New Floors!

July 5, 2021 11:50 am

After almost 9 years, the task to replace the worn-out carpet in the living room & hallway as well as the peeling-up roll-vinyl in the kitchen finally found itself at the top of our priority list for home improvement projects. We also did the hall bathroom and the laundry room.

After several weeks of research we narrowed down the product line to a Luxury Vinyl Plank product in a faux-wood finish. It looks good, has a nice non-plastic feel to it, and is supposed to be super durable.

In terms of color we would have liked something light, but warm. Apparently warm is not fashionable at the moment and "greige" (grey/beige) is. So we considered a bunch of options looking for something with a grain we liked, a beveling we liked, and a color we could live with. We saw some really nice colors in the showroom only to discover that in our own lighting they looked very different.

We eventually picked a Shaw Floors product which is branded as "Invincible H2O - Charleston Place Plus - Coastal Path" by Carpet One. It's marketed as waterproof and virtually indestructible. It's warrantied against tears, rips, gouges, stains, cracking--pretty much everything for as long as we own it.

But enough of the text, on to the pictures!


As they began ripping up the carpet in the living room and hallway, we discovered that underneath was old hardwood in a nice honey stain. It was in not terrible shape, but not great either. Out it came so the floor could be leveled properly for the LVP. And $1000 worth of OSB later, the subfloor was ready to go.

I was still working out of my closet and the hall bathroom was torn apart, so we all did a lot of climbing in and out of our bedroom window to get around the house.


The bathroom needs to be finished by having the pedestal to the sink reinstalled and the transitions from LVP to carpet need to be finished, presumably that will get done next week.

A whole lot of stuff got stashed in the garage and our bedroom during the project. And since the house was already torn apart, and it was very apparent how filthy the carpets were, I rented a carpet cleaner on Friday and spent Saturday getting everything nice and clean.

Now we just have to put the whole house back together.

First LED bulb failure

December 1, 2019 4:38 pm

We had an LED bulb fail for the first time. We put 5 Philips bulbs in our over-the-table chandelier when we moved into our house. A week or two ago one of the bulbs began shutting off after being on for ~30 minutes and it would then cycle on and off. That suggests to me an overheating problem. Now the bulb doesn't light at all.

It lasted almost exactly 7 years and the other 4 bulbs in the fixture are still going just fine. I expected it to last longer and maybe it was flawed (we'll see what happens with the other 4 bulbs). But 7 years is pretty good since it paid for itself in reduced electrical usage after about 1.5 years.

Redwood Pergola

May 19, 2018 4:53 pm

When we had the house painted we cut down the wisteria. It was rotting in the center and insects were living in it so we figured it was only a matter of time until it died anyway.  Cutting it down would let us get it off the pergola so we could have it painted.

Once the wisteria was down it became clear that much of the pergola was rotten too.  Probably because it had not been regularly repainted as it had wisteria growing all over it.  So I took down the pergola as well.

Now that the house is painted and the weather has been nice I finally got around to rebuilding the pergola.  I chose to build it out of redwood so we could let it naturally weather and not have to deal with keeping it painted.  So now when the wisteria (hopefully) grows all over it the pergola won't rot out from under it.



It total it took me 3 days to build.  2 days for the 2x4 layer and I got the entire 2x2 layer done today.

The existing 2x6s are beveled on the ends so I matched the same angle on the redwood.  Since I don't own a miter saw or a table saw, I had to do all the work with a circular saw.  I think it came out pretty well considering I've never built anything like this before.

House Painting, Doors, & Lights Finally Done

November 5, 2017 3:02 pm

Our goal, way back in Spring, was to replace the exterior doors on the house (and finally get rid of the door-knocker with the previous owner's name on it).  That snowballed in to also replacing the exterior lights and getting the house painted.  It took months longer than planned, but it's finally done.


After (recall that the roof was replaced a few years ago, which is why it has changed color between pictures as well):

I really wanted to get the paint removed from the chimney to get the plain brick back, but that's apparently a task no one is willing to do, so it got painted with the new color too.

The front door before:

Front door after:

And the garage door that took forever to get right:

I was going to spend the time to type out the incredibly long, frustrating story of this process, but I don't feel like going over the entire thing again.  So here's the short version.

We ordered the doors in May.  They were installed in July.  Then we had them stained / painted and I discovered the garage door was manufactured wrong (the lock block was missing, so where the hardware attaches was just fiberglass over foam).  So then we needed to wait another 5 weeks for a replacement to be made.  7 weeks later the new door is ready and someone from the manufacturer came and swapped the slab and moved the window from the old door to the new door.  Then we needed the original installer to come back because the door was hitting the frame and the deadbolt wasn't lined up properly.  After several visits from the installer, it's done.

The house got painted and the doors got stained which went mostly smoothly.  But when I went to install the new lights I discovered that none of the lights on the front of the house were installed on junction boxes, so we had to get 4 of those installed.  But it got done and the lights got installed (and look awesome!).

I'm leaving out a lot of annoyances involving the door trim, the sweep on the garage door, and myriad other things that took much more effort than should have been necessary to get right.  It's finally done.

Unfortunately, we had to take down the wisteria.  It was rotten through the core with borers living inside so it was going to die soon anyway.  This way we got it down and got the rotten support structure down so the remaining wood could be repainted.  We'll see if it starts growing again in the Spring (which it might, but not likely).  Then we'll decide what to do about with it.

How's That Roof Working Out?

June 1, 2017 1:24 pm

Our house needed a new roof when we bought it.  There wasn't anything particularly wrong with the roof, but it was 30 years old and worn out.  When we replaced the roof we went with light-colored shingles, added ridge venting, used radiant-barrier sheathing, and upgraded the attic insulation to a minimum of R38.

Well, now it's been a few years and I have some data (thanks PG&E for making usage history available for download in CSV format) so it's time to see how well all that stuff is working out for us.

Before we start, some caveats about the data.  I only have 1 year of data from before the roof replacement, so it's not very stable data.  For the 3 years after, I've averaged each month to obtain more stable information.  The graphs start in December because the new roof was put on during October.  So December is the first full bill after the roof was completed.

The gas data is very consistent.  We have a gas dryer, gas water heater, and gas furnace.  Our laundry and hot-water usage is probably fairly consistent throughout the years (with a small increase in both when Corinne joined the family), so the change in therms seen from before to after should be pretty focused on heating.  We've heated the house to approximately the same temperature throughout each winter so it should be a very stable comparison.

The electrical usage, however, is much less stable.  Usage patterns have changed as Heather has grown, we've switched TVs, upgraded computers, more hard drives spinning, more often running dishwasher, etc.  So the comparisons for usage from before and after are much more muddied.

Let's go to the data.


The gas usage shows an obvious reduction in gas usage throughout the winter months with equivalent usage during the summer.  This seems like pretty solid evidence that the upgraded insulation is making a difference.

The total therms used in 2013 was 503.  The average therms per year from 2014-2016 was 412.7.  An 18% reduction.  At an average of $1.29 per therm, this results in annual savings of $117.


Sadly, the electrical usage doesn't show an obvious dip during the summer months.  It actually shows a dip for the winter months which I presume must be related to the cost of running the blower on the furnace which didn't need to run as much as evidenced by the reduced gas usage.

Regarding the summer months, the 2013 data is not very good to begin with.  This was our first year in the house and we were adjusting our usage.  The spike in July 2013 would have been our first hot month in the house (July bill, for June usage) and we ran the air conditioner liberally.  When we saw the power bill, we adjusted the air conditioning to reduce costs as seen in significant drop in usage in August.

The uptick in January is most likely due to Christmas lights.

Although there was not a clear drop in usage throughout the summer as I was hoping, there was an overall reduction. The total kilowatt-hours used in 2013 was 4599.  The average usage per year in 2014-2016 was 4344.3.  A reduction of 6%.  At an average of $0.17 per kWh this results in annual savings of $42.  However, due to the nature of the 2013 data the validity of this claim is suspect.

Due to the many confounding variables on the electrical usage (mentioned in the opening paragraphs), I don't think this data can say that the high-reflectivity shingles, ridge venting, and radiant barrier were ineffective upgrades, but clearly they weren't obvious wins either, about which I'm a bit disappointed.

If we assume the data is valid as presented then the net change is $159 per year in savings.  If we were to assume the entire benefit seen is due to the combined effect of the insulation and roof upgrades (and not changes in usage patterns), then the break even point of the upgrades would be ~38 years.  Which is longer than the expected life of the roof (30 years).  However, the insulation and radiant barrier are one-time expenses.  Unless the roof fails catastrophically neither one should need to be replaced when the next roof is installed.

The net effect is that my data doesn't show the upgrades to have been a definitive win compared to a standard roof, however, I believe the electricity usage data is too inconsistent from year to year to be reliable to make any strong claim.  If I had a few more year's worth of data from before the roof replacement I'd be able to make stronger claims about the effect.