Garage a go-go

23 Jul

As part of our ongoing renovations I needed to replace the old outlet on the back porch, which is part of a bigger project I’ve had on the back burner for a while. The wiring in the garage was not up to our standards and so the only way I could replace the outlet in good conscience was to re-wire the entire garage. As luck would have it I had run a new feeder line from the panel up to the attic above the garage when we were doing work in the kitchen and dining room. The outlet outside in the back was the first order of business but also on the list were the ceiling outlet for the garage door, a new light, a replacement outlet inside the garage, a new outlet and light switch by the rear door, a new outlet in the front and a new outlet and switch for the exterior lights on the garage. I’m already exhausted from just writing that list. The good part of replacing the old outlets is that the Sheetrock in the back of the garage was bashed to hell already so it was easy access.

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This is after I made a straight cut across the whole damaged area in anticipation of repairing it.
As with most wiring projects the real work is fishing the cable through the walls, at least with the unfinished attic I was able to fully access the wiring from above, and pull most of the wires through where the old wires were. Being a garage there is also no insulation besides the wall against the interior of the house, so that helps make things a little easier as well.
There were a number of challenges involved but I won’t chronicle them all here, instead I’ll move on to the fun stuff.
Over the last few months I’ve been stocking up on some Z wave items to continue our home automation project. The big one I was exited about was the garage door integration with Z wave.

First off, the fact that an integrated product to do this does not exist seems crazy since the internet is full of accounts of people going through this process. Instead, you kind of have to figure out on your own. This required two separate pieces of equipment; a garage door sensor and a relay module.

The sensor is used to indicate whether the door is closed or open, or more accurately closed or not closed. My brother Chris actually was over to help with this part of the installation, which wasn’t too labor intensive but it was good to have another person to bounce ideas off and make sure things weren’t interfering with each other. The sensor works through means of a glass reed switch, which is basically a switch that connects a circuit if it senses a magnet next to it. This is the basis for most door and window sensors used in alarm systems.
The trick was placing it somewhere where the magnet would be able to safely travel with the garage door without interfering with something and mounting the sensor where it wouldn’t be impacted by any of the moving parts. The sensitivity of the magnet switch is pretty precise so the magnet needs to land within a quarter inch of the sensor when it is closed. We played around a bit and found a spot on the frame of the garage door where we could mount the sensor and have the magnet on the edge of one the door panels to just barely scrape by.
I had previously joined the sensor to the Z wave network and tested its functionality prior to mounting it so once it was up we could see right away that it was working. As of now the sensor only sees itself as a door sensor intended for an alarm system environment, which is a little odd because it gives its status as “Tripped”: Yes or No. If the sensor is not detecting the magnet it is considered tripped, which translates to open. Like I said though, a limit of this system is that it can’t really say it’s open, just not closed. If the door was open one inch it would be “tripped”. Many people recommend a camera to confirm whether the door is actually closed or open, which kind of negates the need for sensor, in my opinion. I’m sure we’ll get one anyway, at some point.
We also installed a Z-wave contact closure relay that I wired in to the garage door opener which actually allows us to open or close the door from the remote app. It functions by briefly connecting two conductors on the opener, mimicking what would happen if you hit the button inside the garage. It actually works pretty well, and any shortcomings it does have I think are more of a symptom of the app we use rather than the hardware or installation.
So now that this project is complete we can plug stuff in without having to use a ground lifter and if we go somewhere and think “oh no! Did I leave the garage door open?!” We can check, and if we did we can close it. As an added bonus if I’m too dumb to even realize I left the door open, I was able to program in a timer that emails and texts me if the door is open longer than a half hour.

Digging In!

6 Jul

Work is underway on our 3rd (and final) set of stairs for the deck. This set is on the West side and will provide us with access to the side yard (future home of the fire pit & veggie garden!)
We’re currently mixing cement for the stair base. We did some careful measurements, built a frame and guides. We also put up a work tent since it is 80+ degrees and not a cloud in the sky.
While the cement sets we’ll be finishing up another lil project we’ve been working on. More on that later!
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Network Nook

23 Feb

For a while now, I’ve had this project in mind and finally a couple of new nail guns and some scrap plywood made me finally get around to building this thing. As with many things the cable modem and wireless router just got put in the basement “temporarily” when they were first installed, with the idea that they’d find more permanent homes in the future. The original home for these items was the floor, and then they were upgraded to sitting on top of two mini-fridges for about the past 2 years. Over time other accessories joined the party, like the UPS, the Vera LITE Z-wave router and eventually a networked hard drive. At some point due to wired and wireless ranges of cameras and stuff I decided I’d get better range by moving the Airport to more centralized point of the house, and higher up.

This was the solution, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say:

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Not exactly a clean installation, to say the least. You can see the Airport clamped to the bottom of the I-beam, the hard drive sitting on TOP of the I-beam, and the VERA way in the back ground, the cable modem had made its way to a cardboard box, with cables going every which way in between it all.
It was time to put an end to this madness!

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The Iron-y

18 Feb

Any time I go to iron a shirt is usually about five minutes before we are supposed to be leaving to go somewhere, and the search for the iron and ironing board usually results in me just wearing a different shirt instead; it’s gotten shuffled around a lot. A few weeks ago Corinne was at the store and picked up a solution for our rogue ironing board situation, and this weekend we got a chance to install it.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

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Love, ishi!

Eaton Whole House Surge Protector

13 Feb

On many episodes of Holmes on Homes, good ole Frank would install a whole house surge protector in the electrical panel. It always seemed like a good idea as we have seen people, my parents especially, have surge related damage to electronics in their homes.
One day I was at Lowes looking for something and I saw a familiar face looking back at me…

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A Touchy Subject

10 Feb

Back in March of 2012, my sister and I were wandering in and out of antique stores in Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not Colonial). I took pics of some items I liked that may be nice in our house in the future. Among these items were an old dresser I thought I could restore, a channel-back chair I thought I could reupholster, and a pair of really pretty lamps that only needed shades. These were all wish-list items, that I though would “one day” be lovely in our house..

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We’re Doing it Right!!

3 Feb

This weekend we began another fairly sizable project – converting our radiators to baseboards. This project is fully DIY, and when we DIY, we make sure we “Do it Right.” As you may be aware from following our blog, we live by that Mike Holmes motto. No shortcuts, no quick fixes, no “this is good enough”… We do it right.

Which brings us to why, come Monday night, we still haven’t finished the first room conversion. We started in the master bedroom, since we’re still not living in it, and since it’s been one form of a mess or another since we moved in almost three years ago, another kind of mess would be a-ok!

The master bedroom has been notoriously cold in this house, and as we recently learned our next door neighbor, with a very similar house, has the same problem. Both houses, build in the 50s, don’t have any decent insulation in the walls, and the masters in both houses face north, not getting any sunlight. Also along with the chilly bedroom dilemma, is the super toasty bedroom on the other end of the house. For us it’s the guest room/office, and for our neighbor, a kid’s bedroom. Really the only way to get the master to be a good temp would be to crank up the heat for the whole house, thus making the office a sweat lodge… Not quite a viable solution.

With each project we complete, we get closer to being able to moving in to our master, so this is something we needed to remedy. Continue reading

The Blind’s Sides

1 Feb

Part of our new window project involves deciding on new window treatments. We have a few ideas that will improve the look in the bedrooms since all that was there previously were cheap vinyl Venetian blinds. Functional, but not fun.

The living room/dining room were the first decor projects we tackled when we moved in a few years ago. On the living room window we had installed 2″ faux wood blinds with custom curtain panels on the sides. We still love the look and want to keep the same treatments.

The new windows have the same layout and overall width, but the individual window sizes are different. The side windows are more narrow than the originals, and the picture window in the middle is wider. Continue reading

Aaand…. DONE!

28 Jan

Today was supposed to be the big finishing touch – the gutter installation. Again, I sprung out of bed nice and early to move my car, and again no one showed.. Around 10AM there was a knock on the door. Not the gutter guys, but the dumpster guy! He’d come to collect his loot (dumpster). While I was more than thrilled to see that filthy beast gone, I was hoping to have it around another day or so to toss some random junk we have around the house.

Nevertheless, this was a very happy sight:

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