House

Squeaky floor remediation

Posted on Apr 11, 2017 in House | 2 comments

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These holes are about the diameter of the shaft of a q-tip

My new place has old floors. Some are 70 years old and others look to only be half that, but suffice to say, they’re old and they squeaked like crazy. It was so bad that I was self-conscious about walking around late at night. At times I’d even choose to wet the bed rather than risk waking my neighbor. NO MORE. With about an hour of effort and a $15 investment with the Squeeeek No More (that’s four ‘e’s) kit I have no more major squeaks. I could spend more time to eliminate them all, but some squeaks add character and I’ve only left the most minor of them.

Process:

  1. Locate a squeak.
  2. Locate a joist (my stud finder was broken so technically I spent more on this project to replace that, but it’s something I needed anyway – a deep scan was necessary for this too and my old one couldn’t do that).
  3. Drill a small hole.
  4. Put template/snapper over hole.
  5. Hand thread screw in a touch.
  6. Sink screw with a power tool and the included bit.
  7. If you have hardwoods, the template can self-snap. If you have softwoods, you snap them off manually (I had a mix so it was a bit of trial and error – may have ended up with an extra hole or two).
  8. Fill hole (I’ll get around to putting some wood filler in there, but for now I swept and pressed the drillings back in).

Most of my squeaks took 2-3 screws to fully resolve, but I only used about half the kit anyway. They also sell a kit for carpeted floors. A+ would recommend. Great product, good price, great fix.

Shiny new fingerprint collector

Posted on Apr 29, 2016 in General, House | 1 comment

Sometimes it’s better  to cut your losses. Our existing stove had a quirky computer. It’d somewhat randomly read a sensor error and not work for hours. I took it apart last year, cleaned up connections, tested all the obvious items (it all checked out), and the issue was resolved for about six months without having actually fixed anything. And then it came back… And I wasn’t going to attempt to fix what I couldn’t figure out again so we went shopping. Behold the newness! We got a monster deal at Sears with a price match and applying for their credit card (to be paid off and closed immediately) – something like $800 for a $1300 stove delivered and installed. Hoping this will take my daily fried eggs to the next level 😉

Would ya look at that!?

Would ya look at that!? Just look at it.

New Roof

Posted on Feb 13, 2016 in House | 1 comment

One of the items flagged on the initial inspection of our house was that the roof had to go. We eked another two years out of her, but the company we had received a proposal from had an opening (we had been procrastinating otherwise) so we jumped at the chance. New roof in Portland winter? Crazy? These guys work year round so it’s part of the gig. Besides, it was going to be a two day job and the forecast gave us that window clear.

Step one was to tear the old shingles off. We could have put new shingles on top, but we opted to do he job right, get a good look at the base layer, and replace felting and rotted wood. Good thing for that. The Saturday morning of the tear-off, while we’re sitting on the couch enjoy some warm beverages, we receive a knock on the door. It turns out that one half of the house had not been plywooded and was instead 100+ year old cedar shingles underneath the tar ones. Welcome to having bought a rental property. There had clearly been a patch job or two, but nobody went to the trouble of doing the job 100% right. So there was an extra 25% to the cost. It was an option to leave it, but not when we’re doing the job right. Hopefully that value comes out when we sell down the line.

Anyway, that adds a day to the project. A lot more removal labor and then tacking on new plywood. The weather didn’t give us an extra day. With no roof on the house, the skies open up. The fellows put down weatherproof fabric and tarps, but in the middle of the weeklong string of rainy days, I was awoken to water dripping on my face. Yes, literally right on my face (pic below). Of all the spots on the roof, it leaked directly above where I slept. It turns out that the high winds had caused our sewer line vent to rub through the tarp and create a channel in the tarp that funneled a stream of water right to it. Without flashing, the water poured right down the outside of the pipe to the basement. Apparently our bedroom wall/ceiling touches the pipe on its way, saturated, and then caused that 4am drip. Despite living an hour away and the fact that a storm was howling, the owner of the roofing company came out and remedied it. After the job they also patched the wall.

After another weather delay or two, the job was finally completed and it looks pretty good. I don’t know squat about roofs, but I chose these guys because they really took pride in their work and it was a small/personal operation.

In case you were wondering, the color of our shingles is “Heather.”

Christmas Lights

Posted on Dec 7, 2015 in General, House | 4 comments

We did ’em! I forget why we didn’t last year, but we didn’t. Spent a few hours yesterday messing around with the ladder and got ‘er done. Didn’t do our highest peak because it’d involve walking on our wet, degraveling shingles – I got up there for a short minute and wanted to crap myself. Either I have a fear of roofs or ours is slippery and scary. I’m gonna guess the latter because heights don’t bother me and I’ve done some crazy things before. Hard to get a good shot of the house, but it wraps around our street-facing sides to the back. We’ve got a bunch leftover so I wanted to do the fence, but was vetoed. Maybe next year or when Heather isn’t looking 🙂

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We Bought a House

Posted on Feb 5, 2014 in House | 2 comments

If you’re on the great FB, you know this. THE DREAM IS OURS!

Last week, we closed on our “new” home. It was built in 1915 so we’re very excited to be able to hold its centennial celebration next year (look for an Evite soon!). We’re now located in what’s called the Hollywood District of Portland. We weren’t too familiar with the area prior to finding this home because there are great schools in the vicinity, and that had been an indicator of being out of our price range. We did end up paying a tiny bit more than we wanted (our budget was set by ourselves to be artificially low so we’d be able to enjoy life… I’ll just have to drink a bit less beer now, which is difficult considering there are more breweries in this town than any other in the world), but the trick [by the selling agent] was that the home was listed at far below value. We looked, got hooked, and rode the wave upward. We still got a heck of a deal as the home appraised at a car’s worth more than what we paid; when we share that info with local real estate, mortgage, and title people, they’re shocked to hear that as usually it is only less or maybe $1-2k more. So… instant equity. Not a bad way to start. I’ll likely do a full write-up on home buying sometime soon, but for now I’ll talk about home itself.

The listing says it is three bedrooms, one bath, and 2300 square feet. One of those is true. One bath. The third bedroom is a finished attic space that we’ll likely use as a bedroom someday, but it really isn’t one. For now, I’m using it as my office and we’ll call it our hobby/secondary TV room. The square footage counts a massive unfinished basement, which features an existing workbench that I’ve already setup for use, tons of boxes, and a barely functional washer/dryer combo… More on those below. The size is almost too big for us now, but we’ve never had too much space so it’s a welcome predicament. It’ll be perfectly sized with a single kid, and if we go for two, we may need to look at finishing the basement as my office would likely get pushed out of the attic. We could dormer the attic, but we’d need another bathroom and the basement is much easier for that.

The house has amazing hardwoods and Craftsman-style detail preserved throughout. It’s really a place you walk into and say “Wow, that’s nice.” We love the charm… and we have already setup the guest bedroom so we hope you come soon to love it too 🙂

A 99 year old home is a handful. Ours is far better off than most we’ve seen, but over the past week we’ve been going pretty much nonstop between moving, unpacking, and repairs. I can’t speak for Heather (she has been just as busy as me, especially since she started a new job the day after we moved in) as I don’t have her to-do list in front of me, but here’s a glimpse at mine:

Day 3 [after moving boxes for two days]

  1. Install new dryer cord – Our dryer was left here unplugged and the plug that was left with it was not correct for the house. Odd. $20 at Home Depot buys you a new appliance cord. You just need to make sure you know what your outlet looks like. Take a picture with your phone. The differences have amperage details associated, but just match the prongs. Three machine screws are all that are involved. One of ours was cross-threaded and I ended up tearing it. We jury rigged a nut and bolt to work for now, but…
  2. Diagnose dryer not blowing hot and order part – I had never worked on a dryer before. They’re actually pretty simple devices if you can look past the half dozen failsafes they have. You’ve really just got a motor, blower, and a heating element. If you’re not blowing hot air, it is because a sensor has tripped (and they usually aren’t resettable/must be replaced) or your heating element/coil is shot. To test, you grab your multimeter and go to town testing continuity through each sensor and the element. My sensors all tested fine so I broke open the heating element and travelled down it until I no longer received a reading. Sure enough, the coil had burnt out and was severed. Hop on Amazon, order that $20 part, wait, plug it in, tie it all back up, and you’re good to go. Note: I seem to have gotten a crazy deal. You can expect to pay $50-100 for an element. If I had been looking at $100, we may have considered a new dryer.
  3. Repair lazy susan – Someone ripped the hinges out of the cabinetry while touring. Luckily, the cabinet wood was not damaged too badly and I was able to simply reattach.
  4. Figure out cabinet hinge popping – When you open our cabinets all the way and close them, you’re shocked with the nastiest plastic popping noise in the world. Fix? Read the label on the hinge. Blum. Do some Googling on “Blum hinge popping noise” and find that these are the original design of the hinge and are defective. Blum is an American company, they offer lifetime warranties, and these hinges will all be replaced for free.
  5. Cabinet shelves fall down – Some turkey lost the plastic pegs that hold them in place. Order those. Find that their peg is too deep for your cabinet. Buy some others at Home Depot. Find that their peg is also too deep (you weren’t paying attention when you bought these, were you, Michael?) and too narrow. We need another trip to Home Depot.
  6. Drill entertainment center cabinet hole. I use an antique dresser [sans its legs] as our entertainment center. In previous residences, I left the top drawers out of the unit and placed all my equipment in them. It was a pretty nice solution, but a bit unrefined so I was aiming for better. This time I chose to stack equipment on the dresser (we have much less equipment now), but needed a place to hide wires and power bricks. A CABINET. Except the cabinets are so tight fitting that it wouldn’t close. Solution? Pick up a nicely sized spade bit and cut half of a round hole in the top edge of the back of the cabinet. Wires run through that and we’re good to go. I did have a bit of a heat issue with our cable amplifier so I ended up removing that and tucking it behind the whole unit. We’re good now. Note: a 9.6V drill is good for very little. My grandfather’s corded Craftsman drill that predates me is a beast. I’m now shopping for a badassed cordless drill. If you’re looking to buy us a housewarming gift, look no further than here (need a battery and charger too… what’s another $hundred+?).
  7. Setup Xbox and cable – The Xbox One means to be your media center. Your cable actually routes through it and the Xbox provides its own interface to your cable experience. It is a much quicker UI than your cable box’s (most of them, anyway) and can be voice activated, which has very mixed results.
  8. Clean grease stain off of sofa – Our cross-country movers were terrible. They damaged quite a bit and that included a massive grease stain on a visible portion of our sofa. Oxiclean gel stick is the bomb. I’ve treated it once and the stain is nearly gone. I need to treat again and I’m sure it’ll vanish.
  9. Hook up new stereo system – We had an awesome 5.1 system previously. Amazing receiver, big towers, really nice sized surrounds, pumping sub… Except we don’t want the stereo to dominate our living room anymore. That stuff will all be for sale shortly. To replace it, we picked up on open-box Vizio S451w-B4 5.1 sound bar. I know what you’re thinking… no sound bar is 5.1. You’re correct. 5.1 is a physical description of what you’ve got going on (five speakers and a subwoofer). The catch with this is that it is the only [as far as I could find] sound bar that has rear speakers. Retail is $300. I honestly feel it is the best stereo money you could spend today. Not only is it minimal and pretty good looking, but the subwoofer and rear speakers are wireless so no drilling or running cables under your rugs. There is a little static when you hold the rears to your ear with no signal pumping through them, but if you have them any further than that or have good signal (volume not near muted) going to them, you can’t hear a thing. I’d like a bit more fine tuning of the settings (bass seems to differ greatly when you switch between optical and Bluetooth inputs), but again, for a $300 setup, this cannot be beat.
  10. Install test/cleanout cap/plug on sewer drain – The first time I attempted to do a load of laundry, I discovered a small flood surrounding the test cap of our sewer drain. This particular sewer pipe only serves the washer and our kitchen so there was no concern of human waste or cleanup, but still… that ain’t cool. A couple of things going on here. First, our test cap was non-functional. It was old and corroded. Remove it, measure the inner diameter of the pipe, head to Home Depot, and $5 later you have a brand spanking new cap. Install it, run a load of laundry, and… Only a minute overflow this time. The cap itself is sealed, but I think the pipe may be damaged. No worries, for there is another fix that I had planned anyway. A utility sink. Old pipes cannot handle the water output from modern washers. Fact. A utility sink regulates the water flowing down the drain by letting gravity do the work as opposed to the washer’s pump. Much more controlled. How this house didn’t already have a utility sink, I don’t know. One is on order. I’ll cut a foot or so off the pipe that the washer currently drains into, route the sink into it, route the washer into the sink, and voila. For now, the sink will simply be a drain. When I feel up to it, I’ll redo the plumbing at the washer (the taps need to be replaced so while it could be as simple as a couple of Y-adapters and hoses, I’d rather do it correctly and all in a single effort) and put a spigot on the sink.
  11. Secure the electrical panel – It wasn’t secure. Every man should have a couple bins of various fasteners. If you don’t, go to Home Depot and buy their multipacks of metric and standard nuts and bolts, washers, machine screws, and wood screws. Also pick up a few boxes of various nails. A couple of longer new bolts and washers here did the trick.
  12. Convert 2-prong receptacle to 3-prong – This is a hack and does not meet code, but as long as you know you’ve done it, there’s really no harm. Don’t use the outlet near water or with ancient raggedy old equipment. This is an outlet halfway up the wall in the living room. Rather than have use an adapter and deal with a loose old 2-prong, just swap it out. Turn off the power, unscrew it, note your positive and negatives (take pics with cell phone so you can reference), and put it all back in the wall. Most newer electrical devices don’t even use the third terminal if they fault. NBD. My solution certainly beat fishing a new cable to the outlet.

Day 4 [after moving a cargo van of our remaining items out of storage]

  1. Assemble new bed.
  2. Assemble new dining room table.
  3. Repair back door latch – Remember what I said about every man needing various fasteners? For real. If wood is stripped out, go with a longer wood screw. That was the trick here.
  4. Secure workbench shelf – There was a shelf installed at some point on the workbench. It was barely secured. The person did a nice job making it, but missed what seems to have been the final step. VARIOUS WOOD SCREWS. Sink ’em. Secured.

Day 5 [Super Bowl… take it easy]

  1. Build my fancy heirloom/family lamp – A tapped piece of this broke in transit. Threads were damaged and the “bolt” was bent. Cover a vice grip in a towel, CLAMP, and keep trying. After about thirty minutes, I got the piece nearly back to round and was able to get enough threads to engage. I hope to never have to move this lamp again. Every man, in addition to their sets of fasteners, should have multiple rolls of blue paper shop towels. Not only do they clean stuff up, but they’re great for applying a lot of force to things with pliers and not damaging them with metal on metal contact and force.

Day 6

  1. Install heater element in dryer – Buttoning the dryer back up was cake. And the fix worked. Hopefully we bought another few years from this unit.
  2. Install new machine screw nut – Remember that one of the screws on our dryer power input was cross-threaded and I ended up ripping it? Well, that also means the nut was no good. They’re available for roughly $.20/ea at Home Depot. A little tricky to install yourself as it is a job much better suited to three hands, but I got it done.
  3. Replace dryer hose – Measure before you do this. Ours was full of holes and likely full of lint. We bought an 8′ replacement, which doesn’t have an inch to spare. We’ll likely need another once I install the utility sink because I’ll need to shuffle the machines over a bit. No, we didn’t measure.
  4. Install new dishwasher wheel – Ours was missing two. We only thought it was missing one. Amazon has these. Search for your brand and match up the picture. You’ll pay about $5 shipped unless you have something fancy or buy a complete set. I ordered another.

Day 7

  1. Install shower head – The one that came with the house is very nice and also brand new, but it is too low for me. I installed our old one, which angles upward. Unfortunately, it’s now about 8 years old and leaking. The washers look good so it may simply be time to replace it. I’m pretty sure the one that came with the house is also not low-flow, which was contributing to our hot water issue that I’ll mention later.
  2. Install Nest – The house had a pretty good programmable thermostat, but… Nest. Thermostats are so easy, and the Nest is even easier than most. Cut the power, take a picture of the old wiring (just in case you fail or the new thermostat isn’t compatible with your system and/or your wires are colored incorrectly), pop off the old, measure your mounting holes, mount, plug in wires, and do what it says. Usually it’ll say you’re money. Ours said our yellow wire had no power. Uhhh. Quick search of Nest’s site tells me that the yellow wire is for cooling. We don’t have cooling. Can I just tell it to ignore this? No. I pop the wire off and tuck it away. Done. Our Nest seems to have seized up a bit in transit and storage, but the company is great and while it doesn’t greatly affect our use of it, they’re going to send a replacement.
  3. Stop up hole at back door – We have a mouse-sized hole right under our back door. With the most mild climate in all of the US (~25 degree swing between winter and summer averages), sealing doors and windows isn’t a great concern. But a hole at ground level? Animals. I like ’em, but not that much. My long-term solution will be some caulk or a piece of wood. My short-term solution was a balled up bit of packing cellophane. Don’t judge.

And I also work full-time…

My to-do list is shrinking, which is awesome. There’s still plenty to do, but the low hanging fruit has mostly been picked and the house is feeling much more comfortable for it.

Up next, we have our chimneys being repaired. This is being paid for by the seller via closing costs, but we opted to have a fancy cable-operated cap/damper installed since the house doesn’t have any sort of protection at the top already so there will be a few bucks out of our pockets. Our main chimney will be heavily repaired and our vent chimney will be removed from the roof up and replaced with a small pipe. We’re planning to do something creative with the removed bricks… Fire pit?

And then our roof needs to be replaced. Again, paid for by the seller as part of closing. We just need to get around to scheduling it and picking some shingles.

As far as work for us to do, I have a leaking washer to diagnose and repair (much more difficult than a dryer… maybe just replace?), install the utility sink when it arrives, install and repair some GFCI outlets, repair some regular outlets and switches, continue unpacking, and finally clean. Getting rid of all our boxes and materials will be a fun little mission too.

Long term, we don’t have much hot water despite having a relatively new water heater (only 40 gallons, but we’re definitely not getting that out of it since it is maxed on temp and we can’t get two showers back to back), the water line coming into our house is very restricted by corrosion so we’ll need to replace that and might as well schedule redoing all of our clean plumbing with flexible lines at the same time, and last but not least, the home’s electrical is rather dated so we’d like to do a full replacement of that eventually too.

In response to “How do you know how to do that stuff?” Google. There is answer for everything out there. Many of them come with videos. Supply a part or model number and explain your issue, and you’ll find an answer nine times out of ten. With a nice set of tools (not Chinese, store-brand, or off-brand) and some patience, anyone can save themselves a ton of money and fix nearly anything they own; homes, computers, cars, bicycles, etc. Very few repairs I’ve encountered require a learned skill or special tool. Sure, you can likely get them done 3x faster with proper experience, but that’s for you to decide… Do you feel like a challenge? Is the item you’re going to work on even worth your time? Is it worth someone else’s time? With practice, the bar of what you can do and how fast is constantly improved, your wallet is made heavier, and your wife will give you more thanks.

Yes, I realized I have been all “man,” and “husband” in this post. This is my blog, I’m a man, and my experience is that most of the above is stuff that men do. SEXISM! No, just an observation. Women can be handy and I think it is awesome and sexy when they are. Heather is eager to watch me get my hands dirty in order to learn and isn’t afraid to get hers nasty too, but… I’ve digressed like I like to do so back to the subject at hand.

We’re loving the house and the neighborhood. It is really starting to feel like home. We’ve met a few neighbors so far and they’re all incredibly friendly, and one even came over and helped us carry a heavy load! You don’t see that in NoVA! The little things are slowing down and we’ve been able to start to get back to living after only a week. I can’t wait for more of it all.