Animals in the Chimney

19 05 2010

What critter do I have?

All right, so I suppose I was spoiled by being up at my parents’ house for a few days and not having to be a handy homeowner girl, because my life has been a sitcom since I’ve returned home.

Besides being deep in planning for my company’s annual meeting, which we recently had to move from Bangkok to Singapore because of the political situation in Bangkok, I also had to rush my pup to the vet yesterday because he was very sick.  It all worked out, but in the midst of taking care of that, it was POURING rain, my sump pump started to act up (which found me crawling under the house again), and two lights came on in my car. And subsequently went off.

But today is the kicker. As I was video conferencing with my dad (who’s also my boss), I kept hearing funny noises. I could NOT figure out where they were coming from, and thought I could chalk them up to being a wood chipper going.

Ah, no.

Some animal has climbed down into my fireplace and is just above the flue.  All day, I’ve heard it in there. I went over to my neighbors, and had him come over to help me with it.  He figures it’s a bird – manageable – though I’m more convinced it’s something else. He said that I should blockade the doors of my fireplace with something heavy and open the flue, and hopefully it would come out.

It hasn’t.

So my dad suggested putting some smelly cheese and bread crumbs in the fireplace to encourage it to come out.

Now I’ve got Gorgonzola and bread in the bottom of my fireplace.

I’ve got to laugh about it, or I’ll just cry.

The last time I went downstairs, all was silent. I banged on the fireplace and nothing – no noise, no nothing.  I hoped that it was a bird that managed to get out. There were a couple of periods today where there was no noise – at first, I thought the animal had just worn itself out, but even banging on the metal part of my fireplace and opening and closing the flue didn’t have any effect.

So now I’m wondering if it’s birds building a nest in there – they can get out, but come back in.  I really hope that’s not it.

Right now, I can hear something banging around in there again.  I’m having a moment of just wishing it would all take care of itself, but I fear that tomorrow I”ll have to call an exterminator, something I was really hoping to not have to do after $330 at the vet yesterday.  But we’ll see what happens!

What are your animal horror stories?


Things A Single Homeowner Girl Has to Deal With

6 05 2010

If you’re a single handy homeowner girl and you live far away from friends and family, like I do, you know that when something happens at your house, you can look to the right and look to the left, but in the end, it’s up to you to handle it.  Last week, we had one such a day at my house.

I decided to get a jump on the yard maintenance, since I was having my sister and her boyfriend visiting for the weekend.  So I started to clean up after my dog in the yard after taking him for a walk (I had left him in the house) and noticed a couple of bird feathers over by my swing, stuck together.

I thought “Please, oh please, just be a bird molting.”

But no.

Though I’m still not sure of the circumstances, or whether my pup was actually involved or it was one of the many stray cats in the neighborhood, a bird had been killed and eaten in my yard. A pretty big one.  And I had one of those moments when I thought “Can’t I just have someone else deal with this?” 

But then I got my big girl panties on and handled it myself.  I got out some work gloves and a plastic bag and cleaned up what was mostly feathers. Unfortunately, it was windy, so I had some trouble keeping the feathers in the bag, which added insult to injury.  I finally managed to clean it all up and get it into the garbage, and then washed my gloves with some old towels that I use to dry the pup off with in hot water in the washing machine.  And tried not to be too traumatized. 

It’s not my first dog-related bird incident though. But I sure hope it’s my last.  Have you ever had to deal with something that you wished someone else could handle?

Fixing a Sink Stopper

5 05 2010

This is another post without too many pictures, because I was assisting my dad with the project.  As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, when I was unclogging my drain, I somehow loosened the connector that attaches my sink stopper to the mechanism, and it fell into the drain. Drat.

I was all ready to run to Lowes and see if I could replace that part of it when my dad mentioned that it might be sitting in the U-pipe underneath my sink. He said to wait for him to give me a hand with it, in case I wasn’t able to tighten it enough back up and ended up with a leak. 

I mentioned it to him while we were working on our washer/dryer project, and he said he’d take a look.  I’ll point out that I didn’t have the proper tools for this project (which my dad pointed out to me), so I highly recommend making sure you do before undertaking it. 

He was able to loosen the U-pipe and take it off – you’ll want to have a bucket handy for this step, to catch any water sitting in the pipe.  Right there in the pipe was the connector – hooray!  That was the end of the easy part.

My sink is part of a vanity cabinet that the previous owner put in, and it makes it awkward to get to the back of it.  We first screwed the piece back onto the stopper and after various attempts to try to get it back onto the metal rod in the drain that is attached to the stopper handle, I got under the sink to pull back the rod with both hands while my dad maneuvered the piece back onto it in the sink.  Whew.  Then, he had to adjust (this is the part I couldn’t see) the rod attachment for the stopper under the sink to get it to open and close properly.  He said that in order to do it correctly, you would then tighten the nut that’s attached to the stopper inside the drain to keep it from moving.  We omitted this step, so I’ll have to keep an eye on whether the stopper is becoming unscrewed to keep this from happening again.

He then reattached the U-pipe and tightened it, and so far, no leaks.  I’m glad that the stopper is back in ther again so that I don’t have to worry about dropping things like my toothpaste cap into the sink and causing a clog!

Ah, all better!

Maintaining Your Washer/Dryer

4 05 2010

Since I am a first time homeowner, there are a lot of things I assume I DON’T know – I’m pretty good with the basics, like keeping my house clean, fixing obvious problems.  But then there are things that I either forget about (like replacing air filters) or don’t know to do – kind of like with my car, but there’s no “house-mechanic” I can take my home to.

So instead, I ask questions. And subscribe to This Old House’s newsletter. This week, I got their tips for spring cleaning newsletter, which included an article on how to maintain your washer/dryer.  Since my washer and dryer work fine, I hadn’t thought that I needed to do anything with them. I always clean out my lint trap, I leave the washer lid up so that it dries out properly, etc.  But apparently, there’s more.

Why is it important, you might ask, especially if it might cost you money you weren’t planning to spend right now.  In my case, since I am not the first owner of my washer and dryer and don’t know what kind of maintenance the previous owners did, I want to make sure that it’s all in good working order.  The other reason it’s important is that even if you do clean out the lint trap in your dryer, lint still builds up in the duct work and can cause a fire – yikes! Also, if your hoses aren’t properly installed, or are old and break, you can end up with flooding.  I have enough flooding outside my house, I certainly don’t need any inside.

I mentioned it to my dad last week, and he said he’d help me take a look at it and update anything that needed it. In my case, we replaced the two water hoses and the dryer duct.  My dad had picked up all the materials for me and did most of the work while I assisted.  It was a really intensive project, so I wasn’t able to take as many pictures as I have in the past, but I can give you the step by step of what we did and the photos I did take.

The washer/dryer is in my downstairs full bath, so they’re stackable to allow for the shower to be there.  That also means that space is at a premium in that bathroom, so it took some maneuvering to get the washer out of the way to work on the dryer duct first.  To move the washer, we first turned off the water – VERY important.  Before you disconnect the hoses, get a bucket (because there will be some water in them), and as you remove each hose, drain the water into the bucket. You will likely need adjustable pliers for this part to loosen the connetions, and subsequently to tighten them again.  Once the hoses were removed, we disconnected the washer’s power connection to the dryer as well as the waste hose (also drain this into the bucket if necessary) and moved the washer out of the way. Also – as you remove the hoses, if the shut off valves and washer connections are not clearly marked, make sure you identify which is for hot water and which is for cold – otherwise, you’ll have to hook them up to the shut off valves, put the other ends into a bucket and turn them back on to test it. 

The dryer, out as far as we could get it

The back of my washing machine, as it sits in the hallway

My dryer is gas, so we didn’t want to mess with that or remove it – very very important to be careful with gas. As an aside, my next door neighbor, who is remodeling his kitchen, just replaced a gas line. And even though he knows what he’s doing and tested the line to make sure “no bubbles, no troubles,” he still ended up with a leak and had to call the gas company.  It’s dangerous, so be cautious!

We unplugged the dryer and my dad pointed out that the duct for the dryer was so old, it was starting to unravel.  This turned out to be an issue for us because the duct runs under the house and through my crawl space to the outside vent, so although we didn’t replace that part today, I will have to in the near future.  This was also when the project got more complicated – as with most things, when you start something, another issue always crops up giving you a bunch of extra steps.  In my case, it was that whoever installed the duct work had been very lazy and just cut a quick and dirty hole in the floor that they snaked it through.  My dad had seen this when he was here on Friday, and had picked up a plastic sleeve that fit in the hole and connected to the duct underneath the house, and also sealed up the hole more cleanly.  This was matched to another sleeve on the new duct attached to the dryer, and they just click together neatly.

How it looked when we started - big old hole in the floor, not sealed up at all! Also, check out the lint lining the duct.

And after, a lovely new duct with a sleeve sealing up the hole. No tiny animals are going to crawl into MY house!

But because the duct was so old and falling apart, I had to climb down into my crawl space, adjust the sloppy duct work under there and shimmy along the dirty sand all the way to underneath the bathroom floor so that I could feed up more of the duct to my dad, so that he wasn’t dealing with the part that was unraveling.  We finally managed to get it done, and he noted that he’d gotten a bunch of lint out of the duct, so it was a smart thing to replace.  I’ll keep telling myself that when I have to get back under there again when we replace that duct work!

Next, he attached it to the dryer using a screw-type hose clamp big enough to fit around the duct.  MUCH better! 

Then, he plugged in the dryer again and it was time to reconnect the hoses. He’d gotten hoses that can detect if there’s a leak and automatically shut off – that’s great, because it gives me added peace of mind, since I don’t turn off my water every time I’m done using the washing machine. It’s snuggled in next to the machine tight, so it’s difficult for me to do, though it is recommended to avoid flooding.  We identified which valve connected to which washer connection and my dad screwed them on, using pliers to tighten the valve connections.  We screwed them on by hand to the washing machine before moving it back to test whether there was any water leaking from the valves. When there wasn’t, we plugged the drain hose back in – it’s hand done, with no attachment to the wall, which was a little bit weird, but it felt like it was in there good and tight.

They're both blue, so unless we noted which was which, there's no way to know!

New hoses - connected to the shutoff valves!

And new hoses connected to the washing machine!

Then, we unscrewed the hoses from the washing machine and my dad got out from behind it before screwing them back and tightening them again with the pliers.  We moved the machine back, turned on the water, and I tested it with my first load of laundry – it worked great, and no leaks!  Another unexpected job well-done. I’ll keep reading This Old House’s newsletter for tips and advice, and keep learning about what I should be doing to maintain my house’s safety and good working order!

Power Washing – What a Difference!

3 05 2010

As I mentioned earlier in the week, my house and deck were in serious need of power washing.  After a long winter with a lot of snowstorms and nor’easters, the part of my house that doesn’t get a lot of direct sun was looking a little green and uncared for.  My deck, which seems to have never been power washed or sealed, was also needing some major TLC.  So, on Friday, my dad brought over his power washer (fortunately, he has one!).  If you don’t have a power washer though, you can rent one if you think you need it.

Here's the handy dandy power washer!

We hooked it up to my hose and turned on the water. Then, he showed me how to start it up by pushing the choke lever over, holding the spray trigger to allow the water to start coming through (to keep out any air), and then pulling on the starter cord.  Then, it was time to start washing! 

Make sure not to hold the nozzle too close to what you're washing, to avoid damaging it - the water is very powerful!

You can really see here how mildewy my house was

What a big difference on the right side of the door!

There, you can see the difference between clean siding and mildewy siding.

The deck didn't start out great either - yuck.

My dad did pretty much all of the work, but he let me try it out for a few minutes.  It made a huge difference immediately.  He power washed the entire back corner of my house where all the mildew had grown, including the door to my shed, the nasty old cover to my crawl space, and the concrete block that my air conditioner sits on.  Then, he power washed my entire deck – it looks brand new. I can’t believe it.  Now, of course, I have to get moving on finishing off my deck and sealing it, so that it’s well protected for the next few years. I can’t wait to get it all done! 

All done! It looks SO much better!

One of my parents' bassets checking out the clean deck - it got better as it dried.

A BIG thanks to my dad for all of his help – he was the main worker for all my projects this weekend, and I’d still be sitting on the couch with a mildewy house without him!

The deck looks brand new now!

And a note if you’re going to use a power washer – it is LOUD. I didn’t expect it to be so loud, so you might want to consider when you’re going to do it in case you’ve got a lot of nearby neighbors. I was lucky that my creepy neighbor seemed to be out of the house, so he didn’t bug us, and it was Friday afternoon, so most people were still at work.  But I’ve still got some more power washing to do on the side of the house and maybe the front stoop, so I”ll certainly have to pick my day to do it!