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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOne of the episodes of my youth that turns out to have been somewhat less misspent than I feared at the time was the year that I wasted on devoted to a business studies degree course. Apart from the startling (to me!) realisation that business management was not going to be my forte, I thought at the time that I had not gleaned much of use from the experience. In retrospect – of course – this turns out not to have been the case.

One of the topics on the course that I did find to be of use later was a brief study of Critical Path Analysis (CPA). This fairly basic tool (developed in the 1950s for use on large US defence projects) provides a simple method of keeping projects on track by means of an analysis of the dependencies of the various component parts and the subsequent plotting of the eponymous ‘critical path’ through a multitude of processes to derive the optimum timeframe for delivery.

Though our deck project can hardly be compared in terms of complexity (or indeed of anything else) CPA techniques do provide some useful insights. Allow me to elucidate…

Our new deck has been framed, but nothing further has been done this week. Our contractor is rightly reluctant to lay the plywood deck on the frame until the vinyl installers are ready to apply the waterproof layer on top of it. A large flat surface of exposed plywood would rapidly absorb the sort of rain-showers we have been experiencing of late here in Victoria.

The vinyl installers can’t lay the vinyl until the old sliders (patio doors) have been removed. This is because the vinyl must be run under the new sliders in order that they effect a waterproof seal. The old sliders cannot be removed – somewhat obviously – until the new ones have been delivered (unless our whole main floor is to be exposed to the elements!).

The new sliders and windows are now on order, but that could only happen once the demolition had been finished such that the manufacturers could accurately measure the apertures.

Finally, the cabling for lighting and sockets, the deck railings and glass panels, and all of the other bits and pieces of finishing can only be applied once the deck itself has been completed.

Ergo – a hiatus…

Nothing to see here folks (quite literally with regard to the current view from our drawing room – see image above!).

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If regular perusers of these periodic postings have been able to detect any particular theme prevalent therein, it would most likely relate to the improbability of any of the schemes or plans dreamed up by the Kickass Canada Girl or myself actually panning out the way that it was originally intended.

This week’s ‘retreat from Moscow’ concerns our as yet untried hot tub. The gentle reader may recall that the proposal on the part of our designer to relocate said spa to the end of our new deck had resulted in the requirement that we hire a structural engineer to ensure that the new deck could successfully carry the load. This in turn led to the requirement that the foundations be suitably enlarged.

It now transpires (the which became apparent once the old structure had been removed) that the wall of the house to which the new deck is attached at the point where the tub would be would also require reinforcement. This would have involved tearing out and rebuilding the outer wall of my studio and would – naturally – have added to the cost of the whole project.

‘Enough is enough’ – we cried. The tub goes down below!

Actually – now that we see how things are going to pan out – this is clearly a better option, giving more privacy and protection from inclement weather.

Decision made, our contractors powered ahead with the framing of the new deck. These pictures afford a pretty good idea as to how the whole will eventually appear.

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

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After the pyrotechnics of the first week of our deck renovation project – during which the sun-rooms and all of the rotten structure at the back of the house was peeled away – the second week was considerably less dramatic. Our contractors are, however, now into the first phase of the build – which is most exciting.

The first thing to be done was to replace the guttering and downpipes, as the originals had been on the outside of the sun-rooms. This task was carried out in about ninety minutes by a single Vietnamese installer, who thought nothing of swinging from a ladder twenty feet above the ground whilst manipulating twenty foot lengths of aluminium gutter.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidAlthough some of the existing footings could be built upon for the new deck, for the end at which the hot tub will sit it was decreed by our structural engineer that a deeper foundation should be provided.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidFoundations have been poured and left to set.

Next week the structure should start to rise above ground level.

The house looks 100% better already!

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On Monday last the good ship Dignity left us for a sabbatical with our friends in Saanichton…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
…so that her accustomed spot could be taken instead by a humongous ‘bin’!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhase one of our deck replacement project – remove the old sun-rooms and demolish the deck and spaces thereunder.

Click on the images for the big picture!


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


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


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

Now to start building…

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The gentle reader may wonder briefly why I am posting somewhat anonymous photographs of our sun-rooms. It shouldn’t take much brain-work to figure out the answer; very soon they will not be there any more!

We are heading off tomorrow for a brief break over Easter on Pender Island (more photos doubtless to follow) but on the Tuesday after Easter our contractor arrives to start work. It has taken a long time to get this far and you will be unsurprised to hear that we are impatient to get going.

The Girl and I wish you all a very Happy Easter…

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

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.”

Grace Hopper

Tempting as it often is to just go right ahead and do a thing (particularly if it is a stonkingly good idea) in this particular case no apology will after all be needed…

…because we have permission!

I refer – of course – to the outcome of our application for a building permit for our imminent sun room/deck project. Scarce had our structural engineer yesterday thrust into my eager hands three copies of the annotated drawings (along with a healthy bill for his services!) than I hot-foot round to the municipal offices to deliver same to the Senior Building Inspector.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe inspector’s feet clearly hardly touched the ground either, for today I had a call inviting me to return to the office to collect the permit (on payment, naturally, of a further eye-watering disbursement!).

The intention is to start the work in early April when (if!) the weather picks up a bit. This is pretty essential as for some of the time at least there will be one or more big holes in our external walls, following the removal of the old sun rooms and before the new sliders are installed.

We are, naturally, most excited finally to be getting things underway!

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“One man’s magic is another man’s engineering.”

Robert A Heinlein

A couple of posts back I updated the gentle reader on the progress regarding our application for a building permit, with particular reference to the hazardous materials survey that we had been obliged to commission. Should you have missed that gripping missive it can be found here.

Within that screed I mentioned that we have now further been obliged to engage a structural engineer to provide detail of the construction of our new deck. I feel compelled to explain this sudden need for us now to spend more of our hard-earned monies on bureaucratic notions.

We have – as can be seen from the attached illustration – a rather dinky little two-person hot tub which came with the house. It currently resides in an enclosed unventilated space beneath one of the decaying sun-rooms. It has been little used and is in pretty spiffing condition, but we cannot run it up as the previous owners removed its power supply when they installed the heat pump. One aim of our deck redevelopment has always been to get the tub back into action.

When our designer drew up plans for our splendid new deck he decided – on a complete whim of the sort to which designers are prone – that the perfect position for the tub would be up on the deck level outside the master bedroom and overlooking the sea. Of course, as soon as we saw the plans we knew that he was right and signed up enthusiastically. Our contractor agreed that such a thing was entirely feasible, though the new deck would need to be strengthened at the appropriate point. So far so very good…

The problem arose when the plans were submitted to the municipality as part of our building permit application. The Senior Building Inspector informed me that had we just been building a simple deck we could have done so without further ado. However, as the plans show a hot-tub on the deck it is necessary to get a structural engineer to draw up plans for something that our contractor already knows how to build, and subsequently to inspect the results and report that all has been done correctly.

I am, naturally, fully aware as to why this has to be done, but it is extremely annoying to have to spend even more money on the procedural aspect of things when all those concerned are more than capable of doing the job without interference.

And as yet – of course – not a thing has been built!


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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidA few weeks ago I uploaded to this blog a brief epistle on the subject of our recently submitted application for building permits for our sunroom removal and deck replacement project. Reference was made therein to the additional need to send to the planning department of our local municipality a copy of a ‘Hazardous Materials Assessment & Abatement Report‘. To this end we engaged the services of a local company of environmental hazard testing specialists and were duly visited for an inspection. The report has now been delivered and a copy will shortly be forwarded.

The prime concern in residential buildings of this age is the potential presence of asbestos in parts of the structure that are likely to be disturbed during renovations. Our house dates back to 1979 (no sniggering from those of you in the UK. Remember – I have owned or part-owned several Georgian residences!). For more modern properties than ours owners may be confident that they are free of this most unpleasant of substances but in a house of this age asbestos may be found in a number of places – in the stucco with which the external walls are rendered, in the ‘mud’ with which the drywall (UK readers – plasterboard!) is lined, in the blown insulation in lofts and cavities, in the textured ceiling coatings that were particularly popular at the time and in the backings of certain older floor coverings.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidFor our deck project the only area of concern is the external stucco rendering, but since we intend carrying out further renovations inside the property once we have replaced the sunrooms we decided to arrange for further testing be done throughout the house whilst the inspectors were on site. They duly took nineteen samples from different locations (which are now covered with attractive green sticky tape, presumably on the same principle as culinary Band-Aids!) which were sent away to the laboratory.

To our very great relief the report came back largely negative. We do have a couple of traces of asbestos – in the backing of some old vinyl flooring which was left underneath a couple of areas that were re-floored. This will have to be removed but should not – frankly – be a major issue. Everything else was mercifully clear.

I would by now have sent the report off to the powers that be were it not for the fact that the Senior Building Inspector for the municipality contacted me before I could so do, informing me that I would also need to obtain further detailed plans and reports from a structural engineer before they could consider our application.

I will explain this unwelcome development in the next gripping installment of what is perhaps inevitably starting to develop into something of a saga…

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“You don’t need planning permission to build castles in the sky…”


…though unfortunately you do in British Columbia to carry out a wide range of renovations to your own particular castle!

Viz – from the North Saanich Municipality website:

Building Permit

Many home renovations require a Building Permit. Failure to acquire a permit BEFORE starting will result in a double fee. Building Permits are required BEFORE you:

– Renovate, repair or add on to an existing building

– Construct a new home

– Construct a new accessory building or structure greater than 10 m2 (107 ft2) (no services 1 story)

– Remove, relocate, alter or construct interior walls

– Complete a previously unfinished area in an existing building

– Construct, reconstruct, cover or enclose a porch or sun deck

– Demolish, relocate or move a building

– Construct a swimming pool, hot tub or spa pool deeper than 1 metre 3.28 ft.)

– Construct retaining walls over 1.5 metres (4.9 ft.) or more in height (professional engineering required)

– Construct a fence over 2 metres (6.56 ft.) or higher in height

– Make plumbing additions or alterations

– Any inspections listed in Section 12.1 of Bylaw No. 1150 requires a permit

– All seawalls, even if they are less than the 1.5m height

I duly visited the North Saanich Municipal Offices the other day to deliver the necessary paperwork to apply for a building permit for our upcoming sunroom removal and deck renovation project. Should the gentle reader be wondering just how much effort is required for such an undertaking, the list is but a short one:

  • Completed ‘Building Permit Application‘ form (available from the municipality’s website) – this gives the legal details of the property and of the specifics of the contractor and of the project itself
  • Completed ‘District of North Saanich Building and Plumbing Bylaw 1150, Schedule C‘ – essentially a waver to protect the municipality from any unforeseen consequences of the project
  • A copy of the owners’ ‘State of Title Certificate‘ (obtainable from the Land Title Office in Victoria)
  • Two copies of the architect/designer’s drawings
  • The requisite fee – the amount of which is based on the value of the project

What should also have been included (a requirement for properties built prior to 1990) was a copy of a ‘Hazardous Materials Assessment & Abatement Report‘. We have arranged an inspection for this coming Friday and are keeping our fingers crossed that nothing too hideous is revealed in the resultant findings.

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”

Calvin Coolidge

It is a matter of days now until we can celebrate the first anniversary of our ownership of the really rather splendid North Saanich residence from which emanate these meanderings. Time has simply cantered by…

It is also very nearly five months since I scribbled this update which included a brief passage concerning the ongoing legal dispute between the Kickass Canada Girl and I and the former owners of the property (and quite possibly their realtor (estate agent!) and maybe also our home inspector (surveyor!!)). I am still not able to regale gentle (and patient) readers with the full details; needless to say the case grinds on and on, and we are thankfully not holding our breaths (or we would by now have expired).

Indeed we have determined that we should no longer curtail our respiration (metaphorically speaking) in more ways than one! We have decided that we can wait not a day more before getting cracking on the first phases of our renovations.

The first task is the one that we did not expect to have to do. I realise that I have not – to this point – revealed the gruesome details of what must be done. Without going into the whys and wherefores the nub of the matter is this… as the photos in this post from last year show, the house currently has three sun-rooms that traverse the entire back of the building facing the sea. The areas beneath these have been enclosed to create further spaces that sit uncomfortably somewhere between inside and out.

These three sun-rooms must be removed, and will be replaced by a simple deck with stairs down to the garden (yard). A new and sizable sliding window will need to be installed in the living room, into what is currently just a hole in the wall.

This is a not insignificant project and will require building permits and suchlike. To which end we have engaged a designer (and ‘Architectural Building Technologist’) who has produced a first set of draft plans, the which will be used to set the whole kit and caboodle in motion with a view to actually building next spring. We rather like the elegant simplicity of his suggested solution and – should you persevere with these meanderings – you will eventually see how it turns out.

The ‘second’ task we had already started last year – before we discovered the extent of the issue described above. The house has a heat pump – a sort of air-conditioning – which is jolly good but does not provide the sort of ‘spot’ warmth that is required for comfortable winter living. Our first actions on moving in last October were to arrange for natural gas to be laid on and to order a gas log insert for the drawing room fireplace. When everything kicked off a few weeks later we had to put the installation on hold and – until a few days ago – that was the way things had remained. With winter rumbling into view in the distance this part of the project had to be rapidly re-instated and we now have in place a splendid and highly efficient gas log insert – complete with remote controls, timers, temperature settings and other gewgaws that we will never use.

Progress! Progress!…


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