Showing posts with label DIY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DIY. Show all posts

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Built a Kitchen Buffet in time for Thanksgiving

The latest and greatest project!  I do mean 'greatest' - I think each project is a little better than the last.  This was the first project where I incorporated tile and glass, so pretty proud of how it all came out.

Knocking Off Crate and Barrel
The inspiration for this was a buffet we saw at Crate and Barrel:
The Galvin Sideboard is $1,200 and was also a bit too long for our spot in the kitchen.  I liked the stainless steel top and even looked into buying a sheet of metal, although I haven't worked with bending steel sheet.  In the end though, we decided this piece would be the perfect use of some of our extra backsplash tile.  The Galvin also comes up short in that it has three small storage areas which couldn't hold anything wider than a dinner plate.  We wanted something that could store serving dishes and such.

I built the buffet starting with the doors for a few reasons.  I had never worked with glass before and routing a slot for it to sit in might be difficult.  I was also cutting the individual boards for the doors with angled corners and anything off of a perfect 45 degree angle could cause the doors to be slightly larger or smaller than planned.  So the thought was to build the doors and then build the box to go around.

The buffet is built out of S4S pine boards from Home Depot.  For some of the larger pieces, I used their pre-joined 24"x48" boards rather than joining several together myself using kreg screws.  Pamela never liked the look of pocket holes, so I wanted to minimize the number of holes I'd have to fill.

My brother had used some Rustoleum Satin Espresso spray paint for a project of his and we really liked the look.  It's not quite as dark as some of the furniture we've purchased, but I might go back and give it a protective finish which may make it a bit deeper.  Working with spray paint was a bit harder than normal paint + paintbrush.  It was easy to cover large areas, but when you care about the finish and drips and paint buildup, it may not be the best way to go.

The top of the buffet uses a 24"x48" board cut down to match the frame.  On top of that, I shaved down some strips to about 3/8" for around the edge of the tile.  Again, the tile is leftover from our backsplash and I think is a nice touch to bring the kitchen together.
The glass is simple 16"x20" sheets from Home Depot and I bought some retainer clips online.  We picked out the handles and hinges from HD too.  The hinges make a big deal about using a Forstner bit to rout the cup holes, but I didn't find that necessary.  I also added some magnetic catches for the doors to help them stay shut.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween Spider

I was working on another project (post to come soon) but got sidetracked with the Halloween spirit.  The spider below was made from some scrap wood/plywood.
Very spooky!
I had originally planned to make the spider free-standing, but that would likely have been a lot harder than I realized.

We went to a neighbor's Halloween party and a guest actually complimented us on the spider.  Since we are right at the entrance to the neighborhood, everyone sees our house and decorations coming in and coming out.  Now I think we'll have to put something together for Christmas.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Happy Anniversary! Two Years of Homeownership

October 3, 2013 marks two years in our home.  Thankfully, the past two years have been trouble free.  We moved in soon after Hurriance Irene came through the northeast and caused substantial flooding in the basement.  The prior owner had to get the basement pumped and treated, as well as replace damaged equipment.

About a year ago, we experienced Hurricane Sandy and were concerned about similar damage.  We really lucked out and, in fact, never lost power.

We've completed a bunch of projects and made the house ours.  In the future there are a list of things we'd like to do; we'll have to see if we ever get around to them:

  • Automatic sprinklers for the yard
  • Add another bathroom
  • Clean and maintain a clean garage
  • Fight off violet (weed) growing in the lawn
  • Change out some of the hedges in the front

The Blog
It's been over two years of posts on this blog.  The first post was September 19, 2011.  I posted a lot of content early on in the blog - I had a lot to say about the home buying process, then once I got setup in the garage/workshop I was excited to share my creations.  The posts have certainly been less frequent, but I've got plenty of other projects to share over time.

For those interested in some data, I've been running Google Analytics along with this blogger account.  It wasn't setup from Day 1, but since GA has been tracking, I've had 12,299 page view from 4,703 unique visitors.

The biggest daily page view count was January 18, 2013 when the site received 204 pageviews perhaps related to this post - Garage Driving Range.

I've also been running ads through Google AdSense which displays ads and pays you either per click or on a CPM basis which is cost per mil (cost per thousand pageviews).  It tells me that I've had 15,661 pagviews and 68 ad clicks over the history for a grand total of $77.71.

Clearly, I am not quitting my day job!

Thanks to everyone who has visited and here's to many happy years to come!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How to Fix Damaged Interior Window Trim

Oh the joy of dog ownership!
We let our dogs on the couch.  They like to lay with us when we are on the couch, one also sleeps on the couch.  Besides the major downside of the couch getting worn and stained over time, the dogs also like to perch on the back of the couch like cats and watch cars and people/other dogs walking by.  When they are particularly excited, like when they see Daddy walking home from the train, they paw at the window frame.

This is what the interior of our front window looked like:
We left the windows un-repaired for some time for a couple of reasons.  We were waiting for Lucky to get old enough to not have accidents before we got a new couch; one that wouldn't allow them to perch by the window.  The other reason was that we couldn't locate the matching trim.  We brought pictures to Home Depot who said to call Andersen Windows but they couldn't help.  We did have a referral of someone who said they'd either find it or custom make it, and fix the window, all for $100, but we thought it'd just get destroyed again and be another $100 out the window (ha).

The big break was finding it on  It wasn't carried in our local store but at another one not too far.

The process was pretty simple:

First, trim around the old apron with a box cutter.  There's likely tape around the edges and if you pry off the old apron it'll rip off a nice chunk of paint and maybe dry-wall.
Note that when you pry off the drywall with a hammer, use a thin board so that you don't damage the drywall.
Second, remove the old stool.  I again delicately trimmed around the edges with a box cutter.  Then I banged the shit out of the stool with a hammer to separate it from the other pieces of the window frame.
Third, remove any remaining nails and sand around the edges to remove old built up paint.
Fourth, cut the new stool and attach.  We bought a 7' piece of 1x2 select pine and cut it down in both dimensions to match the old piece.  I used a few 2 1/2" 8D brads to attach and counter-sunk them.
Fifth, cut the new apron and attach.  You'll need to cut at a 45 degree angle.  I also used even smaller finishing nails to attach.  Since our trim patter was pretty curvy, it was hard to find good spots to hammer in a nail.

Lastly, fill in nail holes, dings with wood filler, sand and paint.

Final final step, hope you don't have to do this all again in a few months!
Don't even think about it!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hanging Flower Display

A triple whammy on this one - made something for Pamela (happy wife), spruced up our living room (happy home), and used only scrap material in the process!

The idea for the... shelf?  display?  came from something Pamela saw on Pinterest - a Floating Vase

We both really liked the idea of adding color to the walls with fresh flowers and set about to re-create.

As I started planning though, there was one thing I didn't like about the design.  The jar is attached by steel wire which is tied together to hold the jar aloft.  It does add a great "floating" element, but I thought this would make it difficult to clean out the jar / change flowers.  You'd need to change the water in the jar as you changed flowers, otherwise you'd get green residue.

My flower display would need to be easy to change.  I bought some large C-brackets from Home Depot, but they didn't make them large enough for the size of jar we wanted to use.  The above jar is a small maraschino cherry jar.  We planned to use larger Ball canning jars.  The idea was a C-bracket installed below as a platform, then another larger C-bracket near the mouth that would prevent the jar from being knocked over.  The look would be a bit more 'industrial' and they didn't have large enough C-brackets so I abandoned that idea.

Instead, we decided to simply build a flush-mounted mini shelf.

I used scrap wood and cut out two matching boards to 18.5" tall by 5.5" wide.  The width fit the jar with some extra space.  The height was targeted to be less tall than our mirror, but was really decided by the available scrap wood I had.
I next cut out a small platform for the jar to sit on.  The jar is somewhat supported below by a small block of wood I cut at a 45 degree angle.  The reality is that the platform is secured by two wood screws which I think would support it just fine.  The angled wood below is a design touch and will also prevent any sagging.

I was excited to also finally use my router on this project to counter sink the screws so it would sit flush with the wall.  I routed out a 1/2" circle around the supporting screw that would hold the display to the wall, as well as in the back so that the screw heads for the platform/support would let the project sit flat.
I used some primer paint I had sitting in the garage after sanding the project down.

Pamela picked some bold flowers and we'll be excited to change them with our mood and the seasons.  She also pointed out that we could do candles in the winter.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Re-Do A Backsplash

Hire someone.  Well, we did, but at the same time it isn't all that difficult.

Step 1: Plan to have your kitchen out of service for some time
This isn't going to be a weekend project and it'll create a big mess.  You'll also have to cut the power to areas of your kitchen, so you'll be ordering delivery while the kitchen is out of service.

The first real step once you decide you want a new backsplash is to pick the tile.  Home Depot has a good selection and there are a lot of good sites online where you can look at sample kitchens (just search Google for 'backsplash tile').

Pamela's mother was in town and found a Tile Shop nearby.  We went and were really impressed by all the samples as well as kitchen mock-ups.  I think it is important to be able to feel the tile and that's where internet searches fall short.

The tile seemed to run from maybe $5 per square foot all the way up to $25 and above.  The Tile Shop had

Step 2: Demolish your existing backsplash
There's a chance that you can use a pry bar and pop the individual tiles or sets of tiles off.  You'd hope to then be able to simply patch and smooth the existing drywall.  It didn't work this way for us.  If the tile is on correctly, the "mud" is like glue between the tile and the drywall.  When you pull off a tile, you will get big chunks of drywall.

This was really the point at which we decided to hire someone.  Before we had guys come in, we did save some money by taking down some lights that were mounted below the cabinets.  Thankfully, I took an Electronics class in high school which included house wiring.  The additional cost of an electrician would've been quite a burden.
Old Tile and Wires from Lights

We made such little progress after many hours of trying to remove the tile ourselves that we realized we'd never get done or we'd be unable to appropriately fix the drywall leading to an uneven new backsplash.

The guys we hired who had done this many times said that they rarely see situations where the tile comes off easily.  Instead, they plan on completely cutting out the old drywall and replacing it with fresh drywall.

New Drywall Up

New Drywall
 It's a pretty simple process - pry or break off some tile around the edges then use a cutting tool to take down the whole wall.  You then measure and cut new drywall and screw it into the studs.  Viola!  You don't need to prime or paint this, because it'll soon be covered.

Step 3:  Install new backsplash
Again, we outsourced this, but I will provide the quick run-down.

First, layout and measure the tile.  You'll then need a wet saw to cut the tile as you have to leave openings for the different switches and outlets.

Once everything was cut and tested for fit, they mixed the mortar ("mud") and smoothed with a trowel.  The mud dries quickly so you need to do smaller areas and work quickly.

After all the tile is up, don't worry if things don't look perfect - the imperfect spacing between tiles or groups of tile really disappear once you grout the tile.

Pick a grout color, mix it and apply.  It dries after 20 minutes or so, then you can remove the excess with a sponge and water.

Step 4: Re-install switches, outlets, and lights
Our old switches, outlets, and respective covers were a taupe color while the new tile and grout called for white.  Pamela and I worked together to replace all the fixtures.  Make sure you kill the power from the breaker in the basement!

Step 5: The Big Reveal!
Here's the old (picture is from the online listing when the home was for sale)
The Old

The New

Boom! Backsplash'd
And the lights work!
Lookin' Good!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Project - Coffee Table

This project was the first where I was building something for someone else.

My brother wanted a new coffee table for a birthday gift, so we traded some e-mails on design features.  He found a coffee table online that he liked:
Altra Coffee Table - the model
The other key aspect of the design was to utilize the sheet of glass from his current coffee table.  The one in his apartment gets a lot of use, and over time, the wood would have a hard time holding up to all the wear and tear as well as food/liquid spills.

For this project, I decided to use S4S pine (squared on four sides) rather than dimensional lumber like I had used on my own dining table.  Dimensional lumber's edges are rounded, so when you join two boards together to make a table top, for instance, you get seams between the boards.  With the dining table, these seams are a key area for food and crumbs to fall into and it is tough to clean out.  Given that the coffee table would use a sheet of glass on top, this wasn't an issue.  It does create a different aesthetic, and in this case, I was trying to closely match what the customer wanted.

The table top and the underside of the table were created using 3 boards joined together to make a flat surface.  The storage drawers sat on an under-mount drawer rail.  I hadn't used under-mount before and they are harder to find - I had to order from Amazon rather than get them at Home Depot.
Something's amiss
If you look carefully, you'll see that the opening I cut in the drawer face is off-center.  I guess I wasn't paying attention and centered the cutout at 11.5" for a 21" drawer face.  Oops.  I had to re-do the faces which wasn't a problem since I had extra wood.

This was probably the first time I've used a protractor since middle school geometry.  I did not calculate the radius, diameter, or length of an arc, so I hate to disappoint any geometry teachers reading this.  The protractor was great for sketching out the right arc that I wanted.  I had tried using an upside down bowl or plate as a stencil (don't tell Pamela), but didn't like the sizing.

The table came together pretty well and I was very impressed with the color that came from the Minwax Polyshades Espresso.  I will be sure to not do much staining in the winter though - it doesn't apply as smoothly and you are a lot more likely to get streaks and build-up.

The last step was adding a felt liner to the drawers.  I got to play with a hot glue gun which was a lot of fun.

Pictures of the final product are below.  I like the way it came out although it took me a lot longer to deliver than I would have thought.  Thankfully the customer was okay with the delays.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm Wall

We moved into our home just over a year ago.  As we were heading to closing, Hurricane Irene came through and flooded the basement causing damage.  Irene caused greater rainfall than Sandy is predicted to generate and the flooding may have been caused by the nearby lake not being appropriately being drained.

Nonetheless, we headed to Home Depot to buy some sandbags to defend the house.  The house's weak point is the steps that lead to the basement.  If the nearby stream floods, our backyard ends up under water and it flows down the stairs to (and through) the basement door.

Home Depot was out of sand and sandbags, so I had to improvise.  I bought weather seal foam and used scrap wood to make this storm wall.

The weather seal foam runs along the bottom to make what I hope will be a water-tight seal against the ground.  Gratiutous use of duct tape helped seal up some holes.

The black hose runs to a sump pump which I hope will be enough should some water get past.  

The whole thing ain't pretty, but I'm hoping it'll get the job done.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Electric Dog Fence

We've always wanted to let our dog Akina roam free in the back yard, but didn't want to fence her in on all sides as it would be difficult to get the car all the way back.  We've since added Lucky, so that makes for a better reason to have the fence.  Without it, we'd eventually have two dogs on leads in the back yard getting tangled.

Pamela found and we reviewed the entire site.  We decided to give an electric fence a try.  As part of the setup process, we both put the collar on our arms and walked across the boundary to feel the shock.  It isn't fun even on its lowest setting but it needs to be serious to keep a dog from chasing a ball, squirrel, or child outside of the property.

The fence has been up for several months with Akina on it the whole period while Lucky needed to get a bit bigger until we thought he'd be old enough to understand and not be hurt by the shock.  I am happy to say both dogs adapted very quickly and we let them out without their electric collars on occasion (although this isn't a good idea).

Wireless vs. Wired
Wireless fences are easy to set-up and can be the best solution if it fits your yard.  You adjust the radius of the boundary from the device in your home, so the dog will have a circular "safe zone" to play in.  If the dog approaches the boundary, the collar first beeps, then sends an electric shock if the dog doesn't retreat from the boundary.

Wireless wouldn't work for us because we have a small, rectangular yard.  The problem with wireless fences is that they aren't 100% consistent and so they have a larger "warning zone".  If you have a huge yard, it wouldn't be a problem if this warning zone was 10 feet wide.  In our yard, the dogs would be confined to a postage stamp with a warning zone was that wide.

Wired systems work by sending a radio signal through a wire.  You run this wire around the perimeter of your yard.  You then adjust the "warning zone" width to fit your needs.  You can bury the wire, attach it to a house, garage, fence, etc.  The only requirement is that the wire makes a complete loop.

I spent a long time testing and searching for a method online to avoid running the wire around the yard in a loop as we already had the house and a fence blocking three sides.  The only way to do this requires doubling back but leaving several feet in of space in between the wires, otherwise the signals cancel out and there will be no boundary.

The original plan was to bury the wire along the edge of the driveway, but I decided to take a detour and install belgian blocks along the edge first.

I used long zip ties to attach the wire along the top of the fence, then ran it around the front of the house, then finally up the edge of the driveway.

Our System
We chose the Innotek UltraSmart and have been very pleased.
The collars have two metal prongs which need to touch the dog's skin - Akina's thick fur was problematic but Lucky's worked just fine.

When not being worn, the collars sit on a recharger in the kitchen.  They can go many days without charging if need be.

The training process was outlined in a DVD and a pamphlet that came along with the dog fence.

The process is supposed to take a few weeks.  First, you take the dog on the leash to the edge of the warning zone where you planted flags, tell the dog "No!" and pull her back.  This is without the collar on.

Next, you do the same thing, but with the collar on, although you use the plastic caps on the collar so that it does not shock the dog.  This way, she'll hear the beeping and hopefully associate it with being pulled away from the warning zone.

After that, you use the metal caps and have someone walk across the boundary, while you have the dog on a leash.  The expectation is that the dog will follow and receive a shock ("correction").  The next stage of training is to throw a ball or have some other distractions on the other side of the boundary.  At this point, the dog should not want to cross the boundary, even if tempted by distractions.

The dog should then be ready to be off the leash, although still supervised.  If she does well, then you should be able to leave her unsupervised for longer periods of time.

One difficulty we ran into in the beginning was getting the collar properly fitted on Akina.  When you remove the collar from the charger and put it on the dog it is supposed to beep signalling that it is making a connection with the dog's skin and will zap her if need be. 

With Akina, we found that the fur around her neck was too dense.  We took her to PetCo where they shaved two patches for the connectors but this wouldn't work as a long term solution.

Luckily, the collar worked well for the first few weeks and Akina learned her boundaries.  We put the collar on but more loosely.  She doesn't necessarily get zapped, but when she approaches the warning zone, the collar still beeps and that is enough to send her back.

All in all, the electric dog fence has been a great success and improved the quality of life for both dog and dog owner.  Akina and Lucky both love the additional freedom they are afforded, including being able to jump up on the hammock with us in the far corner of the back yard.  We get to open the door and let them out when need be, rather than attaching them to a run or walking them on a lease at all times.  This means more outdoor time for the doggies which they appreciate.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Prepare Your Lawn for Winter

Late August and into October is a great time to give your lawn some extra TLC to set yourself up for a beautiful lawn next spring.  Here in the Northeast, it seems to rain almost every night with midday temperatures in the 60s and 70s - that's perfect grass growing weather.

Aerating is the process of cutting holes in your lawn which allows oxygen and nutrients to flow into the soil and help your grass develop deeper, stronger roots.

I bought a manual aerator at Home Depot for about $20.

My house is on less than 1/4 acre and the lawn is split into a front and back yard.  I would tell you that even with this small of a yard, aerating was a pain to do manually.  I highly suggest renting a gas powered aerator from Home Depot.

If you do choose to go about it the manual way, do yourself a favor and either wait until a heavy rain has come through or give your lawn a good soak.  This'll make the soil a lot softer and save you from a lot of aches and pains.

The process of aerating is to jam the double spiked device into the ground, stomp it in with your foot, then pull out the cores.  You then repeat every four to six inches.  The cores from the prior holes should pop out as you drive the aerator in for the next holes, but in reality, they'll like get jammed up.  I took a long screwdriver and my hose to unclog the aerator.  If you aren't pulling cores, you can end up compacting the soil which doesn't have the same positive effect.

Repair Grass / Plant New Grass
This was a good opportunity for me to take care of three lawn problems I faced.  The first was a lot of brown or dead areas in the back yard from dog urine/waste.  The only real cure is to dig up some of the grass and plant new seed.

The second issue was an unlevel area in the back yard.  When I ripped up the belgian blocks and garden to expand the lawn, I didn't do a good enough job compacting the soil where the blocks had been.  As the new grass grew in, it seemed to sink over time.  This made mowing more difficult and created a great spot to twist your ankle.  I read that one solution is to dig under the turf at an angle and raise it using a mix of dirt and sand.  The other route, which I chose, was to simply add dirt/topsoil and compact it until it was more level.  I then added seed to grow new grass.  In about a week of regular rain and mid-60s temperatures, I can already see the grass growing in well.

The last issue was a bare patch in the front yard where a tree stump once was.  I had paid to have the stump ground down, the hole filled then new soil/grass put in.  The grass came up, but I could see it was very sparse and it never looked as good as the Scotts seed I use.  My guess is that they skimped on the quality.

I decided to make this an entire weekend project by digging up the area, sifting it to remove rocks and weeds, then drop dirt/topsoil and seed.  I found really large chunks of the former stump.  It had been 6 months, so I don't get the feeling these chunks were going to decompose well given their size - again, probably a low quality effort put forth by the workers.
Making a mess

I placed the sifted dirt down and compacted then gave it a watering.  The next day I added seed and topsoil as well as giving it a new watering.

New grass needs a few weeks of healthy growth before you can put down fertilizer.  I bought plenty of Scotts WinterGuard which is also supposed to help grow grass roots for a better spring.
Food for lawn

If I was really gung-ho, I'd aerate again since it has been a few weeks.  In hindsight, I probably should have repaired the lawn then aerated the whole thing once before dropping the WinterGuard.

The lawn is looking better already and I'm hoping for a few more weeks of good weather to set the yard up for a great spring.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How to fix your dryer... maybe

A Little History
A few weeks before we closed on our home, a hurricane hit the northeast.  We found out the basement was significantly flooded due to overflow from a nearby stream.  Until the day of closing, we were told that the basement was treated and all the important equipment was fine.

At closing, we were told the dryer didn't work.  While it took some work, we were credited with what we believed to be the fair amount for the dryer.

The dryer actually worked fine at first, but conked out within a few weeks.  We used the money to call a appliance repairman and he identified a broken igniter as the problem.  Time and parts cost a bit over $200, but we were still in the black.

Flash Forward to Today
Pamela and I returned from our honeymoon with loads of laundry to do.  Pamela went first but noted the dryer was taking forever to dry her clothes.  Because we'd been through some issues before and I'd sat with the repairman, I knew a few things to check.  The latest problem was different, but I am happy to report that I was able to solve it.  I figured I'd write a few points below that might help you save on repair costs.

How to Maybe Fix Your Dryer
This really applies to the following symptoms which seem to be the most common:  your laundry either takes too long to dry or doesn't dry at all; you open the dryer while it is running and you note that the air inside is not hot.  I am also more specifically referring to a gas dryer.

  • Your dryer likely has its own diagnostics that you can run.  Find the directions in your owner's manual - if you don't have the manual, they are often posted online on Scribd or elsewhere, so just do a search
  • Diagnostic
    • The diagnostic may point you to the problem right away, but in my case, it did not
  • Run the dryer with the door open by pressing in the door switch
    • Put your hand by the lint trap - if there's no suction, you may have a clog in the lint trap, in the exhaust pipe within the dryer, or in the exhaust exiting your dryer going outside
    • You can disconnect the exhaust pipe in the back to see if air is flowing smoothly within the machine
    • If so, check the exhaust vent outside of your home - have birds made a nest?
    • Clogged exhaust can lead to overheating or to your dryer shutting off the heat pre-maturely
  • If that doesn't solve your problem, take the top cover off the dryer
    • Turn the dryer on and look down into the machine (best to do in the dark)
    • Do you see a glowing light come on?  If not, your igniter is likely broken and you'll need to buy a replacement
    • If your ignitor does glow, do you hear your gas come on?  If not, the most common failing piece is the gas valve coils.  Many companies sell these parts ($10 to $15), but some only sell the entire gas valve assembly (>$100) and you'll likely need a plumber to come in because this will require messing with your gas connection
    • If your ignitor comes on, and your gas comes on, but quickly turns off, this means one of two things.  Your gas valve coils may be bad - they may turn on but under electrical load they fail.  Alternatively, this could be a signal that your thermostat needs resetting or replacing.
    • Ignitor
      • Resetting the thermostat is the simplest.  You'll need to take off the front cover to access the thermostat which is likely near the heat tube.  Search on Google for your specific model and replacement parts.  Sites like Appliance Parts Pros have the schematics of your machine (which can also be found in your owner's manual) which should help you locate the thermostat.
      • Be sure to unplug the machine before you reach in there, then find the thermostat button and hit it.
  • You'll find on the web that there are additional tests you can run on the individual parts to see if they are malfunctioning, but they most often require a multimeter.
When our dryer broke the first time, we never got any heat.  The repairman showed me the broken ignitor - the coil was clearly broken about halfway up and therefore electricity wouldn't run through it to heat it up and ignite the gas.

This latest foray was luckily solvable by resetting the thermostat.  I ended up disassembling almost the entire dryer and ended up with 6 spare screws once I had pieced it all back together.

The internet is incredible - I couldn't even figure out how to remove the cover of the dryer on my own.  I'd like to note all the helpful sites, but there were too many sites that added just a little bit of info which helped me along the way.  One thing I will gripe about though - is the worst website ever.  It can contain good information, but it is difficult to navigate and it seems they just want you to click a lot to sell ad impressions.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Edging the Driveway with Granite Stones

This post could also be known as "The Mother of All Projects".

We bought an electric dog fence for Akina.  I'll detail the installation in a later post, but after laying out the wire and testing it, I realized Akina would see a lot of tennis balls roll off our property and if she chased, she'd get zapped.  Also, given that our property ends right by the driveway, there wasn't a good way to demarcate the "warning zone" for her which would make training more difficult.

Pamela and I went to Home Depot and looked at small plastic garden fences, but I wasn't too fond.  I also had extra belgian blocks left over from the garden / grass project, so I thought edging the driveway would not only utilize existing materials but also look very good.

While I knew this would be a big project, I had no idea what I was actually getting myself into.
Looks simple, right?
Last block goes here
Just dig a little trench, right?
At the advice of my neighbor, my plan was to cut the edge of the asphalt along a straight line and bury the beglain blocks in a trench.  This should have been pretty simple.  Unfortunately, as I was digging the trench, I found that there was an old concrete curb that had been buried underneath several layers of asphalt.
The concrete curb was probably 8" deep and was held in place by a larger base of concrete.  Removing the curb would be a huge project itself.
Plan B then became cutting the asphalt on the opposite side of the curb and laying the blocks there.  I started cutting the asphalt but then found there were many layers that had been laid on top of each other over the years.  This would have also shrunk my driveway and created more wasted space between the property line and the driveway.  Not ideal.

I rented a demolition hammer at Home Depot.  It cost $75 for a 24 hour rental.  I felt I needed to spend the money in order to see how easily I could remove the curb, but I wasn't sure if it would still be too much of a project for me.
The demo hammer worked like a charm.  I put my weight into it and the hammer broke apart the concrete like it was nothing.  Even Pamela got in on the action.
Making Progress
I ended up leaving a lot of the concrete curb in place, as it was inside the property line and would act as a good straight edge.

I started laying the blocks into place.  To set them, I first mixed up some Sacrete Ready Mix Concrete powder with sand and water and created a base to sink the blocks into.  I then used a rubber mallet to push them into their final place.  It would have been smart for me to then add mortar in between the stones at this point, but this whole project was about discovery.

For a real step-by-step guide on how do edge a driveway with belgian blocks, follow this link to This Old House.
Whoa, halfway there!
I ran out of belgian blocks halfway through.  I drove up to Bedford Stone in Bedford Hills to purchase the rest.  They had a huge selection of belgian blocks and other stones.  The added weight in the car didn't slow me down enough, as I got pulled over for doing 83mph in a 65mph zone.  Thankfully, the kind officer only wrote me up for an expired inspection (9 days past inspection).

Adding mortar between the stones was also less than fun.  There are a bunch of tools and such, but I found the best way for me was to put on rubber gloves and use my fingers to jam mortar in between the blocks then use my fingers again to smooth and shape the mortar.
Those are hockey shin pads

Driveway Repair
With the blocks in place and mortar dried, the last step was to repair the asphalt.  I had cut out a few sections and the old edges were worn and no longer straight.

I used Sacrete Cold Patch, which you simply pour into place then tamp down.

Finished Product
Well, I'm still patching up parts of the driveway, but the blocks are done and the dog fence is up.