Reused Vinyl Plank Flooring

The master bathroom in my son’s house had practically new vinyl plank flooring installed over the old tile. The tile in the mud room was dated and unattractive. I decided to salvage the master bath floor and taking it up was very easy. It was not glued but in a few places double sided tape held down some tiles.

Master bath tile
Master bath tile

Many of the tabs that held the tiles together broke off when I removed it and carried it downstairs. I laid out the vinyl planks to see how they would look in the room. And I thought they looked better than the old stuff.

Plank tile layout
Plank tile layout

I planned to lay it over the existing tile as the owners had upstairs but when I was removing the baseboards the tile was caulked to it and it came up off the floor.

Mud room tile
Mud room tile

So I removed all of it and hauled it out to the garage. The remaining floor was sticky but level and clean. I decided the glue must have been the pressure sensitive removal type. So I decided to use the same glue.

Tile removed
Tile removed

Home Depot sells Henry 650R removable adhesive. I bought the size they offered and it was much more than I needed. It will cover 300 square ft and I had about 60.

Henry Vinyl Adhesive 650R
Henry Vinyl Adhesive 650R

The adhesive is easy to apply. The most difficult part is waiting at least 10 minutes for the rolled on glue to get sticky. I used a narrow foam roller as recommended. There is plenty of time to slide the tiles into place to be sure they are properly aligned. I had all the tile cut to fit so I removed a row at a time leaving two rows open to spread the glue. That worked fine and the tiles went on well.

I did not have a 100 pound roller to seal the tile to the adhesive. So my more than 100 pounds kind of stomped all over the floor to press it into the adhesive. Even my husband helped step on it to set the tile in place.

I have to wait five days to wash the tile. But I cleaned up excess adhesive with a wet rag. The wet adhesive cleans up easily with water but the dried adhesive requires mineral spirits. Then I’ll repaint the room and the baseboards and put them back in place. I’d also like to paint the cabinets white and put in an organization system for shoes, jackets and storage. We purchased a washer/dryer combo unit for this room as a back up laundry system too. The new laundry will be upstairs near the bedrooms.

Plank tile glued
Plank tile glued
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Tile Removal Means Drywall Repair

I did not take my time removing the tile backsplash in my son’s kitchen. I hacked the tile off with a pry bar and hammer. Directions after the fact said don’t do it this way, Remove the grout first and then gently pry off each tile. I think the grout on these tiles was some kind of caulking grout. It was rubbery and would have been difficult to remove. The tiles were stuck on with mastic and no amount of gentle prying would have taken some of them off. So I wound up with lots of torn and damaged drywall.

Tile removal damage
Tile removal damage

I researched repairs and many trades type folks said cut it out and replace it. But I was not that excited about cutting out all that drywall. The problem with torn drywall is that it has been severely weakened. To reinforce the drywall there were several suggestions. One was just to fill it in with drywall mud. Another to use a cement patch first. Then I found the suggestion to use Bondo household putty which is an epoxy and very strong. I liked this idea the best as it is fast drying and could keep the drywall from falling apart when mastic is used to install the new tiles.

Bondo Epoxy Putty
Bondo Epoxy Putty


Bondo repair
Bondo repair

I used a paint stick to smooth the bondo into the torn areas of drywall. The instructions are to fill the area below the surface of the drywall so it can be mudded and taped to fill in and create a smooth surface. Some areas of the drywall were too damaged to fill in with the putty so I cut out the broken drywall for new pieces.

Damaged drywall
Damaged drywall
Broken drywall cut out
Broken drywall cut out

A layer of drywall mud and adhesive fiberglass tape were laid down to cover the torn paper and bring the bondo layer up to the surface. I used six inch tape to make this step easier.

Mudding and taping over Bondo
Mudding and taping over Bondo

It took a few hours to mud these damaged areas and cut patches and screw them in.

Drywall patch to repair broken board
Drywall patch to repair broken board

Even with only one layer of mud the repair is starting to look ready for new tile.

Repaired damage first coat
Repaired damage first coat

I will put on another layer of mud and do some light sanding. Then I will waterproof the mud with a layer of shellac based primer. GARDZ was recommended but Home Depot only carried B-I-N which is apparently similar shellac based primer.

Gardz Primer
Gardz Primer
B-I-N Sealer
B-I-N Sealer

This primer is for preparing the raw drywall mud for mastic for the new tile backsplash. I also bought adhesive remover to smooth the area behind the stove where there was a glued on vinyl backsplash that I removed too. The drywall is supposed to be as smooth as possible to prepare for new tile.

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Direct Wire Under Counter LED Lights

Plug in LED lights

My son’s house had under counter LED lights which are nice, but they were the plug in type which looked messy. They each had to be turned on separately. With a switch for the light over the sink right there I thought it would be a good idea to direct wire the lights. I planned to use the same fixtures except that they were put together with tri-wing screws that were recessed so deeply that I could not use my magnetic screw head kit to open the lights.

I decided to research other lighting possibilities. LED lights are typically run at 24 volts but most fixtures that I found also came with connecting cables that were quite short–extra connecting cables at the longest were six feet. I’m not sure how that is supposed to work when wiring across a kitchen sink and stove. DC wiring is tricky because it loses voltage over distance. The best solution seemed to be LED light strips installed in special channels and wired to a larger voltage transformer, but it would be quite expensive to cover just these few cabinets.

Installed GE junction box
Installed GE junction box

I found the answer when watching a YouTube video about installing under cabinet lights. I normally hate YouTube videos and so much prefer reading about installations but everything I read was general and didn’t address my problem. This video showed the use of small plastic junction boxes to connect GE extendable lights. I found the junction boxes on Amazon and they were inexpensive. There were also ideas about how to run wiring between the boxes.

Adding LED lights to switch
Adding LED lights to switch

The first junction was just above the switch so I could use regular romex to connect it. But the rest would be running in the cabinets and behind appliances so I needed to use metal armored cable.

Metal cable behind dishwasher
Metal cable behind dishwasher

I ran the cable into PVC conduit where it might be considered exposed like under the sink and at the back of the cabinets.

Metal cable in PVC conduit in sink cabinet
Metal cable in PVC conduit in sink cabinet

The cable was easier to run across several cabinets using the conduit too. I connected the cable to a junction box at the back of the cabinet next to the stove. From there I could run a separate wire to the other two GE junction boxes.

Extending the wires to two different cabinets
Extending the wires to two different cabinets

In order to use the lamp wire I just wiggled out the plug in wiring and routed the cut off lamp cords into the boxes. Unfortunately the rolling switch was in the way for two of the five lights. So I had to open the lights and rewire them with longer cords. I found a screwdriver set to open the existing fixtures. It was a Nintendo repair kit on Amazon and I ordered the whole kit since the sizes of the individual screwdrivers were not given. It was a good thing because it took several tries with different tools to get one large enough to catch the screw and open the lights.

Disassembling fixtures
Disassembling fixtures

The wires were soldered onto the light strip. So I enlisted my husband to re-solder the longer pieces of lamp cord onto the lights. The light strips have a nice plastic lens over the tracks that I removed for the soldering and slid back in when the fixtures were reassembled.

Soldered light strip
Soldered light strip

No house project however can be easy. When I was replacing the wires in the switch box, the box broke completely! I had cut out part of the back for the new wires and that must have weakened the box. While I was screwing in the switch, the channel for the screw cracked completely off. I had to take apart all the wires and cut out the old box.

Broken junction box
Broken junction box

I replaced it with an extra deep old construction box to help fit all the wires into it. Then I had to figure out what wires went with which device in the box! I had sort of kept them organized at least.

Replacing junction box
Replacing junction box

Finally everything was wired back together, the drywall holes repaired, the cables clamped to support them and the cover put on the cabinet junction box. But then the end cabinet light did not light so I had to take the cover off the boxes and look for the bad connection. It was in the junction box under a wire nut where one black wire was not completely in the nut. So that fixed and the covers returned, I was able to turn on the switch and see direct wired LED lights instead of a rats nest of cords!

I just have to spray some orange peel on the drywall patches and paint over them. But what about fixing all that drywall that came off with the old tile?

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Purchasing Agent

I volunteered to purchase remodeling items for my son’s new house. He will have a contractor remodel the master bathroom and install a laundry closet upstairs. We are also making minor repairs/remodels to other rooms in the house and he is investing in new hardwood flooring for the office, living and dining rooms. So much of my time has been spent working on his house. And I’m having a great time!

I have been buying plumbing and electrical and furniture on eBay and Craigslist and Amazon and the Habitat for Humanity Restore for years now. I often buy Amazon Warehouse deals and if they don’t meet the quality I require I can return them. Craigslist is great for some good deals if you can find items that fit the remodel and are in good shape. eBay can be tricky, some great deals and some mistakes can be made and not all items can be returned. Many vendors are very easy to work with if there are problems though. I have not run into a major scam yet so I am fortunate. I did have one on Amazon but they took care of it for me. Also PayPal will recompense money lost on an online purchase so it is pretty easy to buy online.

The list of items needed for the bathroom remodel was long! Plus I am updating two other bathrooms and the kitchen. Just for fun I thought I would list some of the purchases and the supplier.

Ebay

  • Delta Trinsic Shower Trim, Widespread faucets, Tub Only Trim
  • Kohler Purist double towel rod
  • Steam shower unit and controls
  • Delta tub only valve
  • Cement stain
  • Light fixtures basement hall and bath
  • Smart switches and remotes
  • Kohler faucet valves

Amazon

  • 12″ Rainhead Shower
  • Grab bars for shower
  • Delta dual rough in valve
  • Kohler Vox sinks
  • Kohler hand shower hose and vacuum breaker
  • Grohe hand shower holder
  • Niagara Stealth toilet
  • Kohler soaking tub and overflow
  • Kohler Purist towel bars and matching Gatco Gala robe hooks
  • Cement micro-topping sealers
  • Light cans with LED bulbs to replace halogens
  • Smart switches, rocker switches, and USB outlets
  • Waterproof lights for shower
  • New oil rubbed bronze knobs for kitchen cabinets
  • Schlage wifi lockset for front door
  • Schlage deadbolts
  • Ceiling fan light kit
  • Door stops
  • Electric outlets and switches and plates

Craigslist with some items from Next Door or Facebook Marketplace

  • Kitchen table (Herman Miller) and 4 chairs (Parsons)
  • Dining table (Ikea) and six dining chairs (unknown)
  • Sideboard (maybe Ikea)
  • Trundle bed and twin mattress
  • Twin mattress set and extra box spring
  • Wicker baskets for girl
  • Ceiling fans (2)
  • Couch and coffee table
  • Washer and Dryer
  • Gas slide in range
  • Closet organization system
  • Closet Techline dressers and mirror
  • Two child bedroom sets
  • Baby crib and mattress
  • Basement bath sink and faucet
  • Mud room and front entry benches
  • Two Eames style chairs and ottomans
  • Family bath Kohler sinks
  • Family bath granite, basement bath granite and kitchen quartz
  • Paint and stains
  • Drawers for window seat
  • Maple butcher block table top for kitchen island
  • Bar stools

Habitat for Humanity Restore

  • Family bath backsplash tile
  • Dishwasher
  • White wicker mirror for girl
  • Drawer slides
  • Basement bath towel bars
  • Schlage oil rubbed bronze handle sets for whole house
  • Schlage oil rubbed bronze keyed handles
  • Large black mirror
  • Kohler bath faucets–without valves
  • Insinkerator hot water faucet replacement
  • Electric switches, outlets, and plates

Of course I still purchase several materials at the local Home Depot. I sometimes use Ace and Lowes, but not as often. I found tile at Lowes that I could not find elsewhere and Ace has unique hardware when needed as well as some good deals on paint. But if can find discounts on items using these outlets, I’m very happy to do that. I say my house is the one that Craigslist built and we are content with our finds. Even though it was not just Craigslist but eBay, Restore and Amazon that contributed.

Used GE dishwasher
Used GE dishwasher
New master bathtub
New master bathtub
Butcher block, stove and knobs
Butcher block, stove and knobs
Kohler Purist hand towel bar and robe hook
Kohler Purist hand towel bar, robe hook
Basement bath granite, sink and faucet
Basement bath granite, sink and faucet
New Shlage Door Handles
New Shlage Door Handles
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DIY Micro-Topping

My son and his family bought a new house close to us that needed some remodeling. He is concentrating on upgrading the master bath and adding a second floor laundry. I’ve been spending most of my time helping out with small fixes.

The kitchen cabinets are inexpensive thermo plastic covered and the countertops were linoleum. He read about a technique that used feather coating cement to update old cabinet counters to make them look like cement counters.

I decided to start the project. I removed the smallest counter to try the technique. All that is required is a box of Henry patching cement from Home Depot and a plastic trowel. Along with an orbital sander and various grits of sandpaper.

First the laminate is roughed up with 60 grit paper. Then a small batch of cement is mixed 2 parts cement to one part water and allowed to slake for a few minutes then remixed. Then the cement is spread on the counter. A bit thicker cement is needed for the edges so waiting a bit for the batch to harden a bit works then the cement is smoothed down with a plastic drywall trowel. I also tried a metal trowel and a silicone scraper I used for the epoxy finish on my kitchen counters.

First cement coat
First cement coat

The first coat is sanded a bit with a medium heavy grit. I used 100.

Sanded cement
Sanded cement

The process of troweling on the coats seemed to add groovesin the cement. I tried various sanding tools. By hand and with the diamond pads and polisher. That came out with scratches too. But fewer ridges.

Buffed cement
Buffed cement

After at least five coats of cement and sanding to 1500 grit including a wet sand I decided to try sealing.

Sealed cement
Sealed cement

After three coats of sealer I put it back on the counter to judge my work.

Flawed counter
Flawed counter

I didn’t like it. Too many remaining ridges and color variation.

Installed counter
Installed counter

It looked a bit better from further away.

Trial install
Trial install

But I took it off and sanded off the sealer to add yet another coat of cement and more sanding so that I could try cement stain. I ordered charcoal gray. It mixes with water and I applied it in two coats.

Gray concrete stain
Gray concrete stain

One coat seems to even out the coloring. Now the second coat is drying.

Second coat of stain
Second coat of stain

In the meantime we found three big slabs of Corian Zodiaq which is their quartz product and decided to abandon the micro-topping project entirely.

Corian Zodiaq Quartz
Corian Zodiaq Quartz

It’s exactly what I would have picked for the kitchen. So now I just have to cut and fit it!

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Globe Trotting

Unfortunately, progress has slowed since we passed the final building inspection in December. Somewhat because of travel. We spent Christmas in Wursalen Germany with our daughter and family. Then we returned for our grandkids birthdays in February.

Birthday Cake Decorating
Birthday Cake Decorating

Another fancy birthday cake
Another fancy birthday cake

In between we visited our son in Arizona and had our middle son visit with his family.

A kiss under real mistletoe in Arizona
A kiss under real mistletoe in Arizona
Butterfly Pavillion
Butterfly Pavillion
Discovering butterflies
Discovering butterflies

While leaving Dave in Germany I returned early to join my sister and family on a cruise to Cuba! This was my first cruise and my sister and brother and cousin and nephew decided to do one together. So I was able to join them. We were eight all together and because my nephew is employed by the cruise line we were given VIP treatment.

Cruise ship
Cruise ship

We received champagne and fruit plates and chocolate covered strawberries!

Ocean view
Ocean view

After a night of travel we stopped in Key West for lunch as getting off the ship at a military base took a lot of time. Then we sailed on to Cuba! Which we toured in one of the famous 50’s cars.

Pink Cadillac
Pink Cadillac

We stopped at Ernest Hemingway’s home and writing retreat. Then toured the city and had lunch at one of the new private eateries complete with roaming chickens in the yard.

Finally visited a bit more with my brother at his winter resort in Florida and drove over to enjoy the fabulous Florida beaches. Warm enough to swim in March!

Lighthouse beach Sanibel Island FL
Lighthouse beach Sanibel Island FL

So mid March returned to get back to work but not on my house! Working at my son’s house to remodel before he moves here this summer!

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Snug as a Bug

Facebook reminded me that it has been seven years since we had our energy audit. Seven years since I retired. A bit over seven years since we purchased the house. The good news is that the property values have escalated, justifying the money we have put into the house. Of course the bad news is that we are not finished.

North facing window during storm
North facing window during storm

After the recent severe weather “Cyclone Bomb” on March 13, we have not regretted the expense for insulation, windows and sealing. Winds gusted up to 32 mph and were strong all day, plastering snow against the North side of all buildings and against even the South facing windows. But even without sun our house stayed quite comfortable with the daytime heat set at 65 degrees. And we are also insulated from the noise of the wind gusts. When we went out to the garage it was very noisy while inside the airlock entry we could see the extreme winds but the sound was muffled.

I decided to start a fire in the boiler fireplace for atmosphere as well as to help with the heating. The snow however had blocked the chimney due to the high winds! When I lit the fire the house began to fill with smoke. It was pouring out of the sealed fireplace. For a moment I was not sure what to do. Should we douse the fire with water? What a mess that would make! I closed the dampers which just made more smoke. We opened several doors and turned on the ERV system to clear the smoke. Then I went outside to check the chimney (in the snow and wind!) And since our roof slopes to the ground behind the house I was able to climb up to the non-smoking chimney and knock the snow loose. We heard it plop into the stove and the smoke began billowing out of the now open chimney. Whew.

Boiler Fireplace for Ambiance and Heat
Boiler Fireplace for Ambiance and Heat

So we had a fire in the stove after all. And with the bathroom exhaust fans and open doors and ERV running the house soon cleared of smoke and the fire alarms did not go off.

It was cold enough that the thermostats continued calling for heat but the boiler did not have to fire while the hot water was circulating from the fireplace. That was how it was designed and to see it working is quite a thrill. Sometimes when we have a fire it is not cold enough for a thermostat to require heat since our house stays so warm, so I have opened a zone valve manually and plugged in the circulating pump directly instead of letting the call for heat turn it on so that the warmed water circulates-usually to the rear radiators since that is the coolest area of the house.

This link is to the post with the last version of the boiler piping but I realized that it was drawn before I decided to remove the storage tank. We do not have enough fires to justify heating water in a tank instead of directly to the floor. Originally I removed it for the drywall install but I never put it back. This is the updated drawing of the current fireplace and boiler piping. It’s the 21st version!

Dibble Boiler Piping-21 without storage tank
Dibble Boiler Piping-21 without storage tank

Cold water flows from the pex in the floor and/or the radiators in the rear of the house, depending on which zone valves are open, through the heat exchanger to the gas boiler. When the fireplace boiler is not pumping there is no heat exchange. But when the fireplace boiler is warm enough and the secondary pump turns on, the warm water is exchanged with the cold water from the return, sending pre-warmed water to the boiler. If that water is warm enough the boiler does not fire. To prevent overheating in the fireplace boiler, a taco mixing valve adds cooler return water to the heated water when necessary. If there is not enough cool water, the fireplace boiler’s special low pressure release will remove excess hot water pressure to a stainless steel milk can that I found on craigslist and is just about the right size for the job. There is also a large expansion tank on the system to alleviate buildup of hot water pressure.

The best part about winter is our ability to avoid exposure to the high winds and bitter cold nights. The ERV provides very fresh air in winter although I don’t always remember to turn it on. Once I get the wiring figured out I will be able to manage the ERV more effectively. We also use less gas for heat and hot water than even our more efficient neighbors according to Xcel.

Gas Usage and Neighbors for Feb 2019
Gas Usage and Neighbors for Feb 2019
Gas Usage Compared to Neighbors For a Year
Gas Usage Compared with
Neighbors For a Year

Posted in -Chronological Recent Posts, Air Intrusion/Thermal Envelope, Energy Efficiency, Fireplace Boiler, Radiant Heat | Comments Off on Snug as a Bug

Where Are We On LEED?

It has been a long time since I registered our Twinsprings project for LEED. Seven years ago I contacted EnergyLogic about contracting with them to be the energy rater and certification liaison for LEED. We drew up a contract on February 27th, 2012. Now that we have finally passed our building permit inspection it is time to focus on what is left to do to pass our LEED inspection.

Twinsprings Research LEED Project Registered
Twinsprings Research LEED Project Registered

Unfortunately there are several areas that still need work. I can think of some big ones off the top of my head. And some on this list came from studying the LEED Project Checklist.

  1. All bathrooms must have paperless construction board around the bathtub/shower area. We need to remodel one bathroom to complete.
  2. The trombe wall needs to be reassembled.
  3. All windows need to be sealed to pass the air intrusion test but both of our skylights leak air.
  4. The mini-split air conditioner install needs to be completed and certified.
  5. The hot water pipes in the utility room need to be insulated.
  6. The LEED home user manual needs to be updated and conform to samples.
  7. All accountability forms need to be printed and signed, mostly by me.
  8. A diagram of the areas that were not altered by construction access has to be drawn.
  9. The durability checklist needs to be inspected following a quality checklist guide for each durability technique.
  10. The old part of the house needs an inspection by a level II certified infrared thermograph technician.

Our old bathroom will need a complete remodel including a new energy star exhaust fan. It will take at least a summer season to complete the trombe wall glass installation. I have a rebuild kit for the skylight vents that are leaking air. I may have to seal these vents to improve the leakage. The mini-split has been a splitting headache. It has a leak in the piping so it does not hold air pressure. I have not decided how to fix it. A repairman refused to work on the system because it was too old and not on a concrete pad.

I have plenty of insulation to take care of the hot water pipes I just have not made that task a priority. Winter is a good time to work on the manual. It is close to finished as the house is now close to being finished. The energy rater from Energy Logic reminded me of the need to designate protected areas at the site as well as completing the accountability forms, most of which I have been in charge of overseeing. I am less certain about how the durability checklist is completed and I have yet to find a Level II thermographer to analyze the insulation in the old part of the house.

The tasks still seem a bit overwhelming and that is after having followed the process now for seven years. This has been a huge project. I sure hope we reach the goal of certification in 2019.

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Going with Lutron Wifi Switches

This is for my son’s new house but I’ve been enjoying installing them. I purchased the first Lutron Caseta switch and bridge to control the ERV with wifi. But I was not able to get the signal to match what the ERV required. So when my son bought his house nearby I moved the switch there to add a bit of lighting during the night that could be controlled remotely.

I also have quite a few outlet controls for the Wemo system. But to control that you need to initially set it up on the same wifi router. So he was not able to log in and see the schedule etc. With Lutron, all you need is access to the account. When he visits he will set up his own account and we can transfer the switches to his. There is only one bridge allowed per account.

Initially I replaced switches as they were already wired. But I was having some difficulty making the power do what I had intended after the installs. So I had to separate all the wires and test them to figure out the circuits.

Switch box wire testing
Switch box wire testing

The kitchen lights were getting power from the dining room box and this box relayed the power to the lights as a three way switch. I ended up putting the control in the dining room box and installing a Pico remote in the kitchen box. I found it easiest to put the switch first in the circuit and the remotes at the 3 way locations.

The kitchen outlets are also controlled from the kitchen box and with the kitchen lights on the dining room circuit, the only other power draw is the ceiling fixture which now has LED bulbs in it. Ideally the kitchen outlets would be on their own circuit, but I guess that was not required in 1998 when the house was built.

Kitchen lights
Kitchen lights

I’m currently trying to figure out why the pot light over the kitchen sink is not getting power. So that is why the other pot lights are hanging. So far I have not found out why but the wire is dead to this one light. I’m considering just running a new wire from a working fixture.

Dining room box
Dining room box

The dining room box is interesting. The circuit that turns it on is a dual breaker and either breaker turns it on, but both have to be off to have the circuit completely off. I believe that is a safety hazard and miswired at the box but I am not going to fix it right now. I am not that confident about wiring at the box although I have done it this is not my house. Another odd wiring issue is that this box had three switches, but one did not seem to control anything. When I took it apart, I only found enough wiring for two switches. One is definitely the kitchen lights and that is now the lutron wifi switch, one is the dining room light and the third set of wires sends power to the master bathroom fan and lights. No other wires for a switch. I would have thought it could have had a three way for the switched living room outlet but there are no wires left to do that. Also there were three wires for the dining room light which only has one switch to control it.

Remote added to the dining room box
Remote added to the dining room box

I added a remote to the box where the third switch should go. I’m going to put a Lutron Caseta in the living room to control the lamp outlet and this remote will be the 3 way control for that. Logically the dining room switch should be in the middle but I didn’t think of that before I closed it up. Maybe I’ll change that.

The lights that are now wifi controllable are the front foyer and stairwell chandelier, both on the same dimmer; and the kitchen lights also on a dimmer; and the outdoor lamppost on a non-dimmable switch. There is also an outlet dimmer control in the front office.

I still want to put a wifi controllable dimmer switch in the living room. Unfortunately one of the dimmers I ordered was DOA. I had been getting Amazon Warehouse switches to save money and most of them are fine, but I realized one never turned on the LED green when I hooked it up. So I returned it and ordered another one.

My son and I can both view and control the devices from the Lutron app.

Lutron devices
Lutron devices
Lutron schedules
Lutron schedules
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Who Needs a Video Doorbell?

Our house is basically all front doors. Besides all the living room french doors there are two entry doors. One door is to the airlock entry which we use most, the other is the old covered entry. We extended the master bedroom to encompass this door. So now we only use it to go out to the hot tub.

Two front doors
Two front doors

Eventually I’ll think of a way to disguise the door to the bedroom so it is not confused with the house entry. I currently have the garden gate in front of it. But that has not done the trick. We decided a doorbell at the airlock entry door would help strangers and delivery persons to know it is the working front door. But when I installed my son’s monitoring camera system I decided it would be fun to have a camera. I didn’t want to spend top dollar so I bought a cheap knock off of the real thing for $50 at Christmastime.

Yeoman video doorbell
Yeoman video doorbell

I noticed this model is no longer available on Amazon. It offers free lifetime video storage for 7 days with automatic recording over the old video. I hope that lasts past its life on Amazon. (Several very similar video doorbells are still available.)

The doorbell was relatively easy to set up. Right out of the box I plugged it in to charge the batteries and it started a voice prompt that it was ready to pair. Of course I was not ready. I downloaded the Xbell app to connect to the doorbell and the steps were easy to follow and pairing worked the first time. The most difficult part was pairing the indoor bell which is a plug in device that starts to blink as soon as it is plugged in. It was not clear to me that the doorbell had to be pressed to pair the blinking receiver to it. Finally after several tries we had the device paired and working with the outside doorbell.

The settings allowed me to turn on the cloud recording and motion detection but even though it was on the lowest setting, and I turned off sound notifications for the bell, I was getting a doorbell ring on my phone every time the wind blew or shadows changed on the front of the house. So I had to turn motion detection off.

Device settings
Device settings

I may be losing video of motion detection just to keep from false notifications. I can look at the camera’s view at any time and take a still shot or video that goes to my photos. The night vision on the camera is quite good.

Night vision video doorbell
Night vision video doorbell

And the day vision is adjustable for various light conditions. I have it set on dynamic. I’ll experiment with the settings for lighting the scene.

Daytime camera view
Daytime camera view

Although I am not monitoring energy use, this is a type of monitoring. Especially for noticing that there are folks viewing our front door sign that says we are a LEED project under construction.

Front door with LEED project sign
Front door with LEED project sign
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Happy New Year!

We spent Christmas and New Year’s with our family in Würselen, Germany. They have a very comfortable apartment there with a huge guest room that was inviting and big enough for ping pong ball soccer played by the grandson and grandpa.

Ping pong ball soccer

Ping pong ball soccer

Our granddaughter made our beds for us which consists of a bottom sheet for each side of the bed and a pillow cover. Each side also has its own soft fuzzy blanket folded width wise and a duvet covered comforter to match the sheet also folded width wise. When going to bed the fuzzy cover and comforter are unfolded and laid out length wise. She is seven and told us that is the German way! There are also no box springs on these European beds, they are like Ikea beds with ladder like wooden springs. She also told us the bed came with the lattices assembled incorrectly and they had to fix it but now it was done and more comfortable. So cool that she is learning different cultural customs.
As at home family Christmas celebrations we enjoyed strewing paper and boxes all over the floor.

Christmas paper and boxes

Christmas paper and boxes

We were treated to a traditional German Christmas feast of sauerbraten and red cabbage. In fact we had several great meals during our stay; from ham to lamb to little french hens.

Three french hens

Three french hens

Most mornings my son-in-law walks to the bakery for fresh rolls and bread. The white rolls are ubiquitous and quite good but the chocolate croissants are exquisite.

We enjoyed being with the family and did a little touring as well. Visited the Aachen cathedral which was originally commissioned by Charlemagne who suffered from arthritis and spent his time in Aachen in the healing warm waters.

Amazing mosaics at the cathedral

Amazing mosaics at the cathedral

We also visited the thermal baths and enjoyed the German version of warm soaks. The family traveled to Ghent in Belgium to see some friends and visit a Viking exhibit in a museum but I wasn’t feeling well so I stayed home. But I went with to visit the small town of Monschauer, famous for its Christmas markets that were already closed but many of the shops carry Christmas market types of items there. It is an old stone town with every building, road, walkway and fence made of stone. We walked through town and up to the castle and then to the glass blowing market where we enjoyed watching the kids help make blown glass plant watering globes. Before leaving town we stopped at a mustard market. Monschauer is famous for mustard.

View of Monschauer from the castle wall

View of Monschauer from the castle wall

Slate stone siding on many buildings

Slate stone siding on many buildings

Handmade and Glass Blowing Market Map

Handmade and Glass Blowing Market Map

Glassblower

Glassblower

One of the most exciting nights was New Year’s Eve from our own apartment balcony and the streets below. People from the neighborhood gathered on the street sharing warm mulled wine and shooting off fireworks or burning sparklers. I watched the festivities from the balcony and the fireworks came from all over town instead of a concentrated show like we have for the 4th of July. Although I went to bed the fireworks continued for at least an hour and a half and then it got quiet again.

Fireworks celebrations
Germans have a quiet rule on Sundays, no loud noises are allowed. No mowing the grass or using power tools where others can hear them. Even practicing an instrument is not condoned.

We also spent time learning to use the sewing machine my granddaughter got for Christmas. She had several projects in mind and she got a great design ideas book with patterns to make some clothes. We started with her running the foot pedal while I held the material and she chose the decorative stitches we used.

Sleepover cosmetic bag

Sleepover cosmetic bag

Infinity scarf and circle skirt

Infinity scarf and circle skirt

Then she held the material and I ran the foot pedal and finally she did both while I helped keep the material aligned. We used a strip of painters tape on the machine to help her line up the material at the foot. This was an idea from her sewing book. I also worked with her mom to help her remember her sewing skills from childhood. I hope they have time to sew together. It takes a lot of time and vacation is good for working on such projects.

We spent a couple of days with the kids at the local indoor pool. My granddaughter is swimming with the Würselen swim team. But the pools were open mostly for playing during school vacation. There were two large water slides and a wave pool that was turned on for about five minutes at the top of every hour. Also a lazy river around the pool and a large pirate ship playground with warmer water for littles. There was one bubble pool but the water was not warm like a hot tub. It was called the Aquana and it is a pretty cool activity located so close to their apartment.

Huge indoor water slide

Huge indoor water slide

We were very happy to be with the family. We miss them terribly and hope their time there is over quickly. But we see the advantages too, for the family and for us as travelers.

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Refrigerator Recycled

Our used Energy Star refrigerator was making a lot of noise. It was also starting to use more electricity and forming ice at the top of the freezer. The temperature was not staying constant either. All of these issues led to the concern that the compressor was going out.

Our energy company Xcel Energy offers a refrigerator recycling program for consumers to upgrade to more energy efficient models. But they do not offer the rebate if the refrigerator is not running. That meant replacing our refrigerator before it broke to qualify for the free pickup and $50 rebate.

The refrigerator fit our kitchen exactly so it was difficult to replace with a bottom freezer model. Our requirements were an Energy Star counter depth bottom freezer that was not larger than 33 inches. This combination was almost impossible to find! Samsung makes some refrigerators in this size but they are not rated Energy Star.

I downloaded the Energy Star excel spreadsheet for refrigerators to find possible models. The result was that there was only one real choice that was not a built in or foreign and outrageously expensive.

Energy Star Refrigerators 2018

Energy Star Refrigerators 2018

I ordered this model from Lowes as it was on sale for Black Friday and also purchased a 10% off coupon from an eBay vendor to help with the cost. The new refrigerator is only a little larger in capacity and uses much more electricity than the older one rated at 378 kwh/year. But my energy use monitor usually registered a higher usage than advertised at about 450 kWh/year. Still less than the new one at 547 kWh/year for only 1.1 cubic foot increase in size.

GE GWE19 Refrigerator Energy Guide

GE GWE19 Refrigerator Energy Guide

Because I needed to have the gap behind the refrigerator as small as possible I have not added the energy use monitor plug to this new appliance. I also had to cut the edges off the cabinet between it and the stove and move the stove cabinet down about an inch and a half to fit this in place of the old one. But this new refrigerator is much easier to use than the older deep and low unit. The freezer baskets are more accessible although I wish the ice maker tray was less wide.

GE_Bottom Freezer

GE_Bottom Freezer

The  refrigerator and freezer have bright LED lighting and the refrigerator above offers lots of shelving options so that it seems to hold quite a bit more than the old one.

GE Refrigerator 2018

GE Refrigerator 2018

And our old refrigerator was moved to the front hall where it stayed plugged in until the vendor for Xcel came to pick it up. We received a check for $50 in the mail shortly after the pickup. I’m glad we were able to replace it before it broke. That refrigerator only lasted about 9 years and we had it for four of those. I hope the new one lasts longer.

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A New House in Arvada

My son and his wife have decided to move their family closer to us! I have been seriously searching real estate for them since this spring. Home prices went up about 8-10% in our area this year. But there was a bit of a lull as winter came on. This beauty had most of the items on their wish list.

House on 79th Pl.

House on 79th Pl.

It’s a bit further away from us than my daughter’s house-about 3 miles. But there is a pleasant trail for most of the one hour or so hike.

Trail between houses

Trail between houses

We are excited to help our kids do some remodeling in the house. Even before the sale went through I had a project!
The entry/stairwell light is classic but a bit dated. So I looked for a more lantern like alternative.

Dated “terrarium” chandelier

Dated “terrarium” chandelier

I picked up a free one through Craigslist.

Brass lantern chandelier

Brass lantern chandelier

And I took it apart to spray paint it flat black.

New chandelier in pieces

New chandelier in pieces

I used cardboard boxes as spray paint tents. And I used a metal primer on all the pieces before the final black. It took several coats to get the pieces all painted. I bought LED chandelier bulbs to get started on their energy efficient updates too.

Finished lantern chandelier

Finished lantern chandelier

I’m looking forward to hanging it although I have not decided whether to put the glass pieces back in. It looks more modern without them.
I had to look up the order of the hanging pieces as I forgot to take a “before” photo.

Hanging a chandelier

Hanging a chandelier

Just a couple weeks later it has been hung!

New chandelier
New chandelier
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Red Letter Day

We passed the final remodel inspection this week! I had scheduled the final again a couple of weeks ago but when the inspector arrived he said he could only do structural. So I called in and scheduled the correct type of inspection for December 19, 2019.

True to the great friendliness and cooperation we have gotten from the Arvada Building Department, the inspector who came out was very nice and looked at the items that were on our last failed list. We scheduled a final last February when we knew we weren’t done, but had to have an inspection to keep the building permit active. On the list were the master bath shower floor, the family room bathroom shower, one toilet that needed caulk, and the fact that the breaker for the GFCI’s was off but I could not find it as it was mislabeled by the worst electricians ever. He checked those items and then said we passed. Woo Hoo.

He said he remembered coming out for rough plumbing a long time ago. Yep it has been years. But the building department stuck with us. In fact, Dave has written a letter thanking them for their attention to detail and friendly cooperation with our unusual project.

After concentrated work on the family room bathroom shower we finally had the indoor work that needed inspection completed and we got the final approval. Wonderful!

Final Building Inspection Approval

Final Building Inspection Approval

The note is just at the bottom of the original permit. But it is also entered into the online residential address database.

Buidling Permit Approval

Buidling Permit Approval

This is a major milestone. So grateful we got this far. Now to try to finish the remainder of projects for LEED certification. And all the trim and doors which don’t have to be inspected.

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A Week in Hawaii!

We were invited to a whole week in Hawaii with our son and his family. What a beautiful place and lovely distraction it was. We had a wonderful time with our two littlest grandchildren. They seemed to love the time together too. So much more than our photos captured.

Waikiki Beach Breakwater

Waikiki Beach Breakwater

Sea Life porpoises

Sea Life porpoises

Sea Life view of the ocean

Sea Life view of the ocean

Polynesian Cultural Center coconut tree climber

Polynesian Cultural Center coconut tree climber

The Byodo-In Temple

The Byodo-In Temple

Feeding the coy at the Temple

Feeding the coy at the Temple

Monster School Bus to admire

Monster School Bus to admire

At the Hanuma Bay beach

At the Hanuma Bay beach

Snorkeling at Hanuma Bay

Snorkeling at Hanuma Bay

Swimming at Waimea Falls

Swimming at Waimea Falls

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Gorilla Epoxy Glue Fix

The shark bite I used to connect the shower hose to the wall was too loose even though I pulled it forward to attach the holder and added a backplate. I tried using caulk to attach the holder to its backing gasket and it fell apart almost immediately. So I used Gorilla Epoxy Glue which was something I bought a while ago on clearance.

Gorilla Epoxy Glue

Gorilla Epoxy Glue

The glue is uncapped and a bit of the glue is forced to the top with the plunger. The idea is to get equal portions of each liquid to mix together in the clear package front which can be used for the mixing. It comes with a small wood depressor to mix with and the mixing time is 20 seconds. Then it is applied with the wooden stick to the area needing to be glued.

First I glued the plastic backer plate to the rear of the holder, after cleaning off the caulk. Then I applied it to the Venetion Bronze backer plate to take up some of the slack in the pipe. I used wood pieces to hold the backer firmly to the plastic back of the holder.

Glueing backer to holder base.

Glueing backer to holder base.

I let this dry overnight and then applied glue to the backer plate gasket and pushed onto the wall. I held it on with a cardboard tube that happened to be about the right length.

Backer plate glued on wall

Backer plate glued on wall

The glue seems to be sturdy enough to hold the pipe assembly firmly at the wall and the backer plate eliminates the gap that was at the wall. Seems to have worked out.

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A Place for the Internet Equipment

About a year ago I moved the internet modem to the living room from the hall closet. We were not getting a good enough signal at the back of the house. I have several types of monitoring systems that are connected to the modem and they need to reach from the garage to the back bedroom and to the hot tub on the front patio and greenhouse behind the house.
The shelf I used was cobbled together and mounted on the post that will be covered with manufactured stone.

Modem in Living Room

Modem in Living Room

I had in mind to buy a plexiglass shelving unit to enclose it. But they seemed to be very expensive and not exactly the size I needed. The backs were transparent and I would have to treat that in some way since the cabinet is mounted right to the 2×4 post framing. I wanted the cabinet to extend past the sides of the post enough to allow for the edges of the stone to be covered but not too much.

Extends about the right amount

Extends about the right amount

I found an inexpensive glass door cabinet on Amazon and ordered it. I put it together and cut openings for the power outlet and cable entry at the back. Unfortunately my measurements were a bit off but the extra opening came in handy later when I was connecting the power and modem cables.

Outlet located higher than my measurements

Outlet located higher than my measurements

I could only use one of the two shelves the cabinet included. Although there was not enough room for both shelves in the cabinet the bottom and one shelf provided enough space for the modem and the various hubs my systems use. I drilled a couple more holes in the back of the cabinet underneath the shelf to thread the cables to the modem.

Cables threaded through cabinet back

Cables threaded through cabinet back

Unfortunately while cutting the rear openings I did not protect the front of the cabinet so I’ll have to touch it up.

Marred the front of the cabinet

Marred the front of the cabinet

It still looks much better than the temporary shelf.

Internet cabinet

Internet cabinet

Now I can put on the rest of the backer board and eventually start the stonework.

Across the room

Across the room

The equipment fits in the cabinet and the signal still reaches the corners of the house. And the cabinet fits perfectly under and between the track lighting. A good solution for organizing the equipment.

Under the track lights

Under the track lights

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Shower Extras

Apparently I am good at making holes in the finished walls. One of the extras I put in the family room bath is a small rack for a wet washcloth. It seems that without a traditional soap dish there is no place to hang a wet wash cloth. So I bought a toilet roll holder in antique brass for this. I decided to put it in the bottom small niche. But I had to drill a hole for the screw holder. Because there are no studs near here I used a toggle bolt. This is the kind that tightens against the bolt as it is screwed in and makes a nice tight connection.

However I didn’t realize the bolt was longer than the wall here inside the niche!

Wall behind bolt has big hole

Wall behind bolt has big hole

I will cut that off with my handy multitool and patch the wall. I like having a rack for a wet washcloth in the shower. I need to buy one for the master bath shower. And hopefully avoid making a hole in the wall on the other side.

Rack for wet washcloth

Rack for wet washcloth


But the photo shows I didn’t get all the caulk cleaned off. If I missed it here I missed it elsewhere. I will have to wash the shower tile again.
Another project was covering the bright chrome light fixture with brassy looking paint. I already had some copper colored metallic spray paint from the kitchen sink project and some gold glitter paint that I picked up because it was on clearance. The gold glitter alone did not have the right shade of brass so I primed it with automotive gray primer for metal and fiberglass. Then I sprayed several coats of the copper paint first and finished with a coat of the gold glitter. The effect is that of a toned down brass.

Painted chrome light fixture

Painted chrome light fixture


These little extras customize the shower for us and at a very reasonable cost.

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Hot and Cold Switch

I mixed up the hot and cold piping to the shower. I had hot connected on the right side when it is supposed to be on the left. Fortunately the supply pipes are exposed in the utility room behind the washer and dryer. Here are those pipes when they were first connected.

Hot and Cold Connections

Hot and Cold Connections

I moved the heavy set of stacked washer and dryer just enough to squeeze behind them and then work in a very small space. I had to crawl in and out a couple of times to get the right tools. The water was turned off but I had a bucket to catch the remaining water.

Bucket to catch water in pipes

Bucket to catch water in pipes

I used the small step stool to get over the gas pipe and into the back corner. The connections to hot and cold are against the back wall. I removed the insulation which was on the cold side to get to the pipe connection. It was also fortunate that there was enough pex on each side to reconnect them. Of course using shark bite connectors meant all I had to do was separate the connections and switch them.

Confined space

Confined space with pipes disconnected

The pipe to the left side of the valve was insulated so I only had to replace part of it on the pex where it was unprotected. Then I added insulation to the copper hot water pipe. I left the insulation off the cold pipe. This is the finished job that shows the space I entered to get it done.

Tight squeeze

Tight squeeze

The shower is not on the hot water loop but is piped directly from the hot water heater with original 3/4″ hot and cold copper pipes that once supplied the laundry. So the shower is on its own supply that does not wait very long to get hot. The pipes to the diverter are also insulated to keep the water running hot.

Insulated Diverter Pipes

Insulated Diverter Pipes

Now that hot is hot and cold is cold it should be a very comfortable shower.

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Shower Fixtures

The fixtures for the shower are Delta Champagne Bronze. I think the color is a nice complement to the dark brown tile. The style name is Lahara which is a very plain style. I couldn’t find the diverter trim in Lahara so I bought the Classic style.

Champagne bronze hand shower

Champagne bronze hand shower

I purchased the faucets in August of 2016 which was a long time ago. When I was installing the diverter trim, I couldn’t find the knob. I looked all over and was pretty sure it should be in with the other pieces, but I didn’t know exactly what it looked like. After looking for some time, I happened to see a new set for $24 so I bought it. Turned out that I found the knob in with the shower trim and I didn’t need the knob but the extra base plate came in very handy. The hose connection did not fit flush against the tile wall so I used the second base plate to help fill in the space.

In order to get the shark bite connected for the hose spigot, I had to pull the loose connection as far towards the surface as possible. I looked up the photo of how the pipes were configured.

Diverter Pipes

Diverter Pipes

I was able to pull the pipe connection forward with a piece of hanger wire.

Hanger wire looped on pipe behind wall

Hanger wire looped on pipe behind wall

Then I had to hold the shower hose connector and it’s plastic backing, and the backplate from the extra diverter valve and push the shark bite on while the pipe was pulled as far out as I could get it. This was to get everything mounted as close to the wall as possible. It looks ok but it is loose so I’m thinking caulk will tighten it.
The next job was to install the main shower valve trim. I ended up leaving the wall guard on the shower valve when the tile was done and when trying to screw on the face place, the holes in the valve were covered up! It seems that the shield was just a little off center.

Black valve shield covering screw hole

Black valve shield covering screw hole

I used my handy multitool with a narrow blade to cut off the plastic covering the screw holes. Then I was able to attach the face plate.

Face plate and valve cartridge control installed

Face plate and valve cartridge control

I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to connect the shower valve. There are two inner plastic gears that control the temperature setting. The first is placed to meet the gear teeth in the volume control handle. The instructions say that this should be placed to not allow the hot water to get over 120 degrees. We have a whole house temperature regulator so I just wanted the piece to be set at the hottest temperature. But it wasn’t clear at first what part of the gear was up and what part made the handle stop at the hottest temperature.

Water Temperature Gear Diagram

Water Temperature Gear Diagram

The instructions skipped placing the gear inside the handle, then added this direction to control temperature.

If the water temperature is above 120°F, remove the temperature control knob (1) and rotate the limit stop (2) clockwise one tooth for every 4°F – 6°F (approximate) change in temperature. If water temperature is cooler than desired, rotate the limit stop counterclockwise.

Eventually I realized the center white knob could be rotated with a pliers all the way back and forth. So all the way to the left was hottest and all the way to the right coldest. The center of the cap fit over this knob. So to get the water as hot as possible the gear underneath had to have the limit stop in a position relating to the knob that allowed the cap to rotate to full hot. I screwed in the set and tried turning on the water.
Well, then I realized I had not opened the screw stops on the valve. That meant taking it all apart and taking off the face plate and opening the stops with a screwdriver. Nothing like doing the assembly all over again.
I first tested the hand held shower and found that I had left out a rubber gasket as it sprayed me from the bottom of the handle. After changing my shirt and finding the gasket and installing it, the leak stopped. Then I tried the shower head. It worked! But when I turn off the water it drips for a bit. I supposed that is from the long shower arm. The next task was to test the hot and cold water settings. I could not get hot water to flow from the hot side! I tested the hot water in the sink and it was definitely hot, then I realized that I may have connected the pipes the wrong way! I tried the cold side and the water got hot. This is a problem I seem to have frequently. So fixing that was another exciting adventure. But at least the faucet trim was completed.

Shower control and trim installed

Shower control and trim installed

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