Category Archives: General Building

Finishing the kitchen countertop

Previously, here on Sailing the Earth, I was telling you about our adventures with epoxy. It is fascinating stuff, if a bit temperamental.

Well, things have progressed and I can now share with you how it all turned out.

After completing the third and final coat of epoxy, the counter was ready to be installed. It wasn’t super perfect, but it was quite a bit improved from the first coat. There are still two bugs embedded in it that I couldn’t dig out, so they will have to stay in there… forever. Maybe someone will clone bugs from their DNA in a 1000 years.

I let the third coat cure for several days and then while Kat was at work on Sunday (yesterday, July 23rd) I proceeded to install it. First I had to prep the surface. This meant clearing off all of the clutter that was on the base, cleaning it and then applying a generous amount of glue.

Looks a lot like a breakfast pastry, doesn’t it? With the base all prepped, all there was to do was put the newly finished counter into place. I clamped it and screwed it down from underneath. That counter is not going anywhere.

Sorry for that blurry picture, but you can probably see just how shiny the counter is. Here is a close up.

Unfortunately, I discovered the hard way that it scratches pretty easily, or at least the brand that we used for this project. You can see the scratches I put in it in the bottom-left corner of the above picture. I didn’t have a way to clamp the counter down at the back so I used a 20L (5 gallon) jug of water to weigh it down. In positioning it on the counter, I twisted it a bit and the bottom of the jug is knurled plastic, so it left those marks you see above.

Fortunately, this is the trailer and not the house, so learning these things ahead of time is a useful experience.

With the counter locked down, it was time to install the sink.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated just how many pieces I would need to finish the plumbing of the sink drain and I wasn’t able to get it completed in one day. Kat was in town this morning so she stopped at the hardware store and picked up the missing pieces.

Here is a picture of the plumbing for the drain, immediately connected to the bottom of the sink.

I bought a P-trap that included the clean-out, just to make our lives easier if anything needed some maintenance later on. Frankly, I don’t know why they call it a P-trap. A U-bend or an S-trap would be better. I like S-trap actually because you could make it stand for stink-trap, as the whole point of that is to keep some water in the pipe to prevent smells from the sewer or septic from entering your home.

Anyway, that pipe that you see traveling downwards at a 45 degree angle joins up with all of this stuff at the bottom.

I added a clean-out plug, for future maintenance, though it was a bit overkill. There is another one on just the other side of the wall on the right.

The part with the T and the pipe heading out the wall through the blue insulation is the new plumbing vent I put in. The old one had been in the wall inside the small room where the toilet had been, but we removed all of that, so I needed to put the vent back in somewhere. This was a pretty convenient spot, right next to the wall. I just put a 45 degree connector on the T-junction and ran the pipe out the wall, upwards at an angle. There is another 45 just outside the wall and the pipe then runs straight up the wall of the trailer.

After it was all glued together and all of the threaded bits had their sealing tape applied, it was time to try it out.

Yay! No leaks. Now we don’t need to go outside to dump our dish water. In fact, we might even be able to do the dishes in the sink. Woah! Not sure we’re ready for that kind of excitement. It’s been a good two years since we could do our own dishes in a sink.

On a side note, we discovered something interesting about ABS glue and rigid insulation: the former will melt and dissolve the latter. Here you can see the hole underneath the pipe where the glue squished out and dropped onto the insulation.

Something to be aware of if you’re ever gluing ABS pipe near rigid foam insulation.

Despite the small flaws (and scratches… grrr) in the counter-top, this project turned out pretty well. Now if only we can complete the next project in a more timely fashion.

Kitchen Countertop Adventures

So I had left off previously talking about the new counter-top we were working on for the trailer. I can’t say that it is all complete, but we have made some progress.

We decided to put an epoxy finish over the wood to give it a nice shiny, protective coating. This has turned out to be a little tricky. I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

We started off with the prep work. I took the counter out to our truck shelter which is acting as our work shop. Out there, Kat applied the stain and varnish to it.

Once that was done, I propped it up to it was all as level as I could get it. I taped all of the edges to prevent spill-over and I also prepared a sheet to cover it after we finished the pour.

If you’re wondering what the big log in the middle is for, that’s to hold up the cover sheet so it doesn’t touch the counter.

So, let the pouring begin!

We learned quite a few things doing this. First, epoxy likes it to be warm. The warmer, the quicker it will cure. Secondly, humidity is bad. This will encourage bubbles in your epoxy and that’s not a good thing.

Kat and I did this together because the epoxy starts to setup pretty quickly after you mix it. We managed to complete the pouring in short order. Fortunately, the counter-top isn’t that big.

Once the pour was completed, I spent some time trying to get rid of some of the bubbles, but that didn’t go so well. According to the instructions, gently exhaling on them should make them burst as it supposedly reacts with the CO2 from your breath. Well, I did a lot of blowing and the bubbles didn’t pop at all.

I also couldn’t spend forever working on this because it was starting to set, and also bugs kept falling in it. We did fish some big ones out and eventually I just covered it.

I used an old shower curtain for the cover, which worked really well. After that we let it sit for a long time, over a week.

When we finally went in to look at it, it was all nice and shiny, but there were a few bugs sticking out of it and lots of bubbles. Also, the tape didn’t work quite as well as we had hoped and there were a lot of drips down the sides that we had to shave off.

Here you can see Kat in her bug hat removing the tape.

I took some time and dug out the bugs I could find, as well as many of the bubbles. Then I did a filler coat on top of that. It has since dried, but I plan to do one more final thin coat as that last one came out a bit rough.

I did some searching online and found one website that said the most ideal setup for doing epoxy is in a vacuum. Not having a vacuum chamber readily available, we went with what we had. Hopefully, after this third coat, it will look nice. I’ll let you know how it goes after we get that done.

December 2016

Time keeps moving on and it has been a while since my last post. There is a variety of things to cover, so stay tuned.

First, I’ll give you a solar update.

Solar power during winter has its challenges. Optimally, it would be nice to have the batteries in a semi-heated/temperature stable location, but alas, we don’t have such a place so where they are is what we have. That being said, the solar system has been behaving very well. Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been all that sunny. After that snow we had on my birthday, it warmed up a bit, rained enough to get rid of all of the snow and then it snowed again.

… and again… and again… In fact, there haven’t been too many days in December where it hasn’t snowed at least a few flakes. This means I need to get out and clean off the solar panels each time. I have a system where I don’t need to get on the roof, but it still has its own risks being up on a ladder. I fell from it once and I don’t recommend the experience. Nothing major was broken, fortunately.

The other thing I discovered is it is not sufficient to simply clean off the solar panels. The more you do that, the more the snow builds up at the bottom and then starts covering the bottom panel. Once that happens, your incoming voltage will drop so much that you can’t get enough power out of it to recharge the batteries. So I spent an extended amount of time cleaning off the roof below the panels yesterday.

If the panels are clear of the thick snow, any ice or minor coverage will quickly melt even on a cloudy day. Last Thursday (Dec 15th) was one of the first days where we had any sunshine at all, but it was bitterly cold. I think the windchill that night was down to -32C (-27F). Fortunately, we went back to getting snow and it wasn’t quite so chilly. Today, was a brilliantly awesome sunny day and we were able to get some good power out of it. If it is constantly cloudy, we can go three days or so from 100% battery down to 80% at which point I run the generator to top them up.

I’m sure you’re all wondering where the pictures are so here are some nice scenery shots of the snowy landscape that we now live in.

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In that last picture, on the far right you can see a black barrel beside the smurf house. The snow cap on it is probably 40-50cm (16-20″). As I said above, it’s been snowing a lot. We’ve certainly enjoyed having our driveway ploughing done by someone else, that is for sure.

Kat also managed to sneak a picture of me as I was cleaning snow off the roof yesterday.

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In case you’re wondering, I have a squeegee attached to the end of one of those telescoping poles you usually use for painting. It works great for the panels, but is less efficient at clearing the roof itself.

While I was outside taking pictures, our bird feeder has been quite the area of activity. Chickadees, bluejays, wood peckers and nuthatches all like to feast on what we have to offer. I managed to snag a picture at just the right time to get a shot of a nuthatch. They are pretty flighty and don’t stay for very long, even less so than a chickadee.

You can see this one on the side of the feeder on the right.

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Next, we’ll move inside.

As you may know from previous posts, we have a new bed frame that is working very well. Soon after that was put in, I hooked up this.

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That’s an LED light strip on a dimmer switch. It’s very snazzy and makes reading in bed very enjoyable.

Once that was in it was time to work on paneling the walls.

This is the area around the closet, before any paint was applied.

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This is the first section on the opposite side of the closet, by the window, after the primer was applied.

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Here you can see both sides after the primer.

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Progressing along, all of the window side is now paneled. Some has been painted, some are waiting to be painted.

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That last picture is a little out of date, as those unpainted panels now are.

Recently, we were back at my parents for our annual cookie day event. Friends of ours from the Ottawa area, Ian and his wife, Heather, who were attending said event, kindly donated a small set of cupboards to us that they no longer needed. As it turns out, the cupboards fit nicely over the counter where the sink will be going (yes, another project yet to be completed).

Unfortunately, this did mean some adjustments needed to be made to the spice rack we had made to go over the stove, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. But before we could install it, Kat wanted to paint the wall to match the rest of the area. So, she did.

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Isn’t that a lovely blue? Anyway, I did need to make a few modifications to the cupboards before I could install them. We don’t have standard wood studs behind our walls, so you can’t just hang it any which way you like. Here is a picture of me on the floor praying to the cupboards.

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It wasn’t a whole lot of work, and we now have a nice new storage location for more things. Actually, all of the spices ended up in the cupboards until I finish making the modifications to the previously mentioned spice rack.

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This was right before it got really cold last week, so we haven’t done much since then. I still need to go outside into the truck shelter to do things like make cuts in the pieces of wood we want to use. If it’s -20C (-4F), I’m not really inclined to go out and do that.

Things are winding down now and we’re getting ready for the holidays. We won’t be doing any major traveling this year, just visiting our family and friends within easy driving distance.

Make your holidays great 🙂

Trailer Bed

Unfortunately, I can’t spend every day writing song parodies, though there probably isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t destroy a line or two from whatever song I have stuck in my head that day. When I’m not messing with song lyrics, I make things. Today’s topic is bed frames.

If you have been following along, you’ll know that we had the rest of the trailer insulated with spray foam a little while back. This was only possible after ripping out everything down to the metal framing. As a result, we have a lot to rebuild.

I’m sure you all know what that means? Right, make a plan first. So here is the plan I made in Sketchup for the new bed frame.

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Here is another picture of the plan with the top removed so you can see the framing and drawers.

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Plans are great to have, but once you start dealing with the real world, they need to be adjusted. For instance, our floor isn’t level, despite what the level indicator on the outside of the trailer says. I had to make some adjustments to the measurements so the bed would be level, or at least a very close approximation there to.

Once I had all of the adjustments I needed recorded, I stared to cut the pieces. I spent four days cutting pieces of wood. This may sound like a lot, but it might take me fifteen or twenty minutes to setup a cut as I was using my skill saw for most of it. That means measuring, marking and then placing a cutting guide in the proper position to make the cut straight. I’m pretty finicky about that so it can take some time.

Once I had all of the pieces cut, it was time to assemble the drawers. I used the same technique I used when we made the kitchen cupboard. Here is a picture of the drawers after assembly.

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We also decided to try out this new stain we heard about called Sansin. It’s Canadian made and it’s supposed to be environmentally friendly stuff. We had a few issues with it, however. First, the place in town only sold the exterior version of the stain. Second, it was expensive. A full 3.8L can (1 gallon) was $100. Fortunately, we didn’t need a full can and bought the 890mL (0.23 gallon) can instead.

Kat, being the staining department at this shop had further issues with this stain as well. It was difficult to apply with a brush. Brush strokes were quite evident and pools of stain would soak in and harden so quickly that you would end up with raised portions that only sanding could smooth out. You would be left with a darker section though. The instructions on the can did say that using an aerosol system was ideal for applying it, but we don’t own such a thing.

Here is a picture of the drawers after staining, being tested.

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Seems to fit purrfectly, wouldn’t you say? 😛

The other thing I will mention about the stain is I didn’t like the colour after we had applied it. I was hoping for something a little more on the yellow side, not burnt orange. Fortunately, these are drawers and you don’t see them unless you pull them out.

After the drawers got two coats of stain, we were ready to start the installation. I made sure to have everything ready so we could complete it in one day, as otherwise we would have some seriously complicated sleeping arrangements. We did, after all, need to move the mattress out of the way to install the bed frame, which meant leaning it up against the kitchen table.

With the space cleared, the first part of the frame that goes under the window was put into place.

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Using markings I had already made on the first piece of framing, I was able to easily just pop in the first side wall. I added the little 2×4 for extra stability.

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From there, it was a matter of simply working left to right. I added the first drawer rail, then I positioned the drawer and second rail to get the position of the middle wall. Once that was marked, I bolted down the middle wall, attached the second rail to it, and then connected the rails to the drawer.

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There we go, one side completed. It was much the same procedure for the right side. Here I am sizing up my last drawer rail.

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We managed to get all of the drawers installed in short order, though I did run into a few complications. The drawer on the right, after it was attached to the rail, was hitting the floor on one corner which is bad. As I mentioned above, the floor isn’t level and I had put in a spacer at the back to make sure there was enough room for the drawer to slide, but apparently it either wasn’t enough, or something moved when we did the final attaching. Anyway, I just took out the screws on the rail, put another spacer in and reattached it. Interestingly enough, the level indicated that the drawer was level when it was touching the floor. Things to keep in mind if you’re ever trying to do this.

Here is Fizgig looking things over and not liking it.

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Another part where I goofed was the bracing walls I had at the back of the drawers. You can see the one in place on the left in the picture below, but the one on the right is still leaning up against the wall. The mistake I made is they were too short. The other rails I had used for the kitchen cupboard were all 13mm (1/2″) thick, but the ones I used for these drawers were 19mm (3/4″). My plan measurements were based off the 13mm rail thickness, so when it came time to put it together, my support walls were short.

Fortunately, it was easy enough to just put another piece of wood in there and screw it all down.

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After all that, it was time to put the top pieces on. Here is the first one.

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And the final frame, with edging and the drawers hanging out so you can see them. There is also a sexy guy in the picture too.

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Not to be outdone, the sexy woman who is a resident here had to try it out as well.

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We put the mattress on it…

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… and then made the bed, which the cats thought was just great.

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You may have noticed that the overhangs from side to side are not the same depth. That is by design. We needed enough space for feet on the left side so I made the overhang bigger there.

We do still need to put the facing pieces on the drawers, along with the handles, but right now, we have a functional bed frame with spacious drawers underneath. We were able to unpack the rest of our clothes and put them in the drawers, clearing up a lot of room on the floor of the closet.

Every project we complete gives us just a tad more organization in our lives. It’s a good feeling to have.

As a bonus, we had a full moon a few nights ago and it had this huge halo around it. I attempted to capture this on camera and was moderately successful.

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Unfortunately, the camera frame was not big enough to get the whole thing in, but I think you can see most of it.