Monday, November 28, 2016

Patio Exterior Lights

We were able to get a few more cedar shingles installed before it started raining yet AGAIN.

If it rains tomorrow we can run the wire to the boxes from inside the house. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't rain because I still have some stuff to put away before we get freezing temperatures.
Elvis wanted to go outside, but when we opened the door and he saw it was raining, he just stood there.  He would be happy if we just left the door open so he could be outside without actually going outside. 

Tomorrow's high temp is suppose to be 57 degrees.  That is warm enough to prime IF the shingles are dry enough after all this rain.  Raw cedar shingles are like sponges when it rains, that is why I try my best to get at least one coat of primer on them.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Deciding on the Correct Height for Exterior Lights

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was enjoyable and your turkey was cooked just right.  We dined out with my son and daughter in law at a Hungarian restaurant in Detroit.  B and I both ordered chicken paprikash with dumplings, my son ordered goulash with dumplings, and the Hungarian at the table ordered filet mignon, go figure. 
Goulash with Dumplings
Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings

But the real star of the dinner was dessert.  I ordered a milk chocolate and walnut torte.  It was very good and I thought I had made the perfect choice until I got a taste of B's dessert.  She ordered kremesh.  Sometimes referred to as kreme.  This dessert is made all over Europe but I guess some places add too much garnish and make it too sweet.  From what I have read, the French version has whipped cream on top and is drizzled with caramel.  In Hungary the kremesh is just the filling between puff pastry.  It is so good. You taste the cream which isn't overly sweet.  I wish I had a photo of it but I did find a photo online which is very close to what the restaurant served.  The only difference is that B's piece wasn't yellow and was just lightly off white.

The current exterior light on the deck is located above the door.  I wanted a light on each side of the door so when I purchased my other exterior lights I just bought two extra.  This means each side of the patio door will have a light.

Now has come the time to decide on the placement of these lights.  I started by checking the Internet to see what the 'Net' had to say about exterior wall hung lights.  Several sites said 60 inches up from the bottom of the door and between 6 and 11 inches away from the door casing.  Sounds good so I got out the tape measure and a piece of white chalk and measured up from the door sill and marked the 60 inch mark.  I stopped right their because that was just too low.

I called to R to hold the light at various heights until I found a spot that looked good.  I marked this location with chalk and then measured the 6 inch and 11 inch marks.  6 inches was too close to the door.  R suggested the mid point between the door and the window.  Normally I am all about things being centered and symmetrical but in this case I thought it was best if the lights were closer to the door because the lights are there to cast light around the door opening.

11 inches was perfect but that point landed right on a stud so we were able to move it 1 inch closer to the door for it to work.  But before I could say 'this is the location' I needed to check the other side and make sure there wasn't a stud problem.  All was good, so we moved on to cutting out the hole for the 4 inch octagon box.
The light may look like it is centered between the window and door but the new door will have 5 inch wide casing so the light is located closer to the door than the window.  I am so ready for that door to go buh bye.

Probably one of the worse things that I can ask R to do is hold something, while I decide the correct placement.  He just doesn't understand why I can't just say "right here" and move onto the next task.  It frustrates him to no end.
R cut out the opening and reattached the tar paper.  He then installed the box and we attached the light to the box just to make sure that it looked good.  Our hands were so cold that it was difficult to screw the little cap onto the threaded stud.  

I also screwed in a LED light bulb and right away didn't like how it looked.  It is so white that it stands out.  I'll wait and see how it looks after the electrical is attached and the shingles are installed and painted before I make up my mind.

Tomorrow we have a few errands to run before we can install the box on the other side of the door.  The other side should go faster now that we know the location.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Preparing to Install Exterior Lights

Lets talk nails as in fingernails.

I have found that when I start even the smallest of projects and it begins with a broken nail, it not a good sign.
For the good part of my adult life I have had long artificial fingernails.  When my husband was racing motorcycles and I was his wrench at the track, I had really long hot pink fingernails and never broke a fingernail.  All my years of working on the development of engines (technician/mechanic) I always had long fingernails and rarely broke a nail.

But once I retired, I decided to forgo the artificial nails and just grow my own out.  Generally there is no problem except when spray painting, the nail sometimes gets in the way of the spray.  It's when I use my left hand that I get in trouble.  Because of the bulging disc and resulting pinched nerve on the right side I tend to use my left hand when I bend down to pick up a tool.  Today I misjudged and promptly rammed my freshly manicured thumb right  into a Wonder Bar and broke a nail.  And it was down hill after that.
Today we removed all the drywall around the patio door and discovered a very poor installation of wire from the duplex outlet to a switch to the light over the center of the door.  None of it was attached to the studs with wire brads and the wire was twisted and laid on top of several studs rather than through drilled holes in the studs.  I think the outlet is too low (I didn't measure yet) and the box for the switch is right up against the jamb.
There was some fiberglass insulation that we removed which in turn unearthed a million walnut shells and the remains of a wasp nest.  By this time it was almost 4 pm and since it was raining, it was already getting too dark.  So we decided to clean up the area and start on the detangling of wire on Friday.

I swept up the small debris, as R  broke up the drywall into smaller pieces so we could throw it into the trash container to get picked up on Friday.  I finished sweeping and decided to use the shop vac to clean out the stud cavities and fine debris between the wood floor and the bottom plate.  I leaned over and flipped the switch only to have dust and debris fly out of the exhaust hole and directly into my face.  

That's bad for a person with good lungs so it immediately sent me into a coughing/wheezing fit because of my COPD from exposure to internal combustion exhaust and exposure to chemicals.  I stopped coughing long enough to open up the shop vac and discover that the filter had falling off.  I reinstalled the filter and even checked to make sure it was snug.  

I flipped the switch and immediately heard a clunk and before I could shut it off, I was blasted in the face again.  At that point I called it quits.
Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and for residents of Michigan that means the Detroit Lions will kick off their annual Thanksgiving Day game.  In the past we would get tickets and go to the game and then come back and eat.  But this year we will watch it on TV and then go to a Hungarian restaurant in Detroit for dinner.  I'm looking forward to chicken paprikas and torte for dessert.  Unconventional but tasty.

Have a great Thanksgiving

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

In a blink it went from 71 degrees to snowing...

...but before the snow started falling we had a severe thunderstorm that has left my yard looking like a tornado blew through.
This deck was debris free yesterday.
What is left of this giant willow tree after the leaves and small limbs ended up in our yard and a giant limb broke off.
 Our yard is filled with limbs like this one.
I forgot to take a photo of the large wasp nest that fell out of the black maple tree. It was way up at the top and landed or rolled almost a football field away in the back yard.

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The Last Nice Day Of the Year

The weather today was bittersweet.  On one hand, it was a balmy 71 degrees and on the other hand, tomorrow's forecast is for a high of 40 degrees and a low of 28 degrees with a chance of snow.  It's the middle of November, so 40 degrees is just about normal.  But 70 degrees was soooo nice, but in the back of your head you know that once the cold weather breaks that threshold of being cold both night and day, you are screwed.  You will not see or feel a warm day again until sometime in the 4th month of the year 2017.

It's depressing having a solid 4 or 5 months of cold weather with nothing but grey skies.  So I made the most of today and at least painted the primed shingles grey.  
Today I painted the primed shingles and also touched up some of the grey paint where I missed a spot here and there.  I had hoped to get at least one coat of white paint on the trim but 4 o'clock rolled around all too soon.  I started picking up tools and paint cans at 4pm and by the time 430pm came, it was twilight. 
I almost forget to tell you about this trim that we added. We  added a piece of cove trim where the shingles meet the deck.  This isn't something that you normally do but we have a problem with leaves getting stuck in the gap between the deck and the house.  The leaves decay and then hold moisture and rot the wood.  We are hoping that this small piece of trim stops that from happening again.  You couldn't even see the trim after I painted it grey.  We will not need this trim piece once we replace the decking and run the deck boards all the way under the shingles.
Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. We can run wire for the two exterior lights from inside the house. The wire and switch are already in place.  We just need to install 2 junction boxes (one on each side of the patio door) and run wire from one junction box to the other.

When the rain stops we can start hanging more shingles.  We can shingle in the winter if it isn't snowing or below 28 degrees.  Twentyeight degrees is the point where coats and gloves interfere with being able to move and handle tools.

R had a helper yesterday.  Elvis insisted on laying his head on R's leg.  The day before this he wanted to lay on the shingle bundles.  
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Deck Step and Shingle Update

The weather has been very cooperative and we should be farther along but we had a feline problem that we needed to stop and deal with right away.  We have over the course of the last three years found homes for or taken feral cats to a rescue home for what has now become 31 cats.

During the summer we had a cute little grey cat show up at our other house.  We nicknamed her Little Bit and worked on socializing her.  She comes to her name, talks to us, but stays about one foot away all time.  I told R one day that she looked thinner.  He agreed but we didn't think she had kittens because she just wasn't that big.  About 6 weeks later she shows up with two little orange kittens.  Little Bit is slate grey and black but we've seen the daddy a couple of times.  He's a big big orange male who just sits on the edge of our property and looks at us.

Last week R saw one of the kittens across the street where two people were trying to catch it.  He spoke with them later on and they did indeed have the kitten.  He explained the deal and they said they would find it a home.  At this point we knew we needed to nab the other kitten before it tried to cross the road or become coyote food.

Three days later the kitten actually went into the large cage we had set up with a blanket and food.  R closed the door and we were relieved, but now what?  We transferred the large cage to the garage and over the next three days we worked on touching it (we think it is a male), litter training (no problem at all), and making sure it calm around people.

We just didn't have time to find it a home so we took it to a local no kill rescue that we had worked with before.  We gave them a $100 donation and 6 bags of kitty litter and they were thrilled.  The lady told R that the kitten was super cute and it would be absolutely no problem to find it a home.  Yea!!!!

But we still need to catch Little Bit before she get pregnant again.  There is also another cat about the same size as Little Bit that is all black but a little more stand offish.  We think they were litter mates.  So that will be two more cats to find homes for or two more donations.

Long story short....we didn't get much done on Monday.  But we had two good days and made some progress.  I might even try to do a little priming tomorrow and painting on Friday.
The step is complete.  We love how it is deep enough that you don't have to break your stride at all when stepping up and walking through the patio doors.

Tomorrow is our final mowing day of the year.  R can use the zero turn on the rental house and our house, so I can paint while he mows.  I normally mow our house with the traditional lawn tractor but painting is a priority right now.

Today I repainted a metal wreath that I purchased for my mother about 20 years ago.  It was from the Neiman Marcus's catalog.  I loved it because it was different.  The wreath is made out of metal banding.  Originally it was rusty metal but my mother spray painted it in a high gloss black.  Today I sprayed it in a satin black.  I like the satin look better but it was hard to tell the difference in the photos.
Before in gloss black
After in black satin
I also spray painted a decorative bracket that was in my mother's stash.  I don't really recall where she ever used this but I knew right away where I could use it and what I could hang from it.  I have 4 large lanterns hanging on my big trees along my driveway.  They are solar with LED bulbs.  The lantern has what appears to be a pillar candle and the bulb in the candle flickers.  For added brightness there are two LED bulbs in the canopy which have a mirrored finish to reflect more light.  It's amazing how realistic they look.
3960KR1 San Rafael II Solar Mission Lantern
The lanterns I have on the trees are 24 inches high.  I figured that would be too big for the bracket and the location but I tried it anyways.  Yup....too big.  The next size that is offered is 14 inches high and that will be perfect.  

The tall lanterns came from Home Depot and eBay.  The 14 inch tall one was ordered today from eBay for $20.82 plus I will receive 5% back from Ebates and they offered free shipping!!!.  

BTW I just received a cash back quarterly check for $49.84,  Ebates has now upgraded their cash back to include cash back when you purchase instore at certain stores.  You link your credit card to the Ebates site and click on any offer that you might use.  I have a feeling that more stores will offer this in the future so you should have a larger choice as time goes on.

You can sign up for Ebates HERE.  You get $10 once you spend $20 online using Ebates.  They send out checks quarterly.  

To help you remember to activate Ebates before you make a purchase just download the Ebates button to your toolbar and it will prompt you when you go to a site that gives cash back.  I have found that 75% of the sites that I go to offer cash back through Ebates.  eBay, Etsy, Lowes, Macy's, Target, Payless, Toys R Us, are a few of the online stores that offer rebates on Ebates. I have so far received back over $522.00!!!!!

Our cat, Elvis, loves sitting on the bundles of shingles.  Whenever another cat tried to sit on either bundle he swatted at them to go away.
 His sister, Patches, had patience and the minute that Elvis was distracted by a bird on the bird feeder, she copped a flop and hunkered down.
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Monday, November 14, 2016

Step Up! Installing a patio door step

Over the last two days we have been working on the step in front of the patio door.  I swear sometimes the smaller projects take just as long as the big ones.

As I mentioned previously, I wanted a step that went across the entire patio door plus an additional 23 to 25 inches on each side.  I also wanted a deep step so that when going into and out of the game room that your stride wouldn't need to slow to make sure that your foot landed on say a 10 inch deep step. I'm a tripper by nature so I think I am more aware of such things.
It was kind of trial and error to get the right set up.  The length of the step was determined by the size of the planters plus the width of the door.  The depth of the step was another matter.  It was like Goldie Locks and the three bears.......not too shallow and not too deep....but jusssssst right.  I played around with some scrap pieces and walked in and out of the patio door probably at least 20 times.

I then put my figures to paper and scoured our scrap pile and our good lumber pile and found the boards I needed for the frame work.  While I did this, R finished installing the remaining flashing.
Yesterday we assembled the frame.  Today we had to determine how we would build the tread.  We have already purchased a stack of pressure treated 2X10s 12 feet long for another project so they were readily available.  We went with 2X10s.  Except 2 wasn't enough and 3 were too many.  We could have ripped down one of the 2X10s but they are rather pricey to waste one by ripping it to a narrower width.

So off to the big box store we went to get one 2X6.  5 miles away and the entire trip took 2 hours.  I made the mistake about asking the garden section if they had any anti desiccant for spraying on evergreens to protect them from wind damaging the plant by drying it out during the winter.  There were three of them and they all basically went....DUH.  They went to the store computer and it said they had Wilt Pruf in stock but no one had heard of it, knew what it was for, and didn't know where it was in the store.  We left and later on I went to my local Ace Hardware where they knew what it was and had it in stock.
By the time we arrived home and cut the boards to length it was 410PM and starting to get dark.  This time zone change really puts a cramp on getting a lot done.  The extended forecast is for warm enough weather on Thursday and Friday to paint.  So fingers crossed that we are at a point where I can paint on Thursday and Friday. 

Tomorrow we will screw everything in place and start installing more shingles.  I really enjoy this stage of projects where the progress is very apparent and changes daily. If only all days were like that. 
Tonight's Super Moon

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Game Room Windows

We have moved on to the game room exterior.  The old inappropriate windows were removed and replaced with the same restoration windows that we installed in the kitchen.

The window opening on the right was already there but the window on the left required making an opening and framing it out.  The hardest part was making sure the opening was the same distance from the door and the same elevation as the opening on the right.
Yesterday we started the shingle installation.  But before we started hanging shingles we nailed a roll of aluminum flashing under the tar paper at the area where the exterior wall meets the deck.  We decided to add the flashing because snow piles up against the shingles in the winter and we wanted to make sure that moisture doesn't wick through to the interior wall and insulation.
I am always surprised how much better the windows look with shingles around them.
We already have the two exterior lights that go on each side of the patio doors.  We also have vintage French doors to replace the ugliest sliding doors on the planet.  

Tomorrow we will build the step in front of the patio door.  It's going to be big because I have two 20x20 square planters that I planted with Alberta spruces years ago and I want them to sit on the step.  The reason we have to build the step before we move on is because the step will need to be screwed to the sheathing and then we will shingle around the step.
Elvis says he "loves to nap on steps" especially if he can be in the way.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Kitchen Exterior Before and After

We voted mid afternoon to avoid the before work and after voters.  Last night I went online for a sample ballet and then made up a cheat sheet so my voting went fairly fast.  I'm pretty sure that we all don't agree on the same candidate but I bet we can ALL agree that we are happy that it will all be over by tomorrow.  #sickoftalkingheadsandpundits  
I promised you before and after photos of the exterior of the kitchen.  I couldn't find the very earliest photos of when the concrete steps were intact with the red wrought iron railing and then a second set of wood steps going to the deck.  It was ugly and awkward.

Before we could do anything we needed to jackhammer the solid concrete steps.  R rented a portable jack hammer.  We can laugh about it now but it wasn't funny then.  The concrete was so hard it would only break off little flakes about the size of a hand.  

Plan B was renting a Bobcat with a jack hammer attachment.  R rented it on a Friday evening and returned it Monday morning.  He would jack hammer awhile and then stop so I could throw the broken pieces down onto the driveway.  The concrete was so hard it actually would cut through my gloves.  

It was a big deal to run across a piece that required two hands to pick up.  I actually was surprised that we were able to remove all of it.  About halfway through the weekend I thought that we would be lucky to just get the concrete down to ground level.  We lucked out and was able to dig out under the concrete and using heavy duty pry bars to pry the pieces up and out of the dirt.
We found broken sheathing and some cracks in the mortar of the concrete block wall.  Both were easy fixes.  The broken sheathing was allowing mice and cold air into the crawl space so we were happy to run across this defect and fix it.  We have fixed so many holes, cracks, and crevices that our heating bill has decreased to about 1/3 of what it was when we bought our house.
After the step was gone we built a platform between the kitchen door and the existing deck. This configuration makes it far easier to bring groceries into the house.

After we rebuilt the deck we went to work on removing the overhang.  It was ugly and not original.  We actually removed three overhangs that were not original.  This large one that hung over the kitchen door area, the one on the garden shed/pump house, and a small one over the back door.  All three of these overhangs caused water damage to the wood and the back door overhang caused extensive wood rot to the sheathing and plaster damage in the living room.
After removing the overhang we then removed the leaking rubber roofing and installed asphalt shingles.  We had two roofing companies tell us that the pitch of the roof was enough for shingles.  We installed the shingles during 95 to 100 degree weather.  R was on the roof and I was on the ladder handing him cut shingles.  

I did a little research on the Internet and we decided we would install 4 roofing nails instead of three and make sure that we removed the cellophane that covers the tar strips.  My parents had a small tornado hit their neighborhood of new homes.  Their home was built by a different builder than the three houses that surrounded them.  My dad had a weather station set up and recorded the wind speed at 96 mph.  The house across the street was knocked off the foundation and all three neighbors lost roofing shingles.  When my dad cleaned up his yard he noticed that all the shingles still had the cellophane on the tar strip.  My parent's home sustained a dent in their garage door from a neighbor's flying patio chair.  No roof shingle damage but the wind speed going across the vent stack openings pulled all the water out of their three toilets.  So long story short we came to the conclusion that due to the low pitch and southern exposure that the shingles would be vulnerable to high winds associated with summer storms.  I'm pleased to tell you that we corrected all the leaks and have not sustained any lost shingles during storms.

Gutters and downspouts were added and we have completely eliminated the huge icicles that we used to get in the winter.  An added bonus was the increase in sunlight coming into the kitchen.
Next came the new restoration windows.  We installed these windows ourselves which saved us $$$. 
Then came priming and painting. 
  We couldn't be happier.  The exterior now looks original and we have the bonus of better operating windows, more light, and no leaks.
The small square window is over the sink and is non operational.  A double hung window was a no go because I am short and would not be able to open or close a double hung window without climbing up on a chair.  I asked about a casement window but none were offered in the size we needed so I am OK with the non operational window.
Tomorrow I will post photos of the game room windows that we installed.  We start hanging cedar shingles tomorrow.  Those shingles will stay bare unless we get a warm day above 55 degrees that will allow me to prime and paint.
We put the recently repainted mismatched Woodard furniture back on the deck.  The black satin paint unifies all the different pieces and makes it look like one big set.  It's too late in the season to bring out the cushions and glass for the tables.  I have been swooning over outdoor fabric and I have about 20 choices that I need to send away for samples.  My plan is to use different fabrics on the two sides, so that I can change the look of the furniture by flipping the cushion.  

Also in the plan for next year is new decking.  This is the original decking and it is cracked, cupped, and split.  We will install 5/4 boards like what we used on the kitchen door platform, barn loft platform, and the small platform and steps that go down to the back yard.  The current decking is 2X6 boards.  By installing 5/4 boards we can eliminate a lot of weight from the deck.  
The cats love to sit on the zero steer mower.