Code compliance requires new soffits to have built-in venting, to the tune of 25% of the area. The original soffits had no venting. Essentially, the attic pulled in its air through any cracks and holes that would have been in the attic, and then through the attic hatch, which was not insulated. I have no idea whether that was sufficient or not, but the whirlybird on the roof was always spinning, so I know there was air movement.

New soffits with venting make matching to my original soffits quite impossible. The Builder has done the best he can, I think. He’s installed a wood beadboard product that looks like tongue and groove, with a strip of venting.

Old meets new

The Builder says the venting strips have to go along the north and south of the house, and not along the west. The west would have been preferable, as then they would have been out of sight entirely. However, he says I did not have a choice.

Venting strip compared to no venting strip

I’ll be painting it in the summer and hopefully it will blend in a little better. As it is, it looks obvious and unsuitable and doesn’t match up at all, so I may have to replace the original soffit to match the new. Will assess in the summer.

I notice that the eavestrough corner looks pretty rough ….

Refinishing Windows

In the meantime, while waiting for the roof trusses and building to resume, I’ve been refinishing windows I took from my grandmother’s abandoned farmhouse. After being told I couldn’t use old windows in a new build, I discovered I could and have pushed for them. The builder is now happy to use them, and I’m happy to be using something of real value and to save myself the $12,000 new Loewen windows would have cost.

Five sets of double hung windows, two storm window frames, one bay window set, and two smaller ‘bathroom’ windows.

So, now the job of refinishing them. They’re in quite good condition – only the outside sills are greyed and need sanding. Otherwise, with a good wash, replacement of putty, and cleaned glass they could be installed right away. But, they are painted white on the inside and I want natural wood. So, I have to also strip the paint. Turns out it is likely milk paint and is proving difficult to remove.

Beautiful upper sash with intact glass.

I’m following John Leeke’s method and have ordered his book “Save America’s Windows”. I can’t get some of the materials he recommended

in Canada, so I’ve ordered Allback linseed putty and will use boiled linseed oil and turpentine to ‘condition’ the more exposed parts of the frames.

I’m removing the old, concrete-like putty with a Speedheater.

I can see this is going to take many hours of work. But I’ll enjoy it, knowing I saved these windows and will have them to add true character to my modern addition.

Creepy Crawlspace

I don’t seem to be able to focus on a project until it’s done, and instead start new things on a whim. The whim I entertained recently was working on the kitchen crawlspace and removing some of the cellulose.

I promise it will look really nice when it’s done!

Granted it was a very hot and humid day and I was in full sun, but after a couple of hours of work I only had a few bags of cellulose removed and have many many more to go. I gave up.

Two hours of work and that’s all I have to show for it?!

Two interesting discoveries in the crawlspace: First, as noted in another post, the space had been supported by a significant beam in 1999 (after seeing the beams I dug out the receipt, kindly saved for me by the previous owner).

Support beam

Second, aside from mice and spiders, something nested in there. At least I think it’s something other than a mouse, as I don’t know that mice make nests like this.

Finally, basement excavation has begun!

This is a real fun renovation so far. Friday was spent with the plumbers in and out of the house the whole day, as the gas line was moved to a temporary location. Every time they entered the house knock knock, can we come in? I must have said six times that they ought to just come and go without asking me first. But I had well-mannered plumbers who insisted on knocking. I was exhausted from getting up to open the door for them. That was my EDO and they were not gone until after 6pm.

Then, at 7am on Saturday morning the excavator showed up with two helpers, ding dong on the doorbell, could I move my car and advising they would be done by noon. Half an hour later, ding dong on the doorbell, where should we put the fence parts that have fallen down as a result of the excavating. Then they did a couple of loads out and then ding dong on the doorbell, the excavator wanted me to pay him directly for the excavation work and wanted a cheque today, even though the work was only about 1/3 done and he couldn’t cash it anywhere because it’s Saturday and there’d be a 5 day hold on the funds because it’s a personal cheque. I suggested I could get him cash on Monday if he’s in a real hurry, and he says no, cheque today please. I was baffled, but he was sure that’s what he wanted.

Since I have a contract with the builder that includes excavation of the basement, I was a little taken aback by the excavator’s request for payment from me. Then he says he wants me to leave the cheque blank. “Blank!” I say incredulously. “I’m not giving you a blank cheque!”. He meant just to leave the payee line blank. He explained he didn’t want to deposit it into his bank account and he would put his wife’s name on the cheque, whom I’m sure he told me he had divorced some time ago. I was concerned about his motivation for doing this and people who know me would know why I was concerned, but I was baffled by it all and felt powerless to say no.

Instead, we had a chat and he explained that the builder owes him money from previous work and he wants to get paid this time. I’m all on board for being paid for work done, so I called the builder to tell him I’d be giving the excavator a cheque today and that it would come off the cost of the contract with him. I didn’t really care how the excavator dealt with his money, as long as I had proof of payment.

The builder was annoyed, and explained that the excavator wanted the cheque today because he’d go off to MoneyMart and cash it immediately. How awful. It’s unfortunate, but if that’s the way he wants to do it, then that’s his business. Anyway, it was Saturday and the builder was out with his family, but he stopped in and gave a cheque to the excavator. I was happy the excavator got paid, sad that he’d give MoneyMart part of his hard-earned cash, mad that I’d been used by the excavator to force the builder’s hand for payment, and annoyed with the builder because he made it seem like such a big deal that he had to stop in on a Saturday for five minutes when I had been dealing with the ding dong excavator all day. Distasteful all around .

Then the excavator had vehicle trouble that ate up the rest of the morning and a good part of the afternoon, and ding dong on the doorbell to advise of that. Later in the afternoon he returned with a ding dong on the doorbell, to say excavation would resume with just himself digging, loading the dirt into a truck, and then driving the truck to unload the dirt. Very slow process.

Then, I went out and when I got back at about 5pm I saw the excavator’s half ton being towed away, the Bobcat parked in my driveway, and nobody returned for the rest of the day.

Sunday morning at 7am, ding dong on the doorbell, would I move my car from out front. The excavator had arrived by himself again to finish the job. He’d be done by noon he said. He was earnest. At 7pm, after a brief but heavy rainshower that turned the clay in the excavated hole into a slippery mess, ding dong on the doorbell, he wouldn’t be done today. But since he had slipped on the messy clay when he went in to check on how slippery it was and got himself covered in mud, could he use my garden hose to wash up.

And there I was, handing paper towel to the excavator at the end of another long day of comedy with the promise that it will all resume again tomorrow morning at 7am with a ding dong at the doorbell.

5 feet down and the wall looks ok. Whew!
Bobcat parked for the day. My son in the background playing barefoot in the wet clay.


Old Porch – Kitchen Addition

What I thought was a kitchen addition (adding 60 square feet, and allowing the installation of a dishwasher and pantry area), was an original back porch enclosed to make it living space. On the inside it’s easy to tell where the porch starts because there is a sharp downward slope there. So, the porch is slumping off the house. And apparently not for the first time.

The previous owner left me a number of house-related receipts and one of them was for work done to raise the porch. The receipt shows that in 1999 the contractor installed pilings and a beam, and ‘refreshed’ the skirting and floor. For that work the previous owner paid $1350.

I took a look under the porch and saw what appears to be open ground covered with cellulose insulation to within 8 inches of the top of the crawl space. I also see scads of mouse droppings and bugs and spiders.

Crawl space door, under kitchen
Dirty crawl space exposed








Mousey cellulose and cobwebs







And also, there’s a gap up the side of the house where the porch is pulling away. Since my goal is to seal and insulate the house properly, I’m not sure what to do. Is it biting off too much to chew if I get under the porch to try and fix it? Maybe if there are pilings there, all that needs to be done is to raise the beam again, with a floor jack. That begs the question of why the beams would have dropped again after just 18 years, but that would be for a professional to answer. Maybe I can get another in for $1300, like the good old days.

I read that to get proper insulation for a warm kitchen addition, I need to treat the space underneath as ‘conditioned’ space, like I would a basement – insulated on the perimeter (including the ground) and not on the floor.

Alternatively, I could use rigid foil faced insulation that is attached to the bottom of the floor joists, as long as it is sealed completely (airtight). I’m not sure I can do that in the tight space under the porch, but it’s something I could try myself.

And another alternative is spray foam – I’ve read that it has to be high density foam  – at least 2 lb/ft3—and at least 3 inches thick or thicker, over the joists and subfloor (completely encasing the floor system). This is something I’d have to hire out.

Or maybe I should pull the porch off altogether and do without that 60 square feet. It’s my plan to redo the kitchen anyway, maybe just sooner rather than later? Of course, that means the new-ish deck would have to come off too, as it’s anchored to the kitchen/porch wall. It’s never easy, is it?

I’m leaning toward jacking up the floor again and spray-foaming the heck out of it, and then the mice can party like it’s 1999 all they like under the porch and it won’t bother me one bit.

In the Meantime, While Waiting

While waiting for this reno to start (will it ever??), I started on sealing the joist sill from the elements. I’ve been hosting all manner of wildlife and living with cold floors since I moved in.

Our favourite wildlife is what my son calls ‘the harmless beetle’ in a mock shriek, which as far as I can tell is actually called the sow beetle and is indeed harmless. But awful to live with.  For several years we’ve also hosted maple bugs by the hundreds. I am hoping it is simply a population explosion thing and that soon they’ll shove off. And of course, several variety of spiders. One variety of spider made me the most nervous and that was an incredibly speedy hairy thing. I simply could not catch it.  Out of the ordinary are the bumble bees that find their way into the basement. Doing laundry keeps me on my toes, because I’m never sure what I’ll find when I head down there. I wear shoes all the time in case there’s a dying bumble bee on the floor.  I’m afraid that enough have died down there that I haven’t seen any in the yard at all this year. Not out of the ordinary are the busy mice who keep us company and remind us at all hours that we’ve got company. It’s been fun over the last decade hearing the adventurous mice find their way to new locations in the house.

Recently deceased and not so bounce-y bumble bee

Having said all that, I’m excited to live warm and wildlife-free next year! So, in order to accomplish that, one step is to seal the rim joist/sill plate. This is the part where the house sits on top of the concrete block basement. In my basement the rim joist has gaps open to the environment because of rotted wood, a crumbling and cracked foundation, and pipes going into or out of the basement. Honestly, there is only 2″ of wood between the basement and forty below.

See the blue-ish gap in the lower left? That’s twilight from outside













So, I am using spray foam and caulking to fill the gaps and cracks. I’ll use rigid foam to insulate between the joists at the sill, all sealed with my terrible caulking skills, and I’ll also use rigid foam between the joists on the main floor. See the photo below, from Family Handyman, or Handywoman in this case. This will help to keep my toes cozy on the main floor and the wildlife where it belongs – outside!

Another project that I’ve started and mostly completed is insulation of my bay window. The plan was to simply insulate the underside of the window, but as things tend to be with old houses, one thing led to another and I ended up insulating the facing of the window as well. This was because when I started insulating the underside, I saw that the bottom centre 2×4 was rotted. So, I took off from all three sides of the bay the stucco siding (which concealed an open space under the bay window), the old growth Douglas Fir siding (numbered and preserved for refinishing and reinstallation), the tar paper, and the shiplap sheathing.

Stucco removed and original siding exposed

Underneath all of that was wood chip insulation and my interior lath and plaster wall. And underneath the bay was simply the subfloor exposed to the elements!  No wonder it was cold at the bay window!!

Blurry photo of exposed subfloor with cobwebs







Bay window with lath exposed, and woodchip insulation on the ground

I replaced the rotted lumber, used 2″ foil lined rigid foam and incredibly bad caulking to insulate on the facing and underside and reinstalled most of the original sheathing. I had to use new lumber for parts because the lower parts of all three sections of sheathing had rotted.

Rigid insulation installation

And, that’s where I stopped. I had run out of suitable lumber, the long weekend was over, and it was very hot out. Mostly though, I stopped because my knees were done. I’d spent three days (yes, this amount of work took me three days!) on my knees or in a squatting position working on this window. In fact, underneath the bay was a 12″ depression, which was probably the original elevation of the land before additional landscaping and topsoil was brought in. So I spent much of my three days squatting while leaning down under the bay. At one point my foot slid down the side of the depression and I felt some damage occur in my knee. I’m not sure what it was, but now, three days later, my knee is still swollen and it hurts while resting and definitely while walking. Anyway, a war wound from my fight to make my century home more liveable. I’m sure I’ll survive.

I have not put back the original siding as the plan is to refinish it first. In the meantime, the house looks worse than ever. I’ve explained to as many neighbours as I know what my plans are, so hopefully everyone understands that the great beauty of this house will take another year to shine through. Something like this: