Mrs. Geek and I recently met up with friends who we hadn't seen for a long time. They welcomed us into "the cult of home ownership" when they found out that we bought a house. I know exactly what they mean.
Unlike renters who are forever at the mercy of landlords when it comes to improvements to the living space, home ownership explicitly implies home improvement. Don't like a wall? You can remove it. Don't like the windows? You can repair them. Don't like the color? You can repaint.
I've chronicled some of my past home improvement jobs here (bits of plumbing repair, wiring the living room for home theater.) The bonus I got this summer provided capital for a whole new round of improvements. Some of them have been trivial; I bought and installed a finished decorative ledge shelf to display Mrs. Geek's tea cups and Lladro figurines. Others have been more robust. We cleaned out the garage a few weeks back (in preparation for turning the spare bedroom into a nursery... *sigh*) and that lead to the installation of some new fluorescent lights.
The most ambitious home improvement underway at the moment is a bathroom exhaust fan. It sounds like such a simple thing. Our one bathroom has a shower against an exterior wall, and being a house of a certain age, built in a moderate climate, there is a window above the shower... but no fan.
So, our plan is to install a fan in the ceiling.
Well, you would be surprised how complicated the decision to install a fan can get. First, there is the problem of where to vent it. The exterior wall is out because there is no room to install a vent. So that means running a flue vent up through the roof -- which means cutting a hole in the roof... always a dicey proposition. Next, there is the problem of getting power to the fan. The bulk of our house is wired with 1950's era "knob and tube" (k&t) wiring. This wiring is grandfathered in, provided it is largely undisturbed and in good working order. So, the question arises... how do I wire up the fan? Can I do it myself? Do I need to bring in an electrician? Should I get a permit? There are so many questions...
I've discovered that do it yourself home improvement projects come in three phases. First there is a research phase. This usually involves a trip to some part of the house that is uncomfortable to reach (e.g. the far corner of the attic or the crawl space) to see what's there, followed be research to figure out the rest of the plan. Then there's usually the "first effort". That's where you try out the plan developed in the research phase, and begin swearing because at least one thing doesn't quite work out as expected. Finally, there's the actual fix. The actual fix can involve calling a professional, making multiple trips to the home center, much cursing and swearing, or all of the above.
In the end, I opted against touching the knob and tube... and decided to run a new circuit to the bathroom. That meant a couple additional weeks of research to figure out how to run the new modern wiring through some existing infrastructure created when the last owners remodeled the kitchen. Mrs. Geek and I did the first part of the run last weekend. I did the second part this weekend by spending one hour in our attic yesterday morning, and two hours this morning... during which I swear I sweated off about five pounds.
There will be a final part in the coming week, during which a fan will be installed. I will then need to coordinate with a roofing contractor about making a hole in the roof.
The cult of home ownership: once it has you, it never ends.
on 2008-09-07 at 8:34 p.m.
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