Home Improvement

  • 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.

  • Home Improvement

    Sump pump replacement

    Friday night, I was getting ready for bed, turning off the lights on the first floor when I noticed a humming sound. I thought it was the bathroom fan by the stairs, so I peeped my head into the powder room. Nope, not the fan. It was coming from the floor. So I went down into the basement and followed the noise to the source. It was the basement sump pump working non-stop.

    This Zoeller pump was installed four years ago and had already failed a few months ago when the float switch seized and the pump would not stop. At that time, I attached a secondary float switch with a piggy-back outlet so that the pump would only get power when the secondary float switch was activated. Unfortunately, something went wrong with that arrangement and the piggy-back outlet would not shut off any more.

    At this point, I could have called a plumber, handy-man, or whatever, but didn’t – because I knew that I could fix it myself.

    The next day, I went out to the local home improvement store and bought a 1/3 hp. submersible sump pump, a few feet of PVC pipe (1 1/2″ sch. 40), a threaded adapter, and a coupler. I already had PVC adhesive and Teflon tape from my other projects.

    First, I built the PVC run from the pump. Then, I unplugged the piggy back switch and plugged the old pump back into the electrical outlet. This pumped out all the water from the sump pit to give me enough time to work before it filled up again. Then I cut the PVC pipe a feet or so under the check valve, removed the old pump. After cleaning out some larger debris from the pit, I placed the new pump in there. I measured and cut the PVC run from the pump to match the remaining PVC pipe under the check valve.  I then removed the remaining PVC pipe under the check valve and stood back as I inserted a screw driver into the valve to check the check valve. A big splash of water told me it was working. I added the PVC pipe to the run from the pump using the PVC adhesive and the coupler, tightened the compression ring around the bottom of the check valve, and finally plugged the new pump into the wall.

    To test, I dumped about two gallons of water into the pit. The float rose, the switch turned on, the pump sucked the water out, and stopped after a few seconds. No leaks, no sputter, perfect.

    The replacement process was so un-eventful that I really feel that I should put in Unicorns and Vampires somewhere in this blog entry.

  • Home Improvement

    Waiting for a Groov

    GE Groov Exterior CaulkA month ago, I tweeted about GE Groov caulk. The tubes I bought at the local Home Depot had been sitting on the shelf too long and were very hard – like sucking cookie dough through one of those thin red cocktail straws. I was then contacted by a rep from Momentive Performance Materials, the GE partner that makes the caulk. We got some e-mails going back and forth and he offered to send me some samples.

    Great, I thought. I sent him my office address.

    A week or so later, I get an e-mail from him saying that FedEx returned his package. FedEx has had problems with delivering to our building. With the economy in the tank, and “For Sale” signs all over the place, the FedEx drivers assume that our building is empty. No, it just has high security. Well, it also didn’t help that we’re all out on the sites and one day our office personnel had a doctor’s appointment.

    This happened twice, so I gave him my super-intendant’s address. Super-intendant, as in construction site manager, NOT the guy that changes lightbulbs in the condo hallway. We have yet to receive any sample.

    Now, I’m not begging or angry that I didn’t get FREE stuff. It’s free and it’s up to the rep to send it. I was actually quite impressed with how this person tracked me down on Twitter and found a valid e-mail address for me. He tried twice to send me the samples afterall. Damn you FedEx.

    So, summer is over and I finished all the caulking needs (went through 16 tubes) with something else. Too bad, because I really wanted to try this product. It would have been so awesome to have a non-glossy finish that held up like silicone.

    *** UPDATE ***

    We’ve received the samples this week and will be trying it out in the coming months – the shelf life is really short on these tubes.

  • Home Improvement

    Milwaukee M12 Compact Hackzall

    Did you ever find yourself peeking through a hole in the drywall and thinking, “Only if I could reach in there and cut that pipe…”? But you’re looking at your reciprocating saw and thinking, “How the heck am I going to fit this tool in there AND hold it with one hand”? Well, you could invest some time in a small hand saw…

    OR you could invest some dough in Milwaukee’s M12 power tools. The original maker of the Hackzall has a compact version, small enough to fit through a 6 inch hole and short enough to fit between studs. You won’t want to use this thing one handed all-day-long, but it’s great when occasional single-handed use is called for.

    Note: Full kit comes with gigantic case.

  • Home Improvement

    Milwaukee M12 Right Angle Drill

    The Milwaukee 2415-21 M12 12-Volt 3/8-Inch Cordless Right Angle Drill/Driver Kit and the 6-Piece Universal Quik-Lok Stubby Flat Boring Bit Set is a match made in tool heaven.

    If you’ve tried out Milwaukee’s M12 tools at all, you know how much power and torque they pack in such a slim package.

    The Right Angle Drill is no different. With a LED light to aid your sighting and a large paddle trigger, you won’t have to contort yourself into a pretzel, trying to squeeze a drill into a corner stud. Compact right angle drills are a MUST for renovation and retrofits.

    The short length of the Stubby bits are a perfect solution for getting into the tightest spots, which probably is why you are using the Right Angle Drill in the first place. The 6 piece set comes with an extender attachment so that you could even use the bits at a conventional length.