Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Door to the Garage

December 2008

We've had an on-going problem with the door between the garage and the house. This particular wall has settled, and the frame around the door is no longer square. As near as I could tell, it was no longer possible to seal the door -- there was a visible gap between the door and the frame near the door handle. In addition, the heavy wooden door was having problems with its surface -- parts of the veneer have chipped away.

So I decided to replace the door completely. Both the door and its frame. I checked on the web about how to replace doors, and figured it was probably something I could do, but we use this door several times a day, and it would really be better to make sure it was done right. I first checked with Lowe's and Home Depot to see what sorts of doors were available. Home Depot had a nice one -- a steel exterior with a small window. Doors and frames come in several sizes, so I needed the right sizes to get the right door.

I had been real pleased with the work that Dillo Construction did on rebuilding the gable on the back of the house, so I contacted them. They agreed to do the work to install the door. $600.00

I ordered the door from Home Depot, on 7 Dec 2008, for $284.21. It was delivered on 18 Dec 2008. It's a white steel door with a "fan" shaped window at the top, with hinges and frame. The replacement process mainly consists of taking off the old trim around the door, removing the door and frame, putting in the new door and frame and putting on trim.

So one problem was the trim. The old trim may not fit or may be damaged in removal, so I needed to have new trim available. The trim in the house is not standard, so I had to have some more trim made. BMC West Millwork can do that, so I had them run 100 linear feet of trim. That should give me enough for any future projects. This was $526.10. I took in a piece of the existing trim, and they made more in a red oak.

The next problem was the hardware. It would have been possible to take the door knob off the old door and put it on the new door, but instead, we got a new door knob, switching to a nickel finish with a lever door knob. I put that on myself. $48.40 from Home Depot, 23 Dec 2008.




The result is very nice. I've been meaning to paint the door, but haven't gotten around to it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sidewalk replacement

December 2008

We have a sidewalk from the front of the house to the street out front. This was put in at the same time as the concrete porch and the driveway. Over time, however, the tree by the curb apparently put roots out under the sidewalk and lifted it up. It was an inch or two higher than the curb. This seemed to me to be a safety issue and for several years now I've been meaning to take out the old sidewalk and put in a new one.



The sidewalk is actually 3 or 4 sections -- broken up by 1x2 pieces of wood. The wood lets the concrete expand in the summer without breaking. So I only have to replace the one section that goes to the curb.

The first problem is to remove the old sidewalk. I used my jackhammer to break it up into 8 pieces, roughly square, each about 2 feet by 2 feet. These are just small enough to be manageable by me so I could move them out of the way. I eventually posted them on Craig's list and offered them as concrete pads, suitable for making a walkway. I got several responses, and a guy came and took them away, saying he was going to put a path in his backyard with them.




Next I dug down to bedrock and took everything out. Mostly it was the sand and gravel that they had put under the sidewalk, but once I was under that, there was native dirt and then rock. I dug out everything where the old sidewalk was, plus a little more to leave room for the new framing, going all the way to bedrock. In this area, that's only about a foot.

Next, I put in framing to pour a concrete wall under the edge of where the sidewalk will be, next to the tree. The idea is to create a barrier to prevent it from sending roots under the sidewalk again. I used masonite boards to frame the wall and then a couple of bags of Quikcrete cement to fill it in and make the wall. I only did this on the one side -- next to the tree.

I filled the excavation back in with rock and cement pieces and sand and gravel that I had been accumulating for this sort of project. I used a pile of decomposed granite on top, and watered it all down to try to get it to fill the area. The idea here is to (a) get rid of debris that I've dug up, and (b) make the contents of this area unlikely to support anything growing (like tree roots).

To do a good job on the actual pouring, I asked Dillo Construction to send out a couple of guys to do the final pour. The rest of the sidewalk is a "pebble finish", and they matched it very well. $520.00

To customize it a bit, after it was all poured, I threw a handful of some blue rocks we had on the top. Just sort of randomly tossed and then pushed down into the top of the concrete. Once it set, the top layer of concrete is washed off to create the pebble finish, and these blue rocks are then part of the pebble finish. It adds a nice touch, in my opinion. A minor distinguishing feature.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Excavating the Front Flower Beds

May to July 2008

The initial landscaping put in a stone edging around the front of the house to create two landscaping beds. But things didn't seem to grow very well in these beds. I suspected it was the result of poor soil. So I decided to excavate these beds, down to bedrock and then fill in with much better dirt.

First I dug out the bed next to the garage. I was able to dig down to bedrock (about 2 feet) in most of the bed -- digging around the crape myrtle which seems to be doing well.



I rebuilt the sprinkler system in this area, and brought in better dirt. Then Linda planted a mixture of Lamb's Ear and Ferns, with hardwood mulch.



Now we turned our attention to the other bed in the front, in front of the bedroom. This had been landscaped with liriope, an ornamental grass. But the deer liked to eat the liriope, so it never managed to grow very tall; it was normally chewed down to the ground.



So we have two options -- just dig it up and start over, or transplant the liriope, to someplace where it would have a chance to survive. If we wanted to keep it from the deer, it should be behind the fence. And the area just around the corner, on the side of the house by the air conditioner, which we had partially dug up to put in the French drain, had nothing really growing.

Transplanting the liriope on the one side of the fence was easy, since this ground had been dug up for the French drain.



But the other side, next to the house had not been dug up before, so we needed to excavate it.



and then we could fill it in with better dirt and transplant to it. Trying to learn from the work done on the other side of the house when we moved the monkey grass, we built up this soil quite a bit, so it could settle and we would not go below "level".



This worked out well, as the liriope has grown and seems happy on this side. The other side, however, almost all the plants died. Either too much shade or not enough water.



With the liriope out of the way, we could get back to excavating in the front, keeping back from the Nandina in front of the bedroom window and the Mountain Laurel at the end.



And again, we put back better dirt, and covered it with hardwood mulch. Linda says she will eventually put in Lamb's Ear and ferns, but it's too hot now (July).

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The French Drain, Part 2

February 2007 to January 2008

Back in 2003, we put in a French drain to get rid of water from the front and side of the house, allowing it to drain to the back yard. But the French drain just stopped in a hole in the back yard. That clearly wasn't a final solution -- it just solved the water problem. We had to, at the least, continue the drain down the back yard until it could be terminated in a reasonable way.

So we started to dig again. We continued to dig along side the fence, down the back yard, from where the pipes ended towards the end of the lot.




We continued to dig.



As we continued, the rocks, which had been very level, and just 8 inches or so below the ground, began to become upeven and broken into more irregular surfaces.



Using the jackhammer and pry bar, we got down below this layer until we had a trench that was about 2 feet deep. We continued it until we got to the narrowest spot of the yard near the fence, where the large planter area we call the Jungle narrowed the yard to just 8 feet or so. There we excavated everything down to bed rock. Using cement, cement blocks and and rocks, we constructed a pit, roughly 8 feet square, by a foot or two deep. We extended the drainage pipes, enclosing them in rocks and landscape cloth as before, so that they emptied into this pit. The rock for this cost $307.37 from Custom Stone Supply in November 2007.



Then we filled the pit with rock. The rock is loose fill, so there is plenty of room for the water from the drainage pipes. And in the worst case, the pit can just fill up with water and then overflow, running down the hill.



To make it look attractive, we filled it with rock, but made the top layer of rock, Mexican Beach Pebbles, fairly large, bluish rounded rocks.




The main cost of all this was the Mexican Beach Pebbles which are fairly expensive. The two loads of them were $575.16 and $204.75 from Austin Custom Stone in December 2007 and January 2008.