With the imminent arrival of our little one, I needed to get cracking and finish up some projects around the house. High up on that ‘Honey Do’ list was to build a changing table. Now strictly speaking, the cheapest option out there is to either use an existing surface in your home to change baby or to buy a used dresser/table and repurpose it. DIY wood working is not very frugal. Tools are a large initial investment, lumber prices seem to climb each year while quality declines, and there is a huge learning curve before finished projects start to look as good as the mass-produced pieces. With that said, it is an enjoyable hobby that gives me a break from the computer (work).
A great beginner resource for wood working is Ana White. Check out her about page for a remarkable short story of how she developed her building skills. Anyway, back to the point, Ana has some free plans for a changing table and that is what I based my design off.
As with most new projects, I had to do a little tool shopping before hand to expand my arsenal. The Kreg Pocket Hole Jig made a nice addition and the thing works like a dream.
I did make some changes to the dimensions of the table. Mine is 16 1/2″ deep and 48″ wide. I wanted to have plenty of storage for all of the accumulated baby stuff.
After some sanding, wood filler, and paint it is ready for action. How is the organizing going Shae?
Good! Here is the finished results.
The Tsavo Lion should keep baby calm during diaper changes. ;-D
You’re driving down the road and all of a sudden the check engine light comes on. Oh no! What do you do? Well, unless it is flashing or you heard a loud clunk, you might as well keep on driving.
Such a scenario happened about 2 months ago while I was driving our 14 year old car around town. The check engine, or in some cars, the service engine soon light simply means that at your next earliest convenience you should have your car checked out.
The great thing is that you can do this for free. Just head on over to the nearest Autozone, Advanced Auto Parts, or any of the DIY centric car parts stores. Most of them will offer a free service where they connect a small handheld device to your cars OBD 2 port. OBD stands for On-Board Diagnostics. This nifty port, located by the drivers left knee, allows handheld diagnostic devices to talk to the cars computers. The cars computer will have stored a code and that code helps explain why the check engine light is on.
In my case, I had a code P0440. You can either look that up on the internet when you get home, or the store employee can usually print out a list right there at the store explaining the code and possible fixes. P0440 is an Evaporative Emission Control System Malfunction and while scary sounding, all it really means is that gasoline vapors were leaking out of the fuel system somewhere.
Unless you live in an area that mandates emissions tests on vehicles, you can safely drive for another 50k+ miles and suffer no consequences except a slightly worse fuel economy. There are a number of potential causes and fixes for a Evap Emission and the printout should list them. The only simple fix that doesn’t require a lot of speciality equipment was to replace the gas cap. So that’s what I did.
About a month later the light turned off all on its own. Yay!
I know I missed the What’s for Dinner this week. We started a new home improvement project and I have been busy with ‘work work’. Here is something that I haven’t gotten around to writing about.
A few months ago there was a little blurb on our gas bill offering a free energy saving kit. I looked up the details and our gas company was offering a low flow shower head, 2 faucet aerators, and a small roll of plumber’s tape to all of their customers. You may be wondering why the gas utility company would be giving away items that would help people reduce the amount of gas they use. The gas company after all sells gas, right? Not quite. Nicor, our gas company, just like Ameren, our electric company, provide distribution of natural gas and electricity. They don’t actually produce the commodity they just deliver it to your home. The more usage the delivery network gets, the more wear and tear happens and that costs them money. By helping customers reduce their usage, they can save some money themselves.
A month or so after I set in the request for a kit I got this small box in the mail.
Opening it revealed the contents.
We had already purchased a 1.5 GPM (Gallons per minute) shower head when we moved in that is *almost* identical to the one included in this kit. Each of the two faucet aerators are 1 GPM and the kitchen aerator is 1.5 GPM. I was really happy to receive the aerators because our bathroom faucet aerator was broken and our kitchen one was kind of dingy.
Shae was able to install the new aerators herself. She didn’t even need the included plumbers tape according to the instructions pamphlet (the aerators have built in rubber gaskets). Our sinks now use half the water as they did before.
This kind of project probably won’t have a noticeable impact on our gas or water bill but every little bit does help. Thankfully in the Midwest, water is plentiful and we often don’t think about using it sparingly. My sister and her family live in the American South West where the presence, or lack thereof, can make or break entire lifestyles.
Every time I check our water usage I get a little reminder that it takes an entire group of people to conserve resources. Our water usage chart includes data from previous owners. I highlighted in green the months that we have lived in the house. All of the other data is from previous owners or when the house sat empty. The numbers are cubic feet of water used. You can get gallons by multiplying by 7.48. So the 1800 cubit feet of water used by previous owners in July of 2005 equals over 13k gallons of water that month or about 450 gallons per day! We have been averaging about 70 gallons per day or 35 gallons per person.
I am looking to conserve even more water by replacing our 3.5 GPF toilets with modern low flow varieties. That is a post for another day though. Do you know how many gallons your household uses in a month? How about per person? According to the USGS, the average person uses between 80-100 gallons per day.
If you’d like to learn more about the Nicor Energy Efficiency Program you can do so here.
In May of this year, we bought our first house after nearly two years of looking. It was built in 1905 in one of the older neighborhoods in town. We love old homes and the character that they bring with them. There are hundreds if not thousands of stories that the walls, floors, and guts of the house have to tell if you know where to look and aren’t afraid to get your hands a bit dirty (not to mention saving a whole bucket load of money by not having to call a contractor). It is a bit like an archeological dig and even the experienced home owners are still surprised sometimes by what they find.
The house had been foreclosed upon and after three years of sitting vacant with no water or heat we bought it at auction. One of the many projects that we wanted to tackle was to clean the unfinished basement.
One of the previous owners had hung paneling on the walls and at some point water had come into contact with said paneling.
Naturally, we wanted to get rid of all the paneling.
We still have a long ways to go on that larger project, so I thought I’d share a smaller sub project with you that we have finished.
It was obvious from examining the outside of the house that there were additional basement windows covered up by the paneling. As we worked our way from the North West corner of the basement towards the South West corner we uncovered the first of these windows.
Hmmm… somebody didn’t want anything getting through that window by the looks of it. The frame had been painted shut, caulked shut, and nailed shut. The glass had been painted (and they even used a primer). The hinges had also been graced with some teal paint.
I decided I wanted to try and restore it. After all, it had lasted for 108 years, who was I to say it couldn’t keep on living.
After prying it out, here is what the external side looked like.
and the opening. So much light!
I used a paint stripper called Soy Gel to remove the paint. It is billed as a non toxic, low VOC stripper. I still wouldn’t want to take a bath in the stuff though.
A vinegar bath plus some friendly face time with a dremel wire brush had these hinges cleaned up within a couple of days.
The window was originally designed to swing inwards, but it lacked a handle. This made it awkward to actually open. I decided to remedy the problem with some new hardware.
The locking mechanisms were also too badly damaged to salvage so I picked up a couple of cheap replacements.
I actually purchased the locks at Menards because they were a dollar cheaper there. Menards also carried spray foam insulation at a cheaper price as well as rubber weatherstripping. I wanted to really seal up any potential air leaks.
After using a wood epoxy to fill all the dings and dents in the window I put on a couple coats of paint. I managed to break the glass when I was working on the window so I got my first taste of glazing and pane replacement. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
I applied a generous amount of spray foam and caulk to seal up any gaps in the window frame. Then after some paint, I applied the rubber weatherstripping. It should help create a good seal between the window and the frame.
Here is the almost finished product. I still need to add a slide lock to the right side and finish painting the exterior.