Monday, May 30, 2011


Last weekend Dave installed new toilets. I'm so happy! The toilet upstairs had a dripping pipe and didn't flush properly. You had to flush it once to get the tank to fill up and then flush again to actually flush. In addition, that toilet and the one in the main bathroom downstairs clogged at the drop of a hat. We love a particular Kohler toilet but at around $400 we knew that wasn't in the budget. We ended up going to Ferguson and getting two chair height, wonderful flushing toilets for $230 each. A good toilet is definitely worth the investment, we have found. I hate having guests visit and feeling the need to give them a lecture on how to get things to flush (and praying it works). We just ordered tile for those bathrooms so hopefully we will be tiling soon. I'll be sure to post photos when we do!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Water Heater Bliss

This is Dave again. I thought I would post about our water heater since it's so dear to us. Sorry if it's too technical.

We had a Rinnai unit installed at our last house in Alabama for two reasons: (1) There literally was no place in the house to put a water heater, and (2) the 28-gallon "countertop" water heater in the kitchen had to go. Going from our 8-10 minutes of hot water in February that we both had to use for our morning showers to endless hot water was amazing.

While our current home's water heater did provide longer showers, it was older, the galvanized pipes connecting to it were rusting, and we had saved enough money to replace it. So that's what we did!

We learned a few things from our first time installing a tankless water heater. First, avoid electric tankless water heaters. They offer little efficiency benefits over tank-style water heaters and they are no match for natural gas or LP units. The second is to check out Ebay to buy your water heater. Seriously, there are Ebay "stores" that specialize in HVAC/Plumbing equipment and I've spoken with their customer service people. They've been excellent in answering detailed questions about the tankless water heaters. The third thing we learned is that it's difficult to find someone to install a tankless water heater. Most units affect four major disciplines: plumbing, electrical, natural gas, and roofing. You could get separate contractors out and have them each do their piece, but we were looking for someone to do it all. Because it is so difficult to find someone to install the unit, the cost of installation is a lot. I think it cost over $800 to have ours installed. We grit our teeth (especially after it took the installer only 4 hours to do the job), but we decided it was best given our inexperience at the time and to ensure we didn't void the warranty by installing it improperly.

This house, however, I decided I wanted to do the installation. Driven partly by the desire to avoid forking over another $800, and partly by the challenge. Since this would involve having no hot water for an indetermine period of time, depending on how smoothly things went, I went ahead and did what little work I could that did not disrupt the tank water heater. Below you can see how I ran a new electrical outlet (spliced it into a run of outlets running through the garage ceiling).

We did pay $90 to have a roofer install the new boot/vent on the roof, but that seemed a small price to pay to avoid work on a roof above our concrete driveway. One of the big selling points of tankless water heaters is their high efficiency. One part of this involves the inlet/exhaust duct. The stuff is expensive (about $1/inch of pipe), but it consists of two concentric pipes. The inner pipe is metal and allows the exhaust gases to vent. The inlet gas comes in between the inner and outer pipes and is preheated as it enters the unit, which ultimately leads to a hotter combustion temperature. The roof vent looks atypical because it supports the inlet and exhaust together. 

Below I had just gotten the Rinnai unit mounted on the wall and the vent pipe attached. I began installing everything after work around 4:00pm. I wanted to leave the old tank there just in case we had a hiccup up to this point. (You can see the electrical outlet on the ceiling just to the left of the unit)

The old tank was then removed and the process of hooking up the water and gas lines began. The gas was surprisingly simple. Working with natural gas is dangerous, but with the proper process including the natural gas teflon tape and the soap bubble test after the fact, it went well.

The last hurdle was hooking up the water supply. I replumbed our last house and thought this was going to be pretty straightforward. The one trick was going to be working with copper piping. The last house was replumbed with CPVC and I got comfortable working with this relatively easy medium. I bought sweat connection water fittings (they're special all-in-one shutoff/drain/flush/overflow fittings). Those fittings are nice, but do come with different connection methods (threaded, CPVC, etc) so investigate those so you don't repeat the same mistake of having to learn a new skill in order to get hot water back. I got it all hooked up and working, but the next day my parents were in town and we noticed a pinhole leak at one of the joints so my dad and I had to re-do that one.

In the end everything turned out fine and we have wonderful, endless hot water again!

A few notes on cost: It never hurts to get a quote for the entire thing (we called but ballpark they said they start around $3,000). Our Rinnai was around $850-$950 just for the unit. Vent piping was another $300 or so. The valve kit (not absolutely necessary, but convenient) was about $75 too. We obviously saved on installation costs, but that could run you another $800. All of this is just to note that there are other significant costs to consider than just the unit itself.

When thinking about doing interior vs exterior here are a few thoughts: Our last house had an exterior unit simply for necessity. You save money because you don't have to spend $300-$400 on vent piping, but you'll have to spend $150-$200 on a weather-protective box. Additionally, although they make kits (another $200) to drain the unit in the event of a power loss, I was still worried about the unit or the water lines going to it freezing.  We now obviously have an interior version in our garage. I like this better because although you have the vent piping to deal with, you'll never destroy the unit because of frozen water.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

California Trip!

Last week we were in L.A. for Dave's graduation from USC. Well, that was our excuse to go on vacation there at least. I got to visit my great aunt and cousins in the Long Beach area. 
Then we spent four days with friends in Thousand Oaks and ate lots of frozen yogurt. To finish the trip we spent two nights in Hollywood and went to USC. It was a great trip and I thought I would share some of the more touristy hilights.

It was pretty yummy.

On Tuesday Dave and I spent 4.5 hours geeking out at the Reagan Library while our friends kept our daughter. It's definitely worth a visit!

Air Force 1

Lunch at Paradise Cove in Malibu.

We took a Hollywood bus tour since we didn't have much time to explore. Below is the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel from Pretty Woman.

This is where Richard Gere climbs the fire escape at the end of Pretty Woman.

The Kodak Theater: home of the Oscars

Grauman's Chinese Theater

Robert Redford's house.

Michael Jackson's house where he dangled his baby over the balcony.

Marilyn Monroe's house. Later rented by Anna Nicole Smith.


We met friends for dinner in Santa Monica where I saw this:

I had to look through though unfortunately we didn't have much time and didn't get anything.


They ran out of engineering hoods so Dave had to get a sociology one...not super pleased about that but I guess there are worse things in life.

I'm so proud of him!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Painting Chandeliers

Once we moved into the house I realized how much I disliked most of the light fixtures. We had a large fluorescent light in the kitchen and a dated chandelier over the kitchen table. I also felt like the dining room chandelier looked too large and bulky for the shorter ceilings.  

We decided to spray paint the dining room chandelier white and try it in the kitchen as a replacement for the fluorescent light.

I ended up loving it and it looked much better with the higher ceilings in the kitchen.

I found the chandelier below at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store for $10 to go over the kitchen table. 

I found this beauty at Charleston Lighting and Interiors for $89 in the closeout room. I think the guy working there thought I was crazy for buying it. 

I sprayed it with oil rubbed bronze and then a light coating of black to tone it down. I really like it and it will probably go in our bedroom (though I originally intended it for our dining room).

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fireplace Painting?

Since we moved in, this has been the bane of my existence: royal blue and so fake marble. Dave and I planned from day one to replace this with nice travertine or black slate tile and build a different mantel. However, other projects were higher priorities and when we sat down a few weeks ago to project out our future renovation plans, we realized it would probably be a year before we started on any living room construction projects. Something had to be done about the blue. It was preventing us from being able to do any decorating in the living room because it clashed so badly with everything and nothing looked good in the space. We did a little online research on how to paint fiberglass and started the project. I used 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface and then primed it with a latex primer. I used some black semi-gloss latex paint left over from our kitchen cabinets to cover it. It's definitely much improved and will do until we get around to tiling.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Message Center

I have wanted a home organization/message center for a while but wasn't sure exactly what look to go for. I loved the Pottery Barn Rustic Wall Organizer but really didn't have the money to shell out for that. We found a plate holder at an antique store (bottom right) to use for mail and miscellaneous items such as keys and cell phones. The tray (top left) was on clearance at Pier 1 and I thought it would be a good base for a burlap pin board. The whiteboard calendar is from Staples and we used an old pen and ink drawing from my high school art class days to balance out the grouping. 

To make the pin board, we cut cardboard to size for the tray.

We used spray adhesive to attach cork to the cardboard.

We then used more spray adhesive to attach burlap to the cork.

The finished product was a cute pin board so that we could get all our cards and papers off of the refrigerator.

The mirror on the right is a story for another post.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Cassity at Remodelaholic invited us to share our current kitchen renovation next Wednesday. I'm so excited! I'll have a link up next Wednesday as a reminder but I just wanted to share since I'm excited!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Re-Store Headboard

When we first moved to SC I decided to take a trip down to the Habitat Re-Store on John's Island. I heard that it had a lot of great stuff because people with nice houses in Kiawah and Seabrook donated there. I was not disappointed and came home with a $35 shutter style queen headboard.

Here's how it looked after the first coat of spray paint.

I am definitely excited about how my $40 headboard project came out.