Tag: home improvements

The Great Wall of China

by on Aug.02, 2010, under home & stuff

A dishware replicate of this landmark had been forming in my kitchen.  For the past several weeks, my dishwasher has been little more than a glorified drying rack (and questionably effective at that).  Seemingly at random, this appliance had ceased to turn on at all.  And despite my best investigative efforts, I could not bear out any electrically rooted cause.  I recommended calling a repairman to look at it, but my wife would more readily spend the money on a replacement than a repair (it was a pretty cheap dishwasher – it came with the house).  And as it turned out, a decent replacement became available to me through a work colleague/friend at the best possible price (thanks again SK!).

So this weekend I went and picked up the replacement unit and spent much of Sunday attempting to swap out the old one.  There were various struggles and pitfalls along the way.  I shocked myself at least 2 times (thinking I had they right breaker off) before I just turned off the main breaker.  I went through 2 changes of clothes that got soaked by a combination of sweat, old dishwater, and a small amount of cleaning materials.  And once I managed to free the old dishwasher after a lot of disconnecting, cutting, and banging on things, I had to do some thorough cleaning as well as a certain degree of spackling (it seems the underside of our dishwasher had served at one time as a mouse hotel – hopefully my putty-work will fetter return visits).  I then had to make a run to Lowe’s to pick up some adapters and extenders to the hosed in order to connect the new unit.  Eventually I managed to get all of the connections hooked up, the dishwasher positioned and fastened in place, the power turned back on and …


After checking out the breaker box twice, it turned out that one of my breakers was half-tripped.  Not trusting the breaker to handle a job so vital as running half of my kitchen, I did some wire swapping with another similarly rated breaker (the questionable one is now sequestered to the less critical task of powering the smoke-detector array – at least with those I’ll know if the breaker went).  I got everything reassembled, went back upstairs and …

Nothing.  Again.

Luckily I noticed that the coffee maker also kicked out and saw that the outlet it was plugged into had its own breaker that was triggered (why such things would be connected in series I have no idea).  I pressed the reset button and EUREKA!  I have a working dishwasher again!

While it would be easy to chalk up the failure of the old unit to the circuit breaker, but I am not convinced that it was tripped the whole time (after all, I did get shocked by it twice).  So the old unit is still destined for the curb and the new unit is earning its keep as we whittle down the great wall of dishes.

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Thanksgiving – Check!

by on Dec.01, 2009, under family, home & stuff

Reciprocating saw – check!  Crow bar – check! Various other tools and hardware – check!  Two gimpy guys prepared for a fair amount of cursing – check!

Thanksgiving is a time for families to be together and to share experiences with each other.  This Thanksgiving I was able to share the experience of a 2-day battle to replace my front door with my Dad.  And with him suffering from a gout flare-up and my hip deciding to give me a hard time, we were quite the pair limping around Lowe’s repeatedly to acquire the various tools and supplies we needed to do the deed.  Given that our old door was crooked, had a single-pane window, and a 1/2″ gap underneath, it was due.  So we got our supplies in order, left our suspension of disbelief at what we would find within the wall at the door, and started hacking away.

Despite our best laid plans and our care in measuring things thoroughly, we had to cut almost everything twice and had to go back to Lowe’s three times for items we forgot or hadn’t anticipated needing.  We attempted to mitigate the loss of heat while the opening was gaping by tacking a tarp over the orifice, but the wind seemed to have other ideas – it only seemed to hang down over the opening when one of us was measuring or cutting something from the outer part of the opening (the wind seems to enjoy irony).

Also, regardless of our expectations knowing the age and history of the house, we were continually surprised by what we uncovered beneath the drywall.  First was the fact that in place of normal studs we found rough-hewn 4×4 beams (painted white).  Next was the apparent framing for an old window above the door where we expected a header … framed with old floor boards.  Also a beam that was above the door that we assumed might be load-bearing turned out not to even be strongly attached to anything.  And if the choice of lumber wasn’t odd enough, the fact that most of the nails we pulled appeared to have been made by a blacksmith was certainly unexpected.

After spending all day cutting, recutting, rasping, filing, and cutting again, we were finally able to fit the new door into the opening (and after taking it back out of the opening so we could remove the screws that fastened the door to the frame, we were able to put it back in and screwed it in place). And as a result I now have a three early Christmas presents from my parents:  a nice new front door, my own reciprocating saw (look out windows – you’re next), and pain and memories to carry me through the holiday season.  And eventually I’ll finish the paint and trim around the new door and put my tools away so my entryway and front porch don’t look like a small construction site.

One successfully executed home-improvement project (that I can claim on my taxes in the name of improving energy efficiency) – check!

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Sir, There’s a Santa Lodged in Your Chimney

by on Nov.07, 2008, under family, home & stuff, money

In the spirit of coming to terms with home ownership, we recently had a chimney sweep come out to, well, clean out our chimney.  We had been aware that it needed to be done as we had had a guy out last spring to address an issue with our furnace (soot was exhausting out the air intake valve in the basement) and when he pulled the exhaust tube away from the chimney we discovered a buckets-worth of crap (soot, brick and mortar dust and pieces) in the elbow.  So we new there was possible damage and definite need for cleaning and assessment. (continue reading…)

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