Archive for the ‘home improvement’ Category

I just installed a new (old/ reclaimed) front door.

Front door after. Left swing inwards. We got this door in very rough shape from a neighbor for $40. After a lot of scraping, sanding, patching, wood putty/ bondo, and new paint, it looks natural in its new home!

Front door before. Right swing inwards.
Ugly old paint and lots of glass as a potential security risk.

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Continuing my DIY series, I’ll show you how to re-glaze old windows.

Step 1: Remove the old glazing. I’ve found that a sharp paint scraper will do the trick. If you must, use an old chisel you don’t care about because there is sure to be metal glazing points buried under there just waiting to wreak havoc on a chisel blade. Once you have removed the glazing, take out all the old glazing points, and carefully remove the old window pane. If you are doing this to replace a broken pane, remove it recklessly 🙂   Just watch out for broken glass. Once you have the window frame prepped, roll a thin rope of glazing onto the ledge where the window will sit (pictured below). This creates a good seal for the window, and also cushions it a bit. Rolling a tiny worm of glazing can take some time, so if you really need to go faster, you can use caulk here if you must.

 

Step 2: Gently place the new window pane onto the rope of glazing compound or caulk. Press with even pressure to smoosh the caulk flat but don’t break the window!

 

Step 3: Take your paint scraper (or even a tile trowel with a nice big handle) and push glazing points into the frame symmetrically around the pane. If it’s a small pane, two per side is fine. Bigger panes need more support, so add more accordingly. Try to get the point as flush to the frame as you can.

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I just finished installing my second hardwood floor, so I feel I have enough experience to tell, at least the beginner, how to do it.

  • First, prepare the sub-floor. This would include pulling out all nails or staples sticking up, sanding down uneven spots, and pulling off baseboards and trim.
  • Second: Lay out your boards in the general pattern that you want. This helps to visualize what the final floor will look like so you can plan out which boards to put where, which ones you need to cut, and to make sure you have enough to finish. Before you do this, lay down an underlayment layer to help with squeaks. Tar paper works for me.
  • Gather your tools: I would say that the most useful tool besides a hammer and nailset, or the specialty hammer you can rent, is a good chop saw. This way, you are guaranteed straight cuts that you can do fast.
  • Next, set the first row: You will need to measure the width of your boards, then take your measuring tape and take 5-7 measurements off the wall you are starting at. Then take a chalk line and snap a good clean line on the average of all your marks. Some old houses were built before they invented right angles, so if you just put the first row of boards flush with the wall, by the time you get across the room, you could be attaching the boards crooked, compared with the other three walls. So line up your first row on the chalk line and install it with brad-headed nails. Put them in at a 55* angle right above the tongue. Use a nailset to push them all the way flush so that the groove in the next board will fit perfectly. In the picture below, the nail in the back ground is set flush, and the nail in the fore ground show the correct angle.
  • Hammer and cut away! If you’re doing a room of considerable size, I would recommend spending the extra bucks to rent a floor installer hammer. This is a pneumatic or hand powered nail gun that will make things go much faster. When you cut boards for the side, remember that you can leave yourself a little space because you will most likely be installing quarter round trim to finish.
  • For the last board, you need to cut or chisel off the tongue so that it will fit. In some cases, you will need to use a table saw to rip the boards down to the correct width. Then use nails and your nailset to fasten them so that the holes will end up underneath the trim. For this particular room, I knew I wouldn’t have enough boards to cover the entire floor ( we bought the wood at a garage sale. 90 sq. ft. for $30) so I planned to build a window seat and built in bookshelves to take up the remaining space.

Along with my new roof, I just installed a Solatube skylight. Our bathroom is the only room in the house with no windows. It had one originally, but someone covered it up with a tub-surround years ago. The room is a cave. Even in the middle of the day, you need to turn on the light. So I thought it would be an ideal application of a small tubular skylight. Now it’s bright enough that we only need the light in the mornings and at night. Hopefully we can recoup the money in energy savings, but it will take some time. I went with Solatube and not Suntunnel by Velux or another brand because from everything I’ve read and seen, Solatube is the best. I was certainly impressed with the quality of their product. The inside of the metal tubing is like a mirror! I thought it would just be painted silver or something, but it is literally a mirror. Plus they have good customer service. The day I got home and opened the box, I found that the dome had been cracked in shipping. I called and they were very nice over the phone and I received a new dome in two weeks, free of charge. I got the more expensive model because you can take a 30% tax credit this year. So really, the $300 model is less expensive than the $250 model that does not qualify for the credit. Here are the before and after pictures. Each picture was taken around noon without a flash. Keep in mind this is November in the Northern hemisphere and the Solatube is on the North face of the roof. I imagine it will be brighter come summertime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We just got a new roof! The previous owner of the house bought it in 1983 and never put a roof on, so we know that it was at least 26 years old. It had three layers of shingles on it and the original boards, no plywood. So we got six quotes. Some were as high as $15,500 and the one we eventually went with was $7,500. Our house is 1,500 sq. ft. and we’ve been told our roof is 17 squares. We got Barkwood (color) 30 year architectural shingles made by GAF Elk. It’s nice having a new roof over our heads, but not so nice having hardly any savings left in the bank. We got kinda used to having a $10,000 cushion. Well, not anymore! Here are some pictures. Before and after. Now we just need to paint. I put in a new skylight too, but that will be its own post. If anyone has any questions, just let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate change. Does it exist? Yes. Can we do something about it? Maybe. What the world needs now (besides love, as they say) is concerted action. We need to educate people on the true consequences of their actions, and what they can do to reduce their impact on the planet. For a few things you can do individually, check these out:

1) Live close to work & play. I know that for many people, they are settled in to where they are living. But the average American only lives in a house for seven years. So you still may be able to do this at some point in the future. Look at where you live now, and how far you commute. Can you live closer to where you work? Can you get a new job closer to where you live? When my wife and I were buying our first home, we took this into consideration. We decreased her commute time from 30 minutes to 20 minutes, and I was close enough to ride my bike to work most days.

2) Ride a bike. If you are physically able to ride a bike to do short errands, do it. Many car trips in the U.S. are for distance of less than a mile. Have to run down to the drugstore for something small? Take a bike. This alone will reduce your carbon footprint a great deal. Plus it may be quicker. What? you ask incredulously. Yes. My commute was 12 minutes by car and 7 minutes by bike…because of all the traffic. I can always go to the front of the line at a ed light, and speed by cars that are bumper to bumper.

3) Get an energy audit for your home. Many companies that deal in windows, insulation, or heating will offer these for free. A technician will come in and go around your house check for leaks. Not leaks from water in pipes, places where heat is leaking out. They seal off your front door with a big plastic gasket with a fan inside. This creates negative pressure in the house, so any place where heat would have been going out is now coming in. They use a thermal IMG_0251imaging camera to spot areas of cold. (white is hot, black is cold. You can see in the picture that the bottom panel of our back door is very cold, and cold air is seeping in underneath the door.) It was very cool to follow him around and see cold seeping in through the baseboards and around the door to the attic. Then I knew exactly where to seal with caulk or expanding foam. We also got our furnace replaced with a 95% efficient model and insulated all the exterior walls with blown-in cellulose insulation. This cut our utility bills in half! I wrote in more detail about that here.

There are so many other things you can do, so I will say that the biggest one is:

4) Read. Educate yourself on how you can live a better life for yourself, and the environment. You’re doing it right now! There are tons of simple things you can do. There are also things that many people believe will affect the climate a great deal, but actually don’t.

I focused on only one small part of the climate change issue, but there are myriad facets to this. I expect to read posts from other people doing Blog Action Day today about how coastal regions may be affected, our food supply, desertification, water shortages, international policy changes, new advancements in science, and much more. So just try and do your part, and we can make some change for the good of us all.

For more info, go here:

http://www.blogactionday.org/

Break-in

burglar

My garage was broken into last night. Whoever did it had vehicular support because they stole my lawnmower, my 80 lb. truck jack, and saddest of all, my bike. Now I can’t ride around the neighborhood with my son on the back in his child carrier. (one of my favorite pastimes). They did my nextdoor neighbor’s garage too and got their mower as well. The garage door was padlocked, and the two side windows were boarded up, but they stood on a trash can and broke in the rear window, taking it entirely out of the frame.

If you have ever had a break-in, you know how it feels. Awful. You feel violated. You feel watched, like they might just come back the minute your back is turned. You feel regret at the things you lost. You feel apprehension at having to report all this to the police and your homeowners insurance. You feel stupid for having a $1,000 deductible. You feel ineffective at keeping your home and family safe. So what do I do now?

I made a list of things missing and their replacement cost. $2,090. I boarded up the back window, and changed the padlock around so that someone from the outside can’t access the screws. What else? Reassess security.

Please do this now before it’s too late for you. Go outside. Now look at your house/ garage/ property with a burglar’s eyes. Where would you break in? What looks like the easiest way or the weakest area? What is stored where? Thankfully all my expensive rock/ice climbing equipment was left untouched, due to the thief’s ignorance. But you may not be so fortunate. Go out to your garage and write down the serial numbers of the most expensive things there. I did not do this to my bike, much to my frustration. Keep this list in a safe place. Realize that if someone really wants to get in, they will, but do not make it easy for them. A single-pane window held in by rusty nails ended up being the weak link in my garage. Make sure you know yours, and then do something about it so that this does not happen to you.

This is just a quick life update. I am now a stay at home dad for two days a week. The others are spent doing projects around the house that we haven’t had time to do in the last few years. Like: ripping down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, replacing broken window panes, stripping paint, fixing the leaky basement, etc.

I have received 3 rejections from agents about their interest in my novel so far. I’m waiting on 2 more. I may start sending it out to publishers too, but I’d rather have an agent first.

I’m starting on my last semester of classes for my A.S. in Business from OCC. I like my guitar class the best so far. I know how to play, and have for years, but it’s fun remembering all the old Metallica songs I used to know and jamming with the other advanced students.

The toddler is adapting well to his first major life transition: Mom at work, he’s in daycare or with me, I’m gone at night at class. That’s it for now

So we need to get our roof done soon. The previous owner bought the house in 1983 and never put a roof on it. Rather than wait until our cielings cave in on us, we want to do some preventative maintenance. What does this have to do with chimneys you ask? Well, most of the roofing companies we got quotes from said that we need to have our chimney repaired before they would do the roof. One offered to do it for $600. I said I could probably do it myself for just a bit less than that. How about $30. Yeah, that’s right. $6 for some mortar, $24 for two ceramic flue liners, and a bunch of free, trash-picked bricks.

I borrowed some books on it and got to work. First I had to chip out all the old mortar and clean up/ remove the loose bricks around the top. Then I removed the old broken flue liners. Whoever repaired it the last time put the larger one in crooked so that the small one that serviced the furnace and hot water heater only fit when they broke one of the sides off. Then it was just a simple matter of carrying all my supplies out of our bedroom window and up to the chimney. Being a rock climber, I’m used to heights, so I didn’t tie off or anything. I was comfortable with that but you may not be. It was my first time working with bricks and mortar, so there was a learning curve. It’s not real pretty, but it will do the job. Here are some before and after shots:

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I just got done putting these up:

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I found a nice piece of cherry crown molding at the Re-Store, which is run by Habitat for Humanity. They salvage any useful architectural pieces from all the houses that get torn down. So I thought that with a few 45* cuts, they would make some nice shelves. I was right. Although I could have used smaller screws on top. Oh well. And using maple for the cleats inside was a big mistake too. Because maple is so hard, it is hard to work with. You have to pre-drill everything and even then the screws stick and the heads gets stripped. But they came out nice in the end. For $5, I’m happy.

Update: Wow. I was surprised to find out that this post is in the top FIVE results on Google for “home made shelves.” So that’s why I see so much traffic here but nothing about people searching for shelves on WordPress. Well, I hope this was worth the visit. If you have any questions, please let me know. I am far from a master carpenter, but I might be able to help.

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Yes. This post seems out of place among the usual fare of on-the-edge science, books, knives, and living green. But I stumbled across this in the tag surfer and got interested. You take a quiz and it tells you what style you like best. I have 3.

youve-got-male-material-girls-blog-scan00151Zen Style

Goodbye clutter, hello clean! For the Zen style, unlike other contemporary design, the amount of natural materials keep spaces from feeling cold and sterile. Zen style mixes rustic with chic, so there’s an incredible level of ease and sophistication about the space.

Plants and greenery are very important in helping achieve the warm and natural feel of the space. Whenever possible, natural lighting is used in spaces to help create openness in the space.

wwwbillposscom-slideshow_3Mountain Lodge Style

You love nature! And really, how could you not? The more exposed wood (be it in log form or paneling) the better. And having natural stone in your home is a must! Especially at the fireplace, but stone top tables work too.

If you could clad all the furniture in wood and stone you would, but splinters aren’t fun and stone is cold! So when you need a place to sit (or recline in!), it should be comfortable and warm. Bigger is better when it comes to your favorite chair for watching TV or reading the newspaper. Leather is great (go natural!), but soft fabrics in warm tones also suit you well.

ambungalow-sagalrArts and Crafts Style

You tend to prefer simple to ornate and natural materials over man-made. Warm tones found in wood and brass make you feel comfortable, and good craftsmanship excites you like nothing else.

You enjoy patterns that highlight our natural surroundings such as plants and trees. You prefer rectilinear forms and straight lines, however you love to find intricate details (ooooh, stained glass!) where you least expect it.

I think they got me pegged fairly accurately. What about you?

img_1684For any home owner who lives where it’s cold, this is not a good sight. I don’t know if you can tell scale from the picture but that ice dam is about one foot thick at least. So I finally borrowed a ladder from my Dad and climbed up there and chopped it off.

The best tool to use is an ice tool (ice axe used for ice climbing) mountaineering ice axes work pretty well, but a tool specifically designed for vertical ice climbing is prime. These things rock. Where I might be able to shatter a few inches off with a sledge hammer, or wood axe, I can break off chunks several feet wide and deep with my ice tools. And now we don’t need to worry about leaks.

Here is a picture of my tools in the backside of a waterfall:

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img_16731As you can see by my latest utility bill, my decision to replace our 83 year old gravity-fed, 200,000 BTU, – 50% efficient, Octopus furnace with a new 95% efficient one is already paying off.

Just look at January 08 and January 09. Our daily average was 54% better than last year. Compare 230 therms to 115. Needless to say, I’m very happy with the result. The new exterior insulation we had blown-in also contributed to our energy saving. With that project alone, we reduce our carbon foorprint by 14,000 pounds. And who says being Green doesn’t pay off?

Well, after a  month of doing the Compact (that is, not buying anything new) we have been doing pretty well. I did buy two new albums on i-tunes, but since they are electronic files and not actual plastic CDs, and the whole point of this is to reduce materialism, I think that can be forgiven. They’re not taking up any space in my house besides hard drive space. My wife and I have both been tempted by things, but so far, have resisted. I bought some hardware at the Re-Store which is a reclaimed architectural salvage place run by Habitat for Humanity. But this is ok for two reasons: 1) it’s used, and 2) it was for a baby gate, which would fall under one of the exception categories, ie: safety.

I really wanted to buy a book by an author I like that had just come out and I was pretty bummed I would have to wait to read it. But I asked at the library anyway. It had only come out three weeks prior to that so I didn’t have my hopes up. When the librarian looked it up, she said, “Oh, we have four copies.” Oh yay. I asked to be put on the list immediatley and a week later, I had the book in my hands. This has definitley helped our bank account too. Hopefully, we’ll keep it up.