Archives November 2018


For a long time, I’ve wanted to replace the thermostat that controls HVAC for the top two floors of the house. My wife hated the old one, and it was clunky with no ability to control via my phone. I took advantage of a Black Friday deal for a Nest Learning Thermostat at the Home Depot. It was a pretty easy install process, which first involves removing the old thermostat and labeling the wires.

From there, all I had to do was wire up the Nest and calibrate and configure it.

After that, connecting it to my phone via the Nest App and subsequently Alexa was very straightforward.

Crown Molding Planning

Another project I am planning on doing this winter (or really having done for me by contractors) is a bunch of crown molding work on the main level of my house in Verona. I’ve done crown molding before, and it turned out pretty well but it’s definitely a challenge to do well in natural oak for someone who is not a professional finish carpenter. Also, in general the vast majority of the expense of professionally installed crown molding is the materials; experienced carpenters can rip through the installation process pretty quickly. To start, I’m looking to have molding work done in the three living rooms on the main level of the house, as well as the entryway and foyer. This presents a challenge because all three living rooms have vaulted cathedral ceilings.

With that in mind, I am thinking of a flying crown approach for the cathedral ceilings, and a traditional crown approach for the foyer. The traditional crown in the foyer could easily be joined to the flying crown in the first living room, since it would be a the same height and angle. Here are some examples of other houses that have used this technique:



I’ll post more as I start to get renderings from the carpenters and move on to selecting the actual molding that will be used.

Window Frosting

As part of the lake house bathroom remodel, I had a window conundrum to solve: the bathroom had a window in the middle of the shower, which was cool from a natural light perspective but made the shower kind of awkward and required a curtain which made the shower feel more cramped. I wanted to eliminate the window from the shower, but I also didn’t want to completely remove the window and have to do a ton of exterior brick work which would have been almost impossible to make look natural with the 40+ year old brick on the exterior of the house.

My solution was to remove the interior frame of the window, and to put plywood over it that can then be covered by the walls of the new shower, like this:


This solved the interior portion of the problem, but presented another obvious problem that now when you looked in the window from outside, you could tell that there was a big piece of plywood in the window. I solved this by first painting the plywood black, and then frosting the inside of the window using a spray-paint-based window frosting product.


With all of this in place, when you look in the window from outside it has the effect of making it looks like you are simply looking into a dark room with the lights off. The window is completely indistinguishable from the other windows, and preserves the look of the outside of the house while also allowing me to have a normal shower in the bathroom.




I was pleasantly surprised with how amazingly well this technique worked!

In addition to dealing with the window, I also had to drywall over where the original mirror and behind-the-mirror shelves had been. In the new bathroom, we’re just going to have a standard hanging vanity mirror, and have storage build into the vanity which had not been there in the original bathroom.


Now that this is done, I’m ready to move forward with sanding all the drywall mud and starting to get ready to finish those walls, and to finish demo work on the original shower and get ready to put the new shower in.

So Many Appliances

Since it is the week of Black Friday, I’ve taken advantage of some insane promotional deals at Best Buy to replace all of the appliances at the lake house, in both kitchens. Essentially, best buy has a 40% off promo going for most appliances, with the added kicker that you get $50 gift cards for each appliance in certain size bundles, up to a certain number of appliances. When buying two kitchen’s worth of appliances, the secret is to break them up into groups of at most three, so you maximize the number of gift cards you get and can use the gift cards for the next batch of appliances. I structured it so I got $300 worth of gift cards on top of the 40% savings, and was able to use all $300 of those gift cards on other appliance purchases. Pretty awesome!

Here are the current appliances, and what they are being replaced with:













Getting the oven to fit is a bit of a challenge, since the old double oven is a width that is no longer standard. It is bigger than a 24″ but too small for a modern 27″.


Obviously a 27″ is much more desirable because it accommodates normal size pans, so I am going to do some minor carpentry work on the current cabinetry to allow it to fit. Also, instead of a double oven, I am going with an oven on the bottom and a built in microwave on the top. This allows me to not take up valuable counter space with a microwave, and is cheaper than a double oven that will never get used (we don’t need three ovens in a vacation home).

Most of the appliances are going to be installed after I’m back from vacation in early January, but the dishwasher is going to get installed the week after Thanksgiving. The refrigerator in the upstairs kitchen has already been installed; it was a little bit of a challenge because of how big it was, but the installers were able to get it into place after taking the doors off.


The refrigerator contents that I had to transfer to the new appliance definitely made it clear that this was a vacation home, and made me chuckle:


It will certainly be nice to have all new appliances, and it will be a good birthday present to have them all installed the week of my birthday. It will make next summer on the lake even better as well!

Lake House Kitchen Remodel

In addition to ripping apart and remodeling the master bathroom at the lake house, I’m also replacing all of the kitchen appliances this winter. The first one to be replaced is the refrigerator; the old one is from the early 90’s and is very dated.

I am replacing everything with stainless steel, and went with a mid-tier Samsung refrigerator. We have a more upscale Samsung at the main house and like it a lot, but didn’t need as big or feature packed unit at the lake house.

As Black Friday approaches, I plan on buying more, including a wall oven and stove top.