Fall 2012 Home Improvements

Somehow I’ve had some time to do some home improvements over the past couple of months, mostly the past few weeks.

Pressure Washed and Painted the Fence

With the neighbors help, I got the fence painted! Nothing special, we used the same Cabot Cedar stain as before. The first coat lasted 4 years, though it could have used a coat a year ago. Pressure washing showed a lot of black staining over the years, and I repaired one broken picket, otherwise the fence looked great.

Lamp Post Replaced with Solar LED Post Light

I’ve been thinking about repairing the leaning post and replace the natural gas lamp light with a solar powered one. Last weekend the weather was finally warm enough for me to investigate. After digging around the post about 3-4″ deep, the post fell over. Quick examination I found the post completely rusted through. Fixing the lamp post turned into a replacing the lamp post project. I proceeded to dig out the hole beyond the frost line, about 34 inches deep.

I thought I could find a simple replacement lamp post at Lowes/Home Depot, but guess again, they sell more complicated posts that are way over priced. Since I don’t need a fancy post with an extra electrical socket built-in, I found a simple and affordable post at Menards, though it required a trip across town. When I got back, I just had enough time to pickup 2 bags of concrete, mix and then set the post before nightfall.

While I was disconnecting the gas line to the lamp post I went ahead and removed the line to the gas meter and capped it with a 1/4″ NPT cap.

The following Wednesday the solar powered lamp I ordered arrived. It only took 5 minutes to install. Compare that to the entire day it took to replace the post! We had to wait another day to see if it would charge and light up. Thursday night it came on when the sun fell. As expected, it put out a comparable amount of light to that of a gas lamp. Three hours later  the battery died. Luckily you can add a 2nd battery pack to extend the battery life. I knew the light from an LED solar powered lamp would not be as bright as a electric light bulb, but it is as effective as the gas lamp it replaced. If it could just last a little longer into the night then we’ll be all set. Most important though the yard looks good again!

Solar Powered LED Post Lamp

Front Door Sealed

In October I decided it was time to do something about the draft under the front door. I first replaced the bottom gasket with a one size fits all 4 blade model at Home Depot. I quickly discovered the bottom seal of the door was not designed for the gasket I had purchased. After a few days of the family struggling to open/close the door, I decided to modify the gasket by removing the first 2 blades with a utility knife. It did the trick, but it also allowed a slight draft at the corners of the door. The draft was due to the door sill plate having a slight pitch running outside (rather than flat or to the inside). This pitch is also why the newer gasket was so hard to open/close the door.

This past weekend I decided to fix the entire problem by replacing the bottom sill plate. It was not as easy a task as I thought it would be since the original door sill plate was attached to the door frame, rather than the sill plate attached to the bottom house framing. Once it was removed, it was just a slow process fitting the replacement sill plate in place. I put a small bead of silicone between the sill plate and the house framing to insulate between the two joints. I also had to add about 1/4″ of spacers to the assembly of the sill plate so the top of the sill was tight against a new 4 blade door gasket. It did the job, the door is now easy to open and close and it’s air tight!

Future Home Projects

There are a lot of things we’d like to do with the house, such as finish part of the basement, redo the master bathroom, upgrade the bathroom fixtures throughout the house, and install a wood laminate flooring on the first floor. Perhaps 2013 I’ll have something more exciting to blog about as far as home improvements are concerned.

Early Spring Home Improvements

It’s not quite spring time but the lack of snow got me motivated to fix some of the little things that have been on my honey-to-do list.

Fireplace and HVAC Vents

The HVAC and Fireplace vents were long over due for replacement. They were cracked/damaged when we bought the house, and this winter took them to their end of life. It was one of those chores I kept putting off because I couldn’t find the appropriate vents at Lowes/Home Depot when I’ve visited for other needs. This past week I went to 4 stores including The Andersons, Lowes and Home Depot specifically for these vents and had no luck. Out of desperation I went to Menards and thankfully they had them and for 1/2 the price than the dryer vents at the other stores! All the other stores sell only outlet vents, primarily for dryers. The inlet allows for fresh outside air to be drawn into the house for specific reasons, so having a dryer vent that closes when air is drawn inward is not going to work.

The great thing about the vent pictured is that it’s shallow. This means the lawn mower isn’t going to run into it and crack it like the last vent.

Screen Door Damage

The screen door has seen a lot of battles with the dog and the cat, but this past fall Ty rammed through the screen after some creature in the back yard and the screen door hasn’t been the same since. Last week I saw a repair kit at Home Depot for re-screening the screen door. I thought “I’m rebuilding an engine, this can’t be that nearly as complicated”. Sure enough, replacing the screen in a screen door is pretty easy. I would say though that patience is needed, taking your time will give you a finished product to be proud of. I was told getting a screen door re-screened can cost between $50-100. The kit cost less than $9 and took about 45 minutes to install.

LED Bulb for Front Porch

The porch light is one of those light fixtures I seem to visit way more often that I care to. Two weeks ago I picked up a Home Depot house brand (40 Watt equivelant) 7 watt LED bulb for the front porch. Even though the box says “For indoor use only”, I figured for $10, I’ll give it a try on the porch. It works great, though the light is more directional than a typical bulb, it serves the purpose of lighting up the porch perfectly. I now know why these bulbs are for indoor use only, freezing temperatures. From what I’ve observed, when the weather is below freezing, the light does not come on. As long as the light bulb lasts a few years, I’ll live without porch light on cold winter nights.

Pegboard in the Garage and Snags Tearing Down the Pontiac 301 Turbo


PegboardThis Memorial Day weekend I got to do some work around the house. My initial plan was to start building the Pontiac 400, but I recently discovered I needed one more part (Cam thrust plate) and it did not arrive yet, so I decided to work on the firewall and other various little parts on the Trans Am. After spending about an hour in the garage moving stuff around, I decided to switch my car project to a Garage improvement weekend. By Monday I installed 64 square feet of pegboard and enough hangers/hooks to get just about everything shy of 15 pounds off the garage floor.

On Monday I started work on tearing down the Pontiac 301 Turbo. If you’re not familiar with the Pontiac 301 Turbo, it was made in 1980 and 1981 for the Pontiac Trans Am and Formula making it a rather rare engine. Some say it was ahead of it’s time, others say it was plagued by it’s oil cooled turbo charger. It was the last true Pontiac designed V8. What ever your thoughts on this short lived engine are, once I confirmed that my Trans Am was not a special edition, I decided to swap it out with a Pontiac 400. Since last fall this V8 has been sitting in the garage just taking space. This weekend I decided it was time to take it apart to see what was wrong with it and recycle what ever parts that can be reused. Believe it or not, this engine shares a lot with it’s larger cousins (350, 400 and 455) such as engine mounts, fuel pumps and the bell housing.

During the initial tear down I ran into a couple snags. First was the flywheel bolts having 12 point heads. My plan was to use my compressor with the impact wrench attached. My plan went foul once I discovered that the impact sockets I got with my compressor are all 6 point. A run to the neighborhood home improvement stores showed me how rare 12 point impact sockets are. I do understand that a 6 point socket is better for 6 point bolt heads and that’s most likely why the 12 point impact sockets are hard to find, but come on, someone has to sell 12 point impact sockets! When you’re dealing with a 12 point bolt head, you can’t use a 6 point socket.

So after doing some online shopping, I found that only a handful of tool companies make such sockets. Sadly most all of these sockets are through brands like Snap-On, which make the tools too expensive for a weekend mechanic like myself. I did find a set of 12 point SAE impact sockets on Amazon.com that meets my price range. (see picture). They also have 12 point metric impact sockets.

The second snag working on the 301 Turbo came when I made a rookie mechanic mistake! I am using an engine leveler for lifting the motor, that way I can easily level the engine with the engine hoist/cherry picker. I recall today reading somewhere “Always connect engine levelers and engine hoist chains using grade 8 bolts to engine heads. Avoid connecting to bell housing or aluminum intake manifolds when possible“. Well I learned yesterday the hard way why you don’t connect your engine hoist to the bell housing! When I got ready to bolt the engine to the engine stand, you can guess the colorful language that came out of my mouth! Lesson learned the hard way, never never NEVER ever use the bell housing when lifting an engine!

 

Garage is Finished!

This weekend got the garage walls painted. I went ahead and primed + painted the wood framing around the garage door as well. Only 1/4 of the garage hasn’t been painted, that’s the corner that already had drywall along the back/side walls along the house.

I had 2 little electric heaters running in the garage over the weekend, which maintained a 65 degree temperature in the garage for 24-28 hours after I painted to help it dry. One electric heater got the garage to about 50-55 degrees but couldn’t go beyond that without the help of a second heater.

Next weekend I’ll be re-hanging hooks, a new cabinet and the wheel barrel on the walls so there’s even more garage floor space (Heather can get her parking spot back).

Garage Door Insulated

The weather here in Ohio since Thanksgiving is not cooperating with my garage insulating project. So I can finish painting the garage, I need to get the garage door insulated. I considered using 2 garage door kits for my 16 foot wide door, but decided after reading reviews and considering the cost (over $150) that I should find another solution. I decided to get 1 1/2″ thick foamboard from my local Home Depot. The foam board came with a plastic tape on one side, and metallic material on the other wide. With the test piece I got, I discovered that it worked perfectly jammed between the upper and lower rails of a garage door section (see picture). I had to cut a vertical relief cut for each section of foam board that way the fit is very tight. I sealed each relief cut with a strip of matching aluminum tape.

I did this the first weekend of December. The following day I sanded the drywall to prepare it for paint. I only spent about half an hour sanding, and it still filled the garage with white dust. Next week comes the paint!

Garage Drywall Up

The Garage Drywall is up (Actually was up the weekend before Thanksgiving. The mud work was done the weekend after Thanksgiving, which took a long time since I’ve never done it before. Right about when I finished I finally think I got the hang of it.

Last step is to sand and paint.

Garage is Insulated!

We got the insulation up in the garage this past weekend. My dad came down to help me (Thanks Dad!). Caulking and sealing holes/cracks took the bulk of our time. Putting up the insulation took maybe 3 hours once we got into a rhythm. We used 7 rolls of 40′ by 15″ R-13 faced insulation, three tubes of caulk, and 2 cans of Great Stuff foam.

This weekend we’re putting up drywall. I got lucky yesterday and bought the last carpenters 4 foot drywall square from Harbor Freight, which should make our job sizing the drywall easier.

I’m still trying to decide how to insulate the garage door. Lowes and Home Depot sell kits, but they seem overly priced compared to using sheets of polystyrene insulation sheathing (foam board). What would be perfect is a way to put the sheets of polystyrene foam board into the sections of the garage door then cover that with a flexible 16′ x 8′ sheet of white vinyl that will bend with the door when it opens and closes. Please leave comments if you have thoughts on this.

State of the House (Mandato House)

Deck GateThe past couple of months I’ve been focused on the Trans Am project. Last week I finally got the gate made for the deck. Most of the time the gate will be open, but any time we’re out and want either to keep the dog off the deck or Melanie on the deck, we can use the gate. I will stain it when we get a break in the weather.

The next house project is to insulate the garage.  I’ve been holding off on insulating the garage until I got extra outlets wired in, but now I’m just going to forgo the extra outlets and just insulate it. The extra cost of having an electrician add the outlets vs. how often we would use them in the garage pretty much sealed the deal on skipping them.

My plan is to roll-in insulation into the walls, then follow up with drywall. From there on in I’ll be learning how to tape joints and fill in gaps. I’ve never done drywall before, so it will be a good learning experience. It is a garage so I will not feel too bad if I don’t do a top quality job.

The garage door is going to be the most time consuming part of the insulation project. I’ve looked at kits, but they seem overly priced. I will most likely buy strips of foam insulation and glue them in followed by replacing the rubber seals around the door. I estimate about $180 to insulate and drywall the remaining 1-1/2 walls in the garage, and another $200 to insulate the garage door itself. It is crazy to think the door will cost as much, if not more, than to insulate the rest of the garage.

One thing I am going to do is paint a visible vertical line on the footer brick in the garage inline with the vertical studs that way when I go back to hang tools and such, I know where I can drill without using drywall anchors.

What sorts of suggestions do you have for my garage insulation project?

Weber Porcelain-Enamel Cast Iron Cooking Grates #7526 fits Spirit E-320 / S-320

If you are shopping for Cast Iron cooking grates for your Weber Spirit E-320/S-320 grill and found that web sites such as Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com and find the documentation says the Cast Iron Cooking grates #7526 fit only the Genesis Silver B and C and Spirit E-310 gas grills, then this posting is for you.

The Weber Porcelain-Enamel Cast Iron Cooking Grates #7526 fits Weber Spirit E-320/S-320 and E-310 grills as well as all other Spirit 300 and Spirit 700 series grills as noted on the product box.

Weber Grates for E-320

For some reason the information that all of these web sites are using specifically quotes the E-310 model, even though the product box says otherwise. If you’re like me and have an E-320 and were worried about ordering the wrong grates, the #7526 is the right part for your grill.

Melanie got a Sandbox!

Melanie got a new sandbox! We were going to get the green Turtle Sandbox (I remember having one when I was young) but found this red Clam held twice as much sand! The sandbox barely fit in Heather’s Prius, luckily it did fit! It can hold up to 6 – 50lb bags of sand (The green turtle sandbox holds 3 – 50lb bags).

Heather had the great idea of putting the sandbox on the deck that way he sand doesn’t kill the grass.

For those who may be concerned about animals using the sandbox, it also came with a lid. 🙂