Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Latest addition to the home!

Renae says she'd been wating 12 years for yesterday to come.  (I only count 10.5 years, but I'm not about to argue!)

We dubbed yesterday "Two Kitty Tuesday" and tried to convince everyone we knew that yesterday was the day for everyone to go out and adopt two kitties.  As far as I know, no one took us up on the offer.

Our day started a little after 9:00 am at the local Petco.  We had decided on a litter box that looked easier to clean than traditional litter boxes, and we knew that Petco was the only store around which carried it.  As we were loading up with other supplies, we realized that the only litter box they had in stock was the smaller sized one.  The store manager looked up all the other local stores and found one store in Romeoville which had one larger litter box.  We checked out and headed over to that Petco.

After buying our larger litter box in Romeoville, we headed back home to unpack and set up.  While at home we got a delivery from Amazon of the clumping litter which works better with the litter box.  After the food and litter box was all set up we went to the humane society after grabbing a quick lunch.

The humane society had some really cute (Renae's words) kittens featured on their website (and petfinder) but it turned out that all the kittens had holds on them.  We weren't too interested in putting a second hold on the kittens (just in case the first hold fell through) so we went off to the second shelter, across town.

At the next shelter we looked at kittens, but most of them were domestic shorthairs, which we were sort of leaning against.  Then, we looked at the younger adults.  There were a few medium to long hair cats there, which were surprisingly friendly.  We weren't ready to commit at that time, so we went off to the TAILS shelter in Sycamore.

TAILS was really neat, and had a lot of cats, but none of them could compete with the cats back at the previous shelter, so we went back to ADOPT, the second place we had been to.

ADOPT is where we found and adopted two cats: Sheldon and Emmy.  We're still getting to know them, but we're happy to have them in our house now!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another reason not to paint your vinyl siding

This past summer, when we were looking at the house we ended up buying, we discovered that the vinyl siding had been painted.  I wasn't really thrilled with the vinyl siding on the house to begin with, but was even less thrilled that it was painted. I have no idea what the expected life of paint on vinyl siding is, and it seems that by painting the siding another layer of maintenance was added.

One of the things that I learned a lot about from volunteering with Habitat for Humanity was how to hang vinyl siding. One of the many things you have to consider is that vinyl siding will expand and contract as the temperature increases and decreases.  To properly install the siding so that it can expand and contract without buckling you don't nail the siding tight to the house. It has to be able to slide.

You can see from the photo that the house was painted in warmer weather. The piece on the right is a full 12' length of siding. The piece on the left is a shorter piece which goes up to a corner. The right piece has contracted and exposed the original color of the siding. (The longer piece will expand/contract more).  I suppose that the painted color is better than the original color, but I still wish it hadn't been painted.

The take away message is that if you're going to paint vinyl siding, do it in the coolest weather possible, with the house in as much shade as possible.  Or just don't paint it at all.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Leveling a shelf

I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but the shelf on the wall in the dining room area was a little slanted. It was so slanted that vases sitting on it slid off the shelf when I accidentally bumped the shelf as I was clearing off the table.

This is one of the floating shelves that Ikea makes. It was there when we moved in. We don't exactly love the shelf, but we don't have anything better for the wall right now, so we're using it.

I took off the shelf by loosening screws on the bottom holding it to the bracket.

The picture quality is pretty poor, but I think you can see that the bracket was not well secured to the wall.  Drywall anchors had been used, but only two screws on each side were holding it up, and both of the top screws were not tight to the wall.

I marked the spot for two more screws. Then I took the shelf down, drilled holes in the drywall, and popped in two more drywall anchors.  I think that the shelf is now better secured to the wall and more level than before.

Lesson learned: get the furnace inspection!

If you saw my tweet today, you won't be surprised that I am now a huge believer in HVAC inspections.

Before we moved in, we had a home inspection.  Our inspector examined the air conditioning and the heating, although he informed us that, especially since it was summer, he wouldn't really be giving us a thorough check of the furnace.  He found that it worked adequately: provided sufficient air flow and temperature of the forced air, and that the furnace properly exhausted to the outside.

Before end of the summer, I installed a programmable thermostat. (One of those projects I've been meaning to post here.  Grrr....)  I've installed programmable thermostats at the last two places we rented, and we never had problems with them.  We love them, since they automatically set the temperature to your work schedule, the heat is never on when we're not here. This time, we chose a programmable thermostat with slightly more options, since it was going to go into our house. I had never installed this type (or brand) of thermostat, but it seemed to go okay.

By the time I installed the new thermostat, summer was giving way to fall, and we didn't really need the AC as much.  So, although the thermostat seemed to be working, we weren't really sure.

Fall came, and Renae was trying to hold out as long as she could before turning on the heat for the first time. She finally broke down on October 30th, since it was a Saturday, and we were going to be home all weekend. We figured we might as well be comfortable.

The furnace had worked all right, when it was on. But the main issue was that it did not turn on immediately after setting the thermostat higher. And more frustratingly, it would seem to take a lot longer than it should to reach the set temperature. The furnace would cycle on and off seemingly randomly, sometimes for very short durations. But, eventually, it would always reach the right temperature. We figured it was a combination of the new (unfamiliar) thermostat with the new-to-us furnace.

Finally, though, we couldn't take it any longer. I've been working from home sometimes since the Fall quarter ended, and Renae worked from home once last week. So, I called around and got a few quotes for furnace checkups and cleanings.

The serviceman showed up on time and took a look at the thermostat first. He saw that it was installed correctly (whew!) so we went downstairs to the furnace.

When I opened the door to the utility room for the first time in a few weeks, I immediately saw water on the floor coming from the furnace!   Whoops.  I had given up checking on the furnace, since every time I looked at it, I decided I didn't know what was going on with it. The only thing I know about the furnace is that it is a auto ignition furnace, meaning there is no pilot light that stays on forever.

It turns out that the water was condensation from within the furnace. It is a by-product of the high-efficiency design. The condensation is supposed to drain out via a hose, but there was a blockage preventing the water from draining. Further, the technician found that the hose runs about twenty feet (!) to the french drain in the workshop. He said he had never seen a drain system like that, but he believes that if it stays unblocked, it will work. (Although, he did admit that the probability of it clogging again is pretty high.  A pump will cost $500 to install.)

I'm really happy we got the furnace checked, cleaned and serviced.  It was cheap (less than $100, just like This Old House promised), and it may have saved our basement from water damage that I would have not caught for a long time.  We're probably going to get a service contract with the company that came out, so that we get a spring and fall check of the heating and cooling system on a regular basis.