Sunday, June 8, 2014

Groundhogs are Back

The groundhog saga continues.

When we moved into this house last year, several groundhogs lived under the front porch. I trapped all seven groundhogs and installed a hardware cloth barrier, making it impossible for new groundhogs to move in.

This year we cleared out 15 years' worth of overgrown brush from the edges of the back yard, taking away a few more hiding places.

Today, a tiny groundhog ran across the back patio right in front of me, hiding under the screened in porch in the back of our house. Both dogs were outside and somehow they didn't notice.

We have a concrete patio around the pool and the concrete abuts the screened in porch. At least two groundhogs have created a new burrow *under* the concrete patio with an entrance under the back porch.

I'll have to trap these groundhogs and then rebuild the skirting around the bottom of the porch so it's impossible for new ones to return.


  • Groundhog burrows are sometimes huge - anywhere from 8 to 66 feet!
  • We have two dogs that won't stand a chance against a groundhog defending its territory.
  • We're lucky it's only groundhogs. Enclosed space underneath a porch is also prime skunk real estate.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bathroom Faucet

Today I replaced this ugly bathroom faucet. It's an old Moen faucet and this is the third one I've replaced. Watching this video was incredibly helpful.

Obviously, turn off the water supply first.

Next remove this bolt:

That will let you pull the handle out.

Then you can unscrew this lever.

Removing the lever allows the stopper to come right out. It'll be gross and messy, welcome to plumbing.

You should go ahead and remove the trap so you can clean it all out. You should be able to loosen and disassemble the PVC drain by hand. If this is your first rodeo, take lots of pictures so you can remember how to reassemble the trap when you're finished.

Now pop the top off the handles.


Pry with a screwdriver and pop the top off. This picture makes it look easy. LOL. It'll take lots of force since the handle is old and corroded. You might even bend the screwdriver.

Almost the hell does this thing come off?

Next unscrew this part as shown below. Again, it looks easy, but this is probably extremely frozen and difficult to move. You might have to drill a hole in the bottom piece so you can hold it stable with a screwdriver. Then you can use a wrench to loosen the top part.

Doesn't this look lovely? The blue stuff is a big plastic washer that has disintegrated over the years. Everything else is a combination of mineral deposits, bent o-rings, and a substance known as "slop".

The first few times I removed faucets like these I pulled and bent the faucet until it eventually broke off. Now I know the trick - an allen wrench!

See how easy this is? (I had to use pliers for leverage to turn the allen wrench.)

And a second allen wrench loosens a bracket as shown below.

Now you can pull up on the handles. We're getting really close.

Old plumbing fixtures are home to an amazing amount of rust. There is a clip that you must pop off.

Now the whole assembly comes out from below. This is what it looks like:

Back under the sink, loosen the drain nut.

Push it up and use pliers to turn the silver ring counterclockwise to loosen it.

Now is a good time to clean everything up.

Doesn't that look better?

Another pro tip: do as much prep above the sink as possible. Here, I've wrapped the threads in teflon tape.

And I found I could also attach the supply hoses.

Feed it all through the hole.

Put the trap back together.

I'm skipping a step because assembling the drain is covered in the installation instructions. Here is the finished faucet!

Believe it or not, this was pretty easy -- once I knew how to disassemble the old faucet. The last time I used a hack saw to cut the old faucet out, which was a nightmare. I also didn't think to assemble the supply hoses ahead of time, leading to a lot of time squeezed under the sink at awkward angles. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Screen Door

Our patio door has seen better days. The screen is damaged:

And the joints are separated:

I glued the joints, added some metal strapping for extra strength (since the door slams constantly), and replaced the screen. Way cheaper than buying a new door!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Toilet Disaster

I guess I'm lucky I work at home. Today, during a meeting, Aidan alarmingly told me "Dad! The toilet is overflowing!"

It was the upstairs toilet, right above the kitchen. Not only was the upstairs bathroom flooding, it was raining toilet water in the kitchen, leaking all the way to the basement.

To top it off, the shutoff valve by the toilet would not turn. I had to reach in the tank and stop the water inside the toilet. I'm going to test all the shutoff valves in the house. (Shouldn't the home inspector have tested these?)

Here's the new toilet. It's an American Standard Champion 4, hopefully the best toilet money can buy.

May as well fix the wallpaper that was behind the old toilet.

Next project: a bunch of paint repair in the kitchen. The previous owners painted over wallpaper, which is now bubbled up because of the water.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Painting Tips

We're just about finished painting Aidan's room.

Here are my tips.

1. Prep the walls first.

  • Apply a few coats of spackle to holes and defects. Feather out the edges just like you would when working with drywall tape. Paint will not cover imperfections, so now is the time to be a perfectionist.
  • Scrape walls with putty knife to remove tiny bumps.
  • Eliminate all dust before painting. Also make sure there isn't any grease or wallpaper glue.
  • Remove all outlet covers and switch plates. This is way easier than painting around them.

2. Watch this YouTube video. It shows how to cut in ceiling edges.

3. Get a good brush. I use Purdy brushes, which run $10-$15 each. You'll get better coverage the brush should last for years.

4. Use blue tape around awkward corners and some trim. The first coat should be very, very thin. This seals the edge. If you lay on too much paint, it will bleed under the tape.

5. Load enough paint on the brush. Here's how:

6. When using a roller:
  • It should have plenty of paint.
  • Move at a steady pace. If you're going super fast, you'll splatter paint everywhere.
  • Don't press so hard! This is a sign you don't have enough paint on the roller.
  • Always work in the same direction, keeping pressure on the "dry" edge so your wet edge doesn't form ridges. I paint a vertical line from ceiling to floor, and then work around the room always moving right.
7. Invest in good cloth tarps. We've had a set of tarps for years and keep reusing them.

8. If you screw up (drips on the wall, paint on the ceiling), you can't fix it when the paint is wet. It'll just smear around and get worse. Wait until it's dry and touch up later.

9. Gadgets and gimmicks are stupid. Watch the pros - they use brushes and rollers. The hardware store is full of devices to make painting easier and they all suck.

10. Notable exception to the above - a plastic lid is useful to keep the paint can clean when pouring.


  • Educate yourself, YouTube is great for this.
  • Buy high quality brushes, rollers, and tarps.
  • Take your time and apply as much paint as you can without it dripping.