Thursday, December 3, 2015

Closer and Closer to a Finished Product

I haven't posted in a while, so I have quite a few updates. First thing I'll mention is that I have almost all of my appliances! The only thing left is the fridge, which will arrive tomorrow!

The garage is still ongoing, and seems to be the biggest issue thus far. The subcontractor that was hired to build the garage still has not fixed the leaking and improperly installed eves troughs that he was supposed to weeks ago. And when I asked him to install the board below the garage door (which will seal the door to the floor until the infill concrete is poured in the spring) he instead adjusted the door to sit on the concrete, which presents two problems: it doesn't sit flush on the right side due to a grading problem on the old pad and when he lowered the door it bent the lower wheel off the track. Couple that with a garage that should have been done months ago and you can understand my frustration. Needless to say this guy is a total deadbeat in my eyes and shouldn't be allowed on my property. At least the other people working on the garage are doing their job: Don insulated and poly'd the inside, and the mechanical company should have installed the gas line and garage heater yesterday (I will check it tomorrow).

A couple weeks ago the contractors finished installing the new windows, just in time for the cold snaps that immediately followed. The insulating value of the new vinyl windows compared to the old aluminum ones are going to save me some money on my heating bill. And the basement cracks have been repaired! I did my best to follow that up by sealing around the beams that are set in the foundation with caulking, which made a big difference around the main beam, which had a nasty draft running in through the gap.

I've been plugging away on the painting, bit by bit. I never appreciated how long it can take to paint the interior of a house! The kitchen and master bedroom are finished save for one more coat on the edging, which should take less than half an hour to complete. The flooring company came to measure the floors for the tile and carpet, and said they needed the old floor tile along the perimeter of the room removed to fasten the carpet down to the floor, which could be a problem if those tiles contain asbestos, which is very likely given their age. I should find out tomorrow what is happening with that. I'll also be meeting with the electrician soon to figure out the particulars of wiring in pot lights and installing the new electrical sub panel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Leaky Toilet Blues

Lately my work on the house has been mainly shifted towards painting the upstairs, which is sort of a time sensitive affair given the flooring should be installed within the next couple weeks (the sub floor is already in). My mom, sister and brother in law have been helping me, and their time has been invaluable. I never realized painting would take as long as it does. So far we have the master bedroom and kitchen painted, and the two other bedrooms are almost all primed and ready to be painted; I just need to choose a colour for them. The hallway will have to wait until the old phone alcove is drywalled and mudded.

This week had an unfortunate surprise in store for me: a leaky toilet. I had known it leaked before, but the contractors insisted on keeping it in the house for the guys to use, so they fixed the leak. Or so I thought. What the last people hadn't done prior to me discovering this mess was make sure it didn't keep running, which it had a tendency to do since the flapper wouldn't seat properly unless it was attended to. So it leaked all over the place, into the basement and down the outside wall. So far it doesn't look like there was any permanent damage done, everything should dry out fine. Disaster averted, but these can be the headaches of dealing with contractors. 

As for other developments, I got a good deal on the dishwasher I wanted, so the only appliance I have left to buy for the kitchen is the microwave. I found a good deal on the washer and dryer combo I want, so I'll pick those out tomorrow. As for the garage, it's pretty much done! All that's left is for the electrician to hook up the power to the breaker, and the plumbers will hopefully be running the gas line and installing a heater in the next week! The company that is repairing the cracks in the foundation is coming on Friday, and I found ANOTHER one for them to fix, which brings it up to 4 cracks. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Prelude to Paint

As of this weekend the upstairs will be good to paint! I don't know why, but I find picking colours for my walls the most stressful thing I've had to do on this house so far. Maybe it's the huge variety of decisions and the magnitude of the impact a wrong colour can have on a room. Or maybe I'm blowing it out of proportion. Maybe I'm losing my mind.

This weekend I sanded down the door frames so we can re-use them instead of spending extra money to install new ones. There is a good scuff on one and we may have to replace it, however, but one is better than all. I was going to keep the original door frames but a door style I saw at a show home caught my eye. I won't spoil it now with pictures; if I buy them, I'll post a few. The garage is going by a little slower than I thought, apparently the contractor has given his subcontractor shit, and when I showed up today the electrical outlets were wired in, but the one I wanted on the front of the garage was not installed, so I'll have to raise a little hell tomorrow. Such are the trials of renovations, I suppose.

The basement is coming along nicely. I have one small sheet rocked wall to remove and some small 2x2 framing, which will be replaced by 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 to accommodate more insulation, as well as pink styrofoam vapour barrier against the concrete so I can avoid moisture problems in the future. Once the contractors cut the water lines and install valves, that old shitballs shower can come out, too. Brian also brought in a mechanical company and they gave the furnace a tune up, so it can run for the meantime without the danger of sending my house into outer space.

When all of that is done, I will start chalking lines down for a layout, which will allow me to draw up a floor plan in order to apply for permits and start slashing that bureaucratic red tape with a machete. Or something more construction related, like a skill saw. No, sledgehammer. Smashing red tape, yep. I think the permits could end up being the most difficult part of this house, but I'm being optimistic about it and taking steps to bring the whole house up to standard before I even start an application. For instance, saw cutting out the windows in the basement to make them larger in order to meet fire code for a basement suite. Doing these little things now, such as while the windows are being replaced, could end up saving me a decent amount of money in the long run.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Walled Walls and Singed Eyebrows

The upstairs is starting to take shape. My friend Andrew and I ran some cable and internet wires into the upstairs bedrooms, and I wired in an HDMI cable between the office and master bedroom, so if I ever desire to have a TV in my bedroom, I can hook it up to my computer. The day after we did that, the contractors reinstalled drywall in the bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen and did the taping and mudding.



The interesting part of the week was when I went to light the old Airco furnace. You can tell by the photo (furnace in this photo is not mine), and even simply from the badge, that this furnace is ancient. Definitely the original furnace from when the house was built. Since I'd had the gas off for quite some time, I had to blow down the line to purge the air once I realized the pilot wouldn't light. I don't recommend anyone do this by themselves, you could potentially cause an explosion if you're not careful; I work in a refinery so I have experience with this type of work. Once the pilot was lit the burners kicked on fine and the furnace seemed to be working normally. I went upstairs and cranked the heat up to see how the cycle performed, and when I went back downstairs the burners were blowing gas but not igniting. And just as I said to the contractor they're not igniting, they ignited, and shot a fireball right into my face, which was still a good few feet from the furnace. My eyebrows and eyelashes are a little shorter right now. Needless to say, this old piece of shit is not going to be restarted again. After all this work on the house, I don't need it to explode.

So hopefully a furnace company will be coming in to look at replacing it ASAP, as the weather is getting colder by the day. This wasn't really a planned thing so it is a little bit of an inconvenience but hopefully it all works out. As for the rest of the basement, I removed the moldy wood and sprayed Concrobium on everything, so a couple days of being circulated with a HEPA air mover and it should be good to be called remediated!

On another side note, but yet an important event in my life, a couple weeks ago Leandra and I decided to go our separate ways. It's sometimes true in relationships that because they look good on paper doesn't mean they are meant to last, and unfortunately this was the case. We parted on good terms and are still friends, so I'm happy about that. And the silver lining is I'll have more free time to work on this house!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The First Appliance

I don't know why, but above all other appliances, I have been on a serious hunt for the right refrigerator. Because it holds beer, maybe? I wanted a french door model, and had eyed up a good LG that was on sale, but alas the width wouldn't allow it to fit in my fridge space and open properly, because of the wall. So this morning I decided on a GE:

It's a new slate finish, which I will also buy other GE appliances in (I'll order the range tomorrow), in order for my kitchen to match. But as I'm in no immediate rush, I'll wait a bit to see if some sales happen. The fridge did happen to be on sale at Leons, so I took that back to Home Depot and got another 10% off the sale price! Booyah!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Taking Shape

A LOT of work has been done this past week. First off, my man cave is taking shape. They have the frame up and had just started sheeting the exterior on Friday. I'm crossing my fingers that today's 100 km/h winds didn't scatter their unused plywood all over the neighbourhood. The garage structure should be finished by next week, and hopefully another week to have the gas line plumbed in, the 100 amp electrical wired from the house, and the interior insulated and drywalled. All in all, this 26 x 26 beauty is going to be one hell of a man cave!

The contractors also brought in a concrete company to remove the concrete foundation that supported the old deck. The way they had poured it back in the day was way overkill; a one foot concrete perimeter around the entire deck complete with six inch diameter footings. And it looked ugly as shit. But it's all gone now! The plan next year is to replace those areas (and the entire yard) with sod and build a flagstone patio. with a fire pit on the end. Another piece of good news is that the ground underneath the deck was layered with pebbled rock, so I can salvage that and use it as liner around the spruce tree, making it look a lot nicer than it currently does.

As for the interior, the contractors have demolished the bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen. The water damaged wall is a bit of a tricky issue: the rotted 2x4's cannot be removed because there is a layer of old stucco on the exterior of the house that was never removed, instead they installed vinyl siding over it, so the stucco is fastened to the house by staples in said 2x4's. If we were to removed them, it would mean another $5k of removing and reinstalling the exterior of the home. Instead, we're going to dry everything out, liberally apply mold killer, replace the crown and part of the floor, and reinforce that wall with new 2x4's, making everything guaranteed to be structurally sound. I knew there would most likely be complications, but 15 years of water leakage guarantees that.

As for this coming week, the concrete people are supposed to show up to fix a crack in the foundation, the granite counter-top company is coming in to measure the counters and give me a quote, and I should be finished the basement, which can facilitate finishing the mold removal in time to kick on the furnace just before mother nature brings the frost!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


The opposite of construction, which has been the definition of work at my house over the past few days. Not in a bad way, of course. On the contrary, destruction was necessary to facilitate construction. And that's what I've been doing. On Sunday, after a morning spent watching Rugby at the pint and drinking Guiness, my bro-in law, Scott, and I demolished the oversized, rotten deck attached to my house. When I say rotten, I mean it. Quite a bit of it literally disintegrated under the blows of a sledgehammer. So much so that my back yard is now covered in bits of rotten deck wood. It did, however, make it a lot easier to dismantle, taking us just over two hours instead of the four I figured it would. I took a time-lapse video, once I get it uploaded to YouTube I'll post it.

And as for the inside of the house, demolition revealed this nastiness:

The top picture is mold caused by water leaking in through a crack in the concrete foundation, which will be repaired hopefully in the next two weeks. The latter picture is what we found when the contractor removed the west wall that runs along the back of the two main floor bedrooms. While that wall is bad, and some studs need to be removed, it's actually better than I thought. No floor boards or joists will need to be removed, and the contractor is going to reinforce the wall despite being confident that it's still structurally sound. While the mold in the basement looks bad, removing it won't be difficult or problematic since the entire basement is being gutted anyway.

So progress is being made. The window company will be replacing the windows and cutting larger ones into the basement bedrooms to facilitate a secondary suite, I am supposed to be meeting someone soon to get a quote for granite counter tops, and once the mold is removed I can kick the furnace on and count the days until that ancient tank of a unit is replaced by a newer, high efficiency one!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Asbestos Off!!

The first week of renovations in the new home has so far went pretty smoothly. The contractors I hired to do the roof are almost finished. I did catch them nailing down the new roof to rotten fascia boards, but got on them about it, and they started replacing them. There was less water damage to the trusses than I thought there would be; a couple might only need an inch or two cut off the end, not a big deal.

I got to do the fun stuff this weeked: asbestos abatement! Being that the home was built in 1964, during the years that asbestos was not known to destroy your lungs and therefore was used in a ton of building materials, I have a lot of it in my home, ie the popcorn ceiling, drywall mud, linoleum flooring, etc. Luckily most of it is totally fine and avoidable; the linoleum can be floored over, but the popcorn ceiling and drywall in the basement had to go, mainly because of water damage. So in order to do that half of the basement needed to be contained with poly sheeting. I spent Thursday and Friday doing that.

I enlisted the help of my friend, Pete, who has worked for our friend Walter, who runs a contracting company in Vancouver that specializes in asbestos abatement, who hooked us up with a care package full of Tyvex suits, positive pressure masks with filters, and gloves. We spent all of Saturday and half of Sunday wetting down the ceiling, scraping off the popcorn material and ripping down the drywall ceiling. This turned out to be a really good move, given the shoddy orientation of the drywall layout, and it's removal allowed water that had leaked in through the roof and into the ceiling to dry out and hopefully slow down any potential mold growth.

So that brings me one step closer to having the basement completely bare. Next weekend I will work on ripping out more walls to expose the foundation and search for any more cracks that will need repair, and I'll most likely tear out the back deck. My contractor will start demolishing the wall upstairs to reveal the damage that is likely to be there, but given how things haven't turned out to be quite as bad as I thought they would, maybe I'll get lucky and just be dealing with replacing studs. Fingers crossed. Overall it was a very productive weekend, and I owe Pete and Walter big time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Back By Popular Demand

I haven't posted here in a long time. I had a plan to use my Tumblr account to create a professional looking travel blog for advertising my photos for my photography business. While it was, and still is, a good idea, I need this blog to be able to be myself. The stories of getting the shits or robbed by prostitutes must be told, and this blog will always be the place for them, a place where I can pour my vulgar thoughts on the world free from fear of ruining my professional image. Professional image, who would have thought I would ever worry about that? Fuck, I'm getting old.

Ok so update: so far 2015 has been a great year. And there's a lot to tell, so grab a drink. First off, I took six weeks off in February and March to do more exploring in Southeast Asia. I hit the mysterious Myanmar, did a short stopover in Malaysia, and finished the trip stomping around and scuba diving the islands of Indonesia. I won't spend too much time telling a story that has already been told, instead I will redirect you to my photoblog:

While I was on my travels I received an email requesting an interview for a job I had applied for within my company. When they found out I was on holidays they waited four weeks until I got back home to interview me, and subsequently gave me the job. I now work in Fort Saskatchewan at a fractionation plant, which basically makes ethane, propane and butane from natural gas liquids. Taking this position has so far greatly increased my technical knowledge of oil & gas operations, and will be of great benefit to my career. And it has also allowed me to enrol in a 4th Class Power Engineer course through NAIT, the first half of which I completed last month!

In April I met and fell in love with a girl named Leandra, who has been a pretty great addition to my life so far. She has been to as many countries as I have, has live abroad for years, and has plans (also like me) to see a lot more. We've had a great summer of camping and hiking, which have included a short camping trip to Crescent Falls, a two day backpacking trip into Willmore Wilderness Park, and a recent long weekend camping trip to Rock Lake.

And now the most recent development: I bought a house! In July my Baba (grandma to you white people) ended up in the hospital after an infection drove her blood sugar through the roof. She had a quick recovery and was back to normal in a week, but it was obvious to her and the family that she couldn't live alone in her home anymore, which had fallen into serious disrepair. I had had it in my mind for quite some time that I may try and buy it with the intention of fixing it up and living there. So I hopped to it right away and had a home inspection done. The result: not good. My initial estimate of $100k of repairs all of a sudden became $200k+ with the discovery of the roof leaking into the entire side wall of the home and into the basement, creating a mould issue. With the house in that condition there was no way it could feasibly be sold on the open market, except for being listed as lot value only, meaning the house should be torn down. Given the neighbourhood and the current economic conditions in Alberta, it would have been a tough sell. Similar properties in that general area had been on the market for over six months.

I decided even though it was a daunting task, I was going to take it on. I agreed to buy it for a price that should put me in the average price zone for a home of that type, in that area, after the repairs. I set to work shopping around for a mortgage, and settled on Scotiabank, which seemed to have the easiest deal that was offered. Although it worked out in the end, it was not a pleasant experience. After three weeks of stress and yelling, I finally got them to approve the mortgage, and now I'm working on the house. I'm basically completely re-doing a home that has hardly been updated since it was built in 1964, so I have a huge job ahead of me that likely won't be completely finished until the end of next summer.

Today was the first real day of work on it. I tried removing the hot water tank, which had been leaking. I'm pretty sure it is original, and fifty-one years of use had made the fittings on it unmovable. It took me two hours, smashing my hand on the regulator (followed by some swearing), and some MacGuyverage to disconnect the gas line. After two trips to Home Depot I realized I will need one more tomorrow morning to buy a cutting tool to sever the copper line outlet. After giving up on that I settled for the fun stuff: tearing down walls with a heavy duty crow bar.

I will keep updating this blog with photos as the project comes along. Sorry in advance if this travel blog temporarily becomes a home improvement blog.