Friday, July 15, 2011

Re-using Building Materials

Our little outhouse is partially recycled: the lovely avocado toilet, drainage pipes, siding, roofing tin, steps, most of the screws and other hardware, the shower curtain and galvanized curtain rod, and the septic tank were salvaged from the mobile home we demolished a few months back. The plumping fittings, PVC pipe, and much of the treated wood came from Lowes, Home Depot, or our local Swansea Hardware. Now visiting kids have one less excuse to track through the house from the pool. The toilet is rigged to automatically fill from a garden hose, which I hope will make for easier winterizing.

Same with the awning we built for the shed -- a boon for me because I finally have a place to work in the shade. The treated lumber is for the most part new, and the sheet metal roofing material was cut from the trailer roof. The little work table, made from plywood from the bathroom floor and mounted on one end of an axel, spins like a lazy susan.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


We've not been idle around here lately, but I've had less time for making art.
I finished laying our water pipes in the back field, then immediately began planting new trees and trying to
give our struggling fruit trees a new lease on life. We cut five foot lengths of 3” PVC pipe and planted them upright a foot or two from our trees and about a foot and a half deep. The idea is to fill the pipes
with water and let it slowly seep into the ground for deeper watering.
We refurbished our old chicken coop, including building
nesting boxes, a PVC feeder (idea courtesy of
the folks at Avian Aqua Miser (http://www.avian aquamiser .com/) and a water
reservoir from a kit that also came from them. One important note for making a similar
feeder is to use a 45 degree elbow rather
than a 90 so that the feed more easily slides into the trough. I glued a test cap at the trough end instead of a regular cap because it cost less than a dollar. The $4 cap at the top isn’t glued on so we can take it off and pour the feed in.
We bought Rhode Island Reds -- three hens and a rooster.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Improvised Shelves for our Frigidaire Refrigerator

Well, this is not necessarily recommended. Ask me in six weeks, or six months, how it's going and maybe I'll recommend it then.
These machines--these Frigidaire Energy Star refrigerators (like the one we purchased at Lowes only four short years ago) are frail. Seriously. All the cheesy, half-ass components that make this feeble milksop of an appliance come to life supposedly work together to make it more energy efficient.
Cheap, frail plastic and glass shelves included.
Of course, the energy efficient aspect of these newfangled appliances are supposed to save us money. That's the sales pitch, anyway. We replace our shabby old energy hungry appliances with new ones (appliance purchases usually indiiate an emergency, so we might well be using our credit card to make the purchase), and we're rewarded not only by a cleaner environment, but with a slightly fatter wallet. Only so far, this particular appliance is begging to be replaced after only four years. That's not less money. That's more money.
Our lightweight glass and plastic shelves are all cracked.
The truth is, we never put anything incredibly heavy on them. Nothing out of the ordinary. A gallon of milk. A pot, cooled, from the stove. I don't know. Maybe a ten pound Turkey in November.
In my right mind, I probably
would have simply forked over the $160 plus shipping for new shelves.
On the other hand, the new ones probably would not have lasted any longer than the ones I ended up replacing with pieces cut with a Dremel Tool from Rubbermaid linen shelves. The top shelf started cracking a couple years after we bought the refrigerator. This week I noticed that all three shelves were seriously cracked, and the bottom one was bowed and ready to cave.
The top shelf
had been duct taped and glued and fitted with various makeshift support systems over these last few months. We had lowered the milk jug from the top to the middle to the bottom shelf. We had moved all the "heavy" items toward the edges.
But the cracking was getting worse.
I'd been online a couple years ago, when the first cracks appeared in the middle of the top shelf, shopping for a replacement. Prices have actually come down since then. The three plastic frames (shelves minus the glass) would have cost about $160 plus shipping.
Our shelves were ready to crash, too. Yet, I couldn't make myself submit to giving Frigidaire any more of my hard earned money for their cheesy, highly breakable stuff.
I'm having a sort of consumer meltdown. I'm tired of lousy products and poor service. I'm recognizing that what we had before the so-called "Consumer Economy" took hold was better -- that the refrigerator we sold not long ago -- the incredibly heavy bastard with the tiny freezer compartment -- the short, fat one from the early 1960s that sat on our front porch and was fired up as a cooler during parties -- was a better deal. That crusty old energy hog was still going strong after almost fifty years. The one we're using now is four years old. Did I have a choice? Could I have shopped for a better refrigerator? I could have spent more. I peeked in some newer, more expensive models and they sported metal shelves. Who knows if spending one or two hundred more for a new refrigerator would mean that the shelves would not crack in two years under normal use.
This product has already been serviced for a defective icemaker. Its warranty is expired. It's time, I guess, to fork over another thousand bucks for a new one.
The idea was making my hands shake. These companies, I swear, do not deserve more of my money.
So I cut three shelves for my Frigidaire refrigerator from $36 worth of Rubbermaid shelving. They fit okay. I had to do some retrofitting to make them work. The plastic sleeve that lines this refrigerator is subtly more narrow in back than in front, so that a perfectly square shelf won't work. Cut it to fit in front, and it scrapes against the sides in back, threatening to crack the obviously feeble eggshell of a plastic lining, A hole in the lining, I'm sure, would be an even bigger pain in the butt to fix. Cut the shelf to fit in back, and it slides off the little supports in front.
That was disappointing.
I experimented a bit more, using a piece of slit rubber tubing from an aquarium pump over the front sides of the new top shelf to help hold it up. That seemed to work okay. On the other two, I wound strips of rubbery shelf liner around the same area, which worked well too and I thought looked better.
So far, so good. The shelves seem sturdy enough, but time will tell.
We're hoping we don't hear a loud crash in the night.
Honestly, the white wire shelves look good in there. Better, we think, that the cheap plastic ones, even before they were all cracked up.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Deconstructing A Mobile Home (Part Six: Almost Gone)

We've been inspired to use much of what we took from the trailer, but not so much these big beams. We wanted them out of the way of the garden. Surprisingly, it only took a couple hours to cut them into manageable pieces that we'll be carrying to the recycling man on my next day off.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Deconsctructing a Mobile Home (Part Five)

Here it is...the final and most intimidating aspect of deconstructing this trailer...cutting up the chassis. We used an angle grinder, and have thus far removed all the crossties and most of the wings on which the floor was fastened. The metal is soft and the grinder cuts it like a saw cuts wood. I'd been spraying the axel bolts with WD-40 for days, and the bolts slipped right off, so we removed the axels intact. Then I finally began cutting the big beams that ran the entire length.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Deconstructing a Mobile Home (Part Four)

At last, we're pretty much down to the bare metal chassis. We saved many pieces of this mobile home for future use -- most of the wood from inside the interior walls, the trim from inside, the rafters, the interior doors, kitchen cabinets, kitchen and bathroom sinks, tubs, drain and other pipes, some lighting fixtures, windows, carpets, much of the siding, etc. We decided to keep the sheet metal from the roof. But so much of what we pulled off and out of that trailer has been affected by years of heat, moisture, and pests. Much of the paneling and wall board simply fell apart as we attempted to take it off intact, as did the ceiling tiles. Insulation was simply nasty. All of that, for better or for worse, went to the landfill along with many of the exterior wall studs. We learned how to take the floor apart without cutting, so many of the joists were salvaged.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Deconstructing a Mobile Home (Part Three)

We were moving at a good clip until we got to the floor. Where the floor isn’t soft from the trailer leaking, it’s difficult to pull apart. The press wood is incredibly heavy and well fastened to the joists, which are 2x4. We tried going at the floor with hand saws, crow bars, hammers, and the like, but I ended up buying a reciprocating saw from Harbor Freight. That's working okay. We're taking it apart in about 1.5 by 5 ft. pieces. It's slow, but coming along. I found a video on Youtube in which young men went at the floor of a mobile home with an ax, but that's not for me. They also cut the steel frame with an angle grinder. Since that's the only info I've seen online regarding actual disassembly of a mobile home, it's probably what I'll try. I'm up for any suggestions that don't involve a welding torch.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Deconstructing a Mobile Home (Part Two)

I was going to try to cut the roof up with a circular saw and one of those fibrous metal cutting blades. (Or maybe a few of those blades, as they wear out quickly.) My wife had the idea that we could take the roof apart at the seams, and it was a good idea, too. Once two of the metal sheets that make up the roof are separated at the edge, a flat crow bar can be hammered down the seam. We figured this out toward the end of our day, after having removed the frames for one long side and the front, breaking them up and stacking them on the truck, and finally detaching the roof from the section behind the front porch, which was difficult to reach. We're thinking to use the porch as a garden shed, so we want it intact. Anyway, we were tired, and decided to call it a day. We'll hopefully have the roof apart and off the floor next time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Deconstructing" a Mobile Home (Part One)

We intended to refurbish our 1972 model single wide mobile home. The county had passed laws that would not allow us to sell it, or rather to move it to anywhere other than the landfill, but it seemed too nice and big a space to simply destroy.
No one had lived in this trailer for years, and it was not in great shape. It was leaking here and there. The presswood floor was mushy in places. It was wired with aluminum instead of copper, which was popular in the day but is said to be prone to vibration and overheating and thus unsafe, and we were thinking we’d have to buy or build a small solar system like the one in our current shed.
I coated the roof and started replacing windows, but had quite a way to go, and the whole thing begin to seem such a daunting task and, more importantly, so expensive and time consuming. So we decided we'd rather spend the time and money on other projects.
It cost too much to have someone pull the mobile home to the landfill. Various websites we visited indicated that "deconstruction" might be our answer. That's "deconstruction" as opposed to "demolition." Naturally, we didn’t document the beginning of the deconstruction process, but here it is in what i guess is mid-stage.
The most fascinating aspect of this trailer is not the multitude of squirrel nests we found in the few inches between the roof and the ceiling nor the dozens of wasp nests and residue from other critters cited throughout the three-inch space between the aluminum siding and the cheesy paneling within, but that, other than the couple that the previous owner had installed while making repairs, there was not a 2x4 in entire structure. Even the rafters were 1x2s held together will scraps of wallboard. There was a 1x4 that ran the 62ft. length of the trailer, tying the flimsy rafters together.
That was the heftiest bit of lumber originally in the thing. (The "studs" in the photos below are not 2x4s but rather...1.5 x 3s(?).
Which makes it a typical product of American ingenuity. Truly. Like the booming economy during the first decade of this century -- all flash (in it's day) and no substance. Of course, we did pull it down the highway, which means it withstood at least 45 or 50 mile an hour winds. And, at 39 years old, it would have been habitable in a pinch, though not particularly safe or comfortable. And it was probably quite affordable in it's day.
So it served it's housing "for the time being."
It's almost a bit of history now.
The most difficult part of deconstruction so far? Detatching the roof.