Tag Archives: home-improvement

DIY Geek: Home Speakers


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Every so often, I like to get my hands dirty. I needed to replace the ceiling speakers in my bedroom and bathroom ceilings. I had been having issues with audio quality in the bathroom, and found the culprit when I removed the old set: oxidized wires. After talking to my audio/video genius friend Brandon, I knew that my amplifier was over-driving the speakers. It was just time to replace things in general.

While removing the old set of speakers, I learned that the person who had originally installed them had somehow crossed the black and red wires. Could this have led to the audio issues we experienced? It’s hard to tell, but I’m glad to see that the speakers themselves are fine. They are still in great shape, and I’m not even sure what I’m going to do with them at this point in time. Anyone have ideas?

I chose to go with some new Polk Audio RC60i’s and the slightly larger RC80i in-ceiling speakers. I’ve heard some excellent things about these particular products, and the reviews were fantastic. The price point was pretty good, as well.

I happen to have some paint left over from the last time the rooms were done. I keep these handy in case I do a project such as this so that I can touch up any messes I make. I admit that I’m definitely not a professional, but I think it looks okay!

These new speakers sound great – they have a deeper, richer sound. Unfortunately, I couldn’t show off their audio quality since I’m not licensed to share anything with you. I’m totally glad that I did this project.

I love doing DIY projects around my house. What things have you done to improve your home?

Weekend Projects

It’s nice to be a homeowner, but it’s also a lot of work. The new gnomestead is slowly coming together. We’ve accomplished most of our “move in” goals, although we’re still searching for a good local (Seattle) contractor to help us with a few of those last mile tasks. Seems all of the good ones are busy! We had the House Doctors come out and assemble a bid, but they wound up asking for twice as much as what it might normally cost. They’re reliable, but I don’t know if Ponzi and I are really in a position to pay a premium for that.

This past weekend, the live studio audience saw me install a wall-mounted ironing board. I was supposed to attach it to a couple of studs, but there were no beams where my wife wanted it to go. I did my best with their installation kit, but wound up hitting Home Depot for some angle brackets. They looked pretty damn ugly! Eventually, I decided to paint the entire thing – since it didn’t match our white trim, anyway (even though I thought I had ordered a white one in the first place).

So, then we painted and chatted and set up a conference call and chatted and painted and watched paint dry and chatted some more. Actually, it was me who was painting – and everyone else who was discussing my painting technique. I think I did a pretty good job, all things considered. I’m also happy to say that someone forgot to hit the Record button to document the entire ordeal. I had several “Oh, Fudge!” moments – only I didn’t say Fudge.

Dealing with Seattle Contractors for Home Improvement

We moved into our new house a few months ago (early December, mere days before getting married). Since then, we’ve had a regular stream of traffic coming in and out – contractors from far and wide. Some were recommended to us by existing (trusted) service providers, and others were suggested via sites like ServiceMagic. Results, thus far, have been both good and bad.

Our painting contractor has been amazing… absolutely amazing. Detail oriented, works without interruption, doesn’t complain, doesn’t ask a million questions, efficient, etc. I will have absolutely no problem in recommending him to anyone in the Seattle area (after he’s finished with what we’ve hired him for, of course). He came to us through “The Cleaning Zone,” a small outfit we’ve used to keep our home from turning into a barn. It was a personal recommendation that hasn’t failed us.

Our fence contractor has been amazing… at taking us for $1,000, not returning our phone calls, starting the job and not finishing it, etc. It’s been weeks since he was supposed to have started and finished, and all we have in our backyard are fence posts. Ponzi tried calling him (again) this morning and learned that his phone number had been disconnected. We’re scrambling to find someone to pick up where he left off (or start the project all over again). I’ll ask Ponzi for the name so that you might avoid him, too.

Our bathroom remodel contractor has been amazing… better than I ever would have expected. We’ll post the “before/after” photos when everything is complete (we’re just waiting for a special-order shower door to arrive). They really did an outstanding job. Moreover, they kept to themselves and only asked questions when necessary. I wasn’t really sure why Ponzi wanted to remodel the master bathroom, but now I see why it was worth doing.

Our home audio contractor has been amazing… in more ways than one. We’re happy with the work they did, but more impressed with how they were the only home theater outfit that kept telling us ways to SAVE money instead of spending more. Everything seems to be working fine, although I haven’t had much time to reprogram our Harmony remotes to control the new receivers. Plus, our media room was just painted and needs a bit more work before we’ll be able to show ‘er off.

All in all, we’re pretty happy – but I think that (moving forward) we’ll be dealing with a single source of contractors, because general contractor coordination has been an absolute nightmare to manage. Ponzi suggested a place called House Doctors? Now, some would argue that DIY is the way to go – but since we got such a good deal on the house, we had a little extra budget for small remodeling tasks.

Pictures of our New House

We moved into our new house a few weeks ago, and I think we’ve emptied just about every single box! As you can see from the photo thumbnails, Ponzi still has to empty the boxes for her new home office. Seems like she’s been doing laundry non-stop, and we finally got all the clothes picked up off the bedroom floor and sorted semi-appropriately (seeing as we don’t have any drawers in our new master closet). It’s been slow going, and I’m very anxious to feel that “settled in” feeling before too long.

Gingerbread House 2006 (9)Gingerbread House 2006 (8)Gingerbread House 2006 (12)Gingerbread House 2006 (11)Gingerbread House 2006 (10)Gingerbread House 2006 (7)Gingerbread House 2006 (6)Gingerbread House 2006

We have a small bit of roof work that needs to be done, as you can tell. That, and I think I’ve got a long list of “curiosities” for an electrician to review at some point in the near future. Today, I hope to put a few more things away and prep our exercise room for when we return from vacation. Home ownership is awesome, but it’s also a lot of hard work. I must thank every single one of our friends who have helped or offered to help us through this season – I would be going insane without every single one of you.

Oh no! Wicket just ate our chimney!

Closet and Ceiling Repair

As if life wasn’t difficult enough right now, we came home from dinner the other night to discover that the ceiling in our master bedroom had partially crumbled.

Ceiling Destroyed (1)

This is a rental unit (an actual house). We’ve seen our fair share of problems in the past, but these issues are further exacerbated when it rains. Nothing has ever been this bad, though. Thank goodness we had started doing laundry that morning, otherwise it would have been even worse on the closet floor.

Ceiling Destroyed (2)

Repair folks came out this afternoon to assess the damage. The good news is that we shouldn’t be living here for too much longer. The bad news is that we have to live here for the time being, and there’s an insane amount of mold and mildew here – which means we won’t be able to sleep in our own bedroom for a few weeks.

Ceiling Destroyed (3)

The carpet is heavily damaged, and it seems that the house owners had covered up old carpet with new carpet during an earlier update process. It’s shoddy worksmanship, through and through – and I haven’t even told you about another ceiling zit we’ve found in a downstairs bedroom. Yay.

Ceiling Destroyed

Would someone please wake me when this is over?

Home Security and Electronics

Ken Thomson in San Francisco, CA sent me an email this morning with a handful of helpful hints – especially if I’m trying to build the geekiest Fort Knox on the planet:

Being a retired real estate broker, I can tell you how to accomplish what you want. You are right; brand new is best of all because it lets you have all the other things on your wish list with ease. In addition, if you can find a builder who will work with you (i.e., let you know when the plumbing, electrical, and duct work will be roughed in and who will get out of the way while all the extra goodies are placed inside the walls).

I have never bought a house in my life. Every house I’ve owned, I’ve built myself under the theory that if you want it done right, you’d best do it yourself. Here are some of the things inside my walls…

  1. 1,000 feet of high-quality TV cable originating from a central point at the front of a house closest to a telephone pole. In the bedrooms, the TV outlet should always be on the side of the bed furthest away from the door. Telephone wires should be on the side of the bed nearest the door.
  2. An intercom system with transmitter / speakers in the bedroom, in a hallway, and in the garage / workshop area. That way, you won’t have to get out of bed to answer the door and it makes getting rid of a pest a lot easier if you can talk to them through the front door speaker.
  3. A blinker circuit with a LED in a shady jam of all doors and garage doors that blinks every 3/4ths of a second. It warns potential burglars that there are other surprises in store for them and they will go elsewhere.
  4. A relay that makes a loud clack when the pressure mat under the front door mat is stepped on. And it also turns on the overhead light. this is even more convincing to a potential burglar.
  5. Access to a hidden switch that, when activated, opens the garage door. This will take care of the times when you lock your self out.
  6. Concealed wiring running between the living room wall where you plan on putting the stereo equipment and where you want the speakers to be in the living room and a second set of wires going to the master bedroom.
  7. A small relay running off 24 volt AC that when tripped by the mailman putting your mail into the slot will tell you that your mail has arrived.
  8. In a multi story building, wiring from near the front door, in the garage and upstairs that will cause the garage door opener to function. Saves you running up and down the stairs.
  9. An off switch for the door chime if you don’t want to be disturbed.
  10. A warning light circuit that will inform you if the garage door is not fully closed.

Some of those features would be wonderful to have, though I may go the wireless route if I can. Not only would wireless units be more easily upgradable, but I wouldn’t necessarily have cords and cables flying all over the place (inside the walls or otherwise). Wireless intercoms, wireless monitors, etc. I think as long as we have Cat5e strewn about the house, most of our wired needs will have been met. Ken continues:

Getting your own home built can often be cheaper than buying an existing home if you play it smart and get the land cheaper than anywhere else. One way to do this is to decide on one or two towns where you’d like to live, and then gong to the town hall tax assessor’s office and asking how you go about bidding on the auction of city properties foreclosed for non-payment of taxes.

For example, in NYC you write to: The Department of Real estate, 2 Layfayette St, New York, NY 10007 and ask for a copy of the nest ‘IN REM’ sales booklet and they will send it to you. In San Francisco, you bring a SASE with extra postage on it (to cover future postage increases) and they will send it to you. Once you get one, you will have to go back and give them another SASE. That’s how I got my lot at a cost that’s way less than the runaway prices in San Francisco.

Good hunting! Remember: building a house is not a big job. It is a thousand little jobs. It’s a lot like eating an elephant – you keep at it until there is nothing but bones left on your plate.

Home Improvement Tools

So, if one wanted to take home improvement into his or her own hands, where should one begin to look for help online? I really want to become my own handyman, if only because I’d rather “DIY” than wait around for someone else to do it for me. I can change light bulbs like none other, but beyond that – I’m useless. Awl I know is that I need to start collecting simple tutorials for common problems around the house. Let the link love begin!