Terrific Broth

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

Category: Small Upgrade (Page 1 of 2)

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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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


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.



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


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.


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.


Office lighting

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



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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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”.



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


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


It dried to almost the same color.


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


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.


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



And it leaves the prettiest pattern on our ceiling:


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.


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.


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


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”.


The Magic of Caulk – Small Upgrade Take III

You’ve heard me say this, sometimes small upgrade can make a big impact to a room. We have done quite a few small upgrades ourselves and we love how they instantly changed our lives (here and here). This time, we tackled our kitchen and bathroom, and our target is the old, dingy caulk.



Yeah, they were pretty bad. We are disgusted by the look, and more importantly, caulk is supposed to close the seams to seal areas and corners that are susceptible to mildew and mold damage. When they crack and become discontinuous, they can no longer to keep the area around sinks and tubs watertight.



The part we are mostly worried about is the seam right below the bathroom window. Somehow the window sill was installed wrong with a slope going outwards, so water sits there and we are so worried that the water gets into the wall.


And the caulk here could no longer prevents water from seeping down into the wall.


When you think that our master bath is bad, here comes worse.



These are taken around our kitchen sink:


And here is how bad it was around the backslash:



If it was not dingy and moldy, it was missing:


So when Slav finally got a couple days break from his work, he stripped off all the old caulk and applied a new layer while I was at work.





Slav even caulked the gap between our counter top and the stove:


Everything is SO. FRESH.


The kitchen became 100 times brighter – without changing a light bulb! And the bathroom? With white tiles and fresh caulk, it is like a heaven:





The window seam now looks like this:



Slav also ran a line of caulk around the edge of each window, where the glass panels meet the metal trims to seal the cold draft.


Quite a change, isn’t it? Who would knew that fresh caulk can have such an impact? I have been talking about painting the bathroom walls a lighter color since our moving day. But with white doors and bright new caulk, the blue walls actually look lovely. It is such a easy and quick way to make a big change!

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