Saturday, January 26, 2008

Found Treasures

We're planning to use the same tile for the shower as we used on the floor in the new bathroom. It's a nice soft green (Katarina loves green), and is the same design (sort of a random wash of bits of darker stuff) as the sand colored tile we used in the shower surround in the old bathroom back when I redid that. That had a similar orangish version, matching bullnose tiles, 3x3 grid tiles (that I cut into 3x1), and a nice complementary set of accent tiles with different designs. The green version had the bullnose and the grid, but no accent tiles, and no similar color that went well with it. Despite the shower being unique (custom size, shelf because of the foundation, etc.), I was worried it would be a bit boring with just some bits of 3x1 at the edge of the shelf, but I went ahead and bought the tile for both the floor and the shower.

While I was waiting for the tile to be brought out of the warehouse, I looked around at what there was to see in the driveway between the tile showroom and the warehouse next door. Various warning signs, tile saw for customers to use for a few cuts, etc. Then I spotted something I'd seen before -- the tile scrap bin. Basically bits of cut and broken tile that aren't salable any more. I looked in it, and found 95% of a sheet of 1x1 glass tiles, in a nice mix of blues and greens. It was missing a few squares, and a few were chipped, but it was otherwise a lovely little bit of tiles, so I snagged it and put it in the car.

Today I figured out the layout for the shower tile, cleaned up some stuff, and started tiling. I think these little guys are going to make perfect accent tiles, and the fact they were free-99 and headed for the dumpster is all the better.

I didn't get that much tile put up, but got a good start and more than that cut for some of the odd-sized bits at the ends. Alas, tomorrow will be a busy day so no more tiling until Monday. First service at church to train the second service person on the differences; second service will be a joint service with the Baptists that share our sanctuary; the evening will mean a return trip for an organizational meeting for this year's Mexico mission trip. Easter is earlier this year, so spring break for the schools is, so the Mexico trip is, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

One step closer

I'm seldom -- I'm rarely --I've never been so excited about being able to do laundry, except maybe after a long trip overseas when laundry was difficult to do. Today I ran copper pipe to the cold water side of the laundry tub and to the hose spigot, and amazingly had no leaks after one pass. That was due in no small part to the use of a little inspection mirror, which my friend Jim showed me a while back for double-checking that a sweated joint had solder all the way around. A quick check after sweating a couple of joints allows you to go back and touch up things before moving on. Of course, this frequently doesn't work with a bronze fitting, only with copper-to-copper junctions, but that's most of the connections.

I also recently acquired a 4-in-1 brush for prepping copper pipe and fittings. I've had separate brushes for the insides, and sandcloth for the outsides before, because I'd acquired the different sizes over time instead of needing to do 1/2" and 3/4" all at once. I needed a new 3/4" inside brush because the existing one was getting smushed and rusty. I've still got a supply of sandcloth for dealing with tight spaces, but the 4-in-1 brush does an awesome job cleaning off the oxidation from the insides and outsides of 1/2" and 3/4" pipes, all in one tool instead of 3.

All that to say I was able to do a couple loads of laundry this evening, and I have the outside faucet working again, too. That just leaves running new pipes to the toilet and sink in the old bathroom. Woohoo!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why, yes, it has been raining a lot

I spotted some beautiful evidence that it's been wet recently, growing in our backyard. The ferns are normal for winter, but mushrooms this brightly colored are not.

Working a shorter and less frantic day than Monday, yesterday I removed the galvanized pipes on the hot water line and replaced them with copper. Today I ran pipe from the valve I installed yesterday to the washer and laundry sink on the hot water side. I had to re-do the valve as it leaked on the off side, so I got less done today than I'd have liked. That leaves:
  • washer and laundry sink on the cold water side
  • laundry sink to outside faucet
  • old bathroom cold water to toilet and sink
  • old bathroom hot water to sink
But apart from a short stretch where the water line enters the house up to the pressure regulator, all the plumbing is now copper (well, or bronze for some of the fittings). Woohoo!

One thing I did when replacing the main water line was install a 1/4 turn ball valve for a shut off inside the basement. There's an old gate or compression valve for the shut off on the outside of the house, but it's not in the greatest shape. Having an easy to turn on and off valve in the basement has been a big time saver -- no more running around the house to shut off the water, back to the basement and work, turn the water on, back to the basement to test for leaks, back to the valve to shut it off, etc.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere

With a long work day on Monday, I managed to remove the galvanized pipe from where it comes into the house, over to the water heater, most of the way to the laundry, and to the kitchen and where I tied in for the addition, and then replace it all with copper. The picture at the left shows a section of the pipe where the worst blockage was, that was causing the low pressure in the kitchen and addition. The small orange circle is the size of the hole that was still open -- about the thickness of an 8 penny nail. But we now have normal water pressure on the cold side in the kitchen, and in the new bathroom in the addition. That still leaves replacing the cold water lines for the old bathroom, a run from the water heater over towards the kitchen, and the laundry area, but we have a functioning toilet, sink and shower, even if they're not in the same room.

Meanwhile, not far away, there are folks who have too much water. Not as much as the folks in Fernley, NV, but too much by any account. We live in the hills, and while we have our own share of drainage problems, our lot is relatively level and stable. Up along Skyline Blvd., the hillsides are steeper, and water does what water wants to do -- flow downhill. The section between Colton and nearby Huckleberry Botanical Park has long had a number of drainage problems, sometimes blocking an entire lane of the road after a heavy rain. The city fixed these problems by the installation of the yellow sign in the picture. But after this most recent storm, it seems the sign was not enough, and water was seeping under the road, and taking parts of the hill side with it. The road itself is still intact, but the folks who live at the downhill end of this gully were apparently not pleased by the arrival of parts of the uphill section in their backyard.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

They'll be battening down the hatches when it comes...

We've got 3 storms in a row on the way. We need the rain, but we could do with it spread out a bit more. And the 2nd storm is due to bring high winds with it, which we most definitely don't need. I cleared the roof of pine needles and fallen branches yesterday, and did various things around the outside of the house to prepare, but it looks to be a doozy.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bad Plumbing Ju-Ju

Given my recent posts, it's probably no great surprise I spent today working on plumbing. What's less expected is that it wasn't the plumbing in our house. My friend Cindy that helps run Oakland Firefighters Random Acts told me the back door of her mom's house wasn't shutting. You may remember about a year ago I did a bunch of work on her parent's house, mostly replacing a burst water heater, but I ended up working on other plumbing, and the back door that had been kicked in by a SWAT team and then replaced by some firefighters with Random Acts (people normally have to replace damaged property like that on their own; the police don't really take responsibility for it). They unfortunately didn't do a great job when they replaced the door, so I had to plane the door a bit to get it to shut. With time, hot and cold, and changes in humidity, it was again no longer shutting, so Cindy said it needed to be planed some more. Well, there was a bit more to it than that. The hinges hadn't been set right, so the door was binding against the inside of the door stop, and trying to close the door had caused the screws in the top hinge to split the wood and pull out part way. So I had to trim the door stop (I did so messily but as quickly as possible), replace the screws in the hinges with longer screws, as well as plane the door a bit.

But there were plumbing issues, too. The faucet in the laundry sink was leaking. Rather than tell anyone, Cindy's mom's caretaker had stuck a plastic bag under it. Over time, the water had gotten behind the block supporting the faucet, and into the plaster and lath wall. I fixed one leak and shut off the water to the faucet, but it needs time to dry out before any more work is done. The wall may need to be redone. Yrch.

And Cindy mentioned that the kitchen sink wasn't draining very quickly. Sure enough, it would start filling after running the water hard for a few seconds. I looked in the cabinet under the sink, and was dismayed to see drain pipes with signs of previous leakage, including electrician's tape wrapped around the middle of one pipe. But I gamely went forward, disassembled the trap and attempted to clean out the drain. The trap was clean, and I discovered that the main blockage was just inside the wall. Unfortunately it wasn't just gunk (though there was plenty of that), it was primarily rust, which neither the snake nor a bent hanger could do much with. I also ran the snake into a clean out down below the sink, and discovered that some where down the line there's stuff slowing things down there, too. At least that's just gunk (I think), but it was beyond what I could get out with the snake. So Cindy gets to call RotoRooter or the like and have them clean it. Though I don't think there's much they can do with the rust-filled pipe in the wall, either. I think that may need to be replaced, and that means ripping open the wall. Double yrch.