Home Improvement

  • Home Improvement

    Lutron Maestro Dimmer 3-way Crossed Wires

    If you are having trouble with the Lutron Maestro dimmer in a 3-way application, check that the two load wires (one on Brass and the other on Blue) are not crossed over.

    The LED on the master unit will not light but the load wire will be energized when the FASS is pushed in. That means the Hot wire is connected correctly to the Black screw on the master switch but the electricity is not flowing to the Load on the Black screw on the companion switch, thus there is no path to Neutral.

    The LED on the master unit will not light without a path from Hot to Neutral when you cross Brass to Blue/Blue to Brass. With a voltage tester, you’ll quickly find that the wire on the Blue screw on the companion unit is energized.

  • Home Improvement

    Product Review: GE Groov Caulk

    GE Groov Exterior CaulkAt the end of 2011, I tweeted and wrote about GE’s then new Groov caulk and how a rep at Momentive sent us a handful of tubes for T&E. By that time, all the caulking was done for the summer and I said we’d wait until it warmed up. Well, Summer 2012 has come and gone, and so has 2013. Looking back, I see that we have totally forgot to write a review for this product. So, better late than never – here goes.

    General Electric’s Groov interior/exterior caulk touts the long lasting benefits of silicone and the paintability of acrylic caulk in an all-in-one product. For most of my readers who might not have had the experience with both kinds of products; simply put, silicone caulk is the shiny caulk you use around places that get wet (kitchen/bath) and acrylic caulk is the matte caulk you use around baseboards and wood moulding you intend to paint later. So if you had a seam you needed to caulk but want to paint later in the kitchen around a wet area… you need a hybrid caulk like Groov.

  • Home Improvement

    Discontinued Westinghouse Circuit Breaker ca. 1994

    WestinghousePanelIf you’re lazy, jump to paragraph 6…

    The day before Independence Day (July 3rd for you non-celebrating Americans), the Northwest suburbs were hit with a major downpour. Rivers and lakes flooded and when that happens, basements flood.

    At this particular house, the sump pump continued pumping water out of the basement, but the clay under the foundation was filling up  with water faster than the 1/3 hp Zoeller could manage. So, water started seeping in through the cold joints (joint between the foundation wall and floor) and some hairline cracks in the floor.

    Fortunately, I was there on a separate repair job and noticed the water coming through. We were able to move out the cardboard boxes and fabric products up to the garage before any major damage was done.

    Because a single sump pump was inadequate to pump out enough water, I decided to have a backup pump and a backup battery installed. Backup pumps can throw water out of the basement five times faster than a regular pump (if only for occasional use).

    [READ FROM HERE] To install the backup battery system, I had to add an outlet next to the existing main sump pump outlet. Easy, just go get some conduit and 12 ga. THHN, and a circuit breaker… made by Westinghouse?

    If you’ve worked with a circuit panel in the 90’s, you may remember the red and blue circuit breakers (pictured). The breakers may have been marked “BRYANT” back in the 80’s. Well, I did some research and found out that Bryant was bought out by Westinghouse, and then Westinghouse’s electrical parts went to Cutler Hammer. And most recently, Cutler Hammer has been bought by Eaton. So, if you’re looking for the red and blue circuit breakers at your local Home Depot, you won’t find it.

    Do not dispair. Eaton’s got that covered with their “BR” series circuit breakers. “BR” for the original “BRyant” name. Although they’re not color coded anymore, the BR series Eaton breakers are the direct descendants of the original and work fine in a Westinghouse panel. I’m guessing color coding the switches didn’t make much sense for compliance (there must be color blind electricians, right?) and electricians work in low/no-light situations anyways.

    So after finding this out, I gathered all the necessary parts including an Eaton BR circuit breaker, installation went smoothly. It went especially smoothly with Klein Tools Premium Synthetic Clear Lubricant. Pulling 50 ft. of two 12 ga. solid wire through 1/2 in. EMT conduit was a breeze… albeit a wet breeze.

    With a new circuit installed, the battery backup system is working off of an independent circuit and outlet from the main pump. I hope we’d never have to rely on the backup to be actually pumping water out of the pit.

  • Home Improvement

    How to: Replacing a Tub Drain Strainer

    I was recently called to a rental property to see if I could find a stopper that would fit a tub drain. Apparently, a previous tenant had removed the pull-twist stopper and has misplaced it. Unfortunately, this manufacturer was no longer selling their parts around my area, so it was not economical to get the same stopper. But to install a new stopper, I had to remove the old center post from the drain strainer. The bad news was, that the center post was riveted to the strainer and would not come out. My only choice was to remove the whole strainer from the tub, but with the center post in the way, no drain wrench would fit. So I had to chisel out the strainer  – and decided that it might be fun to make a how-to video at the same time.

    Necessary Tools:

    • Hack saw (electrical recommended)
    • Cold chisel (3/4″ wide or similar)
    • Hammer
    • Pliers with long handle or needle nose
    • New tub drain strainer and stopper
    • Eyes & Ear protection
    1. Make a notch about 1/4″ deep into the inside edge of the strainer.
    2. Place chisel at an angle into the notch.
    3. Hammer chisel to turn strainer counter clock wise.
    4. After loosening, use pliers as handle to turn strainer.
    5. Remove strainer.
    6. Clean drain area.
    7. Apply new bead of plumber’s putty.
    8. Insert new strainer.
    9. Use drain wrench to tighten strainer onto tub.
    10. Attach new stopper to strainer.
    11. Check for water tightness.

    If you feel at all uncomfortable with any of these steps, please have a professional do it for you.

  • Home Improvement

    The IKEA-Hacker v.s. Effektiv Office Furniture

    So, a month ago, I went to my not-so-local IKEA to get some file cabinets. When I asked a sales person for assistance in building a custom order, he frowned and told me that IKEA is making some changes to their popular line of Effektiv office furnitures and that what I buy today may not fit the components coming out later in the year.

    That was not a problem for me. Because I did not intend to use these file cabinets as the designers at IKEA intended them to be used. See, I am an IKEA-hacker. I buy components from IKEA and build semi-custom furnitures. So I told the sales person that the redesign was not a problem and I welcome a challenge (well, I didn’t really say the second part).

    So we went through the order sheets and picked out the components to build four roll front file cabinets. But instead of making file cabinets out of them, I pocket joined them to each other to make a built-in closet wardrobe with roll front doors.

    I built a base and frame out of two-by-fours and attached them to the walls like regular cabinets. I drywalled the facade and caulked the seams (of course using GE’s Groov caulk). Papered all the inside corners, mudded and skim coated, primed, and finally painted it all to match the existing wall. The hardest part was lifting the damn thing into the space. The space between the left and right walls were narrower at the front than it was at the back. I thought I had a whole inch of clearance when there was only a 1/4 of an inch for my fingers. Thankfully, I remembered my “Simple Machines” from elementary school science, and used an inclined plane to push the cabinets into place.

    This might have been the most broad skill set I had to use on a project as a carpenter, woodworker, drywaller, and painter. I had planned three days for the project (to include drying time) but unfortunately, I fell ill and had to take a couple days off. But I came around and finished the job before a week had passed.

    At the end, the project cost was about $450 for materials and 16 actual hours of work. I can see how it would cost a few thousand dollars to have custom closet systems installed. Good thing I didn’t charge by the hour on this project.