Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Laundry Room Revisited

If you've been reading along on this post, you may remember that waaaay back in 2012 (three whole years ago!) I moved things around in our laundry room so that the dryer no longer vented to the garage.

Well, by way of confession... I never completely completed that job. I mean, the dryer vented properly, but I never patched the drywall where the previous owner had butchered it, and I never properly plugged the hole to the garage where the dryer had been venting. Instead I filled up the hole with plastic bags and pushed our dryer in place to hide it.

In the past few months though, the dryer that came with the house has been getting slower and slower to dry clothes, and the washer has been leaking and thumping around a lot. We decided its time for a new laundry pair.

Then when bought the machines, we were shocked to find they wouldn't fit in the old spot and had to be stacked. Once they were stacked, the cord for the new machine couldn't reach the plug for the old machine, and long story short, it was time to finish the job I started three years ago.

I wasn't going to bother blogging about this for two equally good reasons:

  1. I've become blase about blogging. Basically I don't any more.
  2. Blogging about moving wires is about as boring as it gets. 
but then I opened up the wall and was immediately BLOWN AWAY by what was in there, and just had to. Aren't you lucky. Basically this entry begins with a photo of a wall that's been opened up and cleaned up a bunch so you miss the whole dryer buying/stacking/attempt at plugging in and start right in with the good stuff.

The scene of the crime. You may be wondering why there is a white square around the area I am working. Its because the previous owner decided to just cover this mess with an oversized slab of drywall, then paint the wall. I guess that was an easy way to do things because all he needed was 6 screws to slab over the hole in the wall.

You may also have noticed that a stud has been cut about 5" above the floor and is being held up by... well, nothing. I guess the drywall screws are what's holding it. For those who haven't taken an engineering course, this is a bad thing. The bathroom above exerts a distributed load on the ceiling below which transfers that load through the studs to the floor in here. First priority - fix the stud.

Harder to see is the lint in the stud bay. Lots of it - from the dryer vent not carrying all the way through the wall. Lint means moisture, moisture is bad. Especially on a garage wall. But we've been through all that before. 

The yellow insulation column on the left of teh picture is the vent stack for our gas water heater. There is a piece of metal strapping across the bottom of the picture - once upon a time it held the vent in place on the stud that used to go to the floor.

This is a double wall. It carries the main drain stack and venting for utilities in it, so luckily there is a lot of room to work in here. before i took this picture I used some extra insulation from the basement to stuff in where the insulation had been removed for teh old dryer vent. 

Let fix the stud!

Hey fancy! I used the subheading autoformat tool! Anyways, in order to fix the cutaway stud, I needed to sister in new wood. You can see the stuff I used next to the drill in the photo above.

I like to hold the wood in place with a clamp to do this. It frees up a hand, and lets me line everything up before I use any fasteners. To prove I am not the ultimate handyman, I looked through my collection of odds and sods in the basement and got a bunch of 3" wood screws to pull teh boards together. They didn't match. If anyone asks, I'll say the previous owner did it.

Once that long board was in place with three screws through into the old stud, I put in a shorty below.

Apparently I also undid the screws holding the junction box for the laundry as well. Anyways, the little piece of wood was cut a little long to take the load from teh stud, and screwed to the new wood. Then both were screwed to the floor in opposing directions. Very solid.

It's time to get started on electric stuff...

Playing with Junction boxes - before reading any further, go turn off the breaker to your dryer.

Step one in this portion of the show is disassembling the existing box. The previous owner in his wisdom had used wood screws to attach the cover to this box. That was a bad idea for a few reasons - the pointy ends of the screws could have pierced a wire, they fit poorly, and they ruined the threads on the screw holes. Luckily though, he got the outlet wired properly.

The dryer outlet wires are just poked in holes and then screws are tightened up to sandwich the wire in place. Its a sort of vise. Super easy to assemble and disassemble, but also super easy to screw up the wire positions. So before proceeding any further, get a sharpie (your breaker is off right?) and label the wire positions.

Two seconds now will mean no sparks later, and you really don't want to fry the board in your new dryer. With that done, get out a red Robertson screwdriver and loosen - don't remove - all the screws. The wires will come free as teh screws are loosened, and you will be left with the box in one hand and outlet in the other. Put the outlet someplace safe, and repeat teh procedure with the ground screw and the clamp on the side of the outlet box. Save them if they are useful. If the previous owner used woodscrews and stripped the threads on your box, toss it out. With vigour. Curse you, previous owner!

On Junction Boxes

Back when I worked in hardware stores as a kid, the odd time someone would come by and unwrap a mystery you never knew existed. Here goes... stuff you didn't know about electric boxes.

For the dryer I got a common square junction box. Its a pretty boring thing. You've seen dozens of them. But look closely at the sides...

Free Mount Side

Drywall mount side
On one side of the box, the screw holes are halfway back in the box. This side of the junction box is what I call the "Free mount side" you can mount this box anywhere and line it up with anything. It has no locked position.

The opposite side of the box has a pair of little tabs and the screw holes are at the bottom of the box. This is the drywall mount side. If you bend out the tabs and rest them on a drywall stud, the space from the tabs to the top of the box will exactly equal the thickness of a sheet of drywall. (Be amazed now) and you will have 4 drill holes instead of 2. (Be even more amazed)

My camera refused to focus on the box. Oh well.
Now that the tabs define which side of the box will be against a stud, we can go ahead and knock out one of the knockouts on the other side to accommodate our wire.

This is also a good time to talk about the wire clamp. The wire clamp in the top right corner of the box does two things. First and most importantly, it prevents teh wire from being cut by the sharp edge of the box. Second, it prevents teh wire from being pulled or chafing. It does these things by going arounds the wire, and then inside the knockout of the box. As you tighten the screw on the clamp, it will press down on the wire, expanding the outer ring of the clam, and holding itself against teh box. If you can move the clamp around, its not working right. Especially in a laundry room where there is a lof of vibration, you want to get this right - otherwise one day you will be surprised by magic smoke coming out of your wires. 

At this point the electric is 'roughed in' If you paid an electrician to rough in a dryer hookup, this is what you would have (minus the markings on the plug)

With the electric roughed in, I could switch trades and put away the electrician tools to take out the drywall tools. I hate drywalling.

Drywall Time!

Before I actually start doing drywall, I want to talk cutting tools. First a drywall saw.

This is one of my drywall saws. I think I have about 3 of them. They come and go. I don't pay them much attention. You can pick them up for a couple dollars and all seem to work about as well as any other. Drywall saws have pointy tips and are great for stabbing into a sheet of drywall to cut a hole in the middle of it. Because they are so thin, you can cut tight circles with them. I used one of these to cut out the tube lights holes in the dining room ceiling. The trouble with these saws is that they tear aggressively at the paper backing on drywall and make a big mess of dust. For rough work in spots that will be hidden, they are a great tool.

Another important tool to have is a sharp utility knife. This one from sears has been with me for years.

Right now it has a hook blade in it from working on the roof. The nice thing about these knives is that the blades in them are interchangeable - and they have on-board storage for spare blades. Often they come pre-loaded with a half dozen spare blades.

For a blade change, you just undo the centre screw, take it apart, and swap out the blades.

This one was left out when I did the roof and all the blades got rusty - but the knife is still fine.

Cutting drywall with one of these is super easy - you just mark a line and score it with the knife...

The with a quick snap, fold the drywall to make a book, and use the knife to score up the paper.

The drywall will break where the knife cut as long as you are mostly in a straight line. The edge of the drywall will be a little jagged though, so its a good idea to 'shave' along the rough edges after cutting. I have a drywall rasp for that, but a small job like this didn't make it worthwhile to dig it out, so I just ran the blade along the edge to smooth it out.

Taking the drywall into the laundry, I lined up the dryer box and cut out its sides using the drywall saw. Then using the knife, I scored the bottom, folded and cut away to make the dryer box's spot.

A few screws, and we're ready for tape and mud... But wait - a test of the dryer cord isn't looking good. It still won't reach! (Insert swear words here)

Luckily I hadn't cut the excess wire to the junction box. I used the drywall saw to cut a hole in the wall and move the box up the stud bay...(Those are the drum stabilizers in the bag taped to the wall - won't lose them that way).

And used the old plug with the marks from when I disconnected everything to get it all wired up. It fits good!

The drywall patch is simpler now too! I just used the offcut from the first patch, and with a little trim, I had a good fit.

 Magic with mud, and its looking good. After this I was able to hook up the dryer vent and Momma got started on laundry - the new machines are much quieter, I think we'll like them! Tomorrow I'll sand and finish mudding but I need this first coat to dry. Heat from the dryer should help.

For my next job, I need to build a cabinet to hide the laundry venting and to allow Momma a spot to put her laundry baskets - these new machines are a lot bigger than the old ones and we lost all our storage!

Monday, 12 October 2015

Past due for a tool post... A new Lathe

If you've been following this space, you may be wondering why no cool new tools have been featured lately. Its simple - I'm hoarding my cash away in ETF's and reassuring myself that long term gain is more important than new toys. WHICH IS TRUE.

But every now and then I slip up and buy something because - WOW! Shiney!

Which is exactly how I ended up with with a Beaver/Rockwell lathe in the garage over thanksgiving weekend. You may wonder what I am going to do with this lathe, and honestly, so do I. But lately I have been tinkering in the garage - I even made a coin bank for Buddy, and a thing that makes a galloping horse sound because... WOW, Shiney!! Lookit that lathe!

(BTW a galloping horse noisemaker in the hands of boys can get very annoying.)

So anyways, I was thumbing through Kijiji on a slow day and came across an ad from an estate sale for a lathe and tools for a good price, so I went and had a look. The seller was a retired school principal whose Dad had recently died, and they had sold everything off, but this lathe. The more of the story he told, the lower the price got, and the more stuff there was that got thrown in.

There were two tool rests, a sanding drum, a pile of tapers - some with centres, some without. a threading die, chisels and gouges and parting tools.

Most of the tools are made of Sheffield steel or german steel. The newer tools are from Eatons, made here in Canada. Some of the handles are in rough shape. Old chisels get like that.

Once the lathe was home, it took some work to clear out a corner of the garage, but I managed to fit it in. It looks small and forlorn over there. I need to install the motor properly and rewire the switch/cord. Then we'll see what this tool can teach me.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Two Tubelights Twinkling

SO I spent the last few weeks working evenings and weekends to put a new roof on the house. And a new roof meant I FINALLY got to install Solar Tubes to light up the dining room, which has been decidedly gloomy since we moved in. This has been on my to-do list since, well, forever.

Mind the mess, focus on the lights. In the ceiling.

The cool thing about solar tubes is that they take a gloomy room (like our dining room) and bring in natural light from outside un-gloomify it. You'll find these things marketed as suntunnels, Solar tubes, tube lights, etc. all over the place. We paid around (GASP!) $350 per light for ours at Home Depot. The install isn't especially difficult, and tool-wise you only really need a jigsaw and a screwdriver. Some basic roofing tools don't hurt, and you should understand how to install a roof vent since the technique is about the same.

So here we go...

For the first step, determine the spot where the tube lights go. Pick a spot and put an exploratory hole in the ceiling. This hole should be small enough that you can hide it with a dab of caulk. Now get a rod-like object (Piece of dowel, coathanger, wire) and poke it up through the hole and into the attic above.

In the attic, measure 11" around the hole to make a circle. See if there is anything you will hit if you cut out a circle that big. You may find wires, framing members, or pipes up there. If you do, you will have to adjust the location of your hole or relocate pipes and wires (which sucks). Luckily, all I had around my hole was insulation, which I just cut away.

Now that you know where the centre of your hole will be, take a plumb bob and suspend it from the underside of the roof deck. When the bob hangs right over the centre of your circle, drive a nail or screw up through the roof deck above. This will mark your lights location outside.

Once you have things marked out, have your wife stand in the room below holding up a vacuum, and with a drywall saw, cut out the circle in the ceiling. With luck, the vacuum will suck up most of the drywall dust before it makes a mess. As the dude in the attic, you will enjoy the fresh air that arrives once the hole is cut out.

Sadly I have no pics of these steps since time spent in the ceiling is uncomfortable and not conducive to photography. Sorry.

Now its time to go up on the roof...

Since I was re-roofing, I took all the shingles off the roof until I had a clear roof deck. You don't have to do this to install these lights, but it is probably easier to do the install without working around old roofing. Dunno.

I marked the nails with a blob of white paint so they'd be easy to spot. Then I laid out the cuts for the shrouds that go on the roof. The cutouts are an arc top and bottom, with straight sides spaced at 14". In order to be safe, I cut out a small section of the markup. This means I could work on the roof without worrying about falling through the open hole, but I would remember when to stop roofing to install the lights.

Once I reached the holes, I got out my trusty jigsaw and cut out the rest of the hole. With that done, I shingled up to about half way over the hole. With the hole cut out, I smeared the back of the flange in roofing tar, and placed the hood over the hole, then tested how the next row of shingles would align.

 ... And checked the alignment of the hood to the light below...

With everything lined up, I went ahead and installed the screws to hold it all in place. The tar gooed out of the edges and through the screw holes making a nice seal.

With the hood in place, I got out the tubes.  The tubes come in three sections, but I found that we didn't need the lower piece. Careful measurement is needed to set the tubes to just the right length. Peel away th eprotective coating on the inside and admire the shiny reflective surface, then put them through the attic.

The pieces are slid together, and tape goes over the joints. Our length of need was 37". Since the tape is all you have to hold things together, and to insulate the whole thing, use it with vigour. Finally slide the tubes into the shrouds from above, screw the lids on, and voila! Suntunnels!

We have a mess to clean up - roofing is messy work.

With the lights in, the dining room is notably brighter. At breakfast this morning we were noticing the difference and overall we are pleased with the results of this. Hopefully this will reduce the daytime electric use, although I imagine it will take a long time to recoup the cost of these tunnels. We'll have to see how they fare over time.

They are definitely a good thing though, the natural light is a nice thing that back room!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Oh Shenandoah

So we just got home from a week in Shenandoah national Park in Virginia. This is mostly a photo dump until I get around to writing a post about the trip...