Hey Dad, There’s water all over the backyard…

“Hey Dad, there’s water all over the  backyard…” was the Saturday morning greeting from my daughter two weekends ago.  “Who left the faucet on” was my reply.  “No, the water is coming from inside the house”  was her rebuttal.

So began a fun filled day.

The pipe leading to the outside faucet broke just inside the house.  Fortunately is was just behind the spigot, so most of the water shot out of the house and didn’t end up in the basement.

The one joy to this repair was getting to it.  The pipes for the spigot are under the kitchen.  To get there I had to go into the crawl space, wiggle through a small opening to a smaller crawl space.  I had to crawl on my belly and lay on my back to do the work.  This picture was taken of me wiggling through the small opening.

Replaced the Sidewalk

Over the past years the trees have been spreading their roots under the driveway and the sidewalks.  Recently the sidewalks have gotten lifted at odd angles.  The portion of the sidewalk over the driveway has started to rock as the cars are driven over it.  Basically the time has come to rip out some of the sidewalks, remove the roots and re-pour new concrete.

Originally I was insisting that we need to hire a contractor to come in and do  the job.  There was a total of 50′ of sidewalk that needed to be replaced.  I think I was actually starting to win over my wife with the contractor until my very good buddy Mark made the comment “What are you thinking? We could do it in a weekend…”  In that instant all my hopes of avoiding a very labor intensive job vanished.

We decided to tackle this project over the weekend of May 12th and 13th.   The tear out of the old sidewalk to a full day for the two of us to complete.  I rented a 70lb electric jackhammer and had a 10 yard dumpster to help with the tear out and removal.  After 5 hours of the jackhammer, my wrists and arms were basically completely numb.

The cement truck was pretty cool. The truck actually mixes the sand, rock, mortar and water on the job site. The normal trucks have the cement mixed at a plant and then there is a rush to get the cement to the job site and off loaded before it begins to cook.  With the 50′ of sidewalk I had calculated I would need 2 yards of concrete.  I ended up using 2.5 yards.  Part of the driveway was thicker than the expected 4 inches.  With the truck mixing the concrete on site, it was no issue at all for the extra material.  Also cleanup was a breeze.  The truck just needed to clean out the auger and chutes.

Now that the project is completed and feeling has returned to my limbs, I’m glad the work is done.  The sidewalk looks great.  This past weekend I had 2 trucks deliver 7 yards of mulch and 5 yards of topsoil.  Both trucks drove over the sidewalk with no issues at all. Whew!


Reprogramming the Comcast Remote

Universal Remotes

Comcast swapped out my cable box to resolve an intermittent problem that has been occurring the past few weeks.  They gave us a Cisco/Scientific Atlanta box.  The universal remote that came with the cable box was platinum colored. The universal remotes that came with the old box were silver colored.

I wanted the old remote to work with the new box so I have a fair chance of finding a remote in the house when I wanted to watch the TV.  It was easy to find instructions to program the remote to work with the TV and Stereo.  It was a bit more difficult to find out how to change the cable box.  The key was to unlock the remote.  After the remote was unlocked it was just a matter of finding the right 5-digit code.

I also wanted to change the default mode for volume control.  The remote uses the TV for the default volume control.  To change it I had to first perform a global volume unlock and then lock the default volume control to the right device.  In this case I wanted my stereo that was programmed under the Aux button to control the volume.

I’ve documented the steps and codes below to hopefully help someone else with a similar issue as well as document the steps for my future use.


To unlock / lock the remote:

  1. Press cable button
  2. Hold the Setup button until the cable button blinks twice
  3. Press 982
  4. The cable button will blink 4 times if unlocked.
  5. The cable button will blink 2 times if the remote locked.


To Program the Silver Remote to work with Cisco RNG cable Box:

  1. After unlocking the remote
  2. Press the cable button
  3. Hold the setup button until it blinks twice
  4. Enter a 5 digit code
  5. cable button will blink twice if the code is valid
  6. cable button will blink one long blink if the code is not valid
  7. Press the power button to test the code entered


Codes for the Silver Remote & Cisco RNG Cable Box:

  • 01877
  • 00877
  • 00477
  • 00008
  • 00237
  • 01982  <- This one worked for me


 Global Volume Unlock

  1. Hold Setup until the mode light blinks twice
  2. Press 993
  3. Press Vol+
  4. The mode light will blink 4 times confirming unlock


Restoring Global Volume Lock

  1. Press the mode that you want the global volume lock enabled on
  2. Hold the setup button until the mode light blinks twice
  3. Press 993
  4. Press the mode key
  5. The mode key will blink twice confirming global lock enabled

Rebuilt the Stairs

On Good Friday I decided to start the rebuilding of the stairs in the house.  The old stairs were made of popular / pine and were stained black.  When we moved into the house, I had the carpet guys just cover them when the carpet was being installed in the family room.  I knew I was going to rebuild the stairs at some point.  After 17 years in the house, the time had come to tackle the project.  We wanted to tear up the carpet in the family room and put down a hardwood floor.  In doing that, The stairs really needed to be replaced first, so the new hardwood floor could be set up against them.

The photo above is  taken from the garage looking into the family room.  For two weeks Cathy kept referencing the hole that I put into the house.  Usually with these projects I take more photos, but for whatever reason with this project I didn’t.  I tried to find a photo of the old stairs so I could show everyone how ugly there were, but alas no such photo exists.

I made the new stairs from solid red oak.  The stringers, risers, treads and all the wedges are made from red oak.  After doing some research on the best method to build them, I decided to route the stringers so the treads and risers are recessed into the stringers.  I spent the better part of a day creating my templates for routing the stringers.  Here is a photo of one of the oak stringers.  I had just routed only the treads in the board.  Right next to the oak stringer I have my pine practice board.

It took me two days to route out both stringers!  I ended up destroying 5 router bits in the process.  I also ended up destroying a stringer and had to spend $100 to fix my mistake.  With the wrecked stringer, as I laid out the treads, I mistakenly allowed a 1/16″ of an inch error to creep into the layout for each tread.  By the time I had the 14 treads routed, I was off a full inch at the bottom.  Each stringer is 5/4″ thick by 10″ wide and 16 feet long.  The treads are also 5/4″ thick.  The risers are 3/4″ thick.

With the stringers routed out, the treads and risers are held tightly in by a wood wedge.  The wood wedges account for the slight variations in wood thickness.  Even though all the treads are 5/4″ thick, by the time they are planed and sanded, there can be 1/32″ difference in the thickness of the treads.  That difference would allow a gap to occur and cause the stairs to squeak.  The preferred method uses the wedges to tighten the treads and risers and allow no gaps to occur.

Overall I spent 8 days building the new stairs.  That includes fixing & painting the sheetrock and putting on 3 coats of urethane.

The new stairs are so much more solid than the old ones.  Plus they look great.

Now I have to lay the hardwood floor in the family room.