South Side Gate Replacement

Residential fencing in albuquerque and Rio Rancho used to be made of wood until the last 20 years or so. While they build fences of block now I have a older house and all of the fencing and gates are made of wood. For whatever reason a large amount of it has decomposed and fallen down mostly since I moved in.

Before new gate

The gate on the south side of the house is the worse and it’s also the primary access to the back yard with a vehicle. I decided it was time to get off my butt and replace it with not only a fence that isn’t falling but with one that has more privacy.

I didn’t go into this project with any detailed plans. I knew I wanted to bring the gate to be flush with the front of the house, the old gate sat back about 6 feet. I also wanted a short gate for people and a long gate for vehicles with a 5 foot fence section at the edge of the property.

First gate post put up

I started by adding a single post on the first day to get an idea of what I was doing. I dug a hole, leveled a 4×4 redwood post and anchored it with some quick setting cement. That was it for the day. The next day the City of Rio Rancho inspector came by and red tagged the house due to the old falling gate and “debris” they could see in my back yard.

I found the timing strange and I have to wonder if someone called or the inspector just saw the work I was doing and decided to complain.

Side fencing installed

It took another day to build the corner which consisted of the 5 foot fence section and tying into the old fence. The biggest difficultly was positioning the sections of 2x4s around a rather large yucca. The plant is nice looking but very pointy and I left quite a bit of blood on the plant.

Majority of the gate is done and I have some issues to address

The main part of the fence was completed 2 days after I started. I had to go back at least three times and redo the position slats since I screwed up the level. I know several ways not to level fence slats.

The continuation of this project will be to clean up the river rocks on the side and level the ground. I also need to continue with the 6 foot fence along the south side of the property.

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Master Bedroom Remodel: Ready For Tile

This last November I installed tile in the Kitchen, it was supposed to be practice for the master bathroom tile install. I’m glad I did. I learned a few things: one that the dry winter air made it difficult to keep up with the drying the concrete products, two that it’s easy to lay a tile and think it’s level only to come back later and realize it is not.

My very small kitchen does not need perfect tile. As some point I will remodel it and do something else. I decided that I needed additonal practice and I would tile the master bedroom before attempting the bathroom. Before I could do anything with the master bedroom I had to remove all the crap that had accumulated since I had started using it as storage. To remove the crap from the master bedroom means making space in other rooms. I made about two trips to Goodwill. I still have quite a bit of crap but it felt good getting rid of that stuff.

The master bedroom had been unused for about 5 years with no remodeling progress and once I had the room cleared the project started to move quickly. I started by putting in a larger electrical conduit from the breaker box to the attic, I then ran the 220volt wires from the box to the thermostat location in the bedroom. I also finally wired up the electrical to the master bathroom’s radiant floor heating elements. Then I installed the insulating mat on the concrete floor and the the WarmlyYours heating elements. Getting the conduit to the breaker box was a huge step, since it also allows me to complete a number of other projects.

Before putting down the elements I thought I would try to install wallpaper. After a day or so the wallpaper was in it started separating from the wall. I still need to go back and fix it.

The electric heating elements need to be covered in some sort of cement product such as thinset or self leveling concrete. After my experience of putting in self leveling concrete in the master bathroom I knew I didn’t want to try it again. I considered using a layer of thinset but decided that the risks of having to crawl around on the elements and having to deal with the height thickness in the closet, which had no elements, was too much of a problem. I eventually had a local company Koch Mechanical install a 3/4 inch layer of gypcrete. On a square foot basis, the $400 I payed them for the installation may have been expensive, I could have easily wasted that much trying to do it myself.

The gypcrete was installed on Thursday and I was able to walk on it in only a few hours after it was installed. Good news as I didn’t have to fight to keep the cat out. It’s still very soft and will take a few weeks to fully harden. Also good news as I have other plans for the next few weeks.

This weekend I also installed a ceiling fan along with a separate wall switch and a hallway socket on the same circuit. This completes the electrical work for these two rooms and I can put up remaining pieces of drywall.

I expect to have this room complete, except for painted trim, in thirty days.

Emergency Cooling

IMG_0368 - Version 2

It’s been hot here. Unusually hot. This last week has been in the mid to high 90’s which seems about 10 degrees more than usual. This poses a problem for me. Last fall I removed the swamp cooler due to the duct work rusting out and making a mess and I haven’t yet resolved it. I realize it’s June and I should be prepared for the heat already, but I wasn’t expecting this much heat at once.

IMG_0369 - Version 2

I managed to get the old rusted duct work removed but I’m not yet done getting the cement casing cleaned up. I did get a MasterCool for free but needed to get it blowing cold air into the house. Getting this small amount of duct work made was going to be extremely expensive, one company quoted me $600 – $800.

The Lowes and Home Depot don’t carry duct work larger than 8”. Luckily I was able to find a local hardware store called Samons that carries pre-made duct work. Not being ready to permanently install the duct work… let me just say that if your a fan of duck tape, you will be a fan of my work.

I have a managed to duct tape the whole mess together and sit it on the cement hole. If there’s a strong wind it will probably blow the duct work away, If it rains It will probably fill the hole with water. For now I’m cool.

Garden Hose Quick-Connect Connectors

Camco hose quick connectors

Back in October of 2007, Cool Tools recomended Melnor Quick Connects for garden hoses. The quick connects are similar to quick connects used on air tools. I am a big fan of these quick connectors and I use them on all my hoses. The only problem with the ones recommended by Cool Tools is that they are plastic.

There’s a number of problems with the plastic connectors for which I don’t recommend them. If you leave them outdoors all year round they get brittle and they don’t take a lot of abuse like when your dragging your hose across the cement. Instead I recommend the brass connectors such as the ones made by Camco.

Another issue with these things is they tend to get dirt in them and expand and contract with the weather. Sometimes you have to bang on them to get them to move again, try doing that with a plastic part.

Taking The Master Bath Back To The Studs

About a year ago most house remodeling projects came to a halt. Costs got a little out of control and I ended up with some large credit card bills. I’ve eliminated those bills and am ready to start back on my projects. I didn’t waste any of that money, it was just a bit too much to spend at once. I now have this radical new idea that I will call “planning and budgeting” and I will apply it to projects going forward.

A quick recap on this project, the house was a foreclosure. Though not trashed, it was pretty dated and in need of remodeling in several places. The master bath showed signs of leakage in the shower. It’s pretty clear that it’s been going on for a while, it had leaked into the adjacent bathroom and into the master bedroom.

Tree roots under the shower tile

I was sure the bathroom wasn’t usable in it’s current condition and would need to be tore down to the studs. As I started to demolish the walls of the shower I found that it was pretty much being held together with tree roots. Roots had grown a good foot up the wall of the shower in between the tile. As the roots took hold of the tile, it probably just made the leaking worse.

Cement gaps around shower drain

This bathroom has not been used in at least 4 years. Yet as I broke up the mortar and shower pan I found the mortar was still pretty wet. There were so many roots that it smelled like a nursery. Finally, I think i have found the root cause. The drain pipe is basically floating, there’s a huge gap of missing concrete around it and I can clearly see where main roots have made their way through the floor (this isn’t the first time I’ve had issues with the cement in this house). I assume that a little water made it’s way around the drain, signaling for the roots to come through. As the roots grew threw the tile the wall leakage just got worse causing more roots to grow. At least I know I wasn’t wrong that there was no saving it.

The demolition is about 99% complete. I intended to get a good amount of this bathroom completed this winter. I’ve got a basic plan put together, but that’s a post for another day.

First Snow In The Albuquerque Area

I actually saw snow this evening at my house, though it could barely be called snow. None the less I am calling it snow. It was very very light, but they were flakes. It just left the cement a little wet. It was pretty darned cold out, about 20 degrees less than the normals for this time of year. So much for global warming.

I chose to contribute to the green house effect by running a fire in the fireplace for most of the evening.

Ditch Digging

Spring appears to be here, with summer just around the corner. Time to get the backyard ready and get grass growing. Thankfully the previous owners had grass growing and working sprinklers. What I need is a modular and scalable sprinkler system, since I plan have more than one source of water and many more things to water. I will need to dig up the current system and redo the primary control system.

IMG_7443.JPGThe problem with New Mexico soil is it’s a layer of sand on a layer of clay. When thats been covered up with rock and plastic for many years, with no water to soften it up, you end up trying to dig through cement. The best method for digging is to dig a small hole, fill it with water, let it soak, then dig a little more out. Plus the previous owners surrounded the control valves with cement, making it even harder to get in there.

IMG_7444.JPGToday I managed to dig about 30 inches where the control valves are. Why they hell they are that deep I have no idea. In New Mexico you only need about 18 inches deep for the valves. It’s just insane and I’m going to have to remove some of the concrete to get to to the valves. Something I was hoping to avoid.

IMG_7445.JPGI also forgot to mention the other valve. Once valve controls the sprinklers and the other controls… something else. I have no idea. It goes out to the yard but there’s no other obvious sprinkler heads. All I know is it’s busted and was making a nice little spring in the yard. I managed to dig that pipe up to find a huge crack. Once I replace it I should be able to tell where it ends up.