Saturday, September 22, 2012

Garage is Garbage without the B

Hey, remember me?  The Ranter?  We moved into our house over a year ago and I promised to keep blogging but rarely have I been home to enjoy our new house, let alone do any projects to show off.  But now, as kayaking season is winding down and the weather is actually cool enough that we can sit outside and enjoy it, I spent some time time today puttering around in our gar<b>age.

Our garage: the only place that looks worse is the basement.

yes, i own a lot of boats.  There's a boat for every river, and I want them all

We haven't done squat to organize the garage or basement, with the exception of these very awesome kayak hangers:

With one hand I can raise and lower each boat (each weighs 50-60 pounds) down to the ground or right on top of my car.  While I'd like to take credit for being able to engineer it, we bought a kit called the Harken Hoister.  They make them for bikes, canoes, kayaks, mother-in-laws and anything else you might want to suspend from the ceiling. A tad pricey but I HIGHLY recommend.  We are fortunate that our garage ceiling is so high that the boats can be clear of the garage doors.  Garage doors that we don't really use because we can't squeeze either of our compact cars into the garage right now!!

I'm hearing that this winter might be a bit snowy so its time to maybe think about cleaning and organizing the garage to make it useable.

First will be to put some small shelves above the laundry sink.  But beyond that I'm a bit at a loss.

I've been thinking about maybe putting a large shelf all the way around the top of the garage for storage of things we don't use very much - my hammock, kayak crap, random tools and yard toys.  Then just get some regulation plastic shelves for storage of the usual garage stuff.  But how to install a nice sturdy shelf like that?  <scratches head and cracks beer>

So, for all my blogger friends, please share how you have overcome the rather small 2-car garage in most of the Ryan homes.  I would love tips and pictures and maybe even a how-to or two or three.

Take care and enjoy the fall weather, my blogger friends.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

AC solved

A big zap and a spark.  And BF diagnosed the AC problem, while leaning against the wall as I chanted "I TOLD YOU not to touch it!" and hoped I didn't need to call the paramedics.

Turned out, our AC problem WAS caused by a wiring issue, but not the aluminum v. copper that the AC dude has alluded to.  We discovered a junction box in the basement, and when BF got near it, he found that it was producing heat.  He touched it a couple times to determine that it WAS hot.  Then got zapped.  And the AC turned off.

We immediately called the electrical contractor, told them what was up (again) and they agreed to have the electrician come over before 6pm. When we discovered the issue, it was Friday afternoon and I was damned if I was going to let that spark producing junction box go all weekend.  He showed up around 4pm.  When he opened up the box, he found a hot mess (seriously).  He apologized profusely and accepted blame for the issue -- their company had wired the house improperly when it was built.  He said there is normally no junction box in this model house, but that they must have been short some wire and patched it.  So, he didn't bother to come in the house to look at the junction box the first time he came out.  Since he fixed it, the AC has worked with no issues.  And the house hasn't burned down.

This is certainly the biggest issue we have had with Ryan Homes since building the house.  What concerned me the most is that our new point person for repairs instructed us to just reset the breaker when it tripped to keep the AC running all weekend.  I'm fairly convinced that had we done that, we would have been dealing with a fire situation at some point over the weekend.  What concerned me second most is that it was up to me and BF to sniff out the issue and resolve it.  We had scheduled a joint meeting between the AC and electric contractor for Monday, but it felt like we were pulling teeth to get it scheduled.  Certainly, nobody understood the potential seriousness of the issue.  Except me and BF who were faced with the possibility of spending another 100 degree day with no AC in our 9 month old home.

Our 10-month inspection is coming up this week, and it will be the first time we meet our new Ryan Homes point guy in person -- and we are already off to kind of a rough start what with all the pissed off emails and phone calls and whatnot.  I hope he can make the repair process smoother and easier than he made the AC problem.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The great AC Caper

We've been in our new home for 10 months now and are scheduled for our 10 month punch list visit in two weeks.  I thought it was going to be a breeze, but we seem to be piling up the complaints.  More on that later.  First, this:

We had a tornado!  I was going to post pictures and tell you the whole story, but now that will have to wait because I've got a bug up my butt about the air conditioning and wanted to solicit some thoughts and opinions from you good folks to see if you've had any similar issues.

We've had a series of pretty terrible storms here in the Mid-Atlantic (and I'm hoping all my DC area Ryan friends have their electricity back and aren't too badly damaged!), coupled with horrible, horrible heat.  <puts environmental scientist cap on> For what its worth, this is the type of weather that can be expected to become more and more normal with the effects of climate change.  Keep this in mind as you are landscaping your homes and planning on where to plant trees and what types of trees to plant (like, ones less likely to blow over on your house. Please don't plant pears.  They are the worst).

So, after last week's 100 degree days, the AC unit started choking a bit.  BF likes to keep it around 70 <see above climate change piece to know why, besides having to wear a sweatshirt in the house, this makes me crazy>;  when the house was at 75 and wouldn't cool any more, I chalked it up to the fact that an AC unit can only do so much against that kind of heat.  Until I realized it wasn't on!  The fan was on, but the compressor wasn't.  And the circuit breaker was flipped.

Fast forward a week.  We have been flipping the circuit breaker back on periodically as the unit has tripped.  First I thought it was the heat, but now its happening routinely even on normal days like today (high 87 or so, and its right nice outside now, and it STILL won't stay on).

Today, the electrician came.  He checked everything and replaced the breaker at BF's request, even though he thought it was good.  He swore the problem was the AC unit.  We call the AC guys for an emergency visit (we are fed up with having to wait from 12-4 for someone to come over).  AC guy checks it out, and swears its the wiring, not the unit.  He's been here for an hour or so still trying to diagnose the problem, but it appears as no progress is being made.

We are caught in the middle.  Both the electrician and the HVAC guys are on contract with Ryan for these repairs and we are still under our warranty period.  HVAC has no incentive to find a problem, because it will cost them money.  Same too for electrician.  Our new project manager, while competent, has many more homes to take care of and is not nearly as responsive and awesome as our construction PM.   To make it more complicated, the AC guy says it is overheating and that it is probably because they wired the house with aluminum wires.  Aluminum?  I'm no wiring expert, but I'm pretty sure that copper wire is code, and if there is aluminum wiring in my house, we are going to have some problems.

Anyway, anyone out there experienced any similar AC issues?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Deck the yard

Well, the bedroom isn't put back together good enough for pictures yet, so I've decided its high time to share with you pictures of our new deck!

20' x 20' Deck
I am fortunate to have "my own guy" for house projects, so when it came to doing the new deck, calling him up was a no-brainer.  I probably could have done it for less, but with "my guy" I knew it would get done, get done well and be mostly on time.  And it was, just in time for my graduation/memorial day/deck-warming.

We thought 2 sets of steps would be nice
I'd like to do a patio area in front of morning room

This would be where a patio would go.
The deck is 20' x 20', with hidder hanger fasteners, so there are no exposed screw heads. I took months to pick out a type of deck, and color and after much internet research, price comparisons and anxiety, we chose Timber Tech Earthwood Evolutions in Pacific Rosewood.  This type of deck board is composite on the inside, and coated with PVC on all sides (except the ends). The PVC coating protects the composite from moisture (preventing mold and decomposition) and provides a scratch proof outer layer.  Its kinda like a skittle or M&M!  Hard candy coating on the outside...  There is a similar trex product, but it has a PVC coating only on the upper side of the deck board, which would make the underside susceptible to mold etc.  And, the trex ended up being more expensive.

A close up shot

View from the sliding glass door

Timber Tech Earthwood Evolutions Deck
color: Pacific Rosewood
Standard home-depot stock vinyl railing

The kitties were so excited to finally be able to use the back door
Meow.  Let me out.  Meow. Let me in.
All.  Day.  Long.
Once the deck was done, I realized how much I had missed having a useable outdoor space.  And back-door I could walk out of.  As soon as it was complete, we started hanging out outside way more often.  Morning coffee.  Evening dinner.  Drinking a beer.  Looking a stars....  And, yesterday we finally pulled the grill out of the garage so now we can cook here too!

If you have been holding off on building a deck or patio, i say do it now!  I'm so glad we didn't wait until we were "more settled" or "had enough money".  :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bedroom Blues

Dear blogger friends:

Please send me ambition and creativity.  We are halfway through FINALLY painting the master bedroom and I have just completely run out of steam.  Its like, the further I get, the longer the wall is... The only thing keeping me going is knowing that I can sit down with a beer, upload some pictures and show you all what we've done.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Light switches

I don't know why, but this weekend, the lack of a light switch exactly where I wanted it to be was getting up my craw, so viola, blog post on what I would have done differently had I only known!  I know there are a couple of new Ravenna people out there, so hopefully this is helpful to you as well.

Front Lights

The front porch light switches on where it should - by the front door.  The front lights on the garage are switched on by the garage door.  Which makes sense to a certain degree, but sometimes I want to turn both lights on from the front door!  If I want both sets of lights on (like when people are trying to find my house on a pitch dark December evening), I have to walk my butt all the way to the garage door.  Its just inconvenient (especially on crutches).  Also, when I was growing up we had a pole light at the end of the driveway - kinda wish I had one of those installed too, though nobody else in the neighborhood has one.

Garage Lights

This was the first one I really noticed -  I need a light switch on the inside of the house that turns the interior garage lights on!  As its set up now, I have to open the door, lean my body out over the steps and reach way to the left to hit the light.  To rectify this, BF bought and installed Mr. Beams directly over the door.  Its a battery operated, really bright LED that comes on as soon as we open the door, then switches off after something like 40 seconds of no motion.  Its really cut down on the number of times I curse that light.


Who thought of this terrible system?  The light at the top of the steps flips on a light in the staircase only; the lights to the rest of the basement are at the bottom of the steps.  This works out well, until you get to the top of the steps then realize that you forgot to turn the lights off and have to walk back downstairs to shut them off!  I'm not a lazy person at all, but this is just annoying.  Again, particularly when you are waddling around on crutches.

(wow.  I had more to say on this subject than I thought!  I think there are only 2 more really annoying ones)

Master Bath

The lights for the toilet room (what is that place called?), the master closet and the main lights are all controlled at three separate locations.  I want a light that turns them all on and off at once.  I end up going in there every morning to shut off a bunch of lights.  And how's this for a recurring theme - its a pain (and sometimes dangerous with a wet floor) to crutch back in there to turn off lights.

Upstairs Hallway

There are 3 switches that turn the lights on for the upstairs hallway - one downstairs, one at the top of the steps and one by the master bedroom.  However, if you are hanging out in the guest bathroom or one of the bedrooms over the family room and living room, you'd better take a head lamp with you when you leave because you've got to stumble up or down the end of the hallway to find a light switch.  We don't have kids, but I'd imagine if you had a kid who was scared of the dark, this would be a problem, even with a nightlight.

Does anyone else have any weird light switch issues that bother them?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Siding Update

I'm coming to you, live from my front porch, in 65 degree weather, leg elevated, crutches standing by, trying to decipher the spanish of the men working on the siding.

So, far, I know they are counting to five.  My limited spanish prevents me from knowing what else they are talking about.

You may remember that a month or so ago, I posted pictures of our siding - Delray Sand - that was drastically different colors.   After a month or so of wrangling with the manufacturer and the contractor, our PM finally got the crew out to fix the bad pieces.

They ended up replacing ALL the siding on 3 sides of the house.  Interestingly, the hammering on the house made a bunch of electrical plugs pop right out of the wall, and we had little bits of sawdust under each outlet.  If you ever have siding replaced, then notice your cable or internet is out, you might want to check to make sure its still plugged in.  :)

But, it wasn't over there!  A couple days ago, we came home and the sun was shining at just the right angle and there it was!  More bad pieces!

They are fixing the worst of them now, but the other color variations that we have seen may not be fixable. Something about the way they spray the sheen on the product can make it appear  a slightly different color in different lights.  And we are the lucky ones whose house is in the exact right position at 3pm to make those color differences pop.

The good thing is our PM is doing everything he can to make us happy.  The bad thing is that we may have to live with the variations.  The good/bad thing is that one day, the siding will be covered in that green mossy stuff and it won't be noticeable anymore.

I'll post some pictures later if I can find some.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bringing Back the Hip

I had arthroscopic hip surgery on Monday to repair a tear in my hip joint.  I've had pain for about a year and a half and finally got up enough gumption to do it.  I'm recovering well, but could be on crutches for up to a month, and definitely reduced activity for several months before I can get back to kayaking.  Or climbing ladders to paint 9' ceilings.

I'll be home from work for 2 weeks; mostly on the couch hanging out with the tv and bonding with the house.  It should give me a lot of time to figure out paint colors (ha! yeah right!) and living room configurations and decorations. Right now, its giving me a lot of time to appreciate the house.

I have a straight shot from the couch to the powder room, with enough length to get up speed and practice my crutch style.  In my old house, I would have had to make 3-4 tight turns to get into the bathroom.

I still haven't quite figured out how to feed myself, but the kitchen is going to be seriously helpful.  I can open the fridge and put food directly on the counter, lean on the crutch and do what I need to do, then put it back.  I can slide it down to the end, then sit at the bar stool and enjoy.  I think I can probably cook this way too, but haven't tried it yet.

I can easily get to all the windows and open or close the blinds, and sturdy handrails on both sides of the steps at top and bottom to help with the transition from steps back to crutches.

I'm grateful that I have such a nice, well laid out place to recover.  And lots of blogs to read to alleviate my boredom!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

3 Months, and not so new...

We've been in our Ravenna for 3 whole months now.  Our awesome PM continues to work on fixing some of the minor issues we are having and is always in touch with us about what he's working on.  The second to last house is under roof - one more house and then Ryan is done with the 15 homes they built in this neighborhood.  And we are done with dump trucks and early morning hammering!

We still have not met many of our neighbors, mostly I think because we were the second ones in and aren't directly adjacent to any of the new homes.  And because everyone else moved in during the colder and dark months.  I hope that as it gets warmer and the days get longer, we'll be able to get to know each other a bit better.

Yesterday, I washed my car in the driveway for the very first time.  And realized we should have gotten an extra hose bib near the garage.  :)  I'm always realizing things like this.

Today, as I was cleaning the kitchen (how does it get so gross?), I realized that the house isn't new anymore.  The cabinets have fingerprints and food smears on them, there are crumbs that I can see just under the stove that the vacuum doesn't suck up, there are dings and scratches on the countertops...  These aren't major, but are in stark contrast to this picture of perfection I have in my head.  The picture put there by that damn model house that always looked perfect and clean!

So, my question to my Ryan friends, what is the best way that you have found to:

     Clean the cabinets?  I am afraid to use anything for fear of messing up the finish.

      Clean the hardwood floors?  The vacuum is great, and we've got this little mop shiner thing, but I think        its time for something a bit stronger.

     Shine up the sink?  Man, its already got those rust stains in it.

Did I mention that the elderly cat has also had several "accidents" (accidents in quotes because I'm pretty sure he is doing it on purpose) on the hardwood floors.  A little Fantastic and Nature's Miracle has done the trick so far, but I am not a happy camper.  Neither is BF.  But the cats, they seem to be pretty happy.

Not so new anymore, but we are still loving our new home.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Two rooms down, 10 more to go...

I painted!

Yup, I finally broke down and got some paint on the walls!  A friend came over to help get me (push me?) over the hump and it was a ginormous help.  With her coaxing, I chose SW Blonde to paint in the entrance hallway.  A few weeks later, I worked up the nerve to tackle the morning room, which I painted SW Bamboo Shoot.

SW Blonde in entrance.  Its really tough to get a good picture of this room
because it never gets much natural light.  I really like the color, which
is a nice warm yellow/brown.

It looks a bit different at night with the fluorescent lights

Showing off my excellent cutting-in job, not so easy with
that angled ceiling above the door
SW Bamboo Shoot.  I LOVE how it turned out.
The 12' ceiling was NOT easy to paint

You can see we also got blinds!  We ordered them custom cut from and were very pleased with their service, prices and shipping.  All nine windows in the morning/family room are the same color, Cherry.  Select Blinds cuts them to width and length - the windows are a standard size, but having them cut to the correct length saves a lot of time.  When you buy blinds off the shelf, you have to take the bottom apart and pull the extra slats off - an endeavor that requires a large lot of patience, and in my experience, a stiff drink (or two).  These blinds were comparably priced to ones you can buy off the shelf at big box retailers.

The next big project will be figuring out a color for the family room/kitchen that coordinates with Bamboo Shoot and Blonde, doesn't clash with the new couch, and looks good with the floor, cabinets and countertops.  No problem, right?