Network and Smart Home

With the remodel nearly completed, I thought I would provide an overview of the home’s network and the smart home systems I have constructed.

To an overview of the system:

I set up a network rack in the basement as the home base for everything in the house. This is where the coax from the cable company terminates and where I built everything else out from. As a general rule, every cable is ran as a homerun back to the network rack. This includes one coax drop to each room and possible TV location, 2-3 CAT6 runs to each room/desk/TV location, speaker wire for in-wall speakers in the dining room and ceiling speakers for the kitchen, CAT6 for power-over-ethernet (PoE) security cameras in multiple locations on the exterior of the house, and several ceiling CAT6 drops for WAP’s (wireless access points). All in all, we ran 1,000 feet of CAT6 and a couple hundred feet of coax.

I had already began to outfit our house prior to the remodel with Lutron Caseta light switches. These smart switches worked great as most of them don’t require a neutral wire (which is a good feature when upgrading an old house). The house has been completely rewired at this point, but I already had quite a few switches and the Lutron Caseta system happens to be bombproof when compared to all the other smart home devices…so I decided to continue down that rabbit hole. Every light switch in the house is either a Lutron Caseta dimmer or Lutron Caseta switch. For the 3-way and 4-way switches (and a few other places that needed an extra switch or scene controller), I installed Lutron Pico Remotes.

At the moment, we use Amazon’s Alexa for verbal commands (via our Sonos speakers, Echo Dots, ecobee thermostat, and Amazon Echo Show 5) and Apple HomeKit for electronic device control. With that said, with the programming and motion sensors and the occasional switch/pico scene controllers, we rarely need to open up any apps.

To the hardware specifics:

Currently, Apple’s HomeKit and Amazon’s Alexa form the backbone of much our system. And while it works well, there is still more to be done to integrate everything more seamlessly. In the coming months, I plan to delve into the world of Raspberry Pi’s and explore Home Assistant. Certain devices and ecosystems don’t currently play well with each other and it will be nice to bring everything under one umbrella. If anybody has any experience or opinions, please do share as I would love all the help I can get coming up to speed. I’m looking forward to the continual iterations but feel pretty good about the current foundation we’ve built.

16 Days To Go

We’re moving back on the 27th…hopefully it’s done by then! Lots of progress has been made but we still have so many details to finish! Interior paint is done, although touch-up and some staining has yet to be finished. Plumbing and fixtures are 95% completed – just need to finish the powder room sink. Electrical is getting close – vanity lights need to be installed and some odds and ends in the basement need to be completed. Glass shower door was installed this morning. Cabinet pulls will be installed tomorrow and bathroom accessories will be installed on Saturday. Did I mention that our range didn’t get ordered in time and is two months out? Details details.

To the kitchen!

We have lights…in some places.
Starting to think about the little details…like the Grovemade Catch-All for our keys and mail.

To the primary bathroom:

Still need the vanity lights to be installed…but that tub!
Our own, private bathroom!
Shower door installed just a few hours earlier.
And that herringbone tile work.

And to the primary bedroom:

Big enough for TWO nightstands! A convenience we did not have before.
Looking into the bedroom from the bathroom. Walk-in closet to the left.
A little changing nook or space for a desk.

While the contractors have been finishing out the final touches, I’ve been busy nerding out on all the smart home devices and networking throughout the house. At last count, we will have installed 32 Lutron Caseta Switches, 15 Pico Remotes, and 2 Sonos Pico Remotes. Add in 7 Nest Protect Smoke & CO Alarms, 1,000 ft of CAT 6 cabling and a new network rack full of new gear to run everything and we should be able to run quite the smart home.

Network rack running Unifi’s UDM-Pro, switch, G4 bullet cameras, and a couple of U6-LR wireless access points.
I know they’re just smoke detectors…but they are all hardwired! And mildly smart too.

So who is around on the 27th to help move a rug and a couch? Anyone? Buehler? Buehler?

Pre-construction / Update with paint

Progress continues and we’re into the final stretch. Interior painting will be wrapping up next week and then it’s onto finish electrical, hardware, appliances, finish plumbing and touch-ups. About one more month and we can move back!

Master Bedroom
Old sunporch / master bedroom
Old sunporch / master bathroom

Happy New Year: To Progress On All Fronts

We made it to 2021! Since the last update, all hardwood flooring has been installed along with all the tile. Cabinets have been refined and adjusted. Doors have been installed. Interior trim work is being completed as we speak. I reinstalled the built-in in it’s new location. Paint begins next week.

Thus begins the mad rush to finish and move in next month. Coordinating all the final finish details, and more importantly, getting them on-site and on time may be a bit dicey as supplies appear to be quite constrained. But we’re getting close. And are so excited!

Happy New Years to all!

Obligatory before and current comparison.
I decided to spray the basement ceiling before we move back in.

Kitchen Cabinets!

There are moments during the remodel when the change is ploddingly slow. But occasionally, it is monumental. Cabinet installation is one of those days. We loved our house from the very first time we saw it. But the kitchen was abysmal. Small. Dropped ceiling. Horrible lighting. Disintegrating linoleum. Mismatched cabinets falling apart.

When we sat down with our architect to flesh out the scope, a complete overhaul was necessary. And inset cabinets were on the list of wants. So when the cabinets were finally installed this week, it feels like Christmas morning! The theoretical dream is becoming reality.

Tile will be installed upstairs next week. Followed by wood floor installation. It will be a few weeks until the cabinets are fully finished and paint probably won’t happen until January. But we are already imagining pulling espresso in our coffee nook, cooking on a new range with a working hood, or enjoying a glass of wine at the island!

From the entry into the kitchen, before and current.
From the back of the house, before and current.

Happy Thanksgiving: Dreaming of Our New Kitchen

Cabinets are delivered…and installed! Here is a quick glimpse at the calm before the storm.

Massive update coming soon. In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving!

Drywall In – Cabinet Delivery Tomorrow

Drywall is in, taped, mudded and primed! Hardwood flooring has been delivered and is acclimating for the next couple weeks before it is installed. Cabinets will be delivered tomorrow and should be installed by the end of Tuesday! Primary bathroom tile is prepared and installed this week as well. Full remodel picture album here.

Kitchen before/after.
Looking towards the front of the house, through the kitchen.
Imagine an island. A 10 foot island.
The master bedroom before/after.
Master closet to the left. Changing area/desk to the right.
Master bathroom.
Kids bathroom.
Kids bathroom. And no, kids. You can’t use your parents bathtub.

Ready for Drywall

I’m learning that projects as large as this are a marathon, not a sprint. Progress continues to plod along.

Drywall is being delivered today and then we’ll be ready for the next major evolution. The past few weeks saw the back deck get built, the entire house rewired and updated, as well as insulation being installed.

We had always planned on installing sound insulation around the powder room due to it’s proximity to the kitchen. But at the last minute, we decided to install sound insulation in the ceiling of the kitchen and TV room as well as between the two bathrooms upstairs. Prior to our remodel, you could hear every single footstep and word uttered throughout the house. With the walls opened up, we decided to take the opportunity to try and reduce this old-house phenomenon.

One unexpected surprise during this remodel has been the lack of projects for me to work on. Needing to fill some time and work off some stress, I enlisted my oldest son to help run all of the low-voltage wiring throughout the house. I’ve decided to start from scratch on our home network: this includes building a network rack in the basement as a hub for all things nerd related. With materials in hand, Christopher and I set about stringing 1000 feet of CAT6 ethernet cable, coax and speaker wire throughout the house. The result is multiple cable drops in every room, as well as wiring for wireless access points and exterior POE cameras. Sonos Amps will all be consolidated in the basement along with a new gateway, and internet switch.

As we prepare for this final stretch, we are finalizing the finish materials. Tile in the master bathroom seems to be a bit stressful…as does the kitchen pendant decision. Suggestions welcome!

Enjoy the pictures.

Kitchen before and after looking towards the dining room.
Kitchen before and after looking towards the back of the house.
Master bedroom before and after.
Master bathroom prior to drywall and tiling.
French doors installed and new deck built. Prior to this, we had no easy access to the back yard. And yes, we will be installing a handrail.
Trim will be painted cream while the windows and doors will be the accent red. Here we see three potential body colors.
1000 ft of CAT6 ethernet cable along with coax and speaker wire has been ran throughout the house. You can see where the new electrical box will be framed out once the service is switched over by our power company.
This is the new proposed network schematic including my proposed wireless access points and POE cameras that I’ll be installing.

Framing, Rough-in & Windows

2.5 months in and the change is considerable. Framing has been completed, as has rough-in for HVAC and plumbing. Electrical rough is being finished as we speak. All 10 new windows have been installed and trimmed out while the new french doors are in the process of being installed right now. New (old) siding is going on and things are getting serious.

This week will be primarily finishing up electrical and getting ready for inspections. We are pretending to wrestle with the decision of just completely re-wiring the entire house. It’s an extra $4,000, and in addition to replacing all the remaining knob and tube (ceiling of the dining room, living room, entry way, and both boys bedrooms), it will get us improved overhead lighting in the dining room and living room. I know we’ll pull the trigger and do it – I just need to pause before I burn through another $4,000. 🙂

Plumbing fixtures have all been ordered and we are finalizing our light fixtures. Solidifying the final details of our cabinetry which I can’t wait to see (inset cabinetry finally!!!!). In the meantime, my oldest son Christopher and I started running CAT6 ethernet cable, coaxial cable and speaker wire throughout the house today. I figure that if the house is opened up, might as well fill the walls with even more wires. Our home network, smart home devices and speaker system has been a bit chaotic and spread all over the place historically. I’ll be consolidating it all into a rack in the basement and am enjoying having a little project of my own to tinker on while the professionals remodel the house.

Enjoy the pictures:

Kitchen opened up and framed in. Ignore that the opening to the dining room is off-center by about 6″…yes it will be moved to the left.
The TV Room just off the kitchen. We originally were going to keep the windows on the right in the original opening…but that was off center. And it had been a day or two without a change order. This room used to be like a cave. No more!
The master bedroom framed out with windows installed. The sunporch in the background has been incorporated into the bedroom (right), walk-in closet (center), and part of the bathroom (far back and left).
The view from the master bathroom. Picture taken from the free-standing tub, toilet room on far right, and walk-in shower just to the left of that.
Exterior work continues.
Siding removed to run new electrical on the front porch, living room and upstairs bedroom.
Old crappy windows from 1950 replaced with french doors.
Love the new windows and trim work.
Quite the change to the rear exterior. We had to source reclaimed siding to match the same sizing of our original siding.
Christopher and I stringing cable – he’s a pretty good helper. And I can’t believe we have a teenager!

Demo & Framing Continued

We are nearly one month in and the demolition has finished and the framing has started. I think this is the honeymoon of the project: huge changes almost daily. Talk to me in November and December and I suspect I’ll be much more frustrated at the pace. But for now, I’m enjoying the process!

The kitchen is proving to be the craziest change at the moment. With the old first floor bathroom removed, drop ceiling gone, wall between the TV room knocked out, and the bump-out removed and rebuilt taller and wider, the space is absolutely massive!

Looking towards the back of the house.
Standing in front of the (eventual) new island and kitchen sink.
Technically we reduced the square footage by replacing the side porch/bump out, but it is so much more usable and sturdy.

Can you imagine how great that space is going to be?!?!?

Roof gets framed in on the bump out tomorrow while the footings in the basement should be poured. In order to build the bump-out, new floor joists had to be sistered into the existing ones in the kitchen.

Temporary wall on the right is installed while the footings and new posts are installed.

From there we can start installing the new beams up on the 2nd floor and between the kitchen and dining room. Progress!