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.

Zone 3 Irrigation Repair

In trying to check what the water usage was for each irrigation zone, I noticed that Zone 3 used much more water than any of the others.  Zone 3 is an underground drip irrigation zone, with two parts -- one for the South bed, which now has Linda's second raised garden bed, and the North bed which used to have lavender plants (they died).

The South bed has a cut-off value for that bed.

and turning it off did not significantly change the water usage.

I did not originally have a cut-off valve for the North bed.

So I  added a cut-off valve for the North bed.

But then turning this off still did not change the water usage.  So there must be a leak someplace between the Zone 3 valve and the two beds.

Finding that leak, in the main supply lines way under ground is beyond my skill set, so I called American Irrigation Repair.  They came out and found the leak in short order .. how they knew where to dig to find it, I don't know.

The leak was right at a joint -- a coupling -- as the main supply line for the South bed came out from under the sidewalk.  The pipe had cracked right next to the coupling.  They said it was because the pipe on one side was slightly lower than the pipe on the other side.

Making an in-line repair has always been a mystery to me, and they did this funny out and back to both allow the difference in height and to get enough flexibility in the pipes to put them together.

And that seems to have been that.  $166.  Quick, efficient and done right.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Zone 10 Irrigation Valve Repair

When cutting the grass in the front yard, we noticed a "wet" spot.  A week later, we noticed it was both wet, and had standing water.  This is more or less where the charts show that the valve controllers for Zones 10 and 11 are supposed to be, so the suspicion is a bad valve controller.  And the only reason that a valve controller would leak, that I know of, is a bad diaphragm.

But the first problem is to find them.  Luckily, if the valve is leaking, then the wet spot would be the location of the valve.  So we found the center of the wet area and started to dig there.  Starting with a 2 foot by 2 foot area, we just intersected one of the boxes.  And enlarging it a bit, there was the other box on the other side of the hole.  The boxes are 23 inches apart -- center to center or rim to rim -- and the line between them runs basically parallel to the house or the curb in front of the house.  The one is 33 feet from the corner of the house (by the gas meter), and the other is 33 feet 4 inches.

Turning the water supply line to the irrigation system back on, we see water beginning to appear in the box for Zone 10.

So we dig up more around the valve, and take it apart.  Remove the diaphragm and take it Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply to get a replacement.  They wanted to know what type of valve it was from -- I don't know -- and they guessed an Irritrol 2400S.  $18.79.  Take that back home and it seems to fit fine.

However, in taking the valve apart, I removed the solenoid, and apparently lost the moving part of it.  I don't remember it dropping out; it doesn't seem to be anywhere in the lawn (I used the metal detector to look for it), but it's missing and the solenoid does not work without it.

Using the solenoid from Zone 11, I was able to get Zone 10 working properly; now Zone 11 doesn't work, since it is missing a (working) solenoid.

There was a solenoid with the Irritrol 2400S, but it while it fits, it does not work.  There are apparently 3 different types of irrigation valves (direct, indirect, and semi-direct), and while the diaphragm worked, the solenoid does not.  I was able to get an Orbit Replacement Solenoid Model 57041 from Home Depot which does work.

So Zone 10 has a new diaphragm and Zone 11 has a new solenoid.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Second Backyard Pecan Tree

With the backyard finished, and it being October, we can now put in the second pecan tree.  We had wanted two trees -- one to the East of center, the other West of center -- in the backyard, to create shade.  The first tree was planted in March 2015, before Summer started, and is a Pawnee.  It started at 53 inches tall, and is now (2 summers later) about 120 inches tall (still not a lot of leaves, and no nuts).  We planted that when the East side of the backyard was done, and now that the rest of the backyard is done, we can plant the second tree.

Again, we went to Berdoll Pecan Farm and Nursery to get the tree.  As with the first, this is a medium tree. $49.99 (plus tax).  But this time we got a Choctaw pecan tree.  We dug a hole in the spot reserved for the second tree, and planted it.  It took an extra bag of dirt, plus two bags of mulch.

We trimmed off one of the main roots that looked like it was circling around (from being constrained in the planting pot).  On the one hand, this says it was in the pot too long; on the other hand, it says that this tree really wants to put down a big main root; now it has the space to do that.  The objective is to get it established before winter, so that next Spring, it will be all ready to grow!

At the moment it is 59 inches tall, so half the height of the 1st pecan tree.  The paperwork says that it is 2 years old, while the 1st pecan tree should now be 4 years old.  Pecan trees mature at 7 to 10 years, so by 2025, we should have 2 mature pecan trees in the backyard.  We should get pecans from the first tree in 2019, and the second tree by 2021.

Update.  March 2022.  Sprayed both pecan trees with Malathion for  pecan phylloxeras.  Also spread Zinc Sulfate around the base of both trees.  Pecan trees are supposed to need zinc.