Wednesday, June 3, 2020

You know you're an old house owner when...

  1. ....the guys at the scrap metal yard are constantly astounded by the amount of aluminum siding you bring in.
  2. ....you take scrap metal to the junkyard so often that the attendants start asking how your week has been.
  3. ....you wear your respirator like a backwards baseball cap so often that you often forget to take it off for trips to the grocery store.
  4. ...earplugs are always dangling around your neck, even when you're doing the dishes.
  5. ...white t-shirts are no longer white
  6. ...you buy gloves as frequently as you buy toilet paper.
  7. ...you know the employees at the city Environmental Service Center on a first-name basis.
  8. ....the local grocery store is nicknamed "Combat Kroger."
  9. ...while removing rotten wood from the backyard, you are disappointed to find a post that no roaches came running out for you to stomp on.
  10. ...you realize that picking an exterior paint color is one of the toughest decisions you've ever made.
  11. "You have 17 extra doors, and none of them fit any of the door-frames that are missing doors in your house!" (from my blogger friend Daniel Meyer, ourvictorianbingalow.com)
  12. ...you despise people who only build new and won't even consider reusing materials.
  13. ...you wonder why people pay so much for simple things like drywall repairs
  14. ...you neglect your friends and your job just for a few extra hours to work on the house
  15. ...you're no longer petrified of crawl spaces
  16. you trade out your car for a pickup
  17. ...you start selling junk on Craigslist, just to get the few extra bucks for building materials
  18. the ladies at the salvage warehouse keep a running list of things you need
  19. priorities are set based on a) what's sparking* b) what's leaking c) what's causing you to trip all the time
    [*just kidding about the sparking part—thankfully haven't had, nor ever expect that issue to arise]
  20. you constantly find yourself saying, "yea, I was working on that but... [then X happened]"

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Go big or Go home: Tips for DIY LED landscape lighting

Lessons learned:

Big trees deserve big lights. Sounds simple, right? 

Yep, it really is that simple. I initially installed a smaller *ahmmm, cheaper* transformer and 20 watt floodlights on each tree in the backyard. I thought it looked amazing, stellar, fantastical, etc etc:

1st attempt, using a 45 watt transformer and 20 watt food lights on the trees


But you know what looks even better? BIGGER LIGHTS.






It didn't just end up like this overnight. The backyard, or backyard junkyard as I liked to call it, looked like this when I first started on it:




Saturday, April 18, 2020

Now the postal service knows how to find me


Workshop upgrades

New floor! Picked it up on sale for $65 at Northern Tool:

[x]

Installed that cute cast iron Kohler sink I bought for $60:

Added an outdoor storage cabinet that I picked up for $4 and built a little roof for it out of free materials we scavenged from heavy trash piles:





Thursday, March 26, 2020

Monday, March 9, 2020

How annoying.

Bought these at a local salvage warehouse.
Later realized they didn't match....


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Attic insulation

Got the attic insulated today! Clint from Mitchell Insulation added about 14 inches of blown-in fiberglass insulation into my attic today. It had only an inch or two before. Looking forward to a cooler house this summer.



Update # 1
The insulation made a HUGE difference. Also had the HVAC man out to tune-up and clean the a/c, which is a new unit he installed when I moved in. The temp inside the house has remained about 20 degrees below par. Prior to the insulation the house would have been over 80 degrees at this time of summer. Now that the insulation has been added and lots of gaps sealed up, the inside temp has remained steady at 71-73 degrees.

Update # 2
Something weird is going on. We live in a hot swamp (otherwise known as Houston) where summer temperatures commonly reach 100° with 80% humidity. While the house is indeed cooler after adding the insulation, the difference has not been quite as spectacular as my *fairly-extremely comprehensive research efforts* indicated we should expect...

Yes, Mr. Holmes, there was an investigation into this quizzical mystery. 
Upon investigation I discovered that the attic was waaay cooler than the house. 
FRIGID COOL.  Much unlike the interior living quarters. 
In fact, the temperature is much more comfortable in the attic.
That's bizarre.

We troubleshooted:
      Is it an unconnected duct blowing cool air into the attic?
           No.

      Is it a leak in the air duct system?
           No.

      Is it anything else that a reasonably seasoned and knowledgeable homeowner should be able to identify?
          Apparently not. 

      So what is it????
            Beats me. Not a clue. 

So riddle me this:
Why—in a hot southern swamp—would a previously boiling attic become a freezer after blowing in one-metric-ton of insulation?

I have no answers. 
The internet—it seems—has no answers.
Or does it?

    Sincerely, 
    Puzzled

Friday, November 30, 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Building the front porch columns

Here's what the original porch columns looked like when the previous owner moved in:



Unfortunately, the original wood columns were in disrepair, so he replaced them with brick. I'm perplexed as to why he chose to install brick columns, since he was such a skilled carpenter.



Step 1: Sledgehammer out the bricks

A local laborer was able to knock this out in about 20 minutes. I piled up the debris and posted it on the free section of Craigslist, along with the note 'You must load.' Like magic, it vanished.


The original support posts were just (2) 2x4's sistered together. The support on the inside column was not bearing any weight...it was just kind of...floating there.
Step 2: Replace rot on the frieze board, grind down concrete base caps

First, we jacked up the header beams with 4x4's placed on bottle jacks and used a long level to ensure the beams were straight.

While the jacks were in place, I used a diamond grinding wheel to level out the base caps so that the new wood base would sit flush on the concrete caps. Using the grinder, I slightly tapered off the edges of the caps so that rainwater would drain away from the wood:

Before

After

The frieze board (that's the underside of the porch that rests on top of the columns) was rotted. This meant the porch was in danger of collapsing down if not repaired, since the support beams need a solid surface to bear the load. So we repaired the rotted sections:

Before

After


Step 3: Install new 6x6 supports

Then, we measured and marked where to place the 6x6 metal beam holders, which lifts the wood off the concrete, thereby preventing rot by keeping the new beams dry. Next, we cut the new 6x6 supports and test fitted them for level. We then removed them and drilled the metal lifts into the concrete caps. Finally, we placed the new supports, checked for level again and lowered the bottle jacks:



Step 4: Build column base

Gabriel gave me dimensions for the wood base pieces, so I was able to tackle these while he was away:



Step 5: Build column housing

Gabriel and I prepped all the pieces that make up the actual columns. He was the brains of the operation. Couldn't have done it myself without him!



Step 6: Glue, nail and trim them out

TBA

Project Cost

Demolition labor - $20
Brick debris removal - $0 (gave away on Craigslist)
Lumber - $200
Metal supports - $35
Screws and bits for metal supports - $20
Carpenter's labor - $60 (bartered for trade of the contractor saw I bought on Craigslist for $60)
_________________
GRAND TOTAL: $335

Special thanks for my friend, pro-carpenter Gabriele for helping with this project. He was a great teacher and fun to work with!

Monday, July 30, 2018

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: EAST END POWER GRID COULDN’T HANDLE THE HEAT

My reply to a post on my favorite website, Swamplot.com, was featured as the comment of the day runner-up. It's an awesome and often hilarious blog about Houston real estate news.

 “There was a blackout in my area, East End of Downtown, that night (July 23, 2018). We were without power for nearly 2 hours. Per a neighbor, CenterPoint relayed that over 900 homes were without power. There wasn’t a light on within visibility. Suddenly there was silence, except for my scream of ‘Nooooo!’ that apparently was heard all the way down the block. I called CenterPoint, whose automated message stated ‘A power outage has been reported in your area. The estimated time for repair is 11:45pm.’ Power was indeed restored at about that time, though can’t say that we enjoyed the heat through the wait.” [Corbin Dodge, commenting on Texas Electric Customers Are on a Record-Breaking Power Usage Spree]

and in a later reply I posted:

The day after the blackout, an expert at Texas A&M Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering issued a statement to KBTX News of Bryan, TX that: “It’s an incredible amount of energy used but luckily engineers are doing their jobs so that we have enough margin to stay over summer,” said Le Xie with the Texas A&M Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “So I think all things considered we are having a stressed power grid but we’ll make it through it.” Electricity dropped dead again, twice on July 29th and once on August 1st. Perhaps he was just referring to Bryan/College Station?

See the full post here

Friday, February 23, 2018

Old blind man lost in a parking lot

While parking at Kroger I noticed an old black man who was taking very slow, careful steps. He was leaning unsteadily, crouched over a cane and dragging a small shopping cart behind him. As I stepped past him, he looked up at me and I could tell from his cloudy white eyes that he was blind. Something about his expression caused me to pause and turn back to him. The man, weak and barely able to speak, asked a question that broke my heart:

“Can you tell me where the bus stop is?” he asked, his wide eyes pointed at the skyline above my shoulder.

After giving him directions the man asked if I would walk him to the bus stop. The parking lot was large and it would take him quite a while to reach it, so I pointed his cane toward the bus stop and instructed him to walk “that direction.” Then promised to meet back up with him when I returned from the store, just in case he had wandered off course.

As I neared the entrance, a woman stepped out from her car to ask what I had spoken to the old man about. I explained that he had asked where the bus stop was.

The lady, clearly concerned said "he has been out here for hours. I was here earlier and came back to pick up a few more things.” She observantly pointed out, “he’s wearing that big jacket in this heat. I asked the store to call the ambulance but I don’t understand why they won’t do anything. No one will do anything. It’s too hot out here for him to be walking around like that.”

Now worried about the old man, I promised to call the constable if he had not made it to the bus stop by the time I finished shopping.

While checking out, I looked up the constable’s phone number, then stepped out of the store to search for the old man. He was nearly to the bus stop but was stuck at a curb, unable to lift his shopping cart over it. I rang the constable and they responded that a unit would be dispatched to take the old man to wherever he was going.

The woman who I had spoken with was now holding the man by both hands, helping him to step over the curb. I watched as she helped him sit down on the bench and hand him a bottle of water while a young lady lifted his cart over the curb.

The old man had finally made it to the bus stop, after spending over 3 hours wandering in circles, presumably with every passerby responding “I don’t have any change” before he ever a chance to utter such a simple question: "Can you tell me where the bus stop is?"

Situations like this should remind us how important it is to sometimes just stop and listen. He could have died from heatstroke today, had it not been for a nice lady who recognized that he was simply an old blind man, lost in a parking lot, trying to find his way home.