Tag Archives: Plumbing

Use thread sealing tape to keep screws and bolts from backing out

Frequently I have a problem with self-assemble furniture not holding together as well as I would like. The bolts back out over time the legs in our kitchen chairs get wobbly. Or a bolt from an office chair falls out completely and something that used to work stops working. If I don’t notice the mystery bolt on the floor and the malfunction on the same day, I get other problems.

The last time I got a wobbly chair, I had an idea. I wrapped the threads with PTFE tape. (Sometimes incorrectly called Teflon® tape. It’s the same chemical, but Dupont doesn’t make thread-sealing tape anymore.)

Normally you use thread-sealing tape on plumbing by wrapping the threads of pipes before assembling the parts. The tape makes the threads watertight and also helps you tighten them tighter.

In this application, I don’t need the threads to be watertight but I need to really cinch the bolts down, and the addition of a bit more material around the threads will, I hope, make the fit less sloppy and less prone to backing out.

It will also keep them from seizing, should you ever need to disassemble for any reason. You can use a thread locker, but this was Sunday night and the stores were closed and I didn’t have any. I had PTFE tape on hand, and it’s a lot cheaper.

 

My garbage disposal adventure

Changing a worn-out garbage disposal can be a 10-minute job–assuming you anticipate everything, use the same brand as the old one, you know what you’re doing, and the person who installed the old one was at least as competent as you.

It didn’t quite work out for me like that the last time.

Continue reading My garbage disposal adventure

Loose brick repair with epoxy

My home inspector told me about an easy, inexpensive and nearly permanent repair: Loose brick repair with epoxy. It works really well if you need to fix a loose brick in something like a fireplace or a retaining wall. Epoxy is a effective loose brick adhesive.

Epoxy works because it’s stronger than cement. And while it’s not economical to use epoxy for mortar instead of cement, in small quantities it’s cheap enough, and much quicker.

Continue reading Loose brick repair with epoxy

Why accordion-style flexible drain pipe is against code

flexible drain pipe
An example of a flexible coupling

From time to time I see accordion-style flexible drain pipe (also sometimes called flexible waste pipe) in use, much like the one on the right. St. Louis County inspectors take an exceptionally dim view of these, and I always wondered what the big deal was, since literally every hardware and home-improvement store in St. Louis County sells them. Why would they sell something if it isn’t okay to use it? Continue reading Why accordion-style flexible drain pipe is against code

Check your smoke detectors, please. And make sure you have more than one.

Early Monday morning, a fire broke out a couple of streets over from me. Sadly, there was one casualty, a seven-year-old second grader who attends the same school as my oldest son. His older sister heroically came and got him and tried to lead him out the front door, but they became separated and he lost his way.

The paper noted that there have been a large number of fires with fatalities in my area in this past year. It did not speculate on the reasons, but I think I know why.

I think inadequate smoke detectors have a lot to do with it. Continue reading Check your smoke detectors, please. And make sure you have more than one.

9 things your landlord won’t tell you: A rebuttal

My wife found an unflattering piece about landlords in the Huffington Post titled 9 things your landlord won’t tell you. This sorry excuse for an expose just makes accusations, without backing any of it up.

I’m a landlord. Here’s what I have to say about those nine things.

Continue reading 9 things your landlord won’t tell you: A rebuttal

Dvorak: The future of retail is search

This week in PC Magazine, John C Dvorak said the future of retail is search. He’s right.

Continue reading Dvorak: The future of retail is search

Stacked bar charts in Excel

My boss’ management is clamoring for metrics. They want to know, at a glance, what we’re doing and how far along we are. Sounds like a job for stacked bar charts in Excel to me.

Figuring out a way to track our progress was fairly easy. Figuring out how to make Excel display that chart in a meaningful fashion… Well, that took about five hours. I’ll try to make it easier for you than it was for me.
Continue reading Stacked bar charts in Excel

End of the innocence

Honeymoon’s over. The purchase is getting rocky. I’ll tell you about my troubles so you hopefully don’t repeat them.Mistake: We used the mortgage broker our realtor recommended. She got us preapproved quickly enough for us to get our bid in… barely. The rest of the process to get approval went at a sloth’s pace. And then? She slapped us with a 5.625% interest rate and $2,600 in closing costs. She had a vaguely plausible explanation for both, but the closing costs were highway robbery and the interest rate was half a percent higher than it could have been.<p>

Having been lectured by my accountant once about closing costs, I tried to negotiate. Everything’s negotiable, he said. Nothing’s negotiable, she said.

"So I really should just pay cash for this house?" I asked.

She laughed. "If you can." She thought she had me over a barrel and she was going to take advantage of me.

Hopefully she learned a lesson, but I doubt it. Don’t give a Scotsman reason to reconsider parting with money, because once you do, you’ve lost him.

I was out of fight at that point, but my wife called the bank we use most of the time. She told the agent about our 5.625% interest rate and $2,600 closing costs, and asked if she could beat that, and if she could, how we get out of the bad deal.

She talked to us about our goals and our finances and suggested a Home Equity loan. The rate would be low, the payments would be flexible, we could get approved quickly, and there would be no closing costs.

It’s an unconventional answer to the problem. But for a first property, with uncertain expenses, it gives some flexibility. Let things stabilize for a year or two, then get a conventional mortgage if need be. The conventional mortgage gives long-term flexibility, but a HELOC gives short-term flexibility.

So it pays to call around until you find a loan officer with some creativity.

And true to her word, we had approval on the HELOC in three days. That’s how long it took sloth lady to get us just a preapproval.

The house: Now I know why the house was cheap. Superficially, it looked good. But when we started poking around with an inspector, we found out the house was an Uncle Louie Special. Uncle Louie re-did the wiring, the siding, the plumbing, and almost everything else in sight. Uncle Louie did a reasonably good job of laying tile and painting, but when it came to anything else… Well, the inspector said, "He sure didn’t let not knowing what he was doing get in the way of him finishing a project."

He said a few other things too, but it’s probably best not to repeat them.

Unfortunately, it’s going to take professionals to fix most of Uncle Louie’s work. And it won’t be cheap.

The inspector’s advice: Make the decision with the numbers, not with your heart. Which is good advice. The realtor’s job is to make you fall in love with the property. The inspector’s job is to bring you back to reality.

Sometimes the reality isn’t what it first seems. But sometimes you can still make it work anyway.

That’s what we have to learn next.