Monday, January 28, 2008

Trying a New Header

That pic in the header really is not my house. Although having something like that on a bit of property would be awesome. Especially if the sunset/sunrise came along with it. The pic was just one I liked and the colors came close to what the blog colors were set to... and viola. 'Chopped and quartered.

The home I currently have is an American Foursquare built in 1910. It has the beginning elements of the Craftsman style on the first floor, especially the dining area. I say "beginning" of the Craftsman style because it really didn't take hold until a little later time period. This style was also present in my previous home, an Art & Crafts Bungalow. So what makes an American Foursquare? Primarily it is shaped like a box, with a four room floor plan, two-and-a-half stories high, hipped roof, front-facing dormer, and a full width porch with wide stairs. They were popular constructions from 1890 through the 1940s. Mine is a full brick example and set atop a little hill. Total square footage is 2600sqft plus the attic which one can stand in and the fully poured basement. The basement, I have been told is a rarity in a home of this period indicating the home was built by progressive owners that paid for "the best" the time had to offer. It was also evident in the large beams used as they were larger than the norm of the day.

But, enough of that. Projects will be slow from now until the Spring. For now, I just need to keep moving the snow out of my driveway.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Shop Update

The shop? Done.

Cleaned, organized and ready or business.

Now, to tackle the garage. It is fairly well organized as is, but it is really inefficient. I'd like to get a lot better storage methods in there. As well as clear out some of the stuff I don't use anymore... steel rims, old VW Corrado VR6 stuff and I'm sure there are some hidden jems in there somewhere. In fact, it may be a good time to sell ogg my old fiberglass 24' ladder for a newer (hopefully lighter) model. It's gotten me through a lot of "high up" jobs around the house, but it is a cumbersome tool. Anyone want it for... $200? Hehehe.

Anyway, that probably won't happen until the Spring thaw. Need a little warmer temps to empty out the garage and rebuild. We've talked about having a little garage sale at some point to shed some of the extra items. But we might just do what we did last year and head up North to the (my) in-laws and do it at their annual sale. I think there is more money to be made here, however since we are in a small metropolis instead of a small vacation destination.

That's it for now!

Monday, December 31, 2007

Ending 2007...

I will be finishing the work shop TODAY! The last day of 2007.

I am currently cleaning everything up and I have a good amount of free space for more stuff, but I hope I can keep everything tidy and not cluttered. In the process, I've uncovered a ton of treasures that have been buried for probably years. You can look to my other blogs to find out what they are and where they will be offered up so they can be used by someone... somewhere.

For 2008, the projects are still up in the air. There are a few other dynamics in play and I have to sit tight on the project list until a few of those settle down. The consequences on a couple of them can adversely affect things so... on the stool, I will twiddle my thumbs.

Everyone have a great New Years!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reworking the Blog

I will be revamping the layout of this blog for a little bit to get the feel right... as well as update some of the ad banners and such on the right. Bear with me... it shouldn't take (quite) as long as it takes me to tackle reconstruction projects on the house... =P

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Project #1 - Renew the Shop

My shop is a mess. More so when one of the original cabinets began to deteriorate. So I began on renewing the shop a little. So far I have taken the cabinet down. Sounds simple, but for some reason, the previous owners of this house like to nail things to the excess... and in opposing directions. Great for keeping things up but bad for any tear outs. Sometimes, removal causes quite a bit of damage to the underlying structures. Anyway, I got all that down. I've also put up replacement open shelving. Very beefy to handle very heavy items. And open so I can see what's up there; 2X4 braces with 3/4" ply shelves. I also built them longer and gained additional storage. The decision to build it bigger was dictated by existing stud locations... which the previous cabinet did not. I am now in the middle of painting the shelves to match the rest of the shop - off white body with midnight blue stripe/accents.

Once the painting is complete, I will also be installing some pegboard and then reorganizing all of the tools and supplies. I hope it will all flow much better when I am done. It is a pretty tight space.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Outsider's Eye

My parents finally popped in and got a look at the progress of my current home. They haven't seen it in a several years and back then, the kitchen had no walls and the entry ways were all covered in plastic sheathing. Before that, it was shortly after we acquired the house.

My wife was very happy to see my parents seemed to really like the house. I think for the first time, they understood what my wife and I can do; rip it down and put it all back together.

My little brother just bought his first house. We got a gander at it just after he took possession. It is a 1920's modified bungalow. It still has its original hardwood floors and an interesting walk-through bathroom between the two bedrooms. Kind of like some hotel suites. Anyway, it has some great potential to be a very nice home.

I brought that up because my parents commented on the hardwood floors in my home. The floors, and most of the original moldings and trim work, were all worn, faded and dried out in a lot of areas. Most people would throw their arms up and cover it all up/replace everything with paint, carpet or linoleum. Bad, bad, bad! My wife went around and found all of the bad areas in need of attention and then re-hydrated and re-stained-to-match all of the woodwork. Following this was applying the final topcoat to protect all of her work. I generally like to use brush-on polyurethane or spar varnish/urethane as I did on my previous home and the new mahogany exterior front and screen doors. She settled on Wipe-On Polyurethane. Wow! A lot of time consuming work, but the results are spectacular. 3 complete coats on the first floor and stairs and everything has shine and depth. My parents commented that my little brother should see our floors and follow suit with his own. To be honest, his floors are in much better condition than what ours were. At worst, have a crew come in and take the top layer off and lay down several fresh coats of polyurethane. And, as we did in our home, get some great rugs and lay them into the space. It will keep the beauty of the hardwood, absorb the sound and best of all add flavor to the rooms that can be changed around if needed. Actually, the best of all is that you take that investment with you when its time to go. Not so with the other alternative I heard getting thrown around... carpet.

Anyway, may parents liked the finished new kitchen and the (finished a couple of weeks ago) small bathroom. We took them around and showed them some of the art we have collected and our Persian "fish" rugs, etc. Overall, a big thumbs up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Small Bathroom Finishline... not so Smooth

The small bathroom is complete. Well, I still need to tap into place one of the pins for the supply closet door. I should get that in place tonight... a 5 minute job at most, right? Cross your fingers as things have blown up in my face before.

So yes, the small bath is essentially complete. But the road here was far from an easy stroll. Things that were left to do after all of the tile, trim and paintwork was some electrical (1 light switch and 1 GFCI), the plumbing, all of the fixtures and the medicine cabinet. It shouldn't be more than a day. Right?!

Late on a Saturday, I decide to take care of the electrical and follow up with the plumbing and other things the following Sunday. I spend about 30 minutes locating which circuit coordinates with the bathroom. Funny it is on the one that controls the living room, one plug in a 2nd floor bedroom and the light at the back door. Man, this house has some screwy things going on (but I already have an Electrician waiting in the wings to correct that craziness). Anyway, the light switch was cake. But the GFCI, which was replacing an old 2-prong outlet was not so kind. First off, when I pulled the outlet... 4 wires. Normally there are only 2 or 3 (with a ground). So this was rigged up in a series to some other "thing" in the house. Lovely. It took several tries until it was too dark to work. I was royally frustrated since I kept getting an open hot from the little tester. One set of wires was of a very heavy-gauge copper strand which made each attempt that much more difficult. The mounting screws for it didn't accommodate that gauge of wire very well. I left it. I get back to it on Sunday. I pull out the real tester and get to work. I figure out which set is hot and wire it up. Incidentally, it was the same as the first time I wired it up... but for some reason, it didn't quite resolve properly. The green light on the GFCI was lit. The test and reset buttons worked. 115V good to go. Still tested "open ground". I shrugged my shoulders and proceeded with shoving a GFCI outlet with 4 over-sized wires into an opening that barely fit the old outlet (almost half as deep). It took several tries with the large-gauge wires popping off several times to get it in... but I got it in. It isn't perfectly flush, but then again, nothing is in this house... 'cept the main foundation.

The following weekend, I start with the fixtures shortly after my run. I install the toilet. While tightening the bolts to the floor, I get a loud "pop" and the bolt I was tightening was really loose. D'oh! I eventually pull the toilet off the floor and I find that the replacement closet flange ripped itself right out of the mounting bolts holding it onto the floor. Ugh! I run all over the house to find a workable solution. I eventually find some counter-sunk finishing washers. I installed them and BAM! I was back in business. Well, sort of. I had to run to the local hardware box store to get a new wax seal. Scrape off the old, and now I was bolting the toilet down again. POP! Again?! I pull the toilet and the flange didn't pop, the bolt slipped out of the slot on the flange. A little readjustment and I bolted it down. I had a little doubt on the wax seal as I did not run to get another one. I finish installing the tank and all the innards.

I move on to the sink and pedestal. I leveled it out, marked the mounting holes and drilled for the cleats. I ran into something on one of the holes and was worried the mounting screw was too long. So... I cut one short. Mistake. I mounted the sink and the screw I cut off would not engage. So... off to the box 'ware store. I couldn't find the exact screw but found one very similar. I got home, and it worked fine. I quick put on the faucet and I moved onto the new supply valves.

I shut off all the water to the house and I start to install the new 1/4-turn valves for the toilet and the hot and cold water supplies for the sink. Off come the old valves and on with the new... on comes the water. Toilet, check. Hot supply line, check. Cold supply line, drip. Off goes the water. I redo the teflon tape and put it back on. Water on. Drip. I tighten the valve on more... more water. Off goes the water... I do this several times before I decide to really feel around. What I found was a near killer for the project. The back of the threaded portion of the iron pipe had corroded through; there was a clean cut on about half of the pipe. Very bad. I try to thread the valve on farther but it would not cover the break. I now had 2 choices. Either cut and re-thread the pipe or cut the all open and replace the entire supply line(s) with new copper.

That afternoon and evening, I visited several hardware store... all sizes. I was looking for a die that I could use to re-thread the pipe... on the wall. Most instructions I found had a pipe in a pipe vice and threading it with a giant wrench. Ho boy. The thread size was 3/8-18 pipe thread. Shouldn't be too hard to find... pretty common size... NOT! Every place we went, 1/2" pipe was all they had... if they even had any of the tools I needed. I was frustrated. And I went back on-line to find solace. On the web, I found only 2 places that carried pipe-threading dies... Sears and Harbor Freight. Sears tools were in the hundreds of dollars. HF was in the tens. So at about 9AM on Sunday, I was at the local HF. I picked up a set of dies with the 3/8" I needed. I got it home, opened the case and saw some GIANT tools. I grabbed my pipe cutter and some WD-40 and cut off the bad portion of the pipe. I then held the die up to the remaining pipe sticking out of the wall. The tool was not going to work. There was not enough pipe left to even give me hope that it would work. My heart sank. I put all the tools back into the case and made my way back to HF. It was 10AM.

When I got there, I returned the tool set. They had a set of just the dies for threading smaller pipes; 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2". I still needed to tool to hold the die, so I picked up a tool and die set just for the holder. I get home, open up the dies... perfect to do what I need. I crack open the kit... and the dies are tiny... and so are the holders. ARGH! Do I go in search of a holder that fits?! Not again. I sit and ponder for about 15 minutes staring at the 3/8" die. I get up and head for the garage to the bike tool box. Go HERE for the full story on this little ditty, entered Sunday 11-04 under the title, "Bike Tools to the Rescue".

They don't call me twirlyhead for nothing. This weekend, I had a mission to install my small bath and finish it up. All I needed to do was hook up all the plumbing and then address the medicine cabinet and viola! The king's throne is anew!! But a little snafu utilized my biking background into fixing my home. :D!

As I threaded on the new valve for the cold water, I noticed it was a little bit crooked. When I flipped on the water - drip, drip, drip. D'oh! So I tighten it, and it gets worse. I try it again but no dice. And again. I started to feel around an bit more and discover that the 97 year old iron pipe had given up. The back of the threads had split open at the thin spot. It was just getting worse the more I played with it. I came to the realization that I needed to go to the next step.

Choice: cut and rethread pipe or replace the old pipe with copper (which might entail a plumber). After a bit of pondering, I go out in search of an appropriate die set. I had already scanned the web for the pipe die I need... a 3/8" NPT pipe thread. Most kits I found for pipes started at 1/2" and went up. Home Depot... 1/2" dies. Menards... 1/2" dies and up. So I check the web and find only 2 places with 3/8"; Sears and Harbor Freight.

Sears... hundreds. HF... tens. After a rough night of sleep dreaming about sweating pipes and why iron pipe was a bit easier to deal with and ripping the wall open to replace it all and put in complete copper. I was at HF at 9AM this Sunday morning to pick up some dies. I picked up a large set and brought it home. The kit weighed a ton, but if it is what I needed to get the job done, that that was OK. Well, not really. Those things were HUGE. It was like a 3" ratchet with 50mm bits. I laid it aside for the time being and crossed the line of no return; I cut the pipe. I then held the die up to the pipe... and it was so big, I couldn't even get it onto the pipe to thread it. I made the wrong decision on the die kit. I needed a smaller set. Soooo... back to HF for a return. I instead picked up a much smaller tap and die set as well as a complete SAE/metric tan and die set. My assumption was that the handle in the kit could be used with the dies in the separate kit. No dice. The pipe thread dies were too big for what was included in the complete set. So now I had to improvise. I was tired of running around.

I came up with something to do the job. It entailed one of my, now not so used, Park bike tools. The HCW-5 Crank and Bottom Bracket wrench. The die has an alignment slot and two dimples on the outside of the body. So I started the first threads by hand to get a good alignment and then used the HCW-5 to hook the die and I spun it to start cutting the threads... similar to what the tool was suppose to do. I didn't get a pic while working on the project but it worked great! Sink is all good to go! All I have to comment about is that is got harder and harder to keep pushing the thread. I'm glad it is done.

In the middle of all that I did have to uninstall the sink, faucet and pedestal... and reinstall it all at the end. Fun. Onto the drain! I picked up a kit during one of my many trips to the box hardware store for the drain. White PVC with a trap and all that. I hold it up to the stem from the sink. Wrong side... too big. So another trip to get the right size. I begin to install. Behind a pedestal trying to go to the drain pipe in the floor is not fun. There was so much going on behind the pedestal without much room at all. I ended up having to get a "bendy" pipe to match up the pipes as well as reuse the rubber coupler to go from the white PVC to the metal pipe coming from the floor. That took the rest of the Sunday afternoon to finally tie up all the plumbing issues, but it was essentially done.

Late Sunday, I started to scheme on how to mount the medicine cabinet. The one we chose several months ago was heavy. Plus it was meant to be mounted into a hole in the wall, not surface mounted, like we wanted. I thought that attaching a ledge on the wall the bottom of the cabinet could rest on that with another "cleat" holding the top and a couple of screws through the back. The plan was on Monday to make the needed brackets. I worked through lunch and forgot to bring the aluminum L-channel back from the office. I was then "pushed" to work on the installation anyway. I got ticked, but went on with it. I pulled more L-channel from the garage and fabricated two brackets. I installed the lower bracket with 5 screws cleated to the wall. Solid. I ran through putting together the upper cleat in my head and realized it would not work the way I thought. So I stared at the cabinet for a while. Eventually, I put 4 holes into the back of the cabinet. I held the cabinet up against the wall and marked the location of each hole on the wall. Put the cabinet down, drilled the holes bigger for the cleats, inserted the cleats and crossed my fingers. I brought the cabinet into position and drove in the first screw. I hit the cleat! I proceeded and I hit all 4 cleats. I secured the cabinet to the L-channel as an added safety precaution. I checked level... and it was. I picked up all my tools and put them all away. It was after 10:30 at night and I did not have any dinner.

Tuesday I put in the TP dispenser and the towel rack.

I christened it the following Wednesday.