Sunday, 4 January 2015

Floor Fixing - Preparing for Hardwood



We bought hardwood to install upstairs in our spare bedroom a while back, then the project stalled out when we found ourselves on strike. After that the project moved forward just enough to see the carpet torn out and a rotten spot found along an exterior wall.

The rot scared me off the project for a long time, but I've decided to tackle the hardwood as much as I can, while patching the rot and then I can return to the problem spot as part of a bigger project. This blogpost will show how we patched the subfloor and prepped for hardwood, with the hardwood install following in a later post.


Meet the problem.This is the back corner of a closet. The wall to the left (being attacked by a crowbar) is the rear exterior wall of our house. The wall to the right backs onto the chimney, but is also an exterior wall.

A tiny air gap in the corner of the wall has allowed moist exterior air to come into teh house. Once inside the air is trapped by the vapour barrier plastic, and absorbed by the wall framing and floorboards.


In order to put the brakes on the rot, I needed to block the air infiltration, and in order to fix the floor I needed to replace the rotten plywood.

First order of business is to pull up the plywood and see how invasive things are.

Using just a prybar in the rotten sections, and a skilsaw in the solid wood, I removed the floor from the closet. This made for loads of little rotten wood flakes and some sawdust. It was tough fighting the nails in teh good wood, but the rotten sections just crumbled apart. 


With the plywood out, I used a handsaw to clean up the edges of the hole, and tidied things up. My next step was to stop up the airflow by using some expanding foam to fill in the gaps and holes. I boogered things up pretty good and left it to set up overnight. The next morning I cleaned up the over-flow and took this pic:


There was huge change once the airgap was sealed. Amazing how a detail like this can warm up a room! Ok, a closet. But still...

With the air gap sealed, I turned to installing cleats to mount boards on for the new subfloor to screw into. I found some scrap cedar left over from my shed build this summer, and predrilled holes to accept a 1/4" X 2-1/2" lag bolt. The ledger boards were lagged to the solid framing to give a spot for the subfloor to attach to. This was needed because when I cut away the subfloor, I missed cutting on a joist by about 5".  The cleats would create a shelf for a board to sit on to act as a support to the edge of the plywood where I had cut it away.

My helper started the lags in the cleats...


And then I installed them and the board for the subfloor to sit on.


If you look closely in that pic, you can see that I marked the top of the joists so I would know where the cleats are. This way, I was able to lag through the new board into teh cleats to hold everything snug and tight. The hardest part of this step was getting the board to sit in place and to pull it sug against the existing subfloor. Lag bolts acted as a clamp to pull things up tight. They were removed once everything was set up. 
At this point I was ready to start installing new plywood. Step one was to get a piece of tar paper and lay it into the space. I stapled it to teh floor to prevent it from moving, then using a utility knife, cut out the outline of the missing plywood.


The outline came out messy, but for the mostpart it showed the path I had taken when I freehanded the cut with the skil saw, and the imperfections in the house.




I stapled the template on a piece of plywood and took the whole thing out to the tablesaw. 15 minutes later, I returned with a nearly perfect patch for the subfloor.

When I came in, I found that my helper had marked up a scrap of wood I left out. It made me smile that he had copied my markings and on the opposite side had marked the board the way I mark them to go through the planer.


Anyways, with the patch cut, I brought it up stairs, used a jigsaw to adjust things a little, et voila - a perfect fit!


With things fitting so nicely, I was able to drive a pile of flooring screws into the patch and the surrounding boards to pull everything together , and I have a floor that is solid and ready for hardwood!

I will need to get a long straightedge out and mark high and low spots on the floor, then do some leveling and tightening next, and at last it will be time for hardwood!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

14 for 2014 - A retrospective

Last year I set 14 goals for our household. Trouble was each individual goat had subsets and lists and so my 14 goals was really more like 1400 goals by the time I was done. It was a hefty list, and I found that by August/September I had tripped over so many goals by trying to complete other goals that, well, the list was definately not going to be completed. Luckily there was some low-hanging fruit early on in the year to offset the stuff that we got waylaid on later. We also started into a bunch of projects that weren't on the list at all. Those were great starts but offered nothing so far as checking off boxes on the list.

Anyway, enough drivel. Lets begin...

1. Open up a doorway between the hallway and Dining room. 

    Score: 0/1 = 0%

    Cumulative Score: 0%


This is a total fail. I often look at the space and think I should start, but alas. It will jump to next year's list. Right now that space looks like this:


All stuff, no door. The door is waiting in the garage, so there really is no excuse on this.

2. Family Escapes

    Score: 12/12 = 100%

    Cumulative Score:  50%


We came through with family getaways for every month up to October. Then we realized that the trips were more stressful than staying home and decided to take the rest of the year off. Which we did. I count this as a success. What trips we did do produced some really good times. We spent a lot of time in Algonquin Park, camped in Ontario Parks, and tried staying in a NY State park for the first time ever. we even did a big trip on a cruise, which the boys still talk about. And I snuck in a charity race - the Warrior Dash - with a bunch of friends.


3. Build stuff

    Score: 3/7 = 60% (Sortof)

    Cumulative Score:  53%


My list here is very different from what actually went down out in the garage/shop area. I did make a lot of stuff, and some of it was pretty cool. Some of it was firewood too. But facts are facts, I never built the reading wall for the master bedroom, and most of the rest of that list wasn't completed. But there were some other wins too - it turned out that SWMBO never really wanted crates in the bathroom (good thing - they turned out awful!) and a workbench for the garage was given to me by a friend. What I did make was fun and I learned a lot. I'm calling this a win despite not holding to the list. I could adjust that score upwards, but I wont.


4. Finish Stuff

    Score: 6/8 = 75%

    Cumulative Score:  59%


This list went down fast and I got a lot done! Especially noteworthy was finally getting closet doors up in the boys room and redoing the kitchen knobs. Small things that were good to get out of the way. 



5. Re-Knob-inate the kitchen.

    Score: 1/1 = 100%

    Cumulative Score:  67%


To be fair, this was a cheater goal on many levels. When we set the goal, I already knew we were go to replace the knobs, and I doubled up and put this same goal in 2 categories. I'm still taking the points to boost my score though. 

We went through a long process of elimination to come up with our favourite knobs out of an initial set of about 40 patterns. Actually installing the knobs took little time compared to the process of selecting them. We are happy with our new knobs.


6. Clean out the garage, and create a working floor plan.

    Score: 2/2 = 100%

    Cumulative Score:  72.5%


Ok, so this really was a big deal. In order to be effective in the garage, there had to be flow and workspace, and all the things we associate with a real room. I also needed to be able to move stuff around and protect space to park a car in there. Although there continues to be chronic issues with sawdust and I have just tackled the last of the lighting issues in the past week, the room is now functional. I went with a galley design, and put the tablesaw facing a garage door so that long or large pieces can be machined by opening the door. So far this winter a small space heater has been able to keep up with the cold as long as I put sawdust along the floor at the garage door to block drafts. 

For Christmas, SWMBO bought me a set of anti-fatigue mats for out there, and the last piece left to tackle is storage of offcuts and templates/jigs. The space actually works really nicely right now for the sort of stuff I'm doing. I need the discipline to keep things neat and tidy!


7. Get the old (new?) car functional.

    Score: 1/1 = 100%

    Cumulative Score:  76%


Nothing says panache like an ancient Mercedes W123 Diesel wheezing its way up the street. Ok so I got this old car and it looked like fun. It is fun, but a frustrating sort of fun too. I love this car, but it is older than dirt and barely alive. It took until summer to get it going, but now its on the road and acting as my daily driver - unless there is snow or ice in which case I share SWMBO's car. But anyways, the diesel runs (today) so the goal is accomplished. Don't check back tomorrow. 


8. Add a gas stove hookup in the kitchen and heat in the garage.

    Score: 0/2 = 0%

    Cumulative Score:  67%


After I wrote this list, SWMBO was surprised by this item - until she saw the new gas stoves with a griddle in the middle. Griddle in the middle rhymes and makes us giggle every time we walk past the gas stoves at department stores. We are easily entertained. Anyways, we came dangerously close to accomplishing this goal late in the fall when the pool heater stopped heating, but then instead of repairing the pool heater, we closed the pool and left it for spring. Now we've realized that insulating the gap in teh bottom of the garage door is all that's needed to heat the garage so the goal may change, although a more permanent garage heater may still be on my list of wants.

Griddle in the middle. He he.

9. Re-roof the House.

    Score: 0/1 = 0%

    Cumulative Score:  59%


Didn't even come close. The roof looks pretty tired up front though. This may soon turn from a want to a need. I keep an eye on it and I'm a little concerned. Maybe in the spring. Maybe fall, but I think this will have to be done next year. I'm still up in the air on whether to DIY or hire it out.

10. Sell the Boat

    Score: 1/1 = 100%

    Cumulative Score:  63.5%


This became critical in the middle of summer when SWMBO and I found our income sliced by 70% due to a strike at work, and needed to cut costs. I sold the boat at a big loss, but have had few regrets. The boat was a lot of fun for me, but also ate up lots of time and money. I tell myself I can still go sailing on OPB's (Other people's boats) but also know that I likely won't. Time to move along to other things. 

Newfie & Iris at the start

11. Make some (any) progress on the basement.

    Score: 0/1 = 0%

    Cumulative Score:  58%


Well, as little as I got done - nothing more than napkin sketches - I have come up with great ideas for what I want to do. Soon I'll get going on this, but first I need to wrap up other things that have progressed until they stalled out. Believe it or not, the work stoppage mentioned above affected the basement progress through a cascade failure. I bought hardwood flooring to install in our bedrooms the week before we lost work. When we had no income, I sat on the hardwood in case I needed to return it. Now I have a couple thousand SF of hardwood to install before I even think of starting on the basement. Oh well, at least I have 2 new goals for next year now. There really is no excuse for not having the hardwood installed yet.

12. Paint the master bedroom.

    Score: 1/1 = 100%

    Cumulative Score:  61%


We nailed this one so hard! SWMBO and I even agreed on colours for it, and then we got it all done lickety split! its so much nicer in blue than it was in dingy brown. Once I get that reading wall done and replace the missing trim... well, more for next year I guess, but the goal only mentioned paint. Score!


13. Fence the pool

      Score: 0.5/1 = 50%

      Cumulative Score:  60%


I'm allowing half-points here since I got the posts wrapped and lighting working, but I still have to string wire and put in railings. I was unhappy with the way the railings were going, and Stopped short of completion. I'm hoping to finish this off early next spring, but at least it has taken shape. half marks allowed just for how much of a pain its been.

14. Involve the kids.

      Score: 1/1 = 100%

      Cumulative Score:  63.2%


I think we've done a great job of giving the kids a great year of experiences. Whether it was outdoors in a yurt or canoe, in the shop building stuff, snuggling and telling stories, or going to World Juniors Hockey Tournament game we've exposed them to a load of different environments and ideas, and now see them trying things, challenging things and doing things they might not have a year ago. Moving forward we need to get them more hands on and to build their confidence. I think they'll be fine.




Its a Passing Grade!


With a total grade of 63.2, we get a pass, but not much of one. 

What this summary doesn't show is all the challenges we overcame, and all the successes that weren't on the list above. In 2014 we survived a 3-week long strike at work, which really was a game-changer for us. In fact we didn't just survive, we excelled, bouncing back and regaining our losses through hard work and sacrifice within 90 days. 

We did a lot of projects that weren't on the list above, and fit in a lot of quality experiences. We had one of the best Christmases ever with a house full of old and new friends, immediate and extended family, and a fantastic dinner. If 2015 comes close to 2014, I'll be happy. Our score may be 63%, but it feels like it should be in the high 80% range!

Happy New year to whoever reads this, and I hope your year is as good to you as 2014 was to us!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Throwback Thursday...

For throw-back thursday I point you to one of the best posts I have ever written...

http://frosthaus.blogspot.ca/2010/05/the-great-chicken-coop-relocation.html

Give it a read, then read the next day's post too...

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Etsy - a new adventure

SO at the encouragement of my little sister, I've been giving Etsy a go. I can't say I'm much of a marketer, and especially not an internet marketer, but at least it gives me an outlet to share the stuff I'm making in the garage. Lately its been recreating the wooden train set my Grandfather gave me when I was very small, but I have plans to make more stuff in the next few weeks that will get away from just train stuff. I've been spending gobs of time in the garage making sawdust lately - I've even assigned myself the title of 'Chief Sawdust Maker' on twitter.



But trains are fun to make. And they are great for kids to play with. In fact, the 35 year old train that I played with as a kid has the same appeal to my guys as it did to me - which is why I started making copies of it in the first place. So far I've done engines and tenders, but I'm hoping to have some cabooses made up by the weekend. The boys each will get one of their own, and then my original can get put back up on the shelf as the pattern-maker going forward. Right now it is being well loved - and a little bit abused.

Back on topic... I'm not sure how an Etsy store gets traction. According to my sister, her online business  grew more or less organically. It started with friends showing support, and then grew with inventory attracting customers and reputation leading the way. A twitter page and a facebook feed now sell her products as fast as she can make them. The Etsy storefront seems to no longer be the heart of her business - it seems like now its just another marketing tool. I'd like to get to that same place and build a business that supports itself on reputation and product rather than depending on an outside source of customers. It looks like that will take time, and I'm impatient.

My first listing on Etsy was a set of blocks, it was an eye opener:


When you go from making things as a hobby to making them in a the context of a business, you start tracking time and materials and tooling. Suddenly you are acutely aware of how much it costs to make a simple thing, and how much time you have invested. It is an unfortunate reality that many online shoppers are hunting for the lowest price - the race to the bottom. And its easy to get sucked into dollar point competition where you devalue your time and materials until you are giving away your product.

I figured out that based on the value of the time and materials I put into the block set above, I had to sell it for about $55.00 to make a little under minimum wage. I can buy similar sets made in China at Toys R Us for less.  Details like relieving corners and squaring the sides on the blocks are more easily done in a mass-production environment than a home workshop. It seems like that race to the bottom is a tough question to answer when it comes to right-pricing items online.

Where I am super-weak though is marketing. I am not a salesman, and I am not a deal closer. By trade I am a machinist-turned-engineer. I have never had to come up with catch-phrases or market to a broad audience. I can negotiate on a position of standards and safety, or based on what the math shows. Many of my posts here are more about 'what happened next' than 'what I want you to do next' and the few sales pitch type posts I have put up for things like Walk to School Day or donating to worthy causes have some of the lowest hitcounts of anything on this blog.

Oh - and my sister's dolls are adorable, which is maybe the very best marketing tool of all. I need to embrace cute. Being a guy who is out of touch with mainstresam, I'm not sure how to do that:



So I'm turning to people like you for ideas - how does one go about marketing an online business? How do you attract the core group that will keep coming back and then spread the word? How do you avoid the race to the bottom, and encourage someone to buy handmade/homemade/quality items?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Tire Storage on a Shoestring


So here's the deal, you live someplace where the roads are covered in ice for 5 months of the year, and being a safe driver, you go out and buy a set of winter tires. Then every fall you go to the local wrenchtwister and have him swap out your summer tires for winter tires and vice-versa.

He charges you $50 - $75 to change the tires and store them, and you know that there has to be a better way to store these things than paying him $100 a year for 15 minutes work, but you don't want them underfoot in the basement or garage or hall closet.


Well, fear no more. Here is a storage solution you should be able to scrape together for a pittance. Mine cost about $2.50 since I had a lot of the material on hand as scrap from other projects. Yours may run a little more, but surely not as much as the off-the-shelf tire racks at Canadian Tire (currently $100.00 - $160.00)

Materials:

  • 3 Motorcycle tie-down straps (Use old cam-straps that are past their service life - they aren't holding a lot of weight, and won't see any shock loads. Avoid ratchet straps since they are less adjustable for this application - new cam-straps are $10 for a 4-pack at home depot)
  • Piece of pipe or hardwood dowel 4 feet long and strong enough to take the weight of your tires. (I had an old pipe lying around that I used for this. A new 1" black steel pipe runs about $16.00 If you want to go with something cheaper, dowel is about $9.50 A fibreglass pole or a piece of lumber may also work. Look around, be creative.)
  • Two pieces of 2" X 4" lumber, each of them should be about 3' long. I used scrap, so should you.
  • A plywood or drywall 'scuff plate' to protect the garage wall from tire scuffs and give extra strength. A 48" X 12" scrap should be adequate.
  • Two 3" X 3/8" carriage bolts with washers, and 2 Garage storage hooks or 2 screw eyes. <EDIT - The garage storage hooks are a bad idea. 3 years after install, mine stretched straight today and gave up the ghost, taking out the bandsaw as the tires came down. I replaced them with screw eyes. >

I had all of this except the storage hooks and carriage bolts on hand, so my setup ran about $2.50. But even if you have to buy everything on this list, you are still only spending about $20 - $25. Not bad at all. Even the cheapest tire rack at Home Depot runs twice that. With materials in hand, we are only about 30 minutes from a complete, loaded tire rack.

Lets start building.

The first thing to do is to get the 2X4's cut to size with matching holes. Clamp the boards together and cut them off at 28"

With the wood still clamped together, use a spade drill, to make a hole slightly over-sized to accommodate your lag bolts. The hole should be centered on the boards, and in 2" from the end. At the other end, measure in 2" and make a hole slightly over-sized to accommodate your pipe or dowel.

Measure to the center of a stud on your garage wall and attach one of the 2X4's pieces of wood using a lag bolt. 4 feet over, attach the second. They should be attached level to each other, above head height. The tires don't have to touch the ceiling, but they can if you want. the tires will likely be a little below the bar once in place, but you can lever them up above it too. It is best if you attach the 2X4's so they are on the insides of the stud bay, this will bring them closer together than the 48" long pipe or dowel.

Attach your eye bolts or storage hooks up at ceiling height. You should be able to tie them in to a top plate in the framing.

About a foot above the 2X4's you just put on the wall, attach the 'scuff plate'.



Take your pipe or dowel and feed it through the 2X4's. Use a cam-strap to pull the 2X4's together on the pipe and ensure the pipe's ends don't slip out.

Take the last 2 camstraps and attach them to the eye bolt, loop over the pipe, and then hook the other end back to the wall. One on each end.



Now by tightening and loosening the cam straps you can lower and raise the frame to lift or lower your tires when you are storing them.

And there you have it - the cheapest tire storage rack ever! Save even more cash by changing the tires yourself on a sunny afternoon. Just be sure to mark their position so you can rotate them when you put them back on in the spring!





Saturday, 25 October 2014

Cleaning up

We had puzzles and marbles all over the floor, so the boys and I had some fun cleaning up...


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Playing at Pingle's Farm Market


Every town and city has that local attractions that folks just can't wait to go and enjoy. Around here one of those is Pingle's Farm Market. The Pingle family has created a fantastic family getaway that explodes with visitors every fall just in time for the pumpkin and apple harvest, and is open as a roadside stop year round (they seem to have pick-your-own everything there all summer too). We decided to go for a visit yesterday.

The pictures below are pretty self explanatory... until you get to the very end.

They think their tractor's sexy!

Chicken feed!

The sheep weren't hungry for straw.

Baaaaa Billy Goat!

Baby Goat - cuteness 

The Jack and Jill slide!

Sliding skills +10

Pedal Tractor Riding

Jack-o-Lantern full of balloons and kids!

Inside the Jack-o-lantern

Diggers! 

Haybale Jumping!

Haybale Running!

Why is everyone sitting there? At 2:00 a crowd gathered at the end of the farmyard. Out in teh field there was cannon with 'Punkin chunkin' painted on the side of it. Suddenly the funding problems of the Canadian Armed Forces became clear...



The Farmer came out and got everyone to help do a countdown...


And then he pulled the handle and BOOM!! Flying Pumpkins!


The Pumpkins went really far. Right over his target.


After a few shots with pumpkins, he stuffed the cannon full of corn. We thought for sure it would make popcorn. He put in one pumpkin for good measure.


I wonder if we can make a pumpkin cannon for our back yard, but Mom says that would be a bad idea. We could shoot hot chocolate to the kids sledding on the hill then though.

When we were done at the farm, we went to the lumber store to get one more board for our pool fence. The boys were great helpers and carried it all the way to the front of the store.


But all that fun at Pingles had tired them (and the parents) out. We didn't get any fence building done when we got home.