Welcome to The Kester House & Garden Project!

This site has been created to document our rather in-depth home renovation project. Friends and family ask about the status from time to time, so this will serve as a place to keep track of our progress. I also use the site as a place to store photos, plans, and technical information (like paint colors, etc.) so I can find that information when I need it.

click to enlarge
Yep, these photos were taken five years ago to fulfill a reader's request (2 photos).

If you're visiting the site for the first time, after having a look at this Welcome page I recommend reading the House and Inspiration sections before you dive right in, so you'll have an idea of what we started with and what we're hoping to end up with. I've been writing about the project in the order we've been working on it, so the Garden sections would be next, followed by the Exterior sections and finally the Interior sections.

I often add new information or photos to various sections, so the News section below will always have links to the latest updates. There's also a Table of Contents at the bottom of this page with a brief description of every page on the site. Additionally, if you're looking for information about a particular project, you may find the table available on the Project Timeline useful, since you may click on the project name to go directly to the information regarding that specific work.


news icon News

2022.11.21
The House: I'm still getting used to the concept that the bamboo containment project is actually done, which has allowed me to put some time into a bunch of other "honey-do" list projects that I've neglected for far too long. I needed to adjust the hinges on the bathroom medicine cabinet to get the door to fully close properly (which meant emptying the cabinet and cleaning everything too, of course). I then dis-assembled the Toto® Washlet to repair a broken wire at the seat hinge that had caused the seat heater to stop working. Next I drilled out all the rusted rivets that held together a folding beach chair of hers, and replaced them all with stainless-steel fasteners. I also repaired an Acacia wood serving tray that she accidentally dropped and cracked in two, which required complete re-finishing and a fresh application of a few coats of oil.
I then made a bit more progress on the "Smart Home" switch upgrade with the purchase of a Lutron® Caséta® Weatherproof+ Outdoor Smart Plug On/Off Switch. I picked that thing up to allow the Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns to turn on and off without needing to go outside (and I'll use it for the Christmas lights too, when the time comes). However, before I mounted it near the front door, I added it to the Lutron® app then took it up to the tea house and then the garden shed to see if those out-buildings were within range of the Smart Hub control unit (which supposedly has a 40' range). I was pleasantly surprised to find it works in both out-buildings, which means I can install "smart" light switches out there to control their floodlights from the house — that'll be a very nice change for when I'm doing yardwork in to the evening.
Speaking of yardwork, that's what's been occupying the majority of my time of late — even though most of our Oaks have been removed in the last few years, there's still plenty of leaves to clean-up, and all the Irises and ornamental grasses need to be clipped before snow comes. I also need to get the VW Vanagon taken over to my friend's shop for some major under-carriage renovation work over the Winter. I'll get back to working on the living room ceiling one of these days!
The Site: Nothing much for content updates this time, however I did finally take care of a reader request I received back in 2016. This fellow had seen the pictures of our nine-foot DYER® Dhow sailing dinghy over on the Et cetera page, and asked if I could take some measurements of the floorboards he saw in one of the photos. He has a couple of Dhows, and wanted to add the floorboards to his dinghies too. I let him know I'd take care of it "soon"… He'd send a reminder e-mail every year or two, most recently in early November of this year. I simply couldn't let his patience go unrewarded after all these years, so I pulled the floorboards out of the corner of the tent garage and got busy. The results are now available in this 8-page document. I hope they do the job! DYER Dhow Floorboards PDF

2022.10.19
The House: I'm relieved to report that all stray bamboo runners and roots have been found, and a second layer of 12-gauge root barrier has been installed within the three sections of bamboo. As I finished this work during bamboo "runner season", I know there's nothing going over or through this new layer of barrier. I'll check it all again next Fall, but I really believe it's finally contained. Since I had all the landscaping around the bamboo disturbed while installing the additional barrier, I also finally did something with the extra wire I had buried over there from when I installed the low-voltage post lights in the engawa back in 2011. I picked up a set of eight, 12W LED well lights and installed them every few feet along the front of the bamboo. I had enough wire to run them past each bamboo section and end the string up behind the Japanese "Waterfall" Maple. I figured since dealing with this errant bamboo has consumed more than 10 Summers of project time, I may as well show off the results of all that work.
The Site: I added a new section to the main Garden page with a description and photos of this Summer's bamboo work. That also warranted an update to the Project Timeline page, and the usual search index refresh. Enjoy!

2022.09.12
The House: So guess what I've been working on all Summer? The new living room ceiling? Nope. Wiring for the living room and bedroom? Nope. Hmm, well I certainly haven't been playing with bamboo, since I wrote that big new section about dealing with the bamboo and said it was finished last year, right? Wrong! I found a little chunk of root growing outside the lower bamboo section last Fall, so this Spring I started digging around to see what had happened. The stuff had actually stretched the new bamboo barrier so thin that it was able to just poke through it a few inches below the top edge, and then grew through the hole a couple feet. I started digging around the exterior of the barrier, and found the top section had a piece that had blown through as well. I've been working away at re-doing the barrier with an additional layer of really thick stuff for the entire Summer, and should have it taken care of by the end of the month. The upper section also had a little bamboo sprout up from under a couple big rocks right behind the pond. I had cut off some root growth from down there when I did that section last year, but apparantly it wasn't good enough. This time I lifted the big rocks out of the way with come-a-long, and got every scrap of bamboo root removed from the area.
The Site: I didn't do any content updates this time around, other than to just say I've been doing yard work all Summer. I've got a few photos of bamboo barrier progress, and I plan to get a new section done for the Garden page once that project is completed (again). That is all for now.

2022.08.02
The House: We finally got the '89 VW Cabriolet back from the shop, and she's lookin' good! The lovely bride is very happy to have a car available again, and I must admit it's nice to be able to run to the local hardware store for goodies rather than have to wait for stuff to get delivered. Other than getting the car back, I got another handful of those Lutron® Caséta® switches installed in the genkan . I replaced a pair of 3-way dimmers, a 3-way standard switch, and a couple single switches to take care of everything in the 4-gang switch boxes at each entry door. This will likely be it for a while on switch upgrades, since the other locations only have one of the two 3-ways installed right now. Even though the Caséta® stuff doesn't actually use two wired switches for a "3-way" multi-location switch set-up, I'll still install the wiring and switch boxes so everything's in place for someone to install regular 3-ways in the future. It's no big deal to add a little wiring and a wall switch box when there's no wallboard installed — and it would be a lot of work to try and retrofit that stuff years from now when the house is done.
The Site: I've only added a couple photos of the Lutron® Caséta® switches to the Household Wiring Upgrades section of the Wiring page (although I also noticed I hadn't said anything about that new section on the News page since I added it a couple weeks ago when I updated the Project Timeline page. Oh well). I've also tweaked the code a bit to get the RSS button above to at least display something while Microsoft's Edge and Google's Chrome browsers figure out how their going to deal with news feeds. The minor update to the Project Timeline page about the light switches, along with a search index refresh take care of current updates.

2022.07.24
The House: Too hot outside to do much of anything out there — although I did get in the pond a couple times to clean out the last few handfuls of leaves from the bottom, then stick a couple Plantabbs® PondTabbs into each water lily pot. That's a nice way to spend the afternoon when it's over 95°F outside every day. I was also going to work on setting up a couple more Lutron® Caséta® switches inside, but the lovely bride took a little "mini vacation" with some of her college friends out in Western Massachusetts, so she had the phone with her for that (thus no access to the Lutron® app for me). The '89 VW Cabriolet repairs are supposedly going to be done on Monday or Tuesday, so we should finally have a vehicle back this coming week.
The Site: I believe the site update is now complete. The last couple pages to get to were all in the "Specifications" section, with a major overhaul of the Project Timeline page, which has had lots of stuff added to cover the last few years (and some even older stuff for which I recently found pictures, but never added to the site when the work happened). I also went through the entire Specifications list and got all the new components listed for the various repairs and upgrades that have been added to the site recently, along with their proper owner's manuals or spec sheets PDFs. The pages of information about all my Power Tools and Vintage Hand Tools are also now updated to include recent purchases and replacements. Finally, the search index has been refreshed, so searching for any of this stuff I've written about lately should work properly.
Site updates will probably slow down a bit now that everything has been updated, but I fully intend to keep things coming at least once a month. That's all for now!

2022.07.17
The House: Still piddlin' around with yard work chores and working on getting the site updated. We also still have no vehicles, as the '89 VW Cabriolet repairs are stalled while waiting for parts from Europe (and the Vanagon won't go to the shop 'til the Cabrio is done). Perhaps this coming week?
The Site: I'm making more progress getting the site up to date. The "Project Timeline" page isn't there yet, but lots of other pages should be good to go soon. I did manage to figure out which of the good old Stanley tools I'd purchased over the past few years, then get photos for all of those updated to the appropriate Vintage Tool Gallery sections. I'm very happy to say I finally managed to get a No. 10½ type 1 (the only bench rabbet plane Stanley ever produced with an adjustable throat), made between 1885 and 1895. Apparently it was too costly to keep producing it with the adjustable throat, even though the No. 10½ was in production until 1964. I also found an unremarkable No. 63 block plane that was only produced from 1911 until 1935, but was the only block plane Stanley made that I didn't own. Another nice find was the No. 289 skewed-blade rabbet & filletster plane, with the correct fence, depth stop, and spurs. That one wasn't cheap, but it does a much better job than the common No. 78 when cutting rabbets. I grabbed a few other relatively inexpensive Stanley items that I have no way to justify buying, other than to add them to the collection — the Stanley Aluminum planes made between 1925 and 1935, including the Nos. A4, A5, A6, and A78 (I already had a No. A18 block, and I doubt I'll ever get the No. A45 Aluminum combination plane as it was only produced for 20 years, and didn't sell very well so they're very scarce and incredibly expensive now); the Stanley Steel bench planes Nos. S4 and S5 to go with the No. S18 I already had, produced between 1926 and 1942; and lastly a No. 12¼ and little English made No. 90J to round out the veneer scrapers and cabinetmaker's rabbet planes. I also picked up a Stanley No. 130A "Yankee" ratcheting screw driver to help with a project that's gonna have me installing over 1,000 oval-head, slotted, brass wood screws soon. A cordless drill/driver will just make a mess of those, but the "Yankee" should work pretty well. Still no update to the search index yet but like I said, I'm making progress.

2022.07.10
The House: Since the update last week we've just been taking care of the pond and doing normal yard work. Nothing too exciting, although our '89 VW Cabriolet has been in the shop for some major work for over a month now. With my VW Vanagon Synchro also out of commission, it's been rather inconvenient not having a car available. Hopefully we'll have the Cabrio back this coming week.
The Site: I've been making good progress going through my photos and records to get the site caught up with all the projects that have been done over the past few years. The toughest bit has been trying to get the "Project Timeline" page updated with what was done and when. While working through the timeline, I found that I haven't written anything about repairs that were made to the Munchkin™ boiler (replacing circulator pumps, dealing with a bad control board, etc.), as well as some work that was done on the Mitsubishi® mini-split unit and the Brizo® shower valve. While I suppose all the repair and maintenance stuff can't really be considered part of a "home renovation" project, I still wanted to get it all included on the site (it takes time and money away from other renovation work, after all). The updated "Project Timeline" page is still in the works, but I've finished the updates on the Mechanical / HVAC page with new sections on Heating System Maintenance & Repairs and Air Conditioning System Maintenance & Repairs, as well as a new section regarding Bathroom Maintenance & Repairs on the Interior / Bathroom page. Not exactly thrilling I know, but maintaining all this stuff is just as important as installing it, so now it's all here.
Other content updates include stuff on the Living Room page about removing the original Homasote® ceiling panels (which was done in Winter 2017-18). I also managed to add some information about a recent project that started in late 2021, and that we finished up in May of this year — we removed most of the old plywood underlayment and linoleum tile from the house, then installed new OSB underlayment to get the floors evened out and ready for finish flooring. Details are on the Bedroom and Living Room pages, as the work took place in both rooms. Lastly, I'm still going through all the pages on the site and adding the new GA4link opens a new window stuff, as well as checking for valid external links. No update to the search index yet, as I need to try and remember how to do that. I'll get there.

2022.07.04
Once again I have to say it — Yes, we're still alive… and yes, I'm still fiddling with the house, although it may be hard to tell since it seems I haven't done anything to our web site for nearly four years!
The House: Despite not having updated the site in any significant way since 2017, I've actually been keeping very busy working on the house and yard over the years. Of course it's not finished, but there has been progress. It seems most of the warm weather work for a few years now has been me trying to get the bamboo contained inside new root barrier material in the back yard. That project is finally done, so I can focus on the house interior once more. The joiner's bench still needs the tool box assembled, although that's been a low priority project (since that's the state it was in 2017, too).
The Site: In order to get this site back in shape, I've been going through lots of photos I took of various projects I've worked on over the past few years as reminder of what was done and when. Some of them are quite old, although it seems I never bothered using them at the time, so they're slowly getting added to the site. I'm also going through every page on the site while I add the correct code to migrate the site from Google's "Universal Analytics" (UA) to their new "Analytics 4" (GA4) platform. The UA stuff will stop collecting data next July, so all the pages need to be updated before then. I'm also checking all the external links from the site again, as most URLs are now secure (https, rather than http). And yes, the "Kester House & Garden" site will remain "Not Secure" — I don't have cookies or transactions, so there's really no reason to spend the money to maintain a security certificate.
As for actual content updates so far, I've updated all the News Archives pages with proper GA4 code, and also added new archives for 2017 News, and then that long dry spell for 2018-21 News. I've completed a couple major updates to The House page, with a greatly expanded "Deforestation" section to include all the tree work that's taken place from as far back as 2008, up through 2021. Not sure why I'd never added any news about all that stuff, but now it's all there (with lots of photos). The House page stuff about all the trees also led to updates to the Interior / Genkan page (detailing the repairs I made to the genkan ceiling after a limb came through the roof in 2020), and the Exterior / Roof page, as we got a new roof from that limb damage in 2020 as well. I also added a new section under the "New Septic System" section about septic system repairs that took place in 2020. The other big update as a result of going through all the old photos was to finally get into the nitty-gritty of dealing with the bamboo, which I've been working at since 2007! The bamboo project update has all been added to The Garden page, which has received a minor update to the niwaki section (a project I've mostly abandoned), and then a big new section on dealing with the bamboo. The last update for now is also on The Garden page, as a new section about the garden fence behind the bamboo that I started 2018 while working on the bamboo, then finished in 2020.
That's all for now (and after a few years, that's a lot).

For past chronological updates, please see the following pages:
     2008 News Archives.
     2009 News Archives.
     2010 News Archives.
     2011 News Archives.
     2012 News Archives.
     2013 News Archives.
     2014 News Archives.
     2015 News Archives.
     2016 News Archives.
     2017 News Archives.
     2018-21 News Archives.


Using the Site

Visitors should check this page to determine the most recent updates, or browse the sections listed in the navigation menu on the left. I'll try to always have a picture of the most recent project or the house itself on this page too.

Navigating the Site
The navigation menu will expand when you hover your curser over an item with a down arrow (↓) in the name. The section you are currently visiting will display in a different color than the rest of the menu so you hopefully won't get lost. There's an up arrow (↑) near the bottom of each page that will return you to the top of the page when clicked. Links in the body text will display in a different color than the rest of the text. All internal links (links in the body text or nav menu sections) will replace the contents of your browser's current window with the target's content when clicked, so you may navigate using the 'forward' or 'back' controls of your browser. External links (links to other sites) are in the footer and will open in a new browser window (or tab) when clicked. If an external link is placed in the body of the page, it will be indicated with an icon: link opens a new window.

Receiving Updates
If you click the RSS feed icon ( news icon ) in the News section above, your browser will open the news feed page that I usually update whenever I update the site. In order to have it display in your browser, it simply runs a little code to allow it to show up, but no longer provides a means of subscribing to the feed. In order to automatically receive updates, you'll need to use a dedicated RSS News Reader application (or browser "add-on"), then copy & paste in the address of our feed: http://kesterhouse.com/rss/kesterhouse.xml into that reader. If Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge get their "Collections" and "Follow" stuff worked out, perhaps I can get rid of the code and go back to just loading the XML in the browser.

Searching the Site
When you click the 'SEARCH' item in the nav menu you'll be presented with a search box to enter the keyword(s) you'd like to find. Hit your 'enter' key or click the little magnifying glass and your browser will load the search results page with your search terms highlighted. When you navigate to a page from the link provided in the search results, the search terms will also highlight in the new page to make them easier to find.

'Lightbox' Image Viewing
When you click on a photo it will enlarge in the browser window and the background around the image will darken to allow better viewing of the image. If there are additional photos on the particular subject, you will find controls to view those additional photos below the bottom-right corner of the image. You may also hover your curser over the image to use the Next and Previous buttons when there's more than one photo in the group you're viewing, or view the set as a slide show by using the Play and Pause buttons below the image. To open an individual photo in a new window (in case you wish to bookmark the image, or copy it for appropriate use), click the small Expand icon in the top-right corner of the photo. To return to the normal page view, click the small X below the image, or click anywhere on the background around the photo.

The Footer
The footer contains a link to send us an e-mail if you'd like to make a comment or suggestion. It also contains external links (they all open in a new window) to other sites I enjoy.

Creating the Site & Compatibility
I've created the site entirely with a text editor, since I'm still a member of the 'old-fart school' of web design. I'm using a lot of Cascading Style Sheet design controls, as well as a fair amount of Javascript to make the page do what I want it to do - some written by me, but mostly I'm using the wonderful jQuery library with plug-ins I've found here and there. If you've got Javascript disabled in your browser, the site should degrade gracefully and remain functional, although it's not going to look very nice.

I check the site occasionally for functionality with a smart phone or tablet, although I generally write everything in anticipation of having it read on a laptop or workstation. I have the latest versions of most Windows 10 browsers installed and have verified the pages display correctly with those. As stated above, Microsoft Edge is currently having issues with RSS feeds as they implement some new news reader features, so I'll tweak the XML as needed when and if they get it all worked out.


What's in the Sections

Here's a description of what's included in the sections - some are more complete than others but it's all getting there.