Bill, Tessa, and Reuben discuss projects they’re working on at their own houses. Reuben talks about buckthorn removal and a point-of-use water heater, Bill discusses his canned ham, and Tessa talks about remodeling a condo.
Note: Reuben used the Minnesota-made Root Talon for buckthorn with less than a 1″ diameter. This is an excellent tool that has no moving parts. For larger buckthorn, the cut ends were brushed with glyphosate, aka Roundup.
The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Bill Oelrich: Welcome everybody. You’re listening to Structure Talk. I’m Bill Oelrich, happy to be here today with Reuben Saltzman, and Tessa Murry. And on today’s program we’re gonna not talk about home maintenance and things that you have to do that’s really work kind of stuff. We’re just gonna spend a little time talking about some fun projects that we’re all working on around our houses.
BO: Reuben, I think you’ve got some things going on in your backyard that you are pretty excited to share.
Reuben Saltzman: Oh, always. [laughter] No, my latest project, my neighbor convinced me… I’d met a new neighbor, he was like, “Yeah, all these stuff in your backyard that’s all buckthorn, you gotta get rid of it. It’s an invasive species.”
Tessa Murry: Yeah.
RS: You should get rid of it. I helped the previous owner take care of a bunch of it, but now it’s back.” I’m like, “Alright, let’s do it.
BO: It always comes back. Buckthorn never goes away.
RS: Well, I’ve started reading about it. I don’t know what division of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of something or another, maybe forestry or something, they’ve got tons of information on their website, probably more than any other state, any other resource, there’s a lot there.
TM: Is it DNR?
RS: That probably is it. Yeah, DNR. That’s got to be it. And they talk about how to get rid of it, and they said it’s like a multi-year commitment if you’re gonna get rid of this stuff. It grows like wildfire and it is just, it’s painful. They say buckthorn, because there are thorns, you get all these little thorns, they leave slivers in your body. But whatever, I spent a couple of weekends tearing all that stuff out, cutting… And I’ll tell you what, greatest, just delighted with this tool. I’ve got a reciprocating saw, it’s a Sawzall, it’s a branded Sawzall, everybody knows what a Sawzall is. They’ve got this new blade, I think Diablo makes this blade, and it’s a pruning blade for your Sawzall.
TM: Oh my gosh, that is brilliant.
RS: It is. I’ve used my Sawzall to cut branches and…
BO: You guys are such nerds.
RS: Stuff like that so many times, but finally they have a blade made just for this, and it eats through the stuff. It’s got like, the teeth are quarter-inch teeth. They’re huge. So I made swift work of all the buckthorn. I had a pile so ridiculous, it was like 20 feet high, 20 feet wide. I might be exaggerating it a little bit.
RS: I mean, it was unbelievably large. And I ended up burning it…
RS: I burned the whole thing. Yes. I had to do it within the confines of my three-foot fire pit that’s…
TM: It took you all weekend to burn that [laughter]
RS: It took about three hours.
RS: And I had people saying, “You can’t burn live wood like that,” but I beg to differ.
RS: I don’t know. They’re saying, “It’s not gonna burn well,” but you get it hot enough it’ll burn. And it turns out you’re not supposed to get rid of wood that way. I read the rules after I had already done it, so I’m not advocating this, but it worked.
TM: Is this from the city of…
RS: City of Maple Grove.
TM: Maple Grove that said you can’t burn wood?
RS: That what it says on their rule. You can’t burn brush and all that to dispose of it.
BO: In true man fashion, asks for forgiveness not permission.
RS: It’s one of my favorite phrases.
TM: Yeah, yeah.
RS: That’s one of my projects, I got a lot going on, but I don’t wanna… That wasn’t even a fun one, that was just a pain in the butt.
BO: Yeah, I was gonna say that didn’t sound like a lot of fun.
RS: I got more fun stuff going on but…
BO: Alright, Tess, are you doing anything fun?
TM: I don’t know if I would define it as fun. It’s kind of mandatory. So as you guys know, Jay and I, we bought our condo two years ago. Built in the 1980s and it had not been touched. It was still original everything, original carpet, doors, bathrooms, all of that. So we came in and we decided we were gonna completely update the whole thing. So, I hope my neighbors aren’t listening to this because we didn’t… [laughter] in true man fashion, Bill, we did not ask for permission, we just went ahead and ripped out the kitchen, put in all new cabinets, all new appliances, temporary countertops, which it took us two years, but we finally have our island countertop now.
BO: It’s plywood?
TM: It’s not plywood anymore.
BO: Okay, good.
TM: It is, well, it was like a fake Butcher Block or a cheap Butcher Block. Now we actually have a quartz countertop. It’s beautiful, it’s white with a little bit of gray veining in it, very pretty. And we still are going to, we’re gonna choose a different color countertop for the rest of the kitchen. So that’s still just a cheap laminate that’s floating around, so don’t lean on it too hard ’cause it’ll move.
BO: How’s the relationship?
TM: Yeah, yeah, so [laughter] you know what that comes down to… I was gonna talk about our bathroom. And so being in a condo, it’s difficult to… We don’t have the workspace to set up all of our tools and stuff. Luckily, our condo has two porches. Reuben, you’ve been to it.
RS: Oh yeah.
TM: So we’ve got these porches that have sliding glass doors between the dining room and living room onto this porch. It’s fully enclosed, and then there’s more French doors on the outside of the porch. It’s actually a, potentially a really nice space to kinda hang out, when it’s nice weather you can open up the doors. But that has been converted into our workspace. So Jay has all of his tools set up in the porch off of our dining room and kitchen area. So when you walk in our living room, you see all the tools set up out there, the table saw, the Chop saw, everything. It’s a complete disaster. But that’s where we…
RS: But your kitchen turned out beautiful.
TM: Oh, thank you.
RS: I’ve been there, I saw it when it was done.
TM: It’s not quite done yet. But yeah, that’s where all the magic happens. And then we still have the bathroom to finish, the master bathroom, and we’ve got some trim pieces that’ll probably never be installed. [laughter]
BO: So who’s the designer and who’s the fabricator?
TM: I’m the designer, Jay is the fabricator.
BO: Oh, and…
TM: Yeah. We’ve tried to both work on these projects together and it’s so frustrating, we don’t work well together on projects. And so… He wants to do things his way. And then I’ll come in and I’ll be like, “Well, you should do it this way, that’d be easier.” And then he gets really angry and then we both end up getting mad at each other, so I just… You know what, I let him do it his way. [laughter] It seems to be much better.
RS: On that topic, my wife and I got a new home and we did a lot of stuff before moving in. When I say new, I mean new to us, and one of the things was the flooring and my wife was like, “No, we’re doing it ourselves. I’m doing it.” And she did. She tore out all of the old flooring.
RS: Put down new flooring, it was this LVT, Luxury Vinyl Tile, they call it.
TM: Mmm, yes.
RS: It seems like an oxymoron. Luxury vinyl.
TM: Luxury Vinyl, I know what you’re talking about, though.
RS: But whatever, that’s what it’s called. And she’s putting all this stuff in and it’s a lot of work and she knocked it out, and it’s gorgeous.
RS: And I helped her with a little bit of it. But I remember one day, I had stopped by on my lunch break or something, to see how it was going. It’s my wife, and my dad’s over there, he’s doing other stuff, they’re both over there working, and I was like “Oh Anna… ” I gotta point out the one little one that’s crooked or something.
TM: Oh no.
RS: It was like the greatest sin, I was like, “This didn’t go together right”. I don’t remember what she said…
TM: I’m sorry Anna.
RS: But I’m sure it wasn’t fit to be repeated.
RS: It was loud and I was like, “Yeah Okay, I think I’m done”…
TM: You know what?
RS: And I just left. I’m like “alright bye”.
TM: That’s hilarious. Jay’s gonna hate me for telling this story but don’t worry, he probably won’t listen to this podcast anyway, let’s be real. He also decided to do our flooring in our condo, and it was all carpet, throughout the whole thing except for the front entry and we decided to rip that out and just do a laminate, like a wood. And for any of you guys that know him, he’s pretty particular about things and even I would say to the extreme, maybe a little OCD. And he and I were starting to work on laying out the floor. And we got about halfway across the main living space, and he was looking at it and he’s like, “You know, I don’t like the way that this last piece of wood is gonna fall against the wall.” He’s like, “I don’t wanna have a tiny little strip of wood”. He’s like, “I wanna do a full plank.” He’s like, “That’s gonna drive me nuts. I can’t just look at a little strip of wood the whole time”.
So, and I was like, “It doesn’t matter, no one’s gonna look at it. I’ll put the baseboard on, not a big deal, it’s fine.” He’s like, “No, that’ll just drive me nuts knowing it’s there.” He’s like, “I’m gonna rip it all out and start over again.” And I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me. So two days later [laughter], he’s gotten to that point and he’s got a couple of pieces left until he gets to the wall. He’s done the whole house and he looks, and somehow he’s miscalculated it, and he’s [laughter] ended up with a tiny little strip of wood. [laughter]
RS: No… [laughter]
TM: Yes! And I knew better. So Reuben when you walked in, you pointed that out to Anna, I’m sure it just lit her fire. I walked in and I saw that and I just turned around and walked right back out the other way because [laughter] he was so upset. He couldn’t sleep for two nights and he was seriously debating about ripping it out and doing again. I said, “No, you just have to leave it.”
BO: Just don’t look at your floor. Just don’t look at your floor.
TM: Right, right.
BO: My wife and I have got our own little project that we’re working on. She has assigned me to finish the basement and I’m not gonna talk about that because that’s not what’s interesting. But we’ve been on the search for, let’s just call it the canned ham. So for any of you who know anything about old vintage RV campers, you all know that they’re like the hottest thing right now. You cannot find one of these things, and if you find one, you better be on a spot to buy it.
And it was a Friday, maybe five, six weeks ago, I was working at the computer and something popped up on Facebook, my wife’s Facebook feed was open, and there was a camper just popped up. And it was a 1968 Forester, and we call them canned hams. They’re tiny little things. It’s, the body is 12 feet long, the overall length is 14 feet long. And I was like, “Wow, that looks great”. So immediately, I hit the guy with a message through Facebook and I… I’m like, “Hey I want this camper, what do I have to do?” And he had no idea what he had. He put this thing up for sale, and within 25 minutes, he probably had 50 people tell him they wanna buy it. So I immediately cleared my schedule, I told the guy, “I’m on my way, I’m gonna pick it up.” It was an hour-and-a-half out. [chuckle] I immediately got in my truck and, first I had to clear it with my daughter, I’m like, “Mina, what do you think? Is this good? Do you think Momma’d like this?”
TM: You had not discussed this at all, before this popped up on Facebook? You hadn’t even…
BO: Well, we had been looking…
TM: Oh okay.
BO: And it was just, every time we’d find one, it’d be gone, and it was just constant disappointment. So I’m like, I have to act. And I got in my truck, and I’m like, “Mina, you need to monitor Facebook”, because it was my wife’s Facebook, “And let me know if anything’s happening.” And then she calls me and he’s like, “The guy wants to know if you’re really coming to get this, because some lady wants to buy it instead.” And I said, “Yes! I’m coming to get it. Tell him, I’ve got the chequebook, I’m on my way”, and she sends me back a note. She goes, “He says he wants cash.” I’m like, “Fine, tell him I’m gonna be five minutes late ’cause I gotta stop at the bank and get cash.”. I roared up to Saint Cloud, pulled in this guy’s driveway. It was beautiful. It was perfect.
BO: It was this cozy little thing, called a Forester and I got husband points coming out everywhere…
Bells and whistles going off. Oh my God, this thing is so cute, but we’re gonna have to tear this thing down and rebuild it. ‘Cause that’s what the cool folks are doing. They’re not just leaving it, they’re restoring these things.
RS: I’ve got a guy in my small group at my church where he’s shown me pictures, he’s got the thing taken down to the frame. He’s sandblasting the frame, Bill.
RS: I’m like, “You’re nuts. And now you’re telling me this.”
BO: No. There’s a true following going on about these things.
TM: Yeah, it’s trending… It’s trending.
RS: Okay, Wow.
BO: This thing is ultimately gonna end up way up north, sitting on Rainy Lake. And it’s gonna be the honeymoon spot, or whatever you wanna call it. But this is the new project.
BO: But now I’m like YouTubeing on how to fix the roof. ‘Cause there’s a leak in the roof clearly, there’s some damage on the wood, some rot, kind of along the sides.
TM: Flex Seal.
RS: Flex Seal.
BO: No, no, no, no.
RS: That’ll fix everything, Bill, right?
BO: So there’s some guy on YouTube. If you’re into this stuff, you’d get kick out of it. He’s just ripping on people, like if you see caulk on one of these things, they’re just ignorant people, they don’t know how to fix it ’cause there’s a true method to fixing this stuff, and all the parts and all the pieces are all available, but it just takes time and effort. And so that’s what we’re working on. The cozy little thing, sleeps three people.
RS: That’s awesome.
RS: You got pictures?
TM: Canned ham.
BO: I do but it’s not gonna help anybody who’s hearing this story, but what I’m telling you is…
RS: I’ll put them on our post, I’ll put them online.
BO: Yeah, well, okay, you can put it on the podcast link, but…
RS: Yeah. I will…
BO: Yeah, it’s super cute…
TM: I’m excited to see it.
BO: Even the carpet… The carpet is in all 1970. It’s like…
TM: You’re getting rid of that, right?
TM: Ooh, keeping the 1970’s shag?
BO: So when we were talking about your house. I was thinking, “Do houses have more value if they actually have the original vintage charm when they were built?”
TM: It depends on what vintage.
RS: It depends on what we’re talking about.
RS: Hardwood floors? Yes.
RS: Shag carpet?
TM: No. Sorry, Bill.
BO: You have to have a shag.
TM: No. Built-ins? Yes. Vinyl flooring that’s peeling up? No.
BO: I don’t have any vinyl flooring in here, but it’s super cool. They’re cute as a button, and they pull like nothing. You could literally put a fat tire bike in front of this thing and pedal off with it.
TM: Are you designing the inside or is your wife?
BO: No. We’re just redo what was there.
TM: Oh, okay.
BO: ‘Cause you can’t design it.
TM: Oh, okay.
BO: You gotta maintain true form here, otherwise, you just get some crazy, crazy looking thing. And those are all over the place, and people are still buying those, but they’re gonna tear those down and then rebuild ’em the way they’re supposed to.
RS: Are you running an electrical through here?
BO: Yes. And guess what? Guess what I found in my 1968 Camper?
RS: I have no idea.
TM: Aluminum wiring.
BO: Yes! Aluminum wiring.
RS: Good call.
BO: Yes. It came with aluminum wiring. And I’m debating if I should replace that for the four or six times a year that it’s actually gonna get used.
RS: Yeah. Good question.
BO: It’s pristine. I think this thing has been plugged into an outlet, maybe 20 times its whole life.
RS: Oh, that’s pretty cool.
TM: We’ll talk about aluminum wiring on another podcast.
RS: That’s gotta be an episode. Yeah.
BO: Okay so you guys all know, I don’t think there’re many things that would prevent somebody from buying a house. It’s just a matter of who’s gonna pay for that fix, but that’s the one thing. I would never consider a house…
TM: Oh, aluminum wiring.
BO: With aluminum wiring. Even with the fixes, I would want it gone.
BO: Yeah. We digress.
TM: Another podcast.
BO: Yes. Reuben, you already went through the buckthorn story, but I think he’s got something more interesting for us.
RS: Yeah. The buckthorn, that sucks. Nobody ever wants to do that, that’s not fun but I do have a really fun project. Maybe it wasn’t fun, but it’s… I’m delighted with it. Let’s put it that way. I’ve been in this house for about a year now. One of the most annoying things was the kitchen sink. It must have 10,000 feet of piping in this home. ‘Cause you turn on the hot water at the kitchen faucet, and I timed it, it took like a minute and 20 seconds to get hot water.
TM: No. That’s what you get for buying a big house.
RS: It was just ridiculous. It’s not even a big house.
RS: I think they ran the pipe in a big loop around the perimeter of the home and then came into the middle, and then criss-cross and then went to the kitchen.
TM: That’s annoying.
RS: It’s not a long run, but it took forever to get hot water. And I had the same thing in my last house, and I fixed it by running a water line directly from the top of the water heater straight to the kitchen faucet. ‘Cause I had an unfinished basement and I used a 3/8 inch line. Now I’ll warn you, that doesn’t meet code. The minimum size supply line, supply pipe is a half-inch. I went smaller than what’s allowed ’cause it was a straight shot. It didn’t affect water flow at all, and it had reduced my hot water wait time down to about 10 seconds, it was fantastic. So I was kind of spoiled with my 10-second wait. But I get into this new house, I got a finished basement, I can’t do that. So I ended up buying a point-of-use water heater. It’s like a little 2-gallon jobbie. I think it cost me about 120 bucks. I got it at Home Depot, I think I had to order it online. They didn’t have it in stock, they don’t sell them in the store. But it’s a little water heater. It’s got a 120-volt plug. It just plugs into an outlet and it has water supply connections at the top. It’s not traditional piping. It’s just like the supply connector that you have for your faucet.
So that’s all it is. And I said, “Anna”, I said to my wife, “I want you to time me. I want you to see how fast this is gonna go.” ‘Cause I’m looking at it, I’m like, This couldn’t be an easier project. I kid you not. It was less than five minutes. Start to finish, to install this point-of-use water heater. I mean, I just, I plugged it in, I disconnected the water line from the pipe coming up out of the floor, connected it to the water heater, connected another one to my faucet, done. That’s all there was to it. And of course, the T&P discharge too. I put a little tube on the side of it. Yeah.
TM: Okay. Nice.
RS: I did that. That’s it. So now I turn on my faucet, and I have hot water in about a third of a second. It’s the greatest thing in the world. Every day I go to wash my hands, my life is good.
BO: It’s a great country we live in.
RS: It is.
BO: Instantaneous hot water.
TM: Right. Right.
RS: Yeah, yeah. I’m more thrilled with that than anything. The novelty, I’ve had this in there for about four months now and the novelty still hasn’t worn off.
RS: I’m still delighted every time I turn it on and it’s instantly hot.
TM: How about your showers? Do you have to wait a couple of minutes for those to heat up? The water?
RS: My wife and I don’t share a bathroom anymore. We just decided it’s better if she gets her own.
TM: Yeah. It makes things easier if you have your own.
RS: Yeah. And so I’ve got the bathroom in the basement.
RS: And it’s right next to the water heater. So I don’t know how the other ones operate.
TM: No complaints.
RS: I’m not sure.
RS: Yeah. Wouldn’t know.
TM: That’s funny.
TM: Well, so our condo has two bathrooms and two bedrooms and we completely re-did the main bathroom kinda off the main hallway area. So that one is… It’s finished, we can use that, but the master bathroom has been gutted for almost two years which killed me. It kills me. It kills me. So yes, I’m looking forward to having a finished bathroom. We’re getting close. We have everything tiled now. We kind of changed the configuration around, made the shower a little bit bigger. Jay’s building a vanity for the sink. Yeah, it’s coming along. But we decided to hire out the tile installation.
TM: And I’m really glad.
BO: Good call.
TM: Yeah, I’m really glad we did that ’cause knowing Jay’s perfectionism and my lack of tiling experience, I knew that wouldn’t turn out good. And we’ve all seen houses that have bad tile jobs. So, I don’t know how Jay got these people but it was a Serbian guy and his son who came and tiled our bathroom, and very heavy accent but great guys, and very skilled at what they did. And they tiled the entire shower surround from floor to ceiling and the entire floor of our bathroom, I think about 40-50 square feet.
TM: And when they did that in… It took ’em two days, but what we decided to do is put in-floor heat down under the tile which… Best decision ever.
TM: Pat myself on the back.
BO: Well done.
TM: And now I’m worried because… We’ve already talked about this between you and I, but Jay likes to keep it warm in our condo, like really warm in our condo.
BO: I love Jay.
TM: He complains when it gets below 75. I’m not even kidding.
BO: Yeah, yeah, he’s my kind of man.
TM: He’ll go to bed with sweat shirts on, he’ll wrap himself in a blanket, he’ll just be whining.
21:36 BO: You should get him some of those eave coil, or wrap him in…
RS: Some heat tape.
BO: Heat tape.
TM: Yeah, I’ll put him in contact with Steve Cool. So it was my idea to do the in-floor heat, and he was like, “Oh no, it’ll cost more money.” And now that we’ve done that, it is on all the time and it’s cranked up too and I’m like, “Jay, we don’t even use this bathroom yet, it’s not even finished.” And he just goes in there, and he likes to just stand in there and warm up his feet. It’s just like, “Oh man, what did I… ” I haven’t tracked our electricity bills yet but I’m sure it’s costing us.” [laughter]
RS: I love it.
BO: Rubin’s got a device for you that you can put into your electric panel.
RS: Oh the sense.
BO: Yeah, the sense.
BO: It’ll tell you when that thing kicks on.
BO: Yes. You can monitor all of your electricity usage.
TM: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember you talked about it.
BO: That’s another discussion for a different day.
BO: We’re kind of running out of time here, but my one question is do you guys do anything but work on your houses? What are your hobbies? It seems like go to work and then work on your house.
TM: I don’t actually. To be honest, it’s Jay working on the house.
BO: Okay, all right.
TM: And he’s been busy too. So that’s why we have construction zone after two years. [chuckle]
RS: For me, my time spent working on this stuff is a few hours on Saturdays, that’s it. That’s the only time I work on my house basically.
RS: Alright, alright.
TM: I wish I had more time but, yeah.
BO: Well, next time we’ll get back to the regular grind of talking about home inspections. Thanks for tuning in, we’ll catch you next time.