Basement renovation – part 2

The egress window project concluded in the first week of May – over 2 months since the contractor started the job in February. As I explained in the previous post, it’s complicated. The final outcome is remarkable. In addition to the window, the contractor also completed extra framing inside as I requested so we can install drywall and trim around it later. On the outside, I claimed credits for layers of paint and caulking along the concrete and trim, plus the replanting of sod around the window well.

We saved chunks of sod before the contractor dug the well and kept the sod in plastic bins outside. I thought it would be piece of cake to put the sod back in but it’s worse than a jigsaw puzzle because the window well sloped backward towards the house while the lawn needs to slope downward towards the streets. It ended up taking me hours playing with dirt, compost and sod. When the patchwork was done, I had to loosen the old lawn where the contractor had walked all over after the ground was fully soaked from heavy rain. The final step was spreading corn meal gluten to fertilize the lawn and stop weeds from germinating. When it was all said and done, I had a splitting headache!

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Basement renovation – slow going

Hubby and I tore out the basement last fall after having to investigate a potential electrical problem with our stove. Two electricians’ visits later, we didn’t get any answers so we cut a bunch of holes in the ceiling of the study in the basement which is directly below the kitchen. We found a hidden junction box for the stove and the wiring connections didn’t look safe. We called back one of the electricians to take care of it.

Since we’ve already cut a bunch of holes in the ceiling, the next progression seemed to be a complete demolition. We filled up a 10-yard dumpster and there is still a bunch of crap leftover. Next up was a seismic upgrade and an egress window. The actual work didn’t start until late January after spending weeks figuring out a solution with the contractor for an egress window to go into an existing window opening. It ended up to be a T-shape design – a long fixed window at the top where two little windows used to be and a casement window at the bottom.

New windows

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Oil furnace backdrafting problem solved

Last winter, we occasionally smelled diesel near the oil furnace in the basement. We first thought there was something wrong with the furnace. We had our furnace guy checked it out twice and a power vac company sucked out all the gunk in the furnace. The problem persisted. We finally got some clues to the cause of the problem from the chimney guy. He checked everything including the furnace flue which looks just fine. He then concluded that the issue might be backdrafting. That seems to make a lot of sense. The diesel smell appeared mostly on Sundays when we cook and do laundry at the same time. The downdraft in the kitchen and the dryer are sucking a lot of air out of the house. While I was looking for a solution, we opened the kitchen window whenever we turned on the downdraft.

By this fall, I felt like we really need to get to the bottom of this. I called a local HVAC company. They sent someone out for an inspection. After explaining the problem, the guy brought in a manometer to measure the air pressure in the house. Here are the results:

  • Baseline (all appliances and furnace are off): -1.3 Pa
  • Furnace blower: -0.3 Pa
  • Bathroom exhaust fan: -0.5 Pa
  • Dryer vent: -1.25 Pa
  • Downdraft: -3.0 Pa
  • Sum of all appliances would depressurize the house past -5.0 Pa.

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Creativity Course assignment 9 (finale)

This is part of a series of blog posts in regards to the online class, A Crash Course on Creativity offered by the Venture Lab at Stanford University. Click here to check out the entire series.

After the final team project, there is one last lecture and assignment. The lecture focused on the importance of experimentation and gaining insights from failures. One of the additional resources is this TED video about Tinkering School:

I would have loved to attend such a school. I wish home remodeling is as forgiving. After too many trips to Home Depot and the neighborhood hardware store, I’ve definitely learned a lot from my failures!

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Creativity Course assignments 5-8

This is part of a series of blog posts in regards to the online class, A Crash Course on Creativity offered by the Venture Lab at Stanford University. Click here to check out the entire series.

Prior to lecture 5, there was an announcement about a final team project that would last four weeks. The students were given the freedom to form their own teams. Team of one is an option and I decided to do just that. I don’t know anyone in the class. For the last two team projects, I let the Venture Lab software pick the teams for me. That experience was not great. We were given 7 days or less to complete the assignments. I couldn’t get a hold of any teammates until half of the 7 days have passed. Aside from that, we had to work around everyone’s schedule, time zones, etc. It’s just too complicated.

Lecture 5 was a lengthy description of the brainstorming process. It also introduced the concept of a mind map. The assignment was part 1 of the final team project and it was about defining a problem of not getting enough sleep. Almost everyone was focusing on some problems that keep people awake. I interpreted it as coming up with a problem that requires people to stay awake. Here’s what I submitted:

A runner who specializes in ultramarathon finished the Western States Endurance Run within the 30-hour limit last year and earned a bronze belt buckle. He wants to finish the race in 24 hours this year to earn the silver belt buckle. He has the fitness to run 100 miles but his biggest enemy is sleep. What can he do to stay awake?

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