Log Trim

The house is coming along enough that when I cleaned up the mud room for spring, I started decorating it. I have been collecting logs for trim for a few years. I purchased old log beds and railings to repurpose as trim. And I’ve been saving photos of log trim ideas.

Log Trim Idea
Log Trim Idea

I have enough logs of the right size to cap off the doors and windows in the house. I will recycle the original pine trim for the sides. First I used a wood splitting wedge and a five pound sledge to split the logs from the railing along a crack. Then I decided to get out the table saw to get a better flat edge on the back side to meet the wall.

Inner door log trim
Inner door log trim

I recently added sawdust collection and wheels to the table saw. I bought a chute for under the table saw that connects to a 4″ flexible pipe and a 4″ to 2.5″ reducer at the end.

Dust Hood
Dust Hood
Dust Collection Hose 4
Dust Collection Hose 4″

Pipe 4 to 2.5 reducer
Pipe 4″ to 2.5″ reducer

I have a cyclone canister for the whole house vacuum that is required for picking up sawdust and ashes and it can pick up liquids. It is a 5 gallon stainless steel canister with connecting hoses.

Wet:Dry Vacuum Intercept
Wet:Dry Vacuum Intercept

Of course the hose to this is much narrower than 2.5″ so I had to jerry rig some connections to hook up the sawdust hose to the vacuum. But once it was hooked up and running it seemed to really reduce the amount of sawdust created by the saw.

I cut the solid side from several of the railings to create the over the door header logs. To run them through the table saw I tacked a board to the side. Sliding along the fence that board kept the log straight.

Inner door log trim
Inner door log trim

I’ll use the side that was drilled for the spindles as firewood. I got all four doors in the mudroom covered with a log header.

Garage and closet doors
Garage and closet doors

Then it was evening and I had to roll the saw back out of the center of the garage again. But it’s so much easier to take it out use it and clean up afterwards now that it is on wheels and attached to the vacuum.


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Solar Pool Heat

Everything takes time and money. The solar pool heat project is no different. I have put together a system based on the old copper collector and a new stainless steel heat exchanger.

This is the system design.

Solar pool heat with thermosiphon
Solar pool heat with thermosiphon

I purchased a solar control system way back in Arizona when I thought I would add it to the black plastic solar heat that I installed for our pool there. I never did that but still had the controls.

A new purchase from Amazon was a 155000 btu heat exchanger in stainless steel so that the salt water would not corrode the copper. I had no idea the item would be shipping from China. I wish that Amazon made that more obvious in their listings.

Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger
Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger

These heat exchangers are specifically for pools or other water warming or chilling functions. There is a series of tubes that run inside the shell. The tubes transfer heat from the collector system to the water that runs through the shell. The exchanger should work in a thermosiphon system installed above the top of the collector.

Solar Tube Installed
Solar Tube Installed

In the basic plumbing diagram above there are two three way valves. I purchased a heavier duty Hayward valve for the controller and valve mechanism. The second valve could have just been a tee but I liked the idea of another shutoff if needed. The larger Hayward valve is usually set to have the cold to the collector off but it would open automatically when sensors read a warm panel temperature and cold pool temperature.

Dual Valves
Dual Valves

The cold pool water input uses pool hoses and the hot water output is mostly PVC pipe. At the bottom I used pool hose because the water should just be warm when it reaches the pool hose. Just before the pool hose there is a Fernco sump pump check valve that will prevent water from reverse siphon.

Hot connection on bottom of photo, Cold on top.
Hot connection on bottom of photo, Cold on top.

The big problem with the install is the constant leak where the valves for the solar system attach to the pump. It turns out that the Intex pump has a metric connection while the PVC plumbing is NPT. So I am waiting for a conversion piece that I will be able to attach instead.

Intex Conversion Connectors
Intex Conversion Connectors

I am hoping one of these edges will accept a slip PVC connection to hold the dual valves even though they are set up for a hose connection. Then I should be able to reinstall the valves without a leak.

I also ordered a new salt cell holder from Intex and a new O-ring for the salt cell. I’m hoping these new parts will stop the current leaks at the salt cell.

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Replaced Pool Valve

The used pool filter had a big crack in the valve that I tried to repair with silicone goop and tape. It was good enough to run for awhile while the new valve was ordered from Intex. Because of COVID-19 the valve took almost three weeks to arrive but the cost was really minimal. I also ordered a gasket but the valve came with a new one.

Intex six way filter valve
Intex six way filter valve

Replacing the valve was a headache though because to get the old valve off the system the middle post came with it. The filter media is not supposed to get into this central post so I had to empty all the media and replace the center post.

Refilling filter media
Refilling filter media
Cap prevents media in piping
Cap prevents media in piping

I backlashed the system and tried the filter and got a low flow alarm. That was it for the evening. I just decided to tackle it the next day.

Low Flow Alarm
Low Flow Alarm

The next day I ran the pump on recirculate for several minutes and it ran fine. Then I switched to filter mode and it continued to run without an error. It may have been that the media needed to just sit and settle. The filter still drips from the salt cell connections though.

Reconstructed filter system
Reconstructed filter system

I was finally able to get back to setting up the solar system.

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Stripped Down Solar

One of the reasons the repair I tried for the 3′ x 7’ solar panels was a disaster is that the glass broke when I was moving it. The glass in the solar panels seems to be extremely fragile.
I decided to revisit the smaller panel that I had not broken yet just because it would be easier to carry. While I was doing that I looked more closely at the collector plate in the broken panel. I cut it out of the panel by slicing the bent copper with my multi tool and a metal blade. Now I had just the copper collector plate from the solar panel.

Copper Collector
Copper Collector

The panel is copper on the back side and has a black finish on the sun side.

Black panel side
Black panel side

The collector gets very hot in the sun. But I can’t run the salt water from the pool through it because it will corrode. So I bought the stainless steel heat exchanger to separate the heating fluid (plain water in this case) from the pool water being heated.

Shell and tube system
Shell and tube system

In most designs with a shell and tube heat exchanger the solar fluid is run by a pump. But it would be nice if I could use just a thermosiphon system for this function. The simplified example below uses liquid without a pump. The tank must be above the collector and the circulation of the fluid occurs naturally when the hot liquid rises and cooler liquid sinks back into the collector. A more complete thermosiphon system would be connected like the diagram on the right.

Simple thermosiphon closed loop
Simple thermosiphon closed loop
Thermosiphon System
Thermosiphon System

What if instead of a water tank, I placed the shell and tube exchanger above the collector? Would that create a natural thermosiphon? Imagine the lower tank is the pool. The pool pump would drive the water through the tank at the top to pick up the warmth from the solar heated water. Then it would return to the pool. Would the water in the solar panel and heat exchange tube circulate naturally? What would happen when the pool water is not being heated by the system?

I began to set up the system using a garden cart that has a slanting lid. I bought a few of these from a craigslist ad and they have been very useful as outside work tables.

Panel on garden cart frame
Panel on garden cart frame

I used the hose to fill the lower panel hose with water and had the upper hose running into a bucket of water. I was able to fill the system with water by eliminating bubbles while filling the hose attached to the bottom of the panel. I laid the hose vertically when it was full and there were no more bubbles in the bucket and eventually all the water emptied into the bucket. So it had to be siphoning.

Panel with high and low hoses
Panel with high and low hoses

The question is whether the circulation would continue if the loop was closed. I’ll have to experiment. When I get all the connections for the shell and tube heater, I’ll install it at the top of the panel and figure out how to get the natural convection started. That is the plan anyway.

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Low Growth Full Sun Xeriscape

Dave started a garden border in front of the house. He installed leftover tile pieces in a concrete base to create a flat planting area for some xeriscape plants.

Forming the planter
Forming the planter

He leveled the tops of the tile pieces and filled the area in with dirt.

Along front patio
Along front patio

He researched the xeriscape plants that were low growing and like full sun at the Denver Botanic Garden annual plant sale.

A couple of the varieties were already sold out even though we shopped during the member early sale. These were the varieties that he wanted.

Pussytoes
Wine Cups sold out
Evening primrose (spotted and big fruit) 
Blue Buckle Penstemon
Purple prairie clover
Blue Flax
Globe mallow sold out
Wallflower
Silky Phacelia
Aspen Fleabane
Showy Fleabane
Sand Sage sold out
Wellington form buckwheat cushion

With some substitutes we still bought 12 varieties.

Spotted Evening Primrose
Spotted Evening Primrose 4-8″
Pussytoes
Pussytoes 3″
Mules Ears Wildflower
Mules Ears Wildflower 2-3′
Wright's Buckwheat
Wright’s Buckwheat 3′
Silky Phaecelia
Silky Phaecelia 2′
Penstemen Blue Buckle
Penstemen Blue Buckle 12-14″
Aspen fleabane
Aspen fleabane 1′
Blue Flax
Blue Flax 18-20″
Sand Dune Wallflower
Sand Dune Wallflower 2′
Bigfruit primrose-sundrop
Bigfruit primrose-sundrop 8-10″
Wellington Buckwheat
Wellington Buckwheat 3″
Germander Teucrium sp
Germander Teucrium sp 4″

We don’t have much flower sense for planting a mixed bed like this so I found a sample garden at plant select.org and altered it to reflect the varieties that we ordered.

Xeriscape Border
Xeriscape Border
Xeriscape plants
Xeriscape plants

Our bed was not nearly as wide either so the plants ended up just two deep.

Planted xeriscape
Planted xeriscape

We are hoping we have a low water use but colorful border eventually.

Patio Border
Patio Border
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Pool Problems

Seems like nothing I do lately is without issues. The pool was leveled but not very well, so that when the water delivery happened it was about 3″ out of level. Not too bad, water guy said he had seen worse. The water was delivered on a beautiful day.

Water Delivery
Water Delivery

It just looks so inviting going into the pool. I’m not going to worry that it is a bit uneven.

Off Level
Off Level

I had dumped the old sand from the filter tank thinking pool sand would be available at several local stores. But I was wrong. Home Depot and Walmart and Lowes did not have pool sand in stock.

Pool without filter
Pool without filter

I did some research and ordered a filter medium that is supposed to last longer than sand and filter out smaller particles.It is a zeolite mineral found in volcanic rock called ZeoSand which is an alternative to pool sand. It replaces pool sand by a 1 to 2 ratio so I only needed 50 lbs. Some reviewers were unsuccessful with this product saying it leaked into the pool water making it cloudy. But so far I have not noticed that issue.

Zeosand
Zeosand

I backflushed the filter twice and each time had to work on pipes that were not fully tight. The water ran clear quickly though and I did let the media settle for a day before I started the filter.

Filter set up
Filter set up

The problem was that the multi valve on the filter was cracked.

Crack in Multivalve
Crack in Multivalve

There are actually two cracks, one around the pressure dial and one in the body. I was able to use plumbing Goop to seal up the pressure dial leak but could not get the long crack to stop leaking completely. I even tried a pool patch but with no more luck that Goop. Finally I wrapped silicone tape around the top and reduced the leak to a trickle. In the meantime I ordered a new multivalve from Intex and a few gaskets. Their shipping is delayed due to the Coronavirus so it will be a few weeks before they arrive.

Temporary repair
Temporary repair
Still leaking
Still leaking

I was able to run the hose into the pool while filtering to prevent too much loss of water. So I added the salt to the pool. I put in three of four 40 pound sacks because although the manual called for four, I was leery of putting in too much salt as the only fix is partially draining the pool and putting in fresh water.

The filter ran with the low salt warning before I put in the salt but afterwards the low salt warning was off. So 120 lbs of salt seem to be enough for now. I distributed the salt around the edge of the pool and then brushed it towards the center so that no thick piles of salt remained on the bottom.

Pool salt
Pool salt

Once the filter was set up I put in a thermometer to read the water temperature. It is about 65 degrees. But the nights are cold at around 40 degrees so I washed the solar cover that came with the pool in the driveway. This time I just used a hose with a spray handle and got most of the worst dirt off. I didn’t want to pop any more of the air bubbles. It was not difficult to fold it up and carry it to the pool. I spread it out over the water myself using some clips I bought for the heavy pool cover.

Plastic pool clips
Plastic pool clips
Stainless clips
Stainless clips

The first plastic clip popped off immediately. These are not very sturdy, but I was able to fit four on one side and hold the cover enough to spread it out. I’m hoping the stainless clips that I also bought will hold better.

Solar Cover
Solar Cover

With the cover on the pool water maybe it will warm enough to swim in a week or two.

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A Little More Awareness

A little more awareness would have gone a long way towards my installation of the new spa pack. I usually read directions but this came without specific directions just diagrams and pictures. I followed the diagram to wire the equipment. However the internal wires did not.

MT60 Wiring Diagram
MT60 Wiring Diagram
Incorrect Wiring
Incorrect Wiring

In the diagram the wires are from the top, Ground, White, Black, Red. But on the new device it is obviously wired Red, White, Black and the Ground is separate. I found the ground connection but did not see that the wiring was different from the diagram. That meant that I sent 256 volts to the GFCI frying it and to the board also frying parts on it. What a huge mistake that was! I have to send the entire system back for repairs.

Another mistake was during the installation of the UV/Ozone Sanitizer. It requires a small plastic check valve that only works one way. That is the definition of a check valve. It was unclear to me which way the valve was installed. It did not have an arrow marking on the valve itself. I tried to deduce from the diagram by looking at the slightly domed side. Of course I judged incorrectly and the water leaked back into the sanitizer. I took it apart and did not see that it would have been damaged as the light was above the trickle of water that came through the case.

Check valve on Ozone Santizer
Check valve on Ozone Santizer
Drippy UV Sanitizer
Drippy UV Sanitizer

Before the support person, Joe at Acura Spas, spotted the bad wiring when we tested the system. Unfortunately the tests on the main board yielded the correct voltage even though I had them wired incorrectly. He told me that the GFCI seemed to be broken so I tested the plug voltage going to the transformer and it showed 256 volts! That is when he double checked the photo I had sent him and realized the wiring had probably damaged more than the GFCI.

Even after I rewired correctly and removed the GFCI, the top panel did not light. That showed damage to the transformer and probably other parts.

Rewired Spa Pack
Rewired Spa Pack

The solution to this fiasco was to box everything up and send it back to the manufacturer for repairs. He said he would go easy on the cost of labor but the shipping both ways will be expensive. I’m sending back all the equipment from the UV sanitizer to the spa pack to the top panel control so that they can be sure it all works together and I can reinstall it correctly.

I’m very sad about this error. Not that it affects the overall spa that much but I feel embarrassed that I didn’t wire it according to the wires in the box instead of a diagram that was outdated. No decent electrician would have made that error. It is humbling.

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Getting Ready for Summer

This summer will be a staycation due to the Covid-19 virus. So to get ready I want to set up a 4′ x 18′ round pool that I acquired a few years ago but never utilized. I was able to get it for free for helping to remove it. The home had renters and the owners were going to sell so they had to move. They were glad to get it off their hands.

It is an Intex soft side pool so it consists of just metal poles and legs that the vinyl liner hangs from.

Intex Pool
Intex Pool

The liner suffered a few mouse holes from being stored outside. But I bought a patch kit and have patched the holes I found.

Vinyl Repair Kit
Vinyl Repair Kit

I was excited that the pool came with a salt water treatment system and a sand filter. It is an all in one unit from Intex.

Intex sand filter with salt water system
Intex sand filter with salt water system

This system is sized to work with an even larger pool so it is quite a good addition to the setup. I had to do a thorough cleaning including soaking the titanium plates in vinegar to get the system ready for hook up. I will also put clean sand in the tank. I plugged it in and it came on although I didn’t prime the system so it didn’t pump water.

To get the worst of the dirt off the pool liner I sprayed it with my new replacement pressure sprayer. I had purchased one last May and by September some internal part had broken and I had to have it replaced. Fortunately Amazon replaced it even though it was a Warehouse model and had no warranty. But then I am a very good customer of theirs!

I was worried about the new one because the connector that came with it leaked pretty badly. I ended up just replacing it with a connector that I had on hand from an old unit. I also had to change the hose because it would not tighten enough. But once I got a leak free connection I was able to spray the worst dirt off the pool liner and frame.

Leaking hose connector
Leaking hose connector

The pool was so heavy that I used the riding lawnmower and wagon to carry it to the tarp on the lawn. There is already a trampoline set up there and a pool will be a great addition.

Trampoline
Trampoline

My son and I set up the pool on a lovely calm Sunday. I read that if the ground slopes and it’s too difficult to even it that instead the top rim of the pool can be leveled.

Leveling the pool rim
Leveling the pool rim

We used some of the rubber tiles to lift the legs on the low end. Once the pool was in place I took a large sponge and a white 3M scrubby and thoroughly cleaned the sides and bottom of the pool with Simple Green in warm water. But just as I finished the wind began to pick up gusting over 20 mph. The pool was at risk for being blown over and twisting or breaking the metal posts. I decided to stake the poles like a tent in a strong wind.

Poles on rubber tiles and staked
Poles on rubber tiles and staked

I had to run around looking for tent stakes and cord which for some reason was hard to find despite the fact that I have several tents. Every few minutes I needed to go back and straighten the poles so they would not blow in. After staking the tops of the poles the bottoms were sliding underneath the liner so I staked the bottoms too. I had to use old cloth lanyards to stake them as I could not find more cord.

I started running water into the pool using a hose attached to the freeze proof well pump. Unfortunately I found that the spigot was leaking badly so much of the water ended up at the well pipe. What did begin to fill the pool led me to discover there was a leak causing a puddle of water outside the low side of the pool. I finally turned the water off over night.

So the wind didn’t destroy the pool. The next morning I smoothed out the bottom of the pool where the water was holding the vinyl down. Eventually I found a hole on the floor of the pool and patched it with the vinyl patch that luckily works underwater.

Pool wrinkles
Pool wrinkles

I turned on the hose to fill the high side of the pool and the water was not flowing from the spigot. It was leaking pretty badly by this time so I tried to add a gasket and a pipe clamp over the leak. Unfortunately that stopped the leak but when I checked later the water was still running very slowly. I realized the vacuum breaker was probably broken. I had another one but it took me awhile to find it. By evening I went back out and removed the broken one and installed the new one and the hose started running again with no leaks at the spigot. So I left the hose on even though it was getting late.

Fortunately when I checked the puddles outside the pool they were drying up and it did not look like the pool was still leaking.

Leak fixed
Leak fixed

I ordered water for the pool and the spa and it should be here tomorrow. It looks like the pool is going to be fun this summer.

Pool set up
Pool set up
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New Spa Equipment Install

The exercise spa that we have been enjoying since 2015 broke down just after New Year’s Day. I thought that the heater wore out but it turned out that the circuit board burned through where the heater connected to it. We had extended travel plans through February and early March so I delayed the order of the new equipment until I returned in mid March. Although the weather turned cold and snowy for a week after the new equipment arrived, it finally warmed up enough to begin the installation.

I had a problem understanding the installation directions for the Ozone/UV Sanitizer that I added to the new system. On our system the pump is before the spa pack and heater so water goes from the pump to the heater and then back to the spa. The design example I was trying to copy has the water flowing through the spa pack to the pump and the input on the left of the device instead of the right. So it didn’t work for my install.

Ozone Plumbing Design
Ozone Plumbing Design

I called Acura Spa for clarification and was told to use another install diagram. But instead of flowing directly into the spa, the return flows into a feed to one of the jets. In this arrangement it did not matter that the pump is in front of the control pack.

Ozone Plumbing
Ozone Plumbing

I installed the first manifold just past the Spa control pack and valve. It attached to a flexible area of solid pipe so it was easy to install.

Manifold leaving pump
Manifold leaving pump

The recommendation was to hook the second manifold into a return jet going to the side of the spa instead of the high flow jets. This would prevent reducing the flow to those jets. I cut the spa pipe after the main jets before the pipe bent around the corner going to the side jet.

Pipe does not bend enough
Pipe does not bend enough

I had to reduce the size of the manifold to 1 1/2″ to install it in this position. I asked Acura support why the piece has two 3/4″ outlets instead of one and the answer was that the piece does not come with just one outlet! It’s too expensive to have one made just for this application so the second port has to be plugged.

Manifold for sanitizer
Manifold for sanitizer

I had some difficulty getting this spa pipe to connect to the manifold and then bend around the corner of the spa. I glued in a few extra pieces of pipe to get the manifold installed here.

Output for Sanitizer
Output for Sanitizer

I connected the output for the sanitizer on this side. Then the input hose was attached to the first manifold.

Pipe to Ozone UV Sanitizer
Pipe to Ozone UV Sanitizer

In order to loop the O2 line above the water level I had to attach the sanitizer to a board to raise it in the cabinet.

Sanitizer installed too low
Sanitizer installed too low

The next step was inserting the new spa pack in between the pump and the return water side. I just had to connect the same power lines to the new control and attach the pump ground where it was on the old pack.

MT60 Wiring Diagram
MT60 Wiring Diagram

Our system has a 12v light and a single pump and now the ozone sanitizer so it does not have the extra plugs shown on the left of the diagram.

Plug for 12v light
Plug for 12v light

I just had two bare wires for the 12v light so I had to order a cable from Acura Spas just to get the correct plug for the unit. But in the meantime the new Control box is installed in the plumbing and wired.

Spa Control Box
Spa Control Box

Now I just have to clean the spa so that I can order water and see if the new plumbing is tight and the new controls operate correctly.

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Finishing Up the Bathroom

There were a few more tasks to finish the bathroom remodel. The contractor and his helper came one more time to complete the job. The largest project was the installation of the solar tube in the ceiling. He finished the rest of the tube in the attic having already installed the outside skylight. Then he cut the hole in the ceiling for the interior trim.

I could not believe the difference the solar tube made in the bathroom. It positively glows.

Glowing solar tube
Glowing solar tube

It is so bright it feels like the lights are on in the bathroom. What a great way to keep from having to turn them on. It certainly counteracts the dark tile. Even at night there is a bit of a glow through the tube.

Nighttime glow
Nighttime glow

One more major job was replacing the threshold now that the door was wider. Luckily I had saved some bamboo from repairing the steps so I had some long enough pieces to use. Although they were in bad shape at the edges and had to be planed down and pieced together. The final job was quite nice.

Bamboo threshold
Bamboo threshold

We also had a grab bar that needed to be installed in the tiled bath. That required drilling into the tile and I was glad that it was done with the correct drill bits so that it is sturdy and did not crack the tile.

Grab bar installed
Grab bar installed

The pipe for the tub spout was shortened and they spot soldered the spout to keep it from twisting on the pipe.

After I used the sink I thought a pipe was leaking so they took a look at the faucet and figured out that it was not the pipe connection but the faucet itself. If the lever is pressed too hard when turning it off it leaks from the handle. It probably needs a new cartridge but by being gentle with it we have avoided further leaking for now.

Over the weekend I also installed the towel holders and moose hooks.

Towel Bars
Towel Bars

I had the rustic towel bars that I bought in Arizona at the Restore there.

Moose Hooks
Moose Hooks

The moose hooks were another second hand find. The contractor also attached the rustic toilet paper holder to the side of the vanity.

Rustic toilet paper holder
Rustic toilet paper holder

I washed and hung the double shower curtain. I found this bear-moose-canoe shower curtain at the Goodwill a few years ago. There is a white nylon liner curtain too. These were in the bathroom before the remodel.

Shower curtain
Shower curtain

I am very pleased with the results of this rustic bathroom remodel. I’m going to place a few more decorative items and call it done.

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Shower Niche Light Issues

The niche light was a disaster. It did not go as planned. What I wanted to do and what happened were not the same. I wanted a sleek row of LED lights that were waterproof or damp proof in the shower. The wiring was 120 volt because it was prewired for a strip light. The lights that I ordered, however, did not match the specifications for a shower light so had to be returned and after I researched the problem, I found out I could use a 12 volt LED light strip and driver instead.

120 volt romex wired to switch
120 volt romex wired to switch

We believed that since the wiring was for 120 volt we had to add an electrical box to wire the dimmer/driver. Later my son said we could have used the romex for 12 volt wiring and installed the driver remotely. That was unfortunate news after struggling to install a box large enough for the device in a cutout on top of the niche.
The top of the niche was spaced down with some scrap boards and another piece of Kerdi board to accommodate a dual gang 12 volt electric box.

Top marble installed with gap for electrical box depth
Top marble installed with gap for electrical box depth

At first we planned to use a shallow box but that box frame would not tighten properly in the opening.

Box for LED driver
Box for LED driver
Deeper box installed
Deeper box installed

Then I realized that the waterproof box cover had screw holes at the edges not in the middle like a regular cover. So I had to find a way to attach the cover to the box.

A box extension fit inside the 12 volt box and had bolt holes at each corner where the cover had holes.

Deep box with frame to attach lid
Deep box with frame to attach lid

In order for the bolts to be held in the corners I glued the nuts under the bolt holes. Unfortunately they kept breaking off.

Frame to accept waterproof cover
Frame to accept waterproof cover

Eventually I had to take the frame off and bolt the cover on holding the nuts in place. Then I just friction fit it into the larger box. I placed industrial velcro above the box and on the driver to hold it in but allow it to be removed if necessary and I screwed the orange DC wire box up into the top of the gap in the niche. I had to remove the wiring a couple of times to remove and replace the box extension.

Driver wiring
Driver wiring

Once I got it all together with the cover on and I could not fit the light strip behind the box. I had to slice off part of the cover and take out the whole box to move it over the edge of the hole. While I was cutting the hole inside the tile a little bigger with the multitool I rested it on the niche and of course knocked it off with my elbow and scratched the new tub!

Tub bottom scratches
Tub bottom scratches

I was very angry at myself for that accident. I should have covered the tub with cardboard or a blanket while I was working. I have ordered some Porce-a-fix in Bootz white to repair the scratches. This product was recommended by the contractor.

The cut for the cover was rather uneven as the box is not quite straight.

Cut off to fit light strip
Cut off to fit light strip

I used double sided 3M tape to attach the light to the upper tile and held it in place with some extra tile pieces overnight. The next day I snapped on the light strip cover. Thankfully that part was easy.

Niche with electrical cover.
Niche with electrical cover.

The dimmer switch does not have much of a range. It is difficult to tell whether the LED’s are at full light or at the least light.

Lighted niche
Lighted niche

But with the light on the electrical cover is much less noticeable. I’m sure I will ignore it after some time passes, but it is not what I had envisioned.

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Bath Assembly

It took less than a day for the contractor and his helper to assemble the bathroom. But it was not without headaches.

Connecting the vanity
Connecting the vanity

The faucet is a used kitchen faucet I purchased on Craigslist. In my first install the edge of the faucet was a bit too close to the top edge of the sink. So I purchased a sink drain escutcheon to lift the faucet, but it was too tall to fit the nut under the counter and fasten it. I used a dremel tool and cut off wheel to shorten the metal piece and it was still a little too tall so the contractor helped by cutting out a layer of the underside of the counter and getting enough room to fit the washer and nut and tighten the faucet.

Then there was the issue of fitting the drain below the sink. The SINGER decorative bar seemed to be exactly below the drain so in order to get the pipe lined up with the wall he had to loop it in front of the bar.

Sink drain in front of base
Sink drain in front of base

The toilet was reinstalled and the tub spout attached but not completely fitted because they didn’t have the solder and flux to make the connection.

Tub spout too long
Tub spout too long

I had a copper framed mirror that was hanging in the front mud room but it was perfect for the bathroom. So I brought it to the back so it could be hung.

Copper framed mirror
Copper framed mirror

We had to judge how high it should be and I found out that a shorter person can hardly see their head because its a bit too high.

Bathroom assembled
Bathroom assembled

Unfortunately the trim behind the door ended up being crooked. I’m not sure whether the door was crooked or the wall. The door works well though and I’m assuming the trim won’t be noticed.

Door trim is angled.
Door trim is angled.

The crew got this far before leaving for the weekend giving me time to work on the LED light install.

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Bathroom Tiled

This last week the tile in the back bathroom was finished by a contractor. I decided that these jobs are taking me entirely too long. I might have even skipped this remodel if I didn’t have to do it for LEED.
The original tile was on regular drywall and a prerequisite for LEED is that the tub/shower area must be paperless wall board made for wet areas.
I also had plenty of tile for the bathroom from the bulk purchase in 2015. I bought pebble tile for this project from Wayfair. I suppose this was a bit of a gamble but it was the only place I found tile that looked like it matched the tile on the vanity top. It is made of flat marble pebbles.

Pebble tile on vanity top
Pebble tile on vanity top
New pebble tile
New pebble tile

The natural edge was an inspiration I found on Houzz. I also was inspired by my nephew’s professional tile work to use pebble tile in the niche.

Inspiration for natural pebble edge
Inspiration for natural pebble edge

Since the field tile in the other two bathrooms is the same tile I asked for a diagonal install on the walls and squared on the floor. This is the opposite of the family room bath that has a diagonal floor and square shower.

Tile Progress
Tile Progress

After a couple of days the field tile was finished except for the area by the wider door. The back of the niche even had the pebble tile installed.

Field tile installed with niche
Field tile installed with niche

And the diagonal herringbone floor inset was also laid.

Diagonal herringbone inset installed
Diagonal herringbone inset installed

The contractor thought we might leave the wall next to the door untiled because the electrical switch cutouts ended past the edge of the field tile, but I didn’t like the idea of having possible splashes from the sink and vanity hit painted drywall instead of tile. So the next day the helper returned to finish the job. He had to install the wider door and tile the wall next to the door.

Wider door
Wider door

The next day was a long one installing the natural edge tile, and grouting everything. He finished the job and went home saving most of the clean up for the next day.

Pebble tile edge at electrical boxes
Pebble tile edge at electrical boxes
Natural pebble tile edge
Natural pebble tile edge

He was sore when he returned with our contractor to install the plumbing trim, toilet and vanity!

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Brick Patterns

In the middle of the bathroom floor I planned for an accent inset. The tile I wanted to use was 3″ x 6″ tumbled marble that I bought at the Restore. I only had one box of the tile but thought it would make a complementary accent to the tumbled tile I used on the family room bathroom.

Decorative tile grouted first
Decorative tile in family room bath

I was in California when the contractor asked me how large I wanted the inset to be. I had left him this drawing which was not to scale.

Rear Bath Floor
Rear Bath Floor

I thought the inset would look long and thin but when I got a photo of the first layout I thought it was too small.

Initial floor inset design
Initial floor inset design

A longer rectangle would have ended under the toilet and that seemed undesirable. Instead I asked for double the width. When I got home I was able to lay out several different brick patterns in the larger inset.

Brick Patterns
Brick Patterns

Once I tried a pattern I took photos. All of the patterns needed the same number of tiles and there are just enough to fit in the wider inset.

Running bond
Running bond
Herringbone
Herringbone
Diagonal running bond
Diagonal running bond
Diagonal herringbone
Diagonal herringbone

I sent all four layouts to my sister and a friend and we all picked the same favorite, the diagonal herringbone. I sent this pattern to the contractor for the inset area.

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Why Shopping is Not Research

My normal practice is to research every part of the house remodel. I usually spend hours on the internet gathering information about the best way to design and complete a project. But every once in a while I forget to research before shopping. It is a bad idea to confuse shopping with research.

I did ask the tiler who did this lighted niche what kind of light they used, but it was the electrician who did it and he didn’t know.

Lighted shower niche
Lighted shower niche

I began by shopping for an LED waterproof dimmable light fixture for our niche. The Amazon product descriptions really led me astray though. I bought a damp proof thin fixture that came labeled dry locations only and a garage vapor proof light that was supposed to be dimmable but came with non-dimmable specifications. Both had to be returned.

Thin LED fixture not damp proof
Thin LED fixture not damp proof
Vapor proof shop light not dimmable
Vapor proof shop light not dimmable

I finally realized I needed to research the way to light a shower niche and came across a video relatively quickly. Normally I would rather read how to do something than watch a video but could not find a text and photo post.
In the video a tiler explained how he lit niches. He recommended cuttable LED strip lighting that was certified IP65 which means waterproof. The strip just has a thin film over the LED’s and the connections to keep out water. I had to find a strip that was both waterproof and dimmable.

An LED driver that is a combination of dimmer and transformer is also required. I purchased one with low 12 volt output because I read it is best not to oversize these. The strip will only be about 3 ft long and will draw less than an amp. Also it is easier to fit the smaller driver in a junction box.

Waterproof dimmable cuttable LED strip
Waterproof dimmable cuttable LED strip
Small dimmer/transformer
Small dimmer/transformer

The LED strip can be shortened at any copper connection and 12 volt wires can be soldered to the copper ends. The wires are then connected to the DC side of the dimmer/transformer.

Cut and solder
Cut and solder

The AC side connects to a Triac dimmer which is just one that works with LED bulbs.

Dimmer and dimmer/transformer (driver)
Dimmer and dimmer/transformer (driver)

The tiler was pleased that he found the strip fit perfectly into the Schluter DECO SG 15mm trim piece. That can be mortared right into the edge of the tile.

Schluter SG Shallow Gap trim piece
Schluter SG Shallow Gap trim piece

I was disappointed to see the trim did not come in the bronze color option and this style was not in stock at the tile or home improvement stores. I was able to order a brushed steel version from Lowes to ship to my home at no extra expense.
But again I had not thoroughly thought through the installation. The issue that came up is that the niche is already wired for 120 volts. And the light strip needs 12 volt wire. Since the walls are attached and waterproofed and the dimmer needs to be accessible, it will have to be installed in a power box in the niche. I can use low voltage for this as the dimmer encloses the 120 volt wiring. The box is a whole other problem to solve. I think we can build it into the top of the niche by using leftover Kerdi board and a 3/4” spacer. The niche is a little taller than I wanted it to be anyway.

Wired niche
Wired niche

I think a low voltage bracket and some 3m tape will hold the small driver.

Low voltage bracket
Low voltage bracket

I also had to special order a white, waterproof cover for the bracket. They normally come in gray. The cover will have to be tiled around it..
It may be that the Schluter edge cannot be mortared in because of the width of the bracket. I also ordered some LED strip channels and they will arrive earlier than the edge piece. We can use whichever works best.

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While I Was Away

It’s unusual to see progress while I’m not even home. But having a contractor seems to have helped. The room was drywalled before I left and sprayed with texture to match the house the next Monday. Then the Kerdi board was installed in the shower walls and niche.

Schluter Kerdi board installed
Schluter Kerdi board installed

Next the Ditra tile underlayment was laid for the floor tile.

Schluter Ditra on floor
Schluter Ditra on floor

And tiling commenced on the floor. I wanted to have an insert of 3 x 6 tumbled marble tile. I got the tile at the Restore for my son’s house but we ended up not using it. I used tumbled marble in the family room bathroom and liked the look so I thought a bit of it here would be a nice feature.

Tile Floor with insert
Tile Floor with insert

The insert is not tiled yet. But the walls are started.

Diagonal tiled walls
Diagonal tiled walls

We are waiting until later in the week for him to return and finish the tile. Then we will be able to finish it. Unfortunately due to the Coronavirus COVID 19 shutdown our visitors will not be able to fly here from Germany and California. It’s very disappointing.

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Hamilton in the Time of Coronavirus

When I left Colorado a week ago there were three confirmed cases of the virus. I went to California to celebrate my sister’s birthday. We had a lovely time mostly with family but she had tickets to take me to see the play Hamilton in downtown San Francisco. We wondered if the trip would be cancelled but it was not. It was a senior bus trip developed by a company called Daytrippers. Little did we know we would be the last audience to see the play before the theater closed due to the virus. Afterwards we went to a private early dinner at an Italian restaurant. Then home on the less than half filled bus.
The performers probably knew it was the last show and they were wonderful. They gave the work their all and I was surprised how much I loved the production.

Rise up
Rise up
King George! Ironic comedy
King George! Ironic comedy
Schuyler sisters - Werk
Schuyler sisters – Werk
True Love Hamilton
True Love “Hamilton” at SHN’s Orpheum Theatre.

Maybe it helped that I had read Ron Chernow’s book but I was able to hear and follow most of the lyrics. I also took advantage of the hearing impaired headphones as I often can’t make out diction and I knew there were many words. But we were so close to the stage that I probably didn’t need them. We had orchestra seating row four.
My travel ignored the threat of the virus except I was healthy and was mostly upgraded to first class because of my Delta status from trips to Germany and the half empty planes.
Passengers sat in every other seat waiting for boarding. And there was a line to wash hands in the restroom. There were several hand sanitizer stations too. People were using them.

Passenger distances
Passenger distances


When I returned to Colorado schools had closed and there were over 130 cases of the virus. So I was concerned that I may have a hand in spreading it. Now I will stay home and work on the house!

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Insulating the Bathroom.

About three quarters of the rear wall of the bathroom is poured concrete below ground and insulated on the outside. I added polyiso to the inside of the concrete wall and replaced the Fiberglas with rock wool. The interior walls of the bathroom were insulated with Fiberglas too and I think that was a good idea so I left it in. But in some places it had to be replaced because it was moldy or was removed to work in the walls.
The next day the drywall people were coming at noon so I only had a short time to finish insulating. First I worked in the attic. Without the ceiling I had much better access to the corner of the attic so I stuffed it with Fiberglas bats. Then I replaced part of the knee wall Fiberglas with rock wool in the area I could reach. I insulated around the new fan with left over pieces of rock wool too. I did not insulate the area where the sun tunnel will be located.
The plastic vapor barrier had been cut for access to the attic. I wanted to use the siga waterproof breathable membrane on the ceiling to replace the plastic. I stapled it around the ceiling over the plastic that was still there and taped the edges and joint with siga tape.

Space for sun tunnel
Space for sun tunnel

I was almost finished when Ben showed up with the denshield for the tub ceiling. He put it up while I was finishing the tape.

Denshield over tub
Denshield over tub

Denshield is a type of paperless drywall required by LEED for a tub/shower surround. The Kerdi board by Schluter also meets the LEED requirement.

Paperless board over tub
Paperless board over tub

I also had to insulate the hot water pipes according to LEED. I was almost out of time before the dry wall guy came. The hot water return is located here by the tub. Notice how the sink water pipes were moved from the floor to the wall behind the vanity.

Insulated hot water pipes
Insulated hot water pipes
Sink hot water pipe
Sink hot water pipe

About noon the drywall man arrived to put up water resistant blue board in the rest of the room and mud and tape it.

Blue board walls
Blue board walls

He finished in a few hours and work was over for the week.

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Prepping the Tile

When we started this gut remodel project the goal was to purchase as many used and recycled products as possible. Besides the LEED mandate to reduce the use of new materials I was looking for items that would lower the overall cost of what was going to be a huge remodel. Except for top of the line energy efficient items almost all of the products in the house are either second hand or seconds or they were purchased for less than full retail through outlets like eBay and Craigslist.
All of the porcelain brown tile I purchased through Craigslist was probably a batch of seconds. I bought a full pallet or about 500 sq ft of tile from a warehouse about 3 miles south of our house. I also bought all the available boxes of matching edge tile. It was 50 cents per square ft.
I didn’t have anywhere to store the tile but outside. So as I’ve used it I’ve had to clean it. When doing the job myself I could clean a box at a time but because a contractor is doing this job I needed it all at once.

Dirty boxes of tile
Dirty boxes of tile

We needed about 180 square ft of tile for the bathroom but with extra for waste we hauled 20 boxes of the 13”x13” tile into the garage. Each box had 11 tiles but one tile in almost every box had cardboard stuck to the bottom tile and I didn’t have time to scrub those. I can do them later. I only came across a few chipped or flawed tiles and also put them aside. About half way through I needed a break so I stopped for a cup of tea. Then dinner was delayed so I could finish. Both my son and Dave were kind enough to haul the clean tile into the house.

Progress
Progress

Cleaning it all at once seemed to take a long time. I used a simple green cleaner and wore out two scrubbing sponges and my fingers doing it. But finally by the tome it got dark it was finished. I had to wait until morning for a photo. It is now ready to be installed.

Finished
Finished
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Antique Vanity

Originally I just had in mind to use a copper sink in the back bathroom. I love copper and this is the last bathroom remodel. But copper sinks are expensive so quite some time ago I found a huge copper sink with an antique sewing machine base for only $40 on craigslist.

“Unique antique vanity and sink. Made from an old sewing machine. Sink is copper. Counter is made from small river rock stones. All faucet fixtures included. It is currently disassembled and in our garage waiting for a new home.”

Treadle Sewing Sink Stand
Treadle Sewing Sink Stand

I was not so much interested in the stand as the sink but after I got it home I decided I liked it and planned to use it in the bathroom someday. I stored it in the garage for at least three years before the project started. By that time the cabinet was quite dirty and needed some tender loving care.

Vanity from Garage
Vanity from Garage

I mixed a paste of vinegar, baking soda, and salt to clean the copper. I just threw the ingredients together without measuring. Using a sponge, I spread the paste inside and outside the bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. Then I scrubbed it off and rinsed it. Some spots needed a second coat. I also used an old toothbrush to clean out the drain. That was disgusting.

The wood and metal legs were cleaned with a soft scrubbie and a sponge using warm water and dish detergent. Most of the dirt was just surface deep, I had to scrape a bit of white paint from some spots. Then I used wood restorer in golden oak to freshen the wood.

Finish Restorer
Finish Restorer

The refinisher was very easy to apply, just wiped it on with a white scrubbie and then wiped it off after 20 minutes.

Cleaned Vanity
Cleaned Vanity

I didn’t want to use the wall mounted faucet that came with the vanity because it was nickel and I’m using oil rubbed bronze. I purchased a used kitchen faucet to get a tall enough stem but I found when I finally put it on the sink that it was not quite tall enough. I decided to use it with an extra escutcheon that came with the faucet.

The difficulty installing the faucet came from the fact that the sink is so large it spans most of the area under the vanity cabinet suitable for the hole through the top. After much fiddling I was able to get the faucet’s control hole cut all the way through the plywood top and the frame piece underneath. I used a diamond hole saw for the tile, a spade bit for the plywood, a regular hole saw for the frame piece but then the spade bit and a deeper hole saw. The frame is old oak so quite hard wood.
Then I had to install the faucet control plate and bolt in a small area above the frame but below the top. There was about 1/2″ space to tighten the nut that holds the faucet control steady. I took it apart three times because I could not get the assembly tight. Finally I had to use a shim under the cabinet top to get it tight. I think the copper pipes of the faucet kept the plate from pulling all the way up to the plywood surface. The top is not thick enough so shims under the faucet plate worked.

Faucet and control
Faucet and control

The faucet just barely clears the sink rim. But it does swivel as it should and does not swivel outside the sink. I had to use a trim piece for the faucet spray to lift the faucet just enough to clear the sink bowl. I would like to have something a bit taller and wider instead of this piece but I had to get this together for the contractor.

Faucet extension
Faucet extension

I need to clean the vanity again because it got dusty from the drilling. Then I have some furniture wax I’d like to use on the wood before it is installed. I may not have time though. I leave for a week in California tomorrow!

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