Sunday, September 16, 2018

Starting the Wall in the Front Yard

After months of work, we have the trench pretty well defined, at least up close to the house.

We've got the rock out, and even the dust.  Now we need to start putting a wall up along the property line.  This will keep the neighbor's grass from growing over into our yard (and whatever we put in our yard from growing into theirs).

As with the back yard, we use bags of mulch and compost as sandbags to form up the wall.  We use the dirt on one side and a piece of Masonite board for the other, spacing them with 2x4s and 1x4s, pouring ready-mix concrete between them to for the wall.

Once we are done with the first section, we move the forms down and do the next section.

This gives us a base section of concrete.

But we want this to be a base concrete wall with white limestone rocks on the top, like our other walls.  We can use 4x6 and 4x8 stones, so we need the wall to be tall enough that we can mortar a 6 inch or 8 inch stone on top and create a straight line wall top, so we need the wall to be 7 or 9 inches from a line from the back stone work up to the street (where an iron pin defines the property line).  We stretch a piece of string along this and readjust our Masonite forms to be the right height, and pour more concrete.

Again, we slide the forms down and do the second section.

And then a third section.  First the bottom part.

And then the top part,

and when the forms are removed, we have the first half of the wall done.

A bit more than half.  This part is 30 feet long, from the back there to where it stops in the middle of the yard.  The remaining part, from there to the street is 25 feet.  So slightly more than half now.  This took 45 80-pound bags of ready-mix concrete, costing $180.24 (Home Depot).

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Maintaining the Jack Hammer

The jack hammer, a Bosch Brute 11304, is starting to run dry.  Plus it looks like the gasket at the bottom has broken.  With the work that it has been doing, it probably needs maintenance.  I could take it to the shop (Austin Tools, as I remember), but that would cost $150 and take several weeks, or I could try to do it myself.

I can find a maintenance kit online at for $67.26 (Service Pack 1617000426), plus shipping (so $75). It comes with the necessary gasket (plus more), and a tube of grease.  Plus replacement bolts.

It also has a diagram showing all the parts.

The ones marked in black are the parts in the service pack.
We put down cardboard as a surface to work on.

Starting at the end, first we take off the 3 large bolts with springs.  An 18mm socket seems to work with them.

Once they are removed, we can pull the bottom (unpainted) part off the rest, revealing a spring and the broken gasket.

Putting that aside, we continue to disassemble things, by removing the hex-head bolts.  A 3/8 hex key wrench works for them.

And once they are removed, it is possible to crack the paint and separate the top and bottom halves.

And pulling them apart reveals the main piston cylinder.

and then just put everything back together, with the new bolts and gaskets. 

At this point, there is grease everywhere, and I can't really take more pictures.  But it seems like just taking off the bolts, greasing things, new gaskets, and then putting it all back together in reverse, with the new bolts.

Update:  After getting it back together, I tried to run it.  The motor would start, and then immediately freeze.  Taking it apart again was exceptionally difficult.  It appears that the end of the piston had come off the cam, and then the cam had rotated until it jammed.

I took  it apart and put it back together several times, with the same result.  So finally I took all the pieces to Austin Tool, and the guys there showed me that the piston is not symmetric -- it is a little bigger on one side (right) than on the other (left).  If the bigger piece is next to the cam, the piston is a bit too far over and comes off.  If the smaller side is next to the cam, the piston is closer to the cam and stays on.  And with that small difference, it works.

I used it for two days, and the bottom gasket broke.  Again.  I plotted out the maximal gasket -- it should be round, with an inside diameter of 2 inches and an outside diameter of 3 inches.  Rubber, about 1/8 inch thick. It appears to be difficult to find such a simple gasket. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Getting Deeper in the Front Yard

Using the jack hammer, we can break up the top layer of rock in the trench that we've dug.

and then several days of moving the rocks and dirt out of the trench gets us down a foot or so.

But we need more depth than this, so we go back for another round, to get another foot deeper.

Expanding out from this, we can get down 24 to 30 inches.

The bump by the capped-off remains of the sprinkler lines is the French Drain that we installed from here to the back yard years ago.

Now we just continue to push the deep part towards the street, breaking off rock and hauling it out. 

The rock is a strange mix of limestone.  Some of it is hard and brittle, but most of it is soft and crumbly.  We get a lot of rock dust, which is almost like soil or sand.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Continuing to dig in the front yard

Back in April, we started digging up the front yard.  We started with a trench along the property line with the neighbor.  We have continued to dig out that trench.

First we extended the trench almost to the street.  We stopped when we should be near the gas line.  The gas line comes in from the street, goes about 8 to 10 feet and then splits into ours (which runs down in our yard) and the neighbors (which goes over to her yard and then runs down in her yard).

Then we went back towards the house, expanding the trench as we went, so that it was on the property line on one side, and the gas line on the other.

We took out a couple of big rocks as we went, as well as part of the sprinkler lines.

But we kept digging, removing all the dirt (which we put in a pile for later) and separating out the rock (which we got rid of).

This only gets us down to the rock.  We want to have at least 24 inches of dirt, but in the back, near the house, we only have 2 to 4 inches.  So we need to use the jack hammer to break up the rock.

Then we remove that rock.

That still only gets us down about 8 to 10 inches.  So we need to continue this -- jack hammer the rock to break it up, and then haul it out, until we get our desired depth.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

New Front Door

We replaced all the door knobs in the house with levers.  Except the front door.  The front door has a upscale door fixture -- a Baldwin mortise lock, and I cannot simply switch out the handle.  And I can't just switch out the locking mechanism completely, because it is a large metal piece inset into a chiseled out hole in the door; nothing else takes up (fills up) that much space.  And it is getting progressively more difficult to open, as the locking mechanism ages.

So we decided to just replace the entire door.  We went to a place called "The Front Door Company".  Linda picked out a sort of Craftsman style door with leaded glass and a matching side panel.  We ordered that the first part of April, 2018.  I measured everything first so we would know what size we needed and then once we signed the order, they sent someone out to measure everything again to make sure it was right.

On July 19, the door was ready and they came out to install it.  Actually "they" was just one guy, Josh Sollars.  He did all the work of first removing the old door.

This was on a day when the temperature outside was predicted to be 102.  Partly for that, and partly to keep the dog away from the opening, I sealed over the entrance from the living room to the entry way with brown paper and masking tape, and then we closed the door to the library, so only the library and entry way were exposed to the outside.

Once the old door, and side light, were removed, the new frame was installed.

Then the new door was hung.

and the new side light installed.

Then all the trim was installed,  both inside

and out,

and the new door hardware installed. 

We have an Emtek Model 4816 Orion with Luzern Lever Handleset.

The door itself is Mahogany with a Chestnut finish.

Total cost $4606.02.  Total time about 4 months, with about 10 hours of work to actually do the installation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Replacing the Window in the Garage

Over time, we have replaced all the windows in the house.  But there is one last window from the original construction in the garage.  And it is getting increasingly difficult to use.  So I decided to replace it.

We have two options:  (1) Use the same windows as in the house, or (2) Try a different type in the garage.  Out of sheer laziness, I decided to go with the same ones we have in the house.  So, we went back to Renewal By Anderson and told them what we wanted.  They sent a salesman out March 27 to draw up the contract. $2157 for the one window.  April 6 another person comes out to measure the window so that it could be ordered.

May 4 they came out to install it.  Took about two hours. 

The next day someone else came and did the exterior mortar work to finish the installation.

I have trim pieces in the attic that match the window sills and trim from the rest of the house, and we used those.  After everything was dry and stable, I sanded the new sill and trim on the inside, and put two coats of polyurethane on it.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Starting to dig up the front yard

We want to give the front yard the same treatment as the backyard -- dig out the rock, to get enough dirt that the plants are happy.  We've started by working on the corner, finishing the River of Rocks.  Now it's time to do the yard proper.

We want to stay well away from the two large trees in the front yard, and we are not sure how far away we need to be, so let's start along the property line.  The idea is to dig a trench along the property line to expose the underlying rock formations, so that we can see how much dirt, and how much rock, we have.

We start by digging it out by hand.

We know roughly where the gas line is in the front yard, from calling 811, and we should be well away from it.  It runs parallel to the property line (which we have marked with yellow plastic tape), about 6 to 7 feet from the property line (except as it gets close to the house, or close to the street).  So we have plenty of room to work before we involve the gas line.

Expanding our starting hole, we find the main water line for the sprinkler system, and some remnants of older versions of those pipes.

We continued working on this by hand for awhile, and then decided to try using power equipment, specifically a trencher.

I rented ($182.18) a trencher from Home Depot.  Came on it's own trailer.

The idea was to dig two parallel trenches, on either side of the hole that I was already digging from that hole back to the street, stopping before we got to the gas line area.  Of course, I've never used a trencher before.  It took hours (literally) to get the truck, drive to a Home Depot that had a working trencher, bring it back (and then reverse all that to return it).  So while the complete operation took about 6 hours, I only actually did any trenching for about 30 minutes.

But during that 30 minutes it did a lot of "work" -- damage really.  It completely destroyed a significant chunk of the sprinkler line.  I did not realize that the main water supply line went thru this area, and the trencher tore it and the wiring up in several places. I will cap it off, allowing the sprinkler system to run in the back yard but we have lost the two zones (10 and 11) for the front yard, until I can rebuilt it completely.

The trench themselves at places are deep, and other places not so deep.

After hours of clean-up, separating rock from dirt and PVC pipe, and moving the dirt off to the side, we can see what was accomplished.  This should put us in position to be more productive in our hand digging.

Even with this start it has still taken 3 weeks to dig much of this out, down to rock.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

New Light Fixture in Front Entry Way

We have been trying to get a new light fixture for the front entry way for years.  After replacing the office/library fixture, I noticed that there was a smaller version of it that could be put in the entry way.   Linda agreed.

Installing it was very quick and easy, although there seems to not be a way to mount it parallel to the walls.

and it is barely bright enough.

The lighting facts says it puts out 980 lumens.