March 31, 2012

Beams and stair design

It's been a week of beams around here.  We have 12 new beams in our building plans not including the giant 22 ft. steel one that we put in last week.  We needed so many because we wanted to open up the floor plan so much, and any time we removed a load bearing wall we'd have to replace it with a beam.  Our Engineer managed to cleverly hide most of them in the ceiling by specifying "flush" beams.  Instead of the ceiling joists sitting on top of the beam with the beam then hanging lower, we have attached the ceiling joists to the sides of the beams with joist hangers.  Two of the bigger flush beams on the main floor are sitting on top of the steel beam which is why we couldn't hide that one in the ceiling.  

But look at how open the main floor is now!  The temporary supports are all down and you can really see how big this space is going to be.  This is the view from the back of the house looking towards the front door.

   This is the view to the back of the house.  To the right will be the kitchen and to the left will be the dining room.  A small family room area will be in the back left corner in front of the big 8 ft x 6 1/2 ft window.

Beams went in on the second floor as well.  This is a big flush beam in the middle of what will be the master bedroom.  The big opening will be doors to a small balcony where we will hopefully be one day soon enjoying a nice cup of tea!

The stairs have been a huge headache this week!  We didn't originally intend to replace the basement stairs but have since dropped the basement floor by a few inches.  By doing this we get a bit of extra height throughout the basement, but have now totally messed up the stairs.  Once you decide to build a new set of stairs, you then have to comply with the building code which says we have to have a certain amount of head room going down (I think it's 6 ft. 3 in.-- a lot more than what we had anyway!).  But we couldn't get that head room with the space that was there so we had to do a lot of measuring and drawing and brainstorming of ideas.  

To fix the basement stair issue we decided to move the side door about 6 inches back so that we could then start the first stair 6 inches back from where it was.  This should do the trick.  Moving this door opened up another issue of how to finish the brick.  We decided in the end, to add a side light to the side door instead of trying to messily patch up the brick -- the brick veneer on this house has been nothing but a headache!

We put in new headers around the entire stair well and new posts that carry down to new footings in the basement.  All very straight and solid now.  Actually that's a temporary post there on the first floor.  The real one will be set right at the corner.

Next we'll have to design the new upper stairs.  I was hoping to do something simple and modern like this staircase.  I love the hidden stringers and that it's not over the top modern.  The handrail I think I'd like to do in glass but that can be decided later.  

On a final note, we had our second inspection this week and again it went extremely well.  A couple of small issues have to be signed off by the engineer but that is underway already.  Both the inspector and the engineer commented on what a tremendous job our guys are doing.  Love hearing that!

March 23, 2012

The 1,200 pound beam

The big, heavy 22 foot steel beam went in this week.  It is a doozer!  Our engineer designed it for our building plans based on our load requirements.  This is fine and dandy on paper, but when it came to the logistics of getting that sucker up into the ceiling it was another matter entirely!  Even our engineer told us with a laugh that it would take 10 men to carry it into the house and that they might collapse the front porch doing it!  I laughed too at the time, but this week the reality of this set in.  
So my dad came up with a plan to cut the beam into 2 or 3 pieces and to splice it together on site.  Originally he planned to do this with big bolts which I thought would look cool and industrial since we were planning on leaving this beam exposed.  But the steel company that makes the beam talked him into welding it together on site since it is (apparently!) much stronger this way.  Not nearly as cool.  
Even with the beam cut into 3 pieces, it was still a lot of weight for 3 guys to get up onto the scaffolding and set into place.  

They had to have all three pieces in line and on the posts ready for the welder.

It took the welder 5 1/2 hours to do his job -- weld each piece together, weld plates over the cuts, and weld one side of the beam to one post (the other side was left free to allow for expansion and contraction but was set further over the post into the masonry).

It's solid, but it doesn't look quite as good as I'd hoped it would.

Even that rusty red colour is not what I expected.  I was hoping for a dark grey steel colour.

With the framing work that was done today you can see how the beam will sit below the ceiling joists.  Still looks good enough to leave exposed, I think.  We'll likely paint it though.  Thinking a dark grey to match the big back window and bi-fold door.

March 20, 2012

The start of framing

Our mason and framer have been in and things are starting to take shape.  Some old windows have been closed up, and others are being built or re-opened.

This first floor addition looks so big, but it is actually only 2 feet further out than the original bay window that was there. We took off the bay window on the other side completely to make way for a great big bi-folding door that will eventually lead to a deck.  We had permission to go out 8 feet for the addition but opted to take that back to 6 feet.  Our framer thought I was completely mad!  He had never heard of anyone making the house smaller than the city approved!  But we felt that we would rather have the extra 2 feet in backyard space and didn't want the basement walkout to feel like you were walking into a tunnel.  We love how it's turning out!

The inside view is even more exciting!  Just look at those giant windows!  I'm loving how that narrow horizontal window is turning out as well.  We'll get plenty of early afternoon sun without losing wall space --we plan to put a TV under it.  I put one of those windows in the basement and second floor design as well.  I really love them!

Beautiful view out of that huge 8 ft x 6 1/2 ft window --and the trees don't even have their leaves yet!

At the front door we found a transom and a side window that had been blocked up.  We would like to open up both but may have to wait on the transom.  The aluminum cladding on the front porch is hanging down below the transom at the moment and we aren't planning on re-building the porch just yet.  But we can do this down the road (now that we know it's there).  

But the side window we can open up, and did!  I especially love the windows on this side of the house because they get so much sun.  You can see the sun in this picture shining away.  

We did change the original shape of it  for two reasons.  I first of all wanted to tie it in to the narrow horizontal windows in the back of the house, and secondly wanted to leave room underneath for a coat rack, or hooks of some sort.

Our great big steel beam has been worked on this week --probably the biggest structural element of the reno!  More on that soon...

March 14, 2012

Kitchen ideas

After renovating the kitchen in our current house a year and a half ago, I decided that I don't want to live through another!  It ended up being 6 months of washing dishes and getting water from the basement laundry tub, cooking in the microwave, BBQ, or toaster oven, and giving up our dining room to a temporary kitchen (with the big old fridge in one corner).  It happened in the summer and fall so it wasn't all that bad, but I still would like to have a kitchen in place before we move in to The Bennett house.
We used a custom kitchen company for our last kitchen and although it turned out really nice in the end, it was expensive.  I have decided to price out a few companies for this new kitchen and this time I come armed with scaled floor plans, a good idea of the design and style I'm after, and (most importantly!) experience.  We do have the benefit this time around of having an absolutely massive space to work with and it still has no drywall so we can do almost anything to it.  For this reason I'm considering an Ikea kitchen as one of our options.  At the Interior Design Show the Ikea booth was amazing!  I love all the organizational stuff Ikea has for the drawers and cabinets as well.  I'm just a real Ikea fan in general --especially if it's been fancied up with custom touches and other non-Ikea stuff.

I am talking to Appliance Haus as well.  My friend used them for their kitchen and it looks great.  Their cabinets also come with all kinds of neat organizational stuff that I just love.  That is one thing I really missed by using the custom company we went with last time --just bare bones drawers and cupboards unless we wanted to pay through the nose for organizational inserts as an additional option.  Appliance Haus has two lines of kitchens that they work with now.  One is Nolte Kitchens which is kind of like a step up from Ikea.  They have fixed sizes of cabinets but with a much bigger range to choose from.  The other is Leicht Kitchens which is fully custom.

I love this kind of stuff.

Some inspirational photos.  This one is designed by Architect Chris Deam.  Love the marble wall and the layout is a big "L" like ours.

This kitchen is by Ciccone Simone.  Love the cantilevered island, the back-painted glass backsplash and the lack of upper cabinets.

Love this kitchen by Steininger Designers.  White, grey and wood --that's what I'm after.

Grey, white and marble.  I have a love/hate relationship with marble though --just like so many others.   Love the look, hate the etching and staining.  In a more traditional or bistro-style kitchen you could get away with marble and just "let it go" but not so much in a sleek modern kitchen.  Sigh**

March 10, 2012

The big back window

The framers are in and they are moving like a well oiled machine.  Hard to really go over and take pictures because I don't want to get in the way.  Although I did go over on Thursday afternoon and one of the crew (who looked about 20 years old) asked me if I was the plumber!!! I think I'd better dress a little better when I go over next time!  I was wearing my big knee length black down jacket so at least I know it wasn't because my butt was showing! The plumber!  Sheesh!  Way to make a girl feel good!
Anyway, they've finished framing the exterior of the basement and are moving on to the first floor.  I wanted to modify the window designs slightly so I had to get on that right away.  Our permit drawings have the big 8 foot back window centered on the back wall but I wanted to move it as far as I could into the corner.  My dream was to have a corner window.

like this (by Kanner Architects):

or this (by Modern House Architects):

But I had to rein in the budget a little bit.  So instead I'm hoping to try and fake the corner window by shoving two windows as close to the corner as we can.

more like this (by Jennifer Heffel):
(sorry about the small size-- couldn't find it bigger)

Our other issue with the big 8 ft x 6 1/2 ft window is-- how do you open that sucker!?  We do open our windows as often as possible so we really don't want just one big fixed pane.  I got pencil to paper to draw out some of our options and here's what I came up with. 

12. looks like a flag.  9. breaks up the view too much.  15. is a bit wonky.  
I'm leaning towards 1. 3. 4. and 11. and have to decide pretty quickly.  Any thoughts are more than welcome!

March 07, 2012

Preparing for framing

Things have been moving rapidly.  The guys wanted to get the framer and his crew in this week and by gosh, they've done it!  We've got a pile of people and a 7AM delivery of wood expected for tomorrow.  We really have been extremely lucky with the weather being so warm though.  This has allowed the concrete footings, underpinning and mortar joints in the new foundation wall to set.  All of this had to be accomplished for the framer to start his work and we just couldn't have done it with usual Canadian February temperatures -- at least not quickly or easily. 

We had one small hiccup that no doubt happened because of all the rushing.  I went over to the house (all sick and coughing still so I wasn't over as often as usual) and saw the nearly finished new foundation wall.  Looks great!  Except there was supposed to be a window in it!

Fortunately the mortar hadn't yet set so they (after a bit of cursing) were able to cut it out fairly easily.  The size was modified a bit but I'm so glad we got it in.  This is the south west corner of the house and it gets quite a bit of sun.

There's my window on the left and the opening for the eventual french door walk out in the middle.

This is the "Oh my gosh, what have we done!!" picture.  But this is the worst it is going to look (I hope!).  Tomorrow it starts to get built back up and hopefully we will start to see it all coming together.