Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pocket door, Part 1

Alright, I've been sitting on a draft of this post for waaayyy too long, waiting for this project to be 100% complete before sharing. But apparently we are slower than a herd of asthmatic snails, so I'm slapping a "Part 1" on the post title and calling it a day. :-D

As I wrote about here, we'd been debating how to deal with the interior bedroom window that opens out over the living room. After debating pros and cons, price, aesthetics, etc., we decided we were on Team Pocket Door. This would entail ripping out a big chunk of drywall in the bedroom, but ultimately we thought it would look cleaner. Once we'd made the call, Jeff built us a custom-sized door to fit the opening.

We'd decided to use wood that would mimic the decking on the ceiling, and paint it white to match. Jeff brought it over to the house and I painted it, and then he and Brandon spent a couple of days working on the installation while I tried to keep the baby from eating drywall chunks. Here's Jeff adding framing for the pocket door track.

I didn't get very many photos of the process, but they were able to do a pretty standard pocket door installation - the only weird thing was the door itself, which was obviously not a standard size.

Here it is in place! Open...

...and closed...

They then added some nailers so that we could patch up that big 'ol hole in the wall.

Once it's done, it will sort of act visually like a giant headboard, since it sits right over our bed.

I am absolutely thrilled with it so far. It makes the bedroom feel infinitely more secluded and private, and it blocks noise pretty well too! This means that Brandon can take Matilda downstairs in the mornings, and mama can sleep in. SO WORTH IT.

It looks great from downstairs too - I like that it blends in pretty seamlessly, and doesn't stick out and visually compete with other features like the beams.

So where are we now? Well the drywall patch is actually already done, thanks to help from our super handy and definitely non-rabid friend Kit. She came over an embarrassingly long time ago to give us a hand, so it's hung, taped and mudded. We have to do another quick pass with the mud to hide the patch as best we can, and then sand and paint, and re-hang/caulk/touch-up the trim on the bedroom side. Then the last thing on the list is to find a good locking mechanism, since this little lady is getting dangerously close to mobile...

Friday, August 23, 2013


Big house news to share, and I am GEEKING OUT!

I probably mentioned way long ago that we really really REALLY wanted to install solar panels when we renovated the house, but it just didn't fit in the original budget. We figured it would be one of those way-off-in-the-distant-future projects. But then, thanks to a Facebook post by Matt Grocoff, I became aware of the MI Solar Works program administered by a local non-profit, the WARM Training Center. From their website: "MI Solar Works is a state-wide initiative to solarize 6,000 Michigan homes and businesses by the end of 2014 as part of the Department of Energy’s “Race to the Rooftops” national challenge." Basically, my understanding is that if enough people are interested in solar panels within a given metro area, they can provide low "bulk rate" prices for the panels and installation. Of course I immediately signed up, but was told that they didn't yet have enough interest in Ypsilanti. Wop wop.

But then, on July 31, I received an email that they'd hit the quota for Ypsilanti! They'd also already done a Google assessment of our rooftop to make sure it was suitable for solar (the side that faces the river is just a few degrees off from due south). The next step was for me to send our latest electric bill, so that they could assess how many panels we would need.

[Incidentally, apparently our local evil monopoly power company has been able to impose regulations on the number of solar panels people can have. We are only allowed to install enough to cover our average monthly usage. Even if we wanted to buy more ourselves - and pay to have them installed - TO PRODUCE EXTRA CLEAN SOLAR ENERGY that would go back on the grid, we wouldn't be allowed to. REALLY, DTE? I would love to hear their attempt at a non-evil justification of this steaming pile of horse shit.]

Anyway! Here are the numbers, in case anyone is curious. Turns out we use about $70 in electricity per month. This is perfect, because one of the standard sizes for solar installation covers about $72/month in usage. This is a 4.87 kW system, for which the array will be about 400 sq ft. We'll likely produce "extra" energy in the summer, which will go back on the grid and we'll get credit, which we can use if we're short in the winter.

Here is a financial summary. The total cost is nearly $14,600 (ouch!), but there is a 30% tax credit, bringing the cost down to about $10,200. MI Solar Works is partnering with Michigan Saves to finance all or part of this amount, and no down payment is required. If we finance the entire amount, our monthly payments would be in the ballpark of $160 over 10 years. We will probably put some money down to reduce the monthly payments a bit, but we're still figuring out what the best approach is for us financially. In any case, though, it is much more affordable than we ever thought it would be, and we are so excited! We have someone coming this afternoon to check out our roof and meter, and let us know about the next steps.

Check out all that glorious south-facing roof