Category Archives: Projects

Life Playlist – May 2012

We were glad to welcome my parents to town for a couple days this month. We packed a lot into our two days including the Jersey Boys musical (good music and stage sets, decent acting) and the Titanic exhibit at Union Station. The Titanic exhibit was interesting, if a little pricey, but we got an even bigger kick out of the $15 deck of playing cards in the gift shop. I just don’t understand. Anyway, in the museum I was struck by the list of survivors- most of them were women, and most of those who perished were men. I wonder if that would happen today. The exhibit definitely made me want to learn more about the event.

We also went to our first Royals game of the season and had a great view thanks to our good friend Jim. Sadly, Kansas City ended up losing in 15 innings.

A bonus at the Royals game was a little concert preceding the game by Oriole Post, one of our favorite local bands. They even played a couple new tunes. It was a great night for music and baseball.

Other minor highlights include dodging a tornado at home (we could see it from our back deck) and inviting a pest control guy over to get rid of some stinking birds in our attic. They were taking over and it became a larger project than I wanted to tackle myself. Sunflower Pest Solutions came over and did a great job of quickly removing some birds from my attic and patching up the hole where we think they were getting in. It’s now MUCH quieter around our house so hopefully they went and found another home.

As promised, here are a couple pictures of the state of the basement. As of this writing I have finished framing and running wire. I have a bit of plumbing to do and then I will call for rough inspection. I think things will move more quickly after that.

I had to route the PVC from the sink drain the builders left to the vent pipe in the ceiling.
Vent for bathroom sink. Just like playing with legos...
Left from the previous homeowner. Generally mixing colors in a junction box is a BAD idea.
What NOT to do. Check out this gem I found from the previous homeowner. I figured how how it works but it still seems like a bad idea...

Finally, our big May event was our trip to Colorado. We went for the wedding of our good friend Ty and while there played golf (ha!) hiked, rode horses, and went on a zip line. We also got to see both of our families on the way out AND back. I’ll post separately about this trip.

Baseball triple play – I don’t know where I saw this or who is in it but it’s such a beautiful thing:
I love baseball.

John Mayer clinic at Berklee – If I had another shot or two at life I’ve always thought it would be fun to really pursue music as a career, whatever that would look like. I’m super fascinated with the thoughts and stories of artists who have “made it” so I was pretty ecstatic to run across this video series of John Mayer talking about music theory, songwriting and his music to students at Berklee college. I don’t tend to follow John Mayer outside of his music, but I found him surprisingly articulate and was impressed with his ability to stand up without a script and share thoughts for an hour or so.

Lost and Found kickstarter project – A band that played at a few youth conferences I attended years ago has launched a kickstarter project for their latest record and to help cover expenses due to not being able to tour due to cancer treatments. (If you’ve seen them live, you understand why touring is a most significant revenue source for them :-)) – I ran across a link to this website when I saw someone recommend listening to certain songs while this website is simultaneously loaded in the background. I got a kick out of it. It helps if you’re in certain moods. Try it!

Life Playlist – March 2012

Beth’s mom made a quick trip to KC in the middle of the month to help celebrate Beth’s birthday. Among other activities the two ladies worked to create some much needed decoration for our living room walls and ended up with this:


Wichita “vacation” and Gungor concert with The Brilliance – Toward the end of March Beth and I took a few days off of work to head to Wichita to visit Beth’s sister and sister’s boyfriend. While there we got to see a Gungor concert at the very cool Orpheum Theatre. We got VIP tickets so we could ask questions of Michael Gungor before the show.

Gungor put on a great show and the surprise of the night was opening act “The Brilliance”. They fit in great with the mood of the night.

We spent the next couple days hanging out in Wichita, eating donuts, walking the river and having fun.

Project #1 – Garage door – We’re not usually short on repair projects, and this month was no exception except for the fact that I paid real live experts to actually do some of the fixing. Project #1 was our garage door. I came home from work one day to discover that the opener just wouldn’t open the door. I could hear it trying, but failing. I was able to get inside with my key (so old fashioned!) and went into the garage to find a broken torsion spring.

Broken Torsion Springs

I asked around at work and got the name of Harm Waterborg, who came out the next day and with great skill and service replaced my two springs and got our garage door running more quietly than it ever has. I highly recommend Harm if you need any garage door service. He’s out of Gardner, but also operates throughout Kansas City.

Project #2 – our front windshield – Starting at the end of last summer a crack was working its way across the windshield of our car. It stopped expanding for a few months and now with the relative heat of Spring the crack has made it the rest of the way across the window in no time.

I chose to schedule an appointment with SafeLite online, which was super convenient. I had them come to my workplace and while I was working away at my desk their technician had a new windshield on in about an hour. I was impressed with his work and explanation of what he was doing and certain difficulties he may encounter based on looking at my car before he started (namely, rust on the frame around the window).

It’s been a few days since the installation and though it hasn’t rained yet (so I can’t check for leaks), based on my experience I’d recommend these guys.

March Madness – How can one mention March without mention of March Madness? I have loved Kansas basketball since I was a kid, and my wife is even warming up to them a bit herself. We have enjoyed watching them progress through the NCAA tournament enjoying games with friends and family.

The Brilliance – Dust We Are and Shall Return

Window Replacement – Jan/Feb 2012

As part of our basement finishing project, my wife had the great idea of replacing the tiny window on the back of our house with one about twice the size. Miraculously, there was a stretch of about 3 warm days at the end of January which is exactly what I needed to put the window in, caulk and paint before bad weather came (which it did). With the help of my good friend Joel we managed to install this thing with very little trouble:

Finshed window on back side of house
Finished window installation

Here are a few more pictures of the process. I got my window at Home Depot. Our biggest challenge was the fact that I bought a “new construction” window, but probably shouldn’t have since my house has siding on it already. We just cut the siding back a bit more to nail the nailing fin in, and caulked liberally around the fin and when attaching the trim pieces.

You may have noticed it looks like it is dark outside by the time the new window was nailed into the rough opening. Yes, yes it was. I took the final picture the next day once it was light again.

Finally, if you’re in the Gardner area you should know I couldn’t be more pleased with Construction Materials, Inc (CMI) in Gardner. They were very helpful in supplying everything I needed for this job including trim, metal flashing, trim nails, roofing nails (for the nailing fin), lumber for the new header and caulk. Now if only they were open on Saturdays…:-)

Summer Project: Adding vents to the basement

Our house’s previous owner finished the unfinished basement but one thing that was passed over was the inclusion of any duct work in our main basement room. This made for a stuffy feeling in the summer, and extra cold temperatures in the winter. It’s been on our project list for a long time, but I finally bit the bullet, figured out what I needed, and dove into the project. There’s no “before” picture, but the ceiling is a tile drop ceiling.

I chose to use insulated flexible duct instead of rigid metal ducting for the runs from the main supply since the runs weren’t too long. This may not be optimal, but it is very affordable, and we just needed ANY air moving in the room. I put in two registers.

Here’s a little collection of photos that shows much of the process, followed by a quick walkthrough:

1. Gather materials. I bought a box with 25 ft insulated duct (6in), 2 90-degree register boots, register covers and a roll of duct hanging cloth. The cloth was basically like a roll of tape, and was a cheap way to hang the duct from the joists with the help of a staple gun. It was around $3 at Lowe’s. I also bought two round 6 inch “adapters” that tap into the main air supply trunk, to which I fastened the duct. Lastly, I had to buy a couple long zip ties to secure the flex duct to the 6″ adapters.

2. Cut holes in the supply line to fit my 6in adapters. I just traced the outline of the connector with a sharpie and used tin snips to cut the hole. (I used a cordless drill to get the hold started.) Put the connector into the hole and bend all the tabs back to keep the connector in place. Then, use aluminum foil duct tape and tape liberally around the edges to secure it in place and close off any holes air may get through.

3. Attach flex duct to newly fastened connector. Pull back the insulation and tape the duct to the connection, then pull the insulation back up to be flush with the supply trunk if possible. Pull a zip tie tightly around the entire assembly, securing the flex duct around the metal connector/adapter.

4. Route flex duct as straight as possible to where the air will be inserted into the room. Suspend the flex duct from the ceiling using the roll of duct hanging cloth and a staple gun.

5. In my case I had to cut the holes for my registers in the ceiling tiles. I simply traced the outline of the register and cut out the hole using a Dremel. I have used this Dremel a LOT since I’ve moved into the house and would recommend anyone who likes do-it-yourself projects to get one.

6. Attach the 90 degree register boots to the open end of the flex duct using the same method used to attach the duct to the supply trunk.

7. Fasten the register boots and register covers to one another by screwing the covers through the tile and into the metal boots. This was the hardest part of the project for me because the pre-drilled holes in the boots did not line up to the holes in the register covers. I assumed these would be standard, but perhaps because I bought the two pieces from different places they were different. I had to drill new holes in the metal boots and eyeball the alignment a little bit as I screwed in the register covers.

I took a bit of time before the last step to enjoy my work before calling it a night and finishing in the morning.

Overall, this went very well and I’m glad with the outcome. I may still put a return vent on the other side of this room to help pull air through the room. We’ll really find out if there is a difference this Winter.

Project log – Painting the Garage

It’s been several months now, but here’s one of the little projects we did this summer and are super-happy with the outcome…

Despite the laughter and mockery from a full third of my friends who I told I was painting my garage, Beth and I went forward with the project on the July 4 weekend this summer.

Who cares about painting their garage? Well, we decided to for a few reasons: It screamed “I’m not finished” every time we saw the streaks of sheetrock mud on the walls. We got “mud powder” on our clothes every time we brushed against the walls. Finally, as much time as I’m starting to spend in there between car projects and house projects I thought it would be nice if it looked a little better.



The “after” picture doesn’t quite do it justice. I could be dreaming but it feels slightly cooler inside the garage now that we’re done too. Maybe sealing up the drywall keeps a little more heat from getting through the walls. Who knows?

What we’ve been up to – Winter 2009-10 (The Bathroom Project)

Fortunately, this bathroom project isn’t caused by the presence of birds, though they like to remind us they are VERY close by, threatening to come back in at a time least convenient for us, I’m sure. No, since we’ve been in our house (almost three years now), we have wanted to “redo” our master bathroom. Not a remodel, really, but rather a cleaning up. The previous paint job was kind of rough (I’m being nice), and we wanted the color to match our bedroom. Also, like our bedroom, we decided to put up crown molding in the same manner, really making this more of a project and not just a painting job.

With the help of our great friend Norm we put up the crown in the bedroom a few months back. Remembering the tricks I learned from Norm back then, my friend Dieter and I did the same for this project. We have 10′ ceilings and we found it difficult to hang anything on our wall since things just looked dwarfed on our huge walls (no offense to dwarfs). We decided to hang the crown molding about 2 feet down from the ceiling instead of the “usual” location where the ceiling and wall meet. This gave the illusion of bringing the ceiling down a bit.

All in all, the project went great. For nerds looking for more detail on the project: We had one outside corner to assemble, and five inside corners, all 90 degrees (roughly) :-). One of the hardest parts was figuring out how to cut the boards so the corners would match up. There’s a ton of info our there on the web, but it seems like most pages offer not quite enough info, or just slightly too much so you can become confused.

Turns out for 90 degree inside and outside corners, we never had to adjust our miter saw on more than one axis. We either had to tilt it or turn it, but never both. We just had to be sure to turn the crown upside down when cutting. Using a trick from Norm, on the inside corners I ran one board straight into the wall (flush) and coped the other one, using a Dremel to back cut the wood instead of a coping saw. It seemed to allow me to be pretty precise and was relatively fast as long as I had the patience to cut awhile, then test, then cut some more.

My one outside corner didn’t line up quite as well as I would have hoped, but I was able to get it close and then fill in the rest with wood filler. You can hardly tell now.

Here are a couple pictures of the final product:

A shot of one corner of our bathroom where I installed crown molding

Finished crown molding in bathroom

The only thing left to do are a couple minor paint touch-ups. The vent fan in the ceiling is also new (upgraded from a smaller one).

Yard Artifacts

A few weeks ago I spent an evening prepping a small area on the side of my house for new grass. Nothing would grow there previously and I think it was because the soil in the area was full of gravel and rock. In the process of replacing my “gravel-dirt” with real dirt, I stumbled across these treasures (yes, that’s a saw blade in there):

Click the picture for a larger image.

Who knows how many hundreds of years these items have been here, waiting to be discovered? From what civilization did they come and what purpose did they serve? We’ll never know, because they were just preventing my grass from growing and are now going to the dumpster. Thanks home builder! I wonder what other treasures are scattered throughout my yard?!?

Birds: The Saga Continues (or: Do It Yourself Bird Guards)

For those keeping track at home, the saga continues as we attempt to rid our attic of birds once and for all. There are two bird issues at play here: (1) Birds entering the attic and flying around (who cares when there’s…) (2) birds climbing from the roof right into the chute that leads to our bathroom vent fans (a problem). On two different occasions we have had to rescue birds stuck just above the fan cover in our bathroom. Actually, one time was an actual rescue, the other time was more of a, well, clearing of the duct. Anyway, the goal of this project was to keep birds out of our bathroom fan ducts once and for all.

1 ft. piece of “chicken wire” (it looked nothing like a chicken). $0.89 @ Ace Hardware
24 short screws with really pointy ends to get through the metal (8 per duct hood, 3 hoods) 24x$0.15= $3.60

Tin snips
Cordless drill

After measuring the duct cover to know how big to pre-cut our wire pieces, we made our way up with wire coverings, screws, drill and tin snips in hand. The shingles were also blazing hot so we brought towels to sit on. The pictures should tell the rest of the story.

The only other thing I kind of want to do for this project is go back up and spray paint the fencing black so it doesn’t stand out as much. We’ll see that happens.

Raised Bed Garden

So the big weekend project a couple weeks ago was putting in a raised bed garden in the backyard.

Darrin constructing garden box in garage
Darrin constructing garden box in garage

We got a few 2x12s, a 4×4 and a cubic yard of dirt and went to work. Here’s the finished product:
Raised Bed in Backyard
Raised Bed in Backyard
Raised Bed in Backyard
Raised Bed in Backyard

Landscaping Project – “The Wall”

We were fortunate enough to have excellent weather and excellent help on Monday and Tuesday when we decided to give our front flower garden area a face lift.

Beth’s brother Ben and his girlfriend Savannah helped us put in the wall. Here’s what the place looked like before. Not so bad, but it just wasn’t “ours”. We removed all the plants except the large bush on the right and a couple flowers Beth planted last year.

The \"before\" image Starting from scratch

We cleared a channel for the wall, tamped (? – we used a tamper) the ground and assembled the wall. Here’s what it looked like after that point:

Rock wall partially constructed Rock wall partially constructed (side view)

Finally we filled the area with top soil, went plant shopping and planted what we bought. We still intend to add a few more plants. Here’s the “finished” product:

View of finished rock wall from side

View of finished rock wall from front