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Well, as I mentioned previously, I was cautiously pessimistic about the terra cotta staying water tight even when using my high tech liner.  After a day or so, it was clear that it was seeping still, so rather than using silicone caulking or a terra cotta sealer available from many garden/home stores, I decided to upgrade to a fully glazed vessel.

I decided on a small glazed bowl (inside and out) that is recommended for table top water gardens, etc.  I think it looks nicer that the terra cotta and it will fit in well when I put some plantings around it.  Most importantly, it holds water!

I also reduced the length of the output tube so the fountain appears more spring like and less likely to spray out of the bowl when at full power in full sun.

Because I did the “adjustment” midweek and am usually at work when the sun hits that portion of the yard, my wife captured the fountain in all its glory (with its strange visitor) and sent me the link to the video.  Enjoy.

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Being a bit of a bird nut and not having any kind of a decent birdbath in the backyard of the new house meant only one thing.  Birdbath project.  The rather ordinary and small concrete birdbath we had at our old house didn’t make the move and we haven’t found anything really comparable yet, so time to make one.

The aspect missing from our old birdbath was movement.  Moving water not only dissuades mosquitos but also attracts birds who are always in need of fresh clean water.  Without power in the yard, that meant only one thing:  Solar Fountain Birdbath.  The project was actually inspired by one of those “serenity” fountains my wife has in our bedroom which uses a small hidden pump to gently bubble water over the pebbles in a decorative vessel.

The concept is simple, but finding the parts sometimes is less so.  Solar powered pump + suitable vessel + water = Solar Fountain Birdbath.  Items 2 and 3 are pretty easy to find, but I was not finding any decent small solar powered pumps that were affordable.  The basic design was to find a reasonable size vessel, set the pump in the bottom and then fill it with pebbles or rocks to create a not too deep bath for the birds.

Finally, American Science and Surplus came through with a small solar pump. So, plan A order said pump.  It arrived and comes with the pump, a solar cell and a variety off risers and tips.

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Next, acquire a suitable vessel.  We opted for a shallow terra cotta pot with another to use as a pedestal.

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Because the main vessel has a drainage hole in the bottom, I picked up a rubber stopper to plug the hole.

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Here’s the hole plugged.  You may notice a few suspicious cracks in the terra cotta.

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After plugging, I filled with a small amount of water and tested for leaks.

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Remember those suspicious leaks?  Well, they were seeping, so it was either seal the inside with a terra cotta sealer or insert a liner.

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Now they sell nice heavy EPDM liners for ponds, but this is just a birdbath, so Plan B was to find a friendly handy vinyl garbage bag to use as a liner.  We’ll see how it works out.

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Place the liner in the vessel, then gently fill it with pebbles.  Once there’s a layer on the bottom, set the pump in the bottom and begin to fill the rest of the bowl with pebbles.

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Rather than cut the plastic, I just folded and tucked it in, then covered with rocks.  You can’t quite tell from the picture, but the rocks are higher on the edges and lower in the middle to create a beach so smaller birds and wade in.

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Next, I filled the base with extra rocks to provide stability.

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Time to place it in the yard, fill with water and connect the solar cell to the pump.  I decided I’d wait a few days before mounting the solar cell to see where it might catch a reasonable amount of sun for most of the day.

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The pumps output will vary with the amount of sun hitting the panel, so I’ll have to experiment with the various risers and fountain heads to get something that won’t shower the yard and run the fountain dry.  For the time being, I opted for the rather boring straight up tip until I do some more experiments.

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Still, in direct sunlight, the boring tip was still quite vigorous, so I may need to consider stepping up the size of the vessel or enlarging the output holes to keep the spray within the confines of the vessel.

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Voila, Solar Fountain Birdbath 1.0.

The directive was simple: that horrible linoleum laundry room floor has to go.

We didn’t want to spend a fortune and since we were a bit undecided how much remodeling we might do in the future, so we wanted something durable, decent looking and not too permanent.

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After some consideration, we thought we’d give Flor tiles a go. We ordered some samples and were reasonably impressed. Carrying on with a somewhat contemporary theme going on in the house we went with Tabby Cat. As a rule, we generally hate carpet which is always a problem with pets. The Flor system seemed to be a good compromise though– tiles can be taken up and cleaned or replaced if soiled or damaged.

Best of all, it looked like something that we could easily tackle ourselves and wouldn’t take a week to do. The laundry room is about 10 1/2 feet by 6 feet, so its not a huge area. We carefully measured and drew a map of the room on graph paper so we could more accurately guesstimate how many tiles we would need after accounting for cuts. For our space, we decided to err on the side of caution and order two of the boxes and had plenty left over. If it works well, we have a few other areas where we might make them into smaller area rugs.

Here’s how they come to you:

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The instructions are pretty straight forward. Only a few tools are required. We ended up using these:

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A metal straight edge to use as a guide for cutting the tiles, a carpet knife (we ordered it with the tiles), a tape measure to help with those compound cuts and a pair of shears to trim some of the fuzz from cut edges. If you have a larger space or are more particular with your layout, you may want something like a carpenter’s square and a chalk line to layout baselines to follow.

With our small space, we decided we’d use the left wall and door threshold as a starting point leaving the smaller cut pieces against the back wall and behind the appliances. I layed out the first row and made the initial cuts– around the door threshold and then at the back wall.

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Cutting tiles is pretty straight forward. The instructions are helpful if you haven’t laid any type of tiles. You’ll want to do it on a few layers of cardboard to protect the surface you’re cutting on.

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Make several passes until you’re through the tough backing and then clean up any fuzz with with shears.

After I was satisfied with the layout and the fit, I went back and applied the Flor tape dots which bind the tiles together at the corners. They’re basically a special adhesive tape that will stick to the back of the tiles but not the underlying floor.

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I worked down the first side and then across the back of the room. Partly because I needed to juggle the placement of the heavy washing machine and partly to complete the vertical and horizontal baselines for the rest of the room.

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I turned the corner and worked back to where I started only having to make one compound “L” shaped cut around the sink cabinet. Each tile has a direction, so we opted for an alternating checkerboard pattern. Here’s the finished product.

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All in all, only a few hours from start to finish. Even with today’s construction standards and wandering walls, we were able to achieve a pretty snug wall-to-wall fit. Overall, a very forgiving project and we’re quite pleased with the new look!

September 2017
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