Archive for September, 2013

the Solar Cell

It would be tough to call today’s job a project.  It took about 10 minutes to fix and an $8 usd part from the hardware store.

Here is the problem!  It’s the middle of the day and the carriage lights on both side of my garage are still on.  Their both on an automatic solar cell that is supposed to turn them off in the morning and back on at night.  But it’s obviously not working.


Here is the box panel located on the south side of the house.  If you have a similar system, look on the southern side of your home first. That is likely where the builder would have located the box (at least in the United States).

Notice the size of the opening on the end.  It’s not larger than about 1/4 inch (3 or 4mm).  The replacement I purchased is about twice that size in order to let more light on to the solar cell.IMG_1308

It’s a simple procedure to replace the solar cell.  Take a screw driver and remove the top and bottom screws.  Inside you will find the back of the solar cell with three wires: red, black and white.


After TURNING OFF THE POWER at your circuit breaker box, simply unscrew the red wire from black (loaded) wire and attached the red wire from your new cell.  Do the same for the white and black leads.

The old cell should be held on with a screwed on ring with a foam piece of the weather-stripping between the ring and panel cover.  This should unscrew by hand if it’s to tight, you could use a pair of pliers.   In the picture below, I have removed the old cell and replaced with the new larger cell.  The plastic locking ring and weather-stripping are shown before installation.


Here is the new cell installed and the panel cover replaced.  You can clearly see the larger opening.  I’ll wait for nightfall to see if everything is working OK. (oh, and don’t forget to turn the power back on).



the Deck 2013, part 3

With the a major section of the deck completed and having the railed section finished, it’s now on to the expansion of the screened in porch.  I wanted to do something a bit different with this part of the project.  I had first planned to just extend the roof line of the existing porch with a “roof” made of screen rather than the standard shingles most often used in Midwestern porch construction,  But as I’ve written in the past, sometimes ideas just seem to present themselves.  And as a result of having dinner under a restaurant’s pergola one evening, I decided that a pergola roof would look much nicer, be easier to build even being a bit more expensive.

We started with the floor joists.  In the picture below note that the joists are doubled up and have upside down joist hangers attaching them to the ledger board (on the left).  Due to the fact that my support beam in this section was just 44 inches from the ledger board, standard building code would have limited my  cantilever past the support beam to just 11 inches.   So I retained a certified professional engineer to design the construction method in this area.  The upside down hangers are designed to prevent up lift forces from the longer cantilever.


Before the center porch roof supports on the outside wall can be removed, the roof structure would need to be re-enforced.  I did this by “simply” installing additional header supports.  Added were two 2×6’s above the existing ones and an additional 2×12 outboard of the existing headers.  In the picture below, you can see the installed 2×12 below the 2×8 cedar board.

photo 2

With the decking installed and roof re-enforced, it was time to start the porch framing expansion.  I am using the same cedar posts that were used in the existing porch.  I planned for only the corner posts to be attached to the main deck construction.  I did this by cutting a hole in the deck to match the size of a section cut from the bottom of the post.  Once inserted into this pocket the bottom of the post would be screwed to the main deck structure.

photo66Each of the two corners were installed in this manner and then the outside posts were tied back to the porch with horizontal beams.  The top beams were attached to the vertical posts using a simple but yet strong lap joint.  They were screwed together using 6 inch construction screws using impact driver drill.

photo 1 Once the outside posts and top beams were installed, I simply filled in the other vertical posts screwing them to the top beam and bottom deck.  The horizontal members are 2×4.  All of this section is constructed from rough cedar which will be later stained.  The next step was to install the pergola roofing members with pre cut ends and installed to the top beams with 3 inch deck screws.

photo 81At this point I was ready to install the screens using the tried and true method of staples to be later covered by 1×4 batten boards.

inside view of the bigger porch space.

photo 51

View from the outside of the finished expansion (other than the planned wrapping of the lower section of the deck in matching cedar)

photo 883In the end, the porch expansion turned out better than I expected.  With the completely different roof lines, I decided rather than paint the cedar gray to match the existing porch, I would stain it to give this new area its own character and style.