July 31, 2012

The laundry chute

When I began designing the floor plan of this house, I was desperately trying to shoe-horn in a second floor laundry room.  One of my biggest pet peeves in our current house is schlepping up and down 3 flights of stairs with armfuls of laundry.
Unfortunately, the second floor laundry either meant no ensuite bathroom for us, or no second floor guest room.  We weren't willing to compromise on either, so the laundry went back to the basement.
Then I got this great idea of putting in a laundry chute!  That would save me at least one direction of laundry carrying.  

I decided to put it in the main bathroom since we had the space and it was pretty much directly above the laundry room 2 floors down.  
Our guys had never heard of a laundry chute before so I had to Google "how to build a laundry chute" so I could show them what to do.  There are apparently a number of ways to build one, but we opted to use ducting since it is cheap and simple.  The main thing to consider with ducting though, is that any joints have to be carefully taped on the inside to prevent snagging of clothes on the sharp edges.  

Ideally I would have liked the chute to be a bit bigger, but we were restricted by the distance between joists and I decided not to mess with any of that.  Also, my friend told me that he used to slide down his laundry chute as a child!!!  Could you imagine?!  At least this one is too small to fit a kid.

There it goes, right down the wall behind the future kitchen cabinets.

And out into the laundry room!

We tested it with a thick sweatshirt and it worked like a charm.  I'll have to get a laundry bin to put under there to hopefully avoid a big mound of dirty clothes in the corner.

July 26, 2012

Ducts and the skylight fix-up

As I mentioned last week, the worst part of this renovation so far (although it's a close tie to getting the city permits!) has been our fiasco with the HVAC.  It started with a lousy HVAC design that had to be re-done and hasn't seemed to yet end.  
The installers we finally ended up getting have had problems with the new design, and have had to get custom ductwork re-made practically every day.  The job has obviously taken longer than they expected, I understand that, but then Tuesday they showed up for only an hour, and Wednesday and today they haven't turned up at all!  The installers explained that they've been pulled to another job (because those people have been waiting and making a fuss with the company) and that I should call the General Manager about it.  I absolutely did and got them back for tomorrow morning --hopefully until it's done this time!  They're seriously holding up the show!  
Once again, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  

This is the new furnace.  A high efficiency American Standard with a Vanee Gold ERV unit. I'm amazed at how much more compact it is than our current furnace.  It is also much quieter.

We're getting there...

This week we also fixed the 3rd floor skylight.  
While we were away in Florida back in April, what was supposed to be a big skylight at the top of the stairwell that could be opened and closed from the main floor for ventilation went in looking like this.

A puny little thing that was tucked away into the corner!  This was not what I had in mind.  This week we tried to fix the problem without replacing the whole thing and re-doing the roof.
This is how it looks now.

Way better, I think.  At least it looks intentional now.

July 21, 2012

Cedar shakes

The roofer finished the cedar shakes today.  I love it!  Smells so good, too!  I can't tell you how many people have commented on them in the last few days that they were going up.  It seems a lot of people are fans of cedar shingles!

In a mad panic this morning, I got the idea that I should pre-stain the shakes that were going on the skinny little section between the roofs.  I figured that we should protect them now so that I didn't have to go climbing up 30 feet later on to do it.  Even the roofer said it was a really good idea.  
I looked into the different stains available, and decided on a semi-transparent water based stain in a natural cedar colour.  But now I'm not sure I like it with the red brick.  Kind of clashes, I think.  I'm a big fan of weathered grey cedar and was thinking of letting the front just naturally age and then protect it later on (cedar really doesn't last unless you give it some protection).  Grey would go much better with the windows and with the red brick.  Anyone have any thoughts on this?

This is the back of the house.  Love, love, love it!  The back will have light grey stucco and possibly black siding on the addition. I will definitely leave this cedar natural coloured, because it will add contrast to the rest and tie in with the cedar deck.

On another note, our stone guy, Steve, delivered these beauties this week.  Eight, 4 foot stone slabs that will become eight steps going down the side of the house.

Steve had some amazing ideas to give our retaining wall and stairs some edginess.  What can I say, he's an artist -- seriously, he is!  And artists don't do things the "normal" way.  I'm really excited to see this part come together.  So fun!

July 18, 2012

A Georgian beauty in Edinburgh

While in Scotland, Paul and I drove to Edinburgh for a night out with two of his friends and their wives.  We left the kids with the grand-parents and stayed the night at Paul's friend's house. 
I just about died when I walked in to the place.  Although not a massive house, it is certainly big enough for a family and just oozes character and style.  A perfect mix of very old and modern-- I was in awe checking out every room.
As I mentioned before, I didn't have my good camera with me but I did manage to take a few pictures with my daughter's camera.  This house is lived in by a family of 4 and a dog.  There was no staging or styling here.  Just their gorgeous 200 year old home.  I sure hope that Paul's friend and his wife don't mind me sharing these images with you.  

The home is a three level, Georgian townhouse on a cobble-stoned street with exits to the outside on every level.  Check out the depressions on these original stone stairs.  You just can't duplicate this kind of character.  
I wish I could show you some of the before pictures of the interior (it was a real mess!).  The bottom floor bathroom seriously looked like something out of Trainspotting!  But since then it has been lovingly restored with the help of an historical architect.  

I love the simplicity of this handrail and the colour of the hardwood floors. 

Look at these mouldings!!!  Unbelievable!

The owner of the house is an artist.  It shows!  Not only by the beautiful artwork that is scattered on every wall (and floor!), but also by the style of the furnishings.  Isn't this a great couch?  And look at the shutters on the huge windows.  This room, by the way, hasn't been finished yet.  I'd love to see it when it's done!

This ceiling rose is one of my favourite parts.  I especially like it matched with this modern Artemide Logico light fixture.

I didn't measure them (if I had my tape measure with me, I would have!) but the ceilings must be at least 12 feet high.  The french doors in this image feel so grand, and the light from the super tall windows is so bright.

Because of the extraordinary ceiling height, almost all the doors have transoms.  I really like this arched one leading to their office. 

I'm pretty sure they told me that these were the original stone floors.  Either way, they look like they are!  Love them.  I think I'm going to try and find something similar for our entrance hall.

This is the original cast iron wood stove.  So great that they kept it, even though it is only used for storage.

This is an image of their newly landscaped back garden.  Did I mention that it leads to a massive ravine with huge walking trails?  When these vines grow in, this walk way will be heavenly.  Paul's mom has a similar vined archway leading to her garden, although hers is old and thick.  I just love these and want to add one to the side of The Bennett House.
I hope you enjoyed this mini tour.  I feel very lucky to have seen it, and stayed there, in person.  With its thick stone walls and big old wooden shutters making our room completely black, Paul and I had the best sleep ever.  And I most definitely found more than a little inspiration for our own renovation.

July 16, 2012

Frustration and delay -- our HVAC saga

We're back from Scotland now and are all very jet-lagged.  The kids woke up for the day at 4:00AM this morning!  Not my favourite time of day.  We had a really wonderful time and were all sad to leave (our middle daughter cried all the way to the airport), but we're also happy to be back in our own home. 

Work at The Bennett House has unfortunately stalled over the last 3 weeks.  Partly, I know, it was because of my absence, but mostly it was because we got a bit screwed over by our HVAC guy.  Things just don't always go swimmingly on a reno of this magnitude. Even more so because I'm managing the trades on my own and I'm a complete rookie.  Anyway, here's the long story about what happened....  

We had an HVAC guy that we knew did good work, we liked and we trusted.  We fully expected to hire him to do our system installation for us.  The problem started about a month and a half ago when he told us he was leaving for a 3 week vacation to Europe but said he would do our install as soon as he returned.  This wasn't ideal for us as we were ready even then to start the ductwork, so I decided to call around to other installers to get quotes.  This proved to be a very difficult task!  One company didn't return my call at all, two companies said they would give me a quote and never did --I even followed up and got no response, and another company gave us an astronomical quote.  I understand that we've been in the middle of a heat wave, but sheesh!  So at this point, waiting on our original guy seemed our best option.  I had our guys work on other smaller stuff (hoping it would just be for a couple of weeks) but the next step really should have been the ductwork, then the supply plumbing, the central vacuum rough-in, insulation and drywall. 
So when our original HVAC guy finally returned, we (thankfully!!) asked him to quote the job.  He shockingly came in at $1000 more than the astronomical quote we got from the very big, well known company!  I couldn't believe it, but he wouldn't budge.  Needless to say, I wasn't going to accept that, so I hit the pavement again, looking for a new company. I really felt like the first guy was taking advantage of our rushed position.
After speaking to a neighbour about the progress of the reno, he gave me his invoice for the company that did his HVAC.  With a lot of calling (bugging!) to this new company, they came through with a quote that was $5,500 less than the original guy.  Same exact furnace, same exact ERV unit!  But they too have been extremely busy and couldn't start the work until after our vacation.  They are coming in tomorrow.  I hope!!

So what did get done in the last 2 weeks?  We got our little back roofs done, and Typarred the addition.  Aside from that, not a heck of a lot, unfortunately.  A few other fiddly things, but that's about it.

When I went to look at the work, I noticed that they didn't overhang the little BBQ roof from the house.  I got them to add on a small 8 inch piece today (before the roofer came in).  Much better!  

The roofer comes in tomorrow as well as the HVAC guys.  He's going to put cedar shakes in the 3rd floor triangle and roof the front and back porch.  I'm loving the way the back of the house is now looking!

At the risk of making this the longest post in history, I want to share this amazing gift we got from my mother and father in law.  

Miss R. Murphy was my husband's great grandmother!  This gorgeous engraved silver and bone fish serving set was a wedding gift to her.  Isn't this amazing?  It is totally going on display in the new house!
My grandparents came to Canada from the Ukraine in the early 1900's to escape poverty and famine.  There are no heirlooms in my family.  And that just makes this one all the more special.

July 06, 2012

On a Scottish vacation!

Hello all! I am currently hanging out in bonny Scotland (some might call it rainy Scotland) for a vacation with the family. We're having a great time visiting family and friends (my hubby is a Scot) but I unfortunately have no way to blog-- all I have is an old iPad with me. It's been a few years since we were last here so I just love sharing all my favourite Scottish things with our kids now that they're older. I was hoping to photograph some of them and post them to the blog, but realised a couple of days ago that I've lost the battery power on my camera and forgot to bring the bloomin' charger! Of all things to forget! Our 2 older girls brought their little cameras (with chargers, smart them) so all might not be lost. I may just be able to sneak in a few pics after all. Things like: thick, green hedgerows; magpies; Walkers and M&S crisps (chips); old, haunted castles; fish supper at the local chippy; Marks and Spencer's sandwiches; golfing until 10:30 at night (it's still light out!); Indian take-out; side of the road strawberries; Irn Bru; bathroom pull-cord lights; Thornton's toffee; Scottish tablet; and double decker buses. I'm sure I will think of a few more as our vacation goes on as well. Two Scottish things I don't miss though, are haggis and black pudding-- yuck! Hubby had both of those yesterday and today. I can't even take the smell! Unfortunately, we have chosen to visit while Scotland is enjoying the most rain since the 1860's! The north of England is apparently being flooded. Even so, it's great to be back!