Saturday, March 3, 2018

Top dressing the back yard lawn

The back yard grass was put in at two different times, September 2014 and May 2017, and at least last year, the older grass seemed to not be as healthy.  So we wanted to try to improve the grass with a top-dressing of compost this year.

It took 2 pallets of grass to cover each of the two areas, and so 4 pallets at 450 square feet per pallet means we have 1800 square feet of grass.  In the back.  To cover that we tried to get 3 cubic yards of compost.  Actually we got the same professional mix  that we used as dirt; it's 50% compost.  I figure the extra 50% can help to compensate some for the settling that we have seen.

This took 2 trips to Whittlesey Landscape in Round Rock (plus another 2 trips for mulch).  The two dirt trips cost $82.49 each (1.5 yards plus 6 bags of mulch to hold the tarp down on it), and then another $119.91 for 54 bags of mulch.  A total of $284.89, and one day of driving back and forth, loading and unloading. (Friday).

The next day, Saturday, was distributing the dirt around to the back yard and spreading it.  By 5 PM it was starting to drizzle, so now it's mud, but it is supposed to rain for the next two days, and that will help it settle down in around the grass roots (we hope).

It may be a bit too thick; it's hard to tell since it's so light weight.

As you can see, we didn't have enough to completely cover the lawn (I guess we needed 4 cubic yards, or to put it on thinner.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

New Garage Doors (and openers)

One of the two garage door openers has been acting up.  Checking, it was because the limit switch (which determines how far down the doors go before the opener stops) was broken, and not really in a repairable way.  It being 30 years since the garage doors were put in when the house was built, it seems like a good time to get new doors and openers.  For both sides.

Start by checking Angie's List for local companies to replace the garage doors.  Got a list of 3 or 4, and started calling to get prices and types.  The Home Depot web site actually has a good presentation of the various types and options and going thru that helped me understand what was involved.  We got two bids, one for $4288.67 and another for $4391.17.  Then I noticed that Costco also provides garage doors, thru a local company, and called them.  They took the information, and said someone locally would call me.  A short time later, it was Cedar Park Overhead, which was the 3rd company on Angie's List that I had been meaning to call.  Their estimate came in at $3877.52.  Being the lowest cost, and a good recommendation from Angie's List, we went with them.

This was for two 9 foot by 7 foot doors.  I went with a steel door with polystyrene foam insulation (R 9) in it.  The technology has changed from the cables and springs that we had to a torsion spring bar.  Torsion bars are common on larger garage doors, and now on ours too.  Linda wanted a pre-painted to look like a stained wood (Walnut, Faux wood), with windows (clear Stockton) along the top.  Long panels.

We started the process in mid-January, had made our decision and signed a contract by 26 Jan.  The order went in.  A month later, we got a call saying the doors had arrived and they were ready to install them.

The first problem was to clean out the garage, so that they could work.  We removed the rack over the one garage door that used to hold the off-season solar screens, and then moved all the stuff from the sides of the garage back into the garage temporarily so that the walls were clear.

A crew of two guys showed up at about 1:00 pm and started removing the old doors and openers, then installing the new doors and openers.  They were done by 4:00 pm.

The color match with the outside (freshly painted in November) trim is quite good.

Both doors have seals all around them.  The windows have a plastic insert on the outside that makes them look like they are 12 small panes, but it's really one double-paned window.

The openers are both LiftMaster LM8160 chain drive 1/2 HP units.  Both are driven off the one remote keypad, and we have two remotes -- one for Linda's car and one for mine.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Plant Grow Lights in Garage

Linda wants to be able to bring her plants in if it gets cold this Winter.  She has in mind a shelf with some grow lights over them.

So, first step, we got a 5-shelf shelving unit from Lowe's.  This is the Style Selections 72 inch high, 48 inch wide, 18 inch deep chromed steel shelving unit.

Then we got 4 Jump Start T5 4-foot strip/reflector fixture (JSFC4) from Hydrofarm.

We assembled the shelf unit with two shelves at the top, two in the middle and one at the bottom, and then used zip ties to attach the light strips to the bottom of the top and middle shelves.

and when it's turned on, we get two nice spots for the plants.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Garage Light Fixtures

We replaced one of the 3 florescent lights in the garage with an LED version in May 2015, the odd one back near the workbench.  Now we are having problems with one of the other ones, the two that are over where the cars park.  It may have been just needing new bulbs, but I have run out of the 4-foot florescent light bulbs, so I decided to just replace it with a new LED fixture.

In the last 2 years, the technology of LED fixtures has changed considerably. In this case, we bought a 4 foot LED Wrap Light from Commercial Electric at Home Depot ($49.97).  It has an output of 3600 Lumens for only 40 watts of power.

It took about an hour and a half to take down the old fixture and put up this new fixture in it's place.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Repainting (the outside of) the house

The house was painted in August 1993 and September 2002. While overall it's still in pretty good shape, there are places where it is clearly in need of a touch-up.

The house is mostly stone, white limestone, and so it's really only the trim that needs to be painted.  Originally, the stone was only on the first story, and there were 4 significant triangular eaves that were wood, and needed painting.  I've had two of those (over the bedrooms) removed and replaced with stone all the way up, so that reduces how much needs to be painted.  The main places that need painting are the triangular space over the garage, the areas over the garage doors, and the area over the breakfast bay window.

We had originally thought we would spray paint these, but our experience with the spray painter on the back porch suggests that might be at least as much work, so we resort to the standard brush.  Most of the painting was done with a 3-inch polyester brush.  We used a 1-inch trim brush for the trim right next to the stone, where we needed more control.

We started with the triangle over the garage.  This seemed easiest, since (a) we could stand on the roof, and (b) any drips went on the roof that (c) are hard to see, and (d) should not affect the function of the roof, so we did not need to mask before painting.

Then we moved to the side of the house, over the breakfast bay window.

While some of this area could be painted while standing on the roof over the bay windows, we also had to learn to paint using a ladder.  Paint, move the ladder, paint, move the ladder, ...  And we needed to mask the stone, to make sure that we did not drip on it.  This involved plastic sheeting stapled to the very bottom of the 2nd story wood.  Mostly this worked. 

We were unable to work one day when the winds were so high that it kept tearing the plastic off and blowing it into the yard.

With that done, we then turned our attention to the wood over (and around) the garage doors.

Again, using the ladder to reach these areas, a trim brush around the edges, and plastic sheeting on the cement, to keep drips off the driveway, we were able to get this done.

All this took about 2.5 gallons of Behr Premium Exterior Wood Stain, Semi-transparent, in Chocolate (ST-129), so we bought 3 gallons (one at a time as we needed them) from Home Depot ($35.48 a gallon).

Looking around the house more carefully, there was significant weathering on the fascia boards, so we used the remaining half-gallon of stain to cover them.  These were easiest to get to from the roof, rather than a ladder.  We did the fascia boards on the back

on the West side

and in the Front.

Originally, there was some shoe moulding around the garage doors, which instead of being stained, like the bulk of the wood, was painted to match the doors.  Part of the reason for being painted was that it was interior pine paint-grade trim.  We removed it and replaced it with 1x4 unfinished cedar, which matches the style of the rest of the trim.  (All the windows and doors have 1x4 stained wood trim.)  Doing this reveals that the two garage doors, while mostly the same size, are not exactly the same size.  This may be an issue when we replace the garage doors.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Refinish the Back Deck

The deck was put in in December 2003, refinished in June 2005, and then refinished again in October 2010.  Seems like a good time to do it again.

So first, I power washed the entire deck, to get it ready to re-finish.

This required removing everything from the deck.

Well, except the grill.  I just moved it around and worked around it.

As before we decided to use Australian Timber Oil Penetrating Finish (Natural).  It should have taken about 2 to 2.5 gallons, for about 600 square feet.  But we decided to spray paint it, instead of doing it all by hand.  We borrowed a spray painter from my son-in-law, Byrd,  and learned how to use it by sealing some of the fence. 

We needed to mask off all the house that was not to be spray painted.

 Some of the railing, and around the edges, I did by hand, with a brush.

Then once the spray painter was cleaned and flushed and primed, it went very fast, sucking down 3 gallons of the penetrating finish in just minutes.  I made another run to Lowe's to get another 2 gallons, and was able to finish the deck with that.  So 5 gallons (at $42.98 a gallon, plus tax).

Remove the plastic wrap masking, and wait a day for it to all "dry".

The clean-up of the spray painter (flush out the lines and the pump, clean them all down, fill them with "Pump Protector") and all the cans and plastic wrap and cardboard and rags and everything, took the rest of the day.

Basically two days work -- one to power wash it and one to re-finish it -- spaced a week apart (to let the power wash dry).

Monday, October 16, 2017

Irrigation system water usage

With the main backyard work done, and all the irrigation zones repaired (we think, at least for now).  I wanted to find out how much water we use every time we irrigate, by zone.  We did this before, in July 2014.

Our current usage is:

Zone Gallons Time
Zone 1 29 45 drip
Zone 2 131 45 drip
Zone 3 146 20 drip
Zone 4 248 10
Zone 5 57 45 drip
Zone 6 266 10
Zone 7 134 10
Zone 8 263 10
Zone 9 156 10
Zone 10 217 10
Zone 11 212 10
Total 1859
An actual running of the system, and reading the meter before and after it ran, only shows 1018 gallons used.  That would be only the non-drip zones, but still it seems too low.