Let’s talk smoke alarms. Smoke alarms are missing in 30% of home fires. About two-thirds of the deaths in home fires are in homes that either didn’t have a smoke detector (40%) or didn’t have a working smoke detector (23%) (source).
As part of our remodel, we get to pick new appliances. We currently have an electric glass top and it’s awful. Slow response time and imprecise heat control. When looking at appliances for the new kitchen I knew I wanted anything other than an electric range. There are two heating technologies worth looking at when picking a new range: Gas and Induction.
|Gas Burner (Wikipedia)|
People have been cooking with gas since the 1820s, it’s about as simple as it gets: gas burns, burning gas makes heat, heat cooks food. Not a whole lot has changed in gas ranges since the 1820s, the mechanics are basically the same: gas flows through a valve into a burner which disperses the gas and burns it in a pattern. Since the 1820s the ranges have gotten more efficient and safer, we have electric igniters, safety valves and smarter burner designs. Gas is also the way most restaurants cook. My last house had a gas range and I really miss it.
|Induction in action (GE)|
Induction heats in a way that’s completely different from the traditional electric or gas range. Induction heats by inducing heat in the cooking vessel rather than transferring heat to the cooking vessel. In induction cooking, the pot itself generates the heat! Induction works by using a high power electromagnet in the hob (the equivalent of a burner on a gas range) induces heat in the pan.
|Inside of an induction hob (Wikipedia)|
Induction is very responsive, heats up quickly, cools down quickly and since it only generates heat in the pan is super efficient. The picture at the top of this section is of an induction hob that’s not melting ice while boiling water. Induction is very popular in Europe and Asia and is developing quite the following in the US. One of the odd limitations of induction is that it requires pans to have some iron content. This is because induction only works with pans that respond to magnets. In my case this isn’t a big deal, all of my pans are either All-Clad or some form of cast iron (I’ll have a future post on cookware).
In looking for a new range, I had a few requirements:
- Responsive – Quick to heat, quick to cool.
- High Heat – We do a lot of searing, so I need to be able to get a pan really hot.
- Reliable – Nobody likes calling a service company.
Induction is clearly more powerful, but I think it’s a moot victory. I’m looking at a high end gas range or a high end induction and I don’t think it matters at that level which is more powerful.
I’ll admit it, I’m a paint snob. I don’t like using cheap paint and I have favorite brands. I enjoy painting, it’s easy mindless work that I find rewarding. Adding color to a room through paint is one of the easiest ways to drastically change the way a room looks and feels. It’s also one of the few remodeling tasks I really don’t mind doing myself.
I hate working with cheap paint, it smells bad, it’s runny and you end up working twice as hard to get the same look. I believe in using nice paint, I think it lasts longer and more importantly it goes on easier. Nicer paint is thicker and adheres to the wall better. When painting a friends house we tried a bucket of Costco paint (once upon a time Costco in Tukwilla sold paint). It was terrible, it would actually run down the walls and we’d have to quickly roll out the drips.
My favorite paint is Devine Color. The paint is thick, doesn’t smell and comes in a great set of colors. It’s also a Zero-VOC paint. The downside: it’s expensive, last time I bought some it was $54 a gallon. They’re also the only company I know of that charges for the color samples. That’s right, they charge $35 for the sample kit, but instead of getting printed samples, you get actual samples of dried paint arranged in color palettes that all match.
When it comes to ceilings, I’m a big fan of Benjamin Moore Muresco Ceiling White. It sounds silly but it makes a difference. The BM Ceiling White is a very flat white that makes the room look bigger and gives the room a nice character. The Ceiling White is a Low VOC paint at less than 50 grams per liter (the max to be “Low VOC” is 250 g/L).
VOC or Volatile Organic Compounds are a family of chemicals that give off fumes which can lead to unpleasant things. I’m not an expert, nor do I pretend to be but you can learn more here: http://greenliving.about.com/od/greenathome/a/voc_paint.htm
The walls of my house are mostly Divine Sand with Divine Green Tea as an accent. The bedrooms are a mix of Divine Buffalo and Divine Siamese. I don’t like white walls so I don’t have any.
I’m a firm believer in a coat of primer and two coats of top coat. Ceilings, walls, trim, doesn’t matter. Everything gets a coat of primer and two coats of paint. Primer is something I don’t care a whole lot about, I generally use one of the nicer grades at the big box stores. Primer is an undercoat that ensures the top coat (the color) adheres well to the wall. Primer also helps hide the color that’s already on the wall.
I’ll talk about how I paint in a later post. The way I see it, I’m saving so much money by doing the painting myself that I’ll happily spend more on supplies if it makes my life easier or the project go faster.
Three years ago when I bought my house I replaced the deadbolt we use every day with a key pad deadbolt. Why these aren’t standard on homes I don’t understand, they’re better to keys in every way. Way more convenient than having to have a key on you, my wife appreciates not having to fish the key out of her purse. It’s much more secure, instead of giving my house cleaner or contractors a key to the house that they can copy, I give them each an individual code that I can change easily. I’ve also given distinct codes to trusted friends, so that they can get in if we need them to (like when I forgot I had a package coming when I was going on vacation, my friend picked it up and left it in the house).
I went with the Schlage lock because I prefer the feature set: It’s a manual turn lock and has a larger key space. The Kwikset lock has a motorized dead bolt which wouldn’t work with my house as my front door is just a hair off from the frame which means I have to hold the door closed when turning the deadbolt.
|The Schlage lock|
Because I’m sort of a paranoid person, I’m a little worried that I’ll miss the “low battery” warning and actually lock us out of the house. I’ve mitigated this concern by putting an old fashioned key inside a combination locked key safe on the outside of the house. I use the Masterlock key safe that I installed in a way to make sure it isn’t visible from the street.
A few years ago my house was broken into, thankfully nothing was taken but the would be thieves left the door open. We’re sure we didn’t leave it open as it’s a door we never used and our neighbors noticed an unfamiliar car in our driveway.
We think Harley, our, thirty-five pound labradoodle scared them off. He’s normally locked in the basement, and if you can’t see him, his bark can be ferocious.
|FEAR THE BEAST|
My wife got home before me and called the police. They came quickly (under 5 minutes) and swept the house to make sure there wasn’t anyone inside. When they opened the door to the basement, our ferociously barking guard dog ran the other way, deeper into the basement. I rescued him from the backyard after he escaped through the dog door.
Make the home harder than the one next to it.
As you can imagine this really upset us and so we looked into what we can do to secure our home. There’s an old joke: “How do you out run a bear?” A: You don’t, you just have to outrun the guy next to you. This was our strategy to home safety, we decided to make our house harder to get into than the ones next to us.
The first thing I did was replace the rear door and the side door (the one that was used to break in) with modern doors that opened outward.
The reason to make the door open outward is because it’s almost impossible to kick a door in if it opens out. If you are going to make a door open out make sure you use armored pins in the hinges. With the door opening out, the hinges are now on the outside of the house. A traditional pin can be pulled out of the door without opening the door. An armored pin is protected from removal when the door is closed.
We also replaced all of the screws connecting the door frame to the house with 3″ (or longer) screws that connected the door frame to the studs in the walls next to the door. In standard construction, the door is connected to the door frame, and the door frame is attached to the house. If you’re not careful, the door frame won’t be tightly connected to the studs, if that’s the case then a bad guy with a crowbar can pry the door frame away from the house.
This cost us about $2,500. Two custom wooden doors plus labor to install them.
Second thing I did was put the front porch light on an astronomical timer. These are marevelous devices that take your latitude and longitude into account and calculate sundown and sunrise every day. I programmed mine to turn on 20 minutes before sunset and turn off 20 minutes after sunrise. This switch combined with an energy efficient bulb means my front and side door are well illuminated at night.
Here’s the switch I have: Honeywell Econoswitch. Under $40, easy to justify.
Third thing I did was make sure all street visible windows are covered with blinds. Price here varies, but a temporary shade is as little as $10.00.
Fourthly, we put some lights on timers so that the house looks occupied. I like this one because it allows you to set a random jitter. This will prevent the light from turning on and turning off at the exact same time every night.
Fifthly, I added a motion sensing light to the back yard, it’s a three bulb 300 watt beast that makes the entire back yard glow if the motion sensor is triggered.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the dogs. Our dogs may be small and adorable, but if you can’t see them, they sound fierce. I don’t know that security is the best reason to get a dog, but it is a nice benefit to having one (or two).
What else are we thinking about doing?
We’re looking at doing two more things, I want to add two more motion sensor lights, one to each side of the house as the sides are a little darker than I’d like.
We’re also going to investigate adding security film to our windows, the film is amazing in video, and should keep a bad guy from breaking a window to get in.
The video is really amazing and speaks for itself:
A burglar won’t want to do that for very long, it’s a very loud and very distinctive sound.
What about an alarm?
We briefly thought about an alarm but decided against it for a few reasons:
- The police officer who responded said that the average burglar is in a home for about 8 minutes. I doubt the response time from alarm going off to police on site will be under 8 minutes.
- There isn’t a good solution for false alarms, and with two dogs, false alarms could be a real problem. In Seattle, you pay $115 per false alarm.
- They’re expensive, and reactionary. If the alarm has gone off, the bad guy is already inside.
- I don’t actually believe they prevent burglaries, no data on this, I just don’t buy it.
My home was built in 1956, the basement was remodeled some time during the 60s. During the basement remodel the ceiling in the basement was textured with what is generally called popcorn ceiling. Popcorn ceiling is a spray on texture that gives the ceiling a textured look. This was done for acoustic and aesthetic reasons.
|Image of popcorn ceiling from Wikipedia|
7.E. Are there any substances, materials, or products in or on the property that may be environmental concerns, such as asbestos, formaldehyde, radon gas, lead-based paint, fuel or chemical storage tanks, or contaminated soil or water?
The first step was to get the ceiling tested, this is easy:
- Wear safety glasses and gloves and anything else you need to wear to feel safe.
- Using a water spray bottle, thoroughly wet a small section (1 inch x 1 inch square).
- Scrape the section off the ceiling and into a plastic ziploc bag.
- Place that bag into another ziplog bag.
- Take the sample to NVL Labs.
- NW Solid Rock: $5,525.00 to remove 650 square feet of popcorn ceiling
- American Environmental Construction: $2,425.00 to remove 562 square feet
- Partners Construction: $2,058 to remove 586 square feet
|Ceiling duct after abatement, there’s nothing for the vent cover to attach to.|
|Closeup of one of my funky 60’s era can lights. Notice the sheet rock damage.|
|Wider shot of the basement.|
I spent yesterday helping a friend of mine install a pair of in wall speakers. It was surprisingly easy, particularly because we didn’t have to cross any studs. The installation was simple, speaker up high connected to a jack down low. The lower jacks aren’t close to each other but everything down low is hidden by a buffet table. The stereo is hidden in the buffet.
Installing the speakers is exactly like installing an old work box, only much larger. An “old work box” is an electrical box that is designed to be added to a wall after the walls are up. The old work box attaches to the wall with a couple of clamps that compress the box to the drywall. Basically, you cut a hole the size of the box, slide the box in and then tighten the tabs against the wall. The first 40 seconds of this video do a good job explaining how they work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egHkOIr4RNE
In my friend’s case, the speakers have 6 tabs, and it’s a larger hole.
Installation was easy:
- Used a stud finder to mark the studs, you can’t install the speakers if there’s a stud in the way.
- We used a pattern that came with the speakers to mark the where the speaker holes should go.
- We cut the holes. Cutting them was easy, we drilled a hole in each corner and used a drywall saw to cut the square out.
|The before picture.|
|Speaker bindings, we probably should have taken the picture before putting the furniture back.|
Tap Tap Tap, is this thing on?
I’m Koz, and this is my blog. This is the internet, so I can call this blog whatever I want but anyone reading this should know: I don’t know anything about homes. I’d hardly call this advice, and really, more of story telling about a guy learning about homes, dogs, and homeish stuff like cast iron cookware.
So, read at your own risk, don’t try this at home. Actually, don’t even bother reading.