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The tear-down & rebuild project on 36th Street.
  • Northern VA Plumbing (703) 263-0966, Chuck or Paul

Exhaust Fan

posted Oct 18, 2009, 3:41 PM by Quoc-Anh Vuong   [ updated Oct 19, 2009, 1:57 PM ]

The electrician could not make the external blower to work, so now I have to figure out how to install this.

On Sunday, found the fast acting fuse was bad, which is an indication of wrong wiring; and who knows what else was burned. Went to Radio Shack & bought the replacement; but still it does not work. The 120V goes into the board, but the remote control panel does not light up, and when pressing the button, it does not respond with any sound or light. Supposedly, the main board provides the power to the remote control panel.

I then removed the remote control panel & inspect to see any loose connection or burned parts; but could not find any thing wrong visually.

Found the replacement part from Appliance Parts Pros, for the main board it's around $200! Yikes.

Electronic printed
Part Number: AP2837207
Availability: In Stock (Order now and it will ship  Today )
Price: $197.21

Ready to order? Just follow this link:

We offer the following shipping options:
Within Continental US:
  • Standard (fast) -- $6.95 Flat Fee*
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  • Next Day Delivery (overnight) -- $24.95 Flat Fee*


Wiring Diagram

Knobs & Levers

posted Oct 15, 2009, 12:36 PM by Quoc-Anh Vuong   [ updated Oct 15, 2009, 1:20 PM ]

The builder has polished chrome for door knobs and they are just ... too shiny for our taste, so we set out to have them changed; and the cost is around $900 for changing to a different finish! Yeah right, we said.
Here are few places that we can get the door knobs online:
Sure, there is always eBay and Craig's List
Here is the list of what we need
  • Dummy, typical for closets. Qty. 10. Est. $15 each, $150 total.
    • Two closets (4 doors) in bedroom #4, need 4
    • One closet (one door) in bedroom #3, need 1
    • One closet (2 doors) in bedroom #2, need 2
    • Library french doors, need 2
    • Closet near powder room, need 1
  • Passage (no latch), typical for kid bedrooms and library, pantry. Qty. 8. Est. $20 each, $160 total.
    • Bedroom #4, need 1
    • Bedroom #3, need 1
    • Bedroom #2, need 1
    • Toilet in master bath, need 1
    • Pantry need 1
    • Utility room, need 1
    • Walk-in left closet in Master suite, need 1
    • Walk-in right closet in Master suite, need 1
  • Private (latch inside), for bathrooms and master suite/bedrooms. Qty. 6. Est. $25 each, $150 total
    • Shared bathroom, two doors, need 2
    • Bathroom in bedroom #2, need 1
    • Master bath, need 1 (?) 
    • Master suite, double door, need 1 (?)
    • Powder room, need 1
  • Keyed and bolt, for exterior doors. Qty. 4. Est. $30 each, $120 total
    • Front door, need 1
    • Garage, need 1
    • Deck, need 1
    • Basement, need 1
Expect to pay at minimum, around $580.


posted Oct 14, 2009, 10:25 AM by Quoc-Anh Vuong   [ updated Oct 16, 2009, 7:41 AM ]

After almost a year, from the day we signed the contract with the builder, today is the walk-through of the house. The house comes together great. Walking through each room, feeling the walls, trying every single faucet, switch, and electrical outlet; the house is finally here.

Other than paint touch up here & there, few dink and scratches, nothing major. So, we will have another "re-walkthrough" next week. As you can see from the pictures, there are blue tapes marking the places we have for the touch-ups.

Few things the "home owners" now have to do:
  1. Build a privacy screen to cover up the A/C units on the side of the house. This is Arlington ordinance, saying that A/C units cannot be seen from the street! As if the A/C units are indecent exposing themselves. :)
  2. Re-install the microwave. During the rush for the house inspection, the builder did not do a good job of installing it. Actually, they are not responsible of installing the appliances.
  3. Install the external blower electrical. For some reasons, the unit does not turn on & and the electrician gave up. Even though we already paid the builder extra to put it in! Oh well.
  4. Put down the hardwood floor planks under the fridge cabinet. I was worried about the height of the new fridge, so I told the flooring contractor to do this one last. One thing bad is that the flooring contractor is now gone, and there is none left of the hardwood planks. So, will figure something out to have this one done before the fridge arrives.
  5. Check out the door knobs & front door lock. The color & and quality of the door hardware are just ... bad (polish chrome) so we may have to go shopping to replace all of them.
  6. Kitchen faucet. Again, this is pretty low quality, so we may want to put in there something decent.
  7. Measure, design, purchase & install cabinets for the dining room
  8. Measure, design, purchase & install cabinets for the wet bar in the master suite


Did not realize

posted Oct 7, 2009, 6:44 AM by Quoc-Anh Vuong

During the process of building this house, there are numerous things that we did not realize until late in the game; so here is a page that we use to keep track of all these things
  1. The garage door does not come with garage door opener, and if we are going to put one in ourselves then it will void the guarantee on the door. So, check out the price on installing a door opener next time
  2. The trim & molding in the family room is NOT included
  3. The basic model provides only ONE exterior light at the garage. If we want two, one on each side, then we need to pay additional to the electrician, around $200.
  4. The kitchen only has one main light, and one additional light over the sink. Each recess light is extra, around $150.


posted Oct 1, 2009, 10:08 AM by Quoc-Anh Vuong   [ updated Oct 1, 2009, 2:25 PM ]

To finish up the 5501 project, there are few areas which we need cabinets or build custom shelves.
Butler Pantry
In the dining room, we have two areas which need to be finished. One is the butler pantry, and the other is a wine rack. The butler pantry is a fancy name for a wet bar. Basically, it should have some wall cabinets to store cups, glasses, wine flutes. Then the counter big enough to accommodate place to prepare drinks, and a small sink. Under neath should have a mini fridge or wine fridge. Wine fridge is better, nicer looking because of the glass front. Something like this would be great.


posted Sep 30, 2009, 4:01 AM by Quoc-Anh Vuong   [ updated Oct 1, 2009, 8:15 AM ]

For the appliances, we found out that it's best to go with a "package" deal, especially for the deal which we got: buy a range and get free dishwasher, and also buy a fridge and get free range hood! In our case, which is excellent, because the island range hood alone would cost us almost $3K (42" pro-series hood + external 1300 CFM blower). We decided to go with external blower for its powerful ventilation and quietness.

Oven & Microwave

We found an almost new Thermador Oven & Microwave combination on Craig's list for only $650. Even though they are both an older model (POM301), but the look is almost identical with the new models (MEMC301ES), not much changes.
The built-in oven does not fit with the prepared opening in the cabinet. So, now we have to research & find a way to fit the built-in microwave & oven. May have to buy more parts to install this set properly. Here is a useful link to get parts. Also part diagrams are available on this Thermador's e-shop link


For the fridge, we go with Thermador's Freedom Professional series, basically there are two separate units: cooler and freezer. That means, two separate compressors and cooling systems. This configuration provides the most reliable & quality cooling system design.


At first we chose a 42" island hood, however this size was rare and Thermador could not ship this one out for more than a month. The distributor then changed it to 48" island hood, so that we can get it within a week.


posted Sep 26, 2009, 9:56 AM by Quoc-Anh Vuong   [ updated Sep 29, 2009, 12:31 PM ]

There are recesses and spaces which we have to fill with TV, cabinets or appliances.
  • TV recessed area in the living room, the diagonal size is 53"
  • The basement windows are 18" x 32". This is not egress size to be considered as a bedroom.
  • Need to measure butler pantry
  • Need to measure master bedroom bar area
  • Need to measure built-in book cases in family room & library
  • Need to measure built-in equipment shelves in family room
  • Need to measure built-in wine rack in dining room
  • Need to measure built-in server rack shelves in stairs well

Drywall services

posted Sep 23, 2009, 7:43 AM by Quoc-Anh Vuong

Saw the below ad in Craig's list.

Drywall Services ...... (Northern VA )

Date: 2009-09-21, 12:41PM EDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

I am a 15yr+ experienced drywall technician & need some things I am willing to barter for on my services: I work for a drywall company during the day and can do drywall work in the evenings and wknds!

I also ACCEPT CASH if you have nothing to barter. I do offer FREE estimates. I hang drywall, skim, block, tape & sand, all ready for painting (I just do the drywall part, No painting & No framing). Materials are extra, unless it's a small job. (Sorry, I do not go to MD or DC) Thanks for your time!

Barter: I need a good, working (THIN) laptop with at least Windows XP or Vista installed in it or a Fender or Gibson electric guitar that is ready for play for my son or a flat panel screen tv at least a size 19' or larger or a bose system radio or a Wii or any good electronics or a nice BMX bike for my son, just run your idea by me. Thanks.

Please, email or call me at 540-222-2713 (No Solicitations, PLEASE)

  • Location: Northern VA


posted Sep 22, 2009, 1:57 PM by Quoc-Anh Vuong   [ updated Sep 24, 2009, 6:53 AM ]

It's time to think about putting in a deck for the 3701 & 5501, and here is a great tool to design & see the deck in 3D:
Can also use Lowe's to design the deck online


posted Sep 21, 2009, 12:21 PM by Quoc-Anh Vuong   [ updated Sep 24, 2009, 7:20 AM ]

The builder puts up a price tag of $50K to finish the basement of around 1300 sq-ft. Since finishing basement has an equivalent value or more, based on what rooms or features and finish materials. So it's time for thinking about finishing the basement, and here are few things we have to keep in mind:
  • Need a plan
  • Submit plan to Arlington county for permit
  • Also need electrical plan & submit way ahead of time
  • Figure out who will do what:
    • Insulation
    • Air conditioning
    • Framing
    • Drywall
    • Flooring
    • Electrical
    • Plumbing
    • Moldings & trims
    • Finish drywall & paintings
    • Installing doors


If the basement floor does not have any moisture, we can put down the foam underlayment, and install laminate flooring right on top of it. This is the most economical way. The total for 1,500 sq-ft of laminated flooring is around $1,300; less than $1 per sq-ft. Including underlayment & end-caps

Sub Floor

If doing the sub flooring, it will cost around $1.5/sq-ft (DriCore $5 per panel of 2x2). This sub floor compensate for the dips on the concrete floor and also acts as vapor barrier. Laminate, hardwood or carpet can install on top of this sub floor directly.
  • Tape 2x2 plastic sheet on wall & floor. Only need DriCore if there are moisture trapped inside the plastic sheet. Do the same for wall, and make sure to fix it before put up the wall foam.


Use special adhesive to put up 2" rigid foam on the basement walls all the way up to rim joists. Then install 2x4 walls with 1" offset. Use pressure treated for the bottom plate. However if the sub DriCore floor was used, put the 2x4 wall on top of the DriCore. Insulated with R-11 between studs.

Door & Soffit

Cover the pipes & ducts with 2x4 soffit. Door framing make sure 2" over all around.

Rooms & partitions

Bedroom requires 5.7 sq-ft egress, or 24" x 20" window. So, make sure to have that requirements before calling it a bedroom.

We probably need:
  • Media room
  • Exercise room
  • Wine cellar
  • Utility room
  • Bar & lounge area
  • Sitting area or pool table.

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