Monday, September 1, 2008

Bachelor weekend redux...

Jenny took off to Phoenix to visit a friend for the long weekend, so I figured that'd be a good time to do some kitchen experimentation and work on some house projects. OK, so I spent more time lazing than laboring, but I got a few things done that've been hanging over my head for awhile.

First the food stuff- I got a new food processor for my birthday, and it's been sitting in the cupboard calling to me. I tried out a Good Eats hummous recipe- the food processor worked great, but the recipe had a little too much garlic (didn't know that was possible!). I also tried out a shrimp scampi recipe- didn't quite make it to the peach cobbler I'd been planning on making- maybe next week.

On the house: job one was to rid ourselves of the stinky makeshift shower curtain that's graced our shower for far too long. The folks we bought the house from had made the shower curtains out of some kind of industrial plastic and a corded curtain rod (making it fairly inconvenient to get out of the shower). The curtains were endlessly slimy and smelled like wet dog on a good day. This is actually the first house where I've put up with a shower curtain at all- everyplace else, I've installed tub enclosures. Unfortunately, our master bath is set in the floor, so a normal tub enclosure won't work- we'd have to get an 8-footer custom built, and given that we're going to redo the master bath sometime soon, that'd just be a waste. I picked up a cool hotel-style curved shower curtain rod (keeps the curtain off you) and two normal fabric shower curtains. Rather than test my 7th grade home-ec sewing skills, a friend of my mom's hacked them up and made an 8 foot tall franken-curtain. Worked great- thanks, Jane!

Next up: fix the master bath toilet. This one ended up being quite a chore. We've been using the commode down the hall for awhile now. I leaned on the toilet while switching it over to a new valve, and it popped off the floor. One of the old flange bolts had corroded right through, so gravity was all that was holding it down. Not good, but no problem (and happy to find it before we had a ... messier problem)- just get some new flange bolts and all is well, right? Hmph. When I pulled it up, it had an old iron closet flange that the bolts screw down into, instead of the modern kind where they key into the flange and stick up. OK, fine- just use my handy-dandy screw extractor to pull the broken one out and replace. Err, no. The screw extractor broke off in the bolt. Crap- now it's either tear up the floor and replace the flange (a lotta work for a temporary setup) or tap in a new bolt near the old one and try to get everything slopped into place. Turns out, there's a third option: a "super ring". It's a flat metal ring that sits over the existing flange and attaches directly to the floor, and it has slots for modern keyed flange bolts. Cool- now I just have to grind out some space on the surface of the old one for the bolts to slide on, seal it up, and we're good to go. Well, almost. A couple of the screw ears on the new ring prevented the toilet from seating properly, so I had to cut them off with the grinder (mmm, burning metal smell). What's left seems to hold everything together just fine, though. Did I mention that our master bath is carpeted? I hate carpet in bathrooms, especially around the shower and toilet. While it's nice to do your morning bidness with cushy carpet under your feet, it's just gross to think about what lurks in there. Anyway, I was very careful to have a piece of plastic sheeting under the toilet for all the dry-fitting I was doing while working this out. The last time I removed the toilet, though, the back edge of the old wax ring scraped on the carpet, leaving a nasty brown stain (rust and wax, not poo). Still- ew! Wax is not easy to get out of carpet, especially when it's intermixed with rust (and in front of the toilet, it so LOOKS like poo). Anyway, toilet is seated, working, and apparently leak-free.

Next, I decided to replace the toilet's fill valve while "the patient was open"- the original one had a lot of galvanized pipe chunks in it and took forever to fill (the overflow fill tube was completely clogged with rust). I already had one out in the garage- should be nice and easy, but true to the rest of the day, it wasn't. The new package was missing the overflow tube, so I had to resurrect the old rust-clogged one with lots of bending and tapping and poking. Then, the fill stalk hole on the toilet tank was slightly misshapen, so the tank leaked a bit after I got the new one mounted. Argh! I was able to take care of the leak with some caulk between the stalk and the retention washer (again, just temporary- we'll be replacing this toilet soon anyway).

Next up was the fancy "leak sentry" thing that came with my new fill valve. It's a clever device that I'd never seen before- basically a metal blade that sits below the float and is hooked to a second chain on the tank lever. When you flush normally, the chain retracts the blade away from the fill stalk and the float moves as normal. If the tank is leaking, the blade engages against the fill stalk, preventing the float from dropping, so you have to "double click" the tank lever to refill, alerting you that there's a problem. Don't know if it wasn't designed for the ancient mondo-gallons-flush toilet I'm using or what, but I just couldn't get it to work right. I futzed with it for about 20 minutes (I even R'dTFM!), but finally gave up and removed it.

Last was trying to clean up the nasty wax mess on the carpet in front of the toilet. I tried using an iron on a paper towel over the wax to melt and soak it up (Google sez this works well for candle wax), but it didn't really work too well for my mess. Next up: the SpotBot. I'd heard and read good things about this little automated stain remover, so I figured I'd throw a tough job at it. Picked one up at Fred Meyer, dropped it on top of the stain and hit a button. I was amazed: it worked quite well! The carpet's never probably going to look quite the same (it was pretty luxurious carpet), but it did get almost all the wax and rust stains up, even just on the "quick" mode. I'll see how it dries, and maybe give it a go on the "deep" mode if there's any remaining rust color. My only complaint: it really burns through the cleaning solution, though the manual mode gives you full control over that part if you're willing to trade some elbow grease. Some very clever engineering on the device- I was most impressed by the "burp" valve design on the dirty cup that breaks the vacuum when you dump the cup out.

A fairly productive weekend, anyway, and now I have a new toy for cleaning up the inevitable future messes I'll make on the carpet.

No comments: