Sunday, November 3, 2013

Start of the bathroom renos

We (being my dad and me - Kirk has completely stepped back from any decisions, based on being too busy with school and too nervous about the whole thing. Total faith. Or, more likely, total resignation) decided to build a temporary bathroom in the basement so that we once we start ripping the bathroom apart, we (being Kirk, David and me!) can still be clean. Pretty important that is. We're going to leave the toilet in upstairs as long as possible (for the middle of the night don't want to go down three flights of stairs pee runs) but if we can take out the bathtub and vanity, then we can get a whole lot done before the final take out of the toilet.

It has to be temporary because of the lack of ceiling height in the basement, which is also good because then we can quickly knock it together. It will come back out again once we've finished upstairs.

Yesterday, we purchased a few supplies, including a brand-new toilet from the Restore, which has a soft-close lid (fancy! and only $60!) and some cheap lumber. Today, Dad came over in the afternoon and we knocked up some shower walls and a toilet platform and hooked a lot up. Toilet needs water hooked up (but the sewage out works) and the plumbing for the shower needs doing, but that should all be done tomorrow evening. Then we can stand-up and shower for the first time since we moved in.  And no more rain in the kitchen when hubby is showering upstairs (and no fear of the bathtub ending up in the kitchen).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Uh Oh... time to move up the bathroom/kitchen reno!

Since the day we moved in, we've wanted/needed to do something about the bathroom. See this post for the full down and dirty on it. 

However, the thought of reno-ing and living in chaos for a while doesn't please Kirk and living without shower or toilet at all doesn't please me!

So first option was to build an extra bathroom in the basement. Once that was done, we could do upstairs main bath at our leisure, since we'd have downstairs....

Except, we don't have enough height clearance. Regulations for renovations state it has to be a certain height, once the floors are in, and we just don't have that much space. Not off by much but enough that it complicates everything.

We also don't want to spend too much money on this house, as it isn't the house we will live in forever. Even if we do stay in Canada, we wouldn't want to stay in here. It is a solidly built, good starter home, but not a forever home, for us anyways.

So we've been debating how to do the bathroom upstairs, as quickly and minimally invasive as possible. We I started planning - looking at tiles yesterday in fact. I knew the kitchen ceiling would need to come down at some point to access the bathroom plumbing (and because it was waterstained in some spots. But getting home from the tile shop to rain falling in my kitchen was not quite was I was expecting.

Uh Oh.

The weird gap next to the bathtub and a big guy in a bathtub trying to get water over his chest because he feels sick and wretched = wet floor = water going through the floor into the kitchen ceiling.

I pulled down one section of the ceiling board. Water poured out. Ugh.  

I also noticed that the ceiling board was nailed to strips of pine placed OVER the original painted plaster ceiling. Double ugh. 
So the layers are as follows: Ceiling joists. Lathe strips. Thick plaster on the lathe strips. Green paint. Pieces of wood nailed into the plaster. Ceiling board nailed into those strips.  Oh my.

The plaster in the area where it leaked had obviously fallen down years ago and all came crashing down with the board. In the further half of the kitchen, it was fine, but it all needed to come down for when we replaced the ceiling.

So last night, my father came over and before I had a chance to put anything much away, proceeded to rip out my entire kitchen ceiling. It was dusty and messy but needed to be done. Once done, there was a 10 cm layer of plaster chunks on the floor, boards everywhere which I piled outside for a fire and fne plaster dust on everything. He left around 9:30 by which time we had the most of it cleaned and then I finished cleaning until 11:30. Actually the kitchen is probably cleaner than it has been for a while!

So we now have only joists exposed and we can now see the state of the bathroom plumbing. Old and not good (which we knew because of the sink constantly being plugged).

On top of that, we've found out we've got mainly old knob wiring. All of which will need to be replaced, otherwise we'd trip a fuse every time we turn on more than one appliance (esp once we add a bathroom fan). Plus it just isn't safe. However, since everything is exposed, it will be much cheaper and easier to run new wire through out the majority of the house. Which means a new electrical panel but better for resale too.

I'm not sure yet what the order of things is, but I need to design my kitchen soon, because the stack (for venting the sewage gases) runs behind the kitchen counters and so that will need to be accessed before I can reno the bathroom. Essentially it all has to happen at around the same plan.

I want to be as prepared as possible and have all my ducks in a row. A lot to do but once it is done, it will be awesome. Especially to finally have a shower in our house!!

You'll be hearing more about it very soon. I can promise you that! So much so that you'll be sick of it.

Wait, wasn't this once a running/getting fit blog?!...


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Under the front porch

It was a very dirty Sunday afternoon. As in, washed my hair three times and I still found a twig stuck in it when it was dry... I had spent the afternoon under the front porch sliding around on the sand under the beams.

I'm not planning on it being a regular thing or anything and I was REALLY glad there happened to be no skeleton down there (aka the opening of 'Bones' every week) but I was also really sad that previous homeowners hadn't forgotten any gold bars/coins/secret treasure down there. Nothing quite that exciting.

It was a bit exciting though. My dad borrowed my brother's concrete saw and took to the stucco with calm and power. I was petrified simply when he started it, so I am glad I didn't have to do it. I like my power tools but that was a bit much.


The house didn't fall down and in fact, we were very impressed with the quality of construction and the size of some of the porch beams. The stucco/concrete was about an inch thick and stayed perfect. Looks like it was built at the same time as the house, the way the main beams extend into the basement.

So why are we cutting out an access hole into our front porch? The floor gets cold. No wonder - no insulation at all and folks, we get snow, snow and snow and can get down to -40 C (though -40F is the same temp...). Even the last few weeks, with autumn making an appearance, the temp in the front room has dropped.

Yet we don't want to shut the front door (because it needs a window to let light in the front room. Trying to make the porch at least a 3-season porch instead of just summer seems like a good investment.

Now that we had cut out the concrete and taken out the boards, all there was left was to climb inside. It was incredibly sandy and cobwebby and dusty. We then measured the space between the joists, to cut the insulation sheets to match. I cut the first few and cut so crooked that I went in the hole and dad cut instead (which worked out well because his lungs had much more trouble coping with the dust).


We passed the pieces in, pressed them into the joist gaps and kept going. By the end, probably around 2 hours, we had done all the side walls and all the floor joists, with the exception of one small corner that was behind a beam because it was fairly impossible to access.

That was it for the more expensive insulation sheets and I was exhausted and FILTHY! My white bra, which was under my shirt of course, was brown. Completely brown on the outside.



Now the plan is for me to put a second layer on the floor ones with cheaper insulation (well free really, since dad had some left) and glue it to the first layer, as well as on the outer walls. Then seal off all the gaps with caulking, and it will keep out any cool drafts as much as possible. We definitely already noticed the difference on Monday morning which is so exciting.

For now, we've put the concrete back in the hole, held in place with a wedge of old wood. Once the inside is all done, I'll add to gate bolts, allowing access in future if needed, but caulk and paint around the hole so it isn't so obvious.

Hopefully one more day this upcoming weekend and then that's another job to be marked "completed" on the House Projects list.

Actually, I did resolve two further jobs on that list - I cut the holes for the deadbolt and lock on the front door a bit better, so they locked properly! And then I added the weather stripping around the front door... and now the door doesn't close properly... sigh...

Monday, September 9, 2013

The list of projects just gets longer, not shorter

When you buy an older house (1928 to be exact) for a reasonable price, you imagine that you are mostly happy with it, but there are a "few" things you'd like to change.

Then you start living in the house and you start jotting down the list of things that "would be nice". Which grows as you discover things that "need to happen" and another list of "really should do".

So lately, this project list gets longer and longer and right now, with hubby back at school after working for the summer, the dollars are getting tighter and tighter. Plus it is getting colder, so that isn't going to help.

Time to prioritise!

To me, the first priority would be keeping the heating costs to a minimum. Our furnace is gas and we are on equal billing. Meaning, based on the last occupant's bills, they guess that if we pay $63/month, it should average out between the cold months, the really cold months and the warmer months. Then in August, they calculate whether we owe them money or whether they owe us a credit.

This year, we moved in in April. And we had a freak snowstorm. And then another one. And then it just never really properly warmed up. Oh and there was a day in the middle of SUMMER when it didn't get into the double digits in Celsius ALL DAY!

So in August, after only a spring and a "summer" (in quotes because it hardly was one), we owed the gas company $3 for the month. This means that even though it was the warmest months, we used the gas enough to not be in credit. I extrapolate from that that we are going to owe them mega $ next August unless we can reduce our heating bill somewhat.

Try telling that to a homesick Aussie who hates the cold...

So the first step (other than turning down the heater whenever he isn't looking) is to insulate the floor of the front porch. We need the door to the enclosed porch open, since it is a solid door and the hallway doesn't get enough light. But the floor isn't insulated and it isn't part of the basement, so the cold rises. With the door open for the light to come in, the heater has to deal with a colder room and so it of course uses more gas and my gas bill goes up.

Right. Insulate the floor. Change the door to a door with a window, to let natural light in. See, from one idea to two projects in one go.

To get under the front porch is the next challenge. It is wood surround covered in concrete about 1.5 inches thick (3cm - how quickly you begin to think in inches, even though technically this country is also metric!). My plan is to cut an access hole on the far side of the front porch wall, climb into the space under the porch and attach insulating foam to the bottom of the floor between the joists.

I wrote that sentence very easy. Actually doing so will not be so easy nor pleasant. Hopefully no skunks inhabit that space...

I'll keep you posted. I may also create just created a House Project List page - helping to keep me on track and the extra joy of being able to cross something off. And I really will stop perusing Houzz.com and actually get projects done instead of looking at other projects and getting more ideas. Really. Who am I kidding, I so won't....

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Solid Door + ugly cabinets = awesome sewing desk

I'm writing this post sitting at my new desk, in a clean office and LOVING it.

Less words, more photos:


The answer is this:


I love it! The colours are totally my style, it's recycled, organised, was pretty cheap to create and makes me feel less stressed about actually getting started on a craft project. No need to haul everything downstairs to the dining table and then have it laying around for ages if, er when, I don't clean it up on time and shove it in the corner when we need the table for dinner... I digress...

The before was bad. Since we bought the house in April and tried to unpack some of our boxes, the materials had just been lying on the floor. My husband's desk (you can see the white edge of it) is on the other side of the room (perfect width for two desks) and I wanted some proper space in this room too - might as well get the most out of one space. Randomly, the little white door on the little built in cupboard is not actually on the frame and that's finally been added to the project list for this house!

before shots...

I'll go into all the details further down, because I'd have loved to had some details but I saw something similar on the Houzz website - it was a random house in Europe with a double set of desks like this, but using butcher block counters as the top (um, hello, expensive!). But I'll just quickly explain what I put in the drawers, in case you care...

The plastic boxes came from my husband - he used to store model trains in them until he figured out a better system.

I just tonight sorted out my fabrics into colours - these are mostly the fill fabrics for quilts - and behind the containers are all the fabrics that are patterned and the basis for any design. They are aching to be used and I'm now itching to get sewing!

For now, all my threads and such are in the cupboard next to it. The other side drawers hold all the big pieces of material and all my specialised materials. The top drawer holds scrapbooking papers / stickers / etc also all organised. Ready for card-making, which seems to be what I use them for the most.  I made a little tag for the basket on top of the cupboard which says Mending and I've got two work pants in there - hopefully enough to kick me into gear to get them fixed after more than 6 months!

I already had the two bulletin boards from a yardsale and they were being well used as dust collectors laying on top of the fridge of all places. The buttons are in Australian instant coffee jars and I love them! Before we moved, I spent ages sorting them and putting them on ebay and they didn't sell and now I am so glad. They are my collection from over time but mostly come from my mother-in-law's collection that I inherited gladly. I love buttons!

So, if you care how I did it, read on! If not, thanks for reading thus far!

solid (fir apparently), found on kijiji
(Canadian version of craigslist)
for $20 
$5 each from Habitat for Humanity's Restore.
Love that place!
Make sure you choose two that are the same height -
they usually are but not always.
New handle for the one drawer - $5 Home Hardware

I used Rustoleum green paint to do the cabinets - can cost maybe $15, though I did prime them first, and I still have about 1/2 can left.  I primed even though it said I didn't need to, I did notice that where I didn't prime because I ran out, like on the drawers, the paint comes off easier, so I'm glad I did. I don't know what type of primer I used, it was a can of grey automotive primer spray, also cost $15. Toxic stuff. I just used a cheap brush to put the green paint on, so I didn't have to wash them and threw them out instead. There goes any environmental cred I had.

Once the primer had dried, I painted the cabinets. Since I had enough paint and since I wasn't sure if they would always be used this way, I painted all the sides, including the insides and the top and back, which you can't see right now. I wish I had painted the drawer insides either better or not at all (you can see it in one of the photos above).

I figured a shelf would come in handy, plus one of the drawers was a bit rusty on the inside, so I cut a piece to fit inside and it simply rests on the track for the drawers - nice and tight. I popped the wheels off with a bit of leverage with a screwdriver. I think longterm I'll get a real piece of wood, stain it the same colour and add a lip so you don't see into the bottom drawer, but for now this piece of laminate will do ($2 from the Restore). The box sitting on the shelf is a shoe box with some paper stuck to it and I used some transfer letters to spell "bits & pieces" - it currently holds some random scrabble letters left from another craft project, some cording, some interfacing, etc.

At the same time (this whole project was off and on over a month or so but I bought the items a while before...) I belt sanded the door. I debated stripping it but I didn't have any stripper left and was frankly sick of stripping after the bookshelf in my front room. I borrowed my dad's belt sander and it took longer than I thought, especially because it kept gumming up with the stain that was coming off, which I'd pick off. I probably also wasn't as done as I should've been and I think you can see that a bit in where the stain coloured slightly differently, but on the other hand it adds interest and I am really happy with the new, not so orangey, colour.

Where I took the handle off the door, my plan was to use that space to put cords through, which I've done. Had a bit of trouble doing that smoothly (leaning against a tree might not be the best workspace...) but am really happy with it now after spending more time on it in a slightly better location (on the ground behind the house, propped up on some boards!!) I really, really need a workspace!! (We have an old shed, that doesn't have power or lights and only two tiny windows. I did paint out there but not much else.


Then I had to contend with the hinge spaces on the front side of the desk - the hinges were inset so there was an ugly gap. So I used my table saw and cut about 1/2" off. Except that left a groove in the door (due to the way the door was built).  Hmmm, how could I fix that?!

I looked for various trims I could face the front with. I instead bought a roll of wood veneer "pine" cut a strip the right width and glued that (with some difficulty) to the door facing - remembering that the door handle goes near the wall, so the front facing is the whole width of the desk and what you see. It didn't stick perfectly (I don't have clamps) but did enough for me to stain and seal it and just tonight I added a few brad nails with my staple gun to keep it in place. No photos of any of those steps, but it is pretty straightforward.


Assembly - Easy!! Carry 3 pieces up the stairs, place the filing cabinets guestimate width apart and lay the table on the top. Move the cabinets until they are aligned on the edges and done!

Due to the weight of the door, I don't need to attach the cabinets to the door, this is not going anywhere. Bonus is that it will be easy to move if needed!

It is solid, slightly high but I'm tall and perfect for crafting (or typing blog posts tonight). So excited to get sewing in the next few evenings! 

Approximate Total cost = $50 (inc handle, paint. I had 1/2 cans of stain left and polyurethane from the bookshelf project)

Now all we need is a second office chair (current one is from Restore... see I told you I love that place!), so that we could both be in here at the same time if we want.

Editted - I've shared this post on a few different blog link parties, so if you are visiting from Not Just a Housewife or from Too Much Time on My Hands, welcome!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Front room is finished!

Our house has a little windowed enclosed front porch that is great when the weather is nice - you can see it is the whole width of the house right off the front door - this photo is from just after we bought the house (apparently I haven't taken many photos of my house since?!)

It is full of windows but unheated and so is very cold in winter - we'll be leaving the door between this room and the rest of the house closed all winter to prevent the cold from cooling down the whole house. The windows are two single panes, so that doesn't help, but right now, redoing windows in this room is probably the least of our worries!

Anyways, I'm finally ready to "reveal" it! (Basically means that I got around to finishing all the projects and taking some photos!)

It was already painted when we bought it by the previous owners (the owners before had it bright bright bright yellow, which is still evident in a few tiny places) and I quite like the colour scheme that it now is (even though normally I wouldn't be a fan of painted wood trim.

The blinds are all a really good quality thicker style white venetian blind, that we think are worth a bit of money, so happy to have had those included in the house.

In the last few months, all the pieces have come together.

We had the little table set from a friend of my parents - perfect for our family of three for breakfast or dinner on a summer day - much brighter than our regular dining room.

The striped chair in the corner was a $5 auction win a few weeks ago and is in almost perfect condition (price started at $20 and kept dropping and I put 1 bid in at $5 and no one bid against me!). Unfortunately, it looks more comfortable than it actually is and the material feels a bit plasticy, though if your feet are up, it's pretty decent. Heck it's $5 - if I only keep it for a month and sit in it each day, it's earned its keep!

The low green bench was another auction purchase for $2.50 at an auction just after we bought the house. I wrote about it how I changed the cover here which also has a better photo of it.

The wooden bookcase (photo further down) was bought for $5 at the Habitat for Humanity bookstore - see the "before" photo below - boy was it garish! I didn't want to repaint it, because it was really chipping off. So I had the (somewhat regrettable) bright idea to strip it - which ended up taking a very long time and made me go through 2 cans of stripper. I'm not over the moon with how it turned out but I definitely like it better than the original! I also have NO IDEA what was up with the cage-thing on top of the bookshelf. The only thing we could come up with is a stuffed animal holder? It is still sitting in the basement awaiting an idea for repurposing.
The only wall space holds a photo taken by a friend in Australia, that I matted in a recycled wood frame. You can also see the big window into the living room, which allows lots of light through.

I've now filled the bookshelf with random books, mostly larger coffee-table style books, and I'm happy with it.


I learned a lot from doing it - I learned that next time, when they suggest wood conditioner is important before staining, I'll believe them! (In the store, there was a piece of wood that showed with wood conditioner before staining and without - and parts of the bookshelf are exactly as the without sample).

I also learned that wood filler, even though it says "stainable" is not really stainable - it does not stain the same as the surrounding wood. The bookshelf had edging on the front lip of the shelf and I filled the little holes and now all of those patches are slightly lighter than the wood around. Likely would've been better off leaving them as tiny nail holes.

Overall though, I'm happy with the room! It looks a bit crowded (that striped chair is probably not the right thing for that corner) but it works for me for now. The gray colour is not something I would've chosen but I definitely like it despite that (and it is definitely "in" - I see it in all kinds of different design images) and same with the white trim.

I think the next big project (this was not really a big project, just a bunch of small ones) is a brand new bathroom in the basement - we've been hacking away at the plans/ideas/budget for this for a while now and I think we've come up with a pretty great plan. Executing it will be a different matter, but boy will we be excited to have a shower and a second toilet in this house!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Our bathroom - the reveal and hopefully soon the "before"

The house we bought was built in 1927 and has obviously had some work done to it to help maintain or revert back to it's original character. For example, you can see a line of old nail holes on the living room floor where carpet had been previously nailed down and the hardwood is nicely polished.  Other aspects were not treated as well. Almost every possible bit of wood trim is painted and usually not that well, so it's partly chipping off. We also have lovely popcorn ceiling in most of the rooms.

There is so much to do. Being that I am married to a guy who barely tolerates all my projects that I start and don't finish (fair enough), with this house it will be all planned, bought and ready to go before tackling any projects.

Not that I need a perfect house. But I would love to love this house back to some glory. And a shower wouldn't be a bad thing either.

I've been content with much as is (for now - and it has only been a month or so) which also means I haven't been taking a whole lot of photos.

However, this morning, a drop from above in the kitchen meant some plans may need to happen sooner than later and I have to start setting aside money and getting plans ready for a refurb...

... before this cast iron 1920s bathtub lands in our kitchen... which also needs redoing but definitely not under those circumstances!

The towel on the floor is there to soak up water from "showers" since this is the extent of our washing capability - only a tub and no option to stand in the tub, since right above it, the roofline slopes, which you can see.

My husband is a big guy. Heck, I'm not small. To say it is awkward without a shower would not be overstating anything. Surprisingly though, neither of us is complaining too much (give us time) and I am loving being able to bath in a deep bath.

So this morning, he "showered" (there is a handheld attachment on the taps) and then while we made breakfast thereafter, we got some drips. So drips got through 10 layers of lino (from a rough guess). Here's hoping the floor is not rotten...

Aside from that wonderous story, there are many other great reasons why I want to redo the bathroom:

  1. The lightswitch is outside of the bathroom, in the hall. You can see that in this photo. The lovely light plate is pretty awesome too. And even more fun, if the light switch is off, the power plug doesn't work. So no nightlight. No shaving during the day with the light off.
  2. There are two types of lino, at three different levels. Dunno. Can't explain that one.
  3. There is no shower.
  4. There are exposed pipes in the corner next to the toilet. The big waste pipe apparently collects air from outside to help it work but why it isn't blocked in all the way down? Not sure.
  5. The lights flicker when someone walks in another room. Oh and the lights are brass and oh so ugly.
  6. The vanity is the size of a small car. It is painted strangely in a deep green base coat with white splatters and is probably heavier than the cast iron tub. It is also waaaaay higher than normal. My 5 year old is much taller than average and he can't reach the taps or even spit into the sink. So he sits on the vanity to brush his teeth. At least we don't have to worry if it could hold him up. If we ever get a severe storm here, I'm hiding in that. Speak of the inside, it is so big it is almost un-useable because how can I organise all that space? So yup, I just leave all my crap on the top of it. And don't even try to hide that when I take pictures.
  7. The curtain is hemmed really badly by someone who tried to hand sew without knowing how to hand sew. I notice this every time I sit on the toilet. But the view is good!
  8. There are no towel rails, so we randomly hang towels on whatever nail in the wall or door frame we can.
  9. The bathtub taps need to be tightened so hard to stop them
    from dripping that you can hardly undo them later. The shower attachment bit is held on with a hoseclamp and not too successfully.
  10. The bathtub needs refinishing so that it doesn't look dirty all the time, even when it isn't. Luckily that doesn't drive me mad, but it makes Kirk crazy!
  11. The tiles were originally pink. Then someone painted them blue. Then the off-white they are now. How do I know this? Because they didn't do a very good paint job in all places and sometimes, like around the toilet paper holder, you can see all three colours. Awesome!!
The bathroom has one saving grace though - the register cover is one of the few (only?) originals and is amazing. I would redesign the whole room around the register cover. And yet you never get to see it because it is hiding behind the door. Which is also not good for heating this place in winter. 

So for now, I'm stalking a new blog that I found where they are remodeling a 1890s house and her bathroom is amazing (except they must have a few more $ than us - but that vintage style shower fitting on the link to her blog's bathroom page is soooo gorgeous) and looking on Houzz.com - consider yourself warned at how easy it is to get sucked into that site!

I'm thinking white subway tile walls, moving the tub into the linen cupboard a bit, heated tile floor, maybe moving the door or reorienting how it opens (?), and putting in a skylight in order to put in a shower that we can actually stand in. Bear with me while I deliberate, do up a plan and a budget and then cross all that off to do probably, well, nothing because of lack of funds!

I'll explain the linen cupboard and the rest of the upstairs soon!