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Pressure Reducing Valve; Choosing Grass Seed - Recap

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Rich Trethewey visits a homeowner whose sink shows his problem: when he turns it on, it leaks everywhere. His water pressure is too high, and that's a hazard to valves and appliances not designed for extreme pressure. He also gets water hammer – the banging noise made by reflected pressure waves. And he has had outdoor hoses blown completely apart by the pressure!

Rich's first stop is the basement where he examines the main input. He identifies the water shutoff, the electrical ground and the water meter before finding a place to connect a pressure gauge. Most homes want about 50psi of pressure. Rich discovers that this home's service runs about 118 psi – over twice the right value. To correct the problem, he proposes installing a pressure reducing valve.

Rich uses a cutaway version of the device to explain. An adjustment screw sets the tension on a spring that controls a diaphragm so that it opens and closes as needed to keep the pressure at the desired level. Once he installs it, he'll use a pressure gauge to calibrate it to the correct setting. Rich assembles the valve with a pair of pressure gauges that monitor supply and corrected pressures. With that assembly complete, he uses it to mark where he'll cut the supply pipe, then shuts off the water and drains the section of pipe where he'll work. With a pipe cutter, he removes the marked segment, then removes the gauges and the pressure reducing valve O-rings. This preventive measure prevents heat damage to these sensitive parts. A little cleaning and some flux, and Rich is ready to fit his assembly in place. Rich solders these connections by heating the fitting (not the pipe) with the inner flame of a torch, and then touching solder to the point where the fitting meets the pipe. When the fitting is at the correct temperature, the solder melts and capillary action naturally draws it into the space between the fitting and the pipe (a very thin area called he solder cup). It fills that space to create a water-tight seal. Rich wipes the flux while the pipe is warm (it is much harder to remove if allowed to cool), and when the pipe cools, he reinstalls the pressure gauges on each side of the reducing valve and the O-rings, then tightens everything and turns the water on. Checking the gauges, Rich notes the original 118 psi on the city side, and 50 psi on the house side – just what he wants to see. He shows the homeowner how to use the adjusting screw should that prove necessary. Another plumbing repair completed!

Back in the loft, Roger answers letters from folks all over the country who need help selecting the right sort of grass for their lawn. He brings in an expert: turf specialist Mary Owen. She explains that most problems fall into one of two broad categories: people trying to grow the wrong grass for their region, and people not maintaining their lawn properly. In the north, one must grow cold season grasses and in south, warm season grasses. In the transition area either variety does well. She recommends avoiding creeping bentgrass, which must be mown every day or it becomes a kind of grassy turret. Except on golf courses, this grass is usually a weed. She also recommends against annual ryegrass, which grows very quickly but only lasts one year. Roger notes that he has used this variety only when he has needed a quick growing grass for erosion control. Excellent choices include Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, which mix well together. Ryegrass is a bit tougher, and stands up to kids playing. Tall fescue is another excellent choice for such “abused” lawns, and is a grass that does well in the southern parts of the northern region and in the transition region. Her final recommendation is fescues: fine fescure and creeping red fescue (a good choice for shady areas).

For the southern zone, she recommends lawns consisting of single varieties, such as St. Augustine grass, a vigorous grass that tolerates heat and humidity. It generates stolons, long stem-like projections from the plant that form nodes where additional plants grown. Such structures readily infiltrate planting beds, requiring frequent edging. Bermuda grass works well in direct sunlight. It has thinner blades.

For strong turf, Mary recommends deep and infrequent watering. Deep watering encourages deep, strong roots. A spade or a soil sampler can reveal the depth of the root zone and the depth to which water penetrates in a given amount of time, enabling the homeowner to calculate how long to water the lawn. Roger's rule of thumb is one inch of water per week, and he recommnds a rain gauge to check that. Mary adds that the homeowner should then check to see how deeply that watering penetrates, and adjust accordingly.

“What Is It?” presents a plastic unit with six discs that connects to a source of pressurized air. Rich believes it may be a flat panel speaker designed to go with flat panel televisions. Roger fits quart sized cans of paint on the device; he believes it is a “kinder” way to mix paint that “caresses” the paint cans! Tom explains that it's really a kind of “hovercraft.” When he turns on the air, it can move something as heavy as Rich easily!

Tom visits a homeowner who, inspired by the show, has installed a nice pass-through connecting his kitchen to his living room. He next tried tackling crown molding, but when he reached the last section, on a forty-five degree angle, it so frustrated him that he decided to Ask This Old House. Tom understands the problem: the corners might not meet at precisely a ninety degree angle, which means the angles of the molding for the corner cabinet are difficult to determine. Tom also notes that this homeowner worked from the outside, in. Tom proposes removing this crown molding and working from the inside, out.

Working carefully, Tom removes the existing crown molding with the idea of reusing it. Then he addresses the corner cabinet, which most folks believe is set at forty five degrees, which makes the molding cuts predictable. Trouble is, this is rarely actually the case. To find the actual angle, Tom holds one board against the corner cabinet and the other against its neighbor, carefully marking where the boards meet. By drawing a line from the corner of the board to this mark, Tom creates a properly bisected angle for setting his saw. Drawing the line, he then lines up the saw's laser aiming marker and makes the cut. He holds the boards back up to the cabinets and sees a nice, tight miter, confirming that he has set his saw correctly. But on the other corner, the angle is slightly different, so Tom gets two more boards and repeats the same technique. Measuring from inside corner to inside corner, he determines the length. With the length and each angle, he has everything he needs to cut the first piece of molding. Considering the bed of the saw as the ceiling and the fence as the cabinet, Tom puts the molding in upside down and holds it tightly in place before making his cut. He measures across the back and the bottom to get the correct length, then uses his other block to set the right hand miter.

With that piece in place, he cuts a matching piece for the neighbor cabinet. That piece also needs a forty five degree miter to turn a ninety degree corner, so Tom shows how to properly mark two pieces of molding for that miter. Tom discovers with a square that the corner of the cabinet isn't quite ninety degrees, so he lays a gauge block along one edge and another such block over it, and draws lines where the blocks meet. Connecting these lines on opposite edges of the block gives him the bisected angle. Once again, he tests his work by cutting the gauge blocks and laying them on the cabinet to verify he has a good miter. He does, so he uses that setting to cut the miter.

To install it, Tom first prepares the inside miter with a bead of glue. Then he tacks the first piece in place, puts a little glue on the mating surface, and uses some more pin nails to secure it. Using versions of this technique, he finishes the whole job.

Back in the loft, Tom explains how to use coping to achieve nice results, but says that this angle was too large to work with the coping technique. To cope a ninety degree joint, one cuts one piece flat, and the other at a forty five degree angle, and then uses a coping saw to follow that angle around. Such a cut will work for small variations in angle. Following Tom's tips, do-it-yourselfers with just a little patience can produce high quality results.

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