Category Archives: Homeownership

All the wacky and annoying things that come from owning your own home.

The case of the growing refrigerator

When we moved into our house it came with an “old style” top freezer refrigerator.  We had a side-by-side that we brought with us that was much more modern, and had a built in icemaker and water dispenser, henceforth known as the “good” fridge.  Unfortunately, there was no water line to where the refrigerator is in the kitchen and no easy way to run one there, as the kitchen is slab on grade concrete and the basement is on the opposite side of the kitchen from the fridge.  So we kept the fridge that came with the house in the kitchen and put the “good” fridge in the basement where we could hook up the icemaker.

Since we were going to be replacing the nasty carpet in the kitchen with a new snap-lock laminate floor, I found a way that I could run the water line to where it needed to go and bring the “good” fridge upstairs.  We measured, twice, three times before we put the floor in to make sure it would fit and it would be worth buying the plumbing supplies needed to run the water line.  The good fridge was a little bigger than the bad one, but it looked like it would fit.  So I bought the stuff from the very helpful plumbing department guy at Home Depot, and then bought the correct tubing from a plumbing supply store because the helpful plumbing department guy at Home Depot sold me the tubing that explicitly says not to use for an icemaker.

The floor was in, the tubing was snaked through all the places it had to be snaked through, now it was time to bring the good fridge upstairs.  Luckily, my Dad volunteered for the job and was able to bring an appliance dolly with him – the good kind with treads on the upright part so that it goes us stairs relatively easy.  Of course, we knew that the good fridge wouldn’t fit through the door frames without removing the doors, so we cleaned the fridge out, unplugged it, turned the water off, disconnected the water line, removed the doors (which of course involves disconnecting some electrical components and decoupling the water line that runs into the door) and loaded it up on the appliance dolly.  Up the stairs, one at a time, we lugged the fridge, turned the corner into the kitchen, got it into position leaving just enough room to get behind it and hook it all up.  We have to put the freezer side door back on and hook up the water line and the electronics to test it, so we do, then I climb behind the fridge, hook up the new water line, and now need to make sure that it’s not leaking, because a leaking water line would be really really bad on our new snap lock laminate floor, which while I sealed the perimeter gap with silicone, could still go undetected for quite some time, seep into the floor panels, and ruin them completely.  So…  moment of truth…  turn the water back on and….  nothing happens.  We’re trying to use the water dispenser and no water is flowing.  We keep the valve open for a couple minutes, thinking the water just needs a bit of time to snake through the 30 or 40 feet of hose, but still no go.  So into the basement I go to check the valve, which of course turns out not to be open all the way.  Open it, and then back upstairs to watch the water.  This time, it’s made it almost to the fridge, but seems kind of stuck in the last 5′ of tubing.  At a loss for what to do, I loosen the fitting on the back of the fridge thinking maybe we need to bleed the line a bit, which moves the water the rest of the way there, but still nothing coming out of the dispenser.  After a few minutes of swearing creative thinking I remember that the water automatically shuts off when the refrigerator door is open, and we hadn’t bothered to put it back on yet.  I key the fridge door switch and immediately the water starts flowing.  Huzzah!  Check for leaks…  and….  none!  We are in the clear!  We put the refrigerator door on, carefully bundle up the water line so it doesn’t get kinked or run over while we push the fridge into place, and… wait a minute…  how can this be?  It doesn’t fit under the cabinet and into it’s designated home!  But…  we measured!!  Three of us measured it!  Except that we measured it before we put the new floor in, which happened to be a little bit higher than the old carpet and was now obstructing us a whole… 1/8″.

Now, we have a dilemma.  Do we admit defeat and say it can’t be done?  That this refrigerator just doesn’t fit into this kitchen?  No!  Fuck this cabinet, we say!  Let’s rip the damn thing out and reinstall it an inch higher!  So…  out comes the ladder and the pry bar and the power tools and we rip the molding off, and we unscrew that cabinet, and now we have all the height our hearts desire!  So…  we push the fridge ever so gently into place.  Check the water…  still working!  Open the refrigerator side door – lights are on, temperature is dropping!  Open the freezer side door…  except it gets stuck about a third of the way open.  Huh?  Check to see what it’s binding on…  and it’s…  the wall.  The good fridge fit width wise into the space, but it was so tight that there wasn’t enough room for the freezer door to open since it was on the wall side of the space in the cabinets.  We pull the fridge out enough for it to allow the freezer door to open, but it’s too far out into the room and gets in the way of walking into the room.  Our only option now is to move an entire row of cabinets, which even we weren’t stupid enough to attempt.  We were defeated.

Pull the fridge back out.  Unplug.   Turn the water off.  Disconnect the water line.  Unscrew the doors, unhooking the electronics and the water line into the door.  Hook it back up to the dolly, lug it back down the stairs.  Move old fridge back into it’s place, which it’s now enjoying the new skylight view since the cabinet that lived above it has been ripped out.  Hook the water line back up to the good fridge in the basement, plug it back in (this actually involved a comical side project to replace a single gang box with a double gang box that involved the stripping of multiple screws, but we’re already over 1100 words here), test the water, and surrender for the night.  You win this round, house.  Well played.

New driveway installed!

Today I bring to an end a three year springtime tradition of shoveling half my driveway from the ditch across the street [where it gets plowed to] back to where it’s supposed to be.   Yes, today we finally had a blacktop driveway put in.   Here are the before and after shots:

How hot does my attic get, part 2

So a little less than a year ago, I took some temperature measurements in my attic to see if the installation of a ridge vent would cool it off any.

Here’s last years (pre-ridge vent) numbers:
Attic:113.2°F Outside Max:85°F
Attic:95.5°F Outside Max:70°F
Attic:106.5°F Outside Max: 75°F

Here’s the new (post-ridge vent) numbers:
Attic:100.9°F Outside Max:80°F
Attic: 108.0°F Outside Max: 80°F
Attic: 113.5°F Outside Max: 85°F
Attic: 111.7°F Outside Max: 85°F
Attic: 114.4°F Outside Max: 90°F

So, to my surprise, it doesn’t seem to have helped much with the maximum temperature, but I didn’t measure the time it takes to cool down once the sun is off it, which I suspect might be faster. In any way, it’s never a bad thing to have more ventilation in your attic.

I love my fireplace

Time to venture away from the politics for a moment and talk about something completely different – fireplaces. Our house came equipped with a wood burning fireplace, and I absolutely love it. What’s better than a roaring fire tempering a cold morning, or a soft romantic glow in the evening? I often sit entranced just staring at how the flames curl around the edges of the logs, blue-green at the base and gradating to the orange-yellow licks that evaporate into the air.

Our last house had a fireplace with a gas insert in it. It was functional and heated very well, but offered none of the zen-like qualities of a real fire. The main advantage of the insert was that there was no work involved in getting a fire going, and no maintenance except for cleaning the glass once a year. This was good because it was in a room that was always very cold. You’d walk into it, flip the switch on the fireplace, and within 15 minutes you’d be in Florida.

Our current house has hot water baseboard heat (which I also love!) and the added bonus of a HydroHearth system that allows you to route the water flow through the fireplace, allowing you to capture what otherwise is a lot of wasted heat that goes up the chimney and effectively use it to heat the entire house. It works great, especially at this time of year when you really don’t want to fire up the furnace, or boiler in my case. I just build a decent sized fire, and within half an hour you can feel heat radiating from the baseboard registers.

Sure, you have to buy and stack some firewood, but at about $0.11-$0.12 a piece, you’re only spending about $1 on mornings like this to get the chill out of the air. I purchased three face cords last fall and ended up only burning about a third of that. We actually use the fireplace more at this time of year that during the winter months, when the heat is on regularly. So for about $70/year, you have ambiance and heat. Awesome.

Some people complain that wood fireplaces are dirty, but cleaning out the ashes in our fireplace is relatively easy. There’s a trap door in the center that we open up, shove the ashes into, and they fall into the base of the chimney where they can be vacuumed out from the outside. We don’t do that ourselves, as it requires a vacuum with a very fine dust filter. We have the fireplace/chimney cleaned and inspected every other year.

Having had both a gas fireplace insert and a real fireplace, I’m sticking with the real fireplace. The atmosphere can’t be beat, and it’s really not as much work as some people think. The dancing flames and the smell of a nice hardwood burning, just can’t be replicated with gas. Even Frosty thinks so.

Frosty likes it!
Frosty likes it!

Why I’ll never be a pirate

A week ago I decided it would be a good idea to get my septic tank pumped. We’ve been in the house a year, and it had been about two years before that since the previous owner had it pumped. With winter and the baby on the way, it seemed like it might be a good idea to prevent any possible issues when it would be most inconvenient to fix them.

The previous owner gave me the name of the company that had always serviced the tank, and fairly good instructions as to where the cap was located. “Twelve feet off the back of the house where the downspout comes down.” See, the septic tank cap is buried, so this piece of information is key – like a treasure map. So I called the septic company, he told me I was looking for about a 20″x20″ cap, about 1′ down.

I used the weekend to finish remodeling our downstairs bathroom (another story entirely), figuring I had until Friday to dig out the cap. How hard could it be when I knew exactly where it was?

Monday night I got out my tape measure, marked out 12′ from the downspout, and started digging. Eighteen inches down and about three feet around later I was still digging up nothing but dirt. So I moved over a bit and dug some more. Then a little more. “Maybe he meant the upper downspout,” I thought. More digging. Nothing. Daylight is at a premium these days, so after a couple hours, I hauled my tools back to the shed under the spotlights.

Tuesday I got smarter. I found a thin metal rod and a mallet and started driving the rod into the ground about every 12″. If I hit something before the rod went down 18″, I tried to establish a pattern around it to make sure it was more than a rock. To my amazement, there were an awful lot of large rocks between twelve and eighteen inches below the surface. There aren’t anymore because I dug them all out. End of day two.

Wednesday I decided to go back to my original starting point and hammer the rod down further. I hit another promising solid surface so I continued excavating. After some time, I had uncovered a 1′ equilateral triangle of concrete slab that I couldn’t tell if it was the cap, the tank, or a random hunk of concrete dumped in the fill. Exhausted, I packed it in for the night.

Thursday morning I called the septic company and explained my dilemma. They said they would send someone out to try and locate the cap and mark it for me. Fantastic! I called for reinforcements (my Dad) because after three days of digging, I wasn’t sure how much more I had left in me. When I got home, they hadn’t shown up. All I had was my triangle of hope, so I started clearing out more dirt. Just as my Dad was pulling into the driveway, I had uncovered a curve set inside the edge of the concrete slab which could only mean the [stuff that comes out of your] booty was below. The two of us made short work of the remaining dirt and uncovered the cap.

In fact, the cap was not 12′ from the back of the house, it was more like 14′. It was not 20″x20″, it was 25″ and round. And it certainly was not 1′ below the ground, it was closer to 2′. But, as they say, shit happens.

After the pumping? GPS mapped coordinates for the exact location of the cover and a big ass stone slab will be embedded into the ground directly about it. I’ve had enough hunting for buried treasure.