Tag Archives: home

Compare Closet Systems

My house has became a closet systems showroom. I have installed 4 different brands of closet systems for my closets. Part of it is out of curiosity, try to figure out the different between those closet systems. Part of it is out of necessity, different closet space has different requirements and one size does not fit all.  Here is my review summary for all the closet systems.  I also include the PAX wardrobes IKEA in the comparison for reference.

IKEA PAX wardrobes

Price: $$$$
Install: ***
Look: ***
Review:  This is the first closet system that comes into my mind when I start looking for closets.  Too bad its depth does not fit my closet spaces.

Martha Stewart Living Closet System

Price: $$$
Install: **
Look: ***
Review:  I use this closet system for my master bedroom walk in closet.  It is easy to install but still require a stub finder and a power drill.  It looks nice with the laminate wood finish, but it only comes in one color

Canadian-Tire Extend-it closet kit

Price: $$
Install: *
Look: *
Review:  If you already have the horizontal hanging rod, no tool is required to install the  Extend-it closet system.  The height and width of rods are adjustable and they fit together with clip-on.  However, this closet system is very ugly and looks pretty flimsy.  I regret I had it for my wardrobe in the hallway downstairs.  I am considering replacing it with a different closet later.

Rubbermaid Configurations Closet System

Price: $$
Install: **
Look: **
Review:  Installation requires stud finder, power drill and some 10# screws.  The rail is vertical with slots for adjustable bracket.  Rubbermaid has shelving pieces for the closet system but it is a bit pricey. I used generic brand laminated shelving from home depot and cut it to the right width instead.

DIY from Home Depot parts

Price: $
Install: *
Look: **
Review:  I build this closet from Home Depot DIY parts.  I have to cut the shelving and dowel to the right width and fasten the bracket on to the stub.  Install the DIY closet system is quite some work but it has the lowest price tag.

Cleaning mold

Mold grows on the windows frame rail is very hard to clean. The steam cleaner helps me a lot by blasting them out, but the problem becomes what to do with the flying debris. I first tried to use a cloth covering area I am blasting, but I found the cloth get soak up with dirt pretty fast. I spent more time walking back and forth between the window and the sink to rinse the cleaning cloth. Then I remember when I went to see my dentist, he has some kind of vacuum sucking the water from the tooth drill and the loosen plagues form my month, I could use a similar idea. The only problem is regular household vacuum cleaner can not handle water, since the water in the air may short circuit the fan. I got myself a wet/dry shop vacuum for this task. A shop vacuum use negative pressure to create suction, so the air does not flow through the fan directly. My only complain is the hose of the shop vacuum is pretty heavy. I have to put it around my neck and let my shoulder carry some weight. Now I work very efficiently with a steam cleaner and a shop vacuum and somehow I think I look like a dentist.

Dream kitchen almost comes true

Technically speaking it is not my dream kitchen, it is Pat’s dream kitchen. Ok, a guy don’t have a dream kitchen, maybe a dream garage, but definitely not a dream kitchen.

For the past two days, I was losing sleep worrying about my $5000 Direct Buy membership fee. I was so worry that it is a scam like many people say online and I have to go through all the trouble to get my money back and worse feeling like an idiot got ripped off. Today after spending three hours meeting with the kitchen designer in Direct Buy, my worry is gone. He is one of the most professional and helpful kitchen designer I have met, much better than those at Home Depot or the Chinese cabinet contractors. Most important of all, their claim of 40% saving in kitchen cabinet is true. I will recoup my membership fee just from the kitchen alone. We don’t have the final quote yet, because we are still fine tuning kitchen design idea. Judging from the estimate, we are $2000 ahead in saving taking the the membership fee and 15% sales discount in Home Depot. The price is comparable to Chinese cabinet contractors but we are getting cabinets from Kitchen Craft.

I spent some time study their catalog, checking the price against retail stores. The price is ok in general. Some stuff is pretty good deal, some stuff are actually more expensive. It beats those boutique shop or designer shops charging clueless customers fat margin, but does not give save much pitching against big chain stores, especially when they are on sales. Big appliance has good deals, too bad that we don’t need to upgrading our appliances.

I have booked the second appointment with the kitchen designer to go over the details. So far I am happy with what I got from Direct Buy. Let’s see can they keep up with my expectation. I will keep readers posted with my Direct Buy adventure.

P.S. Direct Buy is a franchise and the membership fee and catalog selection is different from location to location. I read from Internet, some location is pretty bad. My location seems pretty good so far. Always get opinions from existing members in your location before making your decision.

Direct Buy, scam or big saving?

Can you believe I just pay $5000 for a membership at Direct Buy, hoping to recoup my membership fee from the saving I will get from the deep discounted catalog items through Direct Buy? At first, it sounds like a scam, I thought so too. CBC news even made a report on this company trying to uncover the scam. Internet forum has very mixed review. Someone call it out right fraud but someone think it is a good deal.

The idea of the Direct Buy is quite simple. You pay the heft membership fee, in return you buy product at manufacturer price plus 8% handling fee and freight fee. Retail shop make their profit from the mark up on the goods they are selling. Direct Buy basically makes money from membership fee. It has minimal customer service. You don’t get any sales who try to sell you stuff or answer your questions. You won’t even see the product you are buying. All you got is a room full of manufacturer catalog and a price. You have to look up all the specification, figure out the part number. You may have to go to retail shop to see the item for real. The staff there only do one thing, help you submit your order form. Then you have to wait for the shipment to come, anywhere from 2-4 weeks. Once you pick up the product, you are on your own to deal with the manufacturer with any warranty problem. You don’t get convenient refund or exchange policy from the retail store.

One thing people complain most is that Direct Buy use the typical high pressure selling tactics. They invite you to an open house, force feed you a video, so testimony form “happy” customers and make you sign the contract right away. The catch is you have to sign up on the spot or they will turn you down. Their claim is to protect their manufacturer price is confidential information, they don’t want shopper use it to leverage against retail shops. At first they refuse to show me the the produce catalog and the price. The sales only willing to quote a few items for me. That does not make sense to me. How can I make decision to spend $5000 without knowing how much I can save?

To keep the long story short, at the end we spent 3 hours in the place. The sales pretty up just gave up persuading me and let me wander the place on my own. I have access to all the catalog and able to check out the price as I like. The catalogs are from known manufacturers, not no name brands. Since I am shopping for furniture and house hold items a lot these days, I recognize many brands from the list. The selection is good, it probably beats any one retail store but can’t beat all retail stores combined. The price is actually pretty good. They are really selling at the cost or very close to the cost. For example, we just bought a Simmons mattress from the Bay on sales, the price of the same mattress at Direct Buy is $780 + 8% handling but not shipping = $842. We pay $715 at the Bay, but that’s on the 2 weeks only the Bay super mattress sales and the Bay somehow made an error in subtracting the box frame from the order to our favor. It should be about $810. The not on sales price at of the mattress is $2000 at the Bay, which is ridiculous. The market price I found when I shop around for the mattress is around $1200.

I check many other things and I am convinced they are real savings. It is probably in the order 20-25% rather than the 40-60% they claim. If I can spend $20000, then I could make my $5000 membership fee worth while. The bottom line is Direct Buy’s price beats non-sales price at retail shop, but probably can’t beat the sales price of big chain stores. You actually get access to many more products than you can find in retail shop but at the same time it limits your choice to their catalogs. The bang of the buck would be on big ticket items the retail store getting a fat margin like furniture, vanities, light fixtures, cabinet, fringe, etc. You won’t save much on small appliance as the chain stores probably get a better deal on sales. Since we are remodeling our kitchen and the cabinet is really cheaper than Home Depot. I decide to give it a try. Although the membership contract says absolutely no refund, by law BC has 10 days cool down period and I know there are court precedence winning against Direct Buy to get your money back within the first 10 days. If after doing more calculation, I could save close to $5000, I will keep my membership otherwise I will cancel it.

Stay tune on my price hunting adventure with Direct Buy. I will keep everyone posted. See whether I turn out to be an idiot got scam $5000 or a smart shopper who saves a lot.

iRobot Looj 120 Gutter Cleaning Robot


I love my iRobot vacuum cleaner. It saves me lots of work cleaning the house. I just have to press a button and it will get the job done. It’s fall season, leaves is falling and rain starts to pour. It is time to clean the gutter. I see iRobot also makes a gutter cleaning robot, base on my good experience with their vacuum cleaner, I decided to give it a try.

I did not get the latest model, Looj 125, which is in yellow color. I spot a previous generation Looj 120, which is in green color selling cheap on Craigslist. The only difference is the newer model and the older model is an internal antenna instead of an external one the motor, the brush and everything else is the same. The Looj works amazingly in youtube, but unfortunate it does not work on my gutter at all. My gutter is not standard size, it is too wide for Looj. Instead of throwing the dirt out of the gutter onto the ground, it just flipping the dirt from the left half of the gutter to the right half and vice versa.

I have a few minor complains about the Looj. It uses Ni-Cd battery instead of Li-ion battery, so I have drain the battery completely before recharging to avoid memory effect and make sure I do not overcharge the battery. The external antenna is inconvenient. Once awhile, the Looj will flip up side down. I have to reverse the brush rotation to flip it back otherwise the antenna is on the way. Without the antenna, the Looj can move on either side. Other than that, the brush motor is pretty powerful, dirt and leaves is flying high. It should work well if mine is a standard 4″-5″ gutter instead 8″.

Since the Looj does not fit my gutter, anyone interests in buying it from me?

Euroflex Monster SC60 steam cleaner


I and Pat went to the Vancouver Home and Interior Design show at BC Place tonight. The show is a rip off. The show charge us $12 per ticket but it is really a flea market. Most of the booths sell home product or renovation service, but some sell totally unrelated stuff like ear rings, hand bags, artistic cards, etc.

There is a demonstration booth of vapor steam cleaner. I have read about it in magazines and seen it in TV shopping channel. The idea of vapor steam cleaner is really simple. It use pressurized steam to clean dirt and disinfect surface instead of chemical cleaner. The demonstration is pretty amazing. Dirt just come loose under the steam and you can easily wipe it clean with a cloth. Pat is so hooked onto idea of the vapor steam cleaner. She keep thinking about it during the show. At the end, we bought it before we leave.

The Euroflex Monster SC60 steam cleaner output 130C steam at 55psi. It takes about 5 minutes to boil and a full tank last an hour. It is essentially a pressured steel boiler with a hose. It is a mid-range consumer model that does not come with more user friendly features you may find in professional models. It does not have water level indicator nor allow continuous water refill. When the steam runs out, I have to turn off the steam cleaner, wait 10 minutes for it to cool down before I can refill the tank. It does not even have a hook for the power cord. I tried it on the kitchen sink, oven, toilet bowl, bath tub, washroom faucet and mirror. It works as advertised, saves me lots of scrubbing. Just run the steam over the dirt to blow them away. My only complain is the handle gets a bit too warm after a while.

I rarely buy things without first read reviews on internet. After I went home, I search for its online reviews at once. The review for this steam cleaner is mixed. Someone loves it but someone think it is a piece of crap, probably due to the usual made in China QC problem. I also find out we could have save $20-30 if order it online. But we got a box of extra accessories in the show, so we are pretty much even.

Campbell Hausfeld 1/3-HP 3 Gallon Air Compressor


This Campbell Hausfeld is an entry level air compressor. It is on sales at Canadian Tires with 50% off the regular price. Campbell Hausfeld made professional air tools. According to online reviews, this model is better than Canadian Tire’s own Mastercraft air compressor or other made-in-China no-name brands. The box comes with basic accessories, 25′ air hose, 2 adapters, inflation needles for soccer and tires, air seal tapes and a blow gun.

When choosing an air compressor, the size of the gas tank, how much horse power of the motor is irrelevant. The most important number is the SCFM (standard cubic feet minute) rating of the compressor that measures the airflow. The higher the number means the air compressor can output more air. Usually, a sander needs 6-8 SCFM, a spray gun needs 1-2 SCFM. My unit only has 0.5 SCFM@90PSI, so it is not powerful enough to drive more demanding air tools like spray guns or sanders. It is good enough to drive airbrush (0.2 SCFM) and nail guns if you don’t fire too rapidly. Or you can simply use it as an old fashion hand pump to refill tires or use it as a replacement of canned compress air for cleaning.

All air compressor are noise. According to the online specification, the noise level is 96dB when the motor is running. I have to wear ear mug to protect my hearing when using the air compressor. It takes about 5 minutes to fill the gas tank to 100 PSI. A full tank is good for 2 car tires or 30 seconds of maximum continuous blowing. (For those who are interested, 3 gallon roughly equals to 0.5 cubic feet. In theory the gas thank should last a minute, but after 30 seconds the air pressure is too low to be useful.) When the air pressure in the tank drops too low, the motor will kicks in and refill the tank. It’s really powerful blowing dust and dirt trapped in cracks. It is also handy in blowing dust on things too fragile for a duster. Having an air compressor is more cost efficient than buy canned compress air, which costs

Here is some maths for those who are interested. A can of 10oz Dust-off costs $6. The content is not air but a chemical called difluoroethane(R152A) with density 2.7014 g/L (from Wiki). A can of Dust-off has about 28 gallons of gas when the chemical is expanded in room temperature. Dust-off blast the gas at 60PSI, so a 10oz can last less than a minute. Oh! Did I mention difuoroethane is an areosol that can produce psychoactive effects and stupid teenagers stiff it to get high and kill their brains? Having an air compressor not only is cheaper in a long run, but also more healthy or maybe even more environmental friendly.

Too bad that the unit does not come with a nail gun. Now I am looking forward to get a nail gun when it is on sale. I still have to do more research about what type of nail gun I need. I think I only need a finishing nail gun, since I am not going to built any frame, dry wall or roof. I would like to have a dual use nail/staple gun and that would be handy.

My first home project, install window blinds

Since I bought a place, I am learning to to become a handy man. Today I just under took my first home renovation project, install window blinds in the garage window. We are replacing the generic flimsy generic vinyl blinds come with the house with wooden shutter blinds. It took me a whole night to dismount the old blinds on the ground floor using hand screw driver, then I bought my impact driver and took down the blinds on the second floor in 15 minutes.

Now I have lots of unwanted blinds and I wonder what I should do with them. I put them up on Craigslist, but so far no one is interested. I notice the garage has a window but it has no blinds. Everyone walking by can peak inside my garage. I figured that if I can take down the blinds, I would put it back up, so I recycle one of the old blind to the garage window. This time I am powered with a powerful hammer drill and an impact driver. Still it took me an hour to figure out how to use those tools.

First, I have to mount the bracket. I have to drill the pilot hole for the screw then use the impact driver to secure the screw. Somehow there are lots of metal around the window frame, I tried a few times before finding some wood to mount the bracket. After the bracket is mounted, the rest is pretty easy. I just have to put the blinds in the bracket and close the cover. I pulled and released the blinds a few times to test it won’t fall down.

I can safely practice my handy man skill in the garage, since even I screw up, my wife won’t complain. Now I have completed my first project successfully, I have more confidence move to more complex tasks. I have a few projects in my mind. The next one in the pipeline is to to install pull out and rotation shelves under the kitchen cabinet. After that I am going to install the closet storage systems. The most challenging project will be building wall mounted shelves for garage.





Picking color

Color Whell

Designing your house is not an easy task. No wonder interior designer charge a lot to make your house looks nice. My parents are very practical people and since I moved out of their house, I have been living in rental apartments, I always live in places with minimal design. In fact, I never have any colours on my walls except the generic beige colour. The closest design experience I ever have is buying IKEA furnitures and arrange them to fit inside my room.

I am a baby to home design, so I have much to learn. The first lesson in home design is choosing a colour scheme for you home. I found this task very challenging. When presenting hundreds of colour sample from paint manufacturer, I am totally clueless on how to pick the right colour. To make it worse, men is genetically colour insensitive, since we only have 1 pair of X chromosome, which controls the colour sensing neurons.

I have been reading general rules on picking the right paints from BBC Home Design. I know there are three basic colour schemes. Tonal scheme picks colours within the same hue in different shades. Harmonious scheme picks colour next to each other on the colour wheel. Complementary colour picks colour on the oppose side of the colour wheel. Natural colour like black, gray, white or wood colour does not fit inside the colour wheel and they general blend in well with any other colour. I know what is a warm colour and what is a cool colour. I know contrast can draw focus and make the room appears to be bigger.

After picking the right colour, then we have to select where to buy the paint and what finish should we use. I like paints from Benjamin Moore, but it quite pricey and maybe too expensive for my budget. There are 6 level of finish﹐ Matte﹐ Enamal﹐ Eggshell, Satin, Semi-Gloss and Glossy, from flat to shiny. Matte is most common for walls. I would like to try Enamal on hallways and Eggshell on Kitchen. The question is how does it look when mixing different finish.

I don’t have strong preference on colour. I like blue in general but it may not looks very well on walls. I don’t like making subjective decisions. I am happy with Pat’s pick on colour as long as it is not is in pink, which is a girl colour. I tried Pat’s idea to the 3D house model. The colour shows up on screen is not the same in reality, but the program helps me visualize how the paint looks like on wall. We tried a few different colours, but honestly I couldn’t tell what’s beauty and what’s not. I know how to check whether the colour violate the rules of colour wheel, but other than that they all looks the same to me.

Family Room:

Living Room:

Home sweet home

After 11 hours of flight, finally I am back to Vancouver, finishing my two and a half weeks HK trip.  I guess I am not compatible with HK.  I have been coughing and have running nose for the whole trip.  It must be due to the heavily polluted environment of HK.  HK is too crowded everywhere, full of people and noise.  I have a sensory overload for the first few days.  It took me a while learn to filter out the background noise.  HK suppose to be a fun city, but I already passed the age to have fun.  I visited many places during my trip, checked out the city, new mega-malls, country side, so-called tourist attractions.  Out of all the places, the most beautiful place is Tsuang Kwan O Chinese Permanent Cemetery.  It is quiet, with ocean breeze and seaside views.  I won’t mind having a house in the land of the cemetery.  It is such a waste letting dead people take over this prime location.

My cousins are visiting HK around the same time.  So this trip is also a family gathering.  I am surprise to see how big my cousins becomes.  For the first 2 weeks of the trip, I am staying with Pat at her friend’s place.  It is pretty good since they have a guest room.  After Pat flew back to Vancouver, I moved back to live with my grand parents.  Their place is pretty small, I have to sleep on the couch.  My grandpa wake up at 5a.m. every morning, so I was woke up 5a.m. everyday as well.  Luckily I cam fall back asleep for another 2 hours once he left for exercise.  I have been sleeping in sleeping bag for the whole trip, I really miss my own bed.  It is time to sleep and have a sweet dream.