Monday, November 15, 2010

Hump no more

Can I just say how nice it is to have a flat floor?

Yes, most people probably think that flat floors are pretty well par for the course and, well, standard, but not in the blue house on the corner.

You see, when the previous/original owners added in the family room addition, they didn't seem overly concerned about the fact that the floors of the addition and the main house didn't match up.

(do you like my update floor plan?  it's approximate)

It's not even that the floors don't match up.  That wouldn't have been as much of an issue.  The issue was more so that there was a GIANT hump between the two rooms.  There was quite literally a ramp that led up to the doorway to the family room and then a ramp that led back down again on the other side.

You can sort of see it here, in the picture that also shows the many many layers of flooring we had to deal with in the den:

The garbage bag is sitting at the very top of the hump, and where you can see the plywood, well,, that's the down slope.

So, Derek did what Derek does best and I came home one day to find that this:

now looked like this:

which quickly became this:

Yes, that's dirt.  In my house.

I wish I has pictures that illustrated just how unlevel the floor was.  At the door between the addition and the main part of the house the floor was 3 1/4" higher than the floor in the main house and at least 1 1/2" higher than the floor in the addition itself.

Also, there was next to no insulation in the walls of the addition, nor was there much in the ceiling or the floor.  And don't even get my started on the vapour, or lack there of, barrier.

With lots of help from the cats Derek got the floor/ground tidied up, pulled out all of the errant nails and generally just got the space ready to put back together.

One of my good work friends, Colin, came over to help Derek work out his plan of attack for leveling the floor.  The plan involved lots of lumber, brackets, and some fun power tools.

Derek used the reciprocating saw and his fancy new hand planer to bring the floor as close to level as possible.  At the very least, it's flat.  He beefed up the structure, added in hangers and put blocking in allllll over the place.

One very very big trip to Home Depot later saw us outfitted with most of the supplies we'd need to finish off the room.  It also meant we lost use of our lovely bathroom for a few days.  We got very lucky, as the timing of a sale on Roxul (the green batt insulation) and drywall just happened to coincide perfectly with this stage of the project.  We ended up having to rent the van from Home Depot to get our haul home.  And, honestly, I'm surprised we'd never rented the van before.  $20 + gas for 90 minutes and we brought a LOT home.  See?

 Chloe sat on top of the pile of insulation for as long as it was there.  She loved it!
Also, the pile of junk in the front?  That's my dining room table.  Oh joy.

We used strips of Tyvek stapled to the underside of the floor joist to hold up the insulation in order to put the vapour barrier on the warm side, unlike before.  The cats were so used to playing down in the dirt that they had to see if they could walk along the newly insulated floor.

Luckily, no one fell through.

After that, Derek screwed down the new plywood and we no longer have a hump!

You can also see my handy dandy insulation job here.  Now, normally I loathe insulating.  I hate how the bits just get everywhere, but this time I was motivated to grow a pair and do it.  You see, at this point we were nearly the end of October, and it was starting to get mighty chilly.  We outright refused to turn on the furnace until that back room at least had insulation and vapour barrier on the walls, so, I sealed myself into a somewhat impermeable jacket and went to work.

This job was a lot of work.  And unfortunately, it was a lot of work that I couldn't really help with.  We will never know why the previous homeowners thought that the job their contractors did on this addition was acceptable, but I guess it doesn't matter now, it's gone!
Next time I'll share the oh-so-lovely story of the ceiling, including how we found out why they had 2 layers of drywall on the ceiling with strapping in between!  Spoiler alert: it's not because the ceiling was flat.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Nope, the bathroom isn't totally finished yet, but thanks for asking!  Actually, the giant pile of drywall and plywood is preventing us from even using the bathroom right now, but that's a story for another post.

Once we mostly finished up the bathroom we moved on to the rest of the main floor that was ripped up.

Just after we removed the wall separating the dining room and the soon-to-be-library, it looked like this:

April 11, 2010

Shortly after that, the old plaster came down and it looked a little like this:

April 23, 2010

All of that useless vapour "barrier" (aka wax paper) and pitiful 1940's excuse for insulation came down, Roxul and good, proper plastic vapour barrier went up and then we got to drywalling.  After that, it looked a little something like this:

July 25, 2010 
(yeah, it took a while, so what?!)

Then, it was time to pick out paint colours!  Oh joy.  When looking around at some dining room pictures, and watching LOTS of HGTV and DIY networks, I fell in love with the look of wainscotting.  I looked up many different blog posts on the topic if diy'ing it, and decided that it was definitely something the Derek and I could handle.

One of my main inspirations was the dining room from the show Home to Flip.

Image from cherishtoronto,

I love everything about this room.  I love the wall colour, and the print on the wall, the wainscotting, the crown moulding, everything.  I knew I wanted to go with a teal for the walls, so we started out with a few paint chips that we thought could work.

Since we're planning on making a built-in bookshelf/desk in the space we're calling the library, we thought we'd paint the wall that will the be back of the bookcase in a fun colour.  With the teal we'd already imagined, and the blue of the bathroom, a nice grassy/mossy green was our first thought.  Into our hands when a slew of possible paint chips.

Next, we decided that we'd like a nice sand/wheat/beige-but-better colour to run through the common areas of the house.  This colour is basically going to run along the main floor hallway, up the stairs and onto the second floor.  It was important that we picked a colour that would work well with the teal and the green that we choose.

So, we did what any smart DIYer would do, and taped the paint chips we liked up to the wall.  At first, there were many, however, it was quite easy to throw away some, as they were just too pink.  Having lived in peach for the last 10 months we wanted to steer far far away from anything that even hinted at peach or pink.

We left the chips up for a few days and looked at them in different types of light.  Occasionally one of us would tear down one that just wasn't right and move some things around.  We ended up pulling these three colours together:

On the left is Woven Stray from the Behr Premium Plus Ultra line, on the right is Dragon Fly, also of the Premium Plus Ultra line and in the centre is Grape Leaves, from just the regular Premium Plus line.

At first we were hesitant to buy the "fancy pants paint" that is the Premium Plus Ultra, but after asking around (thank you August '09 ladies) the verdict was that it really was worth the extra money.  And man, do I agree.

First up we painted the library.  It took two coats to get a good, even covering.  And yes, we primed first, don't worry!

Oooo, pretty.

Then, like any good nerd DIYer we busted out our (new) laser level and marked out the boundaries of the dining room paint.

Then, we set to painting.  In our house we usually paint as a team.  I cut in at the corners and, in places where there won't be crown moulding, at the ceiling while Derek goes through and rolls out the rest of the wall.  Generally, we finish up at about the same time.

After having to do 2 coats of the green to get good covering, moving to the Premium Plus Ultra paint was a significant difference.  As long as you take your time, you can easily get great coverage with one coat.  There were a few spots that needed a second pass with the roller, but you're totally fine to touch those spots up while the paint is still wet.

We've still got a little bit of mud work to do in the hallway (where we had to cut open the wall because we thought the shower valve was set too far forward) so we've only gotten a little bit of the Woven Straw colour on the wall, but here you can see all three new colours together. 

Also, you can see that even though the dining room isn't done, there's a whole pile of stuff in there now.  Where did that come from you ask?  Well, the back room of course!  But that's definitely a story for another post.

To complete the series of pictures you saw at the beginning of this post, here's what the space looks like now:

September 5, 2010

That's it for now.  Next time I'll tell you the story of the uneven addition and the hump in the floor that is no more!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Things that move water.

Look at me.  I'm such a good blogger this week.

Now that we had the vanity in place, we moved on to installing the toilet.  The day we decided to do this was so grossly hot outside that things didn't exactly go as planned.

The first step in installing a toilet is to install the flange bolts.

Well, one of our flange bolts took a very unfortunate drop down the toilet drain.  We'd only just taken the rag we had blocking the drain out, so sadly, the bolt was lost.

Off Derek went to Canadian Tire.  That was trip number 1.

For some reason, when the plumber was here and installed the new plumbing for the toilet, it was installed a bit too close to the ground.  Once we got the tile on the floor, the closet flange was below the level of the floor.

That's a closet flange.  Not ours.  Thanks

Thankfully, while we were browsing for toilets our favourite store ever (Home Depot of course) I made note of these fancy things called, ideally enough, closet flange extenders.

Basically, it's a ring of plastic that's the same shape as the top of the closet flange that's attached to your plumbing.  It has a gasket material on the bottom that seals to your existing flange, and holes to screw it into your floor.  Using these little pieces of awesome we were able to bring the level of the flange up to the proper level.

Getting those rings from Home Depot was trip number 2.

The flange extenders come 2 in a pack.  After we put the first one down, we tired to install the toilet.  Unfortunately, due to both the extreme nasty heat severely softening the wax, and the fact that just one flange extender didn't quite bring the level up high enough, the wax ring just didn't make the seal we were looking for.  We didn't pour any water down the drain, but our experience from installing a toilet in our other bathroom, we know what "feel" we were aiming for.

Another trip to Canadian Tire for a second wax ring was trip number 3.

With the second extender in place and the new wax ring in hand, we got the toilet installed in no time.  Yes, it might have taken a total of 5 hours from the start to the finish, but we got it done.

The next thing we tackled was installing the shower head.

The decision to take the toe tester out of the shower stall lead to a slow, constant drip from the shower head pipe sticking out of the wall.  The original shower head we bought was a normal, stick out of the wall and bends down type, and would have continued to drip.

So, applying our knowledge of hydrostatic pressure and general fluid dynamics we started looking for a shower head that came on an arm of a different shape.  Thankfully, Pfister had one that fit the bill perfectly.  A quick special order from that place we go to all the time and some teflon tape later, we had a functioning shower head!

The fact that the shower head arm goes up above the level of where the pipe comes out of the wall is what keeps it from dripping.  And bonus, we got a rain shower head!

Next step, installing the sink and faucet.

We had some issues with the drain for the sink.  When we ordered the sink, drain and faucet back at the end of January, the lovely lady at Home Depot suggested we get the pop-up drain, since it's a bathroom, and, well, having the ability to plug the sink is a good thing.

When the drain finally came it we just put it in the back room with everything else.

A few weeks ago (so, like, 7 months after we'd ordered the drain) we went to put everything together, and well, the drain would not work.  Because we got an overflow sink we needed a drain with a longer drain pipe in order to accommodate the extra height of the sink.  Well, this one just wouldn't do.

So, we took it back to Home Depot and went to see the nice lady in the kitchen and bath department.  I was inadvertently bitchy to her, and I felt bad.  Turns out, the company sent the wrong part.  Our lovely Home Depot associate had done everything exactly correctly.  She took down our info and had the correct drain to us in a matter of days.

We finally got to sink install time.  A butt load of teflon tape and silicon caulking, and some McGyver style improvising later, we have this!

I'm not 100% sold on the towel holder thingy yet, but attaching one to the wall might be tough.  The pocket door is immediately to the right of the sink, so it could go there, but it might be tricky to install securely.

That's about it.  All we have to do now is a few paint touch ups, clean up some silicone from various spots and get the glass guy in.  Oh, and hang the mirror.  Right now we're focusing on getting the dining room finished.  Just last night we painted, but there's still a lot to be done.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Paint type things

Hey!  Look at this!  2 posts in a week!  We're on a roll.  I'll try to keep it up.

Once finished the tile in the shower, the next step was paint.  First, primer!  It made such a huge difference just having the walls all the same colour!

Please  note, these will, for the most part, be iPhone pictures, so excuse the less than awesome quality. 

After primer, paint!

The colour we chose for the walls is Ralph Lauren Bellflower Blue, which, by the time we got around to painting, Home Depot was no longer selling.  Huh.  I really love this blue.

I spent a loooooong time pressed up against the ceiling cutting in.  That's part of the reason we're putting up crown molding in most of the house.

Once we got the paint done, we tackled the vanity.  Sadly, while our floor was nice and flat, it wasn't perfectly level, so Derek had to do some fine jig saw work to the bottom of the vanity to make sure that the top was level.

Then, we pulled our frosted glass counter top out of the box and excitedly laid it on the vanity.

Only to see that, oh crap, you can see right through it! (um, duh, it's glass)  I guess that we'd hoped that the frosting would make it a bit more opaque than just translucent.

We brainstormed solutions and tossed around ideas like staining the tops of the vanity, applying some sort of coating to the underside, or even getting a sheet of aluminum or stainless steel cut to size (which I could have gotten done at work, yay for being friends with the machinists!)


Stainless Steel

We didn't really like either of the metal options, so next we turned to paint.  I picked up a whole bunch of paint chips at Home Depot in colours that I thought looked like glass green.  And lo' and behold, one of them was exactly the colour of plain glass (you know, when you look through the edge?)

Behr's Premium Plus Ultra Mild Mint was the colour that worked.  Thankfully, since it was such a small area that needed to be painted, we got away with just buying one of the $5 paint samples.  Two coats (and a few cat paws later) it looked absolutely perfect.  A good bead of silicone attached it to the vanity.

In the interest of keeping this post from becoming an absolute novel, I think we'll leave it there.  Next time, finish plumbing!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh, hai. Remember us?

Oh, hey, how's it going?  It's been a LONG time, but don't worry, we're are getting work done in the blue house on the corner.  Actually, we've gotten a lot done.  Sorta.  But, I can't throw it all out at you at once.

Unfortunately, someone (me) left our camera at our friends house when we went to a party there for the May 24th long weekend.  These friends also happen to live 2+ hours away.  We only just got the camera back near the end of July, so, there's a bit of a gap where our work wasn't quite photo-documented the way I'd like, but, there are some ok iPhone pictures we can share.  I'm going to take a few (2?) posts to bring the world up to date on where we are in the bathroom, and then we'll move on to what we've done in the rest of the house.

When we last spoke we'd finished laying the tile in the bathroom and had it all grouted.  The next step was tiling the shower.

 The first step in the process was mixing up some thinset to apply the Kerdi membrane to the walls and floor.  As I mentioned waaaaaay back in January we used the Schluter Kerdi system for the shower.

Image from

The first thing that goes on is the Kerdi Band.  A 5" strip of membrane that helps to seal in all of the corner joints.  That was definitely me work and not Derek work, as it was finicky and required a small amount of patience.

Once all of the corners had been covered in Kerdi Band, it was time to put the membrane up on the walls.  Now, here is where I will fully admit that I made a mistake.  I grabbed the wrong trowel.  So instead of having a nice thin coat of thinset with the small, v-notch trowel that Schluter recommends, I grabbed the big honkin square notch one we used for the floor.  This resulted in a THICK later of thinset that didn't exactly dry smoothly, and really built up the corners.  So, always make sure you grab the right trowel!

We let the thinset set up for a few days and then got to work on the tile.  The tile we got for the shower walls is a 4"x16" white ceramic tile.  They're huge.  We played around with a few layout options and decided that we really like a running brick pattern with a 1/3 offset.  It makes more sense when you see it.

Derek got started laying the tiles and made it about 3 rows before the number of swear words quickly out numbered all other words.  Tiling, not his forte.  I stepped in and continued on.

See the pattern?  At this point, the camera-forgetting weekend happened, so the only other shower progress picture I have came from my phone.

We sort of played around to see where we wanted our row of mosaic tiles to go, just sort of taking a look as we went to see what we thought looked best.  We settled with just about eye level.

Neither of us can remember for sure how long that took, but I think it was one good, solid day of work.

The next wall had all the freaking holes in it, but, we had our diamond hole saw from doing the floor, so those were easy as pie.  

The best advice I can offer for tiling is to make sure you clean our as much thinset as you can before it dries.  We spent DAYS cleaning the thinset out from the grout lines.  The worst was in the mosaic tile.  So, even if you're tired from tiling, take the time to get the thinset out while it's easy!

The grouting of the shower was pretty easy, although it did take quite a while, and we probably mixed up too much grout at one time, but it got done.  Installing the tile on the shower floor was a fun job.  We ended up getting a special tool from a stained glass shop here in town to cut the glass mosaics on an angle.

Rotary nippers turned out to be the perfect tool for the job.  Home Depot doesn't sell them, so you'll need to find a stained glass shop, but they were only about $20. (or you can borrow ours)

Here's the final thing.  You get a preview of the wall colour in this shot, but hey, that's ok.

I love it.  Here's a closer look at the floor to.  Love that x a million.

Now we just need to get the glass guy in, and the work on this bad boy is done.  We've already installed the shower head, but I'll tell you about that in my next post, where I'll also share the store of the toilet install, and the fiasco that was our pop-up drain.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

And then there was floor.

I'm a bad, bad blogger.  And a slow renovator!

I cannot wait to have my house put back together.  We'd only lived here a month before things started coming down (and by things, I mean walls), so, after being here for more than 6 months, I'm ready for the dust to be finally settled, for there to be paint on the walls and some sort of flooring other than plywood.

That being said, we're getting very close with the bathroom.  We have to install the tile on the floor of the shower, grout the whole shower, paint the walls and install the fixtures.  I'll touch on the tiling of the shower stall another time, for now I'll tell you the story of the floor!

Neither Derek nor I had any experience with tiling when we decided to take on this project so we turned to the best resource any DIY'er has: Google and message boards.

A question put out on the Decorating & Renovating board on The Nest led to a new obsession great blog with a lot of awesome how-to's, Young House Love.  John and Sherry tackled a bathroom reno that had them installing 12x12 marble tile on the floors and subway tile in the shower.  Huh, that's what we're doing!  Reading through their tiling post a million times, and consulting many other internet resources (including the John Bridge tile forum, which has as much information about tiling as a library has books) we (mostly, sorta) figured out what we needed to to.

Since we planned to install marble tile, and since our floors had a bit more deflection that is generally recommended, we opted to install Ditra on the floor as a substrate over the plywood.

Anyone that watches Holmes on Homes (or any of Mike Holmes' other shows) is probably familiar with Ditra.  He uses it in basically all of his bathroom renos, and well, if it's good enough for Mike, it's good enough for us.

The Ditra goes, as I mentioned, on top of the subfloor and under your tile.  It acts to strengthen the floor by absorbing any movement that may occur.  It also acts as a water resistant membrane.  It could easily be made fully waterproof (with some of the same stuff we used for the shower) but we opted not to take that step.  Just the Ditra alone provides a lot of protection.

Images from

It's also bright orange.

Our first step was to measure and cut out the sections of Ditra that we'd need.

Chloe helped.

After that we laid down a layer of thinset using an appropriately sized v-notch trowel and pressed the pieces of Ditra down, smoothing it out using a grout float.

We let that set for a day or two and then began planning the layout of the floor tiles.

The way we saw it, we had two options for lay out.  We called them even and offset.



The magic of the internet allowed us to nearly instantly poll a large group of people to find out what they thought worked best.

The results were unanimous for offset, which is good, because that's what we liked best too.  It's also really great for hiding less than perfect work, which is ideal for first time tilers.

So, we laid out some guide lines (that we never ended up using because they were quickly covered in thinset) and got to work.

Bonus tip: To keep chalk lines from quickly being erased by your feet and tools, cover them over with regular aerosol hairspray!

Here's me at the beginning of the day:

We quickly worked out a great system.  Derek would cut any pieces that had to be cut (on the wet saw set up in the basement) while I laid the tile.  For large runs of full tile, Derek would work ahead of me and trowel out the thinset on the ground while I set and squared the tiles.

As you can see above, we opted to use white thinset for the marble instead of standard grey.  As a natural stone marble is much more porous than ceramic, so it's possible that the colour of the thinset could be seen to seep through the tile.  Going with white thinset eliminates the possibility of any unsightly splotches.

We kept working away in this fashion alllll day long.  As some point we realized we were kinda hungry and scarfed down some grilled cheese and then quickly got back to work.

In order to ensure a good bond, we chose to not only trowel out thinset on the floor, but also back-butter each tile. 

Nearly 9 hours later we were finally down to the last tile (or so we thought)

We got that last tile in place and stepped back to admire our awesomeness.

Then we realized that the two tiles right in the centre of the door were way too light.  Such is the nature of natural stone, not every one is exactly the same, so we asked ourselves if we wanted to pull them up and replace them with others (thankfully we had lots of extras).

Exhausted Andrea and Derek thought that we could live with the colour variation, but we knew that Future Andrea and Derek just wouldn't be satisfied with a less than perfect job when we had the opportunity to correct it, so, up the tiles came, and down new ones went.

We got cleaned up and then promptly drove to Wild Wing and consumed more wings than a normal human should be allowed to.

We gave the floor a good day or so (ok, it was a week) before we tackled the grout.  We opted to go with a light grey that matched well with the veining in the tile.

Apparently I forgot to photo-document the grouting process, but it was fairly straightforward and didn't take a ton of time.  I can say though, Meka definitely approves of our tiling job!

That's all for now.  Once I get my camera back (I we may have forgotten it at a friends house 2.5 hours away at a party a few weekends ago)  I'll share the shower tiling process (which has been slow, but steady) and then we should be up to date!