Archives April 2019

Small Engine Tuning

This weekend, before leaving for Masters Week in Augusta, I finished getting the Ranger and the lawn mowers ready for spring. Pretty basic stuff: air filters, oil filters, oil changes, and a new battery for the ATV. It felt good working outside in sixty degree weather, Spring is finally here!

Upcoming Spring Projects

This spring, I have a variety of projects on deck. I’m having more crown molding installed at the house in Verona. The first crown molding project went so well, I’m now expanding the scope to all of the rooms upstairs, which I think will look excellent. Next, I’m going to have the lake house power washed, and am going to repaint the window trim and siding, along with the deck. I’ll also be clearing trees at the lake house to improve the view and the path down to the lake. Both of these projects should really improve the outdoor experience at the lake house. Finally, I’m going to be working with an interior designer to improve the decor and design of the various living rooms on the main level at the house in Verona. I’m excited to move the Verona house slightly more upscale.

All of these projects are definitely going to keep me busy in spring and early summer. As I make progress, I’ll be sure to chronicle it here.

Spring Vehicle Maintenance

As the snow melts and the weather slowly warms up, it’s been fun to get all of the cars and other vehicles out from winter storage. As is always the case though, almost all of them need some sort of service after sitting in the garage on trickle chargers all winter. The Bentley needs belt service, the Range Rover needed it’s annual service, and the Porsche needed a variety of minor ailments fixed. Given the complexity and cost of those vehicles, I’ve obviously left that to the professionals. Nonetheless, it’s been awesome to get them back on the road!






In addition to all the cars, I’ve had to get the smaller vehicles running as well. The John Deere zero turn mower only needed and oil change and an air filter change, and it’s back in action. The Polaris Ranger needed a battery and a starter solenoid replaced on top of an oil change, but it’s back up and running too.



Finally, I had an old trailer that was sitting on one of the back corners of my land, that I wasn’t planning on using anymore. I bought it for $300 when I originally bought the house to aid in moving, and it had since not been very heavily used. It was a muddy mess to tow it out of the valley with the truck, but kind of fun too. The truck looked like something straight out of a Ford commercial afterwards:



As the weather continues to warm up, I’m looking forward to driving all of these fun vehicles more and more.

Outdoor Projectors

I’ve long wanted to be able to watch TV from the hot tub, as well as from the deck at both houses. It’s not something that I’d use all the time, but on a nice spring, summer, or fall night it would be nice to watch a movie outside, and being able to turn on Sports Center from the hot tub would be awesome as well. Outdoor TV’s are an option, but properly reinforced outdoor TV’s that could stand up to the wild Wisconsin weather year-round are very expensive, and hard to justify given the frequency of use I anticipate. With that in mind, I wanted to build a projector rig that would be easy to carry outside, set in place, and watch TV. It needed to be lightweight, and have a single plug so setup would take under 10 seconds. I bought a small, portable projector with an integrated speaker from Amazon, and connected a Roku stick directly into its HDMI port.


I then bought a very small power strip with USB outlets that I could attach to the projector, which would power both the Roku stick and the projector.


After that, I build a metal cage around the entire rig, giving it structural integrity and making it easy to carry to where it would be used.


Next, I build mount points. I built metal platforms with clips to hold the projector in place, and mounted outdoor power strips next to them so the projector would have power. I have two mount points by the hot tub, one on the upstairs deck at the house in Verona, and one on the deck at the lake house.



The end result is pretty awesome, even when just projected on the side of the house.


My next step is mounting outdoor projector screens, which will make the picture significantly higher quality.

Tool Reorganization

One of my in-between-project projects was to reorganize my tools, which had gotten out of control due to all of the projects split between the two houses. I setup a staging ground in the lake house, and piled all of the tools and building supplies into categories before organizing them.


After that was done, I purchased and assembled some additional storage cabinets, as well as clearing space in existing cabinetry and adding some shelving.

After that, I placed all of the tools in their place, in a logical order, and labeled all of the cabinets, shelves, and drawers with a label maker so that I can easily find things in the future and not constantly re-buy building supplies that I already have.

After everything, both garages, plus the guest house, were completely clean and clear of piles of tools.



Minor Spring Projects

In the midst of all of my larger projects, I always maintain a list on Basecamp of smaller projects that need doing at both the main house and the lake house. Sometimes I find myself with a weekend that, due to other plans or weather, doesn’t allow me to work on a big project. When that’s the case, I always enjoy crossing some items off of the small project list. Here’s a running tally of some recent items from the list:

A few highlights from this spring have included…

New Chandelier

When I originally purchased the main house in Verona, it was largely stripped of light fixtures since the previous owners had been foreclosed on. The few light fixtures still in the house were contractor grade, and many have since been replaced. One of the few that was left was actually the dining room chandelier, which was simple in style but not heinous enough to have been replaced. I replaced it with a better looking fixture this spring, in addition to changing the decor of the room slightly and reframing some of the artwork to match the finish of the furniture. I think it turned out very well.

New Rug

The carpet in the house is on its last legs, and is going to be replaced in the next year, most likely. Given that, we wanted to get a rug in the main living room to cover the highly trafficked area around the coffee table and the couch. My wife is obsessed with Rifle Paper Company, and they make some high quality rugs at really solid prices. Here is what we settled on:

Key Rack

As my car collection has grown, I wanted a rack to display all of the key fobs instead of simply dropping them in an overly full key bowl. I installed a rack in the hallway near the garage door, that makes for a solid functional piece of wall art.

Kitchen Bathroom Shower

When I originally remodeled the bathroom near the kitchen in the Verona house, I made a mistake and didn’t properly secure the shower fixtures to the framing of the wall they sit inside of. This made for an awkward feel when you turned the shower on, and I was able to pretty easily rectify this by removing some of the hardware and mounting the main fixture to a piece of wood connected to the framing, along with some Great Stuff spray foam to completely hold everything in place.

Bronze Rail Hardware

All of the hardware on the railings on the two staircases in the house were brass, which fit the original decor but clashed with the oil-rubbed bronze that I’ve gone with in many of the remodel projects. Instead of replacing the hardware, which would have been impossible to find a one-to-one replacement due to the age of the hardware, I removed the hardware, spray painted it bronze, and replaced it. The result looks excellent, and really transforms the look of both stairways.

New Kitchen Desk Chair

We have a small desk area in the kitchen, and the chair that sat under the desk had worn out. I replaced it with a unibody wood chair, that adds some color to the kitchen while nicely complementing all of the other furniture.

Next up, I’ve got a lot of minor landscaping projects, plus installing an exterior hose faucet at the lake house and changing the oil on some of my smaller vehicles like the riding mowers and the ATV.

Lake House Washer/Dryer

One of the last appliances that I needed to buy for the lake house was a washer dryer. It will primarily be used for swim suits and towels, since we don’t keep a ton of clothes at the lake house, but it is still very nice to have. Space is absolutely an issue, since the space designed for laundry in the lake house basement cannot fit a full size washer and dryer. Given this, I bought a combined, stacked unit with a shallow depth that can fit in the space provided without blocking the entryway to the basement when you come down the stairs. I picked a compact Whirlpool unit from Home Depot:


Once it’s delivered, there is still work to do. When the major HVAC remodel was done last winter, we disconnected the dryer vent, and we also ripped out the dryer power outlet. The current state of things is not exactly ready for prime time.

Once that is done, the appliance remodel at the lake house will truly be complete!

Powder Room Remodel

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, not due to lack of projects but due to a very busy spring. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be catching up on writing about my spring projects. One of the larger ones was remodeling the smaller of the two master suite walk-in closets to be a powder room for my wife. We have a massive, nearly 400 square foot closet that was recently remodeled, and the smaller closet had been very underutilized as essentially a storage and junk room.

I wanted to install some wardrobe space similar to the bigger closet, as well as shelving and a make-up vanity for my wife. Step 1 was an IKEA run to buy all the furniture.

After hauling the furniture back, I had to clear out all of the existing junk, as well as all of the clothing racks and shelving that had originally been in the closet.

The empty room was significantly more spacious than it had been when it was filled with stuff:

After clearing out the room, it was time to build a ton of flat-pack IKEA furniture.

The cats decided they wanted help, or at least wanted to setup camp in the IKEA bags.

Once everything was assembled (which ended up being a bigger challenge than normal, since some things had to be partially assembled upright and in place due to the size constraints o the closet), I moved everything into the closet.

I had to do some creative engineering to wire the closet, running wiring from a circuit in the main master bedroom through the wall into the room to provide outlets and power a lamp.

Once that was done, the project was complete!