Monday, October 3, 2016

Break Down The Walls (pt. 2)

Commensurate to the previous post documenting life-disrupting misery, I was wondering why my back was killing me all week.  Then it dawned on me: I move a lot of concrete block on Sunday afternoon.

Dear Chiropractor...

It got me thinking... just how much block did I move by myself?  A quick spreadsheet was able to help me quantify my grief.

Thus, I moved about 2.8 tons in a little over 2.5 hours.  Rounding, that about one ton per hour.

At least my usefulness has finally been quantified.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Break Down The Walls

Loyal Reader,

If you follow this blog, then you may have an idea about the condition of my back slab.  The wall has been falling since I bought the place (over six sad years ago).  Since it adds no value to the house either visually or monetarily, I just keep pushing it off.  The house always needs so much attention, that inconsequential exterior stuff just doesn't really pencil.

But recently, the wall has taken a turn for the worse:

Yes, I installed those straps back about 1.5 years ago when the blocks to the left were still completely attached.

There used to be a steel clothes line in that lower wall which kept the wall under tension.  It fell out earlier this summer, and things began to escalate.  My late neighbor, who lived in the adjacent house since 1948, said that the previous owner insisted on having a clothes line installed on that wall, against her wishes.  She continuously pointed to that as the reason for the wall's failure.  

Thanks, previous home owners.  

However, her garden tree (a.k.a giant 25 foot tall weed), had been untended for many years and its routes were compromising the "foundation".... and I use the the tern "foundation" extremely loosely.  I hope the "masons" who built this wall originally did not quit their day jobs. 

Either way, you know you have an issue when you hold up your level plumb, and your item that you are check for plumb is so bad that you are not sure that your level is working correctly.  And its so bad that when you are close, you begin to tilt your head and hold it so long that you begin to lose your balance and all sense of time and space begins to fade.

That's bad. Maybe it is time to send that level back to Stabila for inspection

Uh, OK stabila. No further questions.

Also, to add to the wound, I took the above pictures a couple months ago.  It got worse since those pictures.

What was ailing the situation was having a 90 year old woman living next door on a fixed income who had no interest in making any home improvements.  And, I get that.  Even if we agreed to get a contractor and do it together, I would still be coordinating the entire project.  Our walls are completely joined, so there was no way to bring one down and not the other.  I thought to myself, if the situation ever got very dire (imminent collapse), then I would just prop hers up with wood and dismantle mine and do it sometime in the future.

Anyway, with a new homeowner next door, it was time to talk 'new wall'.  Sadly, he will be renting the house.  He is a known slumlord in the region.  You gotta love my luck (there goes the neighborhood!)  Anyway, he speaks about ten to fifteen words of English so its tough to negotiate.  Last week the dude almost burned down his house.  I called the fire department at 10pm when the smoke detectors were going off next door, and smoke was billowing out the upper front window. The fire department came and broke down the door and brought in the hose.  I guess he was wiring the house earlier in the day.  Very comforting.  (I must truly have a heart of gold by not calling L&I over this guy).  I actually figured with the flip he is involved in, I figured he would be done renovating by the time L&I showed up.  Building boom in Philly.  Every brain dead idiot thinks they can make money flipping houses right now.  I think there is a lot of truth to it.

 Anyway, the dude shows up on Sunday and says he's going to start on the wall.  Obviously, I don't trust him at all knowing that his construction experience includes building interior subfloors out of pressure treated wood and catching a house on fire.  So, I had to go out there with him to supervise.  I took down both of our walls piece by piece with him.

Shared wall

Back corner

Masterful original "foundation"

I even cut down a 25 foot tall weed tree with a sawzall.  

Was this how I wanted to spend my Sunday afternoon?  Not at all.  Thanks for the hour warning, slumlord neighbor.

My expectation for a satisfactory job from this guy:  3/10.  Stay tuned.  This has disappointment written all over it.  He will earn an automatic 2/10 just by avoiding starting another fire (its like signing your name on the SAT's).  So, the real expectation is a 1/10.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Low Voltage Wiring, Built In (Part 2)

Loyal reader,

Recall the proposed layout for the audio system in the built in.

Now, with the components in mind, let's examine the current situation with the closest power source and low voltage wire access points.

Thus, with the turntable above the counter and the receiver below the counter, I need to connect the two with RCA cables (low voltage).  Conversely, I need to connect the stereo receiver to real power, which is only available on the shelf below, or right above the counter (yellow).   I could bore a hole through the lower shelf (not in view), but I don't really want to and it doesn't resolve the RCA problem.  Therefore, boring through the counter top will solve both problems.

I know people can really get into styles and sizes for desk grommets, but I really didn't have too much patience (or disposable income) for leafing through all the options.  I stopped over at homey d after work and picked up the only size they had, 2" black.

Fire up the hole saw, and carefully drill through top and bottom 

Not bad.

Slide in cheap plastic grommet.

Now, put in all the stereo components in and pretend like pushing the wires into the backs of the speakers, turntable, and receiver is the actual hard part of the project.  Ah, to be a normal homeowner...

Works good.  The new turntable does act up a bit, but our records have take a bit of a beating with stuff being in storage for a while and having a jobsite house for like 4 years.   Oh well.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dryer, Part 3: Admitting Defeat

Loyal reader,

It has been about a year since I have revisited this one.  And, that's not just blogger time either.  In real life time, my dryer has been sitting on its side, gutted, on my basement floor.

For your amusement, please take a look in the archives to follow the trajectory of failure.

I always thought line drying clothes was the right thing to do, both economically and environmentally, nothing really beats it.  I grew up line drying clothes.  I consider myself the last of a dying bread, a rare combination of environmentalist and cheapskate.  But if you really follow the real pathology of money:

Inefficient use money -> misuse of resources -> pollution and waste

Thus, the real concern was only the environment.  Or so I tell myself.

However, my interest in owning a dryer has changed.  I keep having thoughts like these pushing me to the edge:

1) The basement is a scene from Hellraiser, with a million articles of clothes hanging from the basement ceiling.

Occupy archives

2) The few loads of laundry that we do per week has to release about 10-15 lbs of water into our basement weekly, and there are enough water issues here.

3) I have a dirty job and not enough clothing to cover a week.  Since line drying takes about 2 days, I have to rigidly schedule my clothes washings.  Even with an armed forces-level schedule, I still go to work every Thursday wearing wet pants (which always sucks, but really sucks in January).

4) I no longer wash clothes or wear dark clothes because they are permanently covered in lint

5) When I pull the clothes from the clothes line and watch a blizzard of dust rain down off of every article of clothing for my toddler daughter, it makes me want to call child services on myself for neglect and/or abuse.

Thus, I decided to buy a dryer.  It's not as easy as walking into a home store and picking out something and having it delivered.  Your small sized dryer (in modern times) is 27" or larger on the smallest dimension.  I have a basement opening of about 25 3/4" (if I take off some moldings), so I had to look into getting a knock down dryer that could be built up inside my basement.  

Speed Queen is the brand that delivered and I had a local appliance dealer deliver it last week.  They even hooked up my dryer cord to the outlet I wired and the vent that I ducted.  So this is what it is like to be a normal homeowner?  Not bad.

Two beauties

It works amazingly.  On a side note, my friend Mat and I carried out my old dryer and a scrapper had it in minutes.  I flagged him down and loaded him up with a bunch of scrap metal I have had on my back slab for over two years.  What a great day.  God bless scrappers.  Always nice and helpful dudes, and serious proponents of recycling.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Low Voltage Wiring, Built In (Part 1)

Almost two years into having this giant built-in, it's time to start thinking about maybe having some music in the house other than a jobsite jam box.

I suppose I have been putting it off because I know that it won't be easy.  One day (perhaps the day before I sell this place or hang the foreclosure sign out front), I will put some doors on this thing so I would like to put an audio receiver in one of the lower cabinets and hide it.  Even though I built this thing in about a day and a half by myself, you will be surprised to know that I actually intentionally designed this thing for the upper cabinets to have the capacity to house vinyl lps, and the lower cabinets to house competent audio/video.  It wasn't really because I knew that I, personally, would be able to indulge in leisure time.  But rather, I was thinking of the next people who would live here.  I have heard, through the grapevine, that some people engage in other activities besides endless work.  

So here is the issue with a built in designed around a turntable use:  I can hide the ugly component audio stuff in a lower cabinet, but I can't put a turntable in a lower cabinet because it's very hard to use.  Turntables need a good amount of overhead clearance to load the records, move the stylus, flip the records, and view the track indexing.  Thus, I always planned on having the turntable on the countertop portion of the built in, along with the collection of records.  

Unfortunately, due to a compulsive need to make the worlds tightest woodworking cuts known to all humankind, I scribed the 16' long, 23" wide, and 2" thick reclaimed red oak counter top around my existing chimney, and onto the back wall and the front wall of the house (not that anyone can even see, as it is obscured by the upper cabinets).  Thus, with air tight joints all around, there is no way to sneak any wires from the upper and lower cabinet.  I do have one 1/2" hole with one piece of 12 AWG Romex cutting through behind the center upper, but it's not enough room to slip additional wires through.  Also, it is bad practice due to electromagnetic field crossing to run conventional electric wires in parallel to low voltage wires due to interference.

I want to fish these low voltage wires though the built in counter top discreetly, so I am going to pull one of the single gang recepticals next to the center upper cabinet, just above the counter.

This gives me decent enough access to bore a 3/4" hole through the counter top secretly with a long spade bit.  Unfortunately, one hour, two holes, three towers, and two spade bits later, I had a 13/16" hole in the counter, hidden from view.  Wow, that sucked.

Now that I have a hidden hole through the counter top, it's time to start fishing. The plan:

It all seems so simple now that I just drew it up.  Really, it was quite simple.  But, it's slightly more complicated than it seems in theory,  Fishing wires behind/inside something with no space behind it can be tough.  Combine that with also trying too power these components with conventional power from outlets, now you have more wires and more constraints on something with very little square footage that is able to have wall plates for power.  Let's dig in.

The fish game plan:

Red = cut in new low voltage receptical
Green = open up an existing wall receptical to help with fish access

First, cut in two upper low voltage outlets and push fish stick through.

Upper right 

Upper left

Fish stick in

Fish stick through uppers.

Now just fish it

White low voltage wire all pulled through according to plan.

Next up: installing the electronics and punching one last hole in the counter top to connect all the dots.  Stay tuned.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Drum trap, trip lever fishing

HLoyal reader,

The bath tub on the occupy site has a drum trap.  For those of you live in newer homes (or don't do your own plumbing), a drum trap is like a small holding chamber for larger items in waste water which was used for largely before P- and S-traps were more uniformly adopted.  I also think they were used as a main clean out for all bathroom fixtures and were often accessible in the floor of the bathroom.

Drum trap as viewed from access panel behind tub.  Yes, that is my kitchen below.

The trap is simply a small cylinder with a screw-off lid.  It is about the size of a can of beans.  Owners of drum traps know that they need to be serviced every so often.  Which means, they need to be opened up and manually cleaned out.  It's a gross and smelly job, and it's also why they have fallen out of favor compared to the other trap options.

Anyway, I had to get in there for my bi-annual cleaning.   Especially since the tub is now draining slow as mollasses, if not slower.  It's terrible.   Sadly, I was in there maybe three months ago and cleaned it out and the end result was little-to-no improvement.  As a last resort before I disassemble the tub overflow, shoe and trip lever assembly, I figure I would get my hands dirty for yet another clean out.  Maybe try to auger out I each direction, pre- and post- drum trap.  

Well how about that?  Inside a pretty satisfying-sized pile of greasy, grimey goop, tear was a piece of my trip lever!  I was unaware that part of the linkage has fell dow the drain.  The linkage was catching everything trying to pass through the lead line.   

The drain works much better after a test shower.  You definitely need a shower after pulling schmutz out of a drain.  I am not going to lie: it is vile.

I still want to check for drain pitch.  I have a feeling this house was never plumbed right to begin with.

I would not be surprised.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Roofer diaries: failed white coat inspection.

Two days after a holiday muck, fabric and white coat extravaganza, I didn't even need to get to the top of the ladder to have the dark cloud of failure settle in above my head.

White coat cracking around mucked and fabric areas

I guess I can just say "I told you so" to myself and get over it.  I asked the guy at the roofing supply how long it would take for the black muck to set up before I could white coat it.   He said "a couple of hours".

Now, I certainly didn't trust that he actually knew the answer, So I tried to read the product literature on the can.  The can had:

1) No posted temperature range for successful application of product
2) No drying time
3) No re-coat time

Basically, it had no nothing.  I did the patching the morning, then went for lunch and to the local hardware store. I figure that would be an appropriate couple of hours before rolling out the white coat.

I was still suspicious that the nasty, toxic, carcinogenic, petroleum distillate-laden muck would be off-gassing in a way that would not allow for sufficient curing.  Especially on December 31st.

But, I decided to trust the roofing guy's experience since it was convenient for me while being pinched with my own free time and weather.  Unfortunately, I forgot that the only real credentials to be a roofer is prior methamphetamine habit, so I suppose I should have taken the advice with a grain of salt.

Rear chimney

Back bedroom, perimeter

Around drain

Main chimney

The muck is still gooey underneath the cracked white coat.  I guess it need a week or so to fully cure.  At least, in my experience last February, I believe that is the amount of time between roof visits that I can remember.

I suppose the next move is to keep checking on it over the next month and see when the muck is a little more solid.  I have a few things working against me though at this stage of the blunder:

1) Now that I have white coated the black muck in, its going to take longer to cure then if it was in the open air
2) Cold weather is here.
3) Dark early weather is here
4) Once I get back into the miserable cycle of work/sleep/repeat, I don't know when I will have much time to get up there.  Furthermore, that time on a weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) will need to coincide with hopefully 40 degeree+ weather for that weekend and a few days afterwords for the white coat to dry.
5) I am going to have to buy some of the softer white muck that works better with the energy star white coat, in order to smooth all those cracks out.  I know that the white muck works well (same brand) with the white coat, and can be applied immediately afterwords.

Thus, as my week-long-vacation-from-my-day-job-by-breaking-my-back-working-around-the-clock-on-my-own-house comes to a close, I have a few successes.  But, those successes are coupled with a a fair share of crippling failures.

On the bright side (literally), the field area looks great.  Thus, I suppose it was not a complete waste of yet another holiday.

View towards front.

View towards back.

Happy New Year, Loyal Reader.  My New Years resolution of staying off my roof in 2016 is a cruel and ugly joke, killed in its infancy.

Here lies the Occupy New Years Resolution
1/1/2016 - 1/2/2016

Maybe 2017 will be better.