Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nothing is getting done!

Every 'now and again' Dawn and I get that feeling that those small maintenance type sub-projects are not being attended to - by me, of course. She says, "Nothing's getting done!" while I say, "I'm completely overwhelmed!" It seems as though these minor repairs are coming at me from every direction and I can't keep up. The latest nuisance occurs while she's been at the kitchen sink that's missing the faucet aerator screen - keeping the water flowing in the down direction. I always thought those things were to keep rocks out of your Iced Tea. Well, they do that AND keep the Dish Washer (for this example - that would be my wife) from getting a bath! Why the faucet is missing in the first place is a whole other boring and completely pointless story that makes sense only to me – so, we’ll skip that part.

Cleaning or replacing the aerator is very easy and you should be able to do it without any tools. I know I won't need any tools because the aerators missing - I'm halfway done - all I need is the aerator! Ah ha! There's the problem - getting to the hardware store. I have this thing about running out each and every time I need something. Dawn thinks I just don’t like “running errands” – to me, it’s a huge waste of time. If I’m going out to get something, I need to make at least three stops to feel efficient – that’s another boring and completely pointless story that makes sense only to me – so, we’ll skip that too.

Let’s get onto the repair. First of all, close the drain with a dish cloth so you don't lose any parts, this way I won’t have to explain how to take the P-trap apart. You don't need to turn off the water supply for this repair. The aerator is the assembly and screen water passes through as it leaves the spout. This part at the tip of the spout unscrews in a clockwise direction. Righty tighty, lefty loosey (I hate saying that) does not apply because you’re looking at the top of the faucet and you’re unscrewing away from you. Usually, when you unscrew something, it backs out toward you. This would only apply if you miniaturized yourself and were in the sink looking up at the aerator.

Dry both the spout and your hands before trying to remove it with your fingers. If it is too tight, then you are going to need to use an adjustable wrench. Caution here - before using the pliers on the faucet, wrap several loops of electrical tape or a rubber band around the aerator. If you squeeze the aerator too much you could bend it out of round and if you don’t squeeze enough, the pliers could slip and scratch the finish. Be careful.
Once you remove the aerator you will notice one or more parts contained within. Note the order and orientation of the parts as you remove them so they go back the same way – yes, it matters! As you take them out you will probably find grit and rust. Rinse the pieces with water and brush off the debris. For difficult to remove deposits, soak the parts in white vinegar for a few minutes and scrub with a toothbrush. If any parts are cracked or broken, replace them. If the washer has hardened, it should be replaced. The whole contraption costs less than $5 – treat yourself!
With the debris cleaned out, reassemble the aerator and screw it back onto the faucet. Hand tightening should be adequate and it will if you use Teflon tape. If you don’t already, I strongly recommend having a roll Teflon tape in your tool box. This stuff will stop any leak on anything with a thread. The trick is to wrap the tape in the direction that you’ll be screwing back onto and use very little otherwise catching the threads will be difficult.
That's it, done.

So, here I am on the train Monday morning, thinking about how much work I had planned to accomplish around the house this weekend and how she’s right – nothing is getting done! Okay, so there were two soccer games and a dance rehearsal, soccer cleats that had to be returned because I bought 2 different size shoes – it seems like when I try to help, I cause more work in the long run - a backyard party, shopping for a gift for the backyard party, 9 holes of golf with my sons – which is the most important thing I did all weekend and dinner at Mom’s Sunday night – the culinary highlight of the week. Actually, it’s amazing I did all that and had time to fix the sink!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bench Seat

We had a major problem. Four school children with backpacks, lunch bags and coats all piled up by the back door. Add to this mess everyone else's shoes, flip flops, and my size elevens made that the disaster area. Oh yeah, at the first sign of snow it was the desperate search for hats, gloves and scarfs.

I had to do something, but the space was extremely limited. As you walk through our back door, there is a six foot wide pantry to your left. Then comes the laundry room where Dawn usually throws everything into and shuts the door before company arrives with explicit directions to NOT open this door. To the right is the garage door and then two side by side closets that were used by the previous owner as a broom closet and kitchen storage. Not much room, but this was our main entrance, being right off the driveway.

I saw this picture in a magazine that I really liked and thought it would solve our problem. It was a simple bench seat that would store shoes below and a shelf unit with hooks for coats and bags and storage above. Only problem, I had no space by the back door to put this. The two side by side closets became very inefficient after I had central air conditioning installed. The air ducts occupied much of those closets. I decided to lose both closets altogether and set back the wall which created an alcove that I would build a bench seat and have storage above for winter wear.

We were very pleased with the final product. I backed up the beadboard with 1/2" plywood so the hardware, Dawn found at Lowes, would be strong enough to handle the weight of the loaded backpacks. I found the four baskets AFTER I built the shelf - not too bright. The neat part is the finish - of course, not my idea. After the paint job, I would have been done - admiring my work with a beer in one hand while patting myself on the back with the other. Dawn stopped me on the way to the fridge. "Now, it needs to be antiqued." That's when you make something brand new, look old! I would have never thought of this. I always tried to keep old things looking new! Anyway, it doesn't matter what I think. Before I knew it I was rubbing sandpaper on my brand new paint job, then came the stain and then a couple of coats of varnish. I think she wanted me to put on three coats but had mercy.

Be sure to check out more DIY projects over at Kimba's! Click on the graphic below.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Getting Away

At about 5pm last Monday, I’m preparing to leave the office for a few days away with the family, before the kids go back to school. I had booked a couple of days in Hershey, PA. I love Hershey Park - very family oriented, reasonably priced and not too far of a drive – about 4 hours. Well, my office phone rings and I see from the caller ID that it’s my wife. She probably wants to know what train I’ll be on, obviously excited about taking the kids away - I was only half right. Yes, it was Dawn but she was upset because of the car. On her way home, just about every light on the dash was lit. She thought we would have to postpone the trip a day or two. I booked the hotel a month ago. It was very unlikely we would be able to find another room for the 6 of us at the last minute. “Not an option, I told her – we’re going!” Extremely upset, she demands -“You need to call Eddie, right now - see what he says!” I very calmly replied, “No, Eddie will not be able to tell us anything about the problem just by dashboard warning lights. I’ll take a look at it when I get home.” You see, Eddie is our local car mechanic. I told Dawn I’d take it to him first thing in the morning.
I must mention something very important here. As much as I know about house construction, repairs and remodeling, I know absolutely nothing about cars. Not that I haven’t tried, you see automobiles require a whole different set of tools and knowledge – of which I never acquired. My only memory of my father working under the hood of our family wagon was when the light he was using to see fell and broke on the engine requiring him to pick broken glass out of the carburetor with needle-nose pliers. I’m not laughing because I’m no better. My automotive expertise is limited to changing the engine oil and I don’t even do that anymore. I decided to hang up my oil wrench after a single drop of motor oil flew from the oil can landing in my eye as I spun it onto the underside of the engine. I was wearing contact lenses which are plastic and plastic is a petroleum based product. Well, when oil and plastic are combined, the plastic kind of melts – right on my eye!
So, back to our trip. When I finally arrived home, I could see the vehicle information book was out of the glove compartment and open on the kitchen table. “We have no ‘Stabil-i-Trac’. The book says not to drive the car – it’s not safe – what’s ‘Stabil-i-Trac?” I don’t know what it is and I really don’t care. What I do know is that I’ve been driving vehicles for over 30 years without it and it was not going to keep me from taking the kids to Hershey Park!
The next morning I got to the gas station where Eddie hooked up a small computer to the car. One of the seven computers in the car was not communicating with the other computers. That would make all the dashboard lights come on. Eddie thought it would be safe to drive to Hershey. That was all I wanted to hear. I got home and told Dawn what Eddie said which only seemed to slightly appease her. Then, the questions – “Does he know we’re going to Hershey?” “Yes.” “He said it’s OK?” “Yes.” “…to go all the way to Hershey?” “Yes.” She usually runs out of ways to ask the same question. The trick is not to answer any differently – she would have made a great trial attorney!
The car is loaded with bags, kids and a bottle of wine (that’s for me if we break down half way there!) and we’re off. We didn’t get out of our development before Dawn started telling me how nervous all the lights on the dash was making her. So, I took a piece of paper and covered the instrument panel. But not before she could see the Brake lights were on as well. “Now, the brakes!?! Are we going to lose the brakes?” “No.” “Are you sure? How do you know?” “Because the brakes are not computer operated.” “Did Eddie see the brake light?” “Yes.” “He did?” “Yes.” “What did he say?” “Nothing, it’s not a problem.” “How do you know? I’m very nervous about this.” At this point I stated that I would no longer discuss anything else about the car.
Everything was going along fine. After about an hour, we were approaching the Whitestone Bridge that will take us off Long Island and into the Bronx and I realized the air conditioning is not working. Now, I’m getting nervous, what next? Reluctantly, I told Dawn. Prepared for her shock, I said, “We’re turning around to go back and get the mini-van.” To which she replies, “I’m not comfortable with the van either.” At this point I believe I said something about leaving her in Queens, but I decided instead to open the windows and attempt crossing the bridge. You see, I’m not as scared to break down on a very busy, major New York bridge with 4 kids and no shoulder as I am to hear Dawn say “I told you so.” for the rest of my life.
Yes, we made it to Hershey and back. The kids had a great time – we all did. So, this morning, as I’m telling my boss about the trip and why I was late due to dropping the car at the dealer, Dawn calls me from our driveway – “I can’t get the van out of park!” What can I say; she just keeps giving me great material!

Monday, September 1, 2008

We need a fence

Last week, I received one of my wife’s frantic phone calls. She tends to call me in the middle of a tragedy at home. I think she does it just so I don’t feel left out.
“We need a fence!” I know this doesn’t seem like something to get excited over, but I know my wife - something must have happened. “Chickie2 was chasing a ball, tripped over a stump and fell in the neighbors driveway!” Normally, this would be no big deal. Chickie2 (our 10 year old) has been tripping and falling and running into things since he was able to stand on his feet - Chickie2 doesn’t know how walk. So, how did this particular fall become my fault? Most things are my fault, some are just easier to point back in my direction. You see, we’ve discussed installing a fence before. The kids are constantly chasing a ball, through the hemlocks bordering our property, into the road. I actually had a fence contractor come to the house and give us an estimate of $2500 to supply and install a new wood fence – nothing fancy, no gate, no PVC covering, just a plain wood fence. So, we both agreed, I’d be installing the fence - myself.
OK, so now there’s been an injury. See how this is my fault? Next came Dawn’s plan; “…so, this weekend chickie2 has a soccer tournament on Saturday and Sunday…both games start at 2pm, so you’ll have both mornings to get the fence done.” My reply was, “OK, no problem.” - knowing full well that even if I had two full days to install about 100 linear feet of fence, it wouldn’t be enough time. Additionally, I’m in the middle of a basement renovation and about a half dozen other repairs that are much more urgent. So, once again, they’ll be another unfinished house project. But, after 16 years of marriage, I’ve learned it doesn’t pay to argue when she’s in an emotional mood. She only wants to hear one thing out of my mouth and that was it.
Well, as usual, she did eventually come back to her senses and we all had a good laugh at the soccer field. The thought of me outside digging post holes while she would have had to run around all morning getting everyone ready for an entire afternoon at a soccer field was quite comical. Yes, the fence will eventually get done - hopefully before another injury - but as I said to one of the other dads as we both sat in our beach chairs watching the games – “This sure beats working around the house!”

Until next time,


I'd like to thank everyone who left me a comment on my premier blog.
I appreciate everyone's support. Dawn said I needed a picture and you know what they say - a picture is worth a thousand projects! More to come.