Posted by: BigWin | May 28, 2012

The summer has begun

1st Sleepover in Basement

The first sleepover for the girls is planned for this Saturday night. The basement is now in a state that the kids can use it and stay down there practically the whole night. Woot!

The projector showed up last week and I spent some time this weekend finishing the crown along with other small trim pieces. Julie did touch-ups with the paint and we are good to go. The search for furniture has gone a little slow since we still can’t decide exactly what we want. Frustrating…

I am ordering the electronics bit by bit because the overall cost of everything gave Julie some sticker shock. The second Apple TV is on its way and the receiver will be ordered shortly. This will allow for access to the vast media library stored on the NAS and allow us to set up the Wii down there.

I ordered the cabinet doors this weekend. Depot doesn’t do business with the company I used before when I needed custom doors, so I went online. Rawdoors.net came through for me. $200 for 4 shaker style solid oak doors. I am happy with it. The picture below shows a closeup of the cabinet in the front. Notice the three holes in the back of the middle shelf to allow for cords along with the supports for the middle shelf and top counter. Nothing really fancy here, just needed to make it as solid as possible so there is no risk of it failing. I have stood on the counter without it moving at all. Very happy with how it turned out.

The projector rocks… as I had hoped it would. 105″ of excitement. I don’t have a screen yet so I am just putting it up on a white wall we painted in the front of the room. It does look MUCH better with low light, but the contrast on the projector and overall size is overwhelming.

Yes, that is the Muppets Movie. Am I a muppet, or a man???

Posted by: BigWin | May 20, 2012

Cabinets and Trim

Cabinets and Trim

Last weekend we got all the plywood (5 sheets total, Honda mini-van FTW!) and supplies for doing the cabinets. After putting in the carpet, we got inspired to try and tackle this part of it rather quickly. It’s not done yet, but we made huge progress in the past week. I ripped all the material and planned it all out last weekend. Julie spent the week staining and finishing all the material (she did an awesome job!) so that I could do the install this weekend.

The most amazing thing is that there is really only one part that I screwed up and need to go back to correct. At the last-minute, I decided to drop the height of the bookcases at the ends about 6.25″ so that I could wrap the crown around the top of the bookcase instead of ending the crown and then starting it again. Here is a better shot of what I am talking about:

I did this by boxing in the area above the top shelf, or ‘header’. The problem is that I screwed up the small piece I inserted to create the header on the other end which is why if you look at the picture at the top of this post, you’ll notice that corner doesn’t have crown yet. Overall, a very minor issue. Not like cutting a piece too short or splitting a piece.

I have three shelves that will sit in the bookcases, but I needed to special order the adjustable shelve brackets so that will need to wait until the shipment arrives. I looked everywhere for Knape and Vogt shelve supports but couldn’t find them at any of the big box stores. Really frustrating… so I ordered them online at The Hardware Hut. I really like these types of supports because the actual support locks in place and can support a ton of weight.

The kids are pumped and Julie seems excited to be able to unload some of the storage stuff onto the shelves to free up space in the laundry room. I still have to do a lot of finishing trim, get 2 sets of doors for the middle set of cabinets to hide all the electronics, and caulk the crown moulding in preparation for paint, but overall it was a very successful weekend and the end of the basement project is in sight. Woot!

First set of electronics show up tomorrow and we are now on the hunt for some furniture!

Posted by: BigWin | May 6, 2012

Carpet, at last!

One step closer

After weeks of trying to figure out what to do with the basement floor, we finally made a call and finished it off yesterday. Our original plan was to have carpet installed by Home Depot, but after we found some ‘environmental’ concerns during the install/inspection process, we needed to consider alternatives.

Out of all the options, we ended up going with 2′ carpet squares made by Simply Seamless. It has a decent carpet pad on it and the quality of the actual carpet is a step up from what we were going to get installed by HD. The installation went pretty quick and between Friday night and a few hours Saturday morning, we got it all wrapped up. The room now has a definite ‘finished’ feeling to it. I have some minor moulding work to finish up and then there is the big cabinet system on the back wall, but it feels good to have the basement now in a state that is ready for daily use.

You can see the vinyl tiles we had to put down because the previous home owner had removed a bunch of the 9″x9″ tiles and just left the concrete. There was a lip between the tiles and the concrete that could be felt through the carpet when we put down a test piece.

Posted by: BigWin | March 18, 2012

Bet you thought I gave up

Finally got back to it

After taking a break from basement work for 2 weeks (1 week was due to a work trip), I got back to it yesterday. Most of the remaining work is finish carpentry and touch-ups. Unfortunately, this is one area that takes longer than the others. With framing, electrical, drywall, etc. you are building the foundation that you can cover up or deal with mistakes without significant effort. When it comes to the trim and detail work, I go pretty slow because this is the first area people usually notice. How tight are the miters in the casing, how does the crown look, etc.

So here is what I got done yesterday:

  • All baseboard is done. Ready for carpet (most likely after we get back from spring break).
  • All crown that can go up without doing the front cabinets is completed.
  • Window is framed and it’s only missing one small piece of casing which I stained last night. This should be done this week.
  • Hand railing was put up so the stairs are complete.
  • Casing for all doors is now done.
  • New light at the top of the stairs was purchased and installed yesterday.
  • Work on some of the final moulding surrounding the outside of the staircase was started but not finished.
  • Julie finally stopped complaining about me not doing anything in the basement for a day (major accomplishment!)

I have the projector picked out and have looked at the electronics side of things for the past couple of days. I’m thinking that the initial setup will have the projector, receiver with 5.1, Xbox, and an apple tv (jailbroken to run xbmc). This will provide me the ability to play all the digital content I already have, plus use the Xbox as a Blu-ray player in addition to a gaming platform. For me, this is the payoff of all the work in the basement. Just need to find some guys to come over and break in the new system with me in April…

Posted by: BigWin | February 8, 2012

Bye Bye Comcast, f-you very much

Feb 8th, 2012

Remember this day. It is the day that the Dobson’s quit cable. We cut the cord! We broke the shackles! We tasted freedom from ‘THE CABLE COMPANY’ for the first time since before I got my first apartment in college.

We’ll probably be signing back up in a few months or when the girls and Julie get tired of not having it, but it’s fun and exciting for the moment and I loved being able to tell the Comcast lady (who was pretty rude) that I didn’t want or need her service and was cancelling. Felt SOOOOO good.

So here is the breakdown of where we started and what we ended up with.

Start:

  • (Comcast/Xfinity) Preferred digital cable package + DVR + HD channels + 12 Mb/s internet + Unlimited local phone = $180 / month
  • (AT&T) 2 cell phones with family call plan + data plans + unlimited text = $150 / month
  • Total: $330 / month

Where we will be by the end of the week:

  • (AT&T) 3 cell phones with family call plan + 2 data plans + unlimited text + 12 Mb/s = $178 / month
  • Total: $178 / month + $400 initial investment (3 month payback, $1824 savings per year)

Cable

We ditched this totally. For content, we are going with a combination of HD OTA using the antenna I posted about last year, Amazon prime streaming, the library, and some other content that I am not at liberty to state how I get… We may have to sign up for Netflix or Hulu Plus if content becomes an issue.

For distribution to the end devices (TVs, PCs, iPad, iPhones), I made a few purchases today to make this transition easier.

  • A NAS with a 2 GB HD for now so I don’t have to worry about the computer being on to stream all the video (Synology DS212j).
  • An HD Homerun dual tuner streaming TV box made by SiliconDust. I connect the OTA antenna to this baby and it will stream the HD video to any device on my network, including my desktop PC which I will configure as a DVR and have it record shows to the NAS above which is then accessible from XBMC running on my Apple TV. Got it???? I know, it sounds complicated… but this will give us a very similar experience when watching TV to what we had when we had cable. At least for the major networks.

Phone

I setup a third cell line on our family plan with AT&T for $9.99/month and got a non-smartphone for free with the new line of service. This new phone will have our existing home number transferred to it. I picked up the phone today and it should be switched over in a couple of days.

The one complaint Julie had with this plan was that she would miss the ‘feeling’ of having a home phone and have to run about the house looking for the cell phone when someone called. To eliminate this, I found a set of cordless home phones that have a feature called link-to-cell. You sync your cell via bluetooth with the base unit and then any calls you receive or make are through your cell phone. VERY COOL. Panasonic KX-TG7645M

Internet

The one service that is essential to us now… over the cable or home phone. So here, getting the fastest connection for the cheapest cost is what I was after. Comcast wouldn’t make me any deals and wanted $45/month for 12Mp/s. AT&T offered me a new customer deal of $24/month at the same speed for a year. Done. I figure this is probably the one service I will be switching back and forth between Comcast and AT&T if I need to in order to get the best rate. It’s pretty painless to switch and I don’t use my ISP for anything other than a pipe (no email or any other service).

Wow, big changes for the family…. I’ll keep you posted. Maybe this will force us to spend more time playing games as a family or watching only the things we really really want to see. Either way, it can’t be that bad and it’s a fun experiment. I can’t believe we don’t have cable. So pumped!! (the only major issue is what happens when football starts up again… hmmmm)

And no… there is no basement update. Still working on moulding. Grrr.

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