Home Improvement Part 5

Home Improvements, Part 5

This is part 5 in a sequence. If you want to begin at the beginning, you can go to Part 1. The following shows the contents for this and adjacent parts.

Part 4 (separate page)
  • New Mailbox
  • Master Bath Renovation (continued)
  • Wallpaper removal (start)
Part 5 (this page) Part 6 (separate page)
  • New Driveway
  • ...

(initial section posted 8/30/12)

Garage Roof Repair

So, one day during the time I was working on the wallpaper removal at the front of the house, I was going out through the garage and noticed a wet spot on the ceiling. My heart sank, because it meant the roof was leaking. (We had been having quite a bit of rain.) I'd need to hire someone to do the repair for that.

I didn't really want to use the guys who'd done the repairs after Hurricane Wilma (the work was fine, but I thought they'd taken advantage of the situation and overcharged me). And I got no other leads from friends, so I decided to try a contractor-finding service offered by my insurance company, USAA.

So, by the time they came to look at it, the wet spot had grown, and pieces of the popcorn ceiling texture were coming off. Following is a picture:

Also, a second wet spot had appeared on the other side of the garage. So, the guy said the spots were associated with the "valleys" of the roof, and they could fix them. He said they could also fix the ceiling, too, which sounded good since it was going to need more than just a paint job. They could either patch it with similar popcorn texture, or they could remove the popcorn from the whole ceiling and give me a nice smooth standard ceiling.

Well, popcorn was popular some years ago, but it's lost its appeal. It gets dirty easily and is hard to clean or update. I have popcorn on the ceilings throughout the house and I've been thinking about getting it removed so I can have plain, easy, ceilings. But that's a lot of work, and it still looks basically OK, so that item has been pretty far down my list.

So, instead of spending money to get the ceiling restored in a way I didn't really want in the long run, I decided to go ahead and spend a bit more to get it done the way I did want. So the plan was, after they fixed the roof, they'd also fix the ceiling, removing all the popcorn to leave a smooth texture. They were also going to fix another spot on the roof that was causing a stain on the ceiling inside the house, in my dining area... that was an odd one, it only appeared to ever get wet when we had really hard rains. It was apparently associated with the bathroom vent. But it hadn't caused any actual ceiling damage, so didn't require additional ceiling repair.

So, it took a while for the time the contract to be written up and signed (because of USAA procedures). So by the time the guys came to fix the roof, the second wet spot had gotten significantly worse (see first pic below), and chunks of popcorn were starting to fall off there too (second pic below). That only confirmed my decision to get rid of all the popcorn.

The problem with popcorn removal, though, is that it's very messy. That meant I would need to clear everything out of the garage in preparation for them doing it. On the other hand, cleaning out and organizing the garage was one of the tasks that was pretty high on my list of things to do, and so this would pretty much force me to get that done. It was a lot of work, and kind of interesting how much space I needed to put everything... I had stuff in the living room, the laundry room, the hallway, the guest bedroom, the master bath, and the pool deck.

So, once they got started, it didn't take too long... one day for the roof, a couple more days for the ceiling. There were a couple of glitches--I had to call them back about a week later after we'd had another big rain and it was leaking again near where the second original spot had been:

And then again a few weeks later when another leak showed up on the first side. But they stand by their work, they did fix the spots, and now it's been about 5-6 months later and we've had some major rains and there's been no leaking. YAY! Here are "after" pictures of the ceiling, showing the areas where the first and second spots, respectively, had been (compare with earlier pics).

So of course, after that I had to put everything back into the garage, but I did need to do some additional cleanup first. They had done a good job of cleaning the floor and obvious other surfaces from the popcorn removal, but they missed a few of the less obvious places, like the top of the garage door opener. Also, as long as the garage was basically empty, it was just a good time to do some additional cleanup. Also, I was trying to organize the stuff as I put it back, which meant I had to give some thought to where everything should go. All that, plus the fact that this was all going on when it was peak dance season, plus everything else involved in normal life, and maybe you can understand why I am just close to finishing that task up now (5-6 months later).

(next section posted 10/5/12)

Pool Stuff - Service

Just about the time I was finishing the wallpaper removal at the front of the house, and while the garage work was going on, I got a call that our pool service (that we'd had since we moved into the house) would be unable to continue, and they didn't have a replacement, so I'd have to find myself a new pool service.

I asked around and some friends suggested that I could take care of the pool myself, saying it wasn't hard and I might save some money. So, I decided to try it.

By this time my pool was starting to turn greenish (no picture, sorry). One of the first things I had to do was clean my pool filter, because the water was hardly moving through it at all. (I later found out that's something that most pool services don't do often enough.) I learned that my pool filter is quite complex, with like 14 small filters instead of one big filter, so it's more difficult to clean than most. But I got the water flowing reasonably well again.

Then I had to go to my local Pinch-a-Penny pool store. They were very nice and helpful, gave me advice about the basic chemicals and pool care, and what to do to get the water clear again.

One of the things I needed to get was a floating dispenser for chlorine tablets. They come in amusing designs, like rubber ducks, etc. I decided to get one that was a happy shark, and a thermometer with a matching smaller shark (I needed a new thermometer anyway). I'd been kinda discouraged by all this process, but after I started with the chemicals, the water cleared up very quickly, and when the two sharks happened to come together in the pool, they were so CUTE (pic at right), it just made me feel a lot better.

But, chemicals aren't enough to maintain the pool. I still needed some kind of gizmo to, basically, vacuum the pool regularly. Several friends recommended a Kreepy Krawly, but I did some research and decided that was not a good idea for me (because it uses the pool's regular filter, and my filter is such a pain to clean). So I decided I should get a robotic cleaner (which has its own filter). Following is a picture of the one I picked, working. It's kind of fun. I just stick it in the pool and it goes back and forth kinda randomly, sucking up stuff. Seems to work quite well...

(next section posted 1/2/13)

Pool Stuff - Deck

Back in 2011, back when I was working on painting the master bathroom, I had noticed that the pool deck needed cleaning, but I made a decision to work on the painting instead, because the whole master bath stuff had been taking so long and I was really anxious to get that task completed.

In retrospect, that probably was not a good decision. The pool deck would get dirtier and hence harder to clean as time passed; the painting would take longer, but I wouldn't be making it more difficult by deferring it.

So it was really desperately in need of cleaning when I finally started finding time to work on it this past Spring; see pic at right. I had a pressure cleaner, but that wasn't sufficient to get it clean--I also had to scrub down the area with cleaner. So it was very slow going, since I could only do a fairly small area at a time. Following is a pic partway through the project, showing a clean section next to a dirty section.

I had a couple of other technical glitches that slowed me down, too. The first was that my pressure cleaner broke--the on/off knob just wouldn't work one day. Well, I'd had the thing since before hurricane Wilma (2005), so I guess it didn't owe me anything, so I ran out to Home Depot and bought a new one. The new one had some nice features that made it an improvement over the old one too, so that was good. Except... After I'd used it maybe 3-4 times, the spray tip stopped working right. So I contacted their customer support, and they sent me a new one... but that again added some delay to my getting it all done.

So, after all that, I finally, just this past weekend, managed to clean the last bit of the deck. Here's a picture of the deck after cleaning (compare with the previous half clean/half dirty picture):

(next section posted 4/11/15)

Pool Stuff - Canopy

Well, it's been quite a while since I posted here, so let me first try to catch up on a couple of things from around the same time I last posted, especially since they kinda-sorta show up in the last couple of pics above.

So, I decided it might be a good idea to have one of those folding portable canopy things to provide shade on occasion. (Also, we use them at Relay for Life when we're Anti-Cancer Belly Dancers.) So I purchased one, and when I tried to set it up the first time, it became apparent it wasn't a 1-person job. So, I called a friend over, we set it up, left it near the pool.

Now, these types of canopies are only intended for the purpose of providing temporary shade. They are not designed to withstand severe weather. I'd left it up because the weather seemed fine. BUT... that very same afternoon, a nasty thunderstorm blew in really quickly. I was inside at the time and the storm came in so fast that it was raining really hard before I even thought about the canopy. So, sure enough, my brand-new canopy got damaged. The wind blew it kind of cockeyed, and then water started accumulating in the top and the weight of the water made sure the frame got all bent out of shape.

So, a couple days later, my friend (the one who'd helped me put it up in the first place) came over to look at it. He suggested we could set it up "permanently" by screwing the legs into the pool deck, since it wasn't ever going to fold up or be portable again. So that's what we did (see pic at right). I could then put the canopy top on or take it off as needed according to the weather, and that was easy enough to do by myself.

The hard part was knowing what the weather was going to do. I noticed it didn't take a whole lot of wind for the structure to get pretty stressed when the top was on. So I came up with this idea to cut slots in each side of the top, and reinforce them with duct tape (the pic below shows what it looked like on the inside... it was almost invisible from the outside... the pic at right actually is of the post-slot canopy). The slots really helped. They allowed normal winds to blow through without stressing the frame.

It actually worked quite well for a good couple of months... until another sudden storm with 45mph gusts blew through and knocked it down again. Then I gave up and took the whole thing apart. So much for that idea.

(next section posted 6/2/15)

Pool Stuff - Ladder

Another item that shows in the above pics of the deck needing cleaning, even though it was done quite some time before that, and before everything else on this page for that matter, is the pool ladder. I guess it's not surprising that, after over 25 years of constant immersion in chlorinated water, the plastic rungs of the ladder were starting to disintegrate. Although I hardly ever used the ladder, it still needed to be fixed.

At first I was concerned that I'd need to replace the whole ladder, which seems like it would be really hard to do, since it's kinda built-in to the deck. But then I realized you can just replace the rungs--they're held on with nuts and bolts to the side rails. You have to be in the pool, and you have to get under the water quite a bit, but it's not too hard.

The main reason I mention it here is I thought it was very interesting what the old rungs looked like. They didn't seem too bad when they were in the pool, but here's what they looked like after they had been out drying in the sun for a couple of weeks:

That ladder was in worse shape than I thought!

(next section posted 6/8/15)

Pool Stuff - Furniture Update

After the canopy went defunct, I decided to get a patio umbrella to provide some shade out there. I saw one with an offset style I liked.

I also decided to get a fire pit. Granted, we don't get a lot of use for it here in Florida, but I thought it might be fun for those cool days during our couple months of Winter. I chose one that had a cover so it would also work as a table the rest of the time.

So, the first pic below shows the umbrella and firepit-as-table along with the same old chairs we've had since we moved here. The second pic is the firepit in use.


Although I took the pic of the firepit in use back in 2013 (around the time I first got it), the one with the umbrella was taken just yesterday, because I realized I didn't have a picture of it yet (and I do still have it). So we're starting to get closer to current times.

(next section posted 6/14/15)

Gumbo Limbo

Back in the spring of 2013 (about the same time most of the recent preceding stuff was going on), when I was out grocery shopping, I noticed a log by the edge of the parking lot. It was about the size of a fire log, but it wasn't like those that they sell at grocery stores. It was freshly cut, very freshly--you could see the wood was still "green." But I saw no other cuttings around; I couldn't tell where it had come from or figure what it was doing there.

But, I did figure it would make good firewood for my recently-acquired fire pit. So I took it home and put it in the garage to dry out.

About a week or so later, I happened to look at it again in the garage, and there were lots off little shoots poking out the sides of the log, kinda like potato eyes. And I thought to myself, "Wow, that really was a green log."

Another week or so later, and the little shoots have turned into little leaves, recognizable as gumbo limbo (aka "Tourist Tree"), a local native tree. The leaves were very pale, yellowish, not green. I felt bad for the poor thing--it was trying so hard to stay alive there in my garage. I decided to put the log outside so it could get some sunlight while I considered if and where I might plant it in the yard.

Now, my front yard is very open, especially to the south and west, so it really gets beaten on by the Florida sun. I'd been thinking for some time that it might be good to have a tree out there to provide some shade. Suddenly, this gumbo limbo seemed like it was here for just that purpose.

Another week or so later, my little log was still trying to live. The little leaves had gotten bigger and greener in the sunlight. So, I dug a hole in the middle of the yard and stuck the log in there. The pic at left is maybe another week or 2 after it was planted. (The yard service put the circle in the grass around it.)

As you might imagine, considering how much it was trying to grow when it was in the garage, it did great once it was in the dirt with sunshine and water and all. My book on Florida trees says this about propagation of gumbo limbo: "a limb of any size stuck into the ground will grow." And grow it did. I'm sure it was less than a year later before it was taller than I am.

It ran into some problems with white fly (an infestation running around the South Florida area) and scale recently, but my yard service treated that. The tree survived and is healthy now (Spring 2015), although its limbs had to be cut back for the treatment. But it's still taller than I am:

(next section posted 12/13/15)

Side Door

One last little thing before I start a new page, because it actually happened a while back. We had replaced the side door, that leads from the garage to the outside, quite a while ago, but it had never been painted. Part of the reason was I didn't have enough paint... but I did get more a while back (after replacing the main garage door). So, I did finally get the door painted (at right). Alas, although the door is a steel hurricane door, it has wooden framing and it's showing its age (which happens very fast in Florida).... I'll probably have to replace it soon... sigh.

So, I think that brings us up to 2015...

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