Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Projects Page 3 of 38

The New Electrical is in!

View this post on Instagram

Double rainbow @ #DENVER #Colorado

A post shared by Terrific Broth (@terrificbroth) on

With the recent rain and snow our yard has been insanely beautiful. On the opposite, the basement of our ranch was gloomy. Boob lights poorly light rooms and all the renovation efforts underneath. Fortunately all was in the past – because the can lights are finally in!

IMG_8817

The decision of adding recessed lighting was easy – a single boob light was all we had in each room before, including the big 20 x 14  living area. Since we are opening up the ceilings for sound insulation (more on that later), it was the perfect timing to brighten up the basement with can lights. Dimmerable LED is a must, and three-way switches are placed near every doorway so we can control the lights when entering and leaving each room.

IMG_8801

For 850 sqft of the space we put in 23 can lights – 8 in the living room, 5 in the bedroom, 4 in the bathroom, and 6 in the utility room.

IMG_8791

The can lights in the living room is more or less evenly spaced so we will not have any dark corners.

IMG_8810

In the bedroom, the placement of the cans was a big tricky due to the heat ducts. At the end, three cans were placed along the midline of the future closet area:

IMG_8804

And two can lights were centered above the sleeping area. We have a big egress window for natural lighting on this side and two additional sconce lights on the side of the bed.

IMG_8805

The bathroom is gonna be so bright! Two can lights on the ceiling and two mini can lights on the soffit should make up for the lack of natural light here. I am also excited to have separated switches for a bathroom fan, ceiling lights, and soffit can lights. The current master bath upstairs has everything wired on the same circuit, which means the fan comes on (and it is loud) whenever we use the bathroom, even just for washing hands. It is so annoying! I know the separated light and fan feature comes with 99.9% of the houses and apartments – but not in our old ranch, which really taught us to appreciate simple pleasures such as separating your fan and lights.

IMG_8907

The utility room will not be finished this time with the living area and master suite, for several good reasons. First, we want to put a dry kitchen and bar area here which requires a lot more time. Second, it will be convenient to have the wet wall uncovered and all the plumbing exposed until we renovate the bathroom and kitchen upstairs. But we decided to get the electrical part done with the rest of the basement. It just makes sense to upgrade the essentials all at the same time. In the utility room, four can lights were added to cover the middle:

IMG_8798

And one more was added above the washer and dryer:

IMG_8911

We also asked the electrician to add one can light inside the utility room closet. After opening up the bedrooms and getting rid of the linen closet, this closet became the only hidden storage in the basement. Adding can light spared us from the loose hanging light bulb there before and saved some much-needed head room in this under-the-stairs closet.

IMG_8909

In the picture you can also see the sub-panel. We did not know we needed it until the electrician took a closer look at the existing panel installed in 2017. On our main panel there was barely enough room for all the lights and utility we need, and definitely not enough room for the future dry kitchen. Adding a sub-panel not only makes wiring all the downstairs utility easier, but also allows us to reset the circuit without leaving the basement.

IMG_8904

The sub-panel was connected to the main one with wires threaded through the floor joints under the backdoor landing. We decided that the closet is the best place to conceal the unsightly sub panel. To meet the code the doorway had to be enlarged by a few inches, and no door can be added, which is not a problem at all. The wider opening actually made getting in and out of the closet a lot easier, and I have a few idea to make this closet not only functional but pleasant to look at even without a door.

IMG_8908

In addition to can light, we also asked for more outlets in the bedroom and the living area. Two outlets and two sconce lights were wired to flank the bed:

IMG_8912

And two electrical outlets were also added to the ceiling where the future projector, TV, and sound systems will be. Slav dropped ethernet cables (of course) next to the electrical outlets so everything we need for future entertainment will be concealed behind the finished ceiling. Last, we added one outlet and ethenet cable near the main entry. This will be a future bar area and I can see the need for charging cables and hardwired internet connection here:

IMG_8812

After all the electrical was done, we moved onto sound-proofing the basement. With the hardwood floor upstairs we really hear every step. It was like a disco party over the head whenever Roxie and Charlie play. To damp the sound, Slav installed the mineral wool insulation batt between the floor joints.

IMG_8817

We have quite some ducts in between the floor joints. Slav torn the insulation apart and stuffed them around the ducts and can lights really well. It was quite a messy job – I highly recommend a respirator – although it was no comparison to this attic insulation project we did ourselves. Applause to the husband who took care of the work so I did not have to!

IMG_8813

The result turned out exactly as we expected – the insulation damped the footsteps in large and helped a lot with the conversation noise. The bedroom actually got double layers of the insulation, which should help with the sound transfer between our future master and the guest room above.

IMG_8830

IMG_8863

We ordered 20 bags of the mineral wool insulation, and used 19 bags in the ceiling. Instead of returning the last bag, Slav installed the leftover insulation around the furnace. We plan to build a closet around the furnace down the road. With the help of the mineral wool insulation, we hope to minimize the furnace noise when it comes on and off.

IMG_8819

 

With both electrical and insulation done, we are ready for drywall. I had some anxiety closing up the ceiling and walls – I cannot help but wondering if we forget something important between the studs. We already determined to wireless connect the future speakers, then what else we could do when the studs are still exposed? Is there anything could be useful down the road, even though we are not using today? Give us a shout out if you have any ideas!

A Basement Update

There has been an unanticipated slow-down here on the blog over the last a couple months, largely due to sudden changes in our lives. Slav started a new job in February which not only resulted in little time at home, but also shifted lots of housework on my shoulder. Comparing to quiet evenings of organizing thoughts and typing on the keyboard, I spent most of my evenings cleaning and cooking.

View this post on Instagram

Peach blossom. 桃花依旧笑春风

A post shared by Terrific Broth (@terrificbroth) on

We have welcomed the Spring to Colorado, on which lots of yard work piggybacks. I hope that you do not have bindweed in your neighborhood. Unfortunately I do. Over the last two years I have established a routine of walking through the garden in the evenings, and taking care of small tasks such as weeding and deadheading. But this Spring I had to pile all these small tasks to weekends, which put me out of commission for renovations and DIY projects.

View this post on Instagram

Spring flowers. #COlife #Gardening

A post shared by Terrific Broth (@terrificbroth) on

Knowing our limits we decided to hire a team of professionals to tackle the big renovation coming up in our basement. Last time I brought you down in the basement we demoed the ceilings and closets in the bedroominstalled egress window, and exposed the plumbing in the bathroom. Since then we have demoed the bathroom to the studs:

IMG_8577

The wet wall is now completely exposed from both sides:

IMG_8575

Both original bathroom door and the bedroom door were removed, and some drywall was cut out to make room for a pocket door between the bedroom and the new bath:

IMG_8567

We decided to take this opportunity of renovation to upgrade the plumbing. We were glad that we made this decision – there was lots of water damage behind the walls and mold has been growing around the shower area.

IMG_8588

We also removed the small lining closet located in the little hallway between the bedroom and the old bathroom door. Incorporating the closet and hallway space into the bathroom makes room for a double sink vanity.

IMG_8580

This is view from the bedroom to the future bath, through the future pocket door opening. The part with lower ceiling was the hallway/closet space, which now becomes part of the future bath. We will frame a door between the living space and the new bath, so we can still access the bathroom from the living area. It will also help with the bathroom ventilation and bringing some nature light in this end of the living space.

Due to the low ceiling the old closet/hallway space will host the toilet:

IMG_8582

And the old vanity and toilet space will host a double sink vanity:

IMG_8584

The shower will be installed right under the window. We plan to frame the wall out so we can have a large shower niche built-in.

IMG_8555

We also removed the ceiling drywall in the basement in order to add can lights and insulation to soundproof the basement. The ceiling drywall had heavy texture and smoothing it out will cost us more than just using new drywall.

IMG_8574

Now the demo in the basement has officially finished, our general contractor has moved in and started new framing. The biggest change of the layout down here will be the bathroom area. Both doors to the new bath will be pocket doors to maximize the floor space in the new bathroom. They will be framed in next week:

IMG_8589

The overhead heating pipes calls for a pretty big soffit. Our contractor has framed it in.

IMG_8572

IMG_8590

More framing will happen in the bathroom – the shower niche and a small soffit will be framed in to accommodate the can lighting. As soon as the framing is done, an electrician will come in to install can lights and reconfigure the outlets and light switches. Then the plumbing, then the insulation. It will look pretty rough done here for a while. But every week there will be some progress and we are getting our finger crossed for everything going smoothly. I want to say “knock on wood”, but we are already doing it everyday. Ha!

 

Two Trees Out, Two Trees In

Oh boy did time fly…It has been two months since I last opened the blog page. What happened? Work. Work, work, and work. In good news, Slav started a new job which he enjoys. But it sucked 200 hours out of him in just the first 3.5 weeks. 200 hours! I barely saw him in February. Luckily I was also up to my neck in my work – writing one manuscript and one grant proposal stole entire February away from me. Needless to say that we did not do a thing to the house/yard during this time.

IMG_6073

This is the latest picture I took in the basement after putting in a new egress window in. It was late January, right before our money-making jobs got in the way of our money-burning renovations. Since then, we devoted the last bits of spare energy into ski trips – priorities. 🙂 And before we know it, it was March!

March brought a sense of emergency – I’ve told you of my plan on planting more edibles this Spring, which is contingent on removing all the vegetation along the northern fence. This is the only portion of fence that does not belong to us, and it was in very rough shape:

IMG_5181

This photo was taken after we removed the chain link fence from our side. You can see the trees along the fence have grown into the posts and started to lift the panels off the ground. These are elms trees, which in Colorado are considered “trash trees” because they are invasive and easy to catch diseases. They likely seeded themselves and no one could get in between the two layers of fences to remove them in time.

These photos show what they look like during the growing season. Due to lack of care and diseases, The elm tree in the middle and half of the other two elm trees were already dead. In the second picture, you can see only the trunks of the middle elm tree because it had fell down.

IMG_2976

IMG_3124

To eliminate the danger of them falling on the house or one of us, and also to save the fence, we decided to cut them down even through they are technically not our trees. But someone gotta do it. Right?

IMG_6109

Removing the chain link fence exposed the entire trunks of these elm trees for easy removal. To do it safely, we hired a licensed and insured tree company (Arborist Alliance) to remove the elm trees and the big stump left from the elm in the middle. We were fortunate to have a couple sunny days in between snow storms for safe operation.

Elm tree No. 1

IMG_6104

Elm tree No. 2

IMG_6105

Of course I took a day off to watch this exciting operation. I took zillions of pictures kneeling in melting snow + mud despite the weird looks from the crew members, only to find in the evening that there was no memory card in the camera. Oops. Anyway, I hope you still get the excitement with the blurry cell phone pictures below:

20190307_102150_HDR

A crew of five people arrived bright and early and started working. The tree on the right were brought down by cutting at the chest height, one trunk at a time. But the one on the left were cut down a lot more slowly and carefully due to its close proximity to the houses.

The one on the right was done in half an hour:

IMG_6147

The one on the left were cut down branch by branch, a couple feet a time:

20190307_102257_HDR

20190307_103744_HDR

20190307_103854_HDR

20190307_104346_HDR

This crew worked like a well-oiled machine and very efficiently. Two crew members worked on the two elm trees while the third crew member assisted them from the ground. As the branches came down, two other members separated the branches from the main trunks with chainsaws, and brought the smaller branches to the wood chipper parked in front of our house.

IMG_6145

All the smaller branches were turned into wood chips immediately. Technically, the trunk of the tree and big branches can be chipped too. But we wanted them for firewood, so it worked well in both their benefit and ours to just leave the main tree trunks in our yard. They cut the tree trunks and bigger branches into 3 feet sections and stacked them neatly next to our firewood pile.

The task that took the longest was actually cutting down the elm tree on the left. It was not only because it was sandwiched in between our house and the neighbor’s house, but also that there were several big nests on the tree and potentially had wild life in them. Just like we guessed, one of them was used by squirrels. The mother escaped before a crew member climbed onto the tree, left two babies behind:

20190307_111941_HDR

We carefully transferred the babies and all the nesting materials into a cardboard box, then set the box near the tree trunks after all the tree work (with loud noises) was done. The baby squirrels were picked up by the mother within half an hour and relocated to another nest. No animal was harmed during our operation! Yay!

The crew arrived around 830 AM. By noon, the two elms were gone and the decris were mostly cleared out:

IMG_6153

After lunch break, the crew worked on stump grinding. They brought in a machine which has a saw blade running vertically into the ground to grind the stumps and roots into basically saw dust. Due to the close proximity of the stumps to the fence, they removed a fence panel to get to as much tree stump as possible.

20190307_124610_HDR

Grinding three tree stumps (one left from the elm tree in the middle which had fallen down) took about 2 hours with the machine and just one guy. Other members spent this time cleaning up in both our yard and our neighbor’s yard. All the debris was racked up and put into the chipper. At the end, the fence panel was nailed back.

IMG_6156

Even without the main branches and big tree trunks, the wood chips generated from our trees still filled more than one big truck load. I asked if they could leave some for us to use as mulch, and I got a big “Yes!” as the reply. It actually takes tree business money, gas, and time to dump wood chips at the city. So downloading some to customers was always welcomed. They kindly suggested to leave the wood chips from their previous job, which were all from a healthy tree instead of the wood chips from our diseased elms. So, just like that, we got a bunch of firewood + ~10 yards of fresh wood chip mulch, and in addition $100 discount for taking them off the tree crew’s hands. A win-win for both of us!

IMG_8443

10 yards of wood chips did not look like much, but it took Slav two days to move all of them to the backyard where I wanted. At the mean time, the two hazelnut trees came in early March. They were planted along but ~8 feet away from the wooden fence, in the middle of the sloped hill.

20190321_190613_HDR

IMG_8450

Hazelnuts need cross-pollination to fruit, so it requires at least two different varieties of the hazelnuts trees. We ordered two dwarf North American native varieties, one called Jefferson, and the one called Yamhill.

20190321_190544_HDR

IMG_8448

These hazelnut trees are supposed to get to 8~12 feet tall in 3~4 years. I expect them to provide some privacy year around between us and the northern neighbor, as they flowers in winter. They also should eventually provide shade to the mulched area below, which will create more forest-like micro-environment. But before they reach their mature size, we will use the space around them for wine crops such as melons and pumpkins, and for bushy crops including rhubarb, zucchini, and squash plants. These plants will keep the mulch moist and discourage weeds from coming up. It will be fun!

IMG_8446

Just like that, two elms are out and two hazelnuts are in. The berry garden is the next and I could not wait to get all the edibles into the ground before the real Spring comes!

Page 3 of 38

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén