Sunday, November 23, 2008

New look....

With the furnace issue temporarily out of the way, I was able to refocus my efforts towards finishing the bathroom upstairs. The interesting part about this week is that I am able to reveal some updates of my own personnel bathroom downstairs. Some portions of my bathroom have been updated since my first week of moving here, however, I think the recently added items constitutes a description.

But first let me explain about my adventure of installing the second floor bathroom vanity. I first used a stud finder to locate the studs within the wall. I marked off their locations and then leveled the cabinet portion of the vanity. I used wood shims to help with the leveling process. I fastened the leveled cabinet to the stud using a 2 ½ inch drywall screw. Prior to installing additional screws , I rechecked the cabinet to ensure that it was still leveled.


After installing the cabinet, I decided to see how the sink would look. This picture shows the vanity without the faucets. The plumber will be soldering on new valves for the water inlets. He will also be installing the vanity water waste pipe. Because he will be on site, I decided it would be cost effective to have him do both the upstairs and downstairs install of the water waste pipes and inlets. That is the reason for the update to my bathroom.

This picture shows that with the new vanity installed, access to the window and radiator is easily possible. Anyway, after installing the vanity, I decided it was time to install the new light fixture.

OOPS!!!!! Well there's your problem… It would appear that the opening is larger then the light fixture.

Ok sort of an easy fix.... I first remove the light fixture and install a small piece of drywall to the bottom section of the opening. The drywall piece was temporarily secured with mesh drywall tape. I also used a small piece of the mesh drywall tape for the top section. Joint compound was used to secure and mask the added tape and drywall. After the repaired section dries, I will be able to sand and repaint it.

Until then, I decided to move onto my bathroom downstairs. I guess I should give a brief description about my bathroom. The bathroom has the original sunshine yellow color that the previous owner had painted. The cabinet was a white vanity and a matching mirror cabinet. I’ve left the wall color because I wanted to focus primarily upstairs. So the sunshine yellow color will stay for the time being… The tub and toilet are a matching mustard yellow… The bath tub walls are tiled with white and blue sail boats…

I’ve updated some items, like two new towel racks, shower curtain rod, and shower head. But, I’ll go into more detail about those items shortly. Anyway, the plumber will be installing new hardware for the bathtub, a new toilet, and the required fixtures for the vanity.

Why am I changing the vanity downstairs you ask? Well, for two reasons, the first is because the color of the white vanity was starting to closely matching the wall color, pretty disgusting really. The second reason is because I fell in love with this marble top vanity and wanted it for upstairs… But it just happened, when I purchased the vanity for upstairs, it was way too large. “To be honest, I didn’t measure”…. It turned out that if used, there would be no access to the window and radiator. So instead of returning it and paying a 15% restocking fee, I decided to keep it…

The reason for the new toilet is not only because of the mustard yellow, but because it continues to leak. Every hour on the hour you can hear the toilet flushing… But it will be nice to finally get a working toilet.

Here is one of the towel racks that were installed.

Here is a picture of the second towel rack and also the shower curtain with the new rod. The rod is a curved shower curtain rod that gives an additional 8 inches of room in the shower. It helps with giving the upper body more room to move around in the shower…

I also had installed a new shower head. The shower head has 8 setting for dispersing water. My favorite setting is the one that simulates rain. I have to admit it is extremely soothing…

Now that you know what has been updated. I can start with the demolition of the vanity. I first remove the counter top. I had to use a hammer and chisel to remove the top. As usual the counter top was glued to the cabinet.
Here is a picture of the old vanity completely removed.

Here is a picture of the new vanity with the marble top. You may notice the damage paint on the wall, this was done while removing the previous vanity. I’m not too worried about fixing it. Anyway, after completely installing the vanity, I plan on installing a new mirror and light fixture. The completion of my personal bathroom will not be completed until upstairs is done.

With both vanities install, I have to now wait for the plumber to install the required hardware… Anyway until next time…

Oh yeah, before I forget… So the plumber needs access to the first floors tub trap to exchange the required hardware. The tubs trap is located in the basement. Check out the spider webs….

Here is a picture of the entrance to the traps location.

Here is a picture showing the pipes for the tub. Well Mr. Plumber good luck with that...Until next time....

Thursday, November 20, 2008


The weather outside is kind of frightful…. Well at 6 in the morning, the temperature inside felt about the same.. I woke up this morning and realized that the furnace was not operating. I walked down stairs expecting that the water storage would need water, which it did not. But I was hearing a clicking sound from the furnace. I hit the switch to reset the furnace and still the clicking noise was still there. I accidently touch some exposed wires and the furnace kicked on… But after about a minute of operating, the clicking returns…I felt the furnace was sending me Morse code…. “… - - - …”

Here is a picture of my "B1 Bomber" furnace... Luckily, about a month ago, I had signed up for a protection program for the furnace. So I contacted my service company and they informed me that they would send a technician. I was also informed that all of their technicians were extremely busy and will be out as soon as possible…

So after about 9 hours of huddling under my unicorn blanket, I heard a knock at the back door… I had explained to the technician what was going on. So he removed the igniter and explained that it was damaged, so he replaced it. All done… But after he turned the furnace back on…

“…- - - …”

The technician then joked, “Well I guess that wasn’t the problem…”

Here is a picture of the damaged igniter, as you can see the orange sleeve is not covering the white ceramic igniter properly. Anyway, after investigating further, the technician noted that the wire connections to the regulator valve were loose. He sprayed a conductive liquid onto the connectors. But still, “…- - - …”. So he decided to replaces the regulator valve completely. After installing the new valve and performed a series of checks, the furnace began to work properly. The technician wrapped his things up and jokingly says, “It worked when I left...” with that he was gone.

Here is a picture of the old regulator valve.

Here is a picture of the replacement regulator valve. So after about an hour, as I’m sitting down watching TV, I begin to hear a dripping noise coming from the hallway. I walk over and look up and note that the ceiling tile is damped and dripping water… I had a feel like I’ve been in type of situation before… I try to remove the ceiling tile and realize that hot water was dripping down. So I went upstairs to investigate the water source. Because it was hot water, I assumed that it must be another radiator leaking . It turn out that it was a radiator and it was not seated properly against the pipe. I tightened the locking nut and the dripping stop…. That was an easy fix, I think....
Here is a picture of the first floor ceiling.
Here is a picture of the ceiling debris
This is picture of the radiator pipe going into the second floor radiator. This is where the water was dripping down from. Well that is it for now... Until next time....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

WOW!!! It worked....

Last Wednesday, I had placed an order for 6 new replacement windows with my neighborhood super box hardware store. I ended up finding another damaged window. Anyway, I placed an order for new LoE2 double hung replacement windows. LoE2 is none as a Low emissivity glass that is an energy saving glass that reduces heat gain in the summer and keeps things warmer in the winter months. The new windows are expected to be delivered in next 3 to 4 weeks. The total price for all six replacement windows were $862.56. That's $143.76 per window…With the window on order I am able to continue working on the bathroom.

Now back to the bathroom, the next thing to install was the molding. I was initially going to use the original floor trim when I notice that they were pretty beat up. I was able to reuse the old window and door molding. So I sanded them down with a 100 grit sand paper and installed them. For the floor boards, I had purchased some 4 inch floor boards and then mitered the ends at a 45ยบ angle for the mating surfaces. I’ve done this before but it is still an art that I have not been able to truly master. The problem is that the measurements have to be pretty exact to get a clean interface. My patients run pretty thin when it comes to mitered surfaces.

The floor boards were cut and fitted prior to being permanently fastened to the wall. I used a pneumatic nail gun to fasten the floor boards. The process is quick and clean; certainly better then hitting the nails with a hammer. With the gun, it minimizes the possibility of giving the wall, floor boards and/or your thumb a bruise.

After installing the floor boards, wood putty was used to fill the cracks and nail holes. This process gets really messy, but after the putty dries, sand paper was used to remove the rough edges.

Here is the window after putting in the wood putty.

Here is the window after it was sanded and painted.

After painting the molding, I started to install the cabinet portion of the vanity. The hard part was getting the pipes to fit snug within the cabinet without cutting the entire bottom out. So I started with a piece of plywood and marked out where the two inlet water lines would be located at. I then traced out where the waste line would be and cut that out. Now that the template was created I was able to cut out the holes into the cabinet.

So what do you think of my work bench....

The inlets fits pretty well.. .

Hey, look at that it actually worked...

I initially wanted to clamp the new template to the vanity base and do the cutting. But the clamps that I owned were too small for the job… So I traced the three circles onto the cabinet base and then drilled the holes. The vanity base was made of a press board material that would gum up when heated. I had to chisel the material off the cutters after a couple of minutes of drilling.

WOW!!!! The plan actually worked…..The next step in the process is to secure the cabinet to the wall and then install the vanity… Until next time…

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How much again?

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that several windows upstairs were not properly closing. So after some further investigate, I noted that the windows were not mounted correctly to the frame of the house. Plus a draft of cold air was entering the room at the edges of the windows. It just happened that a Home Show was in town at the Springfield Mutual Center around that time. So I decided go and talk to some window vendors about possible solutions. All of the vendors that I had spoken with said, that they do not repair windows, except for one. So I set up an appointment with that one vendor to meet with one of their sales associates. The company that I set the appointment with, is a fairly large company in Connecticut. I am sorry but I can not say who they are, although I really want too, but I can’t…

Anyway, the sales associate came to my house with a big bag of equipment and a small case that looked to be a window display. His name was Bob (not really but I hear he is a member of the witness protection program)…. Anyway, we instantly start talking about my windows and what I would like done. Basically I informed Bob that I have about 5 windows that are in need of repair. Instantly he tells me that his company does not repair windows but can replace them. So I tell him ok go ahead and give me a quote to replace the 5 windows. “Mr. Rivera, I wouldn’t be doing you a service if I didn’t tell you that all of windows that you own are possibly not energy efficient. I would recommend that you get all of your windows done.”

So he goes into his sales pitch, he explains that to be energy star certified that a specific rating must be met. Plus that every 3 years that the energy rating is modified so windows need to be recertified. So I informed him that my windows were sufficient enough, that I’m more concerned about the 5 broke windows. (STRIKE ONE!!!) He proceeds to tell me that he can guarantee that over the next 10 years that I would have a savings of over 30 thousand dollars (Bunt and a single). So then he opens his bag of tricks and presents the windows his company offers. Basically he takes a radiant light on one side of a window and then puts a thermo meter on the opposite side. I have to admit the presentation was pretty decent, especially since it shows the heat loss through the window, which was pretty minimal (Base hit)..

So after the presentation I inform Bob to go ahead and give me a quote to do all 32 windows and then another quote of just replacing the 5 windows. So we start walking around the house measuring all of the windows. While he is measuring, I ask him what will need to be done to replace the window. “Well since you already have replacement windows in place, we just have to take the molding off and then the interior stop. After that just take the 4 screws that hold the window out and the window should just fall towards you. Then it just insuring the window is square, but it’s really just putting the new window in place”

So the gears in my head start turning… Ok the cost of the window lets say $250. Plus it sounds like it will be about 45 minutes to 1 hours to do the works, so lets say to do the actual labor would cost $50 to $60 per window.. So at $310 x 5 windows = $1550… ok not bad… But if I decide to do all of the windows, it would cost about $9920… Still a lot of money to do all of the windows but overtime I’ll make that money back from fuel cost… Ok still not bad… (Runner is safe)

So after about an hour and a half, Bob finishes measuring all of the windows…We return to my kitchen table so that he can do his calculations. He starts scribing on his little pad and pulls out his “handy-dandy” solar powered abacus. “I want to get you the best quote possible” he says…(STRIKE 2) After of about 10 minutes of him rechecking his numbers he said, “Well Mr. Rivera, the windows will cost $32,000. But remember you will make that money back after 10 years. So are you ready to give me a check today?” (STRIKE 3, 1 OUT)

“WHAT!!!!” I felt a little cough come one…I initially thought he said $3200… So I asked that he write the number down…Then he says, “wait I screwed up, I forget that some of your windows are actually good…” here is his corrected number….

This is a picture of Bob’s chicken scratch, showing me that for 25 windows it will be 21884.00 not including the 20% finance charge. (Very professional letter head)

So that means the windows will cost me about $1050.43 per window if I finance… “Well Mr. Bob, that is a lot of money where I don’t think I can just give you a check for” after some silence, Bob replies, “well it is an excellent deal that my company does offer financing, plus remember you will make that money back after 10 years.” (STRIKE 3, 2 OUTS!) The 10 year saving statement was kind of getting under my skin… “Mr. Bob, do you happen to see the two whiskey bottles there…..

…the empty one and the half empty one…. Too be honest I don’t think I have 10 years left…. So I would like to see my savings now” *

“I understand that is a lot of money, but let me see what I can do…” So he picks up his cell phone and starts talking to some body back at his office. I felt like I was at some used car lot… “I need to speak to my manager”.... After he hangs up the phone, “Well Mr. Rivera, I have a stock of windows in your required size that are currently in my warehouse. I can get them to you for $17,425. But that deal will only last till Friday. So are you ready to give me a check?” (STRIKE 3, YOUR OUT OF HERE!!!! 3 OUT!!!!)

This is my chicken scratch with an attempt to not laugh…..

“Thank you, but I need to shop around. I will contact you when I make my decision.” With that we shook hands and Mr. Bob left… How the hell can I honestly trust a person when he gives a price that jumped from $32,000 to $17,000. That is a crazy….

Once he left I realized that I needed to learn how to install windows… I have to say, I do love the internet to include the associates that work at my number one neighborhood super box hardware store…I also called in re-enforcements, my dad. By father, Nestor, who is a carpenter by trade, will be helping me installing the windows, although I have to order them first.... So I decided to stroll through the aisles at the neighborhood super box hardware store to get an idea on potential prices for windows. I realized that Bob was nothing more than a rat with hopes of preying on the weak…. The average cost for the same windows that Bob was attempting to sell were $170. That would be about $850 for 5 windows or 5440 for 32 windows… What a tool Bob was….I spoke to a sale associate about properly measuring the windows. Here is a graph that highlights how to measure the windows.

Because no window is standard in size and it takes 3 to 4 weeks for orders to be completed. I decided to begin the initial prep-work prior to finishing the bathroom. I started by taking off all of the wood trim, the interior stop and stool. That way I can properly measure the windows.

Here is a picture of an old iron counter weight in-between the replacement window and frame of the house. You can also note the rope that connected the weight to the window frame. Kind of like a pulley system. These were used for old wood windows. Now a days the replacement window kind of work on a screw type system. Below is a picture of the old system
I can’t make this up.... But I’m removing the trim work in the front bedroom, when I notice two different color cloths stuffed in-between the window frame and studs. It looks like a poor attempt for insulation. So I took a picture prior to removing the articles of clothing.

So I remove the cloths and behold look at this…

A sweat shirt and a dyed long sleeve shirt… What the heck are people thinking!!!
I can see the conversation between the contractor and assistant…
“Crap, I’m out of insulation, hey Bob give me your sweater and t-shirt”
“But it’s cold outside”
“Well with the extra $15,000 from this job, I can buy you a new one”
Sorry side thought…

The next sight is not so bad.. It is kind of something that would be expected in older homes…So in the hallway, I discovered a bunch of twigs and leaves, as if the previous none paying tenant were birds.
Well I measured the 5 damaged windows and will be placing an order for double hung replacement windows at my neighborhood super box hardware store tomorrow… I just had to get this off my chest because it was too funny not to share... Well till next time...

*Yes, I honestly did say the statement to Bob, however, the bottles are old and for some reason I had not thrown out the empty one. And Yes that is my lovely wall paper in my kitchen...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nice Floor....

With the discovery of the crack radiator upstairs, I contacted my Plumber Eric and explained to him about my situation. Because he was pretty busy with his other jobs, he had informed me that he will try to get to the house to fix the valve in the next couple of days. With the valve fixed, I could get a replacement radiator. The weather lately has been pretty warm. Even though it has rained over the last couple of days, the furnace has not kicked on. So no water has been leaking out of the radiator as of late.
With the weather starting to get colder, I decided to do some heat/furnace maintenances. The furnace was serviced by A.R. Zukowski Plumbing and Heating Inc. They did an excellent job. The furnace is running like a champ at the moment… I expect it to kick the bucket any year now. But let us hold our breath…
The first floor apartment has baseboard radiator while the 2nd floor apartment has the traditional upright radiators. I decided to switch out all of the pressure valves for both apartments. As you can see from the photo below, the older valves for the baseboard radiators look pretty beat up, as if they have never been changed. But of course there is one valve that is giving me trouble. I’ve gone to several plumbing stores and neither of them have a replacement valve. This valve is located in my living room. So if anyone has any leads on where I could find a replacement for the questionable valve, I will really appreciate it.

Here is the new valve on top with the old valve on the bottom.

Here is the thorn in my side valve... The top is the new one, the bottom valve is the old one. Note the different thread on the old valve.

I also decided to switch out the old mercury thermostat with a new programmable thermostat. The new digital thermostat is a seven day programmable thermostat where I can set the temperature for specific times. Basically I can leave for work without having to worry about manually decreasing the temperature. It will certainly help with the fuel cost.

Here is the new thermostat...Note the Energy Star sticker...

The second floor bathroom still needs to be completed. So the next thing for the bathroom is the floor. For a while now, I had made the decision to use the extra peal and stick tiles that were used for the kitchen to be also used in the bathroom. The subfloor was caked with drywall dust, so I cleaned the floor to the best of my abilities. I swept and vacuumed the floor. But it still felt dirty. I consulted several people at our neighbor hardware super store, and they all informed me to use an adhesive primer. I rolled it on with a 3/8” nap roller. I am not going to lie, I thought it smelled like Flintstone vitamins.

After letting the primer dry, I laid each individual tile down. I also recommend that you use knee pads when doing this task. By the way, my knee’s hurt… I used a box cutter to cut the tile to there desired lengths. I also used a ruler to cut the tiles straight. The process is really simple, measure, cut, peal the backer, and then lay it down… Make sure that you press the tile in place, you don’t want them pealing up.

Well the next thing on the list of things for the bathroom is installing the trim work and then the vanity. Of course, the other items include the toilet, light fixture, mirror and the miscellanies bathroom stuff will follow. Here are some pictures of the vanity that I plan on install in the bathroom. Hopefully the vanity could be installed by next weekend…

Well that is all I have for the moment, but things are starting to come together...


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