Saturday, November 26, 2005

Not so lazy Saturday

Saturday morning started out by me wanting to sleep in as long as possible, but that wasn't possible since I had to deal with the two to three inches of snow that had fallen the previous day. Luckily my snow thrower fired right up after being in storage for 9 months and 35 minutes later I was done. It looks like I'll need new blades for the snow thrower (it's the kind with rubber paddles so that it actually scrapes all the way down to the pavement), but it's fully functional in the mean time, which is all that matters.

After that Sara and I took a bunch of boards up from the basement to the table saw in the garage so that I could rip them into more useful shims for installing the DRIcore. I ripped a bunch of 3/4" shims for the walls without drywall and shaved a 2x4 down 1/4" at a time to make the shims needed for the walls that had drywall already installed. Ten hours later and the saw dust is still hanging in the garage.

After that, Sara started cleaning the floor of debris, and I started laying DRIcore. The DRIcore goes down very quickly since there's no glue or nails, and only one cut is needed at the end of each row. There's a lot of banging with a hammer to get the panels tight to each other, but that's it. So far I haven't had to use any shims to level the panels, so that's really nice.

Sara patched five holes (from where the previous room's walls had been) in the concrete floor while I continued to lay DRIcore. After laying about 100 panels (4 rows) my back was shot and Sara went out for knitting supplies.

If my back holds up tomorrow I should be able to get almost all of the DRIcore panels down. Let's hope.

Dishwasher troubles

Monday was the day that Sara was making all of the food that she was going to bring up for Thanksgiving dinner. Of course that would be the day that the dishwasher decides to pee all over the floor.

It appears that the gasket that seals the door had shriveled up and was no longer sealing (after less than 8 years). I called the number of the top of the washer's door, got GE's parts department, and ordered a new gasket for $18.

We had to wash everything by hand, though we used the dishwasher as a drying rack. Let me tell you, cooking a hundred cookies (four different kinds), two pies, sweet potato spoon bread, and preparing the dough for rolls makes a lot of dirty dishes. This was not the time for the dishwasher to go on strike.

When we got back from Franklin on Friday, I checked the mail and found my replacement gasket. Yea! When I went to install it Saturday morning I found out that the gasket kit doesn't include one little piece of gasket that goes in the bottom center of the door. This, of course, was the part that was leaking. I installed the new gasket around the door anyway and ordered the missing part of gasket. It's nearly impossible to close the door now, but they say that this will get easier in a few weeks.

Hopefully the dishwasher will be working in a few days, but if it's not, I'm eyeing a new Jenn-Air Floating Glass dishwasher that will match the new range that I just got.


For Thanksgiving Sara and I went to her Father's Father's house in Franklin MN. Sara's parents were there, so I met her Grandfather, Grandmother, father Paul, brother John, and sister Katie's husband, all for the first time. They all seem like nice people, and I think that they liked me too. I had previously met Sara's mother and sisters Katie and Amy.

We stayed at Jackpot Junction, an Indian hotel and Casino. It was a nice enough place, but really smelled of smoke. Luckily the room, while not being a non-smoking room, didn't smell too bad. However, the shower had basically no water pressure. I don't know if that was because we were on the fifth floor or just because they have lousy water pressure, but you basically had to cozy up with the wall to get water to hit you.

The women cooked while the men talked in the living room. When the food was ready we lined up buffet style. We got in line, Sara's mom dished up food for Grandma, and then Steve and I started to help ourselves (in MN it's common for no one to actually want to start eating a party). All three of us got one of Sara's bread rolls, and shortly thereafter we heard a loud crash. At first people thought that a dish had fallen, but the Pyrex dish that the rolls were in literary exploded. It had been left on a burner that was still set at medium-high. We noticed that the oven was still on as well. Since it's pretty common to take off your shoes inside MN, most people were in their socks, so no one wanted to approach the stove. Even after the burner was turned off, the rolls continued to cook and were looking like they were about to catch on fire (they were starting to produce lots of smoke), so I rushed in there get them off the burner before they ignited.

After lunch we split off into three groups. Those that wanted to nap, those that wanted to play card games, and those that wanted to play a marbles game on a homemade board with rules something like Aggravation. I was in the latter group. It was lots of fun.

Friday we left Franklin at about 3:40, but because of the snow on the road it took us a while to get home. We only saw one person in the ditch, though we did a couple of crumpled cars. I wish that they would plow the on/off ramps as those can get a bit dicey (the freeways are generally just fine though).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Easy come, easy go

This past Saturday Sara and I went to Home Depot to get thermostat wire. Why thermostat wire you might ask? Because we want to put up a tree for Christmas, and Sara wants to put up some delicate and priceless ornaments, but I'm not willing to vouch for Lucy and claim that there's no possibility that she won't try to climb the tree and knock it over in the process. Since the front room of the house has glass doors that be closed, it's the perfect room for the tree. However, it's also the room with the thermostat, and closing off that room would mean that the rest of the house would quickly become very uncomfortable.

While we were at Home Depot we saw that they were having 10% off all appliances $299 and up. We had bought our Jenn-Air range, for $1569, just two days before and asked if we could get the discount. The associate told us no, but I was pretty sure that if I asked the customer service people, that they would give me the discount. I went back to my house, got the receipt, saw that I had 3 business days to get a refund on special orders, and went to the Home Depot that I actually bought the range at.

I went to the customer service desk and told them I had just bought the stove and wanted the discount, which we could either the easy way (they just give it to me), or the hard way (I return the stove, that I haven't taken delivery of yet, and buy it again with the discount). The customer service people were quite happy to do it easy way, though when the customer service people called the appliance manager to get her code to approve our $167 refund, she was shocked. The customer service people explained that we had just bought a $1569 stove, hence our desire for the 10% off, and the appliance manager gave her code and we got our discount.

Emboldened by the savings of $167, we went out and spent it three times over. We bought new sheets, new cooking hardware, and some other gear. It was stuff that we needed, but I think I would have preferred to have bought the stuff in a month or so. Oh well, one of these days I'll get through a weekend without spending tons of money.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Friday the DRIcore was supposed to be delivered, so I was working from home all day (something that I don't really enjoy since I like the people in the office). By 3:30 I was getting worried that it wasn't coming so I called Home Depot to see when it might be here. After being transferred around, they finally said that the manager would call me back. By 4:30, when I still hadn't heard from them, I called again and got the same run around. When I tried to call back at 5:30, as expected, there was no one to talk to.

I gave up on getting the delivery that day and at about 6:15 left with Sara to get dinner and go to the kickball season-end party.

When I got home, at about midnight, I was greeted by two pallets of DRIcore sitting in front of the garage. This was nice, since I wasn't expecting them to deliver it, but also not so nice since it meant I had to move a ton (literally, 2260 pounds) of DRIcore into the garage instead letting the guy with the forklift do it.

It took about half an hour to move all of the 240 tiles into the front of the garage, and I still had enough room to park the car in the garage. Nice. I only dropped a few tiles, with a loud bang, and the neighbors didn't seem to notice. Very nice.

Sunday I decided that I wanted to start laying the DRIcore. The first thing I would need is shims. The DRIcore is supposed to be 1/4" away from the drywall. Since most of the basement doesn't have drywall, that means 3/4" away from the studs. Luckily for me, the trim boards from around the doors in the room I removed from the basement were 3/4" thick. I spent 15 minutes pulling the finish nails from them and had ready made shims. I also spent about half an hour removing the screws from some of the 2x4s that were used in those walls in case I needed to rip some of those down to use as shims.

I put down an initial row of 12 tiles just to see how the shims were working and how the panels fit together. They fit easily enough, though it's hard to get them square to each other since tapping with a hammer tends to make them jump. I think that might be because the shims are too tall and aren't sitting perfectly flat against the base of the walls, so I'll have to cut the shims down to see if that helps. I also figure that as I get more panels down, the likelihood of the panels shifting will be greatly reduced. The boards go down quite quickly since there is no gluing or nailing, though my floor requires constant cleaning since it's a bit of a demolition mess. That's the part that's really slowing me down.

Confident that things will work out, I decided that it was time to bring all of the tiles into the basement so that they can adjust to the temperature and humidity (it's like 30 degrees in the garage and 65 in the basement). That took about 50 minutes and was quite the work out. I would bring down 6 or 7 tiles at a time (each tile weighs over 9 pounds) and flip them over onto their plastic bottoms (on the pallets they were upside down, but they suggest that you put them on their feet when letting them acclimate). That started to tear up sides of my arms as I attempted to rotate the 6" thick stack with rough edges and by the end of the process I was bruised from accidentally kicking the pile with my bare foot, arms were rubbed raw in some spots, hands had a splinter or two, and my back was killing me, but all the tiles were in the basement. I put them in the far corner so there shouldn't be too many to move when I have to tile the location they're currently occupying.

I'm excited to get them down and see if they really do warm the basement the "6 to 7 degrees" that I've been promised. At any rate, they'll make whatever carpet I put down feel way better than it would if it was sitting on concrete, and I think that's worth the 7/8 of an inch I lose to headroom. Updates to follow.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Spend, spend, spend

Wednesday evening, after cooking dinner, Sara asked if we could go ahead and get the Jenn-Air dual oven range that we had looked at over the weekend. I immediately agreed since I had gotten two coupons from Home Depot for no payments/no interest for 12 months and one was set to expire at the end of November.

I decided to get the white version of the range, though there was a brief moment where I thought I might be "forced" to get the stainless steel version. Sara really likes stainless steel appliances, and while I'm not opposed to them, I don't think that one stainless steel range would look right in a kitchen where all the other appliances are white and the theme is more country kitchen than modern.

We'll be keeping the existing electric range in the back garage. We'll either sell it for a few hundred bucks come spring, or maybe Sara will convince me that it should go into the basement as part of the wet bar.

While we were at Home Depot, I decided that it was time to get the DRIcore floor system so I can have a basement floor that's not solid concrete. The nice thing about the DRIcore system is that it says it gives you an R-value of 2, which should be enough to warm (or prevent heat loss) the basement to the tune of 6 to 7 degrees F. That alone would be worth the $1400 in tiles.

The other reason to get the DRIcore is that it should be considerably softer than concrete. I've never been on a carpet laid on concrete that was anything other than rock hard. While the DRIcore panels say they will support 5500 pounds per square foot, normal concrete supports about 5000 pounds per square inch. Concrete is harder by a couple orders of magnitude, and you're feet can tell.

The DRIcore should be delivered today, Friday, and then I'll have the fun task of moving 240 tiles, about 2300 pounds, down a flight of stairs into the basement. Sara's quite a trooper though, she suggested that we save the $60 delivery fee and load the tiles into my truck ourselves. I figure it's worth way more than $60 to only have to lift the tiles once.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Productive weekend

It's been, what seems like forever, that I've updated my blog. Sorry for that, I've been busy.

This weekend I decided that I needed to move the fresh air intake for the heater over one joist bay. The builders apparently didn't care that they had run it in the wrong joist bay, requiring it to jog under a joist because it was running directly into the metal air ducts. This would make building a nice looking soffit impossible and so I had to move it to the correct location.

This involved cutting a new (approximately) 7.5" hole in the side of the house (and not cutting any sized holes in the drain pipe or electrical wire that are in that joist bay). After moving the air intake over I was left with a gaping hole (if 7.5" could be considered gaping). Luckily I have some spare siding and I was able to patch the hole. While I didn't do the world's greatest patch job (there's a small section of siding instead of a few larger sections which I suspect a pro would have done), it's more than acceptable and from more than 5' you can't tell it was any other way.

I also bought some metal ducting to see how much work it would be to install ducting in the basement. To get the ducting installed they make special adapters that have a large plate that allows you to cut a rough opening and connect a 6" round duct cleanly. Of course Home Depot didn't have any of those (though they did have the picture of them). Instead they had only the duct starters that require you to make a perfectly round hole.

I already had a circle cutter for the RotoZip, but I didn't have a metal bit for it, and RotoZip doesn't make one. Luckily Dremel makes a tungsten-carbide bit and I have a collet that will take the 1/8" bits that the Dremel uses (because I don't have a circle cutter for my Dremel). Installing the Dremel bit in the RotoZip was a bit dicey since RotoZip bits are a lot longer than Dremel bits, so I had to put it in just the barest amount, but it was, just barely, long enough.

Starting the hole was easy enough since the bit has a rounded tip. Making the circle cut was a bit more of an ordeal than I was expecting. The metal for the ducting isn't very thick, so I wasn't expecting to see flames shooting out from under the RotoZip. Sparks were expected. Flames? Not expected. The cutting was slow going, slower than I expected, but after a few moments the sparks lessened and the flames stopped. About half way around the circle the cutting slowed and I saw that the bit was glowing orange hot. Orange! That's hot. I let the bit cool for a moment and was able to continue the cut. It made a perfect 6" hole and the adapter fit in perfectly. I think I might need to get another bit before I'm done with all the ducting, but it's worth it rather than trying to cut a hole with tin snips.

It was no effort to the horizontal run of ducting, though the half an hour I spent fighting with the 90 degree adapter to get it bent into 90 degrees (they come straight and you have to rotate the sections to get them into their 90 degree configuration) was rather frustrating.

It looks like the other two runs of ducting will be quick and easy, though I'm a bit worried about the work for the return air ducting since that will have to be much larger (and is generally put into a wall -- and I'm not sure that I have one handy). I'm sure I'll figure something out though.

I'll try to keep the blog up to date better. More news to come. :-)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Pulling wire

Saturday I decided that I needed to finish pulling the wire (cat-5 coax, cat-5e, and cat-6) to all of the bedrooms so that I could close up the walls and get on with things. It didn't hurt that the weather was in the mid 60s so working in the attic was actually quite pleasant.

Pulling wire, however, wasn't. The knockouts through the engineered wood I-beams were nearly full of the wire pulled for previous rooms, which made it rather difficult to pull new wires. Fishing the wires up through the holes in the walls was even more difficult as those holes are even smaller than the knockouts. Furthermore, going from the first floor to the second floor means that you have to drill past the second floor's engineered wood I-beams and fishing a fish tape through two 1" holes nearly a foot apart can be trying. However, I have all the right tools, and with Sara's help it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.

Every room is getting 6 wires, two cat-5 coax, two cat-5e, and two cat-6, which means that I have to pull a bundle of those three wires twice to each room (I had thought about buying two boxes of each, but decided that I wouldn't need that much wire). The first pull went reasonably smoothly, including the part where I had to drill into the wall, bang the bit around inside the wall, and have Sara mark it's location so that I could later cut into the wall and install the wiring box. The second pull wasn't quite as nice since I didn't pull enough wire to make it all the way to the wire box, which meant I had to go back down to the basement and pull another 10' of wire through all those knockouts and up into the attic.

The third pull of wires went into the same wall, but for the next room, and that went smoothly enough after I knocked out a new path of knockouts. The fourth pull, however, stopped about 10' short of being long enough because I ran out of the cat-5 coax. Argh! I still have plenty of cat-5e and cat-6 wire, but I didn't complete the pull as I was tired and dejected, and Sara was really bummed out.

I'll order new cable tomorrow, hopefully I'll get it by the weekend. Hopefully the weather will still be nice (not too hot or cold in the attic), and I'll be able to finish the final three pulls without running out of the cat 5 or 6 wire. The remaining spools seem to still have a decent amount left on them, but maybe they don't. I certainly don't want to have an extra 900 (or even 400) feet of cable left over, but the thoughts of getting most of the way through a pull and running out of wire haunt me. I guess I'll take the gamble.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

House with pop!

Monday evening was Halloween, and my first Halloween in the new house (having moved in December of last year). I figured that since I'm living at the edge of suburbia, and everyone seems to have the requisite 2.3 kids that I should get a fair amount of candy.

I bought about 12lbs of candy and started handing it out at about 5:30pm (actually, Sara started handing it out as I was still cooking dinner). By about 6pm I was starting to worry that I should go out and get some more. By 6:15pm I was seriously talking about going out and getting more candy but Sara thought it wouldn't be needed. But by 6:45pm we had about 6 pieces of candy left and I had to go out and get more candy, or face the wrath of angry 5th graders.

To hold them off while I was out getting new bags of candy, we emptied the fridge of Pepsi and Mountain Dew and Sara gave that out until I got back with 10lbs of candy.

I ended up giving away a few more pounds of candy (until about 8pm), but the best part was when 6 or 7 5th or 6th graders came to house. I gave the first one some candy and he said sadly proclaimed "We thought you were the house with pop." "Oh", I said, "I've still got some if you want that." I was greeted by a round of "Yes, please!"

Well, I know what I'll have to buy next year. Lots of soda for the teenagers and probably 15lbs of candy for the little ones. It's expensive living in the 'burbs.