The Big Renovation – the 2 month update and a mind teaser…

What? Has it really been 2 months since the last renovation update here? Whoops.  Where did the time go?

It felt like I didn’t have much to report because things seemed to be moving pretty slowly for a while.

A large portion of the time was waiting around for the air conditioning installation. I believe it took them the better part of a month to get the AC system ready for initial inspection. We all kind of sat around in the heat waiting, waiting, waiting. Finally, inspection day arrived. They passed. Sneak note, though – we still don’t have working AC. More on that later…

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Once that initial inspection passed we could start moving along again. Though, the stuff that was happening didn’t seem like it was all that dramatic – because it is behind the walls and construction kind of stuff. Which, honestly, isn’t all that interesting to look at or talk about – for me. Tad, on the other hand, would strongly disagree with that comment. The construction stuff is definitely Tad’s favorite part as evidenced by his request to FaceTime when the insulation went in (because he was out of town) – and he couldn’t wait to see it – and a picture via text wasn’t quite good enough.

Insulation - attic & AC

Anyway, over Labor Day weekend, the place went from construction zone back to livable space.  It was an overnight transformation! It was weird! It was exciting! It was rejuvenating! However, before I disclose this much anticipated event, lets step back and do a quick review of the last 2 months.

There was some actual work by the contractor and the subcontractors. There was very little work by myself and Tad. We had a lot of discussions about things. I think overall there were more discussions than work. Anyway, let’s get to it.

New windows came in and were installed.

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This falls into the actual work category (rather than the discussion category). The windows are nice. The small bedroom window that was supposed to be a large window seems to have worked out just fine. It isn’t going to drive me crazy as I thought it might.

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In fact, I think I might even be happy that it is small because it lines up with the dining room of our neighbor – which is a little awkward and not all that attractive.

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The window I am most excited about is the new bathroom window. I had to be excited about something during this slow period. I was looking for anything. The new bathroom window was it. Anyway, we were wanting an inswing Marvin wood window similar to our fireplace windows.

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This wasn’t possible due to the small size of the opening. Then, I thought a new casement outswing window would be ok. I figured with new technology, the frame would be minimal and the glass would be optimized. I thought it would be an improvement over the old casement outswing window.

Closet window

I was wrong, it still required the same wide frame leaving minimal glass.

I prefer a functioning window in bathrooms (even though we also have ventilation) so it took me a day or two to get over the fact that I couldn’t have a window that opened unless I sacrificed the amount of natural light coming in. I opted for more light. We got a fixed window pane with rain glass. I like it a lot, there is significantly more natural light, and we saved several hundred dollars – yay!

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Another benefit of the new bathroom window is that it is finally straight.

Here we are with the old crooked window.

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Here we are with the new straight window. As you can see, I also got some painting on the exterior window trim done (so, there was a little work on my part). More on that later…

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The framing for the tub was done on some random afternoon.

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According to Tad, it was framed incorrectly. The discussions were very involved. After a detailed explanation, I agreed that it was framed incorrectly. The framing was corrected on some random weekend. The tub was set in place on some random evening. There was yet another discussion about how it was framed – because it was wobbly at one of the front corners. According to one of the contractor’s guys, it was correct the first time and shouldn’t have ever been changed to begin with. Then, it was discovered that the tub was not correctly set in the frame. The tub was reset. The wobble was eliminated. Sorry about the blurry photo. You would think that I could have gotten an in focus photo considering the amount of time and the multiple changes that were made to the tub framing, but no. Anyway, after a lot of discussion and some randomly timed contractor work, all is as it should be with the tub – we think.

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We also had many discussions about shower storage. I wanted a niche for shampoo and soap bottles. I don’t like bottles sitting around the edge of the tub. I don’t like the shower caddy thing that hangs from the shower head. I like niches. Though, I have never actually had a niche myself or seen one in person. There was a niche drawn in by the architect. It should have fit. In reality, it did not fit. I will not have a niche. The tile guy tried to talk me into those bulky, porcelain corner shelves. Nope. I don’t like those either. I figured that a shelf on the wall opposite the shower head would be the way to go. Everybody looked at me like I was crazy. Eventually, Tad got on board. We have tentatively decided on something like this.Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 1.34.31 PM

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The purpose of this shower shelf tangent (and all the discussions) is that we needed some sort of structure to support the shelving behind the cement board and tile. So, blocking was added at 35-38 inches above the tub deck (the work part of this took 5ish minutes – if that). I include this specific measurement not because I think this is the standard or a recommendation, but because I aim to point out that if you do add blocking in your project, you may want to make a note of the measurement. The contractor made a comment about putting in blocking but not remembering the height of the blocking when it came time to install whatever the blocking was for. He suggested I write it down. So, I did. And now, I have it here, as well – in case, I lose the paper with my measurements on it.

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We also added blocking in the bedroom hallway for a large/heavy mirror that we will hang there. I am not sure exactly where I will hang it, so we have 2 sets of blocking – one at 70 ¼ inches from the floor and one at 79 ½ inches. Again, this is more of a note to myself than anything else. As long as I remember that I documented it here when we go to hang the mirror…

Hallway

The doorbell was a bit of an afterthought. We had several days of discussion about doorbells. We went from thinking we would just reuse what we had, to changing it out completely with a new one, to not having one at all, and going with a wireless one. Research, shopping around, and checking out other people’s door bells led to the final decision. We kept a wired doorbell rather than changing out to wireless. We kept the innards from our old doorbell which was wired by the electrician.

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The outdoor button has been replaced with a new button and relocated to a better location. This new location required Tad to drill a hole and run a wire prior to insulation going in.

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There was also a test and meeting of the minds to figure out how the innards of the doorbell went back into the box. I got it wrong. Tad did an internet search. Tad’s niece’s boyfriend got it right (smart guy) by just looking at it. The electrician got it wrong – he installed it backwards. Tad fixed it.

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My contribution was to replace the cover. There was discussion about which way the cover would be installed.

Opening to the top – so you don’t see the innards, but exposing the innards to some dust collection?

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Opening downward – so the dust doesn’t collect, but you see the innards?

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I decided I didn’t want to see the innards and I could live with a little unseen dust. In summary, a lot of discussion, a little bit  of work, and a fun mind teaser.

Doorbell - far view...

This last Saturday Tad spent a half a day installing the new button.  A half a day you say?  It should be easier than that.  Yes, it should.  There is a whole story there. The story is second hand because I was at work, but this is the story told by Tad when I got home from work. The hole had to be drilled bigger to accommodate some part of the new doorbell. He thought he cut the wires too short, but then discovered that there was some sort of easy connection provided. Initially, the button was slightly crooked. So, a new anchor had to be drilled and installed in an effort to straighten up the button. It still wasn’t straight, so, a third hole was drilled between the two misplaced anchors. Then, the wires were in the way of the button being flat to the wall. The button was loosened and the wires rearranged. Finally, a working, straight, flat doorbell.

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Oh, and, this isn’t just any doorbell. We happened to be at a friend’s house checking out progress on their kitchen renovation and they had a fancy doorbell – with a camera, motion sensor, and app for your phone. Of course, Tad had to have one…

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While the doorbell was just a bit of an afterthought, the security system ended up being a complete afterthought – and a little bit of a flail. I forgot to notify the security company that we were going to remove one panel and one motion sensor for the renovation. It was removed during demo without incident – or contact from the company. Eventually, it started beeping and I couldn’t turn it off. I called the company, they said I would need a service call. They couldn’t come out for over a week. In the meantime, I had to email someone at the company and call several times to get the beeping to stop. Eventually, they remotely turned the system off completely to stop the beeping. Over the next week, someone called me 2 or 3 times to check the status of the system because it was showing as down. There was no documentation of our problem or scheduled service call. Despite no documentation of the scheduled service call, the service guy did show up, typed in a code on the panel, and charged me $120. I received a customer survey. I filled it out – honestly. They called me a few days later because I didn’t rate them well on the customer survey. The guy told me he would discount the service call bill. He didn’t. The guy also said that he would have the sales people call me because we were wanting to make some changes to our system. The sales person emailed me. She really didn’t want to talk to me in person. She sent me a new contract – that has a charge for new installation even though I just need a panel and one motion sensor re-installed. I declined and asked to speak with someone in person. They sent a sales guy out to my house. He sent me the same contract I received previously, but the price of installation has now been bumped up to double what the initial contract proposed. At that point, I decided it is time to move on. We knew we were going to do something different, we just weren’t sure what that would be. So, Tad ran a wire just in case we need it for the security system panel. I did a little research. We have tentatively decided that we will go with a new company – DIY installation and monthly monitoring cost less than half of what we are currently paying. So far – no work (other than Tad running the wire), multiple discussions, and no progress (other than a tentative decision).

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Next, it was insulation. All work, no discussion. Spray foam for the attic

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and exterior walls.

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Tad has been obsessed with spray foam for a while now. He really, really wanted spray foam. As mentioned earlier, we had to FaceTime on insulation day so Tad could see it “in person.” Tad is very happy.  He got spray foam insulation everywhere.

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When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. It is very messy. When they sprayed the bedroom exterior wall, it sputtered into the bathroom/closet hall, onto the exposed brick wall, and onto the tiled floor.

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I didn’t think it was that big of a deal until I went to clean it up. The brick wall was relatively easy to clean up. Being that the brick is pretty sandy, the foam just peeled off. The tile floor, however, was a different story. The foam would scrape off but left discoloration and a residue. I tried multiple products in an attempt to clean up the residue without success – water, soap, soap and water, every household cleaner I own, alcohol, vinegar, etc. I was already thinking about the pain of having to replace the tile. I was a little annoyed. Then, I discovered a light buffing with a fine drywall sponge and a disposable nail file did the trick – the discoloration and residue was removed and the tile remained intact and without scratches. I vowed forever gratefulness to the drywall sponge and nail file. These tools have gotten me out of many a mistake in the past. I can add “clean up spray foam mess” to that list.

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Batt insulation was specified for all of the interior walls. Of course, this batt insulation business for interior walls is not necessary for energy conservation or for code requirements. Tad requested it for sound proofing purposes.

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Drywall installation started the day after the insulation inspection.

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Drywall installation took one and a half days. All work, minimal discussion. The discussion was about where drywall goes and doesn’t go.  This evolved into a discussion about the long beam in the living room, the correct framing for it, a difference of opinion about the framing, and a tentative plan for final trim. The beam discussion is still ongoing (definitely, more on that later) – but, thankfully, did not get in the way of the drywall installation.

Insulation - for sound

The concrete board on the tub front was initially too thick. Was it because the framing was incorrect? There was some discussion, again, about how the tub was framed correctly or incorrectly. No, the framing was deemed correct. The concrete board was deemed to be the wrong product. It was replaced with a thinner version. Again, all is well with the tub – we hope.

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The purple stuff is sound dampening drywall – per Tad’s request.

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This house will be so quiet, it will be like living in a padded room…

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Taping and finishing the drywall was about a week and a half. One guy, all work, no discussion.

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Smooth, soft, and sanded – quite lovely.

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The temporary, protective living room and dining room walls were removed. Wow, what a difference natural light makes!

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Did you think that was the big reveal?  The reintroduction of natural light into the construction zone?

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It was a big step, but still the place remained a construction zone with drywall dust and white walls. So…

Tad primed and painted the ceilings while I was at work. A lot of work on Tad’s part, some discussion about my paint choice. More on that later.

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I, then, painted walls for three days while Tad was at work. A lot of work on my part and no discussion – initially. Eventually, there was a critique of the paint color choices. Everybody’s got an opinion – more on that later, as well.

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Now, for the long anticipated, big reveal!

Flooring!

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Hardwood flooring to be specific!

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The single thing that resulted in the miraculous transformation was flooring!

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Yes, the flooring was installed, sanded and finished over Labor Day weekend!

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Yep, it feels like there is an end in sight!

Next up, Tad is keeping us all on schedule…

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Oh! The mind teaser question and answer.

Question: How to get the big solid plastic box into the metal frame with the metal screw tabs in the way (and not bendable)?

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Answer: Tilt and slide in sideways.

Doorbell mindteaser - puzzle...

A Change of Scenery…

I have been working from home for 8 years now.

After a while, I get tired of looking at the same things day in and day out.

The time has come for a change of scenery.

Things need some freshening up.

To keep me sane. To keep me interested. To keep me happy.

The first change was to get rid of the old terrarium.  Sad but true.

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It was time. This little terrarium was going on 3 years old. It was low maintenance, but that wasn’t enough to keep it around. It was the only indoor plant we had in the house – again, not enough to keep it. I liked the striped appearance of the leaves, but I just wanted something different. I was wanting some color in that little corner. So, the terrarium had to go.

Here is my new view of the kitchen from my workspace…

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I suspect you are wondering what all the hoopla is about – or not.  Well, the hoopla is about that little red pumpkin popping out against the sunny window .  It is likely a surprise to most people out there that something small like a little red pumpkin can make a big difference in my sanity. Well, I am here to tell you that it has and does make a difference. It sounds weird, but the color and the cute shape keep me from losing my mind when I am sitting at my desk – on a phone work meeting that is the same old monotony.  I love that little red pumpkin. Here he is close up…

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The other change I’ve recently made was the addition of some artwork along the ledge going down the stairs.  This is also visible from my workspace. It was feeling a bit tired and uninteresting.

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So, I went into the archives (aka the basement) and found some things that I already had. I like the bright pops of color from the two pieces on the right – the colors and contrasting graphics are easy to see from my desk. The two on the left with the white mats are also easy to see from my desk – so, that’s good. The two in the center are small prints and not easily studied from across the room. I think at some point I will move those somewhere else and replace with something more graphic and colorful. Finally, there is the ostrich print on the wall. Previously, that spot was taken by the black and white photo that is now on the ledge. The ostrich is brightly colored and funny. He makes me smile – so, that’s a plus when I am at my desk – trying to get through the monotony of my afternoon work.

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I think the artwork is also nice as you go down the stairs

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and up the stairs.

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The final changes involve improved comfort while working – and an addition of some stripes.

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The stripes are a bit of a stretch for me. I don’t love stripes. For me stripes feel a bit too structured, too formal, too linear, too expected, too monotonous (I promise this is the last reference to monotomy – ever). You get the picture. Stripes are not my thing.  With all that said, I went with stripes for my new area rug in my desk area – and I think I like it.  It brightens up the place.

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The finale is my new desk chair…

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I previously had an upholstered dining chair that I was using as a desk chair. It has worked out ok for the better part of 5ish years. Then, in January I noticed that my lower back and hips were stiff and sore after sitting in my desk chair for any period of time. Tad offered to let me try out his desk chair – Tad has been singing the praises of this chair for a year. I was resistant at first because I don’t really like the look of office furniture – especially in my house.  However, common sense and comfort finally won out. I tried Tad’s chair. It was a miracle – comfortable and ergonomic.  I was sold after one day. I ordered one up. It came in this week.  I had to pick it up downtown – where the parking and loading of things is not optimal. I got lucky that day though. I got a parking space about a half of a block away from the showroom so I only had to carry it a short distance. Oh – and there was 30 minutes left on the meter so I didn’t have to pay for parking. It was a good day – great parking space, money left on the meter, and the new green chair made it safe and sound to my car for transport. I am taking all that luck as a good sign. The green chair is meant to be in my life – even if it does still resemble office furniture.

I like it. It is comfortable. I just wish somebody out there would make a comfortable/ergonomic desk chair that looked like a dining room chair. That would be the ultimate best.

Anyway…

Tad’s is gray leather. Mine is spring green wool. Tad’s leather chair is softer – thus, maybe a bit nicer. Mine is prettier. I like pretty.

Here we are before the mini workspace makeover…

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Here we are now – after the mini workspace makeover with a new chair and a new area rug…

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It feels freshened up. I think it looks freshened up too. Now, if only my actual work would get freshened up…

DIY plumbing…

This post is not just a story. There is also some basic advice here – what to do, what not to do – stuff like that. However, this is not a “How To” post – sorry if you are looking for that – it isn’t here. This is more of an inspirational post. It is a “You Can Do It” kind of post – if you are so inclined. Plumbing repairs have become really, really easy. So easy, that you don’t really even need a “How To”. Just joking. If you haven’t ever done any plumbing repairs before, a walk down You Tube Lane is probably in order. With all that said, I won’t be offended if you skip the story and go directly to the advice section – it is at the bottom. However, the story does support the advice so it might be worth it…

Ok. Now for the story.

We are “those people”.

We failed to disconnect our hose from the outside spigot. I am guessing you know what happened next. Yes, the water left in the spigot froze, causing the pipe to burst.

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The plus side to this is that it burst in front of the valve so I discovered the leak only after turning on the spigot outside. It could have been a lot worse. It could have burst behind the valve and filled the basement with water. I know this because it has happened before – in our basement – because I forgot to disconnect the hose for the winter.  You’d think I would learn – but no. I cleaned up the mess and broke the bad news to Tad.

Tad seemed almost excited – maybe, even happy. It was weird. Why would Tad be sort of excited and/or happy about a plumbing repair?

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Well.  I soon discovered that Tad had been looking forward to this moment for a while.  Plumbing advances and technology have made some pretty big strides the last few years. So, of course, Tad was hoping for an opportunity to use all that new technology. Our burst pipe was just the moment he was waiting for…

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This moment involved PEX tubing instead of copper piping, and Sharkbite fittings rather than flux and a propane torch.

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We got to skip calling in an actual plumber. Tad was happy about that. I was happy about that. That saved us money and time – and time is money (or so they say). So, you know, it saved us extra money.

And – Tad got to try out Home Depot’s price matching policy. Did you know they have a price matching policy? They do. That saved us even more money – about 25-30% in supply savings.

We got to spend our saved money on dinner at Bang! I had the grilled salmon. Tad had the chicken fried chicken breast. I also had peach cobbler. Yum.

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My job for this project was to hold the flashlight – and provide advice. I am pretty good at both.

Here is the list of things we needed for this repair:

  1. A new 12″ anti-rupture spigot. Though, the anti-rupture label does not mean that it won’t freeze and burst if you leave the hose on during the freezing winter months.
  2. A shutoff valve with appropriate Sharkbite fittings. It is nice to be able to shut off just the affected area when doing plumbing repairs – rather than the entire house. You can take your time, do the needed research, and get it done correctly – without the pressure of knowing you need to get water running again. DSCN5180
  3. A Sharkbite fitting to attach the spigot to the PEX tubing.DSCN5172
  4. A small length of PEX to attach the spigot to the shut off valve.
  5. A 90 degree PEX bender. We first bought the plastic one – it broke – PEX is not as flexible as you would think it should be. We then bought the metal one – it worked great. Buy the metal one. DSCN5182
  6. Some plumber’s tape – for the threaded connection between the spigot and Sharkbite adapter.
  7. Something to cut the PEX with – we used our copper pipe cutter.
  8. Silicone – to seal around the outside of spigot.

Here is our repair – fixed and good to go…

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I am going to guess that it took us 15-20 minutes total to complete this project – excluding research and Home Depot time. Tad likes to do research, so we don’t really count that time. We also like going to Home Depot so that time isn’t a big deal either. The point is that this repair was easy, quick, and did not require any special equipment or skill.

Do you feel inspired?

Here is the advice part:

  1. The best advice is prevention. Avoid the need to do spigot repairs. Disconnect your hose from the spigot before freezing weather sets in.
  2. Just do it! A little research and planning is all that is needed. It is pretty easy – really.
  3. Use shut off valves. It is worth it to be able to shut off a single area rather than the entire house when a repair is needed.
  4. Use PEX and Sharkbites. No special equipment or skills needed. The tubing and adapters just fit together without glue or solder or anything. It just doesn’t get any easier.
  5. Utilize price matching policies at the home improvement store. It can save you significant pennies.
  6. Did you know you can use string to cut PVC pipes?  You can. We didn’t get to do that with this repair. We used string for another repair recently – the overflow drain in the laundry room was leaking – annoying. Anyway, it worked perfectly – and it was fun.
  7. If you are ever in Denver and needing some dinner, look up Bang! It is delicious.