Covid-19 Projects

Spending so much time at home and with the business closed-down allowed me to have some time to do a bunch of things that have either been on my To Do list for years or that have bugged me for a long time that I’ve never found the time to improve. Plus, part of the fun of doing projects is that I get to buy new tools to make the jobs easier and more fun.

Garage floor and walls

At the beginning of our self-quarantine, I got the kids to help me put a floor in the garage. We had a bit of perforated aluminum sheets left over from the renovation in 2011 that I had put on the walls of the top floor of the garage. I used almost all of it to cover the last exposed wall of the garage to make it look like the upstairs and more clean. I added much brighter LED lights too. The garage is actually a nice place to be for me now, making car cleaning more fun. New tools: metal cutters.

Ethernet in Living Room

The Beosound Core didn’t receive adequate WiFi in the living room causing annoying music dropouts, so it needed to be wired. After lots of hemming and hawing about how to run a cable into the room, it turned out to be easy: I ran CAT6 on the cable ladder rack in the basement, underneath the living room and up through an existing hole for the radiator pipe through the floor. No drilling required at all! I installed and hid an RJ45 jack behind the radiator.

Wired internet to garage

We have Chamberlain’s MyQ (and Nexx Garage) sensors on our garage doors to get notified if they’re left open (which happened too often) and we can open and close them remotely. There’s also a camera in the garage. But they’re all WiFi devices and the WiFi coverage in the garage was weak and intermittent so the devices didn’t work reliably. So I buried a CAT6 cable across the lawn and ran it up the backside of the garage wall, along the eve and into the garage to an RJ45 port I mounted inside. The garage’s WiFi access point could then be wired for a more reliable and faster connection. New tools: better RJ45 crimpers and a CAT6 cable tester to replace my lost one.

WiFi upgrade

I replaced Google WiFi throughout the house with Ubiquiti’s UniFi hardware: one 24-port PoE+ Ethernet switch, a Cloud Key Gen 2+ controller, a Secure Gateway and four nanoHD access points. Google WiFi required 7 access points (6 were wired) to cover our house but only 4 UniFi access points covered the entire house. I added a 5th on the main floor for better coverage in the most-used areas. Later, Havana and Hudson helped me pull cable from the basement outside and up through conduit to an even on the front porch so I could install a Unifi outdoor access point to cover the sitting areas on the front porch and the front yard.

Unifi PoE switch and CAT 6 patch panels

The new access points mostly just replaced the existing Google WiFi pucks but I mounted two on the ceilings for better coverage. Another one was in the family room cabinetry, which has steel fascia on the doors which reduced the WiFi radio range, so I moved it above the family room cabinetry. That required drilling a hole through blocking behind the steel wall. Thanks to Patrick for lending me a flexible 6-foot drill bit which made it easy. Hudson helped me fish the cable up and Eva’s little hands were required to plug the end into the jack inconveniently located behind the the wall.

A/V Rack cleanup

After installing the UniFi equipment in the A/V rack in the basement, I finally tackled cleaning up the rack. The speaker wire and CAT6 cable I ran through the house during the renovation terminated here with too much excess cable. Over the years, as equipment was added to the rack, it became a mess of wires that even I had trouble figuring out. It’s been on my list for years to fix. I moved the home theater equipment out of it and into the theater room cabinetry which removed 5 pairs of speaker wire and gave more space in the rack for the UniFi equipment. That allowed me to rewire everything and make the cabling more tidy. This took several days just to untangle the wires and re-wire everything! I was pretty tired of dealing with wires after this.

Re-painted Havana’s Room

Havana wanted to change the wall colors in her room, so she picked some new colors and she and Gay painted it over a couple days. I didn’t do anything other than take down the window blinds and then reinstall them.

Home Theater 2.0

We’ve been using an average A/V Receiver to power our 5.1 surround sound home theater since 2011. I always intended to upgrade it but never got around to it — it was good enough and nobody complained about it. Since we’ve been using it a lot more during our quarantine and after cleaning up the A/V rack, I decided to finally do the research and learn about newer home theater equipment. I decided on the Anthem AVM 60 for the surround sound processor and pre-amp, mostly because of its highly-regarded Genesis room correction software, one Anthem MCA 525 and two MCA 325 amplifiers. That allows up to 11 speakers. I added 2 speakers on the ceiling for height speakers, which really made a difference in the 360º sound feeling even in non-Atmos content.

Anthem AVM 60 + AppleTV
Anthem MCA 525 and MCA 325

Next, I’ll get new left, center and right front speakers and move the existing left and right speakers to the back for rear surround sound and add two more height speakers. Soundproofing for the ceiling would be nice to make it quieter in the living room above. And it’s only a matter of time before the projector needs to be replaced with a 4K projector.

New Foyer electrical outlet

Our foyer has electrical outlets in 3 of the 4 corners. When we got Nest Secure the most convenient place to put it was in the one corner without an electrical outlet. The problem is that the walls are lath and plaster walls with the original wood paneling and there’s no electrical on either side of that wall. Cutting an outlet box into the wood baseboard is scary because an error would be much harder to repair compared to drywall. Now was the time to conquer that fear. And I knew just the right tool to do it: a Fein Multimaster Tool. I’ve been trying to rationalize buying one for 10 years but could always get by with a tool I had, but wished I had it. The precision it allows made it easy to cut a rectangle for the outlet box. I also used it to cut through nails to open up the section of basement wall to run the electrical line. I then used it to cut holes in the back of the home theater cabinetry for speaker binding post panels.

I wish Nest offered a black plug

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