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Network Nook

23 Feb

For a while now, I’ve had this project in mind and finally a couple of new nail guns and some scrap plywood made me finally get around to building this thing. As with many things the cable modem and wireless router just got put in the basement “temporarily” when they were first installed, with the idea that they’d find more permanent homes in the future. The original home for these items was the floor, and then they were upgraded to sitting on top of two mini-fridges for about the past 2 years. Over time other accessories joined the party, like the UPS, the Vera LITE Z-wave router and eventually a networked hard drive. At some point due to wired and wireless ranges of cameras and stuff I decided I’d get better range by moving the Airport to more centralized point of the house, and higher up.

This was the solution, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say:


Not exactly a clean installation, to say the least. You can see the Airport clamped to the bottom of the I-beam, the hard drive sitting on TOP of the I-beam, and the VERA way in the back ground, the cable modem had made its way to a cardboard box, with cables going every which way in between it all.
It was time to put an end to this madness!

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Teaching an Old Compressor New Tricks

24 Jan

When it gets cold out the low pressure warnings start popping up on the cars and of course you need to pump up those tires a little to get rid of the nagging yellow light (and to keep the tires at a safe and efficient pressure, of course). For a while we were relying on my very handy CO2 tank which is very portable and quick to fill, but through experience we have found that CO2 does not stay in tires for the long term. It sounds like nonsense but apparently the molecules are small enough to seep through the rubber faster than the nitrogen molecules that make up most of compressed air. CO2 is amazing at filling tires quickly in an emergency or for track side or trailhead use, and great for powering air tools but will not sustain tire pressure in the long term. This was very evident when we were trying to use CO2 to maintain the bike tires. I got tired of going down to the local gas stations where you have to either wait on line or pay quarters or deal with unreliable equipment and even sprinklers. (At one point I had a slow leak in my tire and was stopping there every day at around 5am and the sprinklers were on at that time so it was a wet endeavor).
Finally, the other day I decided it was time to get back into the compressed air business. We were on the way home from Townline BBQ and I decided to pick up a cheap air compressor at Harbor Freight to at least have some source of compressed air. Once we got it home I read further into the reviews online and decided it really wasn’t up to snuff and maybe I should return it.
This brings us to my old air compressor.


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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!

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.


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.

Product Review: Tide 150oz. Liquid with Pour Spout

13 Feb

This is a review more of the dispensing bottle than the product itself, which is fine. I like to use the powder stuff with bleach (which is color safe actually, but they don’t say that anywhere on the box for some reason).

Anyway, this review is about the giant bottle with the pour spout. Are you tired of unscrewing a cap, then pouring detergent in the washing machine, then having to put the cap back on? Neither was I. The spout seems like a solution in search of a problem. All you have to do now is pull off a cap, fill it from the spout, dump the cap, and put it back on. Sounds like the same number of steps, doesn’t it? Except we’re leaving a step off, which is thoroughly rinsing the cap before replacing it so you don’t wind up with this…


A nice sticky gooey mess on top of your dryer (in our case). After this happened a few times we dug our previous normal bottle out of the recycling bin and simply used the spout bottle to refill it.


Of course, as Melinda and Alex can attest, even a standard bottle of Tide can cause havoc, so watch out!

I need to vent

12 Feb

I had intended for a long time to take care of something I noticed wasn’t quite right. Our dryer vent was not in very good shape, it had come apart at at least one of the seams and had been repaired a few times with duct tape, but there was at least one quite obvious leak. Fixing it has definitely been on my to do list but had not made its way to my done list. The other night though it became quite evident that the time had come as Corinne had something in the dryer and she started smelling “gas” in the house. It wasn’t exactly gas but it was the exhaust from the dryer. The leaky vent pipe combined with the fact that I had used some wood stain in the basement made it smell like laundry and kerosene (apparently a well known side effect of using wood finishing materials in proximity of a gas dryer).
We shut the dryer down and opened some windows in the basement to air it out, and we also have 3 CO alarms that never went off so we were safe.

In any event I did some measuring and got all the materials to do all new venting for the dryer. Here’s a look at what the old stuff looked like…


Inside one of the elbows


A view inside the outside exhaust port, full of lint and stuck open

The fact that there was a big leak in the vent also meant that there was lint all over the floor joists near the dryer. So, my first step was to vacuum up all around the washer and dryer and especially the back of the dryer. Once that was done and all the old piping was torn out I got to work installing the new stuff. I went with all galvanized steel instead of the flimsy aluminum like was there before. Based on Holmes on Homes standards I went with all straight pipe, no flex pipe that can accumulate lint and kink.



Here's the old plastic exhaust vent.


Here's the new galvanized vent with a functioning damper. I applied a bead of silicone on the back side on the top and both sides and then a bead across the top to keep water from running behind.

I used a hose clamp to connect the lower elbow to the dryer so it can’t come loose or leak and all the seams are fully taped with proper aluminum tape (not duct tape, as Mike Holmes says “duct tape has 1001 uses, but not ductwork”) to prevent any leakage.


Our dryer is now vented properly and is flowing smooth. I have to assume it is running more efficiently because the intakes are cleaned out, the vent is no longer clogged up with lint and as an added bonus I adjusted the feet so it doesn’t rock any more.

Fridge be Gone

6 Feb

We missed out last year on this LIPA incentive program to get rid of old, inefficient refrigerators. We were familiar with the program because we actually shot this commercial, so when we moved in to our house we figured we’d eventually recycle the old downstairs fridge. It seemed to be working OK, so we used it for a while, but after getting a high electric bill, we knew that was one of the culprits, so it finally time for it to go. Fortunately the program was back for 2012!

One of our friends had recently taken advantage of the program. They said it was a pretty smooth process, and it was! I went online on Thursday and scheduled the pickup for Monday. They left a message on Sunday with the time frame window and said they’d call when they were leaving the previous pickup.

I got a call about a half hour into the allotted time period saying they were on the way. They showed up at the house 5 minutes later, and 10 minutes after that they drove away with our old fridge. The pickup went pretty smooth – they came into the basement and confirmed that the fridge was working (a requirement to be eligible for the program), put some straps around it, lifted it up the stairs, and out the front door.


So now our old refrigerator that was once part of the “bar scene” downstairs, but also part of our high electrical bills, will theoretically be recycled properly. The best part is that we didn’t have to haul the old beast up the stairs and we get a $50 check for our non-effort! (more than the offer was when we filmed the commercial!)

The Titus Gallery

26 Jan

In all the demolition we’ve done we’ve come across quite the collection of artwork covered up by walls and panelling and other stuff.

An ink drawing

Wall mural in paint, a trellis and Palm

Corner mural in paint, seaside hill and volcanoes?
Both of these murals are probably from the early to mid 1960s based on the wall it was behind.

Stay thirsty, my friends.
(wallpaper, 1960s)

Product Review: Demo Bags

25 Jan

Having done a whole lot of demolition and construction at this point in our various renovations, we have become quite adept at getting rid of the junk that is a byproduct (or direct product) of the process. Some people use dumpsters. Dumpsters are great because they drop off a giant metal box at your house, and when you’re done filling it up they take it away. The downside is the cost. They can be pretty expensive due to their full service nature, plus you have a giant metal dumpster taking up valuable parking space. And as an added minus, people like to help themselves to your dumpster, whether it’s dumping their own stuff or seeing if you threw anything away that they want. We had one at work once, and it was like a bottomless pit because people kept emptying it of stuff they wanted.

Recently there has been an advance on the DIY dumpster front. It’s for small jobs and is offered through retail channels by Waste Management. It is basically a giant bag made of heavy tarp material you buy at the store for $30, then you call WM when it’s full and they pick it up.

The Bagster

This is a more economical and less intrusive way than a full metal dumpster, but it is still more expensive than the method we use…

Dumping it over the neighbor’s fence!

OK, no we don’t do that, although at times we’ve wanted to! (he’d probably burn it gladly)

Our real method is only possible for a few reasons:

1. I have a heavy duty pickup truck.

2. I’m huge.

3. We are about 5 minutes away from a waste transfer station.

4. We bought a box of Demo Bags.

Load of Demo Bags in the basement

Which brings us back to the title of this post.

Demo Bags are heavy duty garbage bags, which, like the bagster, are made of a tarp-like, woven material. This makes them much much tougher than even the heaviest duty of garbage bags. The woven material means that even if a nail or something pokes through, the damage will be limited to that spot, whereas a traditional bag would be ripped and start dumping its contents on the floor.

The first couple demo bags we used as garbage bags, filled them up and threw them out. Then one day, I was filling a bunch of bags up to go the dump and I was laughing to myself about how the bags say “reusable” on them. I was like “Haha, reusable, what are you gonna do? Fill them up, bring them to the dump, dump ’em out, and then fold them up and bring them back to use again? Oh, wait! I CAN do that!” That’s really how it happened, I never intended to reuse them, and now I have used them about 5 times so far.

At this point we have removed approximately 2 tons (literally, 4,000 pounds) of junk and building materials from the basement. My normal process involves filling the bags with about 60 pounds of junk, then lugging them upstairs and out the front door in to the back of the pickup. My first time I probably put a good 100 or so pounds in each bag and it was murder to get them up the stairs and through the house, so I’ve reduced the amount I put in each knowing I will be reusing the bags anyway. The larger and longer stuff I put directly out one of the basement windows on the side of the house and pull the truck around to fill it up.

Pickup with about a half ton of Demo Bags full of debris

As a price comparison to the Bagster, the Bagster can fit a maximum of 3,000 pounds. (I don’t know what they do if you put more.) The price I was quoted in our area was $200 plus tax (plus the bag fee) so about $250 for 3,000 pounds, or as much as you put if it’s less.

We pay about $50 for every 1,000 pounds, so that’d be about $150 for the same 3,000 pounds if we used the Bagster.

Now obviously this requires you having the right equipment and going through the effort of going to the dump and unloading the truck, so you’re handling everything one more time, but for us it is a viable option and we’re not at the mercy of someone else’s schedule.


19 Jan

The day has come, and I know a few people might be upset about this, but this is progress and the basement bar HAD to go. God knows when this thing was built but it looks like it was “upgraded” with wood paneling in the ’70s.
There was rotten wood at the base plates and drywall that had clearly been wet at some point. The base plates were sitting right on the cement floor, which is not a good idea. Wood that is not pressure treated should not be in direct contact with cement because it tends to pull the moisture that is naturally present in cement and be wet all the time, which causes it to rot out. The bar itself and the wall behind it and around the refrigerator all suffered from this issue, so I’m quite glad we got rid of it.
Some of our visitors have remarked that it was cool or perhaps kitschy but we don’t feel any need to hide in the basement because we live here and there’s no one to hide from and we are allowed to hang out in the main house.


the bar in its former glory


the back side of the rear wall, which was also full of old gross wiring.



the bar’s last stand


the empty space where the bar once stood


part of one 920 pound load to the dump, I think we’ve got at least 3 more loads to go.

Organizing the Workshop

4 Jan

I buy tools like a girl might by shoes. If I see one I don’t have, I must have it. I’ve worked very very hard to resist buying some of the bigger ticket items I really want but that takes all the will power I can muster, mister!
I do have lots and lots of small and medium ones and lots of bits and pieces for some of the large and medium ones. Currently they reside… Everywhere! From boxes to bins to corners to shelves to the old bar or even on top of other tools.
Corinne knows that I really do want to have a nice, functional, organized work shop so I can actually use it, and to that end she came through with the gift of a very nice rolling tool chest with a 5 drawer base and 4 drawer upper toolbox with ball bearing slides. I have a similar unit (base only) in the garage for all my mechanic’s tools, but this one was destined for the basement. We picked the base up from Corinne’s parents’ house on Sunday, she and her Dad went on a stealth mission to pick it up and kept it there because it was a tad big for Corinne to hide in her closet.
On Tuesday I was able to slide the big box downstairs and bolt on the casters and handle, and put the little guy on the big guy.
I still haven’t started to fill it yet because I’m trying to figure out the best way to do so so it makes sense. But, once I do I should be able to eliminate about 5 or 6 crates and bins, about 4 or 5 cardboard boxes and countless numbers of my infamous “piles” that tend to make things hard to find and annoy the other person who lives here 🙂