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.)