2012 Home Renovations – Part 26 – Lanai parts have arrived

A bit earlier than expected (almost always a good thing in construction) was this trailer load of pieces that will eventually make up our lanai.

There was a fair amount of relatively invisible work done installing the anchors around the deck and on the retaining wall. The most visible piece is the large support that will hold up the two separate peaked portions of the lanai.

You can see it here upper right (big dark brown – bronze – beam over the ladder)

and here upper left

But it’s best seen in overvier

As a reminder, the finished lanai is supposed to look like this from the outside

and like this from the inside

2012 Home Renovations – Part 25 – Rock Face completed

2012 Home Renovations – Part 27 – Framework for Lanai is largely done

Posted under On the Home Front

This post was written by Marc
on April 18, 2012 at 6:57 pm

2012 Home Renovations – Part 25 – Rock Face completed

It was hit or miss today, the original forecast for today had been 10% POP but, as can be attested to by my rained out bike ride, mother nature does not watch the weather reports. So some workmen showed up today, milled around a bit and then left. Some of the other guys came by to pull hay bundles across the foot of the driveway to ensure dirt does not get pushed out into the roadway by any pop up storms.

But the afternoon was largely rain free so the crew from Daco Stone showed up and finished the wall(s).

We were toying with having the back face of the wall by our boulder wall covered too but thought better of it and settled for a smoothing coat of mortar to give it a more refined look than the native industrial concrete

We also had the portion of the driveway retaining wall rock faced just to be consistent with the stamped concrete patio area that we now have as a “Cap” for the driveway.

Walking around the wall from the shed:

And overall…

Michelle is very happy with the look!

The way is now clear for them to come in and install the lanai. This should begin in a couple of days weather permitting.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 24 – Rock Face on retaining walls has begun

2012 Home Renovations – Part 26 – Lanai parts have arrived

 

Posted under On the Home Front

This post was written by Marc
on April 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm

2012 Home Renovations – Part 24 – Rock Face on retaining walls has begun

Michelle was concerned about the colors of the stones that arrived from Daco Stone. The sample board we were using to drive the decision was only about 15″ x 19″ of stone and, while it largely represented what we actually received, the darkest stones were represented as no more than a couple of inch high sliver on the sample. So there was some great back and forth before we were able to move forward with the install. I think most of the last minute stuff could have been avoided had the guy from Daco been more responsive to Michelle’s earlier email and phone calls from the earlier in the week.

Anyway, work has begun and will likely only need one more day to complete.

Part of such a large project – for us neophytes at least, is that there are a LOT of things that are taken for granted by the builders. i.e. the “normal” way of doing things or expected results when you make a selection.

One of the things that we absolutely did not know was that you would need to specify that “capstone” meant a solid single piece across the top of the wall if that is what you want. It turns out that having a capstone built out of smaller pieces looks fine, but I was surprised nonetheless since it was never discussed and my and Michelle’s assumptions had been that it would be solid.

At the end of the day here is what things looked like

Note also in the picture above that our pool heater has arrived. There are also some other boxes that you can’t see behind this that speak to the impending completion of the project!

2012 Home Renovations – Part 23 – Columns continue and Rock Face Stones have arrived

2012 Home Renovations – Part 25 – Rock Face completed

 

Posted under On the Home Front

This post was written by Marc
on April 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm

2012 Home Renovations – Part 23 – Columns continue and Rock Face Stones have arrived

I submitted a couple more checks that bring this project to about $115,000 so far.  The original cost was expected to be in about the $140,000 range. We’ll see.

Workers were at my place all day today but what was accomplished does not jump out at you.

There was progress on the columns but there is still much to be done. You can see that the outer layer is complete on 3 of the 4 columns, crown molding is in process on all of these

Looking at the end of the retaining wall, in the center of the below picture you can see one of the anchors for the lanai is now in place. It looks dark brown to me, but I’m told it is “bronze” by those who know better.

And replacement vinyl siding has been installed where the flower beds used to be. It looks more green in this picture than in real life but the match is very good considering we’re trying to match to 15-20 year old existing siding.

I think the most exciting news is that the rock face stone and supplies were delivered today. Tomorrow and Saturday the stone will be installed, making way for the lanai to be constructed next week. Michelle wants to root through the boxes to ensure that the stones are all pleasing colors.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 22 – New Columns and Tile Sawing

2012 Home Renovations – Part 24 – Rock Face on retaining walls has begun

Posted under On the Home Front

This post was written by Marc
on April 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm

2012 Home Renovations – Part 22 – New Columns and Tile Sawing

As expected, things came to pretty much a crawl while decisions regarding rock faces and colors were being made.

Three days ago new columns were installed to replace the multitude of makeshift supports

The next day they came and finished sawing the existing tiles so they were even. They had originally been cut and notched to accommodate the former lanai wall plus some had been damaged in the demolition.

and they repaired and reinforced the cross beam that will eventually top the new screening (whitish in the center of this picture)

Then they came back and began covering the rough columns with a more finished wood

In a couple of days I am expecting them to start rock facing the pool retaining wall. I think this will take about a day to a day and a half. After that the lanai install can begin.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 21 – The Boulders are installed

2012 Home Renovations – Part 23 – Columns continue and Rock Face Stones have arrived

 

 

Posted under On the Home Front

This post was written by Marc
on April 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Why can’t I escape from Bank of America?

When I first moved to the United States many moons ago, I opened a bank account and a credit card account with BofA. When I quickly realized that they would charge me a fee for everything from withdrawing money from ATMs to just having a pulse I quickly fired them and moved on to SunTrust who have heretofore treated me pretty well.

Shortly after starting to deal with SunTrust I got a credit card with them and life went on. After several years the BofA card lapsed and that account closed.

Not too long ago, at Clark Howard’s suggestion, I looked for some kind of financial rewards card. I’m pretty basic financially, if I don’t understand a financial product I’m really not interested in it. So those bizarre air miles cards or “redeem for prizes” Discover cards held no interest for me. Along came Charles Schwab with a financial rewards card that offered 2% cash back on everything. They actually offered more back on some special items but I’m not wasting my time trying to keep up with that nonsense.

Charles Schwab eventually decided that they no longer wanted that portfolio and sold it to… you guessed it, BofA. BofA promptly eviscerated the card benefits and made the card uninteresting to me.

Meanwhile SunTrust had sold its credit card portfolio to… you guessed it, BofA.  Now I’m waiting to see what they do to this card because it’s the only card I own that does not charge a foreign transaction fee premium (3% is the norm I think). So I like to use it when traveling.

Meanwhile SunTrust has begun soliciting me, they seem curious to know why I wouldn’t want a SunTrust Credit card.

So, to look at me I’m apparently some kind of BofA fanboy because I trust them with so much of my credit business.

Time to look for some good Credit cards again. Let me know if you know of any that offer understandable rewards…

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on April 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Internet Speed – Are you getting what you pay for?

This past weekend I had a glitch in my Comcast internet service. On Saturday afternoon my internet connection simply died. It was pretty obvious to me that the issue was between my house and Comcast but they assured me there were no issues and that they’d send someone around to look at it… on Monday… in the mid afternoon… because I don’t need to earn a living someplace else…

Anyway, after reading a book and then heading out to a friend’s place for a small party I came back and found my internet connection was miraculously restored. Good thing it was Easter, otherwise surely that miracle would not have occurred.

So I don’t know, and obviously Comcast also doesn’t know or will not admit, what happened but I’m online again. Since I don’t really trust miracles, I ran some speed tests and, as you can see below, the results are typical and all over the map.

Does anybody out there have any idea which tests can be trusted and why?

As you check these out keep in mind that I’m a Comcast internet subscriber. I get nothing else from them so in theory, nothing happening at my place should alter these results (i.e. TV or Phone service through Comcast) and nobody’s in the house as I do this and nothing on my other computers is set up to automatically chew up bandwidth right now.

I pay $70.37 a month – yes they punish me nicely for not bundling – and I’m *supposed* to see 12 Mbps down (actually 15 Mbps with “turboboost” whatever the heck that is) and I’m guessing 4 Mbps up.

Comcast’s own speed test – http://speedtest.comcast.net/ reports 23.15 Mbps down and 4.26 Mbps up

Speakeasy – http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/ reports 15.74 Mbps down and 4.15 Mbps up

Speedtest.net – http://www.speedtest.net/ reports 24.62 Mbps down and 4.26 Mbps up

testmy.net – http://testmy.net/ reports 10.9 Mbps down and 3.4 Mbps up

and finally, AT&T’s (Uverse) test  –  http://www.att.com/speedtest/ reports 42.08 Mbps down and 4.09 Mbps up

Overall, for upload speeds I’m at least pretty confident that it’s at about 4 Mbps.

For download speeds, I don’t mind saying that AT&T’s results have always been hysterically optimistic so I discount those results right away.

The remaining results vary between 10.9 and 24.6 Mbps.

If I watch the cute graphics on the flash testers the little speed needle tends to bounce up and down throughout the testing period. The more bouncing, presumably the more latency / drops during the test??

The only test that I, as an end user, really understand is that produced by speedtest.net. Basically they download a file of a certain size, time how long it takes and then give me my speed. This makes me partial to them but the part of my brain that doesn’t want me to be getting screwed by Comcast balks somewhat at paying $70 for below advertised performance.

Anybody out there with experience, knowledge or a reasonably formed opinion as to how trustworthy these speed testing sites and results are?

 

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on April 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm