Category Archives: Home

Foundation Sealing

flood.gifLast year, when we were having the heavy rains, I noticed there was some water coming into our basement … not a lot, but enough to be worrying. Ginny and I did a bit of investigating and found that water was pooling near the foundation of our house. We figured it had to do with our less than efficient gutters & downspouts.

So, later that year, we had the gutters replaced … we had leaf guards installed, oversized down spouts, the works. Everything seemed good. Water was being routed away from the house.

Well, earlier this year … when we were having the heavy rains during the brief warm spell, I noticed we were getting water in the basement again. Clearly this is not good.

So I start looking for foundation water proofing companies. I put in a request at and got 3 contractors interested in giving us a quote, although only two bothered to call us.

Continue reading

Unsprung Spring

Broken SpringOnce again the joys of home ownership are manifest … this morning, as Ginny was leaving for church, she found that the garage door wouldn’t open. It would come up part of the way, then stop. I got dressed and went out to look at it and determined that something was clearly broken. I was able to get the door up by pushing it as the opener was pulling it up.

After Ginny got on her way I started looking at the door in more detail … I noticed that the rail that the garage door opener used was flexing as the door was opening. I disconnected the door from the openers chain and noticed that the door was VERY heavy. Then I noticed the spring was broken.

Every now and then I’m able to get mechanical things repaired … if I put my mind to it … but I know that the garage door spring was something that I could not handle myself.

I did a bit of research and found a guy who would replace both springs for $170 … and he’ll do it today (Sunday). I figured better not look a gift horse in the mouth, and got it scheduled.

Hopefully it will just be the spring and it will be taken care of quickly.

The guy got here at noon and was gone 45 minutes later. Two new springs now hold the garage door up. I can highly recommend Priceless Garage Doors in Crystal Lake.

ADT Finally

Well, ADT finally came and installed the new wireless backup unit.

Of course the upgrade wasn’t without it’s hitches …

  1. The guy who came wasn’t exactly the picture of professionalism. I assume he was a contractor and not a regular ADT field service engineer.
  2. The analog wireless unit was originally mounted in the basement … where we got a lousy signal (digital or analog) … so, after a number of false signal loss indications, ADT moved the unit to the kitchen pantry. The guy wanted to install the new digital unit back in the basement. I convinced him to install it in the same spot as the old one so we could get a good signal.
  3. He didn’t bring a staple gun … he had to use mine.
  4. He couldn’t figure out how to snake a wire behind a wall … I had to tell him to try fish a stiff wire (that I provided) up from the control panel up the wall and then attach the wire he was trying to bring down to the control panel so he could pull it down.
  5. He had a wimpy little pocket flashlight … so he couldn’t see in the closet that the wireless unit was mounted in … which caused him to wasted at least 20 minutes because he had secured two wires to the same contact point. I had to let him use my big maglight flashlight so he could see enough to get the unit wired correctly.
  6. He spent about 2 1/2 hours doing the install … I suspect that I could have had it done in 45 minutes.

All that said … the new unit is kind of interesting. It’s uses a GSM network … so it has SIM card. Not sure what the advantage of that is … probably just cheaper to manufacture.

Of course all this costs me $199 (less a $20 credit because they blew off the first appointment). I’m sure I’ll have much better service (picture sarcasm dripping off this sentence).

In with the new

Well so far so good … the new driveway was poured today. The construction crew, seven guys, were here fairly early and got to work immediately. It took longer than I thought it would, but they sure knew what they were doing.

Driveway BeforeHere’s what the driveway looked before … it was pretty wavy and cracked. It had been resealed once, but that didn’t help a lot. It was hard to shovel and the snow thrower would get caught up on the various dips & cracks.

Driveway Pre-PourI applied for the village construction permit, and posted it in the window, about a week later (middle of the next week), I noticed on the web cam that there was a crew breaking up the old driveway. Here’s what it looked like after they were done.

Driveway In ProgressThe work itself was kind of like a dance … the guys dumping the concrete were followed immediately by the guys spreading it. Once it was spread, the guys with the float were there to smooth it out. Then the guys with the hand trowels & floats were in to touch it up. Finally the guy with the grooved trowels laid in the expansion joints.

Driveway FinishedAfter they were finished, it looked pretty good. Obviously the proof will be when it’s dry, we can drive on it (which will be in about 3 days), and we have a few snows.

I noticed that the contract with the construction company specifically voids their warranty (one year) if we use chemical deicers on it. I’ll have to look into getting it sealed. The folks on DSL Reports Home Improvement forum suggested that I get it sealed in October. It’s probably going to be an ‘every two years’ thing.

Aside from the amount of time & effort it took to get an actual estimate, I’m pretty pleased with it so far. The cost was good, the work was done quickly & professionally, and there was a minimum of fuss.

Out with the old …

drivewaygone.jpg… driveway.

Hopefully a new, concrete, driveway will take it’s place in the next few days.

I never liked our driveway … it was asphalt … and had buckled and heaved over the many winters & summers it’s been in place. Plus, last year, we got a notice from the village that we needed to get it resealed (it looked really ratty).

Considering how hard it’s been to get a hold of the company that’s doing the work, I’m quite amazed that it’s gotten even this far.

The construction company that is replacing our driveway is the same one that is rebuilding our street. I had hoped to have the driveway ripped up during the same period that the street was ripped up.

I called the company when they first started removing the street. I was promised that an estimate would be done within a week to 10 days. 10 days later, I had no estimate. I called again, left a message on their voice mail. Called again later in the day, talked to their receptionist, who promised she would walk the message over to the estimating department. Never heard a peep.

Some of our neighbors were getting their driveways replaced also … so I asked one how they got a hold of the company, and was told that their experience was much like mine. The only way to actually get an estimate was to find a supervisor for the job and get them to give me an estimate.

The next day I worked from home for the morning and, as soon as I saw a crew starting to work, I walked up to them and asked for a supervisor. The supervisor called the estimator, who came to our house about 45 minutes later.

The estimate was quite reasonable … about $2.5k … which stands to reason … since they don’t have to bring the crew out, equipment, or materials, out to the job.

The driveways that have already been replaced look nice … I’m hoping ours will be just as nice.

Sure, it can’t hurt

So Ginny and I are making dinner a few minutes ago … just some pasta with a simple sauce.

I’m adding some tomato paste to the sauce … I put in about half the can, and ask Ginny “Should I just use the whole can, if we don’t the rest will just go to waste” … to which Ginny responded, “Sure, it can’t hurt”.

Oh, how wrong she was … as I flicked the spoon full of tomato paste into the sauce pan, a big dolop of very hot pasta sauce splashed out of the pan … landing on my wrist and arm.


Thanks for the notice

camera_1.jpgA few months ago the Village of Hoffman Estates sent us a letter informing us that they would be reconstructing our street.Last week, Ginny and I went out of town … we left on Wednesday (June 13th) evening and got back yesterday (the 17th) . As we drove home from the airport, we noticed that our street had the first layer of pavement scrapped off. I figured they had started the reconstruction.

As I was going though the mail that Pat (our pet sitter) had brought in, we found a letter from the village indicating that the reconstruction of our street was going to start on the 15th. I figure that the letter had been delivered on Wednesday … which means they were giving us a whole two days notice before commencing the reconstruction. Not a whole lot of notice.

So, for the next 4 to 6 weeks, we won’t have the use of our driveway … and have to park on the streets near our house. For me that isn’t a major deal, as I usually get home before most people … I’ll be able to find a good parking spot. For Ginny, however, it will be a pain … because she doesn’t get home till much later … she’ll have more of a problem finding a reasonable spot.

For what it’s worth … the image above is actually a live capture from my webcam.

ADT Does it Again

I blew the entire morning waiting for an ADT contractor to come out and replace the wireless backup for our alarm system.

Seems that the cellular provider that ADT uses for the wireless backup is dropping support for analog devices. As a result, anyone who has an analog wireless backup for their alarm system needs to get the system upgraded to digital.

About 3 weeks ago I scheduled the upgrade for today between 8am and 12 noon. I made sure not to schedule anything for that day.

This morning I wake up early (earlier than my normal saturday roust, anyways) and get ready (emptied out the pantry where the transmitter is) and waited … and waited … and waited some more.

About 20 minutes after noon I called ADT to see what the problem was. I got transfered to a supervisor who was trying to get a hold of the contractor. She said she would call me back as soon as she found out what was going on.

About 15 minutes later she did call back (which was kind of shocking in itself) and informed me that the contractor had been overbooked for the upgrades … and wouldn’t be able to get to our house that day. We would have to reschedule. Problem is, the next available appointment wasn’t until mid-September.

She did offer a $20 discount on the upgrade cost … which I took. I also explained that this is the 2nd time that ADT had missed an appointment. She countered that the last time it was indeed ADT that had missed the appointment but this time it was a contractor. Obviously, from my perspective, there’s no difference.

Due to scheduling problems, the wireless transmitter won’t get upgraded until early October.

I’m getting a little annoyed at ADT.

The Howling

No, not the horror movie … the noise.

Saturday morning we woke up to a very loud howling sound … we thought it might be a snow blower, but it kept going for quite a while.

I went down stairs to see if it was something in the house … as it appeared to be coming from the duct work. In the basement, I still heard it … but it was noticeably quieter. I turned off the furnace and the sound went away.

I thought it might be the blower … which obviously would not be a good thing. As a precaution, I ran a trickle of hot water out of every faucet in the house. We have a space heater in the family room, so I’m hoping Riley would stay there in case the furnace failed entirely.

I started researching furnace repair firms … and asked Ginny to find out if anyone at her church could recommend someone.

The odd thing about it was that the noise wasn’t constant … it would start & stop, sometimes when the fan was going it wouldn’t start at all. Other times it would be always there.

pcaddiy_180.jpgThis morning the noise started early … and I went downstairs to see if I could narrow the location down a bit … when I noticed that it seemed to be coming from the humidifier.

I turned the humidifier off and the noise stopped. When I turned the humidifier back on, the noise came back.

Ok, we can live with a bit dryer air for a little while. So the urgency to get it repaired is no longer there. But obviously it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

A bit more research in the morning found that the humidifier (Honeywell April Aire) only had a one year warranty. So getting it fixed for free is obviously out. I’m pretty sure the company that installed it is no longer in business.

Hmmm … since the furnace is already modified to hold the humidifier, I wonder if I could install a new one my self?

As it happens, I did replace the plastic tube that fed the water to the top of the filter pad earlier in the year. I wonder if that tube is clogged? I couldn’t find an exact match for the tube at the hardware store, so I got a clear plastic tube that was a close match. It seems to be feeding water to the pad.

Update 5pm — I checked the water tube and it seemed to be ok … but I moved it around a bit and turned the humidifier back on. No noise. Here’s hoping.

Update 2/5 — Well, the noise from humidifier hasn’t gone away. If I turn the humidifier off for a while, then back on, it works without making noise for a bit. But the noise comes back eventually. Sometimes it’s quiet for a few days. Sometimes it’s only quiet for a few minutes. I emailed an HVAC guy to give an estimate on replacing the valve. Initially he was suggesting replacing it the whole humidifier, but when I told him it was only 6 years old, he agreed that it was worth repairing. It’s going to cost about $125. I just need to get it scheduled.
[tags]furnace, noise, humidifier, heating[/tags]

Throwing Snow

Well, as you might have heard, it snowed a LOT yesterday … and we did not escape any of it.

I left for work at around 7am and it took me around 45 minutes to go 3 miles, so I decided to bag it and work from home (luckily that’s relatively easy for me).

Since the company holiday part was that day, I still had to leave later in the afternoon. So around 3pm I figured I would have to clear the driveway. Unfortunately, the village snow plows had come by a few times and piled a huge amount of snow on the apron of the drive way, so it was about 2 feet high.

Our little 3hp Toro snow blower was not up to the task … I had to pull out the shovel and move a bunch of it by hand. It took me an hour to clear the driveway enough to get the car out.

At that moment, I decided we need a new snow removal device. I figure a two stage snow thrower would be good. Preferably with an electric start and powered wheels.

I went over to Lowes, which had zero snow throwers or blowers, and Home Depot, which only had a single blower model left. So I drove down the street a bit to Sears. They had a few, but not many. I asked about a particular model and was told they should be getting more in this afternoon. I figured better get one now, rather than wait for another snow.

I got a Craftsman 5.5hp, 4 stroke (no gas / oil mix), two stage (grinder + thrower), electric start (no throwing my back out), snow thrower. A lot bigger than the one we have, but not too big I think. The major issue we’re going to have is where we’re going to put it. I don’t think it will fit in the garage, with both cars. We’ll probably have to store it on the front porch, chained to the post. Next spring we’ll have a shed installed.

There were a bunch of people looking at the snow removal equipment … and they were taking a lot of orders. I sure hope they go in order of purchase when allocating the merchandise they receive today … because I have the first order. The guy right behind me ordered the same one. I suspect they won’t last long.

And, since we made this purchase, we’ve just about guaranteed that there will be no more snow this year and next year will be almost snowless.

Update Sunday @ 4pm — picked up the snow thrower … turns out Sears didn’t get their truck in until 10pm Saturday evening, so I wouldn’t have been able to pick it up until today anyways. Got it home and assembled (pretty easy). It started super easily … which I like. Didn’t even need to use the electric starter. I need to make a few adjustments to it, but nothing major. Storage is still going to be a problem, but we can keep it in the garage. Might have to move the cars a bit to get it out though.

I cleared the sidewalk to make sure everything works the way it’s supposed to. No problems.

As a bonus, my sister in law Debbie has a friend who is looking for a snow blower … so we can get rid of the old one.
[tags]snow, sears, snow thrower, craftsman, weather[/tags]