Archive for the ‘House’ Category

Entryway Closet

HPIM6823We purchased our home as a short sale and it was in need of some TLC. One of the things that needed to be worked on was our entryway coat and shoe closet. It was just an empty space with bi-fold doors and when we moved in we had filled is with boxes. Problem is where do you put your shoes and coats when you come in if the closet is full of boxes? Anywhere in the house! This of course was not helpful in keeping clean carpets or having the kids shoes in the same spot every time, which resulted in missing the bus occasionally.

HPIM6931So with getting the carpets cleaned professionally by Michael’s Professional Carpet Cleaning (which did an outstanding job, even removed the blackberry and printer ink stains) we wanted to keep these carpets clean from dirt, mud and food. So I departed to Home Depot for some basic supplies, 1×4 pine boards, 3/4” red oak plywood (cut in 3 equal pieces), oak edge veneer, closet rod, shelving clips, shelving standards and stain. So I took the boards over to my dad so we could dado the pine boards to receive the plywood and dado the plywood to receive the standards so that they were flush.

With the boards dado’ed, it was time to stain them. I used two different stains, classic oak for the plywood and jacobean for the pine as they accepted the stains differently and these two colors actually complemented each other quite well. I also added a coat of polyurethane as there will be wet coats and shoes potentially in contact with the wood and I didn’t want the wood to get ruined. Entryway ClosetOnce it was stained I glued the plywood to the pine and added a few pin nails to hold it while the glue bonded. Then it was the simple task of finding the studs and screwing the pine back boards to the studs.

Now we have a place for all those coats and shoes along with games, BOBs (Bug Out Bags) musical instruments, biking gear, shoes, coats and even playdough! The carpets are thanking me already!


What if… Emergency Preparedness

With the recent disaster in Japan and others including the BP oil disaster, middle east revolutions and more each day more and more people bring up disaster preparedness. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, preparedness has been talked about for years especially centered around have a year’s worth of food storage. However, the best way to be prepared is to actually practice disaster drills. Think about fire drills at work and school. They can be very disruptive but if a fire broke out there do you know what to do? Can you do it in near automation mode? If the answer is yes then you know why drills are important.

There are many good preparedness blogs though one of the best for the average person I believe is from one that survived Katrina and posted about the experience with worksheets on his blog, “Listening to Katrina.” He gives a great outline on getting prepared in your own region

The important part of preparedness though is to practice. Have a drill every 6 months on getting out of the house in 30 seconds or packing the car for evacuation in an hour. Turn off the power and see if you can hook up the generator if you have one or just see how you would manage without power or water. These practices can be as short or as long as your family wants to tolerate. One way to make sure you always practice is whenever the fire alarm goes off practice the fire drill. If you are like me the occasional burning of the food will provide you with at least a drill every 6 months. Smile

Flaws in applying “Cost of a Child”

Ok whenever I see these headlines that state along the lines of “Raising Children Costs Between $286,050 and $476,000” I have to wonder what goes into their calculations. So after a little digging I found out that they are just using the USDA’s calculator which takes averages from across the nation on expenses to determine this number. You can try it for yourself with the USDA child cost calculator. The problem when deciding whether to have children or not based a dollar value is that every family has a different situation which could increase or greatly decrease the cost to raise a child to the age of 17.

Let us look at each category that goes into their calculation to see what could be adjusted.


These expenses lump together furnishings, mortgage, taxes, home maintenance, utilities and any other costs that go into housing. If you think long enough about this you realize that these are mostly expenses you are already paying. It is true that having children may influence the purchase of a larger home and thus potentially a larger mortgage but the only difference caused by children is from a home (or apartment) that you would normally be living in without children. Here is an example of what I am trying to say. All the families live in Seattle, WA with one spouse staying home. Family 1 is a childless couple living in an apartment (800 sq. ft.), Family 2 has one child in a 3/2 home (1410 sq. ft.)  and Family 3 has 3 children in a 4/2 (2170 sq. ft.) home.

Note: In housing the first number is the number of bedrooms and the second is the number of bathrooms).

Note: I used Zillow to get the mortgage/rent numbers and tried to pick prices that seemed average. I used Microsoft Hohm to get the average utility cost. For furnishings I used a bed (one per bedroom), dresser (one per bedroom), fridge, TV, Xbox 360 S with a Kinect, dining table, and a computer and took the total and averaged it over 6 years (wasteful but I believe it is the average replacement rate). Used Bing Shopping to get the prices of these items.

Monthly Expense Family 1 Family 2 Family 3
Mortgage/Rent $1200 $1600 $1750
Utilities $190 $210 $240
Furnishings $75 $82 $100


As you can see the difference between no children and one child is about $5124 per year, a little less than the $5,838 that the USDA was putting in their calculation. But the really important part to note is that having 3 children changes the cost to $7500 difference which is $2500 per child, half the cost per child. So the more children makes housing cheaper per child. Of course if you were going to get a house anyway then the cost difference in housing between one child and no children is about $84 a year for the extra furnishings.


Food is most likely what people think of when they think what would cost more from being childless to having that bundle of joy. The thing is that for the first year your food budget most likely will not change. Having a three year old and having tracked my expenses for the past 6 years I see that hasn’t been much of a change in my yearly food expenses. Similar to the situation when you get married where the amount does increase but not by a factor of two. Now as they grow older this of course will change, but in my case just enlarge the garden to help keep these costs down and keep them healthier too.


If the average couple did not have a car I could understand why they include car payments, but since most people already have a car why does this include the payment for a single child? If they had more than two kids they might have the car payment for the van as an additional expense, but since you most likely already had a car along with insurance, maintenance, etc. I think that this number is way too high. Of course extra amounts for the extra fuel you need to move the child around could be counted, but I hope you aren’t spending an extra $1925 a year to get to those appointments.


Ok I don’t spend $988 a year for clothing on myself, much less for my children. Especially when they are very young there are very few reasons to actually buy new clothes as they will be outgrown in short order. Thrift stores, Freecycle, friends and family all are great ways to get great clothes for a very low cost. Even as they grow older and want to express themselves in their clothing tastes if they earn/save the cash to buy it for themselves then hopefully they will appreciate it more and as a benefit it won’t cost you. They do include the diapers though so for the first few years you might spend around $400 a year if you use disposables.

Health Care

Now this one is extremely variable, my health insurance covers all preventative care for free but I am sure there are others that do spend more than $925 annually on each of their children. What I found interesting was that this number also happens to be the smallest number of all the factors that they are taking in account..

Child Care

In a two-income home I can see having such a large expense for child care, most likely even larger. So this would increase the cost of a child for a two-income home more than a single income home since in the single income home we have a stay at home parent taking care of the children and most  child care expenses are for the babysitter on date night. In either case this expense will diminish over time allowing more for the second part: Education.


Along with that first day of school comes fees, supplies, activities, and more; or does it really come with so much? A backpack you say? I remember one girl back in elementary school that used a rolling carry-on luggage to carry around supplies. Not only was it stronger and more durable then the standard backpack but it kept heavy loads from off her back. Pens, pencils and paper? Normally people have these lying around the house anyway along with a 3 ring binder. Overall a lot of the supplies they require we already have around the house. Unfortunately school fees are hard to get around though some have suggested that the child cover part of the fee. That might actually help those junior high and high school age children appreciate the class more and improve their performance. Personally I think if it was implemented correctly it will motivate them to save for and pay for their college education.


A nice catch all category for everything else, though most of the suggested items are items that differ a lot between families so make sure you put in the number for your family as no one is average.

There now you can create a number that is specific for your family and see exactly how much that bundle of joy really will cost, and it might surprise you how affordable parenthood really is.

Repairing the KitchenAid Mixer

Well we have one of those small KitchenAid Mixers and can usually grind 3 cups of wheat with the wheat grinder attachment before we have to let it cool down. Well last month Kerstin wanted to make two loaves of bread and so ground 5 cups of wheat which caused the gears to bind so knowing that taking the mixer to be repaired would cost as much as a new mixer I pulled out my KitchenAid mixer service manual and started to repair it. By the way, if you are not comfortable working with high voltage that can potentially kill you please seek professional help as you can be killed.

Start of the project

First I took off the back and disconnected the black wire to insert my amp meter to measure the draw when the motor was in use and using P=V*I figured out that the mixer was drawing more than it was suppose to which the troubleshooting guide said indicated that the gears were jammed. After this test power MUST BE DISCONNECTED!!

So to take apart this machine you have to knock off the splash guard with a hammer and flat head screwdriver. Tap lightly and evenly around so that it just slips off. You then need to take the pin out that holds mixing handle to the main shaft (you see the main shaft in the picture) and after the pin is removed using two screwdrivers as levers pull up thing. Straight up!

To remove the base you need to turn it upside down and loosen the screw that holds the base pin and then tap out the pivot pin.

Now loosen all the screws (5 around the shaft and 4 around the main case) and then pull the gears out of the gear case. Watch out for that grease (best to use a towel that you don’t mind becoming your shop towel).

The gear case just holds a lot of grease, the motor drive and the attachment drive gear. Made sure both of these moved with ease.
Side note: The first time I did this it was still plugged in at this point and so I turned on the power and got splattered with grease. The motor turns VERY quickly.

Here I am working on the main gears to verify that they are all working, there was one mesh that was a little stuck but after cleaning it out and re-greasing, it moved smoothly.

Then you just simply repeat the steps in the opposite order and then it returns to the form that you got it. As we put everything back together we actually cleaned it up and so it looked like new.

So now our mixer is working great and Kerstin knows not to grind more than 3 cups per batch, and to let it cool down for an hour after grinding. We are looking into getting the pro model that can handle the grinding a lot better and has more speed options (this one only has 5) but it will take awhile before that hits the top of our priority list.

Emergency we are without water

Well last week our well pump died. Well really seized up and would trigger it’s overheating sensor and shut off. Well that had us switch to our emergency supplies of water (of which we have quite a bit stored up) for drinking and small amounts of personal hygiene. Luckily for us my parents are in the area and we could go over there to shower and overall be mostly clean. Well on Monday my father and I pulled up the pump to see what the matter was and found the entire pipe covered in rust. The amazing part was that this is galvanized steel which is very resistant to rusting and actually is what is used in a lot of water fixtures. The other thing about galvanized steel is that it is VERY HEAVY. As we were pulling the pipe out my arms were exhausted and my legs were shaking and this was only halfway up the pipe. But we finally pulled all 40 feet plus the pump out and realized that our pipe and pump were jammed with rust particles.

So on Tuesday we were off to Home Depot we went to get a new pump, check valve, well pump submersible wire and schedule 80 PVC. Might as well make it lighter than what we had to pull out. PVC pipes comes in multiple schedules of which the most common two are 40, which is used for irrigation, and 80 which is used for deep wells and high pressure water. Schedule 80 PVC is thicker than the other stuff and is also dark grey in color. However the Home Depots around here do not carry Schedule 80 (as you can guess it isn’t used very much) so we had to call around to quite a few stores until we found it at United Pipe and Supply nearby, although they were almost out of it in their stock. The problem was that they are a normal store were closing at that time so we had to wait until Wednesday to get the pipe.

So after acquiring all the pipe and fixtures we set to work gluing the pipes together and screwing on the check valve and pitless adapter and then we had to let the pipes sit for at least 2 hours for them to cure. Well by time those two hours were done we were already asleep and since on Thursday we have prior commitments we were not able to finish until Friday afternoon.

So Friday’s work consisted of attaching the pump to the pipe, tying the safety rope to the pump (which the previous well service people (Ralph’s Pump and Well Service, Inc.) did not do when they serviced the well back in 03 (or maybe it said 05)), and putting the pipe down the well pipe. It only took 2 people to pull the thing out but it took 3 of us to put it back in as PVC is more flexible and thus it didn’t want to stay standing straight up. Once the pump, pipe, wire were in the well we moved onto wiring up the control box (as each pump is custom made to it’s control box) and capping the well. Of course we had to flush the system now and so we created an interesting water feature in front of the front door. Interestingly enough even though we pumped out quite a bit of water today (over 400 gallons) the ground around the house never got soaked. Well once everything was flushed for our new section and I had drained the hot water tank (to remove any other pieces of rust), I finally replaced the pressure gauge (which was removed because it was broken and allowed up to set up the water feature) and all the waterworks in the house once again began to operate with water presence and pressure. I then went into the garage and verified that water had again filled up our hot water tank and lit the pilot light which eventually lit the hot water tank.

So once again we have water and now we are going to replace that which we used.

Just about done with the House Project

I do have another gardening post just haven’t finished it yet (3 weeks in the making) but seeing I have not talked abut the house ever on this blog I decided to give a bit of a background. We bought the house back in March as part of a short sell knowing that we would have to put a lot of work into the home to make it livable again since the previous owners had moved about at least a year previously. So the projects that did included wiring the house with data cable for LAN and Phone and 2 ports for cable since their phone line just routed around the house on the outside which was very unsightly. We also changed the Aluminum wiring to Copper (they had actually burned at least two outlets and a ceiling light where the aluminum wiring oxidizes and over heated. The outlets also needed to be elevated from their 1970s position of being on the floor to the 2008 code of being at least 12 inches off the ground.

Well the wiring went smoothly and we only have one last piece of Aluminum which we won’t replace as it requires taking down the vaulted ceiling to get at the wire staples. So we instead used the proper Aluminum to Copper wire nuts (they contain a anti-oxidant conductive grease  that prevents the Aluminum from oxidizing) on both sides of the wire so that we only have to deal with copper. The data wires also all have been run just haven’t yet gotten around to hooking up the ends and such, should finish relatively soon though.

The really story is the insulation since the attic used to be infested with mice and rats (we found a few corpses while removing the walls) we needed to get little insulation that was there (might have been R-2) removed then have the attic sanitized and new insulation put in. We had one company to the removal and seal off the access ports for the rodents and large insects (wasps, bees, flies, etc) and then a couple weeks latter, just as we finished stapling the wiring and installing the runner boards, the insulation guys came in and gave us 15 inches of new insulation (R-40) in the attic and also wrapped the ducts and water lines and put in floor insulation so now we have a cozy house that traps the heat (or cool) very well and this weekend we are painting and hopefully by Monday we will finish moving into our home.