giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
Hi everyone! This community has been quiet for a long time, but that doesn't mean we haven't been doing stuff. Most recently, I pulled a broken mortis lock out of a 100-year-old door, faffed around for a while before realizing I was never going to replace it with another mortis lock, then filled in the hole with wood and Bondo before installing new doorknobs. I am pretty pleased with the end product.

But I wanted to talk about windows today. (The ones in your house's walls, not the electronic ones.) I love my 100-year-old house's equally old double-hung windows, and I have no desire to replace them. However, I would really really like to improve their efficiency. I also have limited energy, time, and money to devote to the project, and October (when the temps start dropping seriously) is looming.

Over the years, I've done a number of small repairs on my windows, including fixing broken counterweights (and replacing cords with chain), removing old cracked glazing and replacing it, fixing or replacing misaligned locks and latches, and applying copper or plastic weatherstripping (poorly) to the relevant edges. (I'm lousy at weatherstripping. I'm not sure why. I'd be most likely to farm out this part of a job.)

Do we have any (other) old-window geeks here? If you have pointers towards information, I'd really appreciated it:

1) We have storm/screen windows that mostly work pretty well, but in a couple cases completely fail to stop the wind from passing through. I have heard (from a source of unknown quality) that this can be fixed by detaching them from the house, making sure the storm window frame is square, then re-attaching them to the house (probably drilling new holes). Does this sound reasonable? Are there other ways of fixing/renovating storm windows?

2) If I go to the trouble of insulating around the casing of the window, am I better served to do this before or after blowing insulation (probably cellulose) into the walls? Is fiberglass completely useless for this situation (which is what I suspect), or is there a better option than minimally-expanding Great Stuff?

3) If a cracked pane is otherwise in good shape (glazing is holding both pieces of glass in a single plane), can I get away with a cheap kludge of filling the crack with clear caulk?
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
My house is 110 years old, so it's something of a miracle that many of the walls and floors are still straight and at right angles with each other.

The door that's causing me problems is not one of those. It's original to the house, a panel door with cross-pieces at the top, middle, and bottom. It doesn't fit easily into its frame anymore because at some point the glue at the top joints came loose and it opened up some -- and then someone painted over it. So it's about an inch wider at the top than at the bottom. The doorframe is not square either. I'm not entirely sure that the doorframe isn't a structural element holding up the walls.

The latch and doorknob were part of a mortise lock assembly, and a piece of that broke.

So I have choices. Should I:
1) replace the mortise lock and plane the door to fit into the doorframe gracefully? (Possibly the least work.)
2) Buy a new door and cut it to the nonstandard and nonrectangular size?
3) Replace the door and doorframe. (Also possibly the least amount of work.)
4) Remove the door from the frame, strip the multiple layers of paint, knock it apart, and glue it back together the way it ought to be, install a new mortise lock, apply wood filler to the many and various dings, and try to rehang it?

I get the feeling that the last is the optimal solution, but also the most work.

giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
It's taken weeks, but

As of this morning, all the fixtures in my downstairs bathroom work, and nothing leaks!

I found the final clue that I needed at Family Handyman : how to stop a leaking cut-off by tightening the packing nut.

The toilet flushes and refills. The toilet does not leak out any of the holes in the tank. The toilet does not leak into the bowl. The toilet does not overfill. The cold water works to both the toilet and the sink, with reasonable pressure.

giglet: (Alan WTF?)
[personal profile] giglet
Listen, o' fandom-jointers, to my tale of woe:

Now, with additional info at the bottom of the post!

We've known for years that we should change to low-flow (ie, modern) toilets. 1.6 gallons instead of 6 gallons per flush (with the same efficiency) is a no-brainer, right?

I'd pulled and replaced several toilets before, so I didn't think it would be *that* annoying. And we installed one low-flow toilet, with the help of an absolutely stoned plumber. (Let's call this Toilet #1. The fill valve never did work right.) After that, I figured it'd be less frustrating to just switch the other two toilets on my own.

A couple weeks ago, we found someone freecycling two toilets, and grabbed them. I figured we'd probably have to replace the flappers, maybe the fill valves, but really -- as long as the porcelain was sound, replacing everything else should be simple, right?

Yeah, it didn't work out like that.

(To be fair, it was very hot this weekend and we have no air conditioning, and I've been running on a lack of sleep for the past week. So there might be mitigating factors. But still.)
(Also, out of sheer embarrassment, I will omit mention of all the trips to the hardware store.)

Toilet #2: I turned off the water, drained all the water, unhooked the water supply (and discovered that even with two cut-offs turned off, it still leaks a little. So every time I write "unhook the water supply" imagine a Rube Goldberg arrangment with a hook and a bucket holding the supply line.), unbolted the bolts, and removed the old toilet. I bolted down the new toilet, hooked up the water supply, and tested. If all went well, I would be done at this point.

All did not go well. The fill valve didn't turn off appropriately. No problem: turn off the water, drain the tank, and unhook the water supply, replace the new toilet's fill valve for the old one. Rehook up, works fine.

But then we heard dripping. No water was appearing anywhere it shouldn't. (Yay!) I dropped some food dye into the tank, and a few minutes later, there was food dye in the bowl. Okay, we probably needed a new flapper. No problem: turn off the water, drain the tank, replace the flapper. Rehook up water... and there's still dripping. Worse than before.

Cue me staring at the tank, trying to figure out where else the water could be coming from.

The chain from the flush lever wasn't getting stuck under the flapper.
The seat that the flapper sits on is smooth. I'm pretty sure that no water is coming between the flapper and the seat.
The overflow tube could be cracked, although I couldn't see any sign of a crack.
The washer around the hole below the flapper (where water exits the tank and heads into the bowl) could be leaking. This seemed more probable.

Turn off the water, drain the tank, and unhook the water supply. Undo the bolts holding the tank to the bowl. Remove bolts, remove tank from bowl. Remove big foam rubber gasket that sits between the bowl and tank. Look at the 3-4 in diameter plastic nut that holds the flapper valve seat and overflow tube in place. Look at my tiny wrench. Look at the nut. Try, and fail, to loosen the nut by hand. (My grip strength is at an all-time low.)

Go in search of my big pipe wrench. Search all the likely places. Take a break to swear.
Search all the unlikely places. Take a break to swear.
Search all the places again. Get distracted putting stuff back where it belongs, rather than where I found it. Fill several trashbags/recycling bins/donation boxes full of stuff that should never have come into the house to begin with.
Fail to find wrench. (Empty bucket full of leaking water from the water supply with muted sense of shame.) Swear some more, and take a break to drink and ignore the issue for a while.

Go back to Toilet #1 and replace the fill valve. New fill valve works perfectly, and I regain belief that I am sometimes competent.

Buy wrench.

Loosen big plastic nut, replace the toilet's overflow and flapper seat assembly. Replace big plastic nut. Replace big foam rubber gasket. Replace bolts that hold the tank to the bowl, including the rubber washers. Re-install the tank on the bowl. Rehook up water supply (this was a mistake of great hubris). Water drips from everywhere: Into bowl around the flapper, and onto floor around the bolts. Cue swearing.

At this point, there is no beer left in the house, and on Sunday evenings in Massachusetts, you can't buy it. This is a sore trial to me.

Turn off water supply and unhook it. Drain water from tank. Clean up water from floor. Try tightening bolts some more. Try replacing flapper with the one that came with the overflow tube/valve seat assembly. Dump a pint of water into tank. (I'm learning.) No water leaks into bowl. All the water leaks around the bolts.

Take another break to swear. (At this point, it's Monday morning, I'm late to work, my pants are soaked, and the bathroom floor is wet, and I am not at a point I can leave the damn thing for the day.)

Drain water. Clean up water from floor. Loosen bolts, remove tank, try putting 2 rubber washers between the tank and the bowl. Replace tank, tighten bolts. Dump a pint of water into tank. Water leaks around the bolts.

Call in t'husband (he of the large strong hands) to tighten the bolts some more. He gets water all over him, and swears. (But not as inventively as I have been.) He tightens the bolts a lot.

Mop up water on floor and around tank. Dump a pint of water into tank. All the water leaks a around the bolts. Husband brings me copious towels to clean up the water and then leaves me to it.

I stare at the tank, trying to figure out why the bolt holes are leaking water. Add some staring at the package of bolts and washers. To my way of thinking, there should be 2 brass bolts, 4 rubber washers, 2 brass washers, and a 2 wingnuts. Instead, there are 3 brass bolts, 6 rubber washers, 3 brass washers, 2 wingnuts, AND 3 BRASS NUTS. I am sure there are spare parts included, but those brass nuts are confusing me.

Look at the directions. Unlike every other toilet I've worked on, this one says to put a nut between the tank and bowl.

Cue swearing. Leave towels, tools, and Rube Goldberg water-supply-drip-catching bucket in place, change clothes, go to work.

So yeah.

The quick fix to save water is totally not being a quick fix and I still haven't gotten the toilet working. Worse, I haven't even started on Toilet #3.

It's been a week, and the toilet is still leaking. We ignored the water supply bucket for too long, and it flooded the floor, leaking into the basement. Not a lot, but the drips came down right over our housemate's box containing drafts, proofs, and contracts for one of the books he published. Cue swearing, and quick application of drying racks and dehumidifier.

I took off the tank and installed the bolts according to the directions. It still leaked.

I took if off again, checked, retightened, and reinstalled. It still leaks, and I'm beginning to wonder whether the problem is the bolts or the flapper valve.

Pray for me, as I once more tackle the humid Fixture of Failure.

Yet another update: I looked up leaking toilet tanks on a bunch of DIY fora, and found that my problem was common, and maddening. At least I'm not alone in my misery? Also, housemates and guests are steadily becoming less patient with the non-working bathroom.

I took off the tank, removed and reinstalled the flapper/overflow assembly, removed and reinstalled the bolts (with new rubber washers), rested the tank upright between two tables, and poured a pint of water in to see where it leaked.

Since one bolt was consistently leaking, I caulked it and let the caulk set overnight. It tested waterproof! I very carefully reinstalled it on the bowl, hooked it up, and there were no leaks!

There was also no water pressure. The cold water cutoff in the basement is only letting a trickle of water through to the toilet and the sink. I suspect sediment in the valve, and am hoping that if we run the water enough, it'll clear itself.

The alternative is to drain the entire house from the cold-water cleanout in the basement. I have other things I want to do.

Still! Although the bathroom is not entirely function, the toilet, at least, appears to be working!
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
I replaced a ceiling-mounted light fixture today, but it has me worried.

It's wired as though it was controlled from 2 switches, but there is only one switch for it. There has been only one switch for it for at least the last 30 years. God knows what was there before that. (The house was built around the 1930s, and uses cloth-covered wire. The old wire connections are soldered together, then encased in something like bakelite, the wrapped in copious cloth-based tape.) I installed the new light fixture, rewrapped the wires, was exceedingly careful to cover any potentially exposed wires. It works fine.

But when the switch is off, there's still some power to the light -- not enough to light an incandescent, but enough to make a compact fluorescent blink.

This is not, near as I can tell, anything that I could have done when working on the fixture. The circuit should be open and there should be no current flowing when the switch is off. But that's clearly not the case.

What the heck? I have no clue what's going on there, but it's making me twitchy. I have possibly paranoid fears of an intermittent short someplace in the walls that could burn down the house.

Any clues?
giglet: (varg top)
[personal profile] giglet
I'd appreciate it if you'd light a candle or say a prayer or cross your fingers or do whatever your tradition suggests, for me.

Today I am scheduled to replace a toilet and 2 (possibly 3) ceiling-mounted lights.

[ETA: I got the toilet in -- although therein lies a tale, and ran out of time and sunlight to deal with the lights.

The tale with the toilet is that we got it in... and then realized that it stuck out too far and we couldn't close the bathroom door. Oops. Went and found yet another toilet -- yeah, we paid money for this one -- and put it in. Only ruined 2 wax rings. Meanwhile the too-long toilet will at some mythical later date be installed in another bathroom.]

We got the toilet free, we're using ceiling fixtures that we already own, and we don't have the cash to pay for an electrician or plumber if it all goes wrong.

My husband has infinitely more faith in my abilities than I do.
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
I admit, this is mostly me ranting, and getting my thoughts in order. Still, this seemed like the appropriate place for it.

We rent out the apartment that was my MIL's before she passed away. Our difficult tenants moved out on Friday. We have potential tenants who want to move in on April 15, and we really really want to get some income from this place again.
A cautionary tale for potential landlords )
This is why our difficult tenants did not get their security deposit back. On the other hand, they didn't trash the apartment, either, just broke some stuff. And smoked in the apartment. And, apparently, did without electricity when their account was shut off. And didn't pay the rent for a couple months.
samvara: Photo of Modesty Blaise with text "All this and brains as well" (Default)
[personal profile] samvara
My celebratory present to self for completing MBA unit 10/12 was to buy a hammer drill - actually the Queer Feminist Housing Collective bought it but I was the one who got to go drool over them in the store. I should have bought one of these about 20 years ago, it went through brick and mortar with ease.

Read more... )
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
This month I've been trashing my hands every time I do work on the houses. It's worse in the winter because my hands get numb and then I am both clumsier and don't realize that I've hurt myself until I see blood. Wearing gloves helps, but clearly not enough.

My specific problem today is: one thumb nail is broken, below the quick, and I need a better way of protecting it than the improvised bandaid-and-masking-tape thimble (thumble?) that I've been using. I've trimmed the rest of the nail short and superglued the cut portion so that it won't rip any more.

But the rough edge keeps catching on things if I don't have it covered, and the superglue adds to the roughness if I get it near the edge.

If I leave it uncovered, stuff touches the exposed part of my nailbed and that hurts.

But the thumble gets really dirty really quickly. I end up having to replace it every day, and washing the thumb is not much fun either.

So my question is two-fold:
Does anyone have a good solution for protecting my thumb?
Does anyone have suggestions to doing less harm to my hands? (I'm willing to entertain suggestions of specific types of gloves, since, like I said, my thick leather gloves or thin waterproof nitrile gloves are clearly not doing the job well enough.)
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
Great Stuff is an insulating spray foam, great for sealing up cracks and other airgaps. (See data sheet: )

Hardware stores sell single-use cans with crappy plastic applicators. They suck: they break really easily, they are only go for a single use, and they offer very little control.

The Great Stuff applicator guns, on the other hand, are much much better. Having used a gun, I'm never going back to the single-use cans.

gory details )
facetofcathy: four equal blocks of purple and orange shades with a rusty orange block centred on top (Default)
[personal profile] facetofcathy
is my other option, so I thought I'd post about the paint I'm using instead.

I'm in the process of refinishing my kitchen cupboards, and I thought I'd talk about the paint because it's a new product, and in Canada and the US, there are new regulations about paint that might affect you in your next project.Read more... )
samvara: Photo of Modesty Blaise with text "All this and brains as well" (Default)
[personal profile] samvara
I'm paying someone else to do all the hard work for this one and just doing a little cost-management by running around buying all the bits. I recommend doing a tour of at least three places that sell 'bits', and doing places with varying prices ranges. It made negotiating with the dude in the most expensive store very easy.
My bathroom being demolished
Turns out my bathroom refit involves
  • 1 x bath
  • 1 x mirror
  • 1 x vanity (most expensive item)
  • 14 square m of wall tiles + grouting
  • 6 square m of floor tiles + grouting
  • 1 x towel rail
  • 1 x complete tap set including shower + bath + sink
Crises so far...
  1. miscommunication involving me ordering a frame for the bath we didn't actually need (in retrospect when I said 'do I need one' and B, said 'yes' I suspect he meant '..and I will build you one') which was resolved by my regular 'this is what I bought' updates pinging B. and being able to cancel it within about 15 mins
  2. miscommunication where B. estimated bath size incorrectly - bath people cheerfully agreed to send me a smaller one and take the bigger one away, also resolved within 15 mins of identifying problem
  3. no more so far - hoping to keep it that way
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
I spent a couple hours today doing the trashiest painting job ever, and in spite of that, the house looks a lot better.

(Our house is not the worst-kept house in the neighborhood -- we're second or third, after the elderly guy who does a lot for the local seniors and keeps his yard beautifully and refuses to paint his house or let the town paint it for him.)

About 3 or 4 years ago, I went to paint the decorative railings on the porch roof and discovered that they really needed replacing. But I didn't have time to do it then, so I used bondo to replace the worst-rotted spots, and screws and joint plates to keep bits from falling apart, did a quick paint job and left the replacement until the next summer.

By the next summer, a variety of other things in the house ate our budget, and we ignored the porch.

A storm brought down a section of the railing that wasn't clearly visible from the street. We pulled the rest of that section down, and the six feet of railing fell apart into splinters that fit easily into trash cans. We ignored the rest of it some more.

Then we had the summer when it rained every single weekend. Mildew grew on everything, including the porch pillars and railings. Power-washing is not an option. We ignored it yet again.

This summer, we discovered that the beams holding up part of the porch are rotten on one side. Really, we need to replace the entire porch, but we don't have the cash for that, either. The railing is looking really disreputable, mostly because of the flaking paint, and only slightly because of the leaning posts and loose rails.

I finally decided that even a bad paint job (which is the only kind possible on a substrate that flimsy) was better than nothing, and spent a few hours painting it. Instead of doing a reputable job (I used to be pro), I 1)did a quick-and-dirty scraping job, 2)soaked a piece of open-cell foam in paint and wrapped it around each rail. 3)Smeared up and down and dabbed a bit to get into crevices, and three sides of one rail are done. (I didn't even bother painting the side of the railing towards the house. Paint is not going to prolong the life of the railings at this point.)

This uses a up a lot of paint, and gets paint all over the area. But it was fast, and the sections I've finished look a lot better. I'm hoping to get to the rest some morning this week. I also need to use some of a product called "Yankee plastic" which is basically roofing tar, to fill some cracks in the roof.

All I really want is to get the porch through another winter without it damaging the house or being an active disgrace. I wish I'd done this last spring, but I was still delusional about the getting the porch replaced back then. (That was before the rental house burnt down.)

(The rental house is being rebuild, at long last! It took months before we got the first check from insurance, and another full month before the mortgage company released the check to us. But the builders have gutted the house, replaced the windows, reframed the section of roof for the dormer -- we're adding a bathroom -- and replaced the wiring and plumbing. Pretty soon the walls will go in, then the kitchen and finish work.)
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
Just heard this song, and thought of myself... but also of home repairers in general.

It's so hard to wait to get the right tool when the wrong tool is right there!
If the results of doing it wrong were uniformly disastrous, it'd be so much easier to do it right.

Corb Lund, "Hard on Equipment".

(Obligatory home-repair comment: I'm tackling the repair of the front door this weekend. It's only been broken since early spring.)
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
So, our tenants said that their stairwell light occasionally flickers -- even when the switch is off.

That means current is passing where no current should be, and that concerns me.

I didn't see how the problem could possibly be the light fixture.

The light is controlled by two switches. At the bottom of the stairs is a pushbutton (like a doorbell switch). At the top of the stairs is an ancient three-way switch (where ancient = 1940s Bakelite).

I replaced the top threeway switch to see if that would solve the problem.

Have any of you dealt with this sort of thing?
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
Shoe-goo just hasn't been doing it for me lately. I make a repair and it lasts a week, maybe three, and then fails again. Our relationship was on the rocks.

So I was ripe for seduction by sugru. I ordered a pack to play with, even though it's pretty pricey. (It hasn't arrived yet.)

But a couple days later, I realized that this may be just a colored and differently-packaged form of silicone caulk. If that's so, the colors and packaging better be awesome to compensate for the price.

Has anyone else played with these?

Any suggestions for side-by-side comparisons?
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
Another Ikeahacker article about someone using something weird as a bathroom vanity.

Unlike last time, I think these people have a much better grip on the reality of plumbing repairs. I can't tell whether they attached the carts to the walls. I hope they did.

IKEA Hackers: Islands aren't just for kitchens!
kaifu: looking up along the rigging of a tall ship (rigging)
[personal profile] kaifu
We just got a new dishwasher, since the tines on the racks of the old one were rusting off, and the interior wasn't looking real great. I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that the whole process actually went as planned, and while bits of it are a little fiddly, it was overall not that difficult. Nothing even leaked when I ran a test wash!

Before starting, I checked some videos for dishwasher removal and installation, since it's hard to tell from just looking at an installed dishwasher what exactly might be attached to the back of it under the counter. The video that seemed clearest and least condescending, if still perhaps overly cautious about safety, here, didn't have a copper water line, and the electrical hookup box looked slightly different from mine. Still, checking the video was nice because having a general idea of what everything might look like was much better than just reading installation instructions with wireframe diagrams. I had to go through a few videos before I found one that wasn't irritating, and perhaps that was helpful too in figuring out what I was looking at with mine, because it matched none of them exactly. And of course, before I got the new dishwasher, I had no installation instructions to help me remove the old one, and I didn't want to mess around with disconnecting stuff while (if) the delivery guys waited.

I spent about an hour yesterday unhooking the electricity, water feed line and drain line, and undoing the screws holding the dishwasher to the countertop. Today, the delivery folks came and pulled out the old dishwasher, leaving me with a new one on the kitchen floor for me to install. It actually took only the hour and a half they suggested it would to install!

Helpful hints to install a dishwasher in a spot that already had one: )
giglet: (Default)
[personal profile] giglet
I replaced the water shutoff valve for our washing machine today and it was easy.

(In my superstitious heart, I expect that boasting will lead to vile luck with other home repairs. Then again, I'm expecting vile luck with home repairs anyway, in the wake of the fire.)

At was a Symmons W400. (Like this: )

The instructions kept saying that it was easily replaceable, but for the life of me I couldn't see how. Until I turned off the water and disassembled it. The valve is held onto the copper pipes in back by screws that screw into the inside of the pipe connectors, but don't obstruct the flow of water. I'm still not sure how that works. Double threading? I don't know, but it was easy to dissassemble, and Home Depot had them on the shelf for about half what I expected to pay, and they were easy to replace.

I am pleased that I installed ball valves in the supply lines a few years ago.

We might have our new washer installed soon!
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