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bedroom lighting

The Facts: 12'10.5" across. A queen bed is 5' wide. I think the lights should be about .75' away from the edge of the bed. I think it would be worthwhile to put a switch on both sides of the bed for each of the respective lights.

The Problem: My bed is centered on the wall. I think it looks pretty good that way. Unfortunately, the light switch for the light above the bed is too far to reach from the edge of the bed. Likewise, the light designed to cover the bed area was 1) too low (I hit my head and broke a bulb) and 2) not centerd on the bed.

As it stands right now.

The Plan: As you can see, I already removed the round electrical box where the light used to go. I will soon remove the light switch box too. I will run wires behind the drywall over to the switch on the left side of the bed. From there I will run a wire up to the light just a few inches above.I will do roughly the same thing on the right side of the bed. (I will keep this as a double switch so you can turn off the room lighting from the bed. If I were even more motivated I could wire up 2 switches on both sides of the bed, one to operate the room lights (functioning as 3/4-way switches) and the second to operate the light on that side of the bed.

Mockup showing the Duncan Wall Sconce (150$ each from Crate and Barrel.)

Electrical plan

A Note: I may not need to wire a switch for the wall-mounted lamps because they will likely have a switch of their own. If I were smart I would buy the lights before deciding on the switches.
( Permalink... | 4/15/2005 07:43:00 PM PST | 1 comments )

Distributing audio around the house

One of my long-term goals for the house was to be able to distibute media content around the house. In particular, I wanted to be able to play music throughout the house at once; especially in light of all the time I've been spending at home painting, wiring or fixing things.

I knew that the house had a pair of speaker wires going up to holes built into the closets of the guest room. These holes were meant to aim speakers down into the living room below.

What I didn't realize was the fact that two additional wires were run from the same junction box in the living room. These two wires conveniently run all the way to the master bedroom, with a speaker wire ending on both sides of the sliding glass door. Unfortunately, the wires are of an absurdly low gague for speaker use, but very fortunately, there are 6 wires in each bundle instead of the normal 2 wires.

What I'm gonna do...
This will allow me to install both a pair of speakers inside the bedroom as well as a pair of speakers on the porch for the hot tub.

I have already connected a pair of speakers inside in the bedroom and connected them in the living room to a second older receiver. The older receiver is dedicated to driving audio in the bedroom and is connected to my Media Center PC with an analog 1/8 mini to dual-RCA connection. (In the livingroom, I'm using the Optical Output of the sound card to drive my primary sound system.)

I plan to control the volume and what is playing in the bedroom/porch by acquiring a RF-based IR Transmitter. I have not looked into these devices for range information or cost, but I know they exist.

Wall-mounted speaker outlets will give a professional look to the livingroom.

On the livingroom side, I have found out what wall plates I will need to give the job a professional look. These Speaker Jacks fit inside the same decora-style outlets that I'm using throughout the house. In the bedroom I will probably not bother, opting for only a small holeout of which runs a short segment of speaker wire directly to the speaker.
( Permalink... | 4/14/2005 01:24:00 AM PST | 0 comments )

Patching wallboard seams

When a drywall seam becomes visible it is quite a lot of work to hide it correctly.

That said, it's totally doable in the usual 3x as much time as you expected.

  1. Try spackling/sanding the gap. Give up after a few tries because it looks crappy. Learn the hard way that you are gonna have to do this one right.
  2. Go to home depot. Buy heftier spackle (not the cheap crap you use to fill nail holes.), a wider putty knife, some of that flexible fiberglass tape for this very purpose, and get a belt sander used on ebay or soemthing.
  3. use the narrow end of the sander (the part where the belt makes a abrupt 180 degree turn.) to rub down a groove that is a couple millimeters deep and the width of the tape.
    Note: I don't think this is the correct usage of a belt sander... I don't really care though.
  4. clean off the wall with a shop towel.
  5. apply tape
  6. apply one coat of plaster... don't try to fill in the whole gap. Let it dry ~1hr.
  7. sand the excess off. Apply another coat. This one shoud be sufficient.
  8. Sand it smooth by hand or with a less agreesive electric sander.
  9. go to home depot again, and buy the textured wall in a can. Use that on your smoothly sanded fixed and filled seam. (I had to use the finest texture tube to match my wall. I still had to sand a little of the texture off to get it to match.)
  10. Paint it. Be happy.
  11. Vaccum the carpet a zillion times to clean the mess. (this one is a theory, i've only vaccumed once, so it's still a mess.)
Cost? Shit, I dunno... About 3$ spackle knife, 3$ spackle, 5$ fiberglass tape. ~10$ textured paint. (plus tools: 50$ in sanding equipment)

So yes, I thought it would take an hour or two and it ended up taking a few hours on multiple evenings, but it looks... Sooooo Goooood!
( Permalink... | 4/13/2005 11:39:00 PM PST | 1 comments )

Updating the electrical switches / outlets.

My first project has been to replace the hideous almond/beige electrical outlets with the sleeker white ones.

This project made sense because the inspector made it clear that i needed to install GFCI outlets in the kitchen and baths. I agreed that this was a good idea, but I didn't want to buy almond-colored GFCI outlets only to replace them in some distant future with White ones.

So I jumped on the opportunity to make the house look a little sexier. I did an inventory of the situation and discovered that I needed:
  1. 29 2-way switches (~1$ each.)
  2. 29 regular outlets (~1$ each since I got the fancier "decora" outlets.)
  3. 10 3-way switches (would have been ~5$ each but i'll talk about these later.)
  4. 1 4-way switch (~12$ each if I bought a standard one.)
  5. 9 GFCI Outlets (~10$ each. Again, comments below.)
  6. various switch plate covers. (As it turns out switch plates are described as "gangs" when the single plate contains more than one switch/device. The normal decora 4-gang switch plates seem very expensive at ~3$, but that's a steal when you realize the fancy Lutron Claro screwless plates costs 20$.)

First, the good news. As it turns out, every outlet in a bathroom does not need to be a 10$ GFCI outlet. A modern GFCI outlet like the 10$ ones I bough from Home Depot allow you to chain a whole string of Electrical Outlets off of a single GFCI switch... Sure, if you drop a hair-dreyer in the tub you need to search around the house to find the master GFCI switch to bring the circuit back to life, but it is perfectly safe. (The first outlet on my chain just so happened to be int he lower bathroom. From there it went to the master bathroom followed by the guest bathroom. For now, i'm just goign to have the one outlet int he guest bathroom protect the whole string of outlets... I don't own any electrical bathroom appliances anyhow.

Then, the bad news (for my wallet). Brendan pointed out that Home Depot sells some really sweet dimmer modules that work in multi-switch situations (replacing up to 8 outlets that would have otherwise been 3-way and 4-way switches.)

I decided that dimming was in fact critical for several of the zones in my house (to save power and to look less starkly lit.). As such, one of the 5$ 3-way switches would have to be replaced with a dimming 3-way switch such as this model by lutron.

Left: Lutron's cheaper Diva 3-way dimmer. Right: The master unit of the Maestro Series. (The LED's indicate the current brightness and you can dim the lights from the remote locations too.)

At 40$ + 12$ + 5$, I decided to go hog wild and get the primo Lutron setup, the Maestro series. I got a 2-pack (master + remote) for 50$ at home depot and I cannabalized a second 2-pack to get the second remote. This solved the situation and the results were fantastic. The lights can be dimmed at any location, they remember your dimmer setting and they fade ever so smoothly on and off when you tap the light switch. Was it worth 200$ to replace three zones and an extra regular dimmer with these fancy switches? Maybe not for resale value, but I sure like them.

Sadly, the included info from Lutron fails to explain how to wire more than two switches. Fortunately, the directions are available online.

For an overview of the traditional 3-way and 4-way switch wiring try this article on

( Permalink... | 4/13/2005 11:03:00 PM PST | 5 comments )

New House means new kinds of projects.

So, I've been really busy recently since I'm now a homeowner.

Roughly speaking, the home is ~1800sqft with 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a computer room and a large continuous living/dining/kitchen space. It's sitting on a tiny lot (30 x 100 ft) and feels alot like condo/townhouse living, but with nobody sharing a wall with me. I really like it in so many ways, but that's not to say it can't be better.

I'm going to try to document my various projects... Use this as a log of what I did to improve the place, what it cost me and how much better I like the place after the project was completed.
( Permalink... | 4/13/2005 10:58:00 PM PST | 0 comments )
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