Home Repair

Living in an older house, things have a tendency to break, usually at the least opportune times.  Though I suppose that could be said for any home or apartment, usually when something breaks or needs repair, it’s not necessarily the most convenient thing.

On my return from work last evening, I lifted the garage door as I normally do, pulled the car in, and then exited to lower the door.  The door used to have a mechanical garage door opener when we first purchased the house, but over a few months it started to have issues, so I disconnected it and screwed in a handle on the outside and went to physically opening and closing the door when I needed to get the car in and out.  Several years ago I replaced almost all of the hinges on the door, and several of the glass panes in the door have been replaced over the years as well, but there have been no major repairs to the door since we bought the house.

Upon lowering the door, I heard a loud bang from inside the garage.  When I went to lift the door again, it wouldn’t budge.  It seemed to be stuck, or perhaps locked?  But that didn’t make sense as to how would the locking mechanism just suddenly trip and what was the noise that was made come from?  I went inside the garage to inspect and discovered that the cable on the right side leading to the spring had snapped.  Ah, broken spring.  That explained it.

Of course, the next problem was getting the now unbalanced and heavy door back up so I could get the car back out since Wednesday is a day of appointments.  Instead of dealing with it right then and there, I went inside to investigate if there was a local garage door repair-person since it was nearing 5 pm and usually businesses aren’t open past that point.  Since we live sort of off the beaten path, it’s not always easy finding someone to repair things of that nature and repair people can be a little finicky about coming out to places that they’re not overly familiar with.  And some charge for mileage.

Even so, I did manage to find someone that’s nearby, has mostly good reviews on both Google and Yelp so I will be calling to see what they can do, and hopefully not charge an arm and a leg for it, or try to upsell me on replacing the door entirely.  While the door is pretty old, so is the garage, so having a brand new door on an old rickety garage doesn’t make much sense to me.  Better to fix what’s borked, and continue on.

I called this morning, and they can come out, but none of the times they suggested meet with my ability to be here to supervise.  Friday is out as we have two other appointments, next week is pretty booked up, but Friday 2/7 seems to be available for now.  My wife doesn’t want workmen here when I’m not around, so we have to work on a very limited schedule in that regard.  So it seems the car will have to sit outside of the garage for about a week while this gets remedied in a time frame that meshes with our requirements.  At least it shouldn’t cost more than $200-300 for a repair like this.  I hope.

Success!

“Jim, we got a heartbeat!” – Leonard McCoy

The roto-tiller is fixed.  Finally.  I woke up yesterday morning at 6 am and just couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to stay up.  After going downstairs, puttering a little bit, fed the cat and finished a blog entry, I checked the weather for Thursday and noted that it was fairly chilly outside for a mid-June morning.  Something sort of called me out to the garage, so I went out there and stared at a few things before my eyes fell on the half-fixed roto-tiller.  I decided then and there that it was going to get finished.  It was only a fuel line connection to the gas tank (and a fuel filter installation) away from being done.

The gas tank was still off, so I had to finish putting on one of the small covers that prevents dirt from getting into the starter cord holder.  The nut only barely went on the bolt so I was forced to do a little finagling with a wrench and my drill/driver, but I finally got it back on.  Screwed in the self-tapping screw at the top and I was ready to go on to the gas tank.  Which turned out to be fairly easy, since the rust patterns on the various pieces reminded me of where they went.  Put the bolts in the respective holes, lined up the rust patterns and in this case used my impact driver to drive them in securely.

I had purchased a new spark plug, so I put that in after checking to be sure the gap was correct.  At that point I ran into a little snag with the fuel line, but a bit of measuring along with a couple of mishaps, and I was glad I had purchased the longer length of hose, as I ended up needing almost all of it to get it all connected, since I measured wrong the first time.  But after getting it all figured out, clamped up, I kneeled back and gave myself a little greasy pat on the back.  Checked my work to be sure I didn’t have any parts left over (didn’t!) and then went to get the gas can.  I filled the gas tank a little, checked to be sure there wasn’t a leak anywhere (yay, no!) and then filled the tank about halfway.

Moment of truth.  I checked the choke on the carb, and pulled the starter cord.  Nothing.  Looked up at the controls and realized the lever was still set at ‘STOP’.  Duh!  I pushed the lever forward to ‘START’ and then pulled the starter cord again.  Still nothing.  On the third pull, I was rewarded with a chug and the engine caught.  Apparently the complete lack of fuel in the system caused it to need a bit more in the carb to get things going.  But once the engine caught it continued to run, but it was running a little roughly.  I switched up the lever a bit more and it started to run a bit more smoothly.  But the governor was still surging a little, so I tweaked the carb until it evened out.  Once that was done, I revved the engine a little bit to find where the various speeds needed to be.  After doing that, I wound it down a bit, and then pulled the lever all the way back to stop.  Contrary to what it had been doing, where in order to stop I needed to pull the connector off the spark plug, this time the engine wound down on its own and stopped finally.

At this point I decided to take it outside the garage and give it a little test under load, where pre-repair it was having the most trouble.  Bringing it out beside the garage, I drove it into a patch of ground that had been tilled about a two weeks ago, when I was in the middle of trying to repair the old carb and had it all together and trying to see what it would do.  This time when I put it into gear, the engine didn’t die down or ‘hunt’ when the tines bit into the earth, it stayed high in the RPMs and cut through the ground like it was nothing.  Even moving into a patch that hadn’t been tilled before caused the same result, it worked just like there was nothing amiss.  Success!  Not wanting to wake the entire neighborhood (the engine on the tiller is a little loud, I’ve taken to wearing hearing protection while running it) I brought it back into the garage and shut it down.

This project has taken me I think the better part of a month to complete, but it hasn’t been without merit.  I think I’m perfectly capable of effecting successful repairs on it should the need arise, given my experience and that should save me money in the long run.  If nothing else I have considerable documentation, pictures and having documented my efforts here and elsewhere (I kept notes) it should keep me from having to find someone else to do the work for me.  Certainly I can change the oil myself now, and that’s a big thing when it comes to swapping out equipment for the changing seasons.  And I can take the knowledge of this and apply it to my snowblower, since the engines are nearly identical.  So bonus for that too.

It runs!  It’s fixed!  Now I have to move on to the desktop computer.  Go me!

Landscape’d

As long as we’ve been living here, we’ve mostly kept the property as it was when we first purchased the house.  Granted there have been minor changes, in that there were two sizeable trees in the front and side yard 20 years ago, but one fell down on its own and the other was leaning too far towards the house, so we had it removed before it dropped onto our roof or into the neighbor’s.  In the backyard, we’ve been fighting a losing battle against the Japanese knotweed a previous owner planted, but so long as we keep tilling that patch of ground and mulching the hell out of it, we can (for the most part) keep it from growing wild like it does on two other sides of the property on the opposite side of the fence.

Considering we don’t have a great deal of land to begin with (the lot is listed at 0.157 acres) and the house and garage take up a good deal of that space, we make do with what we have here, for the most part.  There’s an old patio behind the house, that probably could do with an upgrade, but there are other things we’ve been wanting to do first, so that’s going to get shelved for another year.  Two years ago we managed to get the driveway paved, that had been an eyesore for the longest time.  I can definitely say my old snowblower is very grateful it doesn’t have to chew through gravel and stones every winter just to keep the driveway clean.  Our walkway leading up to the house needs a bit of an upgrade, the concrete forms have heaved somewhat over the years and a few are split as well.  So far as I know, the sidewalk across the front of our property is our responsibility, since it is within the stakes that designate the property lines.  Although I do mow the strip of grass beyond the sidewalk, leading up to the street we live on, and clearly that and the trees that sit on it, belong to the village.  Just one of those curiosities when you live in a municipal area, rather than out in the country.

At the present time, and probably for the next ten days, our focus is on getting a new leased vehicle, since we have to turn in the Edge on the 17th.   Then we can get busy on making the property look nice for the visitors that we’re still looking forward to hosting for the remainder of the summer, as well as the coming fall.  Hard to believe that I’m planning ahead for autumn when it’s not even summer yet!  How times change as I get older.  At any rate, there will be some before and after pictures as things progress.  One definite thing I have to do is get someone to take down the dead tree behind the garage.  Before it falls into the neighbor’s yard.