steve

When Tool Lending Goes Bad

If you tackle a house renovation you’re going to acquire tools.  Lots and lots of tools. Some of them will get worked to death and replaced.  Others might only be used for one project then put away never to be touched again, such as was the case with the Makita framing nailer I bought on eBay to build my fences. In the former category is my table saw.  I dispatched my original Ryobi contractor saw to an early grave. I burned out the motor while slicing up some pressure-treated 4x4s barely two years after I got it. I had it …

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ISY994-i product

Yet Another New Home Automation Controller

For those who’ve followed my home renovation blog over the past 14 years, you know I’m a computer nerd with some nerdy obsessions. Like home automation. Early in this blog in fact, I talked about how cool my new X10 home automation setup was. Subsequent articles were less flattering, like The Night of the Flashing Lights, when I came home one evening to see all the lights in my house — outside and in — flashing at two second intervals. And my neighbors not knowing whether to call the police, the fire department or an exorcist. And when a power …

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Brooklyn Row House migrated

Not the house, the site.  Brooklynrowhouse.com has been running on the Drupal content management system since 2006. But that version(v6)  was really old and was essentially pre-mobile. Google Analytics was giving me grief about the mobile issues.  What really closed the deal for WordPress is that the upgrade path for Drupal has always been painfully steep. In the interim I’ve picked up WordPress consulting jobs so it made sense to ditch Drupal and just push everything to WordPress. I actually have a lot of relevant house/DIY-centric content to write about.  For instance, there’s my new ISY994i home automation controller and …

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Beware door-to-door scammers

This is an old story but one I should have blogged about three years ago. I’m kind of surprised it never made it to BrooklynRowHouse. Maybe I was worried about a lawsuit at the time because it involves a very large home improvement supply company, Andersen. This isn’t a knock on the Andersen product — well, it sort of is — but a complaint about one of their local franchisees for Renewal by Andersen, a home improvement contracting offshoot, operating in the 631 area code (Long Island). It may be completely unique to this particular franchisee too and for all …

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Citizen Journalist of the Year

It’s possibly the first crowd-sourced criminal investigation in history leading to federal indictments and convictions. Last February, a friend of mine, former Time/Life war correspondent, Ed Barnes, texted me about a neighborhood blog in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, called Pardon Me For Asking, run by a blogger, Katia Kelly. Katia’s blog isn’t much different than mine, with the exception that she updates hers a helluva lot more frequently than I do mine. For quite some time Ed had been working the international angles on Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s ex-campaign manager. Ed focused on Manafort’s involvement in the corrupt Ukrainian presidential campaign …

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Product Warranties vs. The Big Chain Stores

The NJ Tool Show is an annual event that my tool-nut friend and I eagerly anticipate all year. We get to see all the latest innovations in shop tools, from programmable laser cutters that sliced with such precision that they could duplicate a business card in 6 point type in a piece of oak veneer to shade tree inventions that seemed to have no practical use at all. It’s tool porn, no doubt about it. At one of the shows, maybe 2001, I ducked outside into the freezing January weather to grab a smoke — a habit I’m glad to …

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Well, it’s done.

After three years in the making, the boiler epic finally wrapped today. I have a brand new, Williamson 140,000 BTU steam boiler. Granted, it’s not on the epic scale of Lord of the Rings but I think it took even longer to complete it. This story began in 2011 with this tale of woe. I had big plans about extending the house renovation by gettting rid of steam heating altogether and replumbing the house for hot water heat instead. It made sense to do this for several reasons. First is that hot water heat is cheaper to run. You’re not …

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Next life, I want to be a plumber.

Back in 2011, I wrote an article about my failing Weil-McLain steam boiler entitled Got Three Estimates? Get Three More. The article concluded with my finding a plumbing company willing to rebuild my ancient autofeed mechanism for a fair price. Despite most heating contractors swearing that my 42 year-old boiler wouldn’t survive the season, it made it through 2011, 2012 and the brutal, polar vortex winter of 2013 without a burp. Two weeks ago, I relit the pilot light on boiler. The outside temps were in the 60s so I didn’t turn on the boiler. A few days later I …

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Things could be worse. You could be this guy.

Just when I thought nothing could top this Construction From Hell story there’s a new contender. The moral to both stories is be there when the contractors arrive. $680,000 home built on wrong lot in Flagler County FLAGLER COUNTY — A couple from Missouri is waiting for answers after their $680,000 dream home was built on the wrong lot in Flagler County. The home is in a gated community in the Ocean Hammock subdivision, accessible from the air or beach. According to planning and zoning papers obtained by News 13, the home belongs to Mark and Brenda Voss and was built …

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Forward to the Past

My very first DIY project at Brooklyn Row House was wiring the place for CAT5 ethernet. I decided to do this even before I had an inkling of what I intended to do with the place, or even where my office, bedroom and computers would eventually be located. In retrospect, if I’d guessed back then I would have been dead wrong. Streaming media was still pretty much of a pipe dream in 1999 but I knew it was coming Real Soon and I wanted to be ready for it. I needed a wire soffit between the three floors for cables …

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Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

This is the third iteration of BrooklynRowHouse.com, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.