Installing Self-Leveling Concrete In The Master Bathroom

Another milestone is complete in the ongoing (3.5 year) master bathroom project as the self-leveling concrete was installed on top of the radiant floor heating. The process wasn’t exactly what I expected and the results weren’t perfect but the floor did come out level.

IMG_1544 - Version 2

The manufacturer of the concrete product recommends not to install it when the heater is running and when the humidity is low otherwise cracking could occur. That meant I needed to wait until summer when the heater didn’t need to run and the evaporative cooler could be running. I didn’t need the cooler, it was installed on one of the rainiest days of May and the humidity in the house was over 75%.

IMG_9771 - Version 2

Prior to pouring the concrete I made a riser out of aluminum flashing to extend the height of the air duct in the bathroom. I held the riser in with some cardboard and sealed it to the old duct with some concrete sealant. I did the same for the area around the toilet.

The entire house has an expansion joint around the perimeter and one wall of the bathroom has part of this expansion joint. The self-leveling concrete cannot go into the expansion joint or bridge it or it will crack. I sealed the joint with concrete caulking and put foam under the drywall so it sticks out over the joint.

IMG_9776 - Version 2

I had scheduled 3 friends to come over to help (although only two showed up), one who had worked with self-leveling concrete before. It takes at least three people: 1 to mike the concrete with the drill, 1 to pour water and concrete into the 5 gallon bucket and 1 to pour the floor. My $88 corded Dewalt drill had a tough time with the concrete mixture. Luckily I had an old heavy duty single speed craftsmen drill that tore through the concrete without a single complaint.

IMG_9775 - Version 2

The only problem we found during the pourig of the floor is there wasn’t enough water in the concrete and it wasn’t quite liquid enough. This made some rough spots where the different pours came together. it work in our advantage since one area where I had sealed the expansion joint gave in and started filling with self-leveling concrete and I completely missed a small crack in the concrete slab near another wall. The self-leveling concrete set too quickly for this to impact the level of the floor. Had it been more liquid the entire floor could have drained down these cracks.

It took four bags of self-leveling concrete and I ended up with a 3/4 inch floor, I will have to recheck my calculations as I expected a 1/2 floor. It cost about $50 in supplies and a few beers.

IMG_9774 - Version 2

I was a bit hesitant about doing this pour myself and considered hiring someone. I’m glad I did this small area first and I’m confident I can do the master bathroom with enough people. I may have to have a pour-party and get about 10 people together to have a constant flow of self-leveling concrete then bar-b-que when we’re done. I had meant to take more pictures but I was too busy working on the project, the pictures I did take can be viewed on flickr.

The next step is to install the Schulter Kerdi waterproofing material and to finish up the shower stall before laying tile. This will be a non traditional installation of a shower floor. I’m not sure if I will start this during the summer as I plan to spend my time working on outdoor projects as much as I can.

Advertisements

Another Scoprion And Where The Hell Are They Coming From?

IMG_9783

In early May I spotted the first scorpion of the year in the house. In the last few years I have been living here, this is the earliest I have seen on in the house. In previous years I didn’t start to see them until July.

I was sure they were coming in from the garage so I put diatomaceous earth throughout the garage and around the entrances to the house. Diatomaceous earth works good on insects because it’s very itchy to insects and it will suck the moisture out of their bodies. In the case of scorpions I’ve read that they will just avoid it.

Tonight I came home and found Saturn playing with something. The good news is Saturn found a scorpion the bad news is the scorpion made it past my defenses. That means that it either went around the diatomaceous earth or it came in another way.

I will start going around the perimeter of the house sealing up cracks. I’m not sure what else to do.

Say Hello To Saturn (The Cat)

A 5 month old kitten adopted a coworker of mine. She showed up on his door step one day and made her self at home. He tried to keep her for about a week, he even took her to the vet and had her checked out, but for various reasons couldn’t and his next option was to send her to the pound.

Now the kitten, which I have named Saturn, lives with me. She has a grey and black tabby coat. She is a polydactyl cat with 6 toes on both of her front feet. She looks like she is walking around on baseball mits. She still needs shots, spayed and to be declawed.

OK I admit it: she’s adorable and I never imaged I would own a cat or even a kitten for that matter. It’s been a little over a week since she first came into my house and it’s been an interesting experience. I’m happy to report that she hasn’t caused any trouble with urinating on anything and has used the litter box for all her waste needs.

She seems to have four modes. Spaz mode is one of the most common. Yesterday she was in super spaz mode where she went nuts nocking everything off the coffee table, jumping on and chewing on things. That ended when she jumped off the couch, slid onto the coffee table and into a box. Both her and the box crashed into the TV. She then ran into the bedroom for about 20 minutes. When she came out she was much calmer.

Her other modes include patrol mode, where she walk around the perimeter of the house. Love me mode is where she wants to sit in my lap no matter where I am or what I’m doing. Keep your distance mode is where she wants to keep me in site and observe but not come near me.

Due to the coyotes that live near in the area, Saturn will be an indoor cat. I posted a HD video of Saturn’s first look at the aquarium on YouTube.

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/eX9hoLJmbK0&hl=en&fs=1&hd=1&border=1

Solarizing The Back Yard To Kill Weeds

With summer approaching, it’s time to start focusing on outdoor projects and leave the indoor projects for the winter. Even if the weather doesn’t want to cooperate. The previous owners of my house had a section of the back yard, about 1500 square feet, sectioned off to grow grass including an underground sprinkler system. When I moved in to the house it had been unoccupied for a while and the weeds had taken over. I tried growing grass where it used to grow but haven’t had success.

CRW_9722 - Version 2

The problem, the low water grass (buffalo grass, blue gamma, etc) I’ve tried growing can’t compete with the weeds. I refuse to use chemicals to kill the weeds and I’ve tried manually cutting down the weeds down and pulling them out but it hasn’t been effective enough (especially against the dreaded goat heads aka Tribulus terrestris).

I’ve discovered a chemical free method of eliminating weeds on a large scale called solarization. It uses transparent plastic directly on the ground to bake the soil and will kill seeds. It’s possible to cook the soil 6 inches deep and at 125 degrees ore more. The University of Arizona has a good article on the process for use in Tucson (also see Wayne Schmidt’s Solarization Page) and should adapt to New Mexico.

The timing for installing the plastic is good right now, it has just rained giving the ground a good soaking and the spring winds died off long enough to install the plastic. My first try was using 108 square feet of 1 mil painters drip cloth. The thinner the plastic the better the sun penetrates but 1 mill is too thin for this application. Even though I had cut down the weeds even a little bit of plant materials was able to puncture the plastic. Smaller sections of plastic are harder to manage than larger sheets.

I was able to find 500 square feet 4 mil plastic sheets at the local WalMart (as much as it pained me to have to enter the place). It wasn’t cheap at a cost of $20 per roll. I could have probably put a ad on craigslist and found some plastic sheeting for free but I have a limited window to install it.

CRW_9724 - Version 2

The installation of the plastic went well. I used bricks to hold the plastic down while I laid it out. I then dug a trench around the perimeter and used the dirt to seal the edges. I used two sheets and overlapped them about 6 inches using bricks and landscape staples. It’s important that air cannot get under the plastic sheeting so the moisture and heat stays under the plastic.

CRW_9729 - Version 2

I’m not planning on growing grass in the entire area where grass originally grew, only about 1000 square feet so two sheets should be sufficient. Since I will be out of town for most of the summer the ground should be well cooked by time I get back. I will try to make regular soil temperature readings during the summer.

Front Porch Landscaping Conitnues

I’ve made more progress on the front porch after not doing much for several weeks.

The previous owners had a white, chalk like rock around the perimeter of the raised bed. This rock was popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s and I hate it. The problem with this rock is that its light weight and it ends up all over the place. I also don’t think they are very attractive.

IMG_0109

I removed the white rocks and replaced them with grey river rocks from the south side of my yard. I also put the same grey river rocks on the other side of the walkway. I’m making good progress at reducing the rocks on the south side of my yard by reusing them elsewhere in my landscape.

I put together a rough draft of how I would like my front yard to look in OmniGraffle. The plan shows red areas as walls and yellow areas are new pavement.

front layout.jpg

The plan shows a triangular jog of the wall, this wall layout is mean to mirror the roof pitch and angle. I’m also planning walkways out to the sidewalk that doesn’t exist (the city is talking about adding them) and around the north side of the house. I’m not yet sure if I want to put in concrete or pavers and I’m experimenting with some pavers I picked up from Home Depot. They are concrete with a variation in color and have a similar look to slate.

IMG_0110

Spring Is Nearly Here

The average last frost date in Albuquerque is April 15th. I’m not letting that stop me from getting an early start on my vegetable garden this year. Last year I made many mistakes producing lack luster results. That’s ok because I have learned from my mistakes and will hopefully produce a bountiful harvest this summer.

The overall size of the garden has increased to 120 square feet from 100 last year. I’ve changed the irrigation system to make it easier to manage. Last year I had a single soaker hose that snaked from row to row. It was hard to move around and get water just where I wanted. The hose itself sucked because it was a thin walled hose with holes every 12 inches. Again hard to get water just where I wanted. This year I have a single poly hose that runs along the inside wall. I can then connect smaller hoses to this hose along the perimeter anywhere I want. I’m already using 1/4 inch recycled tire hose which is a soaker hose that spews water all over it.

My biggest concern is lack of nutrients in the soil. I added amendments last year and added more this year but it’s just not going to be enough. To overcome this I will use compost tea. “Why go to the extra trouble of brewing, straining, and spraying a tea rather than just working compost into the soil? There are several reasons. First, compost tea makes the benefits of compost go farther. What’s more, when sprayed on the leaves, compost tea helps suppress foliar diseases, increases the amount of nutrients available to the plant, and speeds the breakdown of toxins. Using compost tea has even been shown to increase the nutritional quality and improve the flavor of vegetables.” I’m betting a lot on this so it better work as good as they say.