Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend

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nicksgem10s

Hello,

We are taking a big leap of faith and buying a home that will need a lot of repairs and renovation before we will be able to move in and call it home.

One of the main reasons we are buying it because it is on a beautiful 1.9 acre lot in a neighborhood that we love.  Our last home purchase was 4.5 years ago when we sought out the worst home in the best neighborhood.  It was one of the best investments we will ever make.  We are basically repeating the process with a property that has even more potential.

AC has a bunch of smart, thoughtful, creative, and handy people so I figured it would be wise to ask what new technology would you incorporate if you were in my shoes.

To be clear this is a brick ranch home built in 1953 with a walkout basement.  The entire home is in really rough condition.  Most of our budget will be needed just to make the home livable for our family (wife, 6 yr old son, 3.5 yr old son).

I am just wondering if you have incorporated any newer technology that has made your life easier, improved convenience, improved efficiency, basically any technology that you feel provides benefits that exceed the cost.  Or anything you find really fun and exciting! 

I anticipate the kitchen and what will become the main living area will be taken down to the studs during the renovation process.  This will allow some options to install some technology while I have access before new walls are put in.

Would love to hear any and all ideas large and small that you would recommend considering for our home project.

Thanks for your help.

-Nick




Armaegis

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If you need heat and intend to stay for a long time, geothermal heating is an interesting options.

Low voltage lighting systems could be an option, but requires a lot of new wiring run around the house.

Point of use water heaters.

A garage with an extra garage door at the back to allow you to pass right through.

Solar panels?

JLM

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What fuel is used to heat the house?

Agree with geothermal, point of use water heaters, and solar.  But for geothermal to make sense you'll want to super insulate and seal the house first.  No use filling the pail more efficiently if it still has holes, so upgrade windows/doors, add house wrap, and caulk.  We installed Jel-Win windows when we built 12 years ago and love them in terms of sound and sealing (a poor man's Pella window - my favorite).  Point of use water heaters come in tiny electric units (requires wiring) and can give a shock in the shower, under sink models which I've found can be difficult to make work - get a qualified plumber, or larger on-demand water heaters.  With point of use you can rip out the hot water piping.  With the larger/central on-demand heaters I'd look to replace hot water copper piping with PEX (flexible plastic).  Geothermal makes the most sense if not using natural gas, but on-demand only makes sense if using natural gas.

I installed solar in 2015 under a utility sponsored incentive program here in southern Michigan.  Don't think I'd be interested without the incentive. But as it stands I get electric statements, only see a bill in December/January, the rest of the year I get credits and the system is on schedule to payoff in 8 years.  So my system is tied to the grid (much cheaper/easier/smaller to let the grid be my battery) and it works seamlessly, but when we lose utility power the system goes down too.  If the area the new house is in experiences frequent/long power outages might consider adding a whole house automatic standby generator.  If you're interested I'd consider running a 220 volt circuit out to the garage to recharge an electric/hybrid car.

Other recommended do's and don'ts:  one big basin for kitchen sink - love it; granite countertop - expensive and in the kitchen it has chipped from routine use on edges (mostly around the sink) from heavy fry pans; pre-wire for a portable generator if not going with the whole house unit; install a whole house surge protector (cheap); solar powered attic fans; solar tubes (to bring light into interior spaces), and include a dedicated listening room (duh).

My basement study (listen in the front, office in the back) cost no more to build than ordinary finished space.  Used insulated staggered stud walls, exterior fiberglass door with weather stripping, lined/insulated flexible ductwork, laid cheap pad/commercial carpet, and most importantly optimally shaped it - in my case 8ft x 13ft x 21ft.

witchdoctor

Hello,

We are taking a big leap of faith and buying a home that will need a lot of repairs and renovation before we will be able to move in and call it home.

One of the main reasons we are buying it because it is on a beautiful 1.9 acre lot in a neighborhood that we love.  Our last home purchase was 4.5 years ago when we sought out the worst home in the best neighborhood.  It was one of the best investments we will ever make.  We are basically repeating the process with a property that has even more potential.

AC has a bunch of smart, thoughtful, creative, and handy people so I figured it would be wise to ask what new technology would you incorporate if you were in my shoes.

To be clear this is a brick ranch home built in 1953 with a walkout basement.  The entire home is in really rough condition.  Most of our budget will be needed just to make the home livable for our family (wife, 6 yr old son, 3.5 yr old son).

I am just wondering if you have incorporated any newer technology that has made your life easier, improved convenience, improved efficiency, basically any technology that you feel provides benefits that exceed the cost.  Or anything you find really fun and exciting! 

I anticipate the kitchen and what will become the main living area will be taken down to the studs during the renovation process.  This will allow some options to install some technology while I have access before new walls are put in.

Would love to hear any and all ideas large and small that you would recommend considering for our home project.

Thanks for your help.

-Nick

Have a feng shui expert survey before you lift a finger.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feng_shui

Peter J

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If you were my client, I'd ask how long you intend to be here...is it a future flip? A house that vintage, assuming it hasn't been renovated, will likely have iron pipe for plumbing and non grounded electrical possibly with...gasp...fuses! Get that done first if it's your long term home.

Future flip will dictate different approach. No sense spending on things that won't return their investment.

thunderbrick

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If you need heat and intend to stay for a long time, geothermal heating is an interesting options.


+1!  Or a high-efficiency dual-stage heat pump.  BIG difference in comfort over hot water baseboard in our renovated 1960 ranch.

If the windows are original, replace them with vinyl.   Made a big difference for us and they are quieter.

macrojack

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Your profile says Motown and that says cold winters. If you do strip back to the studs, have the wall cavities filled with closed cell foam insulation. It's good for about R6.2 per inch so you can achieve about R21 in your walls. Prior to adding the insulation seek out and seal any perforations in the shell. Consider fiberglass framed, low-E windows. If your exterior brick is trashed, consider a vapor barrier house wrap, rigid foam insulation sheets and stucco over all of it. The tighter you can make your shell, the easier it will be to heat and cool the house and potentially you will find you can spend less for HVAC. Solar panels are advised as is the on demand water heater. All-electric is a worthwhile goal as well. There are solar hot water possibilities with a tank and electric boost for protracted cloudy times. Sealing off all perforations between living space and attic will be very meaningful. Attic insulation can be cellulose blown in but, if there are no batts in there, filling the rafter cavities with batts first, is also a good idea. After all of that, you may find, depending on floor plan and other factors, that your best bet is an air source heat pump. Try to max out its efficiency when you buy. The extra money will come back to you in energy savings. LED lights, including fluorescent tubes, can be installed for greater reliability, greater energy savings and more light/less heat. AS mentioned above, first thing should be thorough inspection and necessary upgrade of all electrical and plumbing and an upgrade of the service panel if it has never been done -- or not recently enough. Can you provide some photos and description to better enable us to specify.

nicksgem10s

Peter J:  We are planting our roots and plan to be here for many years.  The improvements and repairs we are making at this time are focused on our family enjoying the home and not resale value. 

You guys are the best.  Lots of great ideas to think about.  Now is a window of opportunity for us to plan to incorporate any changes to be made before we actually start living there in a few months.

What fuel is used to heat the house?

It has a monoflow boiler system with baseboard heat.  I have an estimate for about $5800 worth of repair work for the damage to the existing baseboard in various locations for the damage we know about.  It is likely that number will increase as we suspect we may find additional damage to other areas of baseboard once we fix the problems we are aware of.  The boiler was installed in 2003 and it checked out fine by my HVAC boiler technician (separate inspection from the main home inspection).  They installed air conditioning in 2007 and ran all new duct work with an air handler located in the attic.

Geothermal is interesting but I am starting at square one on this topic.  What would it take to get you over to the house to walk through it with me JLM?  I was hoping you would see this thread and chime in.

Insulation is minimal and will need to be addressed. 

thunderbrick/JLM :  We need to replace many windows and I will definitely check into Jeld-Wen as I remember how much Pella quoted us at our first home many years ago.  They started replacing windows but left most of that project for us. 

I am not familiar with point of use water heaters.  I will research.

Great idea on the one big basin for kitchen sink.  Went with two sided version in our current kitchen and we both felt it was a mistake.

No clue on counter material yet as the entire kitchen design is just getting started.  The good news is there is plenty of room and it will be open concept once we get started with working on it.  The bad news is I know how expensive high quality cabinets, counters, and fixtures are.  It adds up quick!  I do not have the kitchen remodeling skills of bigredmachine.  I saw his kitchen thread in this circle and was in awe  :thumb:.

Armaegis:  Love the idea about the garage door but that will have to go in the want column for another day.

Great points made about the electrical.  This is a pretty big line item as the previous homeowner was creative with some of their DIY electrical work  :o.  I had a master electrician (separate from home inspection) review the entire electrical system on one of our inspection days.  We will be having the major electrical work (new 200 amp panel & additional repairs) done by a professional electrician.

Good ideas on the topic of generator solutions.  Have not given this much thought before now. 

Witchdoctor:  I am pretty sure a feng shui expert would back away slowly after entering the home if they looked at it today. 

Macrojack: You are correct it gets cold in the winter here in Southeast Michigan (Bloomfield Hills).  Great ideas about improving insulation and efficiency.  Electrical and plumbing work are two of the first projects.  Glad to have all the thoughtful input on these topics from such knowledgeable people such as yourself.  Exterior brick is one of the bright spots.  The actual structure is in excellent condition according to all the professional inspections we had done.

JLM:  Love the dedicated listening room comment!  Not sure about the dedicated part but there will be listening 8).

Thank you for all the thoughts so far.  I really appreciate all of you taking time to chime in with some great ideas and advice.  I need to get much more active on AC.  It is such a wonderful community of people!

Thank you and keep the ideas coming if you think of anything else.

Nick77

Variable speed fan on heating unit, fresh air intake is also nice. Internet ready thermostat.
Touch faucets in kitchen.
Induction stovetop and convection oven.
Inwall vacuum.
2 shower heads.
Master closet with connected doorway to utility if possible.
Oversize kitchen sink, one compartment is nice.
Undercabinet lighting.
Audio needs wiring to appropriate rooms with surge/filter protection attached to panel or audio room. I have about eight filtered surge protected outlets protecting TV's and audio room.
Highly recommend foam where you can, we weren't able to swing upfront cost and paying for it now. :(

JLM

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Dedicated listening space allows to listen to what and when you want.  Insulating it allows for how loud (or more importantly how much quieter with less background noise) you want.  I start listening at 5:30 and don't disturb others.  The next owner can always use it for a den, HT, or whatever.

We have a convection/microwave and rarely use it (very expensive).  Mortgaging stuff like this makes it twice as expensive.

We have central vacuum and love it.  Dirt leaves the house, period.  None of the HEPA filter B.S.  Paid $1300 for it 13 years ago, but build to the house, unless you really love the idea, cramming the house with high tech can be overkill in terms of enjoyment, payoff, and eventual resale.  We also installed an April-aire (Space Gard) 6.5 inch thick pleated furnace filter and most of our windows are fixed units due to allergy concerns.

We have a 10ft x 14ft mud room - too big.  Laundry has turned from a series of events into a lifestyle with a couple of baskets of laundry always there.  But make sure you put a drip pan under the washer (and water heater) with a flood alarm.

We have tons of lights in the kitchen including under cabinet which is especially good if you have dark countertops.

lokie

Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #10 on: 28 Apr 2017, 12:45 pm »
There are a lot of home control system out there w heavy marketing activity. For ex... the displays you see in the big box home retailers.

My advice is to stick w "old school" companies like Honeywell, Johnson Controls and the like. Real world experience and great engineers beat the bells and whistles of the Silicon Valley Crowd.

JLM

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Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #11 on: 28 Apr 2017, 01:35 pm »
There are a lot of home control system out there w heavy marketing activity. For ex... the displays you see in the big box home retailers.

My advice is to stick w "old school" companies like Honeywell, Johnson Controls and the like. Real world experience and great engineers beat the bells and whistles of the Silicon Valley Crowd.

+1 

Peter J

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Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #12 on: 28 Apr 2017, 02:46 pm »
Nick, it might be wise to look at the improvements in terms of possibility of retrofitting later vs. doing when there is access and home is unoccupied. Renovating can simply get out of hand dollar-wise, but I don't know that part of the equation. You know what you have to spend, what you're going to finance, etc.

I'm a function first kind of guy, so that's where I come from. Given what little I know of your situation, that list would look something like this;

1. Plumbing. Remove most if not all iron pipe. Supply side would be first priority, drains next. This may include supply from house to street assuming city water. Iron supply pipe original to the house is at the end of it's useful life and better products exist now. If you're lucky supply will be copper. If you're really lucky drains will be too. Don't let the crackheads know though.


2. Electrical. Upgrade to current standards. Add outlets, more than you think you need. Were it me, I'd run Ethernet cabling in every room and at least drop into crawlspace or someplace accessible in the future. Coax probably less of a thing now. Plan on a robust enterprise-grade wireless network like Ubiquiti, 'cuz that's where things are headed. When wiring, you may want to consider some kind of home-run system which facilitates future control with the likes of Insteon and such. Wire for things in the future as much as possible. Heat pumps, bigger AC, solar, etc.

3. Insulation. Old houses suffer in  two arenas here. Lack of insulation and air sealing. The brick veneer limits what you can address on the exterior. Studies have been done that indicate at least 40% of heat and cold loss in older homes it attributable to air leaks, not lack of insulation. Addressing this at the framing level is best and will get you closer to what's currently being done in the most energy efficient homes. The details are important. Although foam can be a good way to accomplish air sealing, be cautious you're not adding vapor barriers where they would be a liability, open cell foam is often a better alternative.

 My guess is the attic where AC lives is not conditioned space. Best practice is to somehow make it closer to that. Either make the entire attic conditioned space, which has it's own set of concerns, or isolate the AC unit and ductwork with insulation. There is much to know here, building science is an ever-changing subject. A savvy efficiency retrofit company would be your best bet. Unfortunately many who occupy that space truly suck at it. Educate yourself to separate wheat from chaff if you're hiring it out. Good place to start reading : https://buildingscience.com/

Most old houses have a built in limitation where walls meets roof.  There's not enough vertical space for high R insulation...just the physical nature of things. Putting huge insulation in center of house doesn't improve things much, but won't hurt. Make air sealing your priority. To retrofit an old structure to SOTA energy efficiency is compromised by the structure itself. Can't make the silk purse from sow's ear, but you can get a lot closer. Maybe a chintz purse.

4. In my mind, it makes little sense to spend on super high efficiency HVAC if your structure envelope shoots it in the foot. Do the core stuff first. It's not something you can measure with your eyeballs, but will make a more comfortable, efficient home out of something that was built when efficiency wasn't on anyone's radar.

Edited to add: it just occurred to me this may be plaster and lath construction. That adds a PIA factor and expense to boot. Also, I think it would be prudent to be conscious of lead based paint and it's potential effect on children in particular. Much to read about this subject, could start here: https://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family-exposures-lead

thunderbrick

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Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #13 on: 28 Apr 2017, 03:07 pm »
What Peter J said, 100%!  :thumb:

Bizarroterl

Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #14 on: 28 Apr 2017, 03:18 pm »
I add my vote for plenty of insulation.  Done right, a well insulated home is very comfortable.  Lower utility bills are just icing on the cake.  A couple years back I did a major remodel.  One of the features I wanted was closed cell foam.  I specified it for 2 reasons - greater R value per inch and its sealing value.

The contractor was against it.  "Why would you want to do something like that?"  "It's a waste of money"  He even tried to get my wife on board with his way of thinking.

We ended up with the foam as I wanted.

Then the comments were "This house really stays cool a long time before it starts to warm up" (still in construction w/no AC in mid summer).  "I'm offering closed cell foam insulation to all my clients"  "I remodeled a part of my home and used the foam.  It works great!"   :thumb:

One of the hazards of working with contractors is that they're used to doing things a certain way.  Once you start to ask for untried (to them) technologies they put on the brakes.  New technologies are a risk to their profit and aren't accepted comfortably.  If you really want to push the envelope you should be sure to discuss exactly what you want before you sign off and then be willing to closely monitor the construction process to ensure you get it.  If the contractor isn't familiar with something you desire you may need to become the knowledge source for the contractor.
Regardless, to get the best result you need to educate yourself as best you can so you can ensure you're getting what you expect.  Assuming a contractor knows what they're doing can be dangerous.  IE My brother had an electrician run speaker wire in his walls during construction.  Fortunately he checked before they were closed up or he would have had one wire (not 2) to each speaker location.  The electrician didn't understand the problem.   :scratch:

Armaegis

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Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #15 on: 28 Apr 2017, 03:26 pm »
Since it's an old beat up house, check the roof for wood rot (or it might warrant a new roof entirely). Speaking from experience here, I've seen bad patch jobs that resulted in lots of creeping damage.

No one's mentioned toilets yet, but upgrade to decent low flow ones and see if your local utilities offer a rebate. For that matter, call up the all the utilities companies and see what sort of rebates they offer for making your home more energy efficient.

Peter J

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Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #16 on: 28 Apr 2017, 03:28 pm »
  IE My brother had an electrician run speaker wire in his walls during construction.  Fortunately he checked before they were closed up or he would have had one wire (not 2) to each speaker location.  The electrician didn't understand the problem.   :scratch:

That's sad, but I can see it happening. The "we've always done it that way" bites my butt on occasion, but this seems to transcend even that...

rpf

Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #17 on: 28 Apr 2017, 04:26 pm »
Lots of great advice.

I have some concerns about (at least solely) using spray foam insulation however. Installer selection is extremely crucial as, if not very carefully mixed and installed (in passes of < two inches deep), they may not set up properly and may permanently smell, or even start a fire. And of course, not perform to spec.

There are a lot of chemicals in them (blowing agents, binding agents, flame retardants which don't actually work, etc.) that are environmentally unfriendly or even unsafe.

They are extremely flammable (have a quick flashover point) and give off toxic gases when burned.

If later renovations are required it is difficult to work around and impossible to remove (without removing the structural pieces it's adhered to).

They do, however, do an excellent job (within the above constraints) of air sealing a building. If you want this advantage then the best approach perhaps would be using the "flash and batt" method, which is a light pass of spray foam (for air sealing) covered with batts. Mineral wool, of course. Fiberglass is garbage, having a fair initial R value that degrades rapidly with a drop in temperature (labelled R value ratings are calculated at 75 degrees F), settling, age, or moisture. Mineral wool does none of these things and has the advantages of not absorbing moisture, not harboring pests, and being truly flame/fire resistant. It is also easier to cut and work with.

See http://www.roxul.com

They also have a sound/fire resistant mineral wool product for interior walls. Used both in an apartment renovation and love the results.
« Last Edit: 27 Jun 2017, 08:06 pm by rpf »

bentconvert

Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #18 on: 28 Apr 2017, 05:11 pm »
Some things we've done to our home you might consider:

Since you have a boiler for heating, another hot water option would be an indirect water heater. Basically a well insulated stainless steel tank that uses your existing boiler to heat the water. More efficient, faster recovery, and longer life than standard water heater.

Instead of a standard range we put in a gas cooktop and an in-wall electric oven. It is convenient, especially when you are older, to not have to bend down to move things in and out of the oven.

If you need a new roof look into class 4 roofing. They are more wind and impact resistant and the savings on insurance paid for the increased cost in approximately one year. May be different in your area but worth looking into.

jpm

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Re: Upcoming renovation which new technologies would you recommend
« Reply #19 on: 28 Apr 2017, 06:24 pm »

2. Electrical. Upgrade to current standards. Add outlets, more than you think you need. Were it me, I'd run Ethernet cabling in every room and at least drop into crawlspace or someplace accessible in the future. Coax probably less of a thing now. Plan on a robust enterprise-grade wireless network like Ubiquiti, 'cuz that's where things are headed. When wiring, you may want to consider some kind of home-run system which facilitates future control with the likes of Insteon and such. Wire for things in the future as much as possible. Heat pumps, bigger AC, solar, etc.


+1

It should go without saying here on AC, but plan dedicated power circuits for AV where they may be wanted while drywall is down as well as possibly whole house protection - others likely have much more expertise on the latter.

While wireless capabilities are improving constantly, so is demand on it's bandwidth. Adding structured cabling (ie Cat6a) and carefully picking your central distribution point is a good idea. Add more cable than you think you could ever need, leave plenty of slack cable at strategic points and try to route it freely enough that it can be used to pull replacement cable through if needed. Use a different color of cable for any segments where you plan to use POE (power over ethernet) and label everything obsessively!

While Ubiquiti put enterprise class access points squarely in the budget of home users (where you'll want POE today) don't overlook the physical security benefit of wired connections, i.e. those would be neighborhood hacker kids have to physically get onto your wire rather than sitting in a car in on the street. Ubiquiti also put powerful routing capability supporting multiple segments (i.e. an isolated segment for those "Internet of Things" devices) within typical budgetary reach. While this may sound daunting, there's a lot of community support for their equipment.

Riser rated cable
https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=18592

Wireless
https://www.ubnt.com/unifi/unifi-ap-ac-lr/

Routing
https://www.ubnt.com/products/#edgemax