Chimney Cover

Home buying is a nerve racking experience. Thrills and surprises await you around every corner. One big one is the home inspection. On something as big as a house there are always items that crop up. You have to decide if they are deal breakers, or if you can take the risk of them being worse than the inspection indicated.

One thing that came up on ours was that the chase cover on the chimney was rusted. It was a surface rust, no emergency, but something to not ignore. A winter break gave me the time, and cooler weather, to get up there and do something about it while not dying of heat stroke. Close inspection revealed that it wasn’t bad and some cleanup plus paint would add many more years of life.

The big square chimney cover bridges the gap between the chimney pipe (might not be the right term) and the wooden structure sicking out of the house. My plan was to take it off, bring it to ground level and do all the paint work. The trick was I couldn’t figure out how to get that top little set of square covers off. I tried rotating the assembly but was worried something in the wall would come apart. 10 minutes of googling while on the roof didn’t give me a good answer.

Chimneys are completely new to me, so I am just feeling my way through all this. The section of roof is pretty tame so I took a grinder up there and did everything on the roof.

Sure enough, the rust wasn’t that deep. I knocked it, and as much other crud off as a I could with a wire wheel and came back with a coarse sander pad. There is still a lot of zinc left, but I had read a self etching primer would bond well with it. A few coats of that, and It was way too hot to keep working.

I came back the next day, sanded the primer and used a full can of high temperature white enamel. Even early in the morning the metal was getting hot and the paint dried too quickly. It isn’t a great paint job, but looks fine from down below. The original plan was to do this all on the ground in the shade. If I had known from the get go I was going to be working on the roof I might have opted to brush on something instead.

I replaced the rusted screw hardware with epoxy coated torx head screws. There is a thin band of metal that covers the gap between the pipe and the newly painted cover. The old one was pretty rusted, but a local fireplace store had new ones, so I replaced it. Not my finest repair overall, but it won’t be rusting through any time soon. When this needs work again I might be calling a fireplace expert of some sort.

The Great Cat Door Conspiracy

Great is maybe overselling it a bit. And does it count as a conspiracy if I have been openly talking about doing this for months? The Moderately Interesting Cat Door Plan just doesn’t sound as good. Here is the situation. The previous owners of our house had cats. They adored these cats and gave them reign of much of the house. As such there are a number of cat doors around. Some are internal doors, some go from inside to outside (AC leaks!). On top of that there are two exterior doors that had intercoms. The intercoms are dead and gone which leaves a hole to fill.

This was an example from an outdoor closet that housed a set of litter boxes. All doors had the same size and shape of hole. To fill it I got a wide board of PVC wood. It has a smooth side and a textured side that looks like wood grain. I am not sure how they make it, but the inside isn’t as dense as a PVC pipe. It has a closed cell foam kind of interior. Not structural strength, but good enough for trim and jobs like this. They probably have a reasonable insulation value too, which is handy for the exterior door.

I cut out a few blanks and got to carving away on the router. I was having so much fun working in the shop I forgot to take pictures.

I used a wide router bit to rabbet around the edges so the blocks would fit inside the door and leave less than 1/4″ showing. That made them less obtrusive visually. The inside doors have a wood texture, so I put that side showing out and matched the grain orientation. The outside doors are smooth. Before installing I used my corner radius jigs to add a little round over to the 4 corners. I used white calking to glue each one in place and cover up any edge seams. Blue tape kept them in place while that dried.


With all the cat doors taken care of I used what I learned to attack the outdoor intercoms. I didn’t think a round over would look nice here, but did take advantage of the wood grain. Same trick as before with some careful adjustment to get these to press fit in. I used a small amount of clear silicon to hole them in place in case I needed to pry them out for some reason. The side garage door is bare but has wiring for a future doorbell. The front door has one of those new fangled video doorbells.

Hidden TV

Things are continuing to come together at our new house. I have my workout area setup in my office and have been getting back into the kettlebell routine. There is one thing missing though. About the only time I watch TV is when I am working out. Our only TV doesn’t live in my office, so I wanted to stash one out of the way but within easy reach.

Ta Da, TV hidden behind a closet door. Nobody expects it! The sound bar was left over by the previous owners. It just fits inside the door opening and matches the TV perfectly. I cooked up a set of 3D printed brackets to hold the sound bar and mounted them to a 1/2″ sheet of plywood.

A slim TV mount holds the TV tight against the door and with just a tiny gap between it and the sound bar. I mounted everything, hooked up power and AV wires, then wire wrapped the two power cords together to prevent them from getting caught in the door and make it all cleaner. Buying a TV with a roku built in made for one less device and cord to deal with. I was going to paint the plywood, but it is tucked well behind the TV and sound bar, and the closet door is normally closed. I finished it off with a set of printed remote holders that sit just below the TV.

When it is all together and the door is closed you can’t tell what entertainment is lurking beneath!

DIY Ethernet Cabling

I had CAT6 cable pulled through our new house in various strategic locations.  In my master closet there is a set of outlets up high so I can run a POE wireless access point attached to the ceiling at a location that is out of the way, and central to the house.  Another set goes to my office so my 3D printer and office computer can be hard wired to the network.  Everything comes together to a network closet with a paper printer, NAS, and other local devices all wired in.  The result is good wireless coverage everywhere and super fast/reliable connection to important devices.  It did require a large number of custom cables though.

I picked up a few special tools, but by the time I got done, I really only used two.  First, you will need a good set of delicate side cutters like these.  I used crimp on connectors that let the wires pass through, and a strain relief boot.  Start by sliding the boot down the cable.

20181015_195317

I used the side cutters to slit up the side of the jacket, then try to cut the jacket as square as possible. CAT6 has a central + shaped member, cut that away and make sure you have ~2 inches of wire free.  Check for nicks or kinks in the cable.

 

With the wires free, untwist each pair back to the jacket and straighten each pair.  When untwisted, they still have a lot of curl to them (see the blue pair on the left).  To get these straight I pinch each pair between my thumb and forefinger tightly and pull.  A few pulls has them mostly straight and calm.  It may take practice tries to get the hang of it.  Don’t skip this step, it helps everything else.  If they aren’t straightening you need to squeeze harder when you pull.

 

With those pairs all straightened out, arrange them in the proper order.  I use the 568B spec.  Notice the ends are a little wild still?  I could never get the very ends right, I think cutting the cable cold works the copper into a bad shape.  I always cut the last 1/4″ or so, and make sure it is at a bit of an angle.  That gets rid of the curly ends, and helps loading later on.

 

Next, keep the bundled pinched together and pass it into the back of the connector.  This is where some extra length helps.  Enough room for your fingers to hold and get the wires passed through.  Connectors that don’t let you pass the wires through are a million times harder to use in my opinion.  Push it all through, make sure the order is correct, and use the extra wire length to help pull the jacket all the way up.

 

With everything snug and in proper order, clip the ends of the extra cable (those little side cutters again).  Now carefully pull the wires back just enough to get them recessed from the front.  Put them in a crimping tool (The only special tool you really need, and they can be had for reasonable prices) and give a good squeeze.  Slide the boot up and you are done.

 

I bought a connector tester that runs a voltage down every line.  After about 20 connectors I stopped using it.  I could see every wire was in the right order with these connectors and never had a miss.  After a bit of practice each connector only takes about 5 minutes.  A big spool of cable and the connectors on hand means I can make a cable for about 75 cents a cable plus ~ 5 cents a foot.  It makes my network closet neat and tidy and keeps the total cost down.

Lumber and Cutoff Storage

As things slowly settle inside the house I am turning my attention to the shop.  The garage is kind of a messy puzzle.  You have to put something away so you can make space to put more things away.  I was going to make some sort of vertical wood storage, but wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it.  Instead I found a good space that would support traditional horizontal storage.

I found Lowe’s has a line of Blue Hawk (store brand) brackets and shelving that was pretty affordable, came with a weight rating, and was thinner vertically than the Closetmaid option.  I cleaned out a corner of the shop and found a set of studs I could sink the brackets into.  This will mostly cover up the window, but it has dark tint and blinds so it wasn’t being used for light anyways.

20181021_130342

I started filling up the rack and was pretty happy with my new setup.  This handles boards from 30 inches to 10 feet pretty well.  Shorter pieces don’t stack well and offer a different challenge.  I decided to build something extra for below the main rack.  I have traditionally put shorter cut off pieces into 5 gallon buckets, and let them pile up under foot.  I came up with something that makes good use of the dead space under the wall rack.


This was done with a single sheet of 3/4″ plywood, but you could make two out of a sheet of 3/4 and a sheet of 1/2″ and get the price down a little.  The uprights are 23×23″, the shelves are 15″ wide and 30″ long installed at 35 degrees, and the back that runs across the storage unit is a full 48″ wide and 12″ tall. The diagram below shows how I cut it out of a 4×8 sheet.Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 6.29.29 PM.png

There is a little bit of scrap left over, but not a ton.  Depending on your available space, you could adjust the angles and make it hold more or less materials.  This design lets me store a stack 10″ tall before it interferes with the lowest horizontal rack.  It accommodates anything up to about 34 inches, but at that length, it should go on the big rack.

I cut everything out and assembled one side to the back to start with.  I then went ahead and put pocket holes in all the “shelves”.  That let me screw them in horizontally to the uprights from underneath.

I worked from left to right installing one shelf, then another upright on and on.  The shelves got a little higher with each one, the first is 35 degrees, the last is probably more like 40.  I should have stuck a layout line on each upright to keep things on track.  Still, the assembly is very sturdy and fits where I need it to.  I added plastic furniture gliders to the bottom so the plywood doesn’t sit in direct contact with the floor and I can slide it out easily.

I had thrown out a lot of scrap before moving and threw out more stuff that wasn’t worth keeping before filling this up.  PVC and other non-wood related items go in a bucket, but everything else gets a cubby.  Most have a left and right divide of wood species.  I might work out some moving divider later on.

The horizontal racks are mostly organized by wood species.  This is way cleaner and more efficient than what I had at the last garage.  My previous home made brackets were much taller and didn’t allow as much storage space.  I need another space for sheet goods, but this should cover the rest.  Hopefully I can stay disciplined in my buying and keep my collection to within the confines of this rack area.

 

Half Wall Renovation

I wasn’t taking a lot of pictures while working on the new house.  Too many small fix ups to name, and not enough time to document them all.  One larger project was my kitchen half wall.  There is this segment of wall that separates the kitchen from the living room.  It made both rooms feel smaller and didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose, so I decided to take it out.  Only the pantry remains at full height.

I removed all the drywall and found a lot of wiring to do with the intercom system.  It hadn’t worked when the previous owners moved in, so out it comes.

It was tough to cut all the drywall and studs to a really straight line.  An oscillating multi tool helped with the drywall, but standing studs are hard to cut straight.  I did as best I could with a reciprocating saw, and came back later with a belt sander and 4ft level to make everything even.

I have never done a bullnose corner before, but managed to pull this one off pretty well after a few rounds of drywall mud.  The odd dark green wall got a lot of primer and paint so it matches the rest of the house.

To cap off the wall top I ripped down a 1×8 to a nice width, and painted it white.  A little store bought molding also painted white finishes it off.  It feels good to not be renovating a house right now.

20180929_213718.jpg

New Garage

We have been moved in about a week, but have spent all of that week cleaning up our old house to get it on the market.  Almost all the renovations that happened on the new house occurred at such a break neck pace that I didn’t document much of anything aside from a choice disaster.

That having been said, I wanted to say goodbye to my beloved garage.  9 years ago I moved in without owning a power tool bigger than a compact miter saw, and with less than a year of woodworking experience.  I added electrical outlets, lights, and a lot of sawdust to that place.  Many mistakes were made and lessons learned.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a packed mess, but I knew where everything was (mostly).  The new space is over twice the size.  You couldn’t tell in these shots because I had a temporary work bench setup for house renovations, tools everywhere, and the movers were pushing things in off the truck.  It is a tough place to navigate.  There is some built in shelving that helps for now, but might need to come out.  Also the previous owner had an office setup along the one wall.  Probably not going to stay in the long run.  Going to need to get the old house cleaned up and unpacked inside before moving onto the shop.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.