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.