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 (

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 (

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 (

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 (

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 (

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 (

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 (

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.

The full story of our roof

Trimming the tree

When I bought our home in 2009, a local roofer “certified” the roof for two years. I write certified in quotations, because the roofer told us that he could do a visual inspection, but hot-tar-and-gravel roofs can disguise issues well and since we had no history of the roof (owner deceased), we should assume it would need repair within five years.

Roof update

This was fine with me, because honestly the roof was really the last thing on my mind when buying the home. Given that most our house is concrete, I wasn’t worried about leaks damaging our floors or walls. So once the house was ours, we focused on updating the house project by project.

Roof Update

Fast forward seven months to January 2010 and we began noticing some issues. First our two skylights began to leak a little and then we had a bunch of flooding outside because the water no longer drained to our gutters.

Roof update

At this point, I was confident we could fix the issue with the skylights. I trekked on the roof looking for signs of leaks or damage and soon realized the roofer who certified was right. It was very difficult to find where the leak started so how was I supposed to patch it? Roofers could hot-mop the section of roof above the leaking, but there wouldn’t be much certainty that portion of the roof is where the problem is. There are also some DIY materials you can use to patch, but Nate and I decided to hold off on repair and just deal with the leaks until we came up with a more thought-out roof plan.

A well needed roof update and plan

Time went on and almost two years later, we noticed our great room ceiling was beginning to ripple due to moisture. Was it the roof leaking or could it be plumbing in the rafters? We hadn’t a clue, so decided to investigate by ripped out the half the ceiling. Luckily we only found wet insulation and a little mold. The problem turned out to be only a roof issue (no pipes in the rafters) so again we decided to wait and confirm our suspensions. Over the winter there was a couple of wet boards during rain storms but no other issues.

Roof Update

The following spring, we took out the remaining ceiling to check for any other damage. We didn’t find any more issues, so again we went forward with our plan to have the roof patched.

Nate dutifully began calling roofing companies (including the one that certified the roof). A few came out for an estimate and they all recommended the same thing – replace our whole roof and consider vaulting it. Well, after a bunch of deliberation, we decided to keep the original look of the home and stick with the mid-century flat roof.

A well needed roof update and plan

Once we decided on the roofline, we realized that replacing the roof also gave us the opportunity to update on our electrical and plumbing. Then we looked into roofing materials and really liked single ply membrane materials. This sort of roof is common on commercial buildings and they are designed to be installed in one layer so have no leaks (!!!). There are also a huge number of options for insulation and the exact type of materials that are used.

Nate reached out to a general contractor who could help us merge all these ideas. After our initial meeting, we didn’t hear back from the contractor and eventually learned they were booked for the season. About this time, the wet boards were becoming worse. The boards were warping and leaking during rain storms. With no prospective contractor on the horizon, we just put off the roof project until after the wedding.


Now a year later, the rafters has gotten worse. The water damage has turned into dry rot and the mold has come back with vengeance. There’s no more putting this project off. Looks like 2014 (five years after we bought the house) will be the year we take care of this lingering issue.

The plan moving forward

Research for the roof

1. Research

The first order of business is to find the right general contractor for the job and figure out what sort of financing makes sense for us.

I am going to spend the next few weeks getting referrals for a few contractors who has worked with a flat roof before.

We know we are going to have to finance this project since it could be as much as $30,000-40,000 depending on all the details. I am going to look into getting pre-approved for a home equity or improvement loan.

Also on a long shot, I want to look into green roofing as well. I’ve wanted one ever since I visited here as a kid.

2. Evaluate and hire a contractor

Once we get a couple quotes and feel out the contractors we hope to nail down exactly the scope of the project.

Our wish list would include:

  • Remove old hot-tar-and-gravel roof plus some of the fascia boards
  • Remove the extensions on the car port and back porch and potential replace
  • Replace dry rot and facia
  • Insulate the rafters (we are not sure if it’s currently insulated)
  • Update our electrical lines to code
  • Install a new membrane roof with insulation
  • Rework our water and gas pipes so they run more efficiently
  • Insulate the new plumbing
  • Run gas pipes to the master bathroom and fireplace
  • Install tank-less hot water heater in our master bedroom and potential in the laundry area
  • Prep the ceiling for our kitchen remodel by installing new range exhaust system
  • Install new gutters or drainage

3. Schedule the project for next year

There is a good chance we will need to evacuate most of the house during the project. We’ve expect a ton of dust to rain down on our home due to wood paneling ceilings with no insulation so we will take as many precautions as possible.

Then there are the cats. They hated the Bath Crashers experience so I don’t know what we will do for this. Send them somewhere else? Let them hide outside and hope for the best? We can worry about that once the rest of the project is worked out.

Well I think I have said all I need to for now. This will be the biggest project we ever take on, but I’m excited to finally get it done.