Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pump piping

Loyal readers (hi Ezra!) will recall last summer's adventure with my sump pump, and later issues with the hose getting tangled and once getting frozen. I said last year that I should just replace the hose with PVC piping - and now I'm finally getting to it.

First things first, turn everything off, pull the pump, and see if the pit can't be dug a bit deeper. This will keep the water level lower in relation to the basement floor. I'd poked at this last year and thought the pit had a concrete bottom - meaning no digging. Upon closer inspection though, turns out there was just a LOT of accumulated silt...
and two large bricks acting as a ledge on the dirt bottom (not pictured). Pull everything, dig some more, find two bricks of equal depth, place them carefully, lower sump pump. Now we're getting somewhere.

As usual, these project require way more tools and equipment than one might think. Ignore the caulk gun - that was actually for something else.

Here came the fun part. The sump pump manual has a basic diagram for setting up piping. It calls for a roughly 15" run of pipe running from the pump to the check valve (a one way valve, necessary to keep your pump from getting slammed over and over with water still in the pipes) with a small relief hole drilled into it; then the check valve, then a run of pipe to an elbow joint, then a run from the joint to the outside. This is actually fairly straightforward and should take about 15 minutes, cutting included, EXCEPT most check valves I've seen have one threaded end and one smooth end. I found it easier to buy a couple of connectors to make the whole system a) fit and b) be somewhat disassemble... able.

The above pic shows the end result. A male thread connector at the bottom going into the pump itself, cemented to the short run of PVC. Two different connectors (you might be able to do it with one, but this is what the hardware store had) ending up with a female thread end pointing up. The check valve will screw into this, and on its other end it's cemented to the longer run of pipe with one last connector.

Yes, I did finish this project:

One last important note: I put PVC cement on everything at the bottom of this contraption since I knew how it would fit together. I held off on cementing the check valve to the pipe (which requires all-purpose cement, incidentally - the check valve is made out of a different kind of plastic) and on cementing the pipes at the top (the elbow joint) together so I could make sure the whole thing was placed correctly, allowed for a slant on the horizontal run (to reduce the chances of anything freezing closed this winter), etc. This was a good idea since I discovered that a couple of additional trims and refittings would reap benefit in the long-term. HOWEVER - I was measuring and refiguring and left this all fit together, but not cemented, overnight - and of course that night it rained. Even PVC fittings you have to wrench apart may not be snug enough to withstand repeated pushes of water against the joints - in other words, the following morning, the joint finally separated and water spilled onto the floor a couple of times. No big deal for my unfinished basement, but if you're doing this project you might want to try and complete everything, including cementing, as soon as you can.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Baseboard - your key to not looking like a hovel

The previous owner had mostly redone the upstairs bathroom, but, among a few other things, hadn't had the chance to install baseboard. While prepping the composite baseboard I was planning to install, I realized that there was no stud located at a convenient enough place to put a doorstop, giving me the opportunity to add a small architectural flourish:

I suspect you could do the same thing with an already milled corner block or the like to directly match the profile of your baseboard, but making your own is pretty easy. A simple 45-degree mitre at the top edge will match most simpler baseboard styles. I cut this block about an inch taller than the surrounding baseboard.

Mark off and pre-drill for the doorstop itself.

Testing to make sure it's straight and centered. Remove the doorstop, paint, and voila:

Ignore the lousy linoleum and odd spots on the wall, if you would. The entire bathroom will probably be redone in the next few years.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


These trees are three stories tall. All of the brown leaves are (now dead) creeper vines. I was so busy with the summer theater festival back in July that I didn't notice the massive infestation that was threatening to envelop the trees. Fortunately my dad was in town and pointed it out (thanks dad!) When I delved into the bush to find the main stem, it turned out to be a dual stemmed monstrosity about an inch thick. Heavy pruning shears did the trick, but not without a fight.

Let this be a lesson to us all - have your parents visit more often.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why it took four weeks to get a porch swing

I have high hopes for building a porch swing from scratch one of these days, but the initial idea was to use wood from a black walnut in the backyard which a friend and I have yet to examine and see if it can be milled. Meanwhile, my neighbors tossed a broken porch swing a few months ago and I figured a rebuilt swing was better than no swing, at least until I carve my own swing straight from the raw timber of my land.

The swing is a bit old but in overall good shape save for the four cracked boards that connect the back of the seat to the bench:
No problem, thought I - I have enough 1x4 (which is wider than the existing boards, but that's not an issue) and I can even use my new dado blade set to easily carve the groove. Of course it wouldn't be so simple. The arbor nut on the table saw didn't want to budge, so I was forced to improvise using just the normal blade. I ran each board through multiple times, shifting the cut width to cut the outer edges of the groove and remove some of the wood in the middle, then used a chisel to clean everything out. The only tricky thing, really, is to remember that the blade will cut further on the underside of the board than on the top - I marked a second line further down the board to compensate and tell me when to stop.

Since this isn't the 'final' porch swing for the house, I took the opportunity to test out some all-natural stain samples to see how they look, and how they weather:

And a porch swing chain set from Lowes:

Now to paint the porch.