Monday, February 23, 2009

Home Improvement Hell

Some home improvement projects should really be easy, but when you do them they end up not.

The least complicated and the simplest project turned out to be a disaster: Replacing the four ceiling fan light bulbs in the living room with dimmable compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. To begin, the old incandescent light bulbs did not come out in one piece. Three of four bulbs came off the base and the potting compound used to fasten the bulb to the base came out all over the floor. The bases had to be forcefully removed with pliers, and none of them came out easily (picture twisted metal). Then I installed the new CFL bulbs, and of course one was defective (now needs to be returned to the store). But the rest of them came on and dimmed, so I figured I was at least three-fourths successful.

Surprise: I was watching TV with the lights dimmed, and went to do a 30-second skip on the TiVo. No response. In fact, no response to the remote control at all. The remote seemed to control the TV, but not the TiVo. The batteries in the remote were fine. What changed? The lights? So I raised the brightness on the CFLs and voila - the remote worked again. The damn dimmable CFLs interfere with the TiVo remote control. So this was basically a $32 waste of money (and time).

I forgot to mention how I sliced my hand (bleeding all over in the process) on the metal rim on the light fixture that I didn't realize had a sharp edge when I was cleaning the the crud from the light bulbs off of it.

The other project was a bigger one, but no less hellish. The shower in my master bathroom has had a problem with mildew that has become impossible to keep under control. So I figured it was time to take the metal/glass wall/door surrounding the shower on two sides apart, remove all the silicone caulk from the seams of the white panels on the other two sides, and re-caulk, clean the framing/glass on the surround, and put it all back together.

I discovered how difficult it was to remove (mildewed) silicone caulk from, well, just about anything. I also discovered why I had the mildew trouble. The original installation of the metal frame that made-up the surround was done improperly and water that seeped into it did not properly drain. As a result there was a bunch of disgusting gunk (a mix of water, soap, skin, dirt, and mold) trapped within. Getting rid of the gunk and reinstalling the surround so it properly drains will go a long way to fixing the mildew problem.

Getting it all put back is going to be interesting, because before I can do that I have to get all the silicone caulk removed completely before re-caulking. In most places I have it 90% removed...but that extra 10% (the thin film of silicone that won't come off) is giving me loads of trouble. I purchased a compound called Caulk Be Gone by DAP (after my tough start removing the caulk) that actually has worked amazingly well. Since I didn't start with this, it will still be difficult to get that last 10% of the caulk off where I first started. I still need to thoroughly clean the wall panels, floor ("shower pan"), glass, and metal framing, and hope it all goes back together with no leaks.

Thankfully the shower in the bathtub in the other bathroom works well, because it'll be at least a few more days before the master bathroom shower can be used again.

The one project that did go well is the replacement of all the smoke detectors (all five of them) in the house. This project resulted from the city inspection of the smoke detectors after I had the new water heater installed, and we found two of the detectors were bad. Those I immediately replaced that day so I could pass inspection, and installed them with an adapter (they were a different brand than the original ones). I decided it would probably be a good idea to just replace the other ones too, so I purchased two smoke detectors and one combination smoke/carbon monoxide detector. These are all "hardwired" (wired into the house's electrical system) detectors, so I decided to undo the adapters on the other two and wire everything properly.

Electrical wiring: The one thing I can always count on doing well.

The smoke/CO detector talks as well. When the smoke detectors go-off, it starts saying, "Fire. Fire. Fire." The voice sounds a lot like a female Beavis & Butt-Head, forcing me to laugh at this otherwise serious device that I hope will never need to actually do what it does.

The next two things upcoming are to replace the heating/air conditioning system and the gutters on the rear of the house (which may end up being the whole house). I'm paying someone to do both of these. Nevertheless, I'm scared.

No comments: