Monday, May 16, 2022

Back Deck Maintenance

The deck was replaced in November 2003, so it's approaching 20 years old.  It is made of ipe (iron wood), on a pine or fir under structure.  The ipe deck boards are attached by what are supposed to be brass screws, looks like #8 screws with a small T-15 Torx head; one site says they are "Finish/Trim" screws.

I've notice that some some of the heads have backed out and are sticking up; some more than others.  The worst seem to stick up maybe 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch.  Trying to screw them back down does not work -- they just spin in place.

Investigating why, it seem that the screw goes thru the deck board and into the underlying joist.  The smooth upper shaft of the screw is in the deck board and the thread goes into the joist.  The joist wood has deteriorated and so the thread has nothing to grasp, which is why the screw can pop up.  Also in some cases the screw has broken and the top half is disconnected from the threads.

So the solution seems to be to remove the old screw and move it, or a replacement to another position not too far from the original position, where it can find strong joist wood to hold the deck board in place.

Putting in a new screw involves:

(1) drilling a hole for it.  The ipe is very hard.  I used a 1/8 inch drill bit.

(2) installing the new screw.  At 2 inches long, these take quite a bit of screwing, so the easiest way is to put the T-15 Torx bit into a power screwdriver (I used my power drill with it's variable speed, on slow and easy).

Today I only did 4 replacement screws.  Took about an hour.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Stone Border for Backyard Bed

Most of our beds are well separated from anything else.  But we have one bed, in the backyard, up against the fence, that is not.

 Linda planted a passion flower vine to grow along the fence, but, it turns out, it also sends roots out into the yard and tries to pop up vines all thru the grass.  So our intention is to put a stone border around this bed, to keep the roots from getting into the yard.

The first step is to dig a trench around the bed.

Then, I tried to take it down deeper.  The design was to bury a metal barrier that would block any roots from going into or out of the bed, and then pour concrete on top of that and put limestone blocks -- the standard 4x4 ones -- on the top.

I bought some corrugated metal landscape edging.  Made by Dakota Tin, sold by Walmart $64.93.  Two pieces, each 10 feet long and 12 inches tall.  And a rubber mallet to hammer it into the ground partially below the concrete to be poured.

But digging down, we hit solid rock almost immediately.  Just barely 12 inches below the surface.  Apparently this section next to the fence was not excavated very far down.

We also uncovered two irrigation pipes leading into the bed -- one next to the concrete pad for the electrical box, and the other at the other end of the bed, next to the fence.

So the new design is to just use the metal edging as yet another part of the barrier -- forming one side of the concrete wall to be poured.  

The corrugated tin had to be shaped to fit around the irrigation pipes and the uneven rock at the bottom of the trench.  Then we bought the cement -- 15 bags.

 and we position the metal barrier in the trench.  

Then we pour the cement in the trench -- keeping the metal barrier to the inside of the cement pour.  We top it off with a line of 4x4 limestone blocks, put the dirt that we dug out back and it is done.

We have been pulling out any of the vine starts that we see in the yard for the last few weeks; we will probably need to do that for a couple months until the roots that are in the back yard now are exhausted and die.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

More Sod for Back Yard

 The area where we took out the Monterrey Oak, and it's bed last summer and then added a Mexican Plum has been sitting since then.  So it seems it is time to finish it off.

First we spread more dirt, to even it out, as some of it has settled. 

Then we bought a half a pallet of Zoysia Palisades from The Grass Outlet.  $173.20. That is 80 pieces. We used about 50 to cover this area. 

There was another area just around the corner where the slope was too steep.  We added dirt to make it slope more gently, and then put another 20 sod pieces on it.

And the final pieces were put down at the bottom of the stairs to the back porch.  Stepping off the sidewalk at this point after coming down the stairs repeatedly has caused this section to sink below the sidewalk significantly, so new sod will help raise it up an inch or so.

These new pieces of the lawn will need frequent watering to keep them alive and get them established.  Part of the timing is they are predicting rain tonight.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Roof Vents and Insect Screens

 We have cockroaches.  Probably not.  I think they are water bugs or palmetto bugs, rather than cockroaches per se, but from a home owners point of view, I'm not sure the difference matters much.  They mostly live outside, in the trees or under rocks, but occasionally come inside.  We've tried home remedies, like boric acid power, and roach motels, and maybe those work, but they certainly don't get everything.

The house is pretty well sealed. Good windows, weatherstripping on all the doors, screens on all the windows. We have had situations where they apparently try to slip thru a door at the hinge side while it is open; occasionally I find one smashed between the door and the frame -- not quick enough to get out of the way when the door closed. But they tend to show up either in the utility room/kitchen area or the bathrooms.  In the utility room/kitchen, they could be coming in from the garage thru the kitchen door.  

But for the bathrooms, they either have to come thru a door and then make their way to the bathrooms, or they are coming directly into the bathrooms. Texas A&M says these are "one of the most common cockroaches in sewer systems", so it seems they could be coming up thru the pipes.

And there are two directions for them to come.  Up from the sewer, or down thru the vent pipes.  We have a set of pipes on the roof that are part of the plumbing.  These pipes vent sewer gas and allow air to enter to equalize air pressure.

But at least on our house, the vents are uncovered on the top, sheathed in lead (the stack flashing) and then painted.

So it might be possible for a bug to enter the pipe on the roof, go down until it meets a branching pipe which would take it to a p-trap.  The p-trap is filled with water, but a swimming bug could go thru that and then be in the house.  I don't know if that actually happens, but they are called "water bugs".

But all the vent needs to be able to do is to allow air to vent, so it seems reasonable that we could put an insect screen over the top of the vent and prevent this from happening.  I would imagine a wire cap sort of like:


But there does not seem to be such a thing readily available.  Part of the problem is that the vents may be of different sizes, but also because of the lead flashing.  Note the very top of the vent pipe is somewhat misshapen by the way that the lead flashing is tucked into the pipe.  A closer look at any of the vent pipes shows this problem

And there is also the problem of keeping the screen cap securely on the vent pipe.

Let us consider the scope of the problem.  We have 4 vents in the front of the house for the Master Bathroom: the sinks, the toilet, the bathtub and the shower.

These vary in size from 2.25 to 3 inches and are not totally round.  The lead flashing sometimes sticks out more in one direction than another.

The back bathroom has 3 vents: the sink, the toilet, and the bathtub.  For some reason, the vent for the sink is larger: 3.75 inches while the other two are only 2.25.

The central bathroom has two sinks, and 4 vent pipes: the two sinks, the toilet and the tub.

These all seem to be 2.25 inches, but the variation of the lead flashing takes it to 2.5 or 2.75 inches.

There is one vent pipe for the kitchen sink, 2.25 to 2.5 inches.

and one last vent pipe for the washing machine and the garage sink, at 2.25 inches.

That makes 13 vent pipes total.  One is 3.75 inches while all the others seem to be 2.25 to 3.00 inches.

Our approach is to put a patch of insect screen over the vent, and hold it in place with a worm gear clamp:

I will need clamps that adjust to a range of 2.25 to 3 inches for most of them and one that goes to 4 inches for that one big one.

A trip to Home Depot gets me most of what I need. A roll of silver gray fiberglass screen (36x84) from which I can cut 7 inch squares of screen.  I have one clamp here already, and bought one 4 inch clamp for the largest vent. And a bag of ten stainless steel 1-3/4 inch to 2-3/4 inch clamps to hold the screen in place.  And just in case the clamps are the wrong size, one 1-3/4 inch to 2-3/4 inch clamp separately, so that if it does not fit, I can return the bag of ten without having opened it. (But they work, so no problem there.)  $34.24.

I put the screen patch over the vent pipe, slide the clamp on, and tighten it.

We had 13 clamps.  Two of the vents are too big for the clamps we have; we  needed to get slightly larger ones.: 2.31 to 3.25 inches, another $5.61.

One possible problem is that we got the fiberglass screen.  That should be sufficient.  However, we noticed that a couple of the tops of the lead flashings have been chewed on, presumably by squirrels.  This happened once before and we had to have the flashing replaced.  Obviously if squirrels start chewing on the fiberglass screens, they will not last long.