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

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



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…

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?


2012 Home Renovations – Part 21 – The Boulders are installed

With the exception of a couple of half cap stones, the modular retaining wall is complete.

Once the rock face in the back is complete (and possibly the Lanai too) we’ll move forward with pulling out the remainder of the driveway and pouring a new one. We just want to have all the heavy stuff done to avoid unnecessary traffic over the new pavement.

In the back the stairs have been largely completed. We will soon be bringing the soil up around these and the newly built wood wall.

Below, some parts of the wall will be left loose until we finish putting in the various hoses, pipes and electrical connections

This topsoil was brought in by hand so as not to damage the new patio. This area will be for various butterfly bushes and bird feeders and baths so that we can enjoy them from the screened in area.

Below, those pallets of boulders that I showed a few days ago have gone into replacing a rotting railroad tie retaining wall that was shoring up the original hill. This still needs tome work.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 20 – Modular Retaining wall continues

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


2012 Home Renovations – Part 20 – Modular Retaining wall continues

We are in that phase of the project where the work done is more incremental than it was originally.

Below we see that work continues on the modular block retaining wall

And initial fill behind the wall that will allow widening of the driveway also continues

The dirt pile continues to shrink. We’ve had several people drop by offering to take the dirt for projects that they have ongoing. But I think we’re going to end up using ALL of it in the last phase of this job.

There is not much more that will be done with this retaining wall. Hay (Pine Straw) has been put down to control erosion. The cement wall is very near the property line so all that “Pine Strawed”  portion is my neighbor’s to do with what he wishes. It’s not much different than it was before my project. He’s still trying to figure out what he wants to do with that area.

In the back, now that the patio cement is mated to the existing slab by the shed, we’re pulling out the existing timbers and replacing them with new ones that will extend through the new length of this area.

At the end where you see the shovels and pick axe there will be steps to provide easy access to the back yard now that our former path that led there is blocked by the pool retaining wall

Right about where the Pool retaining wall and the wooden wall meet will be where we locate the pool heater, fastlane hydraulic pump and the salt water system.

The wood beams will only come to about halfway across the end of the cement wall. We intend to rock-face the wall and we’ll put a final corner on it here so that the wood won’t be visible unless you are actually looking at it from this vantage point.

2012 Home Renovations – Part 19 – Sealing the Deck, Start of Modular Retaining Wall

2012 Home Renovations – Part 21 – The Boulders are installed