July 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday

So all of a sudden it's seven [SEVEN!] months since my last blog post. That's the post where I wrote about how long it had been since the post before that.

There really can't be any more renovating without a blog because in my mind they go hand in hand. And there haven't been any renovations in that seven months which means nobody has missed anything. The trouble is I have to be prepared to write the blog posts AND to renovate. In the same dimension, on the same plane of existence, at the same time. Clearly, the stars haven't been aligned. Or whatever.

But I really do want to renovate the master bedroom and master bathroom. Also to finish the family bathroom. I do have a collection of ideas for the space. Norm and I have even discussed the possibilities. Now I need to lay out some plans so we can get going. My thinking was that by getting back to the blog, I'd also get back to renovating.

Hang tight while I continue to gird my loins. [Add that to the list of Things That Sound Dirty But Aren't.]

Here's a picture from way back. It is Throwback Thursday after all. It will give you an idea of the current style of the second storey, where the master bedroom is. Old. Plain. Untouched, except the floors which we refinished before we moved in. Yeah, that's it, it's a blank canvas!

December 7, 2014

Patio - condensed version

Remember this?   Ugh. When we moved in, it appeared that this addition to the house may have previously been used as a summer kitchen. There was a hoodfan and oven electrical outlet installed. Other features included leaky skylights, dark brown paint, moldy and stinky indoor/outdoor carpeting, and a floor made from old decking. It was dark, dingy, hot and stinky in the summer and full of everything we couldn't fit into the garage or the crawlspace.

So we tore it down:

That was good, because meanwhile, these had been delivered to the front drive:

Let's back up a minute. The teardown required a bobcat. You may remember that the summer of 2013 saw Calgary in the middle of a flood. It was tough going to find ANY equipment that hadn't been put to use helping with the demolition and repair of so many ruined homes.

Time and patience would be needed. If I needed any further convincing all it took was one walk for me to realize that my yard reno was nothing compared to the devastation that had to be dealt with around the city...and these shots from within walking distance of my house:

Blocks and blocks of houses had to be gutted

Muck and muck

All I need is a bobcat. You win. How can I help?

I know there were many things to be thankful for. But this still got to me. 

Our basement got a bit wet from all the rain, but in comparison to the folks impacted by the flooding river, we do not have a thing to complain about.

We were finally able to get a bobcat! He had to find the way in through the back yard, which was still pretty much undiscovered territory at the time:

It's a jungle out there.
That was okay, since we needed the bobcat to help clear a space for the new dog run too.

Back to the patio...loads of crush and gravel, and then loads of sand. Sloped away from the house just enough. Then we could start laying the pavers. Well, not really. First we had to rejig the pattern to get the most out of the ratio of brown to grey that we had ordered. 

The pavers are really interesting. They are installed on a grid system. Once you have your pattern worked out, then you have to figure out how to incorporate it in the square grids with enough overlap to the next grid so the whole thing is stable.
AZEK Pavers are the first composite material in the world made almost entirely of recycled content with the physical strength, durability and natural appearance to replace concrete. AZEK Pavers utilizes up to 95% post-consumer recycled materials (scrap tires and plastics), requires 94% less energy and releases 96% less carbon dioxide than the manufacturing of concrete pavers. - See more at: http://www.azek.com/products/pavers/standard-pavers#sthash.x3PEUTTF.dpuf

They look brick-like, yes? But no...these gems are AZEK pavers. Without wanting to sound like an advertisement for the company, they are made almost entirely of recycled material. 95% post-consumer. They use 94% less energy than manufacturing concrete pavers. Plus, they have just a bit more give than concrete if you fall on them. Again, ordered from my new friends at Lumber King.

And when you're all done the deck and patio...what you really need is a party. For that, you have to wait until the following summer when it finally stops raining:

For a bit of contrast, here is a photo from about that same vantage point, one year earlier:

December 2, 2014

Deck The Halls

You wouldn't think writing a blog was complicated stuff. I guess it's not. As long as you are in the mood. The mood almost struck, many many times over the last 18 months. Now that the bug is back, my test post yesterday went up and nothing blew up or bounced back and I seemed to remember how to do everything. So, it ought to be a simple enough matter for me to catch you up on the home renovation escapades of the last long while before diving into anything new.

Not so simple. I spent the last hour (plus one glass of wine and three times the "suggested serving" of buttercrunch chocolate) going through photographs from last summer, autumn and a good chunk of this year. Folks, there is no way to summarize the work. All the remembering has left me exhausted. Oddly enough, when people we know ask how the renovations are going, my usual response of late is, well, main floor is pretty much done, some work to do upstairs...  The looks I get! And sometimes the comments. Like how long is is supposed to take to finish? What the heck have you been doing?


You're getting the play by play.

Last year was "Year of the Yard" one year behind predicted schedule. It then morphed into this year too. First up, the deck. You'll remember from here that we were in the process of researching and deciding on deck materials, getting quotes from builders and that sort of thing. Then we decided we could do it. So we did:

Place Deck Here. Note dog in doorway. He has been waiting there since the
door was installed two years before.
Ignore the rebar and gravel on the far right. That's going to be a dog run, and it's a post for another day. Some time when you're in the mood for sad stories about deluges threatening freshly poured concrete.

I can't remember the exact logic behind the mini goalposts and string, something about making sure everything is square. Whatever, it worked.

Augering. It's fun. And not.
Words of advice when using a gas powered auger: don't get the thing so deep that your fingers are squished between the handles you're holding and the hard Alberta ground. It's really hard to back that sucker up. It's especially fun to yell at your partner that your hands are stuck but he can't hear you of the ear protectors he's wearing for the engine noise, all while you get lungs full of gas exhaust.. But hey, what's a few scraped knuckles for a good cause?

Before anybody goes all regulatory on me, I want you to know that this entire adventure was condoned by the city. I spent a couple of lunch hours putting together the permit application, including doing my own to-scale drawings. Works of art. I can say that because the inspector was very taken aback (quality, right?) and couldn't complain about a thing when I showed up at the counter to request a permit. He also gave me what I took as a compliment: "Well, it ain't goin' anywhere, is it?". No sirree. Those holes are very very deep. And full of concrete. And rebar.

Things that look rude, but aren't.
If you look carefully, you can see the dogs, still waiting at the door. They are some kind of patient. At this point we couldn't have them out with us because we didn't have the new fence in yet. In retrospect, we really did bite off a lot at one time. You'll see what I mean when we move on to the destruction of the sunroom so we could put a patio in. Because everyone needs 550 square feet of patio. Amen. But a post for another day. I told you we were doing stuff.

To be fair to Norm, I present you with the following, since the picture above might be looked at in a different light than intended:

Top View. THAT makes more sense.
What he is really doing is attaching the ledger board to the house. Very important, that ledger board. I'd like to tell you that we've been able to train Rory to take photographs. It would have saved me a lot of running in and out.

Then we built beams. Because of course you can't just use any ol' wood. Nope, you gotta make it. And if you are making it then there is no better person to visit than my new friend Dan at Lumber King. It has been a long time, but I was there often enough that he must remember the redhead that was a pain in his a** last summer. This guy deals with contractors and other people who know what they need, get in, get out. So, I brought my lovely drawings and my estimate of the materials we needed. Then Dan set me straight. We went out there a few times, and ended up getting our patio pavers from him too. He was busy enough that he didn't have to take the time, but he did. After that kind of straight-up honesty and helpfulness, I won't set foot in a big box store for lumber or decking.

Sandwiched 2x10s and plywood. Or thereabouts.

This permit didn't require an inspection until completion. But that didn't stop the dogs from supervising:

Gotham: Are we there yet?
Rory: Be patient, Grasshopper. Enjoy the sun. Oh, right, I've got it all.

Once you've attached the posts to the concrete footings (for the record, that sentence does no justice to what it actually takes to ensure posts are plumb) and hung the beams (another no justice sentence, right there), then you install the joists:
Gotham. Still there.

Note the lump of dog in the door. 

There ought to be an award for our dogs. It's like they were waiting for their long lost master to come home, the way they waited at that door and watched us. Every. Single. Minute.

Finally, a test run! Gotham isn't easily convinced, but Rory loves a sunbeam. The deck was done enough for him:
This works. I don't know about the rest of you people.

 Here it is, all framed and cross braced. Before we put the deck surface on, we wrapped every exposed edge with a waterproof membrane (not pictured here, but you can see it in previous photos already applied to the beams):
Must have been the dogs' supper time.

Oh right...we'll need stairs. One set here on the cutoff corner leading into the yard. the other set near the opposite corner going down into the future dog run:

And lest you think I do nothing but run in and out of doors taking photos, here is one of me. There could have been more. After all, who else would have fit in between the joists in order to hang each one? In this case, it's limberness more than size that was important:
Safety moment: don't let that latte fall on my head.

That worked out well.

Just to keep things interesting, I wanted the decking laid on the diagonal. You know, because that's how we roll around here. Remember this? Anyway, I just figured the outside living area ought to carry on from the inside. While we were at it, I also thought we should picture-frame the deck boards in a different colour. This made for some good times trimming the overhanging decking back so that one board width with the correct amount of overlap would fit exactly:
Keep it simple? 
If you're still with me, hang tight. Just a few more to go. Here are more official versions of dog testing:
"This appears to be a four-foot drop. Were you aware of this?"

Sun hounds. 

Glass railing on sides, wind wall (not seen here), and stair railings.Not too too bad to install. Had to do some blocking underneath (guess who fits under the deck?) to make sure there was enough material for the 6" bolts and screws that hold the railing to the deck.

And here you have it. This was September 28th, 2013. And I'm still tired.
Happily Ever After.  For now.

December 1, 2014

This is a test

Given that it has been 576 days since my last post, it seemed prudent to see how much things have changed on Blogger before investing the time in doing a real post.

This was only a test. If this had been an actual blog entry what you just finished reading would have been followed by official photographs, news or instructions.

Stay tuned.

May 5, 2013

And It Begins...

There is no turning back on the yard now.  We started cleaning out the sunroom (and I use that term lightly, it is hardly a sunroom) by pulling out the junk stuff and filling a nine cubic foot dumpster with it. Then we hauled out the so-so stuff and put it on the old deck. Stuff we don't want to throw out but I don't want to keep because we just do not use it anymore. Tomorrow pics of that stuff will go up on the intranet at work and we'll see if anybody is interested in a few freebies. In the meantime, here is the outside of the sunroom.

Bear in mind that this is AFTER stuff went into the dumpster. And here is what the inside of the sunroom looks like now, minus the kiddie pool.

This is why we need to build another garage. The sunroom has become the dumping ground for camping gear, bikes, ladders, unused skylights, golf gear... and we can't put them in the existing single garage because that is Norm's woodshop. No woodshop = no finishing work in the house. The alternative is to put things in the crawl space behind the boiler room in the basement, but the thought of having to hunch over and dig through this stuff anytime I want to go golfing? Not even remotely appealing.

The other thing that helped fill the dumpster within a day was the stockpile of wood in the dog run. Here's a bit of advice - if you aren't going to use it, don't haul it across the city when you buy a new house, and then cover it with a tarp for almost four years, and THEN throw it out. Norm will hate me saying that because I know there are plenty of times he has been able to fix something because he has had just the right piece or bit of something handy. Limit your bits, that's all I'm saying.

Once the wood was taken out of the dog run, we were left with this. PS: I should mention that Norm did 99% of that work.

The stump was here when we moved in. When the arborist comes to take down some trees for us next week, he'll grind this up. Which means we had to pry up the cement blocks around it. This is on the west side of the house, with lots of southern exposure. Don't put your dog run there. It will stink. See the things you can learn here? We will move the dog run to the east side of the house, so the dogs can get to it from the 'new' deck (see previous post by Rory). They'll be able to sunbathe on the deck facing south and west, and then go down some stairs to the east-facing dog run. Fresh poured concrete pad, 6 foot fence...

Oh, but first: have to tear out the old fence. And two maple trees. If you know anything about me you'll know that this is sacrilegious. Not much to be done about it though. I console myself with the knowledge that they aren't sugar maples so I we won't be interfering with the world supply of maple syrup. One tree interferes with the fence (as is and to be) and was poorly maintained as you can see:

The other has been hacked at over the years because it interferes with the chimney. Both have to go. On the plus side, we'll have maple wood for the fire pit and the smoker!

Yes folks, somehow THIS is going to be a dog run.

The other tree that needs to be taken out is one of the birches in the front yard, the one you can't see in the photo below. Okay, you can sort of see it, seriously cropped on the left. It has been dying for years, again poor maintenance. Birches have shallow roots and need to be watered, especially in a dry climate like Calgary. If they aren't then they are susceptible to birch borer beetles which is what happened to this poor tree. If I can, I'll salvage some of the long straight white branches and use them in the planters on either side of the garage door. I think in the fall, covered in little lights it will be a nice chance from the grass and flowers we put in there for the summer.

We'll replace this one, because it will leave a gap in the foliage when we look out the living room window. Don't know just yet what to replace it with. Decisions for another day.

April 28, 2013


So KP and Norm have been collecting wood bits. Well, they're not really wood but they're sorta wood. C-o-m-p-o-s-i-t-e. Because that will be better than wood. No sanding and staining means more time for dog walks, right? And there have been Strangers in the back yard dragging around their number strings. And papers all over the dining room table, papers that are q-u-o-t-e-s. Not dinner, which frankly, has me disturbed. Don't get me wrong, I'll eat paper any day but I much prefer dinner.

After weeks of this, it looks like KP and Norm won't be asking anybody to build the deck. Actually, after one deck guy saw the kitchen he wondered why they were even asking him for help on the deck. Then they wondered too. No rest for the wicked, they might build it themselves. Gotham and me don't care too much, as long as we have a nice big deck to sun ourselves on, hooked up to a new dog run with a concrete floor, and a new fence for the whole back yard.

I'm not sure why they are also looking at patio furniture. That might be going too far, all I really need is a comfy carpet in a sunny spot outside. But hey, if they wanna throw a couch into the deal I won't argue.

January 9, 2013

A Tale of Two Tiles

A little bit for everybody tonight. For the folks who need immediate gratification (and who were giving me grief about going out on a pizza date tonight instead of installing tile) there are a couple of photos below. For the folks who have the patience to read very long stories about mundane little details there's something here for you too.

No, the bathroom is not done. But here's an artist's rendering of the plan for the vanity. Artist is a loose term, since I did the drawing. It's a good way to communicate with Norm. I'm thinking of implementing it in other areas of our relationship. I'm kidding. I did the drawing to help explain what I envisioned for the vanity, backsplash and mirror type and placement.

 Here's where we are after the granite came today:

 We still need fronts for the cabinets and obviously the backsplash, sinks and mirrors aren't in place yet. And the whole rest of the bathroom except the tub and floor. But it's all proceeding according to plan.

Oh yes. Plans. Here's a tidbit. I think I've said this before, but no matter how much padding you add to your time estimate for a reno, you might as well resign yourself to the fact that it will take more time. Sometimes because of things out of your control, and sometimes, well, sometimes, you just change your mind.

We started this in November. And I use "we" lightly because how these things start is I get into demolition mode and put a deadline on things (like, oh, December 15th when people arrive for Christmas break) and poor Norm has to come along for the ride. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure he's a willing participant but he sure isn't the instigator.

In the case of the family bathroom we really had some incentive, because all three of the kids would be here at Christmas time and although one already lives in the city, the other two would be staying with us at 'home'. If the bathroom wasn't ready, all I had to do was contemplate the thought of two 20-somethings traipsing through the master bedroom to use the teeny ensuite to shower. As it turns out, that's what happened and it worked out okay. Didn't much matter, I would have had them home even if it meant using a porta potty.

The halt in progress this time around was partly self-induced. We had the flooring. We had the tile for the walls and tub surround. The granite was on order. We had the toilet, sinks, tub, faucets, light fixtures.

What we didn't have was an aesthetically pleasing way to come around an outside 90 degree corner with bevelled subway tile. Sometimes you just can't think of everything in advance. Having investigated (and even purchased) various trim options I just wasn't happy. Trying to explain this dilemma is likely best with some visuals. Don't worry, no more drawings. This is the - still not grouted - area behind the toilet. Okay, it's actually behind where the toilet will be. I firmly stand behind what I posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. It's always good to test in an inconspicuous area first (like behind the toilet), that way you can look around and see all the tiling you have left to do and wonder what the heck you've gotten yourself into. That aside, the thing you'll notice here is that these pretty, glossy, subway tiles are bevelled:

Photo enlarged to show texture. Actually, photo enlarged because it came from my phone and I cannot make it any smaller.

Going from one spot on the left, which will butt up to a tall cabinet, over to the right which butts up to the wall is not a big deal. Just means you need to establish how much cutting you want to do on each side so that things line up nicely. Norm is my official cutter. He does good work. I'm not a fan of porcelain shards or sharp blades turning at bazillions of RPMs, so my job is to measure, mark and install and grout.

Here's a cross section of what the tile looks like when you cut it:

Now, imagine trying to line this edge, or the much narrower finished edge, up to another tile as you meet at an outside corner like coming around the outside of the tub alcove. It doesn't make a nice, straight line for the corner. And no amount of trim or inserts will help this because of the bevel. We could have made do, used a lot of grout or whatever. But the ideal solution would be to find tile we could use as starter pieces that matched these 3x6 subway tiles - then we could still lay in our brick pattern starting at the corner and work our way out on each wall. One row would start with a full tile, the next row would start with one of these magical square tiles, not a cut-in-half version of what we were already using. In other words, we needed white, glossy, 3x3 beveled square tiles. Still with me?

You can find anything on the internet, right? Not right. Or at least not as easy as I can normally find what I want. After checking with my tile guy and pointing him to a distributor in Washington who said they had what I was looking for (but wouldn't sell to me because I'm not a tile seller) my tile guy gets back to me and says he can get them, but it will cost $9.60 each. I need 40 of them. You can do the math. No freaking way. And this is a 'deal' because he says he should really be charging me $15 each.

Just to be clear, he's not my tile guy anymore.

As it turns out, the place in Washington doesn't really have what I'm looking for anyway. That's another long and sordid story so I'll leave it out.

But wait. There's more. I finally find a line of tile called "Manhattan" that includes exactly a 3x3 bevelled white tile. YES!!! Interestingly, it's carried by a company in Berkley, California. I call them up. The good news is that they are happy to ship me 40 of the buggers. I really don't have any way of knowing if the bevels are a good match or if the whites match. Believe me, matching white tile from one manufacturer to another is living in a dream. But at this point I don't care because the cost of these things from California is $0.96 each. That's right. Ninety-six CENTS. I had her take a picture with her cell phone and send it to me because I just couldn't believe it. They looked pretty close so I decided to take a chance.

Here's the irony for you...just in case it wasn't ironic enough that the only place to get Manhattan tile is in California. The place in California gets them from a place in Delta. That's right, Delta. Like in British Columbia. At 1,294 miles or 2,082 kilometres Berkley is twice as far from Calgary as Delta is. Besides, Delta is in the same country as I am. So a smart, patriotic and somewhat environmentally conscious consumer would call the distributor in Delta and buy direct or find out where they distribute them in Canada. Turns out they don't have any more of them. And the one Canadian place they say they distribute to claims they don't carry them. And I don't have a tile guy to buy them for me anyway. Whatever. The California place was incredibly good, and the tiles arrived exactly when promised.  We paid $38.40 for the tiles. $30 for shipping. And $20 for customs/brokerage for UPS. Seriously, customs duties to bring tiles back IN to the country.

Here's to hoping this weekend will be free from snags and spent installing lots and lots of tile.