Hurricane Dorian

Though the storm’s impact will be felt for years to come in the Bahamas, hurricane Dorian has left us with little negative to report. Honestly the only thing is that, Nigel, our beloved new lime tree was felled. Not sure if it had an issue with the trunk, or if we didn’t have it staked well enough. Someday I will get a real lime tree to grow big and tall and give me lots of limes.

I have updated the hurricane guide with a few minor pointers. One piece of advice I have in there is to do a practice run of your shutters at least once to make sure everything fits right. Sure enough, I had put it off and ended up needing a lot of work to get everything in place. There is a screen that goes across the back of the porch. The anchors in the pool deck were all completely full of crud. Some even had broken off studs that required me to drill them out.

I spent hours clearing them out with a pick and compressed air. Thankfully there was plenty of time to work on this. A Fast moving storm would have induced a bit more panic. The other issue was that the two screens used to come together into some kind of bar at the corner of the porch. That doesn’t exist anymore, and the screens don’t really mesh together.

I just used some rope to lace everything up, but it was a hokey solution. I am going to get some kevlar cord that doesn’t stretch and has a high test load to pull it all together next time.

Our shed seemed pretty well built, but I cut a piece of 2×4 and ripped an edge so it would go over the door threshold and push the door shut securely. I also marked where screws should go so as to best tie them into the frame of the ramp. This is easy to install and remove, and guarantees that the doors will stay shut.

While I waited out the storm I had a lot of time on my hands. I spent it putting all the hurricane hardware in order. It was in a loose bucket, and is now in organized bins. This has the bolts, nuts, anchors and install tools I need to put up the back screen. Including instructions would be good too!

Going through all the hardware I ended up throwing out more than half of it. Someone had used a #2 philips bit or something. The heads all had some damage, and many were heavily stripped out. Replacing this will mean an easier install next time.

Conclusion: If you haven’t checked the hurricane hardware for your house, assume something is going to be wrong with it. Even if you have, and it has been years, it is worth a check.

Sprinkler Tools

I have been doing a lot of trenching and digging in my yard in service of a rock border project that has been going on for months now. One result of that project has been a lot of sprinkler repair. I have broken pipes underground while cutting up roots, and tried to dig straight through hidden sprinklers. That plus regular sprinkler maintenance has been a new chore for me. The last house didn’t have them and I am learning on the fly what I have and how to fix it.

Most of this is pretty routine plumbing, but repairing or replacing sprinkler heads is a bit different. They are buried, and often very overgrown with grass. Once you get to them, they tend to be tough to pull out of the ground. To help with all this I 3D printed some tools.

First up is a large hole saw looking device. A 1/4-20 bolt fits in the center and gets chucked up in a drill. It has a 3in ID which encompasses all my sprinkler heads. I had a sprinkler that needed to get an extension put on it, so I used it as an example. The bit breaks up the soil and grass around the sprinkler head making it easier to fully expose and extract.

Even with the grass broken up it is still hard to get a hold on those sprinklers without doing a lot of digging. To help with that I made a tool that grabs onto the ribs around the head and provides a good handle. It made extracting the unit very easy.

That one is designed for a Toro 570 series sprayer. I also have some Hunter PGP sprinklers that rotate on their own. Those are a lot bigger and require a different tool to extract. All the designs are bundled together on a single thingiverse post.

Rotted Back Door

One of the lingering repair issues on our new house was a rotted back door jamb. It is on the porch well under the roof line. A thing I noticed though is that when it rains really hard the gutters over flow and water backs up to this door on the pool deck.

This showed up on the home inspection. I probably shouldn’t have let it go this long, but what can I say? I started chiseling away at the rot and found it was pretty heavy down low, but didn’t go too far up. The 2x4s in the walls ok. They must have some kind of treatment to help prevent rot.

Once I was done putting out the rotted stuff I squared everything up so I could start putting new material back in.

I went with a foundation of pressure treated wood with PVC wood on the outside. The thicknesses didn’t all match up in places. I don’t really care that much, this will definitely not rot.

I did some heavy calking to fill all gaps and painting to keep the wood that is left in good shape. A lot of the door seal is missing at the bottom, but I haven’t seen anything splash against this door, just the rising tide of rainwater backing up. The closet is not under AC, so the seal wouldn’t matter for that either.


I fixed the door rot, but really the root problem is water backing up on the porch. I fixed the door 2 months ago, and it took me working off and on all that time to fully address every aspect of the problem.

First off, the gutters often fill with leaf debris which causes them to backup and overflow on the porch. I have been keeping the gutters clear, but still get overflow sometimes. As it turns out, when it rains hard enough, the water has a lot of velocity coming off the roof, and it can skip out of the gutter.

Next up is the channel drains in my deck. In doing some reading, paint isn’t good for them. I noticed in places the deck paint had completely covered the drainage slits. I used a pressure washer with the narrowest stream to strip the paint off the channel drain.

That was an improvement, but they still didn’t drain well. I picked up a pressure washer drain jetter hose. It is a pressure washer hose with a bullet shaped fitting on the end that shoots water forward and backwards at an angle to help you break up clogs and flush out drains and gutters. It was messy work, but I managed to flush the years of sand and sludge from my deck channel drains.

More improvement, but still not all in the clear. It turns out a root had grown up inside the side of the drain near the rotted door. The channel would move water, but was half full of roots, and didn’t drain as quickly as it should. A lot of work later, I got the roots cleared out.

With gutters clear, paint off the drainage slits, sludge out of the channels, and roots cleared out, it seems like they drain well now. Even if it doesn’t work perfectly every time, this should flood my porch a lot less than it has in the past. I will keep an eye on the water level and check the bottom of that door for cracks. The joys of home ownership.

Maple Closet Shelves

I am starting to mix in house projects and longer term goals along with my shop infrastructure work. We pulled all the built in organizers out of the master closet when we were renovating. It was basic white particleboard and appeared to be rather old. We cleaned up all the walls and installed brackets that supported a continuous closet rod for hanging clothes. This gave both of us ample hanging storage space. The bracket is designed to have a shelf above it. I wanted something nice, and waited until now to build it.

Actually like a lot of my projects I started this a few months back and got side tracked by other house issues. I got the only 10 foot maple boards they had at the local lumber place and went to town planing them.

Buying rough cut wood is a bit like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. In this case, some cool mineral darkening and nice figure.

This is an interesting transition project. I started it with my old Hitachi planer and ended it with my new Dewalt planer. The old planer has been donated to a co-worker that is starting to fill out his shop and could put it to good use.

Goodbye old friend

With the boards cleaned and flattened I needed to work on the edges so I could joint them together in a panel glue up. I preserved the length as long as I could knowing that the ends would eventually get cut down some. Planing a 10 foot board by hand is hard work. I had to employ a helper to keep the board propped up. I haven’t had a power jointer in years, and I don’t see how it would have helped me in this situation.

After much time spent with my #7 jointer I glued the two shelves together and was ready to continue the flattening. This time with the new planer. The main reason I bought this one was because it was reviewed well, and there was an available helical cutter head for it. The two are a match made in heaven. No matter what, the thing produces a clean surface, no tearouts, and the carbide inserts will last a long time.

There is some really pretty figure in the wood. Another advantage of the new cutter head is that it makes really short shavings. You can see them wizzing around in the first stage of my dust collector window.

After a very minimal amount of sanding and clean up of the ends, I routed a round over on all the exposed edges.

With the boards in their correct shape I applied a coat of boiled linseed oil to protect the wood and give character. These will not see heavy use, so a tougher film finish shouldn’t be needed. The oil really pops out some of the birds eyes and other grain variation.

Unfinished above, oiled below

Once the oil soaked in and dried I installed the shelves. They don’t hold a lot now, but probably will as we collect junk in the future. With all the clothes in place you can barely see them. I almost wish I had used pine instead of this gorgeous wood. Oh well, it should be a good shelf for generations. The next owners certainly can’t say it was made of particle board and falling apart.

Kilt on a Hot Tin Roof

OK, so it is probably steel, but it still has a nice ring to it. The old shed at our new place could use a little love. It is 10 years old and the fasteners that hold the metal roof down appear to be in bad shape. The tops are all rusted and the rubber washer that keeps water out looks rotted. I pulled a few, and luckily none appeared to be rusted below the surface.

The shed seems to have a constant supply of leaves on top. In fact, I think that branch has been up there since before we moved in.

Some of the leaf piles had been there so long they had decomposed into a dirt/compost looking substance. The surface finish of the roof looks really rough in places.

I swept off all the leaves and debris, then gave the roof a pressure wash to clear the rest of the dirt and prep the surface for paint. Before painting I went through and replaced every screw on the roof with a new longer one.

Once all the screws were replaced I sealed everything in with two coats of a siliconized roofing compound. It looked a lot like super thick paint. Putting it on really heavily, a 5 gallon bucket gave me two coats with a little left over.

I spilled over the sides in a few places, but otherwise it all turned out well and looks nice. I hope this buys the roof another 10 years before I have to do anything. I know walking around up there was bending the sheet metal up, so I won’t make a habit. I do need to sweep off the leaves a few times a year though. That should be an easy job with a long broom and a ladder.

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.