Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

Archive for the 'Reno' Category

Smarten Up Your Stupid Home

The first time I heard about “smart home automation”, I was reading a Wired magazine article in university, so sometime around 2000.  I was blown away at the potential, but it sounded like the future our parents envisioned where we’d be living in pods on the moon.  Well, it’s here and it looks like it’s here to stay.

If, like me, you aren’t sure where to start with smartening up your home, I’ve got great news; you can start small and relatively cheap.

While our electrician was wiring our house, I picked up a WEMO Light Switch for our front porch lights, and I love it.  I can turn it off and on like a normal switch, I can operate it from an app on my phone from anywhere, and I can set it to a schedule.  Mine is set to come on at sunset and turn off after midnight, then come on again at 6am and turn off at sunrise.  I rarely have to touch it or think about it.  It just works.

Since the switch requires some wiring, a better place to start would be a WEMO Wi-Fi Smart Plug.  It does all the same stuff as the switch, has a switch right on the fixture, and it only takes up one plug in an outlet.  You can differentiate between plugs and switches in the app (by names you can pick) and you can plug in just about anything.  I picked one up to run our Christmas tree lights on a schedule much like the porch lights.

My next step in automation (aside from a few more outlet plugs and switches for other lights in the house) will be a virtual assistant; mostly likely Google’s Alexa.  Then I can tell her to turn on the Christmas tree, play “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby and brew me a tea, Earl Grey, hot.   The future is here, so engage.

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Idle Hands…

Now that the house is “done” (we still need to replace our driveway and sort out landscaping, but those will wait for spring), I find myself still fighting the “under construction” mindset that I was in for well over a year.  As I walk around the house picking up after the boys, I catch myself thinking of little things I could build to make our lives a bit easier.

A small project I’ll be starting soon is a small drying/drain rack to inset in our laundry tub for drying small articles of clothing, small containers that were used for painting or to dry shoes or boots that have just been cleaned.  Once I land on a nice design that works, I plan to upscale it a bit and focus on nicer finishing to make one for our soaker tub in our ensuite (for drying bathing suits and the like).

It’s a pretty simple design, consisting of a small box frame with a ladder of pieces of doweling inset in the box.  The frame is mounted to the underside of two longer pieces of wood that will sit on the rim of the sink, so that the draining things are actually below the rim (so no runoff comes off the wood onto the counter).  So let’s see how this goes.

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Can Ya Dig it?

I’ll post some sample drawings of our revised house plans once we make some final updates, but right now we have one burning question… to dig, or not to dig?

We’re adding a 15 by 28 foot two story addition on the back of our house.  When we first started this process, it sounded like we would be building on sonotube pilings (no digging required), but have since learned that our new kitchen would be FAR better served by a heated space under the floor, so our drawings now have a 3 foot high crawlspace.

Since that means digging foundation walls anyway, I’ve been dreaming of that extra 420 square feet of basement, and some internet research leads me to believe that the added cost of digging it out is pretty small (in relation to the total project cost).  I’m convinced that once the house is done, I would kick myself for not digging it out, and doing so when everything is done would be a very large, expensive headache.

In the end, I think that wasted space is just a waste.

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The Blog; Repurposed

After a few years of hibernation, it’s time to start resurrecting this bad boy.  Admittedly, increasing work responsibilities and the introduction of our now 4 and 1 year-old boys has left me with little time to write in here, but we’ve just started on a journey that is worth documenting.

We are in the final stages of drawings for a full home reno that will see our 1 1/2 story, 960 square foot wartime wood house transformed into a 2,300 square foot modern delight.  We’ll basically be tearing down our current house to the foundation, digging out a 15 foot addition on the back and rebuilding both the main and second floor.  That means finding a place to live short-term (which will no doubt prove for some fun stories in here) and some pretty heavy disruption to our lives.

Still, it will all be worth it when I stroll out of our big new kitchen, through the sliding doors to our new big back deck.

With our drawings nearing completion, we’ll be moving on to selecting our contractor and sorting out our permits, but our current plan is to start our demolition work in the spring and be back in the house by fall.

Stay tuned for photos, stories and hopefully video!

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