Replacing a Door Threshold

Identifying the problem

The door between our garage and house has probably been in place since the house was constructed. However, last year we discovered that the same was not true of the rubber seal between the threshold and the door. It had been glued down to make up for the low clearance between the door and our hardwood flooring and the repeated friction of using the door had taken its toll. So, we removed the seal (it was getting annoying, flapping around every time we use the door and was entirely ineffectual) and proceeded to find a suitable replacement.

During my investigation into the various types of seal available, from simple door sweeps to threshold/door combinations, I found that part of our problem was the old door threshold. It had become worn and the saddle (the part that has an adjustable height on some types of threshold) was no longer adjustable. As I'm a bit of a DIY novice, I consulted a few Internet searches, a book, my dad while he was visiting and our wonderful neighbour (a local contractor). It seemed that the door was pre-hung including the threshold, so the right thing to do was to replace the whole door. Unfortunately, replacing the door is a pricey undertaking, so I decided to try replacing the threshold. In the worst case that I messed it up, I'd just be back to the original option of replacing the door.

Removing the existing threshold

The first thing I had to do was remove the old threshold. To do this, I used a reciprocating saw and cut the threshold down the middle. This was a little more difficult than I had anticipated due to both the uneven structure of the threshold and the hardwood floor in our house, both of which would catch the saw and jar it in my hands. After some trial and error, I was able to slice the threshold almost entirely in half.

Cutting out the old threshold
Cutting out the old threshold
With the cut finished, I used a pry bar to lift the threshold and take out each half. This took some effort, lifting and pushing the threshold repeatedly to shear the remaining uncut portions. In fact, it took much more effort than I thought it would.
Prying out the old threshold
Prying out the old threshold
Halfway through removing the old threshold
Halfway through removing the old threshold
Once the whole threshold was out and I had a chance to look, it became clear exactly why it was so difficult to remove. The threshold had been attached to the door frame on each side by three screws and I had sheared two screws on each side and torn the remaining screw out of the frame.
The door frame, showing where the screws were torn out or sheared off
The door frame, showing where the screws were torn out or sheared off
Where the old threshold was attached to the door frame
Where the old threshold was attached to the door frame
The screws that sheared off or were torn from the door frame when removing the old threshold
The screws that sheared off or were torn from the door frame when removing the old threshold
I'm not sure that I could have avoided this as the door frame was overhanging the threshold, making it impossible for me to use the reciprocating saw to cut the screws. However, it's probably worth knowing should you try this yourself.

Before doing anything else, I cleaned up the edges that adjoined the threshold and swept up any remaining debris. This included getting rid of the flooring adhesive that had been used to seal the gap between the threshold and the floor.

Where the old threshold used to meet the floor
Where the old threshold used to meet the floor

Fitting the new threshold

With the old threshold removed, it was time to prepare the new threshold. I had shopped around and settled on a threshold that was mostly the same as the one I had removed except that it had a wooden saddle rather than a metal one and it was too wide for the door. I measured the width of the door frame (it seemed important) and the new threshold to determine just how much had to be trimmed.

To ensure that the saddle adjustment screws were properly positioned after trimming, I wanted to trim an equal amount from each end of the threshold and to ensure I didn't get the cuts wrong, I measured the two cut points in two ways. First, I measured from each end half the width of what was to be removed and marked it with a pencil, then I added the same amount to the door width and measured that from each end, again marking it with a pencil. Finally, with my trusty hacksaw, I made the cuts as marked.

Trimming the new threshold to fit
Trimming the new threshold to fit
Once cut to size, I placed the threshold against the door frame to check the fit.
Checking the fit of the new threshold
Checking the fit of the new threshold
Although the width was now correct, it was clear that the threshold was not going to just slip into place. After all, I had to cut the old one in half just to pull it out. In addition, the profile of the new threshold was different to that of the old one, which meant adjusting the door frame to fit.
Indicating the new threshold cross-section
Indicating the new threshold cross-section
Indicating where the door frame needs adjusting to fit the new threshold
Indicating where the door frame needs adjusting to fit the new threshold
With several ideas coming to mind that all involved potentially irreversible actions, I was a little stumped on the right way to go so I consulted my awesome neighbour, Tim. He suggested flush-cutting the door frame so that the threshold would slide right in and then screwing the threshold down. He even lent me his flush-cutter to do the job, so after marking the door frame to show where the cut needed to go, I stacked up some things to give a platform for the flush-cutter to rest on. This turned out to be my first practical use of the Borders signs I had obtained when the beloved bookstore folded last year.
Setting the height for the flush cut
Setting the height for the flush cut
Flush cutting the door frame to fit the new threshold
Flush cutting the door frame to fit the new threshold
With both sides of the frame cut and without the right tools to hand (a chisel would've helped here), I used my multipurpose paint-stripping tool to clean up the cut. It turns out that the part of the frame that needed cutting was thicker than expected so the finish was less than perfect, but it would be hidden once the job was done.
Tidying up the flush cut
Tidying up the flush cut
Checking the fit of the threshold in the freshly cut door frame
Checking the fit of the threshold in the freshly cut door frame
To finish up this stage before actually getting the threshold into place, I checked the fit against the newly cut frame by using one of the pieces I had trimmed off.

Installation

With everything trimmed to size, it was time to install the threshold. On the advice of my neighbour, I removed the saddle so that I would be able to screw the threshold down once it was in place. I also marked the saddle and the threshold to ensure there was no frustrations when putting the saddle back on.

Removing the saddle from the new threshold
Removing the saddle from the new threshold
New threshold with the saddle removed
New threshold with the saddle removed
Marking the saddle and threshold to simplify re-assembly
Marking the saddle and threshold to simplify re-assembly
With the saddle removed, I tapped the threshold into place.
Getting the new threshold into place
Getting the new threshold into place
I added a bead of caulk to seal the gap between the inside floor and the threshold and pushed the threshold all the way home.
Making sure the join between new threshold and floor is sealed
Making sure the join between new threshold and floor is sealed
Pushing the new threshold into place
Pushing the new threshold into place
It was now time for power tool number three. I drilled three pilot holes for the screws to fix the threshold in place. I also drilled countersinks to ensure the screws would be flush.
Drilling pilot holes for the screws that will secure the threshold
Drilling pilot holes for the screws that will secure the threshold
Drilling countersink to ensure the screw will be flush against the threshold
Drilling countersink to ensure the screw will be flush against the threshold
Driving the screws to secure the threshold
Driving the screws to secure the threshold
Once all three screws were in and holding the threshold in place, I reattached the saddle and adjusted its height to fit against the bottom of the door (this involved a lot of opening and closing the door).
Reattaching the saddle and adjusting the height
Reattaching the saddle and adjusting the height
The new door threshold in place
The new door threshold in place
Checking that the door closes
Checking that the door closes
To finish everything off, I caulked all of the edges.
Caulking the gaps around the new door threshold
Caulking the gaps around the new door threshold
New threshold in place and caulked
New threshold in place and caulked

Conclusion

I have learned a lot from this, had a lot of fun and saved quite a bit from not having to install a new door. When I started I wasn't entirely convinced it would work out and if I were to do it all again, I certainly might do things a little differently. That said, I am still very happy with the results and more importantly, so is my wife.

Our new desk

IKEAEver since we moved into our house, we've had grand plans for our office (originally, the third bedroom). The plan was to use it as a reading room but that just never panned out. We had painted it when we moved in, then populated it with bookcases from IKEA, which in turn were populated with our books and CDs, but that was about it. Though we had a little tiny desk in there with a computer, all we really did was use the room to store things or hide other things when guests came over.

Given that this space was not really adding value to our lives, this year we decided to make a concerted effort to get the office into a more pleasing state with a view to actually using it as an office. So, we measured things, sketched a plan on the whiteboard in the kitchen and penned a list of tasks, including items to purchase.

Step one was to move some of the bookcases, so I did (though perhaps not at the pace my wife would've preferred). Once the bookcases and their contents were moved to the appropriate location as per our sketch, we were ready for the next step: the new desk. If moving the bookcases had been too slow for the missus then getting a new desk had been going in reverse. However, eventually we decided to head out to IKEA for inspiration and see what we could find.

Before the new desk
Before the new desk

I admit I wasn't expecting to find anything appropriate but after looking at all the desks and tables we could find in IKEA, we settled on the VIKA AMON black desk. We were originally going to get both the drawers and the storage leg, but the drawers only appear to come in white (I don't get why), so a change of plan was required. After examining all the other legs available in the VIKA range and discovering most options were out of stock and not quite what we wanted, we settled on the wooden legs.

The wooden legs
The wooden legs don't quite match our black office furniture

The only problem with the legs was their appearance, but unlike the white drawers, the plain wood made this a reasonably easy fix. The office furniture is black/brown, including the desk top we selected so a quick trip to Home Depot was required to get a matching wood stain. The stain I selected was a Classic Black Minwax Polyshades stain and polyurethane in one with a satin finish. I admit that I mostly guessed at what colour might match the existing IKEA furniture. I also admit that I'm lazy, hence the stain and polyurethane in one.

I forwent the application of conditioner to the wood as I was applying an extremely dark stain to the wood. Over two days, I applied two coats of stain to the legs. In hindsight, three coats may have been better but any thin patches on the legs are not easily noticeable, so they can be our little secret.

Minwax stain and polyurethane
Minwax stain and polyurethane

After two coats, the legs were barely distinguishable from the desk that they were to support.

The stained legs and the desk top
The stained legs and the desk top

With the legs ready, it was time to clear some space in the office. So I dismantled the computer and moved everything out of the way to clear space for the new desk.

Space cleared, ready for the new desk
Space cleared, ready for the new desk

Some quick, effortless assembly later and the desk was all ready to install. The three legs attached to the desk as per the instructions provided with each leg. The remaining support was provided by the free-standing storage unit that we selected for housing our computer.

The desk, assembled and ready
The desk, assembled and ready

Once the desk was in place, it was clear we'd made a good choice as there was just enough room for the lamp in the corner. It was time to reassemble the computer and put it into place.

The finished work space
The finished work space

Proud of my efforts, I grabbed Chrissy to show her my handiwork. She was, of course, quick to point out that we still need to get lampshades and put our lamps on the new desk. Perhaps then, the office will finally be finished1.


  1. Just in time for us to turn it into a nursery? No, this is not an announcement. 

Rewiring awesome lamps

First, let me apologise. There's a good possibility that some of what I write in this post will come across as bad innuendo and euphemisms (there's a bit of poking and screwing). This is or is not intentional, depending on whether you find it funny or are incredibly offended (or both).

Anyway, my wife has a couple of black and green lamps that are, well, words fail me so here's a picture.

Samson and Delilah - the lamps
Samson and Delilah - the lamps

I don't know enough racial stereotypes to know if anyone should be offended by these lamps (Do you? Are you?) due to anything other than their general appearance. They appear to be painted plaster and given that standard lamp fixtures can easily be attached to them, I doubt they're particularly old (even though my wife keeps calling them antiques). However, the wiring in them was getting dangerously frayed so we decided it was time to give them an electrical overhaul (yes, we're keeping them). Especially since we're going to put them on our new desk in the office (seriously, we're keeping them – perhaps after a new coat of paint).

For Samson (my nickname of the dashing gent on the left with the impressive torch protruding from his midsection), we got a replacement cord (with plug attached) and a new lamp fixture to hold the bulb. It was pretty straightforward to remove the old electrical fittings and replace them with these new pieces. However, Delilah (my name for the delightful damsel on the right) was not so straightforward.

To begin, the cord (with plug attached) that we had purchased for Delilah and that was identical in every way to the one successfully used to rewire Samson just didn't fit. No matter how had I tried, there was no way I could persuade the cable to slide up to the top of Delilah's head. So, we headed off to the hardware store and bought some 18-gauge lamp wire and a little, easy to install plug.

Delilah and her bits
Delilah and her bits

The first job was fitting the plug. This little thing really was simple to use. The centre pulled out and the prongs moved apart, making a gap for the wire. Making sure to thread it through the plug case first, I inserted the wire into the prongs. At this point, I learned something new; lamp wire has one side that is ribbed for differentiating live from neutral. Did you know that? I certainly didn't.

Plug ready to be assembled
Plug ready to be assembled

Anyway, following the instructions, I made sure the ribbed side was in the appropriate place and closed the prongs. This pierced the insulation on the wire and ensured the wire and prongs were connected appropriately. I then reassembled the plug pieces.

The plug all assembled and ready
The plug all assembled and ready

Next, I threaded the wire up through Delilah until I had a couple of inches poking out of the top of her head (keep it clean). I then threaded the wire through the lamp crown and screwed that into place.

Crown screwed on and wire threaded through
Crown screwed on and wire threaded through

Before I could attach the wire to the switch, the two strands needed to be separated, stripped, twisted and tied into an underwriter's knot.

Underwriter's knot
Underwriter's knot

I attached the wires to the switch and slid the fixture back together, then I pulled the slack back through Delilah before pressing the fixture firmly into the crown until it clicked into place. The last step was to borrow Samson's light, stick it in Delilah and fire up the power.

Delilah has the power
Delilah has the power

Job done. Just need some tasteful lamp shades now.

Making a Rain Barrel with Project Grow

Outside the workshop
Outside the workshop where we selected our barrel

A couple of weeks ago, my wife, Chrissy and I headed over to the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor, MI to take part in a workshop on building your own rain barrel. The workshop was organised by Project Grow – a private, non-profit organization supporting community gardening in the Ann Arbor area – in partnership with Maxi Container, Inc. – a local, family-owned and operated Detroit-based company.

The cost for participation in the workshop covered all the pieces in the rain barrel kit, including the barrel, brass fittings, and caulk as well as a donation towards the Leslie Science and Nature Center. The barrels used in the workshop were food-grade, having originated overseas filled with pickles, olives and other tasty morsels. Unlike their darker cousins, which are used to store solvents and other nasty chemicals, these food-safe, terracotta-colored containers are perfect for storing water that ultimately waters gardens. Their re-appropriation as rain barrels is one of several recycling kits provided by Maxi Container, which also include composters and drum stoves.

Josh Rubin tells us where the barrels came from
Josh Rubin tells us where the barrels came from

The workshop was introduced by Lucas DiGia, the Vice President of Project Grow who then handed over to Josh Rubin, the Creative Director of Maxi Container, Inc. and grandson of its founder, Max Rubin.

The back of the faucet with caulk applied
The back of the faucet with caulk applied

Josh started out with a demonstration of how to make the rain barrel, ably assisted by Lucas. Each rain barrel had been pre-drilled to provide a hole for the rain to get in at the top and another for it to get out again at the bottom. The first step was to fit a faucet in that lower hole. Caulk was applied around the back of the brass fixture where it would meet the barrel, then the faucet was inserted (with the application of a little brute force).

At this point, it was time for power tools. Even though the barrels had been pre-drilled with two holes, another hole was required for the overflow. This step had been left for us to do because its placement had to be chosen with an idea of where the rain barrel would ultimately be used. With Lucas steadying the barrel, Josh carefully drilled the third hole. The overflow fixture (suitable for attachment of any regular garden hose) was screwed into place using a wrench.

The mesh over the inlet
The mesh over the inlet

The final touch for the rain barrel was to affix a mesh over the inlet hole. This mesh not only prevents debris from entering the rain barrel but it also provides a base over which to scatter pebbles. The pebbles discourage mosquitoes from using the rain barrels for their offspring, avoiding the need for mosquito tablets to be added to the barrel.

And that was that. With Josh's demonstration over, the workshop participants were directed to complete their own rain barrels, with appropriate over sight and assistance from Josh, Lucas and the Project Grow volunteers. Chrissy and I managed to get our rain barrel completed quite quickly, barring a few arguments over who got to use the power tools. It's now sitting in the garage waiting for a sturdy base to be built for it to stand on – a full water barrel of this size will weigh over 300lbs!

Chrissy supervises while I fix the mesh in place
Chrissy supervises while I fix the mesh in place

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. This is in no small part due to the efforts of Project Grow and Maxi Container, Inc. I would encourage others to attend the next workshop Project Grow is considering for later in the year. If you can't make a workshop, check out the kit on Maxi Container's website. Finally, you can check out more pictures from the workshop over at Project Grow's page on Facebook.

Chrissy grinning over our new rain barrel
Chrissy grinning over our new rain barrel

Humble beginnings

I saw friends do it, I saw professionals do it and I wondered, "Why don't I do it?"

Ever since I started taking part in Stack Overflow, I have been frustrated to find that sometimes, there is so much more to write than just a question, an answer or an occasional witty comment (or perhaps, more correctly, occasionally witty). Things the likes of Jon Skeet, Eric Lippert, Jeff Atwood and many other Stack Overflow participants blog about all the time, things born from hours and days spent making mistakes solving problems at home or at work, things NSFF (Not Suitable For Facebook – I like my friends just enough not to geek out in front of them like that).

But wait, there's more1

Not only did I have blog envy, but this year I started attending the Ann Arbor .NET Developers group meetings. Through AADND, not only have I met some fascinating people, but I have also learned about some fascinating things. From the .NET Micro Framework to the Windows Workflow Foundation (did you know version 4 was a complete rewrite? me neither), my mind was awash with ideas, projects and procrastination and while I tinkered with and tweeted about these things, deep down, I harboured a desire to do more and to say more. I could not contain it any longer, so here we are.

I intend to blog about anything and everything from my songwriting and recording to my DIY disasters improvisations, but mostly, I expect I will blog about programming. I hope that I'll provide some useful insight or perhaps just useful instruction so others don't have to repeat my mistakes, but most importantly, I hope that I'll learn a few things along the way.

So far in life I've been a software engineer, a strawberry picker, an ostrich farmer, a barman, a sarcastic git, a singer, a runner, a cook, an ex-pat and a gamer (sometimes several at once). I'm often amazed at the things I don't know and I'm always somewhat abstract. I saw friends do it, I saw professionals do it and I wondered, "Why don't I do it?" So I did.

Thanks for stopping by.

1it would be a short blog if there weren't