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Green Building Curmudgeon

Settling In to My Renovated Cottage

Not quite done — but then again, are renovation projects ever really finished?

Work on my house is almost done. The landscaping and paving haven't started yet, so there is still is a lot to do.
Image Credit: All photos: Carl Seville
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Work on my house is almost done. The landscaping and paving haven't started yet, so there is still is a lot to do.
Image Credit: All photos: Carl Seville
The porch is finished except for screens, which will be necessary in a few weeks when the bugs start coming out. If you haven't yet tried the Delta H2O Kinetics showerhead, check it out. The flow rate is only 1.5 gpm, and it feels like a real shower. I was told that it is the same technology as auto windshield washer sprayers. I lived with this compact, functional, but pretty ugly kitchen for many years. Just a bit nicer, don't you think?

I’ve been living in my renovated house for about two months now, and, with the exception of my hot water issue and ice on my windows, everything is working pretty well.

My minisplit heat pumps do a great job of keeping the place comfortable, so much so that I often turn them off and rarely run all of them except in extreme weather. They work best in the newly insulated parts of the house, they have a bit more trouble keeping things comfortable where I didn’t insulate the original walls. Keeping doors open helps, particularly in the corner closet, with original uninsulated walls. When that door is closed, it gets pretty cold there in the winter.

Fixing a few problems

My plumber came by recently and removed the ill-advised reservoir in my hot water line. While I still have the demand pump, it doesn’t work for the bathroom, since as soon as it turns off, the tankless heater also stops and it would create a cold water slug in the middle of every shower. So I only use the pump when using my dishwasher.

I have to run the shower until it gets hot, which takes about a minute, but since I installed an H20Kinetics 1.5 gpm showerhead, I don’t feel too guilty. I could install a small electric heater after the tankless, a common solution to the cold water slug problem, but that would require me to use a fair amount of electricity to save some water, so I will likely stick with what I have.

To alleviate the window ice problem, I recently ordered exterior storm windows, which should be installed in the next few weeks. I have six original single-glazed double-hungs and one picture window that are in good condition, having been re-roped and weatherstripped a few years ago.

Looking at storm windows, options included low-e glass, full and half screens, one or two operable panels, and solar screens. Having used solar screens before, I opted to install those on the west and south facing windows, but not the east windows (primarily for visual reasons). I considered low-e glass, but since I open my windows much of the year, and it is unlikely I would close both the storm and regular windows very day, I decided to skip the low-e glass everywhere except for the east-facing picture window. I’m looking forward to having them in before the bug season starts as well as next winter.

Renovation projects are never finished — they are just abandoned at different stages

The house is totally livable, but there are little things that are still dragging, reminding me of some my less enjoyable days as a remodeling contractor. One of my old partners used to carry around a file labeled “Dragons,” referring to the small things that never seemed to get finished. In addition to the storm windows, I am waiting on the painter to finish touching up the few items they missed on their “final” touch-up visit, the carpenter to install the porch screens and adjust a door, and the insulation contractor to come back and touch up a few areas they missed.

I certainly don’t miss the renovation business — if I had to deal with this on a daily basis, particularly with clients to satisfy, I would not be a very happy camper.

On to the last part of the project

The last piece of my renovation puzzle is the landscaping. Not being very interested in yard work, I am attempting to develope a low-maintenance/low-water-use landscape plan.

My challenge is that I have a large yard — 75 by 200 feet — that, with the exception of the house and a few large trees, is pretty much devoid of any landscaping. I need to replace my driveway, move one retaining wall and remove another, do some grading, manage site drainage, and install a boatload of plants and trees.

The current plan is to use some of the salvaged driveway for edging and paving blocks, install a gravel drive, and install patios of pea gravel or crushed slate in front of the house. Plans are evolving, budgeting is underway, and work should get started sometime in the next month. I’m not really looking forward to this part of the process, but definitely will happy when it is complete.


  1. wjrobinson | | #1

    Use cold slug
    I think I posted this before, A way to dump first draw of water from "cold" hot water lines would be to hook the hot water line to the toilet. Use and flush toilet, and hot water is ready at sink. Use and flush toilet and hot water with slug gone is ready at shower. Other benefit, no sweating toilet to destroy floor under toilet which many a carpenter has had to replace for customers.

    Carl, your place looks great, coming along nicely.

  2. Expert Member
    CARL SEVILLE | | #2

    One more thing...
    Just for kicks, I got a tattoo recently during the RESNET conference in Atlanta. And yes, it's real.

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