Doll House Repair

Posted by John on May 29th, 2013

A few months ago, Lisa picked up a shelf shaped like a doll house from Home Goods.  She thought it would look great in our daughter’s toddler bedroom.  It was slightly damaged so she managed to swing a decent discount on it.  Luckily, the damage wasn’t too severe.

doll house shelves

The base is MDF and it looks like a couple corners had been busted up.

doll house repair

doll house repair (2)

So, how to fix it… I thought the easiest way to repair this type of damage was just to cover it with a thin piece of wood.  We popped into Michaels a little while back and grabbed some thin pieces of Birch wood.  The wood was probably only about 1/8″ thick.  After ripping it down to roughly the same width as the bottom block, I cut it to length and gave it some miters on the chop saw and attached it with some wood glue and brad nails.  It was just easier to wrap the whole bottom section with the good wood than to just cover the busted sections.

doll house fix

We used some pink craft paint to color the bare wood and we were done.  Quick project.  Sat around much longer than it should have.

I anchored the shelf to the wall so she won’t be able to knock it over.  To do that I just used  a couple of 1/2″ thick pieces of plywood and screwed them into a stud on the wall and then screwed the shelf into the plywood.  The plywood is the same thickness as the baseboards, so I’m able to butt up the shelf right to the wall.  You can barely see the shims from one of the sides.

doll house shim

Our daughter has been keeping some stuffed animals and books in there.  She seems to like it.

doll house installed

doll house shelf

One day I’m sure we’ll either buy her or make her an actual doll house, but for now, this little shelf is pretty sweet.

Any repairs on your end?

Posted in Carpentry,Home Decor,Repairs. Tagged in ,, ,

Fix a Broken Ektorp Couch

Posted by John on January 6th, 2013

Last week we started discussing our plans for the sitting room immediately attached to our Master Bedroom.  Over the weekend we managed to knock a few items off of our to-do list for this space starting with the couch.  Lisa’s parents generously bought us a beautiful couch for Christmas from Ikea!  We did a walk through of the show room in South Philly a couple weeks before the holiday and picked one out and then just scheduled the delivery in the store.  Do I have great in-laws or what?  Thanks mom and dad!

Did you know Ikea delivered?  I had no idea.  I never actually thought about it since I’ve had my Jeep for years and never needed anything from Ikea delivered before.  Now that we have our Jetta, I’m going to need darn near EVERYTHING delivered at this point!

Lisa and I picked the EKTORP three seater sofa and got a cover in Svanby Brown.  After opening up the box (yes, it comes in a box; yes, assembly is required), I immediately noticed a problem.

ektorp in box

There is a long 2×4 board down the length of the couch that has three metal brackets with wood screws.  The wood screws had been torn out of the 2x causing some damage.  Probably happened during delivery or shipping.

ektorp supports

broken ektorp

ektorp popped screws

ektorp broken

Bummer, right?  So, I either send it back, which is a GIANT pain since it was delivered or I can try to fix it.  A little while back we did a post on repair screw tear outs on one of our kitchen cabinet doors.  This is essentially the same type of repair.  All I need to do is get a longer and wider screw and I should be good.

Here’s how to fix a broken Ektorp couch:

Here’s the screws…

ektorp screws

The screw on the left is the fastener that came with the couch, the same one that got ripped out.  This screw is a size 6 and it’s 1″ long.  Wood screws diameters are sized by even numbers up until a 14, which is 1/4″.  After that point, they are sized pretty normally (3/8″, 1/2″, etc).  So, an 8 is wider than a 6 and so on.  The screw in the middle is an 8 and is 1 1/2″ long.  The screw on the right is a 10 and is also 1 1/2″ long.  My goal here is to use as big and as long a screw as I can.  I was able to get away with using a #10 x 1 1/2″.  I’m not sure why Ikea didn’t just use a 1 1/2″ long screw to begin with, quite honestly.  The board is a 2x, which is 1 1/2″ thick anyway.

At this point I just replaced all the popped screws with the longer, wider size 10s.

ektorp repaired

All good.  The rest of the assembly was a snap.

This particular cover is a little on the coarse side, but still comfortable.  We really like it’s casual look.

coarse fabric

Underneath the cover is just an underpad.  There is no other “couch” underneath the cover, so you DO need some type of cover.


So far, we love it.  Great couch.  I could’ve done without the repair, but it wasn’t a big deal.

ektorp side view

ektorp couch

We pulled the permit for the electrical work involved with hanging the flat screen and we’ve been talking a lot about the other furniture we’d like.  I’m hoping Lisa lets me build a couple pieces in here instead of buying them.  It would be fun.

Show of hands… who else has Ikea sofas?  Do you like them?

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Home Decor,Repairs. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Replace a Broken Sump Pump

Posted by John on December 3rd, 2012

Hey everybody!  Sorry if I’ve been AWOL lately.  Work has been pretty crazy and I’ve been unable to read or comment on my regular blog reads.  I’m hoping to set aside some time in the next day or two to get caught up.  In the meantime, I’ve also been busy with annoying, but necessary repairs around the house.  This past week I had to replace our sump pump.  As far as technically challenging repairs go… on a scale of 1 to 10, this one is around a 3 or a 4, where changing a light bulb would be a 1 and replacing a furnace is a 10.

So, we’ve lived in our current NJ house for a little over 2 years now and we’ve never, ever heard our sump pump run.  Even during and immediately after hurricane Sandy it was quiet.  About a week ago, Lisa had been noticing this recurring humming noise coming from the basement.  In typical, ‘you’re probably hearing things mode’ I blew it off as just typical furnace noise.  Then a couple days later I was in the basement grabbing some tools and I heard it first hand.  Crap.  The sump pump was running for 30-45 seconds, would stop for 30-45 seconds then would run again.  It wasn’t raining, and it hadn’t rained heavily for a couple weeks.  Something is wrong with this picture.

If you don’t have a sump pump or are not sure how it works, I can explain.  Most new home foundations and a lot of existing homes are outfitted with a perforated plastic pipe that wraps around the outside perimeter near the footer or the base of the basement wall.  It then gets covered in gravel to prevent sand and dirt from clogging its slits.  This pipe, which can be sometimes referred to as a “weeping tile” (ala Mike Holmes) then runs into the basement into a large bucket.  The bucket is equipped with a sump pump that evacuates the water back outside, except it does so away from the house, keeping the foundation dry and less likely to settle further or become disturbed from water erosion.

Here’s what our bucket and evacuation pipe looks like…

sump pump (2)

The small pipe on the left is the condensate discharge from the central air system.  The larger pipe on the right is the outlet pipe from the sump pump.  These systems are also vented and may have two large pipes as opposed to one.  We DO have a vent in this system it’s just hidden in the basin.

That large plastic box is a check valve.

sump pump pvc check valve

The check valve prevents the water that was just pumped out from coming back down the pipe and back into the sump bucket.  It’s just a little rubber gasket that only opens in one direction.  When this pump was continuously running, the first thing I assumed was the check valve wasn’t sealing and it was constantly sending the water back into the basin only to be ejected again.  After taking the check valve apart, cleaning it, putting it back together and then plugging the pump back in, it was still running constantly.

Time to investigate further.  So, I disconnected the check valve, slid the AC discharge pipe out of the way and popped off the cover to the basin.  Couple things I noticed:

1.  there wasn’t much water in the bucket, only a couple of inches.
2.  there was a spider in there with a leg span about as long as my thumb and with WAY more hair on its legs than mine.  I’m generally not afraid of spiders.  I was afraid of THIS spider.

Sump pumps usually have some type of float mechanism so when the bucket fills high enough with water, it will switch on.  This pump was running AND the float was a couple inches above the water.  This thing is straight up broken.  Now I could try to repair the switch mechanism or I could just go out and buy a new one, a new shiny one that didn’t have giant banana spiders hidden inside.  I think you can guess which way I went on this.

old sump pump new sump pump

They even sell these in stainless steel!  As if it were going to be on our kitchen counter next to the toaster.

The replacement went pretty easy.  I disconnected the old sump pump at the check valve union and just pulled it out of the sump bucket.  Easy.  The new sump pump and the old sump pump have different PVC fittings.  Take note, the one on the right has a fitting that goes OVER the threads.  The new one is a female type connection, where the PVC will need to go INTO the pump.  So much for reusing that pipe.

Here’s a closer shot of the fittings…

in vs out

So, after assembling a few pieces to the new pump, I glued on the male fitting to a small section of 1 1/2″ PVC pipe.  Lowes and Home Depot sell certain diameter pipes in larger 8′-10′ lengths and a few at 4′-5′ lengths.  Since this is a smaller section, I opted for the car friendly 5′ piece.

To glue on the male fitting (which I fitted up to the display pump at Lowes to make sure I had the right one), I just placed my pipe on a stable surface to start.  You’ll need both the purple primer and the PVC glue for this part.

pvc glue and primer

I applied the purple primer to both pieces and then the glue to both.  You need to put these two piece together within a few seconds once you apply the glue or it will harden prematurely.

pvc primer

To glue them together, place the male fitting over the pipe, hold it steady for a few seconds, then try to give it a very slight turn.  If you get resistance to the turn, you’re good.  I like to hold the piece onto the pipe for maybe 30 seconds to a minute before letting go.

pvc glue

Okay.  The new pump was then connected to the pump and placed into the basin.  I marked both the new pipe and the old pipe for length taking into consideration a gap for the new check valve.

To cut the new pipe to length, I just used my miter saw.

cutting pvc

With the new pipe cut, I added some thread compound to the male fitting and reinstalled the pipe to the new sump pump.

thread compound

To cut the existing part of the discharge pipe that was hanging from the basement wall, I used a hack saw.  You could also use a reciprocating saw, aka a Sawzall, but I find they shake the pipe too much.

The new check valve is a flexible rubber boot style and it slides over the pipes and gets clamped down.  You just need to leave some extra room between these pipes for this valve.

sump pump check valve

Sorry that photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea.

After the new valve was installed, I plugged it in and tested it by lifting up the float.  Success!

new sump pump

The flexible check valve let’s you get away with the pipe being slightly misaligned, which is nice.

So, that sucked.  Any annoying repairs in your future?  Any 8 legged monsters?

Posted in DIY Projects,Fixes,Plumbing,Repairs. Tagged in ,, , , ,

How to Repair Rust on a Car

Posted by John on October 23rd, 2012

Hey guys!  Lisa and I are planning getting a new car very soon and we’re pretty excited about it.  We’ll fill you in on the details once we make a decision.  We’re still looking, but I think we’ll be driving something new in the next couple of weeks!  In the meantime, we’re getting the Jeep ready to be traded-in.  It’s got 160,000 miles on it and could use some TLC.  In this post, we’re going to repair some rust that has been plaguing the driver’s side wheel well.  The basic rust repair process in this post should be the same for most cars.

Howto Repair Rust on a Car…rust-on-jeep-1-1024x682


Doesn’t look so hot, does it?  I’ve tried to repair it a year ago and it didn’t hold up longer than a few hours.  This time is going to be different.  I’ve learned the error of my ways.

Close up.close-up-of-rust-1024x682


To start, we’re going to mask off the door into the car to keep rust, paint and body filler dust from getting inside.masking-before-work-e1351047925279-682x1024


Then we sand off the old paint to get down to the rust and bare metal.  Make sure to wear a mask.   You can see that the area is pretty beat up to say the least.  The goal here is to remove as much of the really rusted out metal.  You can use a small hammer or a screw driver to knock it loose.rust-before-1024x682


If you tried to apply a body filler material right over the rust, you’d get crappy results.  You’ll need to apply a rust converter first and then clean the surface.  The rust converter chemically bonds to the rust and makes it a paintable or body filler compatible surface.  I didn’t do this step the first time I tried this repair last year.  The rust converter and wax and grease remover are all sold at local car parts stores.  Be careful with the rust converter, it’s pretty noxious stuff.  Read the warning label!!rust-neutralizer-e1351048334265-682x1024


Once the rust converter is applied, the rust turns to a dark black color.rust-sanded-1024x682


Now we can add the body filler.  The most common product is the Bondo brand.  It’s a two part system consisting of the filler and the hardener.  You add roughly a pea sized amount of the red hardener to each golf ball sized amount of filler and mix on a hard surface until it’s the same color as the applicator.  Then just apply liberally to the affected area and smooth with the applicator.  You’ll need to act quickly as it hardens in minutes.bondo-1024x682





Once the Bondo has hardened about 20 minutes after you’ve applied it to the car, you can take a sander with a course grit sandpaper and smooth out the body filler.  If you have a lot of rust on the section you’re working, you’ll probably sand off some of the rust converter in the process.  This sanding will expose the rust and will require another coat of the rust converter.  If the repair looks good at this point, you can pretty much sand with a 220 grit paper or add more body filler until you’re satisfied.

Since I needed a little more filler, I used what is basically a skim coat to glaze the area.  It’s the same process as the body filler, only it’s a little more runny.bondo-glaze-1024x682


After that coat was applied and sanded up to 220 grit, I added another coating of the rust converter and then cleaned off the excess with the wax and grease remover.2nd-coat-1024x682


Then it was time to prime.  I used a grey colored auto primer, which you can get at any auto parts store.  The primer is where you’ll be able to see any imperfections in the body filler you might have missed otherwise.  If you don’t like your results, you can add more filler and sand, etc.  Since this is a trade in, I’m not beating myself up to get it perfect.  It just has to look rust free.  A close inspection reveals the metal is a bit lumpy looking.primer-1024x682


After it’s been primed, I switch to my finish paint color.  I bought a spray can online from a company that matches OEM car colors. You just go to their website and enter in your car’s make, model and color and you can select from a variety of different options.  I picked a regular can of spray paint, but you could get a quart and use an HVLP gun like the pros.  After the matching color, I add a couple coats of a clear gloss finish.  Still not done though. You need to wet sand whatever you painted with a 1000 and 1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper to get the clear coat smooth enough where it will feel like the rest of the car to the touch.  If you skip the wet sanding, you get rough spots that attract dirt.  I actually have one of these dirty spots from my first repair attempt last year.  I haven’t sanded this one yet either, but I’ll be taking care of that this weekend.

The finished product is okay.  It’s not great, but like I said, we’re trading it in and I knew the rust was going to be a hit on our trade in value.clear-coat-2-1024x682



Not bad for a few hours worth of work.  If you had a body shop do this kind of repair it could set you back a couple grand.  It’s nice to know it’s not that challenging.  Of course, the body shop guys are usually highly skilled and you may not get a perfect result compared to them until you really get the swing of it.  Hopefully we won’t need to do this to our next car.

Anyone else living with rust on their car?

Posted in Car Stuff,Fixes,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , , , , ,

Quick Kitchen Cabinet Repair

Posted by John on August 24th, 2012

So things have slowed down a little bit around here since we knocked dragged out our dining room wainscoting and gussied up our front door.  It’s going to pick up again soon though.  Plus, in the fall I’ll be taking another grad school course.  Before we know it, we’ll be busy like crazy.  We do have a couple more projects that we already finished and we’ll probably post about those next week.  Since it’s Friday, I thought it would be a good opportunity for a quick post on a kitchen cabinet repair we did a few days ago.  You’d think owning a new home would negate the need for annoying repairs.  Nope.  Apparently the cabinet door on our lazy susan decided it had enough and busted out from the hinge.


Double crap.

It looks bad, but in reality, this is an easy fix.  Now, if you think you can just re-screw in the old screws and it will hold you’d be wrong.  You need to step it up.

The door is 3/4″ thick.  The screws that were in there are 1/2″ long.  That means I can use a longer screw.

Here’s the screw that popped out next to the screw I’m going to use.  The screw on the left is the 1/2″ fastener.  The screw on the right is 3/4″ long.  I also decided to go with a beefier screw.  The 1/2″ screw is a size 6.  The 3/4″ screw is a size 8 (they only come in even sizes).  So, I’m using a longer and a wider fastener to make the repair.  There are a ton of “that’s what she said” jokes here, so I’m being careful with my word choice.  🙂

The larger screw went into the old holes like butter and seem to be holding very well.

That wasn’t too bad.  Fastest. repair. ever.


Is there anything broken in your place that you need to fix?  Have a great weekend!!


Posted in Carpentry,Kitchen,Repairs. Tagged in ,, , ,

How to Replace a Side View Mirror

Posted by John on August 7th, 2012

Wait, what?  Is this a car post?  Yep.  It is.  Sorry to have to do this to you, but here’s the deal…. I have this Jeep problem.  My SUV has around 160,000 miles on it and it’s got some issues.  I’d really, really like to get a brand new car, but I really, really, REALLY hate car payments.  The plan is to do some refurbishments to this one in order to squeeze every last dime out of it.  Then I guess we’ll either trade it in, sell it, or donate it.  The other exciting thing about doing some car projects is I’m not much of a mechanic.  It’s exciting because I get to learn how to do all this car stuff and I’m going to share what I learn with you guys.  I’m a WAY better carpenter than a mechanic and that will probably be obvious.  I’m not planning on burying you with car posts, but here and there you’ll see some stuff.  I’m okay if you’re not really into it.  It’s probably somewhat useful, so maybe it’s worth keeping a couple of these posts in the back of your mind.

My first car post is going to be a how to on replacing a side view mirror.  At some point last month, Lisa borrowed my Jeep.  Totally cool with that.  I’m not possessive about it.  It came back with a loose passenger side mirror.  Not like hanging off the car loose, but loose enough that it needed to be replaced.  After googling for a while, I was able to find a fairly inexpensive replacement (~$50) from an aftermarket supplier.  If you don’t feel like dealing with aftermarket vendors, you could always call a local car dealer that sells you car make and see if they’ll sell you the part.  It’s guaranteed to be more expensive from the OEM, but it’s going to fit.  The aftermarket vendors are hit or miss.

To start this project, you need to figure out how to get the mirror off.  Some cars it’s pretty obvious and accessible.  Most cars though, require you to take the entire door panel off.  My Grand Cherokee is one of those cars.

Before I can pop the panel off, I looked for any screws that are holding the panel to the door.  I found three.  Two were phillips heads and one was a torx.  The one phillips head was in that door cup thingy.  Pretty sure it’s covered in french fry dust.

The other was under a small cap behind the mirror.

The torx was sneaky.  It was behind the door handle.

If you ever do any type of work on your car, chances are you’re going to need a torx set.  The torx has a mult-point head…

With the fasteners out, it’s time to pop the door panel off the frame.  I basically looked for a decent place to jam my fingers in between the black panel and the silver metal door, then I yanked.

Those yellow plastic clips slide into grooves in the panel and then are pushed into the door to keep them together.  If they break, they sell them everywhere… you can even buy them at Lowes and Home Depot.  At this point, you can completely take the door panel off by disconnecting a couple rods that connect the door handle to the lock mechanism or you can leave them in place.  Since I’m not messing with that stuff, I just left it hanging and moved on to the mirror.

With the door panel loose, the nuts that hold on the old mirror to the door are accessible.  I just remove them with a wrench.  Btw, almost all the nuts and bolts on a car are metric and not standard.  Good to know.  The mirror also has a little cable and a plug.  I just unplug it and the old mirror is good as gone.

The new mirror went in the same way as the old one.  Plug and play.  To get the panel back onto the car, I just lined up the yellow clips with the holes in the door frame and hit the panel with my hand.  They pop right back in.

Doesn’t seem too hard right?  Good.

Ok.  So, I promise not to turn this into a gear head car blog, but expect more of this once in a while.

Do you do any of your own car work?  Would you like to?  Is there anything you’d like to see? 

Posted in Car Stuff,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, ,

Troubleshooting a Doorbell

Posted by John on November 1st, 2011

So I find myself on Sunday with a free day since I postponed painting the garage.  The next day is Halloween and Lisa and I will have about 50 kids ringing our doorbell for a few hours.  There’s just one problem though, our doorbell isn’t working!  It hasn’t been working for the past couple months.  Not sure why exactly.  Lisa suspects it went out during one of our nasty late summer thunderstorms.  In fact, we had just noticed within the past couple weeks.   So, I figured I’d take an hour, probably less and knock this thing out and then spend the rest of the day watching football.  Well, I figured wrong.

Here’s how I spent the day troubleshooting a doorbell.

First thing I did to check out this situation was to find the transformer in the basement and check to see if I’m getting voltage on the outlet side. Nada. Found the problem right away. I disconnected the transformer and went out to the hardware store and bought a new one for about $12.

The old one.  I looked for the voltage specs and bought one to match.

The new one.

Come home, install the new one and nothing. The doorbell pushbutton is still not illuminated and there’s no chime. Crap. There is voltage coming out of the transformer now though so I definitely fixed something.

Second thing I checked was the chime itself. As soon as I popped the cover off, I knew I was in trouble. A lot of chimes have a front door and a rear door bell. Well, our home doesn’t have a rear door chime and our front door chime was all out of whack.

OK, I’m thinking this is still easy. I’ll just switch wire leads and use the rear door chime instead. So I swap leads, turn on the breaker and hear the familiar ding of the doorbell followed by a loud annoying hum that doesn’t go away. Crap. I need a new chime.

So I go back out to the hardware store and pickup a $20 doorbell chime, which doesn’t include a transformer or a pushbutton. I was mainly trying to find a white doorbell that was about the same size as the old one. I get back home, wire it in and it still hums!!!! So now I’m really annoyed. Not only because I might have wasted a couple hours already, but I have to look at the pushbutton now and i might have to run out for a new one.

I pop off the switch from the door, and disconnect my leads and notice that the leads had probably shorted out inside the switch. After correcting the switch, I reinstall it and it works fine. Sweet. Only took 3-4 hours and $30. Should’ve taken 1/2 an hour.

The new chime.

So, the Scooby-Doo breakdown goes like this: The pushbutton shorted out, causing the chime and transformer to fail.

The moral of the story is: Doorbells are a pain in the neck.

Anyone else have any doorbell issues? Did it take 4 hours off of your life?

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical. Tagged in ,,

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