This past Tuesday, the Philadelphia Region was slammed with a windy summer storm that knocked out our neighborhood’s electricity for days. We were without power until this past Saturday. No fun. Since we moved here from the city five years ago, we’ve lost our power maybe once a year and for never longer than a day or two. Even during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, we didn’t lose our power.
During the storm last week, we were able to borrow a portable backup generator from a kind neighbor who had extras. Surprisingly, this was my first experience using any type of portable generator system. We kept it out in the back yard and ran a couple extension cords through a window to keep the fridge going and to do some laundry. That setup worked pretty well until it started raining. Turns out, generators are electrical devices and they don’t like getting wet. Go figure. Unable to effectively keep it dry, I had to turn it off and bring it inside the garage until the storm passed. This time of year with the heat and the humidity, it could rain everyday or every other day.
When it rained and we weren’t using the generator, we resorted to putting all of the refrigerator contents into a cooler packed with ice. We kept the freezer section closed, which supposedly will keep the food cold for up to 48 hours. We’ll see, I’ll let you know if I accidentally eat any spoiled meat.
A few of my neighbors that have portable generators also have an outlet on the outside of the house they can plug the generator into. This setup allows them to power the entire circuit breaker instead of running extension cords through a window. With the circuit breaker powered up, they can then choose which circuits to turn on. If you want lights and the refrigerator powered up, no problem. You can turn breakers on and off depending on what you’d like to power.
Here’s what that outlet and power cord looks like (thanks, Ed):
There are a couple drawbacks to this option. Since the plug is for a portable generator, it’s not designed to sit out in the rain so you’ll need to either safely cover it somehow or bring it in. Guess when your power is most likely to be knocked out? You guessed it, during a rainstorm. Once the storm is over though, you’re good to go.
The other issue is the size. You can get portable generators up to 17,500 Watts. If you want to power up your central air conditioner, you’ll probably need 17,500 Watts and for that size you’re looking at spending around $3k-$4k just for the unit.
The unit we borrowed from our neighbor was 3250 Watts and it was plenty big for a fridge and lights. You can get a decent sized portable generator for under $1000 no sweat.
The other option available is a whole house unit. This type of generator will sit permanently in one location and will be hard wired into a box next to the main breaker panel. They can run on propane or natural gas as opposed to gasoline, which is used on the portable generators. The whole house backup generators will monitor your circuit breaker for a power outage and then power themselves on automatically. You can then select which devices to provide power to. If you hook it up to a natural gas supply line in your home, you won’t ever need to run out during a storm and add fuel. Power goes out, generator kicks on and you’re back in business. They can be sized from 10,000 Watts on the low end up to 22,000+Watts on the higher end.
(20kW Home Standy Generator via Amazon.com affiliate link)
Obviously, the advantage here is a nearly uninterrupted power supply. If you get a generator big enough, you can keep the AC on. Since it’s designed to never be moved, it can take abuse from the weather and the elements. Some of them perform their own maintenance and will let you know if you need to change or add oil or call for a service appointment.
The big downside to this type of option is the price. The equipment costs around $4k and up not including installation costs, which I could handle.
The big question: Is it worth it? Can we get by with a $500 unit and just run some extension cords? If we install the outlet outside, am I okay with running out for gasoline every day or bringing it into the garage if it rains? This is one of those questions that everyone needs to answer on their own. What’s your pain threshold?
Today, I’m not a fan of no AC, frequent rainstorms and no lights. I’m also not a fan of paying $4k for something I may not need that often. So, we’ll see. Definitely doing something, just not sure which option yet.
What would you do? What would you do if the price wasn’t an option? Maybe I need to sell some more books!! 😉
Stay tuned, because you know I’m going to show you how to install this piece once I buy something.
Today I’m happy to announce that our new eBook, Renovate Your Kitchen the Smart Way is now available for purchase. You can check it out at www.KitchenRenovationBook.com.
KitchenRenovationBook.com is our new sales website and kitchen remodeling blog. I’ll be writing more kitchen remodel focused blog posts over on that site, so be sure to head over and read our blog section.
All of my eBook packages come with a 100% satisfaction guaranteed refund policy. If you buy the book and think it stinks (you won’t), I’ll give you all of your money back. No sweat. No hard feelings.
How many book stores will give you your money back if you don’t like a book you bought?
A couple other things worth noting…
You own the book and all updates or future revisions for life. When you purchase one of the products, you’re actually buying a membership for life to the KitchenRenovationBook.com website. You’ll be able to create a username and password to login and download your files. You’ll have access to those files for as long as I’m around. If I ever update the ebook, calculators, printables, or whatever, you’ll automatically have access to them. Free updates for life.
Right now there are three calculators in the Starter Package. If I decide to add a few more later on, you’ll be able to download those at no additional cost. You’re good to go. Maybe I’ll find some typos or expand the book down the road. Guess what? You get those updates too.
This is our first product launch ever and I’m very happy with the products. If you think this book will be helpful to someone you know, please share the link with them.
Actually, do me a favor and pin and share the living crap out of this post! Thanks!
Happy Monday! In today’s post, I wanted to share with you my 3 biggest successes during the renovation of my first home’s kitchen. Last week, I discussed my 3 biggest failures. If you haven’t read that post yet, it’s worth a read. Later this week, I’ll be launching my new ebook to my newsletter subscribers only. For a few short days, all of the products will be available at a discounted rate. Then I’m going to raise the prices and advertise to everyone else. If you want to get in on the lower prices, just sign-up for our free newsletter by filling out the form below. Keep in mind the prices will go up before the weekend (20 June 2015).
So let’s discuss those successes.
My 3 Biggest Kitchen Renovation Successes
1. I Saved a TON. How much is a ton? In this case, I probably saved anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000. How was I able to do that? The biggest savings came from the kitchen cabinets. I built my own from scratch and gave them a custom look by adding crown molding and making the doors inset. My material costs were around $2,000 for the plywood, lumber and hardware. They weren’t perfect, but they really looked good. I don’t think you could tell they were home made unless I told you. Similarly priced cabinets from a cabinet shop or other supplier would’ve set me back well over $10,000. Not interested in building your own cabinets? No problem. Consider buying ready-to-assemble cabinets or see if you can find a local cabinet shop that will sell you unpainted cabinets. If you are seriously thinking about building your cabinets, hang in there. I’m going to build a course soon that will teach you how to do just that. In the mean time, you can read about two of our more popular cabinet builds to get a sense of what that process is like. Read about our home office cabinets or better yet, watch the build video. You can also read our TV cabinet build.
2. I Extended the Life of the House. The house was around 100 years old when I bought it. Much of the bones of the kitchen weren’t in great shape. The entire kitchen had paneling over furring strips. The walls weren’t insulated. The roof above the kitchen wasn’t insulated. The windows were broken. The door was a piece of crap. The electrical was sub-standard. The plumbing was on life support. You get the picture. The renovation required me to frame in a whole new interior structure, add insulation, new HVAC supply line, new plumbing as well as new windows and doors. Within a few weeks, the kitchen was the most modern part of the home. Aside from getting a beautiful looking space, that kitchen will help extend the life of the home by decades. It’s less likely to have an electrical fire. It’s less likely to have a roof leak. With all that added value, it’s going to be looked after by a new family or new families for a long, long time. Leaving the house in better shape than I found it is very satisfying.
3. I was Able to Sell the House in Two Days. After nearly seven years of living in my first home, it was time to move. My wife and I listed the home on a Monday morning and it was under contract before Thursday. The first people to walk through the place on Tuesday morning made us an offer. After a day of negotiations, we agreed to terms. We had to cancel a weekend full of showings and maybe we left a higher offer on the table, but we didn’t care. We were already under contract to build our current home so our focus was on getting a quick sale. I’m sure our buyers had a long list of reasons why they liked that house, which included things that we couldn’t control like location and their commutes, etc. But the things we could control, like the kitchen, we killed it.
Those are just a few of my successes from my first home’s kitchen renovation. In my new ebook, we discuss ways you can both save money and properly plan and execute your next kitchen remodel. It doesn’t matter if you’re a handy DIYer or completely hands-off. Knowing how to manage your kitchen renovation is the key to a successful remodel.
If you thought this post was helpful, do me a favor and share it on Facebook or Pinterest.
Thanks and hope to be emailing you soon!
If all goes according to plan, next week I’ll be launching my new ebook. The book is a guide on how to renovate your kitchen intelligently so your remodel goes smoothly and stays on budget. It’s pretty much an organized brain dump of everything I know about kitchens and planning renovations. It’s my best remodeling advice from my decade plus of working on houses. Sound good?
Over the next few weeks, as the book launches, I’m going to reflect back on some of the more important lessons I learned from previous kitchen renovation projects. I wrote the book with the intent of passing on those critical lessons to you so you can avoid my costly mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, my kitchen renovation experience has been positive. However, I still think it’s important to discuss my failures, especially if we can learn from them. After all, we often learn much more from our mistakes than our successes.
Before we dive into the post, you can actually listen the audio version of the ebook’s introduction by clicking right here (you can also right click and download the MP3 if you’d like).
Here are my 3 biggest kitchen renovation mistakes from my first home. Do your best to avoid them!!
1. I Avoided Using Contractors. This one was a whopper of a mistake. Back in 2008, I hated hiring contractors. I was perfectly capable of doing my own work and simply preferred to have complete control of all my home improvement projects. Unfortunately, I ended up working on a couple different houses at once and my kitchen renovation wasn’t progressing fast enough. I was saving money, but I was spinning my wheels. Towards the end of my kitchen remodel, my wedding was quickly approaching and I was forced to hire contractors for the electrical, plumbing and drywall in order to get the work done on time. It was surprisingly affordable and unbelievably quick. Both the electrician and the plumber were done in a day or two. The drywall crew needed around a week, which allowed me to break away and work on building my kitchen cabinets. All I kept thinking for weeks was, why didn’t I hire these guys sooner?
Key Takeaway: Hiring out contractors isn’t always a bad thing. This advice probably only applies to those folks that like to do EVERYTHING themselves (like me).
2. I Assumed the Wrong Appliance Size. When I designed the layout of my kitchen, I sized my own kitchen cabinets and appliances. I used Ikea’s free kitchen planning tool to figure out the cabinet and appliance locations and then used the results for a cabinet planner program. The cabinet planner software takes your cabinet sizes and spits out a material and cut lists (yep, built my own cabinets). After I bought all my material and appliances, I realized I made a BIG mistake. I had assumed that the width of my new stainless steel refrigerator would be the same as my old one. Whoops. I designed the kitchen layout and the cabinet dimensions around that smaller fridge. As I was building the cabinets, I realized that it wasn’t all going to fit. The cabinet layout needed to be modified and I ended up shrinking a 15″ wide pantry cabinet down to a barely usable 12″ to give the bigger fridge more room. Even with that adjustment, it was TIGHT.
If you’re reading this and thinking that you don’t need to worry about this since you’re going to use a kitchen designer and they’ll figure that out, be warned. If you don’t know the exact size of your appliances (typically just width), then you end up making assumptions. If you make the wrong assumption, you have to live with it. That may mean a smaller fridge or a couple smaller cabinets.
Key Takeaway: Make sure you have your appliance sizes identified OR be prepared to stick with whatever size assumptions you use when you design your kitchen.
3. I Didn’t Work with a Designer. This problem was more of an issue for selecting materials and not so much the kitchen layout. We knew we were going to have white cabinets. That was easy. We really liked a certain slab of granite we saw at a supplier. Great. So far so good. Then it was time to pick a backsplash and we whiffed. It took us months to find something we thought coordinated well with our cabinets, floor tile, room color and countertops and I still don’t love that backsplash (even though we haven’t lived there in five plus years). We could have done better. I don’t want to speak for Lisa, but I’m aesthetically challenged. If you haven’t noticed, this isn’t a decor blog and for good reason. I stink at picking out colors and coordinating multiple pieces. Not my thing. If I could go back and hire someone for a couple hundred bucks to make a tile selection, I would.
Key Takeaway: Consider hiring a kitchen designer to coordinate all of your material selections. In the ebook, I tell you what to look for if you decide to work with a designer.
In my next post, I’ll tell you about my 3 Biggest Successes from My Kitchen Renovation.
Don’t forget, if you have a kitchen renovation coming up and you’d like to get the ebook at a discount, sign-up for our free newsletter. You’ll be the first to know when the book is available. In addition to the ebook, there will also be packages available that include an audio version of the ebook, printables, excel calculators and even one-on-one coaching time with me. It’s going to be fun. Stay tuned.
As most of you probably know, our biggest home improvement project over the last year has been our home office remodel. It took us nearly a year to finish it!! The good folks over at Hometalk liked it so much that they asked us to curate a collection of our favorite home office makeovers. You can see that collection, by clicking on this link to be redirected to our Hometalk Home Office Board.
This collection features some home office remodels you may have already seen, but if you haven’t then you need to check them out. In addition to our own home office remodel, which you can check out here, you may spot Colette’s office makeover from her blog, Moving to the Country. Colette and I actually have the same courtland model from Ryan Homes so our offices are identical in size. Her office looks amazing and I’m pretty sure she was able to wrap hers up in well under a few months.
There’s also Chelsea’s office remodel from Two Twenty One. Pretty much looks like a catalog photo. Nice!
So head over to our Hometalk Home Office Board and have a look around. While you’re there, be sure to join their community and follow me. I don’t post all of my projects on Hometalk, but certainly the biggest and best ones.
That’s all for today!
Make sure you’re signed up for our newsletter. Big opportunity for our subscribers next week so stay tuned.
It’s been a while, but I’ve finally finished the Customizable Table Saw Station Plans.
To get access to these free woodworking plans, you simply need to subscribe to our newsletter. You can sign-up using the opt-in form on our sidebar or the form following this post.
This workstation has made using my table saw considerably easier. Building it was a big priority before we made the built-ins for our home office. If you cut large plywood sheet goods, a large table saw work surface is hugely important.
For the first time since I started blogging I’ve also made the Excel spreadsheet available to accompany the pdf. If you have any problems getting the calculations to work in the pdf, the Excel spreadsheet is a second option.
As I mentioned above, these plans are completely customizable to adapt to whatever sized contractor or hobby table saw you already own. All you need to do is enter the saw’s length, width and height and you’re good to go.
Good luck with it and let me know if you have any questions!
In this video and post, you’ll learn
– How to install chair rail molding
– How to install molding on a stairway
– How to add end caps to your trim work
– How to use two basic tools to figure out what angle to cut your trim pieces to
Happy weekend everybody!
This past week I was able to get some more house work done in the form of chair rail molding. This is the second time we’ve added chair rail to our place. The first time was back a few years ago. You can read about that experience here (photos were pre-DSLR). This time around it went MUCH quicker. Funny how a little bit of experience will do that.
This time around, I snapped a chalk line in the areas where the chair rail was to be installed. I also used my patented* no-tape-measure approach to trim installation, which was more fully explained in my baseboard installation video.
Anyway, why don’t you watch the video and let me know if you have any questions…
(If you don’t see the video, please click here to be redirected to YouTube)
The key takeaways from this video are:
– Use construction adhesive and a chalk line to align your trim
– Use a finish nailer for trim that is thicker than 1/2″ or so. Keep in mind that the nail needs to go through a 1/2″ thick piece of drywall plus the trim. Most brad nailers only shoot nails up to 1-1/4″ long.
– Use a t-bevel and your miter saw to figure out what angle your molding should be cut to.
– If you want an end cap or a “return”, just cut the end of the trim to a 45 degree angle. Then using a piece of scrap trim, cut a 45 degree angle on the opposite side you intend to install it and then just lop it off with a straight cut.
I hope this video helps you with your chair rail installation or any similar type of work.
In this video, you’ll learn:
– How to remove baseboard molding
– How to install new baseboard molding
– How to work without a tape measure
Well, we finally started our latest home improvement project. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re working towards adding some character in our vestibule with taller baseboard molding, additional chair rail trim and shadow boxes.
The first item on this to do list is the baseboard molding. Rather than write a few hundred words on how to rip out short molding and install taller trim, it’s easier and more educational to simply film it and narrate the work.
Here’s a super quick video on how to install baseboard molding. By the way, super quick for me is around 5 minutes!
(If you don’t see the video, you can click this link to be redirected to YouTube)
I hope you find this video helpful. Adding taller trim can give your home a more high end look since shorter trim is very common. The visual effect of the taller baseboards gives the wall a more defined contrast with the wall.
Again, I’d like to emphasize that you don’t always need to work with a tape measure. Sometimes you do, no doubt. However, I find that if I’m able to employ the process I used in this video, I make less mistakes. When I first started out installing molding years ago, I used a tape measure. I can’t tell you how many cuts I messed up. When you use a tape measure, you’re adding potential pitfalls. You measure the wall then you measure the molding. If you make tiny mistakes on each of those steps you can make a noticeable mistake at the miter saw and cut the board too short or too long.
You can see another example of where I was able to avoid using a tape measure when I installed quarter round molding in our family room a couple years ago.
In our next video, I’ll show you how I use a t-bevel to make trim installation on angled walls easier.
Are you in need of new trim in your home? What molding work are you considering?
If you’ve been a regular reader for the past couple of years you know we’ve worked on some pretty sizable home improvement projects since our beginning in 2011. We completely renovated our home office from the ground up this past fall. We spent a few months and upgraded our dining room with raised panel wainscoting a couple of years ago. There were garage projects and major furniture builds along the way too. I even built my shed from scratch. However, I’ve barely mentioned or blogged about my biggest home improvement project to date since I started blogging nearly four years ago.
What was my biggest DIY project ever? For me, it’s an easy question to answer: the kitchen in my first home.
When I bought my first home back in 2003 it needed a lot of work. What was wrong with it? Yes. Plumbing, electrical, drywall, flooring, the windows, the ceiling, the door, the cabinets, the countertops… all of it was wrong.
The house was built back at the turn of the previous century and the kitchen was an addition from the 50s or 60s. I don’t think it was ever updated from it’s original construction. Amazing it lasted as long as it did.
I was so overwhelmed with all of the work I had to do to the house that I punted on the kitchen remodel until years later. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with the kitchen, so I didn’t do anything until 2007. It took me four years to finally get around to gutting it and then building it back from scratch. There are a lot of things I would’ve done differently with that house, but the kitchen isn’t one of them.
From 2003 until 2007, I upgraded the rest of the home with new drywall, all new trim, a new furnace, new electrical and refinished the floors. Most of the work I did myself. Of course, I hired out some of the more critical items to move things along. During those four years I was able to build up a level of home improvement competence that I didn’t have when I first bought the house. I learned what work is best for me to do and which work I can outsource.
The kitchen renovation started with a demolition party in the spring of 2007 and wasn’t finished until the homemade kitchen cabinets were painted after they were installed well over a year later. The results of that years worth of work was worth the effort. We eventually sold the home in two days and the remodeled kitchen was a big reason for that quick sale.
Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to be releasing my first product for purchase: a book on how to renovate your kitchen. Instead of focusing on specific DIY techniques like a lot of our blog posts, I’m concentrating mainly on the planning and exectution of your next kitchen remodel. For me, the planning was the hardest part of that kitchen remodel. It took me a few years to get started and I couldn’t do a thing to the space until the planning was done. If you plan your kitchen renovation well, you’re much more likely to have a successful project.
The book will focus on the steps you need to take before you start the project and will help guide you through making all of the big decisions that you are bound to run into along the way. I want to prepare you as best I can for those challenges.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking some time to to talk about kitchen renovations prior to the book launch. If you have any questions about your upcoming kitchen project, now is the perfect time to ask.
I’m also hoping to get my next set of woodworking plans completed soon. The table saw station plans are taking slightly longer than I’d like.
Have a great week!
The last couple months have been super busy. In case you couldn’t tell by my complete lack of posting, I haven’t done a whole lot of home improvement work lately. Life with three little kids is much more time consuming than it was with two and my free time is just about gone nowadays. I have maybe two hours every evening after work to either blog, do house projects or other online projects that I’ve started. It’s a challenge to say the least.
I’m expecting to get back in the swing of things this week with our latest home improvement adventure: shadow boxes.
We’re going to dress up our vestibule with some simple trim work to give the home some more character. Over the years, I’ve installed a lot of trim, but this will be my first crack at shadow boxes and I’m looking forward to the challenge. We’ll also be taking the opportunity to upgrade the baseboard trim.
Here’s a shot from our vestibule now.
You can see in the photo that we have chair rail molding already in place. We installed that back in 2011. Here’s a link to that tutorial. The baseboard molding looks pretty puny, so we’re going to pop that off and install the taller stuff. When we built the house, we were under the impression that the baseboards would be the taller variety. It was one of the few minor disappointments we had during our walk-thru.
When we renovated our home office, we took advantage of the opportunity and installed the bigger baseboards in there first. The goal is to have the bigger molding throughout the first floor. We’ll continue that work with the vestibule and then maybe the living room at a later point. It’s unlikely that we’ll change the baseboards upstairs.
Here’s a reminder of what those taller baseboards look like.
Pretty nice if you ask me. Definitely worth the effort to rip out the short stuff.
Now that you know what we’re up to, here’s what you can expect to see and learn during this small project. I’ll film and explain the essential parts of the work like the sizing, cutting and installation of both the shadow boxes and the baseboard molding. Even if you aren’t planning on performing this same kind of project in your home, understanding the process should be helpful.
Make sure you stop by later this week. I’ll be releasing my next set of free woodworking plans. This time it will be the table saw station.
Have a great week!
Hey! Thanks for stopping by. We're Lisa and John and this is our DIY and Home Improvement blog. Feel free to browse our DIY project gallery or our latest posts. You can read more here.
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