Thursday, July 26, 2012

Excavating the Backyard, Part 1

We are trying to clean up the backyard, by removing all the rocks and making the dirt both deep and good for growing, for example, trees. Starting from the East Side of the backyard, we first scrap off the dirt, to reveal the rocks just under the surface. We have to be careful not to break the irrigation water supply line, so we mark it on the surface with a PVC pipe and try to stay back from it.

Then we dig out and pry out as much as we can -- dirt into one pile, rocks into another. This leaves some really big rocks, so we bring out the jack hammer and break them into smaller pieces that we can move out of the hole.

Once we remove all these rocks and the dirt, we have a pit. We need to make sure that it is all deep enough.

We are staying about 5 feet away from the back fence to leave enough room to move the wheelbarrow and lawnmower from one side of the pit to the other. We are running half inch PVC pipe on the surface just to mark this "5 foot from fence" line.

We have tried to be very careful around the irrigation supply line, but notice that it is barely above a large block of rock. Despite trying to stay 4 to 6 inches away from the water supply line, the dirt next to it just fell away, so the line is very exposed (while still being buried).

We still have one big rock to remove, up near the walkway. This rock appears to extend back under the grass into an area we were planning to leave undisturbed for now but it is probably better to get it out now than to wait until later.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The general plan for the back yard

With the South Pit done, we want to get back to finishing the walkway.

To finish the walkway, I need to excavate the section that connects what has been done to the back patio. This goes over the main irrigation water supply line -- a one inch PVC line that runs from the meter, by the street, along the East side of the house (thru Zone 2), and then across the backyard, and up the West side, and then across the front yard, effectively a rectangle around the entire house.

In addition, the remaining walkway goes over the telephone line, the cable line, and the electrical lines, all of which are buried and run roughly from the edge of the house, near the rain barrel, to the green transformer box in the middle of the backyard, by the fence.

All of these need to be below the walkway. I can't do much about the water supply line, but the others -- the cable, telephone and electrical lines, I want to put way down under ground, so that they don't get messed up if we work in the back yard. I know that at the moment the telephone and cable lines are just below the surface.

The idea is to bury a large 4 inch PVC tube as a conduit that will house the telephone and cable lines, and if they need to be replaced, the new line can just be slipped into the conduit; no one will need to dig up the back yard to do this.
So I need to find the lines, excavate down as far as I can and put in the PVC conduit from the house to the fence and run the cable and telephone in it, before I can finish the walkway. That is the current project.

I keep forgetting to take a picture before I start any work, but this is pretty much what the backyard looks like now. The idea is to excavate it down about 24 inches, starting on the East side and going all the way across the back yard to the West side. That will allow a couple of new trees to be put in, providing shade in the hot summer sun.

I started to dig in a line along the East edge.

I'm hitting rock almost immediately -- an inch or two below the surface in spots. No wonder that the grass would not grow.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

New Smoke Detectors and the Electrical Circuit List

We have been having the smoke detectors going off for no apparent reason, in the middle of the night. One possibility is that these are the wired-in smoke detectors that were installed when the house was built, in 1986. Smoke detectors, in general, are only supposed to last 10 years; these are now over 25 years old. Probably time to replace them.

I put in two new new Kidde FireX Model PI2010 Dual Sensor Smoke Alarms. Home Depot, $64.89. These provide both an Ionization sensor and a Photoelectric sensor. This replace the earlier ones that were ionization only.

Both the previous smoke alarms and the new ones have a "easy connect" feature that allows the smoke alarm to be plugged and unplugged easily without the need for re-wiring, but, of course, the connectors are incompatible, so I had to first disconnect the old connector and re-wire in the new connector. This requires finding the appropriate electrical circuit for each smoke detector, so I could shut off the power at the circuit breaker box.

The bedroom smoke alarm is on circuit 25; the hallway smoke alarm is on circuit 35.

As long as I was doing this, I created a spread sheet to list each electrical circuit and what I think is on it.

1 Air Conditioner Compressor, attic subcircuits
2 Air Conditioner Compressor
3 Lights and Outlets in Guest Bedroom, GFI for all bathrooms, back porch
4 Air Conditioning Fan
5 Garbage Disposal, Light over Sink
6 Dishwasher
7 Dryer, Washer
9 Kitchen Island Outlet, outlets Left and Right of cooktop
10 Refrigerator
11 Outlets in Living Room
12 Kitchen Counter by Living Room, Dining Room outlets
13 Garage Outlets on outside wall
14 Central Bathroom Heater/Fan, Light near heater/fan.
15 Breakfast Nook
16 Microwave
17 Front Office outlets
18 Solar System Grid Tie-Breaker
19 Solar System Grid Tie-Breaker
21 Stove, Oven
22 Stove, Oven
23 Electric Dryer (?)
24 Electric Dryer (?)
25 Master Bedroom lights/outlets, Master Bath Lights, Floor Plugs in LR, Master Bedroom Smoke Alarm
27 Back Bathroom Fan/Light, lights over sink
28 Outside Backlights (Flood), Back Bedroom Fan/Light, Closet
29 Outlets in Front Office (some)
30 Dining Room Lights, South Track Lights, Hall Light, Outlets on South LR Wall
31 Kitchen Fan, Pantry Light, Utility Light, Garage Lights, Front Flood Lights, Attic Lights
32 Bathroom GFI Circuit, all 3 bathroom outlets, Computer Room outlets, Loft outlets, attic lights
33 Kitchen under cabinet lights (new work), left of sink
34 LR Track Lights (North), outlets on LR North Side, Fireplace, Entry Way, Hall outlets, Central Bathroom
35 Loft outlets, Computer Room/Closet Light/Fan, Master Closet Lights, Passthru Room outlets, Hallway Smoke Alarm
36 Kitchen Light, Breakfast Light, Office Light, Front Porch Lights, Entrance Way Light

This complements the previous circuit list that I had on two sheets of yellow tablet paper. One problem is how to refer to the rooms; trying to identify the bedrooms by occupant ("Kids, Guest, Lauren's, ...") is problematic since they have moved in, out, and around.