Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kohler Single-Lever Tub Faucet Repair

After 13 years in my house my tub faucet finally started leaking. Not bad, actually. The tub is in a separate section from the shower and is not used daily so perhaps that explains its leak-free service for more than a decade.

Here's a picture of what the faucet looked like before I replaced it, pictured next to its replacement part, which I found at Lowe's. ["Universal Tub Filler Spout - Chrome" by BrassCraft® Mixet® brand (SWD0447 D, Genuine Mixet Repair Part - Part #50 PK).] Cost was $11.75 + tax.

I thought perhaps this was the only source of the leak. However I still had a leak after replacing this part:

I realized I needed to replace the cartridge. Pictured on the right is the original cartridge next to its replacement part:

After searching at both Lowe's and Home Depot, I finally located the Kohler replacement cartridge at my local Ace Hardware: The Lasco Coralais Single-Lever model number is: S-331-3. The cost was $25 plus tax.

The package for the replacement cartridge offered additional help at the following website: Here are the step-by-step directions that I located for replacing the faulty cartridge:

Faucet Stem Removal

Step 1: Turn off water to house or under the sink you are working on.

Step 2: Using a screwdriver pry up and remove the button from the top of the handle.

Step 3: Remove the screw from the top of the handle.

Step 4: Pull the handle off. (Use 13-2701 Handle puller if necessary)

Shower and wide spread faucets require the removal of the flange at this point of the repair

Step 5: A Using a pair of pliers (use masking tape to protect the finish) unscrew the flange from the faucet stem body this should expose the stem assembly.

Step 6: Using an adjustable wrench or deep socket unscrew the stem bonnet from the faucet body, Or remove the cap nut from the top of the faucet body.

Step 7: Remove the stem or cartridge from the faucet body.

Cartridge Stem Repair

Step 8: Using a pair of pliers pull up to remove the cartridge assembly. (Plastic cartridges should be replaced rather than repaired)

Step 9: Pull cartridge apart by pushing down on the top of the stem.

Step 10: Using a screwdriver pull the o-rings off the stem and bonnet assemblies.

Step 11: Replace all o-rings.

Step 12: Using a pair of pliers remove the seal and spring from the faucet body.

Step 13: replace the spring then the seal. (Apply a small amount of silicon grease)

Step 14: Reinstall the cartridge.

Step 15: Tighten the cap nut over the cartridge.

Reinstall the stem or cartridge into the faucet body. Repeat process for the other stem.

Step 16: Turn on water and check for leaks.

Step 17: Replace handles and screw into stem.

Step 18: Push handle button onto handle.

The view of the area where I removed the faulty cartridge:
Here's the new cartridge ready to be installed:
Installing the cartridge is easy... just make sure the main water valve is turned off.
Be sure to use plumbing tape to make a tight seal before screwing on the next part:

Approximate total repair cost: $37 + tax

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Texas Sage: Extreme Pruning

This Texas Sage shrub has been trimmed regularly into a snowball shape. It was first planted in 1996. It kept getting larger and there was a lot of dead wood in the interior. I decided to trim it way back to see if I could start over. Here is a photo diary of its progress.

May 2006
(approximately 4' high and 4' wide)

May 2006

On September 13, 2008 this Texas Sage shrub was cut way back.

October 22, 2008

November 19, 2008

January 25, 2009

March 1, 2009

October 22, 2009

This Texas Sage plant gets nearly total sun throughout the day. It is on an irrigation drip system and watered regularly. It gets slight shade from the Palo Brea tree nearby. It is common here in the metro Phoenix area (Sonoran Desert).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DTV Transition

I plan to continue not handing money over to the cable company and instead I will make use of the new converter boxes available prior to the DTV transition on February 17, 2009.

Here is a bit of background info from the website:

What is the digital television transition?
At midnight on February 17, 2009, all full-power television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to 100% digital broadcasting. Digital broadcasting promises to provide a clearer picture and more programming options and will free up airwaves for use by emergency responders.

What is the TV Converter Box Coupon Program?
Congress created the TV Converter Box Coupon Program for households wishing to keep using their analog TV sets after February 17, 2009. The Program allows U.S. households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, that can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes.

A TV connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service does not require a TV converter box from this program.
Consumers have a variety of options. Options to explore include:

1. Keep your existing analog TV and purchase a TV converter box. A converter box plugs into your TV and will keep it working after Feb. 17, 2009, or
2. Connect to cable, satellite or other pay service, or
3. Purchase a television with a digital tuner.

Step 1: Request your coupon(s) from the government via These are worth $40 each and have a 90-day expiration date. I recommend that you not wait for the stampede of procrastinators in February 2009.
Step 2: Purchase a converter box for each television in your home. There are many brands to choose from. I chose the Insignia NS-DXA1, which cost me $19.99 each, after using the $40 coupon.For more information, here's a review on the Insignia by Consumer Reports. I was able to view quite a few more channels than before installing the converter box.

Step 3:
Purchase and install an amplified antenna for best reception.

What I did not realize is that I would also need an amplified antenna. The salesperson at Best Buy said I could do without an amplified antenna before February 17, 2009, but after the transition I would most certainly require one to get a picture. I have had good luck on my smaller Sharp 13" television without the help of an amplified antenna, just using rabbit ears. However my larger 27" GE television in another room has been more problematic. It was obvious to me that it required an amplified antenna.

Finding the correct one has been a matter of trial and error. I first purchased a digital flat amplified antenna made by RCA (model #1405B) for $49.99 and got an annoying buzzing sound from the TV that just was not going to work. I returned it. (Note: The Insignia does recommend turning the TV volume to medium and adjusting up or down using the remote for the converter box, rather than the TV remote.)

I purchased this slightly less expensive Philips Indoor UHF/VHF Powered Antenna at Target for $38.49. It seemed to work slightly better than the RCA digital flat model. However it was sensitive to placement and the picture was not perfect, but certainly better than before I hooked up a converter box. HOWEVER, I went to move the antenna and it snapped right off from the "Jetson-looking" triangular base. My initial reaction was that I had not been careful enough with it. When I inspected how it was attached, however, I discovered it was a cheap ol' "made in China" design. I promptly returned it for a full refund.

Currently I am getting a picture and sound that was as good as both amplified antennas with old-fashioned rabbit ears attached to the converter box. For now that will do just fine.

I am beginning to believe the buzzing sound when the volume is higher has more to do with this older TV, therefore I may have to spring for a new LCD or Plasma before mid-February. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bulk Trash Freebies

I love, love, love quarterly bulk trash in the city of Phoenix. Apparently my fellow-Phoenix residents are completely ignorant of the concept of recycling, donating to their favorite charity, etc. Naaaa, its much easier to just chuck it in the landfill. Their ignorance is my bliss... I am talkin' about garbage pickin' bliss! I located four of these concrete pavers that are faux-bricks. Each is 24" square and extremely heavy. Initially I found two. I went back a day later and VOILA there were two more at the same garbage pile.

First step was raking away all the rock ground cover.

I realized that working with such larger pavers involved adding soil to keep the pavers level to one another. I purchased this soil because it was the cheapest option at Lowe's.

Next I distributed the soil and positioned the 24" pavers.

And around the corner... a Quasar 27" color TV with remote (even with batteries!) sitting on the driveway, ready for the landfill. I loaded it in my car and got it home and plugged it in. To my complete delight it worked just fine. The landfill, really????? That "solution" lacks creativity. I am happy to say that I gifted it to a deserving person who will fully enjoy it.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I planted these sunflowers from seeds in March 2008. To my amazement they sprouted and bloomed even here in the Sonoran desert! I guess what they need most is sun and water. There is more than enough sun. I planted seeds in spots where I already had irrigation drips already available. These sunflowers bloomed by early to mid-June. The intense desert heat in June and July caused them to fold over to the ground.

The seed packet was labeled "Mammoth" variety and "annual." Also on the front of the packet were the words "Homegrown birdseed." The birds seem to find enough to snack on in my yard so I suspect they enjoyed these too. If you look close on the first photo you will see the ants were enjoying them as well.

Update March 2009:
Started a new batch... here are what they look when they are just starting...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tree Trimming - Palo Brea

I have a lovely Palo Brea tree... well actually THREE! Here in Phoenix, AZ -- the Sonoran Desert -- we have a monsoon season. It lasts from July through about mid-September. With it comes potentially wild winds, lots of lightening and, if we are lucky in this dry desert, rain.

There is a "good" way to trim a tree and a not-so-good way for the health of the tree. The object of the game is to not let the bark rip. The way I have been going about it is to cut further down the branch than the desired cut in order to alleviate the weight of the branch. That cut results in the bark tearing and ripping away. The second cut is at the desired location, exactly where I want it, flush with the tree, so it heals up properly.

Here are some photos of the first cut. As you can see the bark ripped:

And here is the second cut... much cleaner!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Epoxy Paint Peeling

I had prepared the surface according to the directions, but perhaps not thoroughly enough. Please see my earlier post from December 2007 to see how I did prepare these patio concrete surfaces.

Or maybe it is the or maybe it was the persistent efflorescence rearing its ugly head right through the epoxy paint. The photos you see here are just 6 months after painting the surface.

My next game plan is to look into hiring someone to expand the width of the patio and then add brick to the surface. He plans to power wash the paint, especially around the perimeter of the patio where the brick will be mortared to the concrete to ensure adhesion. The center bricks will be contained by the outer bricks. They will be set with sand, etc. I think that will be a classic good look.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Outdoor Potted Plants - Sonoran Desert

There are two clay Mexican pots that I have had for several years in my backyard here in Phoenix, AZ. One of these pots has had regular watering via an irrigation system. Because of that the clay has deteriorated. I have had better long-term results with more expensive glazed pots. This 22" Vietnamese glazed pot was $44 at Costco, which is where I have found the best deals. These are heavy pots and were not easy to move or transport from the store without help.

The plant pictured here is called Hesper Aloe. I worked on a drop cloth to make clean-up easier. First I removed the existing plant out of the old pot. Then I moved the clay pot out of the way. What remained was an impression in the soil and the rock ground cover (popular in this area). That reminded me to put some bricks or something to elevate the new pot up and away from the ground. Next I threaded the irrigation tubing through the hole in the bottom of the pot. Finally I stepped back to be sure the placement is where I want it and that the pot looked level before filling it up with dirt. I did need additional soil. The garden expert at Lowe's advised using this Kellogg Palm and Cactus mixture. According to the Kellogg Garden website, this soil is scientifically developed to provide all cacti and succulents a proper planning medium. Also it is suitable for indoor and outdoor cacti and other succulents. It is a soil replacement formulated from forest products, which helps retain the proper moisture and nutrient levels. Pumice is added for aerification and sand for drainage. For two 22" potted plants, I ended up needing 2-1/2 one sq. cu. bags, which sold for close to $5 per bag at my local Lowe's. To help fill these pots and create some drainage, I layered in broken pieces of the old clay pot, stones, as well as the soil from the previous potted plant. Otherwise I would have needed to buy quite a few bags.

And the completed new pot with freshly planted hesper aloe:

March 2009 Update:
I found these "brown ceramic footed pots" at my local JoAnn's. They are part of their Home Inspirations Ceramic Pottery Collection. This set came in the following sizes:

A) 21.3 inch diameter x 20.5 inch originally priced at $99.99;
B) 16.9 inch diameter x 16.1 inch originally priced at $69.99;
C) 12.6 inch diameter x 12.6 inch originally priced at $49.99.

I happened to get these pots during one of JoAnn's half price weekend sale so they were a great value. I wanted to raise them up off the ground a bit to be more visible, so I located these pavers at Lowe's. As you can see the irrigation system can be easily threaded between the pavers through the bottom of the pot.