Archive | January, 2013

Drainorama

21 Jan

I apologize if this post looks familiar to some of you. I wrote it a few weeks ago but temporarily lost a significant amount of the post so I took it back down quickly until I could muster the energy to re-write the entire thing. Today it re-appeared so here it is again!
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Well, pretty much no sooner had one drain problem been solved than a new one reared its ugly head. I had run out on some errands and Corinne stayed home to take a shower. When I returned she told me that there was about 6 inches of water in the tub by the time she was done… and it was still in there. We were heading out on our little New Year’s ski trip early the next morning, but I headed to out to get some supplies. I knew it was time for some major plumbing work; no chemicals or snakes this time. It was time to replace some aging steel drain pipes. These pipes have decades worth of hard slimy gunk that is very difficult to get off and, since they are mostly exposed in the basement it’s a relatively easy task to do.

20130115-152722.jpgThe first step was to cut off as much of the old pipe as possible. I had to cut in four places, at the drain from the bathroom sink, the tub, the sewer line, and a line that is either a vent or an old drain line from a previous kitchen sink location. I decided to rebuild it as it was since it was working and I didn’t want to upset a system that i couldn’t fully investigate without gutting some walls upstairs.

20130115-153208.jpgYou can kind of see the amount the drain line from the bathroom sink was gunked up if you look close. It’s really gross. Unfortunately without opening the wall in the bathroom I wasn’t able to replace the entire pipe from that drain so I had to cut it as I high as I could and clean out the remaining section of pipe that goes straight down in the wall behind the sink. This was a huge chore that involved hammers and long screwdrivers and angle iron to chisel out the hardened crud. It really is amazing that the drain worked at all with how much the diameter of the pipe was reduced by build-up. Once the pipe was cleaned out I was able to transition to PVC with a Fernco fitting, which is a rubber slip on fitting with two hose clamps. These were also used at sewer connection and the “mystery pipe”, the tub drain is fully exposed in the basement so there is nothing old there, I replaced the P trap for good measure.

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This is the new, much prettier, drain installation. All the fittings are “welded” with PVC solvent (that’s why you see some purple at the joints). I also tried to increase the pitch a little bit by raising the P trap on the tub because it was a very shallow pitch from the tub and not very steep from the sink either so hopefully that should eliminate any slow or standing water.
The little screw cap you see is a clean-out, which can be removed easily if any clogs arise, or just for periodic inspection. The old clean out plug was so tight that even my entire weight hanging on a wrench wouldn’t budge it. Both me and the plumber that had snaked the drain agreed that we’d probably break the pipe before loosening the plug. At some point I may want to open that wall under the sink in the bathroom and replace the entire drain with new PVC and confirm what the mystery pipe is, but for now our drains are running very nicely and are clean looking, inside and out.

All Mixed Up

20 Jan

Corinne was in the kitchen yesterday making some of her mom’s famous “Snow Bread”, using the dough hook on her beloved KitchenAid stand mixer. It sounded like the machine was struggling a bit, but that happens when mixing dough because it has a lot of resistance. She also claimed it was getting a little hot (I felt the machine and it was beyond what I would call a little hot..)

At one point, the dough hook got stuck, making an awful grinding noise. She turned the mixer off and pulled the dough out to finish kneading it by hand. However, upon turning the mixer back on to make sure it was OK, we discovered it was not. The mixer was working, but it was making a noise that was not pretty.

As she finished up prepping the dough for its first rise, I began researching repair and replacement parts online.

I found a very helpful video that described exactly what part was likely to bad, and how to disassemble the machine, replace the part and reassemble it. It turns out that there is one gear in the drivetrain that is nylon, while the rest are metal. This nylon gear acts as a “fuse” of sorts by purposely being the weak point between the motor and the blades. While it is a bit of a pain to have to replace this, I’m sure it is about $100 cheaper than the motor it is intended to protect. It seemed like this was the likely cause of this noise and, while I was tempted to simply order the part, it seemed wise to confirm the damage and make sure there was no further carnage.

Follow along as we tear her down!

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Removing a roll pin on the lower shaft using a punch and a brass hammer. Seems low tech but this is exactly how it’s installed at the factory!

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Now that the outer planetary gear ring is exposed the 5 screws holding that in can be removed.

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The rear electrical cover is removed as well to free up the cord strain relief.

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After 4 screws below are removed, the motor housing can be lifted off, revealing the grease-covered drivetrain. (Luckily the video warned of this or it would have been quite shocking!)

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And here’s a view of the damaged gear.

A few more screws and one more roll pin and it’s out. I’ll wait ’til the replacement comes in to pull that out.
In the meantime, all the hardware I removed is neatly labeled so I know where it goes when it’s time to put it all back together.

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The replacement part can be found for as low as $4, I’ll probably order 2 just in case another stiff dough wreaks havoc again in the future…

Doing this ourselves is probably saving about a hundred dollars or so, if we could find a local place to do the repair. The mixer weighs about 35 pounds, so if we had to ship it to be repaired you could tack on another fifty bucks, probably.
We may replace the grease as well because of the shredded gear fragments and the fact that grease is known to break down under high heat conditions. Stay tuned for the follow up!!

Merry Little Christmas!

7 Jan

And Happy 2013!!

Yesterday was Little Christmas, the unofficial end of the holiday season. As always, the holidays whizzed by! Ours were filled with great food, lots of family, friends, and some fun adventures!

We’ve begun the process of removing all traces of holiday festiveness from our house (so as to not be “those people” in the neighborhood with the lights up until June!). Fortunately it was pretty warm this weekend, so taking all of our lights down outside wasn’t too tough. It was nice to get that task out of the way, but a bit sad coming home to a dark house. We ended up being busier than expected this weekend though, so it’s still a Christmas wonderland inside! The wonderland’s days are numbered though, especially since we have a real tree that’s steadily losing it’s needles!

Which brings me to the gist of this post… our Christmas tree! I was planning on writing about our tree cutting adventure back when we got in in early December, but that weekend really kicked off the holiday craziness and our blogging-time was limited!

This year we went to Maple Row Tree Farm  in Easton, CT. Seems a bit crazy to drive all the way to CT for a tree, but the place we’ve gone in years past was a bit sparse last year, so we wanted to try some place new. Plus Jer and I are always up for a fun road trip, and it just so happens that one of our favorite road-trip stops, Super Duper Weenie, is also en route, more or less, to Maple Row! (side note: To our surprise, the Super Duper Weenie truck was actually AT Maple Row when we arrive, but it was only for a private event!)

Maple Row

When we arrived we were a bit taken back by the large numbers of people we saw (I should mention we heard about this place via billboard in CT). Fortunately the farm is divided up into several different areas, so we were able to avoid the crowds! This place is huge, with acres and acres of all different types of trees from which to choose. After wandering around for a while, we came upon what we believe was a Balsam Fir, a.k.a. the picture perfect tree!

Maple Row actually lets YOU cut the tree down yourself, which we were really excited about since the place we used to go would only let their skilled professionals do the chopping. It was not an easy task (I tried some sawing), but Jer got our tree down, we had it bundled, and were headed home shortly after to decorate it.. at least that was the plan.

Choppin

treeheaded home

It wasn’t too chilly that weekend, so when we got home sprung into action to we put up all our outdoor lights. With a few new additions to our lighting scheme, we were working on the lights until after dark..

The tree stood unadorned in our living room for a good week until we got to decorate it, but once we did it was quite lovely and the centerpiece of our indoor holiday decor!!

Christmas 2012