House Repainting – Day 3

Today, I got thinking about the guys working on the house and whether anyone was making any money from this.  Apparently, I can’t math very good (this is well-proven), but I’m even worse at abstract math.

So, the initial quote to do the house was $2400.  The revised quote was $3100.  It was still fine for me, especially since everyone’s hurting right now and they’re doing so much.  When I said, “paint the house”, I was generally expecting the main areas to be painted.  But a full house painting was so much more:

  • pressure-wash house and sidewalk and driveway
  • fill cracks in stucco
  • caulk and seal windows and roof caps
  • repaint soffit
  • repaint trim
  • repair entryway ceiling seams and texture
  • repaint entryway
  • repaint front door

As with any job, there’s two costs: labor and materials.  Let’s start with the labor costs.  I’ve had two workers onsite for 3 days and they expect to finish up tomorrow.  Additionally, I’ll have an additional worker repairing my entryway ceiling.  I figure that’s about 64 hours of general labor and 4 hours of specialized labor.  Actually, we’ll exclude the specialist since he’s probably subcontracted at a flat rate for the repair.

Let’s assume the workers are paid fairly (idk?) at $15/hr.  That’s round about $1000 in labor there.  Maybe the specialist is doing the job for $250 (idk?).  So far, the job is well under budget.  The owner commented about the amount of paint he was buying and that it was about $35/gallon.  I’ve seen two 5-gallon buckets so far, but I can’t imagine that covers the whole house twice.  So let’s double it.  20 gallons of paint is $700.  We’re still not even at 50% of the project cost.  Business guy’s doing good business.

Then there’s materials: tape, plastic sheeting, tarps, brush rollers, brushes, cleaning materials, buckets, paint screens, gas for pressure washer, etc.  Even if all that stuff is $300, which it’s probably closer to $150, we’re still at a 30% profit margin on the job.  Had the original quote been executed, that would be more like 17%.  We’re not taking into any account the overall business expenses for the company: taxes, insurance, marketing, operational (vehicles, building) and benefits.  If I were the business type, which I certainly am not, I would actually be a little nervous taking on jobs with less than 20% profit to cover everything else, including screwups.  So overall, I think the deal was fair and healthy for his business.

In other news, the peephole has come in, so it’s ready to be installed after the door is painted.  I also made a random purchase of a outdoor spigot handle, since the ones I have now all have the paint flaked off.  It’s not expensive.  In fact, it’s really, really dumb that buying a 2-pack is so much more expensive than buying 2 single packs.

I was going to get a screenshot of this from Amazon, but in typical Amazon fashion, the price jumped up from $3.89 to $5.15.  So now, the 2-pack is the cheaper option.  Well, at least I bought one at the low.

I installed the spigot handle and and generally disappointed.  It is a universal handle, so there is a reversible shaft that fits two different faucets.  The shaft mating with the handle is not a tight fit, so there is a little play when you turn the handle on and off.  I don’t think I’ll be keeping it long-term.

Today, while walking around the house, I noticed they had painted the dryer vent to match the house.  I don’t understand painting everything to match.  There’s a wall plate on the front of the house that’s been painted and is going to be replaced with accenting stainless steel, too.  The dryer vent is pretty old and was due for replacement, so I did a search for stainless steel replacements to match everything else.  Found and ordered. Not Prime, so it will be delivered on foot like my house numbers.  Estimated delivery, 6-10 weeks.

Anyway, on with the updates.

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Window sills are painted, breaking up the large color blocks.

The back of the house got some treatment today.  Not yet done, but coming along.  Three shades of blue here: sky, house, and pool.

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As I was sitting on the patio, I was surprised at how calming the color was.  I had never noticed how I didn’t get that with the old color.  The blue is just the color I always wanted and never knew it.

Tomorrow, it’s the front door and the repair of the entryway.  I pulled down the trim of the canister lights to clean them (wasp nests EVERYWHERE) and allow for the repair to get in there.

House Repainting – Day 2

Today the painters showed up to do the painting for real.  They started out with cutting in on the edges, then masking everything off and spraying the soffits and trim, then filling in the first coat of the primary color. 

So far, looks nice.

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Still need to paint the window sills white, which was seemingly lost in communication.  But the whole house still needs its first coat and then the second coat.

I learned that I’m also getting the front door painted, so I had to pick a color.  Uhhh… white.  Pure white, not the off white being used elsewhere.  I clarified that the hardware would be taken off and the door would be sanded first, otherwise I would do that myself.  I also made a quick purchase of a satin nickel peephole to replace the faded brass one currently on the door.  That will match with the other trim pieces, including new stainless steel cover plates on the front of the house and the house numbers being shipped by foot.  Seriously.  You can buy the numbers from Amazon for $50 each and get them with Prime shipping, or buy them for $15 from WayFair and get them in… 8-10 weeks!  Yeah, I’ll save the $100+, I can wait.  But, I can’t really wait.  They are going to look fucking awesome.

Container Garden

I’m going to start calling my motivation Cotton-eye Joe.  Where does it come from, where does it go?  I don’t have a clue, I don’t fucking know.  But anyway, when the painters were doing their pressure washing, they included the small patio off the pool deck.  That’s where all the pots were for my failed container garden.  In order to wash the patio, they had to move the pots and I felt really guilty about that.  I decided right then I would finish this job.

The main reason why the garden was never really completed was because the garden bed needed cleared out.  It was a mess of vines and weeds and there was a remnant stump from a tree I took out a while back.  I would regularly kill the weeds with roundup (and they always came back), but the stump I was having trouble with.  Every week or two, I would spend one physical expenditure trying to dig it out.  That was usually about 15-20 mins of effort.  Yesterday, I finally broke the tap root and got it pulled out.  The primary obstacle has been removed.  I then raked up the bed and laid down another coat of Roundup.  Time to move on this.

Next step is mulching.  I checked online for calculating how many bags of mulch you need and the formula made everything more complex than it needed to be.  In the end, I estimated about 150 sq ft of area to cover.  If each bag covers 2 cubic feet that’s uhhh… I’ll just buy a bunch of bags and if I don’t have enough, I’ll just buy more.  My suspicion is that mulch is like the opposite of spaghetti.  If you’re cooking spaghetti, you grab a bunch and cook it and end up with enough to feed an army.  On the other hand, you buy a bunch of mulch and it only covers a fraction of what you needed.

The garden project has been going on for well over a year.  One thing I have now that I didn’t have back then is a vehicle to haul stuff, like mulch.  With the new station wagon, I was now unstoppable.  I went to Lowes and bought 15 bags of mulch.  I wasn’t sure it would fit, but I could have easily fit 20 or more.  I got the bags home and unloaded the mulch.  I laid down two layers of weed barrier over most of the garden, only skipping the lower extension by a couple feet.  Then I poured out the mulch.  The 15 bags covered the area quite well.  Almost perfect.

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I guessed I could probably use a few more bags to thicken it up and fill in some weak areas, so I got 3 more bags after lunch and dropped them in, too.

Now, for the decorating.  Unfortunately, most everything I had purchased and planted in the previous Cotton-eye Joe moment had died, so I was left with only a few elements to place.  I’ll have to buy up some more plants now.  But, this is a start.

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A couple of days later, I bought some more plants, some more expensive options.  I potted them up with some extra soil and filled in the garden bed.

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The pots have more color than the plants, but that’s ok.  There’s only a few flowers in the bunch, the majority are grasses.

House Repainting – Day 1

Oh boy, one of the biggest changes to the house is coming.  It’s changing color from pink to blue.  The house is 28 years old and still its original color.  I’ve been in the house 15 of those years and have had to live with the thought of Mellencamp’s “little pink houses for you and me” all that time.

The first thing the painters will do is pressure wash the entire thing:  building, soffits, driveway, patio, windows and pathway.  A day before they started, I took the opportunity to pull out some cable tacks and screws and a TV cable running into the side of the house.  I filled up all the holes and divots with stucco patch.  After they pressure washed, they filled up all the cracks in the stucco with a special caulk.  The driveway had never been so clean before.  They used a disc-type washer which made a huge difference.

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And all the walkway stones were cleaned, which is something I could never do well myself.

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I had my color chosen, Smoky Azurite, so the painter brought a tester of that color and also of the shade next lighter.  I guess lots of people are surprised when they see how dark their chosen color is.  The two colors were painted on and I stuck with my original, darker, shade.

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The blue should contrast with the brick nicely.  However, to keep the house from seeming too monochromatic, and also to make the windows appear larger, I’m having the window sills painted white.  Not a pure, blinding white, but a faint off-white in the grey spectrum called Misty.

Another thing happening is the repair of the entryway.  This area got damaged from mud wasps building nests, which required pressure washing to take off.  the pressure washing damaged the sheetrock and when I went to repair it, it just got worse.  The professionals need to handle it now.  So that will all get repainted.

One thing that is not getting done is the front door.  I think I will be able to handle that in the wintertime when everything has cooled down. It will give me time to consider a color.

The Lanai Window Sill Replacement

I mentioned a week ago that I had moved my office out into the guest bedroom because of some upcoming construction.  That construction is wrapping up and I would consider it a success.

When I first took over the house fully, I had a checklist item to repair the rotting window sill.  I purchased a wood repair kit and when I got into the project, I discovered the rot was significant.  So I cut out a large chunk of wood and replaced with an ill-fitting patch of wood.  That patch was in place for a long time.  Well, five years or so.  I had people come and look at the patch and ask if they could fix it.  Most said yes, but for one reason or another, it never happened.

Then, I asked the contractor who installed my flooring about the situation.  He suggested I get rid of all the wood and replace it with granite.  That was a totally different idea and I was impressed with his suggestion, as much for its durability aspect as its audacity.  This would involve tearing the room apart and rebuilding it.  So I asked him to quote me on the job.  He came out and got measurements and said he’d have something soon.  It never came.  Just like everyone else.

Over a year later, I really want to get this project done.  I call the big guys, some home contractors.  They say the job is too small for them and give me their contact for a handyman.  He comes out and discusses changing the wood out for some plastic wood that won’t rot.  He says he’ll look up some product and get back to me.  He doesn’t.  Story of my life.

In desperation, I contact the original flooring contractor and ask if he’s willing to take on the job again.  He agrees, comes out, and gives me a quote the next day.  His explanation for flaking out last time was that he didn’t really know how it could be done without replacing the windows.  It is likely they would be broken during the removal.  So, we agreed to quote the job with window replacement and if the windows were preserved, they would be reused and would lower the total cost. 

Let’s do this.

Before demo starts, I have to go to a granite fabricator and choose the stone.  I choose a simple white, unpatterned stone.  I was told I could choose anything in a “Level 1” category, which is a pricing tier, and I think I got a Level 2 finish on a deal from the owner.  Good for me.

One chance to take pictures before this begins, to compare how it was.

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You can see the wood patch on the left side.

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On day one, the room was demoed.  The windows were removed and the sills were removed from the walls.  Someone from the granite shop comes by shortly afterwards to take the measurements.  He explains that the notches for the door frame will be cut here on-site because transporting them with notches would be too fragile.  That’s fine.  Now we have to wait for the stone to be cut.  In the meantime, my lanai looks like some run down beach bar in the Bahamas.

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You can see just how bad the rot was.

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In a couple days, the granite is ready and once a storm clears out, everyone converges on my house.  Half a dozen granite workers and four contractor workers all measuring, cutting, fitting, levelling, and adhering the stone to the walls. And in the middle of it all, the pool guy shows up to add more chaos to the patio.  At the end of the day, the stone was set and one window was installed..IMG_20200430_185220IMG_20200430_185148IMG_20200430_191502

The next day, the rest of the windows were installed and caulking was done.  At this point it’s pretty much complete.

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It looks pretty much exactly like it used to, but everything is new and durable.All lumber is pressure treated and faced with plastic wood.  The difference in height between the old wood and the granite was maybe 1/4″ and it was filled in at the top of the windows with plastic wood.  You can’t even tell it’s been filled.

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A great success.  Now that that’s done, what’s next on the list?  Next Tuesday is network wiring.  Then the next phase is repainting the house, then re-roofing.  I expect that will finish off my savings, but the phase after that will be retiling the bathrooms and resurfacing the pool patio and replacing the patio drain.

And after that?  The only thing I could think of left to do would be replace the kitchen countertops.  And replace the windows, but that one’s like 30k and I don’t think I’d realize any return on investment for that.

Wiring – Capitulation

I’ve reached the limits of my abilities and I’m calling in the professionals to finish up the job.  The remaining 6 drops I want are in places I would need more specialized tools, experience, and very likely a second person to accomplish.

I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find someone to do the job.  I figured, I would make a call and set up an appointment.  I called three places to start.  Two didn’t answer so I left messages.  The third said he didn’t do residential and gave me a website to look up contractors in my area.  So I tried the first likely contractor from that site and left a message (because no one answers their phone anymore).

After not getting any call backs the next day, I called one of the first places back.  They said they don’t do residential.  I went back to the contractor website and tried another number.  That person (who answered!) said he didn’t do residential… usually… but now things were different.  Ah, the economic downturn rears its head.

So I explained what I wanted and he explained a little about his business and that he charged $85 per drop.  Yeesh.  I had read online about some electrician getting hassled by his peers for charging $35/drop.  But, what am I up against?  No one else is answering, and these guys are professionals.  Surely they are insured and if anything goes wrong, they can handle it.  You get what you pay for, so they say.  And also, times are tough.  I don’t want to be someone who takes advantage of someone who’s reducing himself to taking on a $500 job because his 5-figure contracts have evaporated.

But in the meantime, I did get the internet moved to ethernet, which allowed me to yank the coax out.  I identified two coax runs that ran the length of the house and each had like 30 feet of slack.  They were used for DirectTV and didn’t lead anywhere but outside, so they got eliminated. 

The wire in the attic is looking better.  I have a technique for the cable staples that works for me, where I hold the staple against the cable in a set of locking pliers while I hammer it in.  I was able to secure a couple of wires this way.  I just need to get up and do some more.

Wiring – FIOS

As the wiring in the house gets upgraded, there’s something that has irked me for a very long time.  Ever since FIOS got installed by Verizon, I’ve had a router that had the capability of using ethernet for the input line, but it’s always been coax.  Coax is like stone-age technology, still used by cable internet providers.  FIOS is supposed to be the next generation, fiber optic to your home.  And from there, you should be “on the network”.  And on the network means ethernet to me.

Since I have no television service with my Frontier plan, I can fiddle around with the coax cables in my house with impunity, except for the one that feeds my router.  Ugh.  And one more piece of junk in this mess, when I had some service done by Frontier and they completely switched out my ONT (outdoor network terminal), they gave me a new router.  I hadn’t had an upgrade in over 15 years.  This new router expects that your input signal is ethernet.  Yeah!  And because mine isn’t, I have to have another device that converts the coax to ethernet.  So, not only will I get rid of the coax dependency, but I’ll also get rid of an extra device on my wiring shelf.

I made a purchase a couple of days ago of 50′ of outdoor, burial-grade CAT6 cable and today I ran that cable from my ONT to my patch panel.  I terminated the indoor end and tested the line successfully. The last step is to have Frontier make the switch from coax to ethernet.

I got online and entered the Frontier support chat.  I was #43 in the queue, but got served in under 10 minutes.  Not too bad.  The offshore technician “Beth” (whose screen name is really Betsabe) was helpful enough and confirmed that I could make the switch without involving a tech visit.  I elected not to do it right then because, duh, we’d get cut off and I wouldn’t be able to confirm the switch was done.  So it will be a phone call for another day.  And assuming it all works well, I will have one less device on my shelf.

So where does that leave the house for future changes or future owners?  It’s pretty flexible, really.  I will have a jack that runs from my patch panel to the splitter in the attic.  If I or someone else wants to activate television, just connect the router to the patch panel and it will feed the house.  If for some god awful reason the internet changes to Spectrum, the splitter in the attic can be reconfigured to take the input from the exterior cable instead of from the router and send an output to the router instead of being input by the router.  I will have a similar configuration for phone.

Wiring – Day 2+3, Plus Relocation

My work yesterday freed up some dependencies so I’m able to move on those while I also continue with my wiring project. 

First, though, one of the wiring subprojects is electrical.  I want to install a power outlet in the attic to feed the UV light in my HVAC system.  The UV light hasn’t worked as long as I’ve ever lived here, but that’s only part of the problem.  The previous homeowners had the light connected to the attic light socket, which turned off with the switch mounted near the access hole.  So if you wanted the UV light on, you had to leave the light switch on all the time and use the pull cord on the light socket.  And although I didn’t test it because that situation was dumb enough.I’m not sure if the pull cord controlled the outlets on the base anyway.

So, I mounted a new box on a rafter and ran some Romex wire down to the outlet that feeds my garage door opener.  Tomorrow AM when there’s light and coolness, I’ll cut the power and finish the wiring.

But, the relocation part.  Yes, the wiring project was motivated by my desire to move on the lanai window sill project.  So now I have a working network jack in the guest bedroom (the tester did its job perfectly).  So I have to move everything out of the lanai into other places temporarily and move my desk and computers to the guest bedroom.  So that’s going to be a blast.  In a way, it’s returning home, since the guest bedroom was my original office.

Back to the wiring.  Saturday morning I cut the breaker to the garage and wired up the new attic outlet.  I didn’t test it because the UV light doesn’t have a working bulb.  I will probably test it tomorrow if I choose to do some cable cleanup after today.

The next outlet in my list is the kitchen.  it replaces the phone line with a cat5 phone line cable and a network cable.  The test today is to see if I can pull cable back up into the attic using the existing cable.  Spoiler: no.

First, up in the attic to clear the insulation around the hole and get measurements.  pulling on the cable yields no movement.  Back down, I measure where the existing hole is.  It’s not even close to the outlet.  However, I got a new tool today to help me with cases like this.  It’s a massive magnet that will drag wires behind walls.  Let’s try it.

Back up in the attic, I drill a new large hole for my new wires.  I tie a pull string to a chain that was supplied with my new tool.  In theory, I drop the chain down, grab it with the magnet, and drag it to the outlet.  Easy.  But nothing is easy.  What I should have done as a first step is used the stud finder to see if there were any blocking studs.  And there were.  I could not drag the chain past the blocking stud.  I had no other choice.  I had the go into the wall.

Fortunately, there is a place I can cut that isn’t readily visible – inside the lighting soffit in the kitchen.  So, I cut a hole big enough for full access:

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Inside, I spied the phone jack running over and down.  I reached in and pulled on it.  Still no budging.  It was stapled further down in the wall.  I had no choice but to run a new line.  In a rare bit of luck, there was no hole drilled down to where the outlet was.  It was just an open gap.  So I pulled the chain from my ingress hole, dragged it over to where the outlet needed and dropped it there.  In short order I had my chain coming out of the outlet.  I tied my cables to my pull string and fed them back into the outlet.

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It wasn’t exactly easy to fish the two cables back up and I made the mistake of thinking I could pull the cables into the attic using the string.  That was a wasted trip up and back down.  The better thing to do was push the cable up into the attic from below.  Then it was a matter of terminating the ends and testing them (successfully!) and cleanup.

I make no apologies for choosing to do the easiest drops first.  It’s to build up some techniques and experience that maybe I can use on the harder drops.  and this run gives me a sinking feeling for the rest of my plan.  I didn’t want to have to get into cutting into walls, but look at me now.  The knowledge that the existing phone cables are stapled into place really changes the game plan.  One drop in the bedroom seems like it’s going to be near impossible since it is located under a plant shelf.  I can’t see how I can drop from above it.  But we’ll see what happens in future posts.

House Wiring – Day 1

Today I made the split decision to begin my wiring, primarily because it’s cold and rainy out and having a day where the attic can be cool(er) is something that must be exploited.  Today I received my spool of CAT5 cable, so there wasn’t anything holding me back.  Previously, I had received my wiring tool kit, and still to come are extra keystone jacks and wall plates.  But the wiring can be done in advance and the wire is here.

Like I’ve said, it’s been a year since I’ve been in the attic, and I do remember what a bunch of bullshit it was.  I’m not young anymore and I don’t have the flexibility I used to.  So climbing around like a monkey between joists is not a fun project.  But I consoled myself saying there was no rush and I could take months to complete the project if I wanted to.  The more important thing was to do it well and not give up part way through like every other time, saying “Fuck this!  Good enough!”

One of the goals of the wiring project was to clean up the bullshit.  First of all, all the phone lines except one are coming out.  Second, what cable runs that are there are going to be cleaned up.  The network wire is just laying on the joists and I want to have it elevated, suspended from the rafters.  I bought a bag of cable clips that nail to wood beams to accommodate this.

The first thing I chose to do was to pull the new line from the guest bedroom.  That room already had 3 wires run already, but they were too short after the switch relocation.  I tied my new cable to one of the old cables, went in the attic and pulled myself a fresh line of cable.  Now to drop it.

My network jacks are mounted in the ceiling and to support my expanded configuration, the hole needs to be bigger.  So that was the next thing I did: cut a bigger hole and installed the mounting plate.

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With the bigger hole, I was able to put my whole hand in there, so fishing cables out was going to be a breeze.  And for the new drop, it absolutely was.  Now that the cable was run and dropped, I had to neaten it up.

I don’t have a small hammer to bring up with me, so I took my small sledge hammer..  I don’t know the name of the tool, but it is like a hand-size sledge hammer.  It turned out to be a terrible decision.  Too heavy and the head was sort of rounded, so the nails kept bending.  I went back down and got my real hammer.  Although big, it did a much better job.  I just want to comment that the trivial statement “going down” is anything but.  It’s almost 5 minutes of stretching and squatting.

With the network cables secured to the rafters, I wanted to clean up the coax cable as well.  I only needed one wire right now, for the internet, so I disconnected everything else from the splitter and started organizing. 

Holy shit.  Two runs that were shot far down the house probably had 30 feet of slack each!  So now, my project grows a little bit because I want to trim and re-terminate these excessive cable to the proper length.  More tools.  What sucks is I had all the tools to do that and threw them out when I cleared out the shed thinking I’d never need them again.  Lesson learned.  Hoarding begins.  And the coax wasn’t the only thing excessive.  The phone line, which didn’t seem to go anywhere, was probably 50 feet itself.  Just piles of slack cable.

I’m going to be sore AF tomorrow, but my goal for that day is to see if I can pull a network cable up using one of the existing phone cables.  And tonight I’m going to terminate my new cable run and try out my cable tester in my new tool kit.

Wiring (Again)

Like 15 years ago, when I first bought the house, I was very keen on modernizing it.  I was going to have a network closet and a server to run all the automation stuff throughout the house, and network wiring everywhere.  It was ambitious and very much of-the-time.

Well, times have changed and for better or worse, I didn’t get very far with my plans.  What did happen was the absolute necessities.  I had network wiring and phone lines run for the two offices used in the house.  I had set up a nasty wiring closet in a bedroom closet to house the network devices and wiring… but this story has been told already.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I moved my network wiring to its current location.  And now, there is an impetus to make some improvements.

Projects have dependencies, and also, projects cause dependencies.  One of the projects on my immediate list is fixing the lanai.  The window sill needs replaced and it’s going to be upgraded to granite so it’ll never rot again.  I have the quote for the work now, but I can’t start it.  That’s going to put me out of my office for an extended period, and with me working from home as is everyone now, that’s not an option.

So, move to another room!  I can’t.  No other room has network wiring set up.  So that’s the new priority: to get wiring set up in all the other rooms so I can relocate and free up the lanai for construction.  Piece of cake, except for the unknowns.

I mentioned before that I had two offices wired up for networking, but now I only seem to have one.  That is because when I relocated the wiring to the laundry room, one room’s cables didn’t reach anymore.  So those need re-run.  Those will be the easy ones.

While I am expending the effort, I had it in my mind that when the weather cools back down, I would delete all the phone jacks from the house.  Land lines are now an antiquated concept and their presence actually lowers the impression of the house.  So I will convert all the phone jacks to network jacks and leave a single phone line in the kitchen, in case someone really wants a physical phone and sets up a wireless base station.

So the re-wiring is going to be an unknown.  I don’t know if the existing phone wire is stapled to any studs or if the hole in the framing is large enough for a cat5 cable.  Since they are mostly installed on the outside walls, that’s going to be hard to access.  While I’m at it, I may try and run a couple of ethernet lines from the FIOS ONT module inside, so I can eventually convert to ethernet completely for the internet access.

Then, after I have all my cables run, I have to upgrade the ceiling jacks by my router.  I currently have a single jack with 6 ports.  I’ll have to replace that with a 2-gang plate with 12 outlets.  Eventually, I’ll need a larger switch, but for now, I can just patch whatever jacks I’m currently using to the router.

So at this point, I’ve committed the money.  The CAT5 cable is ordered as is a cabling tool kit.  It doesn’t seem there’s going to be any end to the home quarantine anytime soon, so this is the time for home improvement, isn’t it?