Bringing the Existing Plumbing “Up to Code”

I’ve heard it said many times that whenever work is done on an old house, whatever is touched by renovation has to be ‘brought up to code’. Of course that code changes yearly and is designed to keep manufacturers and industry folks busy and rich, and I’ve never questioned whether it’s true, because the Canada Building Code and its Provincial subsets are not public documents and must be purchased at great expense (every year). So, I have no idea whether it’s true. But on the basis that it is, the plumber noted that my existing bathroom plumbing, which was upgraded in 1999, did not have ‘p’ traps. Or ‘y’ traps. One of the alphabet traps.
The result is that my only bathroom has been torn apart. As has my dining room ceiling. And my living room ceiling. And living room wall. That’s additional work and cost I wasn’t anticipating, and mental stress as we struggle to manage around the living situation. The only non-disaster/untouched room in my house is my bedroom. And it’s a disaster anyway, because it is crammed full of things from every other room in the house.
I wouldn’t ordinarily gripe about this situation, especially since as far as I know this is the only unexpected thing to happen and the only unexpected cost, but I’ve been living in shambles and half-done work since July 2016 – 18 months at this moment. I’ve moved the same things around in my house, from space to space and room to room, trying to make room to live in for 18 months. I am DONE. Actually, I was DONE in December. And that’s when my friend Craig stepped in to take responsibility.

Anyway. I’m sure you’re not here to read about how angry I am. So, photos!

Here’s my living room ceiling after the plumber caused a freezing pipe at Christmas – the ceiling stain is from sewage.

Holes in the ceiling, cut to see whether my existing plumbing meets money-making code.

What was noticed by the builder at this point was that the previous plumbing company (Go Gregs!) cut through the joists to install pipes. So, my cast iron tub was not properly supported. Scary. The builder fixed that.

2x4s supporting joists until they can be sistered.

New plumbing in living room wall. What was interesting to see from this cut, was that plumbing was always installed in the houes – that is, there are no plaster keys in this area and it was always walled at an angle across the corner. Cool.

Long view of ceiling and wall cut outs in living room.
View of bottom of bathroom floor.

This shows the original fir floor in the bathroom (from below), but it also shows that the fir was cut away and replaced with plywood. Two layers of plywood now. So, in restoring that bathroom I will have to re-tile it.

Next post to display lovely photos of inside the destructed bathroom. Stay tuned.

Update on the Main Floor

The main floor is insulated, wired, plumbed, and drywalled. There is an open area for a family room, with bay windows:

Where pass-through to front door area will be.

The wall area by the windows that is not drywalled is  where an opening to the old house is going to go. It will be a pass through directly to the front door area. I’d call it a foyer, but it’s pretty tiny and cramped.

Looking from the living room area to the kitchen, where there is a new wide pass-through.  Lovely.

To the right of the pass-through seen above is new powder room. It’s small, but just what a main floor needs. Just room for a toilet and a sink. Had to convince the plumber that the sink had room to fit in front of the pocket door entry, and the toilet could go by the window.

Awaiting flooring and fixtures.

Closet space by back door – one for coats and boots, the only one in the house, and one smaller one for tools. These are directly across from the powder room, and right beside the back door.

Tool closet and coat closet.

And, finally, the back door.

Back door (temporary builder’s grade door).

Nearing Completion

I hope I’m not being stupidly optimistic in saying this, but the building seems to be nearing completion. In  December my friend Craig took over managing the project and dealing with the Builder for me. I was at wits end, ready to commit assault, and he very kindly stepped in and has been saving the day.

Craig reminds the  Builder that he also has to come to work everyday, stay for most of the day, and get some work done. Amazing that a so-called professional needs that babysitting, but he does. It hasn’t been 100% successful, in that some days the Builder still doesn’t come or do anything or stay for any meaningful length of time, but it has helped significantly as we’re nearing completion. I’m quite confident I would not be saying that if Craig hadn’t been babysitting.

Right now we have my beautiful windows installed, the insulation is almost complete, and poly on, with City inspection in a few days. If Craig hadn’t been on site, the Builder would have then disappeared for a month after he’d installed the windows. That’s his “m.o” But with Craig’s help, the Builder came back the next day to keep on working! Amazing!

One issue with the insulation is that some frost developed behind some temporarily installed pink insulation, where the Builder now has to put in foam insulation. Foam insulation can’t go onto frost, so we have to get rid of the frost. So, today, since the weather is supposed to be nice, I’m going to remove the pink insulation and set up a strong fan. It’s a small area. Hopefully by tomorrow the frost will be out and Builder can get sprayfoam done and final poly installed.

Then there is a chunk of concrete in the basement the Builder has to crack out. He’d installed it as a landing, but it is no longer needed. Then rim joist insulation down there and all small holes filled, widen the doorway area to the original basement, and clean up. The doorway area has to be widened because the plumber installed heating ducts through that door and now I can’t walk under it without ducking. So, new door location required.

Then sub-floor, and  upstairs: bathroom fan, poly, attic hatch, et voila! Builder should be off my property until the springtime, when he comes back to  clean up his work site, grade the elevation, and do a gravel driveway.

Oops, one more unresolved issue: the Builder did not put any heat into my upstairs bathroom. Yes, that’s how clever he is. It is wired for in-floor heat, but that is not sufficient in my climate So, either electrician comes back and installs electric wall-heat or plumber comes back and installs furnace duct.

Final electrical and plumbing inspections will be my responsibility, because I’m installing the drywall, flooring, and fixtures. With my friend Craig helping, I think I’ll be able to be motivated and educated on how to get that all done. It’s possible that by March I could be sitting in my addition, at least with sub-floor, drywall, and fixtures. Final painting, wood trims, and decorations might be longer.

Kitchen Floor Fiddling

Man, this kitchen floor will not give up the ghost easily. I’ve struggled with removing 8 layers of previous flooring, layer by layer, including the last layer of plywood that often had to be removed splinter by splinter.  Honest to goodness I counted 22 nails along one 24″ edge. See my previous post on this topic for further laughs.

This weekend was a little better. I got the flooring beneath one side of the lower cabinets off without much difficulty, because it only had three layers of flooring, and then the cabinet re-installed easily, albeit an inch and a half lower than before. I also cleaned my extremely dirty stove and put it back into place. Nothing like cooking grease caked with renovation dust. It was satisfying to get it cleaned up.

Base for west wall cabinets.
Bare floor under west cabinet

I didn’t tackle under the other side of the cupboards because that side has the plumbing – sink, water filter, and dishwasher.  Since whenever I touch something I wreck it and the whole cabinet system would be dropped an inch and a half, I decided I didn’t want to be in the position of calling a for-real-plumber on the weekend.

It’s unfortunate, because that side has the major mouse activity – a superhighway. I’d really love to seal that off, but because of the plumbing that will have to wait until I think the situation through and psych myself up to do it. Maybe next weekend.

Exit ramp for mouse superhighway. Carcasses of many accident victims located under cabinet.

Several interesting discoveries in the kitchen! What I thought was a single porch turned into a kitchen ‘bump out’ was something else. Not sure yet what, but the pieces of that puzzle are coming together.

The kitchen ‘bump out’ is made up of two structures. The newly revealed floor shows that a structural wall (long since removed) divided the two spaces north to south. The east space has painted narrow plank hardwood installed perpendicular to the kitchen flooring, which runs north to south.

East side narrow plank hardwood, perpendicular to Doug fir kitchen floor

The west space has original siding on the outside but on the inside the floor has a sheet of plywood overtop an opening to the crawlspace below. I wasn’t able to get that plywood off yet because it glued down with industrial strength adhesive, so don’t know if the crawlspace extends under the east space as well. I haven’t bothered climbing under the space, because it’s filled with cellulose, spiders, and mice. See my next post for more on that topic. Anyway, finding out whether the crawl space extends under both sides of the ‘bump out’ will help solve the puzzle, once I figure out how to get the plywood off without wrecking it.

So, my guess now as to the origins of the space is that the east side was always porch, and the west side was built as an addition to the kitchen in the 1960s. The reason I say the ’60s is because there is a wood threshold that fills in the space where the exterior wall was removed and that piece of wood has a stencil on it that says “Western Cabinet Ltd.”.

Western Cabinet stencil

With a tiny bit of internet research in between prying off layers of floor, I saw that this was a company that was in business in the ’60s.

I wasn’t able to track down when it ceased business, so a trip the library will be required.  Complicating this theory is that the second to last linoleum (yellow-y) was only installed in the east space, while the west space had a sheet of plywood.

Strip of yellowed 1980s linoleum between hardwood and sheet of plywood

Both spaces were not covered with linoleum until the last owner put it in the late 1990s. But for now I’m going with a kitchen remodel in the ’60s that took out the exterior wall of the house and the east wall of the porch and added the east space, resulting in over 60 new square feet in the kitchen, and of course brand new cabinets. The work wasn’t permitted, as I’ve checked on those. Anyway, this scenario explains the different roof configurations between the east and west space. The west space (the former porch) is sloped, while the east space is not.

The 1960s cabinets are gone. What I have now is 1990s oak in Shaker style. Nice enough but the carpenter routered the inner edges, eliminating the clean edge of a simple Shaker, and also the hardware is polished brass. Not my fave, although I’ve seen in a few magazines that polished brass is making a comeback.

Beveled Shaker with brass knobs

The major difficulty for me in the long run will be the sunshine ceiling. The cabinets were built to that 7 foot height, instead of to the 8 foot ceiling, so they won’t be tall enough and will look awkward when I take the sunshine out. Also, the electrician who installed the lovely fluorescent fixtures in the sunshine ceiling simply stapled the wiring to the popcorn ceiling. So, lots of work when it comes time to take the sunshine out.

After I accepted that the plywood floor was not coming off today, I got out my belt sander and had a go at the fir. Quite exciting! It will look very nice when it’s sanded. My plan is to shellac and wax it. The idea of re-waxing my floor once a year makes me feel good. Connects me to my mother and grandmother. A feel-good day.

Sample sanding

Uncovering the Stairs

In anticipation of the upcoming renovation, which involves putting a landing and a turn in the stairs, I pulled off the carpet. It was time for it to go anyway.

Stairs with some carpet removed. The green is the first paint on the steps.

But, turns out the stairs are not in the best of shape. They move substantially when stepped on, there’s a cracked step, there are large gaps between a couple of treads and risers, and the landing at the top has some serious gouges, gaps, and bouncy spots. The squeaking is outrageous.

I talked to the builder about reusing the balusters and the newel post and he noted that he would want to replace the whole stair anyway. So, not sure where we’re at with the stairs – what I’ll get to reuse and what will be new. Since nothing I’m getting will be ‘finished’, I’m sure I’ll end up with pine stairs and can put any fine wood on it that I want (after the builders have left the building). But it’s one aspect of the build where I’ll have to be present and insistent when it’s happening to get as close to what I want as possible.