Friday, October 28, 2011

The Walkway across the yard, part 2

The second part of the walkway across the yard is pretty much a repeat of what we have been doing. We start by digging the dirt out, exposing the rock that lies just below the surface.

Using the jackhammer, we break the rock up into manageable pieces and clear out all the rock and dirt down about 2 feet deep, to another layer of rock.

For this section, we need a lot of concrete.

We ended up using 52 bags of Quik-crete, from Home Depot $120.36, framing the walls using Masonite sheets with plastic bags of mulch and manure to hold everything in place.

The one notable part of this was the tube for the irrigation lines. We will want to run 2 irrigation lines, for two different zones, from the water line and valves on one side of the walkway over to the beds on the other side. We put a 4 inch PVC tube in to allow these to be run later. At the moment, we can't put the lines down as far as we want because of the rock on the house side. Since the rock is so close to the surface, the irrigation lines are not deep enough. We ran the PVC tube at the level we want the irrigation lines to be, and we will need to dig the rock out of the house side to get them down low enough.

The next section will be a bit more difficult, because it has the irrigation water supply line (and zone electrical wires) in it. We need to dig it up, and then re-bury it without damaging it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bigger Windows for the Bedrooms

We have replaced all of our original metal framed windows. Well, all except the one in the garage. We did this in three steps. First 4 small ones in the closets and bathrooms. Then most of them in the bedroom wing. Finally, all of the remaining ones. It's been expensive and time-consuming.

Also, it's been varied. The first set went pretty well. The polyurethane on the second set was so bad I had to redo it myself. The third set seemed to go much better and they improved on the trim.

Another difference with the third set was that they took out a building permit, which they had not done on the first two. The city building inspector failed the job because the windows next to the sliding door to the deck were not tempered. And then looking out over the deck, he saw that there was another window in the back bedroom also next to a door. This had been part of the second set of windows, but he failed that window too. And tacked on a failure for not getting a permit to replace the first and second sets.

In addition, he saw that the windows (from the second set) in two of the bedrooms did not pass "egress" -- emergency exit requirements. Originally these windows were sliding windows, but we had them changed to double hung to match all the other windows in the house. Sliding windows can be opened to expose half the window space as an exit. Replacing them with two double hung windows means that only one-fourth can be opened for an exit. The salesman from Renewal By Anderson should have known this and raised this issue when the original second set was contracted (as they should have known about the need for tempered glass next to a door), so while I made the decision to change from sliding to double-hung, they should have caught that and not agreed to do it.

Changing to tempered glass was fairly easy. The company just re-ordered a new sash (the window part with its frame) for the two windows next to the door, and with the magic of interchangeable parts, swapped out the non-tempered windows with tempered glass windows. It was just a couple of screws and then stain and polyurethane to match. That was done in September. The main problem was communication and follow-up. Someone came out in February to measure the windows for replacement, but that apparently got lost. By June, it was clear that nothing was happening, so I started calling, pretty much every day, until I got someone's attention. They had to come out and re-measure the windows -- having lost the original measurements. By July the new windows were supposed to be in, but when they came out to install them, there was only one set -- a lower sash for one window and the upper sash for the other. So they took those back and the sashes were swapped out for tempered glass on September 1.

For the two bedroom windows, it was more difficult. The window needed to be bigger, to have a larger area for egress. The framing for the window has a "header" on the top that supports the weight of the building with supports along either side. To expand either up or to the sides would require removing this framing and installing all new framing. So the easiest thing to do is to make the window larger by expanding it down. Since this is an exterior wall, both the inside (sheetrock) and outside (stone facade) would need to be modified. Let us use the window in one bedroom as an example -- the other was done exactly the same way.

The original window on the inside and outside looked like this.

The first step is to remove the sheetrock from below the window on the inside and the stone from the outside.

The insulation was removed. At this point, a problem arose. There are electrical outlets on both sides of the window. A wire connects them right thru the space where the window is to go. This was solved by grooving one 2x6 support and moving the wire down to be out of the way.

With that out of the way, the blue Styrofoam exterior insulation can be cut out and the new windows put in place.

Once both windows are in place, foam insulation is put in place all around the window, to seal it off.

The next step is to patch the sheetrock in the room, to cover the hole that was cut for the electrical re-wiring, and to extend it down the wall to the new, lower window sill. On the outside, stones were selected from what had been broken out to fill up underneath the window and create a new exterior window sill.

The interior sheetrock, once patched, has to be taped and floated and then textured. When this dries, it can then be painted. The inside wood surface of the window is stained ("Golden Oak"), and two coats of polyurethane applied.

The same sequence of changes was necessary for the other window, with the same result. The smaller window was replaced by a larger one.

The process took 3 days. The first day replaced the window. The second day did the exterior stone work and interior sheetrock patching and tape and float, and staining the wood. The last day did the mortar work around the window on the outside, while the painting and polyurethane work was done on the inside.

The estimated cost of this was about $7800. The company agreed to roughly split it, so we will pay $4000 for this. I've paid the first half -- $2000, but will wait to pay the other half until it passes inspection.

And it turns out, these windows also fail the building inspection. The inspector says that egress requires an opening of at least 5 square feet, or 720 square inches. With the bottom window completely open, we have at most 27 inches high by 26 inches wide, or 702 square inches. The inspector measured 26.5 by 25.5, or only 675 square inches. So if fails egress.

The company, Renewal by Andersen, agrees that this is all their fault and will come back out and do it again with a window that is 6 inches taller. With half the extra space in the top window, and half in the bottom, that should give us an extra 3 inches in height, or 29.5 by 25.5 or 752 square inches -- room to spare.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dishwasher Detergent Dispenser Replacement

We bought a Kenmore Elite Dishwasher in February 2009. Linda was willing to pay extra for a really quite system, and it has done that.

But when we bought it I thought that the contraption that dispenses the dishwasher detergent was badly designed. It has a little lever that is caught behind a small plastic tab. During the proper point in the wash cycle, the lever moves and the door holding the detergent in place flings open. It seemed clear that the small plastic tab is bound to break.

And so it did. So now the problem is how to replace this part of the dishwasher. The first step is to go to the Sears web site. This takes you to the Sears Parts Direct web site, where I can plug in the model number (665.13153K701) and get the list of parts for this model. Since the dispenser is on the door, we look at the "Door and Latch Parts". Part number 8 is the "Dispenser". The part is sent UPS, and 3 days later, a box shows up with the new dispenser.

Before we begin, we cut power to the dishwasher. We have an on/off switch on the wall near the sink, but you can also cut it at your circuit breaker box.

To replace the old one, the first problem is to remove the door. This is held on with a set of screws around the inside of the door.

These are a Torx screw, and need a T-10 Torx bit to take them off. Take all of them off except the second from the top on both the left and the right. The second from the top holds the electronics panel in place at the top of the door.

There are two types of screws -- along the top they are about an inch long; along the sides, they are only about a half an inch.

The door then just lifts off.

Now you can see the back side of the detergent dispenser. There is a black plastic flap covering it. It's held on by another set of screws. This time they are 3/16 hex head screws, about 6 of them around the perimeter of the dispenser.

Removing those screws, there are two tabs, one on the top right, one on the bottom left, and the dispenser just pops right out. Be sure to disconnect the wiring. There is a little tab that holds it secure. Pry the tab a little and the wiring plug pops out.

Now we just reverse the process.

Push the new dispenser in from the inside of the door. The two tabs should grab it and hold it in place. Reattach the 6 hex-head screws. These also hold the frame and the black plastic flap at the same time.

Reattach the wiring plug.

Put the door back in place. Use the Torx T-10 screws to reattach it.

Turn the power back on, and test it out to see that it works.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Need a new Hoe

Unfortunately, my hoe broke.

The handle is welded onto the blade and the weld gave out. This is just after I put the 3rd or 4th wooden handle onto this hoe. It has been a very useful hoe.

I, of course, have a back-up hoe, but it's not as big. The broken hoe has a blade that is 8 inches wide. The back-up hoe only has a 5 inch blade.

and so it is not as effective as a hoe.

I also have another, different design with a rake and a hoe, but this is really small, and I use it mainly for mixing cement and mortar.

Finding a replacement for my big hoe is not easy. Home Depot, Lowes, Sears, Ace all only have the 5 inch wide hoes.

I finally found a wider hoe at Callahan's. They list this as a "Meadow Hoe", and it is 7 inches wide. $24.99. Not as good as my 8 inch hoe, but better than a 5 inch one. It's made by Ames True Temper. Callahan's had a nice selection of hoes.

Breed and Company, had a smaller selection, but they had a hoe that was 7 inches wide, like the meadow hoe from Callahan's, but is 5 inches tall, instead of the standard 3 inches tall for all the other hoes.

They call this a "Cotton Hoe". $26.75. It's made by Razorback Professional Tools, which is another brand on the Ames True Temper web site.

Looking over the Ames True Temper web site, they also show an "8-in Meadow / Blackland Hoe" which looks like what I originally had.

And the fellow at Breed also suggested that I just take my old hoe to a shop and have them weld it back together.

Update -- 27 July 2012

Both hoes broke. Within a day of each other. I was using the cotton hoe, and it fell apart; I switched to using the meadow hoe, and shortly later, the handle for it just snapped.

The "cotton hoe" has a red cowl at the end of the handle. This, apparently, serves no real purpose. The handle has a hole drilled into the end of it, and the metal hoe end has a shank which is jammed into the hole at the end of the handle. In this case, the hole expanded and the end of the handle split. When the hoe is placed on the ground, and pulled on the handle, the metal hoe end just comes out.

For the meadow hoe, the handle just cracked where the handle met the metal hoe.

In the case of the meadow hoe, the handle is jammed into the metal cowl of the hoe, and then two rivets are put in it to hold the handle in place. The danger, of course, is that the two rivets can weaken the handle just at the point where it has the most stress and pull.