Sunday, November 18, 2012

Home Remodeling Done!

Yeah! No more workmen in my house!
 It's been a busy few months at home here in Chicago.  I decided to finally undertake the big home remodeling project I'd been wanting to do for the past couple of years.  I've lived in this house for 10 years and have never liked the kitchen cabinets & countertop (or floors throughout the 1st floor for that matter).    But I didn't want to spend a fortune on a remodel, though, as I do plan to sell the house in the next year or so to transition to something that will allow me to semi-retire and be more nomadic.

But, of course, once you start planning to remodel one thing, more and more things just seem logical to add to the list!  Soon, my simple kitchen cabinet/counter remodel now included new appliances, new washer/dryer, a remodeled 1/2 bathroom, a new patio door, as well as new flooring and paint throughout the entire 1st floor!

In July, when a freak storm rolled through Chicago and blew down some tree limbs and fence panels, I added some outdoor "remodeling" to the list to repair the storm damage and install some new sod in a number of bare spots in the backyard.

The first month was spent pretty much just shopping and deciding all the colors and details.  By the end of July, I placed my cabinet order with Lowe's and took off for a vacation to Wisconsin and Michigan.

When I arrived back home in late August, the remodel went into high gear with Lowe's "Express" kitchen install.  Chicago is a test market for their new approach-- cabinets are shipped to a warehouse (rather than the client's house), inspected for any defects/missing parts, and then assembled onto wall mock-ups resembling the customer's kitchen.  Once everything fits together just right, the cabinets are partially disassembled and then delivered to the customer on the day of the old kitchen's demolition.  So, rather than a traditional 2-6 week remodel, Lowe's can do it in less than 5 days.  In my case, it only took 2 days!

Here was the dated 1990's "Before" Kitchen:

Mid-way through:

And, the final result!

New pull-out pantry shelves-- yeah!
Old kitchenette enjoying new floors and paint!

Lowe's installed the new sink and faucet, and a few weeks later,
I installed the tile backsplash myself!
Even a great new LG washer & dryer set
to replace the previous 20-yr-old energy inefficient relics

Now, I suppose I should back up a little and explain some further details--

The new appliances arrived a few weeks ahead of time (before finalizing the cabinet order to ensure the new taller/deeper cabinets would fit properly around the new fridge)

When the 2 day Kitchen install was done, I had a functioning kitchen with the new cabinets, countertop, sink and faucet in place, but still had old lighting, floors, and paint (and no tile backsplash yet either).  I also still needed to get the patio door replaced and get the outside projects scheduled.

So, a couple more months of coordinating all the work crews in and out for those jobs!  Whew!

New floors going in (new patio door already installed!)
Entire 1st floor got painted...and I got serenaded by the men singing along with their Mexican radio (they were actually fun guys, and did a great job!)
New powder room vanity, lights, mirror, and fixtures--
installed myself!!!

Millie was not too thrilled with me replacing her wall-to-wall carpet with new slick wood floors, but she very much liked getting the new sod in the backyard!

Now that the 1st floor is finished, I'll be spending the winter starting to work on the 2nd floor (mainly cleaning out closets & downsizing "stuff").

Travels will be limited for the foreseeable future as I'm currently helping a family member with serious health issues, so expect future posts from me to be non-travel related for awhile.  But, I'll very much enjoy (and rely on) reading your travel blogs and "armchair traveling" to lots of warm and sunny snowbird destinations this winter!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Old wo-Man Winter-izing

November has arrived, and I’m still in Chicago so that can only mean one thing….the View must be winterized and taken to the storage lot (No RVs allowed on driveways in our town after Nov. 1st).

After making a few flubs in past seasons, I decided to take pics of the process to share here (and to remind myself next year) of what to do and not do!  Every RV is a little different, so do read your rig’s manual.  But this is the process for me and my H-model View.

After giving the rig a good Fall cleaning inside and out, removing all food from the fridge and pantry, and defrosting the fridge, it’s time to get down to the tanks, water lines and “pink-stuff” business. 

1. Make sure your hot water heater is turned off and water from both hot and cold taps runs “cold”.

2. If your RV has an inline water filter—be sure to remove it BEFORE sending pink stuff thru your lines! (I forgot this step one year and destroyed a $90 filter than was only a couple months old…argh!)


Locate your screw-in filter plug (I keep mine in a drawer next to the sink), turn OFF your water pump, and place a rag or sponge beneath the filter.  Now twist to unscrew the filter from the plumbing and catch the extra drops of water with the sponge/rag.  Screw the filter plug into the fitting where the filter was, turn the water pump back on and ensure there are no water leaks.  Put a cap on the filter and store it in your home fridge until next season (or else throw it out if it’s over a year old).

3. Drain all fresh water from you water lines. 

If you have city water connected to your RV, disconnect it.  If you’re getting water from your fresh water tank, either open your water tank drain valve to let the water pour onto the ground, or else run each of your RV faucets until they run dry.

4. Now it’s time to turn the winterizing valves on (Turn your Water Pump OFF before doing this).

My View came pre-plumbed with a winterizing hose and hot water heater bypass valve, however, Winnebago did not label the valves for my particular model. After getting totally confused the first year when I tried to de-winterize, I since have marked these lines with a black Sharpie pen so I’ll always remember which direction to turn the valves—when the valves are in the same direction as the arrows, one means that the water lines are now bypassing the 6 gallon Hot Water Heater tank, and the other means that the siphon tube (used for sucking “pink stuff” into the View) is now active and ready for “sucking!”


5. Now it’s time to fill your water pipes and drains with the Pink Stuff!



Some folks don’t like using RV Antifreeze and prefer to blow air thru the plumbing lines (by using an air compressor and a special fitting that attaches to the city water connection).  I don’t have an air compressor, and don’t really mind the pink stuff, so use the antifreeze approach instead.

RV antifreeze (“pink stuff”) does take a few dozen gallons of water to flush the weird taste out of the water lines come springtime when you’re de-winterizing, but other than that, it’s safe and easy to use.  If you happen to drink a small amount, it won’t kill you.  But never EVER use automotive (i.e. yellow/green) anti-freeze in your RV water lines—that stuff is indeed toxic and lethal.

Once I open a jug of the pink stuff, I place my siphon hose into the bottom of the jug.

6.  Now I turn the Water Pump ON, and open the hot and cold handles of my first RV faucet just long enough for pink water to come out, then immediately turn the sink off and repeat with the next RV faucet.  You’ll want to ensure enough pink stuff has filled the P-trap in the drain below (takes just a few seconds).


Don’t forget to run some of the less obvious faucets and drains in your RV—for instance, the shower, flushing the toilet, the toilet sprayer, and an outside shower faucet if you have one.


My RV usually takes about 1 1/4 gallons of pink stuff to fully fill the water lines and drains.  So, if you plan to take a trip south during the winter, plan to buy a few extra jugs to have on-hand to re-winterize before you get back home.

7. Now it’s time to address the black/gray tanks.  If they’re both already empty, then a good precaution is to pour the remaining pink stuff from your jug into each tank (via the toilet and the shower drain if you’re not sure which drain uses which tank).  It’s not required to do this, but if you think you might start using the tanks again during the winter (i.e. driving to Florida, for instance), then it might be wise to have a little pink stuff in the tanks to discourage freezing. 

Since I drained my fresh water into these tanks in the steps above, I’ll want to dump my tanks before doing this step.  I could drive to a local RV dump station, but I’ve got a better solution--- dump those few gallons at home with my Flo-Jet portable macerator pump!

I don’t use it that often, but it come in quite handy when I do! Being able to still use the RV toilet and sink on a long drive back home from your last campground is quite a luxury knowing you can dump that small amount once home. (Note that dumping full tanks and/or really black sewage might easily overwhelm your home sewer cleanout drain—and some towns even prohibit it, so this approach is not something I ever rely on as a substitute for using a true RV dump station).

The Flo-Jet comes in it’s own little case and requires a strong 12v power source (just plugging into a 12v socket won’t work, so I keep an extra 12v AGM battery on-hand at home).


The Flo-Jet has 2 garden hose fittings—the small black one on the right disposes the waste, while the larger green one on the left allows you to connect a water hose to back-flush the tanks once they’re dumped (if you wish). A long power cord with large pushbutton is connected to the bottom of the unit.

Once the alligator clips are attached to the battery and connected, it’s time to attach the Flo-Jet to the View’s dump valve. Here, I’ve just got a hose attached to the waste outlet.


The other end of the hose goes into my home’s outside sewer cleanout access drain (making sure the hose is well inside the drain pipe a few feet).

Once back at the View, I open the black tank valve and then press the Flo-Jet’s power button to start “sucking” the tank contents thru the macerator and hose all the way up to the drain.


The Flo-Jet is not speedy, but that’s a good thing (as you certainly don’t want to overload your sewer cleanout drain!). It seems to process about 1 to 1 1/2 gallons per minute. Once the tanks are empty, the sound of the pump changes to a higher-pitched tone to tell you it’s done.

After disconnecting the hose from the Flo-Jet, I bring it over to my house water outlet and run fresh water thru the hose to rinse the sewer pipe and then the hose itself--

8. The final step of my winterizing process is to ensure that the hot water heater tank is empty.  I never seem to be able to get the tank to completely empty when running the faucets in the steps above, so do this step to be fully sure it’s empty. 

My water heater has a white plastic drain plug that’s at a peculiar angle for a crescent wrench to get to.  So, a few years ago, I found this excellent flat wrench that not only works on the 15/16” water heater drain plug, but also the 1” oil drain plug for my Onan Diesel Generator as well.  It also stows easily and makes for a good self-defense “club” if I ever need to fend off an attacker in the night!


The wrench easily gets to the drain plug and the excess water can soon be released.

Once drained, screw the drain plug back in, and you are now done with all water systems!

Some folks have various routines they follow for preparing their rigs for winter storage.  I used to store my T@B trailer out in the country on a grassy lot, so I obsessed with ensuring that field mice would never make my trailer their winter home (ie. using Bounce dryer sheets, etc).  But since I store the View at a paved lot in town, I don’t worry about mice as much.

Now, I mainly want my rig to start when I go to retrieve it!  So, I ensure my coach batteries and rig battery are fully charged and I also fill up on diesel right before I arrive to the storage lot. 

Next, I make sure 2 battery switches are in the right place — 1. activating the Coach Battery cut-off switch (next to the coach door in my H-model) to turn off all 12 volt coach accessories (furnace, lights, pumps, etc) and ensure that these items don’t drain my coach batteries all the way down.   2. Make sure the dash toggle switch that allows the dash radio to be powered by the chassis or house system is turned to “House” (in other words, I want that radio to be fully shut off and have no LED display visible when I turn turn off the coach batteries above.  This will prevent the radio from sucking power from the rig’s starter battery (the “chassis” battery).   There is also a disconnect switch for the chassis battery as well (located next to the gas pedal), but I’ve never needed to use it.  As long as the radio is always just pulling it’s power from the House, and never the Chassis, my rig battery seems to do fine.

One thing I do religiously, though, is to always visit my RV and run the engine and generator once a month when it’s in storage (this allows both rig and coach batteries to recharge a bit, and also moves oil and fuel thru both engines to keep fluids from getting too stale and hard to start.

p.s. Winter is also a great time to take the rig in for service (last year, I saved a full month of storage fees by doing this creative scheduling trick!), and depending on your rig’s size, it might also make an excellent day-trip or Christmas shopping vehicle to let it get some exercise around town during the winter months.

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