Hurricane Season Start

Hurricane season hasn’t started yet, but we already have our first named storm of the year.  Happy hurricane season everyone!  As of writing this it is still subtropical (I guess for specific weather nerd reasons it isn’t called a tropical depression), but expected to become a tropical storm.  As a wise guide once stated, it is never too early to start thinking about getting yourself ready for the storm.

I went around and found a few minor issues that could be a big problem if a storm were to hit.  These are easy to do now when I have free time, but would be stressful to complete when a storm is coming.

First up on the list, my screened in porch is getting old and one of the vertical supports broke loose.  It doesn’t hold the roof up, there are 4×4 posts for that, but buffeting winds would do a lot more damage with this part flapping around.  A few right angle brackets and metal screws secured it in place.


Second, I have a set of areca palms that have gotten too close to the house.  I probably shouldn’t have planted them that close in the first place, and might cut them out completely when they start pushing out the fence.  For now, I like them, but need them to be away from the house.  Again, under normal storms they aren’t a problem, but heavy winds could whip those fronds around enough to do real damage to the corner of the roof.


Last but not least my poor fence had another post shear off.  Not sure why they all happen on just this one side, but they do.  The left picture shows a distinct bend.  As it turns out the most bent post is actually rock solid, just not straight.  The one closer to the camera has broken off at the ground.  I left the broken post in place and sank another one next to it.  Everything is much more solid.  Thats it for now.  Time to enjoy a margarita and hope we have quiet season.

Maple Trim and Half Wall

There is a half wall in the foyer that was topped with a dark stained bit of pine.  I sanded it and panted it white to match the rest of the trim when I renovated that part of the house.  It sees enough use that interior house paint didn’t last long before scratches and stains got to it.  I wanted to install counter top material when the kitchen got re-done, but there was not enough quartz left over.

After nearly a year of the kitchen being finished I decided to tackle this project.  Instead of quartz countertop I went with maple.  I started by removing the old top and trim and cleaning up any issues around with the wall paint.

This job called for a 7.5 inch wide board that was 6 feet long.  The length wasn’t an issue but that width left me with few options at the yard.  This one is gorgeous with a lot of cathedral, some tiger striping and other character.  That makes planing it really tough.  After getting a lot of tear out in places I fell back to sanding.  It took forever, but I got the top very smooth.

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I needed trim for under this part and under a window between the dining room and kitchen.  I got a nice beading bit and went to town.  Thankfully before doing everything I experimented.  Having the bit start with just a little nick, then going for full depth on a second pass produced a lot less tear outs at the sharp corner.  Notice how crisp the line is in the top example, while the bottom one is jagged.

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With all the stock prepared I moved on to finishing.  I wanted to use a water based urethane from General Finishes.  It has sprayed well in the past and doesn’t yellow the maple, so it should match the kitchen cabinets.  The trick is we were due for days of cold, wind, and rain.  I moved everything inside and tried to pad the finish on.

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Having finished many pieces with oil based wipe on polyurethane, I can say that this stuff is no substitute.  It isn’t thin enough, but then dries too quickly and leave streaks.  I eventually switched to applying it with a foam brush.  That worked out the best overall, but still left a lot to be desired.

The two trim parts that go under the kitchen window had interference issues.  They used a lot of calking to hold down the quartz, and left a fillet underneath.  Instead of trying to cut it all out, I rather relived the back hidden edge with a chamfer bit.  The finish was indeed a good match with the cabinets.

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After that success I installed the half wall and its trim.  Once again drywall’s tendency to be out of square made the miter joints a little off.  I fall for that every time.  They still look really good unless you get up close.  I used a combination of loctite power grab (fantastic stuff for installing molding), and my pin nailer to fix everything.  Pin nailers are perfect for these kinds of installations.

Rotten Fascia

Entropy and rot are a constant enemy to the homeowner.  There is no perfect prevention, only a delay of the inevitable, and dealing with it when it strikes.  I noticed the corner fascia on my porch  looked a little funny.  A bit of probing revealed a lot of water damage.

This is one of those few situations where an oscillating multitool comes in a lot of handy.  I made plunge cuts far away from the corner to give myself space to install new boards.  Chopping that out with a chisel would have been a chore.

Not great, but only the ends of those boards are rotted.  There is a bit of cross bracing behind those beams to give support for the motion light below, so it should be fine structurally.  I noticed the way the drip flashing was folded allowed for a big hole.  I bet water runs back under via that entry point.  I soaked all the surrounding wood in a few rounds of wood preservative to stop the rot and prevent further damage.

A few custom cut boards made a nice looking miter.  I filled the drip flashing hole with white caulk.  It looks funny, but it should act as a noticeable reminder to pay attention to that area in case the hole opens up again.  Multiple rounds of primer and paint later, and it is back together.  You can definitely tell something happened.  Just the texture of the wood alone is drastically different.  It beats a creeping decay of the roof line though!

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While on the subject of things needing painting, the number sign on our mail box was in poor shape.  All the finish was coming off the numbers and the fasteners were getting really rusty.

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I wanted to get new ones but the PVC board they were on had faded where the sun was exposed.  Even with a bit of sanding I couldn’t get past it.  They don’t sell this particular style any more, so I wire brushed the old finish off the numbers and gave them a new coat of black paint.

I found stainless steel screws that were close enough to the originals to fit in the numbers.  It ended up being a cheap fix if somewhat time consuming.  Can’t have the mail person judging our letters to be in disrepair!  Oh the joys of homeownership.

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Hurricane Shutters

As a wise hurricane guide once said, winter is a great time to think about hurricane season.  Two major issues were highlighted during our last Irma encounter.  Not being able to see out back was maddening, and I had no shutter plans for my garage window.

The window to my garage has a big honking AC unit in it for the summer.  The thing is too big and heavy to move when hurricanes come, so I need a custom shutter.  I wanted it to be made out of a single sheet of plywood, but the threaded studs are 4 feet apart at the outside edge.  I could have shifted the whole thing over, but instead I cut the sheet in half and did it in pieces.  It makes for an easier installation.

I used 3/4″ plywood which ended up being too thick, I couldn’t get enough purchase with the wing nuts.  I used a forstner bit to relieve the area enough for the nuts to hold.  Two cleats above the AC help stiffen the part and give a resting point for a center patch that ties the two halves together.

Everything got a coat of primer to make sure they stay in good shape while waiting out in the garage.  I reassembled everything to make 100% sure it all fit, and marked up some basic instructions.


20171231_114218On to the back porch.  I found polycarbonate panels that are similar to the metal ones we already have.  They don’t come in the right sizes, but with careful sawing they can be made shorter.  A center punch and 1/2″ drill bit put holes where you need them.  They aren’t as easy to see through as normal windows, but at least some light can get in and you could tell if the shed is still there or not.  Our back kitchen window has a full complement of clear shutters, and each back set of french doors has a single clear panel.

Ladder Feets

I have a trusty little 3 step Werner ladder that is great for doing work inside and outside the house.  It is small, light and provides enough height to be really useful without making you feel too high up.  I bought it when I got my house 8 years ago and have used it a lot since then.

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The back two legs are basically straight tubes with rubber feet slipped on.  They did a good job keeping the ladder stable and level, but over the years the posts have pushed through the rubber.  The final straw was when I was doing something in the yard and the bag legs sank 6 inches down.

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I pulled the feet off and tried to salvage them.  The only real issue is the bars pushing through.  Maybe “re-soleing’ these shoes is all it takes.  I tried screwing down some plywood to the bottom, but ran into issues.  The post is only resting on its edge, and the squishiness of the feet means they want to wobble around a lot.  No good.

Time to ditch these feet and go with something new.  I would try to make it all in wood, but the post diameter is not close to any standard drill bits.  I want the new feet to fit tightly.  On to 3D printing!

The foot design resembles the original rubbery version.  The difference is that these will be hard.  I added a flat parallel to the bottom of the post.  The reason being is that when you fold the ladder up it only sits on the tips of these feet.  Probably a lot of the reason they pushed through.  This flat spot will help spread the load when stored and hopefully help it last longer.  The larger flat in the upper left picture is what touches the ground when the ladder is deployed and in use.

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I started with basic PLA, as a test, but they fit so well I am going to stick with the first prototypes.  I might make a higher infill PETG version in the future.  Until then the ladder folds up and stores well, and most importantly sits flat and stable when in use.

 

Hurricane Irma Update

Irma came and went and we are alive and well.  The battery box performed admirably, but didn’t provide enough cooling.  80+ degree days and nights with very high humidity meant we lost the fridge faster than I had hoped, and sleeping was very dreadful at best.  In the end we broke down and now own a generator and window shaker.

As always you learn a lot from these experiences.  I am no hurricane expert, but have gathered enough knowledge that I think a guide is in order.  For the leathered 3rd generation native Floridian, and the newcomer to our wondrous state.  Expect a guide to be posted in the coming weeks.

Until then my only projects this month have involved getting myself and others ready for the hurricane, and cleaning up afterwards.  Here is the pile of yard debris I have collected from the storm.  I still need to trim the palm tree on the left, and there is a lot of oak trimming that could go on near my shed.

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Kitchen BackSplash

The kitchen is finally complete!  The last two months have involved a lot of waiting on things to get in, but it is all done.

With the countertops installed I was able to go ahead with a layout scheme.  The tiles are glass, of different heights and widths, and on a floppy mesh.  Figuring out where and how to cut to make it around the outlets was tough.

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Everything started and stopped at a metal quarter round boarder strip.  After a few different tactics I figured out that measuring everything from the edges and countertop gave me the best results for cutting around outlets.

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T20170225_112227he gaps between each tile varied between 1/8″ and 1/16″.  It made any errors on my part easier to hide, but keeping everything looking right meant I needed a variety of shims.  When installing the tile I did my best to keep the gaps clean, but sometimes the mortar squeezed through.  It is tough to clean without disturbing the wet tile too much.  Instead  I waited till it was cured and used a custom little tool to scrape it out.  It is a thin putty knife ground down to make a small hook/dovetail shape.  I was able to get into the  gaps and clean out any stray mortar that even the smallest grout saw couldn’t get to.

With all the edges and gaps cleared out I could move on to grout.  Backsplash grouting seems to be pretty similar to floor grouting.  The grout is un-sanded on account of the narrow gaps, but otherwise you smear it on, let it sit for a bit, then wipe off.  The high ratio of gaps to tiles means a lot ends up staying in place and getting wasted in the wiping.

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Hazing is really noticeable on the glass tiles, so they took a few dozen extra rounds of wiping, but you really knew when you got it all.  After months of work and waiting, and more money than I care to admit it is really good to have a gorgeous working kitchen.  Time for a kitchen warming party!

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