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“…a little becomes a lot”

Anonymous

A quick pictorial update on our renovations. This is where things stand after our wonderfully perfectionist dry-waller (and his partner) have spent a week and a half working on our walls and ceilings. What you can’t discern from the pictures is just how wonderfully smooth and silky the ceilings now are. The spaces immediately look larger and far, far cleaner than they did before.

Next up – floors throughout and tiling for the bathrooms:

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In the drama that is our ongoing renovation the first two acts are over and there is now a brief intermission before act three. The tearing out has been completed and the loaded bin (skip) of detritus has been hauled up onto its truck and trundled away. The new infrastructure has been installed; wiring, plumbing, gas, ventilation, sub-floors, windows and so forth…

We now stretch our legs gratefully and pop to the bar for a swift sticky whilst we await the fireworks of the cosmetic part of the project that start the second half.

The shell of the kitchen is ready for dry-walling and flooring:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe drawing room awaits its new ceiling and floor:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe bathrooms are also ready for the dry-waller:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidSome of the new windows have even been trimmed, though others must wait for further finishing:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidThe dry-waller comes on Monday to start on the walls and ceilings. The following week sees both the flooring and the tiling done and we will then be ready for the installation of kitchen cabinets and bathroom fittings.

All most exciting!

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The English boys’ school that was my penultimate place of employ before we moved to Canada is known for many things, not least of which is its plethora of distinctive customs and traditions. These are sufficiently extensive – and codified in such a unusual vocabulary – that the institution provides an extensive guide to its unique terminology for all new members of staff.

One of the minor (but particularly charming) traditions on the staff side concerns a ‘miserable Monday’ in November. In short, a long serving member of the school staff from times gone by bequeathed to the School a financial gift sufficient to provide – on one particularly miserable Monday morning each November – Madeira and Bath Oliver biscuits to be served at the morning staff meeting – ‘Chambers‘. The School Clerk is tasked with choosing the Monday to be so graced and the skill clearly resides in picking the most miserable of the days concerned. Of course, should one go too early there is always the possibility that the weather might get even worse later in the month.

However arcane this odd little tradition might seem to outsiders it had the effect of brightening not only the Monday concerned but, through anticipation, those that preceded it.

Talking of November traditions – now that we are resident on the far side of the planet we are beginning to create (as one does) our own customs and recurrent habits. As regular readers might therefore already be aware – if it is November it must be time for Barney Bentall and the Cariboo Express! As you can see I have extolled the delights of this particular evening’s entertainment before. Suffice to say that this year’s outing was equally enjoyable.

On a different (but also delightful) note, being a household currently without usable bathtubs – but being at the same time imbued with the British love of submerging ourselves for extended periods in hot water – we are delighted to report that our little hot tub is at last in action. For various reasons – having much to do with electrical supplies – it has taken far longer than anticipated to get it up and running. We finally ‘leveraged’ (bah!) our renovations to make things happen and we can now wallow under our new deck whilst the rain pelts down but a few feet away.

Cool! (or more accurately, hot!)…

Hmmm! I think I hear the tub calling now…

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Two weeks into our renovation project and good progress is being made – though not all such will be immediately apparent to the quick glance.

First appearances, for example, would suggest that the kitchen is practically unchanged from its state of a week ago – whereas in fact much has been done. The gas feed for the range has been run in; the plumbing for the sink and dishwasher laid on; the electrics for lighting, appliances and so forth installed; and the extraction facilities for the range hood put in place.

The kitchen is actually very nearly ready for the drywaller to come in and to make it look like a real room again.

Similar progress has been effected in the bathrooms, for which first fix plumbing, electrics and extraction have been completed.

At one point it looked as though we may have found ourselves waiting for more than ten weeks for the delivery of our bath tubs, such being the current shortage in north America of the model that we (and clearly others) have chosen.

Mine is the larger of the two tubs (I have expressed before my feelings regarding the diminutive size of many Canadian bathtubs) and we were concerned that it might prove difficult to source. As it turns out we were most pleasantly surprised when it was delivered within a couple of weeks of an order having been placed, enabling our plumber to crack on with the installation.

Acquisition of the other tub promised to be a more difficult proposition and I thought it a good idea to visit the other bathroom equipment wholesalers in Victoria to see if anyone had an alternative that would do the job. To my great delight the second supplier that I tried had in their warehouse one (and one alone!) of the very tubs that we were seeking. It was duly delivered the very next day and installed forthwith.

In addition to the above mentioned construction tasks good progress has been made with the stripping of the ‘popcorn’ from the ceilings and on the laying of a new sub-floor – that which had been uncovered during the demolition phase being deemed unsuitable on its own for the task of carrying our splendid new flooring.

There have been times when our humble abode seems to have been hosting an apparently never-ending round of tradesmen. Our contractor and his young accomplice (or two) are constants; the electrician and his two sidekicks have done a number of days to complete their first fix; the gas fitter and his mate have done likewise; the plumber has worked alone but is a large enough character that he more than makes up for it; and the roofer (who put in the extractor vents) came and went before I knew it.

Add to this multitude the man from the flooring company and the window supplier and you will get an idea just how busy the place has been. We have not yet seen the drywaller, the kitchen cabinet installers, the counter-top templaters (and installers) or the roof insulators.

What a merry throng; all appropriately dedicated – it would seem – to the creation of our splendid new home…

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIn the midst of last week Victoria was basking in pleasant sunshine with temperatures hovering in the mid teens Celsius. By Friday morning (at the point at which our kitchen ceiling and all of the insulation had been ripped out, leaving the main floor of the house open to the attic and the fresh air vents therein) the temperature had plunged to around zero.

On Thursday night a storm blustered its way across the Saanich peninsula and we suffered the first power outage of the season (the which lasted more than three hours!) as the lines were brought down by falling branches. When I was awoken in the middle of the night – by all of the lights coming back on – I looked outside to find the garden (yard) covered with a blanket of snow!

All of this caused no little consternation since I was due to travel to Vancouver on the Friday to join the Kickass Canada Girl (who had been participating in a work conference there) so that we might attend BC Place for the much anticipated rugby encounter between Canada and the Maori All Blacks. It was our further intention to enjoy a weekend of wild hedonism in Vancouver before slinking back – tail between our legs – on the Sunday evening. According to the forecast, however, the weather was clearly in no mood to co-operate with our agenda.

Further concern arose from the realisation that – as our retreat into the basement for the duration had been accompanied by the closing off of the heating vents on the main floor (along with the cutting of a temporary return air feed into the downstairs ductwork) – the heating thermostat, being yet upstairs, was faced with the futile task of trying to engender some warmth into what had effectively become an outdoor space, whilst in the process almost incinerating everything that was now below stairs. The only alternative seemed to be to turn the heating off completely and to let everything freeze. The thought of going away and leaving the house in either state for the weekend did not fill us with enthusiasm.

Fortunately – having some little experience with cabling – it was not a overly difficult task to disconnect the thermostat, to pull the cable back down into the furnace room in the basement (being careful to leave a draw-wire in place for later reinstatement) and to reconnect the thermostat temporarily to service the lower floor alone.

Mighty glad by the end of the (chilly) weekend that I did so!

The Maori All Blacks? Well – no unexpected tales there. They gave the nearly 30,000 strong crowd a great exhibition of the finer points of the game of rugby and Canada a lesson from which they should learn a-plenty!

And we had a great time…

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Being new to the whole concept of timber-framed houses I find myself on a steep learning curve when it comes to the business of the construction and – more pertinently – the renovation thereof.

My long career in IT brought me repeatedly, if somewhat unexpectedly, into contact with the UK construction industry. Wearing my networking hat (one wonders exactly what sort of head apparel that might be!) I was involved with a wide variety of new-build projects pretty much throughout. I became as a result familiar with the methods and materials used, be they brick, concrete, engineering block, steel frame etc, etc…

This is far from the first kitchen that I have renovated and I thought that I knew a fair bit about that which is involved. It is, however, the first such that I have done in a timber-framed residence. In a brick built house the norm is for the kitchen services (electricity, water, gas and air extraction) to be run behind or on top of the cabinets. Stripping out a kitchen or bathroom is simply a matter of removing the appliances, tearing out the units, making good any damage and then rejigging the services appropriately.

I was taken aback to discover, therefore, that in a timber framed house all of the services are run through the walls instead. Stripping out a kitchen or bathroom thus also involves tearing out the drywall (plasterboard) walls and ceilings along with any insulation, going right back to the bare stud-work. The rebuild thus essentially starts with a blank canvas and is done from scratch.

The images that accompany this screed will give an idea as to what is involved and comparison with my last post may startle the gentle reader as much as the real thing did me.

This first phase of the project – the demolition – has been mercifully quick. From here on in we start to play the longer game.

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Well – here we go! Renovation – part II…

Having spent the past two weeks packing up all of our worldly possessions – again – and setting up a ‘cosy’ living space in our walkout basement, we are about to hand the entire top floor of the house over to our contractor.

Scary stuff indeed – not least because right now it is not clear that all will be done in time for Christmas. There are so many balls to juggle – so many different plates to be kept spinning – so many… well – you get the idea…

So – farewell 1970s kitchen:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidGoodbye weirdly pink bathrooms:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidAdieu popcorn ceilings, variegated floor coverings and yet more pink walls:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidAnd in answer to the question – “Where did all your stuff go?“… here it is in our makeshift warehouse in the downstairs ‘family’ room:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

 

 

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid…before the other thing!

If it is October then there must be renovation in the air…

Good contractors are much in demand. Excellent contractors are really difficult to find and,  should one be lucky enough so to do, one must needs accept that their schedule will take precedence over one’s own.

Long before our contractor finished our shiny new deck back at the start of June we had started carefully lining him up to commence work on the interior of the house. October was the earliest that he could manage and even that has since slipped a little to ‘the end of October’.

Well – we have enjoyed a blazing summer on our lovely deck but the Fall is now upon us and the end of said month is rapidly approaching. Ergo it must be time to surrender ourselves once again to the joys of living on a construction site.

We have a number of immediate projects in the pipeline. Our kitchen urgently needs replacement. We have two bathrooms that require dragging out of the 1970s. We have flooring to update in a variety of areas and – worst of all – the entire main floor of the house is ‘blessed’ with what are know as popcorn ceilings – having been sprayed with that lumpy stuff that was once used willy-nilly to cover any sort of sub-standard plaster-work (dry-walling).

Being the cautious, somewhat methodical chap that I am I would very much have liked to have been able to run these projects sequentially, with adequate time for each to be fully completed before the next one were embarked upon. Unfortunately the hideous mess that inevitably ensues from the scraping of popcorn ceilings requires that that be done entire before any construction be commenced and certainly before any of the new flooring goes down. As the flooring will also run throughout that must be done at the same time that the kitchen is stripped out and replaced.

I was reluctantly forced to accept – with considerable squirming on my part – that the best way to proceed was to hand the whole floor over to the contractor for as long as it takes. We are fortunate in that we have a full walk-out basement into which we can move in the meantime. Unfortunately this will require packing everything up and moving it downstairs before the works can commence.

It will – of course – all be perfectly lovely once it is done. I will let you know how it goes…

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…read all about it!

Having returned from our trip up island we discover that our hummingbirds have grown dramatically – to the extant that they can scarce any longer fit in the nest (however expandable it might be). As they are not yet quite ready to ‘fly the coop’ they spend their time patiently sitting (apparently) one atop the other on the rim of the nest, remaining as still as possible to avoid attracting predators.

It can now be but a few days until they depart. Herewith a couple more (grainy as ever) photographs…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Now that our deck project is all but complete – bar a little making-good and top-coat paintery – I thought it might be interesting to have a final look at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images.

We are not only delighted to have removed the dangerously rotting structure that was an add-on on to the back of the original house – to our mind the whole look of the property has been significantly improved. We have added an excellent al fresco space (just in time for the weather to turn really nice) and have re-connected the house to the garden (yard) by the addition of the external staircase.

Interested to know what you think…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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