September 15, 2013

Home Improvement - Entryway Edition

 Inspired by Falcon Ridge (and our annual quest for both rain and sun protection), I envisioned a square canvas panel to be used as a shade on the porch, tied to the railing. Did not find that available (I am sure I could have one made) but I did find some screening / shading material made by Coolaroo.   It's basically a roll of woven PVC material (6' x 15') for not a lot of bucks ($35 on Amazon) - they also make sails, window shades, etc.

My first trial used the Coolaroo "butterfly clips" (little plastic clamps with holes for cording) which was effective but a little trash looking (the fabric stretched). So I went and bought some thin wooden strips (1/2" x 1") and made a light frame, to which I wrapped and stapled the fabric. 

And, voila. 

Took on a few ascetic projects over the past few weeks, might as well document 'em.

First, I replaced an aging front porch lamp. I tend to have it on nightly from dusk to midnight (it's on a timer) to enable me to find my way inside as well as give the "one resident with a busy life" condo a bit more of a lived in feel.

But over the summer, I noticed that it was pretty bright on the side of the building next door (apartments) and when the wind was blowing and the flag was flapping, was probably kind of annoying to the residents. Not that I have any particular fondness for the folks next door. And the neighbor most affected tends to smoke out the window and leave a hug pile of ugly cigarette butts that do not get cleaned up in seasons when the grass is not being tended to. So replacing the light "for the neighbors" was a good exercise in "metta".

I picked up a "dark skies" model at Lowe's that directs the light downward - and set out for a quick swap out. But home repair rarely goes as planned. here's the box, as found. You may notice: 
  • Interior box used outside
  • Roofing nails used to affix the box (and as a ground stud)
  • Aluminum nails + copper wire + moisture = corrosion 
  • No insulation on wiring
  • No waterproofing or gasketing
  • Clear indication of insects living in there

So first step was to completely replace the box. I ended up with a proper external box, mounted it with anchor bolts, and caulked up both the wireway hole and the back of the box. Then I used gasket material (and caulk, being an engineer, I like both a belt and suspenders) to seal the fixture. Here's the result:

Bonus points, the same CFL bulb, directed downward, is a lot brighter and aestheticially pleasing than with the old fixture. And the light / shadow cast on the building next door is a lot less instrusive.

I doubt they will even notice, but I feel better about myself and my impact on the world.  
My second project involved shading the front porch. My condo is kind of quirky, four units, one building, and the entrance to the two end units are on the side of the building. So my "front door" actually faces the apartment building next door, to the west. So the afternoon sun can get pretty annoying (heat and brightness) in the living room through the screen door, and since I choose not to open the first floor windows (for security) there's not a lot of air. In addition, the folks in the apartment next door can look right in with the door open. 

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