CHALK BOARD DOOR FRAME

May 30th, 2010 by Tim 1 comment »

Part of the renovations for the house involved creating a entrance from the kitchen through to the scullery. The challenge was that the scullery was a previous extension to the house, so the door frame was through what was originally an external wall (280mm thick).

To compound things we din’t actually want a door through to the scullery as it was nicely hidden away round the corner. As a result we ended up with a rather large imposing opening which frankly looked a bit odd.

So my lovely wife came to rescue with the idea of turning it into a chalk board – come shopping list. I admit I was skeptical at first but once the frame was painted with chalk board paint (water based PVA) it looked stunning. It also is surprisingly practical – when I need to go shopping a simply take a picture with my cell phone and I am good to go.

I have included some pics below to give you an idea of how it looks – the lintel (top part) I use for recording my rainfall figures until I get time to capture them in a spreadsheet.

Chalk board Door Frame

Chalk board Door Frame

SYNOPTIC CHART

April 29th, 2010 by Tim No comments »

For some unknown reason I can never find this on SA Weather’s new fancy web site – so here is the image if you are like me and enjoy the “Raw” data.

“Edit: seems they have locked the site down and require a password!”

“Edit 2: Found it again!”

‘GREEN’ – NATURAL FIBERGLASS FISHPOND

January 29th, 2010 by Tim 2 comments »

One of the projects we had on the list to do was a fishpond. I have always liked the idea of having a couple of fish, but always thought the fish fund-i’s go a bit overboard with all the complicated filters, UV sanitisers etc. I wanted a pond that would basically look after itself, but support a couple of fish which will get fed occasionally.

Another hassle with ponds is that in our hot and windy climate they always needing refilling due to losses through evaporation – sometimes you think you have sprung a sudden leak after a hot and windy day! This means you either need to keep filling it up – or rig up some fancy ball valve arrangement from the mains.

So here enters the ‘Green’ pond idea – keep it topped up with rainwater. Now I know what you going to say this has been done before, but I think I have found a novel solution of keeping it neat and contemporary. In fact I challenge you to figure out how its done in the next picture:

Hidden rain filler

Hidden rain filler - pond on the left

So here’s what I did – I used the same design as for my rainwater tanks and set the level of the grate to the same level as the water level I wanted in the pond. Connected it under the paving with piping and presto you have a pond which is filled each time it rains. Once the level reach’s the top of the grate, it simply overflows like the downpipe would have anyway. I then cut the bottom out of a clay pot and put this over the grate to hide it. Here is a sketch to illustrate:

Sketch

Sketch

The design of the pond is simple rectangle  1.2mx1.5m  – I made it deep so the water level could fluctuate between rainy periods, about 1m. It is constructed of a 220mm 2 layer brick wall with brickforce wire reinforcing every 3rd coarse. It was then plastered and left to cure for a few weeks (mainly because I was putting off the nasty fiberglass job). Once it was nicely cured and dry, I then gave it a coat of normal resin with a second coat of black flow-coat to finish off. Those who have fiberglassed before will be saying but what about the glass matting – well I looked at the pond – there were no cracks and I didn’t have enough matting. So I decided to take a chance and only use the resin – touch wood it seems to be working and as long as it doesn’t crack it should stay that way!

To keep the water clean I put a good 4 inch layer of stone at the bottom to act as an anaerobic zone and then planted it out with some Irises and a water Lilly. Finally a submersible pump circulates the  water through 3 nozzles in the back wall. I was amazed that with 6 fish – 2 goldfish and 4 Koi that although it did initially go murky, after about 4 weeks the water stabilized was crystal clear. It has stayed that way for 2 months now and the only maintenance is I have cleaned the sponge filter on the pump twice. I know the system is healthy as 2 frogs have produced about a million tad poles which seem quite happy as well.

Now for the clincher – we are in the middle of a drought – it is in fact illegal to fill your fish pond with a hose and to date I haven’t filled it once. Enjoy the pics!

WINDOWS VISTA TO WINDOWS 7 UPGRADE

October 4th, 2009 by Tim No comments »

I know there are loads of posts on this, but I wanted to share my experience mainly because I was blown away by the ease of the upgrade and more importantly, how much free space it freed up for me.

Now I know these days harddrive space is less of an issue with desktops which are easily upgraded, but my notebook only has a 100 gig drive and is pretty full. Not wanting to go the route of a clean install and being a bit fedup with a lukewarm Vista experience I decided the much touted upgrade route was the way to go. So knowing windows would need some space to do the install,l I did some concerted house keeping and managed to free up about 27 gig of space.

This accomplished I closed my eyes and plunged right into the upgrade process. Windows 7 did some thinking and asked me to uninstall some apps which it figured would cause some problems – fortunately they were all HP pre-installed apps which I had never actually used before. Once I had removed this it quitlely got on with its thing – not sure how long it took as after about 2 hours I when to bed.

In the morning it was with some interpretation that I roused my notebook out of sleep mode -fortunately I was greeted with a nice friendly windows 7 desktop. Now the kicker – remember I stated out with 27 gig free after cleaning up as much space as I could (including using windows disk cleanup which deleted all temp files), well after the install I now have 37 gig free! Thats 10 gigs of extra space – what Vista was doing with that drive space makes the mind boggle – it certainly wasnt making it faster thats for sure!

Hope you have as much luck as I did if you decide to take the plunge.

HOW TO UNLOCK THE BOOT OF A RENAULT SCENIC

August 20th, 2009 by Tim No comments »

After almost four years of ownership I have finally cracked how best to open the boot of my wife’s 2004 Scenic. On the whole it is a nice car but it has its fair share of oddities (French?) – by far the most annoying is getting the boot open. There is a dedicated button on the remote to open the boot but you need to do a combination of presses to get the boot open. Before I discovered the trick, which was by pure accident (no it is not in the manual as far as I can see), it used to be press door open 3 times – then boot open button twice. Now this only worked some of the time, so it had be repeated from scatch if it didn’t.

The solution – press the boot open button on the remote at the same time pressing the boot button on the car – works every time! You can even open the boot without unlocking the car doors.

Now this post might seem ridiculous but I have been battling with this for almost 4 years! #%#$%#%*@#

DIY PAINTED GLASS KITCHEN SPLASH BACK

August 17th, 2009 by Tim 52 comments »

My better half liked the look of a glass splash back which is painted on the back (I admit I did as well till we saw the price – R3500 :- $350). Because I couldn’t help it, I decided to see if I could do it myself – I mean how hard could it be?

Actually it all turned out surprisingly easy and I must say at less than a third of the price, well worth the effort.

I approached the supplier who did my frame-less glass shower and got him to supply me with a sheet of 6mm toughened glass. I then gave one side a light sanding with 1200 grit water paper (just to give a slight key to the paint). Then with thinners I cleaned and then cleaned again the side to be sprayed.

Then it was simply 2 coats Acrylac spray paint and some double-sided  tape – here is the result (painted side goes at the back):

Glass Splash Back

Glass Splash Back (bamboo sides)

Glass Splash Back

Glass Splash Back - (Top doors still to come)

RAINWATER CAPTURE

August 6th, 2009 by Tim 1 comment »

I’ve always wanted to collect my own rainwater, I think if you have a garden, to waste the rainwater runoff from your roof almost seems a sin. Obviously the amount of water you going to get from your roof will depend on a few factors, the most important being:

Amount of roof area

The percentage of this roof that you can that you can manage to drain into a tank

The amount and intensity of the rainfall

Seasonal variation in rainfall

To make it simple you can take your annual rainfall and simply multiply it by the area of the roof, in my case that is a annual rainfall of 624 mm or 0.624 m  – multiplied by the roof area (approximately 250 m^2) which gives about 156 m^3 per year. Now 1 m^3 is 1000 litres, so that’s a lot of potential water, problem is if you tend to get all your rainfall in a couple of months of the year, then finding a big enough tank to store it will be problematic.

We are fortunate that Port Elizabeth, rainfall is very nicely spread over the year, so it makes a capture system ideal as the tanks don’t have to massive to capture all the available water.

The next problem I faced was where to put the tanks (I chose 2 x 2500 litre tanks which are quite large, 2.5 m high – you will see why later) and also how to get the water from the gutter into the tanks. A pet hate of mine is big tanks that dominate the garden and even worse a skyhook arrangement of pipes to get the water into the tank.

In your face

In your face piping

So I decided that one option was to bury the tanks (at least partially) and put them under our deck. This has the advantage that they are out of site and also piping the water into the tanks can also be underground, also out of site. It does have the obvious disadvantage that you need to pump the water to get it out, but since I needed pressure anyway this was no issue to me.

How do you bury a tank that isn’t meant to be buried? Well the obvious answer is you shouldn’t try unless you prepared to take the risk and you should get ones that can be buried (quite pricey). So huge disclaimer here – this is what I did, it may not work for you! I dug the hole for the tank about 400 mm bigger than it needed to be – placed the tank in the hole and then filled it with water.

Then once the tank was full, I backfilled around the tank with a dry mixture of sand and cement – ratio about 5:1. I did this in layers and then with water, saturated the mixture each time. I repeated this until I reached ground level. Now the important part, leave the water in the tanks for at least 3 weeks to give the cement time to harden. If done correctly should end up with a lovely compression ring round your tank. I suspect this will only work in good stable soils, if your ground is very clayey and saturated you probably going to come to grief. Also remember if you have a high water table your tanks are simply going to float if empty! It is also better if they stick partially out the ground, as this saves on trying to make a stable roof for your setup.

With the tanks in the ground (see pic) all that was left was connecting it up to the down pipes. Now normally people manage to get one or maybe 2 of their downpipes into the tank, but this leaves a lot of the water going to waste as most houses have more downpipes than this. So I came up with a semi pressure system to pipe the water over longer distances but keeping it neat. I used 50mm (2″) PVC plumbing piping and modified some 110mm gully fittings to make a capture system. As it can handle some pressure you can simply mount the head at about the same level as the top of the tank and run the line at or below ground level. Even if visible it is much neater than down pipes hanging in mid air.

Here are some pics of the capture system with one of the semi buried tanks to the left:

Modifying the gulley so it sits closer to the wall

Modifying the gulley so it sits closer to the wall

Close up of modified gulley

Close up of modified gulley

Capture system with tank to the left

Capture system with tank to the left

Ulitimately the idea is the tanks and most of the piping will be under the deck and hidden (see sketch-up pic below):

Deck layout - sketchup

Deck layout - sketchup

SETTLEMENT CRACKS

August 6th, 2009 by Tim No comments »

Most people who have brick houses can probably show you one or two cracks – although there seldom is an excuse structurally speaking.

I did an intesting survey on a building which is covered in cracks – some up to 8mm wide. The strucure has moved to the extent that a number of the doors no longer close!

Anyway here is a pic of  two of the cracks – I feel much better about my own house now!

BUILD YOUR OWN GREY WATER IRRIGATION SYSTEM – Part 3

July 19th, 2009 by Tim 2 comments »

Part 3 Installation

Although my floor level being about a meter above ground level, meant that the tank could be above ground – I decided to bury the tank so it was out of the way and less of an eye sore.

Tank Installtion - backfilling

Tank Installtion - backfilling

Most plastic tanks are not designed to be buried and will collapse, but if you fill them with water and then backfill the surrounds with a sand/cement mix this hardens into a nice compressive ring that doesn’t collapse (I use a similar method on my rain tanks which are much bigger and deeper and it is working a treat). A word of warning though if you have a high water table and then tanks are empty they do tend to want to float.

The picture shows the backfilling process with the 40mm(3/4”) in and overflow not yet connected. The overflow is connected to the sewer through a standard u trap to keep smelly gases in check.

The pump was then installed with a non-return valve right at the bottom which stops the pump becoming de-primed.

Sump View showing float switch

Sump View showing float switch

Also in the photo is the float switch which allows the tank to fill about halfway before it turns the pump on. On reaching empty it then turns the pump off again. It is a simple mechanical switch and is simply wired to the pump circuit in series.

Finished product :

Total cost of project : R 2000 ~ $200 give or take

Finished product

Finished product

A note on the sprinkler – I decided to keep it simple and I have an outlet in one of the beds with a long length of hose so it can be moved around. The sprinkler is a simple one with a large nozzle which won’t block easily.


BUILD YOUR OWN GREY WATER IRRIGATION SYSTEM – Part 2

July 19th, 2009 by Tim 2 comments »
Having decided to construct my own grey water irrigation system I figured he first step was to do some flow measurements of the shower and bath outlets. It was easy enough and it involved a stop watch and a 20l bucket. The results were as follows:
Bath was on average about 75 litres in total and it emptied at a rate of about 0.71 l/s
Shower was less at about 0.3 l/s giving about 60 l for a 3 min shower
Other design considerations were system needed to be fully automatic and pretty maintenance free. I also discovered that it is not a good idea to store your grey water as it promotes the growth of pathogens – so ideally the system should empty the sump at least once a day and the water spread over a large area so nature (mostly the sun) can kill the nasties.
My early idea was a 100 l sump which could buffer a bath been emptied with a submersible pump and a filter box of some sort (see sketch). After a bit of investigation I discovered that submersibles are expensive – tend to clog easily and have seals that detergents and soaps love to attack. So short of spending loads of money on a good quality submersible which could handle the above, I decided an external pump was the way to go.
The smallest one I could find was a Pedrollo xxxx which has a nice little brass impellor was simply chops up any hairs. The rated pressure and flow capacity of also meant that I could have a nice sprinkler pressure. Armed with a 90 l plastic tank and a level control switch it was time for installation.

Part 2 – Design

Having decided to construct my own grey water irrigation system, I figured he first step was to do some flow measurements of the shower and bath outlets. It was easy enough and it involved a stop watch and a 20 l bucket. The results were as follows:

Bath was on average about 75 litres in total and it emptied at a rate of about 0.71 l/sec

Shower was less at about 0.3 l/sec giving about 60 l for a 3 min shower

Other design considerations were that the system needed to be fully automatic and pretty maintenance free. I also discovered that it is not a good idea to store your grey water as it promotes the growth of pathogens – so ideally the system should empty the sump at least once a day and the water spread over a large area so nature (mostly the sun) can kill the nasties.

Grey Water Design Sketch

Grey Water Design Sketch

My early idea was a 100 l sump which could buffer a bath been emptied with a submersible pump and a filter box of some sort (see sketch).

After a bit of investigation I discovered that submersibles are expensive – tend to clog easily and have seals that detergents and soaps love to attack. So short of spending loads of money on a good quality submersible which could handle the above, I decided an external pump was the way to go.

The smallest one I could find was a Pedrollo PKm 60 which has a nice little brass impeller was simply chops up any hairs (ie ditch the filter). The rated pressure of max 38 m and flow capacity of max 40 l/min (0.66 l/sec) also meant that I should have a nice sprinkler pressure. (Price R1500 ~ $150)

Obviously in practice you will probably operate some in the middle of the figures quoted above, namely as the flow increases the pressure will drop (each pump has its own operating curve but I wont go into that now). I found in practice my system flow matches the shower flow of about 0.3 l/sec , but as a result has an impressive pressure (probably a bit on the high side so I might add another sprinkler head to pull it down on the curve a bit).

Pedrollo PKm 60

Pedrollo PKm 60

To make the system operate automatically I bought a level simple floating level control switch which is very commonly used in pump stations. It allows you to have the pump turn on when the level gets to a chosen height – it also then turns of the pump when the sump is empty (Price R250 ~ $25).

So Armed with a 90 l plastic tank (Price R 150~ $15 ) , pump, a level control switch and a whole bunch of fittings (Price R 100~ $10) – it was time for installation.