Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More Projects

Despite all of the fat bike riding, XC skiing and hanging out with friends both old and new in Maine that Cathy and I have been doing this winter, I have also been chipping away at some projects. There has been a laundry list of stuff, no different than that which most anyone has, that I've wanted to do. Well, I'm finally taking care of at least some of them.

Bathroom revamp.
We have had leaky faucets in both the bath and the kitchen for some time. I've fixed them int he past but had also wanted to just replace with something a little newer and nicer. Thanks to my good friends at Home Depot, I got a spiffy new faucet that also didn't break the bank. Installing said faucet in the small bathroom vanity however, was a different story. Tight spaces and big hands make for lots of swearing.

When coupled with fixed length copper sweat to compression supply lines to feed the new faucet which are just a little bit too long, an easy job turns into a bigger job. A job that required fire in tight spaces.It all worked out though and combined with the repaint of the room to the same vibrant purple that our spare bath is in MA and a new vanity light, it all came together nicely. Now for a new bathroom floor.

Another aesthetic issue that has plagued us for some time is the chimney, which runs inside as a sort of show piece up through the center of the cathedral ceiling. The finish on the concrete block chimney is a simple concrete skim-coat over a fiber mesh. In short, it is pretty darn ugly. Or shall I say, it was ugly. In looking for paint to paint it recently, I found a concrete floor stain that came in multiple shades. Thinking that stain is often easier to deal with than pain and would possibly, look more natural, I opted for a gallon.

Before in stark natural concrete.
Well, getting said stain onto a vertical surface the scope of the chimney was a chore and at times a challenge. However, after a few coats and most of a day and a gallon to cover it, I was done. Once it was set, it actually looked pretty nice. I'd chosen a terracotta color to match the natural earthy tones we have tried to employ. All in all, we like it a lot. The chimney now blends in well and has a warm feel to it vs. the harsh, stark concrete grey.

Probably the longest standing project has been a laundry. We've never had one in ME, until now. This winter I decided to check it off which given how much time we have spent there, has been critical. The addition of a laundry posed a number of challenges though. Initially, I though we would just put it in the basement. However, our basement is, odd. Long story short, the house sits on a foundation from the round silo house that predated the current dwelling, but burned. The foundation being round, is not under the entire house, there is crawl space under the remainder with the house cantilevered over it, suspended by piers. The access to the basement is less a stairway and more a ladder. Getting laundry up and down that was not practical.

After staining in warm terracotta.
However, when Cathy and I built the mud-room, we left space for a stack laundry. However, that mud-room has no direct heated access to the basement for plumbing. I would need to run through the crawl space and the crawl space is unheated. For years I milled around ideas of how best to deal with it ad for years I did, nothing. I finally decided what I would do was to punch an access chase through, basically a box connecting holes on each end one in the basement and one in the mud-room wall, insulate it and run my plumbing through it. The big game changer that we found was a slick new all in one LG washer/dryer unit that required no venting and runs off 120v electricity. That took two additional tasks right off the table with no need to run a 220v power line (which I had a drop for and would not have been that big a deal) and no need for a dryer vent, which would have required another hole through the wall.

I chose to plumb the hot and cold water feeds with pex plastic tubing and copper crimp rings. This meant buying some tooling but once I had the tool, I was good to go from them on. It was quick and fairly easy to do once I had the copper take off plumbed in with ball valves for shutoff and the female copper to male pex adapted sweated on. Of course, i messed the color coded tubing up and plumbed cold to red and hot to blue because I wasn't thinking. I went back and fixed that though. To cover the mess, I built a nice pine baseboard cover that is open on the inside to allow air flow between the warm basement and heated mud-room through the insulated (with 2" of seam sealed foil backed foam) and attaches to the wall via an overlapping interlocking L bracket I ripped from some wood.

The waste drain was another story. That gave us fits. We had a waste plumbed in with 1.5" PVC earlier but at one point years ago, I removed it. The PVC lengths sat in the basement. I resurrected them for the drain for this project, which took some planning and fitting but in the end was pretty clean. When the washer/dryer unit arrived and the delivery technician was setting it up to test run, the waste backed up. That was my problem though so he left and I started looking for a reason. We had tested the line with limited amounts of water, which we believed ran through the system fine and into the main stack based on the noise of the water movement we heard.

After looking for issues with the trap, checking pitch, looking for frozen blockage in the short run through the crawl space and pulling the line apart, all to no avail I was at a loss. I finally just puckered up and tried to blow through the line from the top while Cathy was at the other, now open end, in the basement. The hot air uncorked the problem, a wadded mess of wet insulation, and then the pipe flowed fine. Didn't think to check for a mouse nest in the pipe I'd used, which had been sitting in the basement for years. Small amounts of water were able to trickle through but the huge volume of the washer draining corked it up tight and backed it to overflow. We tied the drain back together and that was that.

Fresh, slean and green.
Another of the smaller projects that I'd also wanted to knock out was the spare bedroom paint. We had painted it years back but chose an boring cream color that in short, sucked. More color is the current mantra so I went for something again earthy. I chose a green that was similar to that which we used for our bedroom in MA. Nothing fancy and it didn't take that long to do, though it did require a full three coats. There was also a barge amount of trim with which to deal. This small project reminded me that I really don't much care for painting. It is done though and has the intended effect on the room, making it warmer and more inviting. Now we just need to get some new shades, probably in the form of sheer curtains, to finish the room off right.

The small desk moved to the right.
Next, I decided that after having a whole bunch of folks crammed into the small living and eating area of the house, there were some things that might aid the layout and flow. For one, I'd put a small wall mount desk adjacent to the bar/counter that serves as our only dining surface. The bar is 8' long and 2' wide but with the desk where I had it, it encroached on the space. First I moved the desk back away from the bar on the side wall. This was pretty easy as it mounted to the floor via sturdy legs to carry the load and to the wall to stabilize the unit. Remove a few sheetrock screws from under the caps that hide the mounts at the floor and from the back of the desk and it can go anywhere.

The bar with 4 stools slightly lowered.
With more space, I could now add the 4th bar stool back in at the bar. However, it also occurred to me that the bar was the wrong height. It sits atop the counter and is a full 3" thick but I'd also added a 3.5" riser, that served as the counter back-splash as well. This really over-accentuated the different heights of the bar vs. the counter and made them disconnected. My thought was to pull out the riser and drop the two such that they were at a closer level. This was fairly easy based on how I built the bar in the first place, literally removing screws to free the unit from the legs, the legs from the floor and the riser/back-splash from the bar-top. Then I just cut 3.5" out of the legs and screwed it all back together, slightly repositioning the legs for a better fit.

Simple doorway to the crawlspace.
The last step in the process was to modify the bar stools to height. This was simply a matter of chopping each of the legs off with the chainsaw. Well, I actually used the shop-saw and sanded them off a bit to smooth out the edges. Pop the sliders off the old pieces and nail them into the new bottoms of the legs and project was complete. Oh, there was a little touch-up painting to be done as well given that the wall had been painted after the bar initially went in against said wall, so there was a blank spot that needed to be taken care of. Luckily I still had some of the paint left. The idea worked and the feel of the whole unit is much, much better now.

Cold out there.
The last project I tackled was another that has lingered for a very long time, adding a sillcock for an outside hose. For years we have wanted for a hose but did not have one, mainly due to the same foundation limitations I detailed earlier. There just wasn't a good access directly out. In looking this winter though, I realized that there was one location on the foundation that came very close to the side of the house. This was on the back side and while not idea, it was in a spot that I could make work for a frost-proof sillcock. First, however, I would need to punch an access door through the cribbing wall built from the top of the foundation to the bottom of the floor joist in the basement. These walls were roughly 2' high and framed with 2x4's and plywood sheathing on the outside. They gave way to the crawl space behind them, which had no access besides popping the skirting off on the outside of the house. Major pain with 5' of frozen snowbanks piled against them.

Pretty straight forward.
I also made a couple of simple doors to fit inside the framing and attached them with hinges and a locking mechanism. I used sheathing on the outside and counter sunk it to retain the 3.5" (of the 2x4 I used) depth, which matched the framing depth. I then cut the plywood away from the framed wall with a Sawzall but left 1" from the four sides, to overlap and cover the seams of the door. I threw some of the 1" foil backed foam I had left over into the open space of the door to insulate it and there you go, access to the crawl space from inside. This allowed me to frame up and the sill for the sillcock, which I then plumbed in with some of the bulk of copper remnants I have lying around. I also reused the frost-proof sillcock itself, which I'd had lying around for ages. I also plumbed both a hot and cold water inlet into the faucet, each with it's own shutoff valve so I can choose between one or the other. Hot water is a very nice feature for cleaning dirty, frozen, slushy bicycles.

So, I still have a ton of projects left but I am making some progress. Once spring rolls around I will finally be able to start the huge work I have planned for the camp in VT. That is another epic story though. I look forward to those battles, though I must admit, the thought does occasionally keep me up at night.

No comments: