Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lisa's creative use of 'reclaimed wood"

Lisa has used reclaimed wood in many areas of our house. It is all cedar which came from broken parts of our fence.

You can see here it is used to make a hook-rack above the sofa:

As well as a headboard for our bed:

In a somewhat unrelated point, here is the light Lisa picked out and I installed for our 5th wedding anniversary:

Summer of 2014: swamp Cooler

I installed this swamp cooler this summer, with the help of dear old Dad.

Getting it up to the roof was not as bad as one might think. I recommend using your school bus to get the heavy bits up there... you can see that we used a couple ladders to get it up to the roof of the bus, and then a small wooden "bridge" to get it across to the roof. It was mostly disassembled at the time, but still weighed a good 80 pounds or so.

Use several ladders to get your swamp cooler up to the hood of your bus, then up to the roof of the bus.

Construct a small wooden bridge to get the swamp cooler (and your father) from school bus roof to house roof.

One other difficult part of this process was that, due to vent pipes all in the middle of our roof, I had to mount the cooler way on the end of the house. We didn't want the cooler to suck in the toilet fumes, for obvious reasons.  The duct provided with the kit was only about 10 feet, and I couldn't get an extension without purchasing a whole second kit, and I wanted the internal register to be close to the center of the house. To solve this problem, I constructed a large 18" x 4 foot duct from some smaller duct parts which are readily available at home depot. After covering all the seems with aluminum duct tape, it worked great.

This large duct is made from attaching two smaller ones together and using sheet metal screws to hold them at the seems. Also some thin wood is added on the inside to help it maintain its round shape. It works great as an extension to the the 10 foot duct provided with the cooler. Plenty of aluminum tape all around the seams made it air tight.

Of course there was a bunch of electrical and plumbing work that went along with this installation, but I really wasn't in the mood to take pictures while sweating away in the 120 degree attic, or when crawling around in the muddy crawl space attaching a new hose bib.
Here is the finished product!

Summer of 2014: Vegatable Garden, Fire PIT, Compost Bin, Play House!

The summer of 2014 saw many improvements to our back yard. Among them were this vegetable garden Lisa designed and created, surrounding it with the free mulch we got from our tree man. She directed me on where to build several flower beds and a cedar compost bin.

Vegetable Garden

Compost bin

She also improved on the fire pit, making it square and larger.

Finally, we constructed and painted this playhouse for the girls, complete with slide, from some leftover lumber:

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Flood of 2013

The flood effected starting on September 12th, 2013. That day was our 4th wedding anniversary, and we had to cancel our plans to go out due to excessive rain on that day. The news was talking about flash flood warnings in various areas around us, and we thought it would be prudent to stay home.

No one thought, however, that we would soon have to evacuate our home, and no one thought that we would have flood waters rising several feet all around our house! There was no one, even on the day of the flood, warning us what a giant disaster was coming.

We went to bed that night, to the sound of the rain, but no one thought the next day would become such an adventure.

On the next morning, September the 13th (Friday the 13th, naturally)... Lisa went to work early  without problems,  and I stayed home with the girls. Around 11 am our water failed to work (due to broken water mains from the flooding, but I didn't no that at the time).  Without running water, I was unable to clean Julia, cook, or make formula. I thought it would be prudent to go to my parents house, only a few miles away.

When I tried to drive to my parents' house however, I quickly discovered that every road that connected us to them was closed... with policemen standing at the barricades. There was, in the background, the constant sound of sirens, airplanes overhead, helicopters flying around. At that time there was no rain, it had subsided in the afternoon, but there was a bit of an ominous feeling in the damp air.

At this point, I became worried that Lisa might not be able to come home to us, and see the kids that night. I decided to take us all to a hotel near her work... especially since I couldn't stay home without running water.

I quickly packed some changes of clothes, the laptop, the toothbrushes and baby food into a suitcase.

Although I had no thoughts of a flood coming, I did (thank God) lift all of my customer repairs off of the ground in my shop, thinking to myself that I was being overly paranoid. There was no water in there at the time.

We left just before we would have been evacuated anyway, although I didn't think it would ever come to that.

We stayed at a hotel near Lisa's work. She came there and was glad to see us, and especially glad to see LUcy and Julia.

The next morning, we were trying to research the roads from the hotel and see if we could go home. Lisa called us at the hotel room (she was back at work) and told me to look at one of the news websites... it was an ariel view of flooding and she could swear it was our neighbor's house, half submerged in muddy water. Incredulous, I looked it up for myself and indeed, it was our neighbors house!

This was the first indication that things truly were serious... and it was provided just by chance: Lisa catching some footage on the news.

About two days later we were able to get to my parents house, (but not back to our own house) and moved into their finished basement. Julia was fine, but Lucy was truly shook up by "the water" as she called it.

Lisa came home from work (it was a Sunday), and the next day we went to our home, working our way over a very circuitous  route (most roads were closed... as of march 2014 some roads are still closed!) and drove the van through some giant puddles to finally see our house, and snap the pictures shown here.

The whole time there was the constant sound of sirens (police and ambulances rushing from emergency to emergency), planes and helicopters flying over head. We weren't able to move home for about a month, during which time I thoroughly bleached the flooded underside of the house, and threw out tons of debris in the back yard. Our water took about a month to come back on, after which we had to boil it for a while as the pipes were possibly contaminated.

My workshop was completely flooded out, and we are still in the process of sorting through debris.

As we sloshed around in boots outside of the house, getting things we would need and piling them into the van to take to our temporary home at my parents house, many neighbors came up to us and offered to help us out... the farmers down the road, our neighbors down the street. Many church groups came around, some from out of state... they had all kinds of equipment and were offering clean up services to all who needed them.These stayed around for months after the flood.

National guard vehicles, began to be commonplace, especially manning the barricades around the closed roads.

There were huge craters in the roads.. they looked like puddles, so cars would go around the barriers and try to drive through what seemed like puddles. However, many cars were lost this way, as the "puddles" were sometimes several feet deep.

As the water receded, you could see many of these cars lying around, some upside down, and we can only pray that the drivers got out of them before they were submerged into the floodwaters. Not being a priority, abandoned upside down cars were a commonplace site around many of the roads around here.

For months, there were lakes and streams where there never had been before. There were numerous neighbors who lost their home; some neighbors took months to move back in. There was trash and debris everywhere, and the constant odor of mud.

Our septic tank needed to be pumped out, and our outbuildings became unusable. We are still recovering from the flood.

The stages that psychology has outlined for us... Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, Acceptance... we could observe ourselves slowly going through them, not necessarily in order and not necessarily progressively... but at various points they were all there (in me at least!).

Anyway, here are some pictures.

The water came right up to the top of this crawl space. This is actually about 4 feet deep here, and completely filled up with water.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

91 Caravan 3.3 fuel leak from fuel rail

Apparently these caravans are plagued by leaky fuel rails. The fuel rail is a patented part, so you won't get a new one except from Mopar, and it costs about 400 -500 dollars. I used the information posted here and it worked perfectly for me: no gas smell from the engine compartment (no flames either!), no hard starts because the fuel has lost pressure. I used a hose barb (shown) with multiple barbs. After doing some research, I think it may have been better to use one with a single barb, but I am not sure. Either way, I used 2 hose clamps on each end, and it hasn't budged. I also used fuel injected rated hose, and used JB water weld as pipe dope (I never plan to take the barbs off again). It may have been better to use teflon tape rated for fuel use.
The size of the fuel rail (the inner diameter) is PERFECT for a 1/4" tap.

1987 camry oil leak and timing belt

My wife's camry began dripping oil excessively when parked. The issue turned out to be the "spaghetti seal" : an o - ring around the oil pump cover. While I was in there, I changed the timing belt. The documentation is easy to find on how to get this.
The two things that made this job tough:

1) the bolt that holds the crankshaft pully on is torqued to about 10000 foot pounds. The large breaker bar did not work. The air powered impact wrench I bought did not work. Some people have said they wedge the breaker bar on the floor, and then "bump" the starter to get the bolt loose; I didn't try that.
Ultimately I heated the bolt and the pulley with a torch for about five minutes and that got it loose enough to get it off with the breaker bar.

2) If you mark the timing belt when you put the new one on, and then rotate the engine a few times, don't expect the marks on the belt to line up with those on  the gears again. That doesn't mean the belt skipped. The gears and the belt rotate differently, so that the same spot on the belt does not line up with the same spot on the gears for a long time! (many rotations)

This caused me a good bit of consternation; I kept thinking the belt was slipping.

You have to make sure the timing marks on the gears line up properly after a couple of rotations, but don't use the ones on the  belt except the first time, when you put the belt on. With each rotation those marks fall on different places on the gears. Here is a picture of the leaky area around the oil pump.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Window

Another project was building a window, paneling, and shelves in Lucy's room, which previously had no window. If I had to do it again, I would have done all the internal framing BEFORE cutting through the sheathing on the outside... just like you do on new construction. That way you can cut the hole in the exterior sheathing using your new framing as a guide.
Other than that, the process went pretty smoothly.