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Nest Thermostat First Impressions

I picked up a second-generation Nest learning thermostat today (my wife bought it for me for the holidays — we’re worse than our kids when it comes to gifting this time of year).

First impressions:

  • The packaging is really nice if you care about that kind of thing. I can appreciate aesthetics but don’t really care when it comes to this kind of purchase.
  • The installation instructions were very clear. I’ve never installed a thermostat before but I was undaunted enough to start the installation at 10pm despite a house full of sleeping wife and kids.
  • Installation took about seven minutes. This included me missing the note in the instructions saying that I didn’t need to worry about the jumper wire and calling Nest. (I was on hold for a minute when I saw what I had missed in the instructions so I hung up).
  • My only disappointment was that Nest decided to download and install an update before letting me finish setting it up, which meant I had to wait. It took about 15 minutes (I think) to get back to a usable state so I could finish.
  • I find it interesting that Nest thinks my house was at 77 degrees. It was definitely on the warm side but I don’t think we ever set our old thermostat above 72. It read the humidity in my house at 33% which is close to where I have it set.
  • The feel of the Nest is quite pleasant. More resistance to turn than I expected. It’s also smaller than I thought it would be.
  • I’m going to reserve judgment on the iOS apps for now. More on that later.

Faucet Fixed

Well, after several trips to Lowes, Home Depot, and a specialty plumbing store I was able to finally fix the Pegasus faucet that I broke trying to install it. It was, relatively speaking, quite an ordeal. Here’s what happened.

I installed the shut-off valves and water filter before the counter was installed. After the counter was installed, I mounted the faucet on the counter, but the water filter terminated with a 3/8″ male fitting, not a standard 1/2″ female fitting. The instructions said I should get a 3/8″ to 1/2″ adapter. I picked one up from Home Depot, not realizing two things: (a) if I rejiggered the water filter tubing, I could use a standard 3/8″ to 1/2″ braided line, which I had on hand, and (b) the male end on the faucet needs a washer. I screwed the adapter on and in trying to stop the leak, over-tightened it so that when I tried to take it off, I broke the copper tubing that connects to the faucet. (Because the adapter didn’t have a washer, it was never going to stop leaking).

At this point, I still had about 5″ of good tubing left, and I thought a SharkBite 1/4″ to 1/2″ adapter that would work (available at Home Depot). Upon further inspection, though, the tubing I had was a bit smaller than 1/4″ pipe, so that didn’t work. I started looking at 5/16″ fittings, but the tubing on the faucet was a fraction smaller than standard 5/16″ tubing, so none of those would work, either. (Unfortunately, it took me two trips to Home Depot and one trip to a specialty plumbing store to figure this out).

Next, I tried to sweat the tubing off the 1/2″ fitting that I had on hand (the one that I broke off) — thinking that I could solder it back on. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much tubing left on the fitting, and I wasn’t able to get it off — and in my attempt to do so, I “squished” the fitting, making it unusable.

So I called Pegasus. I explained what happened, and they kindly said they would send me a new fitting “no problem”. Unfortunately, they sent me a valve, not a brass fitting. Not sure what the confusion was there, but I was back at square one.

At this point, I figured I was either going to be able to get a standard fitting to work, or I was going to have to buy a new faucet, and I wasn’t 100% sure but I thought the remaining tubing may have had a crack in it at the base. So I broke the remaining tubing off and used plyers to unscrew the fitting where it attaches to the faucet. It looked like 1/4″ thread, so I took the fitting to Home Depot and bought 2″ and 4″ brass nipples with 1/4″ threading on both ends, and a 1/4″ to 1/2″ adapter. After I verified that the nipple fit, I was able to easily unscrew the existing tubing and fitting from the faucet (I had bent it a bit and figured I’d rather not have to make yet another trip to the hardware store for more of the same parts). Thankfully, that worked.

Unfortunately, though, the 2″ nipple is a bit too short — I had to use nipples with different lenths so that I would have room to attach the fittings (and to get the faucet through the hole in the counter with all the fittings on — which I technically didn’t have to do, but wanted to so that I could have an easier time tightening). But because the 2″ nipple is so short, the fitting sits above the bottom of the counter and impedes the bracket that is used to secure the faucet to the underside of the counter. For the time being I’m just using the nut that came with the faucet (no bracket) but I’m going to have to use a washer of some kind to give the nut more surface are to make contact. Or, I may look for a 6″ nipple (which Home Depot didn’t happen to have, but I think I can get from Amazon) — but then, the faucet is connected and not leaking, so I’m inclined not to mess with it.

Counters Installed

The counters were installed in the wet bar and laundry room today, and I stopped at Lowes after work to pick up a few things I would need to to finish the plumbing.  The laundry room faucet went in with no problem, but I ran into some issues on the wet bar.

This is the laundry room.  You may notice that the washer and dryer are further off the wall (deeper) than the base cabinetry.  We had considered installing the cabinets off the wall, but that would have created a lot of extra work for the plumbing, so we decided to keep them flush to the back wall and put a curve in the counter top instead.  I think it worked out nicely.

And this is the wet bar.

Both counters are “absolute black” granite, which is the same material we used in our master bath and have been very happy with.

The faucet in the laundry room installed with no issues — prior to the counters being installed, I installed shut-off valves on the rough-in plumbing, so all I had to do was secure the faucet to the counter and connect the water supply using braided connectors. The drain on the laundry sink required a little finessing — b/c the cabinetry is installed on a platform to raise them to the same height as the washer/dryer, the drain was about a half-inch off the floor of the cabinet. I used an S-trap (which terminates vertically instead of horizontally as a P-trap does) and used a 90-degree fitting on the PVC.

The wet bar faucet was not quite so smooth. I had installed the shut-off valves and a 3M water filter prior to the counters going in. Unfortunately, the water filter terminated with a male, 3/8-inch connector instead of the standard female, 1/2-inch connector which the faucet could marry to. At Lowes I was looking for a female-to-female reducer, but I couldn’t find such a thing so I ended up buying a 3/8-inch compression flex fitting with a 1/2-inch female connector. What I didn’t realize is that the faucet NEEDS a rubber washer in the female connection, so I over-tightened the connection (trying to fix the leak) and broke the faucet after giving up and trying to disconnect the fitting. Oops. The good news is that I think I was able to trim the copper on the faucet with pipe cutters, and SharkeBite makes a 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch reducer that should work (I just have to hope Lowes or Home Depot carries it). So, what I thought was going to be thirty minute job turned into three hours of cursing.

Mudroom Progress

I was out for a week on a family vacation, but got back late last week and made some progress on the mudroom.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had laid the tile in the mudroom wrong, and ended up using too many of the 9×12 tiles, so I was two tiles short.  To their credit, The Tile Shop in Bedford, Ohio gave me the extra tile without charging me.  I had been concerned that they were going to make me buy a whole kit, which would have cost almost $100.  Tile in hand, I was able to finish the tiling and grouting this weekend.  We’re very happy with how it turned out. 
 Because our first floor has 11′ ceilings, I decided to build a separate storage area above the full-length closet.  We built the coat closet to normal height using bypass doors as shown below, and above the space we added a second “closet” with plywood bypass doors.  I think this will be great for storing out-of-season outerwear.
I still have to paint the plywood doors and door trim, and we are waiting for the replacement light to show up, but it’s really nice having a serviceable mudroom!

Paint Sprayer

Between the basement and mud room remodels, I had ten doors to paint.  I started painting them with a brush, but after spending ten minutes to paint just one panel, I decided it was going to take me way too long so I decided to invest in a paint sprayer.  I had read about high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) sprayers in a handyman magazine recently, and decided to pick up the Graco 2900 from Lowes.  It cost about $120.

The first hiccup:  When I got home and unboxed the sprayer, I found that it was missing several components — a viscosity tester and a tool to assemble and de-assemble the sprayer.  I ended up having to go back to Lowes to exchange it.   An hour wasted but not the end of the world.

The instructions for the sprayer tell you to test the paint and dilute it as necessary to reach an acceptable viscosity.  I found that diluting the paint (I’m using Sherwin Williams’ “Pro Classic” interior latex paint in semi gloss — which we’ve used for all the woodwork throughout our house) with 1:10 water:paint did the trick.  I used a kitchen whisk to mix the paint and water (don’t tell my wife).

I tested the sprayer on some casing that I needed to paint.  I don’t mind painting this kind of molding by hand, but the sprayer made quick work of the job — I got it done in less than half the time it would have taken me with a brush, plus because the paint goes on a bit thinner, you can sand between coats after a relatively short amount of time.

What I noticed about the sprayer,  is that the paint appears to go on in “spits” — meaning as you’re painting you can see small spots.  This smoothed itself out during the drying process, though, and didn’t appear to pose a problem.

Clean up was relatively easy, though I have a different approach than what the manual suggests.  The instructions suggest that you should clean the gun by spraying water through it.  I did this the first time, and it took a long time to clean it out, and the water-paint mixture was a huge mess.  Instead, I recommend disassembling the gun and washing everything by hand, re-assembling and spraying clean water through the gun, and then disassembling again to allow everything to dry.   It sounds like a lot of work, but the gun breaks down in about a minute so it’s not that difficult.

My technique down, I had a free day this weekend to paint the doors.  A coworker and friend of mine that used to work for Ryan Homes gave me a trick for painting this many doors — stand them up in a zig-zag pattern and screw a furring strip across the top of the doors.  I forgot to take a pitcture, but a top down view of the doors would look something like this:  /\/\/

I strung the doors together in two units with five doors each and put them on a plastic tarp in my back yard.  It took me about ten hours to get three coats of paint on the doors, sanding between each coat (I used a random orbital sander with general purpose paper).  The Graco sprayer has an adjustment to allow you to spray in either a round, vertical, or horizontal pattern, and the instructions recommend spraying with the vertical pattern while spraying side-to-side, and then switching to the horizontal pattern and spraying up-and-down.  I sprayed the first two coats using both patterns with the maximum amount of paint the gun would allow, and the third coat with just a very light ratio of air-to-paint to touch up. 

It took me two gallons of paint and all day — and I made a few mistakes along the way, but wow, the doors look great!  I would say that they look pretty close to furniture-grade.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Don’t spray with the paint reservoir almost empty.  Doing so makes it hard to keep moving in a continuous pattern, and I ended up putting too much paint in a few areas, which causes a large “drip” pattern to appear.  I tried using the air from the sprayer to smooth this out, which didn’t work at all — in retrospect, I should have brushed them out.  Instead I’ll have to sand off the paint and touch up with a brush.
  • I mentioned that I switched between the vertical and horizontal spray patterns.  When you do this, the pattern that you’re not using gets clogged pretty quickly.  You can get away with removing the clogs by hand, but plan on rinsing and scrubbing the nozzle with a stiff brush each time you refill the tank.
  • On the Graco, at least, the spray pattern is adjusted by controlling the paint flow to either two (vertical and horizontal) or four (round) nozzles.  As such, the round patterns gets twice the paint that the vertical and horizontal patterns — so it’s easier to paint with vertical and horizontal OR round, but switching between vertical/horizontal and round is difficult because it’s hard to adjust the amount of paint that you’re getting.
  • Stand the doors upside down (which I only did for a few of the doors).  The side that is on the ground needs to be touched up with a brush afterwards, and it will be easier to avoid making a mess if you’re painting the top of the doors instead of the bottom.  (I installed the doors last night and still have to do some touch up, and am dreading touching up doors with new carpet being installed today).
  • Don’t paint outside on a windy day.  Duh.  I was completely covered in paint, but it oculdn’t be avoided given my timeline.

Laundry Room Cabinets

I posted a few weeks ago about having to re-order the laundry room sink base cabinet because I had done the math incorrectly — I thought I had left myself three inches, but because of my error I had less than an inch left.  So I returned the sink base and ordered a new, smaller one (three inches smaller).  It came late last week and we installed it so that we could measure for the counters (which is happening today).

The install for the cabinets is a little unusual.  We bought standard-height cabinets, and had to install them on a 2×4 frame so that they would be taller than the washer/dryer.  We also ran a half-inch plywood furring strip behind the washer/dryer, installed a 3/4-inch plywood cleat between the washer and dryer, and a half-inch plywood board along the outside wall next to the dryer.

Sorry for the mess in this photo — I took it this morning after the carpet install had started.  If you look closely you can see the plywood framing that we installed to support the counters over the washer and dryer.  I took the door off the lower cabinet on the bottom left and lost the screws, but the upper cabinet has a glass door.  We think the laundry room looks great.  More photos after we clean up!

Carpet Installed

The carpet installers came bright and early this morning.  I had to leave for work before they were finished, but here are some photos.

I posted previously about my dilema with determining the height to install the baseboard.  I asked the installers about it this morning — they thought it was a little higher than it should be (I went about a half-inch above the floor) and said that one or two paint sticks in height is right.  I didn’t have time to scrutinize it yet, but it appears that the half inch is working out fine.  Note that I had a premium carpet pad installed (meaning it is thicker than normal).