Thursday, August 30, 2012

Catching Up

Alright, the blog's been a few days behind the renos so I'm using today to catch up! Hopefully this will make it easier to keep things going when I head back to school next week. Have you ever heard people say something along the lines of "It gets worse before it gets better"? That's the theme of today's blog. Our house is definitely looking worse for wear at the moment.

One of the things we wanted to take care of was the upstairs bathroom. Currently, there is a balcony off of the bathroom that's inaccessible as there's no door leading out. We're thinking at one time the balcony was off of an upstairs landing which was then made into a bathroom. A window was put in, but it's not big enough to pass through to get onto the balcony. The bathroom is also pretty small, so we decided that we'd move one of the walls back into the small bedroom (making it even smaller...oops...) and that would let us move the bathtub/shower over, as well as cut a door where the window is. This is what the bathroom looked like before:

Pretty cramped, right? The ledge that's under the window also has a cast iron heater underneath it which would have to come out.

The construction guys came and ripped out the tub, ledge and wall, then framed a new wall for us:

You can also see where the plumber ripped out the fixtures. Now instead of a bathroom, we have a giant mess. Excellent.

Photo on the left is where the toilet and sink used to be. The giant pipe that's running up the wall starts in the basement and goes all the way out through the roof. I have no idea what it's for, but apparently it has to be replaced since it's made of iron or lead or something, and one day down the road, it will rust out and leak and destroy our house. This is my understanding anyway. The same goes for all the lead pipes in the floor. Apparently it's quite miraculous that they haven't done this already. I'm beginning to believe that our house is magic, or maybe a fighter. It's faced many obstacles of being old and having lead pipes and carpets and wallpaper and cats but it's made it through in remarkable condition. What a champ. The second photo shows where the bathroom wall used to be. Now the entire bathtub should fit under the sloped ceiling. The door will be cut back to that line just behind the window.

Want to see something really neat? Check out the old beams!

Pretty cool, huh? Also I was happy to see that we had some kind of insulation, and it wasn't seaweed or woodchips or newspapers. Also, remember that cast iron heater that had to be moved? Now it's going over on the wall beside the bathtub and behind the door to make an excellent built in towel warmer. 

It looks pretty gross right now, but I promise I will clean it. Sometime. What else....oh! The electricians came and cut holes and ran wires and climbed around in the attic. They liked the old fashioned light switches just as much as I did and promised they'd try to keep them functional if at all possible. Here's a terrible picture that shows barely any electrical work at all (I blame this on my photo editor cropping out the wall where they chopped holes), and also a photo of our lovely electricians. One of them appreciates the blog but is shy, and the other really likes cameras. Guess which is which.

We went up to the house last night to find that my dad had been there. And he had done this:

Smell ya later, kitchen! Thanks dad!

Now I bet you're all wondering where all of the stuff went. A lot of ripping out has been going on....carpets, fixtures, cabinets, flooring...


Thank goodness for lovely neighbours who don't seem to mind one bit (shout out to Wayne and Eleanor!) Their cat even came to visit last night. It flew out of the basement just as I walked around the corner (like actually flew, it just came right up the basement stairs in the middle of the air) and I may have had a slight heart attack. I think it was trying to be friends. At least it looked that way when it continued flying out the back door. Cats are really impressive creatures. We also had a visit from some neighbourhood dogs that live in the backyard that joins ours. They were not shy at all, one of them even gave me a "welcome to the neighbourhood!" nip. Thanks, dog. This neighbourhood actually has lots of dogs, which is just fine with me. I may have dog plans of my own for next summer. Until then, I'll have to be satisfied with the 500 squirrels and chipmunks that live in our chestnut tree. We are actually passing out free squirrels to every visitor over the Labour Day weekend, make sure you show up early so you don't miss out!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Who made this mess???

Oh right. I made the mess. Me! I actually did something! This is the first time I've ever stripped wallpaper, and I have to admit - it's extremely satisfying. At least, this wallpaper was. Once again, we got lucky with the house and the wallpaper pretty much just lifted right off in giant strips, as you can see on the floor. 

However, that wasn't the end. There was still glue all over the walls, which TJ said would probably be a pain to scrape away. There's a lot of wall in that living room. We had to soak everything with hot water, and anticipated that we'd need a couple of coats to make sure the water really soaked through the layers of glue. Again, we got lucky! The glue came off just as easily as the wallpaper. Some sections had to be soaked a few times, but for the most part, everything was a breeze. Luckily there was only one layer of paper, which seemed surprising on such an old house. I was expecting to go through several. The plaster walls underneath were actually in really good condition, which was good news for the seam filler (and us!).

I know it looks like TJ is doing all the work, but I honestly did a lot. He's just getting some of the leftover bits. Really, it was all me. We only did as far as our arms could reach to get ready for the electricians, so we still have to go back and finish up the upper part of the wall, but it's looking better already! We'll also be doing the same in the back hall, the small bedroom, a teensy bit of the upstairs bathroom, and one section of the master bedroom. The back hall is looking like it will be more difficult, the plaster isn't the same at all and the wallpaper comes off in teeny little bits, taking plaster with it. I'm not exactly sure what to do about that, hopefully someone else will. 

Anyway, my shoulders are very tired and sore, so that's enough blog for tonight! I'll have to get caught up, I'm a few days behind and in reality, the electricians and plumbers are already in and chopping holes everywhere. It's a disaster, but it will all be worth it in the end! (or so people keep telling me....)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Five days and counting...

We've owned our little house for five days now. It seems like much, much longer. I can't believe the work that's already been done. The people that know me know that I'm incredibly impatient, and I'm terrible at waiting. I want things to happen right away. I really thought that the first few days of home ownership would be an excruciating waiting period where we sat around pondering what to do, who to call, how to plan, etc.

Nope. None of that whatsoever.

We got stuck into the renovation business right away. First, we had to clear out the leftovers and then move our treasures into the sunporch. As soon as that was done, the first order of business was taking out the carpets.

Basically, TJ did all the work and I stood around taking pictures. In my defence, the sweet lady who lived there previously really loved her cats, and those cats really loved the carpet, and this was an incredibly sneezy job, one made even more sneezy by my ridiculous cat allergy. Carpet came up in the living room, den, upstairs hall, and all three bedrooms.

The aftermath varied from decent (as shown in the staircase section), to woohoo (as shown in bottom right as TJ discovers beautiful hardwood), to oh crap (as shown in top right with a photo of the disintegrated foam from the carpet in the master bedroom, which created its own carpet over a modpodge of plywood, glue, oil cloth, glue, masonite, glue, and more glue).

We focused on the woohoo bit, and immediately fell in love with the floor in the main hall, living room and den. We couldn't believe the great condition of the hardwood. I'm sure the 3+ hours TJ took removing every single staple and finishing nail was totally worth it. Again, I was taking photos. And pointing out the staples he missed. I know he appreciated my invaluable assistance.

On closer inspection of these photos, I think I see a few more staples....

The Grand Tour

As a caution: this post is picture heavy.

So of course, everyone wants to know what the house looks like on the inside, right?'s not pretty. The bones of it are pretty, but the layers above are not in the most pristine of conditions. The great thing about the internet is that you can't smell things. Daisy fresh, our house is not. I guess that's to be expected, as it's been sealed up for about two years, and by sealed I mean SEALED. We've got an impressive set of storm windows (the finest around, or so I've heard...)

Apologies for the picture quality, most were taken with a sketchy and ridiculously cheap fish eye lens from Japan, and the others were taken on a cell phone. My photography skills are also pretty lacking...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

First Impressions

When we went to view Chestnut Street prior to buying, I'll be honest - it was overwhelming. It felt like visiting a combination of an antique shop and a 1950's grandmother's house. It hadn't been lived in for a few years, and dust had settled into a fuzzy blanket over furniture, photos, and tons and tons of pottery, preserving it into a vintage museum.

That being said, even with all of the items it looked like the house had a lot of potential. It definitely had lots of character, which is something we both really appreciate. TJ and I know nothing about house renovations and there was a lot to be done, so I was a little nervous about putting in an offer but all of a sudden it was a done deal and the house was ours. All of a sudden we were faced with long months of rewiring, seam filing, wall moving and rebuilding, a bathroom reno, a kitchen reno, wall paper removal, carpet removal, hardwood refinishing, new windows, new flooring, painting, brickwork on the chimney....the list goes on and on. Of course, the first thing I did was panic, as I am prone to do. TJ was incredibly optimistic, though I suspect he was blinded by his love of the Narnia-esqpe lamp post on the outside walkway.

We've had a few days to let it sink in (though those days have been filled with clearing out a bit of house leftovers after the antique dealers and auctioneers had been through, carpet removal and wallpaper removal) and even though our to-do list keeps growing, I'm pretty sure we made the right decision in buying this old house. We know it's at least 101 years old as of September 23rd, although it could be older since the ownership records we found dated a couple of houses in the neighbourhood as coming into existence on the same date, so we suspect maybe they only went back 100 years before being cut off.

So if anyone is around on September 23rd, stop in for a piece of cake and as a gift to you, we'll let you tear something down with a hammer.

Victoria and TJ
Homeowners, Demolitioners, Dangerous with Hammers

It seemed like a good idea at the time

So we've gone mad and bought a house.