Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wahing Machine Inlet Valve

Late one night, my wife and I were getting ready for bed. She had put a load in the washer and it was nearing the end of its cycle (we thought). We started hearing chimes coming from our laundry room, so she went to investigate. She came back into the bedroom and said, "It's not working...and it was flashing a code OE"

So, I went in to investigate and decided to empty the machine. As the machine tried expelling the water more was flowing in from the top. I went downstairs to the manifold and shut off the water to the washing machine. I could still hear a trickle of water flowing through the pipes, so I also turned off the valve near the machine. The machine emptied and finished its cycle.

I did some internet research and everything I found pointed to a bad water inlet valve. I pulled the top off and checked the solenoids with my multimeter. They were fine, so I pulled the water line and checked for a blockage. There was some plastic bits around the screen, so I assumed some of them got through the screen and were now blocking the valve in an open position. To check it, I went to the sink and filled up the inlet. With just that little bit of pressure, water was dripping out the other side. I went online to Appliance Parts Pros and picked up a new water inlet valve for $71 plus $12 for two day shipping. It took me 2 minutes to install. I'm running a load right now to test it.

Our laundry monster looks like Marjory.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We had a new HVAC system put in yesterday. The old system was installed in 1993 and was installed improperly. We didn't notice it, but the unit was tilted slightly and the control wires going out to the heat pump only had 4 conductors. When they installed the new system they had to run a new 8 conductor wire. The contractor was surprised that they were able to get the heat pump to work with only 4 conductors.

So, I got three quotes and I chose Cascades Comfort Services. They were recommended for quality by the Washington Consumer Checkbook. I use the Washington Consumer Checkbook anytime I need to hire someone and I don't get paid to say that. The quote was for $7700, New Air handler, and new 17.45 SEER heat pump. York was offering a $1000 instant rebate. The Commonwealth of Virginia is giving me a 20% rebate (around $1500) and the Federal Government is giving me a $1500 tax credit. The new thermostat is AWESOME! Most importantly, this system will use about half the electricity of the old system. Woo-hoo.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Million Little Details

So, it feels like there are a million little things that I have to do to finish off this kitchen. Every time I run through my list of things to do, I remember something else that needs to go on the list.

So, here is the current to do list in no particular order:

  • Finish Cabinet trim
  • quarter round at cabinet base
  • Baseboard moulding with quarter round
  • Drawer and Door pulls for the cabinets
  • Repaint repaired areas
  • Outside siding
  • redo the microwave vent (I'm not happy with it)
  • Heating Vent grate
  • Polyurethane the floor

Sunday, August 22, 2010


So...To finish out the kitchen, I needed to move the 300 pound refrigerator sideways down a hallway and then across my living room and then into the kitchen. This was going to take some brawn to avoid scratching the new-ish Pergo and the brand new cork floor I put down in the kitchen... Or some brains...

My kids have been watching Phineas and Ferb lately, so I decided to create a hovercraft like device to move the refrigerator. First attempt: Disaster. Second Attempt: Mild success. Third Attempt: Success.

This was the first attempt. I had some scrap wood lying around, but nothing big enough for the top, so I had to put a couple of pieces together. The bottom here (that you see) is 5 mm plywood I had lying around (I was using it to shim up the cabinets). I drilled holes in it similar to an air hockey table. I plugged it in and it wouldn't work, the design seemed too complicated, so I simplified it on my second attempt.

I went and bought 1/2 plywood for the top and then I stapled some spare tyvek house sheathing to the bottom. I used gorilla tape to keep the air from leaking out around the staples. In the middle of the bottom I screwed that small piece of 5mm plywood to create a cavity (when the tyvek is inflated). I put gorilla tape around the wood to reinforce the tyvek as I cut holes through it. I used the fan from the kids bouncy castle. It inflates the tyvek and then air leaks out the holes to the center cavity. It then leaks out under the tyvek and the creates what is known as an air film bearing for the contraption to slide on.

When I first turned it on with me on it, the bag inflated right away, but it wouldn't slide, so I cut some more holes in the tyvek on the bottom. That seemed to do the trick. But it wasn't as free sliding as I hoped. You really had to be balanced to slide and I wasn't sure if the fridge would balance well on it.

I had some constraints in the design process. My hallway is 36 inches wide, but with the base moulding and quarter round, I lose a good bit on either side, so my width had to be around 33 inches (the fridge is 32" deep). The fridge is 36 inches long and I needed some room on one side for the fan, so I made the length 48 inches (and I rounded the corners).

Our first attempt to move the fridge down the hall was disastrous. The bag wouldn't inflate because the fridge had the thing trapped against the floor, so I had to put some wood under the side, so air could get under it. Once we got it up, ABL pulled it down the hall until it got stuck. The door handles jammed it. So we backed it out and I pulled the doors off. On the third attempt, the refrigerator lost a lot of weight and once we got it balanced on the board, it easily slid down the hall and into the kitchen. eezy peazy (as my daughter says these days). Here's me and my son on the board:

And a pic of the tyvek inflated.

Crazy Three Days

The plumber, Renny Offutt, showed up on Tuesday (8/10) and quickly connected the dishwasher and sink. He needed some extra parts that he didn't have in his truck, so he left to finish another job (gas leak) and returned a couple hours later and finished up. We highly recommend him if you need a plumber in Fairfax county.

That got us to complete working kitchen status. The following day, My in-laws showed up to help. My MIL watched the kids while my FIL helped me mount the microwave on the wall. I wanted to vent the fan outside, so I needed to cut a hole through the wall and that was a huge Pain In The @ss (PITA). We put the microwave up on the wall around 5 times trying to get it right...

When I rebuilt the floor for the double wall oven, I put the supports in without checking to see if it would interfere with the drawer. It ended up interfering and my FIL and I had to rejigger the support to get the drawer to work.

I put in a hard day working on the kitchen and then I packed for our trip to Maine. Then I had to pack the truck up after ABL got home from work. It was a long day, including a couple trips around 9pm to Target for a new larger tent. We left for Main at midnight and arrived in Old Orchard Beach at 10am.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I was expecting the plumber to show up in the afternoon today (but I think it will be early next week), so I put the floor in while I was waiting. Here is a view of the oven powered up.
The black plastic you see on the floor is the vapor barrier. I'll trim that back to two inches and hide it behind the trim. Here are some more pictures:
Right before I put the floor in, I realized the dishwasher was too tight, so I took out my router, put in a flush trim bit, and went to town. The opening is now exactly 24" and the edges look pretty good. While cleaning up at the end of the day, I tried to put the drawer under the oven...It wouldn't go in, then I realized I had lowered the supports for the oven and they are blocking the drawer.

To close out Phase 1, I need the plumber to show up and I have to go through the final inspection. I'll schedule the inspection for Tuesday.

Phase 2 Complete

Thursday, bright and early, Jose and his buddy showed up to install the granite countertops. In our nook area, we meant that to be a desk, so there is a gap between the cabinets. When Counter Intelligence cut up the stone, they put a seam pretty darn close to the edge there. So, I had to put in a support member along the back.
 They had a vacuum pump going and when I went to investigate, this is what I found.

The white blocks are like suction cups and I believe they are pulling the two blocks together here.

Later that day, the electrician showed up and while he was looking around he asked, "Is that oven going to fit? Sometimes you need to cut these up a bit..." I pulled out the installation manual and sure enough, I had to make the opening wider and taller.  I panicked a bit and then went to Home Depot and purchased a jigsaw. I spent about an hour trying to figure out how to clamp wood to the cabinet to guide the saw, but in the end, I just marked the line and cut it freehand.  I then had to lower the base that supports the oven and I did that rather quickly (and did not notice that I created a problem).

We got the oven in place, it was a beast to lift and the opening was a little short on width in the bottom, but we eventually got it. The cooktop went in fine, but the support brackets that are supposed to hold it in place don't fit inside the cabinet, so I'll have to put L brackets in their place. The Electricians put covers on all the outlets and since I have paint on the walls, Phase 2 is complete.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Tuesday, there were a couple areas that looked really bad, so I hit them with another coat of joint compound. I sponged them down a couple hours later, so they would be ready to go when they dried. Also, I stopped in at Rentals Unlimited and picked up a Floor Stripper. The description on their website says, "Remove up to 200 sq. ft. per hour of vinyl or other related soft material"

Your Mileage May Vary...It picked up around 100 s.f. in 2 hours. BUT, it got the job done and the results look awesome, so I'm not complaining. I had to buy a specialized blade that I will most likely never use again for $11 and the rental was $25 for 4 hours but well worth it. Did I mention that sucker is heavy? I strained my back getting it out of the car and had a real tough time getting it back in.

Wednesday, I put primer over the areas with the new joint compound and I put caulk in the corners between the ceiling and the wall as well as a few other inside corners. Later that day, I put a coat of white ceiling paint on the ceiling. It was a Valspar product that goes on pink and dries to white (so you know which areas still need paint). A couple hours after that, I put the paint on the walls. Earthy Cane, here are pictures.

The unpainted areas are getting a tile backsplash.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Counter Intelligence

So, The original quote for silestone was $5513. After some negotiation, I got the quote down to $4222. That's a huge discount, but still nowhere near my budget number. Adrienne and I went to their shop to see if there was a cheaper grade of Silestone that we could live with. I told Paul that we were still $400 over a number that I could live with. We hemmed and hawed trying to choose a cheaper stone, but we weren't really happy with the other choices. Paul came back and said he didn't have the wiggle room to drop the extra $400...

Then he asked us about granite. Frankly we hadn't even thought about granite. We were told Silestone was cheaper than granite and granite had to be sealed every two years and that was enough to knock it out of contention. Their stone has a coating with a 15 year warranty. No sealing necessary. Since we had chosen the high end Silestone (and knew what their price was for that) Paul worked up a quote for the high end granite to show us the price difference. $3600. BAM! Now we're walking around in the same time zone as my budget. Adrienne and I strolled around the granite showroom and picked out a piece we liked. It turned out to be mid-range price wise. So, granite countertops, sink, faucet, plus tax, fully installed. $3061.
BOO-YAH. Budget saved, thank you Counter Intelligence.

They will be installed next Thursday.

P.S. We brought a piece of the toe-kick and a piece of our backsplash tile and we would hold them up to the granite pieces. After we made the deal, I handed them over to Roland to watch. Tessa got her hands on them and held them up to a piece of granite and then she would say "nope" and move to the next piece.

It's hard to see here, but she's barefoot. For some reason when she walks into the Counter Intelligence showroom she kicks her shoes off.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Primer & Countertop

Got a coat of Primer on the walls today. I bought a gallon of VALSPAR drywall Primer (look here to see why I chose VALSPAR). I picked out 2 color chips, Adrienne immediately dismissed one because it reminded her of her parents kitchen when she was a kid.

I can't get to a working kitchen until the countertops are installed and the quote came in today. Now, when I had the contractor price out my kitchen reno, he priced in $3525 for granite (installed). When I priced out cabinets at Lowes, he asked what kind of countertop I wanted. He gave me a quote for $3000 for Quartz. I checked Washington Consumer Checkbook for countertop installers and Counter Intelligence was highly rated. My neighbor bought his counters from Home Depot and they were installed by Counter Intelligence.

I was expecting Counter Intelligence to quote between $2780 and $3780. Their website says "40% off Retail Prices." So, Home Depot has Silestone Class E at $85 per s.f., we have 54.6 s.f. I was expecting the quote to be just over $2780 + faucet upgrade + Tax. Other areas of the website say they will beat Lowes/Home Depot by 10%. So, the very least, I was expecting $3760 (HD is having a 10% off sale and they'd beat that by 10%).

Are you sitting down? Good, here it is: $5513. Saywhaaa? When you subtract out the sink and faucet, that's $96 per s.f. I sent them a polite email asking them to sharpen their pencils. I need to have a backup plan in case they don't budge on price, so I'll start gathering more quotes tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Joint Compound

I have applied the last coat of joint compound in the kitchen. I know it's the last coat, because I ain't puttin' up another...

I'll sand tomorrow and put some primer on it and see how it looks, but I'm reaching a point where I'm making it worse, not better. In other news, I was told to expect the countertop quote today, but it hasn't arrived yet, so I'm guessing it'll show up tomorrow morning. While I'm waiting for the countertop to be installed, I'll prime and paint the kitchen. We purchased the flooring, so it should be adjusted to our temperature and humidity levels by the time I need to install it.

Monday, July 26, 2010


My Father-In-Law showed up today to help. We got the window installed,

then some of the trim,

and some of the toe-kick.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


My father-in-law helped me hang the cabinets. We had a problem with the first one, we had trouble driving the screws deep enough, so we started pre-drilling the holes. The second one went up faster and by the third, we were off to the races. I was amazed at how fast they went in and how well everything fit together.
I was worried about the wall oven cabinet. When I checked the plans and saw the problem over the refrigerator, I realized I had a similar problem with the window area. I had forgotten to account for the spacer between the wall and the oven cabinet. So, my carefully centered window was going to be off-center. BUT...when we were placing the oven cabinet, I realized I didn't need to put the spacer between the wall, I could butt the cabinet right up against the wall and put the spacer between the cabinets. Here's the outcome:
The area above the oven has tray dividers. There's a small drawer (hidden from view) below the ovens. The microwave is going on the other side of the window below the short cabinet. The induction cooktop will be below the microwave.
With the next wall, we put up a ledger board to hold the 2 cabinets in place.
The old stove was on this wall.

We put up two more cabinets on the sink wall and then called it a day. I spent the next couple of days putting more joint compound on the fix over the fridge. When we got back to the cabinets, we had seven left to place. With the wall cabinets over the sink, we had a 1/2 inch gap between the wall cabinets and the tall pantry, but the base cabinets (with the exact same dimensions) didn't quite fit. Did I mention they cut corners when they built my home? Because apparently, they couldn't be bothered to check to see if that wall was vertical. We shrunk the gap for the dishwasher by about a 1/2 inch to make them fit. It figures the last cabinet would give us trouble. I'm really happy with the way they came out. Here's the sink wall:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hangin' Drywall

I rented a drywall lift and a drywall screwgun from Rentals Unlimited. The drywall lift is a must have piece of equipment; it was just $20 for a day and made hanging drywall on the ceiling ultra easy. The drywall screw gun had the wrong size bit in it, so it stripped out after just 6 or 7 screws. I took it back and they put the right size bit in it. For $15 (per day), the drywall screw gun was an excellent choice. It drove the screws quickly and to a perfect depth every time.
I'm going to put a plug in for Rentals Unlimited here: because I had to take the drill back and get the correct bit, they waived the $15 charge. That is awesome customer service.

Here is the window wall with drywall and the first coat of joint compound.

You don't see it in this picture (you should) and it slipped my mind for the longest time, but I drywalled right over the HVAC vent. OOPS!

We had to build a box over the refrigerator for the new cabinets. Here it is:

Days later, and right before I was to start hanging cabinets, I realized the box was the wrong size...It needed to be 3 inches bigger. ARGH! This disrupted my carefully prepared timetable. I had to build up 3 more inches, hang drywall, tape and apply two coats of joint compound.

Two coats of joint compound added two days to my schedule.

Smart Tip

Ever wondered where the studs were in your wall when hanging stuff? Well, after construction was complete on our addition, I frequently wondered where the studs were. That gave me the idea to take photos of future projects before the drywall went up. Here is the left side of the wall I rebuilt. The numbers in red are inches to the sheetrock on the left side.
 Here is the Top:
And the right side.
This came in handy when I was hanging the cabinets, I whipped out the camera and zoomed in on the numbers to see where the studs were.


When we opened up the ceiling, we found the power lines were all just draped over the drop ceiling, the stove wall was built out with 2x3's and the ductwork for the next room was hanging below the rafters.
You can see that we used straps of metal to pull the ductwork up. The ductwork couldn't be pulled all the way up, so we built up the joists with scrap wood to secure the drywall. So, technically, my drywall dips down there, but you can't tell by looking at it.
The vent into the kitchen was a huge box that had to be cut down to fit the new ceiling height. Here's the final product.

I did that with a hacksaw and a pair of tin snips.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Watts Happening?

So, Dependable One Electricians showed up today and did an awesome job rewiring my kitchen. They were top rated for quality in Washington Consumer Checkbook magazine and I found them to be very affordable. They got everything done and I scheduled the rough-in electrical inspection tomorrow.

If it gets approved, I can insulate the walls and start putting up the Sheetrock. Tape and spackle will take a couple of days, but then I can start hanging cabinets. I need to have the cabinets in by Saturday so that I can get the counter guys in to give me a quote. The counters will take a couple of days, then I can finish the plumbing and install the cooktop. I should have a working kitchen by 7/23 at the latest. Window goes in 7/26.

A Big Hole In The Wall And No AC

Sunday my brother-in-law James joined us to help get the room ready for the electricians. He brought a sawzall, which is almost as much fun as a chainsaw. We pulled the huge window out. Here's my dad and my BIL James doing the heavy lifting (notice I'm supervising):

This is my supervisor (the old supervisor is in the background):

The wall framed and partially covered with OSB (oriented Strand Board).

I gotta say, OSB is some tough SHIT. We had a tough time nailing through it. James and I both hit our thumbs one too many times. By the time we got to the bottom panel, we were launching so many nails we got a bit giggly. I tried to con my kids into holding the nails for us, but James kept warning them that it was painful. You can see a lot of light leaking between the panels, so I used some "Great Stuff" for windows and doors to plug the gaps. I framed the wall for a new window; a special order from Lowes (24" x 30"). The window won't be in for another two weeks, so I framed it and put the plywood right over it.

Meanwhile, my dad was inside putting up boards around the perimeter of the room so we could nail the sheetrock into them and trying to force an HVAC duct (that was just passing through the kitchen) up above the bottom of the rafters.

The duct that feeds air into the room was built for the drop ceiling, so I had to cut it down to fit the new ceiling height.

We managed to get everything on my list done.

I'm A Bit Disappointed I Didn't Get To Use A Chainsaw...

Adrienne worked late into Friday night to empty the kitchen. My parent's showed up around 10am on Saturday to help me demo the kitchen. It went fairly quickly. The wall cabinets were held up by 4 screws into the wall and usually 2 into the next cabinet. The base cabinets were somewhat harder to remove so my dad resorted to the persuader (AKA The Sledgehammer). We pulled down the ceiling sheetrock and found a nasty surprise:
Yeah, that's a Wasp Nest...If it had been an active hive, we would have been dead.
The second surprise was all the corners that were cut. Back in 1978/1979, this home was SLAPPED together. The wall that had the stove on it was built with 2"x3"s. The electrical wiring was just draped above the drop ceiling. The scary thing was the wiring to the stove...It was aluminum. Yes, Aluminum is a good conductor, until it oxidizes, then it burns down your house. Here's one for all my Telco fans. When I pulled the plate off the old phone jack I found this:
That says "Bell System Property" and "Not For Sale". So, if there's a Baby Bell out there that wants it back and can prove that Ma Bell left it to you in her will, you can have it back. It'll be in a big green can at the end of my driveway.

As Saturday drew to a close I felt way ahead of schedule. Here are some pictures of the devastation. If you're familiar with my house, the first is a picture looking at the wall that had the sink and the Fridge. The fridge lived between the wall and the stepladder.

The second picture is looking at the window across from the sink. This will have the new oven, cooktop, and microwave.

The final picture is the wall that had the stove on it. This wall will eventually get some cabinets.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Improving Economy

Anyone who says the economy isn't improving hasn't tried to hire an electrician lately. The first electrician I called, said he was so busy he couldn't even make it out to give me an estimate, He made it sound like he was backlogged into September. The second electrician came within a few days, but promised me an estimate by this past Tuesday (yeah, it's Saturday. Maybe he meant a week from Tuesday...). The third electrician I called said he was booked solid until late July early August.

I think it's safe to say the economy is on the mend, but like my comeback from transplant surgery, it may take awhile.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I drove down to the Herrity Building and applied for an electrical permit for my kitchen renovation. Paid $85 cash and was in and out pretty quick.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kraftmaid Cabinets

I just ordered cabinets for my kitchen Reno. The first image shows the fridge, sink, and dishwasher in their original locations. The second image is of the opposite wall. It shows a double wall oven, microwave is under the short wall cabinet, and the cooktop is below the microwave. The other cabinets in the image are where our stove is currently located.

I ordered the cabinets from Tart Lumber in Sterling, VA. With tax and delivery, they'll set us back $ 5743. That's just $70 over my budgeted number.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Charlie's Estimate

Well, I am a bit disappointed in Charlie's quote. He does good work, but he's expensive. The cost for materials and labor (sometimes from Subcontractors - which means I'm paying for their overhead and profit also) came out to $19 grand. Charlie's overhead and profit at $11,800 which is 60% put the total over $31 grand. Construction would take 4 weeks.

His quote included things like a final cleaning of the kitchen at $350, which when you add in his overhead and profit means the cleaning actually cost $560. To put that into perspective, when we had a house cleaning service, they charged $125 to clean the whole house. Taking out the fat (like the cleaning) and pulling things out for me to do brought the price down, but I think it's still out of our price range.

By running the job myself, I can instantly save the $11,800. By shopping around and doing some of the work myself, I think I can save a few thousand more.

Which is important because I was able to reserve funds in Virginia's Solar Rebate program. The Commonwealth of Virginia will pay me $2 per watt that I install up to $10,000 combined with the Federal Tax credit, it could drop my costs for a 5 kW system to a couple thousand dollars and a payback time of less than 5 years. I think my monthly electric bill will be around $15. Anyway...Kitchen first, solar second, Pizza oven third. Or was that Pizza oven second, solar third...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Solar Thermal Hot Water

I am becoming increasingly disappointed with our solar thermal hot water system. Going back over my records, it looks like I spent $10,056 including parts and labor. The Federal Government is giving me a 30% credit for the system and it was deployed in 2009, after the cap was removed, so my end cost after the tax credit is $7040. The system works great in the summer, but in the winter, it barely makes it up to temperature. I would have to say that it might only be offsetting 50 % to 75% of my hot water heater bill. My hot water heater costs $500 per year, so at best, this is saving me $375 per year. At that rate, it will take me 18 years to reach payback.

My mistake here was using a contractor to put the system up instead of a company that specializes in putting these panels up.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I purchased a refrigerator, Range, and microwave on Monday from Lowes.

Samsung French Door refrigerator (RF263AEBP) with ice maker without the through the door option and no water dispenser. This thing is huge (25.8 cu. ft.), yet it uses a mere 462 Kwh per year. Our old refrigerator used around 900 Kwh per year. That should save us around $40 per year on our electricity bill. Retail $1499

We decided on the top of the line GE Profile Free standing electric range (PB978DPBB). It has two ovens, an internal meat thermometer, and a griddle feature. Our current 1979 vintage oven is down to just one working burner. Retail $1949

And a GE Profile Microwave. Retail $249

The total retail price would have been around $3724. The cheapest I could find it online was $3319 (with free shipping). I ended up paying around $3240 with tax and free delivery using the Lowes Price match. It was a bit of a hassle, but worth it for the savings. The first time I showed up the clerk didn't want to give me the cheaper price because I didn't have proof. I showed up again on Saturday with proof, but they couldn't order the range, so I had to show up again on Monday.

It will take several weeks for the range to show up since it's a special order, so they are holding the other appliances and will deliver them together.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Refrigerator

Buying a new energy efficient refrigerator is a frustrating process. Most sites don't have the energy star guides (the yellow flyers that say how much power a device uses). Sites like allow you to compare features between competing models, but not how much power they use, they do allow you to download the energy guides individually.

You have to pay attention to how much power it uses, because sometimes they get the math wrong and two models with dramatically different power needs will have the exact same cost of operation listed. Also, the little scale on the flyer is bogus. You know the one that says "Cost Range Of Similar Models"...I think this scale is based on very tight parameters, models of exact same size (like 25.8 cu. ft.), type (french door bottom mount freezer) and only within that particular manufacturer... It's better to just evaluate them based on the "Estimated Yearly Electricity Use"

My refrigerator is at least 13 years old, the energy star website estimates that it uses 857 kwh/year to run (and costs $91/year). I'm looking for a larger refrigerator, preferably french door with a bottom mount freezer and an ice maker as well as an internal water dispenser. Currently, I've found a Samsung model that is 25.8 cu. ft. that uses somewhere between 462 - 505 kwh/year to run (and costs just $49/year - saving me $42/year).

Part of me thinks I should get a top freezer replacement of almost equal size that only uses around 330 kwh/year, saving about $56 (over our current fridge). This really would be the better option for the planet, but with a family of 5, our current fridge is usually maxed out and the freezer is always maxed out.

Kitchen Remodel

Our house was built in 1979. The stove is original to the house as are the cabinets, but I think the previous owners replaced the cabinet doors when they decided to sell the house. The original refrigerator was in the garage when we moved in, but the previous owners had put a new refrigerator in the kitchen (which makes it at least 13 years old now). I think we've gone through 2 dishwashers since we've been here. The stove barely functions, the cabinet doors are cracked and the refrigerator is making some crazy knocking noises. It's time for a remodel.

I met with Charlie so he could take measurements and get an idea for what we wanted. I'll be doing the demolition myself to save cash and I'll be buying the appliances myself for the same reason. My guess is that Charlie is going to come back with an estimate of $20k to $25k for the project.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rheem Heat Pump Water Heater

I didn't know these existed, traditional water heaters work like a toaster, they have an electric heating element - essentially a resistor that turns electricity into heat. But this unit works on the same principle as your refrigerator but in reverse. In your refrigerator, the system takes the heat inside the unit and dumps it out into the room and in the process cools your milk.

In this Hot water heater, it takes the heat in the room and dumps it into the water. It is twice as efficient as a standard hot water heater. They claim that will save about $286 per year on your electric bill. The problem as I see it is that the unit costs $1500 not including tax and installation. It is eligible for a 30% tax credit (so you'll save $500). I believe that makes it 3.6 years to payback its cost not counting installation costs.

Since these have very similar 'guts' to a refrigerator, I would expect it to last just as long. I think when our water heater dies, we'll replace it with one of these.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sock Box Progress

I went to Lowes and bought Oak Plywood and an Oak Board. There were 2 sheets of 2' x 2'x 1/2" and I also bought a sheet of 2' x 2' x 3/4". The Board was 1/2"(actual) x 6" x 9'. I cut the 1/2" plywood to produce 3 boards that were 1' x 2' and 2 boards that were 1' x 1'. I also cut out a 1' x 2' board out of the 3/4" plywood. I used a dado blade to cut "teeth" on the 1' sides of the longer boards. I was cutting 1/2" deep, so that the boards would sit inside each other. I had the dado blade set up to be 3/8" wide and I was hoping to have a 3/8" cut then a 3/8" uncut area alternately down the side of the baord. In reality, my jig wasn't very accurate, so when I cut the smaller boards, I had to transfer the measurements from the other boards and cut them to fit.

Here you can see the boards cut, but not yet glued. Also in the picture you can see the 1' x 2' board that will be the lid and the 1' x 2' x 3/4" board that will be the base.

I cut two 9 inch pieces of the board for the top so they were 1/2" x 6" x 9". Then I cut a 6 inch piece off the board for the handles 1/2" x 6" x 6". This was cut into 1" strips 1/2" x 1" x 6". Two of those strips were routed on all four 6 inch sides. The other 4 strips were routed on two of the long sides. The remaining board got cut into three long strips. The first strip was 3" wide, the second strip was 2" wide, and the final strip was 1" wide. I then routed a profile onto the two wider strips. The original was just an angle cut, but I used a 3/8" roundover bit set deep enough to produce a little shoulder. The long strips were cut into 4 pieces and they were overly long so that I could cut them more precisely with the miter cuts for the corners. I knew I needed the two longer pieces to be at least 25 inches (24 inches plus 1/2" extra on either side) and the two shorter pieces to be 13 inches long (12 inches plus 1/2" either side). Here's a picture of the top pieces, trim pieces, and handles.

I wanted a deep red color to the oak, so I used Minwax Sedona Red for the stain, then Minwax Fast Drying Polyurethane to protect it. The color came out nice, but I would have prefered something a bit more red.

The trim pieces and handles were all glued on using Titebond III glue. The horizontal pieces of the handle were screwed on. I also used screws on the top pieces, but that forced the top pieces off the lid, so I wouldn't do that again. I placed hinges on the lid and attached it to the bottom half, but it wasn't exact, so I had to break out the chisels to open up the top a bit in areas so that it would smoothly open and close. The final touch was to cut out the copper for the edges and nail them in place with 1/2" copper tacks. Here you can see the copper added.

If I was to do this again, I would redesign the handles to make them stronger. I was definitely unhappy with the way they came out. Also, when cutting the dado's in the earlier stage of construction, I would definitely go with wider cuts, 1/2" deep by 1" or 2" wide. I would also search for a better way to make the copper pieces. I used a pair of scissors and freehanded the cuts except for the complicated cuts. In that case, I cut one and traced it onto the other pieces. Here's where I got the copper sheet and tacks. I used the 10 mil sheet. I was afraid the oils on my skin would discolor the copper, so I used rubber gloves whenever I had to touch the copper. I coated the copper with Polyurethane as soon as possible so that it would stay copper colored.