Monday, November 18, 2013

A little bit of this, a little bit of that...

Just a quick post - While in the midst of many other projects, one Friday night I came home and impulsively decided to fix our shed roof.  Our shed roof was a mix of several different types of shingles and had several areas with leaks.  But one area wasn't even covered with roofing at all.

But even though the whole roof needed some help, we'll tackle that next year.  For now, we just want to fix the bare area.  So, we picked up a pack of cheap shingles at the local ReSTORE a few weekends eariler.


To be completely honest, I was a little nervous using the latter in it's straight position for the first time.  I managed though.  I used a snow brush to brush all the bristles and leaves off the roof and got to it.

Roofing was fairly straightforward.  Jon cut the shingles that needed cutting and handled each shingle up to me. I scooted around the roof nailing shingles in, trying not slide off the roof and keeping an eye on the kids playing in leaf piles :)


So there we go! After a couple hours a we had the ugliest repair ever.  But now our shed was waterproof enough to stick more stuff in it!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Things That Make You Go Hmm..

Our deck certainly makes me think hmm...  I've spent a fair amount of time under there trying to find the most likely failure points, and morph together when each section was built in relation to each other.  Each time I was under or on our deck though, I looked this dryer vent in disappointment.  At least I can attempt to something about that this year.


The inspector said "Ah, a homeowner special" as we walked by it.  We could tell.  I have no idea why they would put through the deck.   Keep out animals?  Keep it from being buried in the snow?  Those are my best guesses, but honestly, I have no idea.


Figuring out how to fix it was a more challenging then I had anticipated.  When we bought the house, the dryer was crushing a large rolled up pile of the flexible vent.  To it keep it un-crushed, we needed to move the dryer out, which hit the heater, which made us move the whole thing awkwardly to the side.  To complicate the matter,  there's a stud right near the corner of the wall, so we couldn't have exit vent all the way to the back. One of the goals was that we wanted the dryer to stick out only as much as the washer, and not eat up the toilet space (Ew, that sounds wrong).  We were hoping we could get the dryer far enough back that it would fit behind the heater, but that wasn't a huge deal.  We can always cut down the counter at the end of the bathroom to fix that.

One option would be making the dryer vent right out the side.  Googling led me to believe that doing that, in that small of a room, would be really,  really tough, so that was out. 

So, we pretty much bought every kind of dryer vent solution we could.  telescoping low profile, plastic elbows, adjustable metal elbows, long straights, etc.  I think this project had more returns than any other project I've done.  Finally we came to some sort of crappy plan and just went with it.


First I had to climb behind the dryer and pulled out the old dryer duct.  That duct was around 10 feet long.  Surprisingly, it hadn't accumulated as much lint as I expected. Then I climbed back out and pulled took the vent off.  I won't give much more climbing blow by blows, but, I'm gonna say, I got good at climbing in and out of there (and am much less claustrophobic).


I unscrewed the old vent and took it off.  Then there was a I punched a jagged shaped hole in the wall with my rippling DIY muscles!  Come on, you know you'd do it too :)


Back inside, I used the bottom of a small paint can, the same size as the 4" vent's duct, to trace out a circle.  The duct that came on the back of the vent was 'rigid duct' but still too wiggly to trace it easily. And because space was so tight between the wall and cabinet, I couldn't fit any tools in there.  So instead, I employed the help of just a jigsaw bit.  Yes.  Just the bit.  Totally ghetto, I know, and my hand was aching but the end of it, but I made a REALLY nice circle.  It was sweeet!  (Since then though, I've decided that a jab saw is a good purchase, though).


Like the inside materials, I had to buy more than one dryer vent as well.  This was our first one, and it wasn't made for vinyl siding.  In fact, I had no idea how I could reconcile to two together. Thankfully I stumbled on one with integrated J-channels at our local building supply store a few weeks later that was perfect (after Jon struck out on finding one in the big box stores).  

Somehow, my sort of random hole in the wall ended up being perfectly centered in one piece of siding.  That. Was pretty lucky.  I figured a decent strategy to cut the outside hole so that it aligned with the inside.  First I placed the dryer vent backwards in the hole (from the inside), so that the rigid duct was up against the plywood.  A little bit of measuring led me to a general area and I was able to drill I pilot hole.  With that I could see enough to make a small enough hole gauge where I the edges were.  Then I used the jigsaw to make cuts across vertically and horizontally until I was just barely not touching the duct. I brought out the paint can again and used those 4 points I just cut to get my circle.  Now I could jigsaw the circle out easy as pie.


Flexible duct, like what came with the house, is not recommended for dryer vents.  However, I found online that semi-rigid ducts are acceptable.  I went the simple route and just bought a short roll of this stuff, and it seems to work fine.  We decided to have the vent above the dryer for a couple reasons.  It meant we could push the dyer all the way back, flush with the washer, but still exit in a way that would avoid the stud next to the back wall.  Plus, we can access the attachment point for easier cleaning of the duct.  It is a little ugly, but I'm hoping to make some sort of cover.

The last part of the repair was fixing the old hole.  I'm gonna have to confess, it sat un-fixed for about a month.  I did place a little bit of house wrap of the top of the hole, but that's about it.


But once it hit 30°F for several days, I started panicking.   I had other pressing holes in the wall (which I'll blog about someday), but I still didn't like this small one either.

I had commandeered my Mom's rigid oscillating tool, and made the circle a square.  (Sidenote, I love my Mom's oscillating tool.  Every homeowner should have one, it's so helpful.  My Mom has this one, which works great, but Jon and I are thinking about getting this one.)

I had a tough time cutting the bottom section because the plywood was so spongy.  At first I was worried that condensation had caused it from leaving the hole open for a while, but when I felt around a little more in that area above the deck flashing, all that plywood fell yucky :(  We expected we'd have to replace sheathing when we did the deck, so it's not a surprise.  But still not something I want to think about.


So since the bottom area is likely going to be replaced next year when we do the deck, I clearly didn't bother to do a very good job.  It was 30°F when I was outside doing this, you know.  I might fill it in with "Great Stuff" though to keep it more weather sealed later.

So that's where we ended up!  Thankfully, because I was adding one hole and covering another, I was able to shift around the siding in that area evenly.  Although the area around the vent would look better as once piece instead of two, it's so nice to finally have siding in that section of the building.  (and I know, I still have put on a piece for that little gap, which is... somewhere (?) in my house).  I  need to buy siding for other parts of my house at this point, so I could revisit this area again... but I'm telling you, figuring out the company that made our siding is turning out to be a REAL pain.  We'll see how that pans out.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Smelly Carpet... Oh, Smelly Carpet...


....what are they feeding you?

Wayyy back, the day we moved in, I posted this image of me doing cartwheels on our ugly blue carpet.  Now, we knew we would be replacing the carpet.  It was old, ugly blue, and darkened up the room quite a bit.  It had tears in several spots.  It was more scratchy than soft.  It had unknown lumps all over the place.



What we didn't realize, is how bad it had smelled.  We thought that it was the dog crate in the living room that caused the smell during our walkthroughs.  And for the first week of owning the home it wasn't that bad- the first smell that hit you walking through front door was the very strong sent of fabric softener.  Once we started cleaning the house (ie. washing machine) and opening windows to rid the house of the strong 'perfume' smell of the old owners it became clear.  The carpet smelled.  It really smelled.  I'd call it a mix of dog and dirt, with a some spots of chemical smell that my husband was particularly sensitive to.


Our plan was to wait on putting in a new floor so we could focus on more pressing structural issues, like our windows.  We didn't feel it had enough priority for our time, and we didn't have enough money to cover all the issues at once and still do a good job.  But after living with the carpet for seven weeks we decided we maybe it was worth a little bit of money for paint and a bit of our time.  Everyone seemed to hate that carpet, and allergies were running rampant.


These are photos just before we went crazy.  Before pictures, perhaps?   I guess I have none of the sunroom. 


...And with a little magic, after pictures.  Rocking chairs and stuffed chairs were brought up to the bedroom.  Pretty much everything else got jammed into the sunroom.  The image above is more illustrative of how dark the room seemed during the day than the other two.  I tried but I couldn't get either image to look true to life for the brightness.


Now the exciting part!  Ripping the carpet up.  To add to the suspense, lets try to guess what the big lumps were under the carpet.  Some hints about the lumps: 
  • The inspector had no guess as to what they were.  
  • They were hard. 
  • They were near the front door, bathroom and basement door.  
  • They didn't have any recognizable shape or pattern, and we would find them in different spots all over.
Any guesses? 

Dead mice, bulging wood and lumped up carpet padding were ones we had heard from friends & family.


Up comes the corner.  Everything looks normal so far...  Oh, the suspense!

And..... It's DIRT!   A mostly caked on pile of dirt & sand.

...Actually....  lets change pile to piles.  Piles of dirt. 


Lots of piles of dirt.  So, mystery solved!  It was all dirt under there.  That probably explained why the carpet smelled like... um... dirt.  Duh.  Why didn't I think of that before?


So with that, the full destruction began.  Jon and I each grabbed a carpet-section (c-section, haha!) and started tearing it up and tossing it on the lawn.


Getting around the doors in entryway was a little bit of a pain, but not too tough.  This job didn't seem so bad.


Until we looked at how many staples we had to pull up...

And how much dirt we had to clean up.  I decided to draw up a nice 'welcome mat' to help show how much dirt there was.  I had a really hard time conveying it in photos, but to give you a mental image- multiply this photo by about 100 and that's what we found on the well traveled areas of the floor. (This is a perfect opportunity for another "Friends" reference, but I find no one knows this one, and I can never find clips online.  So give yourself a smug smile if you know it.  Beach-house!)


It was quite clear where the well traveled areas of the floor were.  The couch was the clean area on the left.  The area in front of the couch on the right is where everyone eats and drinks....  Oy.

What looks like rings of dirt in the image were the most difficult areas to clean.  From what I we could figure, whenever someone spilled something the dirt would cake together in that area in resist getting vacummed up.  Add in some compression and drying, and we had quite the caked on mess.  I used a spray bottle with vinegar, a metal scrapper, shop vac to try to get it all off.  It took hours.

To get the staples up, we mostly used a pliers and a flat head screwdriver.  I found I liked popping them up with the screwdriver best and then stuck ones got pliers.  Jon preferred just pulling them up with pliers alone.


While I got started on the staples and cleaning, Jon went around pulling up all the tacks strips.  I'm pretty sure he loved this job.  He got stabbed in the foot more than one by these guys just walking through the house.  Sweet vengeance was his.


And like most of the repairs we've done, there's always one surprising bad spot.  Oh look.  A bad spot. Surprise! We're guessing an aquarium rotted this out, since it's an odd spot, and we have no other ideas.



It was late by the time we ripped out everything, so I ended the day by making our sunroom a little more organized.  When I was done, I actually liked how cozy it was.  A lot.  It made me a little sad that I liked our crammed together livingroom more than the big wide house one we had been living with since we moved in (as seen at the top of the post).  We pretty much set it up in a way really similar to the previous owners.  It really got me thinking about how I wanted to devide our space better to fit us better.   But I'm sure I'll get to that in another post ;)



I was pretty excited to start painting and get this project over with, but it was hard to find a good time to do it.   We made some good progress the first night after the kids went to bed, but I found it hard to work on [more] house stuff after the kids were asleep. 


After avoiding painting for a bit, I decided to enlist my kids help during the day. Eve did the section in the cones, and Eli, painting shirtless, worked on his section.  I tried to keep them off wet paint with tape and traffic cones, which mostly worked.


I've seen some really awesome painted floors online.  Tricks to hide the seams.  Nice looking, intricate designs.  At first I was tempted, but I decided to just prime it and paint it a solid color.  Yet, by the end of it, I was ready to be done.  So, our small plan got smaller, and we're sticking with just primer and no paint.  Even a couple layers of some of the really good primer we bought didn't hide some of the ring-stains, so we just embraced the 'ugly' and put our time into other more important house work.

But by no means were we planning on embracing this.  So after we had the rest of the area painted we had to address this before moving our stuff back in.  Fixing this was a project on it's own, and that is for another day's post.

To be continued....

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Trees, Gromit! Trees! - Part2


I'm keeping with the Wallace and Gromit theme.  I like it.  To recap, pretty much everything that rhymes with cheese is said in a 'Wallace voice' in my head.  So this all makes sense.  Really.

"No trees, Gromit.  Not a bit in the house."
Surprisingly, that pretty much sums it up.  In Part 1 of the Tree Saga, we cut down a tree (alright, giant weed) that was about to encroach on our electric wires.  For Part 2 - we're taking took down a tree we'd rather not see fall through to encroach the inside of our house.

Now when I say 'we' here, I mean Jon.  And my stepdad, Steve.  Alright, mostly my stepdad, Steve.  But not me at all.  In fact, I did not want to DIY it.  I'll pause while you pick yourself off the floor.  I was willing to hire someone to do it and Jon was wanted to do it himself. Go figure.  But once Steve offered to help, the deal was sealed, and I was cautiously on board.  I was able to console my 'loss' by counting the stacks of money they saved us :P

So there is the very dead tree with it fist up in the air, poised ready to strike our house. I do worry about it, since it seems we have some sort of yearly major storm that takes down many local trees and wipes out power for a weeks... like this ice storm that I actually wrote about a few years back.

So lets get crack-a-lacking.  First off in our This-Does-Not-Substitute-Professional-Advice post, you wrap a rope around the tree, somewhere high up. Toss one side up, loop it around, and make one end a slip knot.

Once the rope is secured around the tree, we they tie the end to the base of another tree... which is out of sight for this image.

Now that the rope is in place, we Steve notched out the side that we want it to fall on.

Now, I did have some sort of duty for the day.  I worryingly moved the cars to the back yard.

I cautiously kept my family a safe distance away.

As well as concerningly practiced an escape route with everyone, had the tree come our way. And most important.  I nervously filmed the whole thing coming down:)

I wish the camera had caught the noise a lot better...  It was quite the satisfying sound. You can hear both mine (and my mother's) nerves peaking as we yell "RUN!" to Jon...  Like he wouldn't have otherwise.  ::eye roll::  I really shouldn't have been that paranoid, as I have seen Steve has cut down a lot of trees before.... but it's so much harder to stay calm when it's your husband (and house) on the line.

The video wasn't that clear in the next few steps, so I'll outline them.  (I don't have a very good handle getting good looking compressed video made, so... sorry.  I hope to get a new camera soon.) Basically, Steve makes a few cuts on the back side of the tree now, slightly above the other cut. He pauses to let Jon try to pull the rope out to the side to pull the tree down in the direction we want it to go.  This was actually our their second pull attempt after Steve made a slightly deeper cut.

Once the tree was down we all ran in to investigate.  It was pretty sweet looking smattering of remains.

After backing everyone away for the work to begin again, I had Steve pose with his kill.

They used Steve's Log Jack/TimberJack to help turn the logs over.  It also kept the logs off the ground for the chainsaw, so that they could cut the log into manageable pieces. I had to google the name.  My guess was 'log turner'.  I wasn't far off, as google got me to the right name :)

Steve left large section of tree for us, per my request.  We're hoping to turn into some sort of outdoor seating next year.

That's it!  No more dead tree piercing the sky in our front yard!

And for those who really enjoyed the tree's slow motion, here is the koyaanisqatsi version:



Again, sorry for the crappy film quality & compression of the video. Edit: Wow, uploading made it 3x worse.  I give up!

(.....And if this reference is foreign to you, I highly recommend watching Koyaanisqatsi. Warning: It's artsy!  But, you'll be able to better understand references in comedies like Scrubs, the Simpsons... and the Simpsons.)