First Summer project completed

The sidewalk project continues… Here I have it all excavated. I set stakes along both sides with a string to mark the level for the top of the bricks. I dug it out to 8″ below that line. 4″ for the base, 2″ for the sand and 2″ for the brick. I used the inside curve as my guide. I had a drop of about 10″ and I tried to measure the drop at each stake but found in the end it was just as easy to set it by sight.

Then I set the line on the other side using a 2×4 with 8″ stakes nailed to the end as a guide. I used a level and made the other side 1/2 a bubble lower than the inside curve. Using the stakes as my guide worked okay but knowing what I know now. I should have set used 1×2’s as a form. I could have set them 6″ wider than what the sidewalk was going to be and filled it with sand. I think I would have ended up with a more uniform slope. I also should have done the sand all at once rather than working in sections.

As you can see, I used a herringbone pattern to lay the bricks and set soldiers along the edge. The bricks in the middle were red/black mix and the soldiers were all red. I’m really pleased with the way that turned out. Coming around the first turn I had quite a time keeping the lines straight on my herringbone pattern. After the 3rd try, I set some lines to keep me going the right direction.

The project is all done now. Not too bad for a first time effort. Next time I think I’ll practice on the neighbors walk and then do mine after I have the kinks worked out.

Sidewalk project continues

The project continues. Once I broke the sidewalk by trying to lift it, I decided that I would go ahead and tear it out. I rented a jack hammer and invited the son-in-law over. He was a great help! He told me that he was excited to run the jack hammer but by the time he was half way done he thought it had had is fill.

As we tore it out we found the rebar that was laid to reinforce the side walk. Three big bars and hog wire. That was all expected. I also determined that the upper level of the walk way was poured in such a way that it had it’s own foundation at the step but also was held down by the next level. This was one of the reasons I could not lift it with the jacks.

The other thing I found was that there were three 3/4″ pipes that were used in pouring the steps. These came out of the steps and were used as another set of re-bar for the walk coming in perpendicular. That was the second reason I couldn’t lift it with the jacks. I suspect that we would have never lifted it with mudjacking either.

I also found a large cavity under the porch where it had settled. Interestingly enough the porch and steps had not moved even though the steps were hanging in the air. But the walk next to it had. So I took some of the busted up cement and shoved it under the steps and stomped it in with my feet. I still have some tamping to do and probably some more filling but it will be much better.

So we got it all busted up and made 5 trips to the ditch. I picked up everything that was baseball size or larger. Then I dug out the first 8 or so feet of the sidewalk to the depth that I would need for the paver base, sand and bricks. Then I took the smaller broken cement and used it as my first layer of paver base in that section.

Now, I’m in the lower part of the walk digging it out to the depth that I need for the base. I’ve used my tiller to break up the soil. It has a lot of clay in it so it’s a little tough to dig. I have scooped up 6 wheel barrows of dirt and piled it up to use as needed around the sidewalk when I’m done and then I’ll find places around the yard to fill in with the rest when I’m done.

Yesterday I went to Menards and ordered the bricks, base and sand. They delivered it today so now I’m working on getting the depth of the walkway right and lay out the stakes for making sure I get all of the depths/heights right. I’ll put that in the next post.


A Long Overdue Project

 Our front sidewalk has been sunken ever since we bought this house. I have often thought about how I might get it lifted. There’s a process called mud jacking but I’ve haven’t wanted to have someone else do this project for me.

I’ve also been looking at lifting it with jacks. I read an article where a guy dug around the slabs and used large C-clamps to attach the slab to a large 4×4 post and car jacks to lift it up.

I thought I would try that but wanted to test the feasibility of it first. So tonight I dug out two spots around the walk and pushed my floor jack under it. It’s a 2 1/2 ton jack so I thought it would lift it easily. No such luck. I put a lot of pressure under it in two places and it only came up 1/2 an inch. Then I put some real pressure under one side and went to the other side with a large wrecking bar.

I only managed to bust a corner off of one of the slabs. Definitely not what I wanted to do. But it made me consider that there was something binding on these slabs causing them not to lift like they should and that they may not be strong enough to lift. As well as the fact that I already broke it so there wasn’t much sense in going further.

So now I’m left with having to bust up the concrete and pour a new walk. I’m not sure if I’m going to do it or if I’ll hire it out. I’m pretty cheap but I’m getting to old for this heavy stuff.


Playing Bass

My instrument of choice for many years has been the acoustic guitar. I’m not all that good at it but I’ve led youth group worship and played in a worship team years ago. In recent years, I pretty much gave it up due to the health issues I was having. But since I went through the pain program and have been on the road of recovery for 6 months. I picked it up again.
I had been working on “Via Dolorosa” for a last supper re-enactment at another local church and decided that I would do a practice run at my church one Sunday. Afterwards the worship leader asked why I wasn’t playing with them on Sunday, so I told her I would. After I considered it for a while I decided that they already had an acoustic guitar player but what they really needed was a bass.
I had never played one before but my son-in-law had one that he let me borrow and the next week I was playing my first songs with the praise team.
Since starting with them I have found that I love playing the bass. So far, I’m just playing the roots or inversions of the chords and kind of feeling my way around. I did have trouble with the music that the team uses is written in one key but played capo’d. Which is easy for the guitar and the electric piano. For me however, I would have to translate on the fly and that was a bit much for me.
So I found all of the songs that they do in the chordpro format and downloaded a piece of software called Songbook. I can use it on my laptop or Ipad and it allows me to quickly transpose the music when they want to change keys.
I play along on a lot of the songs with youtube versions of the songs and I pick out the bass parts if I to figure out what they do. At some point I hope to learn scales (which I never did on the acoustic) and work on being able to improvise a bit. Later on I’ll update you on how I’m progressing.

Our Kitchen Project

Denise and I are getting ready to do a kitchen makeover. We have agreed on a plan to paint our custom wood cabinets red (that took some talking to get me to agree to that), install a new granite countertop with new sink, replace the linoleum with tile and outfit with new hardware on the cabinets.

But to start this project we realized that the window above the sink needed to go. It’s one of those that has the cranks and two panes that swing out from the middle. It has always been drafty and just looks old. So this weekend we decided that we would replace it first to get us started on the rest of the project.

I had taken some measurements before I started and thought the window was 36″ x 36″. A pretty standard size that we could find at the big box stores. So I started taking it out. Of course this type of window is all self contained. the frame and panes all have to come out. Once I was able to get the trim off the inside and outside, the window slid out of the rough opening. I found that the hole that it left was more like 41″ X 43″.

So I thought, Okay, a 40″ X 40″ window shouldn’t be that hard to find. Not so much. We went to the two nearest stores and were fruitless in our endeavor. I ended up ordering the window that will be here in 3 weeks. So after buying some plywood and covering the hole, I was off to start the next project; Man Cave II.

In a few weeks, I’ll tell you how this one turned out and I should have some updates on our kitchen project.


Man Cave II

I really enjoy my basement man cave. We have a nice sized TV with a home theater system and a couple of places for Denise and I to sit as we’re watching our ‘shows’. Denise has an area where she does her crafts and sewing and I have a corner for my guitars and amp. All in all a nice place to spend the evenings.

But now the weather is getting nicer and I’ve found myself on the deck more and more. While I’m out there I like to listen to music so I have dragged an old set of computer speakers and my phone out there or the little boom box from the garage. Neither of these provide an audio experience so I started looking for a reasonably priced improvement on my outdoor auditory enjoyment.

What I found was a system based on the  300 Watt Pyle Receiver and these 500 watt Pyle speakers. I had searched all over the Internet to find some good reviews, examples from other people etc. I was really surprised at the lack of detail that I could find. Many of the options were composed of fake rocks and toad stools for the speakers. But I really couldn’t any recommendations for receivers or amplifiers.

I had considered that I’d just get a stereo amplifier and hook up a radio, cell phone, mp3 player as needed. But I wanted to have something that was more permanent and could be used more easily by others. So that’s how I ended up with an AM/FM receiver with options for an Ipod, USB port and typical amplifier auxiliary connection.

So I ordered from Amazon and was expecting the receiver on Saturday and the speakers on the following Tuesday. I was surprised to have them show up on Saturday. I had committed myself to replacing a kitchen window but after removing it and finding that I was going to have to get a custom window ordered, I had some time to work on Man Cave II.

The installation was pretty straight forward. I mounted the speakers high on each side of the deck, ran the speaker wires across the top of our pergola, attaching them to the wood with little wire clips. Then I drilled a hole through the cement block to run them into the garage where I put the receiver. Which as a side note, has A/B speakers so I can listen to some tunes while I change the oil in the truck! Those will have to be a later purchase though. 

Another option to this receiver is a separate output and control for a subwoofer. I think this would help the bass quite a bit but for what I’m using it for I don’t think I’ll go to that expense. My searches on the Internet didn’t reveal a similarly priced subwoofer so I’ll have to look into that some more if I decide to get one later.

I also bought a set of cable management trays to hide the speaker wires where they come down the side of the house. I still need to get that installed. The other thing I found was that the receiver has a remote control but since it is infrared I can’t use it from the deck. So I’ll be looking for an extender to get that hooked up.

So the big question is what do I think of my new system? I like it very well. The receiver a top of the line unit but it works very well for what I’m using it for. The speakers, I like even better. Between the two the provide very good sound. If I run the bass all the way to one side it sounds crappy but if I keep it moderately in the middle or just adjust it slightly to the left or right it provides all the adjustment I need. I can turn the speakers toward the back yard and crank it up and it sounds very good as I’m back in the garden.

So for less than $170 dollars I am overall very pleased with the equipment, the way it sounds and the options. I accept that I can’t crank the bass and volume but I don’t think I like that much bass anyway.