From Top to Bottom

I can write about House Cleanup and Supply Ordering all I want, but it won’t help you fix that radiator in room 2112 that doesn’t seem to put out any heat. This section is devoted to helping the HM tackle trouble spots around the house. It attempts to assist in two ways. First, I have provided tips on exactly how to fix certain problems. Second, I have provided general information and history on items – information that took me two and half years to learn. Hopefully, it will help.

First of all, Von Cramm Cooperative is housed in a great facility. If it hasn’t happened already, you’ll learn to love the cinderblock simplicity of the house. The general layout is superior – common areas are isolated from individual rooms, and all are connected via super-basic hallways and stairwells. The robust nature of the structure is a reflection of Von Cramm’s resilience. After all, the house was built in the height of the Cold War – when everything was engineered to withstand a direct nuclear blast. In the event of an atomic onslaught, Von Cramm residents wouldn’t have to break from dinner, while 660 Stewart residents would be vaporized. Sure, some people say this makes it look ugly, institutional, etc., but that’s part of the irony of the Cramm. The culture that the house supports is everything but that.

As the name of this section suggests, I’ll start at the roof and work my way down to the ground floor, with an additional part discussing general topics.

ROOF: The roof is built of wooden rafters supporting a slate tile surface. The rafters comprise the only large part of the house that is significantly flammable, so keep that in mind when you cram stuff into the attic. Slate roofs generally have a life span exceeding 100 years with routine maintenance. The maintenance includes having a professional go up and inspect the roof, replacing lost slates and looking for problem areas. It’s a normal part of a slate roof’s life that slates will come off, and perhaps hit the ground. One did in Spring ’99, and hit the ground near the kitchen window. The slates are large, and would easily decapitate or split someone in half if they were in the way – no joke. But probability dictates the near impossibility that someone would be in the line of fire. Routine maintenance, like what occurred in June 1999, brings the chances of an accident down even further. During this June work, Cornell guys replaced eight slates, including the one that had just come down. Find out the last time the roof was worked on. If it’s been a number of years, have it worked on. One warning, though: it is expensive (~$1000).

A number of years ago, maybe around 1994, a leak developed in the roof and dripped water into Rm 3111 (you can still see the damage in the ceiling). Everyone panicked and thought the roof would have to be replaced (which is stupid). But then they found it was just a misplaced slate, and the problem was solved.

ATTIC: The attic is pretty big, and for good reason: people tend to put tons of shit up there. Every house inspection while I was HM, the inspector would make a big deal about how bad it was. There was so much crap up there you couldn’t really walk past the top of the stairs. I looked around one time, and much of it belonged to people I hadn’t even heard of (and at that point, I had been at the Cramm for four years). I think much of the mess is attributed to people who leave college stuff up there when they graduate. Then they get jobs and start making real money, get good stuff and forget about their college crap. As my parting gift to the Cramm, I worked with a friend to clean up the mess up there. We cleaned by a few rules. If the stuff wasn’t labeled (and couldn’t be tagged to anyone we knew), it got PC’d or thrown out. If an item belonged to someone who hadn’t lived in the house for over two years, it also got PC’d or thrown out. The house rules state that stuff in the attic can only stay there for up to two years after the person leaves, with a couple of warning notices from the house. In the two newsletters preceding the cleanup, we inserted such notices. Current and recent residents had their stuff neatly organized – we grouped boxes together by owner. In the end, the attic got much cleaner, with a ton of extra room. Of course, we threw out quite a bit of people’s stuff – but if they didn’t come back to get it, they must not have wanted it too much. So keep the attic clean and clear. If another cleanup is necessary, organize one. Tell residents well in advance so they can label their stuff, then be ruthless.

The ladder and door setup to the attic was installed in Spring 1997, by Cornell PDC shops (I think) for a cost of $4000.

The ventilation for the attic is inadequate, I believe. I heard of a general rule for ventilation space compared to floor space, and ours doesn’t come close. You may want to look into expanding the ventilation.

THIRD FLOOR: mostly general topics.


Utility Closets: There are two on the second floor. Rm 2109 is a sink closet, where second floor bathroom cleaners can fill up their buckets and store some cleaning supplies. This is also the room where the vacuum is traditionally housed. Rm 2103 is a regular utility closet, where second floor residents can store some of their stuff if need be. Try to keep both clean.

Vacuum: The vacuum currently in service is a Riccar 8600, bought for $400 from A+M Vacuum Supply on Clinton Avenue in Ithaca (West Clinton Plaza, I think). You can buy bags from here. This vacuum has a red trouble light that goes on when there is a full bag or more serious problem. If you think that it is indicating a full bag, check it out. If it’s full, throw it out. If it isn’t very full, you can stick your fingers to dislodge any fuzz and dirt that is blocking the opening of the bag – a clogged opening is sometimes misinterpreted by the machine as a full bag. If a full bag or clogged opening isn’t the cause of the light, inspect the rest of the vacuum. Check the brush to see if any hair or rug thread has wrapped around it - turn the brush with your hand to see if it rotates freely. Another problem spot is the belt, which turns the brush. Check the belt to see if it shows signs of aging: having a tear or being too stretched out. If so, buy a new belt (only a couple bucks). Also check the tubing which connects the front of the vacuum with the bag. Often times it gets clogged with dirt. Use your fingers or a long object to pull the junk out. Of course, sometimes the red light goes on when nothing is wrong, so use your judgment to identify a serious problem. Hopefully, you can solve the problem yourself. If not, bring it into A+M for repair. There are also attachments with this vacuum which are great to clean furniture (like the sofas in the TV room) and to clean the hallway carpet edges.

Second Floor Bathroom: There are a number of issues here. A recent one was the shower room window. One summer I found leakage on the outside of the house which we attributed to the rotten wood of the shower room window. We had Cornell Shops replace the window in summer 1998, adding a frosted plexiglass water barrier to protect the wood (and deter peeping toms), at a cost of about $2800. It looks pretty good and will hopefully last a long time. The second issue is shower pans. Shower pans are copper pans underneath the second floor shower room which drain any leakage from the edges of the room. A number of years ago, leakage in Rm 1103 was thought to be from faulty shower pans, but it stopped – and was probably due to the bad window. I had a technician from Kimball Plumbing and Heating (Elmira, NY) come to look at it, and he said that replacement should really only be undertaken which the pans show signs of leakage. The Cornell University Summary Conditions Report (1992) states: “Shower rooms will eventually need new floor pans, as is typical in this type of construction.” So until they show definite signs of leakage, don’t worry about them. Another issue in the shower room is the showers themselves. Until 1999, only two heads worked – and not very well. It was impossible to get a good temperature out of them. The other showers were turned off years ago because of inner wall leakage. Past HMs saw no use in repairing them, for good reason, since we would never have five people needing a shower at the same time. We decided to fix the two working shower heads, and had the Cornell Shops under Bill Szabo replace the controls and heads. Here is a drawing of what was fixed: The other three showers will remain off until you feel the need to fix them.

The second floor urinal has been shut off for a long time, and not used. Some work is being done to see if we can get it on line again. The fan in the shower room makes a loud thump when you first turn it on – don’t worry, it just does that. The sound is that of the fan hood opening.

It usually happens once every year or two that the shower room floor drains don’t seem to work so well – and water starts pooling during showers. If this happens, you have a clog of hair down the drain. DON’T put Drano down the drain – this is no kitchen sink clog. Past hair balls removed from the drain have been fist-sized. You can rent an industrial snake from Rick’s Rental World and unclog it yourself, but I recommend that you just call in a work order for this one. The snakes you rent usually aren’t longer than 25 feet, and past clogs have been as much as 50 feet down the line – no problem for the Cornell guys. By the way, if you didn’t know already, a snake is a long coil of metal with a small coil end that you feed down the drain. A motor twists the metal line so the small coil can grab onto whatever is down there. Then you pull it back and your present is a big, black, smelly, juicy ball of hair. There are also hand snakes, which you turn by hand. I talk about these in the Apartment tub section (First Floor).


Apartment Bathroom: First issue, the tub. About every semester, the apartment residents complain that their tub doesn’t drain well (more often if you have long-haired residents there). Count on it. In this case, you have a problem like that of a second floor shower room clog, but on a smaller scale. Small enough you can tackle it on your own. Use a hand snake (any hardware store has one, the Cramm should have one in the tool room). Now I'll tell you how to use it: First, put on some rubber gloves - it's messy. Next, get in the tub with the snake. Pull out about eight inches of the wire, tighten the screw that keeps the wire from moving back and forth, and stick the end of the wire down the drain. This tub drain doesn't actually go down, though, it goes horizontally into the wall, so direct the wire this way. Now turn the handle to rotate the wire and see if it grabs anything - chances are the clog is farther down. Loosen the screw and pull out more wire, while pushing it farther down until you hit something. At this point, the thing that you hit is probably a turn in the pipe, which can be tricky to advance through. Tighten the holding screw (so that a minimum of wire is between the device and the drain opening) and turn the handle while pushing. You may have to do this for a while, but eventually you will feel it go through the turn. After it has gone through the turn, keep feeding out wire and rotating until you hit something you think is the clog. Rotate the handle a little more so the wire will wrap around the clog…and PULL! You may have to pull really hard, but eventually it will give way and your reward will be a smelly ball of hair - and a perfectly draining tub. After pulling it out, run HOT water for 5-10 minutes to help dislodge/dissolve any remnant crap. Using the snake really only takes a few minutes, and saves the Cramm from having to pay for a plumber.

Second issue, the sink. The faucet handles give problems from time to time, and the fixtures in this sink are a bit different than any others in the house. See the kitchen faucet section for the general approach to fixture problem solving, but the fixture itself will require a different approach. Like the other fixtures, there should be replacement parts in the plumbing tool box, and Bishops Hardware downtown should have all the parts.

Urinals: Currently, both work fine. It hasn't always been this way…which leads me to an interesting story. My first year as HM (Fall 97), only the right-hand side urinal worked, and I thought it right to have both working. So I put in the work order and a plumber came to look at it. The problem with the left one was that it wasn't draining. The plumber put a snake down it, and it would hit something solid, but he couldn't pull the mass back up (as you could with a regular hair clog). So he went into the pipes via the basement bathroom ceiling and found a disturbing discovery. The drain was completely clogged by a rock-hard salt deposit - salt left behind from 40 years of piss sitting in the drain trap! So flush frequently. You can get urinal mints (those smelly pills that sit at the drain and make you think your pee smells like cherries) at B+W.

Dinner Bell: A new one was just installed in April 1999 in the first floor stairwell, next to the phone. The old one was offline for a long time. Its button was next to the mailboxes near the entrance - it's been covered with a plain brown panel now. Some of the old bells are still in place (one is next to the foyer florescent bulbs above the stairs, for instance). The dinner bell is also good to announce house cleanups, meetings, etc.

Fireplace: There is no better place to gather around on a cold winter's night. But a nice fire can turn into a smoke-filled room and tripped fire alarm if you don't open the flue! You should open the flue every time you start a fire. Opening it is easy: reach up into the chimney opening and you will find a lever which seals the chimney. Look up to see whether it's open or closed first. The chimney should be professionally cleaned every few years (talk to Facilities). It was last cleaned in Fall 98 as mandated by the city inspector.


Boiler: This is a big issue. Basically, the boiler (as we call it - you might say furnace) is the device that heats the water that circulates through the radiators to heat the house. It does not heat the water you use in sinks and showers (the hot water heater does this). I am no expert on the current device (and it may be replaced by the time you read this), but I can give you the basics. First, gas comes into the base of the boiler and feeds a flame bed that heats up a bunch of water. This water is then pushed through the house pipes by three red circulator pumps. Each pump is assigned a floor (one has two floors). This water circulates through the house, and you control how much passes through your radiator by the radiator dial - thereby regulating the heat in your room. The boiler in place now is not the original house boiler. It was installed approximately 10 years after the house was built (who knows what happened to the first one). You can turn the boiler and circulator pumps on and off for the season by going to the circuit breaker panel in the basement hallway. Hit the breakers labeled for circulator pumps 1,2 and 3 (breakers 1,3, and 5) and the breaker for the furnace - a total of four breakers. After you turn the breaker off, the boiler will keep a small pilot flame.

At the time of this writing the design was being drawn by Tom Claugherty from Cornell for a new boiler system. The new one will be comprised of 2-3 small units which switch on or off as need be, and offer backup in case one completely poops out. That's the typical system now (go to 660 to see theirs). Once the design is drawn, the house will decide on when (or if) they want to start work on installing it. One estimate I got in Spring 98 was for $31,000 by Cornell PDC.

Keys: The keys are held in a lock box on the wall of Rm B109. I recently put them on the new room numbering system, but the old system is shown in the floor diagram in the box. It’s important to keep the key inventory up to date and full. At least a week or two before each semester you should make the necessary orders to replace any lost keys (see Room Settling In/Key Distribution).

A word should be said about your master key. You should be very hesitant to use it to enter anyone’s room if it’s not absolutely necessary. Of course, when facility guys or inspectors come, you have to go in, but often times other residents ask to go into someone’s room to get something. I usually wouldn’t do that, unless I absolutely knew the person who was in the room wouldn’t mind. I wouldn’t want someone invading my privacy on a whim, so you should protect the sanctity of other people’s rooms.

Washer and Dryer: The dryer is fairly new: Fall 96. The washer is of an undetermined age. Both are serviced by County Wide Appliance when a work order is put in. A common problem with the washer is when it shuts off just after it has started. This problem is often caused by an unbalanced load, so reach in and move the clothes around to distribute the weight evenly. The dryer sometimes has the problem that it doesn’t put out enough heat. First, check the lint trap, as it can greatly diminish the effectiveness of the dryer when full of lint. Then check the exhaust pipe leading from the dryer to the outside. Sometimes, this pipe gets filled with lint, so detach it from the wall or dryer and reach in and pull out any crap that’s clogged it.

Pool Table: We have a great pool table. It’s huge and in good condition. It was just refurbished in Fall 97 – they releveled it and replaced the felt and pockets for about $400. Try to avoid moving it, as this just throws off the level. In the past, it was moved for the banquet. Whenever you use it for a serving table (by putting the ping-pong table surface on it), make sure you cover all the felt with cut open trash bags. Apparently the pool table was a gift to the house from the parents of an early 70’s resident who fell into Fall Creek Gorge while tripping on LSD.

Piano: The piano was also recently redone (Spring 98) by a company specializing in piano refurbishing. I don’t know much about pianos, so I won’t say much. Every semester or so, you will get a postcard from a piano tuning business reminding you to retune the piano. A number of people said they did a crappy job, so we haven’t had them back since.

TV/Cable: Occasionally, the TV seems to go blank with no reception. Often, the cause is the cable connection in the back coming loose. Play around with the cables connecting the TV and VCR to the cable jack. Disconnecting the cable intentionally during house cleanup is a good way to discourage would-be slackers from watching the tube.

Beast: The Beast is a Jackson Model 10 commercial dish sanitizer. It is not a dish washer. That is, you have to clean all the food off the dishes before they go in the Beast. The Beast sanitizes in two ways. First, it covers the dishes in near-boiling water. The Beat heats the water in two ways. First, the external booster heater (gray box below the sink) “boosts” the house hot water to the desired temperature by a certain amount (???). Second, an internal heating element (switch on the Beast control panel) adds more heat. Cornell EHS demands that the water temperature of the rinse cycle is above 180? F. Prior to Spring 99 the water wasn’t coming to this temperature because the original booster heater went kaput. The new booster heater (a Hatco C-12) was installed in February 1999 by Cornell Shops under Bill Szabo for a cost of about $2000. This new booster heater is very good, enough to eliminate the need for the internal heating element (so don’t bother turning it on). You can check the water temperature by looking at the temperature dial on top of the booster heater. A less reliable (because it’s much older) temperature dial is set into the Beast itself to the left of the control panel. A good way to tell if the water is hot enough is by touch. If the dishes coming right out of the Beast after a sanitizing run are almost too hot to touch, that is good. If you can comfortably handle them after they come out, the water is probably not up to temperature.

The second way the Beast sanitizes dishes is with a sanitizing solution. In actuality, the water temperature itself is probably enough to sanitize the dishes, but this is just an extra measure. During the wash cycle, the Beast shoots water onto a solid block of sanitizer, putting it into solution and then shooting this solution all over the dishes. The sanitizer comes in round plastic containers which are inserted into a mount on the wall. A word about this stuff: You have two sources for the sanitizing solution. You can get it from the people who service the Beast:

Horwitz Paper and Janitorial
145 Philo Rd. West
PO Box 1212
Horseheads, NY 14845
Toll Free: 800-836-7110, voice mail #129

Their stuff is the kind that is made for the Beast, but it is quite expensive. A cheaper alternative is to order the solid solution sanitizer from SMC on campus. Their product doesn’t quite fit our mount right, but you can improvise an adapter by using the cut off top of a gallon bleach bottle and set it upside down in the mount (a little switch inside the mount has to be pushed down on). I recommend the SMC stuff.

Although the stewards should take care of this, you will probably have to teach some new Crammie how to use the Beast. So here goes: Before every cleaning session (not before every loading), you have to empty the sitting water and fill the Beast with new water. Empty the water by reaching into the Beast, and pulling up slightly on the cylinder that is set into the base on the far end. The water should drain. Reset the cylinder by rotating it until it falls back into its original position. If it doesn’t sit flush with the base (i.e. you didn’t return it to the original position) it will continue to allow water to drain and the next step (filling) will have no result. Next, close the Beast and hit the Rinse and Fill button on the far left side of the control panel. You only have to let it run for about 20 seconds. Anything over this results in the extra water going down the drain at a high rate and possibly backing up the grease trap. After it’s filled, open the Beast, load the dish tray, close it up, and hit the wash switch at the top right. This is a toggle switch, so you shouldn’t switch it off when done. And remember, don’t open the Beast until the red light goes off – bad things happen if you do.

Oven and Stove: We have a great oven and stove setup: it has two ovens (one convection), six stove burners, a grill surface, and a broiler (the slot below the grill and above the right oven). The setup is protected by a fire suppression system, which I wlll talk about later.

The most common problem with the ovens is due to failure of the thermocouple. The thermocouple is the device that keeps the gas going to the pilot light only when the pilot is actually lighted. That way, gas doesn’t seep out. The device is a long, stiff wire with a knobby end. There is a very easy way to tell if the thermocouple is faulty. When you relight the pilot manually, and then let go of the red bypass button, the flame will immediately go out. When this happens, try it again, and when it fails, call in a work order or call Jim Thompson’s Foodservice equipment repair directly. Replacement of the thermocouple costs about $25.

To relight the oven pilot, you need one assistant, a long, thin little rod (chopstick size), some wooden matches, tape, and a butter knife. To find the pilot light access hole, remove the metal panel under the oven doors. Beneath the respective oven, you should find a red button facing down. Within a few inches of the button, you should find a little metal door (about the size of a quarter) on a swinging latch. Prepare your match setup by taping the wooden match to the end of the little rod. Your assistant should bend down and press the red button in. Light your match using a stove burner, use the butter knife to slide open the little door, and stick your match in 6-8 inches. Somewhere in there should be the pilot. If you have trouble finding it, look in the other oven’s little door to see how far it is in and what it looks like. Once the pilot is lighted, tell your assistant to let go of the button while you are still looking at the flame. If the flame stays on, then great. If it goes out immediately, you need a new thermocouple.

For house cleanup, you will probably want to turn the gas off so people can clean freely. To turn the oven/stove gas off, take a wrench and turn the knob that is on a pipe on the floor at the left side of the oven/stove. It is just in front of the red box (which is the emergency gas shutoff).

To get the grill really clean, use a lemon juice/water mixture with a grill brick (get it at B+W). This simple concoction worked wonders on our previously nasty grill (thanks to Steve Godin – kitchen servicer extraordinaire.)

The fire suppression system is designed to blast a wet-chemical fire suppressant mixture all over the oven/stove when there is a fire. When it is activated, it also shuts the gas off to the oven/stove by way of a red box connected to the gas pipe on the floor to the left of the oven. The system can be activate manually or automatically. To activate it manually, hit one of two buttons in the back kitchen area directly in back of the oven. It can also be set off automatically. If there is enough heat above the oven/stove, a wire splits, tripping the system and blowing wet-chemical all over. Because of this, it is essential to have the fan on whenever you are cooking, to avoid heat building up and tripping the system. Not only will it ruin your meal, it will cause a huge mess and necessitate a costly refill of the unit.

Now a word about the fan. The fan switch is just to the right of the grill on the wall. The switch has three positions. The up position is the lower intensity fan. The middle position is off, and the bottom position is the high intensity fan. On the outside of the house you will find two fan outlets (the big, round metal things on the walls). One is on the west wall next to the kitchen window, and the other is above the shed-room door. The low intensity fan uses just the outlet on the west wall (above the kitchen window), while the high intensity fan uses both. It is important to keep the fan baffles (hanging above the stove) clean. They can be removed and soaked in degreaser.

Refrigerator: We currently have a three-door fridge. It’s a good idea to check the temperature on a daily basis (the dial is in the upper right corner). To adjust the temperature, open the right-most door. On the ceiling is a dial from 1-9 or so. The temperature should be between 35? – 45? F.

About every year it’s happened that the temperature in the fridge starts going down even while raising the adjustment dial. If this happens, get a wire brush, wheel out the fridge from the wall, and get behind there. On the motor you should find a metal wire grate. It will probably be covered in a thick layer of dust. Sometimes the grate itself is hard to see because it is so thoroughly covered in dust. Brush off the dust and sweep it up. Once the dust is gone, you should hear the motor change sound. This sound change is due to the fact that the motor doesn’t have to strain so much to pull in air.

The motor was just replaced in January 1999, after the old one died. It was replaced by Evans of Binghamton for a cost of $350. But they overcharged us, so avoid going there again. If you have to buy a whole new fridge, a new one like the one we have will cost about $3000.

The little red condiments fridge should be defrosted every semester to avoid the ice from building up too much. Just empty it, unplug it, and put a pan inside to catch the water.

Freezers: We currently have two single-door standing units. They should be defrosted every semester – during house cleanup, for instance. Wheel them out one at a time and let them melt. If they ever stop freezing, check to see that the plug is in before you freak out – they often come unplugged.

Tool Room and Tools: It’s important to have some basic tools in stock for residents to use, like hammers, wrenches, and screwdrivers. Just don’t buy anything expensive, as the tools will eventually disappear. The power tools should be looked after. After a drill was stolen, I put our new drill on a locked chain, so people could use it in the tool room. If they needed it outside of the room, they could get the key from me. If you buy tools for yourself (that you pay for yourself, obviously), then only get the good stuff, like Craftsman and Stanley. You will have them for life.

Grease Trap: The grease trap is designed to keep grease and food matter from going down the drain. The trap is set into the floor to the left of the kitchen sink. It has a heavy lid - make sure when you remove it that it doesn't fall into the pit. The pit itself is about 2.5 feet deep. The water comes in from the sink and Beast and enters the pit on the right side, about half way up the side. Set into the bottom of the pit, on the right hand side just below the inlet are baffles which are designed to trap food which sinks down. The water flows out by a slot at the bottom of the pit at the left side and through a hole halfway up on the left side.

It is absolutely essential that the grease trap is fully cleaned every house cleanup. Regular cleaning is the only way to avoid a nasty clog (do you like wastewater all over the floor?) and perhaps a costly replacement (which we'll talk about later). To clean, get some long rubber gloves, flashlight, the wet-dry vac, along with wearing an old shirt. Stick the hose of the wet-dry vac into the pit and suck up everything - water and all. Once the water is all gone, take a long metal tool with a flat end (like a curtain rod or shelving support rod) and scrape all the grease off the sides. Then take the hose and suck up all the food in the baffles. Use the metal tool to scoop out the baffles, too. Suck out the hole on the left side. Suck up everything else, then run some HOT water for 5-10 minutes.

It's especially important to avoid a replacement because one would be absolutely horrible. Under new regulations, a new grease trap would have to be much bigger than the one we currently have. That would require an underground tank underneath the backyard somewhere. Of course, this would all cost a ton of money.

Kitchen Sink Faucet: I am referring to the faucet above the double sink. This faucet is the most used, and hence the most prone to problems. The two most common problems include dripping form the faucet end and the handle loosening. If the faucet is dripping from the end, the problem is with the washer on one of the fixtures. Turn both handles completely off and check the temperature of the water dripping to tell which fixture (hot or cold) is faulty.

Go underneath the sink and turn the respective water source off. Unscrew the handle from the fixture and remove the white plastic handle adapter. Take an adjustable wrench to unscrew the fixture from the faucet base. Be careful not to strip the soft metal (usually it's brass). The fixture will come out as a whole unit. At the bottom of the fixture is a washer screwed in. This washer is what is pushed down when you turn the handle to seal off the water. If the washer is the problem, it will be worn down quite a bit. Unscrew the securing screw and replace the washer. Make sure the washer is the right size (small) so it sits correctly. You can get these washers at any hardware store. Screw the fixture back in, turn on the water supply, and see if it still drips. If it still does drip, the problem may be with the seat. The seat is the thing that the washer is pressed against to turn off the water, and is screwed into the faucet. If the seat has a knick in it, the seal will be compromised leading to a drip. You can stick an allen wrench in and unscrew it to replace it, or use a seat-grinding tool to smooth it.

If the faucet handle is loosened (leading to difficulty in shutting it off), the problem could be one of two things. First, it could be that the white handle adapter piece is stripped and no longer gripping the fixture. If so, buy a new adapter. Second, and most likely, the whole fixture or part of it, could have become unscrewed. If so, you will want to screw the fixture in a bit firmer. If this problem persists, as it has in the past, just buy a whole new hot or cold fixture (about $10).

If there is dripping from the handle, the problem is with the O-ring on the fixture. The O-ring is the rubber seal along the top of the fixture. So replace it.

Before any problems materialize, it is a good idea to practice shutting the water off. The hot and cold water sources to the sink have different shutoffs, both right below the sink. The hot water shutoff is a yellow handle to the left side. If the handle is parallel to its pipe, water is on - perpendicular and water is off. This hot water shutoff closes off water to the sink and the sprayer. The cold water shutoff is just to the right of the hot water, but may not have a handle attached. A handle might be on the floor. This is why it's a good idea to practice before the emergency happens.

Kitchen Island: The kitchen island sink is intended to wash vegetables. Since it doesn't have a grease trap, food should not go down the drain. So tell people to wash their dishes off in the main sink. When I first became HM there was this idea floating among some people that the water from the island faucet was not clean (i.e. from a different source than the rest of the house). This is bullshit. All the water for the house comes in at one spot in the boiler room – it’s all the same.

The drain for the island sink is the only one of its kind in the house. I don't know its formal name, but it's designed to deter backups in the drain from filling the sink. Instead, the water empties onto the floor. You can see how this happens by looking at the top of the drain from underneath. The white PVC pipe meets the metal drain piece but does not seal. This is where the water will spill over during a backup. Because of this setup, you must make sure not to pour large amounts of liquid in the sink drain at once - or it will backup and spill on the floor.

Main water turn-off: All the water the house uses comes from the city line (on University Ave) into the house at the boiler room's north wall. Near the floor (just below the window), you will find a pipe coming out of the wall with some handles and a water meter. One of these handles is labeled as the main water shutoff.

Now, why would you ever use this main water shutoff? Think of it as the last resort in the event of a really bad leak or pipe problem. Chances are, though, you can better isolate the leak at a closer spot - say at the sink or the toilet itself. But if you can't find one of these local turnoffs, and water is going all over the floor, then the only thing you can do is use the main water shutoff. The problem is, the main water shutoff is not a very good substitute for a local shutoff because after you shut it off, water sitting in the house pipes will continue to come out the leak by way of gravity - particularly if the leak is on a lower floor. But if it's the only thing you got, go with it.

Hot Water Heater: The hot water heater heats the water that is used in the sinks and showers. It is not used to heat the water that heats the house. Gas feeds a flame bed that heats a quantity of water. Once it heats this water, the water is put into the hot water tank until it is used. The hot water heater is in the back left-hand side of the boiler room, and the tank is right next to the door as you open it.

The only problems we have ever had with the hot water heater are similar to the problems we have had with the oven. One problem involved the thermocouple going kaput (see the Oven/Stove section for more info on the thermocouple), so we got it replaced. The other problem was with the pilot being blown out on a windy night when wind came through the little boiler room window. It's easy to tell when the hot water heater isn't working - your shower gets cooler, and cooler, and cooler. On the hot water heater, towards the bottom facing the north wall is a little door you can slide open to see if the pilot is on. Another way to see this is to stand in the doorway of the boiler room and turn off the lights to see if there is a glow underneath the unit.

Cow: The cow refrigerates and dispenses milk and orange juice. If it ever stops working, check to see if it's plugged in and also check the dial on the left side. If you need an extra part, you can order it from the manufacturer. Find the owner's manual in the file cabinet in the computer room.


Front Oak Tree: Directly in front of the front door is a Swampy White Oak, planted in May 1999 by Ithaca City Forester Andy Hillman. It was a gift from the city to make up for a little misunderstanding we had (they cut down a tree of ours for the Lake Source Cooling Project before we had a meeting). It took the place of an old willow tree that had been blown down eight months earlier.

Front Crabapple Tree: Just to the right of the front door (as you look at the house), there is a prairiefire crabapple, planted by Vikkie Johnson and myself in September 1997. It replaced a big ugly pine bush that I cut down. The prairiefire crabapple doesn't drop its fruit (so the porch won't get messed up), is resistant to most tree diseases, and has leaves which turn a beautiful red-orange in the fall. We bought it from Cayuga Landscaping for $60.

Ants: There are large numbers of red and black ant colonies which make their home near our house. So far, they haven't been a serious problem, but they could be in the future.

First, the basics: On the west side (in the woods) and on the north side (in the grass) live large amounts of red ants. These tiny little ants have a pretty painful bite and are the most numerous around the house. Generally, they stay away from the house but have been known to approach the outdoor dinner table and bite people eating. You can find them in inconspicuous dirt piles on the north lawn and under rocks near the memorial tree. The biggest concentration is in the back woods - who knows how many are there. The HM before me said that an entomologist from the University came to inspect the ant situation there and said she had never seen such a problem. I can't say if that is true or not, though.

Black ants (carpenter ants, I think) make their home on the south side of the house, near the dumpster and bike shed. They live in larger dirt piles which are more obvious. I have killed a large number of them (digging up the pile and pouring boiling water on them) but they keep coming back. These ants are the only ones known to enter the house. Every spring I was at the Cramm, there was a two-week period when black ants would enter the bathrooms. Most of them would go to the second floor shower room. People would complain, and by the time I would start making plans to do something, they would be gone.

The only other time ants came into the house was my last month at Von Cramm (June 1999). It was a particularly hot and dry month, and my neighbor (Rm 2110) and I (Rm 2112) began seeing black ants all over our rooms. When one crawled over my arm when I was sleeping, I woke up and had a flash of thought as to why there was this anomalous infestation. I think the ants had been driven from their nest in search of water. It's just as important for insects as it is for humans, and likely the reason they appeared in the second floor shower every spring. Once we got some rain, we never saw them again. Roaches, for instance, are on the same search, which is why they are spotted in kitchens and bathrooms most often (luckily not in ours, yet). People try to limit their food sources, but it's more effective to limit their water supply.

So until the ants are a serious problem, don't worry about them. Occasionally, you should try to destroy their ant hills to limit them (use Agway poison grains to kill 'em), but a professional exterminator to eliminate them all-together would be big bucks.

Compost: The compost is a nature-friendly way to handle our food waste. I'm no hippy, but I like the idea that our food is being turned into rich soil in our backyard rather than taking up space in a landfill. It's essential that the compost is turned regularly to speed the composting process. It's also important to have a bail of hay on the rock ledge so people can throw some handfuls of hay onto the food. The hay keeps the smell down and also aids the composting. An ABEN major said that our compost is generally too moist and nitrogen deficient. Things like hay, leaves and lawn clippings help balance things. You'll have to make sure that the compost is harvested once it has turned into usable soil. When it's ready, the compost is the blackest, richest soil you will ever see. Remove it and use it for the front stone planters or other potting projects.

Most of the current compost bins are poorly built, made by people who hadn't used a hand drill before. Their shoddy workmanship resulted in one coming apart as I helped move it and a nail cut my hand pretty badly. So consider having some rebuilt.

Front porch: The front porch is made of granite steps and side blocks, with flat siltstone blocks making most of the top surface. These siltstone blocks were installed in Fall 1998 by Cornell Masonry shops for a cost of $1500. The old blocks were broken up badly mainly by the use of stones to hold the door open. So along with the new stones, a door holding device was installed. Another thing that damages the porch stones is salt. Avoid using salt on the front porch unless you can't break up the ice with a shovel.

Lawn care: Von Cramm has a beautiful lawn – when it’s kept up. The house can look like a real dump if the grass isn't kept short. Generally, mowing is only necessary between the very end of spring semester and the beginning of fall semester. During the summer it has to be done regularly. See for yourself - if it's long, cut it. There is a lot of grass, and cutting the whole lawn and weedwacking takes about four hours total. In the “Summer/Winter Term” section, I talk a bit about having this done. The house has a lawnmower and weedwacker, along with an assortment of hand tools. The lawnmower takes unleaded gas, as you get at any gas station. Check the oil, and make sure you use the right kind. Weedwackers generally take a gas/oil mixture. The current weedwacker takes a 1:40 oil/gas mixture, using a two-cycle oil for air cooled engines - you can get this oil at Sears. This ratio is common, but check for yourself. Be sure to store the weedwacker in a horizontal position.

Trash: Our dumpster is serviced by Superior Disposal Service out of Ithaca. They work for most of Cornell, also. The dumpster is shared by us and 660. The only time the trash can be a problem is during House Cleanup or other major cleanup projects. Sometimes, you can fill up the dumpster past capacity, having garbage sitting next to the dumpster, which isn't good. You can easily avoid this. Talk to 660 before your house cleanup to see if their house cleanup is going to fall on the same weekend. If so, call up Campus Life facilities and arrange for an extra pickup before that weekend, say on Friday (they currently pick up on Wednesday). If you think the dumpster is going to reach capacity for another reason, it's best to call up for that extra pickup.

Bike shed: The bike shed is a good place for people to put their bikes if the bike room is overflowing. Give them one of the keys from the key box (there is a whole set of them for this purpose). It's also a good place to store extra tables, chairs, etc.


Radiators: The radiators distribute heat in the rooms by conducting heat from the circulating hot water to an array of aluminum plates inside the radiator. From time to time, radiators will fail to put out any heat. When this happens, you should do two things. First, bleed the radiator. Bleeding involves flushing a small amount of water out of the radiator to eliminate any air bubbles which can impede flow. To bleed, take the radiator cover off and find the bleeding knob.
It should be a little metal knob on the end of the radiator, at the top. Use a bleeding key to turn the inset knob (the square knob inset inside the circular housing –sorry I didn’t get a photo) until a bit of water squirts out (use a rag to catch it), then close the knob. Wait a few minutes to see if it heats up.

If bleeding doesn’t solve the problem (and most often it doesn’t), the next step is to tap the flow pin. Find where the dial control meets the pipes. The dial itself may or may not be at this spot. If it isn’t, the dial will be connected to this spot by a wire. The dial control is a white plastic knob connected to the metal pipe by a small allen screw. Use an allen wrench to unscrew the screw, then slide off the dial control piece (it can be stubborn). It should uncover a small brass pin sticking out of a brass knob. Use a wrench to tap the pin a few times until it pops out. Feel the pipes to see if they heat up – they should. If it doesn’t pop out, or if the pipes don’t heat up within a few seconds, take some pliers and gently grip the pin and work it back and forth – pushing and pulling. The way the pin works is like this: adjusting the dial presses the pin in depending on how high the dial number is. If the dial number is “0” (off), the pin is pressed in all the way, stopping the flow of hot water. If the setting is “5” (full on), the pin is out all the way, letting a maximum of hot water flow through. If the pin gets stuck down, then it’s like having the radiator off even when the dial is on “5”. The two steps I just described should solve 95% of radiator problems. If there still isn’t heat after doing these steps, call in a work order.

Fire system: The current fire detection system was installed in January 1998 by Cornell PDC shops for a cost of about $30,000. It was a major undertaking. The new system is pretty high-tech, and connected to the Cornell Environmental Health and Safety office as well as the fire department. When the system is tripped, both will be on their way (Cornell EHS is usually first). Here is some basic information for you:

In every room in the house there is either a heat detector or a dual heat/smoke detector. All units are wired to the electrical system, so don’t take them apart to change the batteries. In fact, don’t ever touch them. Only a few rooms such as the kitchen and boiler rooms have just heat detectors. The rest have heat/smoke detector units. The heat detectors are designed to go off when the ambient temperature goes above a certain temperature, say 140? F (it depends on the room – the kitchen has a higher threshold). The smoke detectors go off when there is smoke in the air, obviously. The smoke detectors in the bedrooms have a local alarm: if they go off, they make a loud sound but don’t trip the whole system. If the heat detectors go off, however, the whole system will be tripped (i.e. fire trucks will roll). The smoke detectors in the rest of the house (e.g. hallways, living room, dining room) are tied into the system, so if they go off, fire trucks will roll. To recap what happens when a device goes off:

To avoid setting off the system, limit smoke in the common areas. We have had the system go off because a birthday cake was presented in the hallway. The system has gone off because someone didn’t open the chimney flue when they started a fire (duh!). The system has gone off numerous times when smoke from a burning bagel or stove-top disaster reached the dining room smoke detectors. Tell people about these so they can avoid such activities.

When the system does go off, take it seriously. It may be a burning bagel, but it could be the attic on fire. As HM, you are responsible for the safety of the residents, so get your people out of there! As you are exiting the front door, check the system box to see which room device was tripped. It is a good idea to announce at the first meeting some general fire alarm rules. Tell them what happens when the system goes off (so they know what’s happening) and how to avoid setting it off. Tell them to take it seriously and to meet on the front lawn, out of the parking lot.

It may happen that you hear a buzzing sound coming from the fire system box in the entryway. The panel should announce a “trouble” status with a device. It’s not a big deal. Just wait a few minutes and Cornell EHS will come to replace the troubled unit. Most often, the trouble sign comes on when dust gets in a unit. It can also go off if someone tries to screw with a unit.

Toilet/Urinal turn-off: If there is ever a problem with a toilet or urinal, you may have to turn off the water to the unit. In times past, city water system repairs caused a slight backflow of water which caused the toilets to flush continuously. This was solved by turning the water off, then on again. To turn the water off on a toilet, unscrew the metal cap on the piping to the right of the flush handle. Inside, you will find a brass screw. Tighten the screw to turn off the water – you may need an extra-large screwdriver. For urinals, the setup is the same – just higher.

Exterior trim: The trim that I’m referring to includes the white plaster and brown wooden boards on the outside of the house, above the brick base. Currently, it’s in a bad state due to the ivy. The ivy irrevocably sinks its tentacles into the wood and plaster and causes a big dilemma. If you try to remove the ivy, you’ll simply rip more plaster/paint off. But letting it go just leads to further expansion. After talking with the BOD in 1998, we have decided on a policy. They ivy stays untouched until the trim is to be fully redone by an outside contractor. An estimate from Welliver-McGuire (Ithaca) was $55,000. After this, we have to make sure it never grows back. To ensure it doesn’t, a yearly or semesterly cutting of the ivy at the ground will have to be done by Cornell grounds. If at the time you are reading this the exterior has already been redone (it was slated for work in 2000), then make sure the ivy is being cut.

Carpets: The only carpets in the house include the three hallway carpets and the living room carpet. The hallway carpet was installed in June 1999 by Carpet Bazaar of Ithaca for $2500. I don’t know how old the living room carpet is. The carpets need to be regularly shampooed, best done at every house cleanup. The presence of pets (especially dogs) in the house accelerates the nasty-factor of carpets. After a certain amount of pet poop/pee, no amount of shampooing can eliminate the smell that’s impregnated the fibers. At this point, you just have to replace it.

Bathroom sinks shutoff: If you want to work on one of the bathroom sink fixtures, or there is some sort of emergency, you have to turn off the water at the sink. To do this, look underneath to examine the situation. If there is a handle, great – just turn it. Unfortunately, some don’t have handles, requiring a special tool to turn the inset rectangular knob.

Floor tile: There are two types of tile in the house: the asbestos kind and the non-asbestos kind. The asbestos kind is still in most of the bedrooms, and is smaller in dimension than the non-asbestos kind. Don’t worry, the asbestos tile isn’t a hazard (at least that’s what current science dictates). The non-asbestos kind is newer (originally all the tile was asbestos), is larger in dimension, and found in the following places: kitchen and dining room, pool room, basement hallway, TV room, foyer and rm 1104 (apartment). There are two generations off the non-asbestos tile. The first was installed sometime in the late 1980’s or early 90’s, and includes the kitchen and dining room. The second generation was installed by Wellever-McGuire in 1997 and includes the foyer, pool room, TV room, apartment and basement hallway. Don’t blame me about the gaudy colors – I had no part. For your information, asbestos tile also underlies all the hallway carpeting.

Proper care of the tile involves cleaning and waxing. Waxing should be done every semester or year. To wax, first clean the tile, let it dry and apply stripper. Remove the stripper as the instructions say and apply the wax. If you don’t remove all the stuff on the floor before waxing, the shit will be incorporated into the wax and you’ll have a film of dirt attached to your floor – which no amount of mopping will remove. So do it right, and make sure the house cleanup people know what they’re doing.

Exit signs: Make sure these are lit. To change the bulbs, unscrew the little knob at the bottom and swing open the panel. Install the little stubby indicator lights (not regular bulbs).

Windows/Screens/Storm windows: Behind each window in the house is a setup of metal slots which accepts a screen and two storm windows. The use of the screen is obvious: to keep out bugs. The storm windows are designed to be an extra guard against the cold weather. Therefore, storm windows need only be in place during the winter. The setup consists of three vertical slots, allowing for three panels. The inside slot (closest to you, if you’re on the inside) is designed to hold the screen. The middle slot holds the upper storm window pane, and the outside slot holds the lower storm window pane. Notches are cut in the metal slots to allow the windows and screen to lock in place. As far as I know, only one window setup was installed incorrectly: the far left (south) window of the apartment (Rm 1104). In this window, the panes won’t lock into place. I liked to keep spare screens and storm windows in the boiler room, because they were out of the way but still accessible.

Since storm windows are meant for winter, you should make sure all are in place at the beginning of the cold season. Doing so increases the heating efficiency of the house, and saves money. Usually, both storm window panes are in place in each room, but often times the lower pane is in the upper position (occupying the top half of the window). So just make sure this lower pane is in the lower position, and that the upper pane is in place, and you are set to go.

Wall work: It happens fairly often that people want to secure something into the cinderblock wall. To do so requires more than hammering a nail into place, or just screwing in a screw. For light-duty things (e.g. shelving), you can get special masonry screws from the hardware store (blue, with a special pyramid tip). But first you need to drill a pilot hole for them (check the screw directions to see what size bit to use). For heavy-duty things (e.g. lofts), you can use an expansion bolt of some sort, but I don’t know much about this, so do your own research. Generally, you’ll want to know what you’re doing before you try either approach.

Operation ID: In Fall 1997, Vikkie Johnson and I went around and engraved all the Cramm-owned valuables around the house Von Cramm’s very own Operation ID serial code. If any engraved item was stolen and recovered, the police would know who the item belonged to. Theoretically, it also deters thieves, but who knows? Regardless, engraving is a wise thing to do. If you have any new house equipment, call Cornell Police and borrow their engraver to ID the goods. They will have our Op ID number.

Circuit breakers: If the electricity goes out to a certain spot in the house (i.e. not the whole house), a circuit breaker was just tripped. All the wiring in the house is divided up into different circuits. Each circuit has a breaker that is designed to shut off power when the wiring is overloaded. It can be overloaded due to a short (two wires touching, water in contact with wires), or if someone plugs in too much shit into one circuit. The best overloaders of circuits are appliances with heating elements (toasters, space heaters, etc.), because they have such a large draw.

When a circuit breaker is tripped, make sure that possible causes of an overload are unplugged. Then go to the floor’s circuit panel (every floor’s got one, the basement has two). Find the switch that goes to the respective area (the switch will be towards the “off” position, also look at the list on the box door). Flip the switch to the “off” position fully, then to the “on” position. Don’t just flip it “on”. If the breaker immediately goes off again, call in a work order – there is probably a short.