the gap… It’s so easy, it looks great, and it saves so much time and energy!

    Reply
  13. Jesse Wright

    I agree with Gary. Those copemaster trim adjust screws are so nice for base adjustments. A lot easier than putting a screw or nail behind the base, as you have to check every corner with a square/plumb jig, and getting that to work perfectly the first time can be challenging when sribing base to the HW floors, as the corners often become slightly out of plumb.
    We dont use these copemaster screws often, but when we need them they work out perfectly. Also using them for other adjustment needs (even on doors behind the stop) has worked great. GRK makes some adjustment screws primarily for doors but can be used for many other things.
    http://www.grkfasteners.com/en/TOP_1_2_information.htm

    If your not already using GRK fasteners you should seriously look at them :)

    Reply
  14. dave parker

    I have to second Jesse’s recommendation of GRK fasteners and adjusting screws. They really have become part of my fastener arsenal. The trim adjuster screws from Bill Shaw look great too. I was surprised I couldn’t just quickly go to the copemaster site and order some though…

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Dave,
      What problem did you have getting the trim adjuster screws. Bill is a good friend and I know he’d want to hear from you!!

      Reply
  15. Bob LeGault

    Congratulations on a great article with excellent pictures. I’ve used the Frank Screw with success to raise and support the floor guides for sliding closet doors after carpet installation. It beats making a block for the purpose. Use cement board screws for a slightly larger head.

    Reply

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