Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

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Patch It All UP

If you’ve been follow along, you would know that the exterior of our house has been our recent focus. Getting a house winter ready and the foundation protected is a lot of work. That includes making sure that our roof and gutter are in good order, the foundation is sealed and has good drainage, and all the windows and exterior doors have no leaks. Unfortunately, this house we inherited do not meet any of these requirements. When we moved in, we found that the weather stripping on our exterior doors were peeling, the foundation was surrounded by weeds, flower beds, and patios with wrong slopes, and the 20-year old  roof was on buying time.

During the last three months (already?), we have changed our front and back storm doors, gotten rid of the front flower bed and weeds around the foundation, corrected the sloping issues of the front and back porch, and finally last week, finished grading around the house ! With our roof and gutter replacement in process, we are soooo close to the finish line of getting our house winter-ready!

This week, Slav gathered supplies and started tackling the last item on our to-do list: repairing the foundation cracks and getting the exterior of the house sealed. It took him four entire days to finish sealing everything – I was surprised that how much sealant this house drank up and how many different types of sealant he had to use for the job. These are just a sample of a subset of the product he had used:

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1. Sealing exterior holes with the Sikaflex mortar fix

Among the hundreds and thousands pounds of stuff we removed from our ranch during our first month here, there was the satellite dish on the roof. Slav and I are never TV people. In fact, our only TV is currently used by Slav as a monitor. After the dish removal, we were left with many wires running along the house:

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These wires entered nearly every room in the house:

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Slav removed all the wires:

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And we were left with many holes on our brick like this:

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Slav cleaned them with a wire brush and filled them with a mortar sealant from Sikaflex:

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This product drys to a color that is really close to our mortar. It might look a bit lighter in the pictures, but it is because that our mortar was dirty and old. We are planning to power-wash the house (it is fun to use the power washer again!) and the sealant will completely blend in. For now, the fix looks really natural and hardly noticeable:

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2. Fixing the foundation cracks with concrete epoxy and DAP concrete sealant

The most serious problem we had on our foundation is the corner cracks. Slav cleaned them and glued the falling corner back on with this concrete epoxy and smoothed the gaps with the DAP concrete sealant.

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He also went around the entire foundation and patched all the vertical cracks using the same DAP concrete sealant:

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3. Sealing horizontal gaps/cracks with the Loctite non-sag sealant

We also see gaps where the exterior bricks meet the foundation. Since those gaps are horizontal, Slav opted for a non-sag sealant from Loctite:

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It dries really fast so he filled these gaps in two steps. This is after the first fill:

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And this is after the second fill. You can see that it became very smooth. I took this picture when the sealant was still drying. After it completely dried, it also blended in our mortal really well.

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4. Seal drive way cracks with the Loctite self-leveling sealant

Moving down to our drive way, there are small cracks running down the control joints.

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To seal them, Slav used a different product that self-levels. When he first applied it, it looked quite messy. But after 10 minutes or so, all the extra sealant sunk down into the joints and started to look pretty neat:

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And after a few hours, the sealant looked like this:

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Pretty cool, right? It dries very slowly so gravity can do its job of leveling the sealant.

Slav used this product on all the controlled joints in our concrete drive way, path and back patio:

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The self-leviling product is also very good at handling small cracks:

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However, it is definitely not dog-friendly:

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Charlie laid down on one of the joints Slav had just filled and caught quite a big line of sealant on his fur! It dried so hard by the end of the day and we had to cut some of the fur off. 🙁

Slav covered the joints to prevent little paws from stepping into them:

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5. Seal garage wall gap with concrete cement patcher

Last, there is a pretty significant gap between the old walkway and the southern side of the house:

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The gap is so big that it would be really expensive and time-consuming to fill with any regular sealant. So Slav decided to use a concrete mix and basically just level the pathway with fast-set concrete.

Cleaning and patching around the house in hot sun is a lot of work – it took Slav a full week and it was so tedious. But it is necessary and we now have peace of mind knowing that our house is water-tight! If you still remember our big to-do list, I am happy to report that we also get the roof done this week! I will be back next week to show you the process, so stay tuned, my friends!

 

The Utility Room: It Is All About Plumbing

Two weeks have passed since we started working on the basement utility room. We’ve been busy!

First things first, Slav demoed the last bit old drywall in the utility room. Our house is finally purple wall-free.

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Without the big block of purple color, the space immediately felt lovely. I actually do not mind the concrete wall look. But to adhere to the new building codes we have to insulate to R-19. So new framing and drywall there will be.

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We also ripped out the drywall in the closet. Slav hates textured walls. It is just cheaper to re-drywall than to skim coat everything.

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The new framing will be 2″x 4″ in the closet, so the finished wall will be flush with the front of the electrical panel.

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Re-drywall also presents an opportunity to add soundproof insulation under the stairs.

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But the biggest progress we’ve made was plumbing. The plumber who finished our master bath came out again and spent three long days in the utility room. We did many small upgrades. Although pipes behind the wall are not my favorite subject to spend money on, it is worth noting the purpose behind every bit of plumbing projects we’ve completed.

1. Installing a new floor drain

A full day of work was dedicated to replacing the floor drain. Floor drain is required by building code in laundry rooms and close to water tank. But ours has been malfunctional since the day we moved in.

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Not only the old drain was rusted and clogged, its location also inconvenienced us. Sitting far from the wall, the concrete slab around it sloped down significantly towards the drain. The uneven slab prevents us from continuing the LVP flooring from the rest of the basement into the utility room.

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We decided to move the floor drain to one corner of the room so we can lay floors down the road. At the mean time, the old rusty drain would be replaced with a new PVC drain.

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The new drain would be set near the furnace and tankless water heater, near the condensation pump on the floor. By relocating it we will be able to eliminate the condensation pump completely.

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Although we are moving the floor drain by merely a few feet, the work involves breaking the concrete slab between the two locations and re-pouring the slab. Along with the material for the new drain, this work cost us ~$1800 including demo, debris removal, plumbing parts, gravel, concrete, and a day of our plumber’s labor.

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As soon as the sewer line was exposed, we knew why the drain was not working – the underground serer pipe has cracked and was inevitably filled with dirt. The drain pipe actually came out in two pieces.

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Our plumber cut off the old pipe close to the new location, and installed the new drain.

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After laying down a gravel base, concrete was poured and leveled to patch the floor.

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Look at the new drain! Once the utility closet is built the drain along with the furnace and water heater will be concealed from the rest of the room.

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2. The water main upgrade

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As our plumber came in for the floor drain quote, he also suggested a few upgrades, including installing a pressure reducing valve on our main water line.

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Pictured above was the main water line for our house. Water comes into the house from the bottom and below the shut-off valve, and runs up into the basement ceiling then to the wet wall. As you can see, we did not have a way to regulate the water pressure coming from the street. The gate valve in the picture above is an all-of-none shut-off.

After testing, our house receives 80~90 psi water pressure, which is higher than usual (70~80 psi). Higher water pressure can damage household appliances such as clothes washer and dishwasher, as well as reduce the lifespan of plumbing parts such as shower valve. To reduce water pressure, we needed a pressure reducing valve (PRV).

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Our plumber installed the PRV to hold the water pressure around 75 psi, and isolated the valve with two new ball-style shut-offs installed above and below.

3. New outdoor faucet

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Our front yard water faucet is fairly close to the main water line and has been leaking since we moved in. As the plumber worked on the pressure reducing valve, we asked him to replace the outdoor water faucet as well.

New faucet outside of the house:

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New connection inside:

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To work on the water main and outdoor faucet, we had to cut in the new drywall Slav installed (1, 2) and I painted. SAD! After the plumbing work we have been working on patching the drywall. We will be using a electrical access panel (2nd hand for $10!) to allow future access to the pressure reducing valve.

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4. Upgrading/upsizing the main water line

Since the ceiling is open, we also replaced the copper waterline with PVC. The old pipe was installed below the floor joists at places and held up by metal screws/brackets. Metal contact on copper line, regardless water or gas, is a big no-no as the contact point will slowly corrode and develop leaks. Our plumber replaced all the copper line he could see with PVC and raised the new line to be flush with the floor joists.

The old copper line held by metal screws:

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The new PVC held by plastic straps:

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5. Upgrading the waterlines for the main floor bathroom

Since the wet wall will be partially covered by the end of the utility room renovation, we decided to replace as much as plumbing for the upstairs floor bathroom and kitchen as possible. The picture below revealed two problems for the upstairs plumbing: the contact between copper line and sewer line, and undersized pipe.

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This pictured vertical copper pipe is a cold water pipe that supplies the upstairs toilet. It used to feed the water heater below, but the line has been capped when Slav installed the tankless water heater. However, the copper water pipe remains on top of the sewage line due to the narrow space. This contact has been something that keeps us up at night (how adult…).

In addition, the waterline to the right was narrower than the left. Since the horizontal line is where majority of the water travels, It should remain 1/2″ pipe as apposed to the 1/4″ our old plumber used. To fix both issues, we decided to replacing this copper connection completely all the way up to the upstairs toilet, and replace the waterline to 1/2″ throughout.

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As you can see, our plumber upsized the main line and the new line is no longer touching and rubbing on the sewage line.

As a result, we now have a new water line to the upstairs toilet.

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We did have to cut out the bathroom drywall for the work, but this bath’s days are numbered too, so it is OK. The new water line will functional a lot better for us down the road, compared to the old line:

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6. Replacing the outdoor faucet at the back the house

Running down the line, literally, we also replaced the outdoor faucet at the back of the house. Slav took this opportunity and installed a new vent cover for the bathroom fan. The back of the house looks instantly better.

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I do not have a closeup before picture at this location, but you can get an idea how messy it looked from this old shot shortly after we moved in:

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Remember the old window well? I did not. Wow that was bad. But anyway, let us focus on the very left side of the photo. From left to right we have  1. dryer vent, 2. telephone box, 3. old water faucet, and 4. bathroom fan vent. Slav took off the telephone box off and installed a new vent cap for the bathroom fan vent, which completely upgraded the look of this area.

7. Upgrading the kitchen plumbing

The last plumbing project was to upgrade the plumbing for upstairs kitchen, which includes replacing the sewage pipe all the way to under the sink, and replacing cold and hot water supply to the upstairs sink.

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The old sewer pipe with rusted clean out is made of copper and was replaced with new PVC pipe and a new clean out:

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Our plumber installed the Y connection (for ventilation) sideways for easy framing.

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Continue up the under-the-sink sewer pipe was replaced too. It was a huge mess in the sink cabinet:

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Both water lines and the sewer pipe were in serious despair. There must have been leaks and the entire cabinet and the wall behind was rotten and covered by mold. Cannot wait to replace all of them!

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Drywall tape held the connection to the garbage disposal. I faint…

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And look at the new stuff! Apparently the new practice is to run the sewer and water lines through the floor, which brings less disruption of the sink cabinets. Smart!

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The new water lines:

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What a sharp contrast between old and new sewer pipes:

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After!

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The new waterlines were also raised into the floor joists, which will make drywall the ceiling easier.

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Whereas the old lines were below the floor joists:

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What’s next

By crossing off plumbing upgrade from the list, we are ready for framing and drywall! All the framing and drywall finish will be performed by a new GC which will start in April. Then we can take over in May to paint and install flooring. It is tough to wait another month to see new progress, but it also gave me time to finish designing the space and start looking at furniture. Stay tuned!

1. Demo the remaining purple drywall and drywall in the closet;
2. Replace plumbing needed and move the floor drain;
3. Framing walls, soffit when necessary, and add a pocket door to the closet;
4. Frame a floor-to-ceiling utility closet to conceal the furnace and water heater;
5. Electrical work necessary;
6. Insulate and drywall the ceilings and walls;
7. Paint the ceilings and walls;
8. Continue the NuCore flooring from the media room to the utility room;
9. Install trims and baseboard throughout the basement;
10. Create a laundry nook with cabinet storage.

Finally, Painted

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13 months after moving into our house, our living space is finally painted!!!

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Our walls and ceiling were all “white” to begin with, but the old paint reads very yellow in all the rooms and just feels outdated. The Extra White we chose is the true white color in SW. It reads a bit cool but not sterile, and brings a bit of modern feel into this old house.

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All the walls got Sherwin-Williams Extra White in Eggshell, and all the ceilings went for the same color in flat.

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We used Behr Ultra Pure White in semi-gloss on all the trims and doors throughout the main floor. Although both being white, the different sheens made the trims really pop next to the walls.

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The bedroom feels bigger with the crisp white paint:

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We painted inside the closet a lovely pink (Behr Pale Bud). I think it looks great with the bright white trims and soft grey curtains.

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Our walls were textured and it took Slav several weeks to smooth all the walls with joint compound as well as patch nail holes. Needless to say that this process produced lots of dust. It feels so good to have the house dust-free again and all the furniture uncovered.

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The puppies are more than pleased to have their favorite spots back.

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We decided at the last minute to upgrade all the wallplates, light switches, and receptacles. Not only the old ones have yellowed overtime, they were also covered with layers of paint. The screwless ones bring this house to 21 century.

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We replaced the old and dingy air duct covers shortly after we moved in. Now with freshly painted walls and new wall plate, our place feels so so upgraded.

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We used the last bit of wall paint in our kitchen. After removing some upper cabinets, we lived with a cabinet-shape yellow portion of unfinished drywall. A quick layer of white paint got rid of a major eyesore:

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And all the receptacles in the kitchen were upgraded as well:

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It feels so nice to be able to look around and see crisp white everywhere.

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Getting the place painted made a huge difference on how the main floor feels. It is a lot brighter and feels clean. Now it is finally time for flowers and art!

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Next week is our wedding anniversary and it is a big relief to finish painting before the big day. We have several fun activities lined up and I will be sure to come back to report! But first, we kick back in our bright and fresh living space, and enjoy some cut flowers and herb drinks from our own garden. Happy summer!

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