Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Outside home stretch

It's been a busy couple of months over the summer and projects have slowed. My bro/sis-in-law have been living with us since before the last post in June while they shopped for a house. With the winter rainy season coming I decided in mid-September to make a push to finish the exterior projects before the storms came.

These little LED outdoor lights were on sale at Home Depot so I thought I'd give them a try to dip into the landscape lighting. They're solar powered and not particularly bright, but do a good enough job in lighting the landscape during the evening-to-sleeping hours. I have one lighting the address number and two accenting the weeping Birch tree in the front. I think with a few more sets, the front and backyards will look stellar in the evenings. But that is for next spring.

The big project has been to create gutters for the downspouts on the sides of the house. In the winter, the heavy rains would splash everywhere and create a racket as well. The splashing definitely contributed to some of the damaged siding I've replaced since moving in and the gutters will alleviate that.

Although all the pieces are slip-fit, its a lot harder than it looks in piecing those suckers together. Thankfully, my neighbor Kevin to the rescue again had a chop saw specifically for metal and made quick work of assembling. Ok not that quick, more like 10 hours for seven gutters, but still quick enough. The next day I primed and painted them and the look great!

For some reason, there were two downspouts that were flush to the house. Every time it rained, they would go drip, drip, drip...right outside our master bedroom and one of the spare bedrooms. It was incessant and sleep depriving. The solution? Four sideways elbows to create an "S" curve to break up the droplets. I'm happy to say that after the first rains this week, the design worked PERFECTLY!

The last downspout was a difficult proposition because of the fencing. When we bought the house, there was simply a PVC "L" hanging over the fence. Everytime the wind blew, it would swing and bang against the house, scaring the bejeezus out of anyone near the guest bedroom. I reoreinted it to fall straight down, but because there was not outlet there we'd get some minor puddling there. When I designed the gutter, I couldn't attach to the house because it would cover up the guest window. So I turned the design 90 degrees and floated the downangle to meet the fenceline. It couldn't have worked better and did not obscure the guest bedroom window at all!

What didn't work perfectly was my sealing job on four of the gutters. I was hoping the side mounted to the house wouldn't need sealing. I pretty much knew better, but decided to let it try first. So the following weekend I took them down to reseal them. Guess what...still seeping in a few places, so they need one more coat of sealer next weekend.

While painting, I finally got around to painting the filter box. Looks fantastic. Now all I have to do on that system is wrap the piping in case of overnight freezes. Rare in Norcal, but happens more than a few times a winter. I like it so much I'm going to scale up the design to build a shed next spring to house our gardening tools, a mower and weed eater. I'll make a few changes to make it appear more Eichler-ish, with a broad beam running along the exterior length of the shed parallel to the roofline.

One of the projects left to complete is the firepit. The delay was caused by an inaccurate gas line installation/sizing.

The contractor simply dragged the gas line from the kitchen to the backyard areas (BBQ, fireplace and firepit) using the same 1/2" line. Unfortunately he never bothered to check and see if that was the right size. After the patio was poured and I had the BBQ running, I noticed the searer burner wouldn't get hot enough to sear and the fourth burner wouldn't light if the other three were on full blast. I consulted with PGE and they agreed that with the number of appliances I had or was planning, a bigger meter was in order.

The BBQ works much better with the bigger meter, but the fourth burner is still a little difficult to operate. A quick check to the internet yeilded the result that with my run distance, the pressure in the line would have dropped by over 60% to the end terminals the furthest away from the meter, URGH!!! PGE recommended an 1.25" gas line replace the 0.5" line down the side of the house. That way, where the .5" line goes underground (and under the patio) the run will only be ~40 feet, which calculates to approximately a 15% pressure drop. This should negate any problems with the gas line in the back yard - at a cost of $900 :( Looks like a few more months till the big screen can make it to the living room.

in the meantime, Lorinda and I picked out some flagstone pieces to set in the fire pit hole. Next weekend I'll mix up some concrete, color it and set the flagstone. Within a few days, we should be able to sit by the fire in the evening.