Indiana House

We spent the first two weeks of November at our Indiana house. It’s lovely out in the Indiana forest and the house needed attention.
In early September I went to Indiana and had to work on taking out moldy drywall and fixing the plumbing. I also replaced the front porch deck.

Dave and I both went this time so much more was accomplished. We needed to replace the back deck boards. These were more of the sanded oak boards that our friends the Halla’s gave us. They had prepped them years ago but never used them.

New back deck
New back deck and fixed railing

We went through most of the junk we had stored at the house and discarded it.

Dumpster full
Dumpster full

I stained and replaced trim in areas that were damaged or never completed. I used oak molding to match what we already had. Some of the original molding is just square boards, some I cut on the table saw with rounded edges. The new stuff is pretty too.

Stained trim and removed old light
Stained trim and removed old light
New door trim
New door trim
Trim install and new light
Trim install and new light

I fixed a toilet that didn’t flush. Dave fixed the deck railings and rebuilt support for the recreation room stairs. He also patched several pieces of drywall that had been removed. We had a productive trip and were happy to have some socially distant dinners and outings with our Indiana friends.

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New Sailrite LSZ-1 Sewing Machine

It has arrived! It shipped faster than I expected. The packaging was very secure and it is amazingly heavy and built like a Mack Truck as they say.

Basic machine set up
Basic machine set up

The underside of the machine is also very stout!

Heavy duty mechanism
Heavy duty mechanism

The machine came very well packaged in boxes within boxes.

Ultrafeed outer box
Ultrafeed outer box
Inner boxes
Inner boxes

And packed in styrofoam in the innermost box.

Styrofoam packing
Styrofoam packing

Such care and detail made setting up the machine fun and interesting. I had already watched the assembly video and several other videos on the Sailrite site. But I also paid attention to the included assembly pamphlet.

This basic version comes without a light but I think I might install a strip of LED lights under the body as shown in many Facebook ads. (They know I like to sew I guess.)

It also came with several tools but funny enough not a screwdriver short enough to tighten the hinges in the basic platform.

Accessories for the machine
Accessories for the machine

This machine reminds me of the Kenmore I had for many years from my mother in law. I didn’t move it to Arizona and missed having that machine. That one was not cast iron but it was heavy duty and I did a lot of sewing with it.

One thing I’m having trouble getting used to is that the foot lever is located on top of the machine. I keep reaching back behind the machine to use it and have to stop and reach above.

I have purchased one improvement so far. A magnetic guide bar comes with the Plus version of the machine. I thought it looked like a handy tool to help maintain seam width. The Sailrite version is very expensive–$32 without shipping.

 Magnetic Sewing Guide bottom
Magnetic Sewing Guide bottom
Sewing Guide in Use
Sewing Guide in Use

I wondered if just a plain magnet would work. But while shopping for one I came across this wooden magnetic knife bar for less than $7 that I should be able to shape for the task. Actually I should be able to make two of them from this one bar. In case I lose one.

Magnetic wooden knife bar
Magnetic wooden knife bar

It certainly has strong enough magnets to afix to the sewing machine. But it will work better cut down and slotted to fit over the needle plate.

Alternate magnetic guide bar
Alternate magnetic guide bar

The machine came with heavy #20 needles and I have some Coats and Clark outdoor thread but in order to do more domestic sewing I’ll have to buy the specific needles the machine uses, 135-17, in smaller sizes. I can’t use the Singer machine needles in this machine.
I’m excited to get started on the vinyl project that broke my Singer 9960.

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First Trombé Wall Glass

The trombé wall has been missing its glass ever since the new windows were installed. The original Trombé wall had solar glass that was just glued to a wood frame and trimmed on top of the glass.

Trombe Wall in 2011
Trombe Wall in 2011

The bottom trim boards were rotting and the glass was slipping out of the frames. Some of the glass pieces were missing.

Original Trombe Wall Construction
Original Trombe Wall Construction

The glass was removed and so was the rotted wood.

Trombe Glass Removed in 2015
Trombe Glass Removed in 2015

Eventually I re-insulated the front of the foundation wall and covered the insulation with a fiberglass cap.

It took some time to plan how to replace the glass and rebuild the Trombé wall. When I saw lattice edges at a Repurposed Materials auction I thought they would make good frames for replacement glass in the Trombé wall. I also was on the lookout for sliding glass door panels to replace the missing glass. I found several for sale on craigslist and bought them although sometimes these can be found as give-aways.

I researched the installation of fixed glass panes and found a good article on Inspectopedia with instructions for using glazing tape and neoprene setting blocks. I ordered each of these items from Amazon.

I have a 4 x 8′ plywood table top on the patio so I was able to put together the window frame on a nice working surface. First I split a double pane window with a utility knife. Then I cleaned the pane of glass and measured for the frame. Once the frame was cut I used alcohol on the window edge and then applied the glazing tape.

Cutting the window frame
Cutting the window frame

I had to cut the side pieces more than once because I neglected to allow for the width of the neoprene blocks that the glass sits on to allow for expansion in the frame.

Setting the neoprene blocks
Setting the neoprene blocks

I used a bit of crazy glue to keep the blocks in place when putting the frame on the window. Next I peeled back the coating on the glazing tape and placed the frame around the window. The glazing tape didn’t hold the frame because there was too much room in the groove. But I was able to glue the corners together. I used a new tool to hold the corners while gluing.

Collins Miter Spring Pliers
Collins Miter Spring Pliers

I read about these clamps for holding picture frame ends while fastening them and they were recommended. The set is really lightweight metal and at almost $30 were overpriced but the clamps did work and I’m not sure how else I would have clamped these large pieces.

Once the frame was glued it was still loose around the pane of glass so I read about caulks and glazing compound. Although glazing caulks are supposedly easier to use, glazing compound, especially oil based compound has a longer life up to a hundred years! When I turned the window over, the weight of the glass stuck to the glazing tape and I used the compound to fill the outside edges. I found the compound relatively easy to work with but I am not a perfectionist. I had to order online to get the larger size container and the oil based compound. It cleans up with mineral spirits and takes quite a long time to dry.

Glazing the outside edges
Glazing the outside edges

The compound was not all the way dry after it sat through several very cold days and nights and six inches of snowfall. But I wanted to install this window so I could start on the next one. I measured the black framing on the wall and found the bottom 2 x 2 was a bit short. My solution was to cut a double lattice edge on one side of the channel and screw it to the bottom of the black framing. Then I cleaned both sides of the window with window cleaner and soft rags.

I had some ethernabond double stick tape that I applied to the repainted and repaired black framing. I used 1″ L-shaped brackets to hold the frame while it was being placed on the tape. With Dave’s help we got the window attached to the black wall framing.

Firt trombe wall glass installed
Firt trombe wall glass installed

When it seemed to be holding, I caulked all around the outside of the frame. The top and bottom of the frame needed caulking rope because they didn’t contact along the whole width of the frame. I used an entire 10 oz tube of Dap waterproof exterior door and window caulk and there are a few gaps along the bottom.

Window frame caulked
Window frame caulked

Now that I have a procedure I hope the rest of the glazing is installed soon.

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The Wrong Tool

Unfortunately I tried to use my Singer 9960 sewing machine to sew a spa cover with vinyl. I didn’t stop the first time the machine jammed. Just cleared the jamb and continued. Then it jammed again and I could not continue. The needle and foot stopped moving. So it had to go in for repair and I’m pretty sure it will be expensive.
At first the stitching went fine.

Singer 9960 computerized machine

I used clips instead of pins and a size 18 needle with Coats and Clark outdoor thread.

Beginning to stitch

I also used a walking foot which is an attachment that has feed teeth above the material to help pull heavy and slick material through the needle.

Holding the vinyl flat

I was able to sew the long flat seams but the boxed end was too much for the machine. After it went in for repair I tried to find a machine that was up to the job. The Sailrite machines were given the best reviews. There are competitors like the TuffSew and the Barracuda. Some of these cost much less but among successes were many negative experiences. So I scoured eBay for options. I looked at the competition and at the Sailrite machines. I bid on an old Ultrafeed LS-1 and won it but found the listing didn’t include information about missing parts. I was fortunate the seller refunded the money.

The machine was missing the bobbin plate and although the seller tested that the foot worked it was hard to tell if other parts were missing too.

Ebay auction Ultrafeed LS-1 original 2000-2006
Ebay auction Ultrafeed LS-1 original 2000-2006

This ancient machine with shipping would cost half of a new one! The history of Sailrite machines explains that the tooling of the metal case was rough so they switched to a new company in 2007. I could tell this machine was that first version by the label.

Old Sailrite casting
Old Sailrite casting

After this experience I bid on a newer LSZ-1 (zigzag) Premium model with several included notions like thread and basting tape.

Ebay auction LSZ-1 Premium package w/notions
Ebay auction LSZ-1 Premium package w/notions

My bid was quickly surpassed and it currently stands at $1315 plus $60 shipping with 3 1/2 days to go. Granted the thread is expensive at about $140 a spool for the Tenara brand. But this premium package is $1395 brand new with a 5 year warranty.
So I decided to purchase the Basic package of the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 which is the blue zigzag capable machine. The red machine is straight stitch only. I opted not to pay extra for a case or heavy duty wheel because this machine itself is very powerful. The basic version comes with a wooden base.

New Sailrite portable sewing machines
New Sailrite portable sewing machines

Although the website indicated that machines were being built and might be delayed, my machine shipped right away and is due In a couple of days. How exciting.

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Filters and Boiler Maintenance

Fall is falling and some quick chores were completed. We have a Campbell filter on the whole house water supply. It takes a double charcoal filter and it relatively easy to change as long as the water turn off is not stuck and I have the right tools to open the filter.

Campbell Water Filter
Campbell Water Filter

The other replaceable filter I use is for calcium deposits and I have one at the cold water entry to the Challenger boiler/water heater.

Aqua Pure Scale Inhibitor
Aqua Pure Scale Inhibitor

These filters are expensive so I don’t change them as often as I probably should but it makes sense before the new heating season. I should also install one going into the boiler but it is only on the hot water side. Those pipes are smaller too so more subject to calcification.

I also did some fall maintenance on the Challenger combo boiler. The condensate drain has to be cleaned out and the exhaust tube is disassembled in order to remove it. I cleaned the water reservoir with vinegar and got out a lot of soot. I also cleaned the inside of the boiler and reassembled it.

Challenger Flue pipe removal
Challenger Flue pipe removal
Challenger Condensate pan
Challenger Condensate pan

More intensive maintenance would involve flushing the boiler with vinegar water using a separate pump. Also checking the ignitor for deposits and setting the correct spark plug gap. And opening the body to check the heat exchanger for dirt. That is more work than I seem to fit into my schedule. It’s hard to believe we have been using this boiler for seven years.

I won’t need to turn the heat on for several more weeks. The house stays so warm that we can go below freezing outside and still be comfortable. I’m glad to be getting prepared for a new season though.

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Packing the Pool

I also packed the pool up for the winter. We had fun using it this summer with its jerry-rigged solar heater.

Swimming!
Swimming!
Cool in the pool
Cool in the pool
Pool play
Pool play

But after reading the advice for and against I decided to take it down for the winter. We were plagued by small leaks all summer so I am hoping they can be found or I will replace the pool liner or maybe the whole pool. Would love an in-ground pool. But we have more important goals these days.
I tried four different pumps to drain the pool. A small water transfer pump worked for awhile but it got fouled. Then I tried my larger water transfer pump but it wouldn’t work. Then a smaller pool pump but that didn’t turn on. Then I tried a sump pump and that worked well. I got the last of the water out with the shop vac. I scraped up the extra chemicals which I think was pool stabilizer and saved it for next year.

Draining pool with undissolved chemicals
Draining pool with undissolved chemicals

It took several days to empty the pool and since it is very prone to collapse in high winds, I took half of it down.

Partial breakdown
Partial breakdown

Then I started cleaning the bottom and eventually took the other half down and cleaned and after I was sure it was completely dry, I rolled it up. Also rolled up the new solar cover (the original one disintegrated) and the tarp cover and put the equipment parts in a storage bin.

Cleaning the pool
Cleaning the pool

The equipment was very heavy so my son helped haul it all into the blue shed to store it for the winter. Just in time because it’s getting cooler and very windy. Now I have to winterize the RV.

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Fixed the Spa

Swimming grandson
Swimming grandson

We are finally enjoying the spa again. It broke on January first and here we are in fall and it is back online.

After installing the new Megatrol equipment, I had to wait for the new controller to get the spa put back together. I ordered a completely waterproof unit this time. The new one is a little larger than the old one. I spread silicone liberally beneath the edges and carved enough of the fiberglass off so that the new unit fit.

Waterproof Controller
Waterproof Controller
Installed new controller
Installed new controller

I actually faced the new unit into the spa because we most often set it while inside the spa. But I noticed a new function in the electronics is to reverse the reading so it is easy to manage from either side.

Next the spa needed a thorough cleaning. I took two days to clean it out because I get tired faster these days.

Cleaned spa except for the bottom
Cleaned except for the bottom
Cleaning the bottom
Cleaning the bottom

I ordered water to fill the tub so that I would not have to wait for the well to fill it or risk running out of water. That was the first time it was filled for this fix.

Unfortunately after a few days I noticed that the temperature had dropped and I was not getting a wifi signal from that unit. The circuit breaker had tripped and perhaps that was a good thing as the water had drained out almost completely.

Almost empty spa
Almost empty spa

So I had to refill the spa with the hose from the well. I started filling it from the house hose before I found the leak and Dave found it while I was doing something else because he noticed water leaking from the house hose spigot. It was the Ozone purifier that disconnected. I must not have tightened the clamp enough.

Ozone venturi connection
Ozone venturi connection

Fortunately that was an easy fix. I had fixed another leak with Plumbing Goop. One of the jets was dripping water and I didn’t want to disconnect it and redo it. So I stopped the leak with Goop.

Leaking jet
Leaking jet

The controller has an LED panel to show that the functions are working. Here the lights show; A = 120V Power Supply to Terminal Block, B = 240V Power Supply to Terminal Block, C = Low Pump “ON”. No light on D means High Pump is not “ON”. Also the two bottom lights mean; I = Heater 1 “ON” and J = Heater 2 “ON”. It is a lot easier to see these lights at night.

Operation Lights
Operation Lights

And I added the fancy wifi interface for the control panel last Christmas just before the old control system broke. Thankfully it was one component that was not destroyed by the bad wiring. It is really great to be able to control the spa from anywhere and check its temperature.

Wifi Screen on iPhone
Wifi Screen on iPhone

This screen shows that the system is filtering. It will also show the current temperature at the heater. I have set a delay of 60 minutes between temperature checks after the system reaches temperature. That is when it reads ECON. I can also monitor the temperature with an Acurite remote water sensor. So for now we can enjoy relaxing in the exercise spa with the family.

Relaxing granddaughter
Relaxing granddaughter
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A New Porch in Spencer

We built our first energy efficient house in the early 1980’s on 40 acres in the countryside outside of Spencer, Indiana. We have owned the property for over 40 years. But we recently decided that we should sell. This photo is dated 2012. The corner of the front porch is beginning to settle.

Spencer House
Spencer House

In 2017 we visited and the porch had settled more.

Porch sinking 2017
Porch sinking 2017

I went to work on the house for a couple of weeks this summer and the porch was in sad shape. The deck boards were beginning to rot and the post had sunk even more. Friends gave me some planed oak boards that they had hoped to use for the last 40 years themselves. But I had a more urgent need so they generously gave them to me. I knew there was a reason I needed to rent a truck. I brought them home in two loads.

Truckload of oak boards
Truckload of oak boards

Not only did they give me the boards for the decks, they also came and helped tear the old decking off. We put it in the truck and took it up to a friend’s burn pile.

Tear out old boards
Tear out old boards

We thought jacking up the floor would allow the deck to get leveled out. I drilled a new hole to attach the leveled framing.

Jack up floor
Jack up floor

But just a little digging around the post revealed that it was completely rotted at the bottom. Another friend stopped by to help and cut off the worst of the rot. We jacked up the post to the original bolt placement. Then the dirt underneath the post was removed enough to cut off most of the rotten area of the post.

Jack up post
Jack up post

Then the hole was dug deeper and wider to insert concrete blocks to hold up the post. The new boards were cut to length and using a couple of borrowed drills. I bored holes for the deck screws and installed them with a hammer drill that made short work of the process.

Fixed Porch
Fixed Porch

After the boards were installed I treated the wood with water barrier and filled a few areas on the leader board that were starting to rot. The porch was fixed making the house look much less worn.

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Finally Repairing the Spa

The story of the new spa equipment is a sad one. I unfortunately wired the first shipment of a new controller box incorrectly and blew out all the 110 volt connections by sending 220 to them. I sent everything back to the manufacturer and it languished for some time. I believe that the owner was reluctant to tell me that I had ruined it all. I said fix it and I’ll pay for it. So he put in a new control board and sent it back to me.

I did not get the peripherals back though. So I called and asked and he said sorry they are completely broken too. So I ordered another water purifier system but a larger on because I noticed the first one I bought was limited to treating spas of 500 gallons or less. Mine is 1000 gallons.

The new water purifier arrived while I was out of town so I just started to put the system back together. I called the dealer because the new one came with many pieces that the other one did not. Turned out they allowed multiple ways to attach the instrument. I had some of the items from the first install and support told me I could use the original ones that are already installed.

First I connected the water pipes on the spa to the heater connections on the control box. These are 3″ connections and I had a lot of trouble aligning them with the old pipes. It turned out I had to remove the former boards that held the box and install new lower ones. Then I was able to make the connections.

Pipes aligned and connected
Pipes aligned and connected

I used some of the included brackets to attach the ozone purifier to the spa piping which was convenient but it was unclear how they were supposed to attach. So I drilled some holes into the brackets and screwed short pieces of board on to hang the instrument from.

Purifier attached to plumbing
Purifier attached to plumbing

Notice the purifier label reads right side up but unfortunately the connection for the ozone was on the left side the unit. I did not think about the issue with the old installation but I called about the proper position for the venturi piece and it should be in the water line before the purifier, I had to hang the unit upside down which apparently does not matter to the operation of the purifier.

Purifier installed upside down
Purifier installed upside down

The error that I made in the wiring the first time was a lack of observation. Instead of noticing how the system was wired, I followed an installation diagram. In the erroneous wiring I connected White to Red, Black to White and Red to Black. Couldn’t have been more wrong. By observing the actual wiring the second time around the wire colors match.

Incorrect wiring ruined the system
Incorrect wiring ruined the system

Will not repeat that error
Will not repeat that error

I closed up the bottom of the control box but I can’t complete the installation. Unfortunately I realized I had sent in the electronic control panel too and since it was also destroyed I had to order a new panel as well and now wait for that to arrive. One step at a time apparently.

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Tesla Solar Roof

The Tesla solar roof is made from tempered glass. Advertising mentions quartz glass which is a form of tempered glass, the other form is silica although the terms are used interchangeably. The product is called Solarglass and is textured. Last October in 2019, version 3 of the roof was released and the Tesla factory in Buffalo, NY had increased production to 1000 solar tiles per week. The plain glass tiles are apparently being sourced from China. The old tiles came in sets of three and each tile was about 14 x 8 inches.

V2 Solar roof tile measured
V2 Solar roof tile measured

The new tiles are much longer and wider at 15“ x 45″.

Smaller version 2 tiles
Smaller version 2 tiles
Shorter solar roof tiles
V2 solar roof tiles installed
Version 3 solar tiles
Version 3 solar tiles
V3 Solar Roof Tiles Installed
V3 Solar roof tiles installed

The larger tiles are more efficient to install and have fewer wiring connections. But the warranty has been reduced to 25 years for both the tile itself and power production. The former warranty was “infinity” on the roof tile and 30 years on solar production.

Tesla Official Solarglass Version 3
Tesla Official Solarglass Version 3

The tiles are hooked onto raised modules and overlap with metal flashing on the edges and rooftop

Tesla solar roof pivot attachment
Tesla solar roof pivot attachment

Each V3 solar tile outputs 58 watts of direct current. The connections are typical M4 solar wiring connections into a harness that runs under the tiles.

Tesla wiring MC4 Connector
Tesla wiring MC4 Connector

The harness provides shade control instead of micro-controllers so that power differences from shady areas do not detract from sunny areas.

Solar Roof Tile Wiring Harness
Solar Roof Tile Wiring Harness

Many of the roof tiles do not have photo electronics but are just plain tempered glass. The solar and the plain glass tiles are priced separately. Our house qualifies for 10.9 kw of solar power so I calculated that there are approximately 189 solar tiles and 490 plain tiles in our order.

Sample Solar Roof Layout
Sample Solar Roof Layout


The new version of the roof has a class 3 hail rating and I think the original roof was class 4. A Class 3 roof is earned if the sample does not crack when hit twice in the same spot by a 1.75 inch diameter steel ball. A Class 4 rating, the material should not get damaged when hit twice in the same spot by 2 inch diameter steel ball. It is interesting that the test is for the same spot hit twice since hail tends to distribute over a plane.

The Class F wind rating is the highest that is tested. Asphalt shingle test specimens passing the two-hour test duration at 60 mph are classified as Class A; those passing at 90 mph are classified as Class D; and those passing at 110 mph are classified as Class F.

The tiles are also very tough. Firefighters were given special instructions regarding breaking into the roof to fight a fire. Notice the ladder placed on the roof to steady the firefighter on the slippery glass roof and the use of a chainsaw to cut through the tile.

Firefighters destroy a Tesla roof
Firefighters destroy a Tesla roof

There are several opinions about the wisdom of an investment decision to purchase such a new roof product because of the long payback and lack of years of data. When we bought our first hybrid car there were similar arguments. Is it worth it? I believe that new and sleek technology is always expensive. People don’t question whether a fancy car is “worth it”. It is acceptable to buy a car that is very expensive and loses value over time for the technology and performance. Solar technology has the same attraction to us as homeowners and it costs less than a new Mercedes Benz or the new Tesla Model X.

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From Tesla Solar Panels to Solar Roof

When the new glass roof tiles from Tesla were in the media, I was intrigued because we eventually needed a new roof and we live in the Hail Alley of Colorado which means hail is frequent and often damages roofs. Our house had a particularly strong roof shingle that has held up well, but the roof has begun to lose granules from age.

On June 1, 2017 President Trump thought to put America First by pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement from 2015. That seemed like an ill-advised move to us so to counteract this act I sent Tesla $1000 and signed up for their solar roof program. This was about one year before our 3.9 kw panel system was installed by Tesla. We went ahead with the panel system because it was difficult to know when the glass roofs would be ready. There were several delays as production and installations issues were worked out.

Solar Roof Order is Confirmed
Solar Roof Order Confirmation

When the solar roofs were first installed the distribution area was in California but over time more states were added and in April of this year I was contacted about our roof project here in Colorado.

The first active step was sending additional information regarding our power company and usage data. We also had to prove we had home insurance and liability up to $1,000,000. The next step was approving the roof design based on the Xcel allowable kilowatt production for our usage.

Tesla Solar Design
Tesla Solar Design

A couple of installers came out to measure the roof and inspect the project. They were happy to see that the roof is practically at ground level on the north side of the house.
A building permit was submitted to the town of Arvada and approved in May. Then Tesla began the Xcel application process. So that is where we are now.

We fully own the 3.9 kw roof panel system and already have the Powerwall battery set up. The inverter will be replaced for the larger system so we will have an extra twelve 325 watt panels that we hope can later be installed on a garage.

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Green Roof?

I’m waiting for Tesla to install solar roof tiles. The project is at the Xcel power company application stage. The permit from the city was granted. We decided to upgrade the roof to solar tiles the day the president announced pulling out of the Paris climate accords. We needed to do our part and figured for twice the price we can get over 3 times the solar that we have now and get a new roof. But the solar roof does not cover the flat roof at the front of the house. It needs at least a 2/12 roof slope.

Flat Roof
Flat Roof

I investigated installing a green roof on the front that would help nudge the house toward net zero. That means the house creates as much energy as it uses. The growing medium on the roof has insulating value. A green roof also manages rooftop water by absorbing it and releasing filtered water to catch in rain barrels. Since we are in Colorado we can only collect 110 gallons of rain water at a time and that is a recent change in the law. When we first moved here rain barrels were illegal.

I learned about green roofs when we toured one in Denver during a USGBC conference in 2013. So I’ve been considering this idea for a long time. The roof we toured was built from shallow trays of sedums. That is an extensive style roof and the lightest type. An intensive style has a deeper soil bed.

Green Roof Systems
Green Roof Systems

Extensive roofs are lighter than intensive but they can still weigh 30 lbs per square ft. fully saturated. That in addition to snow load can be too heavy for a typical roof. Fortunately we don’t have a typical roof.

Flat roof structure
Flat roof structure

But the first step is getting the official calculations from a structural engineer. I contacted Andy Creath from Green Roofs of Colorado and the person who presented at that conference years ago. He discussed the green roof options with me and arranged for a structural engineer to run the calculations on our roof.
Andy’s green roofs are not in trays. He creates a monolithic growing medium above waterproof membrane roofing material like TPO. A parapet rises above the roof edge to hold the plantings. All the typical green roof layers are installed and a patio and walkways would be incorporated into the design.

Denver Botanic Garden Rooftop garden
Denver Botanic Garden

The layers of a green roof are made from differing materials depending on the vendor but the design is the same. It is a layered system that creates a barrier rooftop but provides drainage for plant material and a growing medium. It is referred to as growing medium because rooftop soils are specially formulated to be lightweight and well-drained.

Roof layers for green roof
Roof layers for green roof

The roofs feature a variety of plants from wildflowers to succulents and cactus or grasses. Of course the Midwest and East require different plants than more arid areas of the country. Colorado rooftop gardens also require an irrigation system. The research conducted for the EPA determined that a green roof cannot survive in this climate without periodic irrigation.

This Old House Green Roof
This Old House Green Roof

In Colorado the plants are often varieties of sedum a low growing succulent with low water and nutrient needs.

Sedum Green Roof
Sedum Green Roof

This sedum roof is similar to the roof on the Denver EPA building. It is planted with sedum and the plants are in trays that sit on top of the other layers. This is the lightest green roof.

Intermountain Green roof with trays
Intermountain Green roof with trays

We had the structural report created and as I suspected our roof is built solidly enough to hold a green roof. The engineer’s conclusion was for a medium weight green roof.

For the calculations of this residence roof, the green roof system dead load of 42 psf was utilized. Based on the revised loading and the existing spans of the wood joists, the existing 2×12 joists spaced at both 16-inches on center and 24-inches on center do provide adequate capacity to carry the additional proposed superimposed green roof loading.

Donald E. (Leo) Whiteley, P.E., Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

The next step is to decide whether to engage Andy’s company to create the green roof or investigate a tray system. He told me that the best time of year to install the green roof would be fall. That would give the structure time to settle before the growing season. I’m waiting for the Tesla solar roof to be installed before we make a decision.

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Buried Pool Power

When I applied for a permit for the pool the requirement was to have a separate 20 amp GFCI line for it. The electricians installed that back in 2016. I have been using a long extension cord for the pool pump but wanted to install an outside box for the system. I tapped into the line that feeds an outside electric outlet on this breaker.

The box that I tapped into was an exterior power connection box. I turned off the breaker and clipped the wires. One set of wires continues to the outlet and the other is routed to an outdoor switch.

Outdoor switch
Outdoor switch

But before this wiring step I had to pull 100 ft of wire through the conduit.

Pulling power cable
Pulling power cable

I used the wire puller to start the wire through the pipe doing one section at a time. There is a 90 degree corner from the junction to the pool and that had to be threaded through in the right order with that first pipe cut to the correct length.

Each section got progressively easier since there was less wire to pull. But my hands got sore tugging on the wire and the leader metal. For the last pipe I was able to cut the wire to fit the rest of the way and that took off about 20 ft. of wire so it was even easier to pull the last piece of conduit and the elbows.

I used water tight connectors at the junction box and the switch box. These screw on the pipe to tighten them. I drilled a hole in the cover of the junction box for the fitting. But the conduit first had to be glued together at the joints.

Each piece of conduit was cleaned and pipe cement was applied. The wire had to be pulled taut to get the pipes close enough together to pull the joint tight. It was really hot while I was working on glueing the joints. I took a break and came back to it later in the afternoon when most of the line was shaded.

Glued conduit in trench
Glued conduit in trench

At the end of the line I used a piece of 3/4″ rebar to hold the waterproof outlet box. Inside the box I wired two outlets. I wired them so that if one failed the other would still be hot. I used this example from the internet.

Double outlet wiring example
Double outlet wiring example

Once the wiring was completed and screwed together I tested turning on the switch and getting power. But the first time I tested the outlet had no power. I took it apart and found a loose white connection and reassembled the box. It took quite a bit of delicate holding of the outlets and the box to line up the outlet screws and the box face plate. The outlets were used and I could not locate the bag of electrical screws that I have saved so the middle screws are missing.

Pump GFCI plugged in
Pump GFCI plugged in

I finally got the box connected and power at the switch in the waterproof case. I meant to install the box higher on the rebar but when I was glueing I didn’t have that last piece and I forgot to add it. So the box is a bit lower than I planned which should not make much difference since it won’t be live in the winter. The pump was plugged in and automatically turned on to boost mode. I turned off the solar so that the pump can run all night to make up for not running today.

Pool power box
Pool power box

Looking pretty good so it was time to clean up my tools and call it a day.

Posted in Electrical, Pool | Comments Off on Buried Pool Power

Fixing Leaks in Pool Plumbing

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the pool plumbing. I’ve had a couple of pipe blow offs including one that moved a lot of water out of the pool. Each one of these threaded pipes blew apart when pressured by the pump start.

Leaking pipe joins blow apart at threads
Leaking pipe joins blow apart at threads

My solution was to switch the new pipes for older ones. Apparently the older piping had deeper threads and connect more securely. I also had issues with the opposite end of the hot water input pipe. I had connected the metric and the international pipe threads and although they didn’t leak the first time, it leaked and I could not re-tighten it after I switched out for the older hose.

Repaired leak at check valve
Repaired leak at check valve

I had an extra adapter with the correct thread on the backflush hose. So I took that out and moved it to the check valve. In order to attach it to the check valve I had to have a series of pipe fittings and clamps that show just how jerry rigged these connections are. I had to really get the clamps tight before these joins stopped leaking.

I also took advantage of having the system apart to install a new salt cell pipe. I bought it for $9 plus shipping from Intex because the old one leaked in two places. I thought replacing it would provide new threads that would help seal the connections.

New casing for titanium salt cell
New casing for titanium salt cell

The replacement worked! But I also replaced or turned around the rubber gaskets so that the seals were new too. This stopped the constant dripping from the salt cell connections when the pump was on.

New salt system casing
New salt system casing

Unfortunately having these leaks fixed turned up a new one. You may notice that for some reason this connection has an extra screw in the middle of the threaded area. I can’t imagine how that fixed the problem in the past. But I was able to use the threaded part from the old salt cell to replace it. Along with another gasket the newest leak was fixed.

Another leak discovered at the salt treatment section
Another leak discovered at the salt treatment section

The entire system has been fixed and is leak free for now. I’m still trying to keep the water warm and algae free though so I have been running the pump twice a day instead of once. The automatic timer is set for just once a day. I have been turning it on manually for its 3 hour run twice each day.

Pool connections from filter to solar panel and return
Pool connections from filter to solar panel and return
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Vinyl Lattice Floor for Inflatable Boat

Some time ago I picked up a pile of vinyl lattice edging at the Repurposed Materials auction. I had in mind to use the single edge caps to frame the glass for the trombe wall. I’m still hoping they can be used for that.

At the same time I purchased a pile of marine plywood that had been used as home development advertising. They have a thin layer of plastic sign material attached to them. We have used this plywood for various projects around the place and it has come in very handy.

We went camping as a family to a local lake and because of Covid virus we didn’t know if the beach would be open. But the lake was open to boating and fishing. So I purchased an inflatable Intex 3 person boat. I also upgraded to a rechargeable Intex air pump. We found that the pump worked best if plugged into a 12 volt power source.

Intex Seahawk 3
Intex Seahawk 3

The Amazon reviews recommended installing a solid floor to make it easier to move around in the boat while in the water. The boat arrived very late the evening before the day we were leaving for the campground and that morning it was raining! My plan had been to cut a piece of plywood for the floor of the boat. But with the rain that seemed too difficult.The more expensive inflatable boats came with a slatted floor and right next to the plywood is the pile of vinyl lattice dividers and edges so I got the idea to build the floor with them.

Composite lattice edges
Vinyl lattice edges

I inflated the bottom of the boat and measured the pieces that would fit the width of the bottom. They varied slightly in a few places as the boat bottom got a bit wider in the center and much narrower at the front. I cut the pieces with a circular saw. I used about ten 8 foot pieces of trim.

Slats in boat bottom
Slats in boat bottom

I cut 10″ pieces of the edging to link the slats together to form two layers, a wider top layer and a narrow bottom layer in the middle.

Lattice divider trim
Lattice divider trim
Vinyl Hanger Strap
Vinyl Hanger Strap

I used woven vinyl hanger strap left over from the ERV project and stainless steel staples to connect the slats. I planned to also put the tape on each side of the top slats but it turned out they held together without the extra tape. The boat bottom rolls together enough that I could fit it in the RV shower for transport.

In order to keep the edges of the slats from damaging the PVC of the boat I wrapped the edges with pool noodles slit down one side. Luckily Dave was at the store when I texted him to bring me four noodles. I tried to staple them on but they easily popped off. I finally wrapped them on with more of the vinyl strapping.

Inflated boat with floor
Inflated boat with floor

When we put the floor in the inflated boat it was a little too long so two slats and spacers were removed from the bottom. The remaining floor worked well although it made the boat much heavier to haul to the water. The wrapped pool noodle edging did not hold so I have to think of another way to keep the pool noodles attached to the floor.

We had a great time with the boat. It took my son’s strength to get us across the open lake though. Maybe a little trolling motor is called for?

Rowing across the lake
Rowing across the lake

Now that I had this idea, I’m thinking of other projects for the edging. There might be enough double slatted edges to build a walkway for the green roof or to make some kind of deck tiles for around the pool. What a great discovery!

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Interesting Design Detail

I have had to seek some unusual solutions to some unique spaces in our house. The opening in the partial “attic loft” in the family room bathroom was a difficult one to cover. Originally I thought it could use sliding barn doors but the sides both have vents in them that the doors would have to clear and the ceiling above the opening is very shallow so a track would not fit across the door.

I thought of several other solutions, but they all were restricted by the steep ceiling that kept any type of opening shutter from working in the opening. Then I was thinking some kind of panel in the opening would work. and it occurred to me that it would have to be held in by some type of latch. At one point I was just looking for panels about the right size and I came across metal peg boards that seemed to have just the right measurements for the space.

Galvanized peg board
Galvanized peg board

I could have ordered many different colors but the galvanized was the least expensive and most rustic in my opinion.

The opening was supposed to use 3/4″ trim boards and I used one on top and the bottom but the sides were too lopsided to use even 1/2 inch boards.

Off square opening
Off square opening

I measured for 3/8″ boards and thought I would need to use plywood until I remembered that I have several boxes of 3/8″ laminate flooring that I was saving to replace the carpet in the RV. The flooring was the exact size needed for the side boards in the opening.

Once the trim was installed it was a simple matter of screwing in the magnetic tool bars I used to hold the pegboard in place.

Magnetic Tool Holders
Magnetic Tool Holders

I spaced two on the sides and one at the bottom to hold the metal panels. But then I remembered that the sides were out of square. I had to take out the top screws and put shims behind the sides to straighten out the opening

Shim to square opening
Shim to square opening

I also used some of the ceramic knobs I got from a craigslist ad to help put the panels in place and remove them. The job was soon finished. I’m thinking of hanging some tin signs or a wreath on the pegboard as decoration. Trim for the frame will be done later.

Pegboard panel door to attic
Pegboard panel door to attic
Posted in Construction, Finishes, Reduce Reuse Recycle, Trim | Comments Off on Interesting Design Detail

Master Bedroom Barn Doors

The master bedroom also had a curtain instead of a door since we had guests who needed privacy.

Master Bedroom Curtain
Master Bedroom Curtain

Due to my brother’s help and because I completed the family bath door, it was time to try to install barn doors instead. I ordered a 6′ bypass track because it was an Amazon warehouse deal and cost less than $100. Most of the bypass tracks are closer to $200 full price. I thought the track might work if I mounted it above the light sconces. But we found that it needed to be closer to the floor. So my brother helped cut about a foot off of the tracks and repaint them black.

For the family room I hung one door on each side of the opening because the doors with the cross pieces were too wide to slide toward each other. But I got the brilliant idea to remove one side of the cross pieces to allow for both doors on the same side of the room. The master does not have enough ceiling room to hang a barn door on the inside. I had new bolts for all the doors that were more decorative than the bolts that came with them but removing one side of the cross pieces meant that they were too long. My brother cut each bolt to the correct length for a single cross piece.

Cutting off the bolts
Cutting off the bolts

He also spent quite a bit of time trying to sand out the doors where they were faded from the cross pieces and he sanded out all the water marks. I told him that I had intended to mar the wood and stain them to look antiqued but he is a perfectionist beyond my skills. While he was working on the doors I installed the track.

Double bypass track
Double bypass track

All of the boards for the frame and the track were reused from the trim work on the original house. The track was installed on a wide board as in the family room. This allowed for the bolts to be inserted anywhere along the top and not have to hit a 2×4. I had to use the bracket for the second track in a U shape instead of an L shape because I didn’t have enough room to attach it above the board. The track needed several adjustments to get the hangers on the door so that it hung below the opening. The bolts for the U shaped bracket interfered with the sliding J hook so they had to be turned around. The track has to be level so there were several adjustments to level it.

Fitting the barn door
Fitting the barn door

Testing the door for height and the cross piece side, I decided to use the cross pieces facing the living area instead of the bedroom. That copied the look of the family room doors. One idea was to install small casters below the doors so that they would not swing because installing a guide on the concrete floor would be difficult. However the wheels made the doors too tall for the hanging brackets so I had to remove them.

Wheels too high
Wheels too high

Another issue was that the floor is off level by at least 3/8″. So the bottom of the doors scrapes the floor on the shallow side.

Floor off level
Floor off level

Although the first door was hung high enough to slide across, the second door pulls on the track down enough to eliminate the same space below allowing it to scrape. I tried installing the J brackets just a bit lower and adjusting the bolts of the track to push it as high as I could but the door still scrapes. So I will have to cut off the bottom to fix it.

First door installed
First door installed

These doors are extremely heavy even without one set of cross pieces. So I need help carrying them outside to cut. My back got sore just maneuvering them around.

One tip I used for drilling straighter holes than I did on the first set of doors was to use a piece of 1/2 pex pipe to keep the drill bit straight on the door. Although the article recommended metal I just used what I had and the holes stayed straight and true.

Drill jig
Drill jig

I also dented the center of each hole with a dart that was laying around to give the bit a start in the correct position.

It turned out that the doors did not have to be trimmed. The weight of hanging the doors pulled the header board away from the wall. My brother noticed and helped install some long lag bolts into the 2×6 over the door frame. That held the board against the wall and the doors cleared the floor.

Bedroom doors with sconce lights
Bedroom doors with sconce lights

Another “just needs trim” project completed.

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Family Bathroom Door

We have been using a curtain in the doorway of the family bathroom since the interior was completed.

Bathroom Door Curtain
Bathroom Door Curtain

It provided enough privacy and it was adequate coverage for the building inspection. The plan was to install a rustic door in the opening. That was the project the day before we were expecting a short visit from my brother. There was a chance we would have guests using the bathroom and it seemed that having a door would be a good idea.

As usual though it took far longer for the project and I made several mistakes before the project was finished. I re-used a door frame from the original house. These frames are real wood and I found that the newer “wood” frames from the Home Depot are veneer instead. Since the original had cutouts for the hinges, I planed the hinge cutouts off the door and recut them.

New hinge cutout
New hinge cutout

I bought two hinge templates to make this job easier but I broke the Porter Cable almost immediately because the router bit I tried did not have a hub. And the Ryobi didn’t fit on the door because it is meant to hug the door about 2″ deep and the cross pieces didn’t allow for that.

Porter Cable Hinge Template
Porter Cable Hinge Template
Ryobi Hinge Template
Ryobi Hinge Template

I clamped the Porter Cable template together to hold it while I got the hinge outline routed and then discovered I had turned the template in the wrong direction. Therefore I had to cut the hinge section completely through the door edge.

New hinge cutout
New hinge cutout

Even worse I misplaced the lowest cutout. I cut it below the bottom mark. Which I found when I was attempting to hang the door.

I chopped the door to pieces putting in the new hinge cutout above the routed one. What a mess.

Wrong cutout marks
Wrong cutout marks

The door hit the top of the frame when I tried to close it. When I cut it down to fit the opening, my saw cut was crooked so I planed it with the new hand planer while the door was in place in the doorway.

New bathroom door
New bathroom door

I still have to fix an electrical switch that stopped working. And I’m working on a cover for the attic opening. So the ladder is still in the bathroom. Eventually it will get put away.

Inside bathroom
Inside bathroom

I will have to remove the whole door and redo the cutouts at some point and trim out the doorway but for now there is a bathroom door that closes.

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Solar Pool Set Up

The extra parts arrived and all of the piping was finally connected with minimal leaks. Not without several issues however.
I had the bypass valve assembly ready to install.

Bypass valves for solar panel
Bypass valves for solar panel


Unfortunately the plastic that the reducers were made from did not hold using pvc glue. The union blew apart when I turned on the pump. I also had left the piping overnight without noticing a bad leak at the return pipe.

Huge leak at pool return hose.
Huge leak at pool return hose.

The pool leaked several inches of water as a result.

Inches of water lost
Inches of water lost

I was not sure what to use the connect the two pieces of tube from the filter to the bypass valves. It turned out that the discharge hose was the right diameter so I clamped a short piece between these pipes. There is no strength in pvc discharge hose. So I had to prop the valves on a piece of plywood.

Bypass with hose connection
Bypass with hose connection

While shoving the filter and pump into a new position I didn’t notice that I had kinked the supply inlet hose. That kink caused flow issues.

Piping with crimp
Piping with crimp

Once the piping was together and water flowing I set the Hayward valve to send the water through the solar panel. I can feel the water in the panel moving through the piping by thermosiphon as planned but the heat is immediately taken from the exchanger so the pipes stay hot but the exchanger is cool.
I also have a dripping leak at the pool water union that no amount of tightening seems to help.

Leak at hot water union
Leak at hot water union

Although in sunny weather the system seems to be helping to warm the pool, we have had several cool cloudy days and cold rain that is competing with the sun for heat.

The solar pool circulation is set up for now and I hope I can fix the few dripping leaks eventually.

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Maintenance and Repair, Pool, Solar | Comments Off on Solar Pool Set Up

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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