10 minute projects take 3 hours

by Michael Alderete on 1/24/2005

Don’t you hate those projects you start, thinking they will take 10 minutes?

I just spent almost 3 hours fixing the dining room light switch, after my 5 minute “project” to replace two dead bulbs turned into a trip to the hardware store to get new bulbs (30 minutes), and then turned into disassembling the switch because the light wouldn’t come on, discovering that the ancient wiring insulation was crumbling, and then fixing it with heat-shrink insulating tubing (60 minutes, including all the trips to the circuit breaker to turn the current on and off), and sanding the wiring to take off some corrosion (15 minutes, because the sandpaper was packed away in the basement somewhere), and finding that the light still wouldn’t come on, so replacing the switch entirely (30 minutes, two trips to the circuit breaker), which after reassembling didn’t quite fit, preventing the switch from throwing completely, so I had to fabricate a tiny plastic insert to give the knob a slightly longer stem (15 minutes), which finally got our dining room light working again.

So then I had to vacuum up all the plaster, crumbled insulation, and wiring bits, which lead to vacuuming half the house (30 minutes, it needed it), which lead to this posting (10 minutes).

Whew! I’m sweatin’! Now it’s time to watch a href=“http://www.fox.com/24/”>24!

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DHI 34-40

by Michael Alderete on 2/7/2003

DHI 34: I updated software on my Mac, on a second hard disk that I’ll transition to, once I get all my stuff moved over. I did a small part of it today. Pretty lame, but sustaining a daily pace for these tasks is turning out to be a killing pace. Plus, when I get finished, I’ll be able to disconnect the very noisy hard disk in my Mac, making the office quieter, which will be a major improvement.

DHI 35: We had the missing gas line replaced yesterday, providing gas to our groovy vintage heater once again. But, the alterations to the gas lines required cutting off the gas for an extended amount of time, and blowing out the gas lines. Once hooked back up, our contractor re-lit the pilot light, but there was air in the lines, which caused the pilot light to go out on our hot water heater. In the middle of the night. Cold bath the next day. It took quite a bit of figuring to realize that it was air in the lines that caused it to go out, and make it hard to re-light, but I did eventually get the pilot re-lit.

DHI 36: While the hot water heater contained cold water, I drained it, to get the silt and stuff out of the bottom. Apparently you’re supposed to do this a couple times a year. So I did it.

DHI 37: Cleared off one side of my desk of the crap piled up there. The other side will be harder, a weekend DHI for sure.

DHI 38: I hooked up a $4 antenna to the stereo in the front of the house, so now we can listen to the radio when we’re in the office working on the computer. Or, hey, maybe someday we’ll have another party, and people can sit in the parlor, and, like, hear music!

DHI 39: I helped Rochelle hang curtains that our decorator picked up for us. We had to replace the old curtain rods, which were far too flimsy to support the heavier velvet curtains he picked out, so that was most of the work. It would have gone a lot faster, but both batteries for our cordless drill were dead.

DHI 40: We threw a small party at our house, our first in nearly a year. (We plan to do better in 2003 than we did in 2002.) This was a small gathering (10 people) with a focus on tasting fine champagne (more on this in a post tomorrow). Of course, there was a lot of cleanup and so on beforehand, but the DHI is really for inviting people into our house and making sure they had a good time. That’s a home improvement, in any sense of those words.

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Fun with water

by Michael Alderete on 2/4/2003

So this week I drained our water heater. My mother tells me you’re supposed to do it every month, but our last plumber — who was there to fix the water heater — said twice a year. The concept seemed simple, so I went for it. Turn off the water feed, hook a hose up, and open the valve. Trickle of water.

OK, need a way for air to go in, or the water won’t drain. Nothing obvious on the water tank itself, so I just opened a faucet in the house, which worked great. (Later I discovered the bleed valve on top.) An easy DHI.

But, then the drain spigot keeps dripping after I’ve put things back to normal. And dripping. Drip. Drip. Drip. Not good. Dan won’t appreciate that it only happened a drop at a time, if I still manage to flood his basement office. So I go to the hardware store to get a replacement, or at least a plug. Except they have no idea what it is I’m trying to do or fix (language barrier, really). I come home with a couple of PVC pipe caps, which of course don’t fit.

So I drain the tank a second time, so I can remove the entire valve and take it to the hardware store. This time I use the bleed valve to let the air in (and bleed the air off at the end). And try to take the drain spigot off. And it won’t come off.

At this point I had put way too much time into the project. So I MacGyver it. I stuck a wine cork in the spigot, which worked until water started seeping through the hole drilled by the cork screw. Slower than the valve dripping, but still a drip. So I got another cork and caulked it on both ends, ran the hairdryer on it for 20 minutes, and swapped it into place.

So far, no dripping.

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