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.

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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? Read more

How to light the underside of your train table

There are few things worse than fumbling around in the dark under a train layout. So I mounted a ceiling-mount light socket underneath my train table to create a work light so that I could see when I’m working on my wiring. It’s another one of my 15-minute projects, one that pays dividends by making future 15-minute sessions more productive.

I did most of the work with stuff I had on hand. If you want to duplicate my project, you’ll be able to get everything you need at your nearest hardware or home improvement store, and the materials will cost less than $10. I provided Amazon links for everything, so you can see what these items are. Some people know what a wire nut is before they know how to read, and some people may be well into adulthood before they undertake any kind of electrical project. Yes, this is an electrical project. As long as you check and double-check all your connections and don’t plug it into an outlet until after it’s done, it’s safe. Respect electricity, and you’ll find there’s less reason to be afraid of it.

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Install an outlet for an above range microwave

We have a house with an above range microwave, but no nearby outlet to plug it into. The previous owners simply ran an extension cord. While I’m not 100% positive this is illegal to do in my locality, the safety is questionable and it certainly goes against the manufacturer’s recommendations. My home inspector wanted me to install an outlet. Here’s how to install an outlet for an above range microwave.

Better yet, I did it over the drywall without tearing into any walls, and spending less than $20.

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Don’t build a drill press out of PVC pipe

This past weekend, Lifehacker posted instructions for building a makeshift drill press out of PVC pipe. Although the finished contraption looks kind of cool, it’s not something you want to build yourself.

My drill press cost me $40. It’s far better and far safer, even though it’s still possible to injure yourself with it. But structurally it’s as sound as it gets, and acquiring it didn’t take me all weekend, either. Read more

Just say no to black boxes

When the PS3 was released, one of its advertised features was that you could install Linux on it and use it as a Linux computer. I doubt many people did it, but it was a useful feature for those who did.

Sony later took that ability away in a firmware update. You could choose not to install that later firmware, but then you gave up other capabilities.

Now, some enthusiasts have figured out various ways to get that capability back, and Sony is so thrilled about that, they’re suing.

Sony is in the wrong.
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Getting domesticated (or at least more handy)

I go back to work tomorrow. I wish I could take at least another day or two off, but something came up and they need me Monday.

I spent some time tackling little projects around the house. Watching This Old House for the last six months or so is paying off.The day we brought my son home, I had a project waiting for me. A wind storm had ripped one of the gutters almost completely off the house. It was hanging by a thread on one end, and the other end had twisted itself around a vent over the kitchen. Nice. The vent probably kept the gutter from completely coming off.

I asked a friend from church to help me with it, because there wasn’t really any way one person could do it all at once–especially when that person is me. While I’m perfectly comfortable straightening metal, drilling pilot holes, and screwing it into place, I’d rather fill out tax forms than climb on the roof. Fortunately, with help we got it done in about 30 minutes.

When the weather finally gets nicer, I’ll drive some screws into the other gutters. For now they’re hanging on OK, but I doubt they’ll last another year without some intervention.

I also fixed a leak in the bathroom sink. I fixed it a few months ago with a bunch of PVC pipe repair kits, but the local Sears Hardware didn’t carry exactly the combination of parts I needed to reach from one end to the other. I ended up needing to mate two threaded pipes in the middle. My temporary fix was to put a smaller piece of pipe inside the two. Most of the time it worked, but sometimes it leaked.

I managed to find a threaded connector at Home Depot that fit, but it was galvanized steel and weighed way too much. There was no way these PVC pipes would support that weight. I settled for a female adapter. It screws into the threaded pipe on the bottom, and I rely on a press fit to for the top. I could secure it with some PVC glue, but first I’ll see if friction and gravity do their jobs. PVC glue isn’t something I want around the house with a little one roaming around.

Finally, I have some loose kitchen tiles. I found the original adhesive in the garage this morning. When I pulled one of the tiles, I could see why the adhesive failed: It’s the wrong kind of adhesive for the subfloor I have. So I picked up a combination adhesive/grout and we’ll see how it does. I’m not sure if one substance can do two jobs well, but theoretically I only need a little, and I’d rather buy a little of one thing than a little of two things. And I don’t see how it could be any worse than the original stuff.

I ended up paying about $10 for a quart of the adhesive/grout, $3 for a trowel, and another $3 for the tool for applying the grout. That’s not too bad. I should need a chisel, but with the original grout crumbling, I think I can get by without it. Good thing, because I couldn’t find one at Home Depot.

I’ve never laid tile before, but I’ve seen it done several times now on This Old House, so at least I know what the proper technique looks like. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but neither did whoever put this stuff down.

Once I get this project out of the way, the house will be a little bit nicer and a little bit safer. And I’ll have a little more experience.