Monday, June 9, 2014

PVC Constructon Set

This idea has been brewing in my head for a long time.  My kids are often asking me for extra pieces of wood, or to build projects with them.  And while I do sometimes help them with their grand ideas, often it's too much time or materials to expend for a fleeting project.

 So this was my hope.  Give the kids some kid sized building materials they can build with.  So we made ourselves a PVC construction set. 

My husband talked me into these $12 PVC pipe cutters.  I would have just used a miter saw, and sanded off the burrs, but he wanted something easy.  Wow, these made it easy.  I'd call this one of the easiest DIY projects we've done.


The cutters are really cool too.  They 'rachet' so that it takes little bites at a time..  which means those levers can output a lot of force.  It's awesome. 

I hadn't even finished cutting all the pieces when they started building with it. After drilling a few holes in the pipes it was time to test it out.


 I realize now that I had only taken video when this thing was blasted high.  We have a lever we found in the hose section that attaches the hose to the PVC, so the kids can adjust the water to the height they want.

This was the second water structure.

 And the massive third, using all three of the drilled pieces.

This isn't much on the way of instruction, but we're learning as we go right now.  I'm really hoping for some big construction in our future.  Even on not so hot days :)

And for no other reason than remembering these frog days of summer, here's Eve and her friends.



 


Monday, March 24, 2014

Sealed Up

Story #1:  A friend of the family was moving and my Mom suggested we head over to thier garage sale.  They owned a day care and worked in construction, so what they would be selling was right up our ally.  We got a pretty good price on a water table for the kids... 


...and then these.  There were at least 3 sets of pump jacks  priced at $10 a pair.  We just spent $100 for ours, so we were completely kicking ourselves.  I had scoured craigslist but nothing came up.  Yet there these were.  Completely bummed, we bought a pair anyway.  Not that we needed another set, but because...

...they came with two of these too.  We skipped out on buying these braces originally because it would add another $40 to the cost of our system, and we didn't even know if they would work.


So despite feeling bummed that I missed out on a great deal, we cut our loses and bought all four (FOR $10. Ten Dollars!!).  I thought about buying a second set, just for more braces, but we could not have fit them in the car.  These were already riding shotgun with me.

(I even tried to buy the braces seperatly, telling the owner that I was just planning on reselling them, but he said no way, and that I wouldn't find a buyer for the jacks alone.  His loss I guess.  I already sold them and got my $10 back.)

Right.  Back to the real point.  So now armed with better tools, we raised our posts up.  Planning ahead, I had already made the posts tall enough to use on this side (28 feet, I think?).


Story #2 - I don't have any pictures here, but the plan was to set the posts up, as we did above, put the tall ladder up, and then climb the latter up and screw the posts to the wall.  Pretty obvious plan, right?  So, Jon and I set the ladder up together, and given that Jon is more expendable has longer arms,we decided Jon would climb the ladder.  I would support him by handing him the drill out the window and holding up the siding.

So Jon starts climbing the ladder, and I run up two flights of stairs with the drill.  I get there, look at the top of the ladder and he's not there.  Scanning downward I find him.  Two steps up.  Completely frozen.  I laughed my butt off.  He really doesn't like heights.

Alas,  I came back down and I climbed the ladder, which I will not lie, was a harrowing experience.  It shakes a lot, it's really high up, and for most of the climb you're at least10 feet away from any surface.  I can understand Jon's trepidation.  However, not to be outdone (and because my knees were shaking), Jon bravely installed the second post.

I have to say, I am so stinking glad we bought the braces.  It was SO much easier than the wood posts, especially on a tall ladder, and all we needed to do was lift up the siding once we got there.

So up the posts go, and on goes the pump jacks. We installed a second set of wood braces just above the garage door because the span was so long.  It really helped with the stability.  (Given that it's mid November, the sun sets super early.  Most of these pictures will be dark.  )


Now we were back in business to replace this window.  We didn't have much in the way of outdoor lighting, so for a time, we just brought our lamp out.  It worked surprisingly well (as long as the weather was good.


 Which is wasn't for a lot of this project.  Using the tops of the poles, we made ourselves a little awning though, and just carried on.  As long as it was just rain, and not snow I was okay.


There was still some rotted wood, but all in all, the amount of rot wasn't that bad.


Story #3: At some point in all this demo, a neighbor (whom I work with) stopped by and checked out our progress.  We had installed the other boys room window at that point, and looking at it, he asked "Is that an egress window?"

Yeah, I had no idea that was a code thing, and no it was not an egress window.  Given that I was hoping to use that same size window on this side, I wasn't too happy with myself.  As I mentioned in this post, we had gone with smaller windows.  Well, the money was already spent, but at least the second window wasn't in yet.  So we bought another window, this time egress, for this side.  We decided it would be best to still keep it 4" shorter than it was, and go with a larger width.... Which meant we had to move the entire side stud and header.

::sighs::

Once that was all torn out, it was time for framing, which although a lot harder than all the other jobs, was doable.



 Once ever thing was flashed and sealed it was time for the window install.  I hadn't snapped many pictures of the install before, but we always had to seal the edges with caulk.  A great job for a tall husband.

While he wrapped that up, I carried the window up from the basement.  Two flights of stairs!  I was dang proud of my tiny self.


And boom! The last window we planned on getting in before winter is in!


Like the other, there's still lots of work to do on both the outside and the inside, but at least our home doesn't have any more giant holes in it.





Sunday, March 23, 2014

Double Trouble

Continuing from our last post, we're still running around trying to get some windows in before winter hits.

We left off here, with our pump jacks all set up and the moldy wood removed.



There were two things I really regret about all of these windows we're install installations.

The first was our choice of windows.  We decided to go with Andersen 200 windows, because they were vinyl wrapped wood, they brand seemed reputable and the price was fair.  The drawback was that they only came in standard stock sizes.  Not one of our windows was a exact replacement size width-wise, which created a lot of extra work having to resize windows.  Plus, it meant we'd have to lose about 2" of sunlight.  If we had paided for Andersen 400 windows, which pretty much double the cost, we could have skipped some (not all) resizing of the windows.

The second was our choice of windows (wait, whaa...?).  The original windows upstairs were really low to the ground, which both seemed like an kid-climbing-on-the-sill issue, and a we-can't-have anything-under-the-window issue.  So we decided to intentionally order windows about 8" shorter than the previous windows.  We figured we'd have to replace every framing sill anyway.  However, blissfully unaware as we were, we had no idea what an 'egress' window was :(  I'll get to that in another post.  Thankfully this room has another egress window in it, but we'd like to replace that one for sure, because it's [hopefully] going to end up with a master bathroom built around it someday. 

Anyway, back to the first point, we have to bring the stud of this window in a little bit, so I did some sleuthing in the attic to see what I was working with.  Jaw drop.

 

There is no top plate.  At all.  All those studs in the attic, for the most part are the same studs in our walls. 

Found Here

 This is the type of framing I was expecting.  Thrown into a whole new world now, I've learned that is called 'platform framing' and this is called 'balloon framing', more info found here.
I'm sure we don't have any fireblocking up there

So this is what we get.  Which makes it a lot harder to make changes.

Back to the pictures.



And you'd think, for the first picture, that the window is between those two doubled up studs.  Nope.  It's kinda weird, but they're sort of just thrown in the middle of everything.  I have no idea.  Still, since we're bringing the size of this window in, we were able to frame to the inside and move on.

My stepdad came back to help us, and thanks to the platform, were able to get the window framed out pretty quickly.

 


We went a little uncovential with this one.  Once the studs were in, instead of filling in the back with plywood, we taped up the moisture barrier.  I knew it would be kinda tough to do at the end around the studs and then filled in with insulation.


One the plywood on the exterior was in, we finished up for the night with a fully framed window.


The next, part was sealing everything up with housewrap, which wasn't that hard with the scaffolding.  However, the hard part was actually removing the scaffolding supports so that the wrap could go wrap around to the inside of the window.  It was surprisingly hard, because we had to do it without using the scaffolding.  Additionally, we had to relocate the brace on the right because we had originally attached it where the window would need to go.  Thanks to the radon system, that was really hard to do and was surprisingly time consuming.


But once that was settled we were back on track to install our flashing (I've said it before, I love this stuff).


No pictures for the install as it was all hands on deck, with my parents helping out again.  The pump jacks worked great getting the window up there.  We ran into a little snag in that  we framed the width a little too small, so we actually didn't shim it at all.  I'm not [too] worried because everything measured great once in.


As with the other window, we left the siding a complete mess. For now, our focus was getting the windows in. You'll notice though, we have  smaller window now, and all the panels on the left side of the window are too short, which is a little concern.   We'll get that later.


 So here's we are on our plan for upgrading windows:

Eve's Room Dormer- Install
Eve's Room #2 - Doesn't exist yet, install next summer
Boy's Room #1 - Install
Boy's Room #2 - Install
Master Bedroom Domer - Install next summer
Master Bedroom Double - Install
Master Bedroom Back - Upgrade TBD (Master bath..?)
Bathroom - Upgrade TBD
You can read about the other window posts here and here.  Most of installations we were planning before are in (although not cleaned up inside or out), but we still have some one lingering window.

All in all, these projects haven't been awful, but they sure are time and energy consuming.  One bonus, I'm getting much more comfortable about heights.  My first trip up our ladder to fix the shed roof gave me a little trepidation, but now that seems like nothing.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pump, Pump it up...

 Note: this all happened in waaayyyy back in November.

Even though we didn't finish up the inside work the either of the kids room windows, we decided to move on with our window to get the most of the windows in by the winter.  The next up was our room.


We were really concerned about what we'd find under this window.  It was one of the worst looking windows, and we were worried the damage would spread to the floors, which could be a hard fix given the heater right there.




Once we pulled out the window, we weren't surprised with the lack of flashing, poorly done housewrap, and signs of damaged plywood.  I warn you, put down your lunch.  It gets gross.

It was clear we needed to investigate, so we cut the drywall under the window. Ew.  Not what we want to see.  Explains the musty/moldy smell though.



And then we start removing the siding.  Again, if your housewrap looks like this...  you don't want to know what's under there.

...But we had to find out.  Surprise! It's more mold!
So we started the same old, now.  Cutting away everything rotten.  Thankfully,  the floor and even the sill plate were completely fine.

 
At this point we wrapped everything up and put some rails across our giant hole in the wall.


We had to stop not just because the night brought the weekend to a close...  we actually couldn't go on farther without a plan.  We needed a way to both work on the window from the outside and get the large window up to the outside of the hole when it was ready to go in. We also needed a way to get to the other boys room window, which is 25' up, so finding something for both was in order.

We priced out scaffolding which would be well over $100, a significant drive, put us on a time constraint and possibly not tall enough for the boys room window.  That was out. Options that involved two ladders and plank looked interesting, but given we don't own a tall ladder (we had one to borrow) it would cost a least $150 for the supplies.  Plus it wouldn't help us get the window up there. I also looked at alternative 'leaning' wood forms of scaffolding that we could DIY, but those didn't seem safe, especially at 25'.

What I found was that least expensive, yet still safe option was something called 'pump jacks'.  For $100, plus the cost of wood, we could own them too.  As an added bonus, the platform raises and lowers, which also solved the issue of getting the window up there, and they're safe up to 25'.

It was actually hard to find a video to explain how it works, but I was able to dig this one up, which was super helpful, because I wasn't getting initially from just the description.  Although I did have the urge to put my ponytail to the side and rock my TMNT shirt while watching it.

I wrote that.  Then just had to.
 Anyway, I bought two Qualcraft Pump Jacks from Amazon for $50 each.  Wood was tough to source, because the wood type is so critical to these jacks working correctly.  Everywhere I saw recommended douglas fir, and although I looked ALL OVER I couldn't find any douglas fir 2x4's in our area.   Doing a little digging on the internet, I did find that hem fir is a very similar wood and a fine replacement (and this PDF just says fir).  Which of course, was available at our closest Lowes, the first place I looked.  It took about an hour digging through and finding the absolute best boards I could.  The associates kept giving me looks, so I sent Eve over to entertain them with stories :D 

The cost of the wood (posts, scafolding and for bracing), nails and mending plate did add up.  I cheaped out and just got regular 2x8's  for the scaffolding. I say somewhere between $50-$75, making them about $175.  Still less than what it would have been had we rented.

So while I waited for our pump jacks to arrive, I assembled the posts  in the basement, which thankfully had an opening about 40' long, by using the space under the stairs.  I followed the instructions on the PDF down to the letter.  I didn't want these things to fail while we were on them.  I screwed the two scaffolding boards together to help with weight distribution and remove a trip hazard (one board higher than the other).  I was glad I did, because if you put too much weight on the end... you want those things to be tied together to keep it balanced longer.

We had to be super careful putting this up because of the power lines.  My stepdad came over and helped us, which was great.  We needed the extra set of hands, for sure.  We were able to get the posts up and secured to the wall with a could boards without any interference to the power lines.
Despite digging holes for the bottom, they were feeling a little bit wobbly when we put them up.  I braced them with some 2x4s at the bottom and they were much more secure after that.  We dropped the scaffolding on, and later on placed a toe kick 2x4" on each end.  We were glad on many occasions to have that toe kick to both stop our feet and our tools.
  
I had my stepdad take a picture of us as we brought the plank up to position for the first time.  I look like I'm clinging to the pole for dear life... because I'm clinging to the pole for dear life.  But they held us just fine.


However, when we tested how to get them down, it wasn't working right.  We unclasped the top as we're supposed to and turned the handle, but it wasn't budging.  Quite foolishly I remembered that I needed to depress the the bar at the bottom with my foot, and tried it immediately...    forgetting that I disengaged the top and not knowing I needed to have the foot press up.

This caused two things to happen.  One, I dropped at least a foot without warning and gave a nice yelp of surprise.  Two, I had a heart attack the foot rest swung up with such speed and force, that I'm sure if I were a boy, our prospect for future children would look dim. Thankfully, I'm not, and it just barely missed me.  Be forewarned boys - Have the petal up before you step on the release.  After that fun, everything was fine and my trust was completely restored in the system.  It was actually a little fun unwinding it; I will admit to yelling yee-haw every time we rode that thing down. 

Once we got the braces into position, we screwed in back bracing.  Also helped keep it sturdy and give us some bounds when working up there.  The image below shows them on, but the platform was dropped back down to work on the lowest part of the damage, so they're not in the right place.

That pretty much wraps up the first half of our long window demo.