Posts Tagged ‘home improvement

05
Feb
17

Setting up a rental in upstate NY

Thats my corner. All those windows above the 3 garages are my new space.

Thats my corner. All those windows above the 3 garages are part of my new space.

We will be in NY for a while… few years I think. Immediately, we need a place to stay. Being new to the area, and not really committed to being here for long, we look to rent and not to buy.

Moving in today. Nothing to put my stuff on.

Moving in today. Nowhere to put my stuff on.

Ok, so I visited 6 managed communities and chose a rather high end 1 bedroom apartment with the usual facilities. Yes, I want to be comfy and not to worry about maintenance or digging Fordie out of the snow or clearing the driveway. I want to just furnish it, move in and go to work, in that sequence preferably….

IKEA delivery was here.

IKEA delivery was here.

But it was not to be…. we moved in, ordered the furniture, go to work and complete the furnishing over 3 weeks. At least the mattress and bedding came within 1 day, the 1st night that we moved in. As for whatever we need in the kitchen, Walmart is only 10 miles away.

Altho cheap desk and shelves are available at Walmart, we hated how it look and feel so much that we rather eat on our laps and sitting on those crates.

Contemporary and comfy to me.

Contemporary and comfy to me.

I did check out the local furnishing stores, and find that did not suit me. Did I want to drive 3hrs to IKEA in NY? And rent a Uhaul trailer to bring back those IKEA boxes? Nah. IKEA has been really good to me for over 20 years. I have always been able to furnish my space with everything IKEA, it got so comfortable to me that I could just order online and know exactly what I will get and everything is exactly as describe. I never realize how much I have come to trust and rely on a business! :O

A doorway to close off the stairway in the plans.

A doorway to close off the stairway in the plans.

I could have saved $300 by renting a trailer and driving to NY, and gotten my furniture sooner. But nah, I paid the flat fee $380 for delivery which includes the guys bringing up every box to the 2nd level. Phew! I am glad we didnt have to do that ourselves. Assembly was back breaking enuf. By the time we finished, we were already living in the apartment for 3 weeks.

Doorway in the works.

Doorway in the works.

Our shipment from PT arrive just after 2 weeks and that was a good thing, cos we needed some tools. After a full month here, we are all comfy and now shift into a home improvement mode. Things like adding roller shades, adding shelves and even constructing a doorway to keep the heat in our living space.

Doorway DONE

Doorway DONE

And by golly, am I not smart! I designed the doorway without a single screw into the walls. See, I am not sure if we are staying here for more than the 1 year lease arrangement, so I want to have the least patching possible.

Pretty good eh?

30
Oct
16

Working on the driveway

Getting the blocks via my own means.

Getting the blocks via my own means. Driveway 2 low spot only needs to rise 8″. Extra blocks stored on top of the row for now.

Better get in that gravel driveway before the next rainy winter season, otherwise I be sliding all over again after the 1st day of rain, just like I did all of last winter.

Low spot on driveway 1

Low spot on driveway 1, lower end on left will be raised 2 blocks and only 1 block on right.

Here’s the plan, roughly, fill the low spot on driveway 1 to about 2 blocks high, that’s 16″. And driveway 2 only needs 1 block high, so that’s only 8″ and a smaller area.

Gravel delivered by the pros.

Gravel delivered by the so called pros.

Well, I could’ve $2000 on having it done by the contractor for just 1 driveway, instead I set a budget of $1000 for 2 driveways and a parking lot. Sure it meant a lot of menial do it yourself… and of course it meant lots of trips to get the materials that I can haul on the trailer… and sure it will exceed my budget, but it wont be more than $2000 and I would have gotten a lot more done with that money.

Cute little kitty keeping me company while I work

Cute little kitty keeping me company while I work

Ok, so what I did buy is 2 pallets of cinder blocks. That is 150 blocks at $1.30 each. When you buy by the pallet, you get a bulk discount at Home Depot :).

3" minus basalt

3″ minus basalt at car park. Notice how its a mix of big rocks to fine gravelly sand.

I could only tow half the pallet or 40 blocks at a time, so I had to make 4 trips to get them all. Still the savings was well worth the gas, maybe not the time. Getting the blocks from the place across the street will cost $2.20 each. Plus I get other stuff too. Like 6 bags of concrete mix, and planks for the camper that I am still building, and I get to stop at Walmart next door to get cheap food and stuff. … well, I make a trip every week anyway just for fun and Home Depot doesn’t limit how soon I must get them all 🙂 I like the Poulsbro HD best. Most friendly and accommodating people 🙂 , and they help me load block by block :).

Driveway 1 open to vehicles, and we used it immediately.

Driveway 1 open to vehicles, and we used it immediately.

Then its up to me to unload and arrange them. I am making a gravel retaining wall for over the low spot at the entrance…. I thought that it would be really expensive to use gravel to fill up a whole 20′ by 40′ by 16″, hence using the blocks to define 12.5′ by 40′. The driveway itself would be 120′, but its only the low spot that would gobble up the bulk of the gravel if I don’t try to contain it.

Driveway 1 leading towards RV tenant area.

Driveway 1 leading towards RV tenant area just after 2nd dump. Will look even better after I spread it out.

Anyway, I took my own sweet time… like 2 months to set the cinder blocks… it was a lot of work building up a leveled base of sand, and btw I was building a camper shell and digging up 2 stumps at the same time. I started months ahead of the rainy season, so I had plenty of time to do other things as well 🙂

Looking in at driveway 1. Its done!

Looking in at driveway 1. Its done!

When it was time, I ordered 20 yards of 3″ minus basalt, 10 yards 2″ – 4″ basalt clean and 10 yards 3/4″ minus. Nope, I couldn’t haul rocks, Fordie could probably pull 1.5 yards at most. So I got a dump truck company to do it, but they send out a lousy driver for my job…. His dump was so horrible that it completely closed driveway. Even the driver knew how bad he did, offered to charge 12.5% less… which was $68 savings, but was 8hrs of extra back breaking work for me. Doug help for the critical 1st 4hrs to get the driveway open, after that it was me on my own again.

Driveway 2 is done too!

Driveway 2 is done too!

After 1 week of straightening out the 1st 40 yards, I order the next 20 yards of 1 1/4″ granite from a different company with their own dump truck driver. So I used the larger and cheaper basalt (costlier transport) as the base, and granite for the topping layer.

And I must say I am so happy with the dump by the 2nd company. It was almost perfect. Just 3 hrs of light shoveling and raking, driveway 1 topping layer was spread nicely. Another 3hrs on driveway 2, and my own sweet time on the car park at the cabin.

So a total of 60 yards is what I got, and it leveled both driveways beautifully, made a small berm on each one, levelled a car park/turnaround at the cabin, for a total cost of $1400 (60 yards gravel + transport) and $300 (2 pallets cinder blocks + 6 bags 60lbs concrete mix). Seems like I am still ahead monetary wise, but what a lot of work that was! Apparently, if it was all done by my usual contractor, it would have been $4000 altogether, but it would have been done in 2 days max.

 

01
Sep
16

Visitor from way back

A nice photo of us in Fordie

A nice photo of us in Fordie

I am so excited to have my 1st visitor from the orient on my property 🙂 In a way, I am wanting to hear feedback on the 2 lives that I lead, that are so contrasting … one as a city dweller and the other being so out in the sticks.

Pretty good selfie I think.

Pretty good selfie I think.

So I am overly eager to please my dear friend Limei, who has made that long journey from Singapore, who has to overcome transport difficulties to get from Seattle to Port Townsend, to visit me.

Tada.... the cabin shall be your abode for a night.

Tada…. the cabin shall be your abode for a night.

Day 1, drive 30 miles to pick up Limei from the Kingston ferry terminal at about noon. She managed to persuade her friend and host in Seattle, Karen to drop her off at Edmonds where she gets on the ferry as a foot passenger for $8.20, so it was not too much of a commute for her after all. 🙂

Alder wood BBQ.

Alder wood BBQ.

Limei_pix(5)

Comfy new plastic Adirondacks

It was a Saturday in early summer, so it was busy touristy in the town of Port Townsend. Parking was quite difficult to get, but we did get one that was near to the NW Maritime Center. Did a 2 hr tour of ye olde Victorian town of Port Townsend. Yep, everything seem more pricey in quaint little towns, so we just enjoyed the browsing 🙂

Then was time to introduce the Cedar girl to the Cedar tree… and rustic living on my little land, where we still hand split our firewood and heat up our space with the slight fragrance of burning Alder.

Where it is so easy to cook outdoors with a fully loaded Alder wood BBQ for that added smoky flavor. Yes, YUMMY! I am happy that she agrees.

The new funvinyldecals workshop

The new funvinyldecals workshop

And it was a nice evening out, hasnt been raining so the ground is dry and nice. Sun set at 9pm these days, but it does still get chilly as it gets darker. We sat out eating our BBQ on my new green plastic Adirondeck chairs:) Bought just for this occasion 🙂

When it got too chilly, we went into the cosy Alder heated cabin, and chatted till we fell asleep. Good old days.

New friends in Seattle

New friends in Seattle

Day 2, visit to the new funvinyldecals workshop. Ok, so we converted the 20ft container that I bought for shipping Eleanor in 2014 into a office for Doug and sticker cutting shop for me. Of course I had to run the laptop and demo the cutting machine. In the end, she was loaded up with stickers as souvenirs for her visit.

Then it was time to send her back to her friends in Seattle. We drove on the scenic route down to Olympia and up to Shoreline. Who would have thought the traffic would be really bad on a Sunday afternoon? Oh well, it was good company so time passes quickly. Anyway, I hung out with the interesting new people and didnt get back till the next day 🙂 . Indulgent live of a retiree 🙂 Thank God for no schedules.

 

 

29
Jun
16

Getting power and water on my lot.

Right across my south prop line is the transformer

Right across my south prop line is the transformer

Now that the power situation in my SG flat is taken care of, I am back to work on my US prop. Time for the crew to come in for power and water installation.

View of the conduits going in at my South prop line.

View of the conduits going in at my South prop line.

There is a sequence here that we must follow. 1st, I pay the water connection fee $1755 to the city water department and the power connection fee $520 to the power utility department. Then I had to dispute where they had wanted to install the water meters (I paid for a dual tap) and which box they were going to tap power from. If I left it to them, I would have to pay a lot more $$$ for trenching these onto my south property line. So I learn to be very careful when dealing with them.

My favorite little tool... only if I can afford one myself.

My favorite little tool… only if I can afford one myself.

It was a few weeks before the water department came out to install the 2 water meters on my south property line, as I dictated it.

My work wagon with little spare conduits

My work wagon with little spare conduits

Then my contractors come in to install the power conduit to the transformer box and hook up from the water outlet to my pedestal. Of course they had to dig up the driveway to do that, so it was no driving out for a day.

Setting up the base, soon to pour concrete.

Setting up the base, soon to pour concrete.

The guys with that little excavator are back. With their help, Doug set the power pedestal upright. By the time they were done, we have water at the pedestal. Hurray!

This was such a simple job, they were done in 6 hours, but still it cost me $2100…

Me churning the concrete with a rake.

Me churning the concrete with a rake.

Then its our turn to complete the electrical work. Well, most people would have hired a electrician, I suppose. But hey, I was an engineer, I suppose I could do this as a property owner and save me some $$$. Plus Doug is there to assist 🙂 …. in theory only, as he broke his back on the day we were going to pour concrete.

Me working on those stiff 10 AWG wires!

Me working on those stiff 10 AWG wires!

Ok, so I learned how to glue those conduits together, set them up before pouring the concrete in. Lucky me, hole for the concrete base was already dug before his back went out…. 1 less thing to do for me.

PUD at work. Cool little wire spool trailer.

PUD at work. Cool little wire spool trailer.

But its up to me to lift those 60lbs bags into the wheel barrow, and mixing it up with water to the right consistancy. Then shoveling it into the form that he built on the day before. 1 bag at a time, 4 bags of 60lbs premix was what it took. Now to wait for it to set… I am pooped. My turn for a bad back…
Next day… look! its me working on the circuit breaker connections. Think I got it all right? Even Doug is impressed that I did the wiring so nicely.

Thats it, meter is in!

Thats it, meter is in!

When thats done, went online to apply for an L&I inspection for a new service, $97. PUD would not come until inspection is done. We were pleasantly surprised that the inspector came within 12 hours of the application. Well, he must be happy with what I have done, cos I got the yellow passed sticker 🙂

Back of the pedestal, 3 30 Amps and 1 50 Amp.

Back of the pedestal, 3 30 Amps and 1 50 Amp.

Was surprise that the PUD guys showed up next day to tie us in. In just 2 hours, they installed the underground wire thru the conduit and to the meter. We are powered up!

Thats it folks. Was it that difficult after all?

24
Jun
16

SG power drama…

As soon as I seeded the grass in the 2 drain fields, I had to fly back to SG to take care of my flat. Had a major electrical breakdown, half the house had no power. With only a few circuit breakers working in the very old sub panel, it was not comfortable to the tenants.

Pre dusk selfie :) like all tourist do these days.

Pre dusk selfie 🙂 like all tourist do these days.

Changing the original HDB sub panel had been on my to do list from day 1, but I just never got around to doing it. During the reno works, I added 5 12V LED supply around the house. That draws nothing in relativity to real home appliances, especially since I removed all the original lighting and overhead fans…. but then I added induction cooker and microwave in the kitchen and pantry… I knew it was iffy… sigh…

The gardens and the city in the back. Fake tree park.

The gardens and the city in the back. Fake tree park.

Finally it was time to do it right, and that I did. A whole new sub panel with 50% more breakers and currently capable of up to 100Amp, with room to expand if I need to in future. The old panel was a 60Amp, and HDB used to supply only 60Amp. It was recently upgraded, was it 100Amp or 120Amp? Not sure…

In addition to the new sub panel, I bought a 100M spool of 3 core 2.5mm wire. Top of the line for residential uses. Replace some of that 1.5mm wires that was recommended to me by the electrical shop when I said I wanted the 2.5mm wire. This is just some of the things I would rather overkill than re work when it becomes a problem.

Dusk at last. Lights and music show.

Dusk at last. Lights and music show.

Having done that, my mind is at ease… and now to enjoy the rest of my stay in SG. How about visiting the new botanical gardens at dusk? I am there just for the lights… but my little point and shoot camera let me down… Too old and lazy to lug the DSLR around these days. So thats what I get.

So what do I think about the fake tree park? Well, I like it that it is free entrance (domes are chargeable, grounds are free) and well landscaped. Its touristy for sure, but hey, we all need something to do right.

25
Apr
16

4 guys, 3 days

Stump gobbling machine!

Stump gobbling machine!

That was what it took to istall 2 septic systems on my property. Impressive huh. Well, I was billed $15,800 in total for that work. Ouch! But it seems really reasonable too, just that paying out money always hurts… and it has only begun.

Paid $1750 for the water connection fee and $520 for the electrical connection fee, and next to pay for the installation of these services… estimates are $2100 + $900 for the panels and plugs.

The chain gang

The chain gang

I gotta know by now that every step of the way from now till a house is built, will cost money. I gotta save up for the next big expenditure…. the permit process.

Septic installation.

Septic installation.

It was interesting to watch them work those 2 machines. The stump gobbling machine was like watching pac-man gobble the cookie. 10 stumps are pulled every hour! The little machine was for digging the trenches. Its so cute, maybe I could operate 1 too…

Thats a big cement tank!

Thats a big cement tank!

Then in goes the gravel, then the pipes, then backfill, then the tank.

2 weeks after sowing the seeds...

2 weeks after sowing the seeds…

For now, let me rejoice that the drainfields are in and the little cabin will soon be officially plumbed. Did I mention that the weather was just perfect for the installation? It was raining everyday for weeks before the installation, but it cleared up for a whole week during the installation. I think that helped keep the cost down. And soon after, it started raining again! Yay for the grass seeds that I sowed on the new drainfields.

Its growing well in some areas....

Its growing well in some areas….

This is how it looked 2 weeks later… patchy… Patiently waiting for it to spread out and then we can have a lawn party!

The exciting evacuation.

The exciting evacuation.

In the meantime, I am selling tickets to the ring side seats for watching evacuating ants, spiders and critters from the burning pit of rotten brush 🙂 … we gathered lots junky rotting wood from so many places on the property and needed to get rid of them… could send them to yard waste, but why spend that money and exert that energy to haul it away when it could be some entertainment and marshmallow toasting time, with beer to go along with that!

12
Mar
16

The long year

The convenient way to building... clear everything 1st.

The convenient way to building… clear everything 1st.

This year is really 1 day longer than usual 🙂 … and I could use that additional day. I been busy at work at Safeway gas station in PT over the winter, am happy to have that income, medical insurance and discounts on groceries. Plus I learn all the ins and outs of earning points, getting fuel discounts, as well as meeting the locals and them meeting me. Its a cultural exchange something that a new person in town ought to do to integrate into the new society.

Then I took 4 weeks off, and spent 3 days travelling to/fro Singapore and 3 weeks at home taking care of my rentals… Spent the 1st night in SG at my sister’s place in Punggol. My view out of the window the next morning is lots of orange dirt… New construction… sigh… soon too, I will be wishing I have all that equipment on my property in the US. But clearing everything aint right in my books.

My new bunk...

My old couch…. my new bunk

3 weeks went by quickly, as I have lots of people to catch up with and lots of work to do moving myself out of the potentially lucrative room that I occupy for 2 months in a year, into a lesser room that would still be comfy for those short durations. Got myself a new tenant, I am all set to enjoy the little bit more pocket money.

Proudly posing with my biggest tree section.

Proudly posing with my biggest tree section.

Back to the US, back to the laborous chores… look at the big chunk that Doug just saw up. Thats the base of the biggest tree he cut down. We are preparing for the drainfields to be installed, hence more trees are downed and more logs are stacked up … higher.

This was also one of the rainiest winter in 2 decades in PT. My dirt driveway is all slickery…. I made Fordie go into ditches and spin mud trying to pull the trailer and logs … got her all mud up. .. sigh… where is the rain when your car is dirty?

Well, gotto rest and then back to the back breaking work at dawn.




Sailing 2015: Port Townsend(WA, US) -> Costes Island (BC, Canada)

Sailing 2013: Singapore -> Okinawa -> Kobe

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