Another five years has come and gone. The report in early 2017 after our first five years was full of optimism. Probably well deserved since the upcoming 2017 was a very productive year.
The first big project in 2017 was installing the ductwork for the ERV. We had built a metal stud framed box for sending the fresh air across to the master bedroom and the duct work was laid within that. We used corrugated insulated duct except for the end connections. By spring we were ready for drywall having finished all the drywall preparations. We rented two temporary storage sheds and moved the furniture outside. The drywall was a huge job because we have many oddly shaped areas. During the paint job after the install I had another intestinal blockage and was in the hospital for another surgery. Looking back it didn’t seem to slow us down much because I cleaned and refinished the cement floor and we unpacked most of our possessions when the furniture was moved back into the house.
We spent some time rearranging the kitchen and protecting the wooden counters with an acrylic coating. By summer we were tiling the family room and master bathrooms and moved cabinetry into the family room. At the end of the summer the fancy master bath tub that had cause lots of grief was installed.
In October I presented a poster on our build at the International Solar Energy conference in Denver and had our unfinished house on the local solar tour. When the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden held brown bag lunch talks that fall, they included my slide show presentation. I volunteered at the Solar Decathalon and assisted one of the local tour directors at the booth that represented the New Energy Colorado organization.
During these events we decided to add solar which was not part of our original plan. I took bids from a few firms and went with SolarCity that was then owned by Tesla and was changing its name to Tesla. I wanted one of the power wall backup batteries with our system. Their quote was also competitive for the more efficient Panasonic panels.
2018 also started out very productive. We worked on installing tile and enjoyed a visit from my professional tile layer nephew-in-law to get our shower tiled beautifully. Then I finished that shower floor and started a less stellar job in the family room bathroom shower. We continued to chip away at the work that had to be completed for the final building inspection.
Surprising news greeted us though. Our son-in-law sought a transfer to Germany for his work in voice recognition. The company was developing voice commands for Mercedes. We helped the family move much of their stuff into storage and get their house ready to rent. We had a final family camping trip in March and they left for Germany after the school year ended in May.
Our solar system got installed and we started utilizing electrical energy straight from the sun. But we added another draw to our system when we bought our daughter’s Chevy Volt plug in hybrid. I installed a 220 volt charging system for that and we love the car.
In the meantime my son’s family began to seriously consider moving to Arvada. But first they had a baby. I translated that into a home improvement project. My mom passed away while we were visiting the new baby and I also ended up in the hospital again.
Progress on the bathroom slowed down so much I hired a handy man to help complete it. He was about as slow as I was so after four days when he wasn’t finished yet I thanked him and continued on my own. After working diligently on the family room bath and hanging some curtains the final city inspection was passed. It had taken us almost six years and two extensions to be finished with the inspectable parts of the remodel.
But just around the corner was another family involvement. I had searched for a home for my son’s family near us and they finally found one that fit their budget and they liked. Closing was in December which would change a lot of our family dynamics.
The beginning of 2019 was an exciting time for us. I had a list of items to complete on our house to qualify for LEED but my attention turned to helping my son and daughter-in-law improve their house. The house my son bought had not sold that year because it had not been updated from is build date in 1999. The contractor quality was a deterrent at its original price point. We grabbed it just as they lowered the asking price for the second time. They were building in Florida and needed to sell so they took my son’s offer without negotiation.
There was quite a bit of updating to do in the new house. I did cosmetic work like changing the lower floor’s bathroom cabinet top and sink to a piece of free granite and a Craigslist sink with new faucet. I kept working there updating light fixtures and matching outlet plates and installing some automated lights and switches. I found furniture for them so they could move in with enough to get started. I remodeled the mud/laundry room and set up a spray paint booth in the garage to paint the dark oak cabinets white and the grandson’s bedroom furniture blue. I found materials for their contractor remodel of the master bath and installation of a laundry closet upstairs near the bedrooms.
In the kitchen I removed all of the old countertops and found very inexpensive white quartz which my son helped transport on one of his progress visits. I worked on cutting the pieces to size and polishing them. They were very heavy. Dave and I put them in place but my son wanted a nicer finish so he paid to have them edged and installed professionally. I also moved a cabinet from one side of the island to a wine fridge space next to the refrigerator and replaced the old high intensity fixtures in that area with led spots. That meant repairing the tile floor with the closest match I could find. They moved in July and I decided to have another bowel resection in late August. That finally fixed the problem and I have not had an episode since.
Although I switched out the mini split air conditioner that I could not get to work not much else was done at home until November and December when I surrounded the fireplace boiler with the Old Hickory TV cabinet to create our fireplace and covered the framing around the exposed structural post with stone tile to match the fireplace. Then I reassembled the fireplace boiler. What a year!
In 2020 we started back on projects at home. We were hanging doors and fixing the ERV. By then I had enough so we hired the firm that did my son’s remodel to do our back and final bathroom. Even though LEED only requires paperless drywall around the tub, the contractors installed it in the entire bathroom. The finished bathroom is quite lovely using materials I had collected for the project. I only ordered pebble tile that I matched to the vanity top for the tile trim. I had a box of tumbled marble tile from the Restore. I wanted to be sure to use it if possible so decided on a tile insert in the middle of the bathroom floor. Its a nice accent. We also had a solar tube installed to light the dark windowless bathroom. Its amazing how much light enters the room.
In early 2020 we were back in Germany and then I went to visit my sister in California and the pandemic hit. We were all affected by the Covid-19 disease. People died at an alarming rate beginning with elders but seeping down to Facebook friends and their relatives. I kept the data as the numbers soared and we isolated. Except we continued to play with our grandchildren and visit with their parents. We formed a pod, a popular idea at the time. My son and his wife work from home and the kids were less affected back then so they continued to go to nursery school. But we didn’t have outside contacts.
All the area pools were closed for the summer so I set up a backyard pool that I originally found for free for my older grandchildren who moved away. I spent a lot of time getting it all to work again and replacing parts and experimenting with solar heat. The exercise spa had a major burnout in January and it was a long time until it was fixed. The first time I installed the new spa equipment I mis-wired it and blew the control board in the new system. .
We spent time at our Indiana house renovating and cleaning. Some of the drywall had to be replaced and trim finished. We had to replace the front porch and rear deck. I loved being in Indiana near our lifelong friends and in such beautiful natural surroundings. But we were discarding that old life and had already moved on in Colorado.
By the end of the year I was trying to sew vinyl which required a new sewing machine and sending the Singer to the shop. Luckily it was just a blown fuse. A couple of the locks that came with the doors we don’t like also jammed and it took some doing to figure out how to fix them. I also re-installed the first Trombe wall glass piece which promptly slipped down away from the space so I put off the job for another year or two. We also installed a few more doors inside
In 2021 it was time to start back on LEED requirements. I contacted the evaluators and asked about completing the certification program. But I again put off LEED in favor of family. We bought a newer RV and sold our old one then my attention turned to improving storage and the electrical system and adding a solar system. I put together a charging system for a new electric trolling motor for our little Intex boat. We took the family to a northern Colorado lake for my birthday camp out. I put up the pool again in the spring and because we were vaccinated we even did a little more travel with the family.
Dave answered an Indiana Craigslist ad for a family looking for a homestead and we finally sold the Indiana farm to this couple. It never went on the market. It seemed like the right thing to do and the right time. I was still reluctant to let go of this important part of our past but I did when the time came. We drove the RV out to clear out the last of our possessions and to say goodbye. Our friends came with us to the property line as we went through withdrawal. We had put so much sweat and tears into the place. It held much of our best history. But we needed to stop. We were slowing down and we could tell.
When past the worst of the coronavirus, my German family was finally able to visit and reveal they were staying in Germany and selling their home here. We had a party on our newly laid rubber tile patio to say goodbye and to meet my son’s fiancé’s parents who also visited. Then some energy was used to help them get ready to sell. They have bought a house in Wurselen although they had to wait nine months to take possession. It’s not an unusual German transaction.
We had been contacted by Tesla about our solar roof but not much had happened. But by the end of the summer we finally were notified that Tesla was ready to replace our solar system and roof with solar tiles. The system was operational by Labor Day including a second power wall. It was a huge improvement to our solar production at least until after the equinox when production fell due to the north facing roof.
By the end of the year I decided I needed help on the house. We hired a pair of handymen and they installed trim using the recycled wood from our deconstruction and hung some more doors. I planed all the wood as they were needing it and we finally used more of the logs I had on hand for headers.
Unfortunately we experienced issues with the ERV and the company has stopped production due to the pandemic and may not start again. I’m trying to figure out what is wrong but in the meantime I reduced the pipe length to try to continue at least some ventilation.
The saddest house information from the end of our 9th year was a disappointing blower door test. Despite all the sealing and taping and insulating we had only improved the air infiltration by about 500 cfm. We identified some major issues and I started planning to seal them up.
It’s now or never as we move into 2022. A LEED deadline is looming by the end of June and the company I’m using for the evaluation seems less invested in this certification. We are registered for LEED v 2009 but we can be evaluated by LEED 4.1 without additional cost. That is probably what the company is most fluent in now. But it’s a big deal to switch, learning all the changes and nuances. In early 2019 I made list of items still required for LEED. in the next two years we accomplished a great portion of that list, remodeling the last bathroom to have paperless drywall, removing the leaky skylights, updating the mini-split air conditioner with some more work on the documentation. But there is still much to get done including glazing the Trombe wall, plugging air leaks, and reviewing and updating the documentation.
These days we want more time for our family. We love camping with our grandkids and enjoying dinners with my son’s family and traveling to Europe to visit our German family now that Covid is better suppressed. But LEED really hangs in the balance.