Browsing Category

Home Maintenance

Home Maintenance

Smoke? Fire? Or Something Worse?

September 1, 2015

December will mark our 4th year living here, but in all honesty, our 1st year could have been our last. A few months after we moved in, Michael’s mom came to visit us for a weekend. Michael and I were taking full advantage of having Grandma over by sleeping in a bit while she fixed Akira and Emerson breakfast. Despite our best efforts, however, we didn’t really get to sleep in. There was a faint beeping noise that kept waking us. At first, we assumed someone didn’t close the refrigerator all the way and the alarm was going off. I reluctantly got out of bed and went downstairs to check. Nope. It wasn’t the refrigerator. I didn’t hear the beeping downstairs at all, so I went back upstairs to see if it had stopped. It had stopped, but within a few minutes, it started again. By this time, both Michael and I were looking under beds for a watch going off, checking the alarm clock in Akira’s room… It was so faint, we were sure it couldn’t be one of the smoke alarms, but we checked them anyway. Nope. Wasn’t the smoke alarms, either. We gave up and decided to go downstairs for breakfast. Then it dawned on me, I asked Michael if he had checked the alarm in the attic. He said no, so back upstairs we went.  As soon as Michael pulled the attic door down, we knew we had found the source of the beeping.

Side bar: You may be wondering why we would have an alarm in our attic. Well, our water heater is in our attic, which I find very odd, but apparently it’s not uncommon here in Texas. (Our furnace is also up there.)

Michael and I both looked at each other. Was something on fire up there? We didn’t see any smoke when he pulled the ladder down, so…? He told me to stay downstairs while he checked. He got to the top of the ladder, looked around, and called back, “I don’t see anything, but it’s definitely this alarm.” “Well, that’s also a carbon monoxide detector. Do you see anything that could be causing it?” “CENSORED. Yeh. The exhaust pipe for the water heater is off. It’s venting into the attic.” He tried to shift the pipe back to where it was supposed to be, but it was too hot. He came down the ladder and we both looked at each other with panic. What do we do? Who do we even call for this?

The first person we called was our friend and maintenance guy at our previous apartment. He told us to open all the windows and doors — including all the closet doors. Carbon monoxide is denser than oxygen, so if it were to settle, it could settle in the closets. While Michael was on the phone with our friend, I was looking up who we were supposed to call to fix this. (I have since learned that we should have called 911.) We had Michael’s mom take the kids outside, because I was already starting to get a headache. After opening every door and window, we called our home warranty company and they gave us the number to a plumber. Michael sat outside to wait for him, and his mom and I took the kids to run a few errands so we were out of the house. When the plumber came he used a CO meter to assess the situation. He said it was the highest levels of CO he had ever seen, and if we wouldn’t have found it or heard the alarm it could have been deadly. As far as why the exhaust vent was out-of-place, it apparently wasn’t secured correctly and when a bird or something sat on it (outside on the roof) it shifted out-of-place.

I am happy to say, that we are all well and the exhaust vent has since been secured properly. Nonetheless, we still have a slight moment of panic anytime we hear an unexplained beeping noise. We test the alarm in the attic about once a month, and because of that we recently realized it was no longer working, even after putting in a new battery.

Enter this guy:

smoke? fire? or something worse? protect your family | here-lately.com

We found it at Wal-Mart. At almost $40 it wasn’t the cheapest thing in the world, but it’s a small price to pay considering our previous experience.

Over the weekend, I went up in the attic to install it. It really wasn’t that difficult. Well, aside from the fact that it is sweltering in there, there isn’t much room to move, and I had to straddle the door while installing it. The water heater is immediately to the left of the ladder into the attic, and the alarm is directly to the right.

smoke? fire? or something worse? protect your family | here-lately.com

This is the “solid” ground I had to stand on while installing the new alarm, and I’m not talking about the ladder.

smoke? fire? or something worse? protecting your family from CO | here-lately.com

To install the new alarm, I unplugged the old one (ours are hardwired, but it’s just connected with a plug), unmounted the base…

smoke? fire? or something worse? protecting your family from CO | here-lately.com

…secured the new base…

smoke? fire? or something worse? | here-lately.com

…attached the right plug to the new alarm (it came with two options), and then plugged it in and twisted the alarm onto the base.

smoke? fire? or something worse? | here-lately.com

This one has a nice little feature that talks to you. As soon as I plugged it in it said, “Press test button.” I did, and it went through one cycle of beeping and said, “Fire!”, then it went through a different sounding beep and said, “Warning! Carbon monoxide!” We didn’t seek out one that talked, it was the only CO/smoke detector combo available at our store, but I’m glad that it tells you why it is going off. That should make things a lot easier to figure out should there ever be a next time — which I hope there isn’t. I also liked that this one used AA batteries, instead of those expensive 9-volts. We will probably replace a few of our other smoke detectors with these alarms. You can never have too many CO detectors in my book.

You can find more tips on carbon monoxide and keeping your home healthy here: “Help Yourself to a Healthy Home

DIY Tutorials Home Maintenance

How to Patch Wall Holes

August 28, 2015

We’re slowly trying to knockout this list of things to do before we can have our house re-appraised. The last time we mentioned the list we were cleaning out our garage (see link above). This time we’re sharing about patching the holes in our master bedroom.

how to patch drywall holes|here-lately.com

When we had an outlet added to our library, the electrician had to cut holes through the drywall to run wire from a nearby outlet. If you want to avoid mutilating your walls, you can ask if the electrician can run a wire down from your attic; which wasn’t an option for us, because of our furnace blocks access. Even with the holes, we’re glad we now have an outlet for our coffee maker, milk frother, and mini-fridge in The Library. But glad or not, the holes had to go, so off to Lowe’s we went.

To patch the holes, we considered a number of different options. We originally planned to enlarge the 3 closest together holes — I know, it sounds crazy to make the holes bigger, but hear me out. We were going to make the 3 holes one large rectangle, which would reveal the studs and then allow us to add a new piece of drywall, cut to size and secured to said studs. However, when we were at Lowe’s, we realized there was a simpler solution. We found adhesive wire mesh made for patching holes that could be cut (with scissors) to a custom size. We went with this brand:

how to patch wall holes |here-lately.com

I started by cutting the FibaTape to a size slightly larger than each hole, and then placed it sticky side down over each hole. I’ll be honest, it didn’t stick very well.

how to patch wall holes |here-lately.com

After I pressed and pushed and got it to adhere to the wall the best I could, I started to add a layer of drywall patch over the FibeTape.

how to patch wall holes |here-lately.com

We actually found a tub of Dap Lightweight Spackle and a tub of Dap DryDex Spackling when we were cleaning out our garage. I tried both on the wall, and I can tell you, lightweight spackle is not the way to go. It’s is a little too dry and crumbly for this sort of application. I recommend the DryDex Spackling. It’s thicker, and goes on pink and turns white when it’s dry. It’s typically located by the sheets of drywall and not the paint (where you might find the lightweight spackle) at Lowe’s, just FYI. Here’s a picture of the one we used:

how to patch wall holes |here-lately.com

Once the layer of drywall patch dried, Blair sanded it down to prepare for the next step, adding the knockdown. Because we were going to add texture over the patches, it didn’t need to be perfectly smooth, but she did sand it to be level with the rest of the wall. Nothing is going to scream “Patch Job!” more than a huge lump on your wall. We used a can of spray-on knockdown (different from orange peel texture) to make sure there were no “bald” spots, also an obvious patch job indicator. Personally, I hate that our walls are textured, because spraying the texture to match is really tricky. We were actually going to have a friend, who is an artist, do it for us, because after having to patch a few spots in our kitchen we’d rather not mess with it at all. However, it actually turned out well. With this particular can of knockdown spray you can adjust the texture size between light and heavy. We started by spraying a light texture over the wall.

how to patch wall holes | here-lately.com

You want to spray a good bit outside your patch as well to make sure the texture blends in with the rest of the wall. Per the instructions, we let sit for about two minutes and then lightly ran a knockdown knife (to the left in the photo below) over what we had sprayed. Then we switched the nozzle to “heavy” and sprayed the area again.

how to patch wall holes | here-lately.com

Another tip, is to spray this stuff like spray paint. Keep your hand moving, and spray it in short burst, so you don’t end up with a thick, goopy mess dripping down your wall. You might also notice that we stuck one edge of the tape to the wall, and let the rest of it stick out a bit. This worked well as a barrier for rogue spray and we didn’t have to cover everything completely.

Again, after letting the texture dry a little (about 4 minutes instead of 2 this time), we lightly knocked it down with the knockdown knife. It took about 4 applications of spraying before we felt like it matched the rest of the wall, but the true test would be painting it to see if it really matched or not. We let it dry for 48 hours — not something you have to do, but we wanted to make sure it was good and dry before adding any paint.

And the verdict is…

how to patch wall holes |here-lately.com

A match! That area, because it’s under the window is typically in shadow, so I think that helps a big deal in making things look seamless. Shadow or not, though, it still a confidence booster for us when it comes to spraying texture.

how to patch wall holes |here-lately.com

Fix holes in master bedroom? Check! Have a great weekend, guys!