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.

, ,

  1. #1 by Amber on August 16, 2011 - 12:02 PM

    (Coming to you from YHL) This is exactly what I need! We have squirrels gnawing on the post right outside our front door, and plain ol’ spackle and wood filler aren’t working. You said you purchased it at the home store… but I don’t see it on the Lowe’s or Ace website. Could you be more specific as to where you got it? Thanks!

  2. #2 by Adam A. Ries on August 16, 2011 - 7:05 PM

    Thanks for venturing over and for the comment! The wood epoxy I used is specifically made for outdoor use, so it should be great for your post. I do not know if it is non-toxic or not, so perhaps if the squirrels continue gnawing after you use the epoxy, you will shortly be rid of the squirrels. I am painting the areas where I use it, but it is supposed to be stainable as well. I purchased that specific product at my nearest Menards Home Store. In fact, if you click on the photograph, it will link you to the product on the Menards website. Just enter your zip code on the site and it will show you the price of the product and the store closest to you. I am sure Lowes carries a similar product, probably just a different brand. Check in the woodworking or wood finishing section, near the wood stains and wood filler products.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: