Renovation · Uncategorized

Reno Diaries: December and January Progress

Happy New Year. I hope whatever you did to celebrate the end of 2017 and start of 2018 was fantastic!

The last 8 weeks have flown by! It’s been hard to keep up with what we’re doing…because we’re living in just a little bit of chaos right now + end of semester + Christmas + birthday (mine!) + travel to family + start of semester + all of the things. But really, it’s been great. We have moments where we feel frustrated that 2017 finished without our addition being fully framed in as originally planned, but the logical thinkers in us know its really not that bad. And frankly, we’re not the ones that have to work outside in the cold this month. So, there’s been progress and a little frustration – which sounds like a reno for sure.

This is a long post to try and capture all that’s happened on the project since mid-November. So really, the only person who’ll be reading this is likely my mother and mother-in-law. Hi Mom and Ann! Love you:)

Mid November: Finally moving forward

After spending more time and money with the structural engineer than we would have liked (but was very needed), we were finally able to get the foundation walls poured in mid-November. Fortunately, someone invented heated concrete or things would have been different. The concrete came out of the truck and into the forms nice and warm, making it easier to set in what was a colder than usual November. See how bundled up that operator is?

Seeing the foundation was great. Progress!!! Of course, we only saw it for about 10 minutes in the waning late autumn light since it was promptly bundled up in straw and tarps. We had three heaters hooked directly into our electrical panel running for over 72 hours to keep things warm enough so the foundation to firmly and properly set.

After 3 days, the forms came off and we had walls! Yay!

You’ll notice the floor is still gravel – and you would be correct. That is definitely not the final concrete floor. We (and by we I mean the construction crew) poured the floor after some of the first floor subfloor was installed. This gave it a ‘roof’ to help keep it warm and allowed some more time to sort out details of that lovely rubble wall you see.

Look at those lovely floors!Entrance from current basement to new basement.One-third of this new basement will be crawl space storage. This will be under the mudroom entrance so it’s not full height. That is going to make a great dry storage spot for items we don’t need regular access to…like Christmas decorations.

A full two-thirds will be 6’6″ – tall enough to be functional for easy access storage. Or possibly an office for Adam since he doesn’t mind a slightly cosier (read: no natural light) workspace. The crew who poured the floor finished it by hand since the subfloor above meant to ability to get a power finisher in was limited. They did a great job making it level and smooth. The power finisher would have made it shiny…but it’s a basement so we’re okay without the shine.

Gas Leak! And a lesson learned.

Part of our project involved moving the gas meter to a new location. This was so it would not be right in front of our mudroom entrance door. So one fine day the people certified to do things like that came to our house and moved the meter. Apparently it was going to be a two day event for some reason and so they didn’t do the full stress testing on the install on day one…because they were coming back on day two. In the evening, Adam went to check things out and saw that the connection inside of our basement was leaking. The soapy water the fitters had sprayed on the connection point to check for leaks was (slowly) making bubbles. NOT GOOD! Calls were made and things were fixed. I got home from work about 9 that night and was greeted by Adam telling me that our contractor, Curtis, was out buying us a gas detector…just in case. At our Curtis’ request, and insistence, we spent the night in a local hotel that gladly takes dogs. This kind of situation is basically a contractor’s worst nightmare. And while all was fixed and things were okay, he really felt sick about the situation. As Adam said, “Shannon would sleep like a baby, I’ll be checking the connection point every hour, and Curtis (the contractor) won’t sleep at all.” Fair enough. We packed an overnight bag to the hotel and were off.

Here’s what we learned. Stuff happens. Okay – we already knew that but this was a reminder. And while I don’t like avoidable errors being made everyone in my life knows that I value mistakes as a learning tool. Not ideal when it’s a gas leak in my house – but you probably get the idea. Based on the information made available to me, I felt confident things had been well-managed and happily would have stayed in the house. Managing mistakes well means a lot to me.

Early December: put everything in writing

Having done our own kitchen renovation, including opening up two external walls, we are familiar with how our house is put together. This means we know it’s built in a brick and pier fashion. Literally, there are brick piers every so often within the wall. Apparently, our contractor thought we had double brick construction. Adam and I recall telling him in September about the brick and pier. But he doesn’t remember. And we didn’t put it in an e-mail…which is really the key lesson here. It’s important that he didn’t recall, because when he realized the construction style it threw our timelines off for December. You see, we weren’t expecting to have to pack up two-thirds of our house until January 8th. But all of sudden the contractor wanted to see inside our north wall to confirm that the new six foot opening to the addition would be properly supported. This involved a late night moving of our entire pantry system and our fridge from kitchen to dining room.We had planned to make this move during the Christmas holidays, not the first week of December with one night’s notice. Needless to say, things were a bit chaotic! And we keep hitting our heads on our dining room light since it’s kinda in the way right now;) Once we moved everything out of the way, the crew came in and sealed off the north wall of the dining and living rooms, including the doorway between the two spaces. This was so the inside of the wall could be removed…which contained lead and therefore needed to be well separated from the rest of the space. Walking from our kitchen, thru our foyer and living to get to the fridge grew old pretty quickly. Within a week temporary walls were built and we can now walk directly between the kitchen and dining room. We have yet to change out the light fixture and the dining room, and one of us keeps whacking our head off it every so often. #renowoes

A week after the late night dining room move we were clearing out our back bedroom. This was the chimney could be removed in prep for exterior framing – and again, of course, included some lead abatement. Yay lead! The photos below show day one, which seemed very reasonable. Then things got real and the outside became the inside.

The best way to keep the outside out? Polytarp with a zipper.

Since December things have progressed some more and when you open the back bedroom door you see this.

That insulation is covered in a tarp to keep the weather out. All part of the effort to keep us warm and protected from the chilly chilly winter weather.

And now…2018: Purge, Store and Shift

In order for the reno to actually happen, we need to empty the office and linen closet. So three bedrooms are actually becoming one for awhile. The back bedroom was already done in December creating chaos upstairs since he hadn’t started moving anything out of the house yet. So we ended 2017 and entered 2018 in full on pack up and shift things mode.

Purge & Store

There’s no way we could squeeze everything into our existing space. And while we’re grateful to friends for offers of storing things at their houses, the amount we have to store seemed to be more than they had space for and just a little too instructive. So, now we have a storage unit!

It’s a lot more full than what it looks like here…that was just the first mini-load of stuff we brought in over the New Year’s holiday. Being able to securely store stuff off-site is worth the money in the budget. Deciding what to store and what to keep out was pretty easy. Anything winter related stayed, everything else went. Books, dish ware and serving ware for entertaining, clothing, chairs…all to storage!

Some very special items and our artwork is going to be stored nearby at our friend’s place. They have a room where it works perfectly for the amount we have…if only I can finish wrapping everything up! So much bubble wrap and newsprint paper and tape and paper cuts….

I know a lot of people take the opportunity to start the year with a clean slate. Donating unused items, getting organized, and all that jazz. We were right on board with purging, donating, and organizing in order to make this whole off-site storage thing work well for us.

To be honest, I think we’ll be doing another purge when these items come back to our place later this year. But the initial clear out felt great. How did we decide what wouldn’t make it to storage? Simple. If I wasn’t willing to pay to store something for 6+ months, and/or don’t see myself using it anytime in the next few years, then why I am keeping it? Some stuff was easy to let go of. If anything caused us to pause too long, we just packed it up for now. We’ll revisit the conversation about it when we move it back into the house.


Part of getting sorted and organized in our space actually means changing how we use our remaining rooms. The only untouched space to date is the bathroom. We collapsed our office and back bedroom into our actual bedroom – what I’ve been referring to as the front bedroom. That space still has our clothes in it, but is now joined by our treadmill, workout stuff, and a mini version of Adam’s workspace.

There is also a comfy chair in the front bedroom. This is so we still have a place other that’s the living to hang out and have some personal space. I love Adam but sometimes you just want to watch Netflix on your iPad while someone else wants to watch hockey live – so you need some separation and a decent chair to curl up in.

What does this all mean? We’re sleeping in the living room. Someone is definitely liking the ‘bed is the new couch’ set-up and ‘tv in the bedroom’. Good times.

Framing, framing, and more framing.

The crew was off for two weeks after Christmas. And those weeks were absolutely frigid so it’s a good thing they weren’t planning on working…cause right now it’s all outdoor work.

The east wall and north wall went up just before Christmas. The north wall gives you a good sense of the opening to the back yard. So much light will come through the double doors and big sidelight combo we’ve ordered.

Earlier in January the roof ridge beam went in, and you can see where the house used to end…that’s the back bedroom all exposed up there.

If we walk out of our back door into the extension, we see this lovely powder room with a view. And as of last night, the mudroom is more complete so the powder room has a little more privacy but still requires lots of warm clothing and hard hats to enter.

If you’re standing in the new mudroom entry you can look up and see the exterior wall of our new master bedroom! That opening is a high window going in that will allow us to plan furniture on the wall and still bring in light. Soon, the mudroom will have a roof and we won’t get to view the upstairs suite to easily.

It’s not easy….

Last night we met with our builder and architect to go over where we are with the budget, and look ahead to the next month of what’s happening. And yes, we’re meeting in the living room which means we’re meeting on our bed. The goal is to be done the framing by the end of next week. Then the roofing and insulation happen and work moves indoors for awhile.

One part that’s not easy is the relationship with our neighbours. We live on a narrow lot and need to use a neighbour’s driveway to finish off the framing. Later, we’ll need to use it for stucco and window install, as well as when the roofing is being done.

Adam and I are working with our neighbours around this, but they are a little frustrated because of delays in the fall that meant they were without their driveway for longer than expected. It’s not easy for them, or us, or the builder. There’s a part of me that wishes they used e-mail so we could communicate in writing and follow-up in person – but that’s not happening. So we’re working out how best to get access, and get the job done. The reality? It may cost us more money as we shift how some things are done in order to ease the impact on them. Not ideal, but ultimately we really like our neighbours and this whole project means we’re living next to them for the foreseeable future – so we want to keep things positive.

The conversations are difficult and our builder is very uncomfortable because of how some of the communication with our neighbour has gone. Let’s just say there’s lots of talk of liability and the need for some well planned risk mitigation is ever present. Frankly, some of the reno stuff is starting to feel like my job…in that I’m using the same skills I use all day at work…and that can be tiring. Those are also skills that are not as practiced for Adam which makes the situation more stressful for him. He trusts my abilities, but is understandably uncomfortable with where things are at and not seeing a clear path forward. I live in that uncomfortable murky place at lot at work and have an innate trust that I’ll be able to work things out somehow, compromises likely, but still a good ending. So, all of that – and we’re just about through our contingency budget due to structure/foundation stuff and this being winter….so yeah…..

We have our annual weekend away in February and that on the horizon is a good thing to look forward to admits the chaos. Also, the Olympics! So much to be distracted by coming up:)

I’ve decided to approach February with lots of optimism, hard work, and open lines of communication. And love – cause we all need lots of that. Fingers crossed.



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