After a brief period of enjoying living in our remodeled house, we’re ready to start on the 2nd floor addition. Our plan is to start construction in the spring/summer of 2016. To do that means that we need to be planning now. We’ve been working with our architect for the last couple of months to finalize the layout of the second floor and we got a bid from the contractors that did the previous remodel. The bid let us know that we’re in the right ballpark in terms of cost. Stay tuned for more updates. In the meantime, I’m looking at siding pictures to figure out what kind of siding I want.
Life has been a bit nuts since the baby has come. One of the surprises I’ve had to deal with is how quickly we go through clothing sizes. We’re saving all of the kiddo clothes because we are planning on having another. This means we need some sort of storage approach for all of the baby clothes as we go through it.
Our approach has been to store it in plastic tubs, organized by size.
|Tubs ordered by size.|
The closet we’re using to store all of the clothing is underneath our basement stairs. This means that it’s not going to be fun to pull the clothing out as it’ll be buried behind other stuff and we don’t have line of sight to all of the things in the closet. The other problem we’ll have is that I’ll have no idea what is where in a few years when we actually need it again.
My solution was to build a closet map. Using a quickly made sketch of the basement closet and a small piece of Lexan, I created a whiteboard “map” for the closet.
|The final product, I’m never going to remember where the maternity clothes are hiding.|
The project was easy and cost me about $4.50 in parts.
What you need:
- Piece of Lexan
- 4 washers
- 4 screws
- Level (you have a level right?)
- Screw driver
- Your map
From here it was pretty straight forward, I added four anchors to the wall (using the level to make sure everything was straight), then used the washers to hold the map and lexan in place.
Following our burglary, we had an alarm system installed. After way, way too long, I’ve finally written about the alarm system we went with. Looking at the different options, we went with FrontPoint Security.
I went with FrontPoint for four reasons:
- Excellent customer support.
- Self install.
- Transparent pricing.
- I liked the technology.
1. Customer Service
2. Self Install
3. Transparent Pricing
4. The Technology
Notes from my installation:
Things I wish FrontPoint did better:
- 24/7 customer service (or at least more West Coast friendly).
- Better guidance on sensor placement, particularly glass break sensors.
- Publish panel latency and incident response time.
- Online account management, want to update your credit card? You need to call them.
- Not really FrontPoint, but I would love an outdoor rated door sensor, something I can put on my gates.
- I’d also like a hard wired smoke alarm option. All of my other smoke alarms are hard wired, so in theory, it’d be easy to hard wire a compatible alarm in that notifies the control center when any of my alarms go off.
Sadly, we suffered a break-in earlier in December. It was an interesting experience that I learned a lot from. Most surprisingly is that I wasn’t angry that we had a break-in, more disappointed. Some of the things I did to prevent or minimize the damage of a break-in worked, and other things didn’t. From my perspective, it was only a matter of time before we were targeted. The city of Seattle has a real problem with burglary, from January-August of 2013, burglary rates are up 23% already. Bring up the subject at a party and everyone there will either have been a victim or will know multiple victims. It’s a fact of life if you live in the city.
Do you know this woman?
I’d taken some steps to make my house a less attractive target, I covered some of these actions in a previous blog posts. Some of these worked, others didn’t.
Things that worked:
- Safe Deposit Box
- Gate locks
- Alarm System Sign
- Back Door
Things that worked:
Safe Deposit Box:
Things that didn’t work:
Alarm System Sign
Changes I’ve made
I’ve finally replaced the last incandescent lights in my house. I’m running a mix of CFL, halogen and LED lights. The last incandescents in my house were in a pair of lamps that used old school 3-way bulbs. Changing these out were a real pain because you can’t get 3-way LED bulbs. Thankfully, table lamps are all made out of pretty standard parts. The solution was to swap out the 3-way “lamp holder socket” with a “dimmable lamp holder socket“. This required a wire stripper, a screw driver, and about 10 minutes per light.
I’m going to be getting rid of the CFLs over time, LED bulbs are still more expensive but they look great.
All of the can lights in my house are LEDs made by CREE. They’re silly expensive, but they look great and dim wonderfully. I installed them when I did the big remodel so I didn’t really notice the price in the grand scheme of things.
The rest of the LEDs are all Phillips of varying wattage. These bulbs are the closest to incandescent in color and warmth that I’ve found.
I’m going to deviate a bit from talking about home improvements….
I like pizza, I like cooking, therefore I decided I should try making pizza. Specifically, I wanted to make a neapolitan style pizza like Tutta Bella. Neapolitan pizzas have strict rules about how they can be made. In particular, I like the crust on these pizzas. They’re thin, gooey and delicious.
Making the crust on a Neapolitan pizza requires the use of only a handful of ingredients: Flour, Salt, Water and Yeast. My favorite crust recipe is the Modernist Cuisine variant. The hard part is that they need to be cooked in a wood fire oven. This is not a post on how to build your own wood fire oven. I’m determined, but not that determined! Wood fire ovens get hot, really hot, 700+ degrees. In a wood fired oven, the pizza cooks in less than three minutes.
Like I said, I didn’t build a wood fire oven, so I had to find another option. Home ovens don’t get anywhere near hot enough. To mimic the behavior of a wood fire oven you need to use something that can create even heat and quickly transfer the heat to the pizza. Normally, people use a pizza stone to do this at home. While looking into baking stones I ran across the Modernist Cuisine pizza steel. Modernist Cuisine does a lot of cool stuff, if I had a larger kitchen pantry and a bigger budget, I’d have all of the gadgets they recommend. I think playing with an antigrill would be fun.
The folks at Modernist Cuisine recommend using a pizza steel over a stone because it works better. If making your own seems like too much work, go to Amazon and buy one from them.
They sell theirs for $99, and it has their name engraved on it. It’s pretty and made in the USA.
$99 seemed steep to me for something I’m not going to use all that often, I made my own for $49 ($45 in steel and $4 in supplies).
Since this blog post first launched, a lot of other people have started making baking steels. There are lots of options on Amazon. I think it’s going to be hard to beat the price to effort ratio of this one for example.
How to make a baking steel
I bought a 14″x16″x3/8″ steel plate from Eddie at Exor Ironworks. Eddie ground the edges so that they’d be smooth. He sold me the steel plate for $45. If you don’t live in Seattle, find a local blacksmith and ask for an “A36 Steel Plate”. A36 is the alloy. Keep in mind that Steel has a weight of .284 pounds per cubic inch. That means that my baking steel is nearly 24 lbs!
|Eddie grinding the edges of my steel plate|
The steel plate from your local blacksmith will be coated in a rust like material called “mill scale”. Before you use the steel, you need to get the mill scale off. The easiest way to do that is with white vinegar.
|The steel plate comes dirty and coated in mill scale|
I used an old storage container I had and submersed my plate for 48 hours in the bucket. If you don’t have a bucket handy, a garbage bag will work just fine too.
|Soaking in vinegar|
After 48 hours in the vinegar soak, hit the plate with a garden hose and the gunk will come right off. I scrubbed mine with baking soda to neutralize the vinegar (I’m pretty sure this is overkill), and then with soap and water to get any remaining gunk off. The steel should be a nice light grey color at this point
|I did two plates at once, they’re in the oven to dry after the vinegar bath|
|My steel after three coats of flax seed oil seasoning|
How to use the baking steel
|Pizza on the steel, the steel was at 700 degrees when I measured it|
To get the pizza on and off of the steel, you’re going to want a pizza peel.
How well does it work?
Summary of Instructions for Making a Baking Steel
- Buy a 14″x16″x3/8″ A36 Steel Plate
- Soak plate in vinegar for 48 hours.
- Clean thoroughly
- Dry thoroughly in the oven
- Season steel
- Apply a thin coat of flax seed oil to all 6 edges
- Rub off as much as you can
- Place in oven at oven’s max temperature for an hour
- Allow to cool in oven
- Repeat three times
My wet bar is mostly done at this point. There were a few setbacks but nothing that money can’t solve.
The first issue we ran into was that the floor is very, very uneven in that corner of the basement. On the order of a couple of inches drop over just over 12 feet. This required a great deal of work to make the floor appear more level.
First, the contractors applied floor leveler. Floor leveler is a special kind of underlayer that gets put down before actual flooring. The leveler is put on the floor and flows till level (I’m simplifying but that’s the general idea).
After the floor was leveled, there was still a significant gap between one end of the bar and the other. The cabinet installers compensated by shimming the cabinets at different levels. They hid the shims behind the toe kick. If you look closely at this picture, you can see how much taller the toe kicks are on the left side of the photo than they are on the right.
These floor leveling problems lead to another problem. After the cabinets were installed, the tile guys had to do another round of leveling so that they could install our large (24″x24″) tiles. This meant that the dishwasher slot “lost” an inch of height on the right side, and half an inch on the left side. This also meant that my KitchenAid dishwasher wouldn’t fit anymore.
The solution here was to buy a new dishwasher. Standard dishwashers require a 34″ tall opening but thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, there exist ADA compliant dishwashers. I don’t know the specifics as to why this is more accessible, but ADA compliant dishwashers are not as tall and have more options for adjustability. Unfortunately, there are fewer options and only one American company makes one, GE sells a rebranded Danby as an ADA dishwasher.
To get a dishwasher that fit, I looked at Bosch, Asko and Miele. Bosch has very long delivery times, and I didn’t like the way the racks worked in the Asko. This lead me to get a Miele. Unfortunately, this also cost me about $250 more. The Miele only comes in a fully integrated model which means I had to buy a panel separately. On the plus side, Miele makes nice dishwashers and it’ll still be super quiet which was a must. I am disappointed that KitchenAid doesn’t make one.
Here’s a picture of the final wet bar:
While remodeling the house I decided to add security cameras to the front. There are two reasons I wanted to add them.
- I wanted the security deterrence.
- It’s really entertaining to see all of the activity at my door.
|This cat visits my house fairly regularly.|
|HD Image – Click for Full Screen|
|640×480 is really small eh?|
How well does it work?
The quality of the video was good enough that I was able to play CSI:Seattle. I zoomed in on the handout in the video:
|I enlarged the handout in a photo editor|
|A JW flyer, I guess I should put up a “No Solicitors” sign|
Is this legal?
|Google Street View of a random house|
I haven’t posted in a while, we’ve been busy finishing the remodel and moving back in. We’re still not done with either but we are back in our house which means I’ve been able to start playing with all of my new toys.
On the whole, I’m thrilled and I’ll be talking at length about all of the new gadgets, for now I thought I’d share a video of my range hood and range.
You may remember that I chose a Capital Culinarian as my range and a ModernAire hood for my ventilation. Even with the investment in ventilation, I wasn’t expecting to be able to cook really greasy foods in doors, from what I had read this is just a limitation in indoor grilling. But, I figured I’d test it before I gave up.
In order to test if I could grill greasy foods, I needed to find something greasy to cook. I went to my local supermarket hoping to find something pre-made that would put my setup through its paces. They didn’t disappoint. I bought two burgers, a bacon cheddar burger and a blue cheese burger. That’s right, this is ground beef with cheese and bacon mixed in. Here’s a video of the range in action:
The four most expensive words in remodeling are “While you’re in there”. It’s extremely tempting to add additional scope to a project. In theory, doing more now is cheaper than doing more later, the contractors are already there right? The downside to this is that it can go on forever and is really unhealthy for the budget.
In our case, we were penny wise and pound foolish, in our eagerness to control scope on our project we didn’t let Stefan (our architect) do any design work for the basement. In our minds, we thought we were only doing a main floor remodel and the basement would be phase 3 (after the second floor). The reality is, our basement was completely torn to shreds as a result of moving the stairwell. In one of our walk throughs with our architect we realized we had an opportunity to “fix” our laundry situation. The real issue we had is that our laundry was the first thing we saw when going into the basement, we effectively walked through our laundry area every time we went to the family room.
We realized that we could move things around and get the laundry out of the main area which opened up the possibility of a wet bar. We gave Stefan a few days to come up with some drawings and this is what he came up with:
For those of you who aren’t stalking me, here’s what the original plan was. The washer and dryer would have gone right next to the window.
The new plan gives us a dedicated laundry room which hides the washer/dryer and gives us a utility sink. It’d be unamerican of me to let an available sink hookup go to waste so we decided to add a wet bar.