Ten techie homeowner tips for Jason's new house

Ten techie homeowner tips for Jason's new house

Summary: Ten bits of wisdom earned the hard way: from making mistakes and learning from them.

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TOPICS: Google
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Tip 5. Use Angie's List

We used a lot of contractors in this recent move. A lot. For almost six months, there were at least two contractor trucks on the property at all times, and some days when I'd pay a visit to the work site, there'd be ten or twelve people working at once.

Like I said, we bought a fixer-upper.

It's hard to find good contractors, especially when you don't know too many people in the area. We turned to a resource I'd had my doubts about, but which worked out really well: Angie's List.

Angie's List is a consumer-vetted contractor database. While, in our area, anyway, it's often somewhat sparsely populated, there are usually two or three contractors listed for any specialty. More to the point, there are contractor reviews, so consumers who had a good experience can share that, and consumers who didn't can share that as well.

With one or two exceptions, we found that all the contractors we used through Angie's List were great. We had one guy who did rather exceptional work, but had some family problems and vanished one day, leaving a project unfinished. Fortunately, it was close enough to the end that we were able to wrap it up anyway.

Now, you should know there are some disadvantages to Angie's List. First, like with Yelp, some subjects of Angie's List (the contractors) hate it with a passion. After all, anyone with a negative review doesn't enjoy it. Angie's List appears to charge contractors for some level of presence on the list, which also ticks off some vendors.

Then there's the amount that Angie's List will hassle you. It's almost comical. Angie's List operators call all the frickin' time. They'll try to upsell you and, in particular, try to get you to rate contractors. I guess this is how they manage to get their customers to do their part in ratings, but after a while, it became almost enraging to get so many calls.

Fortunately, Jason and I both have a solution to this part of the Angie's List equation: Google Voice. If you plan on using Angie's List, get Google Voice and ONLY give the Google Voice number to Naggie's List (oops, I meant Angie's List).

If you do this, you can then block the Angie's List calls on Google Voice and they'll never bother you again.

As an aside, this is a serious problem with the Angie's List model. While I'd normally be a huge proponent of the service, you'll notice I couldn't recommend them without the caveat. Worse, the company won't accept "please don't call me again", which makes dealing with them even more frustrating.

Had I not been able to filter their calls, I would not have renewed their service. Oh, one last thought: Angie's List tiers their pricing based on the size of your community. For us, it was $15 for the year. For someone in New York City, it could well be a hundred bucks or more. Your mileage may vary.

Tip 6. Walls are meant to hold power and CAT5

I'd always lived in rental property, so I never experienced the joy of deciding just what I wanted in my house and where. I'd always wanted quality power in each wall and good networking connections.

In the new house, I got my wish. We had to rewire the electrical system anyway (when you turned anything on, something shorted, and the entire breaker box made a squealing sound before tripping). Since we had to rewire, more power was my mantra.

I put four individual 20 amp circuits in the wall behind my desk and another four dedicated, individual 20 amp circuits in the wall behind the entertainment center. No longer would we ever have the situation of the vacuum cleaner overloading a shared circuit and crashing a computer. Hah!

Even better, I decided I much preferred the rock-solid, reliable speed of a GigE network over WiFi. WiFi worked and all, but once you sent data over a certified GigE cable, man, that's living.

So I had a GigE jack installed in every single wall of the house, including some closets (for servers, of course). With one or two exceptions (walls where they'd actually have to tear down a part of the house to run a jack), I now have a GigE tap in every wall.

Okay, except the bathrooms. My wife drew the line there. For now.

We have a GigE tap in the kitchen, and even one in the garage. We have two in the gym, two in the bedroom, one in every wall of the living room, studio, my office and so forth.

I tied them all together with a 24-port router, and now there's GigE everywhere. I can not begin to tell you the joy of realizing you want to hook up another machine and knowing, yeah, there's a jack for that!

Special kudos and thanks go out to electricians Jerry and Vince who lived in our ceiling for three straight months in the Florida heat, wiring all this up. To this day, I still think Vince gets a look of fear on his face whenever he hears my name.

Topic: Google

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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23 comments
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  • I like you David...

    ...but you're coming off as either eccentric or flat out crazy.

    Most people just move and go "Well crap, how do I fit this stuff in here". Despite that, it's still probably quicker than taking measurements of every little thing and drawing mockups for every room, unless maybe you're moving into a mansion with a mansion worth of stuff.

    And well, some people actually use their garages for, you know, cars.

    About the only thing I can really agree with is ethernet everywhere.
    Aerowind
    • And I like you, too!

      I don't think you'll ever go wrong with "flat out crazy". Actually, though, it was the reverse. When we first moved down to Florida, my wife and I had only been married for a few months.

      We moved the contents of her entire home, my entire home, and our office (which was it's own space) into one house here in Florida -- and it was a big'n, one of those kind of ugly McMansions that seem to dot the landscape.

      We picked the big beast because we really didn't know what our living-together lifestyle would be, and I also had to sustain a fully-operating business with all its space requirements.

      But, after being married for quite a while now, we got into our rhythms and discovered we really didn't like the big house and didn't use it the way we thought we would when we moved down to Florida. So the challenge was to get rid of about 70% of our belongings (we donated a tremendous amount) and fit in a much smaller space, but utilize it well.

      We also couldn't just move in and then see how things worked because I have a very demanding job(s) and work from home, so everything had to be set up to make sure I didn't miss a day of work or delay my deliverables by even a day. By planning before doing (a project management mantra if there ever was one), it all worked out quite well.

      Remember, measure twice, cut once.
      David Gewirtz
      • Big house for two house "conversion"...

        Is exactly what my wife and I did. We also took the time to measure before the move (although not to your level of detail) and made mock-ups to "dry fit" all the furniture. We bought a house that was under construction and being able to walk through with the electrician and tell him where I wanted each kind of jack was awesome!

        I am wondering: Is your issue with the moving company common (since your neighbor had the same problem with a different mover)? My wife and I have only ever moved within the same area, not across country. It seems to me that if I have a contract with the mover, I would want it to state IN THE CONTRACT what date the stuff being moved is supposed to arrive. They don't get to pick the time that is most convenient for them. I wonder if any investigative journalist has ever taken on that study.

        I also agree with Ron_007: Overlapping occupancy is the way to go. We sold my wife's house in June, she moved in with me in July (while most of her stuff went into storage). We set the move out date for my house with the buyer after we got our firm move-in date from our new house's builder and set it for the weekend after our new house was ready. Moving from a rental (or two) to an owned home would have been even easier.
        gevander
      • Moving contracts

        @gevander Contracts only get you so far when your stuff is in a warehouse. Sure, you could lawyer up, but even if your contract says delivery will be on Day X, there are a whole lot of "force majeure" (which means "force of nature" or "you'll get it when we get there") clauses, none of which will get you your bed or collection of old motorcycle tires.

        I can't tell you if it's unique to us, or unique to moving to Florida (could be). I don't recall broken promises on earlier moves, but I also (a) never had a move as complex and (b) always was moving to a major metropolitan area.
        David Gewirtz
    • I disagree...

      Even before I had a computer, I would draw mockups of all my "footprint" items. It is much easier to play "what if" with them than the actual items...
      tradergeorge
  • Wal-mart is only controversial to

    leftist ideologues and insecure people who can't handle being bullied by leftist ideologues.

    I shop at Wal-mart without guilt. I also drive a gasoline powered car without guilt, and use incandescent light bulbs without guilt and eat twinkies and meat without guilt and drink sugared sodas without guilt. Because, and here's the truth you need to internalize: You (speaking to the guilt-police) are NOT better than me because you drive a hybrid, or boycott wal-mart, or wear a pink ribbon on your lapel, etc. etc.
    baggins_z
    • Twinkies?

      Serious? Twinkies?
      David Gewirtz
    • guilt

      is not the problem. Loosing 1000 cal of all those tasty goodies in the gym is the problem.
      pupkin_z
  • Thx for an entertaining read

    I read your column all the time & love it, but this is one of the best. A fun read & you had me ROFL at Tip 4:Doorways exist for a reason. Hilarious. Thx for brightening my day, you Walmart freak you (@baggins_z). :)
    bump911
  • Seems like

    everyone is leaving NJ. Grant it, it is crazy expensive to live here so I know why lots of people are leaving. My entire family is planning on leaving for the South as well... damn traders!

    The South and the West are too weird for me. Once you leave NJ and the tri-state area really, every other state seems like a foreign country. I was in Florida for a few days before my Cruise Ship departed and I saw a gas station with a big sign on it that simply said "Pecans & Fireworks". WTF?
    Bates_
    • I do miss NJ

      I don't miss the snow, but I miss a LOT about New Jersey. A whole lot.
      David Gewirtz
  • deleted

    wrong spot
    William Farrel
  • From my buying experience ...

    When I bought my home I learned a few lessons:

    #1 Overlap your occupancy. You touched on this in one of your points, but I like to make it a separate one. Take possession of your new home well before you vacate your current residence. At the very least give yourself 2 weeks, at the most, you may want to allow months. Taking possession in the middle of the month allows you to avoid the "end of month" moving rush when it is hard to get movers. Painting, floor replacement, electrical / networking work like you mention is all 1000's of times easier if you don't have to work around furniture, and people.

    #2 Hire a home inspector. Provide him with a list of your concerns. Also make sure you are there when he does the inspection. I had one specific concern, but my guy didn't check the attic because it was "too hard". Too bad for me, because the claim that the attic was insulated was a bad joke on me requiring an additional $1000 I hadn't planned on.

    #3 Plan (ie budget time and money!) on doing expensive repairs so you can take advantage of the benefits for longest time. For example, installing insulation and replacing windows before you move it will save on heating and cooling costs immediately.
    Ron_007
  • 24-Port "Router"?

    I think you mean 24-port switch.
    ldo17
    • You think right

      Ugh. Writing before noon. Always gets you someplace.
      David Gewirtz
  • DIY?

    My last move, I did just about all that stuff myself. I guess you will have to change the name of your column to "How To Be Your Own General Contractor"...Alright, don't flame me back...I understand that we have to make time/ money choices in situations like this, and know our limitations.....Great article overall...
    tradergeorge
    • In this case, my wife was.

      We had one contractor who was very upset we wouldn't hire him to be the GC. Of course, he's the one who suddenly developed family problems and vanished, never to be heard from again.

      Although neither my wife nor I had ever owned a home, she "manned up" and learned to run this project. I was tied up with work the whole time, so almost all the GC responsibility fell on her shoulders. I think she got to know the permitting office on a first name basis.

      But, from a bigger picture perspective, that's what this column, DIY-IT is all about: learning to do things yourself, either because you don't want to spend on them, or they've never been done, or no one in their right mind will do them for you, or you want it just right.

      We tweaked out this house exactly right for our lifestyle. People who visit don't understand and we get pushback on it, because it's not a traditional layout. But it's absolutely perfect for us, 24/7. Gotta keep to your own vision and have faith in yourself. And in your wife (if you're as lucky as I am to have one as wonderful and resourceful as mine is).
      David Gewirtz
  • Your Mother really brought you up better than this.

    This is extreme client-abuse. All multi-page articles need a single-page option (sometimes satisfied as a 'Print' option). You can also provide a somewhat lesser insult by providing a '.pdf.' version option.
    Regulus
    • She tried, she really tried...

      I tell people that all the time. My mom really tried to raise me right, taught me all the right lessons. Very little stuck. But it's not her fault. She tried, she really, really tried.

      As for the site feature issues, none of the columnists here control any of that (although we certainly share our opinions). This beast hit 3000 words and had to be paginated. Sometimes hard-earned wisdom can't be shared in a single tweet. Well, no, that's not fully true: "don't eat yellow snow" fits in a tweet. So, there you go.
      David Gewirtz
      • Really?

        You had to "earn" that wisdom? Having owned dogs since I was too young to care for them myself, I understood that nugget the first time I heard it - and didn't have to experiment to find out why. ;-)
        gevander