Saturday, June 25, 2011

Everything was fine 'til the grill caught fire.

It's been a rough week here at the ol' homestead. A few days ago, DBF was grilling up some Italian sausages to add to his homemade spaghetti sauce (did I mention he cooks?!?) and he came into the house, moving quickly, and said, "We need baking soda."

"Are we on fire?"

"Yes, we're on fire."

So DBF set the grill on fire. It wasn't one of those small flare-ups that'll go out if you leave it alone—the grill was on fire.  Baking soda extinguished the fire and DBF somehow managed to save the sausages from both the flames and the baking soda—they actually added a nice, smokey flavor to the sauce.

Fortunately the grill is still fully-functional. Yay. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday cleaning up the mess  and when I was done, my hands and arms were covered in black greasy ick. As I washed up in the kitchen, I used the last of the soap from the in-counter soap dispenser, so I went to refill it.

As is the case with so many things in our house, the existing soap dispenser was old and less than fully operational. I couldn't refill it from above the counter (design flaw or years of abuse, it's hard to say), so I had to unscrew the reservoir whenever it needed refilling.

Notice the past tense?

The soap dispenser was in the very back of the tiny space under my sink—behind the garbage disposal, the pipes, and the sink basin. It also wasn't very well-secured, so I needed to hold the top part steady while I unscrewed the reservoir. That required an additional few inches on my reach—a very good job for channel locks. This had worked in the past...really.

Unfortunately, yesterday, I forgot something very important. Righty tighty, lefty loosey, right? Well, it depends.

If you're unscrewing a lid from a jar, you turn the lid to the left. If you're holding that jar the same way but unscrewing the jar from the turn the jar to the right. That's the part I forgot.

Here's the damage I inflicted and my chosen tools of destruction. (The vise grips actually came out later when I recruited DBF to help take apart the remains of the dispenser.)

Below is a closeup of the part I turned the wrong way until I killed it. Go me.

Like I's been a rough week. But not to worry, I ran out to the local MegaHardware Store first thing this morning and procured a replacement...this time with the ever-so-handy "fill from above" feature.

And I installed it properly.

And I'm done for the day.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Get friendly with caulk.

And find a good caulk remover tool. This is a bad caulk remover tool. You see the metal part on the right side? It's attached to the handle with a glued-on piece of plastic. That glue has less strength than the caulk, I pretty much guarantee it. So unless you're ripping out soft, still-pliable caulk—and why would you be doing that—this tool will break.

Fortunately...albeit rather embarrassingly...I'm a sucker for infomercials. So while DBF picked out the *ahem* soon-to-break tool, I was drawn to the DAP Pro Caulk tool kit which looks remarkably like something I once saw on an I had to have it.

It only cost about $5, so it wasn't a big deal. DBF rolled his eyes a bit, but I said a little prayer for Billy Mays, tossed it into the cart, and we moved on.

About two inches into the caulk removal, the more expensive tool broke. I let fly a ridiculously long string of curses (there's little I find more annoying than gearing up for a project and being thwarted almost immediately), regained my composure, and then pulled out the cheaper tool and a razor blade. Voilà! Caulk be gone.

That flat black thing in the background is the better caulk removal tool. I say "better" and not "good" because it, too, has its drawbacks. It's really, really thin, so if you're digging out caulk that you believe to be older than you, it will dig into your hands a bit. But it will also get the job done.

Compared to removal, application is the easy part...especially when DBF takes over. So in one long, dirty afternoon, we had a freshly-caulked, sealed, virtually ick-free tub.

After the tub, I felt rather empowered to conquer the world of caulk. So the next day I decided to tackle the gap between the kitchen counter and backsplash. I say gap, but in some places it was practically a crevasse. But hey, caulk'll fix it!

And it did...but I learned yet another valuable lesson.

Be absolutely, positively sure that you've thoroughly cleaned the area you're caulking...especially if you're using clear caulk.

Let my caulked sesame seed be your reminder: Clean before you caulk.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The mostly-true story of how quarter round almost ended our relationship.

The Players:
PERCOCET JILL (PJ): Having lifted a 5-gallon bucket of primer out of her car and wrenched her back, this Jill is on heavy painkillers.
IBUPROFEN JILL (IJ): Well into her recovery, this Jill is taking only ibuprofen but is still in pain and is highly irritable.
DBF: Incredibly patient and level-headed love of Jill's life.
VOICE OF REASON (VoR): Jill's magnificent mother.

Scene 1: In which Percocet Jill starts trouble.
DBF: We need to paint the baseboards. We should pull up the shoe molding.
PJ: Can we reuse it? It'll cost a lot to replace it all, won't it?
Baseboard and quarter-round.
DBF: It's really not that expensive to replace.
PJ (in "my word is final" voice): We need to reuse it.

***  2 weeks pass, DBF has painstakingly removed and labeled 7/8 of the existing quarter round. ***

Scene 2: In which Ibuprofen Jill has no memory of Percocet Jill's decision.
[sound of wood splintering]
IJ: What was that?
DBF (seething): I broke it.
IJ (soothingly): It's okay, it's not like we're reusing this.
[DBF turns to look at IJ, daggers shooting from his eyes.]
DBF: What?
IJ (hesitantly): We're not reusing this. We're replacing it, aren't we?
[DBF exits house.]

*** 1 week passes, DBF has begun the new quarter round installation. ***

Scene 3: In which a hammer is not the right tool for the job and the miter box is under utilized.
Miter box
DBF: Where's the Dremel?
IJ: Why do you need the Dremel?
[DBF points to the half dozen bent nails in the brand new quarter round.]
IJ: Oh. [looks around] Did you miter the ends?
DBF: [points to corner, rolls eyes] Yes.
IJ: No, I mean where they overlap. Look, right here. [points to where bookcase will reside and no one will ever see the molding] Why didn't you miter the overlap? It hides the seam better and this, well, it doesn't look very good. Didn't you know to miter the overlap?
DBF: I do now.
IJ (quietly): Should we redo it?
DBF: No. Now where's the Dremel?

*** 2 weeks pass. IJ's criticism combined with DBF's frustration of bent nails and dented quarter round has brought the project to a screeching halt. ***

Scene 4: In which Ibuprofen Jill vents to Voice of Reason.
Mitered overlap
[phone conversation]
IJ: I don't understand why it's taking so long, it's just a little bit of quarter round blah blah complain blah blah...
VoR (trying to interject): Jill...
IJ: blah blah complain blah complain complain blah...
VoR (yelling): JILL!
IJ: Yeah?
VoR: This has gone on long enough. I'm sending you your father this weekend.

A few days later, Jill's dad shows up, nail gun in hand. Somewhat miraculously, and with a little refereeing from Jill's dad, in one afternoon DBF and Jill complete the project that had lingered for weeks. Their relationship manages to survive and they have learned the following:

  1. Do not reuse floor molding.
  2. Miter, miter, miter.
  3. A nail gun, not a hammer, is the right tool for the job.
  4. It's really not worth fighting about.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why you need the little door.

Remember the little door?

This is why you need the little door.

If the designers of the office building in which I work had read my blog (granted, the building preceded the blog), they'd know that being able to access your pipes is very important.

If they knew that being able to access your pipes is very important, they would have made sure to have a little door in this wall that would have prevented this drywall casualty.

Alas, the blog came too late and there was no little door.

So the plumbing job has just turned into plumbing + drywall job.

A tragedy that could have been prevented.

=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+= UPDATE=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
It looks like someone's been reading my blog!

Newly-installed little door. Yay.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

There's more to life than just power tools.

For weeks before and after settlement, I scoured the Internet for a list of tools every homeowner must have. I couldn't find it, and I'm pretty good at finding things on the 'net. Without that list, I felt unprepared.

I don't like being unprepared. This is something for which I both blame and credit my father—a real-life version of Hank Hill, who, to quote Wikipedia "will always advocate doing the right thing in the right way."

So, without list in hand, I went to my local MegaHardware Store and bought a bunch of tools that I a) was convinced I needed and b) thought were pretty bad-ass.

Behold! The DeWalt 18 volt cordless XRP Li-Ion 4-tool combo kit with the following:
  1. Reciprocating saw
  2. Circular saw
  3. Hammerdrill
(The 4th piece is a floodlight, which, while nice to have, wasn't a motivating factor in the purchase.)
    Admittedly, I have a serious weakness for power tools. That weakness, combined with spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on something I'll spend the next three decades paying for, made the thought of spending a few hundred dollars on a set of power tools seem completely and totally reasonable.

    It wasn't.

    Anxious to share the joy that was my newly-acquired power tools, I called Dear Ol' Dad. After spewing the specs and eagerly awaiting the tool envy that I naïvely thought would be directed my way, Dad's steady voice asked, "Did you get any hand tools?"

    Hand tools? Really? Do I need hand tools if I have a bitchin' set of power tools?

    Yep. Sure do.

    Fortunately my birthday was coming up, so for my birthday that year, I received some of the most useful hand tools I could have wished into existence.
    1. Hand saw
    2. Hacksaw
    3. Level
    4. Square
    5. Vise grips
    6. Channel lock pliers
    As it turns out, I didn't actually need to scour the 'net for that list of tools...I just needed to ask Dad.

    And now, after a year in the house, I've compiled my own list.

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Water, water, every where...oh crap, where's the shutoff valve?

    Lesson #2: If something is wet and you don't know why, find out immediately.

    Sounds obvious, I know, but you might be surprised.

    Cabinets under bathroom sinks hold lots of things--TP, reading material, cleaning supplies, and most importantly, pipes.

    These are our pipes ("our" referring to myself and Dear BoyFriend who has entered into this adventure with me). These pipes, despite being the path for much water, should be dry. The area around these pipes should also be dry. So if something near these pipes, say the plastic TP packaging or the reading material, isn't dry, you need to find out why.

    Don't assume it's because something got splashed or it's humid or your cat who likes to play in the water you leave for her in the sink got a little rambunctious one morning. Find out for sure.

    We didn't. We waited, both of us assuming it was something small. Until one day, too long after noticing the first moisture, I noticed a puddle.

    When inside, puddles are bad. You need to avoid them if you can, and I'm not talking about getting DBF to lay his coat over it so you can step down off the curb without sullying your stilettos. I'm talking about paying attention to water and finding out where it's coming from...pronto.

    So let's take a look at those pipes again, this time with visual aids. That big red arrow is pointing to something you should be familiar with...the shutoff valve.

    This, my friends (humor me, I like to think more than 1 person reads this), is your friend. If water is dripping, leaking, or gushing, turn this off. Righty tighty, lefty loosey.

    Once the water is off and the dripping, leaking, or gushing has ceased, cleaning the mess and assessing the problem are the next steps...but we'll get to those later.

    First things first, the many shutoff valves and where you may find them.

    You've seen the one under the sink for the faucet. Remember, there are 2 of for the hot and one for the cold. The sinks are all pretty similar, 2 water pipes, 2 shutoff valves.

    Let's take a quick tour of the rest our house and its shutoff valves.

    We have 2 hose bibs and their shutoff
    valves both look like this:

    Our shutoff for the whole house and 
    both pipes for the washer look like this, too, 
    though the washer pipes run vertically.

    The water heater's is the red knob on the right-hand pipe
    which is the pipe that brings the water into the heater.

    Last stop on our tour is actually a minor detour. This isn't a shutoff valve, but it is a very important thing to be aware of...the little door. The little door is on the opposite side of the wall from our shower. Behind that little door are the shower pipes, and that's a good thing to know.

    (Ours aren't actually that crooked, that was me, leaning over to get the picture.)

    One last note on shutoff valves, they don't like halfway. They should be all the way open or all the way closed. They'll be happier and longer lived for it...and you, by extension, will be happier, too.