Category Archives: construction

Be careful what you ask for…

Courtesy of The Curator

This is what is running through your contractor’s mind when you are trying to get them to drop their price.

Superman not included

A recent job had me “installing” a phone booth outside a customer’s home. The booth is complete with working pay phone and light. I have not had many requests in the past to get one of these back in working order, but I do like to diversify.

Good things to keep in mind for a future install: A pay phone weighs 55 pounds, so shipping to Alaska is quite hefty; a phone booth, can, with difficulty, be moved by one person with an appliance dolly, but it also slides like a blunt bobsled on the fresh snow.

Possibly one of those only in Interior Alaska moments.

Was that a Monday?

Sometimes you open a can of worms and find a nest of snakes. That’s how my Monday went.

Fresh Air

School bus conversion:

D500 Windows

With the warm temps, and the mosquito hordes, the first thing on my list was to screen the bus windows. I ended up running 24″ charcoal, fiberglass screening down the entire length of windows, even though I suspect I will be eliminating some of the windows. It was just easier. The hard part was finding enough aluminum bar stock in Fairbanks; I hit four suppliers and not one had the exact same item.

Life in The ‘Banks.

Newly screened windows

I had to pre-drill on the bus, as the self-drilling TEK screws made little headway on the 1967 metal. Kudos to Superior Coachworks; that is some solid steel. Unfortunately, there was very little to screw into above the windows, which threw a monkey wrench into my screening. I ended up taking up the space with some ripped cedar, which I could then attach through the rain channel.

New Project

School bus conversion:

1967 Dodge D500
A ’67 Dodge D500 Mobile Home in a swampy hollow

A friend of mine was trying to unload several old school busses last summer before he left the state. This ’67 Dodge was wallowing in the muck, and it took a front end loader to get the beast out. It had been gutted and converted into a mobile home during the early 1990’s. At one point it had a small oil-fired heater, and it came with a propane range.

D500 Interior

This is what the interior of the bus looked like when we pulled it out of the muck. After installing a new starter and a couple of new frost plugs, the bus, with its 413 Hemi ran just fine. It did have a little bit of trouble stopping with several leaking wheel cylinders, but brake fluid is cheap.

D500 New floor

After getting the bus up to some semi-remote property I own and want to build on, I gutted the interior of the bus once again. I did get the new floor down, but the J.O.B. and a very early dumping of snow shut the project down in September.
Now that the road is solid enough to haul materials in, the bus conversion is back on.

One can never have enough projects.

The Walls of Hades

I took on a painting job, even though I was far too busy to justify it, but I wanted the money. I sprayed out the ceiling and walls earlier in the week, and today I applied a coat to the bathrooms and kitchen via brush & roller.

Everything was going great, although the CDC did issue a warning when I pulled out the refrigerator and stove from the wall, but all I could see was the check at the end of the tunnel.

Then I reached the “master” bath. I’m not sure what the originally, invisible, film of toxic waste was on those walls, but it showed itself once the paint was applied. Okay, no big deal, I thought, that’s why they make Kilz Primer. So I started to apply that, and the toxic film ate through the Kilz quicker than a Great White goes through a seal pup. It was mortifying to watch, but I really became torqued when I realized the toxic waste had clung to the Purdy roller cover and I had to throw it away.

What was I thinking? I know better than to use a Purdy on a rental property.

An extremely frustrating turn of events, but it was 4:15pm and all I wanted to do was go home, open a beer and sit behind the Rover’s steering wheel and imagine that I was driving south, leaving the insane, “can you fit us in?”, mania that always hits just before the first autumn snowfall, well behind me.

I may be forced to mask off the tiny bath and spray the walls tomorrow morning, in an attempt to entomb the Blob’s spawn before it oozes out and ruins another perfectly good Purdy.

A New Drive

60 yards of fresh tailings

60 yards of rock later, and the start of a new driveway is in place. The truck time cost me 3X the material cost.

I could use a dump truck.



My rain gauge had .83″ of water in it this morning when I emptied it, and it had at least half as much in it when I returned home this evening. It is still raining, which puts a damper on the job of putting new shingles on a roof.
Luckily, I did get the lid done on the house, and all I have left is to tackle the roof on the garage.

On a sidenote: The front porch had sagged so much in the center, that the rain water spilled over the gutter right there in the middle where the steps are. After removing 20 deck planks, I found that the two 8×8″ porch pillars have nothing but air underneath them. They are both just hanging there in mid air like rough-cut stalactites waiting for the day when they will touch Earth. In fact, other than a couple of oddly placed, and now rotting, railroad ties, there seems to be very little supporting the porch and its very heavy roof at all.
Since I found the waterfall over the steps to be a tad annoying, I jacked up the deck in the center with my Hi-Lift, and like magic, the water now flows through the gutter and… overflows the gutter downstream because the downspout is completely clogged.
Cleaning gutters was not part of the original bid.

I Have to Keep Moving…


“I got to keep movin’, I’ve got to keep movin’, blues fallin’ down like hail, blues fallin’ down like hail
Umm-mm-mm-mm, blues fallin’ down like hail, blues fallin’ down like hail
And the day keeps on worrin’ me, there’s a hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail.”
—Robert Johnson

In what is shaping up to be my busiest summer on record, all I can do is keep moving. I’ve never seen a season shape up like this one, and the calls keep coming in.

I’ve been plumbing for the past two days, which usually puts me in a foul mood. It doesn’t help that plumbers are all sadists, and I’ve come into a situation 40 years after the original install, with the Ghost Plumber chuckling at me from the attic. I replaced a shower valve that was installed through a stud, and I swear that the stud grew around the valve like an oak tree grows around barbed wire.
I’ll be installing tile the next 2-3 days, which may be good for the soul, if a tad hard on the knees. On the plus side, everything has been torn out, so I’m starting from scratch.

I could not find the artist’s name who created the Hound of the Baskervilles above, but kudos to whoever they are.

Clients Can Drive You To…


I ran out of thinset at about 4:15 yesterday afternoon while laying floor tile. The customer had left me a tub, but it was dried out. I debated on running to Depot to pick up another tub since I only had about 10 square feet left. I decided against it because I had a lot of diagnal cuts to make, so I decided to go in and finish it this morning.

I sent the customer a text about another facet of the job for Monday when I was at Depot. He called back and asked how the rest was going.

Client: “Did you tile under the cabinets?”
Me: “No. There isn’t enough tile for that. There is just enough to do the kitchen running up to the cabinets.”
Client: “Did you tile up to the door?”
Me: “The entry door? No. You asked me to tile the kitchen.”
Client: “I was hoping you’d do it like apartment #5.”
Me: “I’ve never been in apartment #5.”
Client: “You haven’t? What were you in?”
Me: “Apartment 1.”
Client: “Apartment 1 isn’t like that at all.”
Me: “No kidding. We don’t have enough tile to do to the door. Where did you buy this stuff?”
Client: “Wow. Let’s see. I think it was on clearance at Lowes for 99 cents a tile.”
Me: “Frack me.”

As it turns out, I got lucky running out of the thinset. I would have finished off the kitchen and been done with it. With the little hallway and entryway getting tile, the diagnal cuts are now unnecessary. Not that it matters, Lowes no longer has the tile.

They call it clearance for a reason.