Category Archives: Remodeling

A Trex Deck in Colorado

I have some great friends, who also happen to be good customers, living in the Boulder, Colorado area.  A few years ago, with my friend’s assistance, I finished their entire basement, complete with a recording studio.  Now that Brown Note Digital Recording has been up and running for a while it was decided that a deck was the next project on the list.

The deck is very low to the ground and is supported via ledgers drilled and epoxied into the existing pier-supported concrete patio, as well as new concrete piers that my friend poured prior to my arrival in Colorado.  The underlying structure is framed with pressure treated 4×8 beams and 2×8 joists hanging from the beams.  The outside of the deck is wrapped in Trex 1×12 fascia and the top is decked in 2 colors of 1×6 Trex decking.  The deck boards are grooved on 2 sides and allow the use of Trex’s attachment system with no visible fasteners.  We did, however, face screw some of the accent boards and those holes will be plugged.  There is also a short section of Trex railing on one side where the gas grill and smoker will live.  The Trex was easy to work with, albeit extremely heavy, and everything went together as expected.  The deck turned out nicely and only took 5 days to complete.  I’m sure numerous beers celebrating completed recording sessions will be consumed there for years to come.

The framing prior to any Trex going on.

The completed deck.


Repainting Old Kitchen Cabinets (and Making a New One)

I recently completed a kitchen remodeling job that was centered around keeping the existing late 1950’s kitchen cabinets.  As is typical for the era, these were built in place with open backs (the plaster walls serve double duty as the cabinet “backs”).  The boxes were constructed with a combination of plywood for the sides, drawer boxes, and drawer fronts, and solid lumber for the face frames.  The doors were all plywood with the period-typical 3/8″ lipped edges and exposed hinges on the front of the cabinets.

1950's kitchen cabinets

The kitchen with old countertops removed.

The scope of work involved replacing all the hinges with new concealed and adjustable hinges, replacing 3 upper doors with new glass panel doors, building a new matching cabinet over the cooktop to accommodate a microwave/exhaust hood attached to the bottom, and painting everything with multiple coats of semi-gloss Swiss Coffee.

Building the new doors with glass panels was a matter of matching the dimensions of the existing doors. Instead of plywood, the new doors were assembled from poplar with pocket screws, leaving the center panel open to allow a piece of glass to be glued in place with clear silicone.  The new microwave cabinet was also assembled using pocket screws from poplar (face frame), MDF (sides, top, and doors), and birch veneer plywood (bottom).

The new cabinet with a 3" filler attached to the left side.

Once all the new doors and microwave cabinet were finished, I installed the new cabinet and sprayed all the cabinets, in and out, new and old.  As with any paint job the prep work is more important and time consuming than the actual painting.  Always take proper precautions around sanding dust and keep everything extremely clean prior to painting. If the prepped surface isn’t smooth and clean you’ll never get a good painted finish.

During painting, with the new cabinet installed, center top of photo.

In order to paint all the doors I set up a temporary spray booth in the home’s carport.  This allowed me to suspend all the doors from 2×4 braces and spray them all at once.  It should be noted that I drilled holes for all the new hinges prior to painting in order to minimize handling of the finished doors.  Once all the paint was dry the cabinets were reassembled with the new hinges and hardware, granite countertops were installed, and new appliances were put in place.  The final product was an old kitchen made new again.

paint booth, repainting kitchen cabinets

Spraying the doors in the "paint booth."

The finished product (backsplash not installed yet).

glass cabinet doors

The finished product, with the glass doors at the top.

Installing an “On-Demand” Hot Water Recirculation Pump

Many new homes these days are plumbed with a dedicated loop that circulates the hot water, often via gravity, to the fixture that is farthest from the hot water heater.  As the water in the hot pipe cools down it becomes heavier and drops down this dedicated line to the water heater in the basement and the hot water, which is lighter, rises through the plumbing up to to the fixture farthest from the heater.  This is great if your house has a basement and the builder was forward thinking enough to plumb it this way.  If not, or you live in a one story house, then you need an electric pump to move the water.  Many of these systems operate the pump via a timer that corresponds to your regular pre-work/shower routine.  These are ok if you keep a regular schedule but I prefer a on-demand system that only circulates the water when you tell it to.


The pump and components.

The principle is the same, but an on-demand system has a button that activates the pump, circulating the water to the fixture it is closest to and automatically shutting off when it’s temperature sensor detects the arrival of the hot water.  The pump is located under the sink furthest from the water heater and can be configured with either a wired button or as a wireless system with multiple buttons for activation from multiple locations.  This installation was a wireless system located under a kitchen sink.

The system consists of the pump, a wireless sensor that attaches to the pump, 2 fittings that attach to the hot and cold water lines, and 2 flexible stainless steel water lines that connect the fittings to the pump.  When the pump is activated it pulls hot water from the hot side and pumps it into the cold water line, pushing it back into the water heater.  When the hot water arrives from the water heater the temperature sensor turns the pump off.  Turn on the faucet or a nearby fixture (shower or whatever) and the hot water is ready and waiting.  Since the pump is electric you obviously need a place to plug it in.  Most kitchen sinks today have an outlet underneath that is half switched (for the garbage disposal) and half hot (for the dishwasher).  Get yourself an adapter that allows you to plug 2 devices into 1 outlet and you can use the dishwasher outlet for the pump as well.  If there isn’t an outlet then one has to be installed, but that is something for another post.

The area will the pump will be installed.

The plumbing portion is pretty straightforward.  The 2 special fittings attach to the hot and cold water pipes coming out of the wall, and the original shut off valves that you just removed from those pipes (after you turned off the water, or course) are reattached to the new fittings.  The fittings provided assume you have half inch copper water lines and compression shut off valves, both of which this kitchen had.  The other opening on the fitting is where the stainless flex line attaches. One end on the fitting, the other to the pump.  Once all the plumbing connections have been made, attach the wireless sensor to the appropriate color wires on the pump and attach the sensor to the side of the cabinet wherever there is room for it.  The first time you plug the pump in it will automatically activate.  You will hear a change in tone as the pump fills with water and begins the recirculation.  If the pump seems to run and run and you don’t hear a change in tone it probably has an air bubble stuck in it.  Turn the hot water on and off quickly and repeatedly while the pump is running to jar the bubble loose.  Next time you need hot water just push the button, wait a minute or so depending on your distance from the water heater, and the hot water will be right there when you need it.

The installed system after everything is back under the sink.

Working Off My Rivendell Debt

In order to balance out the Rivendell Bleriot/LeMond Maillot Jaune bike trade I offered to help Erik, the owner of Slippery Pig Bikes, move the Slippery Pig Bike Shop Too from one location in Fountain Hills to the new, better location (check their website for the exact address).  The original location is still at Central Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix, but the second store has been operating out in Fountain Hills for about 7 months or so.  Upon arriving at 9am I started removing racks and wall displays.  After a couple hours of this we headed over to the new shop.  I spent the rest of the day (until about 6pm) installing the grid wall display and the slat wall display, each of which run most of the length of the store on opposite walls and let you hang all sorts of merchandise on them.

The brackets for the slat wall installed and ready to go.

Step one was to use a laser level to establish a level reference point along the whole length (about 40 feet) of the store.  Once I had a level chalk line snapped I started to locate the studs so I could attach the mounting brackets to something solid and not just the hollow drywall.  Locating the studs was a matter of trial and error as the layout was irregular (not 16 or 24 inches on center).  Being a commercial building the studs are metal so self-tapping screws allowed me to screw the brackets through the drywall and right into the steel studs.  Once all the brackets are installed the slat wall just snaps in place to cover the brackets and then allows hooks for placing merchandise to be located anywhere along the length of the wall.  After the slat wall was finished I did much the same on the opposite wall to attach an open grid of metal tubing that also allows merchandise to placed virtually anywhere along

The wall on the right is where the grid display is about to be installed.

the length or height.  It was a long-ish day but the new place was starting to look good by the evening and I feel like I helped Erik accomplish a good bit for one day.  Well worth it, as I expect to keep the Rivendell Bleriot for a long time.