Category Archives: Fix

Restoration Project

Every time I got my haircut I looked out to see a dilapidated barber pole out by the road of the shop where I have my ears lowered.  I finally asked if I could upgrade it a bit and got the OK to fix it.

This is what it looked like before the restoration.

It’s amazing what a little fresh paint and a little effort can do.

Here’s a closer look in my shop before I returned it.

Just a little project to occupy my time between haircuts.

Safety First


In an effort to upgrade my wood shop I purchased a used Grizzly table saw.  It’s an older model but still in good condition.  One problem I found almost immediately was the old style push button on/off switch.  Though fully functional, it was hard to find the STOP button when I wanted to turn it off.

I thought of replacing the switch with a “paddle” switch, but that would cost me money and I’m cheap, or should I say “frugal”.  I decided that I could make an addition to the original switch out of some scrap wood and it wouldn’t cost me anything.


This is the switch on the saw (inside the wooden frame) and you can see the STOP button is small, making it hard to find.  Especially as the switch is located below the table of the saw.


The design is fairly simple, just a “paddle” flap with an extra (small) wood block on the inside to push on the stop button when the paddle is pushed.  It’s on a hinge at the top so it swings freely.  You can lift it to push the start button, but I drilled a hole a little bigger than the start button so you don’t have to lift it to start the saw.


You’ll have to excuse the STOP sign art I added, I hope to paint the thing red and re-do the lettering when I get a chance.  Meanwhile, the saw is a lot safer to use now that I have a large area to “tap” or push to shut it off.

In Hot Water


When you turn on your hot water faucet do you wait, and wait, and wait some more for the water to get warm and then hot?  This is because the hot water heater is located far from where the hot water is needed in your house and the pipe that supplies the faucet has to bring the hot water from the water heater in the garage or basement to the sink.  This wastes a lot of water in a year.

Wouldn’t it be nice to turn on the faucet and get hot water immediately?  Well there is a fairly simple cure, a hot water recirculating system.  Sounds complicated but it’s really quite simple.  A small pump mounted on the output pipe of the hot water heater and a temperature sensing valve at the sink furthest away from the water heater.

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This job starts by ordering this kit from the nice people at  It is available locally at the big box/home improvement store too.  They should be selling a million of these.

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I unpack the box and this shows all the parts.  I told you it was simple.

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The kit includes the pump/timer and the temperature sensing valve with the hoses and adapters needed to install it to most water supply lines.

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Shutting off the power to the water heater and then the cold water going into the water heater is the first step to doing this job.  We have an electric water heater so I just turn off the breaker and shut off a water valve.  That isn’t snow around the water valve, just the extra insulation I have around the water heater and the pipes so the water heater doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the water hot.  Our garage isn’t heated in the winter.

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Then just open a hot water faucet in the house and let the pressure and water drain off from from the water heater and the pipe going to the house.  Leave the faucet open and then drain a gallon or two from the drain valve on the bottom of the water heater.  That should get most if not all the water out of the pipe you have to take apart.

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Take an adjustable wrench and take the hot water pipe going to the house off the fitting on top of the water heater.  There is still a little bit of water here so keep an absorbent rag handy to catch it.

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The pump/timer assembly just mounts on the pipe on the top of the water heater and the pipe to the house gets re-attached to the output of the pump.  Turn the water supply to the water heater back on, go back to the faucet you opened in the house and let the water run until all the air is bled out of that line.  Check for leaks at the pump installation.  If all is well, turn the water heater back on but don’t plug the pump/timer in just yet.

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The hardest part of the next step in this job was to clear out everything in the vanity so I could get to the supply lines to the bathroom sink.  Doesn’t everyone need 10,000 Q-tips and a selection of beauty products that never get used?  To keep peace in the family, don’t throw anything away!!  Just shut off both the hot and cold water and move on.

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Disconnect the cold and hot supply lines at the shut off valves, keeping track of which is hot and which is cold.  Be sure to have a catch pan to let the water drain from the lines going to the faucet(s).

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Follow the instructions that arrived with the kit so all the hoses get attached correctly.  Pay attention to the “hot” in and “hot” out, “cold” in and “cold” out marked on the temperature sensing valve and don’t over-tighten the connections.  Then you open the supply line valves and open the faucet(s) to get the air out of the lines.  Check for  leaks.  Snug up the connections if needed, but don’t over tighten.

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Again, follow the instructions and set the timer.  Really simple.  Then replace the clear lens over the timer and plug it in.  The pump will run if it is within the time you set it to be on.  It will circulate the hot water going to the temperature sensing valve until it reaches 98 degrees and then the valve will close.  Don’t be alarmed, the pump keeps running.

The pump keeps running??!!  Won’t that use a lot of electricity?  NO, it won’t.  I plugged in my meter and found the timer and the pump when running use 25 watts.  At the current price that I pay for electricity, with the pump/timer running for18 of the 24 hours, it costs me less than 5 cents a day.  I am willing to pay 4.8 cents a day to have instant hot water.

I did a test at the other faucets in the house.  Running the hot water in the kitchen sink I began counting and before I finished saying 8 the hot water was there.  The hot water to the sink in the other bathroom was there quickly but not quite instant like at the sink where I installed the valve.  Before this was installed we waited for what seemed like forever for hot water.

If you have upstairs and downstairs, you will probably need another sensor valve at one of the upstairs sinks too.  They are available separately.  Our house is all on one floor.

So far I love this thing.  My only question is how long it lasts.  If it doesn’t burn out or leak for a while I will be a very happy camper.



Take a Shower


When we moved into our new house both the main bathroom and the master bathroom had the standard one piece tub/shower installed.  We spoke to the builder about having a full size shower installed in the master bath to replace the standard tub and were informed that it would cost $3,500 to $4,000 to do this.  So we decided to live with the standard tub/shower.  Before long it became obvious that it had to be changed.  With both of us getting older, and my wife being short (complete with short legs) it was hard to step into and out of the tub/shower.  For some reason the one piece tubs have a step up built into them and it is awkward for many people to step out especially.  After my wife slipped and almost fell it was time to take action.  Having more time than money since retiring, I decided to tackle the project myself.


Here are a couple pictures of how it looked when I started the project.  A perfectly good tub/shower that functioned as it was designed to do.  Just not what we needed in that space.  Now the fun begins.

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First the old unit had to be removed.  The base trim was removed from the walls adjacent to the tub/shower and then I had to find how it was secured into the opening.  Galvanized roofing nails into the studs held it in place, and then there were all the pesky plumbing connections.  The nails were removed after I got the sheetrock cut away and then I took out my trusty sawzall and got to work.

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It amazed me how quick the saw cut through the fiberglass.  It was a little slower going through the wood that backed up some parts of the tub, but still easier than I anticipated.

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As I cut pieces out of the unit I made sure the pieces were small enough to handle.  The reason it had to be cut into pieces is that these units are put into the house before the doors and walls are there because they are too big to fit in once the rooms are divided by the walls.  For the time being I moved the large pieces out to the patio to be dealt with later.

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This is how it looked when I got the old unit out.  I didn’t even have to shut off the water yet, as long as I was careful not to hit any of the pipes in the wall when I was cutting.


It was at this point that I discovered that the new floor pan for the shower should be installed 3 1/2″ to 4″ away from the existing wall studs if I was going to get the drain to line up.  The “X” shows where the wall should be to make life easy for me.  After careful measuring and some calculations I figured out the minimum distance the wall had to be “moved” was 1 1/2″ unless I wanted to start breaking up the concrete floor.  Shimming the wall out an inch and a half seemed preferable to breaking up concrete.

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At this point I made sure to check the installation instructions for the shower walls we chose to use.  There are specific places there should be studs for a good install so I just made a second wall out of 2 X 2’s and set it in place in front of the existing wall.  Really a simple solution to take care of the problem.  Also I decided to add some sound deadening insulation at this time.

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The end walls also needed some extra studs added so there were studs where they were needed for the new wall panels and where the plumbing was to be relocated.

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The new plastic Pex pipes they use these days make the plumbing work so easy compared to having to run copper pipes and solder them together.  The crimp fittings work great, no leaks in any of the pipes I’ve installed with Pex fittings.  And no chance of burning the place down with the open flame needed to solder copper together.  These plastic pipes are so forgiving if you’re off a little bit on your measurements too.

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Once the plumbing was done for the supply lines I added some sound deadening insulation to this wall too.  The insulation also helps keep the bathroom warmer in the winter.

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The drain was actually the hard part of the plumbing.  It has to be exact to line up with the new shower floor pan.  With the rough out opening in the floor having the standard plastic sand box it gave me enough room to dig and install the new drain where it had to be, since the wall was shimmed out, it all worked out.  The picture on the right shows the dry fit of the pan over the drain.  A job well done.

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Once the dry fitting was done, shims installed to get the level and pitch needed on the pan, measurements taken, a good sized batch of mortar mix was mixed.  The measurements taken let me know where the layer of mortar had to be thicker or thinner.  The pan was set in place over the layer of mortar and tapped down gently and shimmed to keep the level and pitch just right while it dried.  Take the rest of the day off and let the mortar set up.  Tomorrow is another day.

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Dry fitting the walls was interesting, even when I found out all the studs were in the right place and it all did fit after all, the installation was a chore.  You have to apply the adhesive to the studs at the right place and get the panels fit into the exact place they need to be before the adhesive starts to set up.  AND you have to have the blocks used to hold it all in place cut ahead of time, that’s why the dry fit process is so critical.  Note the piece of cardboard cut out of one of the many boxes from the parts on this project.  It keeps the newly installed floor pan from getting scratched and/or dirty while working on the rest of the project.

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The adhesive does most of the job of holding the walls in place, but they are also drilled and screwed (gently!) into the studs along the top and sides.

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I almost forgot!  Another part of the mess of installing the walls is getting all the panels to have a water tight seal.  There are large beads of lifetime silicone applied at critical places as the panels are put in place, and when the adhesive is dried, the next day preferably, when the blocks are removed, the exposed seams are also sealed with lifetime silicone sealer.  Take the time to do it right and make it neat.  You’ll see this for a number of years.

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Finally, all the “inside the walls” work is done and new sheetrock can be installed over the lips of the shower panels and screwed into all the new studs.  It’s starting to look like this project just might work after all.


I’m a big fan of the self stick fiberglass fabric sheetrock tape.  It adds strength to the walls and I have never had a crack show through on a seam done with fiberglass tape.

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I’m not sure how many coats of spackle it took me to get it just right, but the important thing is that one does as many coats and sands that it takes to make it smooth.  Any time you merge old and new sheetrock it will take patience to make it look good when it gets painted.  You can see I’m getting ready for paint, I have taped and masked off the parts I don’t want to get paint on.

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The primer used is as important as the top coat of paint.  “Paint and Primer in One” is not something I believe should be used.  Primer is primer, paint is paint.  To put it all into one product makes something that does neither job right.

The whole bathroom got a coat of primer, walls and ceiling.  The technique used to install the primer is just as important as the technique used on the top coat.  Again, take the time to do it right.

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The ceiling got a coat of pure white semigloss, the walls a light blue satin enamel that my wife picked out (and I agreed looked good).  All paint that can be washed and scrubbed if necessary to keep it clean.

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We are once again thrown a curve ball on this project.  When I opened the carton that the shower doors were in, I found a very bent channel.  I examined the box when it arrived and it looked good on the outside, but now when I need the doors installed I have a problem.  So now I had to call “the big box store/home center” customer service to get the piece replaced.  What comes next is quite a story.

Their solution was to “put it all back in the box and return it to the nearest store.”  Only problem is that I bought it on their web site and had it shipped to my house because I don’t have a truck.  I just wanted one piece replaced, I can fit that in my car.  We went back and forth, but finally they agreed to send me just the one new part, but it would have to come from Kohler, the manufacturer.  It was supposedly ordered.

Not wanting to do without our shower any longer, I did the best I could to straighten the channel, and I got it close enough to use, but it sure didn’t look too good.  I got the shower doors installed and we could use the shower.

Two weeks went by and I called them again.  The reference number they gave me didn’t mean much and we started all over again.  The part was ordered again.  Two more weeks went by and then I called Kohler direct.  The part was available but I couldn’t order it directly from them, the “big box store/home center” had to place the order unless I wanted to pay for the part and the shipping.

When it got to be a month since I heard from anyone, I called again.  This time I was told no order was found.  I told the nice guy that I was going to remove the doors and drop them off to their nearest store and could not be held responsible for the condition that they arrived at the store, they would be in pieces small enough to fit in my car, and they definitely would not be “salable” when they got there, because they were not completely salable when they arrived here.

We agreed that the new part I needed would be sent that same day from Kohler, and surprise, it actually was this time.  I received the part in under a week!  The door project finally got finished about two months after it was started.


It looks great, is a low step in shower base and what us old folks need in their bathroom.  Besides learning that I can do this, I also learned some more on the subject of “how to deal with customer service people.”

One funny add on for this project:  Our house was the only one in this development that the builder used a one piece tub/shower in both bathrooms.  All the rest have a tub/shower in the main bath and a shower unit in the master bath.  Go figure.

Finally, I got out to the patio with my sawzall and cut up the larger pieces of the old tub/shower unit so it all fit into a box.  I’m thinking of advertising it on Craig’s List.

For Sale:  Used one piece fiberglass tub/shower unit.  Used less than one year.  Local pick up only.  Some assembly required.


Do you think anyone will buy it?