Water Leak! Basement Collapse! Oh, the Corpsemanity!

September 6, 2010

Okay, so there was no calamity in the basement project. In fact, the whole project is basically done. Paint, door install, trim, we had a baby, yadda, yadda.

After the big basement project (yawn!) I had to clear my rotting skull. So as any self-respecting, Obama-supporting, intellectual would do: Sabbatical!

Many folks don’t realize that we tradespeople take sabbaticals, too, for the purposes of returning to the underworld with an expanded worldview, innovative techniques, and an assortment of pilfered hotel towels (burial shoruds).  Like many remodelers specializing in plumbing, I give lectures on the side, mostly on literature. The attached audio clip is a William and Mary lecture bootleg from my “Literature: Myth and Meaning” series, more specifically, “Rafts and the Race Card: The Adentures of Huckleberry  Finn as Eternal Ethos.”William and Mary Lecture Notes

Enjoy

Let’s Get Mortar-ded in Herrre

May 11, 2010

What has the inflexibilty of granite, the dead weight of sheetrock, the resistance to cutting of metal, concrete’s need to be mortared, and the look of a 9th-century bath house? Tile, that’s what. Not only is tile a pain in every way, but it has to have its own special subfloor installed (think hanging drywall on the floor) so it can’t flex. If you recall, we installed 3/4″ OSB on 16″ floor sleepers to level. We then waterproofed the OSB to take a mortar bed, and

Work!

The undead realm, unfettered by the Constitution, specifically encourages indentured servitude. Here, a soul damned for the vile transgression of "video-gamnation" does penance on the altar of backerboard.

The backerboard, a newer version of the old Hardibacker stuff, can be nailed in with galvanized roofing nails, rather than screwed down. (giggle).

"Release the Cracken!" Sorry, ladies, but this shot was taken a second too early, barely missing the moonrise over yours truly.

The joints of the backerboard are mortared over with a mesh strengthening tape.Next comes the tile placement. Only a lithe spirit of oft-hyperbolized grace could possibly plan out and execute a tile pattern of such perfection, while I run the dirty-dirty wetsaw and mix the dirty-dirty-dirty mortar outside.

O Geometry o' the Heavens! (and the tile tain't bad, neither).

Door-ible! Door-ida!

May 11, 2010

Nothing like alluding to your own post titles. With a spike to 4 views yesterday, we thought it was time to reward our consistent readers.

Cut door

In the books, a smiling Lowes employee helps you load the custom-fitted door into the back of your sparkling Lincoln Navigator; two minutes later, your well-behaved children are running through the swinging door while you beam with pride. In real life, you have to cut the bottom of the jamb with a jigsaw and the door itself with some crafty circular-saw action. Your kid tries to run through the door, it sticks because you didn't install it properly, and they blame their drug problem on the incidident, as told in the tell-all "Daddy Loved His Doors--More Than Me."The deading room. Welcome to Mor-door, Frodo. The deading room, aka Mor-Door.

 

The doors, or course, had to be painted to match the trim. We bought cheap platic trim–it still cuts and mitres cleanly, and when given a coat of the same high-gloss white as the doors, it matched nicely.
Pink?

M'lady most fair chooseth pink as the hue of her most effeminite "room de paux laundrex." Not that this easel of the clotheswasher's paint must be the sole room of m'lady's dwelling--O no! These are outmoded chauvinistic ideals. However...if it pleaseth m'ladyship...mine trousers have effected a fair odour among the room...

Painting the doors was simple, yet painstaking. We used Bullseye primer (a stainblocker/bare wood primer) and then high gloss white.

My Sistine Chapel. ("More like Sistine Crap-el"). Brush is used for the routed edges, mini-roller for the flat parts, sponge around the hinges.

Wait–you installed trim?

Watching Paint Dry

May 11, 2010

One last picture of sheetrock, and

Really? More of this?

Life becomes a neverending cascade of poorly installed drywall.

then we apply some primer

Yup.

Our attempt at artistic walls. The wall on the left was eventually painted the darker blue. The one on the right sold at Christy's for $11.6 million.

and some paint

Bru!

Brruuuuuu!

and we’re don…Wait, have we installed doors yet?

Band of Gypsums

August 19, 2009
Before we get going, we must pause to remember one of our fellow undead–Michael Jackson. Corpse Michael was a spokesperson for the zombie community, and we would often listen to his pro-unity anthems, such as “Black or White or Voodoo Abomination,” “Will You Be There [When My Corpse-Orca Is Freed]?” and “PDT (Pretty Dead Thing).” Some of you are thinking, “I had no idea he was undead!” to which we respond, “Really? Did you see Thriller?”
Hey, Mike, I...I know you've been through a lot lately, and...yeah, I don't mean to be a jerk or anything, because you know I love you, but--dude, I'm gonna need that drill back. Seriously. Michael, give it bac--Bubbles, no! Ahhh!

Hey, Mike, I...I know you've been through a lot lately, and...yeah, I don't mean to be a jerk or anything, because you know I love you, but--dude, I'm gonna need that drill back. Seriously. Michael, give it bac--Bubbles, no! Ahhh!

Like an eternity of undead damnation, drywall just seems to drag on and on, following a fairly simple process:

1) Cut drywall incorrectly. Affix to studs using 1 1/4″ drywall screws and drywall adhesive (tedious, but prevents screw pops later) and think, “I’ll just fix it when I mud.”

2) Apply first coat of mud; embed with tape. Do a  poor job and think, “That will just get covered with the second coat.”

3) Apply second and third coats of mud. When it looks appropriately terrible, think, “The sanding will take care of that.”

4) Sand, starting with a 100-grit screen and moving to  220 (high number = less abrasive power = more “smoothosity”). Stand back, covered in lung-filling dust, and think “This looks bad. I”d better go back and patch it with a piece of drywall.”

5) Go to step 1.

M'lady useth the rotozip tool to gently extract a window opening. When the fair maiden is finished, the sunlight that poureth naturally from her visage will be supplanted by light from the outside world. The femine pink piece of insulation ("Pinky") aideth my lady in supporting the drywall at ceiling height, like any of the sprites or fairies or flies which constantly circle about m'lady's fair brow. O maiden!

M'lady useth the rotozip tool to gently extract a window opening. When the fair maiden is finished, the sunlight that poureth naturally from her visage will be supplanted by light from the outside world. The femine pink piece of insulation ("Pinky") aideth my lady in supporting the drywall at ceiling height, like any of the sprites or fairies or flies which constantly circle about m'lady's fair brow. O maiden!

Clad in fairest white and trucker hat, m'lady coaxeth the joint compound into a corner as smooth as her pure soul. Rather than the low process of sand screening, she simply releaseth a note of beauty from her angelic vocal cord (protected by OSHA-approved dust mask, of course) and the mud rights itself out of pure shame. O purity!

Clad in fairest white and trucker hat, m'lady coaxeth the joint compound into a corner as smooth as her pure soul. Rather than the low process of sand screening, she simply releaseth a note of beauty from her angelic vocal cord (protected by OSHA-approved dust mask, of course) and the mud rights itself out of pure shame. O unicorn!

Not content to simply sand, m'lady spreads a social justice message via hat, and children smile from the valley to the mountain. O "Kids Need Hugs, Not Drugs!"

Not content to simply sand, m'lady spreads a social justice message via hat tilt, and children smile from the valley to the mountain. O "Kids Need Hugs, Not Drugs!"

 

Again, deep basement windows are not something covered in the drywall sections of DIY (pronounced "crap") books. The window is set back from 1/2" drywall, 3 1/2" studs, and 9" of block, which adds up to...um... a lot.

Again, deep basement windows are not something covered in the drywall sections of DIY (pronounced "crap") books. The window is set back from 1/2" drywall, 3 1/2" studs, and 9" of block, which adds up to...um... a lot.

Because they would be contacting concrete and treated lumber, the window wells posed a problem. We used 1/2" tile backer panel--easy to cut, and resistat to moisture--to frame out the windows, and outside corner bead to join the interior wall. This process, as you may have guessed, was not fun.

Because they would be contacting concrete and treated lumber, the window wells posed a problem. We used 1/2" tile backer panel--easy to cut, and resistat to moisture--to frame out the windows, and outside corner bead to join the interior wall. This process, as you may have guessed, was not fun.

Boo. Boo.
Hiss. Hiss.
It is worth pointing out that we used 61 full pieces of drywall--with none left over, and no trips to get more.

It is worth pointing out that we used 61 full pieces of drywall--with none left over, and no trips to get more.

Holy Sheet(rock)

August 19, 2009

Most people feel they are familiar with the concept of drywall installation, especially if the have been part of a Habitat for Humanity volunteer team that spent a day ruining the interior of some poor family’s home. “Yes, I can do that,” they respond when asked about sheetrockin’. This is because it is easy to drywall over framing that is all plumb, square and spaced 16″ on center, with no obstructions or angles or out-of-square rotting coffins. This, however, is neither plumb nor square, because I built it.

Furthermore, what do you do when you get to a gas pipe protruding out of the wall?

First, we remove the in-the-way pipe. These elbows are commonly left in case a future owner wants to install a gas appliance, such as an oven, dryer, or AJ Priezynzki-jersey-burner.

First, we remove the in-the-way pipe. These elbows are commonly left in case a future owner wants to install a gas appliance, such as an oven, dryer, or AJ Priezynzki-jersey-burner.

In DIY (rhymes with "Die!") books, they show you a independent, tough-yet-beautiful housemarm easily unscrewing the pipe. In reality, the pipe has 30 years of corrision sealing it shut, so here I've attached a crossbrace to the wood framing and used a metal strap to hold the pipe in place while I bang on it, cry, and then remember, "Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey."

In DIY (rhymes with "Die!") books, they show you a independent, tough-yet-beautiful housemarm easily unscrewing the pipe. (You can tell she's tough because she's wearing a bandana). In reality, the pipe has 30 years of corrision sealing it shut, so here I've attached a crossbrace to the wood framing and used a metal strap to hold the pipe in place while I bang on it, cry, and then remember, "Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey."

 

At this point, you have two choices. Mot people will insert a flat plug to fit under the drywall, solving the problem.  If you are afraid of the death squads that Dictator Obama is sending after you under the socialist health care plan, leave the pipe open, turn on the gas, and let the warm embrace of natural gas heal all your pre-existing conditions.

At this point, you have two choices. Mot people will insert a flat plug to fit under the drywall, solving the problem. If you are afraid of the death squads that Dictator Obama is sending after you under the socialist health care plan, leave the pipe open, turn on the gas, and let the warm embrace of natural gas heal all your pre-existing conditions.

I'm a fan of the perma-sticky teflon paste, rather than the tape, for gas and water. Here, we hand-tighten and then go another full turn with the wrench.

I'm a fan of the perma-sticky teflon paste, rather than the tape, for gas and water. Here, we hand-tighten and then go another full turn with the wrench.

 

When all the problems/obstructions are taken care of*, you are free to drywall.

*this will never happen. Simply pick a time to let your shoulders slump, look around pitifully, and mumble, “Let’s just get this over with.”

Criminal Activity!

July 4, 2009

Let’s open some reader mail.

Dear Undead Basement Remodeler,

Longtime reader, first time writer. Your work is both impeccable and ghoulish. In today’s economy, how do you protect your work from the less, er, savory elements? (OK, I mean unemployed Irish stealing copper to buy potato whisky).

Salaam,

Calvin

Thanks Calvin! Interesting you should ask–because of the timliness of your request, I’m going to post a never-before-seen shot from our security camera (Couric, I know you wanna talk, but don’t call me until after Ellen. You know better).

What evil lurks in the dark basement of--er, basement?

What evil lurks in the dark basement of--er, basement?

In this shot, if you look carefully…closer…see? The four figures shrouded in the cloaks of unclean souls? Luckily, in the undead realm, we have superior facial-recognition software (to account for our shoddy healthcare). If I just run these faces through the database, we can ID these nefarious ne’er-do-wells and finally figure out who snuck into our basement to drywall. These characters–the type to sneek in a person’s house anf help install drywall–are more than a bit rough. You’ve seen Oz, right, or any of those National Geogaphic Presents: Locked Up shows, right, where prisoners sharpen carrots and cut each other’s faces off for looking at their shoes funny? These guys make those fellas look like Sesame Street. Wait…looks like we have some hits in the database (Shudder).
The infamous Captain Ron--Great Lakes pirate, wiffle dealer, back-alley chemist, black-market curler, Michael Vick jersey wearer.

The infamous Captain Ron--Great Lakes pirate, wiffle dealer, back-alley chemist, black-market curler, Michael Vick jersey wearer. Don't take candy from strangers? After Ron, you'll be be preemptorily stabbing EVERYONE you don't know.

 

Ah, the slippery Tortfeazor. So devilish that's he the only man wanted for practicing WITH a license. It's hard to even look at.

Ah, the slippery Tortfeazor. So devilish that's he the only man wanted for practicing WITH a license. Legend has it that he has "Mistrial!" tattooed in a place I can't mention in a family blog. And the mustache? Please.

 

Weekend Zoids, aka "Weekday Zoids," aka "The Literateman," aka "Raddam," aka "Big Baby Jesus" (Mexico), aka "Fafsa the Fantastic," aka "The Big Bat Mitzvah," aka "Johnz." You do NOT want anyting to do with this guy. If he throws you a life preserver, take your chances under water.

Weekend Zoids, aka "Weekday Zoids," aka "The Literateman," aka "Raddam," aka "Big Baby Jesus" (Mexico), aka "Fafsa the Fantastic," aka "The Big Bat Mitzvah," aka "Johnz." You do NOT want anyting to do with this guy. If he throws you a life preserver, take your chances under water.

This guy's straight trouble. I mean, just look at him.
Ah! Ahhhh! Ahhhhhhhhh! Ah! Ah! Ah!….AHHHHH!

The Drywall Cometh

June 11, 2009
Here we are, just mindin' our own business at the Annual Back to the 90's Car Show in front of our house, when a chill suddenly fills the air.

Here we are, just mindin' our own business at the Annual Back to the 90's Car Show in front of our house, when a chill suddenly fills the air.

After months of laborious labor, M’Lady and I had set aside a precious few hours to bask in the shine of the 1996 Buick Skylark. Yet Fate had other plans.
Ahhh! Monster Drywall Delivery!!!

Ahhh! Monster Drywall Delivery!!!

Hey, now--before you judge M'Lady for taking solace in a bottle of fairy juice, think about how you'd feel if 62 sheets of gypsum were left on your doorstep? Who will help us now?

Hey, now--before you judge M'Lady for taking solace in a bottle of fairy juice, think about how you'd feel if 62 sheets of gypsum were left on your doorstep? Who will help us now?

But again, Fate had other plans…

Electricky, Batty

June 11, 2009

Sorry about the interruption in remodeling news–turns out we had  record 9 hits (no, that’s not a misprint!) in February, which brought WordPress’s servers to their knees. We apologize to all of you in the blogosphere (closer than the stratosphere, farther than the matressphere) who were denied your ill-vetted, knee-jerk blognews and forced to gather information from some fat-cat, tree-pulp news machine, like the Times or LostPedia, for the past few months.

So,  the subpanel turned out well, after it was turned upside down, rewired, dewired, and then rerun one more time (it turned out that two of the breakers also needed to be Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters, which is a special breaker designed to take up tons of space that you had already allocated for perfectly cut and run hot and neutral wires, not that I’m bitter), so that was finished.

When all the wire is run, we spray the holes with foam insulation to reduce sound transmission, and decrease the likelihood that "hot n' heavy" wires will "shack up" together in the same hole, causing major shame for those wires' parents at church.

When all the wire is run, we spray the holes with foam insulation to reduce sound transmission, and decrease the likelihood that "hot n' heavy" wires will "shack up" together in the same hole, causing major shame for those wires' parents at church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also ran coaxial cable an 5e wire into several low-voltage boxes. 5e can carry modem and telephone transmissions; coax carries our current Internet, data,  or Jon and Kate Plus Eight reruns.

 

Coax (black) and 5e (blue) run through a low-voltage box (orange) creating a to-die-for color scheme.

Coax (black) and 5e (blue) run through a low-voltage box (orange) creating a to-die-for color scheme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was then time for the electrical inspec–oh, did I just hear the doorbell ring?

Well, Inspektor!Is there a problem with...I mean, of course I didn't think I could get away with...yes, yes, people could die but...

Well, Inspektor!Is there a problem with...I mean, of course I didn't think I could get away with...yes, yes, people could die but...

...are you thirsty, Inspektor? Here, try this delicously refreshing beverage from...oh, really?...they make burritos, too?...No, finish it, I insist! Just don't pull to hard on that wire, unless you want a headful of ceiling.

...are you thirsty, Inspektor? Here, try this delicously refreshing beverage from...oh, really?...they make burritos, too?...No, finish it, I insist! Just don't pull to hard on that wire, unless you want a headful of ceiling. No, just finish the drink and slap that Inspektion sticker on that box...oh, no, the pleasure is mine...of course no humans willbe dwelling here! Good day to you, sir!

G'yea!

G'yea!

With the electrical inspection done, it’s time to insulate. Insulation is necessary to stop air infiltration, keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and to dampen the shrieking lost souls that wander by our home in the eternal midnight of the undead realm, searching for respite and possibly a Burger King. We caulked in 2″ rigid foam insulation against the rim joists and the cantilevered foundation, which was so much fun that we forgot to take pictures.
With a mere lilt of her voice, M'Lady coaxeth the fiberglass batts into the stud cavity, never pausing to complain or decry the Feminine Art of Insulation.

With a mere lilt of her voice, M'Lady coaxeth the fiberglass batts into the stud cavity, never pausing to complain or decry the Feminine Art of Insulation.

 

Whoosh! Swish! Swoosh! Not only is it fun to play with, but it irritates the skin and causes heart cancer, too!

Whoosh! Swish! Swoosh! Not only is it fun to play with, but it irritates the skin and causes heart cancer, too!

Zap!–it’s Electricity!

December 14, 2008

I have to admit–plumbing, though it has been a major part of this remodeling project, simply does not have the appeal of electrical work. With electricity, you have the potential for catastrophic personal injury and, my personal favorite, death.

Which is why there’s a few rules that you at home must follow when you’re attempting an electrical project.

1) Never attempt to deal with electicity when you’re alive; hire an undead contractor for the installation. Electricity can cause your heart to stop beating and, more importantly, cause you to pee in your pants.

2) Never attempt to deal with electricity when you’re dead. Electricity can cause your heart to start beating again, and we all remember what a pain in the a__ that was.

3) Electricity follows the path of least resistence. Therefore, the safest way to do electrical work is to ground yourself; that is, wear heavy rubber boots and gloves, and most importantly, carry around a steel rod that’s been driven into your foot.

Are we ready to work? Let’s do it!

Pull the wire through a code-approved electrical box.

Pull the wire through a code-approved electrical box.

 

Carefully cut through the sheathing. Do not nick the wires!

Carefully cut through the sheathing. Do not nick the wires!

Strip 3/4" or so of each wire. Remember to check for the correct gauge on the wirestripper--using a 14-gauge-size cutting hole on a 12-gauge wire will render it unsafe.

Strip 3/4" or so of each wire. Remember to check for the correct gauge on the wirestripper--using a 14-gauge-size cutting hole on a 12-gauge wire will render it unsafe.

 

Turn the power back on at the switch and put your tongue on the black ("hot") wire.

Turn the power back on at the switch and put your tongue on the black ("hot") wire.

 

Wait..what was I talking about? Whose basement is this? Nevermind that--who am I?

Wait..what was I talking about? Whose basement is this? Nevermind that--who am I?

Where were we? After the incident, a Star appeared in the sky, and following it, three men on camelback.

“Lo, who art though?” I queried. “Looketh thou for a babe in a manager?”

“That was 2000 years ago,” replieth one. “Now we’re just looking for some contracting work.”

“Let’s go!” I shouted.

With myrrh-stained hands, he expertly pulls cable!

With myrrh-stained hands, he expertly pulls cable!

 

"Are you using the 3/4" bit there, Ahab? Good work; keep it up."

"Are you using the 3/4" bit there, Ahab? Good work; keep it up."

 

"Hey! You just took break an hour ago! Back to work!"

"Hey! You just took break an hour ago! Back to work!"

As you may have surmised, electrical work is simple. You just have remember: Black is hot, white is neutral, green (or bare wire) is ground. And red is a traveler for a three-way switch. And blue is for multi-control applications. And always use 14-gauge wire for a 15 amp circuit, which can support 80% of its total load (watts = amps X volts). And always use 12-gauge wire for a 20-amp circuit. And don’t ever fuse the neutral bar with the ground bar in a subpanel, even though they’re the same in the main breaker. And don’t forget to use a GFCI-protected circuit in a bathroom (it has to be dedicated). And don’t foget the AFCI protected breaker for any bedroom receptacles. And protect holes which are 1 1/4″ or closer to the face of the stud–use a nailing plate. And don’t forget to clamp cable at a metal box, or secure it within 8 inches of a plastic box. And use BX (armored) cable where the cable is exposed. And check the NEC book for structural ratings before drilling into load-bearing studs or joists. And use a tandem breaker for two hots connected to the main bus bar (don’t double up on one). And use gromets and clamps where cable enters the load center.

That’s about it.