Archive for July, 2011

Magic Playdough and All Lit Up

Ok, so it wasn’t actually playdough. But it looked just like it, felt just like it, and I may have sculpted a dinosaur before using it for its intended use. So what in the world am I talking about?

It all began when I removed an old exterior floodlight. The light was intended to illuminate the walk between the house and the detached garage. It was attached to the end of a length of fascia board in the back of the house. The light was also ancient; it was heavy, had 3 heads, exposed wire connections, and didn’t even work. One bulb was missing, one was broken, and the other didn’t work. It was an eyesore. And I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t do anything about it for the past 2 years.

Well, this past weekend I went about scraping the trim and gable on the back side of the house. This meant finally removing this dark (pun intended) blemish once and for all. I just capped the wires once I detached them from the light, and began to unscrew the fixture from the fascia board. I should have been wary as the screws came out of the fascia board a bit too easily. Sure enough, the old light fixture was a water trap and the end of the fascia board was badly rotten. Far to rotten to just paint over. But that one board was almost 18′ long along the length of the gable, from the end where the light was attached up to the peek. And there was no way I wanted to remove and replace that entire 8″ wide board.

Confession: I failed again at the idea of taking a “before” picture. I am too much of a doer that I often forget to document each step. So this photo of some other home’s damaged fascia board will have to serve as a “before” picture. Just ignore the brick.

After consulting with an expert carpenter, aka my grandfather, I went in search of a product he knew existed but had never used himself before. Some sort of super hard-drying wood putty made just for repairing rotted wood. Sure enough, the home store had it! I bought a large enough kit to repair not only this area, but any others I might find before this painting (scraping, sanding, washing, brushing, priming, ladder-climbing) project is over.

It turns out it is an epoxy hardener. The kit I bought had two ingredients and came with plastic gloves and a plastic scraper. The instructions said to mix an equal 1:1 ratio of the filler putty and hardener putty in your hands (while wearing gloves), or knead together on a non-stick surface. I used a small putty knife to spoon out equal amounts of each putty, about a golf ball size of each, and began mixing them like playdough in my hands. I wore latex gloves like the instuctions said, but I could still see the two different colors weren’t entirely mixed yet. So I began to knead the putty on a piece of glass, almost the way a baker would knead bread dough. This seemed to mix the putty quite well, as it became a solid yellow/beige color. The instructions said your working time with the putty after mixing is only about 10 minutes, so I began right away. I had already used a wire brush on the rotted fascia end to remove all the loose wood chips, peeling paint, and earlier attempts at repair with silicone. I applied the epoxy mixture first with a putty knife, but it was too difficult to smooth out. The box said you could increase the working time by lightly dampening with water. So I filled a plastic pail and dipped my fingers in water to smooth out the epoxy on the end of the board. I got the putty as smooth as I could, and used the putty knife to create a sharp corner and end to resemble as closely as possible the original shape of the board. Then I waited.

The box said ready to sand in 60 minutes. I got busy painting some other area and forgot about the putty for a few hours. When I returned to the spot, it was hard as rock! I broke out my old school sanding block and tried to get the spot perfectly smooth, but it was tough to sand. It actually started to shred my sandpaper before it created any dust. Good thing I mostly got it smooth before it was dry.

For this step I did snap a photo. The yellow patches near the gutter are the epoxy putty drying. Just like the box promised, the putty did not shrink or crack while it dried. Those two capped wires are the house wires which originally powered the old fixture, probably 50 years ago.

I primed the spot, and brushed on 2 coats of super brilliant white paint. The next day I went about putting up the new light fixture.

This is the light fixture we chose from the home store. I wanted something white to blend in with the white trim board, but something fairly petit looking. Security floodlights often look huge and alien in shape with their multi-directional cone heads. I liked this one because it felt simple and compact, but would still be powerful enough to light the small space between the house and garage. It’s 150 watts and an Energy Star Qualified product; it’s motion sensor doesn’t turn the light on during the daylight hours.

It was super easy to put up. I marked the spot for the outside junction box with a light pencil line and drilled two pilot holes for the screws. I ran a thick bead of paintable caulking in a circle behind the junction box and screwed it tightly into place. After wiping away the excess squeeze out of caulking, I plugged all but one of the outlets with the included plastic plugs. I ran the electrical wires from the house through the remaining outlet opening and began to twist them together with the wires from the new light fixture. Twist black wire with black wire, white wire with white wire, and attach the ground wire from the new light around the green screw of the junction box. Put the foam seal in place between the new fixture and the junction box and tighten into place.

How does it look? Compact and simple, not too flashy (once again, pun intended). Pay no attention to that new paint color on the house shingles… post coming soon about that!

When I turned the power on, bing! The new halogen light came on super bright, all 150 watts. It can be set for 4 minutes, 12 minutes, all night, or all day and night. We are going to use the 4 minute setting. That way if I pull into the driveway at night, I have plenty of light to find my way to the back door, balancing the bag of groceries and gallon of milk, dig the keys out of my pocket and get into the house safely. And then the light turns itself off automatically. Not that we live in sketchy neighborhood (actually, its a very quiet and safe neighborhood comprised mostly of senior citizen homeowners), but I definitely prefer to walk from my car to the house at night with a light on. Here is a photo of it at night, plenty bright enough!

So the first night. The roaming cats must have been having a dance party in the backyard. Pretty sure that light was blinking on and off all night. Hopefully the neighbors will understand we are adjusting the sensitivity of the motion detector… I didn’t realize I had it on high sensitivity the first night. After that, I turned it down to about half way and it seems to be working all right. The squirrels and other suburban backyard creatures don’t trip the sensor, but if I walk to the garage after dark, I have plenty of light to find my way (a whopping 20 steps) without having to worry about turning a light on or off. Success.

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All That Glass

My window replacing adventure took several months, and as each new window was installed the old window from the house took its place in the garage. So once all the new windows were snuggled tightly into the walls, the old windows were a dusty heap in my garage, taking up valuable space which I like to use for refinishing/repairing furniture. I blogged in this post a while back about a company just an hour away from Van Wert that actually recycles all types of glass, including window glass. The grand plan was to disassemble the windows, which would not have been difficult because they were nearly falling apart anyways, and haul the glass to Upper Sandusky to be recycled. When the weather hit 90 degrees, I quickly became reluctant to spend my weekends removing the glass in my 200 degree garage. So I posted an ad on Craigslist. And guess what? A guy came and said he wanted all of the windows, storm windows included! It turned out that he is a local artist that likes to paint on glass. He likes to use reclaimed materials, mostly glass and spray paint, and creates awesome looking space and sci-fi artwork. Here are just a few of his more recent pieces of art, gleaned from his Facebook page.

In whole, reusing a material is so many times more sustainable than recycling. The energy used to transport and re-manufacture that material is saved if the product can just be reused another way. So no glass recycling in my future, but all the same, I am thrilled that someone else will get use and enjoyment out of those old windows.

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Under Pressure

If you feel the need to sing along with David Bowie to get into the groove for this post, you can link to the music video of “Under Pressure” here. Or just hum along to it as you read on down the page.

Last weekend I forewarned that I was about to embark on a pressure washing adventure. I am here blogging to you to say it was successful. No falling off ladders, no broken arms or busted windows. We were thankful for a warm sunshiny day and cranked up the pressure washer. Be cautioned, if you use a pressure washer you will get wet. Like, soaking wet. I recommend high school chemistry class goggles and machine gun operator ear protection. Clothes are optional. I am wearing clothes in these photos only because I am extremely pale skinned and didn’t want the camera operator to get blinded in case of a camera flash. Oh yeah, and because I have neighbors.

This is the back side of the house, notice how there is no grass growing. The backyard has a the most massive oak tree I have ever seen and it needs trimmed like a tangled fur shaggy dog. The amount of shade provided by this tree prevents grass from growing very well in the back yard, the lawn is mostly creeping charlie and other green weeds. But I am concerned with the house right now. The trees and lawn will happen. Eventually.

In these pictures I’m pressure washing a length of soffit. I also took the opportunity to clean off the gutters and downspouts, even jumping up on the roof to carefully wash off some moss in certain areas and blast out the last of those crazy helicopter seeds that our maple trees provide a downpour of. The trick is to be careful with the tips on the pressure washer. Start out with a wide angle. If it’s not doing enough work, slowly work down to a lesser angle. I used 40 on the shingles mostly to wash them of dirt. On the gables, I first used the 25 nozzle and then the 15 nozzle to remove what I felt to be an adequate amount of loose paint. The 15 nozzle did leave some grooves in the wood gables if I stayed in the same place too long. The trick was to keep it moving. Then I washed what I already knew was a trouble spot. And it turned out my fears were correct. Wet wood chunks flew off the house and I cringed.

I knew there was a problem here. I didn’t know how bad it was. This short length of gutter has been tilted so that rather than drain to the downspout, it lays in the opposite end and drips down the side of the house left of the window. The vertical board siding above the gutter, as well as the two rows of shingles below the gutter were in bad bad shape. As in, I ripped the wet pieces off with my bare hands. The fascia board behind the gutter and the soffit board below had to come down. The smaller red circle to the upper left shows where the upper fascia board was rotted as well. I already had to rebuild a short length of soffit and fascia as I mentioned back in this post, and the process is just the opposite of tearing the pieces off. Measure new boards to length, dry fit, shave 1/8″ off length, dry fit again, use paintable caulk and set the new board in place. Nail board securely into ends of rafters. Caulk all seams with paintable caulking. (Why the italics? Read this post to find out why I now pay much more attention to what kind of caulking I use.)

So how well did the pressure washing work? Check out how much bare wood is exposed on the south gable after being power washed. It was pretty much solid white when I began.

I should snap a pic of the ground around the foundation. Covering the ground with plastic only worked about halfway. The dark mulch now looks like salt and pepper with all the white paint flecks that flew off the house. Oh well, live and learn. We need to re-mulch around the house anyways.

The last few days have been crazy with scraping, priming, scraping, ladder climbing, scraping, and priming. Move ladder and repeat.

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