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:

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.