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May 2010
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Bathroom Fan Upgrade

Bathrooms are the wettest rooms in your house. You installed those new fixtures, cabinets, lights, floors and tiles. You probably didn’t think about the fan. Proper ventilation of your bathroom will go a long way toward keeping down mold, mildew and other moisture related problems from shorting the life of your bathroom and its fixtures.

Fans come in a wide range of sizes and performances. The two most important are the CFM, (Cubic Feet per Minute) and noise level rated in Sones. The Home Ventilation Institute[1] (who knew) recommends a minimum of 8 air changes per hour. A lot of older bathrooms are 5×8 to about 8×10. Calculation of size is width x depth x height divided by 7.5 to get you a minimum CFM rating. There is a quick table here[2].
A 5×8 bath would need a 40-45 CFM fan. A 8×10 bath would need a 85-90 CFM fan.

Sone[3] Ratings are a little different. 4.0 Sones is the sound of your TV. 1.0 Sone is the sound of your refrigerator. The smaller the Sone Value the Higher the cost.

A real good indicator of needing an upgrade is having to wipe down the mirror when you are done with your bath or shower.

Now that you are on the upgrade path, the other important part of the ventilation equation is a timer. Just because the water is off doesn’t mean the moisture is gone. Remember wiping the mirror?
Here are two products that I installed recently. A 140CFM Fan and a Timer.
This is a Broan Elite Series Fan. About 140 bucks. It has a 2.0 Sone rating making it one of the quietest fans available. Bought at Lowes. Quiet costs money.

This is a great fan but it is much larger than that small fan you will be replacing. More on that later. One of the other nice features beyound the three year warranty is the fact that the motor unit is available separately, so if you ever need to replace it, you will not have to crawl in the attic again. Also included in the kit are some black plastic spacer blocks if your joists happen to be “I” joists. The one thing that is not mentioned any where in the instructions is the size of the unit. You will have to measure it, befor cutting your rough opening.
This is a Pass and Seymour Decora style 7 button timer. Around 30 bucks. It allows times between 1 minute to 1 hour. Personally I recommend setting it at 1 hour, turning it on before you start your shower/bath and let it run after you are finished.

The cool thing about this switch is once you decide on a time, you only have to turn it on, until you change the time. Very cool. The only odd thing is the led’s are lit when it is off and go off when it is running.

Okay now that you have the fan and timer, it is remodeling time. Here is a short list.

Location of breaker to shut off power.
Always a good idea when working with electricity.
Access to the old fan and vent.
Most fans have tabs outside the box that mount them to the side of the ceiling joists so you will need to crawl around in the attic. You will also need to disconnect the romex from the fan as well as disconnect the vent pipe.
If you are lucky you can reuse the romex connector. If not, put one on your list. Fans don’t come with them.
Screws to mount the fan(nails will work themselves loose)
4” metal vent pipe and elbow(s)
Metal tape to seal the joints.
Caulk to seal the perimeter of the fan opening.
Keyhole saw to cut new opening.
Save the piece to cover the old hole.
Drywall mesh tape and mud of you are moving the fan.
Dab of paint to make your repair invisible.

Moving on to project planning.

While you are up there, check to see if you can just enlarge the existing opening, if not and you need a new hole, you need to see if you have enough romex to move the opening for the new fan, or a place to run new cable if you are moving it a long distance. In most cases the fan wire is a switch leg from the old switch. If you are moving it a long distance you will need to be able to run the new cable.
You will also need to get a rough measurement for the vent pipe to join the fan to the roof vent. 4” steel pipe is recommended. The fan has a 6” option but it is extremely rare to see a 6” vent in a house. Don’t forget a bit of metal joint tape to seal all your joints. We want to eliminate the moisture and or mold problem, and not move it into your attic.

Here is a recent installation.

I have removed the old fan and vent pipe which was the wrong size. I made a mark on the ceiling to see if I could the existing opening. You can see that it is a larger fan.

No such luck. The fan is too close to allow a vent pipe. Plus there are some other challenges above. I have enough romex for a new location, but because of the existing romex I can only go so far.

Measure and cut your new opening, saving the scrap to fill in the old hole.
Here is the new opening. because of the vent outlet of the new fan I am attaching it to the next joist over. This gives me a straight run to the roof vent with only one elbow.

Here is the new fan mounted. Notice the flanges on the bottom of the new fan. You will need to measure the overall width and length and add a little bit to allow you to get the fan in the hole and mount it properly. Having the original hole allowed me to measure and assemble the vent pipe, attach and seal the joints (remember the metal tape on the list above?) from the bathroom rather than crawling in the attic which in this area is only about 14” high.

Fan in place and hole patched with scrap from new opening. See that there is a gap on the side from making the opening large enough to install the fan. This will be filled with a piece of mesh tape and drywall mud. At this point we caulk the perimeter of the opening to eliminate air leaks around the fan body.

Here is ceiling mudded with fan grille in place checking that we have covered the gap.

Here is our finished project.

[1]Home Ventilating Institute
[2]Sizing a Bath Fan
[3]Sones: the Psychoacoustic explanation

Before & After 2010: One Project Closer

It is that time of year again. The folks at One Project Closer are having their annual Before and After Contest. Winning includes Gift Cards to Lowes, Home Depot, or Amazon. Plus they make a donation of $100 to Habitat for Humanity in your honor!
There are weekly winners and at the end of the contest you can vote for the best project who will get an additional $150.00 Gift Card!

This is a great way to strut your stuff. Details Here

Water Heater Hose Failure - WATT Stainless Steel Hose

Water leaks in your house are one of the most damaging and messy things to happen to any homeowner. Loose water sucks on so many levels. Mildew, Mold, Dry Rot, Stains, Drywall, Flooring, base board damage….you get the idea. There are two areas where flexible hoses are used. The laundry room for your washer and your water heater. The Natural Handyman has a good posting on Laundry hoses which applies to Water Heater hoses as well.
It makes sense in both locations as both your washer and water heater have limited life spans and at some point will need replacement. Both manufacturers are in the business of moving product and not making your life easier. Probably the best illustration of this is washer commercials. They talk about features, capacity, colors, etc. None of them talk about longevity or only needing one.

One of the more important connections in your plumbing supply are the connections at your water heater. There are two. The cold water supply into the water heater, and the hot water outlet for your house. This is most often accomplished with a flexible hose.
This is a photo of a pair of WATT Stainless Steel Hoses. They both failed in less than 4 years.

These were purchased at Lowes, and are still stocked. Probably available at the orange store too.
They looks like a braided stainless high pressure hose such as found in heavy construction equipment for the flexible hydraulic fluid which is under many times the pressure of a domestic water supply. This is not the case here. This is a demonstration of sizzle over steak.
These look like a heavy duty product. They are not. They are crap and should not be used under any circumstances.

Both of these hoses failed at the same point. Crappy manufacture in any case. I do not have high water pressure nor any other cause that would say it is not the manufactures fault. Both lines failed. Hot and Cold side.

They failed less than 6 months apart. I should have replaced them both at the same time, but there were other concerns like sucking up all that damn water and drying out the utility room. The other one failed the day before yesterday and has been replaced. I talked with my plumber so that I would not have to pencil in this chore anytime soon. Here are the new lines.

These are one piece Falcon Stainless Steel Corrugated lines. They are what my plumber uses for all installs and retrofits so he doesn’t have to return to replace them. My Plumber is very good. Good enough for me. These are more expensive like everything else but are worth it.
Here is the tag if you decide you want to do this yourself.

These are made by Falcon Stainless Inc. You will probaby need to find a commercial hardware or plumbing supply store for these. Highly Recommended!
Here is what the kit looks like.
Borrowed from the Falcon Stainless Inc. site.
Did I mention the LIFETIME warranty?
This is one of those deals where you want to replace both at the same time.

Glidden Gripper Primer

Painting is the most common finishing technique for your home. It is either validation of all your efforts or your worst nightmare highlighting areas that were not done properly.

One of the most important steps in painting is using primer. Primer performs  important functions. It seals the surface,  blocks stains,  and it covers very small imperfections depending upon application. The larger ones can be caught and fixed before you start painting that expensive color paint you bought. Because it seals the surface, the coverage of that expensive paint will come close to what it says on the can, and you may need only one good coat.

The photo on the left is Glidden Interior/Exterior Gripper Primer Sealer. I was turned on to this by the paint guy at the orange store while buying BEHR Premium exterior paint. This is the only primer you will ever need. This is a full bodied, solid color primer with incredible gap filling and coverage.  This is one of those products that make me want to paint more stuff, and painting is not on the top of my list of things to do.

I experimented with primer/paint products and they just don’t get the job done. Most notable was the complete coverage of the inked  mill marks on the lumber for the Fascia and Outdoor  Table projects. Also the gap filling on weathered wood.

Here is your 411 heads up. Quality finishes require quality prep work. If you want stunning results in painting you will need to primer. Get over it. Painting is one of the things that you cannot get an ‘app’ for. So you might as well use the products that will give you the best results. Gripper is the primer I recommend. It is really that good.

P.S. Try not to get it on you. It sticks really well and is harder than hell to get  off your skin.