Replace Pontiac Grand Prix Exhaust

Several years ago i was in a rear end collision and the entire back half of the car was replaced at a shop.  I didn't know at the time but they ended up putting back steel mufflers and exhaust, rather then stainless steel.  It wasn't a big deal until recently when they started to rust through.  First one of the support brackets rusted and i had to reattach it with some wire and JB Weld.  Then last week the whole back half of the exhaust pipe came off. 
remove muffler, remove exhaust pipe, pontiac grand prix

Luckily they didn't fall off the car, the rubber muffler brackets were still holding them on.  But i realized that i needed to replace everything.  Here's where the pipe broke.
how to fix a rusted exhaust pipe, how to fix a muffler

I took it to an auto repair shop and they quoted me almost $700 for parts and labor.  They said that they needed to replace everything from the catalytic converter back.  $700 seemed like way too much and i figured that i could do it myself.  When i started looking at prices for the parts i realized that $700 wasn't too crazy.  Some places online were selling entire exhaust kits for close to $700.  

The best deal on the internet though to get car parts is through Advanced Auto.  If you go to SlickDeals you can always find a rebate code for  $50 off of a $100 online purchase.  Last time i got really nice brake pads for less than the cost of the cheap ones.  So i ordered 2 mufflers and the exhaust pipe from them for around $210.  I had to get the resonator pipe from eBay because Advanced Auto didn't have the right size and i could get it cheaper from eBay.  I'll explain more about that size thing later.

Here's everything except the exhaust pipe, that came a day later.
muffler, resonator, auto zone, advanced auto, order online

Here's all the new parts laid out in the driveway.  You can also see that i had to buy a 2 1/4" to 1 3/4" pipe reducer.  When all the parts arrived i realized the first problem.  The muffler pipe and the exhaust pipe weren't the right size.
pontiac grand prix exhaust, repair, replace

Here's what it looked like with the car on the jack stands and wheel ramps that Karrie got me last Christmas.  The creeper dolly i got on clearance from harbor freight a few months ago.  There's no way i could have done this without these things.
car on jack stands and wheel ramps, creeper dolly

I also realized that i would need a bunch of clamps to connect all the pipes, at least 5 of them.  It wouldn't be a huge deal as long as there wasn't a problem with everything fitting correctly.  But since i always wanted to get a cheap welder from Harbor Freight, this was the perfect excuse to get one.  I went with the popular 90 Amp Chicago Electric Flux Welder.
harbor freight welder, cheap welder, 90 amp, flux
Using a coupon i got the welder for $90 and the auto dimming mask for $60.

It was a good thing i got it too, because fitting the pipes together was a bigger problem then i first thought and clamps wouldn't have worked.

But the first thing i needed to do was to remove the old rusted exhaust pipes.  The mufflers and part of the exhaust had already rusted and i just needed to remove them from the rubber rings.

Even with the ramps and jack stands there still wasn't a lot of room under the car to maneuver. 
room under car, fix, repair, pontiac, gm car

I only had to remove 2 bolts connecting the resonator flange to the catalytic converter pipe.  After spraying some PB Blaster to loosen the bolts, the first one came off alright.  But the second one wasn't budging.  I tried tapping it with a hammer as i wrenched on it but nothing.  So i went to the Sawzall.  After cutting the bolt half way through i decided to try loosening it again, this time it came off and i was able to remove all of the old exhaust.
remove resonator bolts, pipe, rusted, how to

There was a gasket between the resonator and the catalytic converter pipe, but they also used some sort of rubber sealer.  Luckily most of it came off on the old resonator pipe which i didn't need.
clean flange, car flange, bolts, exhaust pipe

Here's the other side of that flange from the catalytic converter, all cleaned up with a wire brush
resonator flange, wire brush, leak, loud noise

Finally i had all the old exhaust taken off the car.  Here's the old and new parts side by side.
new and old exhaust, gm, ford, chrysler, repair, replace

You can see that the old resonator is slightly smaller then the new one.  I knew that this was going to be a problem, i had ordered the resonator for a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix and mine is a 2005. 
resonator pipe repair, replace

 The reason i did that is because all the people in the comment section for the 2005 part said it was too short and they needed an extender piece.  The part they received was 28", the 2006 part was 32".  So i figured i should order the longer one and cut it down.

So i marked the new pipe as to where i wanted to cut it.  I just used a hacksaw with a new blade to cut through the pipe.
size resonator pipe repair, measure, cut

The piece on the left is the larger pipe size that i needed.
fit resonator pipe size, weld

Now i could adjust the larger pipe a few inches to get it to fit, before i welded it.

how to size resonator pipe, fit

Then like i said earlier i needed to buy a transition pipe between the exhaust and mufflers.  Even then the pips didn't fit exactly, i had to use a grinder to get one side to fit in the muffler.
pipe muffler fit, reducer pipe, size, 2 1/4"

I needed to use the vice in the basement to hold the pipe while using the grinder.  I made sure to have a bucket of water handy in case anything started smoking or caught fire.
grind pipe metal, muffler part

Here are those flanges ground down to the right outer diameter.  But after i did a dry fit of everything i found out that they were a bit too long.  So the mark on the right is where i had to cut them to length.
auto zone transition reducer pipe,

Here they are cut, the pieces on the right are the ones i needed.

how to install a muffler on a car, steps guide

Then it was time to start welding.  I had never welded before, i just bought the welder that day.  But i had watch a couple of Youtube video's so i figured i was good to go.  I took about 3 minutes to practice on some of the scrap pipe.  The Harbor Freight welder only has a Min - Max adjustment for power and 1-9 adjustment for wire speed.  So after 5 practice welds i was ready to weld up the exhaust.

weld exhaust, how to

The first welds were to attach the transition pipes to the mufflers.  The pipe on the left is how it looks like immediately after welding and the pipe on the right is after cleaning the flux off with a wire brush.  It's obviously not great for my first weld, there were a few mistakes and i'm not sure that i used the correct power setting or wire speed, but overall it turned out better then i thought it would.
how to weld, muffler pipe, exhaust

The hardest part for me on welding is going the right speed.  It seemed like i was always going too fast and had to slow down to get a good bead.  But after a few minutes i had it all welded together.
2005 pontiac grand prix exhaust, GM

I had to flip it over a few times to weld on all sides.  Then before putting everything back on the car i made sure to spray lots of WD-40 on the rubber brackets.  These are what's used to attach the exhaust to the car.  They are rubber so the vibration isn't transferred to the frame.  The WD-40 made it easier to slide the brackets onto the posts.
wd-40 rubber flange, gasket, bracket, lubricate

It was a struggle to get it all back together, i had to use 2 milk crates to support the muffler end while i bolted the front back.  But eventually it all fit properly.
install new muffler, exhaust

So all in all i saved around $250 and ended up with a new welder at the end of everything.


Family Room - Drywall Trim Crown Molding and Paint

The place that we spend the most time at home is the kitchen and family room.  Especially after John and I built that great TV stand that covers the fireplace.   Unfortunately in the winter the family room isn't the warmest place to be.  As you can see from this picture i took during the winter with an infrared thermal thermometer. 
infrared thermometer, house heat loss, cold air

It shows that the surface of the stone fireplace is less than 50 degrees.  During the winter months the stone radiates cold air.  I drew a quick sketch showing all of the temperatures i measured.  As you might have guessed, the worst areas were at the seams and corners. 
chart, sketch, heat loss in house walls

One thing you might be surprised at is that one wall was reading less than 30 degrees.  Now mind you that this is inside the house, with the temperature outside of 8 degrees Fahrenheit. 
lack of insulation in walls, studs, cold air

At that point the only thing i could think of was that the builders forgot to put insulation in that wall.  But there wasn't much i could do in the middle of February so i just caulked the corner and stuffed some in insulation where i could.

I also insulated the fireplace, thinking that would help.  It might have helped a little but it was still cold in the room.
put insulation in fireplace to save heat

So it finally came time for Karrie and I to redo that family room.  We decided to to tear down the wainscoting, put in new insulation, caulk, paint and put up new baseboard and crown molding.  Here's our quick sketch showing how many boards we needed, square footage for insulation, length of trim and other tools.
remodel family room, plan, cost, chart, material, measurements

We figured that if we didn't do it now, we wouldn't be able to do it in the middle of winter.  For reference here's what the room looked like before we started.
existing family room before remodel

Just to make sure we didn't chicken out and procrastinate, we drew on the walls with a Sharpie.  That way we were definitely going to tear the walls down that coming weekend.
draw on wall with Sharpie, decal, flower

I thought that the far tree looked kind of good, it was fun getting out our "artistic" expressions.
draw tree on wall, house, demo, fun, art

The next day, with the help of Karrie's sister we ripped down the old walls to have a look at the old insulation.  At first it didn't look to bad and was afraid we were wasting our time. 
remove old insulation, remodel repair, fiberglass

But on the opposite side of the insulation we saw the problem.  The fibers them selves were really old and brittle and it had black stuff on it in patches.  Not sure if it was mold.  Plus putting up insulation is cheap and easy.  If we were going to go through all the trouble of redoing the walls, replacing the 50 year old insulation was a no brainer.
moldy insulation, mold, fiberglass, black

 Here's what it looked like when we had all the boards off and insulation torn down.
studs without insulation, family room, heat

Remember the area by the fireplace where it was reading 30 degrees?  It turned out that there really wasn't any insulation, kind of like i had guessed.  All that was left was the insulation paper, all the insulation was gone.
black mold insulation, discentegrate, fall apart, heat loss

I'm not sure what happened, whether it rotted away or somehow disintegrated.  But i felt better ripping everything down knowing that it needed to be done.  It probably would have been colder if it were an outside wall, luckily the worst part was where it abutted the garage.  But we removed all the boards and insulation and filled up many garbage bags in the process.

The next weekend Karrie's sister came back along with her dad to help put up drywall.  We went to Home Depot to buy 9 rolls of R-13 insulation and 13 - 4'x8' pieces of 1/2" drywall.  I wanted to use the heaviest insulation i could, i was going to get R-19 or R-30, but after talking to our friend Jeff, he said that those wouldn't fit in the walls, they are used for 2"x6" walls and attics.  Also we bought drywall mud, screws, joint tape and some miscellaneous trays and tools for installing drywall.

So we got home and started working.  At first we were all working in the insulation.  I used a can of Great-Stuff foam and sprayed it at the bottom of the wall joists.  I figured it couldn't hurt to fill in any gaps.  The next day i was really surprised to see how much it did work.
black mold insulation, discentegrate, fall apart, heat loss

I guess the gaps in the wall were bigger then i thought.  Here's what it looked like from the garage side, the foam had squeezed out through the cracks.

Putting up the insulation went quickly and soon Karrie's dad and i started doing the drywall.  Karrie and her sister kept stapling all the edges to the studs.
how to install insulation in walls, staple, fiber glass, R-13, R-19, R-30

We were cutting the boards out on the patio using 2 saw horses as work stands.  I also got to use my Dremel rotary saw for some of the small cutouts (like around the electrical outlets).  Emma and Olivia were happy with it.
drywall and insulation

Everything seemed to go really smoothly and throughout the day we made good progress.  Karrie and her sister helped screwing in the drywall after they finished with the insulation.
drywall laser level, stud finder

Here's our cutting area outside.  It was nice having this area just outside the sliding door.  It kept the dust from getting in the house and it was a beautiful day.
how to cut drywall, knife, saw, dremel

 Around the fireplace there was concrete block and we weren't able to screw the drywall to anything.  So we had to use Liquid Nails to glue the boards to the wall.  When we were trying to find something heavy to keep pressure on the board i thought of the perfect thing, my 50 pound anvil.
drywall liquid nails, do you need liquid nails and screws

One neat trick i thought of was using the laser level to indicate a line to screw into the stud.  This was a lot quicker then measuring and marking with a pencil.  The laser level also had 2 needles that stuck to the wall and could pop off easily.
screw in drywall, laser level, stud, drill

As we were continuing to put up the drywall, Karrie and her sister started with the real work, mudding the joints. 
proper technique for mudding drywall joint, adhesive tape

Mudding and sanding, then again, and again.  It took several days and was lots of work.  I thought that filling in the joints would be the easy part, turns out that it was way harder then putting up the drywall.  This is what it looked like after the first or second round of mudding and sanding, i can't remember.
how to mud drywall joint, spackle

But finally we were ready for paint.  Before we put on the actual paint with color we decided to use a white primer.  I bought a can of Valspar primer that was for drywall, it was only $12.  I ended up having to go back and buy a second one.  We used 1 1/2 cans on the walls and the remainder we used for painting the trim at the end.  In hindsight i should have bought the 5 gallon bucket of primer for $35.  We would have definitely used it for some of the upcoming projects.
primer before you paint over new drywall, absorb paint

The new drywall really absorbed the primer.  This is a picture of Kristina and I finishing up and Kyla taking a quick break on a milk crate.

The next day Karrie and i painted the final color, it was from Valspar Signature called Coconut Milk, kind of a tan-white.  It looked very white, but then when compared to the white ceiling i could see the difference.
family room remodel, how to hire a contractor, cheap remodel

We also got 2 cans of that paint because we decided to paint our kitchen as well.  That way it had a seamless transition between the kitchen and family room.  Karrie did 90% of the painting one day after work.  By the time i got home she was mostly done and i just had to help with the edges and corners.  The next day we finished painting the kitchen.

The next weekend we were ready to install the baseboard and crown molding.  It was a bit of a surprise to see how much that stuff cost.  We ended up spending close to $80 for everything; 60 feet of crown molding, 24 feet of baseboard and 24 feet of round-over.
how to put up base board, trim, floor, wall

The baseboard went in really easily and immediately looked great.  The round-over was for the stone fireplace.  That took a bit longer but wasn't too bad.
easy miter, round over, molding, baseboard

The real pain in the butt was putting in crown molding.   Crown molding was a terrible because it took 2 people to hold the boards up to the top of the ceiling, cutting had to be done with the board held at a 45 degree angle and upside down, and the boards themselves were 12 feet long.  It took me several hours and many Youtube videos to figure out how to correctly cut the boards.  All of the corners were a compound cut, meaning the saw was set at one angle and the board had to be held at another angle.  Here's the first corner i did, sadly as terrible as it looked, this was my 3rd attempt after several hours. 
how to cut crown molding, inside corner, angle, 45, compund

I pre-drilled all the nail holes and used a stud finder to make sure i wasn't nailing just into drywall.  To make a long story short, the whole process was basically 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.  The first board we put up and took down different several times before i had the angle right.

Finally it seemed like it was going ok and i had the hang of everything, until i started working on the back corner.  For some reason the boards didn't seem to match up and it took me cutting the angle 3 times before i realized that the walls of the house didn't make a 90 degree angle.  Plus the ceiling had a dip and rise. 
how to fix crown molding, bad cut, spackle

The 2 walls made more of an 86 degree angle, but it was enough to screw everything up.  So i had to cut on of the boards at a +-49 degree angle and even then it wasn't great.  But at that point anything close to being ok, was good enough.  I figured i could make up the difference with spackle.

When we had all the boards where we wanted them, we then had to go back and counter sink the nails into the board, here's Karrie doing that.
counter sink nails, molding, trim, remodel, small details

Then we had to go back to the drywall mud and fill in all the nail hols, gaps, and corners where we messed up.  Karrie then used a tube of paintable white caulk which was specifically for crown molding.  First she caulked the baseboard and round-over, it made everything look 100% better.  The caulk made it look seamless and got rid of the dark line gap where the board didn't fit perfectly to the wall.

Then she went along the top and bottom of the crown molding and that too looked way better after she was done.  Here's her caulking along the round-over by the stone fireplace.
baseboard caulk, dap caulk for baseboard

We had also decided that we might as well change out the old outlets and covers.  Since they are only like 48 cents for outlets it wasn't a big deal.  Although i wasn't sure that i had reconnected all the wires properly, but after we turned the power back on it all worked.   It would have made for a sore sight to do all this work and just leave in the old outlets and covers, this makes it all look new.
install new electrical outlet, easy, cheap, finished look

That's when we realized that we didn't cut the holes in the drywall as tightly as we should have.  There were gaps around the outlet covers.  So we went back to Lowe's and bough some "jumbo outlet covers" and that fixed the problem.

The last thing to do was go back with the white primer and paint over the baseboard and crown molding.  Karrie was the one to do all of this.  It took many hours using little brushes.
detail trim painting, baseboard house paint

But when it was done it looked great.  It has to be the nicest room in the house now.  And the new 50 cent outlets and covers make a big difference too.
flip house, new trim and electric outlets

 Here it is all done, the carpets vacuumed and fireplace stone cleaned up.  With everything, the baseboard, outlets, crown molding, it really looks nice.  I hope it stays warm this winter.  It has to be better then the last few years where we had no insulation at all.
how to add value to your home, house, flip, drywall, crown molding

And this is what the whole room looks like all done.   
finished family room, add value to a house, remodel

Looking back at that original sheet, we were actually really close to our original cost estimate.  We went over a little because we needed 2 cans of primer and a second can of paint.  Originally we weren't planning on painting the kitchen.

It ended up being a lot more work then i thought.  The worst parts being the drywall mudding and crown molding.  It might be a while before Karrie convinces me to redo another room in the house.