O-Ring

“Can you change the water filter?”

That seems like a pretty benign request.

“The water is running slow and before I run the dish washer…” she said

Hmmm…

“Okay but I just changed it like four weeks ago” Anyway, who knows what’s going on, so I decided to change it. I just got a new order of filters. No big deal.

So I went downstairs and did the drill. We have a whole house inline filter that takes out the chlorine and any bad germs out of the water before sending the water to the rest of the house. Process is you shut off the water, bleed out the little bit of pressure and water between the two valves; you bleed it into a steel bucket I have down there for this job. You unscrew the canister and dump out the old filter and the water in the canister into the bucket. Insert the new filter, screw the canister back on, close the bleed valve and open the two inline valves. Some gurgling and air pressure sounds and you’re back online.

Usually when you screw the canister back on it’s fussy, you have to kinda align the filter and catch the threads and it stops turning just as it’s tight and ready to go. This time it wasn’t too bad, not as tight as usual.

Hmmm…oh well, whatever.

I closed the bleed valve and turned the inline valves on and water starts spraying out the side.

What the heck?!

Water off. Try this again.

I tried it a few times. No change. Still water spraying out.

I look inside and there’s a black o-ring.

Hmmm….

I fiddle with the o-ring. Take it off. Try. Put it on the male part of the coupling. Try. Fiddle with it some more.

Now I’m worried.

Nothing I could do was fixing the issue.

That’s it, call a plumber. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m a carpenter, not a plumber. So I franticly go upstairs and google “emergency plumber repair”. I call the number and give my info. Of course it’s 6:30pm on a Monday. This never happens at 10am on a weekday. They say they’ll have someone contact me after 7pm.

“No water. You all are gonna have to stay at a hotel.” I proclaim to the family while waiting for the plumbing people to call me back. There’s nothing I can do and if they can’t fix it tonight it will be at least tomorrow. And this is the only water supply for the house. And that supply is off.

A little after 7pm I get a call. Thank god. The guy on the other end of the line is Randy and he didn’t seem as worried as I was.

Randy: “Is there an o-ring?”

“Yea.” I replied

“I’d hate to charge you $130 bucks just to do this. There’s a groove you have to seat the ring into in the canister top.”

“Yea, but…”

“…the o-ring seems too big?” replied Randy

Jesus, this dude is reading my mind.

“You just gotta seat it in there. Use two hands. If it’s not working you can try some vaseline. Or you can go to Home Depot and get a new ring. It’s not something we’d have on our truck anyway. Give it a try and worst case call me back if you can’t do it.”

So me, the spouse and kids all fiddle with the o-ring. Damn thing is too big. After all these years my o-ring has worn itself out maybe and is all loose and sloppy. That’s kind of depressing.

“Ok, I’m going to Home Depot.” Everyone else headed out the door to find a house with working plumbing and I headed to the store.

I went to Home Depot and the guy looked at me like I was nuts.

“I don’t think we sell anything like that” but he pointed me towards aisle 44 where they sell the “wrenches n such for that sort of thing” pointing at the large wet, blue canister in my hands. None of the water treatment systems there looked like mine. But…they did have packages of o-rings; one looked too small, the other looked too big. I’ll go with too small.

And to hedge my bets I went to Lowe’s. Same deal. Package of too small and package of too big o-rings, each with a little tube of vaseline.

I went home and took my canister, and it’s old oversized loose o-ring, and tried to fit what seemed to be the closest of my “too small” o-rings into the groove. I lubed up the new spritely o-ring.

Man….it was not working.

I had goo all over my hands and a too small o-ring slithering around the top of my canister, mocking me. Maybe if I had an extra set of hands, but everyone was off enjoying modern plumbing at someone else’s house. Hmm….

On a whim I took my old, loose o-ring and lubricated it. Not really sure why this would work I slowly used my gooey hands to place it in the track.

What the hell?!

As I circled around the o-ring that was previously an inch too wide, joyfully slid into the groove and sat there happy as a clam in brackish water.

Seriously, what the hell?!

With skepticism I marched downstairs, inserted the new filter into the canister and screwed it on. Kinda tight to be honest but with one last revolve it was aligned and seated. Saying a tiny prayer to the person upstairs (god, not some actual person…’cause, as you know, everyone left to find a house with working plumbing) I closed the bleeder and opened the inline valves.

Voila!

Seems like it worked. [knock on wood]

So far I think it worked. I’ll check on it before bed and in the morning. I have no idea why vaseline was the trick to tightening up my o-ring but I’m glad it worked. And I’m only out about ten bucks for the o-rings I apparently didn’t need, but will hold on to.

On the down side I realized my metal bucket has a leak so all the water in the bucket leaked out onto the floor.

I still have no desire to be a plumber, but I’m grateful it’s fixed, whether I had to pay someone or not. Thank you Randy, wherever you are! I owe you one. And I should have tried the vaseline first.

Fire Circle

I can’t believe it took me eight years to figure out what to do with the extra cultured stone that had been taking up space in my garage. The stone is leftover from the fireplace project when we built the house. At the time I had planned to do a couple extra corners in the fireplace design, and when we simplified the design we already had stone. So the result was a bunch of extra corner pieces.

Over time I tried to give the stone away to other people building houses and fireplaces but never got any takers. Then last weekend we had people over for a social distance cookout that included a campfire and s’mores. I mowed the pond dike and scraped away the grass where the fire pit was. I was worried about catching the grass on fire, so I had a bucket of water handy. The campfire worked fine and no fire spread beyond where it should have.

That night someone, maybe me, had the idea…boy, I could use those two boxes of stone to create a fire ring. So, the next day I loaded up the wheelbarrow, twice, and hauled all the stone back to the fire pit area. I simply stacked it around in a circle as my eye saw fit. Nothing fancy and not much labor other than digging the pit a little and arranging stones in the 85 degree heat and humidity.

I like how it turned out and look forward to our next campfire there.

Let me know what you think…

Breezeway Lights and Closet Cleanup

Winter is a pretty rad time to tackle all those household tasks that have been weighing on you. In between turkey dinners and pine tree flavored beers, any household can benefit from simple tasks such as updating burnt out light bulbs and cleaning out the closet, and ours did just that.

First up were the breezeway overhead can lights. Five of six bulbs had been burnt out for quite some time, so the it was a rather dim experience. I finally found a decent bulb that met my preferences. The basic GE LED outdoor PAR38 bulb I used was available at Lowe’s.  It’s warm (3000K) and rated for outdoor. When installed it has a nice flush look to it. There isn’t much else to say. After all we are simply talking light bulbs here.

 

The other project we tackled was cleaning out the master bedroom and closet. We packed up over eight bags of clothes, shoes and other items to donate or recycle. The room looks really open and refreshing now. Not such a stressful mess anymore.

After clean up I was able to install some shelves and a mirror we got from IKEA to create a little dressing area. I really like the space, even though it’s primarily for the wife to use. I just enjoy seeing the space now. The light reflects off the mirror and makes the room brighter.  I used drywall anchors, and wood screws (into one stud) to mount the shelf brackets to the wall. Here are pics:

Hanging Pictures

Hanging framed pictures is one of those things that seemingly never gets done. We still don’t know what to hang over the couch or to the side of the living room window. My bedroom is basically bare. All over the house we have bare walls because I never know what to hang, I’m too broke or cheap to buy anything, or I’m too lazy to get around to hanging anything.

Well that changed a bit today. On our vacation to the Pacific Northwest this year I collected a poster from each of the National Parks we visited (a couple posters I had to order online when we got home, to complete the set). I spent a pretty penny getting them all framed. Today was the day, I just went for it and hung them on the wall.

I selected the large blank wall leading from the first floor to the second floor. It’s a vast space and you’d need a super large piece of art to take up that amount of space. So instead of one piece I decided to do sort of a framed art collage on the wall. I have five framed posters so I somewhat arbitrarily hung them on the wall, according to the geographic locations of the park in the Pacific Northwest. Clever, right? I will infill around the posters with photos of our trip in various sizes and shapes. I think it will look nice.

And it feels good to get not have framed posters laying around, and it feels good having one less blank wall in the house. It makes it feel homey and is a nice reminder of our family vacation.

Visit https://scenichwys.com/product-category/posters to order posters for yourself. The ones we have all have old time cars…we wonder if the cars correlate to the year the parks were opened, but that would require research, blah.

House Painting

Good news: we got the house painted.

Best news: I didn’t have to do it.

We’ve been here seven years this year. To maintain this beautiful structure, skinned in western red cedar and cement board, it needs to be cleaned and painted every five or so years.

We called the man back who painted the house to review the state of the house and provide an estimate. The house exterior is in pretty good shape. It really needed to be cleaned though, as the clear coated cedar was showing signs of sun exposure as well as black spots from just being exposed to the air, rain and snow. The white trim was dirty. the only area that we didn’t think needed touch up were the charcoal colored sections of the house. Those looked pretty darn good.

It cost us $4,600 and took two weeks to complete the job. And it was worth every penny. The house looks brand new on the outside. And there was literally no way I would be able to have done it myself. Just the amount of time and effort required. The painters went up on the metal roof without scratching it. They knocked down all the wasp nests, cleaned out the old bird nests. They pressure washed the white porch columns. And they even stained all the decks and pressure washed the screen porch inside!

They did a fantastic job clear coating all of the cedar, it looks almost new. Overall I’m so happy and also happy I hired pros to do the work.

house painting 2019

The house was pressure washed and repainted. Here is the front porch and it looks phenomenal.

Three Apples

I grew three apples this year.

It’s been six years since I planted our apple trees.

Late this spring I decided I’d try to prune the apple trees in hopes they would actually, you know, grow apples.  I have a dozen books on growing trees, and that included instructions on how to prune them. But for the life of me I can’t understand what I’m reading when it comes to this topic. And there is like no one who will just swing by the house and show me. Luckily we have the internet and more specifically luckily we have YouTube. This dude, James Prigioni, on YouTube has a great video that I watched. It gave me the confidence to go out and massacre my little apple tree friends. (You can watch the rest of his videos here).

I went to the store and bought a hand saw and sharpened up my clippers. I did the best I could to remove the branches crowding the center of my trees. And I trimmed off dead branches. Generally working to shape up the trees. I removed up to 30% of branches on some of the trees. I pruned a little late in spring but I did the best I could when inspiration struck me.

The fruits of my labor were three apples on two trees this year. Not much progress but one of the apples was red, which is the first time we had a red apple tree produce an apple.

red-apple-on-tree

A red apple on a tree.

green-apple-on-tree

A green apple on a tree.

I plan on pruning my trees again this fall, or in the spring. They got very large this year after I pruned them. Watching the video helped out a ton because the books just weren’t explaining it to me in a way that I could understand. I really need someone to show me.

I’m sure I’m not taking very good care of my trees in terms of fertilizer or whatnot, but it is nice seeing them grow up, and maybe I’ll get lucky next year and they’ll start magically growing fruit.

I don’t know what happened to the apples. It’s late summer and they must’ve fallen or rotted off the trees. I don’t spray the trees so maybe that’s part of the problem too. Regardless, three apples is hardly anything to get excited about yet. So I just let nature take its course.

Pruning was fun and therapeutic. I look forward to playing with my apple trees some more next year.

Too Many HDMI Cords? Fix It With This…

January?

I haven’t written since January?

Ugh, I’ve been stressed all year – work has been crazy so I haven’t had the energy to sit down and write. Which I kind of miss it. So, today I had a blank Saturday in which I could do anything I want to do, including putting off cutting the grass. Even if not a lot has been going on, there’s gotta be at least something to write about since January, right?

Alright I’ll throw some product reviews at you all, over the next few posts. And we can touch base on the mice and whatever else I can think of. I need to write.

First up, back in February I picked up a pair of these Techole HDMI splitter switches. They are about ten dollars (US) on Amazon and got decent reviews.

Techole-switch-in-box

We use our living room as our primary living space. And our family time usually includes an hour or two at night watching tv or movies together. We also play video games…I think if I added it all up there are like ten devices in the living room cabinet…let’s see: two xBoxes, two DVD players, a Nintendo Switch…cable box…anyway it’s more HDMI cables then the Sony tv (the old ~50″+ version of this tv) has ports for. So I needed a splitter to take the HDMI from the tv and feed in two devices. I think I had 5 ports so I picked up two splitters or switches.

There’s not much going on here but these are solid metal switches (like I said, I ordered two) each packaged in some nice simple brown packaging.

Obviously super easy to install, just plug in your HDMI cables and you’re good to go. I believe because the devices I plugged into the switches are powered, the switches themselves are “powered”. This allows the number on the switch to illuminate so you can tell if cable 1 or cable 2 is hooked up at any given time.

Whenever you need to access a device just press the button on the switch and tune to the right input on the tv.

I also ordered these color coded HDMI cables from Cable Matters and love them as well. Good quality and very low cost. $12-18.50 for a three pack. Color coding is a blessing with all that’s going on behind the tv.

I don’t notice any reduction in quality and the switches (and cables) have worked fine since I bought them. I’d definitely recommend trying them out to help manage things and expand your cable capacity behind your tv.

 

Added Another Smart Switch

We’re on a roll now. I drove out to Best Buy and picked up another WeMo smart light switch. Since I knew what I was doing it only took me twenty minutes to install, with no drama whatsoever (*knock on wood).

The garage light previously could only be operated from within the garage which made is useless because to turn it off you’d have to leave the house which would subject you to the elements and / or machete wielding maniacs hiding in the bushes. Now the light can be operated from anywhere in the world, day or night.

Garage Work Shop

A couple weeks ago I was at a party and my brother-in-law asked me if I had any projects going on around the house. I had to answer “no” because I haven’t had anything going on for quite a while. Work had been slow so funds were non-existent for home projects. And as you all know we’re always knocking around the idea of moving, so why bother. Well the last couple months have found me with a couple extra dollars in my pocket, and a raging desire to do something constructive. I have a mental backlog of projects I’d like to do:

  • garage organization
  • basement ceiling
  • storage room lighting and clean up
  • bar on the screen porch
  • paint the laundry room and bathroom
  • paint the trim and doors in the basement
  • finish staining the porch and sand box

Probably a lot of other little projects I can’t think of right now. I decided to start tackling the garage because it would be nice to fit two cars in there, and we just recently built that storage loft, so let’s get ‘er done, right?

I’ve started drawing up plans for a workshop in the garage, back in September of 2017.  Here:

Workshop Model 181101

The storage loft covers the entire half bay. Below that I’m going to infill with a variety of work benches and shelves made from 2×4 lumber and plywood. These will replace the existing hodge-podge of store bought metal shelves. The red thing in the rendering is my tool chest and the silver thing is a wicked cool little mini fridge that holds frosty beverages.

metal-shelves-1

This shelf has served me well for over 18 years but maybe it’s just time, you know.

I modeled up and drew plans for the secondary work bench on the far left in the rendering, and the larger “L” shaped work bench on the far right. Budget wise the cost for lumber and screws to make these two came out to about $250 total including delivery of the wood to my place.

I put 1/2″ OSB on the shelves, and 3/4″ pine plywood on the work bench countertops. The countertops are all at 36″ height from the floor. I spaced the lower shelves to accommodate my plethora of plastic tool cases I’ve collected over the years. I ran 2×4 supports from the floor to under the loft rim joist as an added measure of support for the loft above. I’ll connect these supports with “L” brackets at the top and bottom. I screwed the shelves and countertops not only to the supports but also the wall where I could. Everything seems very solid. The “L” shaped workbench does not have a center support, but I think it’ll be strong enough as is (look at the photos). I wanted that corner open and easily accessible.

It took me one day to build and install everything. I think it works and looks great. I have counter space for my bandsaw, drill press, sander and other tools. And something neat: I finally unboxed a scroll saw we bought 18 years ago at Sears which has been sitting in a box because we never had space for it. I did lose some small shelf space, but I plan on installing pegboard and smaller shelves or cozies for small items and fluid bottles.

unboxing scroll saw

I finally got to unbox the scroll saw after picking it up on sale at Sears 18 years ago!

Chirp

Chirp.

What’s that?

[a few minutes later]

Chirp.

Oh.

Chirp.

Well I hope it’s not the one in the bedroom.

Chirp.

I was in my office working last week when I heard one of the smoke detectors start chirping. Immediately I hoped it wasn’t the one in the master bedroom because that one is not a chair or stepladder away. It is well over twenty feet in the air, attached at the zenith of the 12/12 pitch vaulted ceiling.

I walked upstairs and sure enough, yep, it was the one in the master bedroom. Originally we had put a lithium battery in the detector, a battery that was supposed to last ten year. Well, we got almost six years out of this one. Not too bad and better than trying to replace it every year like you’d have to do with a regular 9V battery. Honestly I’d almost rather die of smoke inhalation than change this particular battery every year.

The biggest problem with changing the battery isn’t necessarily the height, though I hate heights and that is definitely a big problem for me personally. No, the biggest problem is I didn’t know if I had a ladder tall enough to change the battery. When we installed it we had a giant A-frame ladder that we borrowed from my brother.

Once we picked up a new battery at the store, I brought in my extension ladder. On the side it has a little label explaining that the ladder extends to 16′ and the maximum standing height is 15′. Hmmm…not sure that’s enough. I’m about six feet tall, plus I can reach a foot or two above my head. But that would mean I’m on the top rung almost. Just to confirm my suspicions I went up the ladder. Yeah, no way. I got up there and still had six feet to reach the smoke detector, and was as high up as I felt comfortable going.

Time for plan B. I exchanged the extension ladder for my other ladder, one of those Little  Giant folding ladders. Its label said it extends out to 18′. This seemed too short too, but worth a shot since it was my last shot. The ladder weighs a lot but it’s solid and with a little help from my friend we got the ladder up there. It looked promising.

As long as I didn’t look down, I felt comfortable climbing up there. And sure enough, i was able to reach the smoke detector. With a shaky hand I undid the cover and replaced the battery. Stopping just long enough to get a picture for the blog.

It all worked out well. And the chirp is mercifully gone. I think the new battery will last just as long, and now I know I have the means to replace it when it loses its charge.

Please no more chirp for a while.