Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pics of Spigot and Electrical

Here are the pictures of the spigot and electrical finished. Still need to get a piece of cedar to put above the lattice, but looking good otherwise :)

I am a firm believer in quarter-turn valves everywhere. Being that our house was built in the 50s, there are a lot of "infinite turn" shut-off valves (as I like to call them) that seem to take forever to open or close.

Because I have made changes to plumbing over the 3 years that we have owned the house, anytime I have to close and then reopen one of these old infinite valves, it is guaranteed to leak and end up meaning I have to replace it. This requires an additional 2 hours of work because I have to shut off the water, drain the pipe, go to the store and get the valve, get home and figure out I need an additional part, go back to the store for the right part and then coming back and finishing.

So, I replace anything or add anything using a quarter-turn ball valve. These use a nylon ball valve instead of a rubber washer. The rubber washer ends up drying out over time and when you turn it, disintegrates and thus stops working.

So, the spigot is a quarter turn spigot which means that you only have to turn it a quarter of a circle to get it full open or closed. I added an interior shutoff (again quarter-turn) for the winter time when we shutoff our outside spigots. We shut them off even though they are frost-free spigots.

As to the electrical. In the front of the house, there was a 20-Amp GFCI outlet when we moved into the house that stopped working and the box it was mounted in was not an in-used box where you could leave your power cords plugged in. Something that I needed for the front landscape lighting and timer.

I replaced the broken one about a year ago. New GFCI outlets have a miswiring and incorrectly installed indicator that will cause them to not provide electricity to the actual outlet if they are incorrectly installed. After working successfully for 6 months, the indicator light illuminates and the outlet no longer works. I take it apart and can't see anything wrong. I put my meter and still 120 volts across the hot and neutral wires. Maybe the GFCI outlet died? I don't know. Back to Lowe's for another $20 20-Amp GFCI Outlet. Wire it up, put the box back on and everything is working fine.

6 months later, exactly the same thing has happened! Ok...not cool :( What is going on? Why do they keep dying? Again, the wiring is still providing the voltage. No corrosion present. Styrofoam gasket still present protecting from water damage?

Ok...done with GFCI Outlets (aka Receptacles). I am going to put in a $40 GFCI breaker and use the $3 20-amp outlets instead. We will see how it holds up.

So, although the outlet by the deck may look like a normal outlet, it is actually a GFCI protected outlet. Tested and working fine.

Will replace the front outlet and tie it into the same circuit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Daughter's Bedroom - Old Project

Since I am not starting any large projects for another month or so, I figured I would submit an oldy, but still one of my favorites. This will also give you an idea of what the boys room will look like. Although the theme will be a little less girly (We are thinking animals and tools and trucks)

I also saw a chance to support Habitat for Humanity and win some prizes from the following blog:

Here is my submission.

We recently remodeled many areas in our 1950s Cape. When we bought the house, the structure was solid, but it was in desperate need of updating. There was 1 owner who lived there for 50 years; so you can imagine the style that we saw (paneling, linoleum, lime green paint, etc...). But it also had great features like hardwood floors throughout and plaster walls (great for durability, not for patching). We have owned it about 2.5 years and have remodeled about 90% including:
  1. Deck (Tore down dilapidated 8x10 and built 13x20)
  2. Upstairs Bedroom (what I am submitting)
  3. Kitchen (including tearing down walls, flooring, cabinets, backsplash, window and incorporating 3-season porch floorspace)
  4. Flooring (tile in the kitchen and heated tile in the bathroom)
  5. Pantry (updated)
  6. 3-Season porch refinished into part of the house (new insulation, windows and siding).
First off - We are still happy with this remodel after months of completion. My daughter loves her new bedroom which is the greatest accomplishment. People that look at it love how we used the otherwise wasted space behind the knee walls. But we are now expecting our 2nd child in October - a boy. My wife has already started talking about finishing the 2nd bedroom upstairs. My back still hurts from working in the the cave and bed area :)

My daughter was turning 1 year old, and her downstairs room was getting a little crowded with all of her toys, so we decided to finally make the outdated spare bedroom into her living space. We then were able to convert her old bedroom into the much needed playroom. The house's footprint is 27x24, so our first floor is a measly 648 sq. ft.

There was 4 layers of wallpaper on unfinished drywall. 1 electrical outlet in the room (1 15 amp circuit for entire upstairs). Doors in the knee walls for storage.

We originally tried to remove the wallpaper, but the paper on the sheet rock came with it because it was unfinished (the seams weren't even taped).

We tore everything down to the studs and went from there. We tore out all old insulation and electrical and even the old closet.

Collar Ties:

I moved the collar ties up 14". They are structural so I had to reinforce them. There was about 8 fasteners holding the 1x6 collar ties previously and I upgraded them to Simpson Strong-Tie with 10 fasteners per Strong Tie. I also double reinforced with 2x6s with 12 fasteners per 2x6. The 2x6s also acted as a place to attach the furring strips for drywall as well as a place to put in a ceiling fan and lights. I also reframed some of the rafters because they were cracked. Some of the wall studs were notched so I sistered those to have something to attach the drywall to.

Closet - New:

I took an old Wardrobe and built it into the wall to make it a closet which takes up less valuable floor space than the old closet. I found the old wardrobe on Craiglist and modified it by removing the single door, cutting the bottom off of it to make it shorter and building 2 new doors with rail and stiles for the doors to sit against.

This is the original closet that was behind the door.

Now we can put in a crib and built-in bed.

Chest of Drawers/Closet/Cave/Bed:

My wife had the ingenious idea of building a cave, bed and 2 sets of chest of drawers into the knee wall area instead of just a flat wall. She also mentioned that we should build a twin bed into the knee wall as well. And a chest of drawers on each side. But since the knee walls are structural, I had to span them using double 2x6 headers with 2 jack studs on each side.


The cave area goes back about 12 feet into the eaves/behind the knee wall. We added 2 lights into the cave. We also put the light switch high enough for my daughter to reach.


The bed area is 44x80 inches which makes changing sheets on a standard twin (39x75) easier to change. There is also a set of bookshelves at the foot of the bed with a light. Again the switch is within reach of a toddler so she can turn it on and off.1

We updated the electrical to 2008 NEC. This included Tamper Resistant outlets. These are great and easier to use than the plastic inserts or the rotating plugs. They are not cheap for the 20-amp versions though. I added about 7 outlets to the entire room up from the measly 1 outlet. All circuits are 20 amps except for the lights which are 15-amps and on Arc Fault Circuit Breakers as required by 2008's NEC. We put in wired smoke detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detector in the basement as required by more building codes than the one from original construction of the house in 1950.


Since there is only one wall that had a window, we decided to take out the previous double hung window and put in a a new side-by-side (double) double hung window. This really opened up the space and lets a lot more light in. This required redoing the vinyl siding on the outside of the house as well as reframing the window area.


We left the old linoleum floor and put the new bamboo floor in. We used carbonized bamboo in the main area and horizontal bamboo in the cave area. I didn't put a vapor barrier between the linoleum and bamboo because there is one underneath the linoleum already.

We added 2 lights and a fan/light combo into the ceiling. Since the fan is so close to the ceiling, it doesn't provide much circulation.

The only part I didn't do myself was tape, mud and sanding of the drywall. I have done enough DIY projects to know that I hate sanding drywall. That was about 5% of the whole project. I did hang the drywall myself.

I tried to find pictures with the same point of reference. I think the improvement was worth the "Sweat Equity" :)

Upcoming Projects - Small and Large

I recently completed some of the last things needed to put a check in the finished side of the deck project list.
  1. Lattice. Vinyl, easy to install. Not the nicest as I didn't trim it out, but it was cheaper this way and it looks good because it is vinyl. Keeps animals out from under the deck.
  2. Electrical. Was going to originally run it to both sides, but that is what they make extension cords for. While running the electrical, I was going to try and come out the house into the ledger board and under the deck, but when I drilled through the sill plate, it was way to high and almost on top of the deck. So I had to fill the hole I had in my siding and flashing and think of another location.
    Luckily, I left 12" from the end of the deck to the bulk head. This was the perfect location. Drilled the hole, ran the electrical. Put in the GFI breaker and everything was good!
  3. Water spigot. Not really part of the deck project, but I removed it when I installed the ledger board. I installed the new water spigot about 12" from the oil fill lines. I would rather have water near oil, then water near electrical (on the other side of the bulkhead).

    This was a job in and of itself. I don't do a lot of plumbing and therefore takes me far longer than it should. I always purchase EXACTLY what I need and end up having to go back because I end up having to change things midway through because of obstructions or other things.

    Well, after my 2nd trip to the hardware store, I was at Lowe's and decided to pick up a bunch of 10 packs of copper plumbing pieces. Including - 90 degree elbows; splice connectors (for connecting 2 copper pipes) and T-Joints. I also picked up one of Lowe's Easy Connect plumbing supplies. I have used and LOVE Home Depot's SharkBite connectors, but figured I would give Lowe's version a try.

    They are about a lot higher in cost than the copper solder equivalent($8 instead of $.80) but allow you to connect things without soldering them and different types of pipe (copper to PVC, etc...).

    Well, I get home, run the pipe, connect the T-Joint to the supply line and the new spigot line. Everything looks good and so I turn on the main and that's when the Lowe's "Easy" Connect T-Joint starts leaking. I try to push it together to see if I can seat it better, but not go! Now I am frustrated. The Lowe's connectors require 1.5" of pipe insertion to seal, so obviously I wasn't far enough in, but I didn't have any more room to play.

    I say "Screw It" and solder the copper connection on there. After 4 hours to install an outdoor spigot, I finally have one!! See what I mean by taking me far too long to do plumbing. I ran the electrical circuit in less than 1 hour (including stapling it every 2-3 feet).

    I will be returning the "easy connector" back to Lowe's and sticking with Home Depot's SharkBite from now on. They only require 1" and I have NEVER had a problem with them leaking before... One of the nicest things about the SharkBite connectors, is that you are able to still rotate your pipe after making a connection. This is good when you have quite fully threaded your shut off valve and it develops a slow leak. I am able to tighten it after it is connected!
Upcoming Large Project:
So now that we know we are having a boy, the wife has strongly suggested that we finish the upstairs bedroom to a similar level as my daughter's room. This means a total gut and upgrade. Including new electrical, insulation, a double double-hung window, drywall, flooring, molding, built-in beds(2 this time), built-in-chest of drawers. Before we start that, I have made the executive decision - I can say that when the wife isn't around :) - to finish all unfinished projects first.

I really hate being the guy that starts a project and never finishes it. I have been in many a house where the person went 99% of the way and didn't finish. So, that is one of the the driving forces behind this. Another is the fact that the wife has been living with unfinished molding on doors, partially finished bathroom with tiles missing and general annoyances.

The unfinished project list was as follows before this past weekends above mentioned accomplishments
  1. Deck
    • Electrical
    • Trim - Put Vinyl Siding piece back on the house where there is just flashing.
  2. Bathroom
    • Remove Tile and install Vinyl Beadboard (also known as wainscotting). The wife doesn't like the look of the vinyl beadboard and wanted to put in MDF, but because it is the bathroom, I was worried about water. She has agreed to let me use the Vinyl.
    • Trim around door - after beadboard is installed.
    • Trim around floor - part of beadboard installation.
  3. Wine Rack
    • We know someone that builds cabinets that will be getting us a quote. If it comes in too high, then I am going to build it myself (which I would rather do as I LOVE woodworking and finish carpentry like that). I priced it out and it would cost $65 for an open-side wine rack. It would be 6" wide by 42" tall; enough to fit about 6 bottles.
    • 6 bottles of wine - Since we don't have any wine on-hand, we will have to purchase the bottles to fill the wine rack. Guess I should start drinking :)
  4. Shelves upstairs
    • At the top of the stairs, there is an empty space that I have been saying I will build shelves for since we tore out and re-drywalled the hall (about 2 years ago). We will actually finish this now!!
So...enough to keep me busy. I will try to take pictures (including pictures of the spigot as well as the electrical).

Monday, June 1, 2009


The inspector came by and passed my stairs! I have now a passed inspection for my deck.!! Such a relief!! My deck now needs the rest of the lattice and trim work and it will be done. This weekend!

Final Inspection

We started the railings at 7AM on Saturday morning. I purchased 100" vinyl post sleeves because I knew that I would be able to cut them in half and therefore buy half as many. We cut them all at 43" so they would all be the same height. Then we started unpacking the railings. Since the railings had been out in the rain the past couple of weeks, the labels were pretty much stuck on there. We spent an hour with goo gone removing the labels. We didn't get them perfect because we didn't want to be stuck doing that all day. We then started the first railing closest to the house so that we could make mistakes and they wouldn't be as noticeable. Things went pretty smoothly from there and by 1PM we were finished the railings on the main part of the deck. We took a break for lunch.

Then we started the stair railings. Since I am obsessive about perfection, it took us about 5 hours to install the 2 stair railings...constantly making adjustments. Since this is finish carpentry, it takes me longer. This is the part that people will see no matter how much time and energy you spent on the subframe. If it looks funny, it will haunt me the rest of my life.

After completing the railings, I was happy with the deck. Some final things need to be completed before we put a checkmark in the finish box, but the railings really finish the look of the deck. Besides being safer since we have little ones; the finish height of the deck in some areas is 32" so code says we need to have railings (anything over 30"). Since it was a holiday weekend, I waited until Tuesday to call the inspector to tell him I am ready for the final inspection. He comes by while I am at work and leaves. Tanya finds the paper inside the door.

It says, "failed". The 2 reasons are:
  1. Deck not adequately attached. Needs to be attached every 3-4'.
  2. Stairs not uniform.
Ok...let me talk about #1. The ledger is attached every 16" with (3) 5" LedgerLoks as all of you know from my previous post. I e-mail him and asked him to clarify what he meant. He responds "Due to the limited angle for viewing I was unable to determine your means of fastening to the house." And that he would check upon reinspection of the stairs. So...because you couldn't see how the deck was fastened to the house, you failed it!!

Let me talk about #2. I knew the stairs were not uniform, but they are only off by 1". I have walked them numerous times and I don't see a problem. But I looked up the code and it says that the smallest rise to the highest rise shall be maximum of 3/8" difference. Well...they are definitely not that. And I guess he needed to come up with something wrong with the deck to justify his position (just a little bitter*).

But there are only 4 stairs and to me they don't feel that much off. But I don't make the rules and when you pull a permit you are at the mercy of the inspector.But this whole thing could have been avoided (#1 and #2) by having a framing inspection. The most important part of the deck is the framing.

He would be able to:
  1. Measure the spacing of the joists.
  2. The attachment of the ledger to the house.
  3. Fastening of joists to ledger and to beam.
  4. Beam connection.
  5. Stair uniformity.

So...although they aren't going to change the way things are done, I think they would have much safer decks if they did a framing inspection.

Well...this past weekend we spent quite a few hours fixing the stairs. We chiseled the concrete about 3 inches by 5 feet so we could sink the stairs a little further. They are now only .5" off. Hopefully he will say it is ok.

Well, I purchased the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) book. It costs $90, but I probably could have avoided this by having the code book easily accessible. It will be useful in the future. And since my city is still using the 2000 IRC book, I think I should be safe with whatever I do.

I cleaned the grill, fixed the doors (one of them was bent) and tried it out. It is great! It is HUGE though...and will be staying on the deck as it weighs 300lbs and not easily movable.