In this blog I will do my best to describe the process I went through in turning my 1957 Ranch-style house into a 2006 Craftsman house as inspired by the Gamble House in Pasadena. Please feel free to comment on anything I write and ask questions as it is the only way we learn.

Note: Since completion of the house I have also decided to allow guest bloggers to post articles related to remodeling. This continues the education process.


TIMELINE
Architect Selection - December 2002 through January 2003
Getting a Permit - January 2003 through November 2004
Construction - November 2004 through September 2006
Post Construction - October 2006 through ???



Water Flow Issues

Now that the house is about 7 years old, things are starting to break.
Both latches on the exterior doors need repairs, the nice wood deck built around the palm tree needs to be replaced due the trees expanding girth, all circuit boards have been replaced in every appliance right after the 5-year warranty expired, etc.

One of the most recent, and confusing, issues has to do with my water flow. If you remember in earlier blog posts, I wrote how the plumbing was designed so that I could turn on multiple showers, dishwasher, washing machine, etc., all at the same time and not notice any drop in water pressure. Well something has happened somewhere where only one shower can be on and the pressure is noticeably reduced. I have no idea if it is actually lower water pressure from the city due to the drought conditions in California or if my tankless water heater is clogged up. Does anyone have any ideas on how to go about checking this out? Please comment below if you do.

In hindsight, when the plumbing was put in, I should have installed a flow meter to help monitor water consumption. It would be a real easy test to check the flow if I had one installed right now.
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Security-Minded Planning for an Extended Leave

remote-home-control
You're getting ready to leave for your dream vacation, and you have the entire month off. Some people will close their house up and just go. Others will hire a house sitter for the month, which gets expensive. New security technology and common sense safety tips combine to let you relax on your vacation without worrying about your belongings.

Alarm System


A home security system will sound an alarm and notify the monitoring company should someone break into your home. Just the presence of an alarm system will deter most burglars. For those that need the actual alarm in order to be thwarted, there are some things you can do to prevent the break-in from ever happening.
Home automation allows you to check in on your home and control certain functions in the house while you're away, explains http://www.securitycompanies.com/. The more you make the house look lived in, the less likely an intruder will bother. The vast majority of home burglaries are done only when the thief is absolutely sure no one is home.

Natural Deterrents


Lighting is a very important deterrent. Using programmable settings in a home automation system allows you to turn lights on and off throughout the day through your smartphone, just as if you were at home. There are also timers you can connect to the outlets/lamps if you don't have access to a phone.

Set up a schedule when the TV or radio comes on to make the house look lived in. Create the schedule as if you were home. Anyone watching your home will see and hear the evidence there are people inside of the house.

Ask for Help


Ask for assistance from a friend or neighbor. Have them drive by your home every other day. They can spot something out of place; perhaps a person watching your home for a long period of time.

Once a week, have them enter the house and walk around. Simple things, such as a leaky faucet or a broken window from a windstorm, can mean coming home to a mess.

Have them pick up any newspapers, flyers or other material left on your property. Letting them sit out is a sign no one is around to collect them and take them inside.

Watch Your Communication


There are dangers of posting too much information on social media pages. You are never quite sure who is reading your posts. Putting your trip itinerary online is announcing no one will be home for an extended period of time. Be prudent with your trip information, and who you give it to.

Create a Secure Home You can Leave


With some simple planning and the use of affordable technology, you can create a home environment you will feel safe leaving. You'll have more fun while on vacation not worrying about what you may come home to.

What tips do you have for extended vacation planning? Share them in the comments.
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Throw a Hottub on That New Deck!

Choosing to install a hot tub is a big decision, and there's a lot to consider before making the investment. Before buying a hot tub consider both the pros and cons of ownership.

The Pros



  • Provides Relaxation

  • Invites Fun Social Opportunities

  • Provides Therapeutic Benefits for Arthritis or Sports Injuries:


An article in Arizonacentral.com reveals that soaking in a hot tub can greatly relieve pain associated with arthritis or sports injuries. If you do have a sports injury, however, hopping in the tub too soon may increase inflammation. Once the swelling has started to go down and the pain is not as bad, the warm water encourages circulation and reduce muscle spasms and may allow arthritis sufferers to do exercises more easily.

The Cons


Looking at the cons is less fun, but these need to be weighed as well.

  • Cost: Installing a hot tub is an investment. The Better Business Bureau reveals the tubs can be $4000 -$6000 to install for the actual hot tub. Monthly energy costs may also rise. Maintenance supplies are another expense.That's why you need to make your tub as cost effective and energy efficient as possible. Finding hot tub parts suppliers like HotTubworks.com can help keep money from becoming too big of a problem.

  • Responsibility of Ownership: Owning a hot tub means watching out for others. Hot tub owners need to be firm about tub rules, including limiting the time and exposure of guests.

  • Medical Issues:


WebMD reveals a number of infections can occur as well as respiratory problems, so safety precautions are important. According to Medical News Today, male infertility can also be an issue.​ HealthlinkBC.com offers suggestions on what types of infections to watch for and how to avoid them, as well as important safety measures to remember. Keeping the tub clean and disinfected with either chlorine or bromine will reduce the risk of infections, such as legionella and pseudomonas which can bring serious skin rashes, eye infections or even pneumonia. Water temperatures should not exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and should be even cooler at 102 degrees if pregnant women are using the tub.

Where to Put Your Hot Tub


Hot tubs can be installed both indoors or outdoors. Installing a hot tub inside is more expensive, requires more costly renovations, and will require you to make adjustments to handle the additional moisture in your home to avoid problems such as mold. For the majority of people, buying a good robe and putting the hot tub out on the deck or patio is the more realistic choice.

Among the most important considerations is the actual weight of the tub and its impact on whatever floor it stands on. Add the weight of the tub itself, the weight of the water, and about 8 pounds per gallon to the the weight of the people in the tub. This is another reason to take things outside; to avoid that extra pressure on your livable space.

Choose What Environment You Want Create


While the first hot tubs were big wooden barrels, it's likely that you will want something a bit more stylish. Tubs can be built on the same level as your deck floor so you can walk, rather than climb, into them. Some people place a gazebo around their tub, or a romantic canopy that brings privacy, even outdoors. Asian themes that create a "Zen" feel are also popular. With a little brainstorming and imagination, you'll come up with the perfect tub style to fit into your life. Houzz.com has many inspiring examples of dazzling hot tubs you can look at to help you find your own style.
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Outdoor DIY: Lay Sod for a Greener Summer

sod rolls
There is something remarkably satisfying looking upon a field of lush, green grass and calling it your own. It is truly one of the joys of summer.

Maintaining a healthy lawn is no easy task, however, and attempting to grow one from seed can be difficult and time-consuming. Moreover, the results may be lackluster, especially if the lawn ends up being overrun by weeds or infested with pests.

Sod to the Rescue


Sod is more expensive than seed, but the results justify the price. Sod is not only convenient, it produces a thick, green lawn instantaneously. It is also naturally resistant to pest infestations, diseases and weeds, according to This Old House.

Follow a few simple steps, and you'll have a beautiful lawn for years to come.

Prepare Your Yard


If you are going to be replacing a lawn, you need to remove the existing grass before putting down the sod. This can be done quickly with a sod cutter, which you can rent for about $70 a day.

After you've removed your old lawn, level the soil, aerate it and give it a good dose of compost to provide nutrients.

Location, Location


The best time to put down sod depends on where you are live. If you're going to be converting a harsh, desert landscape in Arizona into a soft green one, then you can do it whenever your heart desires. If you plan on replacing a patchy lawn in the north, you can do it at any time between the spring and fall.

The best type of grass for your new lawn depends on your climate. It also depends upon your soil pH and how much sunlight your yard receives during the day. The salesperson from whom you purchased your sod will be able to tell you the best type for your lawn.

Laying it Down


Beyond the sod and some moist soil, all you need for this step is a sod-cutting knife and a few good friends to help out. If you are sodding a large area, renting a forklift is a good idea, as rolls of sod become heavy quickly. Make sure to be careful with the forklift, however; the driver should always wear a safety belt while it's in operation, and it's vital you know the lift's carrying capacity. Overloading can cause it to tip over.

While installing the sod, make sure to pack the strips together tightly in a staggered pattern. Once all of the sod has been laid, the DIY Network recommends a light watering and a once-over with a weighted roller. This will bring the sod into contact with the soil.

Sod Care


The sod should be allowed to settle without excessive foot traffic for at least a week. Water your new grass at least once a day, preferably before it gets too hot. Do not water the sod at night, as the excess moisture may encourage fungal diseases.

Once the sod has grown to 3 inches, you'll want to cut it back some. Within a few weeks, you can then begin treating the sod as you would any normal lawn, which means watering about an inch per week and cutting the grass by no more than one-third of its height.

The best part? Take to it in your bare feet. Ahh... now that's summer.
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Minimize the Chances of Home Flooding

Rain does a great job of going on its downward trajectory to get on the ground and become a part of the groundwater supply. Unfortunately, water can get impeded in its quest by manmade structures; roofs, parking lots, and streets all block water from getting soaked into the ground.

The takeaway from this is that rainwater blocked by a house roof runs off the roof. The water that had been spread over a larger area gets consolidated into the perimeter of your house. Without preventative measures, a great deal of water will be landing on and around your foundation. When this large quantity of runoff starts permeating your foundation, you run the risk of a flooded basement.

As a homeowner, there are some proactive steps you should take to limit your risks.

Gutters
The common solution for diverting water away from your house foundation is by those funky metal troughs we call gutters. Gutters are pretty standard on houses, but it is really easy to render them irrelevant.

A gutter should be depositing water a good distance away from your foundation. You're more likely to encounter a flooded basement if your spout is depositing the water right by your house. Extend the spout further away from your home.

You can have as many gutters as you want, but if they're full of leaves and other build-up, the water will slosh over the side rather than flowing down the spout. Regularly cleaning out your gutters is crucial for avoiding excess water on your foundation.

Sump Pumps
Unlike gutters, which are an exterior way to battle flooded basements, a sump pump is your indoor protection. Usually located in a pit, the sump pump gathers collected water and expels it either into the sewer system, or at a different location away from the home.

Before installing a sump pump, find out the regulations for your area. Many municipalities have regulations against pumping into the sewer system as it can create problems with the sewage treatment facility.

A backup sump pump is a good idea in case you encounter problems with your main sump pump or to help out if your main pump isn't keeping up with the incoming water.

Back-up Power
Your sump pump is only as effective as its ability to stay on. While some sump pumps have a battery in case of power failure, you'll be more secure with a generator providing power. The back-up battery is likely to only have enough power for a couple of hours.

A portable generator, on the other hand, can run for much longer than that and, if the wattage output is high enough, can also keep your major appliances on.

Water damage resulting from flooded basements can create a nightmare scenario. Being proactive before the big storm will increase your chances of avoiding a nasty situation.
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5 Energy Efficient Home Renovations

If you’re looking to remodel your home, you might want to consider an energy-efficient design. A green remodel can make your home more efficient and save you a considerable amount of money in energy costs. Aside from the money-saving benefit, green designs minimize your impact on the environment by creating fewer emissions and using renewable resources.

Before you get started, you may want to consider scheduling an energy audit. It is a great way to see where your home needs energy-efficient improvements. Once you know where you need to make improvements, there are a variety of eco-friendly options to make your home run more efficiently and have a smaller impact on the environment.

Buy energy-efficient appliances
If your renovations include upgrading your appliances, consider purchasing ENERGY STAR appliances, which meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. They will significantly reduce your energy use and could save you up to a third on your energy bill. Finding these efficient appliances is easy since many appliances now come backed by ENERGY STAR.

Insulate
A renovation is a great time to beef up the insulation in your home. Keeping a well-insulated home slows the rate that heat and air conditioning escape, reducing the energy required to keep the house at a comfortable temperature. Many older homes typically have less insulation than newly built homes, however, adding insulation to any home could significantly reduce your energy costs.

Think solar
As you are renovating your home, think of areas where you can use solar energy. Why not buy a hot water heater with a solar panel? It could reduce your energy usage and ultimately reduce your energy bill. Installing solar panels on your roof is another energy-efficient option. By using this alternative energy source you could eliminate or significantly reduce your energy bill.

If installing solar panels is not in the budget, consider switching to a green energy supplier. Green energy is generated from renewable resources, such as solar energy. Some suppliers allow you to purchase up to 100% renewable energy. While it may not save you money, it's certainly good for the environment. For example, if you live in Texas you can visit Energy Providers Texas to see if there is a green energy provider in your area.

Replace windows
A typical home can lose up to 25 percent of its heating or cooling through windows. A great way to increase your home's efficiency is to replace your old windows with double-pane, energy-efficient models. ENERGY STAR windows are said to be twice as efficient as older windows. As an added bonus, some energy-efficient windows are eligible for a federal tax credit.

Buy a programmable thermostat
Whether you are doing a big remodel or some simple fixes, be sure to save room in the budget for a programmable thermostat. Your air conditioner or heater has to work hard to keep your home at a constant temperature. This causes the unit to use more energy and cost you more money. Fortunately there are many types of programmable thermostats that can help you take control of your energy use. A basic model allows you to program your thermostat to turn on or off at certain times, and it is relatively inexpensive. Some more advanced models allow you to control the temperature in your home through a computer or smartphone. So if you are at work and need to stay later than you anticipated, you could reduce the temperature with the click of a few buttons.

If you want to go really high-tech, there are even models that can learn your heating and cooling habits. For example, if you go to work every day from 8 to 5, the system would learn this pattern and cool your home accordingly. When you leave for the day, the thermostat will turn itself off and before you return home, it will return the house to your usual, comfortable temperature.
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Breaking Down Break-Ins

A break-in is every homeowner’s nightmare. Luckily, you can protect your home with just a little knowledge and foresight. Here’s what you need to know to stop even the most conniving criminal.

Turn off your landline ringer – it’s a giveaway that no one is home. Put lights on timers so that they turn on and off throughout the evening. Ask your neighbors to use your trash bins while you’re on vacation. Discontinue newspaper delivery, or have a neighbor pick up the mail.

Yard
Plant trees away from the home because they offer concealment and access to second story windows and balconies. Hide spare keys in a combination-lock key box instead of under doormats, planters and in gutters. Put security signage up around your home, to remind potential burglars that you’re not an easy target.

Windows
Use window locks and re-enforced glass to prevent easy smash and grabs. Use multi-paneled windows because they are harder to break and harder to see through. Drip solder on installation screws to prevent thieves from simply unscrewing whole windows and removing them. This can be as a retrofit or during new construction.

Doors
Use a deadbolt on all exterior doors because they can’t be opened with a credit card like spring latches (a technique called “loiding”). Seal any gaps in your door to prevent a burglar from prying it open. Install door hinges on the inside where a burglar can’t unlatch them. Replace sliding glass doors with French doors or at least update them with re-enforced glass.

Garage
Place a C-clamp on your garage door track to prevent a burglar from manually lifting it. Keep the garage door closed at all times. Frost garage windows to stop burglars from seeing whether a car is inside, allowing them to determine if anyone is home.

Breaking Down Break-Ins
Source: eLocal.com
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Do Your Bedroom Up With Style and Functionality!

If you're looking to makeover your guest bedroom in a quick and easy fashion, here are five basic ways to get the job done so your guests can feel right at home:

Makeover Your Guest Bedroom


When making over your guest bedroom, keep it clean and simple. When guests are ready to settle in, they don't want to stay in a cluttered room that had a bed thrown in as an afterthought. Try to keep it uncluttered and neutral. A great piece of advice to everyone who has a guest room is to sleep in it yourself for just one night to see what changes need to be made. If you notice weird noises, annoying light or an uncomfortable mattress, chances are your guest will too.

Simplicity


Try to keep everything basic yet stylish by using the minimum amount of furniture — one table, one chair and one bed. Keep the décor uncluttered and try placing only two items on top of the dresser and only a lamp on the bedside table. Always keep the dresser empty, so your guests will have someplace to store and easily access their personal items after arriving. Also, don't forget to keep the closet cleaned out so guests can also use it to store their suitcases and hang wrinkle-prone clothes. Add a comfortable and classic-looking couch or set of chairs for a serene spot for your guests to relax.

New Paint for the Guest Room


Paint the walls a neutral color, and this doesn't necessarily mean a cream or tan color. Nowadays, many people think outside the box and have actually started to use black as the base color as well as an accent color to really make a bold statement. However, you shouldn't paint every wall black; Use it on a selected wall if so it won't appear too bold.

New Window Treatments


The idea of keeping it simple can also continue to window treatments. A great look that is a favorite among many is wooden blinds made of bamboo or woven wood, and popular plantation shutters. Many other styles are available, such as blackout shades, light filtering shades, Roman shades and honeycomb cell shades. Great deals with many different designs that match every kind of décor imaginable can be found online with the right research. You don't have to spend a fortune on designer brands to set up a fashionable guest room that is sure to impress.

Extra Items for Comfort


You should always keep certain things on hand for your guests so they stay comfortable. Some of these items should include:


  • Books or magazines

  • Stationary

  • Mirror

  • Alarm clock

  • Clean towels

  • New shampoo, soap and toothpaste

  • Night light

  • Clothes hamper

  • TV

  • Phone or computer charger

  • Bottled water and light snacks


Keeping small items readily available will make your guests feel more at home. Many guests forget the small things such as shampoo or toothpaste, so having them readily available for use would be nice. Besides, you can purchase these items for as cheap as $1 each, or stock up for free next time you are at a hotel.

You will find that simplicity and these small convenience items will actually make a big difference for your guests.
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Unique Ways to Decorate your Living Room

From asymmetrical walls and oddly shaped windows to a sunken floor plan, you need to look at these architectural details not as if they're decorating dilemmas, but as if they're interior highlights that need to be creatively accentuated. Here's an example of three unique living rooms features and what you can do to turn a decorating dilemma into an aesthetic showcase.


Window Placement


The style and shape of the windows in your living room can present dilemmas. Whether they're too big and letting in too much light, or oddly shaped, there are ways to incorporate them into your decor plan. If the sun is simply too much, you can add a glass darkening tint or go for custom treatments. Vendors today can provide made to order drapery, curtains, blinds or plantation shutters in a huge array of colors and materials. With this many options it shouldn't be hard to find a look and feel exactly like you want for your living-room windows.


However, the unusual shape of the window is a bigger aesthetic challenge. Instead of trying to seamlessly fuse the window into the rest of the living room's decor, why not make it the focal point? Look at the window as a painting. It's a free piece of art, however unusual or abstract it might be.


Configuration Style


Popular during the '60s, the sunken living room is experiencing a renaissance. Whether you find it tacky or retro-chic, it's a unique and distinctive look. However, the biggest problem with this type of configuration is that people always forget there is a downward step into the living room, so trips and falls are common. In other words, when you have people over and they are unfamiliar with your house, a cocktail party can turn into a lawsuit.


One way to remedy the problem is to stain or paint the step, bringing attention to the room's sunken configuration. Once the safety measures are in place, concentrate on the living-room decor. When you have a sunken configuration, it's important to have tables, chairs, sofas and consoles of varying height, as this will create space and dimension. A variety of contrasting colors will help add depth to the room.


An Odd Shape


What do you do if you have an oddly shaped living room? For example, asymmetrical walls are common. It's not unusual to have three rectangular walls and one sharp, asymmetrical slant. There are several ways to highlight this feature. You could hang an asymmetrical drapery or a piece of abstract art that mirrors the slant of the wall. Use bold paint colors and patterns to accentuate the walls, or stick with beiges and cremes and use your furniture as the room's focal point.


Finally, buy furniture with upholstery patterns that match the angle of the wall. Once you have a few matching features in the room, an unusual detail will no longer stick out.


From octagon-shaped living rooms to eyebrow-curved windows, not everything on the market is cookie-cutter. At first, these unusual spaces might seem like a dilemma, but the joy of owning a home is figuring out the type of decor that will make these rooms shine.

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10 Astounding, Inexpensive Remodeling Projects that Pay Off

Using value-conscious guidelines, home remodeling can add a major price bonus to any house you want to put on the market, yet not all home remodeling ideas produce an adequate return on the investment. This article considers ten remodeling projects that can bring in high rewards for limited expenditures.

Find a Balance 


When it comes to houses, fix it like you plan to stay in it and pay attention to the market. Unless you happen to own that one faultless house that every U.S. citizen dreams about but never finds, selling your home will require some measure of home improvement. If you want to increase the profit, the remodeling must be balanced and well applied.
Start with a bit of observation. Consider the design points that make your home unique. Focus on the outside as well as the inside. Don’t overlook the importance of indoor air quality and don’t miss the value of creating enticing curb appeal. Also be sure to set an eye for basics such as curtains, blinds and other fundamental items that present the “feel” of a home.
When planning the modifications, think like a homeowner, but keep the mind-set of a real estate agent. Find a balance between what you like and what actually sells. Don’t get lost on a vanity trip.
Bone up on current home improvement concerns, finance plans and basic cost issues. Spend some time browsing the home improvement section of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website. It's not just about getting loans. The information offered by HUD ranges from how to fix a faucet to what you need to know concerning “the facts and the pitfalls of home improvements.”

Focus on Curb Appeal


According to Remodeling Magazine, the following ten projects – all focused on curb appeal – promote the best return on your remodeling dollars. These are simple, value-added improvements – not vanity makeovers:
  • Exterior Siding – Replace old siding with high-end fiber cement. Cost: $15,000 or less. Payback:78%.
  • Entry Door – Replace that cracked and discolored entry door with an inexpensive steel door. The payback: 73% on $1,300 or less.
  • Attic Remodel – Turn the attic into an extra bedroom. Remove a dormer. Install a shower. Revamp the flow of heating and cooling. Add Insulation. Update the lighting. Put in four vinyl windows. Polish out the walls and ceiling. Average cost: $50,148. Payback 72.5%.
  • Minor Kitchen Remodel – Put new hardware on the cabinets. Add some Blinds.com blinds over the sink. Install new faucets, a new sink and laminate countertops. Top it off with a quality selection of new appliances. Cost: $20,000. Payback 72.1 percent.
  • Garage Door, Midrange – As a low cost improvement, a midrange garage door update can really pump up a home’s curb appeal. Cost: $1,500. Payback 71.9%.
  • Garage Door, High-End – It’s all about curb appeal. The payback on a high-end garage door update performs just as well as the midrange counterpart. Cost: $2,994. Return 71.1%.
  • Deck – New wood decks are not as expensive as composite materials, but the return on investment brings a healthy balance at a lesser cost. On average, a wooden deck runs around $10,350. Payback: 70.1%.
  • Vinyl Siding – Foam-backed vinyl siding provides several value-added services. It helps maintain a steady temperature within the home and it lends a fresh look on the curb. Cost $14,274 for an average project of 1,250 square feet. Payback: Around 70%.
  • Midrange Vinyl Siding – More expensive than basic siding and high-end fiber cement, midrange replacement vinyl siding provides stronger, longer-lasting protection for the home. Cost: $11,729. Payback 69.5%.
  • Windows – For holding back the elements, you can’t beat the performance of double-pane vinyl replacement windows. They are easy to clean, double-hung and easy to install. Plan the project around using low-emissivity glass, insulated units and simulated wood-grain casings. Cost for 10 3x5 windows including installation: $14,328. Payback: 69.1.
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