Batting 500 on color selection

The first coat of green, freshly applied. It dried very nicely.

The first coat of green, freshly applied. It dried very nicely.

The camera just can't capture it.

The camera just can’t capture it.

My wife and I spent a couple of nights last week painting in the basement. Thankfully, the going was much easier on top of the primer than it had been on naked wall board. The first night, we got the home theater room painted. The color turned out awesome. Though mocked by one friend when he saw the sample as “ping pong-table green,” it came out with a deep, dark richness that’s exactly what I wanted in the room.

The second night, I put on a second coat of the dark green, then helped Shannon finish the light green for the office. Did I say light green? I meant BRIGHT green. The image to the right is the color, but the camera doesn’t begin to capture the experience of being in the room and surrounded by this blindingly bright green. It doesn’t even come close. The color in the photo is actually more subdued than what we were aiming for, while the color in reality is in way more of a party mood than we counted on. We let it sit for a couple of days to see if it would mellow out when it dried, and we’re waiting to see what it looks like under the LED lighting as opposed to the incandescent glare of the current lights (something I hope we’ll be able to do this weekend; more on that later). But right now, we both see the need to do something about this. We may take the leftover paint back to the store and have them add more white to see if that can tone down the second coat. Or maybe we’ll find another color altogether and paint over it.

Then again, maybe we’ll just rent the space out as a green screen studio for local film productions. It would totally work.

Painting the grills.

Painting the grills.

The right surround speaker, without the grill.

The right surround speaker, without the grill.

This weekend, I painted the speaker trim and grills. I’d wrestled with how to do it. Online, some people swore spray painting was the only way to go. But I don’t have a spray painter, and it seemed like you had to get the dilution and spray levels just right to achieve good results. So I took other advice, and got a cheap 4″ foam roller. For the grills, I got just a little bit of paint on and then rolled most of it off onto a newspaper. It worked pretty well, though, as warned, it took numerous coats. The trim was a little easier, but still took a few coats, and still isn’t quite perfect. For the three speakers behind the screen, that won’t matter, but the two side speakers should look as good as possible.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

Then I moved onto installing switches, dimmers and outlets while Shannon painted the half bath. The most complicated was the triple-gang box that will house three dimmers for the home theater. I’m using Insteon dimmer switches that, if all goes right, will allow me to program settings that can be activated with a universal remote so that when I press play on the Blu-Ray, for instance, the lights will all dim to preset levels. I also wanted to be able to turn out all the lights in the theater with one switch. So the three dimmers will be powered off the three-way switch at the bottom of the stairs and another around the corner heading into the office.

So, I had three dimmers, cables out to three sets of lights and the cable in from the three-way switch at the bottom of the stairs. To get everything (hopefully) to work properly, I needed to pigtail the incoming black line to the black wires from the dimmers, then connect the red load lines from each dimmer to the respective black wires going out to each set of lights. Then came the tough part: I had to pigtail ALL the white neutral lines (which is what Insteon switches use to communicate with each other) together. One in, three out and three from the dimmers. Seven wires in one pigtail. I didn’t have a wiring nut rated for seven 14-gauge wires. (I’m not even sure one exists.) So I ended up pigtailing three in one, and four in the other, with a splice between them. You can see the photo of the resulting mess. To be honest, I’m not sure all the wires will fit in the box. Once I energize the circuit and make sure the configuration works, I’ll try to fit them. If I can’t, I may have to shorten some of the wires and redo the pigtails.

It looks lit up, but that's just from the flash.

It looks lit up, but that’s just from the flash.

Now we just need the screen ... and a ceiling, and a floor...

Now we just need the screen … and a ceiling, and a floor…

The original LEDs I ordered from eBay didn’t arrive. Apparently, there was a recall of the bulbs, and the seller got caught short. He gave me a prompt refund* and I found another seller who shipped out Philips EnduraLED 17 watt PAR38 bulbs for less than $20 each. Those have been screwed into the recessed lights. Then I hooked up the sconces that will go on either side of the projection screen. I think they’ll look good. Installing them was harder than it should have been, though, because both outlet boxes ended up crooked, and one side was further away from the wall board. I bought longer screws, but still had trouble getting the mounting bracket in an appropriate position so the mounting pin extended far enough out to secure the plate of the light fixture. Finally, I had to resort to inserting a wooden shim behind the bracket to hold it in position. When I got the plate over the pin, I slipped the shim out and was able to screw the cap on. It took some trial and error, repeating that process, before I got the mounting pin screwed in to the appropriate length to get a nice tight grip against the wall.

I had the same problem with the second sconce, and attempted a similar solution, but it just wasn’t working quite as well. Then I noticed that, in addition to the slot I had put the screws threw in the other bracket, there were a couple of holes on the bracket. One lined up just right with the hole on the outlet box. So, I put the screw threw there, then, holding it tight against the wall, screwed it in to the outlet box. That resulted in a much sturdier mount. (And a silent “D’oh!” aimed at myself.)

Installing outlets also seemed much harder and more frustrating than it needed to be. The wiring is simple enough: The black wires go on the brass screws; the white wires go on the silver screws and the ground wire goes on the green screw. But actually getting the wires onto the screws was tougher than I thought. You have to bend them into just the right C shape, then hook them around and pull them tight so you can tighten the screw. It sounds easy, and sometimes it was. But getting the last black wire on the first outlet took a good 10 minutes and nearly exhausted my arsenal of expletives. I got better as I went. When the first circuit was all hooked up, I flicked the switch and used a tester on the outlets. They all worked!

I think one of the stories I’ve told on myself is that I misunderstood the code and overdid the number of outlets. I thought the code called for spacing outlets six feet apart. Well, that didn’t work, because the frames you hang the outlet boxes on don’t fall six feet. So I fudged a little and spaced them closer to 6 1/2-feet to 7 1/2-feet, except in the office, where — knowing there’d be a lot of computer and music equipment, I erred on putting them closer together. But it turns out that that what the code actually says is that no place along a wall should be more than six feet from an outlet. So, technically, the outlets can be spaced up to 12 feet apart. I discovered that after I hung the boxes, but decided to keep things the way they were, because no one ever complained about having too many outlets in a room. Yesterday, I was seriously questioning that decision.

In any case, once the outlets are all in, I’ll switch over from the current incandescent lights to the LEDs, and we’ll see just how horrible that bright green will actually be.

* Oh, and if you’re curious, the lamp arrived for the projector. I installed it, and the projector powered up just fine. After I installed the front speakers, I did a quick test with the Blu-Ray player hooked up to the amp and the projector sitting on the table about three feet from the wall. The picture was small with the projector that close, but the picture is fantastic and the sound, even with just three speakers hooked up, was tremendous. Once the outlet is installed to power the projector, I want to try a test with the projector mounted to make sure the HDMI run between the wall and the ceiling works. I’ll hook up five of the seven speakers then, and give it a good test run. I’ve got very high hopes based on the first test.

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