Same guy- new name - new website!

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and update your bookmarks. Thanks! -Peter

Monday, June 29, 2009

Keep the Birds Out of Your House!

Birds live in nests, right?

Well, not always...

At today's project, the birds had made their way into the walls of a client's sunroom. They seemed to have moved on for now, so it was time to do some repairs.

The exterior walls of the sunroom were covered in 8" cedar bevelled lap siding. It's just like the wood siding that you find on older homes, except that it's cedar and doesn't have to be painted. One drawback with cedar is that the boards can be somewhat brittle, meaning that they may split over time, and birds can dig their way through knot holes and make a home in the walls.

I started loosening the nails and removing siding when I saw into one of the nests and found that the animals had worn much of the insulation off of an electrical wire that supplies the outlets in the sunroom. There were bare wires showing! It's amazing that no birds got killed and the wire didn't short out... or worse!

Now my day of siding repair included some electrical repairs as I fished a new wire through the walls to replace the damaged one.

This is a prime example of why birds should stick to nests... :)


Friday, June 26, 2009

Common Home Inspection Repairs- Indoor Dryer Vent

It's very important to vent your dryer to the exterior of your house, and maintain the ducts so that lint doesn't build up. Here are a few good reasons:

1. Lint build up could lead to a fire
2. A clogged dryer vent may make your dryer less efficient and take longer to dry clothes
3. A missing or incorrectly installed dryer vent will release moisture that could cause mold and other problems
4. A dryer vent keeps your laundry room cleaner by directing lint outside

The house I was working at this week had a dryer vent, but it was an indoor dryer vent. You're supposed to fill it with water to trap the lint while the warm air goes into the room. These are notorious for being inadequate and I've seen tons of homes with them that were full of lint because the homeowner's forgot to keep water in them.

My advice: stay away from indoor dryer vents. It's worth the trouble to put in an exterior one.

Home inspectors tend to agree as was the case for this weeks project. The fix involved using a masonry chisel to cut a hole through the brick for a dryer vent. Then, I could make a hole through the rim joist and side the venting kit tube right through to the basement.

The vent cover attaches nicely with a few Tapcon screws and gets a little silicone caulk to discourage water entry.
Fire, moisture & lint clouds: bad.
Exterior dryer vent: very good.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Install a Chimney Cap

One common repair that is found by home inspectors is the lack of a chimney cap. A chimney cap is basically a little roof for your chimney. Not only does it keep rain away, but the screen keeps birds and other animals from making their homes in your chimney.

As long as your clay flue extends a few inches above the chimney, you can probably find a chimney cap at a home store and put it on in a snap using set screws that hold it to the top of the flue. However, at our project this week, the flue ended flush with the chimney crown and the cap couldn't be attached in the standard way.

I talked to the gentleman who was here to install a new damper and he said that the cheapest way to handle this would be to make a small bed of mortar and then set the cap into it.

That's just what I did.

I mixed up a small batch of Mason's Mix and made a small bed of it around the edge of the flue, being careful to keep it from falling into the flue. I sloped the mortar away from the cap so the water would run away from the cap and onto the roof below.

With the mortar in place I just set the chimney cap down into it. A little more smoothing with my trowel and this job was finished.

I hope no birds were inside... :)


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fix An S-Trap With a Studor Vent

In plumbing terms, a "trap" is a curved piece of tubing that will always hold a little water to keep sewer gases from coming through into the house. They are wonderful things. However there is one trap that should be avoided: the S-Trap.

With an S-Trap, the piping turns up, but then goes back down again. I had to address this issue at a project this week where a home inspector found an S-trap in use under the sink. The problem with these traps is that, because of the shape, the water that's supposed to be blocking the dreaded sewer gases can get siphoned out.

Can you see the S-Trap in this picture?

Even though plumbing codes prohibit them, they are still sold at home stores and found in homes everywhere.

The fix involves adding a P-Trap and a Studor vent.

A Studor vent is a small device that attaches to the drain pipe and will allow some air in and allow venting, but will not allow sewer stink out. They are often used whenever there's a sink in a kitchen island, or anytime that it's difficult to vent something. There are limitations to their use, so read the directions before trying it at your project.

Our drain had other issues as well that required replacing the 1 1/2" line through the floor to the crawlspace. This actually made it easier because now there weren't any of the old pipes left to deal with.

The new P-trap comes from the sink drain lines and enters my new pipe through a "T". Above the "T" is the Studor vent.
It all goes together quickly once you have the right pieces...


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Replacing Some Sheathing for a Roof Repair

Limbs can be trouble for your roof if they get too close. That seems to be what happened at today's project where there were lots of unruly tree branches covered with angry vines rubbing against a client's roof. Over time, the moisture has rotted the bottom few inches of the sheathing as you can see in the picture.

It's not a complicated repair, except I couldn't even get to the roof without first spending more than an hour trimming trees and pulling out vines. With that finished, I could get my ladder in there and proceed.

I started by removing the bottom two rows of shingles across the entire eave. A small pry bar, or flat bar, is great for getting those roofing nails or staples out carefully without damaging the above courses of shingles. If you're attempting a roof repair, make sure you get all the fasteners out that are holding the shingles or they will be in your way later when you try to slide the new shingles up underneath to make the patch.

With the decking exposed I used my circular saw to remove the lower 8 inches or so. I replaced it with enough sheathing to extend around an inch over the eave. That will further help prevent any future water issues in case the trees and vines grow back...

I added new 15 pound roof paper and then three courses of shingles. I had an extra row because I extended the sheathing a little bit and two rows wouldn't cut it. The picture below shows the layers in process.

Again, the roofing nailer came in super-handy to let me nail these down while holding on to my ladder with the other hand. Yes, mom, I was being careful.. :).

It turned out well. I just wish it didn't have to be so hot when I do roofing repairs.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Common Home Inspection Repairs- Downspouts

In my experience, I'd say that the most common problems that come up in home inspections relate to water entry, whether from a leaky roof, or through the foundation. One of the culprits, downspouts, are notorious for giving homeowners problems, yet they are so easy to fix!

Here's the problem: downspouts dump the water next to the foundation- over time the foundation sinks or is weakened- water gets through the foundation causing rot or mold.

Whew! What to do...

Here's the easy solution: extend your downspouts to get the water away from the house. At today's project, all of the home's downspouts were dumping water right next to the foundation. What's more, there is a driveway along one side of the house so the water tends to pool next to the house.

My job was to extend the downspouts to correct the problem. For most of them, I could just attach some black drainage tubing to get the water away from the house.

For the ones by the driveway I couldn't go across the driveway, of course. Instead, I had to link the downspouts together and take the water along the house and downhill to the backyard where it would keep the grass green and solve the water issue. The homeowner said "How ugly!", but hey, it's protecting your home and keeping the buyers happy :).

Most of the time the fix is even simpler, using simple downspout extensions like I used in this article.

Bottom line: protect your home and make a home inspector happy: get the water away from your house!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Barn Roof in a Day

I'm not a roofer.

With that said, I put a new roof on a barn for one of my clients this week. Since I normally work alone, I don't normally do more than simple roof repairs. However, this one did not require a tear off and would be quite basic, so I caved and said I would do it :).

Every time I do even a small roofing job, I promise myself that I'll get a roofing gun. For this job I finally got one. As with my other nail guns, it has revolutionized my work. We installed nearly 15 squares of shingles in one day.

Along with better tools, we were also using architectural shingles which tend to go down quite a bit easier than the standard 3-tab shingles.

The barn is ready for rain with a roof that should be good for 30+ years.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Bathroom Tile Floor Makeover

It's always fun to do projects that really transform a room. In this bathroom project, we put new tile on the floor and replaced the vinyl base with stained baseboard.

The tiles are stock from Lowe's. We mixed two shades into a checkerboard pattern. The two shades are called "Mocha" and "Hazelnut". I guess the bathroom is now a bistro, eh?

We put the tile down on the first day (see this post). I grouted the floor this morning with a sanded grout called "Sand Beige". It coordinated with the tiles and looked great. I used a matching caulk to seal the seams around the vanity and thresholds.

After installing the baseboard and the toilet, the bathroom looked completely different. Here are the before and after pictures:


Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Unusual Job with a Nice View!

I get asked to do all kinds of work for people. I enjoy that kind of variety. Today, was certainly an unusual chore.

My dad has been diving into amateur, also known as ham, radio. As he gets more serious, he also gets more antennae! Today, he wanted me to take down the old TV antenna that hasn't been used for years and replace it with one that will broaden his radio reception.

The tower tops out around 32 feet high and I made sure to have a safety belt on. I could attach the belt to the tower, which allowed me the use of both hands. It took a few trips up and down, but I got the old one off and installed a new rotor and the new antenna that had a 20 foot span.

We also grouted some tile, but that didn't seem nearly as interesting... :)


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Out With the Old White Tile

This week I'm helping some clients redo a bathroom floor. It was fun to see the transformation today.

Years ago the floor had been tiled, but for whatever reason, the homeowner has had trouble keeping the white tiles clean. The grout may have not been sealed, trapping dirt.

Anyway, after picking up all the materials this morning. We pulled up the old tiles. They seemed to have been installed with some sort of adhesive or mastic rather than in a bed of thinset. This might explain why some of the tile were cracked. Apparently, they weren't supported well underneath.

They shouldn't have this problem anymore. After cleaning off all the adhesive from the plywood subfloor, I installed a layer of thinset and then a layer of 1/4" Hardibacker cementboard.

I laid out the guidelines so that my tiles would be perpendicular to the door. There were quite a few pieces to cut, but it turned out great.

I'll post a couple more pictures after the grouting is finished.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Can You Spot the Problems?

I was just cruising the Internet and found a challenging game on the Fine Homebuilding website called "The Inspector".

They've doctored up a photo and challenged readers to click on the code or safety violations. Play the game here.

I tend to 'play' this game in my head whenever I walk through a home. (Sometimes it drives me crazy!) I'll notice things that need to be fixed or items that weren't repaired or installed correctly.

Now, I know I'm not perfect, and someone else may give my work a critical eye. I suppose that's just the nature of the job.

Take some time and try out "The Inspector" for yourself and see how you do! I found the first few items okay, but the last ones are fairly tricky... You'll see what I mean if you try it... :)


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't Paint the Hardware!

Once of the main things that will make your painting work look unprofessional is painting the hinges and other hardware. At my apartment project I'm finally to the painting stage. (This is what I do in my "spare" time.. :)

Much of my work seems to be at older homes, where it's a rare thing to find unpainted hardware. Somewhere along the way it was painted to save time.

Don't do it!
Take the time to remove those window locks, handles, door knobs, strike plates, deadbolts or whatever. The one exception may be the hinges. You can leave them on, but don't paint them. Put some painters tape on them if that's easier for you.

Leaving the door on the hinges makes painting the door easier because you can get to both sides and it can dry in place. Just don't close it until it's had plenty of time to dry or the paint will stick to the door frame.

After the paint dries, put the hardware on or take the time to upgrade them. Either way it will look much better and more professional to not paint the hardware.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Make the Window A/C Disappear

In getting ready to sell their home, some clients wanted me to remove an old air conditioner and patch the hole. It was quite unsightly and hadn't worked for years. It was a straightforward project, but I can understand how things like this get put off. (I have stuff like that around my house too!)

Anyway, after getting the unit out and not breaking my back, I removed the old trim, etc. from the A/C hole. Once I got down to just the framing, I added a couple nailers and started putting things back together. The siding was 1x8 beveled spruce which was easy to replace.

Thankfully, the hole was directly between two windows so I didn't have any weird seams to deal with. If you're patching a similar hole, try to not let any two pieces of siding end on the same stud. Try to overlap to make it less obvious that there was once a hole here. This may even require cutting and re-installing some existing siding so that the breaks are in the right spots.

With a little caulk and paint the homeowner said something like, "You'd never know there was a hole there!"

That's about the best compliment I can get.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No Duct Tape for the Plumbing Please

Duct tape is great for nearly everything, right? Well, probably not the best choice for holding your drain pipes together.

The P-Trap in the picture had two different joints with duct tape on them. I'm sure it was the easiest way to make it work, because the pipe from the tub drain above was in a very awkward location compared to the drain line- not plumb with the current P-trap.

I thought about ways to fix the joints and make it work, but I thought it would be easier to just replace the entire thing- and it was, I'm sure. I cut the old 2" cast iron trap just before the bend and joined it to the new 2" PVC with a rubber coupling. To make the cut I used my reciprocal saw with a special carbide-tipped blade.

From there I installed a new 2" P-Trap. Because of where the drain pipe was located, it took a couple long elbows to make all the connections, but in the end it worked great.
No duct tape involved!


Monday, June 8, 2009

Landscape Renovation to Sell Your House

I enjoy variety in life. Today it was evident as I left my nail guns behind and grabbed some mulch to renovate the landscaping for a client who is about to list his home for sale.

This older Inglewood home has some charming qualities to it and had at one time had some decent landscaping. My job was to clean up the beds and make the home look great. This was a low-budget makeover with the only materials expense being a load of mulch. Thankfully, there were already some nice plants there to be uncovered.

On the one side of the home was a small decorative brick wall that could not even be seen because of an overgrown shrub that had taken over. I thinned out the shrub and tried to give some margins between the brick wall and the surrounding plants.

For the most part, I just pulled weeds and added mulch. This can go such a long way toward sprucing up any home. Add just a handful of anchor plants like shrubs or perennials and you can have a nearly carefree landscape to compliment your home.

I found a few stray plants that seemed out of place that I moved to open spots. The beds don't have to be full, but I hate to toss anything, so I tried to use these 'volunteer' plants somewhere. Mostly, this was a shade-loving ground cover called vinca minor that has lush green leaves and small blooms in spring.

With about 6 hours of my time and a load of mulch, this house is ready for the market!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Coping Baseboard Inside Corners

When trimming an inside corner with crown moulding, the best way to make the joint is to 'cope' the corner with a coping saw. This is also true when laying baseboard or even shoe moulding. Here's how it works with baseboard like I was doing this week:

1. Install the first piece with the end square and flush with the wall.

2. The next piece will get 'coped'. Cut the end at a 45 degree angle with the back being the longer edge. (See Fig. 1)

3. Grab a coping saw. Cut along this edge with the saw angled back into the board (Fig. 2). You may want to lightly sand your cut to make a really smooth edge.

4. When you've got it right, the front edge will sit flush with the piece you've already installed with no gaps and you're done!

Coping is better because even if the piece moves a little, as trim will do sometimes, there will not be a gap because the boards overlap. If you cut both boards with a 45 degree angle and one moves, then you'll have a gap in the corner.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Out With the Old Blue Toilet

Today I had the pleasure of changing out a client's old blue toilet. I'm sure in the right setting- in the right decade- this toilet was completely appropriate, but not any more. Sometime along the way this bathroom was completely tile with black and white tile, yet ended up with a blue toilet.

For whatever reason that it was here, today it was released from duty. A white toilet may be a boring replacement, but at least it matches the room, right!?

Replacing a toilet is usually a fairly simple undertaking. After turning off the water and disconnecting the hose and nuts, you just lift the old toilet off. Then, you need to scrape off the old wax ring that is now all over the old toilet flange.

With a new wax ring and bolts, you put the new one back the way the old one came off. Tighten it down so that it doesn't rock back and forth, but don't overdo it or you'll break the toilet!
Once it's set, put some silicone caulk around the base and give it a test drive...


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fix For A Little Termite Damage

When termites get a hold of your house there could be major damage. Fortunately for a couple of my clients, the damage was quite minimal for today's repair.

Termite damage usually comes up whenever someone is selling their house. In this case, the inspection found a place near a side entrance where the termites had eaten some of the subfloor and into one floor joist. Thankfully, most of the members were still quite solid, so the fix only required some reinforcement.

Usually a termite fix requires sistering a new joist along side a damaged one and sometimes adding jack stands or piers where more foundational support is needed. In this case I was able to reinforce the existing subfloor with some 1x8s on the end of the joist that would supporting some new plywood under the old subfloor above.
In all, the fix was easy- other than having to crawl to the other side of the house for the repairs.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Repair for a Rotted Eave

Today, I was helping some clients by repairing a rotted eave above the porch on the Victorian home in one of Nashville's older neighborhoods. It has an interesting design where the porch roof has a valley that directs water to the sides of the home without having gutters along the front.

It may have worked well when it was installed, but now there are a couple very small places where the roof is beginning to let water through and it's rotting the fascia board.

Expecting the worst, I began removing the rotted portions until I found solid wood. It's worth noting that this exact repair seemed to have been done before, so it may be a recurring problem with this roof's design. Whatever the case, my job was to just repair the eave, not replace the roof.

With the rotted fascia boards off, I 'sistered' some new nailers on the side of the rafters that were weakened. (Sistering boards means that I nailed one member along side of another to strengthen it.) With this done, it was time to add the new boards.

Let's remember that this is an OLD house. Not only that, but one with some unconventional parts. As best I could, I ripped some 1x10s to match the old fascia and got it all put back together.

Tomorrow, I'll putty,caulk & paint and seal up those pesky holes in the roof. Maybe this repair will last a little longer than the last one.