Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Progress - Day 44

The past two weeks have been full of ups and downs.

We passed the electrical inspection on Friday but it was a week later than we originally thought. It took us a LOT longer than expected to run the almost 300 m of wiring required to bring our house up to code. And we still have to do the basement!

The furnace finally arrived on Wednesday and Lennox was kind enough to give us a $300 high-end filter to compensate for the delay. But in the meantime, our HVAC installer disappeared and we were forced to search for an installer all over again. Although it was a bit of a headache to find a new installer, it seems as though it may have actually been a blessing in disguise as we have since found out the first installer may have been planning to cut some serious corners.

Finally some good news in regards to the missing windows - they have been moved up the production schedule and are now scheduled to arrive December 15th. I am not going to get too excited until the windows are actually at our doorstep but at least we have postitive progress for the first time in months.

Despite the all of the trials, we have FINALLY reached our first major milestone... Tomorrow morning the crew will arrive to begin installing the spray foam insulation. By the end of the week our house will be all warm and blue inside!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Floor Plans

I am sure anyone who has not visited our house is having a hard time following all of the minor changes we are making so I have put together floor plans.

On the main floor we are only making two small changes - removing the wall between the living room and dining room and expanding the entrance to the dining room.

Main Floor After
Main Floor Before

 On the second floor we are making several small changes - expaning the master bedroom by 8", shrinking the linen closet, moving the spare bedroom door and opening up the entrance to the office.

Second Floor After

Second Floor Before

By time we added in the walls that Dave determined to be "too wobbly", it turned out we re-built all the interior walls but four. If we had known we were going to be doing so much re-framing we would have put more effort into dramatically changing the floor plan. Unfortunately, the chimney and bathroom plumbing prevented any easy changes to the floor plan.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Progress - Day 35

We are now past the one month mark and it has been a long month...

The rude arrival of winter has escalated the rush to get the house insulated. Dave and Robin battled the freezing temperatures to install the new windows in the office, dining room and hallway.  Luckily the living room bay windows do not require any re-framing so they can stay in place until the new ones arrive. In the spare bedroom, we were left with no choice but to remove the old window, re-frame the window opening and then put the old window back in. Now only the bathroom window is left.

On Tuesday, the city inspector passed the new electrical panel and Enmax switched the service to the new mast. The rush is now on to finish roughing in the electrical since it has to pass inspection before we get the sprayfoam insulation done. We have all of the lights, plugs and switches laid out but still have to run all of the wiring. We are aiming to be insulating at the end of this week.

Still no word on the furnace or the missing windows...


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kitchen Part III

While we were enjoying our honeymoon in Japan, my parents decided to surprise us with a early Christmas present and hired someone to mud and tape the walls. This meant we were able to jump right into finishing!

We began by installing walnut hardwood flooring.

Next we installed white Adel cabinets from Ikea. Since the dimensions of our kitchen are so constrained, we had to get creative and ended up cutting a corner unit to fit around the chimney and building a custom pantry by stacking three base units. We also recessed one cabinet and a frenchdoor fridge into the wall in order to get the look of a built-in fridge.

For countertops we installed White River granite - the closest you can get to Carerra marble countertops without installing marble countertops! 

The backsplash got finished with Carerra marble mosaic tile which I found on eBay of all places! The fear of having to scrub tomato sauce out of white marble and grout prompted us to install a stainless steel backsplash behind the stove. The cinder block chimney was covered in a brick veneer from IXL. 

Finally after almost a year of living in a construction zone, the dirty work was done and we could begin to enjoy our new kitchen!

Stayed tuned for a tour of the completed kitchen...


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Progress - Day 28

Things did not progress as well as we hoped this week.

On the positive side, we managed to get the majority of the interior walls framed. Although we are not actually changing the floor plan of the house, there were several minor "tweeks" we wanted to make which correlated to re-framing all but the bathroom walls upstairs. We increased the size of the master bedroom by 8" to make more room for closets, shrunk the linen closet to make more room for the master bedroom door, moved the spare room door so it didn't interfere with the closets and opened up the doorway to the office.

Downstairs, we removed the dividing archway between the living room and dining room and opened up the doorway from the hallway into the dining room. We also had to re-frame the hall walls to make room for the new ductwork for the bedrooms.

We also got the first half of our electrical service upgrade done. On Thursday, the electrician installed the new electrical panel and roughed in the new mast to move the electrical service. On Tuesday the city will inspect the panel and mast and then on Wednesday hopefully Enmax will be able to move the wires off of the fascia on the back of the house where they are on the verge of pulling off the side of the house.

Now for the bad news...

The excitement of finally finding a HVAC person within our budget who was willing to install the furnace on Thursday was quickly extinguished when Wednesday night we didn't actually have the furnace for him to install. The furnace is supposed to arrive this week, so hopefully our furnace will be installed next weekend.

The biggest set back this week as our windows.

Jeld-wen and Home Depot originally promised us it would take no longer than six weeks to replace the windows that were built incorrectly. This week, being the sixth week, we were quite concerned when no one had contacted us to update us on the delivery date. After countless phone calls, several trips to the store and talking to a long list of people at both Home Depot and Jeld-wen, we finally found out our windows are scheduled to be delivered January 15th. Yes, January 15, 2011.

Needless to say, Dave was not impressed that six weeks had become 4 months. So after several more phone calls and trips to the store, he was put in contact with the Western Regional Manager of Home Depot who was going to talk directly to the owner of Jeld-wen to get us moved up in the production schedule. We should hopefully hear back this week. I am definitely not holding my breath...


Friday, November 12, 2010

Kitchen Part II

Once the house no longer had gapping holes to the outdoors, we starting to work on making gapping holes on the side. In order to accommodate the new kitchen layout, we had to move the basement door, and add a recess between the bathroom and basement door for a "built-in" fridge. We also chose to open up the passage between the dining room and kitchen to make the kitchen seem less disconnected from the rest of the main floor.

Once the walls were framed and electrical installed, we were finally able to insulate. Just in time too - at this point it was now the end of October.

We chose to use a 2-lb closed cell spray foam insulation since our exterior wall studs are only 4" deep compared to the 6" studs which are used today. With only 4" of foam we were still able to get R24 insulation as well as a completely quiet, draft-free kitchen. A major improvement!

Photos Courtesy of SprayMasters

At this point we were ready to drywall so Dave and I rewarded ourselves with a belated honeymoon in Japan!

To be continued...


Sunday, November 7, 2010

ecoENERGY Retrofit Program

Another motivating factor in proceeding with this renovation was the ecoENERGY program which offers home owners a rebate of up to $5,000 to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

In February, we had an evaluator from ATCO EnergySense complete an energy efficiency evaluation. After completing several hours of testing, they assigned our house an enerGuide rating on a scale of 0 to 100, 0 being the least efficient and 100 being the most efficient.

Our house rated 29, which is no surprise since our house was almost completely uninsulated. The average rating of a house of this age in Alberta is 43.

The evaluator provided us with a list of recommended improvements which if completed will improve the rating of our house from 29 to 70!

Replace furnace with 95% high efficiency furnace
Estimated cost: $2,500                      Rebate: $650

Replace hot water tank with instant hot water system:
Estimated cost: $1,300                      Rebate: $315

Insulate walls (spray foam):   
Estimated cost: $5,000                      Rebate: $1,815

Insulate attic and cathedral ceiling 
(blown fiberglass, spray foam):   
Estimated cost: $4,000                       Rebate: $750

Insulate basement:
Estimated cost: $1,000                       Rebate: $1,375

Install new EnergyStar windows and doors:
Estimated cost: $25,000                      Rebate: $480

Improve air seal (spray foam, new windows & doors):
Estimated cost:      -                       Rebate: $190

Install low flow toilets:
Estimated cost: $500                          Rebate: $130
So in total we are looking at spending $39,300 in order to get the maximum $5,000 rebate. It sounds like a lot of money, but most of the improvements we had intended to do any way so we look at it as $5,000 in savings on our renovation. Most importantly, by completing the recommended upgrades and increasing our houses enerGuide rating to 70, we will be reducing our energy consumption by up to 58% and our green house gas emission by 9.9 tonnes per year! Not to mention the money we will be saving on our utilities bills...

We had not intended to replace our furnace since the one we have will likely last another decade but it was hard to turn up the $650 rebate. Especially since it turned out to be on top of paying only half of the $5,000 we were quoted by a local furnace company by using our sources to get the furnace for $1,800 and finding a installer on kijiji willing to install it for $500.

It is also unlikely we will go ahead with the basement insulation simply because our basement is packed to the rafters while the rest of the house is torn apart and I doubt it will be possible for us to get it empty enough to insulate by time the program ends in March.

I have been tracking our utility bills since we moved into the house so I am interested to see if we really see a drastic reduction.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Progress - Day 20

We are at Day 20 of the renovation and Dave has made some impressive progress over the last week - at least if the growing pile of garbage in the backyard is any sign!

The windows and doors got painted, at least the ones that arrived built correctly, and the office french doors and master bedroom window got installed. We also got confirmation that the windows that had to be replaced should arrive "any day now"... not going to hold my breath.

The doors and window required significant amounts of framing work in order to fix the creative structural work done in the last renovations. Sometimes, I think it works to our disadvantage that I am a structural engineer. Ignorance would be bliss!

The doors had to be moved over almost 2' to align with the french doors in the kitchen below. The installation would not have been that challenging except for the 10' step outside the door. In the near future there will be a juliet balcony railing to prevent anyone from falling.

It appears as though the window in the master bedroom was originally a door which means at some point in time our house had a balcony on the front. We wish we had known because we would have considered re-building it. At least the "transfer truss" is gone and our roof is now supported by a proper beam!


A big thanks to Robin for lending a hand and being brave enough to hang off a ladder 20' in the air while wrestling a door into place.

This next week promises to be another week of big progress as we are moving on to framing walls!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kitchen Part I

In the summer of 2008, we undertook our biggest project to date - the kitchen. We had no intention of starting a renovation immediately following our wedding but ended up jumping in feet first following an attempted house break-in.

What does an attempted break-in have to do with a kitchen renovation you ask?

While Dave was away for a ski vacation, I had spent a night at my parents house and returned home to find that someone had attempted to break into our house and left our back door broken. Wanting to surprise Dave with my ability to handle things on my own, I bought and installed a new back door. When Dave returned home, although impressed that I had fixed it without him, he prompty decided he hated the new back door. One decision lead to another and next thing we knew we had commited ourselves to demolishing the back porch, relocating the back door I had just installed to a new shed we would build, installing new french doors in the kitchen where the entrance to the porch previously was and completely re-arranging the kitchen to accomodate the new doors.

Suddenly we went from a $300 back door to a $30,000 renovation...

The best way to describe the original kitchen was just that - original. The design featured a "z" shaped counter, corner sink and appliances crammed into every available inch. It was the most inefficient kitchen layout ever conceived. There was only a indirect view into the backyard and in order to get to the backyard, you had to pass through a dark, damp, mouldy porch. Unfortunately, I do not have any good "before" pictures.

We began the renovation by tearing down the old porch and tearing open the back of the house to install the new french doors.

At this point, Dave managed to break his ankle falling off the deck while holding a sheet of plywood and the project ground to a halt. We had to live with a large opening in the back of the house for several weeks while Dave recovered. Did I mention that is was September?

Thankfully he recovered quickly and we were able to get the house house closed up before the weather turned cold. 

Then our focus turned to the inside of the house. 

To be continued...


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