Learning Opportunities II

When we put up the picture rail yesterday, we discovered that… the middle of our hourse is about an inch lower than the edge of the house. We knew there was a slope issue, particularly around the front door, but how bad it really was… well that keeps being incrementally revealed to us.

We know this now because the newly erected picture rail runs dead level, which means that the lights that sit below it are… well, at different heights. Because they were measured off the floor.

While they’re both approximately 7′ from the floor*, they differ in height from the picture rail by over an inch.

Which is a problem.

Kathryn has thought of a solution – since we’re replacing the backer on the lights anyhow, but it makes me glad that I didn’t get further with making the replacement backers for the lights and fixing them to the wall.

* Within about half an inch, which is about the tolerance on the flappy plastic light outlets we used. Irritatingly, they get pushed by the drywall as you’re putting the drywall up. So when you’re making the hole for them in the sheet of drywall that’s where they sit forever. But because they’re just held by two small clamps on a long strip of metal that big heavy chunk of drywall can make the metal bar and the clips flex somewhat.

Learning opportunities


So, my whinyness about fault finding notwithstanding, I set to on trying to fix the kitchen lights. I found the circuit diagram and checked the switch I suspected might be wired incorrectly. It was, and would have meant that the switch didn’t function as expected, but it wasn’t causing the problem. Then I ended up pulling out the switches from all the multiway switches that power the kitchen lights. Each of those checked out okay.

I gave in to paranoia and switched the breaker with one of the other breakers… that didn’t seem to be it.

That evening I finally got up on the ladder and we took the cover off one of the kitchen lights, I remade the neutral connection while I was up there. And then the fault was finally revealed.

The lights above the hall are yet to be installed…

…and while I was up on the ladder I remembered that they were on the same circuit as the kitchen lights.

…and I checked with my best beloved who agreed that yes, they were on the same circuit…

…and there, above the hall was the problem. Juussst touching, the neutral and the US-pretend-ground-wire-that’s-actually-neutral.

How this ended up with a 0.5v voltage with the light switch off, and still reporting an infinite resistance, I don’t know. But it did. And separating the two ends and capping them off fixed it.

I must admit I felt quite silly.


In other news, our large greywater tank is now attached to a tap, and both sides of the guttering drain into it, which is pleasing. I also took the opportunity to cut the holly back to the ground, nasty invasive that it is. I’d hoped to dig it up with the minidigger when we had it, but failed to get that far.


That is 1000litres, potentially, of rainwater capture. So that should be good come the summer, and is nice now as we start planting.

I spent most of last week oil/wax-ing wood which will be door jambs, and I’ve spent much of the past few weeks gently chasing the guy who’s meant to be giving us a quote for doors. I’ve also been using our new lasercutter to chop up bits of wood – I’ve made some backer/spacers for the lights for the lounge wall, and we’ve made some backers for the kitchen and reading nook task lighting. Those have also been oil/waxed, so should be good to go up tomorrow.

COVID-19 / SARS-nCoV or not, I’ve got to go and get our prescriptions tomorrow. We’re also running out of toilet paper – because we did not indulge in panic buying. So… ideally, I would like to find a pack of that. I also, because of work, would quite like to grab a couple of sets of scrubs and some extra sweaters which can be hot-washed to death as I’m trying to wash my uniforms as soon as I get home now.


Today has been less than positive

Let’s set aside the fact that we get to chose between two old white men, people who’ve had more than enough time to fuck up the country; when we could have had a staggeringly well prepared, intelligent, friendly and insightful woman who actually knew what the fuck she was talking about AND had f’king plans to actually implement them (Elizabeth Warren) instead of just repeatedly saying what they wanted, with no costings, nor any actual plan to make them happen. Then we get to pit old white man against racist bigoted idiot child trump.

Let’s set aside that because she’s a woman she got alternately ignored or slighted by the press. Let’s just put that aside. And as a result let’s put aside my worries that many people will lack the enthusiasm for Biden, or lack the desire for avowed socialist Sanders, and we’ll end up with the defacto installation of a trump dictatorship. Let’s put aside the enormous harm that will do to the country, to the world, and the number of people who will die unnecessarily as a result.

Let’s put that all out of the way, because frankly I can’t bear thinking about it right now.

Let’s instead concentrate on the day at a more personal level.

But in doing that, let us also put away the frustration of multiple runs to town because I forgot stuff, then the stuff I bought didn’t work.

Let’s also put aside my failures with caulk, which are many and manifold, and which have left us with this monstrosity:

I f*ckin' hate caulk.

Yesterday I stripped the light that will be our dining table light down to its constituent parts, and prepped them for painting:


So today I set to and put a couple of coats of paint on them:


They may well need more – getting the paint onto all sides is tricky, especially when it’s both windy and threatening to rain. But this paint is extremely odorous and spraying in the garage was simply not going to happen.

We also put up the final light in the office (yay!) having resprayed the dismal object that arrived. It looks okay, largely because it’s far away. Some things are good quality, and some things are a sufficient distance not to be able to tell the quality.

We also got our super-industrial kitchen lights up:


Which would be a cause for much celebration if they worked. But they don’t. There’s a curious 0.2v phantom voltage across the live and neutral even when off, and 0.1v between neutral / live and pretend-ground (mutter, grumble). I don’t know where it’s come from, it seems too low to be munged insulation, and is way too low to be a short. At any rate, as soon as you turn the lights on the breaker trips.

So that’s a fun task for the weekend. Trying to fault-find wiring. Yay. I’m hoping that – as someone on the internet suggested – tiny phantom loads can be due to a poorly tightened screw, apparently, on the breakers. I’m not deeply hopeful and am suspecting I get to take a lot of light switch covers off, and then try and work out what’s going on with the switches and check all that gubbins over.

Like I said, it’s not been a good day.

In / Set me a challenge

There’s an amazing feeling about living in a space you’ve made. It’s funny, we’ve lived in places we’ve worked on before, and yes, technically we didn’t build this house. It is, technically, a renovation.

But there’s not much of the original left. Even what you see in this photo didn’t all survive:


So I feel like I have intimate knowledge of this building. Between us we’ve laid hands on nearly every stud, if not every stud. We’ve fixed, tweaked, repaired, replaced, renewed this building.

And it’s weird. There’s this incredible satisfaction which I can’t really describe. This munging together of pride, exhuberance, enthusiasm, and at times fear. On the one hand, whenever I wake up and look at the ceiling I know that we built it.

I look at walls and know that every inch of that is our work. Yes, we had people help and indeed the final finish on the walls is not ours. It’s definitely more skilled work than we could do with lime. But it’s still a thin skin over our building work.

And I’m proud of what we built. Of its compromises and quirks.

Of course, the fear is whenever something doesn’t work or there’s an odd sound, I’m hit by the pounding “Oh god, what did I/we do wrong?” There was a massive hail/rainstorm a week or so ago, and we were both jolted from sleep by a massive downpour. And my first thought was “oh holy fuck, what’s gone wrong?”

So we’ve been doing some progressy things – we cleared the attic (a big job), took a bunch of stuff to Habitat for Humanity, we bought furniture and assembled it, and much of the kitchen is in. The dishwasher does, actually, fit. Incredibly. There’s just one cabinet to go in and we’ll be done on the installation of cabinets.

So that’s all good.

We do need to come up with a solution for a worktop (they are insanely expensive). And there’s a massive list of things to do.

But one of the highest priority items is also proving to be impossible. Or at least quite challenging. The stuff we’ve chosen to use for the wood finish is called “AFMSafecoat Oil Wax”. It’s lovely. However, despite being Low VOC it still stinks, so we really want to use it outside. Which is all very well, except the current weather forecast is wet +/- a peak of about 7 degrees C.

It can’t be applied below about 20 degrees C.

Now the online version of the specs says below about 15C and I figured I could probably throw enough heat at the garage, despite the vents, to get at least a small zone of it up to a high enough temperature. But… no, even that’s not happening.

Again, we’re bitten by the fact that what we really want to do is have power and light in the garage, and the cheapest way to do that as a DIYer is to throw the boxes in the wall – saving on miles and miles of conduit and fittings (and also it reduces the amount of plastic we’re throwing into the world). So because of that we didn’t put insulation or drywall in the garage. And because of that, we can’t heat it, even with throwing a fan heater in there. Why not? Well, it’s got a huge roof vent running the entire length of the roof.

My original thought was that the main problem would be that the garage is full of shit. Mainly it’s full of the wood that will be the battens on the house. That is occupying a good 1/2 of the floorspace that was dedicated for storage of equipment (table saw, shelves), and that means that I can’t get those things out of the way, so they’re now occupying floorspace that was meant to be working area. Also, because of the enormous pile of rocks outside the garage, Rebecca is parked diagaonally across the garage making working around her difficult. But I’d worked out a resolution of sorts to that problem.

But this whole ‘needs to be at 20 degrees’ thing is a big challenge. My friend’s workshop isn’t heated like that, I can’t think of a space I could use as a workshop that is. So we need a bit of a mull on that one.

I’ve been working on the lighting. We are missing the two kitchen lights because they needed complete renovation. I spent the last few days working on them – using a tap/die set to recut the threads that had been lost when the wire supports broke, which it turns out was not because I’m a numpty, but because they were rusted solid.

I then spent a day wire brushing them and getting them prepped for spraying, then giving them a coat of grey paint.


And finally reassembling them. Then it slowly dawned on me that I didn’t actually have all the bits I’d need. As we had it, the bulbs would hang…right in the centre of what used to be the vents for allowing hot air to escape from the large halogen or possibly arc discharge lights that were used in these.


So I finally hit up the local lighting store. I didn’t have high hopes, they look like a generic lighting supplier, but it turns out they repair lights and have a stock room in the back which has a selection of common parts…at a much lower price than we’ve paid elsewhere. And without shipping :-)

And supporting a local business.

So that was cool.

And then I brought them home and sprayed them, along with the bits from the really crappy lights we got from Beautiful Halo which I sanded the worst of the rust from…


Unfortunately, the new paint reacted with the old paint… but hopefully it will look adequate at the distance it is from us.


Actual forward motion

So the last couple of days have felt more positive, which is probably more a frame of mind thing than actual change in rate of progress. The mind is a funny thing. Anyhow, the sink is now replumbed with a new seal and some putty, and now only leaks very slightly. I could probably have achieved zero leakage if I was willing to spend endless hours on scraping the bottom surface of it, but it’s just a temporary sink and for the sake of leaving a bowl under it or not, I think I’m satisfied with the time/cost/benefit situation as it stands.

US sinks, incidentally use a piece of cardboard as a “slip washer”. Cardboard. In an area that might get wet.

I’ll just leave that there.

Still, the sink is working.


We also spent a few hours (quite a few hours) yesterday getting the extractor fan mounted on the wall. Irritatingly, our 3-year-ago guess as to where it would be is about an inch out. Which means that the chimney won’t quite fit the last few inches… On the other hand, it saves us cutting the stainless steel, which probably would have been a complete pig to do well, so maybe that’s for the best. We just need to come up with a neat way for it to be covered…

I also have spent quite a lot of time tidying the garage – well “putting things in drawers”. It’s not really proper tidying, but until the wood is out of the garage and I can sit and have a proper think about which tools should live where… it just needed to be organised enough that we could physically get in there and get things.

In other news, 50% of the house is surrounded by drain-rock.


And we have a new postbox, thanks to a spurt of stupidity energy, and the realisation that when I’m at work people could pinch our mail.

Oh, and in final news, I have an awesome new sticker on the car:


It’s courtesy of @distressed_egg

Well that went….

So, we moved into our new house! It’s still not finished, but we’re in it. And things have gone…okay. There’s this deep excitement which I (we) get flushes of.
“We built this!”
“Ooooh, I’ve not seen that angle before, it’s pretty”
“Oh hey! You can see the moon through the skylight!”

Stuff like that.

There’s moments of deep joy. Stuff that works. The washer and dryer doing their stuff without any drama (at least so far). The moment we first switched the cooker on.

Taking a bath…

Laying in our bed at night, looking up at the ceiling that we built in the house we rebuilt… it’s crazy, but it’s cool.

And then there’s the less positive stuff. I’ve realised I didn’t load balance the panel properly. I think it was so long after I did the diagrams and worked it out, that I just went “oh, I could put this here” for the car chargers and the dryer and the oven and reverted to my UKian ways.

Which means that the car chargers and the cooker and the dryer were all on one phase.


I’ve managed to move one of the car-chargers across, but there’s not quite enough length to get either the cooker or the dryer circuit across. I am debating whether to splice some extra length onto the dryer circuit – that’s the easiest to move, and it would make it so that we have dryer/charger on one side and cooker/charger on the other. At any rate, I need to get some blanking plates for the panel. Made worse, because I accidentally took out the wrong flipping covers when I moved the car charger’s breaker.

Irritatingly, the 50AFCI/GFCI breaker that we have seems to be faulty. It’s tripping without purpose. I initially thought maybe it was the damp weather and the tight box that the outlet is crammed into, but it turns out that no. It’s just tripping. I’m leaving that for when I’m next in the panel though – and when we have a second charger. We currently only have one anyhow, so since the 40A breaker is fine, so it is kind of a moot point right now.

We’ve also been working on installing the kitchen – basically one unit at a time we’re creeping down the kitchen. Laughably, I thought we might be able to do it the day after we moved… Oh, the foolishness of youth. We worked all day yesterday and got the two long units installed. And managed to get the temporary sink dropped into the temporary work surface. I then spent much of this morning working out how to plumb it in, only to discover that it leaks from a tiny rusthole which is invisible from the top of the sink, but apparently, someone decided it was okay to give a broken sink to habitat and after a while it just quietly starts dripping.

The main drain side of the sink also seems to have started leaking, hilariously. I’m going to go tomorrow and get a new washer for that one. But I can’t say that I’m the happiest bunny in the world.

Now we just need to get the cooker leveled and then the 18″ unit next to it…

The dishwasher is looking like it might fit…if only I can get the fucking thing to turn on. It’s a used dishwasher that was allegedly working when it was sent. It’s in good condition, but it doesn’t appear to want to start it’s cycle. It illuminates the “yes, I’m on” and “this is the cycle you’ve selected” lights. It just doesn’t start. Now, my guess is that the door-sensor switch is fubar, but that means taking the dishwasher apart which wasn’t high up my priority list.

There’s a slim possibility I might cave and pay for someone to come look at the dishwasher. It’d be convenient if one of the things – either the sink or the dishwasher was working, though. Still, I’ve actually had coffee today, so that’s nice. And we finally have drinking water available in the house (even if I did plumb the tap backwards – so hot is where I think cold should be).

Why so quiet?

Well, as has become tradition, after Xmas I headed to CES for Transport Evolved which is a week of work surrounded by 2 days of travel at each end. It went well this year, and you can find videos at Transport Evolved’s website / Youtube channel. That took me away from the house after our Xmas break. Part of this was because while there is stuff to do, the inside stuff is – or was – waiting on the arrival of the flooring compound. The outside stuff is not particularly time critical – and it was time for us to have at least a bit of a break.

We took a couple of days down in Oregon, just walking and mooching around the Hood River area because we were gifted a voucher towards a holiday stay. It was much needed.

Then, like I say, CES. Today I was back at it – a little. See I got some plague at CES and have a tedious cold. Yesterday I had to go over to the house because Tuff Shed were back to fix the code violations on the garage. Thankfully, our inspector was available to come and talk them through what he wanted done, and I think it’s been resolved. But yesterday I bascially got to the house, opened up the garage and sat in a chair for 2 hours while they worked.

Today was the more exciting day. Today we got a garage door.


This is super handy because we handed in our notice and are planning to move next week. So it’s super handy also that our house is completely finished.


Well…”completely” might be over stating it. But the flooring compound has at last arrived. And today I put down the elastomeric membrane that hopefully stops the flooring compound from cracking. So Sunday is the terrifying day when we start putting down the compound. Then Monday is another compound application day. Then Tuesday is starting moving and…installing the kitchen.

And then moving continues until it’s done.

Fingers crossed.

Well there goes the schedule

I mean, it’s not like we had a schedule. We have had multiple optimistic timelines, and I can’t help but feel somewhat disappointed by the gradual acceptance that it’s not going to be livable by the new year. I’d refused to say “we’ll be in by the New Year”, because we’ve missed every other deadline.

But I had hopes.

And we’re not.


The garage is still not done (although it is now sporting the right roof), and because of the code-fixes required and the space needed for the garage door, we can’t stack lumber in there.

Which means that we can’t plane the lumber which is to be our battens – which was a job I was thinking I could ‘fill time’ with. Why do I need to fill time? Because our special flooring compound is still not on its way. The guy who makes it had some supply issues – and has ended up rush-ordering a polymer that he uses from a different distributor, because his usual one is… out of stock.

All of this means that the interior is effectively stalled until it arrives.

I spent the day working on the outside – slowly shifting the ridiculous pile of construction driveway rock into being a somewhat intense pile of pseudo-drain-rock.


The idea is this will stop water pooling by our foundation, and plants trying to grow up next to our foundation.

I also spent time digging out the trench that was originally meant to be dug by our groundworks folks. At least, they said they’d try and get it done… I’m not sure what happened there, but they stopped after a few feet, which has left me with the unenviable task of digging out a 60cmx60cmx4m trench, into which will go lots of gravel and a soak away pipe.

This will, of course, do sod all because the water table sits about 6″ below the surface when it really rains.

But hey, it’s required, so I’m doing it. Hopefully I can get that finished off tomorrow, and we can arrange for the garage to have guttering as soon as we can yank the tank back out of the ground.

I’m just going to lie here going zootlewordle.

It turns out that loading 7 30kg bags of sand-mix (which is, sadly, a concrete based thing) onto a Bob trolley, then loading half that into the car (I got help with loading), then unloading 6 bags into the house (I realised I’d done my sums based on 60lb bags, not the 80lb bags they had in stock). then mixing 5 of the bags, spreading them, then lugging the 6th bag back to the car, and then the 6th and 7th bags bag onto the trolley and into the store is about my limit.

So I’m just going to lie here going zootlewordle for a bit.

I did also clean the tiles in the bathroom and prep the bedroom for flooring.

This (the bathroom floor) is a job I’ve been worrying about since planning it. I’ve watched countless how-to videos, and read countless articles. Everyone has their own opinion and just to make it doubly complex I switched from the schlauter-kerdi membrane to the paintable hydroban membrane.

After I’d installed the schlauter-kerdi special drain.

But everything I’ve read suggests that this should all work.

So I spent today making everything slope nicely… It just has to set up (I’m leaving that heating off for 2 days), then in a month’s time I can paint it with the hydroban and we can get this bathroom in service too.


In rather more irritating news, it turns out that 1/2″ (15mm) UK pipe is a different size to 1/2″ US pipe. By a fraction of a mm. Meaning the plumbing valves I picked up nice and cheaply from Europe won’t fit the US 1/2″ pipe. Balls.

Also, Tuff Shed. Pfer.

Grrrrout! And other things.



It’s done.

Now there’s just the silicone to do around the edges, and the corners, and the shelf. And there’s a couple of spots on the grey grout that need touching up.

Oh, and then once the floor is fully cleaned, I need to pour natural stone sealant on it… which will also seal the tiles.

So that’s done.

Then I had endless terror pouring black gunk over the floor – this is the anti-fracture goop which I smeared around the bits of the floor I could reach. Our final finish goes on top of this, and we’re hoping this will allow for any cracking of the self-levelling compound (which has definitely got some hairline cracks in it). It’s meant to allow cracks of about 1/8″ (3mm!).


Once this lot is dry we’ll move the kitchen units up into the lounge, then I can paint this gunk on the dining room and laundry floor – and we can get the bedroom floor laid… then kitchen into the bedroom so we can get our final floor laid, then put the kitchen in and move in.

This is, of course, dependent on the floor coming soon.

Which would be nice.

I also spent some time digging the soak away for the garage… I’ve got a few feet at one end, and a couple at the other to do. Hopefully the rain won’t wash all the dirt back into the hole.

In other news, I talked to Tuff Shed again today. The woman I spoke to said all she can do is keep asking the area manager to call me. Because I complained to the customer service team, she thinks it’s been escalated to the regional manager, but she has no way to contact the regional manager, apparently. All she can do is keep pestering the local area manager to call us, which he so far has never done. Feh.