Gut Renovating Another Bathroom

After our long-term tenants bought a house and moved out, we had a few months free before we had new downstairs neighbors. A good time to gut renovate the first floor bathroom! It was a lot of work, stressful at times when I was under time pressure, but also, a lot of fun. It helped that this was my third time, after installing a new bathroom on the third floor and gut renovating the second floor bathroom.

Here's the timeline:

  • Sun 11/18: first day of demolition

  • Sat 11/19: second day of demolition. Overall demo went about as expected. Exhausting, but no surprises.

    You can see there's space for a few shelves in the corner behind those pipes. I was originally planning to put some in but ran out of time and boxed it in instead. I'd like to come back and open this up at some point.

  • Mon 12/9: floor framing and subfloor, with help from Chris

  • Sun 1/1: wall framing and nailers

  • Mon 1/2: more wall framing in the evening

  • Tue 1/3: electrician rough electric

  • Mon 1/8: plumber rough plumbing day 1

  • Tue 1/9: plumber rough plumbing day 2

    This took two days because they needed to completely redo the toilet and sink drains: the toilet drain was cast iron and falling apart, while the sink drain was illegally tied into the kitchen sink.

  • Wed 1/10: plumber rough inspection

  • Fri 1/12: electrician rough inspection

  • Tue 1/16: my rough inspection in the morning, vent piping in the evening

  • Sat 1/20: ceiling drywall in the morning with help from Peter

  • Sun 1/21: wall drywall in the morning with help from Peter, tub surround in the afternoon with help from Devan, wall drywall in the evening alone

    I caulked the edge of the tub surround here, which was too early: I used silicone caulk, which doesn't hold paint.

  • Tue 1/23: drywall touchups in the evening

  • Wed 1/24: screw inspection

  • Tue 1/30: mudding in the evening

  • Wed 1/31: mudding in the evening

  • Thr 2/1: mudding in the evening

  • Fri 2/2: mudding in the evening

  • Sat 2/3: sanding in the morning with help from Peter, Julia priming and painting in the afternoon

  • Sun 2/4: flooring and trim

  • Mon 2/5: spackle, caulk, cleaning in the evening

  • Fri 2/9: install vanity in the evening

  • Sat 2/10: install medicine cabinet, cleaning, tidying in the evening

  • Mon 2/12: plumber finish plumbing first day

    We tried to reuse the toilet, but the gasket leaked when they put it back together and they ran out of time to deal with it. We ended up needing to have them come back to install a new one.

  • Mon 2/12: towel racks and toilet paper holders in the evening

  • Wed 2/13: electrician finish electrical

  • Thr 2/15: plumber finish plumbing second day; final clean in the evening.

Estimated hours (not counting contractors and inspectors):

  • Jeff: 72hr
  • Friends: 22hr
  • Julia: 4hr
  • Total: 103hr

Material and fixture choices:

Costs, not counting the ~103hr of DIY labor:

  • Plumber: $6,360
  • Electrician: $3,813
  • Materials and fixtures: $2,638
  • Permits: $622
  • Total: $13,433

full post...

Retirement Accounts and Short Timelines

Sometimes I talk to people who don't use retirement accounts because they think the world will change enormously between now and when they're older. Something like, the most likely outcomes are that things go super well and they won't need the money, or things go super poorly and we're all dead. So they keep savings in unrestricted accounts for maximum flexibility. Which I think is often a bad decision, at least in the US:

  • Even if you're especially optimistic or pessimistic, the chance that you'll want money at retirement is large enough to be worth planning for.

  • The money is less restricted than it sounds: there are several options for using the money before retirement age.

  • The money is more protected than if you save it normally.

Evaluating Solar

In 2018, we installed 14 solar panels on the Northwest roof of our house. This is a little silly: wouldn't you want to install them facing the sun? The problem was the enormous tree to our Southeast, twice the height of our house, completely shading that area. It was a great tree, but it was causing problems for our neighbor, so they took it down a couple years ago. I looked at getting solar at the time and got as far as signing a contract, but then it fell apart a week before install when the company said they couldn't actually install the sunlight backup system we had planned.

Since then, electricity has gotten more expensive while panels have gotten more efficient and cheaper, and I started thinking more after seeing how heat pumps don't work out with our electricity rates. Here's what we're considering:

Kingfisher Winter Tour 2024

Cecilia and I are going to be driving up and down the east coast during winter break playing dances:

Wed Feb 21 Princeton NJ
Thr Feb 22 Philadelphia PA
Fri Feb 23 Glen Echo MD
Sat Feb 24 Bethlehem PA
Sun Feb 25 Brooklyn NY

Alex Deis-Lauby will be calling all of these. Come dance and/or say hi!

Experimenting With Footboard Piezos

In playing for contra dances it's rare to have a drummer. You mostly see them at big events where the finances work out for a fourth or fifth musician: in trio, or especially a duo, you generally can't allocate anyone just to drums. What you do see a lot of, however, is a musician playing foot percussion in addition to something else. There are a range of ways to do this technically (I wrote a post with lots of examples) but the most common is acoustic "French Canadian feet".

You can bring a board and ask the sound person to point a mic at it, but what you get will depend a lot on how the physical material of the stage responds. Instead, it's common for musicians to put together a piezo and a piece of wood, to get consistently good sound from gig to gig.

A friend wrote to me to say they'd been having trouble getting a sound they liked from their board, and asked if I could help them debug it. I'm not really the ideal person to ask, since I've never ended up with an acoustic sound I'm happy with and have switched over to electronic, but I was game to play around.

A Strange ACH Corner Case

It turns out ACH transactions can fail because your bank has too many people out for the holidays. Which isn't great if you're trying to get your donation in before the end of the year!

Juila and I were a bit late in deciding where we wanted to donate this year. We intended to sort this out in mid-December, but didn't nail it down until Saturday 2023-12-23. An electronic transfer saves the recipient money, but with the holidays we didn't end up receiving ACH details until the evening of Thursday 2023-12-28. I put in a "Next Day" transfer with Bank of America that evening, got an automated confirmation, and stopped worrying about it. A bit tight, but a few days to spare.

On Thursday 2024-01-04 I was confused why the money still was showing up in my account. Had I entered the numbers wrong? Did I not hit "submit"? Was I not going to be able to claim this donation on our 2023 taxes?

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