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.
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.
The House: Wow... how did we get to the end of the year so quickly!? Let me think... what has happened since my last update back in July? It seems most of this year has been spent doing maintenance and repair work, and I made very little forward progress on any of the renovation projects that should have been taken care of long ago. I did get a lot done on the bamboo containment, with the installation of more barrier around the upper tier stuff, and a couple more fence posts installed. Late in the Summer that project was put on hold as I turned my attention to the Vanagon, which needed a major coolant pipe replaced and also got a new oil pump (no small matter, either of those), as well as new front shocks and brake work.
Once the Vanagon was good to go, we found our Munchkin T-80 boiler was having fits with error codes on the control board, and a bangin' noise coming from the pipes of the indirect hot water circuit. After a new control board and replacement Taco 007 IFC pump in the Fall, that thing is running smoothly once more. We then had a couple lovely Autumn storms that caused brief power outages, so I pulled out the Generac and found the fuel tank on that thing was a horror show. I have always stored the unit outside with an empty fuel tank, but I found that the tank had filled with condensation and become a mess of rust and sludge. I managed to get the thing to run (very poorly) after draining the sludge and filling it with fresh fuel, however when the power came back on I removed the tank and set to work getting it cleaned and restored to working condition. After pouring in a gallon of Evapo-rust , sealing up the tank, then turning it every day to let the stuff work on each inside surface, I then drained it, flushed it with hot water, and dried it with an old hair dryer. Now I need to give it a rinse with Acetone, then I'll pour in a quart of Red-Kote tank sealer and that should take care of any future rust issues. I'll likely add a tee to the fuel line as well, to make draining the tank simple after use.
I also managed to get the yard all cleaned up before the snow showed up in December, with the assistance from a couple high-school kids that were looking for community service work I found through a contact at church. This is the first time in a couple years we've gotten all the sticks and leaves cleared out before snow, so hopefully things will be a bit easier when it comes time for Spring garden prep next year.
The Site: So, with all that maintenance work happening, there's really nothing to add to the site this time around either. We did re-arrange all the furnishings in the living room to get ready to pull the ceiling and floor in there, but that will have to wait until after the Christmas tree comes down after New Years weekend. I just wanted to get some manner of status update posted before the end of 2016, and wish everyone a happy and healthy 2017!
The House: Over the last few hot and dry weeks I've spent most of my time continuing to make progress on the bamboo containment project behind the pond. I have the barrier installed around the lower section and have started to backfill all that, and I'm now moving some big rocks around to get the barrier installed as I work up the retaining wall to the second level. Slow and steady, with no crushed fingers so far.
I've also put a little time into figuring out some goofy stuff I plan to add to the joiners bench, which included dis-assembling a fairly old, store bought portable woodworkers' bench I had kickin' around to salvage a couple nice Maple bench vise screws for use on the new bench. That also freed up the old straight-grain Douglas Fir legs, so I found a use for those... Each year our mail box up on the corner gets over run with Daylilies the grow up right in front of the thing, and I've noticed lately that the mail box was getting a little loose on the post. Our post is Black Locust that was put in by the homebuilder in the 1950's, so it's not going anywhere, and I thought it'd be nice to get both our boxes onto the same post. I talked with the neighbor about doing that and he said that'd be fine. I started by moving the tall Daylilies from in front of our box post around to the back of the post, then moved the Hosta he had around his box post over in front of ours. Next, I scrapped all the old blue paint off our post, then got busy with a hand saw and chisel to add four chunks of 4 x 4 Fir at an angle to support a pair of new mail boxes (I didn't want to build the typical cross-post, forty-five degree thing everyone seems to have, so came up with this sixty degree array instead). Before mounting the mail boxes, I gave everything a couple coats of Sikkens Cetol® Marine finish to seal everything. I also used stainless steel hardware to assemble the post and attach the boxes, so unless someone runs the thing over with a snow plow, it should last quite a while.
The Site: No content additions this time around, other than the photos of the new mail boxes above. I have been snapping pictures as I work on the bamboo, so I'll likely add a section with all that stuff to the Garden section eventually.
The House: It seems I'm getting into the habit of quarterly updates, rather than weekly updates, but at least this time around it's because I've been quite busy on a variety of projects, rather than illness or injury. With a dry and relatively mild Winter, I was able to get a good start on leaf clean-up and yard work throughout the Spring. This year we enjoyed some assistance from a couple of high school kids that were supplied by a friend from church, and they did some really impressive work to help get the yard cleaned up. With the kids taking care of the mundane leaf collection and tidying up, I was able to get the pond ready for another season, and even managed to get a fresh coat of stain on the tsukimi-dai section of the deck.
Of course plenty of time was spent tinkering away on the joiner's bench, although that also contributed to the long delay in this update. Part of the problem was that I was working on multiple over-lapping tasks, so I couldn't publish an update that would make sense until I got them all taken care of. A poor excuse perhaps, but much has been accomplished. All that's left for the joiner's bench now is the tool storage box, and a dovetailing or "Moxon" vise. I also made some more progress on the bamboo containment project, although it's been very slow going. Our odd Winter weather last year took quite a toll on the bamboo, with a week or so of very cold temperatures (consistently below 10° F) and no insulating snow cover, all of the above ground bamboo was frost damaged and killed off. I thought perhaps the containment problem had been solved, but after a few days of cutting off all the damaged canes, I found the roots had survived and were sending up a load of new shoots. At least the stuff doesn't start running again until late Summer, so I should have time to get the new containment barrier installed over the next few weeks.
The Site: As mentioned above, other than a lot of yard maintenance tasks, much of my time over the last few weeks was spent working on projects for the Joiner's Bench, with lots of new information added to that page (and over 30 new photos!). I updated the table of contents there to make finding the new sections easier, then added detailed sections about making a load of wooden bench dogs, installing the bottom shelf, building a couple un-planned tool racks, and finally some power distribution, and task lighting fixtures. All that new information naturally warranted a site search index update as well. Enjoy!
The House: That's right, four months since the last update, and I have very little to report regarding progress on the home renovation. We did have a very nice holiday season, but then right after Christmas I got the flu, which lead to bronchitis and pneumonia. It finally cleared up by the end of January, and luckily we didn't even get any snow until February so I didn't have to deal with that while I was sick. Now the weather is getting a little milder, and things are starting to dry out, so the leaf clean-up from last Autumn can continue soon.
I did keep pretty busy over the Winter, with plenty of time in November and early December dedicated to finishing the workholding fixtures on the joiner's bench project. After the holidays while battling the flu, I spent a lot of my time working at the computer on projects for our church. I've also done some work on a wall hung cabinet that will hold the hymn board for our recently remodeled sanctuary. With the church projects getting wrapped up, I'm finally getting back to work figuring out what to tackle next on the house and bench... After I do the taxes, of course.
The Site: Even though it's been a few months since the last update, I had plenty of photos of bench progress as I worked on the last of the workholding fixtures, so this update adds a few new sections to the Joiner's Bench page. I suppose the bench proper is finished, since all that remains is to add the bottom shelf and tool storage, then a few small bench accessories (bench hooks, shooting board) and a "Moxon" vise. I've also done the yearly clean-up to this news page by moving all of the 2015 news items off to their own 2015 News Archive page, then updated the Project Timeline and site search index, as usual.
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.
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: .
If you click the RSS feed icon ( ) in the News section above, your browser should open a news reader page that gives you an option to subscribe to updates from our web site. Whenever I post an update to this page in the News section, I'll also update the feed and you'll be notified of the update if you've subscribed to our feed. If you use a dedicated application to keep up with your RSS subscriptions, you may prefer to simply paste in the address of our feed, which is: http://kesterhouse.com/rss/kesterhouse.xml
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 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, as well as a few of those trendy little icons to bookmark the current page on various social networking sites.
Creating the Site & Compatibility
- Flock 2.0+
- Firefox 1.5+
- Safari 2+
- Opera 9+
- Chrome 0.3
- Internet Explorer 6+
I've checked a screen shot from all the browsers above and everything appears fine using the latest versions. Functionality is as expected in all versions running on Windows XP SP2 (since I don't have a MAC or OpenSource machine to test on), so I think we're good to go. If you find the site has stuff hanging off the page and there's text on top of other text, you may want to upgrade your browser to the latest version for your platform.
What's in the SectionsHere's a description of what's included in the sections - some are more complete than others but it's all getting there.
- Welcome This page
- 2008 News Archive contains the updates from the News section for 2008.
- 2009 News Archive contains the updates from the News section for 2009.
- 2010 News Archive contains the updates from the News section for 2010.
- 2011 News Archive contains the updates from the News section for 2011.
- 2012 News Archive contains the updates from the News section for 2012.
- 2013 News Archive contains the updates from the News section for 2013.
- 2014 News Archive contains the updates from the News section for 2014.
- 2015 News Archive contains the updates from the News section for 2015.
- The House is about the original structure, the purchase, and the first big project - installation of the new septic system.
- The Garden is about the garden renovation, with information on the lot, initial landscaping, front yard, the irrigation system, and Pine pruning.
- Design addresses the decisions about the garden design and construction, including a complete plant list and details of the construction of our stone lanterns.
- Pond showcases our goldfish pond.
- Bonsai is about our attempts to get some bonsai started.
- Garden Shed is about the construction of the prettiest potting shed ever.
- Teahouse is about the construction of our Japanese-style tea house.
- Exterior introduces the exterior projects of the renovation.
- Foundation is about repairs made to the foundation.
- Roof is about the new roof design and replacement.
- Windows & Doors shows the installation of these units.
- Siding & Trim covers the siding and trim work, including gable ends and soffits.
- Engawa & Tsukimi-dai pertains to the planning and construction of the decks.
- Garage design and building is still on the drawing board.
- Interior introduces the interior projects of the renovation
- Mechanical introduces the guts of the house renovation
- Wiring covers the re-wiring (lighting for each area is covered in the sections above).
- Plumbing explains the water supply systems (fixtures are covered in the Interior sections).
- HVAC is about the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems used in the renovation.
- Energy Efficiency covers steps we're taking regarding weatherization, insulation and reduced energy costs.
- Inspiration attempts to address why we decided to build a Japanese style house, and why we're doing it ourselves.
- Specifications contains reference information regarding the house and equipment, plans, supplier information, etc.
- Color Palette has all color chips and color codes for finishes.
- Timeline is a chronological list of renovation projects and tasks, with links to the appropriate sections of the site.
- Hand Tools contains a list of vintage hand tool data, as well as catalogs and reference books regarding my ever-growing collection.
- Power Tools is a list of power tool data with PDF documentation for most tools.
- Et cetera contains my ramblings on this or that, not specific to the house renovation.
Currently the page contains some information regarding our sailing dinghies and vintage outboard motor, as well as a new section about
our old Volkswagens and my time at GreenWheels Electric Car Company.
- Hand Planes details the restoration and tuning of vintage metal hand planes.
- Joiner's Bench addresses the design and building of an English style joiners bench.
- Shop Equipment has information about bench vises and other shop equipment that'll end up in the garage eventually.
- Vintage Tools contains images of all my hand planes and other vintage hand tools.