Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Shower leaking in Central Bathroom

The shower drips after it is turned off in the Central Bathroom.  History says this is just a sign that it needs new washers.

Unfortunately there are no shut-off valves for the showers, so we have to turn the water off for the whole house at the meter.  Having done that, we can proceed to take the faucets apart.

The Hot/Cold buttons just pry off.  Then there is a screw that holds the handles on.  Then a chrome extension that just slides off.  And the escutcheons screw off. Have to be careful not to scrap the chrome off.  Luckily we have a bathroom counter that we can lay the pieces out on as they come off.

Now there is a flange of some kind that screws off.  And then the handle itself.

At the end of the handle is a washer, held on by a screw.  This is what we want to replace.  We went to Home Depot and got 3/8L flat washers (11/16" O.D.).  The new ones do not seem as thick as the old one.  And we got some new #10-24 brass round head machine screws to replace the hot water screw.  It was thickly covered with sediment.  The cold water screw looked in pristine shape, so we reused it.

Then we applied silicon plumber's seal to the inner most threads on the handles, and plumber's grease on the outer ones (which hold the escutcheons), and reassembled everything in the reverse order of taking it apart.

The result is a shower that does not drip.  At least for now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Natural Gas Pipe in the Front Yard

The survey for the house shows a 5 foot easement along the West property line in the front yard. 

The survey says "5' UNDERGROUND ELECT. & TELE ESMT." but calling 811 to mark the utilities before digging shows there are no electrical or telephone lines in the front (they are in the back), and no water or cable.  But there is a gas line.  (And there is an electrical line in the neighbor's yard for the light pole.)

So we have carefully dug to try to avoid the gas line until we can find it and expose it.  The 811 markings showed more or less where it was.  Eventually, after months of digging, we have located it and exposed it.

It starts (so far) at the rock border near the house and runs towards the street.  Mostly it is near the surface, but not too near.  Near the house it is 12 inches under the ground and does not rise as fast as the ground level towards the street, so that it sinks to about 20 inches below the surface closer to the street.

As it gets closer to the street, it suddenly curves down and drops deep into the earth.

From about 24 inches below the surface, it drops to 60 inches below the surface.  There it meets a T-shape pipe which goes straight down just a bit into a much larger horizontal pipe.

At this point, the pipe is between 58 inches (the top of the little T) to 64 inches (the big pipe) deep.

At this point, where the pipes meet, they are 5 feet from the property line, just at the edge of the easement.  But they veer towards the yard, so that as it approaches the house it is 6.5 to 7 feet from the property line.  This is one reason it was hard to find -- it is not in the easement.

So part of our objective in this digging, in addition to taking out the rock and making it better dirt for growing lawns and trees, is to see if we can move the gas line back where it is supposed to be, and deeper.  If we could move the gas line to the bottom of the trench next to the dividing cement wall along the property line, it would be within the first foot of the easement, and 32 to 36 inches deep for its entire run in the front yard.  Discussions with the gas company suggest they are willing to do that, but they will need to run a new line (plastic) from the T (I assume) to the house.

Having dug the entire easement from the T to the rock border, we next need to dig out a trench for the new line from the rock border to the gas meter.  Unfortunately, this is right below the new River of Rocks, but having just put that in, we should be able to take it back out, and then put it back again, with two goals -- (1) expose where the current gas line is, and (2) create a trench for where the new gas line should be.  We will need to keep aware of (a) the irrigation lines, and (b) the French drain.  In fact, we want to see about creating a 4 inch PVC conduit for the gas line, to make it less likely that it will be dug up without warning.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Topping the front yard wall

To get the top of the front yard wall straight, we have run a string from one end to the other.  The top of the cement wall is about 10 inches below the string.  We experimented with 6x4 and 8x4 limestone blocks to put on top of the wall, and think the 8x4 will be better.

I tried to lay stones on the top of the cement wall, but I don't think I have enough skill to do this the entire way.

So I should probably hire someone to do a good job.

But I can go ahead and buy the rock and have it ready.  8x4 limestone blocks.  620 pounds for a total cost of $42.89.

That is not quite enough, but it is as much as I could get in the car.  I need another 10 feet or so, but I also need to finish the wall to the street before getting this done.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Street Numbers for the House

Back in July, we replaced the front door.  Collateral damage of that was that we are now missing street numbers.  Originally they were over the door.

But when the trim was replaced, along with the door, the numbers are no longer there.

We could put the same numbers back, but they don't really show up that well as brass numbers against a dark brown trim.  So what do we have for an alternative?

Looking at Home Depot, they have almost nothing in the store, but they have a variety on their website.  We picked a simple rectangular plaque for the street numbers "10601" : Whitehall Products Hartford Rectangular Black/Silver Petite Wall 1-Line Address Plaque $43.00, delivered to the nearest store.  Ordering it was very strange, and then it was sent off to the manufacturer, and took over 2 weeks to get.

Once we got it, we decided it would look best on one of the stone pillars in the front, and installed it there.

We mixed up a bunch of mortar and slapped it on the stone, and then pushed the plaque onto that.  We held it in place with a strap around the pillar until the mortar was dry.

The problem was that while it was all very nice, it was also much too small to be seen from the street.


So we went back thru the process again, and found the same product, in a larger size: "Whitehall Hartford 1-Line Wall Plaque" (notice how it is missing the word "petite".)  The smaller (petite) plaque is 8.5 x 3.25 inches.  The larger plaque is 16 x 7.25 inches, so almost twice the size in both directions.  And of course, more expensive.  But the best cost was from Bed Bath & Beyond, for $77.93 mailed to my door, in 10 days.

We noticed, that even if the smaller one was bigger, at night there was no light on it, and so it was hard to see.  So we decided to put the bigger one on the wall under one of the front door lights.

And again, we slapped a bunch of mortar on the wall, but also drilled two holes, for the mounting screws, and put anchors in the wall for them.  Partly that was because we couldn't strap it to the wall, like we did with the pillar.  We needed the screws to hold it in place while the mortar dried.

Hopefully that will solve the problem of people finding the house.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Changing the Shower Head in the Central Bathroom

The central bathroom is mainly used for Linda's Mother.  As she has aged it seems less useful as a fixed overhead shower.  So we decided to change it to a hand-held shower head.

We bought the "New Tempesta 100 2-Spray Wall Bar Shower Kit in Brushed Nickel Infinity Finish" by Grohe from Home Dept ($57.73).   This has a relatively simple shower head, on a flexible water line, that sits on a vertical bar that allows it to move up and down.  The water line should attach where the current shower head is.  The box was delivered to Home Depot in about 2 weeks, and we went over to pick it up.

Opening the box, we find a bunch of pieces

There is the spray head,

the water line, the mounting bar,

 and what must be hardware for mounting it  on the wall.

But there is little in the way of assembly instructions.   There is one sheet, but has no words (German construction for a global market place), and even that seems to be for several different similar models.

Of course part of the problem might be that it is not clear exactly what model we have.  A search on the web for the "New Tempesta 100" finds that there are "Tempesta 100" models and "New Tempesta" models.  Looking at the box, we can see that the end label used to be for a "Tempesta 100", but they put a new label over it making it a "New Tempesta"

What instructions there are are almost useless:

This is a better version than was included in the box, since it at least says that the "08" is a "5/16 inch", which I'm guessing means that an 8mm drill bit is closest to a 5/16 drill bit.

The two ends of the water line are slightly different.

but it looks like the larger one fits on the water head better.

The mounting hardware appears to be a plastic piece that slips into the mounting bar, is to be held in place with a long screw and is then covered by a stainless steel sleeve.

The mounting bar slides onto the plastic piece until a small plastic dot pops into a hole in the metal bar.  There are two holes and two plastic dots, on opposite sides of the plastic piece, but it will only go on one way.  So the next step is to put the two plastic pieces on either end of the mounting bar.

Now the question is how to mount it on the shower wall.  The idea is to drill into the shower wall and put the plastic screw anchor into the drilled hole and then screw thru the plastic piece into the screw anchor to hold it in place.  Of course the shower wall is tiled.  Drilling into tile is possible, but difficult -- the tile can crack from the stress of the drill.

We need two holes, one at the top and one at the bottom, about 24 inches apart.  From the better instruction page, 620 mm or 24 7/16 inches apart.  There are apparently other models with bars that are 920 mm and 1020 mm long, but we have the shorter one, only 620 mm.

It would be easiest to drill into the grout between the tiles, rather than the tiles themselves.  Unfortunately, the tiles are 7.75 inches square, which with the grout puts them exactly 8 inches per tile, so the 24 7/16 inch for the bar is just a bit (7/16 inch) too long to hit two grout lines.  But if we put it on a vertical grout line, we can easily drill into the grout, and put it at any height.  Unfortunately, again, the horizontal spacing has a grout line right under the current shower head, and then one 8 inches to the left and another 8 inches to the right. 

Figuring we don't want to put it in the middle, since the copper water pipe is probably right behind that grout line, and we don't want to drill or screw into the copper water pipe, and we don't want the shower head close to the outside of the shower, we decided to put it on the inside grout line, to the right of the center.

Using a 5/16 inch masonry drill bit, we drill the first hole, the top hole.  Unfortunately, we only get about 3/4 of an inch in, and then hit wood.  We have a stud right behind the grout line.  So we switch to a smaller drill bit to put a pilot hole in the stud, and cut the plastic screw anchor to only about an inch long, fill the hole with silicone sealant to prevent water leaks (either way), hammer the screw anchor into the hole and then screw the top of the mounting bar into the wall, thru the tile/grout and into the stud.

This secures the top of the mounting bar.  We position it correctly, and then mark thru the hole on the bottom mounting hardware to mark where we need to drill for the bottom hole.

We pivot the bar out of the way, drill the hole (same as for the top, masonry bit to get thru the grout/tile, and then a pilot hole into the wood stud).  Pivot the mounting bar back into position, and screw it into the wall.

At this point, we slide the metal covers over the plastic mounting hardware, and the mounting bar is on the wall.

To finish the installation, we remove the old shower head, and then screw the end of the water line onto the pipe for the shower head.

And that is it.  It is all installed and working.

To adjust the height of the shower head, we can twist the left side of the shower head holder (to loosen it), slide it to the desired height, and then tighten it up again.  The shower head can be lifted out to be used by hand, or left in place and used as a wall mounted shower.

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).

After a little more cleaning up of the lawn edge,

we can put in another section.

This took another 10 bags of concrete.

Now we have a concrete wall that stretches from the house almost to the street.

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.