Friday, April 24, 2009

Home Improvements - The Safe Room Part 2

After doing lots of research and thinking through options my husband proposed installing one as part of our garage remodel. He first heard about the product from the retired fire chief of our city. (He's the husband of the lady who cuts our hair. She held an open house at her new shop and B struck up a conversation with him. You just never know where you'll learn information.)

The FamilySAFE product is multi-functional. It’s essentially a steel encased closet with a inward swing door so you don't get trapped inside. We’ll be able to store things in it especially during non-tornado season. Good for storing cat carriers, golf clubs, etc. Of course during tornado season it can't have TOO much stuff in it. :)

I'm excited to say they installed the safe room shelter on Wednesday. It is way cool! Looks a little weird right now since it's the only thing in the garage space. And another cool part. They took $400 off the price as a "Show Discount". Back in January we went up to the Home and Garden show so we could see one ourselves. They offered the discount to people who bought that day, but we weren't ready to commit. I'm impressed that they gave it to us anyway.

Our house is a pier and beam construction, so everything is about 25" off the ground. The cement cap in the photo will be under the floor, so this will essentially be a walk-in closet from the new bedroom. To the right will be the new 3/4 bathroom. Also, the safe room is constructed so you can hang drywall on the inside. I doubt we'll do that but will probably put in a nice floor, some shelves and a hanging rod.

Home Improvements - The Safe Room Part 1

So what's a safe room?? Sounds kinda weird. I know. When B first mentioned the idea, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I'd never heard of such a thing. He'd been thinking about our difficulty finding a safe place during inclement weather (read tornadoes!!) with our beloved dogs and cats. Although our neighborhood has been spared from tornadoes, communities further north have not.

The May 1999 were frighteningly scary and too close for comfort (about 8 miles north as the crow flies). I remember the exact moment we realized we needed to make a decision about what to do. Should we stay? Should we go, but where? Who would accept 2 dogs and 2 cats? I completely froze in my decision making. (I now know you should already have a plan in place so you don't have to make these decisions when you are so stressed.) How grateful we were for our wonderful neighbors' invitation, the same ones who shared coffee with us during the 2007 ice storm. They invited us over; both cats and both dogs. Their house has a below ground shelter in the center of their house that normally functions as their laundry room.

Since then there have been a few times when we’ve huddled in the only place in our house with no windows. The problem. It has a large attic fan directly above. Not a good thing to be sitting below this.

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Home Improvement – Risky Decisions

We tossed around the idea of remodeling the garage for several years. I can take no credit, none whatsoever, for conceiving the idea or walking forward past the idea stage. I often tell B if it were up to me we wouldn’t have done any of the home improvements we’ve completed over the years. We would still have the cruddy old carpet, old windows, and probably still have old renters white paint throughout the house. And most certainly we would not have our awesome dishwasher (I love that thing).

Although I am relatively tight with money, the bigger reason for my hesitancy is risk. To accept risk is to risk failure. Fear of failure sometimes hamstrings me from even taking prudent risk. I realized that in some types of decisions I seek a 100% confidence in my decision, which means it takes an inordinate amount of time to make a decision and after making a decision I rethink it, which causes confusion for the people involved. This tendency happened again this weekend while we were discussing our improvement design. We worked through the conflict to a fruitful end, but it was a painful discussion.

This is a common theme in my life at the moment especially at work. I’m learning that taking risk sometimes means making decisions with only partial information. If I (or others) make a reasonable decision based on the information available at the time, then when new information or hindsight comes along I cannot judge that decision. I can learn from the process, but concluding that I or others are bad or imprudent is harsh. I think the lesson I’m learning is that evaluating myself or others using a moving target is not at all fair or just.


I wonder what other lessons are in-store for me. Hopefully, the next few posts will be a little bit more light hearted. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Home Improvement - 3D Design

Here is a 3D view of our remodeled space based on a 2nd mockup our contractor put together. One of our friends created it using Google SketchUp. (Thanks Greg!) I'm very impressed he figured out how to use the software. I tried my hand at the tool one afternoon, but to no avail. I know a little bit about AutoCAD, but this software was beyond me. :)

It was cool to see a 3D version as it gave us a feel for room flow etc. Since then we've made a few more changes especially with some windows, doors and the bathroom.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Home improvement - Designing the Space

The space we are remodeling is about 240 sq ft. Here is a pic of our favorite design. A neighbor friend up the street does lots of remodeling of his rental homes. He and his partner own a number of rental properties around town. They are known for their small, cute properties with really unique design upgrades. He offered to mock up some designs for us and since we've never done this before we were very happy to pay for his services.

We thought it was wonderfully creative, but due to some practical complications we won't be able to go with it. Turns out according to city code the electrical panel cannot be in a bathroom or laundry room. Makes sense. Although we could move the panel we decided it wasn't worth the money.

This design gave us some great ideas and the one we are going with is very similar. This upfront process was a wonderful way to think through alternatives and assess (re-assess) our priorities.

NOTE: The space at the bottom on the drawing is the kitchen and the top of the drawing is the new guest room.

Home Improvements - Yippee! (at least so far)

B and I are embarking on a home improvement project. We decided to convert our one-car garage into livable space with an expanded laundry room, guest room, 2nd bathroom, and last but not least a SAFE room (more on that in a later post). Oh and one more thing...a last minute add...a utility sink. We wrestled quite a bit with whether we should take the risk during the economic crisis, but decided given our situation now is a good time. More about that decision in a later post.

Recently a friend suggested I blog about this experience and I thought it might be kinda fun and a good way to document our experience. We are well through the planning and the physical work begins Monday.

I thought I would start at the beginning since a lot of work has happened up to this point in the planning, design, and preparation. Stay tuned...