19 February, 2011

Deck Repair Fail at the Ol' Rental Unit

I've been sitting on these pictures for a while, because frankly, I've been a little embarrassed about the whole thing. But a few months have passed, so I can laugh about it now. Kinda.

It started with the previous tenants. They were good guys, this was just one of those things. Ashes from their grill spilled onto the deck, burning a hole in it. (This is why the city of Chicago forbids such grills on wood decks, although everyone does it anyway.) The guys fessed up and agreed to pay for the damages.

Although we've never done a deck repair before, it didn't look like it would be that big a deal. Certainly not worth hiring a contractor for. Just pop out the old boards and nail the new ones in place.

First board off, no problem.

Second board off, just as quickly and cleanly. Both were taken down to the dumpster, broken down, and tossed in.

New boards were put in place.

So did you catch it? Did you see where we went wrong and somehow completely failed to notice it, even though I'm snapping away with the camera?

Yes. We took out the wrong board. I wish you could see the look on Ted's face at this point when we realize it, but our light was fading fast and I didn't use the flash.

In our defense, I'd like to say we were overtired. Tenant transition is always a hectic time, and between that and our day jobs we hadn't slept much the couple days before. But still, really. What kind of home improvement aficionados are we?

We couldn't even go downstairs and get the old, undamaged board, because we had already broken it down. Back to Home Depot we went, and eventually sorted it all out. And it looks great.

Replacing deck boards really is very easy. But I can understand now why people will write on their bodies in Sharpie marker which body part is to be operated on before going into surgery. You just never know.

Electrical Fire Hazard -- The Unexpected Discovery of Old Wire

The electrical breaker boxes for our house were updated in 1973, according to a receipt we found in the basement. Conduit to power extra outlets / light bulbs was strung along the basement ceiling at the same time. While the boxes were professionally installed, it looks like the previous owners added the conduit themselves. (It looks like a hack job and wasn't on the receipt.)

We're considering upgrading the service and having the basement rewired. So we peeked into some of the connecting boxes and were horrified at what we discovered. Our best guess is that the electrician left behind a pile of old cloth wire that was removed during the breaker boxes upgrade, and the previous owners decided to reuse it in new connector boxes. That's 1920s wire going through 1970s  boxes.

Old cloth-wrapped wire going through sharp-edged conduit.

Old, uncapped wire, held together only with old tape.

Oh, yeah, we're going to have to remediate this sooner rather than later.

Basement Decluttering

I never thought I'd see the day, but Ted has decided he can finally part with all of his physics and astronomy homework from college. (He was a double major.) I've helped him move those big, heavy boxes of paper three times in the last nine years.

Hello, extra storage space!