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BYOD – Build your own deck

Or BOOD. Built Our Own Deck. Nah, BYOD sounds better.

Ever since we’ve moved into our home in Savage over two years ago we knew we had to get a deck. This wasn’t a wish list item for us: the dining room sliding door opened up into 4 and half feet of thin air. Quite a bit of work went into planning, designing and actually erecting the structure.

With this post I hope to bring some clarity to the whole process and maybe help someone who’s thinking about building their own deck. I’ve put down 7 steps which took me from the conceptualizing stage to the final end product.

Step 1: Start off with some idea of what the deck will look like

The size of the deck, the decking material, the brand, the colour. Don’t worry this will be just the first iteration, just to get the ball rolling.

The two sizes I was considering were 16’x16′ or 20’x14′. We knew that we didn’t want a deck that would require regular maintenance so wood (pressure treated wood) was out. Composite was the the way forward for us. Trex, Azek, TimberTech and Fiberon are the main players in the composite market, where “composite” is a mix of wood and plastic. The type of plastic and their percentage obviously vary by the respective proprietary formula used by each company, but the basic premise is this: since these aren’t wood products, yearly power wash and staining is not required. As for the colour, we wanted a lighter colour, which looks close to wood.

Step 2: Do lots of research

Learn (if you don’t already know; I didn’t) what the basic components of decks are: footings, posts, beams, joists, deck boards, ledger boards and so.

Look up videos on YouTube on how to build decks. This series of videos are perhaps the most comprehensive ones out there.

Try to narrow down the decking material you want to use. What separates an Azek from a TimberTech (incidentally both of these are now owned by the same parent company, CPG Building Products).  Are there other options out there? I came across BamDeck from CaliBamboo which uses a bamboo based composite, NyloBoard which uses 100% recycled carpet fiber – no wood, no PVC (but when I called them to inquire where their closest dealership is, they informed they were going out of business), Natural Composites which uses plastic and wheat (yeah, wheat). Got a couple of free samples of BamDeck decking delivered from California!

Read reviews, among others, at sites such as Houzz.

Step 3: Get quotes

Lots of them. Fine tune your requirements each time you meet with contractor, talk to them, get their opinion, receive their quote. I got quotes from 6 different places, ranging from established and referred-to local deck building stores, individual contractors and big box stores. This step will give you the best idea of what your dream deck is going to cost.

I’ve attached 3 quotes below just to give an idea of the range we were looking at. From almost $19K to $12K.

uglydeck quote

Quote from uglydeck.com

 

saleen quote

Quote from individual contractor – not including the permit

 

dsbahr quote

Quote from D.S. Bahr Construction

By the end of this step, I knew I wanted a 20’x14′, TimberTech Legacy Tigerwood decking, with a “picture frame” (border), stairs, risers and fascia of TimberTech Tropical Caribbean Redwood, with Westbury aluminum railings.

Step 4: Get hold of someone who will undertake the project on an hourly rate basis

Now, for most people the previous step will culminate with them signing a contract for one of the quotes, probably the lowest one, and then sitting back and enjoying while someone builds the deck for them.

I, on the other hand, wanted to build it myself. Let me take that back.  I wanted to build the deck with my hands, with someone along with me who knows what he was doing. Besides, when I sourced the materials myself the overall cost of the project was bound to be significantly lower.

Struck gold on Craiglist. Came across this individual who showcased his work (decks) with something along the lines of “I am willing to help homeowners how much or little they want me to”.

Once Pat came over and we talked, I knew that he would be the one helping me in building the deck.

Step 5: Get the permit

Once I got my rough drawing to Pat, he used a software to create detailed drawings that would need to be submitted to the city to get the building permit. We also went through a few iterations to create the list of materials, down to the nail.

Drawings – 1234

material list

Once you submit plan to city they will, in most cases, come come back with some questions. While some questions might be innocuous ones such as “what exact product from TimberTech will you be using?” to more arcane ones such as “are the stair handrails compliant to the IRC- R311.7.8 code?”

Step 6: Source the material

From TimberTech’s website I found the “Silver dealership” (no “Gold” ones in my area!).  All the dealerships were big lumber yards. Went down to the two closest to my place and with the material list, got quotes.

Scherer Bros quote  Lamperts quote

I was a little disappointed as the cost of the material was actually a bit higher than I had accounted for. When I had almost made up my mind to go with Lamperts, I decided to check out Dakota County Lumber, another Silver TimberTech dealership. DCL is a locally owned lumber yard based in Farmington, about 20 miles from my place, with no branches. But boy, glad that I made the trip! The sales guy Eric was a huge help, assisting in modifying – trimming down actually – the material list based on his experience. And when their quote came in, it was a no-brainer.

DCL invoice

Make sure to have the materials delivered at least 2 days before your intended start build date.

Step 7: Start building!

The plan was to have Pat and me take 2 full weekends (32 to 40 hours) with a third weekend as back-up. The first weekend we ended up having my father-in-law and my sister-in-law’s husband helping out on both days. Also Pat brought over his almost-adult son. The five of us put in 10 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday. The next weekend, my father-in-law came down to help again. Pat, he and I put in 9 hours on Saturday, and we were done. Complete.

The first Saturday when we started working at 8 am, the air temperature was 32 deg F (0 deg C), with windchill of 27 deg F. We started off with 3 layers of clothing and stripped down as the day wore on. The next Saturday was a balmy 60 deg F at 8 am going up to 80 deg F (27 deg C) in the afternoon!

____________________________________________________________________________________

Monetary cost of the entire project: $10,763

Non-monetary costs: Sweat, sun burn, aching limbs

Would I do it again: Absolutely

 

Here are some in-progress and finished pictures.

20160514_102711

ledger board on

IMG_6648

20160514_124127

Diamond pier footings in place, steel rods waiting to be pounded in

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Working a 35-lb demolition hammer is fun!

IMG_6658

deck boards going over the joists

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finished work

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Brinda loves the deck

Note1: Diamond pier footings blows away traditional poured-concrete footings. Check out videos here. I had to rent the electrical breaker hammer. DCL supplied the 1-1/8″ hex bit required with the hammer.

Note 2: If anyone in the Twin Cities area is interested to get Pat’s contact details, let me know. Most highly recommend him. His work ethic, love of the job, collaborative spirit and his honest & open persona makes him a joy to work with.

Categories: Demystify, Home | 3 Comments

Selling our old house

He had a harrowing – at times felt like nightmarish – experience selling our house in Brooklyn Park. All it took was 11 months, 4 purchase agreements, 5 closing dates, and 2 real estate agents to get it done. And none of this was because the house was priced too high or had anything wrong with it.

We put in the house in the market on June 4, 2015, listed at $X thousand. We had renters in there at that point and the idea was to get it sold off by the end of the month so that we won’t incur any costs after the renters moved out when their lease ended in the end of June. Wishful thinking!

We had an offer on June 16, 2015, at $(X-1)thousand. We had our 1st signed purchase agreement on June 17, 2015. The buyer had the home inspection done, it came back with a couple of things, we corrected both. On June 26, we hear from our realtor that the buyer did not qualify for mortgage financing and the deal fell through.

The house stays in the market for the next couple months. We get calls from Canada about someone wanting to buy all-cash, though at quite a discount. We decline. A couple of lowball offers; we decline. We are in October now; summer is gone and we are tense. We get an offer for $(X-18) thousand. We accept. Second purchase agreement is signed on October 6, 2015. This buyer seemingly is better qualified than the first one in terms of securing financing for the purchase. The buyer conducts their own home inspection; we “fix” (very little to fix as now the inspectors are running out of things to find) whatever they ask for. On Oct 14, 2015 we hear from our realtor and this is her exact email:

Well I just got a phone call from the other agent, it appears the buyer has had a nervous breakdown!!!!  Yes I’m telling you the truth.  You could hold her to the PA but I don’t think it is in your best interest as she wouldn’t show up to closing it sounds like.  It sounds like she is going to Seattle to seek help and family!  I have never has this much go wrong with a listing in my life!!!  Call me when you can!  I am so sorry!!!

We then decide to take the house off the market. Before we do, we get an offer of $(X-26)thousand with a closing date of January, 2016. We decline and take it off the market. I can’t find the exact date when we had a new listing going on but let’s say around mid November. During the next 3 weeks we have plenty of showings and “positive” response from different sets of buyers but no formal offer. By the second week of December we were desperate enough to get back to the offer of $(X-26)thousand that came in October and see if they were still interested. They were! On December 15, 2015 we sign our 3rd purchase agreement for $(X-26)thousand, with a closing date of January 29, 2016. This buyer incidentally wanted a radon test to go along with the home inspection. The radon test revealed that the radon levels were higher; we fixed that for $1,600. All good.

On January 27, 2016 we hear that they can’t close on January 29 because of a “stupid date thing”. We are assured that the buyer’s financing will take only a week more and we will close on February 5, 2016.

On February 4 we hear from our closing agent that they heard from the buyer’s title company that they had not heard from the lender. When our realtor talks to the lender it was found out that they buyer has to go through underwriting again! We go back and forth for almost 2 weeks before we finally pull the plug on February 23 and sign the cancellation for the purchase agreement. We expire the listing and say bye to our realtor with whom we’ve worked with for the past several months.

The weekend of February 27-28 we embark on finding a new realtor by interviewing 4 individuals we think have a good handle on the Brooklyn Park market. End up going with the realtor who sold the house next to our old place (the one we’re trying to sell). The new listing goes live on March 4, 2016. We have 3 offers by March 5. We sign our 4th purchase agreement on March 7, for $(X-20)thousand and have a closing date set of April 22, 2016. The end is near, but not quite yet.

On April 20, 2016 we hear that there is a “minor loan issue” holding up the closing scheduled for two days later. We get washed over with feelings of disbelief and bewilderment and déjà vu. Our realtor vehemently tries to assuage our doubts that this time will be different (she knows about what we’ve been through with the other realtor). New closing date set for April 28, 2016. We spend 7 days and nights in mental agony.

And we do finally close on April 28. A BIG, red-lettered day for us. Vivian and I take half the day off and after the closing we go with our realtor to a bar to celebrate the end of a particularly trying chapter in our life!

 

Categories: Demystify, Home, Life | 3 Comments

Garage shelving

Organizing the garage to utilize the space have been one of the ideas that we have been working on since we moved to the new place. We have so much junk stuff that not even a 3-car garage is sufficient to hold them AND be empty enough to work in!

Going through various ideas on DIY websites and YouTube, I decided on a flexible shelving system attached to the walls.  There are 4 components to these shelving systems: the hang tracks, the uprights, the brackets, and the wire shelves.

The uprights hang on the hang tracks’ ledge, the brackets fits into the slots of uprights and shelves fit snugly on the brackets to make the perfect storage system.

I used the Tough Stuff series for all the 4 components for its greater carrying capacity. Each 4′ shelf, hanging on 3 brackets, is supposed to hold up to 400 lbs. There is a price upcharge for the Tough Stuff but worth it when you figure in the load carrying capacity and durability.

For the most part it was nice and easy. Drill into the studs, ours were 16″ apart. Screw everything on to the studs. We really ran into trouble when affixing the shelves on the brackets, after the brackets were slotted into the rails. This is what the manual tells you.

tough stuff manual

But this will NOT work. The much easier way is to mark out the specific wires each of the brackets will go on. Then fix the brackets on the shelves first, and then attach the whole shelves-with-brackets on the uprights.

Here is a video of my father-in-law and I doing this last piece.

And here is the finished – and occupied – product.

20150117_192123

 

Tools you’ll need for this project: stud finder, impact drill, level, screws, marker, pencil.

I used one 80″ and one 40″ hang track. Four 70″ uprights and two 47.5″ uprights. Fifteen 16″ brackets. Five 48″x16″ shelves.

Categories: Demystify, Home, Tip | 2 Comments

Moving

[I started writing this 4 days after our actual move, and now it is over 3 months and I’m losing track of some of the initial emotions]

Moving (commonly known as “shifting” to Indians) homes is hard.

The last time we moved was in August/September of 2008. After the move I had taken a akhyandya pratigya (solemn oath) that we won’t be moving for a decade. It was that traumatic. Not only had we closed on the home 2 days after we got married, but that move involved moving stuff out from Vivian’s and my apartment at that time. And I was the last of 3 room-mates to be moving out. I had junk left behind by 3 people.

Fast forward to Mar 2014. We have moved. I have cut short my vow by 4 and half years. Waiting for lightning to strike me any moment. (After 3 months, and numerous thunderstorms, I think the universe has forgotten about our pact)

This time around we had plenty of time to plan the move. Vivian, the great packer she is, did most of the planning for the move. And the packing. And the unpacking. I seriously don’t know what I would do without her! She is truly the cornerstone of our family. Not that I didn’t do anything. I was mainly the delivery guy. Drive boxes to new place; unload. Repeat. We also hired professional movers to get the big stuff out. Even with all this time we had to plan, to execute, and the help we had, the move has left me exhausted. Not as much physically as mentally and emotionally.

I think people under-estimate the moving process. Even though the move is just 30 miles away, essentially in the same metro area. Or maybe it was just me who under estimated it. The change in the daily routine, the change in the location of where daily used items remain, the change in the layout of the home, the change in the commute, the change in the landscape ….there is a lot of change! Simple things like where the sugar is on the counter. Finding the bathroom in the middle of night. The angle the sun hits you in the morning. Disconcerting changes. But the thing with habit is that you can grow one if you continually follow it for 21 days. Safe to say that after 3 months, we would now have trouble going back to the old house!

And spare a thought for poor Brinda. Not only is she experiencing all these changes but she can’t articulate her feelings. But she has been a real trooper. After about the initial 2 weeks, during which she also had a bad cough, she has adjusted beyond my expectations. She now sleeps in her real crib, in her own room, throughout the night. Blessed we are!

Categories: Home | 1 Comment

Water Softener

Even before we moved to our new place, we knew that we needed to get a water softener system installed fairly quickly. The hardness in the Savage city water is around 19 grains, and anything over 10 grains is considered to be hard. (On a sidenote: The 19 grains is certainly not the hardest of water available for human consumption in the US. Places that use well water can have over 100 grains of hardness). We got quotes from Capones, Culligan, Kinetico, Lowe’s (Whirlpool tank-in-tank), and Home Depot (GE tank-in-tank).

Culligan and Kinetico are considered to be the “best” water softener systems that are available for residential use. I put the quotes around best because on further research, which I’m going to elaborate on below, these systems do have a better quality than the big box store brands, but their prices are nothing but absolutely ludicrous. You can build your own (superior) system for less than half the cost for a Culligan or Kinetico.

Before we dive into the various products available in the market, let’s take some time to understand what all factors we need to consider to build a water softener system.

First is, of course, the hardness of the water that we are trying to soften. You can get a test done to determine the hardness or use the data available from the city.

You need to consider a system which not only addresses your current needs, but also have the capacity to handle additional requirements, if you have a plans for a bigger family in the future or have frequent visitors who spend more than a day at your place. My suggestion is take the number of people in your current household and add 1 to it. The number of bathrooms you have in your house plays a role, but I’m a little circumspect of its importance. Let’s assume you have 3 person household and 3 bathrooms in your home. How likely is it that all 3 bathrooms will have someone taking a shower at the same time? Pretty rare, huh? More likely that 2 bathrooms might be occupied. My suggestion is to subtract 1 from the number of bathrooms in your home.

You’ll need to know the peak flow rate of the water in your home. Pretty easy to find that: take an empty 5 gallon bucket and place under your tub faucet, crank open both the hot and cold water, measure how long it takes the bucket to fill up. If it takes 30 seconds, your peak flow rate is 10 gpm (gallons per minute). If it takes 1 min, your peak flow rate is 5 gallons per minute. In most cities the average household peak flow rate will be between 7 and 11 gpm.

You can use this online calculator to input your numbers from the preceding  3 paragraphs.

Now we come to the components of the water softener system. Assuming we are going for salt based system, the primary component is (not the salt!) the resin. The resin is what removes the hardness (the Calcium and Magnesium bicarbonates) from your water. The salt (the 40 or 80 lbs. bags that you buy) is used to regenerate the resin when it has neared its low efficiency. The resin resides in the tall, cylindrical, metal tube. Since the resin is the most important part of the softening process, the size of the cylinder, and the volume of the resin required, are of utmost importance.

You will want to make sure that the maximum grains of hardness required to be softened by your system fits your needs.

The other very important component of the water softener system is the valve, or the control that will program and actually make the whole thing work. This control system sits atop the resin cylinder. Fleck is almost universally acknowledged to be the grand daddy of all valves available in the market. You can order a Fleck valve (and the whole system – resin, resin tank, brine tank, and connection)  at very reasonable prices at Ohio Pure Water.

Now we have looked at the factors that affect the water softening system and the main components that go towards making the system. How do we align these two? Let’s take an example.

We are a family of 3. Add 1, to get to 4. We have 3 bathroom; subtracting 1, we get to 2. We have a hardness of 19 grains and Iron level of 0.01 ppm. Using the online sizing calculator (and manipulating the “shower head flow rate” to arrive at a “peak flow rate” of 10 gpm), the tool tells us that we will need between 46,550-37,240 grains per week, depending on whether we are using a low or a high salt dosage. Since regenerating per week is a good idea, we can go for a system which will easily handle over 46,000 grains.

Let’s try this from a slightly different (but inherently same) approach.

19 grains of hardness, 4 people, 70 gallons per day per person water consumption on average.

So, that equals 19*4*70= 5,320 grains per day

We want to regenerate every 7 days, so the system needs to handle 5320*7= 37,240. Viola! We are at the same number, when regenerating with a high dosage of salt.

Take a look at the table below, or visit here.

With this, we can say that a 1054 system, with 1.3 cu. ft. of resin will do the job for us using medium salt dosage. (There is a trade-off with min and max salt dosage use. With min salt dosage use you’d use the most water, and with max salt dosage use you’d use the least water. Also with high dosage of salt, sodium in your water increases. So it is good to find a balance at the middle.)

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We have built the ideal system, so where to buy one now? Let’s go back to the 4 systems we got quotes from.

The Whirpool WHES44 at Lowe’s and the GE GXSH40V at Home Depot are almost the same price ($497/$488),  have very similar specs, and the valve for both is made by manufacturer Ecodyne, a company based out of Woodbury, MN. Lowe’s installation service is $199 and Home Depot’s $299. The city of Savage charges a one-time water softener permit fee of $49.50, which will be added on. You are looking at at around $750 to $850 for the whole thing. Additionally, the longevity of these tank-in-tank units is around 10 years, if you are lucky. A name brand (Culligan, Kinetico) or Fleck systems can easily last for 2 decades.

Culligan quoted us a 1040 (resin tank of 10″ diameter by 40″ height, with no mention of the actual resin volume) Medallist Plus for $1,998.50, including the unit, installation and permit fee.

Kinetico quoted us a 940 (resin tank of 9″ diameter by 40″ height ) Essential Platinum for $1,889, including the unit, installation and permit fee. The resin tanks actually holds a measly 0.6 cu. ft of resin!

I went to the Ohio Pure Water site and configured a Fleck 5600 SXT Electronic Meter with 48,000 grain capacity for $585. This would include 1.5 cu. ft. of resin, the 1054 resin tank, brine tank, 1″ stainless bypass valve, and delivery. I would only need to install it and pay the permit fee. Since I’m not a DIYer (I can follow “orders” from someone who actually know what they doing! I know enough to get myself into trouble, but not enough to get out of it!) I researched for a local reputable installer. On the recommendation of a neighbour I looked up Bob Sable. You can find him here and reviews here. Few of the reviews say that he even listens to your problem and gives out free, but pertinent and valuable, advice over the phone. I called him and we talked for around 10 mins. I asked him if I could meet him face to face and we fixed on a time later that evening. I went over to his place and we talked for almost an hour and half! I kid you not! In the end we came up with the same Fleck model, but from a local supplier. With installation, $798. And he didn’t even charge me anything for the consultation!

footnote: I also had Bob install a whole house filter. Total charge, including all units (water softener and filter), all connections, installation and permit came to $1,148.

water softener and filtration system

 

Categories: Analysis, Demystify, Home | 2 Comments

3:30 pm

Ever felt that certain positions of the hands of the clock would leave indelible marks on your psyche, long  after their once-special relevance in your life?

My brother and I used to come back home from school around 2:30 pm. I used to heat up the food and then we both had lunch. Maa, who is a teacher, came home around 3:30 pm. I think she still does! We – at least I did, not sure about my brother – used to look forward to 3:30 pm, waiting for the doorbell to ring or the door to open from the outside. Maa used to open it with her key sometimes, to surprise us I think. So that’s the back story.

This year, starting in November I’ve been taking Fridays off, to burn through my yearly use-it-or-lose-it vacation days. On almost every day that I’ve been home alone (Brinda still goes to daycare as I get caught up on some work and chores), at around the 3:30 pm mark, I have caught myself looking at the clock, kind of wishing, almost half expecting, that my wife walked in with our daughter.

Eerily Pavlovian, isn’t it?

Categories: Home, Life | 2 Comments

Kitchen CounterTop

When we bought our home, the kitchen was probably the primary reason we were sold. Both my wife and I like to cook, and often at the same time. Our kitchen is airy and big enough for more than 2 people to work in it at any given time. The counters are spacious and offer ample space for cutting, cooking, just hanging around or mountains of mails and other junk to pile up. Many a party has been held over the kitchen counters.

One aspect of the counters that I didn’t quite like was its plain vanilla-ness. Literally and figuratively. It was laminate, some shade of off-white and though it didn’t look bad at all, I always thought it deserved better. I had obviously mentioned this to Vivian but we had both agreed that it would take some time for us to get around to this project as a) It’s not really something that’s important b) It’s a little more than your average DIY project (it is a LOT more) and the costs associated can become prohibitive

This May, I brought this up and we kinda said, “Oh well, it’s been almost 3 years, and we can afford it …so why not?” And the ball was set rolling.

Like a fellow blogger mentioned about ‘researching’, when we set our eyes on something, we go to the very bottom of it! After couple of weeks of online research, we hit the physical world – that is, stores to go around and actually look and feel the materials. Also to get quotes. By this time we had decided to go with quartz, but had not quite made up our minds as to which brand or product to go with. We got quotes from 9 different places! In one of the stores we went, we were introduced to Cambria. They are manufacturers of engineered stone (the natural material quartz mixed with resins and pigment to obtain a granite like look and feel, with greater strength) based out of Le Seur, Minnesota. A tactile visit is necessary to see and feel the difference between Cambria’s product and other manufacturer of engineered stone, like Silestone, Ceasarstone, HanStone and others. They are a class apart. So are their prices! But we fell in love with Cambria and wouldn’t settle for anything else.

The next step was to cull down from our list of quotes, to the stores that offer Cambria quartz. That automatically brought it down to 5. Finally we had short listed 2 stores. Both had a rating of A on Angie’s list. Eventually we decided to go with the one located in our city, a 10 minute drive from our home. The owner is the worker/engineer/salesperson, unlike other places where a sales person show you around, an engineer does the actual drawings, someone else gives you the estimate and a 3rd party actually installs it. Not to mention the ancillary jobs of plumbing, tearing out the existing top and disposing off stuff. His was a one-stop-shop, where the estimates covered everything AND was not a moving target.

Now we had to select a pattern. We had looked in the store and had almost finalized a pattern, which had a blueish tinge (we both are partial to blue). On the advice of this guy, we came home with 12″ x 12″ slabs of 4 different sample pattern. Once we had ‘lived’ with these patterns for a weekend, we did a volte-face and selected this pattern called Windermere. Finally, our new tops were installed last Friday!

Before:

During:

After:

Some things to keep in mind when going for such a project:

– This is not a DIY project. At all

– Go around to the actual shops and stores and see/feel the stuff. Ask lots of questions

– Avoid the big-box stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s and go in for smaller, specialized stores

– Cambria offers a financing plan with 0% interest for 6 to 12 months. Not all Cambria dealers are offered this. The guy we went with, did not have this.

– Get an estimate which covers:

* total square footage (not just your countertop dimensions, but the actual slabs of stones required to make the tops) and backsplash

* kind of edge profile you want

* fabrication process – the stone cut-out job

* installation

* plumbing (unhooking and reconnect)

* tear away the old countertop and hauling away and disposing all the old stuff

* the sink (you need a undermount sink)

* faucet [wasn’t included in the quote]

Here are some useful links:

Good place to start

Why quartz?

Different types of quartz

Cambria

HanStone

Silestone

Ceasarstone

Angie’s list

Categories: Home, We | 1 Comment

The Day it touched 103

D-Day-4 -> Friday, Jun 3rd 6:30 pm: After checking the thermometer reading of 85 deg F, we decide to turn on the air conditioner at home for the first time this year. Making sure the circuit breaker is on, changed thermostat setting to ‘Cool’ and set temperature at 77 deg F. Felt the cool air flowing in through the vents. We go down to the basement to watch a movie.

9 pm -> Come up to see the temperature hasn’t changed. Feel the not-cool air flowing in. Switch off the AC, open all windows, deciding to investigate the next day

D-Day-3 -> Saturday, Jun 4th 10 am: While talking to uncle on phone, get some tips on what to check. Realize the air-filter was aligned in wrong direction. Correcting that made the cool air flow in again, but only for 10 mins. Go out to check the air-conditioner unit is functioning or not. Don’t see the fan moving. Decide to shut off the AC completely and call the heating/AC guys on Monday. Not ready to pay for emergency visit.

D-Day-1 -> Monday, Jun 6th 7 am: Woke up to a temperature of 86 deg F. Call the heating/AC shop at 8. Get an appointment for a technician to come out at 8:30 am on Tuesday.

6 pm -> Reach home from work to temperatures of 95 deg F. There is a wind, but all humid and sultry. It is heavy with moisture. Resolve not to spend a single unnecessary minute upstairs. Hunker down in the basement, which is at least 12 to 15 degrees cooler. We sleep in the guest bedroom.

D-Day -> Tuesday Jun 7th, 8:30 am: Technician comes, asks me to turn the AC on, unscrews the cover of the air-conditioning unit and promptly declares that the motor of the fan is the culprit. Calls his shop to see if a replacement is available. Answer is no. Replacement will have to be ordered and will take 2-3 days. I ask him to order it. The tech charges $122 for the 20 minute visit (standard) and leaves. The replacement motor and labour would cost another $350.

Since it is already almost 9, and I have a meeting from 9, go down and start working, thinking I might still make it to work at lunch. No luck with that, things pile up and before I know it, its past noon. I go upstairs to get some food and notice the temperature is hovering just below 100. Haven’t seen a 100 deg F (38 deg C) in the Cities, so am very excited.

4 pm -> Go up again for a break. That is when I see this!

100!

Check weather.com and at 5 pm we are supposed to touch 104 deg F (40 deg C).  Holy crap! I’ve lived in places where summer temperatures reach 50 deg C (122 deg F) so I’m not too perturbed, but in a place where you get to see winter temperatures of -40, 103 is a tad too much.

Ah, and did mention that I had a full-field, outdoor football (soccer) game from 7 pm the same day? Well, I did play. Reminded me of playing in 40 deg C tournament in high school.

Eventually we did touch a high of 103, a 23-year old record.

Fast forward to Day-D + 5 -> Sunday Jun 12, 4 am: Wake up shivering, cold draft blowing through the house. The temperature is 47 deg F (8 deg C).

Welcome to Minnesota.

Categories: Home, Weather | 5 Comments

Re-flooring bathroom

Ever since we have moved into our home in August 2008, we’ve always wanted to change the carpeting in the downstairs (guest) bathroom. I mean, seriously, who has carpet in their bathroom? I know, we did! Till 2 weeks ago. As you can see, it took us only close to 3 years to rectify this anomaly. We take full responsibility, but some blame has to be shouldered by Mr. and Mrs. Moritz, first owners and previous occupants.

I’m far from what you’d call a ‘handy man’. By that I mean, I will not generally take on DIY (do it yourself) projects. This is not because I’m lazy, uppity or have loads of money. I will work pretty well under instruction and guidance. It’s because I have had little exposure to DIY projects and the tools and accessories required for such projects, for most of my teenage and early adult years – the time that you learn about stuff like this. In India, you ask your ‘darwan’ (building watchman) to go and bring the ‘para-r’ (neighbourhood) plumber or carpenter or smith-mason or painter, as and when you need their services. The labour charges in India are much lower than even minimum wages in the US, and you are guaranteed a professional job, without burning a hole in your pocket or getting dirty. People do not make trips to the ‘hardware’ store to look at power tools. To put things into perspective, the largest hardware store I’ve ever visited in India has got to be smaller than one-hundredth (right, that is 1 in 100) the size of a regular Lowe’s or Home Depot. I’m not kidding. And you do not wander into a hardware store in India; you come up to the store counter and ask someone to bring you what you need. That someone, usually in a ‘sando genji’ (sleeveless t-shirts) and ‘lungi’ (piece of cloth worn around the waist – like a Scottish kilt) and hands full of (seemingly) black tar, saunters into the depth of this store and brings forth what you need. You pay and leave and do not stay a moment longer than necessary.

When I visited the airport hanger-sized hardware stores in the US for the first time, I’ve felt that I’ve missed out on something. (Not that I really endorse the largesse of these behemoths and their opulent consumerism beckoning everyone to get the even bigger lawn mower or the more powerful chain saw, but that’s a thought for another day). From my uncle who’s been here for over 30 years and my father-in-law and brother-in-law (Vivian’s sister’s husband) M, I have been learning and learning and learning. I like it. Started accumulating tools – mostly presents on birthdays and Christmas – and thinking about a tool rack in the garage. I’m at a stage now that I probably know enough to start something and categorically don’t know to enough to see it to closure. So a project involving tearing up the carpet from the bathroom and laying it with vinyl-flooring, was beyond me.

It was either getting a contractor to get this done or have M do it, with me helping him. I have to learn and so we always wanted to go with the second option but with them living in South Dakota, the timing had to be worked out. Eventually, two weeks ago, it did. Now M is someone who has completed his own basement, and is obviously very adroit at fixing things up. Not only has he the knack, he also has had the professional experience to fearlessly undertake such projects.

So we went to Menards (once) and Home Depot (4 times) in the course of a Saturday, to purchase the materials we needed and got the job done. In the process I gained a few new toys, namely a hammer drill, a cement drill bit, a utility knife, a putty knife, a caulk gun, an 18 ounce hammer and some Tapcon screws.

Thanks a lot, M!

The carpet all torn up; cement floor

Measuring and cutting up the vinyl flooring; M and father-in-law

Final, finished product

Categories: Home | 6 Comments

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