Starting the Stair Reconstruction

This past weekend, I truly started the stair reconstruction project. Most of the beginning of the project was demolition: removing bad railing that needed to be replaced, angle grinding pieces of metal sticking up out of the ground, and ripping out rotting boards.

After that, I had to fix the posts on the final staircase, which had fallen over the winter and was hanging on for dear life. I used a bottle jack to lift the stairs back into position, and then screwed in temporary 4×4 beams to hold it in place while I attached the real treated 4×4 posts.

It is now stable, and can support the dock when it is finally installed by Deano. From there, I moved onto the landing above the stairs, which had badly rotted. I used treated 2x4s to build a stable structure that would support the floor boards, which will go in next week.

Next week, during the four day Fourth of July Weekend, I’m going to finish removing the sand and dirt that had fallen onto the stairs, and finish installing the new floor boards.

For now, I’m off to Las Vegas for a fun vacation weekend!

Ring Security Camera

When all of the Lake Wisconsin flooding happened last year, I installed a security camera system at the lake house that would allow me to remotely keep tabs on the dock, boat lift, and boat. I went with an inexpensive wired security system, which worked well but broke over the winter when a tree branch hit the wiring. This spring, I wanted to find a simpler solution. After investigating a lot of options, I decided to go with a WiFi-based Camera from Ring. The first step was to install a WiFi range extender in the house to beam WiFi down to the dock. I used a Linksys range extender that had enough power to get the job done:

From there hooking up the Ring Camera was easy, and the mobile app UI is slick!

Winter Storage

The boat has officially gone to winter storage, and I’m writing this post from the hot tub which means it’s officially starting to get cold. On the bright side, it’s only seven months until boating season starts again, and in the meantime I’ve got Badger football, basketball, Brewers playoff baseball, Bucks basketball, and Arsenal, plus a ton of winter home improvement projects, to keep me busy.

RIP Boat Season

As fall rolls in, the boat lift, dock, and boat have all been taken out of the water. Lake Wisconsin itself is being prepared for winter, as the bouys have been removed (which spells the end of large boats safely boating on the lake and river). I am prepping the pontoon for winter storage; it will still need to be winterized by Skipper Bud’s and also needs its top repaired, which was damaged in the June floods.

Even More Flooding

The rain and flooding throughout Wisconsin has continued, and this weekend the Wisconsin River will rise even higher, to record flooding that hasn’t been seen before this time of year.

Unfortunately, this probably means the end of the season for the boat lift and dock, which have to come out of the water and will likely stay out until spring.

We’ll still be able to get the boat in the water a few more times over the course of September, assuming warm and dry weather returns. The good news from all of this is that all of the countermeasures I had installed (security cameras, water level monitoring, et al) worked like a charm to alert me to the rising water. Last week when the Wisconsin River first flooded, I was able to monitor the situation from Dallas and have my dock and boat guys at Deano Dock and Lift get the boat off the lift so that nothing was in danger.

While the weather has certainly not been ideal, at least no significant damage to the boat, lift, or dock was sustained.

Boat Lift Fiasco

Several weeks ago when I was in Dallas, I received word from my realtor that the boat lift (and the boat) at the lake house was in danger of being swept away due to flooding on Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River.

After following up for more information, I was eventually able to get ahold of Manke Enterprises, one of the two Lake Wisconsin dock companies. They agreed to go take a look that night, and what they found wasn’t great.

Manke did their best to secure the lift for the night, and we went to bed wondering if everything would still be there in the morning.

Luckily, everything held fast overnight despite record high water levels for late June on Lake Wisconsin. Manke was able to get the boat and the lift out, and several weeks later (plus about $5,000 out of pocket) we were able to get the lift and the boat back in the water. Before that happened though, we also had to have the dock rescued a week after the boat lift, as the water levels rose even higher.

Thankfully, Deano Docks was able to get it reset in a couple of days and the boat lift was able to go back in.

Learning from this experience, I took several steps to prevent this from happening again. First, I learned how to read the NOAA water level charts, to predict when flood events might happen.

Second, I installed security cameras that I can access remotely, to be able to personally verify that everything is where it should be.

The cameras were pretty easy to install, and it took half a day to run cables along the stairs that go down to the dock and bury them underground from the top of the stairs to the house. By using a wired system, I don’t have to worry about WiFi, batteries, or any other potential points of failure.

Hopefully the rest of the summer will be as drama free as possible!

Pontoon Delivery

I finally took delivery of the new pontoon, which will go in the water later this week when Deano Docks installs the boat lift at the lake house.

It’s currently sitting on a trailer at the lake house, but having it on the boat lift will make it far more convenient to take out frequently on the lake.

Dock is In!

This week, Deano Docks came and put the dock in the water. Unfortunately, the boat lift cannot go in yet because the water levels are still so high. All of the April snow in northern Wisconsin has meant that we have extremely high water on the Wisconsin River (and thus Lake Wisconsin). Thankfully we have a floating dock, because the part of the dock that connects to the stairs is still under water.

There is also a lot of debris floating down the river and getting stuck on the dock, which we’ll have to deal with before the boat lift goes in.

Regardless of the water levels though, the views from the dock are incredible!

Planning Lake House Projects

This spring and summer, I have a ton of projects planned at the lake house. These include:

  • New Door
  • New Kitchen Appliances
  • Boat Lift + New Boat
  • Central Heating + Air
  • Master Bathroom Remodel
  • New Roof

The new door, new roof, and new kitchen appliances are fairly straightforward; both are from the 1970’s and are due to be replaced, and I’d like to get a door that is more attractive than the current plane white door that is currently there.

The master bathroom is also from the 1970’s, and is in dire use of a remodel. I plan on gutting it, and redoing the shower, toilet, floor, and sink / vanity. I’m still deciding on style, but I’ve been doing some shopping for ideas. I’ve found some cool vanity ideas at Restoration Hardware, that feature a mid-century modernesque look with reclaimed wood that would fit the lake house vibe.

Before the bathroom remodel, the big initiative this spring will be installing central heat and air, along with LP to power the furnace. I’ve tapped RA Heating and Air Conditioning, who have done numerous other HVAC projects for me in the past, to do the duct work and install the appliances. I have some straightforward demolition work to do first to make room for the furnace, and then they’ll get started in March.

Finally, once the ice thaws Deano Docks will be installing a boat lift to hold my new pontoon.

The lift will look something like this:

It will be a busy but awesome summer at the lake house!