The Misconfigured Switch

I love reading technical post mortems from big-name organisations or experts in their respective fields. If you’re interested in reading some, here’s a list. They’re fantastic insights into some very complex and highly technical issues.

I investigated an odd issue recently involving a misconfigured switch which caused some very abnormal symptoms. I don’t think this qualifies as a legit post mortem article as I don’t have the niche expertise in any particular field to produce one, neither do I have in-depth knowledge of the network within which the issue occurred, but it’s about as close as I’ll be able to get to one at this time.

Here’s what happened.

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The Fireplace: Part 4

The fireplace is now dry, and we’ve had the chimney cleaned.

As the fireplace was drying it produced some cool patterns. You can see where the plaster is thickest by how it dried.

This pic was taken before the plastering work was complete
Drying
Almost dry

As for getting the chimney swept, it was over very quickly. I expected it to take several hours but it ended up being done within one hour. Messy, dirty work though. Lots of old, black soot and other detrius came tumbling out.

Now that the dirty work is complete we just need to get on with painting and get the stove installed. Not long now!

Sealing a door

So we’ve got a leak.

Occasionally we’ll notice that the floor by the front door is wet. We are currently living on a concrete floor at the moment as we decorate and prepare to install new flooring. Yes, it is cold. Anyway, it’s good that we’ve been hesitant with finding the right kind of laminate/LVT. If we’d rushed into fitting a floor we would have likely needed to rip some of it up to deal with this issue. The only problem is that I can’t identify where the water is coming from.

Originally I was suspicious that the leak was coming from the door itself, running down the front and getting in under the seal between the door and the frame within which the door sits. I have checked the seal and although it isn’t in the best condition it does seem like it would do the job.

We have a somewhat protected porch area where the door is set in slightly, and up a step. Unfortunately the guttering isn’t fitted properly so water does drip out from between two sections, then hits the floor which results in the water splashing up against the walls and the door itself.

Green = Corner section       Red = Leaky bit

I managed to pull the straight section to the right of the green box in the above image across just enough to clip into the corner section (green box in above image) and seal it with some Roof & Gutter Sealant (red box.) It looked like it was going to hold, so I had hoped this would stop the splashing, which would in turn stop or at the very least lessen the leak.

Whilst this has indeed fixed the gutter leak and improved the situation significantly, we’re still finding water coming in when the wind blows it in just the right (wrong?) direction.

So, what next? Well, the step up to our front door was clearly laid by an imbecile. It slopes towards the door, meaning whenever it rains we get a puddle of water sat literally on our door step. Ideally you want the water to flow away from your property, not toward it.

This concerned me, so now I am worrying that the water is coming in under the actual frame of the door (rather than under the door but above the frame) and have sealed up the entire front, plus some of the brickwork that looked a bit suspicious.

You can see the grey sealant along the wall and across the bottom of the door frame.

I sealed this a little while ago but only just took the pic. If it weren’t for the horrible weather it’d be much cleaner out there, promise!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that stopped anything, so I changed tack. I placed a large sheet of paper up against the base of the door frame and the wall, but under the door itself and not on the floor, to try and isolate exactly where the water is coming in.

After the next batch of rainfall I could see the concrete under the door was wet, but the paper was dry. Looks to me like it’s coming in from under the doorframe itself. This is an issue for sure as I have sealed the entire of the externally facing door frame at this point. There must be a crack somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t find it.

I may need to get an expert in to have a look. I hate problems I can’t fix. This is one of those unknown unknown times – I don’t really know what to look for, or where to look. If we get someone experienced in I’ll watch them figure it out and potentially fix the problem in moments. Once I’ve seen it done, I’m pretty sure I’d be able to replicate the fault finding process for this particular issue. Bit too late by then, though, eh?

Google Night Sight

A short while ago Google released an update to their Camera app which adds in their Night Sight feature. It is essentially a low-light camera. It takes several photos in quick succession and combines and enhances the batch to produce one image.

I’ve recently been playing with it and it is surprisingly good! Check out some of these nighttime pictures, taken during a long late night walk with nothing but a fairly bright moon sometimes hidden behind the clouds using a Pixel XL.

I want to say those spots are stars but I’m pretty sure it’s an artifact. Possibly from the building at the bottom of the image
Night time sheep!
The moon behind some clouds
A car driving towards me in the distance

The only issue is the blurryness. Due to the nature of how the feature works it can only really be used on a still subject. Any movement within the frame or of the camera itself will make for a blurry image. Some of the images above probably suffer from this. Still, can’t complain! I like the feature a lot.

Davis update

I use the “Davis” theme on this site. It’s minimal and plain and has a built in dark-mode, which I’ve set as the default – my preference to be honest, eventually I’ll add a theme changer like on the old site. It does everything I need it to so far! I will eventually extend it but for now everything I need is there.

An update recently came out for it (1.13 >1.14) which changed a few things. The header in the banner across the top changed, as well as the headers used in posts. They’re now more standardised and “correct” according to the HTML spec, which is great. Unfortunately I decided to update the theme before realising these changes were implemented and it messed up a couple of my custom CSS rules.

I think I’ve fixed the issues now, but it goes to show that even on something as simple and minor as this blog, you should test your changes in dev before pushing them to production!

Council Tax Reduction

In the UK we have a Council Tax. This is used to pay for local services and other manintenance, including things like law enforcement, cleaning of public spaces, disposal of waste and so on.

Each residence, with some exemptions, in England and Scotland is placed into one of eight bands (A through H – Wales has nine bands) which determines the rate you pay per year. It’s generally an effective way of measuring wealth and taxing on it, though it does have its problems.

One issue we encountered here was that we believed we were in a band that was higher than it should be. One odd component of the Council Tax is that the band you are placed in is determined by the value of your property in 1991. There are several issues with this, the most obvious being the fact that a significant number of properties were not even built in 1991 (or 1993 when the Council Tax came in) so calculating these can be tricky, though there are established ways of doing so.

Our house was built before 1991, however there were no sales of the property in or around that time, which makes determining the band quite difficult. At some point, likely 1993, the local council placed our property in a similar band as properties near us. Unfortunately, those properties are worth much more than our own. Some are larger, and some are similarly sized (though many have been extended) however they all have more land than ours.

We decided to try our luck after reading through the relevant MoneySavingExpert page and what do you know, we’ve had our band lowered, saving us over £300 a year!

Initially they were hesitant. They advised us that the band wouldn’t change unless we could point at a very similar property in the same area with a lower band, or provide a quoted price for the property that was generated in 1991 (which is impossible for most people to do!)

Though there are similarly sized properties nearby, there are none that are configured in the same way as our own (single storey bungalow) however there are some similar properties a bit further afield that are clearly in a lower band.

Luckily for us, this was good enough after appealing and resulted in us being placed in a lower band.

As someone who wants to achieve FIRE, lowering monthly outgoing is a critical step towards bringing this future even closer. Being able to permenantly reduce one of our larger bills is a great feeling and I would urge everyone to check their band. It doesn’t take long and you may end up saving a large wad of cash every month! Your local council is not going to lower it for you, so it’s worth putting the effort in sooner rather than later.

One bonus to doing this, if for some reason you need to be convinced to save money for the rest of your time at your current home, is that your local council should refund you the extra you have been paying since you moved in (or since 1993 if you have lived there for that long.)

We’ve only been here a year so is likely to only be around £300 or so, but if we had been living here for a few of decades it could be many tens of thousands. For us, it’s a nice little unexpected bonus. Hopefully it’ll arrive soon, we’ve got a lot of expensive renovations to be getting on with and that will certainly help.

The Cat

What a klutz.

The Fireplace: Part 3

The plastering work is complete!

I never realised plaster could be so smooth

We’ve got some kind of cement mix on the inside to protect against the immense amount of heat that the wood burning stove will release, with plaster around the chimney breast itself.

From the image it looks very rough, but the plaster is super smooth. It feels like glass. I was concerned about paint adhering to such a smooth surface but I have been reassured that with a 50/50 paint/water mix cloud-sprayed on, or a couple of layers of PVA/water, the paint will stick to it fine.

The next step for the chimeny is to get our chimney swept – we need to get this done before we do any further decorating really as it’s probably going to be incredibly messy.

Also, I spoke to the plasterer about our popcorn ceiling and he has offered to skim it for us. Painting it will be absolute hell if we don’t get rid of it so he’s done some of the prep work already and will return in a couple of weeks to finish the job. Good stuff!

The Fireplace: Part 2

I have another new toy.

Destroyer of worlds, boxed. Other brands are available.

Previously, we had our fireplace opened up with the goal of getting a wood burning stove installed.

We need to get the chimney breast plastered, which we can do now, but if we want to A) save the coving, and B) save the plasterer some time and effort, we will need to remove the old material that has been plastered all over it.

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The Fireplace

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted a log burning stove. One of the (many) reasons we picked this place to live in was because of the relative ease of installing one at some point in the future.

We’ve taken our first steps towards that now!

When we moved in, every room was stained yellow with nicotine. There was some serious discolouration going on, and we have had to literally rip out everything but the walls themselves to get rid of the smell. One of the dirtiest rooms (but not the dirtiest – the winner of that award goes to the third bedroom) was the livingroom.

When we first arrived and after getting most of our stuff in, I took panoramic photos of each room. I knew that we would eventually look back on them to see just how far we’ve come, give us an idea as to how much progress we have made. Unfortunately we’re not quite at that stage just yet, but with the work on the fireplace we’re one step closer!

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