Terrific Broth

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

Category: Small Upgrade Page 1 of 3

Home Stay + Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning at home

Hi friends! I hope you all had a good weekend, at least as good as it could be. It is hard to ignore the crazy pandemic, but we managed to stay stress-free and did not run into any trouble shopping. We do, however, start working from home in response to the “social distancing” order, which saves me hours on commute. With nothing else to do I got into Spring cleaning – for the first time in my life! All the surface was wiped down, every blanket was washed, and bathrooms got their fair share of scrubbing bubbles. With 60 degrees and sunny weather I had the windows open for the weekend. It feels like Spring!

After cleaning inside the house I quickly moved onto the garage. Our garage is a true work horse especially in winter months. Without working in it we just use it as an enclosed dumpster. Winter sport gear, shoes, tools, construction material and demolition trash are everywhere. It needs an organization badly.

The dump ground – we are animals

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Lots to store

I spent two days just to sort things out. Every storage box was open and every item now has my finger prints on it. Disposables, out to the trash/recycle. Donation items, out into my car. Gifts, packed and shipped! The garage started looking a lot better, but the real devil is how to store all the rest.

We had organized our garage before and divided it into multiple zones: paint storage, car repair and DIY tools, sport gears, and mud room area. But the recent basement renovation left us a lot of materials we have to keep. For example, the leftover tiles, paint, drywall, and flooring, all of which should be kept in case of future repairs.

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In addition, we also plan to keep the lumber from demolition.

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For the basement reno we also acquired more tools, including a Dewalt miter saw + saw stand. We had already owned lots of tools, both for DIY projects and for car repair/maintenance. And they have been piling on top of each other and getting lost in deep drawers.

I spent the entire third day getting everything out. Dust, categorize, and re-organize them into drawers and onto shelves.

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We had one of the wall organizers (left) which works really well for storing small parts. I got another one (right) and have everything labeled.

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Aside from general storage, I mounted several magnetic racks to hold small tools in open.

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Now at least I know exactly what tools we have and where everything is. Hopefully it will save us time and money from going to stores to buy things we already have.

Adding more shelves and create a wood working station

Shortly after moving in, we mounted a series of storage shelves on the southern wall to hold paint supplies, which have worked wonderfully.

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Soon after that, we added more shelves on the other end of the southern wall for seasonal storage, which we use to store things related to specific project – cycling gear, dog stuff, etc.

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To create more storage like this, I extended the upper storage shelf to run above the garage window for mostly wood working tools.

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Below the window used to be our construction storage. Now all the lumber was moved away, I took the opportunity to carve out a space for wood working. We regularly use the Bosch table saw and the Dewalt miter saw. They are wonderful tools, but difficult to setup. Sometimes we opted out using them purely because we were too lazy to set them up. To make sure these tools are readily available, I placed them next to each other, right under the garage window.

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This is a great spot for wood working tools. The lighting is good with the window (the white board is there temporarily). There is a wall outlet right between them, and the shelves holding all the paint cans and wood treatment are just an arm away.

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We have a piece of pegboard left over from the east wall project. Adhering to the “use it or lose it” rule, I mounted it under the window and it fits perfectly! It is a great spot to store protective gear for wood working.

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Keep the north wall for sport storage and as a mud room

The last wall in our garage is the north wall, shared between the garage and the living room/kitchen. It has been used for winter gear storage with a DIY ski rack:

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next to which is hanging space and shoe storage as a mudroom area.

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What is next?

Now the garage has been organized again, in the best way I can, we have yet to find storage for two more categories of things: Christmas decorations, and lumber.

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So naturally, I decide to use these lumber to created more storage in the garage for Christmas stuff – a one-stone-two-birds approach. Why not? And we happen to have this ugly corner above the roof trusses to cover up…Do you see where I am going with this?

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My next project will be to created storage above the trusses using the lumber we have, not only to conceal the electrical wires, but also to provide space for Christmas decors. Hopefully by the end of the week, we will be able to park a car, maybe even two cars, back to the garage again! Who would know?

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Ethernet for Internet – An Electronic Upgrade

Hi! I hope y’all had a good weekend! We went on a ski trip with my sister and her boyfriend this past weekend and we had TONS of fun. It is really sweet to see how happy everyone was and how much we enjoyed each other’s company.

Of course, away from home = no renovation progress. The office doors and library trims have to wait another week. I do have something to report though – something I am not familiar with at all and honestly, care very little. But the man in the house could not live without this upgrade and thinks it is “crucial for the quality of life”. So here goes his recent DIY work – Ethernet connections.

Before adding insulation to our attic, Slav laid down some Ethernet cables on the attic floor. They are to deliver wired internet service to all the rooms on the main floor, as well as to provide fast connections between the media server in the garage and Slav’s computer. We are also required to have a home security system by our home insurance, which needs to be connected with Ethernet cable too. So Slav got cables and terminals on bulk and laid down an extensive network in the attic.

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After the blown-in insulation, Slav connected the cables to our router and started setting up the ports in each room. In our bedroom, we decided the ports should live on the wall our bed faces, next to the wall outlet. We have no plan to hang TV or projector in the bedroom, but having the Ethernet port and the outlet next to each other provides an opportunity for future users.

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Our wall studs have horizontal bracing in between, making it difficult to fish these cables out. Slav made a hook from a piece of rigid copper wire, and taped his endoscope camera on it. This home-made tool helped him to get wires out fairly easily.

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Did you notice the electrical tape on his wrist? He wrapped it on tight around the sleeves so insulation would not get into his hoodie. True DIY spirit I’d say.

After fishing the cables out, he made the connection with a special tool and installed the wall plate. Now we have two Ethernet ports in our bedroom!

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The installation in Slav’s office was easier since we had cable terminal there to begin with. Slav simply eliminated the cable terminal, and used the existing cable to piggyback the Ethernet cable into the office.

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He then made the terminal for the Ethernet cables and installed the wall plate where the cable terminal used to be.

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Having Slav’s computer on Ethernet significantly increased the upload speed, which is important for his work since he often needs to upload large files. Needless to say that it made the man very happy.

The other reason of having Ethernet is for connecting the home security cameras. We do not feel that we need any security system, since we have two large dogs and a state trooper living right across the street. But installing one can significantly decrease our home insurance rate, so it is well worth it.

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Slav installed all four security cameras under the soffit at various locations, then threaded cables out to connect to the cameras to our server:

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These cameras are motion-sensitive and point to our garage door, front and back doors, and the whole backyard. They will start recording when any movement is detected around our doors. We can check the live footage or pull up the recordings anytime from our laptops and phones.

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You can probably tell from the lack of progress photos how little I know about these electronic upgrades (LOL). But I hope some of you out there are just as excited as Slav about this small (but important!) DIY project. As for me, I will be back to trimming bookcases and undoubtedly take way too many pictures and write an unnecessary long post about it. So be sure to check on us later this week!

Let There Be Light

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Howdy, friends and family! We had another winter storm and it is really cold! One good news is that even though the weather is significantly colder, we still paid 20% less for heating in January compared to last December. I think the attic insulation we recently added is doing its job!

The weather really slowed down our office renovation – we can not do wood work inside with windows and doors shut, and the garage is pretty cold to work in now. Unsatisfied with the lack of progress, we revisited our office to-do list to see if there is anything we could work on without making sawdust:

1. Frame the new opening between office and living room
2. Patch the hardwood floor
3. Drywall and trim around the new opening
4. Hang doors
5. Install new lighting and window treatment in the office
6. Build baseboard drawers for the bookcases
7. Trim out the bookcases
8. Build a new desk w/ storage cabinet
9. Enlarge office window (phase II)

It did not take long for us to identify the obvious choice: the lighting! We have been wanting to try the PS 2014 lamp from IKEA, and Slav’s room seemed to be a good spot for it.

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While browsing lighting in IKEA, we also found this sleek Barometer track light. Slav was leaning towards using this track light in the office since PS 2014 does not give out too much light.

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Office lighting

We assembled both lights. The PS 2014 comes in many pieces but was fairly easy to assemble.

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Here is our old overhead lighting in the office, which is apparently called “nipple light” in US.

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Slav took it off and found the ceiling above it was not painted. So I cleaned the ceiling with some TSP solution and sanded it a bit, then gave it a coat of white paint.

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The existing ceiling color reads a bit more flat, probably due to the age of the paint. We plan to paint the whole main floor down the road so a bit difference in texture did not bother us.

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Slav is right, the PS 2014 hung way too low in the office. Not only Slav, but also I have to duck when passing it. So track lighting it is.

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The new light looks much better. The brass color is masculine, fits the color of the bookcases, and the smooth and modern lines balance the rather traditional shelves very well.

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A pretty big difference between the “nipple light” and the new Barometer.

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Bedroom lighting

With the track lighting installed in the office, we decided to hang the PS 2014 in our bedroom. Slav got to take down the second “nipple light”.

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The bedroom light left a more obvious mark on the ceiling. It took two coats of paint to cover the yellowish ceiling.

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I painted with a brush and intentionally left the brush mark to match the ceiling pattern.

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It dried to almost the same color.

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Slav hung the PS 2014 and we were very impressed with the effect it gives.

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Make you think of the Star Wars movies, right? This lamp is popular for IKEA hacks and the most creative I’ve seen might be this “death stars” project.

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You can use the two strings on the bottom to adjust how much it opens:

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And it leaves the prettiest pattern on our ceiling:

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It hangs pretty low, but we do not mind since it was mounted directly above our bed. It is also a fairly dark light. We used a 95W equivalent LED bulb, and even with the lamp shades fully open, you should not read under it.

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However, it is perfect for bedroom use. When the lamp is mostly closed, you can turn it on in the middle of darkness without hurting your eyes. I usually goes to bed a lot earlier than Slav. With this light, he could turn it on without waking me up.

Garage lighting

We also recently upgraded our garage lights – about a months ago? It was too small of a project to report, but it actually made a big impact. Gosh we are on such a lighting rush now!

The garage lights are actually the ones that really needed an upgrade. We changed all the light bulbs in the house to LED as soon as we moved in, but the old garage lights are these tube lighting and they do not take LED bulbs. They were not only inefficient and dark, but also dirty and covered with rust.

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LED work lights are not cheap, but we really wanted LEDs so we took the holiday sales and got these.

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Slav mounted all the new lights flush to the ceiling beams – the old ones were suspended on chains (!!!). Mounting the new light higher also helped to hide loose wires. They made the whole garage look neater and more pleasant to be in.

We are very impressed with these lights. They are very bright. We got four with the assumption that we might need to add additional task lighting over the work benches. But in fact, four of these lights brightened up the whole garage (18″ x 24″) without any dark corners (mounting them higher also helped).  These lights made it possible to work in the garage at night, even on the work benches without other task lighting. We also picked warm white (2700 Kevin), so although these light are bright, it does not feel cold or sharp.

With all the new lighting in the office, bedroom and garage, we have upgraded 50% of lighting on the main floor. We are still searching for additional light source for the living room (the only room without overhead lighting), and we cannot wait to upgrade the lights in our kitchen and hallway. But for now, it makes us smile everything we turn on the bedroom light and see the “star”.

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