Quick update and Skylights

Sea Ranch 2014: Walk to Shell Beach

It’s been at least a few weeks since I last posted here on the blog. The weather has been fabulous and it’s been hard to focus on a computer screen. I have a ton of posts of summer DIYs, vacations and new projects to write about and hundreds of photos to edit. I plan on just adding a few summer posts with the “current” ones until I get caught up.

As I have mentioned many times, this blog the place for me to document our goings on. I don’t take myself too seriously here, but I still like to post when events and projects are fresh. I often get stressed when I get backlogged, but that’s just life.

I see a pattern of me being über focused on the blog, then stepping back, then becoming intense again. September is such a good time to recalibrate. I’ve been evaluating a lot of my habits and daily processes lately. My new goal is to fan my intensity out a little so I am more even paced here and elsewhere in my daily to-dos.

Luckily, the last days of our summer have been relaxed and easy. It always gets a little intense right before school starts, but we both tried to slow down and enjoy as much as possible before the tide changed once again. We are now in the second week and finally getting accustomed to a normal work schedule. With football starting this weekend, I can see Autumn on the horizon even though it still feels very much like summer in these parts.


Installing New Skylight Screens

Installing New Skylight Screens

When you last saw me, I showed you my lovely new front window screen, but that wasn’t the end of the full project. Once the screen was installed, I moved on two our skylights. We had to replace the skylight screens for a slightly different reason than that windows. Although both had the same culprit – those darn cats.

Installing New Skylight Screens

You see, not only to cats love to hang on and attack screens, but they also will sit on them. I guess that mesh allows them get a little airflow on their furry backside. Well, lo and behold, the screens couldn’t hold up to repeatable abuse and weight of the cats. So for the last year or more, we’ve had broken screens in our skylights.

Installing New Skylight Screens

Climbing on the roof, isn’t one of my favorite activities, but I was determined to finally get this task done.

Installing New Skylight Screens

The biggest difference in skylight vs. window screen repair is the removal/install. Skylights have to be unhinged or opened so the screen can be taken out. In our case, we also had to unclasp the chain that moves the skylight up and down because the chain actually attaches through the screen on these models.


So I climbed up onto the roof, took off the skylight hood and unclasped the chain so I could hand the screen to Nate who was waiting below. Then I climbed down and worked on fixing the screens with the same basic process I used before.

Installing New Skylight Screens

On the second skylight screen I found an issue. The frame was broken at the corner. I needed to run back to the hardware store to get a corner replacement, but had to postpone the trip until after work the following day.

Installing New Skylight Screens

Then, the next day came with a potential thunderstorm in the early evening. This seemed highly unlikely to me, but as soon as I left work, raindrops began to hit my windshield. I didn’t dally and got the part I needed, but once I got home I remember we had plans that evening. So instead of installing the screens, we went had a nice evening with neighbors. It rained a little, but nothing much. I got the frames put together, but needed help getting them installed. Nate was going out-of-town and we just didn’t have enough time to get them in before he left. So we had the holes open in our roof for a week before we were able to install them.

Installing New Skylight Screens

It actually was nice to have the openings. Obviously not practical for the long haul, the week without screens was mild so we got a ton of light in and just enjoyed the extra airflow.

Installing New Skylight Screens

When we finally had time to get the screens in, Nate climbed up on the roof with me and held the skylight cover in place so I could get the chain clasped in.

Installing New Skylight Screens

It was a little harder than I thought laying on the hot roof trying to thread the clip in. We were sweating bullets by the time we finished the second one and quickly got done to admire our handiwork.

Then guess what happens a couple of days later…

Cat on screen

I crossed my fingers and hoped the cats were just testing it out and would eventually leave the screen alone. But no – less than a week after the install the back screen busted. Nate gave me the bad news Friday night.

Damn cats.

I am not sure how to proceed from here without adding spikes and other impaling instruments around the frame. I am going to take a little time to cool off and think this through. Any ideas?

Replacing screens

Replacing Screens

One of the things you have to remember about cats is that they are first and foremost hunters. Loki and Pixel are always hunting bugs, lizards and occasionally even a small mammal.


Now hunting doesn’t mean catching especially for our two felines. Most often, they catch moths and lizards. Nate and I do our best to rescue whoever we can.


Since moths flock to the porch light, the cats are often crouched near by. It doesn’t seem to matter if there may be a screen between them and a potential prey. They will attack without remorse for their victim or the screen. After four years of torture, our front window screen was finally done and ready for a replacement.

Buying spline for my screens

Replacing window screens

For this project, the only thing I needed to buy was spline (cording that holds the screen to the frame). I had already purchased the screening and had all the tools from the first time I replaced the screens five years ago.

Spline buying

I took the old spline to the hardware store with me so I could make sure to get the right replacement. The spline comes in a variety of sizes and colors. I liked how there were samples to compare the old piece to. This is easier than trying to measure through the plastic bag of the products.

One I was back home I compiled all my tools and got started.

Use the old screen as a pattern to cut the new one

1) Use the old screen as a pattern.

After taking the old screen out of the frame, use it to cut your new one out. I usually give myself another 1/2″ of clearance just in case.

Clamp the new screen to the frame

2) Clamp the new screen to the frame.

This was my ah-ha moment on the project. Last time I used tape to secure the screening to the frame which is really silly. Clamps work a lot better. Plus you can easily adjust them as you go.

Press spline into the frame

3) Press the spline into the frame.

After I was all clamped in, I started running the spline into the frame using my spline roller. This is a nice tool to have. The roller makes this process pretty easy once you get started. Press the spline in completely, but be careful not to cut the screen in the process.


4) Use a screwdriver to press in the corner.

When you get to the corners, use a screwdriver to secure the spline in. Sometime I will even start it on the next side and then go back and secure the corner. Whatever works for you.

Cut at the corner and press in.

5) Cut at the final corner and press in the end.

When you reach the end, cut the spline so you finish with a tight corner.

Trim the excess screen.

6) Trim the excess screen.

If you have any excess screening, trim it as close to the frame as possible. I used scissors, but a straight-edge would also work well. The screen will be visible in the window so you want the edge to be as clean as possible.

Once the screen is done, pop it into the window and you are good to go.

Finished screen

Ta da. What a beautiful sight. An untarnished screen.

Finished window screen

Glorious. So pretty I almost didn’t want to put it in because you and I both know it’s only a matter of time until the screen comes between a cat and moth.

A gasket for the freezer

A gasket for the freezer // Our Concrete Home (http://wp.me/p1Ax0a-32p)

Are you ready for the incredibly sexy world of gasket maintenance? Well, watch out because it’s coming straight at you in this post.

But first let’s start with my though process anytime a home repair project pops up.

Visualize a thought balloon saying…

Can it be repaired?
Can it wait?
What’s the cost?
What are the pros & cons to repair vs. replacing the problem?

To me, it seems to be a fine balance between cost and time to keep the home operating smoothly. Spend your money and time wisely to maximize the benefits. And although I am inclined to try to fix a problem, sometimes you just have to spend money to fix a problem.

A gasket?

A gasket for the freezer // Our Concrete Home (http://wp.me/p1Ax0a-32p)

Recently our freezer drawer became an issue. We bought a french door refrigerator with a bottom freezer drawer when we moved in almost five years ago. I love this fridge configuration except for one thing – how dirty the freezer drawer gets. In fact I find it pretty amazing how much stuff ends up in it. Beverages gets spilled. Particles and dirt find their nasty little way into every crevice. It basically never stays clean.

 A gasket for the freezer // Our Concrete Home (http://wp.me/p1Ax0a-32p)

Recently I noticed that the drawer liner (or gasket!) began to stick when I opened the drawer. I cleaned it the best I could, but under closer inspection, I realized the liner had actual torn in many places and the magnet that keeps the door tightly sealed was working it’s way out of the liner.

A gasket for the freezer // Our Concrete Home (http://wp.me/p1Ax0a-32p)

Well I kept an eye on it, trying to wait out the repair. Then the the magnet started falling out each time we opened the door. I didn’t realize what a problem this was until the freezer drawer wouldn’t be fully sealed when closed so the drawer would freeze over to compensate. And that’s when I knew I has to replace the gasket.

A gasket for the freezer // Our Concrete Home (http://wp.me/p1Ax0a-32p)

After shopping around, I ended up ordering a new one from Sears Direct for $58.00. (Ouch.) When it arrived, I let the new gasket stretch out a little while I cleared out the freezer. Then I simply removed the old one by pulling it out of it’s grove and then off the freezer door.

A gasket for the freezer // Our Concrete Home (http://wp.me/p1Ax0a-32p)

Next, I cleaned the heck out of the whole freezer drawer. When it was squeaky clean, I stretched the new gasket over the drawer and simple pressed it into groove on the door.

A gasket for the freezer // Our Concrete Home (http://wp.me/p1Ax0a-32p)

Simple pricy solution, but was it worth it?

Well, now the freezer is sealing correctly which means I am saving energy and not over-stressing the appliance and it should it will last longer. So yes, the money was worth it to me.

Moving forward. What’s the plan?

1. Gasket cleaning.

For good measure, I’ve added gasket cleaning to my monthly to-dos so I don’t forget. Plus if it gets really dirty, I now know how to take it off to clean it.

2. Keep them lubed.

I read that a thin coat of petroleum jelly can keep the gasket from cracking and sticking. I am going to try this out on the fridge doors that are a little torn. They are twice as expensive to replace so I am really going to work at keeping them operational.

And if I am really smart, I will look for other parts of our house I can improve my upkeep skills. Maybe one weekend a month will be devoted just to those sort of tasks that make the house run more smoothly. What do you think? Is gasket and other home maintenance on your to-do list now?

Sprinkler on the roof

Sprinkler on the roof

Last Monday morning, I took some lovely photos on my morning walk. We had our first freezing temperatures over the weekend and the morning stillness was incredibly beautiful.

Sprinkler on the roof

I had a nice meditative walk before the day truly started. Monday was the first day back at work for me after a restful two-week vacation. We also were expecting Nate’s dad to arrive for a weeks stay later that day.

It’s funny to look at these now because only a couple of hours later all hell broke loose. Literally five minutes after arriving at the office, I got a phone call from our across-the-street neighbors. They had seen what looked like a sprinkler going off on our roof and were worried it might be a busted pipe.

I told them where the water main was and got back in my car to drive home. By the time I arrived, our super-amazing neighbors Lee and Carol, had turned off the water and inspected the cause. I joined them up on the roof. Not only did we have a busted water pipe, but most of our pipe insulation had deteriorated or was missing. This was probably the root of our pipe problem. It’s hard to have a frozen pipe when they are nice and cozy in foam insulation.

Sprinkler on the roof

As we inspected the roof, the water from the sprinkler was beginning to freeze. Lee and Carol offered to sweep off the water while I called reinforcements. The pipe split was too much for me to take care of so I googled plumbers, read a few reviews and called my leading candidate.

The reinforcements have arrived #bustedpipe #plumbing #copperpipeonroof #notadiyprojectforthisgal

Glenn arrive a few hours later to fix the pipe. He got to work on the busted section and then called down for me to turn on the water to check the water pressure.

Sprinkler on the roof

Good thing we did because what we thought was one split turned into three. Each break is slightly smaller than the last and it was only when we tested the water pressure Glenn found them. Once all three breaks were repaired, Glenn left and I ran to the store for pipe insulation.

Sprinkler on the roof

The first store I went to was sold out, so I sat in the parking lot and called six more stores before I found the pipe insulation in stock. I bought 72 feet of tubular pipe insulation and a big roll of plumbers tape.

Sprinkler on the roof

By this time, Nate and his dad has arrive at home. So the three of us climbed up on the roof to remove the old insulation and install the new stuff.

Sprinkler on the roof

After we removed the old insulation, we worked as a team to get everything on before the sun set. Bill laid out the new material, I installed it and Nate helped me tape it up.

Sprinkler on the roof

The insulation I bought was pre-slit, self-sealing rubber in 6 feet lengths. This particular product was the only one available for my 1 inch pipes. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I would have probably bought the less expensive option if I had a choice. With our limited daylight left, I was glad to have the self-sealing feature. It made the install much quicker. I added tape every few feet and around any fittings for extra protection. The whole process took about an hour to do.

Sprinkler on the roof

Later that night, I left a trickle of water running through our kitchen sink all night to prevent any potential freezing. To be honest even with the extra precautions, I was a little nervous all night long. I may even had done a few ceiling checks at any creak I heard in the house that night. But all was well and since then (knock on wood) we’ve been good. I am very thankful we got this fixed so quickly and that our amazing neighbors saw the “sprinkler” when they did. This post would be a lot different if that water had continued to run.

So yeah, 2014 is definitely going to be the year we get this roof and all the plumbing, electrical and god-know-what-else-is-up-there fixed. We’ve been lucky so far and I don’t want to push it.

My first plumbing fix

My first plumbing fix

A couple of weeks ago our kitchen sink started dripping. A closer inspection showed that the metal p-trap (the curved shaped pipe under the sink) had begun to leak along the bottom. It was obvious that the pipe had to be replaced and to be honest I was a little excited to work under the sink. I’ve had very little experience with plumbing. This project seemed just perfect for a beginner.

My first plumbing fix

Corrosion is a common problem with the p-trap since its job is to keep a small amount of water standing in it. This water corrodes the metal over time and then you get drips. The trap is handy if you accidentally drop something down the drain you can find it here, but its really meant to prevent sewer odors and gases from entering the home back through the pipe.

My first plumbing fix

I had my dad come by to supervise my work. I just wanted him to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid being a beginner and all. With his guidance, we decided to remove the whole section of pipe and replace it with PVC. We went with plastic pipes for a couple of reasons. It’s a third of the price, won’t corrode and is easier for a beginner like me to use.

My first plumbing fix

First thing I did was remove the section of pipe. We put a small bowl under the p-trap to catch the water. Then I used my brand new pipe wrench to loosen the slip-joint nuts on either end with a little elbow grease. I am happy to report that I was able to get them off all by myself.The corroded pipe was then cleaned out so we could take it with us to the hardware store. This way we knew exactly what we needed. Like any other repair project, it’s good to triple check sizes and parts you need. Bringing the pipe with us just made the check that much easier.

Here’s what we picked up at the store:

The grand total was $10.58 – not to bad at all.

My first plumbing fix

Back at the house, I laid out all the parts and got to work. The extension piece needed to be trimmed down so it was measured and cut down to size with my hacksaw. We bought metal slip-joints to connect the new segment of PVC to the metal piping. We could have used plastic, but wanted to make sure they held up. I then used a wire brush to clean off the crud on the original pipe threads so I could have a nice clean seal.

My first plumbing fix

Then I simply put together all the pieces and tightened the new nuts with my pipe wrench. The final check was running some water through the new pipes and checking for any leaks. All the pieces held up just fine and remained dry.

My first plumbing fix

My first plumbing project was a quick and simple project. Of course, we could have easily run into complications, but I was glad it was pretty straightforward. (We had an emergency plumbing issue this week that was way out of my comfort zone. I’ll talk about that next week.)
My plumbing confidence has grown ever so slightly now. Who knows what I will do next. One thing I do know is if I am going to be using those hefty pipe wrenches often, I need to do start doing some more push-ups.