Inspected and Rejected

Inspected and Rejected

Evidently the first wooden sink in the Town of Barnstable: we’re a little dejected over being inspected and rejected. Luckily Joe, the plumber we selected, is well-connected and respected, and so thinks he can get corrected such that our plans won’t be effected. He’s now appealing as we directed, and a positive outcome is expected.

The upstairs landing reconfiguration is down to some paint and reinstalling a door latch for one of the bedrooms. Darby finished the new flooring that he’d put in to cover the sins between the new bedroom doors (more or less where a closet used to be).

He’s also been finishing off the closet in the kitchen (the floor of which is a hatch to the Cape Cod cellar, a 9 ft round, bricked hole, not unusual for old houses in Cotuit). It’s a little hard to envision, but we walled off an old built-in at the end of the Cocktail Room tucked under the back stairs and have recaptured a little space by extending the old closet sideways. The pre-gut picture on the left shows the old built in; the closet is behind the blank wall to the right of it. The pic on the right is from the opposite side, through the closet door from the kitchen. You can see the new space to the right under the stair and the blue hatch in the existing floor.

Otherwise, we are down to a punch list. It contains items like “adjust pantry door latch” and “remount HVAC temp sensor in Patio corner.” Darby checked off a couple this week. We kept upstairs windows original and those they still have storms. The painters had not labeled the components when they removed to paint black, thus a number were mixed up and didn’t work right. Darby straightened all those out this week and replaced all the window latches with matching black ones.

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The list is still fairly long with some larger items as well, so it will add up. However, we are definitely on the home stretch (unless Beth wins the argument about building a barn, but that’s another story).

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Designing Women

Designing Women

The “guest house” is now the “studio.” Beth has moved the main operations of Design No. Five from her warehouse in Hyannis. In doing so, she’s shortened her commute to 57 feet.

One step ahead of the movers, Ed and Darby were working on the guest house bath.

They still need to complete the shower floor and to build shelves to the left, but you pull the plastic off that toilet, and that place is functional.

The kitchen is nearly complete as well. I had thought they had planned to epoxy the sink, but Ed is convinced that a million coats of urethane will be sufficient. This is all somewhat of an experiment, so we will see once Scott plumbs it and then with the test of time. It’s pretty stunning, no?

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Finally, the library ladder is now in place, a necessity given the hight of the bookshelves.

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Duane and Russel from White Glove (highly recommended for anyone in the Boston area, btw) arrived mid-week with a load off office stuff.

The downstairs is set up to receive and meet with guest and will eventually include furniture from the various lines that DN5 carries.

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Upstairs is where the real work happens. It’s great space with natural light for creative work. And, plenty of shelves for…everything.

Someday the guest house will probably be a guest house. But for now, we have five bedrooms upstairs without it, plenty for guests. And, Design No. Five has a spanking new world headquarters.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Ed and Darby built a bookcase upstairs to cover up the two inch mismatch in floor height.

We are nearing the point where it’s just paint and urethane here and there and a long punch list of little stuff. I’m starting to think Design No. Five needs to get into house flipping so that we may keep you entertained. (semi-serious)

Dumped the Dumpster!

Dumped the Dumpster!

The departure of the dumpster, such a fixture for so long, is a huge milestone. Symbolic, yes, but very practically it means we can now turn around in the drive without a bunch of back and forth and risking a bumper crunch. The driveway is long and narrow and designed for turning right where the dumpster sat, at the end. Free at last!

The master bath is done, basta, finito. The final touch was installing the drawer pulls I fashioned last week. Yay.

The guest house nears completion as well. Shelves are in, as are bathroom fixtures. Tracklights are shining. And, the heat pump HVAC is in operation. It’s been a warm fall on the Cape, but it’s about time to turn the heat on.

Upstairs, the guys framed in and hung the doors and started making sense of the floors. When finished, the floor will still be a patchwork, but that’s in keeping with the character of the old place.

And, the old sign, now looking new after Karen Crocker’s handiwork. (She’s a painter and a painter!) Should look great when reinstalled.

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Sink Hole and Trash Talk

Sink Hole and Trash Talk

Contractor vacations allowed only incremental progress this week, but we are still seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Darby prepped the counter and sink in the guest house, so there’s finally a drain hole in the bottom of the sink. The plumbing underneath is stubbed off and ready for hook up. Similarly, the plumbing in the bath is set for fixture hook up, probably after the shower is tiled.

It’s amazing how much refuse has been carted out of the house over the last eighteen months. Ed is going to check his records, but thinks this is load number seven and likely the last one. It will be luxurious to be rid of the dumpster, located right where you want to back up to turn out of the driveway. No one has hit it yet, but it’s a constant concern.

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The new walls upstairs got some paint, though the trim work is still outstanding. The patchwork of floors needs a little working out as well.

Meanwhile, back in the master bath, Darby put faces on the drawers in the vanity. We are trying to work out some kind of homemade nobs. I bought some quarter inch manilla, and tied up a small monkey’s fist as a prototype. More work on that once the rain starts this afternoon.

The Town of Barnstable property maps website (a cool resource) includes a picture of each property. They updated the Laughing Gull Hill picture a year ago. The contrast really highlights how much the outside has progressed in twelve months.

According to the October blogs, during that month we were rebuilding steps, adding footprint for the master bath, fitting out the upstairs bath, and finishing the gutted cocktail room, including the wall of windows/doors out onto the patio.

The plan from here is to complete the guest house in the next two weeks, and then we are down to a punch list of cleanup items.

Happy Landing

Happy Landing

Upon my return from a quickly planned trip to Belfast–I’m becoming spontaneous–I discovered that Beth took a game day decision to deal with the odd configuration at the top of the front stairs. Surprise!

Here’s the deal. Atop the front stairs was an odd landing, quite narrow. And, a little dicey. Going between the bedrooms on either side involved stepping down to what is either a wide step or a narrow landing. The room to the left (Bedroom B in the floor plan) was part of the original house. At that time, a couple triangular steps wound the steps left. When the half Cape became full, they jury rigged the current landing arrangement.

We planned to do something with this sometime, but we had deprioritized for the future (like when we could afford maybe). Welcome to the future, fair reader. In my absence, Beth and Ed conspired to fix the problem. They nuked the walls marked by Xs and filled in the blue-lined doorways. Here are before/afters. The befores are a mix, some fairly current, some from when we bought the house.

It’s worked out great. A big benefit is that one can now navigate from Bedroom A to the upstairs bath without sneaking through BedroomB.

A minor regret is a the loss of one of the house’s fun features. The closets in rooms A and D adjoined via a tiny door through which we envisioned grandchildren passing. Of course, we also envisioned them tumbling down the stairs occasionally; that was the tradeoff. So, no more D closet, but we may retain the little door. Stay tuned.

From Bedroom B.

From the hall into Bedroom D. Note the small floor height problem we need to deal with (the rectangle a the base of the new wall).

Bedroom D with door at left now a wall.

From the head of the back stair looking towards the front of the house. No wall lets in more light too.

Up the front stair, last week vs. this week.

Other steps forward this week: They extended the kitchen closet under the back stairs (space once occupied by built in drawers in what is not the cocktail room), hung the cod, and made progress on the vanity drawers in the Master Bathroom.

Finished Floors, Shifted Shower and Wondrous Wifi

Finished Floors, Shifted Shower and Wondrous Wifi

The guest house has been mostly off limits for the last two weeks with the floors in process. We finished the wide pine boards with a slightly tinted urethane. Our friend Ken Soderholm, a high-end builder (perhaps with conventional tastes), likens LGH to a flooring showroom. With yet another style in the guest house, we’ve extended our selection.

 

Before getting kicked out by the floor guys though, Ed and team, trimmed in the new windows and finished the frames for the shelf wall. And we got most of the white painted. They also trimmed the windows outside.

 

Long time fans will know that the outdoor shower was one of the first improvements we made and was our only shower initially. I recall a low point being the day that Beth and I found ourselves squatting side by side, doing dishes in that shower. Extending out the upstairs bath created a small problem. From a shallow angle, the new bath’s window looked down into the shower, the shower’s wall cutting off the view, only at about one’s midriff. I’d originally envisioned a partition in the shower anyway, to create a dry space for towels, etc. The guys implemented that this week and it will definitely increase the comfort of modest users.

 

In the tech department, the Xfinity wifi has been reasonably reliable, but the range very limited. The modem/router is in the closet next do the fireplace. Coverage is spotty in the guest house, hardly 20 feet away and non-existent in the master bedroom, 40 feet the other way. We tried a new router, but realized only marginal improvement.

The Xfinity lady, however, recommended Plume. It’s a pretty neat system, essentially a distributed wifi router comprising only small devices that plug in like a nightlight. One hardwired into the router’s ethernet and the rest go anywhere. The system has the capability to balance bandwidth, dynamically shifting it around if, say, you are streaming video in one room and someone is only doing email in another. Installation, guided by a phone app, is super easy. Plume would have you install one in every room, but at $40 per unit…we were happy that three was enough to extend good coverage throughout the house. (Correction: Beth tells me they were $189 for a three-pack.)

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Dare we say there’s light at the end of the tunnel? Stay tuned for more exciting adventures.

Safe, Pretty Simply

Safe, Pretty Simply

Last weekend, I installed our security system. With a little bit of research I concluded that SimpliSafe was a good option. I was mostly attracted by the low monthly rate for monitoring. Here’s comparative review from PC Magazine that just came out.

system.jpgThe backbone of the system comprises a base station, keypad and keychain remote. Building out from there, you select from a range types of sensors. Anti-burglar devices include entry sensors for doors and windows, motion sensors and glass break sensors. In addition, they have sensors to detect smoke, CO, water and freezing temperatures. You can also get a siren, an extra key pad, cameras and a panic alarm.

Ordering on line was pretty easy. There are a number of packages which may simplify ordering, but don’t save any money. I’d suggest just building a custom package. I started with a little spreadsheet to tally what I wanted needed. And, you don’t need to sweat it too much; the company has a liberal return policy, if you over order, and it’s easy to add sensors if you need more. I ordered on Monday, they shipped on Tuesday (for free) and the stuff arrived Thursday.

 

They provide printed documentation, but what they recommend is plugging the keychain remote into the USB port and starting up the tutorial app. That’s what I did and it held my hand pretty well.

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First step is to place and plug in the base station. All the sensors talk to this device and, it is the base station that talks to the SimpliSafe monitoring center over a cellular network. The next device to install is the key pad. The simplest way to install this (and most other devices) is using supplied adhesive strips.

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Each device is battery powered. Pulling out a plastic strip kicks on the power. Entry sensors go on doors and windows. They come in two parts and are activated upon the parts being separated when the entry point opens. Each device is labeled with a serial number. I didn’t, but should have, jotted down the location each serial number, and will have to go back and do that.

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They say you can install in under an hour. I actually spent over two hours, but I think that it because I was installing a number of CO and smoke alarm which, for some reason, require screws and anchors. On the other hand, motion sensors, I just placed on shelves (which they suggest as an option). As I was going through all this, the base station, in test mode, kept calling things out indicating when sensors are being tripped. It’s good feedback and lets you know that things are actually operative.

To complete the start up, I did a little configuration tweaking via the app on my computer and finally plugged the device into the base station to transfer the information. Much of the configuration information was in the system already, based on my order, which is pretty convenient. There were a few devices I did not install initially because I was waiting for the guest house to get painted, and the system was smart enough to raise the question of what was up with that.

 

My only minor complaint is that whereas my expectation was to pay $14.99/month for monitoring, I ended up paying $24.99. The extra $10 provides you the ability to configure and control the system remotely with your phone and computer. Within a day or so, the need arose, so I had to upgrade (with the push of a button). I could have sussed this out in advance had I read the website more carefully, but it would not have changed my choice, just my expectations. It’s still a relatively good price, especially considering that a wireline phone line is not required, so it may save from needing a wired phone line at all.

I’ll also mention that the upgraded plan allowed me to tie the Nest thermostats (that I installed in a previous episode) into the system.  They act as temp sensors, saving me from purchasing such sensors. And, when we put the alarm into away mode, it tells the Nest we aren’t home allowing the Nest to more efficiently manage the climate control

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All in all, I would recommend. If you are interested, let me know. As a customer I can get you a discount, and I get a free month of monitoring.