Friday, February 20, 2009

Grill Continued...

Alright, maybe I'm not as smart as I think I am. Apparently, I need a "stainless steel" nut and screw...which, I'm told, will not rust. Not galvanized like previously thought.

I went to the warehouse today, and had two associates and one customer "helping" me decide what I needed.

I think the screws I ripped out of there yesterday were stainless steel though. I'm probably back a square one again...see previous post ;-(

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Resurrecting the Grill

Resurrecting the grill is an adventure into the world of "man made crap". Today, I took that adventure and true to my theory of "man made crap" the adventure was painful, annoying, expensive and unable to be completed in a single day.

Man made crap is what I assign to things that are severely flawed in their design, requiring unbelievable time, attention, and resources to make work with the bottom line being, if more thought had gone into the original, man made design...I would not be wasting my time right now.

A once beautiful, shiny stainless steel grill is now a shadow of its former self. The grilling grates have rusted through and literally split. The three iron burners have rusted so badly that literally all that remains is dust.

Rust dust.

Who did we entertain last and might they have noticed the shame in this grill?

How toxic is rust?

I started pulling whole pieces of refuge out of the grill. Burner parts, grate parts, chicken parts...

I got to the bottom of the grill, trying to contain the fierce mess with a trash can by my side and I discovered a "bar". This "bar" ran from one side of the grill to the other and apparently, in its glory days, supported three burners for proper air circulation.

This bar was attached with screws...

Screws that had rusted to the side of the grill,

With a rusted nut attached.

Securely rusted for all eternity.

With garden gloves on and eye protection, (because I remember one time my dad got a piece of metal in his eye and we spent HOURS in the emergency room over the rust in his eye...probably another adventure in man made crap decades ago...)

I started pulling, no give. I got the screw driver, nowhere to torque it. Completely rusted through. And now the relay starts. The relay is to the garage and back, with a different tool in tow each time.

I brought back my dremel, battery not charged, can't find charger. Back to the garage.

I brought back my drill, attached dremel parts and tried to cut the screws, won't reach.

I brought back a file I found. File won't file. Back to the garage.

Cussing like a sailor, swearing the man made crap, I pull some more.

One side of the bar broke loose!!!! Free at last! Free at last!

This is probably the best time to tell you I have "smarty pants dance"...and now I'm doing the smarty pants dance...

Why would any "one" design any replacement part with an attachment that is exposed to water and humidity out of a metal that rusts? Why? Why not pay attention and make that particular screw galvanized? We humans have a metal coating that is strong and does not rust and it is called galvanized! Use it!

I went to lunch date was my friend Anita who was a college roommate of mine and I hadn't seen her in 16 years!

I stopped at the "warehouse" on the way home, had a discussion with a guy in the tool department. We mourned my dremel together, because he had a perfect part I could've used for my dremel to cut that last rusted screw out. He recommended I used my jig saw, attach a metal blade and cut the screw out. So for only $4.24 in jig saw blades, I was on my way.

Back to the relay, got the jig saw, battery, and charger. Set up to charge since the stupid thing is cordless and takes 24 hours to charge for 5 minutes of sawing battery juice. Another man made piece of crap.

I set to cleaning up the rest of the grill, giving it a good scrubbing to prep it for all the new shiny grill parts I was going to install. Dreaming of the first cheeseburger, and first BBQ of the season, who should we have over? Hmmmm.....

A few hours later, I prematurely put the jig saw together. I knew I didn't have much charge on the battery, probably 30 seconds of sawing, so I took position and set to the screw. Like predicted, I only got 30 seconds of good jig saw before the battery died. I had no patience for this.

I relayed back to the garage, grabbed the drill, loaded a drill bit. Pulled the grill over to the closest outlet and laid the drill into the phillips head end of the rusted screw as hard and as fast as I could.

I beat the screw up pretty bad, gave a few pulls on the remainder of the bar and it broke free!

Free! Free!

Smarty pants dance here.......

Now, I started the deciphering the cryptic scrawl of the replacement parts printed instructions...Really...they couldn't do any better than these instructions? Man made crap.

I get the bar completely assembled and I work on attaching the replacement to the grill. Except. Wait a minute. Hold up. There's no replacement screw to hold the replacement bar? You've GOT to be kidding me. Unbelievable.

Man made piece of crap.

That's okay, I'm going out tomorrow and buying two galvanized screws and two galvanized nuts...

Me woman.

Smarty pants dance.


Materials: $254.24 so far.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

10 Years Newer

Wear and tear on a house can decrease its aesthetics and its value. However, "value" is a relative term. In today's real estate market homes are losing value quickly, but don't lose sight of value just yet. When an appraisal is done on a home for purchase or refinance, the appraiser rates the house on how well it aesthetically has been maintained and assigns an age to it, this is added to their "matrix of other considerations" and they assign a "market value" for the home, this is the basis for the home's value.
Renewing just a few inexpensive things in an home of just about any age can easily add value to a house. So whether you want to give your house a facelift, or get it ready for the extremely tough real estate market, want to uncover it's true potential, make it more comfortable, or dare I say compete with new construction homes on the market, here is my "top must updates" that I am doing in my house.

~Check out baseboards and moldings. Mine were showing wear and tear from shoes, the vacuum cleaner, dirt/dust, gas heat, and changing levels of humidity in a house. One of the best was to identify this is if the baseboard or molding has been pulled away from the wall showing cracks in the paint. The crack is most likely caused by painters calk that is used to seal the space between the wall and the carpentry and has pulled apart. This is an easy and cheap update, cut out the old calk with a blade, replace it with new painters caulk, smooth with your finger. When dry, tape and repaint or retouch as needed. I certainly don't endorse products, because I'm not getting paid to ;-), but I like ALEX caulk that is paintable, flexible, has water clean up, comes in it's own "squeeze cheese" like tube, and has a 35 year warranty. No caulk gun needed.

~Light switch covers, outlet covers, and register covers in the floor or in the ceiling show a home's age. Even light switches themselves can get old, dirty or broken and are so inexpensive to replace. Sometimes all you have to do is give the covers a wipe down, other times they just need to be replaced. I've replaced most of the switch covers and outlet covers in my house because they were yellowed, cracked, paint smeared or just plain worn. Metal register covers could use a wipe down, then I usually spray them with a fresh coat of spray paint and they look like new. I had somebody ask me one time, "why don't you just buy new ones?" and I thought about it and I really didn't know why I just didn't buy new ones. I guess because spray paint is cheaper, and I'm recycling the old ones so the registers don't end up in the landfill.
~Renew stained carpentry or stained wood cabinets. There are some very expensive and professional "wood renewal" systems out there which are all options. However, I was able to bring my amber stained cherry cabinets in my kitchen back to new with a little known wood product called "Howards". It is sold in Home Depot only, and it has a stain renewal treatment and a wax treatment. My cabinets were scratched and on the edges were showing wear and tear of the poly coat, and replacing them was not an option. I used the stain treatment to cover the scratches and the wax treatment to moisturize the wood. All my issues went away and the cabinets look almost brand new. Of course, the other options include refinishing and painting them. I've seen some horrible painting and refinishing jobs done on cabinets, so take care to educate yourself on cabinet DIY if you are going to attempt a project like that.
~Repair grout or tiles in bathrooms, kitchens, etc. There are a lot of solutions for grout restoration. Sometimes just bleach or Oxyclean can bleach a light colored grout to new again. Cracked grout should be removed and replaced. There is a grout removal tool that is sold separately for Dremel and I understand this is the best deal on the market for tackling crumbling grout. I have white tile with white grout in my mud room, yes, I said "MUD ROOM". While I don't think I want to tackle removing the tile, grout, and backerboard and redoing it, I do think my next project will be to remove the white grout and refinish it with a beige or grey grout because the white is so completely discolored. More on that project at a later date! :-)
~This is an easy one, repaint. A fresh coat of paint on walls, trim and ceilings is very inexpensive and a huge impact. For older homes, I use a scrubbable flat paint on the walls. I use a good quality paint too, I NEVER use any paints that can be purchased at Lowes or Home Depot, I have not found them to be good quality paints that can withstand the wear and tear on the inside of a house. If you have a gloss finish on anything on the inside of your house, and you want to update your house, prime it and paint it and bring the reflectivity down.
~Restore floors. I'm not talking about having floors refinished just yet. If that is in the budget, great, go for it and replace carpet with a good padding and good floor, sometimes all it takes is a good carpet cleaning to take years off carpets. Have the carpets stretched if that's all it takes to bring your floor back. I have hardwood floors throughout my home and I have seen people actually cringe when I tell them what I use on my floors to keep them shiny and new. I use Murphy's Oil Soap. The oil hydrates the wood and provides a protective coating and makes them glow. It also temporarily seals worn floors. I never get any build up of oil because it is broken down with the dry air in the house and rubbed off by foot traffic. I never recommend using any kind of acidic household cleaner on wood floors that eats away at the poly finish and creates a haze on the floor.
~Small, but more expensive updates to shave years off a house include updating light fixtures, or adding vintage ones, as well as updating bathroom fixtures, and replacing doors or knobs on doors and knobs on cabinetry.

~Bury the traditional wallpaper. I haven't found a single more daunting thing that dates a house more than wall coverings. I have seen some very inovative coverings that look very nice, but for me, if it is a border or a whole wall extravaganza of some body's repeating artwork, it makes me cringe. I like to tell people the first thing I did to update my dated kitchen was to rip down the "rainbow plaid" wallpaper that was in my kitchen when we first moved in. We were stuck with two houses at the time, and four mortgages and didn't have a dime to put into our "new" house. It didn't take me a dime to get that rainbow plaid wallpaper down so I could actually stand to have coffee in my "new" kitchen.

~And finally the number one, super duper, inexpensive update I've done to make my house look years and years younger is an awesome clean up and clean out. By just scrubbing walls, doors, windows inside and out, as well as baseboards and floors can make a house look much newer and very cared for.

I hope you found something here, if not just motivation, to do something to make your digs look renewed. ;-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lessons from Hiring a General Contractor

Flashback one year ago today, I was gathering bids for a masterbath remodel. I hadn't planned to remodel anything major in the house until the kitchen was morphed into this decade. I brought in general contractor after general contractor to "do the drill" of job estimating for time and materials.

By the time I settled on hiring a this contractor, I spent three months interviewing and pricing the project. Cracking and shifting tiles in the master shower, made the shower pan take on water. Water meant mold lurking in my walls. It had to be redone, and I had to find the right contractor to do it. Since this project was not my focus, I didn't want to throw a ton of cash into it. My eye was set on the kitchen, so I hired the contractor that gave me a competitive labor price, who said we could do a "partial" remodel and keep costs down.

That was the beginning of a 7 month long battle with said general contractor to get the job done to an acceptable level and blew the entire bath budget as well as the kitchen budget. In the end, we had to completely demolish my masterbath three times for shoddy workmanship. Sure, all the references checked out, the insurance checked out, BBB checked out, and I was in renovators' hell. Since this is a flashback, I can now list all the things that I learned from this project...

1. I will never again attempt to hire out any remodel that involves the word "partial". Tile is like icing, you can't partially tile a cake and have it look right. You can't blend two different types of icing and have it look right and you can't add old icing to new icing.

2. I will research, get information on the internet, from friends, from the trades, and books. Educating yourself on the entire remodel will keep you from being "had" and it will also keep "change orders" to a minimum which in turn drive up the cost of the project and delay an already undercalculated timeline.

3. I will never give a "draw" for something that isn't totally complete and to my satisfaction.

4. The draw schedule will match the job schedule (yes, this was an issue)

5. My sales guy will never be my general contractor again, a guy who knows sales does not know construction.

6. My next general contractor will babysit the subcontractor that he hires to perform the work, I will not babysit on my dollar and my time.

7. Always budget for it costing twice what you think it is going to cost, inevitably, something goes strangely wrong and ends up costing more money.

8. Shop my own materials, if the contractor gives me the name of somebody to use, he is getting a kickback and I never get a discount.

9. Put everything in writing in a contract, study the contract, apply the contract, and have the contract in hand every time there is a conversation with the GC.

10. Never accept the words "we'll just do patch that" NEVER.

And finally...

I learned I can do a better job and for a lot less money if I do it myself. ;-)