Welcome to the Reno Blog chronicling my progress (sometimes slow) in working on our old house.

It wasn’t the dishwasher but the dishwasher detergent

Last modified on 2014-02-15 00:58:40 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well, I was wrong. As the last post noted, I was unhappy with our new dishwasher because it didn’t seem to clean very well. In fact, even with rinsing before, most often there were still dishes that didn’t get quite clean.

But after I wrote that post, I started to think about what else could be causing this. So I went out and looked at a few posts and decided to try something radical: Maybe I should change the detergent! It seems that for this type of unit, you need to use a detergent with enzymes that help eat the dirt off the dishes. Sounds a bit weird but I was willing to give anything a try.

What really helped out was looking at Consumers Reports online because they’d just finished a report on the best and worst detergents available and to my displeasure, I was using one of the worst. So off I went to the store to pick up an “All-in-one” that was supposed to work better with the way the dishwasher is made to clean.

And it did! I use Cascade All-in-One tabs and now I don’t rinse anything: dishes with oatmeal, sticky jam, barbeque all go right in there. It even cleans the soy milk off glasses. So now I can save time and water by not having to rinse. Now I need a cheaper source for detergent as this stuff is about twice the cost of the old! But its worth it.

Dishwasher drama – inside the world of dirty dishes

Last modified on 2009-10-07 18:52:06 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

When we were first designing our kitchen we really fell in love with the option that moved the sink over to the other side of the kitchen. Not only would this free up more counter space beside the range, but it would split up the two main work areas allowing more than one person to work simultaneously.

Well, in practice this has worked splendidly! But what this also meant was that the sink and dishwasher was visible from the rest of the main floor. So we would have to deal with potentially dirty dishes and an appliance in full view of company. To minimize the clutter we wanted to have a dishwasher that could take a custom panel that matched the rest of the millwork in the kitchen.

Custom panel hides dishwasher

The problem with this approach is that for the pleasure of installing a panel, most manufacturers charge significantly more than stock appliances. Why? I guess because they can. And, not all manufacturers have this option. So we quickly settled on two brands: Miele and Bosch.

We took a look at both and I honestly think that although each has its advantages and disadvantages, they are both solid machines. What really swung the pendulum in favour of the Miele was the third rack for cutlery (more on that in a moment) and the fact that we could get one that was a “scratch and dent” model for over 50% off the list price from MTC.

So I went to the showroom and ordered one for delivery. When it was delivered, the installer mentioned a few hints because Miele’s have a different installation method than others. As I mentioned previously, it was a good thing we got those tips because it was certainly somewhat less straightforward than I thought.

After first time we loaded it up and turned it on, we were sitting in our living room reading and at a certain point we both looked up and wondered if the thing was still on or if there was a problem and it had stopped. Well, no word of a lie, it was running, but it’s so quiet that we didn’t hear it! What a change from our old machine that was so loud we had to turn up the volume on the TV! The only time you can tell its going is during a drain cycle when the noise from the water rushing down the PVC drain pipes tells you that it’s still on.

It does however have quite a long cycle, which isn’t really a problem if you plan for it. I believe the manual says that the “normal” cycle is about 110 minutes! Additionally, with this type of dishwasher, there are no heating elements at the bottom to dry the dishes. Instead, the stainless walls retain heat which is radiated back into the drum and dries dishes by evaporation. If you open the unit just after it finishes, you’ll be greeted by pretty wet glasses and cutlery. So we typically turn it on in the evening and by morning things are usually pretty dry.

Speaking of glasses, a good rinse agent is mandatory! There is a separate compartment and a red indicator light if the reservoir is running low. Furthermore, its better not to use lots of dishwashing detergent or else the interior begins to smell a bit funky. I had to find that out by following a few online forums.

Three, count ‘em, three racks!

I really like the design of the racks and it has such a large capacity that it takes us a couple of days to fill. I’d rather fill the unit and run it once than run a few half empty loads but the problem with that is the inside starts to smell of whatever last nights dinner was! So I often just run a quick “rinse” if I know that we don’t have enough to run a full load.

It has a filter in the bottom that you have to check and clean manually (rather than an automatic one in most North American units). But its really no problem to get and and a quick rinse every few weeks gets out most things.

Filter is easy to clean

But just a word of warning- if you and your partner have “discussions” about how to load a dishwasher, you could find all sorts of things to argue about with this unit! For example, the third rack is for cutlery and supposedly the fastest method is to arrange all the knives together, the forks etc. so that when you unload, you just grab a handful and dump them into the drawer. So if you like this type of order (and your partner doesn’t) these discussions could degenerate quickly to a battle! Just warning you!

Cutlery rack-helpful or hindrance? Discuss!

Finally the big question: how well does it clean? Sorry to disappoint, but its just ok. Nothing startling, but ok. I eat oatmeal in the morning and not only do I have to scrape (as is recommended in the manual) but I have to rinse and scrub or else it gets baked on to the bowl. Even if I put them in and run it right away, it still gets baked on. I’ve tried a number of different locations and still the same problem. So I’ve learned to live with that because it does the other stuff so well. And it’s built in, so it’s not going anywhere for a while!

So there you have it- good looks, quiet, ok cleaning. And hopefully no more discussions about how to load cutlery.

Sink and faucet- What’s the verdict?

Last modified on 2014-02-15 01:01:19 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I realized that its been over a month since I posted on the reno and I guess I started to believe the title of that last post: “Done, done, done…” But really how do we ever define “done” when it comes to renovations?

So as promised here is a bit of a review on some of the choices we made for our first floor renovation. Lets start with the sink and faucet.

Faucet is clean and simple


The faucet is a HansGrohe Metro: a single lever, high-arc unit that I picked up on sale at the Home Depot for 20% off after I nearly fainted seeing the prices of other models in a specialty store. I figure that this cost us less than half of what some of the mid priced units were going for at the other store.
Pros –

  • Looks good with a simple clean design – the control lever can be mounted right or left or in the center like we have
  • Feels solid and the unit moves smoothly without sticking
  • From what I saw it was a pretty easy installation
  • Sprayer option on pullout can be operated with one hand

Cons –

  • My biggest beef is that you pull the control lever down to turn it on and left for cold or right for hot. No problem really but seems to be very little fine control – the water goes from a trickle to full blast very quickly. This is something we had to get used to.
  • The head for the pull down doesn’t want to retract fully. There is a little magnet which holds the head in but you have to make sure its aligned before it takes hold
  • The sprayer requires you to hold down the trigger. There is not a setting where you can turn it on and leave it on.

But given the other benefits I think it’s a good trade-off.

Now the sink. Its a Franke RGX-160 ‘Regatta.’

The sink is a good size for the small kitchen and the bottom grid on the left really helps with cleanup


I wondered why they were so expensive – I mean its just formed stainless steel right? Well in comparing the it which we ended up purchasing from Bathworks in Ajax with products at the Home Depot, I found that the others didn’t have the solid feel of the Franke. It also had nice sound insulating material on the underside which keeps it from sounding “tinny” when you put something in the bottom. We were pretty fortunate that the sales staff at Bathworks helped us by extending the manufacturers sale offer that included the bottom grid and the strainers. I didn’t think that the grid would be useful but we hand wash a lot so its great to put it right on the grid and have it dry. Once again here are the pros;
Pros –

  • Looks great!
  • Two bowls are different depths so when you put dishes in the deeper one to dry you can hardly see them from the living room. (This was a big consideration to us as you can see that counter run from the living/dining room and we needed it to at least look less cluttered on a day-to-day basis).
  • The strainers really seal when you push them down so no water leaks out.
  • Solid feel! A real difference between this one and other manufacturers I looked at.
  • Sizing fits a 33” base cabinet

Cons –

  • None!

So far we are really happy with these two choices. They are used frequently throughout the day and their solid feel (hopefully) means that we will get many years of use out of them.

Next time I will take a look at our Miele dishwasher and you may be surprised by what we’ve found.

Done, done, done (a bit late)

Last modified on 2009-07-29 21:20:18 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

So, I was so excited to be done the whole reno thing that I forgot to post! Well, in hindsight, it just seemed like we would get really close to being done then something would crop up to push back the completion date a bit further out. Truth be told, it does feel really good to be done and have the rest of the summer to enjoy the house!

When the tile was at last done and the plates were put on the switches, we realized that looking at our punch list that there were no more things left to cross off! And just in time too as we had some friends over on the weekend to “break in” the results.

In terms of impact the work that was done in the kitchen was huge no question. But everyone commented on the new hardwood and the paint as making a big difference to the rest of the floor. Which goes to prove that for the biggest bang for the buck, changing the paint color is usually the way to go to improve your space.

So now to go over some of our choices and how they are holding up in use. First of all, lets start from the bottom up and take a look at the flooring. Everyone agrees that it is really gorgeous. Hickory would not have been the first material on my lips if you’d have asked me a year ago about hardwood, but it looks really elegant. It gives the visual interest you want in a floor with the grain pattern, but not too busy as you get with other hardwoods.

The color also goes really well with our furniture (and the paint, but that’s another story). The only thing I have to get used to is the scratch factor. I still kind of worry about scratching the floor and I know, I know that this is inevitable, but I haven’t gotten over it yet. And even though the manufacturer quotes a “35 year warrantee” and a high tech “Nano” coating it still scratches (all floors do!). In fact my contractor said that he’s never heard of anyone collecting on any manufacturer’s warrantee!

But that’s not really the point here. Our intention was to get a good looking floor to carry through the entire space to unify the living/dining room and the kitchen. I know the contractor thought we were crazy to put hardwood in the kitchen instead of ceramic, we love it! And the new carpet should help with the entry areas.

Carpet looks great with the paint and hardwood!

Speaking of carpet we selected a great fabric from D’Abbieri Collection called “Leggero – Undercool” and it feels really luxurious underfoot. The carpet installer (Victorious Flooring) did a fantastic job doing the stair runner and the front hall. He even set up the cutting so that we could maximize the carpet installation within the least amount of carpet saving us about $400 in the process!

So next time I will get into some detail on some of the fixtures in the kitchen proper and maybe sum up our experiences.

Tile backsplash redux- almost done (really!)

Last modified on 2014-02-15 01:02:46 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Both the electrician and the tiler came by today (in that order) and it was great to see some of the last things get done. It seems like the last 5% or so has taken the same time as the previous 95% (and somehow, at least as frustrating.)

But really the work that Bill the electrician had to do didn’t take that long: putting the trims on the potlights, plates on the outlets and installing the pendant light (which looks great!) with some other bits and pieces.

Pendant picks up the color of the floor and furniture


He even replaced one of our existing outlets to match the Decora style outlets he put in. He said that he didn’t like the look of it because it didn’t match. That just shows the attention to detail in his work!

He had to wait on a few things as he ran out of trims for the pots and wanted to come back after the tile was grouted to put the plates on that wall. So he will be back tomorrow, co-incidentally when the carpet is being installed in the front hall and up the stairs as a runner. I found the carpet installer on and he has a fantastic approval rating. So far he has been extremely responsive and has really helped us through the carpet ordering process.

The backsplash was grouted and looks better than the previous one, although the tiler commented that the tiles are still not truly straight and I can see what he means. Maybe we should have sprung for higher end tiles?

New tile installed last week and grouted


So now it looks like we could really be done for the weekend! (Cross fingers and toes)

Stay tuned – I will devote some time to talking about the various appliances/ fixtures we chose and what I think of them having lived with them on a daily basis!

Looking at drywall compound (again, sigh…)

Last modified on 2009-06-13 01:29:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well, it looked like almost everything was done and then this happened….

Ripping out the backsplash. It had to be done….

hmmm… drywall compound as a backsplash?

Its not like we didn’t know, and I know its only a small setback but it has slowed us down somewhat in getting things back to a somewhat normal state around here. Luckily it wasn’t too messy today…

I think the electician will be back to hook up the dining room pendant and exterior light and finish off the rest of his work next week (when he gets back from Disneyworld). And I am getting some wood delivered so I can put up a pergola over the deck just outside the door, where it gets really hot in the sun. I figured, I had pretty much taken out the railing anyway, so I might as well extend the posts up and put in a sun shade. We shall see how that goes!

It could get messy – again

Last modified on 2009-06-11 01:25:53 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well I was right: the second coat of stucco was pretty messy as shown in these photos, but in all honesty, they did come back to put a third base coat down to make sure that they had it all covered properly before they sprayed it.

Basecoat meet house. House meet basecoat

I think all stucco jobs are messy.

Today they sprayed it and it looks really good! Its not quite the stark white that we had originally; its warmer which I like. The coat is nice and even so that part is great. The part which is not so great is that they oversprayed the area a bit so that my hose, and gate are now a slightly stucco’d. Not sure if it comes off but we’ll see.

Nice clean look; makes me want to repaint entire house? Nahhhh.

Speaking of messy the contractor was in on Monday to pickup the rest of the trim pieces and assorted garbage that has built up since the bin was taken away about two weeks ago. What we also looked at was the backsplash. He agreed that its not the tiler’s best work and asked me what should be done? I said that given the really stellar quality of everything else in the kitchen it stuck out like a sore thumb and he agreed. So what does that mean? It means that the backsplash on the kitchen side will be ripped out (ugh) and re-drywalled and re-tiled. What does that mean? It really means more mess, just as we were starting to get all cleaned up!

So I am waiting to hear when all this will start. I am hoping that it will only take a few days to demo and patch. Then waiting for the tiler to come back and re-install the tile and re-grout. I hope that the finished product will be worth the impending mess!

A few things to wait on to finish the reno

Last modified on 2009-06-05 01:18:44 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The stucco guys were here today to patch the area where the bricklayer filled in the windows. Tomorrow (I hope) they’ll be back to scratch coat the entire wall to even it out. Judging by the mess today just from the patch, the next coat will be messy…. Very messy.

But we are still waiting on a few things. The tile contractor has to take a look at the backsplash to give us an opinion on the job and the electrician has to come and put in the trims for the potlights and all the plates on the switches. And in the kitchen we couldn’t push the stove all the way back- it is just about ¾” out too far and it interferes slightly with the door mounted spice rack beside the stove. Maybe we can figure it out later.

Slide in stoves don’t always slide all the way.

We still are putting things back in the cupboards and deciding if they are in the right place. We never really thought of it before as we were so short of space that organization was an afterthought. In this case we can hopefully think of what makes sense in the way we work and organize accordingly. But I think we will just run out of patience and put stuff back and worry about it later. Anything to get rid of those boxes!

But the floor looks good.

On the weekend I finished painting the ceiling and the one area on the wall that’d been holding us up and we ripped off some of the kraft paper that was protecting the floor. I’d forgotten how good the floor looked! But it reminded me that we still have to get some carpet or runners done for the front hall and near the back door. So with that in mind, we went to a store to select a carpet sample and lo and behold within five minutes we found one we both agreed on.

Got the drapes up-finally.

So now it’s a case of finding someone that can do the custom work to cut around all the vents etc that are in the front hall.

I just finished painting the walls in the kitchen and just have the second coat to do near the stairs – almost done! When I said I would do the painting, I seem to have forgotten how much time it takes. At least the paint I’m using is good (Aura by Benjamin Moore) so it makes it a bit easier to cover the last of the yellow.

Are we close to finishing the reno? Not sure but I am hoping!

Last modified on 2009-05-22 21:14:24 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

After a great week of work last week (and frantic efforts to get us up and running for the long weekend) not too much happened this week. As it was a short week, the contractor was only here a few times to do some minor things. That’s usually the way it is when getting close to the finish: there are many small things to do and often they don’t make as big an impact as putting in the countertop.

So this week more handles got installed on the cabinet doors and some adjustments got made so the panel on the dishwasher can fit properly within the cabinet. Just a quick word for those intrepid souls who try to install their Miele dishwasher – when you cut the hole for the hoses to hook up to the supply and drain, make sure you get them as far back towards the wall as you can or, better yet, cut the hole close to the floor and bring them up through the bottom of the sink base. Reason? There is a cut-out on the bottom of the dishwasher that goes up about 6” that lets the hoses fit between the wall and the dishwasher and if the hole through the cabinet is too high, when the unit is pushed back, it will pinch the hoses. We did a lot of measuring before we pushed this one back so we knew where to cut the hole, but if you didn’t, you might be met with a nasty mess one morning.

Oh yeah, and the tile behind the sink is a bit rough. We are waiting to see what can be done (if anything) about it.

With the dishwasher panel in, the look is more seamless.

So next week I have to sand the patch in the ceiling, prime and paint it as well as the kitchen ceiling, paint the rest of the walls and put in all the baseboards. Oh yeah and paint the patches upstairs that the electrician drilled to run the track and rewire a few outlets. And still no word on a stucco contractor to patch the back of the house. I hope this doesn’t take weeks to get done, but really as long as we can get the stuff into the kitchen (and our furniture up from the basement) I will be extremely happy.

We can use the stove again!

Counter is in – but back to the basement

Last modified on 2009-05-13 13:36:18 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I didn’t think anything was going to be happening at the house this week because we were waiting for the countertop to be installed.  We were told that it would take 10 business days for the counter to be fabricated so understanding human nature I thought it would be fortunate if it did arrive on the 10th day.  Well as good luck would have it I was wrong!

Early this morning the contractor was at our house and I asked him why he was here.  He said that the countertop with showing up at any minute.  I was pretty surprised that it was showing up early and I helped him cleanup a bit of the kitchen in preparation for the installation.  I brought up the sink and they brought in the counter and it was a way to the races.

The countertop was fabricated with strips of plywood attached to the underside.  This is so that if the countertop ever has to be removed you can unscrew it from the cabinets without having to rip it right off.  It also helps to attach the dishwasher when that’s installed.

The installation went pretty smoothly was finished in about 45 minutes.  The only area where the installer had some problems was that the back corner under the window.  He had to take out a bit of drywall [only about ¼ inch] push the counter back enough to make it fit.

He then siliconed the under mount sink and pushed it into place against the underside of the countertop.  He just cut two pieces of wood to hold it in place underneath while it dried.  And then he applied a little bit of silicone to the joint between the countertop and the wall and that was it.  Off to the next job.

Sink finally out of basement in its proper place.

So now we have to wait hopefully only a day or two until the plumber can hook up the faucet and the drain on the sink.  He will also do the dishwasher at that time.  So that is why we’re back in the basement.  With no running water in the kitchen we have to go back downstairs to get water for cooking.

But with the counter and sink installed its really starting to look finished and the material looks fantastic with the cabinet color and the flooring.  It’s a quartz countertop from Hanstone and with the bits of quartz which reflect the light and the other subtle colors it picks up the browns and reds from the floor.

Countertop and doors make it look like a real kitchen!

Can’t wait for the appliances to go back in.

So now we’re getting to the part of the job where we have to make note of all the items that have to be completed [and a lot of them are mine].  Things that I have to do include  priming and painting the living room ceiling, installing new trim around the dining room window, priming and painting all the window trim and even repainting the stairs as they got a bit banged up over the past couple months.  I have to say it’s looking really good and I can’t wait for it to be done so we can enjoy having friends and family over again without having to wonder where the spatula is!

Sink + cabinets = progress

Last modified on 2009-05-08 14:32:17 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Last Friday the contractor put in a temporary sink just as we were leaving to go away for the weekend. Which was a great thing as we haven’t had water on the main floor for about 6 weeks. But as we were going out the door, I heard them say, “Wait its leaking!” This is not what you want to hear as you leave the house for two nights and you have newly installed hardwood floors. Hardwood and water; not a good mix.

But they of course found out where the leak was and replaced that connection so when we got home everything was dry!

Water in the kitchen- what a concept!

Its been really great to be able to use the kitchen to do basic stuff like wash and chop veggies without going up and down the stairs. Now that we are using the kitchen, we are really looking forward to when the countertop arrives and all the rest of the tasks can be done. Seems a bit strange that the countertop holds up most of the stuff required to complete the job, but when I saw the fabricator template using the cardboard, I understood that since the walls are not perfectly square there would be no sense to fabricating it then having to re-cut and fit it on site. Better to do as much as possible at the factory and do small (again, cross fingers) customizations on site.

I’ve spent a bit of time patching the damage from the electricians doing a bit of re-wiring in the upstairs hall. It made sense to do this extra now because they ran a feed up to the hall for the track lighting and we could then use that to put in an additional outlet in the office and replace an old one in the middle bedroom. I just hope I have enough paint (and that it hasn’t dried out) to paint over the drywall compound.

Today they are installing the range hood which is great because not only does that finish off one more task, but it gets that big box out of my basement where I’ve stored it for the past 3 months!

Great find for antiques and more!

Last modified on 2009-05-07 19:00:27 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

While out of the city last weekend, we unexpectedly came across a solution to some of our furniture problems.

As some of you know we had an old couch which we Freecycled before we started all this work on the house. The expectation was that we’d find something that we could have delivered just as the job was finishing up. It so far hasn’t quite worked out and we’ve been looking for some furniture to match our existing Danish teak sideboard and dining room table.

So as we were driving down a county road, out of the corner of my eye saw not only an old barn (which is nothing really out of the ordinary in Prince Edward County) but an old barn with teak furniture out front! So after a quick u-turn we pulled up to MacCool’s Re-use, which has a fantastic collection of furniture with prices to match.

So after some thought, we picked up two chairs and a small table and stuffed them into the car. Now that they are here they look great (well they will look great once the kraft paper is off the floor and things are back to “normal.”)

Would you believe these chairs came from a barn?

A big decision we are looking at now is that we don’t have a couch, but would it make sense to move the dining area to the front of the house and the “living room” to the back? Any thoughts?

Looking like a kitchen- cabinets are up

Last modified on 2009-04-30 21:36:53 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

After a few really long days, the installer got the boxes up and the soffit trim installed around the top. Today the electrician was here for about ¾ of the day to put in the rest of the dimmer switches and undercabinet pucks.
As far as the dimmers go, I told him I want everything that comes from the ceiling (and undercabinet lights) to be dimmable. He looked at me like I had a hole in my head but its important to me to be able to control the light levels whether its task lighting or the potlights.

Undercabinet lights are in.

My rationale is that you might want different light for a party than for food prep or even at different times of the year. Since the kitchen pots are on a 3-way switch, we had to go with a 3-way dimmer, which is more expensive. Go figure.
I also went with pucks over the strip lights because it seems like they were more flexible to go under the different sized cabinets. We got Xenon ones and they are much cooler than halogens and should (I’m told) last much longer too.

The lights will look different once the backsplash and counter are in

So hopefully tomorrow the countertop will be templated then a few more small things to touch up. Then we wait- for about 2 weeks while the quartz is fabricated. I hope to have at least a temporary sink installed so we can have running water in the kitchen. Is that too much to ask?

Kitchen cabinet installation – proceeding along

Last modified on 2009-04-29 00:39:53 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

When you have some work done on your house, in my opinion you have to be an optimist. When things go wrong, you have to be able to see the big picture otherwise with the number of moving parts you’d pull your hair out with all the changes.
That being said, I was watching the installer put up the cabinets and didn’t really want to ask him how it was going for fear of jinxing the installation. So I will just shut up and show the pictures and let you see for yourself.

Cabinets going up

Fridge isn’t going to stay there…really.

The kitchen cabinets arrived and I can’t wait for the install

Last modified on 2009-04-27 18:42:31 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well not sure why it takes 6 days from Quebec to my house here, but after being shipped out last Tuesday the cabinets were delivered today to the house. As you can see, a kitchen takes up a lot of space before it’s installed!

All 17 pieces! Hope thats everything.

The cabinets look really good and strong – 3/4″ birch plywood, even for the parts that won’t be seen, like under the countertop! You can really feel how rigid they are (in contrast to the old cabinets.)

Nicely finished plywood

The contractor is coming tomorrow to start the install and we’ll see what tricks he has to use to get everything to fit.

I finished painting the trim and baseboard. I decided to use the paint sprayer just for the primer- it went on fairly well, but brushed and rolled the final coat of Benjamin Moore Palace White. It made more sense to pre-paint everything before I put it up and then I just have to touch up when it is installed.

All quiet for the time being

Last modified on 2009-04-21 20:15:20 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Its been a few days since we’ve had work on the house here. Last week Wednesday the flooring was finished and after some cleanup, the contractor came by Friday to put down some paper and masonite to protect the flooring.

It’s actually been a good break for us- a chance to catch our breath while we wait for the cabinets to arrive. I haven’t heard confirmation if they are on the truck, but I am crossing my fingers that they arrive towards the end of this week and they can start the work of installation.

I have a feeling that it may be a tricky install because in my last conversation with the contractor about the reframing of the back wall, he mentioned that the wall is about an inch out which will affect how the cabinets (especially the lowers) go in.

But we are really hoping that once the lowers go in we can get a temporary sink and faucet hookup and some plywood counters so at least we can start inhabiting the main floor of the house again. Its been a bit trying to prep food (well I haven’t really been too ambitious, mostly microwave reheating and toaster). It will be such a relief to get some things back into the cabinets and drawers. Here is what it looks like currently:

Wow! Where’d all this stuff come from? I’m so embarassed.

Compare that to how it looks when our stuff from the main floor isn’t all piled together.


And the baseboard arrived today from Central-Fairbank Lumber! I am installing it myself and the trim around the new window to save a bit of money. My neighbor told me that the profile of the original deep baseboard was still being produced and this saves me from having to get it custom milled. He even has a paint sprayer, so instead of priming and painting  with a brush, I will see if its possible to spray it on (outside) and save a ton of time. At least that’s the theory.

The hardwood flooring installation is done – now to cleanup!

Last modified on 2009-04-16 14:59:26 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

I got a call from the flooring installer that they finished yesterday at about 3 PM, just like they promised. We used hickory, because it is arguably the hardest domestic wood (not tropical) and liked the product and the color looked good on the sample. Rich and dark, but a shade lighter than what was existing.

Well now that it’s all in, it looks fantastic!

New hickory hardwood really brings richness to room.

I can’t believe what a difference it makes to the room. Before we had to worry about nails popping constantly and the incessant squeaking as you walked across it. I can understand why as the floor was about 80 years old so there was bound to be some soft spots. But what really bothered me were the badly patched areas from the former reno. They just used pieces of plywood and random bits of hardwood to fill in the gaps where the walls had been and the patches were not holding up well to daily wear and tear.

Now with the 5/8” tongue and groove subfloor they glued and screwed down to the joists (and of course the repair work I did a few years ago on the joists before I finished the basement the floor is really solid. Like new house solid! I am pretty happy with how it turned out and the flush mount registers look totally sharp.

Flush mount registers- contractor mixed 4 batches of stain to get them to match the rest of the floor

When the contractor was showing me the final product he described it like a person. He said, “You have nice flooring here- Beautiful but sensitive.”

“Beautiful, but sensitive”

He went on to talk about how to clean it so as not to mar the finish and treat it nicely. We have about a box and a half left over. I am bringing the full one back to Brampton Hardwood so we’ll have some replacement boards in case something does happen. I am hoping that the finish will hold up to a pre-schooler, little white dog and other daily events.

So now the task is to clean up all the dust from the sanding upstairs and the cutting. Pretty much every surface has to be cleaned so I think the best way will be to work from room to room to tackle it all. At least the smell is going away so I think we will be able to be back in the house for the first time in 3 days.

Flooring and drywall and more!

Last modified on 2009-04-15 16:43:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Monday was a crazy day here in the reno zone. At one point we had three cargo vans and seven contractors bumping into each other in the house. The HVAC guy connected up the supply line to the office and when I turned the heat on, lo and behold it worked!

You can see where the new duct runs up from the basement. (and yes I wanted them to step in the bulkhead for the fridge plug.

The window installer put in the window and it really makes a difference to see out into our backyard directly instead of having to crane our heads around.

New window looks nice and will be great place to work overlooking the backyard.

Then the flooring guys started sanding the upstairs and putting in the nosing for the new flooring. That’s when me and the dog left the house. We went for a walk and then sat in the car as it took them about 3 times longer to sand. And it smelled bad. They worked to match the color of the flooring and they say once they clear coat it, will look very similar.

After that day, we took off to my mothers to escape the dust/smell and get a little rest.

Today was a bit more sedate. A few coats of compound on drywall patch on the ceiling in the living room and the flooring continued in earnest. I decided to go with flush mount registers instead of the drop in ones because I saw them at my neighbours and really liked the look. They were more expensive at $45 each but I think that we are spending money on the floor, so in comparison, maybe not that bad.

They got about halfway done today on the main floor and one coat on the upper floor.

Flooring looks great so far.

Tomorrow they say that they will be done the whole thing. Then, you guessed it, I will be putting in the baseboards to match the existing deep baseboards that were original to the house. I have a line on a supplier so am hoping that I can pick them up and get them primed and painted so they are ready to go in.

I heard that the cabinets are delayed a week (boo) and so they won’t be shipped out until the 21st, which means that maybe, maybe the lowers will go in that week and we can get the counter templated. Then its about a 2 week (cross fingers) wait until they show up and the connections made to the fixtures.

No break on weekend for me

Last modified on 2009-04-13 15:41:46 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Even though the contractors were not here on the weekend, I was still here working to take advantage of the fact that the finished floor had yet to be installed.

Just to back up a bit, last week the mason and the installer were here on Thursday ripping out the old window to make a new opening for the new one I just picked up on Wednesday morning from Brock. I felt good that the old one is not going to the landfill but the contractor is taking it away for a shed he is building.

I am glad I was here to help with the questions as they sized the new opening and cut the brick. Man oh man what a mess! Since our house is double walled brick construction, they had to cut the exterior and interior brick with the quick cut saw. There was dust everywhere! So instead of going down to my mother-in-laws on Friday like we were going to, we just hightailed it out of here Thursday night instead after a short cleanup.

Even though they were here till about 8:30 they weren’t able to get the new window into the frame so they nailed up some plywood over the opening.

Plywood for a window? Seems hard to see through

The weather held out and we didn’t get any rain so things are looking good today for them to get the duct run above the window and the window installed.

New window opening with new brick.

The plumber put in the new copper on Thursday and the water pressure is fantastic in the bathroom. It improved in the rest of the house when we updated the water main from lead (ugh) to copper about 4 years ago, but because of the last bit of galvanized, we weren’t getting the benefit in the bathroom. Now just the ceiling needs to be patched.

Nice copper!

So why then was I here on the weekend? Well since the flooring is going down this week, I took the opportunity to finish patching some access holes the electrician put in so I could put a coat of paint on the ceiling. I know, I know, I will just  have to paint again after that hole gets repaired but it wont be as much work and I will only have to tarp a smaller area rather than the whole floor. I also painted (Aura by Benjamin Moore) the first coat on the walls and the new color (Feather Grey) looks great. I have to say that this is the best paint I’ve ever used. Goes on really quickly because it covers really well. So now have to do a second coat for the walls when I get a chance.

So today it seems like everyone showed up! The plumber was here to move the drain line in the basement so the HVAC guy could re route the duct into the main plenum. The installer is here to put in the window and frame and drywall the south wall. The electrician is re-wiring something (I don’t even know what exactly…) And on top of that the flooring guys showed up to repair and sand the upstairs hall, and start the finished flooring on the main floor. It’s quite a challenge to move around in here today and even work as the power is on and off. Good thing I’m using a laptop!

New duct plan

Last modified on 2009-04-08 01:45:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The installer working with the duct situation came up with a great plan.

New location for the duct.

The duct would run up the wall behind the fridge, along the top of the cabinets, between the joists and into the existing hole. This would eliminate cutting the joists, losing headroom in the basement and having the duct in a cold space.  The box on the wall would be eliminated and placement of the window does not have to be exact and providing more room for the casing.

Only one outlet would have to be relocated, so I think that this looks like a pretty good option. We will see once I pick up the window tomorrow.

Duct tape is not really for ducts

Last modified on 2009-04-07 09:20:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

One of the key things in this reno that I’ve talked about before is moving (actually replacing) the existing window with a new one in a location that allows us to get the upper cabinets right to the south wall. Thats becasue the existing one is too tight to the corner and too low to get a countertop in. But whats required is not only work on cutting a new rough opening (hope to pickup the window today or tomorrow so contractor can measure off it for the opening) but moving a duct that runs from the basement to the second floor office.

The original plan was to extend the duct run along the joist space in the basement, notch out the joist closest to the south wall and run the duct up about 14″ closer to the door. When the contractor thought about this, he decided that wasn’t a good idea as the joist was already notched for the existing duct and had been structurally compromised.

They have cut the floor to prep for putting in the headers.

So what they are going to do today is put in a header of 2 x 2×8′s back to the next joist over and sit them into the brick exterior of the house. That will allow them to cut the joist and join it to the header giving them room to move the duct.

Also, the are running the duct in a straighter run in the basement eliminating some of the 5 or 6 bends which are currently there. No wonder that original duct doesn’t really do much to supply the office! Hardly any air is getting by all those bends! I am hoping that the new supply line will be much more efficient.

Reno – Work and its not even my fulltime job

Last modified on 2009-04-07 09:18:22 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

How long till I had a chance to sit down and write a post? I thought it would only be a day or so and I could keep posting on a day by day basis to update the progress of the reno, but so far no luck… it seems to be really taking up a lot of my time to keep the trades going and get things sorted out.

Lets go back to the beginning. We decided that it would be cheaper for us (that’s me) to take out the existing kitchen and the vinyl tile flooring. So my good friend Tim and I made pretty short work of the kitchen and actually had someone from Freecycle take the whole thing off my hands! Including the sink and dishwasher too. I felt pretty good about not having to put the whole thing in the bin and they were very appreciative of it as well.

So the flooring… not a big deal, but it did take somewhat longer than I had thought originally…. The problem was that there were 3 types of tiles. One looked pretty old and hardly stuck down. The other was ugly and I covered it up a while back and thought that they also would come right up. Little did I know that there was some sort of trowel on adhesive put down before the peel and stick tiles went down?  I know! So it took a bit longer but really once I got a system they came up in about 4 hours.

So the packing took a long time too and we are pretty cramped in the basement, but making ends meet using the bathroom sink and the microwave setup we have on the bookcase under the fuse panel. I just keep thinking “it’s like camping, but without the mosquitoes.”

After the first day, they had about ½ of the floor ripped up and the electricians had roughed in a lot of the pot lights in the living and dining room.

Flooring coming up. Right Winston?

After some work on the next day they turned them up and they look fantastic! It is great to get good quality light in the room and finally be able to see what the room is going to look like.

The subfloor was kinda rough. But it is about 80 years old.

After the rest of the old flooring was ripped up they screwed and glued down 5/8” tongue and groove ply and the floor feels really tight and strong. Its nice to know that when I did the work to the joists before finishing up the basement that it went to good use.

And the kitchen is moving along. The plumber roughed in the supply and drain lines in a couple of hours and put the vent down the drain run, about 8 feet from the fixture. He says it will be fine and actually is much cleaner than taking the vent up the wall across the joist space and drilling through a few ceiling joists to get it to tie into the existing vent stack. So we will see!

Lots of patching was done on the kitchen to fix all these holes.

The last few days have seen a lot of patching in the kitchen where the electricians fished wire, but my latest efforts are in the living room where I thought it would be a straight forward task to take out the last remaining galvanized piping supplying the upstairs bathroom… but as you can see it has expanded as the original reno in the 70s never took it out.

I think we’ll have some ceiling left at the end of this…

They just tied the copper into it, can you believe it?

Ugh. Thats all I can say

More newsprint behind the baseboards – what could it mean?

Last modified on 2009-03-23 01:10:01 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Today we spent most of the morning and into the afternoon packing up the kitchen and living/dining room as we are trying to get the house ready for the demo which is happening next weekend.

I was pulling up some more baseboard and lo and behold found some more newspaper shoved behind the baseboard. This time however the baseboard seemed to be stuck in place with clear caulking, which made it somewhat more difficult to pull up.

I think I know the cause  - around that time (1990) the federal government gave grants for “draft proofing” houses, so probably the old owners got a couple of tubes of caulking and put it down to try and reduce the gale force winds that whip through the walls.

Problem is that the holes where the subfloor joins the walls are rather too large for caulking so the newspaper (The Toronto Star) was shoved in their to slow the air movement. “Hey if it was good enough for 1925” (when I think this house was built) “it’s good enough for us.”

Breaking news- circa 1990

Last modified on 2009-03-16 20:57:19 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I was pulling up some baseboard today in preparation for the new floor installation and tucked behind the baseboard near the front door was a Financial Post newspaper page from January 9, 1990. It was a Tuesday and some of the headlines include:

  • “French advertiser Eurocom seeks international market;”
  • “Japanese bring life to deteriorating British tire factory;”
  • “Economist Wendy Dobson has international outlook.”

And my favorite: “Videonet arrives” – a story about how this Canadian offshoot of the American company Videonet will spend $2M in 1990 to introduce a range of services including banking, information, education and entertainment services using Bell Canada’s Alex network. Interesting to see how this proprietary network never really got off the ground and was absolutely rendered inconsequential by the commericalization of the Internet.

Window required, but no luck yet

Last modified on 2009-03-15 17:56:23 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The last major piece to get the kitchen reno going is sourcing a window for the back wall of the kitchen adjacent to the door. You can see the approximate location where is will go and moving it over and increasing the sill height will allow us to get the upper cabinets to go right to the wall and the ability to put a counter on that wall as well. This is one of the first things that is going to get done to enable the rest of the job to proceed.

The problem is that I have been back and forth first with the kitchen designers and then the window company to get the proper sizing. On the drawing, I know how much room I need for trim and such so that the window is centered between the HVAC duct and the upper cabinet face. What has happened is that the window supplier says, “What is the rough opening so I can order the right sized window?”, and the designer says “Here is the interior elevation, and the finished window so calculate the rough opening.”

So I had to do the calculation, based on how much the measurements were from my existing window to figure out the window size. Then the contractors can measure off the outside dimensions of the window to cut the rough opening and build the frame. Confused? Well, I haven’t got it ordered yet because I have a hard time getting the window supplier to call me back, so I will not be absolutely sure until the window shows up here and it gets put in place.

Windows: not too big, not too small, just right

Last modified on 2009-03-12 16:03:54 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

One of the critical things that we need to confirm is the size of the new window that we are installing in the kitchen. The existing window is too low and too close to the wall so we are taking the existing one out and replacing it with a new one in the correct location to allow our upper cabinets to go right to the wall.

We don’t want the window to be too small (because we need to get as much light in as possible), but if it is too large, the uppers might not fit! So we need to get the sizing right so that the rough opening will accomodate the window. It would really be a pain if the window shows up on site and we can’t get it to fit!

So I have arranged today to get the window salesman to come by the house to confirm the measurements and hopefully can get it ordered today!

Finalizing construction drawings

Last modified on 2009-03-09 13:59:40 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Since we signed the contract, we have been moving forward to get the schedule locked down and all of the drawings for the cabinets in place so they can be sent to the cabinet makers to get started.

On Friday I was supposed to finalize the drawings with my comments, but came down with brutal flu bug and stayed in bed basically for 36 hours. After the weekend [and feeling much better] I am going over to the contractor’s office today to co-ordinate. Just a few small things and confirming that we are all on the same page because its easier to make sure that things are aligned at the drawing stage rather than later on!

I have to also confirm the window size so I can order it from the same people who did the rest of the windows in the house. I am glad I waited to order it now as with a few changes, I think the width of the window changed and once you take possession of the goods, its not like you can return them.

On another note, I secured someone to take away the kitchen! I used this online board called FreeTOrecycle (which is a Yahoo Group) and put all the cabinets, etc (and the dishwasher) up and a fellow contacted me and said that this was exactly what he was looking for and will rent a truck to pick them up when we take them out at the end of the month. Its great because I didn’t want them going to the landfill if someone else could use them.

We also started packing away things from the rest of the main floor, because with the new floor going in, everything has to be out of the way for the floor removal and the new subfloor and 3/4″ hardwood installation. I met with the flooring contractor last week and he said that it would be 3 days to do all the work, which seems pretty quick, but hey lets be optimistic at this point!

So, all that being said, I have a few things to do to get everything kickstarted, but can’t wait to get this project underway!

We have contract!

Last modified on 2009-02-24 02:04:32 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

We got a draft copy of the contract today and after a few revisions, will be able to start the project! [Of course the first thing is putting a deposit down, but after that we will start.]

So now that we have pretty much locked down the scope of work, we have to figure out how to schedule the work to make the most sense. Because we are doing not just the kitchen, a few things have to happen first. Of course the floor will have to be done before the cabinets go in, but even before that the window should be removed and the new opening cut.

So I am using this online project planning software called wrike to help me get a sense of what order things need to happen. Now I just have to pass it by the contractor to see if it makes sense.

Picked up sink and hood

Last modified on 2009-02-22 21:13:34 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

I was going to be out in the east end so I made a trip out to Bathworks to pick up our Franke sink that had come in. While out there I took a look at their shiny fixture things like vanities and tubs, just in case we ever get around to ripping out our retro-70s main bathroom. Its not like the bathroom is broken – it just doesn’t function as well as it might with a bit of rethinking on the layout and the floor to ceiling mirror still scares our guests.

Then I got the hood (Zephyr Cyclone 30”) and stuffed that also in the back of the car and, oh yeah, swung by LeeValley to pickup a sampling of handles so we could decide on which ones would suit the cabinets. Lee Valley is a great source for handles and knobs: most are available online, but I wanted to feel what they were like before we chose one. This is the one we are going with (the one marked “A”).

Both boxes were large but I got them downstairs and relatively out of the way. Now a check on what we’ve purchased so far:

The really tricky task will come when we get close to starting; we are moving out while the really messy work is done, but that means we will have to empty the main floor, get rid of stuff we don’t need, find a place to store the stuff we do, and clean up the basement storage area so the plumber and electrician can get in there to do their thing. More to come on this for sure!

Getting closer to starting kitchen renovation

Last modified on 2009-02-22 13:08:46 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Its been a while since the last post and most of the time has been going over budget with the contractor and figuring out where to save a few dollars. I will do a few things that will save some money like taking up the old vinyl tile  in the kitchen and removing the cabinets and countertop, but really the big ticket items I am leaving to the pros.

We will have a lot of work to do just packing up the whole main floor of the house and finding somewhere to store the stuff because we are replacing all the hardwood throughout. I think we will take the opportunity to purge some stuff we’ve been hanging on to for a while which will help once we need to put it all back! [It will seem like we have increased our storage space!]

We agreed to move forward with this company who have been really great about going through the quote very thoroughly with us and even bringing in his subs to visit the house and discuss their work! So now we have to go and sign the contract and leave a deposit to begin the detailed  investigation for a few more areas, such as removing the current window and moving the opening over so we can get a proper run of uppers in.

Once this is done, I will order the window and hope there are no delays in getting it fabricated!

Color and creativity

Last modified on 2009-02-08 20:17:23 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Interesting post on Discovery’s website about a study that shows color affects creativity. According to the authors, blue lends itself to more creativity while red tends to enable attention to detail. Something to think about when painting the home or office! (But what about purple? Detailed creativity?)

The color red boosts attention to detail in tasks such as memorization, while blue encourages creativity, according to a study published online in the journal Science.

The findings apply to advertising, warnings on medication, and especially environmental design for offices or classrooms, said Rui (Juliet) Zhu, who teaches marketing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Zhu, who wrote the study with Ph.D. student Ravi Mehta, recommends that marketers selling creative or innovative products use blue, and brainstorming sessions be held in blue rooms. Using red in advertising would prompt consumers to pay more attention to product details, she said.

Previously the effect of color on performance was a mystery because earlier studies, which did not match colors to different kinds of tasks, yielded conflicting results, said Zhu, who also studied psychology.

Zhu and Mehta ran six tests involving 600 university students working at computer monitors with a background set in blue, red or white for control groups.

We have a sink- well we don’t have it yet..

Last modified on 2009-01-15 20:04:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

When we first started this reno project, we went out one beautiful fall day to investigate finishes and fixtures; nothing like starting backwards!

What I mean is that usually you work on the big stuff like construction, budget, kitchen design, budget, etc etc and budget. So starting on the finishes was like putting the cart before the horse, but allowed us to focus in on a few items more or less to get ourselves in sync before tackling some of the bigger items.

At the time we were at a Design Store which has beautiful kitchen faucets and fixtures, but weren’t really ready to lay down serious coin to bring the stuff home. Besides we thought, we have a really small house so the stuff would just take up space until we needed to start the work.

That thought was rapidly superceeded by the need to look for deals on whatever pieces we could purchase on our own when the opportunity came up. So when the flooring (Mission Hickory 4 1/4″ prefinished hardwood from St. Laurence Flooring) went on sale, I ran out to Brampton Hardwood to put down the plastic.

I was a bit worried about storing that much wood in our house (given that it shouldn’t be stored in the basement) but they agreed that if I paid in full they would store the product in their warehouse. Which means that I don’t have to use it as a second dining room table.

As for the dishwasher, same thing applies. And I found a faucet (Hansgrohe Metro) at the Depot on sale for 20% off on a special 4 day promo. [But I brought that home...]

So now back to the sink. While we were at the Design store we saw a really nice sink (sorry, but I am getting excited about shiny stainless things…) Its the Franke RGX160 Regatta and at the time was on sale, but we were not sure if there were other options around. Well I did some research last week and found that the price was great but thought that the sale had expired. Until I phoned Bathworks in Ajax. I dealt with Donna and she got Franke to extend the sale for me! Fanstastic!

So we were going out the East End (well really Oshawa) anyway for a family event, so we popped into the store and put down a deposit. We also saw a bunch of great products if we ever want to do our bathrooms so I imagine a return trip there will happen, hopefully not too far away.

But they still have to order it so when it shows up we will have to bring it back here and store it somewhere…. maybe the dog needs a new water dish?

Windows and Doors now in. Look great!

Last modified on 2009-01-05 16:35:21 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

When we started thinking about new windows and a front door the sun was still warm and the grass was still green. It seemed like a good idea to get everything done before the snow came so we might not repeat the drafty mornings we had the last few winters in the house.

After a recommendation from a friend who had all the windows done in the house, we called the Brock Windows and the salesman came to do an initial estimate. Maybe he didn’t think we were serious because he gave us a piece of paper with a few numbers on it and then left quickly.

We got a few other quotes and got the salesman back and at this point, he sat down with us for about an hour and spent some time explaining the options and wrote up the contract. Brock was the most competitive and the windows they install (Northstar Windows) are really great now that they are installed. The problem wasn’t however with the windows but the door.

No fault of Brock’s but when I called to inquire about the install date, they said that the door wasn’t in yet and to call back in a few weeks. When I did finally get a date we booked it for the Monday following the week the door was supposed to arrive.

Monday rolls around and I called the office to see when the crew would show up that day and they said that the bad news was the door wasn’t in. but the windows would be installed. So the crew of 3 came in and put down groundcloths and went to work with saws and crowbars to get the old windows out. The windows came out quite quickly, but since this was now December, the temperature in the house dropped to near freezing. I was working in the home office that day, so if I didn’t have my portable heater, I would have been forced out to look for a warmer space!

So by around 3 the two windows were in but they said that they had to come back for the door and do the trim so they would do the outside aluminum capping at that point. I thought that this should be done sooner rather than later, but thought that it might just be a few days to get them back. It turned out that after a week went by I called the office to find out the status and the door still wasn’t in. I don ‘t know about you, but through rain and snow and wind I didn’t want the area between the window frame and the siding exposed any more than necessary.

The office must have pulled some strings because they booked the door install and trim for the end of that week! The door was installed and most of the trim was done and the crew left at around 7:30 that night. The resulting insulation looks great and the exterior details look clean and I know they had to do some creative thinking to get them to look good in this non-standard installation. The windows are also really warm and because they are triple-glazed, we notice its far quieter than the old panes!

They are also really warm!

I found the crew did good work, but was a little messy. Given that they were working in pretty cold (and sometimes snowy conditions) I cut them some slack but will now have to find a way to get some of the debris from the installation off my roof and out of my gutters.

Appliances anyone?

Last modified on 2008-12-13 23:51:12 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

As we are getting into assembling the pieces for the kitchen reno I started thinking about the big ticket items. Alot! Things like cabinets, appliances, countertops all seem like there are no alternatives to going out to the mainstream stores and just biting the bullet and ordering them up at full MSRP.

But for those of you in the GTA, I found an interesting place that may be an alternative for appliances. (They also sell electronics and big screen tvs!) It’s called MTC and it is on the surface a repair depot for electronics, but they have moved into appliance sales.They sell refurbished appliances as well as electronics at pretty good markdowns. Like 30%! They stock Miele appliances, from ranges to dishwashers and some are “scratch and dent” but the ones I saw had barely perceptable scratches.

So I picked up a Miele dishwasher, which was really out of my price range at MSRP but was in my range at this store.

Now they are in Whitby but don’t let that scare you; they are really close to the highway and are friendly to boot. [Now the secret is out!]

Windows and Door. What no door?!

Last modified on 2008-12-13 23:36:46 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

Months ago we decided to investigate putting in new windows and a front door after we decided that living with the drafty existing windows and door was not going to be much fun if the winter would be anything like the last one. So I went out and got some quotes from various manufacturers including Pella (who were, not surprisingly the most expensive of the lot.) I also checked out Homestars for reviews of the various vendors and this really helped out with the decision.

So as we were doing the windows and door on the front of the house, we went with operable triple glazed units (as the lower floor window was fixed. – Actually one of the vendors who came out to do an estimate told me that it wasn’t even a window, but just a pane of glass tilted up into place and fastened with wood stops!)

After what seemed a long time and a change of seasons, I called the vendor Brock Windows to find out what the schedule would be for the install. They mentioned that the windows were in but the door was still on order and to call back in a few weeks. OK, I thought, still not quite 8 weeks, so within the window for delivery.

I called again at the beginning of December and they said that the door would be in from the manufacturer at the end of the first week so they could come and do the whole install the following Monday. Sounded good so I booked it.

So the day arrived and the temperature fell to about -10 and snow was falling; not a great day to put in windows, but better late than never. But when I called the office to find out if they could tell me the status, they said “Good news/bad news. Take your pick.” You guessed it; the door was still not in. Ten weeks! It always seems that something is going on when we replace doors on this house.

But I wanted the windows in at least so I had the crew come in and put those in, which look great! The problem is that knowing they were going to have to come back and put in the door, they didn’t cap the outside so now I am left with some of the original frame for the window showing. They did foam around the window so there won’t (I hope) be any water coming in there, but still…

Hmm. Not quite the look I was going for.

I called yesterday and asked them to find out when the door would be coming and I guess they pulled some strings because the manufacturer said that it would be arriving so I booked the install for next week. We shall see!

Contractor visit

Last modified on 2008-12-04 14:41:32 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I met the contractor this week and we discussed not only the construction work that has to get done, but also ways to cut back to reduce the cost of the boxes and doors. He had a few suggestions which were interesting and make some sense. Now he just has to go back, sharpen his pencil and see if we can get down to a figure that fits our budget.

As far as the flooring goes, we are going to take up the old (original!) hardwood in the main floor as it was crudely patched during another owners bad 70s reno. I was out last week to a hardwood retailer to look at a selection of solid hardwood products and selected one that I think will look really good throughout the whole floor and into the kitchen. Since it will be in the kitchen I selected hickory, which is arguably the hardest North American species according to this chart. We are interested in avoiding if possible exotic woods that have to get shipped from far away.

Then we have to get coordinated with an installer to come in after the cabinets are gone and any rough construction is complete to take up the old floor, put down 3/8” plywood over the existing fir sub floor and then lay the new hardwood. Its going to look really good as I will rip out the existing cheap baseboards which again went in during the 70s and replace with the original-style deep baseboards.

Speaking of new, the windows for the front of the house are being installed this coming Monday and it will be a relief not only because they will look way better (and suit the house), but we won’t have a draft blowing over the bed during the night!

Money, money, money

Last modified on 2008-12-01 21:48:22 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Yes, we got the news…
The preliminary pricing came in higher than we were forecasting so now we have to look into what we can do to shave down some costs… I was expecting this as in my experience, the costs rarely come in at what you’ve budgeted; must be a universal law or something.
I am meeting with the contractor tomorrow to find out about his part of the work and figure out areas for savings, so hopefully we can maintain the basic layout and concept.
Stay tuned for more!

Lets hope the price is right

Last modified on 2008-11-13 22:05:38 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Late last week we had a meeting with our designer on the kitchen reno and formalized the plan. She brought in a Richlieu catalog with all sorts of organization devices so we could go through it and pick the things that we thought would be useful. Its pretty seductive to look at all the “labour-saving” products, but as we are sure to find out, they really can inflate the price of the job!
After the meeting we ran out to get a sense of what fixtures would be (sink, faucet). I had no idea that these things were pricier than rhinestones at an Elvis convention. (And just as flashy too!) We took a look at some tiles for the backsplash and got some pictures so we could get some direction from Carol. So far, the elevations show a recessed niche in the wall which would be highlighted with feature tiles and would be for oils, pepper grinder etc. The field tile would be simple and not too busy as the space is too small for a lot of detail.

Backsplash tile v1.0.

or maybe this one? Backsplash tile v1.1.

The next step is to get high level pricing on the boxes and doors so we can see if we are in the ballpark. Then we can estimate on the cost for the construction elements (electrical, structural, HVAC etc.). I am crossing my fingers!

New shed… (why you ask?)

Last modified on 2008-11-03 20:25:27 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

 Well because people kept running into it…as you can see from this post, I just last year spent a bunch of time replacing the old one which had the same problem.

Its not like it is in the middle of the road or even really that close to it. It just seemed to be a magnet for car bumpers and the like.

I think people use our parking area as a turn around because this old shed got more and more dented up over this summer.

…And I didn’t even paint a target on it.

In fact our neighbor is doing a big reno on his house and seems like one of his contractors backed into it by mistake a few months ago. No real problem, because he left a note that it was his fault and a phone number so it just took a while to get things arranged so I could take down the old one and put up the new one.

Taking it down took only about an hour.

The new one was really easy to put together and I’d really recommend it to anyone looking for a 6×6 shed. I even put it together 99% by myself; the only time I needed my wife’s help was to put in the window on the last step which was good because it was pretty cold yesterday and I wanted to get inside!

The new shed went together really well. (Pardon the makeshift nature of the sign.. ahem.)

Now next task is to put up a more permanent barrier in front of it quick to protect it from anyone else. (The one that is there I put together pretty much in the dark from whatever I had on hand.)

Kitchen plans and priorities

Last modified on 2008-10-27 18:59:24 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Late last week we had our second real meeting with our designer Carol and we got to see the plans she drew up based on the output of our first meeting.

Design at the early stage is fun. The budget prioritization comes later.

One reason that a designer is a real solid addition to a renovation project is their perspective as an “impartial” outside observer (in addition to their skills in assembling trades, know how about the process, design sense… I could go on.) During that first meeting Carol was quite detailed in her approach to finding out how we use our current kitchen and what we’d like to see in an improved one especially what some of our priorities are. This really helped as I think when you live with a situation for a while you overlook some of the big moves you could undertake that would help out further down the line.

One thing I mentioned was currently the fridge sits almost right in front of the rear door, so even though we put in a full glass door (see this post for more on that!) the bulk of the appliance blocks out a fair amount of light from coming into the kitchen. Now normally this wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but given that our house is so narrow and close to our neighbours, we don’t have any side lighting. (We have a narrow window on the dining room, but after about 12:30pm the sun moves around the rear of the house and that area goes into shadow.) The predominant light source is the back of the house since it faces south.

But one of my top 3 frustrations with the current layout is that when all of us come in the back door it is a traffic nightmare with boots, coats, dogs, bags flying everywhere, especially if it is cold or raining out. But I understand that because of the size of the space adding more program to a “kitchen” would be even more of a challenge. But there are always tradeoffs in any type of design job; so rare are those optimum conditions where all the stars align and things work out perfectly. So how are we doing so far?

Carol brought over two sketches: one moved the sink to the extreme south end of the kitchen and moved the range to the opposite end of the counter run. The big move in this one was closing up the existing window (what?) and replacing it with two thinner ones on either side of the HVAC duct. Did I mention there is a duct which supplies the second floor right smack dab in the middle of the rear wall?
The second one moves the fridge pretty much diagonally opposite to where it is now and the sink moves to the west wall. Now it becomes interesting! We took this concept and tweaked it a bit on the weekend so that maybe if we can move that HVAC duct a foot or so to the right, we can have a larger window.

Very rough sketch but you can see that the west wall is alot cleaner as the fridge is now tucked away behind the stub wall.

We are now trying to figure out how to maximize the amount of counter run on the east wall by putting the microwave into the uppers and maybe putting the sink into the corner on a diagonal, but I am not convinced of the diagonal sink and if we did this we’d have to swap the range over to the other side and figure out how to duct the range hood.

Next stage when we see if all this fits is to get preliminary costing on a scheme. Never the fun part because it usually means really getting down to what is important and what is only a nice to have because like everything else, it will come down to priorities and tradeoffs.

Ever had a diagonal sink? Let me know your thoughts!

Starting at the beginning

Last modified on 2008-10-10 00:43:36 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Those of you with a sharp memory will remember that when I did the basement reno, I neglected to document it until I was a few weeks in. Not to make that same mistake again, I decided to bring you all the details (at least as many as I care to put pixel to screen) in our upcoming kitchen renovation.

Yes that’s right; I said kitchen renovation. The two words that strike fear into any man. Because there are issues with the kitchen. That’s right issues. In our case its a distinct lack of storage and organization on the surface. But of course it goes deeper than that and maybe over the next 6 months or so, we can start to get into how we address those issues.

But for now we’ve brought in a specialist; an Interior Designer who has done many kitchens. So after our first meeting and a long questionaire that we went over, she is putting together a plan to address our ‘wish list.’  I think that our list is so long we’d have to have a kitchen 10 times the size to fit it all in but I am hopeful she can prioritize what we need versus what we want. Tall order yes, but its still the beginning of the project!

Don’t go look at Custom Kitchens

Last modified on 2008-02-22 01:58:27 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

We made the mistake of going to look at a fantastic high-end custom kitchen store called DOM which sells Valcucine kitchens imported from Italy.  The sample kitchens are all beautifully put together and everything fits perfectly. In fact, the way the Valcucine product goes together reminds me of an airplane: everything has a machined quality and uses just enough (not excessive) amounts of material to get a cohesive look.

We ended up in the store by accident; we were down in a certain area of town that has funky cafes and galleries and wandered into the store just to quickly take a look. Well once you’re in, its hard to leave because its like being at the premier of a Hollywood movie. You can see the stars and it looks like you could reach out and shake their hand but you know that you’ll get in really big trouble if you do. Which means in this case that it seems perfectly logical to spend that amount on a kitchen, but if we do, we’ll end up having to do a whole bunch of other stuff to make sure that it all goes together properly.

Things like making sure all the walls are square (yeah, right) or the floor is level (ha!) or that all the appliances match the design (how much is that integrated double oven?) Because the way I see it, something this nice requires total committment to making it look as good as it does in the showroom. They even have one show kitchen in the store with a tempered acid-etched glass countertop!

But after getting home (and back to reality) we realized that in our pretty small house a kitchen this good would require us to upgrade everything else in the house, including furniture and other fixtures. (Just look at some of the pictures on the site to see what it looks like.) So really you have to commit to the whole package before you plunk down the chequebook.

Renovating- how far is too far

Last modified on 2008-02-03 02:55:15 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

One of the things I think about often is the level of finish and overall look that would be appropriate with our house.

You see our house is small, rather old (1920s or so) and in a nice (although, not ultra fancy) neighborhood of the city. So in looking at for instance, redoing the kitchen, would granite be out of place? How about a 6 burner commercial-look gas range? (not that we could fit one in anyway…)

Friends of ours have a house of approximately the same vintage that was renovated just before they bought it about 5 years ago. They have a fantastic kitchen with heated floors, commercial style range and awesome Sub-Zero fridge. Every time I go over there I want to come back and get the crowbar out to take on our kitchen. But as I have been told before, the kitchen will take weeks and I want to at least have a plan or end up as part of one of those HGTV reno-rescue candidates!

Doors and locks

Last modified on 2008-01-12 17:53:33 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

A couple of weeks ago I had to install new locks/deadbolts on the house (don’t ask).
I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was compared to the original ones I installed when we bought the place 4 years ago.
At that time, I really had to move / jiggle the locks around to get one to fit our pretty standard metal front door. We kept the low security passage set on the back door (just changed the actual lock) because we knew eventually we’d be replacing that door as it was original to the house and looked like it might fall apart at any time. It just took a lot longer to get a new one as we went through a few options before we settled on the full glass door that we (the Home Depot installer) put in.
Now that I’ve been thinking about doors and locks, I’m looking at the front door and starting to hate the way it looks. It was put in by the previous owners and while it is a pretty run-of-the-mill metal door, it doesn’t let in much light, which is at a premium in the house. We did our best to make it look better by painting it inside and out because at the time we bought the house it just had primer on it on both sides, so you can imagine how bad it looked when we got it.
I wonder if getting a new one would be worth it?

What was that noise outside?

Last modified on 2008-01-12 17:54:19 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

OK this isn’t truly a post about renovations, or even about our house, but just a week ago we were up north at a cottage for a few weeks and heard a strange noise at night. Thinking is was the dog getting into something we said something out loud about getting out of the garbage, but then looked over and saw the dog in the chair right next to us. So what was it making that noise?

When we went to the screen door on the cottage the dog barked and this huge black shape took off from right in front of us. Yup, you guessed it; a bear!

And what do bears like the most? That’s right; garbage and he was really bent on getting into ours.

Bears are strong and have strange dining preferences.

As you can see the garbage enclosure is secured to the side of the cottage and has a really heavy lid to prevent less determined wildlife from getting in. But this was one determined bear.

After the first time he took off, he came back again to check out the situation. I had my car keys and remotely set off the car alarm which didn’t really faze him too much but he sauntered away for a little while.

At this point I got the number for the Government “Bear Hotline” thinking that they’d be able to give me something concrete to do about the situation. They took my name address phone number and then told me that really there’s very little you could do except make sure that the doors were locked (check) and everyone was inside (check). They did say to call the local police if it was threatening, but really, I couldn’t see the bear sticking around to welcome the officers with some banana peels and coffee grounds when they showed up.

So we kinda let the bear come back and do his thing and instead of lifting the lid, he ripped right into the side of the box. Gives you a little more respect for nature.

Kitchen’s done, at least this project

Last modified on 2008-01-12 17:55:03 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

Well, I finished the $100 kitchen reno and as you can see in this earlier post, we managed to stay under $100 even including some other items, like the mirror I put up and the ‘blackboard’ I created by painting the end of one of the cabinets (just out of view in the foreground).

The new counters and floors make the kitchen feel more included in the rest of the house.

Lets start with the floor: it took a lot longer than I thought (but of course you knew that by now!) I put the tiles on the diagonal for more interest and it also seems to make the space bigger. Even though it is way more graphic than the original, it seems less busy since the pattern is more simple.

It took a lot longer because of the diagonal the number of cuts required on the tiles sometimes 3 cuts per tile to get around all of the various angles in the room. Even though I included some waste in my calculations, I ended up with just one black and 7 white tiles left! (These tiles by the way, were really hard to come by. In fact I had to go to 4 Home Depots (no luck there) and 3 Ronas to finally find them and I think I got the last package of white tiles in the city.) There was a lot of selection for $2-3 per square foot, but I couldn’t do it for this budget.

Knobs were from Lee Valley, a package of 20 for $5.95 on close out sale! They are actually metal (not plastic) so hope they hold up better than the plastic that were originally on the door.

I think the countertop makes the most difference in the feel as it really brightens the room up and makes it appear less busy, although we have started to clean up the kitchen more!

The mirror came from IKEA and had a really thin frame which I built up with chair rail trim from the Depot which I cut on the mitre saw and glued up, before painting the whole frame to match the rest of the trim in the house.

So there we are and I hope it ties us over for the next few years as we save money and ideas for what we really want to do. It may end up being longer than that if past experience is any indication!

Just for a laugh, I dug up a picture of the original kitchen

The orignal color has the space looking like a hospital waiting room.

Progress on the Kitchen Makeover

Last modified on 2008-01-12 17:56:42 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Here are the latest numbers as I am getting into actually doing the work on
the kitchen makeover.

Knobs (bulk Pack of 20!, Lee
Backsplash embossed wallpaper (roll, HomeDepot)  $19.99
Silver paint (1 can, HomeDepot)
Sandpaper (leftover from another
Primer (leftover from another
Floor Tiles (Black and White,
Vinyl, Rona)
Melamine Paint (leftover from
another job)
PaintBrushes, tape etc.  $8.99
Blackboard Paint (1 can,
Benjamin Moore Store)
Mirror (IKEA)  $7.99
Trim for Mirror (Home Depot)  $8.00
Trim for Blackboard section
(leftover from another job)
Total $123.88   

OK, so I was over 100, but we added in a couple of things to spruce it up on top
of the things that we were originally planning. Like for instance the Blackboard
and the mirror. The blackboard paint is really thin and has a strange
consistency so it was hard to apply smoothly. The melamine paint on the counter
in contrast was like painting with glue; very thick, but hard to apply even
though I sanded the counter to rough it up. Definitely requires two coats to
cover well.

Now the good news is that we are back under $100 (even with the other items) as
we have decided to get rid of the backsplash wallpaper and paint, so when I
brought all that stuff back, it saved us like $40!

Its taken a fair bit more time because we were travelling 2 weeks ago and I have
waited until we got some nice days where we could have the windows open to do
the counter paint. It really brightens things up and streamlines the look of the
small (10′ x 9′) kitchen.

The paint brightens up the space. (The cake is courtesy of our good friend JS).

I have also taken some extra time to go back and fish some wire up from the
basement for the eventual under counter lighting which took a bit more time, but
fortunately I could use the holes that the original electrician put in the wall
to feed up the rewire of the kitchen. I decided to do this now as I am going to
patch up the holes as its been over 2 years since they put them in and we are
starting to get tired of them!

The $100 Kitchen Reno (taxes not included)

Last modified on 2008-01-12 17:57:29 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

What do you think it takes to make a kitchen more livable? That’s what we’re trying to find out as the cost for really doing it right is quickly spiralling out of control.

By ‘right’ I mean that in addition to new cabinets, countertop, backsplash in the kitchen itself the floor needs to be leveled. Since this will make the rest of the floor look funny (and we can’t match the old worn out floors in the rest of the house) we want to carry new flooring front to back.

Now it is open concept, but a very small space as you can see in other pictures here, so it isn’t out of consideration, but kinda out of reach for now.

The current state of the kitchen. I have taken off the old plastic handles and started patching the holes, ready for paint touch ups.

So we are planning a bit of paint, some new knobs, maybe some cheap and cheerful tile and patching up some, ummm, holes left over from some wiring done at the same time as the basement. We’ll see how close we get to $100, but as always, I will be providing the “free” labour.

Finished the Shed

Last modified on 2008-01-12 17:58:24 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Shed’s done. Not much more to say; its a shed.

This is what the new shed looks like. Hmm, better looking, but still a metal shed.

(Wish it were a bit better looking though.)

Loading up at the Depot

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:00:49 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

We finally got a chance to go to the Depot (after trying to arrange this for about two weeks). What was the hold-up? I needed to have 2 people to help load the plywood sheet (actually it ended up being Exterior Grade OSB) on top of the car. And, with Tom (who is 22 months and running, really running around), this would prove rather difficult.

So on Saturday, my mother-in-law and Aunt came over and helped us out at home while we jumped in the car for the short ride over to the Depot. We split up and I took the lumber side and my wife the garden side of the store. We also picked up one of those Kitchen Design magazines just for kicks (more on that later).

I got the associate to cut up the sheet so it would fit the base and we put it on top of a blanket we have in the trunk and strapped it down. Good thing it is a short ride home!

When we got home the plywood fit perfectly (probably because I obsessed about the size and repeated the measurements three times before we left for the store.) Then I spent time getting the corners, bracing and walls up.

This is the shed with a “moonroof”.

Finally the next day I got the roof on and this weekend I’ll get the doors on so that we can start putting stuff back in. Not sure what will go back in there in addition to the garden stuff (shovels, mower, wheelbarrow) but the basement could sure use some cleaning up so maybe we’ll see if anything from there is suitable to go outside.

Shed- by Necessity

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:02:53 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Warning: for those hardcore reno viewers out there, this might not make your standards, but I’m posting it anyway.

So even though I asked what to do around the house, I ended up out of necessity having to take down our old storage shed (actually located beside our parking spot behind the fence off the lane). This is because the old shed was a POS (no, not “point of sale”…).

This is what the old shed looked like. Now you can understand why I described it as POS..

It was rusted and really bashed up from repeated denting from cars, bobcats and feet. None of this was our fault, because as cars used to use our parking area for a turn around, they inevitably got a bit sloppy and ran into the shed. Don’t ask me how the boot marks got into it; it was before our time in this house.

So I waited for a sale at the Canadian Tire and eagerly waited for their weekly flyer to show up with the details. These things usually only go on once, maybe twice a season as they know they can flog them at regular price for most of the year and people will happily pay and endure their (mostly crappy) customer service. I was pleasantly surprised by the service from the store I ended up using (as my local store, with the crappy service) was of course out of stock of this advertised item, and probably never got them in anyway. I showed up with the flyer, ordered it and after a couple of terse exchanges with the “delivery service” (actually only an employee who has a truck and makes some money on the side doing deliveries) it showed up.

Taking down the old one actually wasn’t that bad an effort as instead of using the Sawzall to cut it up, I tried the drill to unscrew it and it mostly came apart. I did have to take the crowbar to a few bits for some extra persuasion, but it only took about 2 hours to get the whole thing apart. And best of all I called the City and arranged to get the scrap taken away.

I’ve put in the base and have got the bottom rails fixed down. Now the challenge is getting the plywood from the Depot back home in the Mazda. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Here is the base with the rails attached. The plastic is to keep the moisture from getting to the floor.

What to do, what to do….

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:05:49 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

So here it is mid-April and I was talking with friends last weekend and chatting about the fact that this was the first year that I did not have any sort of Reno activity planned and felt strangely odd. No it wasn’t that I was gloating that we had finished all the stuff we have planned to do on the house (whole kitchen and main bathroom, two jobs which I am loath to start) but that I felt sort of…. lazy.

Even as the words, “No, we are just going to enjoy the work I did on the backyard by sitting on the patio,” rolled off my tongue I thought of all the other stuff that I’d like to tackle. Apart from the aforementioned kitchen and bathroom (both of which require more disposable cash than we have at the moment, not to mention other potential pitfalls) there are a few other things which I might do. Like redo the trim on the upstairs doors and windows. Or how about build a new overhang on top of the back door. What about redoing the front porch which needs a bit of sprucing up?

These are all potential things which might get done this year (or not).

I have a question for you: given what you have read here so far, if this was your house, what would you do next?