Sunday, December 27, 2015

GFCI Reset

A couple days before Christmas I was sitting on the couch one evening when I heard a loud *POP* come from the foyer near the front door. I got up and looked around but couldn’t find anything that caused it and chalked it up to the cats being dumb. About an hour later I looked outside and realized that the pole light was out along with half the Christmas lights.

As I looked around outside I couldn’t figure out why everything was out. The lights were plugged in but that didn’t explain why the pole light was out when I had just replaced the bulbs a few months ago. Then it dawned on me to check the GFCI outlet inside the house. Sure enough it had popped. Pushing in the top button to reset it fixed the problem and I didn't have any more issues with it. Central Virginia has received a lot of rain lately and I’m guessing water got into one of the light strands and caused a short which in turn tripped the GFCI.

At least on ours if it's tripped the top button will be out slightly and a red light will appear on the left side. Pushing the top button will reset it.

We didn’t have these at our old house but we’ve got them everywhere water might come into contact with a power source here but they’re not on every outlet. (Bathrooms, kitchen, and garage.) In the case of the one for the power outlet on the outside front of the house the GFCI reset button is on the outlet in the foyer by the front door. In the case of one of my neighbors that had the same issue on the same night they found theirs in the garage.

So if you experience a partial loss of power check the outlet first. It might just be as simple as pushing in the button to reset it. In our case the cause seemed to be fairly straightforward and we didn't have any further issues with it. If it continues to trip however it might be wise to consult an electrician to determine the cause and fix it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Lights Aerial View

Thanks to one of my neighbors that has a drone I now know what my house looks like from above.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Lights II

This past weekend I finished putting up lights on the house. While I had grander plans for expanding the display this year I didn’t quite get there. The 22 foot telescoping ladder I bought earlier in the year feels a little flimsy when fully extended so I wasn’t able to reach the roofline of the house like I had originally planned. I did however add lights to the top of the garage (thanks to the wife for crawling out the window to do this), to the tree in the middle of the front yard, and in and around the bushes.

(For comparison to last year’s display see this entry from November 2014.)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

More IKEA Finds

As I’ve mentioned in previous entries Jenny and I love IKEA. We took a trip up there a few weeks ago mainly for a new dining table but always end up coming home with a few other things as well.

The main thing we went up there for was a new dining room table. We’ve had a smaller four seat one for years that was the biggest we could fit in the dining room of our old house. Now that we’ve got more space and with Thanksgiving and having both sides of the family over on different days we finally got a larger one. It also helped that it happened to be on sale in November for a hundred dollars less than usual. While it seats up to ten we only bought six chairs for the moment but may get two more eventually.

Along with the table we also wanted a chair for the corner of the morning room. We had picked up a simple couch last year but it took up more space and never got used much. So we replaced it with this chair which was the perfect fit for the corner.

I also picked up two cheap, useful tech items.

Above is how the underside of the desk (also from IKEA) in my home office has looked up until now, a tangled mess of cords. Thanks to this nifty little add on, the Signum cable management bracket, however it’s now completely cleaned up as seen below.

I also found this cheap little stand for all of two dollars. Normally on my desk my 13” Retina MacBook Pro perfectly is docked with an older 24” Apple Cinema Display running at 1920 x 1200. While this is usually enough screen space ocassionally I want to run dual display but I’ve always found it annoying to cope with the lower height of the laptop’s screen when it’s sitting flat on the desk. While the stand is designed for tablets it fits my Mac perfectly and gives it just enough height to make it useful.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Water Savers

This happened back in the summer but I had forgotten to write about it until a recent post in Ryan Homes group on Facebook reminded me.
Around early August we started having issues with the water pressure in our master bath shower. Along with that we were having intermittant hot water outages. I called our service manager who felt like it was the water saver in the shower head but arranged for a plumber to come out just to be sure. And that’s exactly what it turned out to be.
Inside the shower head is a little rubber ring that when it functions correctly is supposed to save water. It’s prone to clogging however and when it does it causes the water pressure to drop which in turn causes the water flow rate to drop to the point where the tankless hot water heat shuts off. The simplest fix is to unscrew the shower head and remove the small rubber ring inside. I didn’t get a picture of the exact one from our shower head but I found a picture via Google below.
On a side note we also had a similar issue with the faucet in master bathroom a few months before this as well. While we didn’t lose water pressure it take forever and a day for the water to heat up. Removing a similar ring from the facuet spout took care of it as well.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the removal of the ring results in far harder water pressure coming out of the shower head. (It’s noticable in the faucet but not nearly as much.) We were slightly concerned this would lead to a higher water bill but in the months since we really haven’t noticed much, if any, of a difference.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Door Lock Fix

Now that this has happened a second time I figured I better make a post about it in case anyone else encounters the problem. Back in May we started having an issue with the lock on the door handle. (Not the bolt lock.) It became hard to lock or unlock it inside or turn it with the key from the outside. I took it apart but couldn't for the life of me figure out what was causing it to be stuck. Thinking it was defective I got in contact with not only the lock company but also our service manager since we were only about a month out of the comprehensive warranty at that point.

The fix turned out to be stupidly simple. On the outside of the door handle there is a small hole with a hex screw inside. (What the arrow is pointing to in the photo below.) Over time it becomes loose and makes it hard to turn the lock. Tightening that little screw is all it takes to fix it.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

HVAC Maintenance

One of the things I learned from parents was the value of preventative maintenance on the HVAC system. For as long as I can remember, twice a year they had someone out to check the system out and make any necessary adjustments. As such they lasted much longer and it's safe to assume repair costs were far less because potential issues were caught early before they could become bigger problems at a far more inopportune time.

Because of that, as long as we've been homeowners I've had someone out every spring and fall. Several years back at our old house the fall check caught one of those aforementioned potential issues when a voltage check revealed a circuit board on the verge of going bad. Had it not been caught when it was it's very likely we would have lost our heat and needed a far more expensive emergency service call to fix it along with sitting in the cold. (It was also caught while the system was still under warranty which was a plus since we only had to pay the labor cost to fix it.) 

While I held off for the first year on our new house because of the warranty, now that it's over I had James River Air out this afternoon to do the winter check up. While I figured everything would be fine given the young age of the system, the peace of mind in knowing for sure was worth the expense.

On a related note, if you're served by Dominion Virginia Power they offer a heat pump tune up rebate program that will cover the cost of the service if you qualify.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lawn Maintenance

As I mentioned back in the spring I don't understand why people build nice houses and then let the yards go to crap. Ryan Homes put in a really nice sodded lawn in the front yards of our neighborhood and a number of them are completely overrun with weeds at this point due to neglect. A little lawn maintenance can go a long way to making the grass thrive and look nice. Last week I had a landscaper that cuts my neighbor's yard come out and core aerate my yard front and back. On Saturday morning I made visits Tractor Supply Company and Lowe's to pick up everything seen in the photo below.

Six 40 pound bags of lime, a 50 pound bag of tall fescue, two bags of fertilizer, and a 5 pound bag of rye grass.

While I didn't do a soil test like I probably should have the landscaper told me the lime would help with the weeds. The tall fescue and fertilizer are self explanatory. I bought the rye grass to spread on a few thinned out spots in various parts of the yard. It's fast growing so it should help to get a decent cover before winter arrives.

One thing I'm kicking myself for at the moment is not turning our irrigation system on this year. We got so much rain in the spring and beginning of summer I never got around to calling the irrigation company to come out. By the time we stopped receiving rain a regular basis it was mid-summer and I couldn't see spending the money on it for only a couple months of use. I probably could have turned it on myself too but I just never around to bothering with it. I picked up a cheap sprinker from Lowe's but it's a bit of a pain to go outside every fifteen minutes or so and move it. (And stay dry in the process.)

It's worth noting again too how much of a difference fertilizer makes. Come late December/early January I'll put down another round of it to keep the grass looking green. Several of my neighbors are spending considerable money on TruGreen, Scotts, etc. and I've managed to accomplish much the same result for a lot less by simply following the schedule in the homeowners manual regarding lawn care. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sump Pump Battery Backup

Over on his blog, Our Naples Adventure in Shorewood, Illinois!, (link in the My Blog List on the sidebar) homeowner Jim has an excellent write up on installing a new sump pump with battery backup in his basement. While we don't have a basement or sump pump in our current house I speak with some experience that this is a must-do upgrade that anyone that does have one needs to make.

At our old house we had a crawlspace. Due to the high water table and the sloping of the yard we had a sump pump in the lowest corner under the house that pumped the water through PVC pipe to the ditch that ran alongside our yard. When Hurricane Irene moved through central Virginia in August 2011 it knocked our power out and with it the sump pump. The next morning we awoke to six or so inches of water in most of our crawlspace. Due to improper grading under there it had backed up onto the vapor barrier and we had to poke holes in that to get the majority of it to drain away. The power ultimately came back eight days later.

While we got lucky that the water didn't cause any actual damage if I had a basement I'd do what Jim did for sure. (Or buy a generator to power the pump.) I definitely would not want to risk the chance of flooding inside. As it is at our new house we have a French drain around the perimeter of the crawlspace that drains via gravity from an outlet in the front yard near the curb. There's no need for a sump pump and with the prior experience at the old house this was a big plus for us here.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Tool Cart

Over the years I've accumulated a pretty large collection of tools. So much so that my existing tool box above just isn't enough space any more for everything. I've ended up buying new drill bits and such simply because I overlooked them in the overflowing drawers of that box and have searched for a while for another solution. I'd love to get a wider tool box but I also like the compactness of my existing set up even if it does require a step stool for me to better see in top. (And I'm 5'11". It's tall.)

I love Harbor Freight. They definitely sell some crap but I've used them for years for getting various odds and ends for far cheaper than the big box stores. It's one of those places I can go into and spend quite a while just wandering up and down the aisles finding stuff I didn't even know I needed. It's kind of like following my wife around in Target.

A few weeks back I got a flyer in the mail that had coupon for a four drawer tool cart for $99. After reading the reviews and taking a look at it in-store I picked one up this weekend. I ended up moving all of my power and air tools into it along with the assorted bits that go with them.

The one complaint I have at the moment is one of the drawers doesn't open very well and overall they're not as smooth as my Craftsman boxes. I sprayed some white lithium grease into the tracks this morning but it didn't work like I expected so I'm going to need to fiddle with it a little more. But for the price I can't complain. It's freed up a lot of space in my main box and made it easier to find everything between the two. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Insurance Rant

One thing I've come to understand over the years is that the criteria used to determine insurance pricing defies logic. I started shopping around recently due a larger than expected increase in our car insurance. (I was told it was due simply to, "the cost of doing business in Virginia.") Because of the multi-policy discount involved I've had to shop for a new homeowners policy as well. Therein lies the problem.

Back in March 2011 at our old house we'd had a wastewater pipe come apart at a joint underneath the house dumping wastewater and sewage in the crawlspace. We filed an insurance claim to get the mess cleaned up. It was confined to the vapor barrier so that was replaced along with removal of the water and waste and spraying an anti-microbial solution to kill any bacteria. The total payout after my deductible was a little over $1,200. Despite there being no actual water damage (or even touching any of the wood underneath the house) the claim was classified as such. Turns out this is the crappy gift of underpants and socks that keeps on giving year after year.

A couple times between then and selling that house I tried shopping around to get a better rate on my homeowners insurance. In Virginia however (and Rhode Island apparently) most insurance companies refuse to write policies if there's been a water damage claim in the previous five years. This I thought was stupid enough given that there was no actual water damage but I accepted it and moved on.

Fast forward to this week as I start looking for new insurance. Several times I've asked for quotes from companies only to be told they won't a policy due to the aforementioned claim in the previous five years. This makes absolutely no sense to me with it being a completely different house. It'd almost make more sense if it affected the new owners of the old house instead.

As it is it looks like I'll be switching our car insurance and then come next March once the five years is up move the homeowners policy. Even with the loss of the multi-policy discount it's still cheaper. Unless I can reach someone within the company I plan to go with that is willing or able to apply a little more logic to it and write the policy before then.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Driveway Sealing DIY

Along with sealing the fence the other major maintenance item on my to-do list this summer was to seal the driveway. This was really something I should have done late last summer but never got around to do it. This year I've been planning on doing it for months but it wasn't until this week where the combination of available time and a good forecast (no rain for 48 hours) finally came together to allow me to get it done.

Per the manual that came with the house the driveway needs to be sealed within 6-12 months of paving and resealed every 1-2 years thereafter to keep it from falling apart over time. Several manufacturers sell varying levels of sealants that are supposed to last from 2-8 years with similarly escalating prices. But between what the manual said and similar advice I read on a few places online about needing to do it every two years or so anyway I opted to go for the base level seal. That and I figured if I messed it up and ended up needing to redo it (or pay someone else) I wouldn't have to wait long or be out any more money than need be.

That being said this is the list of supplies I bought for this for my roughly 21x42 foot driveway:
-Five buckets of Latex-ite 2 Year Driveway Coating (In-store price was about $1.50 cheaper than online for whatever reason.) As I note later in the entry I initially only bought four and had to go get a fifth to complete the job. Buy more than you think you'll need and return the rest afterwards if you don't use it.
-Driveway Squeegee (Comes in two pieces - pole and squeegee. I'd get two poles. Mine broke in half.)
-Masonry Brush (For edging)
-Plastic Sheeting
-Painter's Tape
-Driveway Cleaner
-Oil Spot Primer - I bought this just in case but didn't end up needing it and will be able to return it. I had a few spots on the driveway from spraying tire cleaner on my car but they came clean with the power washer.

All together with tax I spent around $115 or so for all of it. I also spent roughly four and a half hours between prep work and application to complete it.

Before shot prior to sweeping and using the power washer.

For prep work I ran the weedwacker along the edges of the driveway then swept it thoroughly. From there using the power washer I borrowed from my in-laws I rinsed it off, sprayed the soap, and then did two passes to rinse it thoroughly. I left our cars in the street overnight so it would be completely dry by the morning. This morning I taped the plastic sheeting to the garage door and also put a piece across the sidewalk to keep them protected from splatters. I used several 2x4s I already had to hold them in place against the concrete lip of the garage and the sidewalk.

A few days ago I turned the buckets upside down so they could mix. Before starting this morning I used an extra five gallon bucket and alternatively mixed up half of two of the buckets of sealant just in case the color varied slightly in each. (From there I periodically mixed in additional sealant from the other buckets when it reached the halfway mark.) Every time I mixed them I gave them a good stir with a spare wooden stake that I had.

My wife took this picture of me this morning as I was mixing up more sealant after doing the edges. It also shows the plastic taped up against the garage door.

From there I used the brush to lay down an edge around the entire perimeter of the driveway. In retrospect it was really only necessary to do it along the edge that meets the garage, the street, and the sidewalk instead of the entire thing. After I did similar to how it shows in the instructional video, dumping the sealant on the driveway and spreading it with the squeegee. I didn't find it quite as easy to do as the video shows and it took a while to figure out the right amount of pressure to use. I also initially spread it a little thicker than I should have and didn't squeegee off enough of the excess in spots leading to visible lines. Because of that I actually ran out before I was finished and despite trying to use the brush to get enough out of the buckets to complete it was left with a small uncovered spot. I had to go back to Home Depot to get another bucket and after it sits upside down overnight I will go back out tomorrow and finish it along with applying a little extra in a few spots that look like they aren't covered enough. As I mentioned on the supply list above the squeegee pole also broke in half toward the end of the driveway making it a little more difficult to spread.

I wore an old pair of shorts, shoes, t-shirt, and a pair of rubber gloves this morning that had to be tossed when I was done. Expect to get dirty doing this. I did however clean off my skin far easier than I expected.

Overall I'm really pleased with how it turned out. It was cheaper than hiring a contractor and not terribly difficult to do. I am curious to see how long it lasts. If I can get two years out of it I'll be satisfied.

The mostly finished driveway. (Still needs the little bit at the end coated.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fence Sealing DIY

Ever since the fence was built last fall I've needed to apply a water seal to protect it. I started on this briefly a few months ago but didn't get a chance to finish. I finally got around to doing so this past week.
I used a five gallon bucket of Thompson's Clear Waterseal to get the job done. In retrospect I should have spent a little more and gotten a slightly tinted version. At times when I was applying it I couldn't quite tell what I had covered or if I had applied enough. (Especially with wearing sunglasses.) I also wasn't sure if it would be enough but I ended up having about a gallon leftover at the end. All told it was roughly 380 feet of six foot tall fence. (Counting both sides.)

To apply it I borrowed a Wagner power sprayer from my father-in-law. (I initially tried using a roller brush but I quickly found this would have taken a long time to complete this way.) Using the sprayer I was able to do all of it in under two hours. It would have been quicker had the paint container had held more. One important thing to note however with going this route. Take the appropriate safety precautions. I wore my sunglasses for eye protection and a respirator to avoid breathing in the spray.
I still need to take a brush to a few spots that I missed or undersprayed. I also need to hand paint the edges of the fence where it meets the house. I avoided spraying too closely lest I cover the siding in sealant.
It's a little hard to tell because it's clear but this was how the fence looked after applying the sealant.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


When we had our 14 Day Meeting with our sales rep we had priced out what it would cost to have a deck built with the house. At the time however we were on the fence about whether we wanted that or a patio and after the sales rep told us we could get it done cheaper later than what Ryan Homes was going to charge us for it we decided to wait. I've regretted that decision to some extent since then because I felt like we were missing out on full enjoyment of the yard without one. (That and it's a pain to have to move our grill and other things that would normally be found on a deck every time I mow the lawn.) This week that was finally rectified with a 12x16 platform deck.

After some discussion and seeing a platform deck on a friend's house we decided that was the route to go with ours. We liked the look and on top of that it was cheaper (over $1,300 less) than a similarly sized one elevated one with stairs. After getting some quotes we went with the father of a friend from college that owns a deck building company.

Before photo. The steps are a set I built last summer.

The weekend before the build started.

Digging the post holes. For the holes further away from the house the posts sat on those large concrete blocks.

The holes against the house were dug down to the foundation footer and the posts sat on those. 

All the lumber needed. (It was less than I expected.)

Close up of one of the post holes showing the different layers of dirt.

Day 1 progress. Posts and outline frame completed.

Day 2 progress showing the completion of the frame.

End of Day 2. The diagonal placement of the boards looks so much better than if they were laid straight. 

Day 3: The finished deck.

To say we're happy with the results would be a vast understatement. The builder, Jerry Clay, did an amazing job and it was clear he took a lot of pride in his work and making sure it was done correctly. The diagonal look really sets it apart and I'm told by others takes more experience to do right. Now we just need some furniture for it. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Another Round of Odds and Ends

A collection of recent things from our house.

At our old house we had crape myrtles lining two sides of our backyard. They looked really nice when they bloomed each year. With the exception of the one tree in our front yard that was included with the landscaping we were treeless but we finally fixed that recently. In the past few weeks we've added three trees to our back yard. It started off with planting a flowering cherry tree in one corner and then adding two apple trees (Winesap and Red Delicious) in the other corner. Planting anything in the yard with the amount of rocks in the dirt isn't easy. I have a mattock I bought years ago for use at the old house that's been invaluable anytime I've needed to do any sort of digging.

Flowering Cherry Tree

Apple Trees

Over the Memorial Day weekend I built a new workbench using the 2x4 Basics Workbench Kit. My prior set up was a smaller homemade bench sitting next to another square one that had belonged to Jenny's granddad. The set up didn't work very well for me so I sold the homemade one and moved the square one to the other side of my air compressor. In their place using the aforementioned kit I built a longer bench that is already working out much better. I also went a step further and stained it using a small cheap can of cherry wood stain. Eventually I'm also going to add a frame on top to support a work light using the included shelf link pieces but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Also over the Memorial Day weekend I picked up a miter saw. (Side note: Lowe's will price match Amazon. I saved $20 this way.) I don't do a whole lot of woodworking but when I do it requires pulling out a folding workbench, clamps, and a circular saw along with running an extension cord to cut anything. I used the saw to build the workbench and another stand to hold my yard tools. I really wish I had bought one years ago, it so much easier and quicker to make the cuts needed. Seeing as I have a four inch long scar above my right knee from an incident with an angle grinder years ago I think my wife gets a bit nervous when I get a new power tool.

Back in April I picked up a 22 foot telescoping ladder when it went on sale for 35% off. I mainly needed it to reach the outside dryer vent up on the second floor to clean it and for hanging Christmas lights on the top of the house at the end of the year. I also was finally able to reach the crappy little CFL light bulb Ryan Homes puts in the garage. It didn't put out much light and also took a little while to reach full brightness. I replaced it with a 100 watt daylight LED bulb that Home Depot is selling for $10. (Best price I've seen anywhere.) It made a big difference out there. (Excuse the mess.)

Three other significant upcoming projects: staining the fence and sealing the driveway. I've been putting these off all spring and really need to get them done soon. I'm also going to be adding additional shelving in the garage above the door. We still don't have a shed yet and I've got too much stuff still sitting on the floor. (As the picture above clearly shows.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

One Year Anniversary, Lawn Care, and Garden

One year ago today, April 24, 2014, we closed on our house. While we've had a few issues here and there, the past twelve months living here has only reinforced the feeling that we made a good decision in deciding to build where we did. We've got a house that far better meets our needs along with having friendly neighbors that compared to our old neighborhood are actually neighborly. Even now I still find myself sometimes wondering in amazement that this is home.

That's not to say the past year hasn't been without issues. We've had our share of minor problems (soft spot in the floor and microwave repair among other things), a fairly major one (furnace breakdown on the coldest night of the year), and that issue with our fence.  But overall we've been really happy with how things have gone so far. We dealt with a lot of stress in our mid-1950's old house worrying about what would be the next thing to break and to say it's been a relief the past year not having to worry about such things would be a huge understatement. (I will also never own another house with a septic system. Ever.)

I hate to boast but I've got to about my yard and how it's one of the nicest looking ones in our neighborhood. It's amazing what a bag of fertilizer every few months and a little weeding can do. While some of my neighbors are spending money (significant money at that) on the services of TruGreen and other lawn care companies I've simply been following the care schedule outlined in the homeowner's manual regarding feedings along with smart mowing (mulching the clippings), and periodic watering. And the results have been just as good if not better.

On that note I don't understand why people build a nice house that comes with a nice sodded lawn and irrigation, and then let it (the lawn at least) go to crap. Just do the basic maintenance on it. Everything is outlined in the aforementioned manual. Compared to the cost of the house it's a very tiny expense. At least with the size of the front yards in our neighborhood a $20 bag of lawn food or fertilizer is enough to cover it adequately. 

One of my honey-do chores this spring was to build a raised bed garden a few weeks ago. Using three 2x12 pressure treated boards with sections of 2x4s at the corners I built this in about an afternoon. I also dug out the grass within the perimeter as best I could (hard to do with the amount of rocks in the yard) and lined it with landscape fabric. I'll probably add a second one next year and I also want to put install a rain barrel on one of the downspouts so it's easier to water. (Since the water spigots are on the sides of the house on the other side of the fence.) I then borrowed my dad's truck and went to the local landscaping place for a load of leaf compost to fill it. I think it turned out nicely.

Yes, that's duct tape holding the fabric to the sides.

Speaking of the rocks, our yard is littered with them. When the house was built and the French drain installed around the perimeter of the foundation there didn't seem to be much effort to contain the gravel used. (I'll give Ryan Homes the benefit of the doubt that there's probably no way around this.) I've gotten into the habit of picking a few up whenever I'm out in the yard and even paid my son a few times to go out and pick up as many as he can find. I always wear goggles when I use my weedwacker as I've been hit more than once by flying gravel.

We have some really amazing sunrises over our neighborhood. This was the latest from a few weeks ago.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Microwave, Flooring, and Drywall Repairs

This could also be entitled "10 Month Review Part III". (See Part 1 and Part 2.)

I've been on spring break from work this week so along with a multitude of other things on my to-do list I also scheduled contractors to come out and complete various repairs that had been noted at the 10 month review.

Our microwave had been making an intermittent buzzing for several months. (Didn't happen very often and there didn't seem to be any pattern when it did occur.) After the 10 month review I submitted a repair request through GE's website and then had to follow up with the repair place that it had been submitted to when they never called me to schedule it. (They claimed they never received it.) A few weeks ago a technician came out. The microwave wouldn't make the noise of course but I showed him the video on my phone that I took the last time it happened. According to him GE had a bad batch of parts when our microwave was built and he's replaced a lot of them recently. It was three possible parts that could be the cause so he went ahead and put in to replace all of them. Because the issue is so common the parts were back ordered so it took until this week to get the repair done,

Two other things I'll note on this:
-The tech mentioned to me something Jenny and I didn't realize. On the bottom of the microwave above the stove there are two grease filters that need to be cleaned periodically. Ours were dirty and apparently this can affect the operation of the appliance. He said to just toss them in the dishwasher once a month and that will be enough to keep them clean.

-The warranties on the included appliances (stove, microwave, and dishwasher) are only one year. This seems rather short to me and I feel like Ryan should guarantee them for two years like they do the other major systems on the house. The dryer at our house broke one time and getting it repaired cost almost half as much as replacing it. (Which in retrospect is what we should have done.)

Floor Repair
Last summer the project manager had a crew out to fix a soft spot in the floor in front of Bedroom #3. They filled it with a putty compound to level it out but within a few months it had gotten soft again. (My father-in-law is a flooring contractor by trade and told me at the time that the way they fixed it wouldn't last.) At the ten month review it was determined the floor needed to be cut out and replaced to permanently fix it and that was what was done this week.

Soft spot with putty prior to being cut out.

Section of the subfloor cut out and removed.

This screw gun was so awesome looking I had to get a photo of it. I wonder how I could justify adding one of these to my collection of power tools?

Subfloor replaced.

Drywall Repair
The last item this week was the one year drywall repair. This is a one time fix for any nail pops and cracks that occur during the first year. In the days leading up to this we had to go around the house marking any spots we found with pieces of blue painters tape. They can be difficult to spot and we went through the house multiple times at different times of day trying to spot everything. On the day before the repair appointment I finally started walking around the house with a roll of tape in my pocket so I could mark spots as I found them. Along with the nail pops we had a number of hairline cracks in the corners and where the walls met the ceiling along with cracks coming off the corners of windows and in some of the trim. We also had a few spots in the ceiling where the seam between sections of drywall was visible. All of this was totally expected with a new house and didn't seem to be any more or less than what is normally seen.

How the foyer looked with all the spots marked.

I forgot to get good before shot but this was a settlement crack coming off the corner of the door in the master bedroom closet. We also had small cracks like this in the corners of several of the windows.

Stairway midway through the repair prior to painting.

Seam in the dining room after it had been patched and primed.

The whole process took two days. On the first day the drywall contractors patched and primed all of the spots we had marked. On the second day they came back, sanded everything down, and painted. Overall we were very happy with the work that was done. The repaired areas looked as good as they did when we moved in almost a year ago. The guys doing the work also spotted additional spots we hadn't and on top of that also repaired a few areas where the dopier of our two cats had dug his claws into the walls around the windows. On the downside I've already spotted a few small spots that we missed. I've also been told that we'll continue to see additional spots for another six months to a year but from what I saw they're not very difficult to fix.

What do you do when you have a lazy Pug that refuses to move? Cover him up and keep working. (I eventually moved him upstairs and he responded by pooping on the floor.)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Condensation Line Fix

As I noted in this post from last month our furnace broke down on the coldest night of the year due to the condensation line getting bumped and broken and had to be fixed. Our service manager had come out the following week and agreed with my feeling that it was a poor design and combined with needing to climb over it to adjust the dampers several times a year would make it likely it would get broken again. Initially he thought that a separate access point could be installed at the other end of the attic (similar to how houses without the pull down stairs like we have are configured) but he discovered that due to the way the HVAC trunk lines are run that wasn't possible. Instead he spoke with the HVAC company that had done the original install to see if they could reroute the condensation line. Yesterday afternoon the an HVAC tech came out and was able to do this:

A few weeks ago the service manager had also adjusted the metal hanger that was holding the gas line and the tech was able to further move that over as well. This is the result I was hoping for and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I will no longer have to worry nearly as much about breaking something when I go up in the attic to adjust the dampers. A big thanks to our service manager and the HVAC company (Superior Plumbing, Heating, and Air of Ashland, Virginia) for fixing this for us.

Before/After Comparison

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Window Fix

As I mentioned in the Ten Month Review Part II entry from earlier in the month we discovered that our windows (Made by Ply Gem) have been leaking a significant amount of air. The window contractor came out this afternoon and fixed it, taking a half an hour or so to do all thirteen of our windows. (Not counting the two small ones at the bottom of the stairs and in the master bath.) It was so simple and seemed so cheap I really have to question how cost effective it is for the window company to do business like this. (i.e. Send a contractor out to fix them instead of applying the fix at the factory when the windows are built.)

The fix had three parts:

The red arrow marks a piece of felt he placed where the top and bottom sections of the window come together and stuck on there with a bead of silicone. The orange arrow points to small pieces of foam wedged into the track. (The spots I plugged with paper towels after discovering the leaks.) Our happy idiot cocker spaniel can also be seen in the lower part of the window. (Placed outside so the man could work in peace.)

The last part of the fix involved more foam wedged in the bottom corners. 

While he was here I also mentioned that the plastic in the middle of the window in our laundry room is cracked as well. He took a look at it and told me he'd be putting in an order for them to send us a replacement. (The whole bottom half since that plastic can't be replaced separately.)