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?

Door Saga continues

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:06:44 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The new back door, which replaced the existing old screen and original wood door was giving us some problems. Mainly that the mechanism that controls the internal blind was sticking and binding. This mechanism is basically one powerful magnet on the external controller and one inside the sealed glass unit which raises and lowers the blind (which is completely inside the two sealed panes of glass).
When I looked closer at the track I realized that the track was held to the glass by a strip of double-sided tape (sort of like foam weather stripping). I think that given the fact that the door is south-facing, the heat of the sun melts the glue and the track comes loose.

You can see how the controller/track on the right side of the door has moved away from the proper alignment.

This however doesn’t help when you are trying to close the blind as the action of pulling the control lever up shifts the track off center which causes binding.
So back to the Home Depot with a call and they were great about calling the manufacturer Masonite and getting a warrantee repair scheduled. The installer then came over and popped in a complete new glass unit and took the old glass unit away.
So now we have the same system and we will see how it goes over the next few months…

The breaker is gone!

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:07:37 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Yesterday my wife said to me, “I guess the guys came and picked up the breaker…” because in its place (where it was standing for 2 months) only the tarp remains. I am hoping that Peter and the guys from Oriole Landscaping picked it up, because if it was anyone else, they would have had a heck of a time getting it into a vehicle; the thing weighs over 100 pounds!

Anyway, I was really glad I could use it although it took a little bit of getting used to. I am sure that the pros out there would think I was crazy not going to a quickcut saw, but the neighbors certainly appreciated that I was not cutting bricks at 9pm with all the noise and fumes that a quickcut produces.

With all this rain, the grass is growing like crazy! Time to go out and cut it again… good thing it only takes a few minutes now that we have confined the lawn to that small area of the backyard!

Out with the old (door), in with the new

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:08:31 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

As one of the things which has been on our to do list since we moved in 3 1/2 years ago, replacing the back door was pushed back for no other reason than I didn’t want to do it myself. I looked at what was needed and of course I could do the demolition as I have a Sawzall, but then putting everything back in was the tricky part.
Having never installed an entry door before, I wasn’t sure about what I could be possibly getting myself into. Given that this is a pretty old house, and the door had never been replaced, the original frame could be lacking (which it was) and could have to be rebuilt (which it did).

So thinking about the pitfalls of having no door for a while as I figured out what to do didn’t really appeal to us, so we went out in search of a solution. We drove out to the west end where there are a fairly large contingent of contractors and installers who have retail locations. The first one we stopped at was an Industrial Unit that looked ok from the outside but as we went in, looked somewhat in disarray. The reason for this became clear once we talked to the guy inside (who turned out to be the owner) and he was an abrasive older fellow who was looking at his cell phone in a somewhat perturbed manner. I think he was trying to figure out how to mute the thing and asked us if we could figure it out, which led to a bit of a tirade from him on cell phones, technology, the provider etc.

After this we started chatting abit about what we needed and he casually said that whatever we wanted he would be able to provide. Something about him was slightly irritating and I couldn’t figure out what it was. It became apparent when we told him the address of the house; when we gave him the closest intersection to the house he said, “You don’t live at XXY Avenue, do you?” I said, “Ummmm, actually yes that’s the house, how did you know?” He said, “I actually owned that house in the 70s, and renovated it.” My mouth nearly dropped open; this was the guy who did such a bad job renovating the place that everytime I do something, I have to fix the screw-ups and short cuts that were done before I can do anything. Did I want him coming back to the place to install a door? What would I have to fix after that?

So we said we’d be doing a bit of extra research before we confirmed and said that we’d be in touch and got out of there fast. As we were driving back, we passed by the Home Depot and decided to go in to see if they could provide a solution and to compare prices.

It seemed that the prices were pretty close and I knew that while it could be a bit of trouble to communicate with them (more on that later), they would be able to back up the job if anything went wrong. So we go them to do the install.

Seems that it would be a custom-sized door (of course) which would be more expensive and that once the installer came out for a measure, the entire frame would have to come out and be rebuilt. So I was right after all!

We ordered a half-window (because of the dog) with internal blinds and waited for the door to arrive. That was in May…

The door finally arrived sometime in late-June and after booking the install with the contractor waited for the day to finally get rid of the crappy old door we had put up with since we bought the place.

Turns out that when the installer removed the cardboard from the new door to prep for installation, there was a huge dent in the unit which prevented it from being installed. Needless to say we were annoyed, but at least the Depot ordered a new one pretty much right away so we wouldn’t have to wait that long before getting it in.

When the new door arrived, the installer made the appointment and wouldn’t you know it, it ended up being the hottest day of the year in late July. I really felt bad for him but he was in pretty good spirits and got it done in one day, including rebuilding the entire frame and caulking the exterior.

When I got home it looked pretty good from the inside (we intentionally left the trim off as we will be hopefully redoing the kitchen and will put in new trim throughout the main floor to match). When we looked at our invoice though, it appeared that they installed the whole glass window instead of the half glass, but we think it looks way better anyway, so no problem there!

The door from the inside looks good. You can raise and lower the blinds by a control on the right side of the door.

The only problem was from the outside as the sill sloped back in towards the house. Not good as water would likely eventually run back into the house, under the door.

So I proceeded to call the Depot and left many messages for the “Expediter” Mike, who I think is overworked, but doesn’t have voicemail. They rely on those little pink scraps of paper that get taken by the customer service desk and hopefully passed on to him. It took 3 weeks of calling, then him calling my voicemail before I could talk to him live and tell him what the problem was. The good part about it was that when he finally confirmed the problem, he gave the instructions to the contractor who came back (no, really!) and fixed the problem.

So now it looks great!

Looks great from the outside, much better than before (see some of the photos below for what the original door looked like.

All that’s left to do is prime and paint some of the new sections of the frame and paint the door. I wonder how long it will take me to get that done?

Brick Pickup

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:09:07 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I finally got rid of the rest of the original red brick pavers. It took many postings to our local freecycle list, but someone came to get them. It was much better than throwing these into the landfill.
The first person who came took about 1/3 of them, but it was so hot that they could only get so many loaded before they had to take a break and try again. The problem was that they never came back!
So after many attempts to contact him, I reposted and last week someone picked up the rest in 2 loads (in their car!)
Unfortunately they backed into the shed, but it is so dented up that you really can’t notice.

Funny, but true

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:09:44 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

We clipped this ad out of a publication about midway through the project and stuck it on the fridge.

This was timely…

Now that I am done, I can laugh about it, but I tell you, this is pretty much how I felt some days.
(Thanks to the Ontario Craft Brewers for the ad)

Finished-(Or just about)

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:10:38 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well just before we went on vacation, I cut the last stone, dug the weeds, cut the grass and threw down some bark mulch so that we could see what the whole thing would look like done. Or 99% done. I just got a push broom so I could sweep in the “Polymeric Sand” into the cracks and call it complete. Oh and I almost forgot: I have to rebuild the little door that keeps critters from going under the deck.
While I was putting down the bricks, I also decided to run some watering pipe under one stretch so I could hook up the soaker hoses on either side of the garden, instead of running the hose back and forth across the patio. We’ll see if it works when I get it all hooked up.
So here are the pictures:

This is the shot from the side of the house.

This is the shot from the deck.

This is the shot from the back of the yard. New sod is coming in on right and the section on left of the path.

You can see the wall and the plants we put in front. Bark mulch helped keep the weeds down.

I got that shed so I could store some stuff that currently is hogging the basement space.

Winston enjoys the backyard now that there is less construction going on.

Some more progress; what’s that light I see?

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:11:22 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well, I have made some progress since the last post thanks to working on the cutting in the evenings after Tom has gone to bed. The hardest part of the cutting is that the breaker I am using

Here is the breaker; it takes a bit of force to cut the bricks!

(also under the blue tarp in the pictures below) is great at cutting large straight cuts, but not so good at cutting the smaller pieces and especially the small triangular pieces which are a large part of this design. So I have had to resort to using my Skil saw with a 7″ masonry blade to cut the tricky parts.

I’ve got a few more pieces to cut, then I can sweep in the Polymeric sand.

However, those of you that may have attempted this will realize that these pavers are really hard, so it takes forever to cut through one and since the blade is slightly less than the thickness of the paver, you have to turn them over to cut through the other side. Not the fastest way to cut through these units.

You can now see the shape of the lower path and the new sod I laid last week (in the pouring rain).

The alternative was to rent a Quick Cut saw from the Rentall store and do all the cutting in a single day or two. The problem with this approach was time (I can’t get a full day in to do all the cutting) and noise (my neighbours would be pretty upset). So I have worked on it as I could, putting in some hours in the evening (as long as the daylight holds out) and except for the noise of the Skilsaw (more on that in a moment), really not had to worry too much about how loud this operation got, since the breaker is not really loud, except for the “crack” as it snaps the brick in two.

Here is a shot of the wall and some new plants we put in the raised bed in front. I have set up a watering system on a timer that hopefully will come on every couple of days.

So Friday night I am cutting with the Skilsaw and start hearing this weird noise coming from the saw. You guessed it; it is kinda busted. Given the fact that it is 20 years old, it is pretty much at the end of it’s lifespan and cutting these bricks probably didn’t do anything to help.

So I went out and purchased a DeWalt saw, (believe it or not at Canadian Tire, not the Depot!), but haven’t taken it out of the box yet. I am still trying to coax the old saw through so I can finish the last few cuts before it packs it in. I am crossing my fingers that it will make it through.

OK, so it is taking a little bit longer…

Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:07:30 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

If any of you have been following this from the beginning, you have seen that despite the best of intentions, things tend to take a little bit longer than I anticipate. I always forget that a few things can get in the way of completing these types of projects: things like a full-time job that sometimes requires work in the evenings and weekends; a 1 year old, who definitely requires work in the evenings and weekends (:>) and generally the fact that I am not doing this as a full-time job (although I did many years ago). So I thought that 5 weeks would be enough, in terms of actual time working on this project, it has been nowhere near as long.

Fair enough, but many of you ask why not hire someone to do this stuff? Funny, I ask myself the same question many times as I am outside in the blazing sun, moving tons of gravel or cutting 2x4s. I think I will answer that when I have finished this one off and I have some time to rest!

So you may not notice much of a difference between this shot

I have to cut how many pieces??

and the last post, but those with sharp eyes (and nothing better to do) will see that I have laid all the full pieces on the top level. Just in time for Tom’s first birthday party this weekend, which we will be having outside.

What you can’t see from this angle is that I have also laid the stairs which required me to ask my neighbor Tom who is a retired bricklayer (no relation to Tom the birthday boy), the correct consistency for mortar after I had mixed a batch. He was good enough to help me mortar together the base pieces for the stair after I had spent a good 2 hours chipping old mortar off them and using the abrasive blade on my skill saw to cut them to the right size. (Just a quick note: while the saw trick works to score the pieces, since they are so big (8″x8″) you still have to figure out a way to get them to split where you want.)

So in this shot

In this picture the bottom path shape is roughed in. I changed my mind a bit on the shape after cutting the original to the right.

you can see that I have roughed in the lower path and hopefully I will have less cutting here because as you can see above I sure have enough in the upper section. That’s what you get for trying to get around using straight lines for everything.

Sun Cloud and Rain

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:12:39 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

So over the last week, I have worked on the backyard mainly when I came home from work. Come home, eat, put the baby to bed and move a ton of gravel. Literally. I had to rebuild the ramp because when we constructed the wall, there was no way to get the gravel and pavers back to the area near the deck, so I had to build a solid ramp to get the wheelbarrows filled with gravel etc, up the wall so I could dump the stuff. Fair enough.
What has become apparent is that we don’t have enough gravel (Called HPB, or High-performance base material) for the entire job. So I have to do some more calculations to figure out how many more tons I will need. Probably about 3 more tons will do it. This is in addition to the 9 tons we got originally. No wonder my back is sore.
At least today turned out to be sunny. Saturday I got back from Tom’s music lesson and some shopping in the morning and thought that the persistent rain which had started first thing would be over soon and I could work the rest of the day. So I put on a windbreaker and a hat and went out, fully expecting that the rain would stop and the skies would part and it would be sunny and beautiful the rest of the day. No such luck. After about 1 1/2 hours of being soaked to the bone, I gave up and came inside. Luckily today was much nicer,
So I finished building the wall all around the raised section of the patio, and had to make a quick trip to the depot to pick up a few extra wall sections to finish it off today.

You can see the area I just laid today.

I leveled the first section near the house and put down some pavers and so far it is slow going. That’s because someone has to stay inside (or occasionally outside) to look after the baby, because he although he certainly seems to want to work, he is a bit to short to handle a shovel yet. So I have to load the wheelbarrow with pavers, run them up the ramp to where I am laying, and then pull them out, one-by-one. No problem, as long as we get it finished for the end of the month, in time for Thomas’ first birthday party, which will be (as I am told) a backyard BBQ. No pressure!
Now the next task will be to figure out how to get the 3 tons of gravel delivered as we still have 4 skids of pavers in the way…

The first delivery (stone etc.)

Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:08:15 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

We started the patio/path project this past weekend and the idea was that I would take the week off to see how much we could get done and figure out how to do the rest in bits and pieces over the next few weeks. I was not for an instant thinking that I could finish in a week, especially given that at our house even outdoor space is at a premium.
Here is a before shot (sorry it is a little dark).

You can see the sod before I got at it with the (manual) sod cutter.

The plan is to rip up the first bit of nasty old sod (which despite my best efforts was even at this early part of the season, sprouting a robust amount of crabgrass) and replace it with a patio. To connect up the patio, the space beside the deck, which currently has old red brick pavers (anyone out there want a bunch? They’re free and you can take them away!), and the section connecting to the driveway will be done as well.
So I rented a manual sod cutter and that thing would put any stairmaster to shame. You use it by pushing and kicking it under the sod so it only cuts the top 2-3 inches of grass and dirt and (hopefully) cuts a nice swath about 12-15 inches wide so you can just pick it up and expose the dirt underneath. Let me tell you it doesn’t always work out that way…

Just after the first day.

So on the previous Monday I got a call from a buddy of mine who runs the landsaping company who said they pulled some material out of a clients yard and since they couldn’t use it because it was sort of damaged, did I want it? Well since the price was good, I said sure. They dropped it off Friday and man those pieces were big and heavy! So heavy in fact that we didn’t have a clue how to move them as they were in back of the house and we needed them in the backyard. Wheelbarrow? Not a chance- too unstable. So we went with his recommendation and used a dolly we used to formely move books etc. Wouldn’t you know it, he was right! As an added bonus I got a sheet of chipboard cut down so that I could lay it under the dolly and it really did the trick moving those heavy pieces over rough terrain. The final piece of wood gave way as we were moving the last piece into place and we actually shredded a hole through the center where the wheels were.

You can see how big the pieces are

You can see what has to be filled in with aggregate.

Tomorrow we are getting 7 tons of aggregate delivered to put in the patio and paths. Someone has to move it…

Is it a Reno, if it is outside?

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:13:43 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Ok, I know it may be a bit of a stretch, but in the spirit of carrying on, I am going to try to document a project we will be working on this summer. We are going to put in a patio, retaining wall and brick paver path. I guess it is sort of a ‘reno:’ we are ripping out some stuff to allow us to put in what we want. So what if it is only grass and plants (not drywall and studs)…
For those who haven’t seen, I constructed a two-level deck

In this picture the deck is about 90% done

about 2 years ago and of course it took longer than I originally thought. Now we are putting in the patio and walk to hopefully tie it all together!
We went over to my friend Peter’s yard a couple of weekends ago to look at some of the materials he had in the yard and to get an idea of what was available. Too bad the weather was cold and damp. The rain was coming down sideways and we were just able to be out there long enough to take a few pictures and then back to the car to dry out.
Now I am putting together a plan so that we can figure out not only what it will look like but how much material we will use.

A few final notes on the basement

Last modified on 2008-02-29 15:52:30 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I decided to post a few more photos of what the basement looks like now, a couple of months after the majority of the work is done.

You can see the mess on the floor, on the shelf etc.

The tv went up on the wall (after buying the wall mount on ebay) and it is hooked up to the trial service I am using to test the IPTV service. Oh yeah, that junk in the corner is pretty much par for the course; as you’ll see based on the other photos on the site, this basement is a magnet for junk. As much as I try, I can’t seem to keep the stuff from collecting down here. But as long as it’s a cozy space where we can watch tv and relax, then it’s all good.
The pictures on the wall are a simple photoshop treatment, color copied and then mounted in really inexpensive Ikea frames.

The pictures are pretty easy to create.

I just got some matboard from the art store and cut out the window to fit the 8.5 x 11 copies.
And of course there’s Winston on the stairs.

Winston is inspecting the results.

All in all I definitely learned a few things:

  • create a plan and as much as possible stick to it. It helps to keep the number of changes in check. Changes (and the resulting ripple effect) are to a large extent what causes over-runs in time and expense.
  • have a realistic expectation about what you can do on your own. There’s no point in thinking you can do everything involved in a fairly large job if you don’t have the expertise or desire to spend countless hours going in circles.
  • you can do everything yourself although there are pros out there who can make your life easier; for a price. For what it’s worth, I would hire a contractor to do drywall taping and sanding every time: I learned my lesson.
  • if you can find a good contractor, great. Just remember to have a clear idea about what you want them to do so that you end up with what you want.

Is it ever done?

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:16:52 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well, it’s been about 6 weeks or so since my last post. For those who don’t know (sorry about that…) we had a baby 5 weeks ago. Which explains why I haven’t had any time to work on the basement or post anything worthwhile. His name is Thomas and everyone is doing well, getting used to lack of sleep, diapers, car seats etc. Thomas even has his own website. (I don’t know where he finds the time to learn to type, read and blog.)
So in between diaper changes and work, I managed to finally put up the sliding doors and paint them the trim color which we have used in the rest of the house.

You can see the sliding door which hides the mess in the back of the basement.

Like everything else in the basement, the dimensions are not standard. Which means that even though I got a 78″ door, I still had to trim off about an inch or two from the bottom to make it fit. Since they are hollow doors, I had to cut the doors and then take out the solid wood filler piece from the bottom (off the scrap piece) and then glue it back into the door. Seems like a lot of work at the time, just for these sliding doors, but at least they fit.
Once the doors were in I could finish the rest of the baseboard. And yes, finally, (for those of you that may have noticed the lack of the insulation package), I installed the sound insulation today. It seems to make a big difference even when we are on the main floor.
You can also see the bookcase/storage unit we got from Neoset.

These hold a lot of stuff.

We actually got all our books that were in boxes into this thing and other stuff in the units underneath like some china, binders, and other junk. We still have the back area of the basement to organize, but at least now we can close the doors and pretend that it doesn’t exist.
When we had some family over, I had a chance to ask for some help in moving the couch downstairs.

The old couch with Winston actually not jumping on it.

I’m glad we did it because we have Thomas’ crib/basinet/change table combo unit where that couch was on the main floor. Oh yeah, that is our dog Winston by the couch hamming it up for the camera. In the back corner we plan to put an electric fireplace and a chair for reading (yeah, as if we’ll ever get the time to do that).
And here

On the left you can just see the bulkhead where I routed the duct for the exhaust fan.

you can see the bathroom. I just have to patch some tile on the floor where they originally had a bulkhead for the old gas meter. It was covered in ugly cedar panels and of course it was uninsulated. I installed a light in the shower stall and with the halogen lights over the sink and fixture, it really makes a difference in the room.
So, now only a few things left to do in the bathroom but now I am finding that it is difficult to match the floor tiles, so I will have to find something that at least is close so I can get that out of the way.
At least now we can use the basement where before the whole space was only storage that made it far too easy to simply pile boxes and just turn out the light and forget about them. Now I just close the door to the back of the basement and accomplish the same thing!

Operation Organization

Last modified on 2008-01-12 18:27:07 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

This week I have mainly been doing some finish carpentry such as baseboards (a pain) and the trim around the bathroom door (slightly less of a pain). I had to paint everything before I installed it so I set up a makeshift paint area on the washer dryer in the back room. And yes I used drop sheets to catch the paint splatters. It was still pretty crowded back there this week until Saturday when the installer from Neoset came back with the smaller replacement section so that he could fit the unit back flush against the wall.

The center section is smaller so that the unit will now fit flush against the wall.

The reason is was still so crowded is that there were still a fair amount of boxes back there, plus the miter saw, plus the shop vac, plus, plus, plus… You get the idea. So when the shelving was ready, we took advantage of it and spent Sunday morning putting books back and organizing other stuff which had been in the way for the past 6 months or so. I should say Kim organized the books by subject grouping and I just tried to keep getting the rest of the stuff organized so that the storage under the bookcases would be more organized than what we previously had.
Some of those boxes hadn’t been unpacked in a while so now we took some time to go through them and get rid of papers and stuff that had been hanging around for far too long. Felt pretty good to toss that stuff and Freecycle the rest of it. [Freecycle is a message board in Toronto that allows members to post stuff they they think others might want so it doesn’t have to be thrown in the garbage.]
Also last week I took the door for the electrical panel into a shop that does mirrors and glass so they could set in a mirror in the frame I made to size.

The mirror hides the electrical panel.

I painted it first and dropped it off last week. I picked it up and installed it with some of those European full overlay hinges (which allow the door to be flush mounted but still open up.) I also found out you have to buy a 35mm forstner bit (at the Depot) for this installation to inset part of the hinge. This bit will now fall to the bottom of my toolbox where it will lie undisturbed for years as I will probably not install this type of hinge in the foreseeable future. Well at least it works… and the mirror really makes the space feel bigger as well.

Furniture- 1 for 2

Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:08:57 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well I guess you can’t have everything. Just as I thought we would be able to finally start organizing and putting away all our stuff, we ran into a small snafu: I think that the designer who put together the plan for our furniture miscalculated the length and as a result, only the first bank of storage fit in, and the second one was too long.

More books, but did at least they will be well sorted.

So as you can see here we put some books in and got the bathroom cleared out (that was where we stuffed all those 7 plastic bins filled with books until the carpet installer finished laying the carpet.)
Actually it was Kim who put all the books away, by Library of Congress Heading categories. I would have just stuffed them in according to size, but apparently that is a big no-no. How was I to know?
But the furniture (from Neoset) looks good and matches the carpet and paint and the best part of it was that they send a couple of installers to put it in for you. Its actually pretty reasonable and looks more substantial than the IKEA units we looked at.
After clearing out the bathroom, I wired in the potlights and wouldn’t you know it, they didn’t work either. Couldn’t figure out why and was just about to call my friend Graham, who helped me on my earlier electrical questions, when I just decided to call it a night. I woke up thinking about why it didn’t work and was dreading the investigation: if I couldn’t get them to work, would I have to rip out the ceiling in the bathroom (again)? No way! Then I thought some more and since it’s just wire, the only place that you could get problems is at the connections (assuming that you haven’t cut the wire somehow.) So I used the circuit tester and sure enough, there was current getting to the first fixture in the circuit, but not the second.
So I pulled apart off the marettes and out drops the end of the wire. Seems that it broke off when I maretted it the first time. When I put it all back together it worked! And then I put in the bulb in the shower enclosure and it works too! Now if you shower down there you can actually see versus feeling like you are in a dark cave.

Trim work takes forever…

I also put the piece of trim on the edge of the stairs and painted it out to match all the trim in the rest of the house. Now I have to finish the baseboard around the rest of the room while we wait for the furniture guys to come back. They will take out one of the sections and replace it with a shorter one so that the entire thing will fit.

Carpet and vacuuming

Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:09:34 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The carpet went in on Saturday and now is the first time I can vacuum in the room without using the shop vac.

The carpet looks great with the paint color.

I was glad that there were no issues with the carpet because the furniture / storage units we ordered are scheduled to come next week and then, finally we can begin to put away all the books.
We have taken a look through all the boxes that we have stored for so long and have started to throw stuff out that we really should have thrown out months ago. But we might as well do it now rather than just close our eyes and once again pretend that it isn’t there.

Wait, where did all this stuff come from? And what is that insulation doing there?

That is why the boxes are in various stages of upheaval; we are trying to condense so that we only have to re-store what is necessary. And I have set up the mitre saw back where all this stuff used to be so I can finish all the trim work and finish carpentry that has to be completed. Today I worked on the door for the electrical panel. It will have a frame that will enclose a mirror I will repurpose that came from one of my family member’s old bathrooms. I also have to finish the cover for the water meter, but I have already cut the cover, I just have to add some trim to the outside.
The task for next week is to cut some baseboard for the edges so that I can get the furniture / storage in when they come to install it next weekend. Also have to put in a trim piece on the stair egde and paint that to match the rest of the trim in the house [Benjamin Moore ‘Palace White’ for those who care].

Have to get a piece of trim for that edge.

Finally, less crap, more light

Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:10:02 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Finally, I moved all of the crap out of the main room so that the carpet installer could come on Saturday. As you can see, the room looks much bigger!

Now where did I hide all that junk?

I also installed all the recessed halogen lights this week which was a bit of a pain, but I wanted to do it before the carpet went in. I made a detailed drawing of where the lights should go in so that after the drywall went up, I would know where to put in the holes. I used a 3″ hole saw to cut out the holes and then wired up the lights to the 14/2 wire that the electricians fed.
The GU-10s look really good and they throw off a nice bright light. The one’s I got have a gimbaled head so that you can use them as wall washers as well or just to target the light. I haven’t really fiddled with that yet, I have just put in the last 2 Friday night so the next task is to put the two in the bathroom to complete the circuit for the one that is in the shower stall.

Oh yeah, all the junk is in the back room.

Paint, paint and more paint.

Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:03:16 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The task for last weekend was to make sure I painted the entire room and bathroom on Saturday. After doing some final sanding near the stairs the area had to be primed and the beam painted with ceiling paint. While that was drying, I went around and cut in with the brush so that I could start on the other walls. I had put up the tape the previous few days so that I could make sure that the painting got done on Saturday.

I hope this is the last of the painting.

We got some help in choosing the paint color for the basement walls from Debra who is an Interior Designer. She really helped us in choosing the other colors that we painted the rest of the house. Again, it was a catch 22 situation as you are looking at colors and materials for a room. Do you start with the carpet and match the paint or vice versa? In this case, since it was a basement we didn’t want to go too dark but we still wanted to avoid the opposite effect of just white-bombing the entire room. Blah.
When I first put on the paint, I though “Well, it is pretty much yellow and it will match the walls in the main room of the house”, but I found that when it dried it had a more grassy green color than I had originally thought that really looked good so far, with the limited amount of lighting that is put out by the single clamp lamp I am moving around the room. Once I get the recessed halogen lights in (which is this week’s task) you will really get a sense of the color. [In fact the color looks much, much greener in these photos than what it actually looks like in real life, probably part of the effect of the flash on the camera.]
The west wall (which also goes up the side of the stairs)

It is hard to see but the post and the wall beyond are both painted the same color.

used to have awful stucco on the surface which was applied in the 70s. It was actually on every surface in the room, except the floor before I gutted the room. This wall was the last holdout. I was thinking about drywalling over the stucco, but more sanding and taping didn’t seem appealing. So I tried something else; I knocked down the surface of the stucco with a scraper to smooth it out somewhat. Then I applied a skim coat of drywall compound with a 7″ drywall knife which took rather a long time.
After all this dried I lightly sanded it to take off the high points and primed and painted it. It looks lightly textured, but not like those fussy ‘faux-finish’ treatments that can be kind of cheesy. All told it probably took less time than putting up new sheets of drywall on the wall and actually looks pretty good.
Now along with installing the lighting, I have to rip out all the ugly carpet on the stairs and get all the stuff out of the room so the carpet installers can come on Saturday and do the carpet. I bought about 75 feet of baseboard that has to be painted as well, but I might do that after in the back room if I can find some space back there.
[PS for those who can stand it I have put up a picture of the room after I ripped out all the old walls and primed the foundation wall.]

I have new respect for drywallers – Part 3

Last modified on 2008-02-29 15:53:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

So a lot has happened over the past few days. That’s what happens when you work for 3 days on something for about 12 hours a day. But the work needed to get done and now that the ceiling paint is on, you can get a real sense of what the final room will look like.

With the primer and ceiling painted it is starting to look like a room.

But just a bit of background; after the first coat of taping and mudding (which seemed to take forever) I went around with a scraper to take off the high points on the joints before sanding. Yes I did finally use that tool which attaches to the shop vac and it worked pretty well, but the simple $4.95 abrasive foam sanding pad actually seemed to work better. It is flexible so it can get into corners (and I tell you there are a lot of corners in this basement), where the pole sander is good for more of the straight runs. It does seem to suck up a lot of the dust, but by the time I was done, I was still covered in dust. I tell you, good thing I was using the mask.
It took a fiendish amount of time to go in and sand and then put on the second coat of drywall compound. I thought I could get by with a couple of the 7kg tubs in addition to the half empty 20kg pail leftover from an earlier job. No way. I kept going back to the Depot every couple of days or so to get a couple of additional tubs. Now I bet you’re thinking, “There’s no way you can use all that material.” Well yes you can. And you will. I went through over 50 kg of compound on this job and I tell you, it didn’t all end up as dust, although at times it did seem as if there was a fog bank in the basement. The fan in the window did a good job of exhausting the air and when the back window was open even got a fairly brisk cross breeze going.
After the sanding I realized that I should construct the door for the storage area under the stairs so I had to cut down the old opening with the sawzall and build a frame and set the hinges for the door. Then I had to cover over the old wood with drywall cut to the angle of the stairs.

The under-stair storage compartment door. I really should install that insulation instead of moving it around the room.

At the same time I also drywalled the post beside and put in corner bead and slapped more (!) drywall compound on it to set up overnight. Unfortunately it hadn’t set up properly to sand, so it will have to wait for the final sanding and priming.
Priming new drywall is important as the boards tend to suck up paint and also because of banding where the areas with joint compound will appear lighter than the surrounding wall if not properly primed. I used Para PrimetechTM which seems to work ok although it did require two coats to be effective. I say 2 coats because the “1 Coater” is the biggest lie in the paint industry. I have never found a paint / roller combo that can deliver this holy grail of paint nirvana. Maybe under ideal conditions when the sun is at the correct angle and the planets align but who has time to wait for that?
So after priming every surface which took a long time, I called it a night.
Then today was just doing a bit of light sanding on the storage area and the post and putting on the final coats of compound to ready for priming that later on. The main task was rolling the ceiling with this paint that comes out of the can pink and dries white. It is CIL Smart paint and it sure was pink. It was a bit disconcerting as I was putting it on but indeed it did dry up to a nice flat white. And it covered pretty well so that whole thing only took a few hours. Now the next task will be installing the recessed lighting so I can actually see what’s going on without having to move a clamp lamp around the room.

I have new respect for drywallers – Part 2

Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:10:43 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The great thing about drywall is that when it goes up, it very quickly looks like you are making progress.

The first coat of taping and mudding.

All of the cluttered stuff that goes on behind the wall is quickly covered over and it makes you think that with just a few dabs of drywall compound, you will be ready to paint and then kick back with a few beers in celebration of the finished product.
Well, it’s really not that easy. Once again I have new respect for drywallers as putting up the mud is not as easy as it looks on TV. And in this case, I have lots of inside corners from all the bulkheads that I had to put in and the fact that I am pretty slow with the mudding and it adds up to a long time to apply the first coat.
I used a corner tool for the inside corners and that has helped a lot. I am hoping that if the first coat doesn’t have too many surface bumps and imperfections, that the next coats will go faster and there will be less sanding as a whole. I bought the tool for sanding that you attach to the shop vac, but I have yet to use it. All I know is that the dust from just scraping down the high points was enough. I will be taping off the stairs down to the basement with plastic sheeting and I have the window open with a fan to draw out the air which seems to be doing an OK job of moving the air through the space.
I have some more to do around the window and the whole (!) bathroom so I will be at it for a couple more days.

The first coat of taping and mudding.

I finally brought the radio down so I would have some tunes to help the time go by. I don’t know what I was thinking for the past few months; I didn’t want to bring it down there since I was worried about dust etc. gumming the thing up. When I do the sanding I will just keep it upstairs (behind the plastic sheeting, and turn up the volume!

How do you get 4′ x 8′ sheets of drywall into a Mazda 3?

Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:39:16 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I took Friday night off working because the weather was pretty good and I didn’t want to spend the entire weekend in a dark room while the sun was shining; kinda like the past few weekends. Good thing for the most part, the weather has been crappy for the last couple of weekends. I didn’t feel like I was missing much.
So on Saturday, I got down to finishing up the wall adjoining the furnace room and other bits and pieces that needed drywalling.

Supply bulkhead is complete. Soon will start with the taping and mudding.

These are the things that take the longest. The big sheets go up fast: they give you a sense that things are progressing. That’s good because I needed to see that before tackling the smaller stuff such as the bulkheads in the bathroom and the ones that frame in the ductwork.
Unfortunately, I needed to go to the Depot Saturday night to get a couple more sheets. I realized that when I was driving there that if a couple of years ago, I someone had told me I would be standing over a flat cart in the middle of the Home Depot parking lot on a Saturday night cutting sheets of drywall in half so I could fit them in my car, I’d have told them they were crazy. But they did fit in there (thanks to the designers of the Mazda 3), so I was able to get them back home and down to the basement before I totally ran out of steam.
Sunday we were hosting Mother’s Day at our place so I had to get some stuff done before we had to start preparing for our family arriving around 3 or 4 pm. I got the bathroom finished. I got most of the furnace wall finished. I got the supply duct bulkhead finished.

Return air duct now enclosed.

I got the return bulkhead finished. Or was that Saturday? It’s all a blur now, but at least most of it is done. There are only a few pieces left to do and to frame an access door for the storage area under the stairs. Then on to putting up corner bead and taping the rest of the seams in preparation for joint compound and sanding. I am hoping that the device I bought for sanding (which you hook up to the shopvac) works well so we can keep the dust down in the rest of the house. We’ll see…

Some more drywall

Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:11:14 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I got a chance to put up drywall on some other walls and got that up last night. Now I have to do the back wall of the bathroom and the wall for the furnace room.

Finally closed in the walls.

Looking at the rapidly shrinking stack of drywall (which is no longer mocking me, see earlier post); I am realizing that it is going to be quite tight on the number of sheets left to finish. I may have to get one or two more sheets to finish off all the bulkheads and other bits that tend to take the longest time. The problem is how to get them.
When I got all the materials from the Depot, I rented their van and my friend Chuck helped me unload the sheets into the basement. But for one or two sheets, I probably won’t go that route. Which leaves the car.
The car isn’t big enough to get a whole sheet in, so that leaves the roof or cutting them in half. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

More drywall. Now you can start to see what the room will eventually look like.

So you may be asking yourself, what is that white rectangle thing in the middle of all the pictures? It is an inexpensive wardrobe for storing coats and things that we got because we have extremely limited closet space in the house. Eventually it will get replaced with something more permanent once the carpet goes down.

Hot and cold water stoppage

Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:40:44 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

On Sunday I had to also cap a hot and cold line that originally fed the sauna (even though it was a ‘dry sauna.’ I guess they used it to hose down the floor?) The original plan (about a month ago) was to shut off the water and cut the lines with the sawzall and solder the caps on. Should have taken about 45 minutes tops. What really happened was that since the two lines were actually the lowest lines in the house, (lower than the faucet in the adjoining bathroom), they would not drain and as a result, no matter how much I drained them, there was still a slight trickle of water dripping out. Which resulted in a problem for soldering: if there is any quantity of water in the line, the pipe will not get hot enough as the water is absorbing the heat from the torch.
To complicate matters, about 1″ away was an ABS pipe for the trap which runs parallel to the line, which I had to carefully protect when using the torch. After trying several times, I could never get the pipes hot enough. What to do next? I couldn’t leave the water in the house off for a few days. Off to the Home Depot as I had to temporarily buy some compression fittings to allow me to turn the water back on in the house and figure out possible solutions.
I asked the plumbing guys what the problem was and they explained the water thing and suggested I drain the pipes. When I told them that this was the lowest thing in the house they suggested I cut the supply, just after the meter (!) and install a drain valve from which I could bleed the lines. Seemed like a lot of work to cap two lines!
So my next step was to search the Internet for something that could help. After a bit of Googling, I found this product: Just for Copper. It is a liquid (non-toxic) which bonds copper to copper. So I ordered some and after a test, tried it out on the weekend.
You just have to sand both pieces of the joint and then apply to both surfaces, twist on and, it worked. So far so good.

I have new respect for drywallers..

Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:11:47 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I was putting up the drywall to cover the walls (5/8″ Type ‘X’ Drywall for those who care), and soon realized that the pros make it look way too easy. Even though they have probably better tools than what I have, they have years of experience so can figure out the best way to for example, hang drywall around a window rather than having to think about it for a while like I do. I guess if I was doing this day in and day out I’d get better too. Maybe I should get them to come to my office and see how they do with Powerpoint?

Got the drywall over the rigid insulation; I was getting tired at looking at pink walls.

Other than the walls, I hung the wallboard on the ceiling in the bathroom which was kind of challenging as there is not much room to move around in there, so I had to bring the pieces in to test the fit, then back out to trim, then back in to test… You get the idea.
Before I could finish the ceiling in there, I had to fish the wire for the light which went in the shower stall. I had the electricians leave enough so that I could fish it along the joist space over the shower stall to hook up to the fixture, but I had to leave off a sheet so I could get my hand in there to fish.
I also had to cut through the ceramic tile ceiling so I was at the Depot last week (see previous post) and bought a carbide tipped hole saw. I wasn’t sure it was going to work so I tested it out on a scrap piece of tile and it seemed to be doing an OK job. I then marked the ceiling and started cutting. Man, there was dust everywhere! After the tile was finished, I got through the drywall (2 layers!). I did a pretty good job but when I test fitted the fixture (good for the diameter), I found that the part of the fixture that extends out at a 90 degree angle (the part on the left in the photo),

The part that sticks out on the left prevented the rest of the can from fitting through the hole in the ceiling.

couldn’t fit through the hole since the thickness prevented pushing that part of the light up and through. Out came the sawzall to trim the thickness out just enough so I could slide it up and through. Attached the wires and siliconed it in place. Now I just have to wait until I power up the rest of the lights in the bathroom to see if it all works! Hopefully that will be soon.

We have drywall!

Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:41:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

After looking at the pile of gypsum board leaning against the wall mocking me, I got the entire ceiling up today with the great help of my brother-in-law David; without his assistance, I would still be down there. Well, I actually still have a small piece to put up but we had to run out to the Depot before it closed today (more on that later).
The large sheets went up pretty quickly as I used the support I made (with a few modifications)

The large sheets went up fairly quickly.

so that we could support the sheets on one end while temporarily nailing them in on the other. This worked out well for the large sheets and the smaller ones basically could be held in place while I fastened them.
We had a few that had to have a couple of notches taken out, but nothing too tricky. I made a few measurements for where the recessed lighting will be located so I could set up for that this week (time permitting) and install those in the main room.
So we had mostly all the drywall up by lunch and after lunch David left and I secured the sheets with drywall screws. By the end of it my neck and arms were aching from working so much above my head. Boy, the pros sure make this look easy on TV!
Then by about 5:30 we had to go to the Depot to pay for the carpet and installation that will be pretty much the last thing to do, before the bookcases go in. So we show up and I have a plan: I got the Home Depot Credit Card which allows you to get 10% off the first purchase, so I load up with hopefully most of the stuff I will need for the rest of the job. Things like all the recessed lighting, some more lumber (just in case), bulbs etc.

Finally got drywall on the ceiling, with a bit of effort.

So we finish in the carpet section and get the printout to take to the cashier and after picking up the rest of the stuff, head for the front to severly damage the card. The cashier inputs everything and after she prints out the receipt, I ask about the 10% (it did not show up automatically on the bill). Then she has to call the head cashier, then she calls someone else. Nobody can figure out how to get the deduction. So someone else from the front desk comes over and I have to walk down there to watch him furiously punch numbers into the system.
Get this, they have to manually refund each and every stick of wood, then punch each and every item back in and only then can they give me the discount. So that whole adventure just added to my Depot experience, but at least they tried to figure out a way to make it happen. Good luck trying that at other stores…

Bulkhead overhead

Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:45:22 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I finished the framing for the bulkhead and cut the largest sheet the other day. I installed about half of the sheets of plywood for the bulkhead so now you can start to see what the ceiling height will be like in that area. I have to cut all the sheets outside as there is not enough room in the basement to lay down a full sized sheet of ply.

Plywood on bulkhead. Yes, it will be primed and painted the same as the rest of the ceiling.

Besides, it really creates a dust storm and I want to keep the amount of dust to a minimum in the house. Except when I tape and sand the drywall, it will be very dusty anyway. I will likely tape off the basement and shut off the furnace.
I got this new sanding head which fits on the end of your shopvac so that, in theory, the dust gets contained there. We’ll see how well it works.
So I have to finish cutting the plywood for the rest of the duct bulkhead and also build the cabinet to enclose the electrical panel which will be challenging since there are several water supply pipes, the gas line and a tie-in to the vent stack (from the basement bathroom) to contend with. It also has to be a maximum of 35″ wide to fit the module of the built-ins which are being made and will be assembled after the carpet is installed.

Framing is a drag

Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:12:22 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I have spent the past couple of days framing in the ductwork along the ceiling.

Roughed in bulkhead to contain main supply duct.

The original plan, last year was to relocate all the ducts to the side wall so we would have the full height ceiling but when I found out that the price tag on that event would be several thousand, that quickly dropped off the scope of work. So now I am enclosing with some G1S ply so that I can get a bit more height under the ducts and it is a bit more durable than drywall.
Of course as I was going along putting up the 2 x 2s I found the place where the former owners had hacked out a section of the main duct run, because, well, I guess because they could… Maybe it was the supply to the sauna which they later covered up because there were no registers in the sauna before I took it out. No matter, I had some sheet metal left over from the first patch job I did (which incidently increased the amount of heat we got in the Master bedroom), so I just bent it up and used some self tapping screws to fix it in place. Then I taped the seams with some of that metal duct tape. BTW, the traditional “duct tape” is good for everything but ducts. It dries out so that makes it useless for patching ducts. Who would have guessed?
The next task is to get the plywood cut and secured into place.

Roughed in bulkhead to contain main supply duct.

Sunny outside, who wants to be stuck in the basement

Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:46:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

So Sunday was beautiful outside so when I was given the choice about either working in the basement or going golfing, guess which one I chose?
Well, I still did work in the morning, setting up for putting in the bulkhead over the ductwork, but then found I didn’t have enough 2 x 2s so I had to make a trip to the Depot. It was surprisingly busy for a Sunday morning, but I guess everyone wanted to get a start on yardwork etc.

More ducts

Last modified on 2009-04-29 01:06:09 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well had to resume the work in the basement because there are a few more things to do before I can start drywalling.

Roughed in bulkhead to contain return air duct.

I had to frame in the stack anyway, so I figured I should combine this and the return air duct into one. The original plan suggested by the guy who did the home energy audit was to put the duct on the other side of the room, but I would have had a bump out in that wall and one on the other side, so it made more sense to combine the two.
I also have to build the bulkhead for the ductwork in the ceiling (which will probably take the better part of a week) and make sure all the inside corners for the walls have been taken care of so there is a surface for the edges of the drywall.

Framing corners.

I also want to finish the floor patching so this has time to cure. I think that it will look like I am making progress when the drywall goes up, although all the sanding etc does take a fair amount of time. I will need some re-inforcements to help me hang the ceiling since holding a 4 x 8 sheet of drywall on my head while I secure it to the ceiling sounds a bit difficult.
I can’t work on Saturday as this is when we have the ‘Class’ (pre-natal) all day.
I realized this week that I also have to do my taxes sometime. When will someone invent a more realistic tax form? Like this perhaps?

Done, at least the wiring…

Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:48:46 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Well, I just got home and the electricians are done with their part of the job, running the wiring and installing receptacles etc. Now I have to clean up by patching all the drywall which will take some time, but probably couldn’t be avoided. Their wiring looks pretty good and the panel looks neat with the new circuits stapled to the backer board. So overall, a pretty chaotic three days, but probably par for the course.
So what have I learned from all this?

  • Even ‘small’ jobs can get snafu’ed.
  • Write everything down (even small stuff) which helped when I had to create a list of what needed to be completed when I wasn’t here.
  • Explain, clarify in person when the job is starting.
  • Have lots of bandages on hand.
  • What can go wrong will go wrong

    Last modified on 2008-02-29 15:54:47 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    So I get a call from the Office of the electricians we are using. The guy on the phone says that he didn’t want to tell me, but the technician who is supposed to be doing the job today had to go the hospital this morning for a CAT scan(!). What are you supposed to say to that? I asked if they were sure he was supposed to be doing work. They assured me that this would be fine. Later I talked to him, and it was an ultrasound, not a cat scan.
    So as a result they don’t show up till about 11, and they have 2 guys (1 electrician and an apprentice) so they hope to finish what was supposed to be a 2 day job in 1 day. I was a bit sceptical, but wanted to believe that it could be done.
    I show them what I want done and they didn’t have the right wire, so one guy has to go to the Depot to get the stuff. They get to work and everything seems to be going along alright until around 3:30 when they say that it will be difficult to install the GFI near the sink as the box is too deep for the wall. I see that they have pulled wire up to the main floor already so they go ahead and start channelling out the lath and plaster to bring the wire up to counter height.

    Wire pulled for 3-way switch.

    I go back upstairs to work and then I hear this loud noise. I go down to check and the guy who was using the Sawzall says, “I gotta go to the hospital. I cut my finger off.” I offer to drive him but he says that the other guy will drive, but they need the location of the hospital. I tell them and clean the guys finger a bit (it wasn’t really cut off) and they start to go at around 4:30.
    As I am getting them into the van the Parking Cop comes by and tries to give them a ticket on their other van. I explain what happened and the guy says, “Ok, I won’t be giving you a ticket, but some other officer else might…”
    Ugh, so I get the keys for the other van from the guys, they drive off to the hospital and I have to find someplace to move this van so it doesn’t get a ticket.
    After doing this I get back to the house and start doing more work. There’s a knock on the door and the second guy is back to clean up after dropping the other one off at the hospital. So he parks around back and cleans up the various tools and wire and loads that stuff into the van and drives off.
    Just after this Kim notices that it seems a little cold in the house and in fact because they had to stop everything suddenly, they were not able to feed the panel and as a result the furnace was not hooked up.
    I called the office for the, I don’t know, tenth time and told them that and they said they’d call me back. I also agreed to send them a list with what needed to be done to finish as they weren’t sure who would be coming the next day.

    Channel partly cut in wall for counter outlet GFI.

    So a quick recap: Here we are in a cold house, with no power in the back half of the house (no stove or microwave) waiting for someone to call us back to see if we can get our heat back on.
    Sure enough the call comes in: someone will be by later that evening. Around 8 who shows up? Both the guys from earlier! Except now that now he has a huge bandage around his finger. “Six stitches,” he said. I said I feel bad; twice today you’ve had to come directly from the hospital to do work on my house. That’s awful. He said no problem; he will direct the other guy on how to hook up the furnace feed to the panel.
    Well, it worked so the heat came on and I had to send the office this fax with the stuff that needed to be done, but the fax, wait for it, was on one of the circuits that was shut off. I had to run an extension cord from another room to get it to turn on.
    I really forget how dependent we are on power.

    One day to do their job.

    Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:50:10 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    Heard from the electrician late yesterday that they will be here this morning with 2 guys (rather than one) so they can hopefully finish the job in one long day. That would be great!

    Why is everything so messy?

    Last modified on 2008-02-29 15:55:01 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    I was just looking at the pictures of the work I did on the weekend and it looks like a hurricane hit my basement. That’s probably part of the reason it seems to take a long time to do anything; I have to move something to do something else. Want to cut wood? Move the stack of lumber over to get the piece you want, then move the pile of boxes to get over to the saw, then measure, then cut… Next time I do this, everything is going into storage. Wait! That’s part of the reason we are doing this; to create more storage for all our crap.
    Anyway, I framed in the space for the doorway

    New framed opening to back of basement.

    to the workshop and found out that the masonry bit that comes with the tapcon screws was incredibly dull; it wasn’t that we had super strength concrete in the slab. When I used another bit, things went a lot faster. Go figure.
    Also, put in the supply duct for the room by installing a take-off from the existing main duct run. Had to go back to the Depot for the correct size though as the original one was about 1″ too big. It was not a wasted trip since we got the sale price for the carpet installation (and an additional 10% off), something I had been putting off for about a month, since it meant we had to start picking colors and the carpet type as well. There was something about picking colors that seemed like a catch-22: need to pick the carpet color, but have to know the wall color. Need to pick the wall color, but have to know the carpet color.

    New supply duct and bulkhead.

    Upstairs it was much easier. We have had so much help from Kim’s mother’s friend Deborah, it’s been fantastic! She helped us with the original color selection for all the rooms in the house and everything works so well together! She gave us a couple of suggestions and on the way over to the Depot, we picked up some chips from the paint store and matched some carpet.
    After installing the duct I framed in the water meter and the rest of the duct and cleaned up for the electricians.
    Unfortunately I just got a call from the electrician and the guy who was supposed to do the work in the basement is sick so nobody will be working today, maybe not tomorrow either. I was thinking that if this was a full renovation, with many trades working, this would be magnified since in every trade, there would be issues like this. No wonder these things tend to go over schedule.

    Bit More Demo

    Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:51:58 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

    A slight bit more demo last night. Took out the drywall on a wall for the furnace room; one which I though I would not have to tear down. Tonight have to rip out the studs and rebuild as it has to be extended for the door to the work/laundry area. Behind this wall are two jackposts which were put in years ago that I sure don’t want to touch, so I will just build around them. I have studs left over from the closet project Graham did, so hopefully I will have enough wood to construct all this.

    Existing joists with plywood laminated and blocking installed.

    I also took a look at the return air duct because I need to put in a floor level return and route it to the return duct which is attached to the ceiling. I put my hand up there (behind the water pipes, wires etc.) and found that there is a huge hole in the duct on the top surface. Normally this is not a problem since the way the return is done, there is sheet metal covering the joist space so that becomes the plenum for the return air. The problem is that the joist space is open on the other end so air just gets sucked in from between the wall and the floor. After the electricians finish with the wiring I will go in and close it off and route a return to the floor level.

    More taping than you can shake a stick at

    Last modified on 2008-01-12 19:52:38 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    Last night I finished the taping of all the insulation using Tuck Tape. Its turning into a real gaudy display of color down there with light yellow wood strapping, pink insulation, red and black tape, not to mention the grimy grey floor and dark wood joists. Very fashionable…
    In fact the plywood stiffeners I laminated to the joists co-ordinate quite well with the dark wood existing joists

    Existing joists with plywood laminated and blocking installed.

    and the black and white wiring (which hopefully will be changed when the electricians come to do the rewire next week,) it seems almost a shame to cover this up. Maybe if I don’t drywall the ceiling people will think that it was intentional not that I ran out of time? Probably not.
    I just took a look at the schedule and given the amount of time remaining, it will be close to get everything done on time, but I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    Before shots

    Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:13:11 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    Here are some shots of the basement before.

    View of basement looking north. Notice ‘sauna’ in corner (behind door). That had to go.

    View of basement looking south.

    Start in the Middle

    Last modified on 2008-01-12 20:18:25 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

    For those who haven’t heard my constant complaining, I am finishing the basement in our 1920’s vintage house. The house is pretty small and to boot, also very narrow (about 12 and a half feet wide on the inside), so getting the most out of the space means using every inch effectively.
    I wanted to start documenting what I have done, even though I have completed a lot of work to date (and many trips to the nearest Home Depot).
    So for those of you who have been asking here are the latest images.

    Rigid insulation fixed to wall.

    I finished putting in the rigid insulation and securing it using strapping and many tapcon screws, so that I can have a surface to attach the drywall. I am using Type “X” drywall for the walls and want to get all the surfaces trued before I start putting it up. As you can see the bottom of the wall is not quite in line with the rest of the wall, so I have to shim a bit to get everything straight.
    Also, have to wait for the Electricians to finish rewiring the basement next week before I can put up the ceiling drywall and tape.

    More insulation. Note ‘slide’ I built to get bags of concrete into the basement leaning against the far wall.

    Sunday, as I was looking at the bathroom, I decided to take a peak under the drywall on the exterior wall of the bathroom. I was trying not to disturb too much in that room as I wanted to focus on the main space, and besides, it was already pretty much finished, except for some awful cedar siding which I ripped out. I was just going to patch these areas and put up a new ceiling and call it a day, but as these things go, there is always something else hiding behind the wall.
    When I looked behind the old drywall, lo and behold, there was no insulation behind the wall. Hello? Exterior Wall? Insulation? I thought that generally insulation was supposed to go against the cold wall of the house, but I guess the person who renovated the house in the 70s wasn’t so fussy. So I figured, take out the drywall and put up the rigid insulation to take care of the problem. As I took down the drywall, I noticed an area of about 9 x 3 inches which had insulation stuck in it. I had to remove this and it was really dirty. Why was it dirty? Well as it turns out, it was covering a hole in the wall which went straight through to the outside! No wonder the bathroom was so cold in the winter!

    Bathroom bulkhead built around gas supply pipe.

    But hey, never let an opportunity go to waste. I was going to replace the vent fan anyway (the old one just vented into the joist space, duh), so I went to the Depot on Monday to buy a fan and duct so that I could use the hole to vent to the outside. So what if I had to wriggle myself under the front porch of the house through dirt and stuff to install the duct from the outside and seal it. All in a day’s work.
    Hooked up the fan and the duct and built the bulkhead for the drywall and thought, this was just supposed to take a couple of hours; what happened to the rest of the day?

    Bathroom bulkhead built around exhaust fan using existing hole in wall.

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