The Numbers

I’ve waited two months to get these house numbers.  And I have to say, I’m disappointed in the end result.  Not because of the product, but because of my installation.  I took so much care and preparation and still, it didn’t work out.

When I first got the numbers, I installed their posts and used a piece of cardboard to make a drilling hole template.  I pushed the numbers’ posts through the cardboard to identify the hole placement.

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I even used a straight edge to ensure they were lined up.

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After a few adjustments, I had a template ready to go.  I taped it to the wall and drilled small pilot holes.  I did that because the masonry bit I had to use has no precision at all and I didn’t want the bit to slide and begin boring a hole off of my exact placement.

And despite my best efforts to accomplish that, that is exactly what happened.  And once you have multiple holes in the wall, there’s no adjustment you can make.  I actually didn’t see the end result until I had put in the last number.  And this is the end result:

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If that last 2’s lower post was only slightly more to the right, it would be perfect.  I’ll have to see if I can come up with a way to offset that post somehow.

In fact, now comparing the end result to the pictures of my template, there was a lot of variance in the placement of the first 2 as well.  I suppose maybe it will come down to pulling them all out, patching the holes, repainting the area, then repositioning them elsewhere.  To my credit, these numbers are only held in place with plastic anchors and no silicone sealant.  They are more than secure this way.

Not my finest work.

New Roof

And now, one of the biggest expenses in my house fixup.  The pool was probably the biggest, but this one is right up there.  It’s the replacement of the roof.  I eventually settled on a quote for $9600 from the same contractor that has been doing my other work.

The roof was last replaced in 2005, right after the rash of hurricanes.  Things have changed in those 15 years.  I got dropped from one insurance carrier because of the age of my roof.  Not specifically because of the age, but because of the age and the fact the roof is 3-tab shingles.  No one uses 3-tag shingles anymore.  Everything is now Architectural shingles.

The workers showed up around 8 in the morning and immediately got to work.  I was not prepared for how loud the whole removal process would be.  Then rain was threatening in the area, but the foreman explained that as long as they got the moisture barrier in place, things would be fine.  There were some rotted panels and other wood that needed replaced.  Who would have figured?  I didn’t know.

There were storms around and when i went to lunch, there were showers just  little ways down the road.  In my area, that means nothing though.  When I got back from lunch, there hadn’t been any rain at the house and the foreman told me they were finishing up the “dry-in” barrier and after that, it didn’t matter if it rained or not.  The crew worked late, almost 12 hours, and they got quite a bit done.

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The next morning they came back and finished up with more noise. 

After it was all done, how was the result?  Well, most noticeably, the attic doesn’t pop anymore at night when it’s cooling down.  That must be a telling sign that there is less heat buildup.  I did climb up on the roof a couple days after and put my face near one of the new vents.  I could feel the hot attic air streaming out of it.  I gained two additional vents on my roof, so there must be some benefit to that as well.  The vents are a different design and they seem like they’re designed to not allow storm wind and rain to blow into the vent – important for hurricane country.

So, with the thicker tiles, the modern, improved barriers, the additional vents, and the light color tile, this must all be adding up to a much cooler house.  Time will tell if my electric bill goes down.  I recently changed the standard house temp from 72 to 75, so that will also help things.

This is the one last major item to be fixed to make the house reasonably marketable, should it come to that.

Wiring – Exploration 2

The attempts to succeed at wiring drop #1 have not been going well.  I took some time to try and remove a can light from the ceiling so I could hopefully access the pole from above.  Those attempts were futile.  I could not figure out how to get the light trim down.

As I was considering buying some firmer fishing poles, so I could push the pole up through the the insulation batt, I realized, I had a really firm pole already – the 10′ drill bit.  And it’s been up there already once.  So my next attempt to get anything up there will be using the drill bit as a push pole.

In the meantime, I figured maybe I would try and see how difficult it would be to pull the other run in the back bedroom.  The general plan was to cut a hole in the wall, push the drill bit up and drill through the header, then push the rod up into the attic and see if I could find it.

After cutting the opening, I found that I didn’t even have enough depth available to install the outlet plate, I had to trim it down with the Dremel.  Once the ring was mounted to protect the drywall, I pushed the pole up the wall with the camera attached.  Surprisingly, it seemed like I made it into the attic unobstructed.  Yup, according to my tape marking on the pole, 8 inches past the ceiling. So… I never needed a drill bit, for either run?  I could have used the money for stiffer poles for run #1.  Unless… the pole was bending behind the wall, but it didn’t  appear to be from the video.

Anyway, that seems promising, but the real test will be when I get in the attic and see if I can find the pole.  The plan is to push the drill bit up #1 and the fiberglass pole up #2, each with pull cords.  I’ll grab what I can then.

Insurance

Boy, this year is going to be a lot of fun for insurance.  It was early in the year when I got a notice from my loan servicer that they got a cancellation notice on my insurance policy.  Of course, I was like, what the hell?  I logged on the insurance company’s portal and saw I had a notification that they were cancelling my insurance, like soon.

I don’t remember what made me search, but I did and found a news article that the insurance company was just eliminating entire territories from its coverage area.  As it turned out, I was in one.being eliminated.  The news story that informed me of this actually gave me more information than the insurance company did.  It additionally explained that there was another insurance company that was willing to pick up the remainder of any policies being cancelled early, of which I was one.  That gave me a few months to breathe and figure out what to do.

As the weeks went on, I did get confirmation and more information from the old and the new insurance company.  I would be covered until the end of my policy term, but the new company would not be renewing the policy.  So, as the policy end date closed in, my insurance agency started contacting me more and more frequently and urgently to find a new insurer.

I got two quotes for a new policy and made my choice.  I paid in full and sent the documentation proof to my loan company.  Ok, I’m good for the year.  Well, no.  Less than a month into my new policy, I get two letters in the mail from the new insurer.  The first is a notice of policy cancellation.  The second is a confirmation of policy cancellation.  The policy is going to be cancelled at the end of the month, less than 3 weeks away.  Again, what the hell?

The reason given for the cancellation is my roof.  It appears the agent submitted my information with the wrong shingle type and when they found out what it really is, they determined the age of the roof is too old for them to insure.  So, goodbye.

So, now, I am wondering if the other quote I got, which will be my fallback for now, is even valid if that was submitted with the wrong shingle type.  If it is, I might be looking at getting a re-roofing done ASAP to qualify for any insurance.  I guess I should start getting quotes for roofing.

The Septic System

One thing that’s been on my list for a very long time has been to have the septic tank checked out.  I don’t know anything about it – where it is, how big it is, what its condition is.  I’ve owned the house for 15 years and never done anything with it.  The old owner did an enzyme treatment on it, but never said anything about pumping it out or having service done on it.  Obviously, the best time to have this stuff checked out is when there isn’t a problem, so, I guess the time is right.

I called a nearby place and ended up in voicemail.  I left a message and never got a call back.  Oh well.  I called another place and got on their schedule for te next week.  The tech showed up on schedule and without any formalities, just started into the work.

The first step was to locate the tank.  He had a probing rod he stuck in the ground at various places and found the borders of teh tank quickly.  I guess when this is your life you know all about these things.  So he knew just where to dig to uncover the lid.  He went back to the truck and got a pry bar to lift the lid off and pop, we had an open tank.

The first thing I noticed is that it didn’t stink.  I expected the most foul smell imaginable out of a septic tank, but that’s not the case.  The tech’s quick evaluation is that things are actually really good.  The water level is correct, meaning the drain field is working well, and there’s no buildup of solids, so whatever enzymes are in the system are doing their job just fine.

So with that $150 quick check complete, I just started getting random information.  I learned the boundaries of the tank so I determined I could get a truck onto the property as long as it stuck close to the fence.  The drain field probably extended to the end of the pool patio and there was a small concern about the neighbors tree roots eventually causing issues with it.  The septic tank is concrete, so there’s not going to be any root penetration there.  The tank is 1050 gallons, which is pretty standard for a house of this size.  If the house was smaller, it would likely be a 950 gal, and if bigger, or if a 1050 gal isn’t available at build time, sometimes a 1500 gal is installed.  The area of the tank is about the size of the MX-5.

He estimated that I could go a couple more years before needing any pump out service and shared a bunch of stories about people who have had critical situations with their systems.  We talked about enzymes and he pointed out the enzymes actually working in the tank right there.  They move and everything.  Fascinating and gross.  Before the days of Rid-X and active enzymes, he said the company’s founder used to throw roadkill into his tank to generate the bacteria for breaking down the waste.  Another customer who had a fresh pumpout christened her tank by throwing a whole supermarket chicken in the tank.

As far as enzyme treatments go, I guess they’re legit.  I never thought they were effective, but I’ve seen them in action now.  On top of my disbelief of their effectiveness, my understanding of their application was off as well.  It’s not a one-time application, or even a yearly thing.  You’re supposed to add them once a month.  And maybe my situation is different being alone in the house vs having 4-5-6 people in the house.

So, that was a good peace-of-mind expense to know I’m not going to have any shitty emergencies for a while.  As long as I don’t drain grease into the sink (guilty), flush wipes (nope), or use powdered detergent (nope), I should be plenty safe and the tank should outlive me.  Most likely, I’ll end up pumping it out as a pre-sale list item.

Wiring Project – Attempt 2

In the last post, I said I was going to go and fish that wire “tomorrow”, Sunday.  That didn’t happen.  It waited until Wednesday after work, when a rain shower was coming in.  It seemed like that would make it cool enough.

Step 1: Push the pole and camera and pull cord up the wall.  No big deal.  Step 2, dress up and gather everything I may want up there.  Jeans, long sleeve shirt, head covering, mouth covering, magnet tip for poles, kayak paddles, phone for camera and in case of emergency.  Wouldn’t that be fun.  Hi, 911?  I’m injured and in my attic.

Let’s go, then.

Up the attic with my supplies.  This is path I’ve taken enough to hate.  Ok, crawl under here.

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Then turn right and head to the end down there.

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Then turn left and go down there.  On your stomach.

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Don’t mind the broken and rotting beams.  We’ll see if that needs attention later.

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Once next to the vent, which is my guide point, I assembled the kayak paddle and sent it down to move the insulation.  Once I got working it, I discovered something terrible.  It wasn’t blown insulation stuffed down there.  It was a batt, kind of like a big solid pillow of fiberglass.  So it had to be moved as a whole unit.  And pushing it around at the end of a 7ft pole was not doing it.

I worked at the insulation for probably about 15 minutes, exhausting myself.  The best I could accomplish was compressing it down, but I still couldn’t see the tip of the pole coming up from below.  And if the tip of the pole is stuck in the batt, there’s no way any magnet is going to pull a tiny metal ring through that.

I left the kayak pole up there, and the extra fiberglass poles stayed up there, too.  If I never get back to this, the next homeowner is going to be mightily confused.

What’s the next option?  Well, to get more aggressive, the next thing I could attempt is pulling down the canister light near where I am working and try to reach in that way.  Maybe I can move the batt some from there?  The problem is, I don’t know how to remove the can lights.  Theoretically, I do, but I don’t know for sure how they are fastened up there.

Rest and regroup.  There’s no rush on this.

Wiring Project – Attempt 1

This weekend, all the tools have arrived and it’s time to go.  The fiberglass poles were broken out and I taped the endoscope to the tip and stuffed it up the wall.  To my surprise, at the top, I can see there are multiple holes available for running wires.  With some jostling, I am pretty sure I found myself looking into the attic.  Well, that was fucking easy.

I left the pole and camera in place and climbed into the attic.  Ok, this is not as fucking easy.  I could not see the pole sticking up from below, so that wasn’t promising.  I gave a quick inspection as to where I would need to go and it was not a cool trip.  Before I headed in blindly, I wanted to know how far I would have to go in, so I made a mental note of where the AC duct was and then I would find out where in relation to that duct the outlet was.

When I went back down, I found the AC duct was right in line with the outlet.  So that was an excellent marker for finding the pole.  As long as I was going up again, I figured I’d try snagging the pole.  I tied some pull cord to the head of the pole and shot it back up the wall and into the attic.

I headed back up and took with me a flat board to lay across the rafters so I could lie flat and worm my way forward, and I took a few sections of pole with a hook attachment on it to catch the pull cord and drag it to me.

Crawling on my stomach across beams was not a lot of fun.  When I made it near the AC duct marking my place, I was a little crestfallen.  There was mounds of insulation blocking any view down to the edge of the house.  You couldn’t see the pole, you couldn’t see anything.

I tried using the pole I brought up to spread the insulation around and clear a path, but the pole was too flexible.  While up there, I wracked my brain trying to think of what I could use to clear away that insulation.  I just didn’t have a pole long enough to get down there (and not flex like a noodle).

I came back down and stopped for the day to analyze the situation.  After some thought, I came up with a few ideas.  Fist, I could try the magnetic pole tip and try to catch a metal ring tied to the pull cord.  I might be able to do that without seeing anything.  Next, I could join all of my kayak paddle poles together and that might be long enough to reach down there and move the insulation out of the way.  A combination of the two ideas would be to put the Magnapull bullet on the end of the kayak poles to grab the ring, since it’s a much stronger magnet.  Finally, if I can clear the insulation enough, I could try dropping a chain with a pull cord down through the top, since I know there are holes available.  So, plenty of options available to me.  But this has to be done early in the morning before the sun comes up and turns the attic into an oven.  So, tomorrow…

So while waiting for the next day, I figured I could investigate the locations for two more runs.  Both are on the east wall of the house, with a plant shelf high up.  My plan was to see if there is a gap between the back wall of the shelf and the block exterior.

I hammered out the outlet box that had an existing coax cable in it and was immediately confused.  I was in the cinder block.  I began what I expected to do.  I start fishing the rod and camera up the wall between the drywall and block.  The realization came to me slowly.  The first clue was when I checked the routing of the coax cable.  It didn’t go straight up.  It went off to the left.

I took a step back and looked at the wall.

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It’s not that the shelf extends out from the block wall.  The shelf is the block wall – the top of it.  There is no way to go behind the shelf because the back wall of the shelf is literally outside the house.  Well, that explains the coax cable that ran into the outlet box from outside the block.  Prior to painting the house, I pulled that cable out and patched up the hole.

While this information is sort of a deal-breaker for running that cable, it comes at a very important time.  One item on my short list is to install a weather station on the house.  One of the plans I was considering was mounting a pole on that side of the house.  Had I gone ahead with that plan, I would have drilled lag bolts right into that area and they might have penetrated right into the interior of the living room or bedroom in the shelf area.

Ok, so two runs are completely off the list.  There’s no way I can navigate around the plant shelf.  That leaves two runs I can attempt.  The first continues tomorrow.

Wiring Project – Exploration

I made the decision to attempt this myself and ordered what tools I figured I’d need: An endoscope to see what I was doing before I actually did it.  A mega long drill bit to do it.  And fiberglass fishing poles to push the wire up and catch it in the attic.

The scope came first and I immediately attempted to get a look up in the wall.  While the camera is advertised as semi-rigid, and it is, it’s still not rigid enough to climb more than a couple feet without bending out of direction.  So I have to wait for the poles to come in so I have something firm to attach the camera to.

The next thing to come in was the drill bit.  And what an impressive piece of tool this is.

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Like the camera, I immediately tried stuffing it up the wall.  Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful getting the drill head up the wall.  I might have overestimated the amount of depth available to me between the sheetrock and cinder block.

As a sanity check, I flipped the drill over and fished the back end up.  Initially, i hit a snag right at the connection of the extension, making me think the extension couldn’t fit between the wall either.  I got out the endoscope and had a closer look.  No, there’s enough clearance.  I just determined the end of the bit was hitting a staple holding the former phone lines.  A bit of wiggling and the bit was free.  I pushed onward and upward.

Finally, I hit something solid.  Form the countless videos I’d watched, I learned to mark the bit to make sure you don’t drill too far and go through the roof.  So I taped the bit and pulled back out.  Measuring the bit showed I made it probably 4 inches past the ceiling.  What the hell?  I can’t take the chance of drilling if I don’t know exactly where the bit is, so I have to wait for the poles so I can run the scope up the wall and see exactly how far we go.

As it’s been told to me by two people, there should be a horizontal furring strip where the drywall is secured to at the ceiling.  The bit, as I’ve inserted it, is going past the ceiling.  Maybe I got super lucky and hit the hole where the phone lines came down.  If so, then with the scope, I should be able to find that hole again and no drill needed (for this run anyway)..

Wiring Project Continuance

It was a while ago I said some people were coming to run network wiring in places I could not get to.  Well, that day came and went.  They had other, more important work to do.  We rescheduled for Thursday.  Again, more work.  They said they’d let me know.

A week went by and I decided to just call an electrician to get a quote.  The tech came out and was looking at the places I wanted and was pretty blunt and direct: they will need to cut the drywall.  And they don’t do drywall repair.  So basically, we’re going to fuck up your walls and you’ll have to pay someone else to fix it.

I brought up the concept of using a flex bit to snake up the wall and drill into the header.  They said they don’t have that.  So anyway, they said they’d get me a quote in a couple of days.

Ironically, a few hours later I get a text from the cabling people.  Do you want it done tomorrow morning?  Well, I have an electrician who says they will definitely be cutting my walls and a guy who hasn’t said anything yet.  What do I have to lose?

So they came out the next morning and immediately went to work on one of the exterior walls.  They ran the fishing poles up the wall and one climbed into the attic to try and find the location.  After about an hour, they gave up.  Again, I asked about the flex drill bit.  They didn’t have one that long.  Only a 4ft bit.  Sigh.

So, they ended up doing the “easy” ones in the interior walls and had a look at the other locations and declined to try them.  I ended up paying them for 2 drops and they said they’d give me a contact for a security installer who might have more tools for getting in tight walls.

I go back online and look some stuff up.  Should I just fucking do this myself?  The pros don’t seem to be able to do it.  So then, I would need poles.  I would need a set to push up through the wall and a set to hook the wire once it’s poking up into the attic.  Maybe $30 for those.  Then I would need a flex bit.  Those run around $50. And probably an extension piece, too – $30.  So far, a little over a hundred bucks in tools.  My expectation for the electrician quote is $1k.  Plus I would have to hire someone to fix the drywall.  Turns out my expectation was damn spot on.  The quote came in at $1080 the next day.

So is this something I’m willing to attempt on my own?  To accomplish something two professionals won’t or can’t do, yet multiple videos online demonstrate how to do it successfully?  What’s the worst that can happen?  I have to call the professionals to fix it anyway.

Let’s do this.

Crafting Project – Rain Barrel

It’s not really a rain barrel.  Its purpose is not to store any water.  It’s supposed to be a decorative object to stop erosion and reduce dirt splatter on my house’s new paint job.  It’s more like a rain diffuser.

In the front of the house, there is no gutter (yet).  So the heavy rain will roll off the roof and beat down right in front of the house and ever since the early days when I removed the shrubs along the front of the house, I have had to deal with erosion and splatter.  Right now, there is a line of rock where the water lands, that was the original bed of the shrubs.  In the corner of two roof sections, there is an especially heavy torrent of water that has exposed a lot more stone.  That is where I plan to put the barrel.

I can’t put a large planter with a plant in it because the plant and soil would just be washed out, so it’s going to be planter filled with rocks to diffuse the downpour.  It won’t be completely filled because that would be way too heavy, too expensive, and somewhat pointless.  There will be a fake floor a portion of the way up and the stones will go there to near the top.

This idea came to me when I was researching those flexible gutter downspout extenders. I need a couple for the two downspouts I have that are seriously eroding the area where they exit.  After I had barrel idea, I immediately researched tall planters.  Well, shit.  36″ planters are not cheap.  And I’m not interested in spending $300 on an idea that I may scrap soon, and will scrap once I get gutters installed (after the roofing project).

As it happens, I have some very large planters from a long time ago that were samples from a manufacturer.  I’ve never found a real use for them.  They are extremely durable, but unfortunately, they are the wrong color.  So, maybe I can paint one?  I considered buying some exterior paint from the store in a grey shade, but then I remembered:  I had just thrown away a quart sampler of the other color option for the house – the lighter shade of blue.  Well, I can’t argue with free, and it’s Sherwin Williams, so it’s a good quality paint.  And it’s in the color tone of the house, to boot.  Not exact, just one shade lighter.  That’s supposed to be how you coordinate, right?

As far as a timeline, it was supposed to rain today.  It’s not going to.  The next prediction is next Tuesday, so I have 4 days to complete this.  Not a problem.

I started by cleaning up the planter and leaving it outside to dry before the painting.

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First coat went on easily enough.

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While it dried, I gave some consideration as to what I would use as the floor.  The best option I came up with was a 5-gallon bucket lid.  It would be sturdy and would sit low enough that a layer of rocks wouldn’t be at the top or over the top.  Even with the rocks in there, it’s going to splash, so trying to keep the water in the container would be a good thing.  I picked up a lid at Lowes.  The cashier said they just changed suppliers for these lids and the UPC had to be keyed in instead of scanned.  The only thing I noticed was the lid was damn flimsy now.

After the second coat dried, I took it to its designated location.  It was… ok.  The erosion on the ground indicated something was a little off about my plan.  During normal rain, the water would fall straight down and would wear away at the ground in one place.  During heavy rains, though, the water would shoot out further and wear away a different location.  One container wouldn’t cover both areas.  Well, I do have another, larger version of the planter that’s not being used either…

Of course, this now takes the project to a whole new level.  Painting the second container is nothing.  I need something to make a floor in this massive container.  I need about a 14″ disc.  I find one on Ebay of 1/8″ plexiglass for $25 including shipping.  That’s part one. 

But I also need drainage holes in the disc.  Drilling plexiglass usually ends up in cracking, so I get some education from YouTube.  Ok.  My options are to buy a special plexiglass drill bit or use a step drill bit.  And while drilling, use the slowest speed possible, lubricate the bit with dish soap, and drill through the plexiglass into a wood block.  Lowe’s and Home Depot don’t carry the plexiglass bits.  I can get one on amazon for $10, or I can get a step bit from Harbor Freight for $7.  I will probably have more use for a step bit in future projects, so there’s my answer.

Still though, this project cost just went up by almost $35.  Let’s get the big container painted (that’s still free and it currently looks like shit anyway) and we’ll leave the other stuff on hold until I think I’m going to like what I already have for cheap.  If the little one doesn’t work out, the big one will just be a bigger disappointment.

Now – filling the thing.  I bought a bag of river rock for about $4. I have no idea how much I’ll need, but I don’t want a lot, because that will collapse the floor.  It just needs to be a solid layer on top.  For support, I can cut up a piece of PVC pipe and stick it under the floor, but I’m not sure that will be needed yet.

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Situated out front, it’s a little out of place all by itself.  I’ll have to figure out something else to liven up that area.

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