Archive for the ‘Renovation’ Category

Happiness in a Can

I have always been fascinated watching hands at work. Hands doing things like kneading bread, gutting fish, or re-wiring an electrical panel. Playing a piano, performing massage, or filling out a tax return–whatever. Things I don’t do with my fat flippers. I find my keen observational skills allow me to live vicariously through others, so when I am watching people doing real work I share their sense of accomplishment. If you are reading between the lines, you have figured out that I am lazy.

It has been quite lovely to watch Scott Judson of Knockout Painting turn our blah rooms into the spaces we want to live in. It’s as if I did it myself! (No, Jan, it isn’t.) He makes painting look easy.

Scott cuts in scary good:.

And rolls scary good:

In progress shot with cool paint holder tool that I wish I had invented:

Combined with the work done on the drywall on walls and ceilings in various parts of the house, Scott’s painting has this place sparkling. Yes, paint is happiness in a can–paint really changed this house.

Because the walls made me crazy. We have deduced that the house was mudded by a one-armed blind drywaller with the DTs. I mean, really:

And more (try to keep your focus on the wall, please):

You weren’t able to, were you? Fine. But paint and plaster make things shiny-nice. See?:

I should back up. When you have no real talent in the home decor department, you rely on your creative friends. My friend Courtney is the sort of person who should run the world. Things would get done. Good, important things. Everyone would look great, eat well, and have fun all the time. In her past life, Courtney was an interior designer: she just has a knack for colour. Courtney came over with her colour fan and we spent the afternoon going from room to room saying “umm”, “hmm”, and “ahh”. She helped me settle on the colours.

Courtenay’s lovely daughter Clementine (a renowned dog whisperer) babysat the Luke and Solo while we adults made guttural sounds about the walls. Note the wall behind Clementine. What colour would you call that, exactly?

Now, describing colour is like describing ______ (something that I can’t describe–simile failure).  I tried finding colour swatches to stick on this page, but to no avail. The paint is Benjamin Moore from our favourite paint store, House of Color. So here is my best shot at colour description:

Hush AF-95  This colour is kind of a creamy beigey grey but on the warm or cool side depending on how you hold your head.

Cailente AF-290 This is a red, but not too red, more of a grey orange red, but warmish, and spicey-like.

Dill Pickle 2147-40 Not the colour of dill pickles at all. More like an avocado, but sweeter, but not limey, but not yellow.

Hmm. Apparently I do not have a future in the home decor industry. Or in the colour naming industry. Simon Cowell would sneer.

So here are the colours, such as they are, seen through my camera lens and your computer screen. And as such are nothing at all the way they appear on our walls.

Do tell about your adventures in colour. Or paint. Or drywall. Or composting. Or making things with Popsicle sticks. Whatever. I am interested.


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Adventures in Drywall

Actually, this is a fakeout. We didn’t have an adventure. We were merely spectators in the whole drywall thing. And vacuum-up-ers. This is because we hired great guys to do the drywalling for us.

I will say that Chris did a lot of prep before Gary and Jason Barr of Mid Isle Drywall and their team could do their work. He and Nelson put seven bags of sound insulation in the ceiling and walls of the kitchen and family room.

Because who wants to hear a tap dancing yodeling cook through the bedroom floor? Not me. He also did all that crazy recessed lighting and electrical stuff. And I made him redo some of it (“Move it six inches to the left. You’ll be so happy you did!”) because I am just like that.

In case you are new to the party, this is why the drywall was being redone.

The ceilings upstairs were scraped and remudded. Altogether they put ten buckets of mud on the ceilings. That is a poop load of mud.

Then they textured it. With little lumpy bumps.

Now all you popcorn haters need to sit on your hands because that’s just the way it is. It was the best solution to some wonky surfaces, and actually it’s quite nice. I am sure you will agree. See? You do.

As to the main floor (kitchen, family room, and sewing room), I have already told the story of the tear down and the new lam beam (technical language with which I am now fluent). So here is the exciting transformation.

First, up goes plastic sheeting which is supposed to prevent the spread of dust.  Har har.

It’s just a good thing our carpets are the colour of drywall dust.

Then, the team of young lads zoomed through this job in 3 hours, nailing stuff up and cutting holes.

And making the occasional mistake. For which they apologized!

Now, my first instinct was to say, “Hey, no worries, fellas.”  Then I realized they were apologizing to Gary, who would whoop them, I think. Oh well.

Then there was the taping. It’s pretty cool to watch them snap that stuff up there. Bet they are in high demand at Christmas. Maybe working the mall gift wrapping service for extra loonies.

I like the stilts. I told Gary he could put on a lilac tutu and sparkly wings and moonlight at the Filberg Festival. He did not like my idea.

In the sewing room, Gary found a spongy part in the board under the window, probably from an old leak before the windows were replaced. He cut it out and made it pretty.

Then there was the mudding sanding mudding sanding mudding sanding part.

With lots of big noisy fans running in between.  Then the vacuuming part. Conveniently, I was not home for that part.

They really did a fabulous job–on time with minimal fuss. I can hardly wait until the paint goes on next week.

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Meet Ernie.

He has issues.

He is afraid of large, open spaces.

His issues create advantages…

And disadvantages.

Enter Chris the resident porcelain psychologist. Toilet whisperer.

Not a plumber, but handy with the tools.

Just four inches to the right, but what a difference.

As a postscript, we discovered that the plumber (professional, nice man) had plumbed the hot water to the toilet. We did consider the advantages of such a system: cleaner bowl, warm porcelain (should someone forget to lower the seat), the je ne sais quoi cachet of a bidet-like fixture. But the warm waftings from such an arrangement negated any benefits. Back to cold water. Psychosis conquered. Job done.

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House Surgery

Charlotte has been dissecting fetal pigs in Biology 12. She has some tasty shots on her cell phone which I won’t share here. (You’re welcome.) Chris seems to be doing similar work on the guts of the house, sort of the work of an orthopedic surgeon.

Here is the beam and the supporting post between the kitchen and the family room.  The beam runs at an angle then squares up to the walls and is supported by an ugly post.  When earlier surgery exposed the the beam and revealed carpenter ant damage, the doctors determined it needed to be replaced. That and the post is in the way of the island.

So Chris consulted with Pete. Pete works with Chris and seems to have home construction in his DNA. Sort of like the Energizer Bunny meets Holmes on Homes. Plus he is very generous with his time. He recommended reinforcing the ceiling with cross bracing and putting in a recessed micro lam beam to span the room and support the second floor. This would make the upper floor less creaky and open up the kitchen-family room space.

In about six hours of work they built two temporary walls, removed the old beam and post, installed the new beam and the joist hangers.

Changes the feeling of the two rooms and gives a lot more flexibility for plans in both spaces.

Once again, each step in this reno seems to reveal something else that requires work.

Needless to say, Chris is at the house right now doing things with braces and footings in the crawl space.

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Our garage door is saggy. The wood is drooping across the panels and as you can see it has leaked.


We actually considered refurbishing it, but it really would have been an enormous job. If we had nothing else to do on the house, well, maybe. But the motor is shot, too. So it means Armstong handling. And that means only three out of four people in the house can open the garage door.

Not me. I am not of garage door opening stature or physique. Nelson is, though.

You can even see the gappy bits on the outside. Does give the illusion that the house is smiling.

But not in a good way.

Chris had started pricing doors at Home Depot and Slegg, and then we met the nice man from the Garage Door Doctor   (in the parking lot of Slegg, actually). We had Darrell come and take a look, and we liked what he had to say.

Essentially, replacing the door would give us a better door at less cost than repairing the door.  So yesterday he and his helper came and installed the door. And now we have a new door. With nice windows. And a new (better) motor (that works). And a key pad. And no smile.

So here is the before shot:

And here is the after:

I have learned a bit in the process of this. I think before and after is interesting, but I like the middle parts too. I wish I had taken pictures of the guys taking the door out, installing the new one and testing it. Mind you, I was at work, but everyone in this house can take a picture even if they can’t manually open a garage door.

For those of you who do this blog thing, any tips on recording the process of a project?

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Men at Work

This past weekend the heavy work of tearing out the ceilings began.

To recap:

The ceilings are really ugly. Really, really. They are so bad that I was quite turned off by the house on our first look through the place. I just did not want to talk about it when we got home. I am not good at seeing past the superficial. I am a shallow person.

None of my pictures has captured what the ceilings look like, but my sister says it best: the plaster is like a bad icing job on a Cake Wrecks cake.  A real dog.

Maybe not so dirty, but you get the idea.

Ok, not grotty looking, just plastery. More like this:

…but do you see the resemblance? So, they are going. Downstairs the ceilings  are being ripped out so we can install pot lights in the kitchen and family room, muck with the ducting for the range hood, and move a beam. Then Gary the drywall guy will come in a do a re-do.

First, we got a b i g garbage can for the crud. (Sadly, there would be too much crud for the stuff mover to carry).

Then the people with crowbars and masks came: our friends Doug, Paul, Craig, our son Nelson, daughter *Charlotte, and Chris. (Lest you think I did nothing, I drove to Tim’s and Subway, and took pictures. Very important.)      [*not a man, but looks tough dragging drywall around.]

They worked all morning to expose beams and jointy bits, and fill the big green can.

Break time. Told you I got the Tim’s.

One advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you see it) of this type of work is that you expose truths about your house that you might not have otherwise known. Like Surprise #1:

Discovering the ant condo (now unoccupied) means we need to replace the beam. Good to know. Meet our new friend, Mr. Beam Fabricator.

Swept up and looking pretty:

Surprise #2: There was a strange embellishment in the center of the sewing room ceiling that screamed “I’ve got a secret!”

And it did! Can you see the hangy bit from the upstairs bathroom tub? So hangy it droops into the sewing room? Were you fooled by the decorative plate neatly lined with a garbage bag? Nooo. Paul noticed how nicely the cover channeled condensed water from the pipe towards the ceiling light. Nifty!

Meet our new friends, Mr. Plumber and Mr. Electrician.

And that’s downstairs. Upstairs, Chris began his mini vacation in hell as he scrapes the rough hangy bits off the plaster and then uses some sort of sander on a stick to make it smooth. Meet our new friend, Mr. Chiropractor.

It’s a start, and we are glad to be doing this before the furniture turns up.

Any experiences with adventure plaster you’d care to share?

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The Big Jobs List

I am considering changing the tagline of this blog to “requires updating”, but that doesn’t really tell the story. As exciting as it is to buy this new-older house, the list of major work is pretty daunting at the moment. Here it is:

  • Install some sort of floor in the dirt crawl space. Could be poured concrete or a fancy (more expensive) 20 mm poly air tight creation. An awkward job because the crawl space is less than 3 ‘ high.
  • Install a supporting wall to stabilize part of the floor.
  • Do something about the troweled plaster ceilings: either remove the ceilings and re-gyproc or scrape and re-gyproc or  scrape and re-plaster. This will be the messiest job. (This photo does not do the ceilings justice: picture heavy grey-white butter creme frosting hanging over your head…):

  • Patch the poorly mudded walls.
  • Remove the two wooden beams from the living room-dining room (this requires a go from an engineer as the beams appear to be cosmetic).
  • Drywall over the cedar ceiling in the living room-dining room.
  • Remove or drywall over the diagonal cedar going up the stairs.
  • Rebuild and properly support the stairs.
  • Redesign & rebuild the kitchen to swap the placement of the stove and sink.

Most of these jobs are going to require outside pro help, which we anticipated. In our dreams we wanted to get all this done before moving in mid-July, but we are already adjusting that. Notice that fresh paint, new trim, new doors, and light fixtures aren’t on the list? That fun stuff has to wait.

And please, if you have any advice on how to keep this process sane, let me know!

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