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Latest DIY project: Fireplace/Chimney removal for a nicer living room

Every year, my wife and I try to tackle one or two large projects to improve our house and make it a more functional space for our growing family. This year, we decided to remove a giant brick chimney/fireplace that took up 30 square ft. of floor space both in the basement and on the main floor. With the regained space, we installed a TV/media center on the wall that had the fireplace, and arranged the room to have more seating so we could do more family activities in the room.

Here's a picture of what the room looked like with an old brick fireplace (it was wood-burning, but had been converted to gas logs prior to our purchase of the home):

Fireplace and brick chimney DIY removal picture - before

Winterizing your irrigation system with a Febco 765-1 Backflow preventer

I found out recently that my new home's irrigation system was installed in the mid-eighties, and it seems most parts (the pex pipes for laterals, the 1" PVC for the run to the valves for four zones, and the backflow preventer itself) were well-built for that time.

Not much has changed—the fittings and main parts of the system are similar to what you can buy today—and the importance of winterizing the system (getting the water out of all the exterior parts) in colder climates has not been diminished!

I have a small 8 gallon 125-psi Central Pneumatic (inexpensive Harbor Freight brand) air compressor; it's not quite pancake-small, but it's no CFM (cubic feet per minute) champion, either. Rather than paying an irrigation company a bit of money to come out and use their monster compressor to blow out my system, I've MacGuyvered the process to get everything cleared out for the past few years. I want to document what I did here for two reasons: one, so I can remember all the steps in the future and avoid a half hour walking between my basement and the outdoor valves, and two, so others in a similar situation can benefit.

Tips and Tools for New Homeowners

Note: many of my suggestions are linked to products I recommend from Amazon.com—using these links when you purchase one of them helps me keep this article and site fresh!

In the past few years, I've moved three times; from a dorm room to a two-bedroom apartment, from that apartment to a two-bedroom condo, and from that condo to a house. I'm not claiming to be a moving expert, but the moves have gone very well every time.

Garage full of stuff
It's nice to know that pretty much everything we own fits in a two-car garage (for now!).

The physical move itself is a very small part of migrating to a new place—it's the weeks of work getting 'settled in' afterwards that can make a move a nightmare, or a great experience. The tips, tricks, and tools I recommend below are things that have really helped me make the days and weeks following the move be a great experience.