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Renovation

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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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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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As suggested in my post on Victoria Day, week six of our grand deck project was busy, busy, busy – with major progress being made on all fronts.

On the Monday the plywood deck was laid:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidOn the Tuesday and Wednesday the vinyl installers applied the waterproof covering and our contractors installed the new sliders (patio windows):

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe Wednesday also brought a bevy of electricians who installed cables for lighting, re-instated our irrigation controller and put in a new feed for the hot tub:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidFinally – on a blazing hot Friday and working alone – a Vietnamese gentlemen installed all of the new soffits:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidThe deck rails and glass panels should be done in week seven – with final detailing and painting still to be done – but one can already get a good idea as to how the whole will look:

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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Week five of our exciting new deck project was indistinguishable from week four – but week six started with a bang. Regardless of the fact that Monday was a public holiday in Canada (a joyous celebration of Victoria Day) our contractors arrived bright and early to lay the plywood surface for the new deck. They had obliged themselves to work on what could otherwise have been an extremely sunny and welcome day off because they had booked the vinyl installers for the following day.

The Kickass Canada Girl and I did not stay around to spectate but ran away instead to spend a lovely day in the sun at French Beach – out to the west of Victoria beyond Sooke. French Beach looks across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Peninsula – the closest part of the American mainland to Victoria.

A picture is worth a thousand words – of course – so here are a bunch of them (double click for the full effect)…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto 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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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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