Tag Archives: Cement

Super Sunday

I had a really good Sunday. For the first time in weeks it wasn’t raining (nor was the ground freshly soaked) and after a week being stuck inside with a cold, I was craving some fresh air.

After experimenting and making apple cider pancakes for breakfast, I planted about 75 bulbs that I had bought on clearance at Meijer. They’re a mix of purple tulips, striped tulips and stock generic multi-color surprise tulips, and a handful of crocuses. I basically put them in bags by their height, dug all the requisite holes, then plopped them in at random. Can’t wait to see what sprouts – or doesn’t. Though I’ve learned my lesson about proper coverage to avoid feeding the squirrels.
Next, I whipped up some hydraulic cement (eerily similar to whipping up pancakes, only the directions do call for a mask and eye protection) and fixed a couple of the small cracks where the AC slab meets the foundation. This is exactly where we’ve had the minor basement leaking problem (much better lately), so a bit of extra sealant can’t hurt. And this time, I didn’t give myself chemical burns!
Then, while gingerly carrying my cement materials back to the garage, I spied a small, hairline crack beginning elsewhere in the foundation. I was able to scrape enough cement out of my bucket (though it was hardening rapidly) to patch it thoroughly. Preventative maintenance!
I ended my day by spending approximately 3 hours raking, raking, raking all the leaves that fell on a very blustery Friday. I realized I wasn’t going to get them all, so I settled for “good enough” as I raked after the 5 PM sunset.
It was a really productive day. I needed a day like this.

A Geyser & A Burn

One night last month, during a heavy storm, I unlocked the back door and heard an unusual sound.

The basement was gurgling.

Rather, the wall in the basement had sprung a leak and water was flowing all the way across the sloped basement floor to the drain, which was fighting to keep up, and failing.

I changed into grubby clothes and set off to plug the leak, which was the size of a pencil eraser, and was acting like a geyser or fountain. It looked a lot like a kid turning their mouth into a water fountain.

Unfortunately, everything I had onhand that might fix the problem was water soluble and couldn’t set up against running water – caulk, spackle, grout, liquid nails. It was too late to go out to a hardware store, so I tried the one thing I thought might actually work.

Duct tape.

I balled up some duct tape and shoved it into the leak, then created a patch over the top. The gushing slowed to a trickled, enough that I was able to squeegee out the basement and survive the storm.

The next weekend, after researching solutions, I bought Drylock Fast Plug as a first step to fix the problem. That entire wall has been seeping for awhile, and in addition to the one geyser, there are several smaller holes not so visible to the naked eye. My research and the shockingly helpful Orange Apron I talked to concurred that patching with Fast Plug, followed by a solid coat of Drylock Waterproofer, should do the trick.

I carefully followed the directions and made sure to ventilate the basement and don a mask, gloves and goggles. I mixed up a small amount to get the texture right, then applied the concrete to the main hole, then several other spots I had noticed and marked. It was kind of fun, almost like finger painting. Emboldened by my success, I mixed up more and patched the entire joint, where floor meets wall. I decided I had done enough for the evening and packed up and went off to take a shower.

An hour later, my face was a red, peeling mess that burned hot to the touch. When Don got home from work, he took one look and asked what had happened.

Despite all my precautions, I had brushed hair off my face with the back of my gloves, likely leaving some Drylock dust on my cheeks. When I hopped in the shower, the water must have activated the powder. A quick Google confirmed my self-diagnosis – I had minor chemical burns all over my cheeks and forehead.

After some burning, itching and a very uncomfortable night, they started to disappear about twenty-four hours later. But next time, I’ll use a hair tie.


It’s been a busy few weeks!

I’ve been painting a ton. It started with the paint around the back door. But then, since I had the brushes, tarp and other fun tools out, I took on other painting projects.

Then, flipping through the pile of paint cans in the garage I tackled other projects. I also discovered that freeze/thaw cycles are not kind to paint. The previous owner had left a dozen or so paint cans in the garage, all labeled with the room they coated. Great, I thought when I found then can labeled, “Back hall.” By its weight, it felt about a quarter full – more than enough to touch up around the new back door where we had removed the trim. I patched everything, sanded it down, changed into painting clothes, set up my tarp and ladder, pried off the lid – and discovered jell-o. The paint had congealed into a layer of gelatinous goo, topped by clear liquid. Interesting stuff.

Luckily, since the Ace Hardware label was still intact with the color name and pigment ratios, I took the can over to my local store. First, I asked them if they could shake it up and see if it was salvageable. It wasn’t. Next, I asked for a quart, assuming I have enough unused paint hanging around the house, and wondering how many of the other cans were worthless. However, in the five years since the paint had been originally mixed, they had discontinued selling the base in quart-sized containers, so I was stuck with a gallon if I wanted the color. That was fine until I discovered that my gallon of premium paint was a whopping $43! Eegads! I’ve never paid more than $22 or $23 for a gallon of paint, and often buy it when it’s on sale. The cashier saw the look of shock on my face and threw in a couple extra stir sticks, but sheesh. Had I know, I would have found a “close enough” color or just resolved to repaint the entire back hallway, complete with 16 foot ceilings where the basement opens up to the rest of the house. Instead, since it’s a nice neutral color, I’ll be repainting some other room – maybe the dining room or office? Either way, since I had plenty, I ended up painting two nice coats around the door and also freshening a lot of the space.

Moving along, I finally (after two years!) painted the second coat in the downstairs bathroom, bringing out the true color I had imagined – a subtle lilac that contrasts nicely against bright white trim and the light green kitchen. I also applied a second coat to the trim and touched up a couple places that had chipped on the kitchen trim.

Next, I did a bit of concrete patching on the front steps before applying a fresh coat of paint. The front steps were tough only because of our continuing brown bug problem. After washing off all the bug carcasses before I started, they kept landing in the wet paint! I kept having to retouch the slightly tacky paint, trying to remove the bodies before they dried, like mosquitoes in amber. There are a couple that I didn’t manage to extract, but they’ll remain entombed as a memorial to their brothers – I’ve killed hundreds this summer.

Meanwhile, our driveway project taught us some valuable lessons – namely, that asphalt is nasty stuff that does NOT come off of concrete or aluminum side. We had been careful applying it, but some had inevitably splattered in the process. So I repainted the foundation facing the driveway (and think I’ll do the rest of the house soon, just to keep it even). However, despite trying two different products suggested by the Home Depot and Ace experts, we cannot figure out how to get the splatters of (black) tar off the (white) aluminum siding without also removing the coating (is it paint?). Especially since I redid the foundation, it looks especially bad. One product yellowed the siding, the other removed the paint-like coating, exposing bare metal. I think for now, our best bet is going to be touching up with white metal paint?

In the midst of asphalt cleanup, I also decided it was high time to repaint our white gate that closes across the driveway. It had a rough winter and a couple bare patches. Luckily, there was another paint can in the garage labeled “gate.” I opened it up and discovered more goo! Sigh. Then I opened an indoor/outdoor paint in another shade of white and discovered pure jelly. My last option – without buying more paint – was to use the same white paint I’ve used for the bathroom and kitchen trim. It’s labeled for interior, so I only did half the gate for now. I’ll let it get through a couple rain storms (it’s rained all day) to see how it holds up before doing the other half. Fence painting sucks – the slats take forever to coat evenly.

I think that’s all the painting for now. I rather enjoy it for the first couple hours, but it gets tedious – and leaves me with a clawed right hand for a day or so afterwards. But it’s one of the easiest and most cost-effective improvements – and you see the results right away.

New fun term: Frost Heave

After a winter of record-nearing (and maybe breaking, if tonight’s forecast of 5-7 inches of “snizzle” comes true) snow, I finally closed the gates across my driveway yesterday. The gates have been ensconced in snow banks since November. Last year, I learned the hard way that keeping them closed during a snow storm made shoveling much more arduous.

So there was much rejoicing when I came up the driveway last night and saw the (almost) clear driveway. Before I even unlocked the back door, I swung the right gate closed, then the left one. But in the center, the latch wouldn’t meet. Puzzled, I looked at the hinges, thinking maybe one had slipped – maybe some oil was in order. Then I noticed that the fence itself was sitting on the driveway, despite the wheels that enable easy swinging.

Apparently, I have discovered (developed?) a frost heave. Essentially, during the numerous freeze/thaw cycles, water permeated a crack, froze (expanded), and pushed the pavement up. I knew I should have patched those asphalt cracks last fall. I bought the goo to do it, but never actually got around to it.

Lesson learned. Now I need to get taller wheels to enable proper gate closing, which probably also means raising the hinges. Fun times.