Monday, January 28, 2013

Hardwood Dilemma

My first order of business when we moved into our home 9-1/2 years ago was to replace the hideous floating laminate and bad tile floors with hardwood.  No brainer.

Then we were gently reminded how forgiving those surfaces are....and how we were a young couple about to start a family. 

For seven years, I haven't once flinched at metal matchbox cars flying through my kitchen or livingroom. 

But now we have a basement with ceramic tile floor. 

Mommy needs hardwood.

Basement steps

The only unpainted wood in this house are the stained oak steps to the basement.  Our goal is to find something that will complement it.  

You can see two samples in the picture above, next to the stained oak.  We received the long sample on the right from our designer, who is using it at another project. 

Not the best compliment, maybe a little light. 

I visited a flooring store today and grabbed the sample on the left.  Engineered white oak, brushed, matte lacquered finish.  It brings out the dark veining in the stained oak.  And I prefer its matte finish for the whole main floor.

I don't know how you choose a hardwood.  So I'm moving it all around the house, trying to get different views of it in different lighting. 

In bad hallway lighting

I had to show this picture...doesn't that square of dark next to the wall color look a million times better than the tile and laminate?  ugh!

Next to the back door

Half natural light, half bad lightbulb light.

In front of back door

I like the grain that really shows in natural light.

Then I thought, hmmm, how do I know if I'll like this really dark hardwood throughout the whole floor?  So I took it into the basement to see how close it is to the wood-look ceramic tile down there...

Where's the sample?

Um, yeah.  Isn't there something about picking the same thing over and over? 

There it is - I think...

Obviously, we wouldn't have the grout lines breaking up the planks.  But I can get a sense of how the dark would look in a large space.  And -maybe- an idea of how much dirt shows on a dark floor.  I'm always seeing dust bunnies and fuzzies on the floor down there. 

I have to say, our reason (one of many) for doing this renovation is to bring the basement up through the house.  We just love how it turned out down there and want to create that same look & style throughout the rest of our home. 

So if it's good enough for the basement...?

We'll see what my better half says when he gets home from work ;)

p.s. if you're reading this and have suggestions on how to choose hardwood, I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gates Be Gone

I never thought this day would come.  It only took a delivery of an upright freezer to our basement.

No more gates!

Now you see it... you don't!

That basement has never felt more welcoming.

Not that it was hard to manouver those baby gates.  I still say the KidCo ones are the best.  They are easy to open and close with one hand and in a rush.  And they're pressurized, meaning no permanent holes or major marks on the wall.  Ours just need a little patching and painting after multiple years of repeated constant pressure. 

I love the view when you walk in the front door.

Last week
Last fall

This is the best "before" picture I have of the gate closed on the main staircase.  (p.s. how many legs can you see?)


And here it is now.  Yes, one of those white marks on the wall is from the gate.  I think it was when someone stepped on the bar and the gate came loose, scraping the wall.  Still better than multiple screw holes.

I can't say how lovely it is to go up and down the stairs with a full laundry basket.  No more balancing it on the post while I open and close the gate behind me.  Or when I run upstairs and forget what I went up to grab.  Unlock, lock.  Wait - what?  Unlock.  Lock.  Oh right!  Unlock.  Lock. 

It's the little things.

And since we decided the gates were NOT going back up after the renovation, this gives George a little practice ahead of time.

So how is George doing?  Does he go straight for the recently forbidden hazard?

No.  Amazingly enough, he finds someone's hand to help him up or down the stairs.

No more baby!!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Now We Can Buy A Cow

Or get a membership at Costco.  Or give every kid in our hood a freezie. 

Or...renovate our kitchen. 

Figured it out yet?

Basement "Pantry"

It's something that will fit in there...just barely....

Ta Da!
Fill me with meat

We've been talking about getting a freezer for the basement forever.  Before the dig.  After the finish.  And now, with a main floor renovation on the horizon, we finally decided to do it. 

Our house with three growing boys will use this extra freezer space, no problem.  We already go through a bag of milk every day.  I can't wait to see how many frozen pizzas we can jam in this thing.

As for that "pantry," I cleaned it out immediately.

And here she sits.

Waiting.  Why?  There is no outlet in the "pantry."

But, of course, I have a plan...

1.  Put a small hole in the back of the wall to run an extension cord to the outlet in the neighboring utility room
2.  Build shelving to the left and above the freezer for cleaning supplies and tools
3.  Put everything back in and enjoy the organization while eating a freezie
4.  Do it all before the renovation starts

I better get moving...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Now You Don't

It feels like we bought our new kitchen appliances 5 years ago.  In a dream.  Except we paid real money. 

But then reality hits like an empty room.

Ignore the photobomber.

We decided to put the dining room set on Kijiji/Craigslist after the holidays.  We weren't in a super hot rush to move it, and we could try pricing it where we wanted...instead of discounting to get it gone. 

And guess what?  It sold.  In a week.  For asking.

Fist pump for putting a dent in that appliances down payment.

(For those of you following the floorplan, the table & chairs you see in the drawing are currently in our the dining set we had no emotional attachment to was on the chopping block)

This is the biggest reality check for me so far.  This renovation is happening. 

And now we have a dance floor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"We Want to Keep the House From Falling Down"

Good words to hear when talking floor plans with a structural engineer. 

Because we want to remove all the walls on our main floor during our upcoming renovation, we have to replace them with strategically located posts and beams, both steel and LVL.  We were introduced to an amazing structural engineer when we dug out our we invited him back to help us on the main floor project.  Nothing like continuity when it comes to structure.

I mentioned in my last post that we had a sticking point in our floorplan. 

This is it.  Walk through the first doorway above and you're in the living room.  On your left is the wall separating the living room from the dining room.  It's super hard to get a good picture of it.  So I circled it in the floor plan:

Why would this be a sticking point?  It isn't load bearing.  It's not integral to the structure.  Unless it's connected to a wall that leans.  Yes, that handwritten note on the floor plan above says "leaning wall" with an arrow pointing to the outside (not shared) brick wall. 

Our non-load bearing wall is a buttress. (SFX: groan)

That lines up to the second step of our staircase.  (SFX: louder groan)

I've been worried/freaking/frazzled about how we're going to remove that buttress and support the outside wall without putting a post against the shared wall and cut up our staircase. 

My designer, Kirsten, was optimistic.  See how the buttress wall is gone, the outside wall has a spot for a post, but the staircase is untouched?  Love that. 

And so did the structural engineer.

Truth is, we got lucky.  We thought about removing this tricky wall -just between the living room and dining room- before we knew it was a buttress.  We were going to demo it when we dug out our basement.  But our engineer noticed the lean.  

Long story short, he had us put a steel beam (the width of our house) in the basement ceiling directly under the buttress.  This way, if we ever wanted to open the living room to the dining room completely, we could build a steel frame and tie into the beam below using posts at the outside wall and in the hallway. 

But now we won't have a hallway....or a place to put a post....

Cue our engineer:

This is my bad drawing of his solution.  It's a cross-section of our house if you chopped it top to bottom through the buttress wall.  I've drawn the steel and the staircase. You can see in the basement, we already have the posts and beam in place.  What's on top of it is his idea...

At (1), we would place a steel post "on top of steel post & beam"
At (2), the steel beam and steel post would have a "welded joint" for highest strength
At (3), the beam would fit "into shared brick wall"

I'm not an engineer, and I can't remember the exact words.  But because the single post and beam would be welded in place and at a right angle, it would have the strength and counterstrength to hold the house and the leaning wall in place.  Like a buttress.

Music to my ears.

So we can get rid of this.

And keep this.

I got plans for that gorgeous baby gate, to-die-for laminate on the steps and aren't-you-jealous-of-me ceramic tile.  Complete with missing grout.

So that's it for the sticking point.  Solved.

What about the rest of the support?  Aren't there like two more rooms past the buttress wall?  Yes. 

Luckily enough, we know our house is typical in one way.  It has wider foundation walls.  See that lip behind gorgeous baby gate #2?  I cursed that thing in the basement dig.  Now I could kiss it.

A post will rest on that lip about 2 feet back from the right edge of this picture, hidden in the powder room wall.  The other post will hide in the kitchen, on the outside foundation wall.  And if all goes well, the beam will hide in the ceiling joists. 

So now, with the structural situation figured out, all I have to do is get a family of five ready for demolition day.....!!!!!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 - Year of The Renovation

It's on.  I'm more excited than terrified.  And I'm ready to start demolition, like, NOW.

It all started last April, when we exposed the brick.  That sparked an idea to remove the wall between our master bedroom and "sink room" to make the master more spacious and functional.  Which then got us thinking...what if we moved the master to the 3rd floor instead and made it one big room (versus the current two rooms). 

Then summer came.  We left Toronto, spent lots of time away, and stopped thinking about the house.

We came back.  Started thinking again.  And got inspired.

The last four months of 2012 were full of planning.  2013 will be full of doing. 

Excited?  Me too.  Let's go through the plans for our new main floor.

Current Floorplan

In the current floor plan above, you can see the typical boxed rooms of an annex home.  Double door entryway on the left (we're the right side of a semi-detached) with a staircase straight ahead, and then living room, dining room, kitchen in a row from the front to the back of the house.  

The dining room is our biggest problem.  It's a repeat of space for us, since we eat in the kitchen.  The focus of our renovation is to reconfigure the layout to eliminate that dead space. 

New Floorplan

Ta-Da!  I know, lots going on.  But what you don't see anymore are walls.  No boxes.  Just open living space with a new entryway, kitchen, pantry, slider to the deck and....a powder room!  Dream.  Come.  True.

So, how did we get here?  Where did we come up with this plan? 

After deciding the main floor was on the chopping block, we immediately recognized that redesigning it was more than we could handle.  So we called in a pro, Kirsten Marshall, from Palmerston Design Consultants.  Steve immediately took a liking to her style.  And since I was lucky enough to be friends with her before I knew what she did for a living...I was sure we'd work well together. 

I was just happy she said yes.

Her familiarity with old homes like ours is key.  And her ability to come up with fresh, contemporary ideas that are highly functional but aesthetically pleasing is incredible.  Not to mention her love of ikea kitchens and making them look custom...need I say more?

Let's see some elevations.

New Kitchen

No uppers, but big drawers and lots of shelves for storage plus a huge new stainless-steel fridge for a house full of growing boys....

...goes here.  We're saying goodbye to that little window facing the backyards of my neighbors who face north, but we're saying hello to a big 8 foot slider across the back wall (to the left in this pic). 

Now turn around and face the opposite wall.

New Storage

Looking left to right, two banks of built-in shelving and a barn door (that slides across the entire wall) which reveals a walk-in pantry...

...goes here.  No, I won't miss any of this.  Except maybe remembering all the blood, sweat and tears that went into painting those crazy cabinets.  But definitely not that knocking fridge, uneven stove and 5 year old dishwasher that can't clean glasses anymore.

Let's move into the current dining room.

New Dining Area

Although we're eliminating the little kitchen window to allow for the hood and backsplash, we're keeping the bay windows.  In the plan, you can see the built-in buffet along the wall that...

...goes here.  We're parting with our dining room table and chairs this weekend.  Thank you, Kijiji/Craigslist.

The living room will generally stay within its current footprint.  We're still working through an elevation including a fireplace and a TV. 

But as exciting as planning a new kitchen is, the living room certainly isn't an afterthought.  In fact, part of the living room was a sticking point for the floorplan.  My next post will outline the structural elements that go along with our plan to remove all the!

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Still BFF's

You may recall my recent love in with caulk.  Well, I'm happy to report our love is still going strong. 

I didn't get the second layer of caulk on the stringer/plaster connection until just today.  Packing four humans to go on a 10-day holiday trip across the border took precedence.  But upon this morning's inspection of my first layer of caulk, I found something.  NO CRACKS.

Ok, that's a big YAY, considering this is what it looked like before....

Obviously, wrong caulk for the job.  Score one for my informative guy at The Home Depot.

But I still had some more work to do.  My first layer of caulk smushed into that crack.  (Or was it just a heavy hand falling in love?)

Again, no crack.  But big dips. 

20 minutes of work later, muuuuuch better. 

I think I still need one more light layer in some spots...just to flatten out some dips and bumps.  But it is truly looking like a brand new staircase again.  If it was awesome after the first caulking, it's even awesomer now.

Here she is:


I know, bad lighting, different angle, camera vs. iphone.  Still awesomer.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

What's a Holiday Without an Update?

We spent Christmas at my brother & sister-in-law's house in Naperville, IL.  It's great because the cousins get together.  It's also great because his house was a foreclosure.  So while they had to renovate major things before they could move in, there are still little projects here and there to tackle. 

My kinda projects.

First, a shot of the cousins.  Because what post is complete without a picture of kids.

Last year was (my) George's and (their) Charlie's first Christmas.

This year, we tried to recreate the magic.

Toddlers move more.

Oh well, on to the projects...

In the fall, my SIL Craigslisted the bought-from-the-neighbors-for-a-song-when-they-moved dining room set, because it really didn't fit the style of their home. 

Beautiful set.  Just not for them.  Totally get it.

Then my brother painted out the oak molding in the dining room.  To get ready for the new dining set my SIL ordered.  Which partially arrived before Christmas...phew. 

Which put the next item up for doing as: hanging the mirror.  Sign me up.

Shame on this blogger for not taking more before or during pictures.  Blame my brother for rushing through the measurements, making me so uncomfortable when we put holes in the wall.  Especially the one from this guy.

My Canadian friend Toggler has a brother.  His name is Ook.  Hang something really heavy without a stud?  I Love You. 

Turns out we only needed one Ook, as the mirror's left hook bullseye fell on a stud. 

Our bullseyes were almost dead on, but we needed to lift the Ook side.  So I did this.

A little folded paper towel cushion for the mirror's hook to rest on.  With that, we had ourselves a level mirror on the wall.

Gorgeous, right?

Now close your eyes and imagine a buffet below that mirror.  Open your eyes in mid-January and it will be there.

But, wait.  Before that buffet comes, do you see a few other things needing attention?

First we took a sippy cup break.

Then we came back to tackle those black outlets. 

And the off white/cream switches. 

I got all inspired by Young House Love's outlet updating, so I happily took on all five outlets and three switches.  If only I had that many in my dining room.

Here you see 7 plates, 5 outlets and 3 switches.  All for the low, low price of $22.  I say this is right up there with paint and caulk as the most inexpensive biggest-bang-for-your-buck upgrades you can do yourself.

The switches were pretty straightforward.  But the outlets got a little tricky. 

Three of them had easy looped wires around the connections.

But two outlets had individual wires that wouldn't come off without a fight and connections straight into the back...which made transferring them a little tricky.

But a success, nevertheless.  I had before and after pics on the iphone within two hours.  Yes!


That was my first swap.  I got all picture happy on it. 


Now my brother just has to paint and reattach the vent on the molding.  No pressure, bro.


After switching these, the first comment I heard was, "it's like they just disappear."  Exactly.


That outlet to the right of the window was my worst enemy.  But when we plugged in the lamp, it worked.  Nice try, buddy - better luck with the next DIY'er.

Let's see it one more time, just for fun.


The switch & outlet update makes the painted molding in the dining room look complete.  Quite a bang for that disappearing act buck. 

Now, open that door and look at the cream colored switches in the next room and beyond.  I think I know what I'll be doing when we visit again this summer...