Greg MacLellan

February 12, 2009

Rick Mercer: Canadian government

Filed under: General — groogs @ 5:57 am

A bit of an offside from my usual topics, but Rick Mercer gave an absolutely great explanation of how Canadian government and parliament works that is worthwhile watching.

February 11, 2009

Back window

Filed under: Renovations — groogs @ 7:00 am

I took advantage of some nice weather a couple weeks ago to finally replace the back (laundry room) window. I replaced the front windows a couple of months ago. The back window was 40″ x 24″, and had a slider on the outside, with a hinged flip-up window on the inside.

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One issue I had was that the top of the window was actually above the gas and water lines, so once I added a ceiling to the laundry room, the window would have been above it. Since I was replacing the window anyways, the new one is shorter, at 40″ x 18″, and otherwise exactly identical to the front windows. This also meant I would be left with a 6″ gap at the top of the window, so I started by building a new frame. I used tapcons to anchor in the side pieces to the concrete, and then put a piece across connecting the two. This will also serve to anchor the new window in place.

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image326 It’s a bit hard to make out, but there is a bit of a lip (about 3/4″ wide) in the concrete, centered below the piece of 2×4 in this photo. They obviously poured the concrete with the old frame in place. I decided not to chip this out, and instead to just center the window on it and fill it with foam to insulate.

I put the new window in, and anchored it to the concrete with a couple of tapcons on each side, and a couple of wood screws to the wood above. I used a piece of 5/8″ OSB to fill in the 6″ gap on the outside. The black wire you can see in the photos is my cable line, which previously went through the window frame. I mostly kept it connected while I was working because I was listening to an online radio stream at the time. What can I say – the regular radio stations here suck.

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imgp3324 I used a piece of flashing, which pretty much fit perfectly, to cover the OSB from the outside. I just glued it on with a construction adhesive, and then went around all the edges with some caulk. I also put some low-expansion foam in both the front and back of the concrete lip, all the way around the window.

imgp3321 On the inside, I put 2″ of rigid foam board against the OSB, and then sealed the gaps all around it with foam. I should also point out that having learned what a pain it is when the foam hardens on the window surface, I used painter’s tape to protect the window frame. I highly recommend doing this, as it made cleaning up the spots where the foam expands out very simple. On the front windows, I only had a couple places where it hardened onto the front, but it took me a long time to scrape it all off.

After giving the foam a day to harden, I added some framing to the interior wall to fill in the top part of the window so I have something to attach the drywall to. I also took another can of some other foam (which was for gaps 2″ or less – I really could have used the 2″ or greater, but this was all I had on hand) and went over all the wood pieces and everything that felt cold. I likely will take another can (maybe 2) and do this again. Nothing is cold now, but there is not really that much insulation above the window compared to the rest of the basement. Also note I stapled some cardboard along the bottom, to prevent the foam from falling down into the window.

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image61 Once this was all done, I used some of the same all-PVC trim to fill in the gaps from the outside, and used some exterior caulk to seal everything up. I probably could have done a better job here, but it was very cold out and I was rushing to get it done. If it looks terrible in the spring, I’ll probably redo some of it – but for now, it keeps the cold and water out, and that’s what’s important.

February 7, 2009

New bathroom plugs

Filed under: Renovations — groogs @ 12:00 pm

While I’m doing the wiring in the basement, I decided to also fix something that really annoys me: my upstairs bathroom plug. As you can see, there are two sockets, and they’re connected to the light switch. This means we usually have a wire all the way across the wall/counter, and my girlfriend is always changing plugs for her hair appliances.

I cut a hole for a 2-gang box in the wall, and ran a wire down there, beside the central vac pipe, and down through the floor into the basement. This was actually pretty simple since there is a return air vent on the other side of the bathroom wall. You can see the picture below, looking down from the hole I cut in the wall at the central vac pipe. On a side note, I’ve found this to be a very effective way of figuring out where to run wires (or just generally see in tight places) while I’m working. I may change my mind if I ever drop the camera into the wall cavity, but until then it’s been very helpful and saved a lot of guessing and extra work.

I replaced the light switch with a dimmer, and replaced the old plug with a timer which will eventually be used to control an exhaust fan. The plugs are both GFCI-protected, and are now on a dedicated circuit along with the downstairs bathroom plug. Being a 33-year old house, the old plug was on the same circuit as the bathroom light, hallway, and most of the plugs in two bedrooms. I also ended up adding a plug in the hallway (probably the only real use will be the power brush for the vacuum cleaner).

February 5, 2009

UPS Inefficiencies

Filed under: Rants — groogs @ 10:16 pm

I just wanted to make a small rant against UPS. Generally, UPS and most of the big shipping companies are known for their innovation and ever-lasting pursuit of efficiency. They have large computer networks to track shipments and deliveries and optimize routes.. fleets of hundreds of planes and thousands of trucks.. and can manage to get a box from one side of the continent to your front door on the other side in a day for less than the cost of fuel to drive a couple hours out of town.

And yet, even though I am basically never home during the day, I cannot get them to not try to deliver a package to my front door. They put my package on their truck, drive it to my house, and then drive around with it all day, before bringing it back to their warehouse, where they repeat the same process for the next two days. Finally, they leave it in their warehouse, and I can finally stop by after work to pick up the package.

I’ve previously emailed their customer center, and asked them if there is a way to set up my address so the package is always held. Apparently, this is not possible – the best I can do is open an account at a UPS Store, and then have it delivered there (which also means registering the UPS store as a valid shipping address on my credit card). I’m also assuming that opening the account is not free.. so I have to pay them for the privilege of not wasting their drivers time and gas attempting deliveries. That’s innovative.

To send it to my office, I have to add my work address as a shipping address on my credit card, and waste my co-workers time dealing with my personal shipments. This doesn’t really seem like the best way to handle this, although this is probably what I will do from now on.

Today, they’ve only tried to deliver my package once so far. I tried to request my package be held via their website (which both their website and phone system say is possible), but I simply cannot figure it out. I can track the package.. but even after creating an account, I see no way to modify anything about this shipment. So I gave up, and called the number on the notice they left me, again, and this time pressed 0 until it let me speak to a real person. (And then said yes about 8 times, because yes, I really do want to speak to a person.)

Finally the agent was able to stop them from trying to deliver.. maybe. It might have been too late, so they may try tomorrow again anyways. I asked if in the future, I could just call as soon as I got my tracking number. She admitted it would sound strange, but apparently, no. I can’t do this. They have to try to deliver it at least once first.

So even though this package gets from the other corner of the continent and across an international border in just over a day, it is doomed to be driven around in a truck pointlessly for at least two days, and stored in a warehouse over the weekend.

I must have a different definition of “efficient” than UPS does.

February 4, 2009

Dryer vent

Filed under: Renovations — groogs @ 11:02 pm

image232While I was getting ready for the insulation, I disconnected the dryer and noticed basically a very cold wind coming out of the end of the pipe. Upon closer inspection, there was actually frost on the pipe inside of the house, and when I took it apart, there was actual snow in the outside vent (the picture is hard to make out, but most of that is snow, except for at the very end, which is just dryer lint).

The outside vent was fairly cheap, and although it had a damper, it was stuck open due to the cold and the warped plastic shell. This mean that basically, cold air and snow could blow into the house through the vent, effectively into the back of my dryer.

I pulled the old vent out, which basically broke into pieces while I was removing it. In case you were wondering. chipping tiny pieces of plastic stuck to 30-year-old caulk in -15°C weather is not fun.

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It took a bit of cutting and caulk to get the new vent to fit nicely with the siding, but it works.

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I built a small box in the corner for the vent to go through, but then ended up rebuilding after the insulation was in because I realized the vent was sticking out the wrong way, and the dryer would have had to be too far from the wall to connect to it.

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I used a piece of semi-rigid 4″ pipe to make the connection from the outside vent into the box, and then a 5′ section of straight 4″ vent, into an elbow to come out of the wall. At the very bottom, I added a 4″ damper as well, to provide some extra protection in case the outside damper gets stuck or clogged with dryer lint, etc. This is pretty cheap, and it will still be accessible to clean once the drywall is up.

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When done, the dryer will be about 6″ from the wall.

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