The Decimated Bathroom

In order to bring my existing bathroom ‘up to code,’ the plumber had to tear apart my bathroom and install drain traps on the sink, toilet, and tub.

Wall where pedestal sink and toilet were.
The exposed wall shows no insulation on the exterior wall. Original woodchip insulation must have settled.

While I appreciated his sentiment on the tub, the plumber replaced a worn/cracked polished brass drain outlet with a shiny polished chrome one. I’m happy to have the new drain outlet because the old one did not seal, so baths were had by plugging the hole with washcloths. I had tried removing the old one several times, but it was beyond my skill and strength.
Anyway, the plumber also replaced the tub overflow, which had no issues as far as I was aware. So now I have polished brass tap and shower hanger, and chrome drain and overflow. Who on earth would think that’s acceptable?

The next day when I got home from work, the wall was re-drywalled and the toilet installed. Presumably sink will be done today.

The floor is my own disaster. When I first saw the sink and toilet out, I thought it would be very easy to pull up the 1980s green tile and get it down to the fir, which I would later restore.

Worse for wear 1980s green tile.

I did that because if they were re-installing toilet and sink I wanted it to be at the floor level that it is meant to be at. But, it was only after I started pulling out the tiles that I noticed that part of the original fir floor had been removed a long time ago and replaced with a sheet of plywood. Then, a second sheet of plywood somewhere along the line, maybe when the green tile went down.

Plywood, sitting on joist.
Tile, sitting on nothing.

So, now I just have a big mess and I’ll have to pull out everything, lay down a new plywood, and then tile. At least that gives me a chance to do in-floor heat for this bathroom as well and bring it into the 21st Century.

Threshold to bathroom – looked easy enough to remove the tile.
Ugly mess.

Some Action

After raising my voice a bit and shedding some tears for the Builder, this week produced some movement on the addition.

Right now I have a partially insulated basement (needs rim joist insulation), a partially insulated main floor (has a back door and pink insulation in walls, but no poly because electrician and plumber have not been through, and of course no windows yet), and an uninsulated upstairs. Shingles don’t arrive until next week, so still raining a bit through the underlayment. One morning we could have skated on the frozen water on the floor inside.

Icy floor

On the main floor there is a roughed in closet at the back door (I’m not intending it to have any doors, it will be shelving and hooks only) and a roughed in two piece bathroom. I had originally thought to have a pocket door, but a swing will be better.

The upstairs bedroom is really big. Much bigger than I need and it feels conspicuous. The original ‘designer’ on the project advised that for resale value people want huge bedrooms, ensuites, and walk in closets. I should have said I’m not most people, but I couldn’t see any other way of practically dividing up the space. So big it is.

Part of the big bedroom

Here are the roughed in ensuite and closet. The closet is smaller than originally planned, as we’ve changed the plan for the stairs.

Bedroom closet and bathroom roughly framed

Assuming approval from the engineer and the City, the new stairs will make it possible for me to have a one level, medium-sized entry foyer, which was one of my three stated goals of this renovation (the other two being a main floor powder room and a level exterior grade to the yard).

The existing stair case will be pushed back a foot or more and we will take out the mid landing and turn, and instead continue the stairs directly upwards and through the existing wall, resulting in a landing in what is now my son’s bedroom. That whole wall of his bedroom will come out and the space will simply be open. I’ll use it as a home gym and he’ll move into my current bedroom. This change in the staircase is what reduced the size of my planned bedroom closet, because the new entry to that bedroom will be where part of the closet was to sit. I’m fine with that change because it gives me the 2 or so feet extra at the front door. Of course, this is all assuming the City allows for it.

I am absolutely delighted to be able to use my grandmother’s doors for both bathrooms and my bedroom closet. I’ll have those, her windows, and all the trim – baseboards and plinths, plate rail, window and door casings and cornices, etc. I think I would be most pleased if someone entering the house could not tell there was a new addition on the house.

The window re-finishing is coming along. I am now painting the exterior on some of the sashes, although a couple of the sashes had broken glass and I’m waiting for replacement glass to come in. So once that glass is in, I will have to glaze those sashes, prime, and paint. The glazing putty takes several days to skim over, so should the glass come in on Monday, I will not have the windows finished for installation until at least the following Monday. And I picked up two additional windows from my grandmother’s last weekend, which need to be completely refinished, including sanding. I’m not a fan of the sanding. So my end of the window bargain has lots of work left in it.

Here’s a photo of the exterior – it looks big and manor-like. One of those things that a drawing can’t really convey – you have to see it to get a sense of its impact. And the roof looks really good.

Starting to see how big it will look

Anyway, cross fingers for another progressive week coming up!

Pain and Torment

I am feeling the deep pain and torment of renovation gone wrong, and there is no practical way out. It’s fall, it’s cool and wet, and snow will be here in no time. I have a shell of an addition with no insulation, holes in the shared wall – from the addition to my basement, on the main floor where the cold air return opened into the wall, and the same on the upstairs in two locations. The cold air makes it way easily into my house and my furnace is running nonstop.

It’s raining inside my addition, with the water dripping down the shared wall and into my basement, onto my upstairs landing, and probably into my attic. I’m afraid to look.

The roof has only a sheathing on it, as the Builder failed to order the shingles I asked him to order in June, with a reminder in July and another reminder in August. There’s a two week wait while they get shipped in (he also ordered the wrong colour, but instead of making him change the order and wait a further two weeks, I’ll go with what he ordered).

I raised my voice, stomped my feet, and even shed a tear when I met with the Builder this week. I asked whether he was intentionally trying to get me to fire him and he denied it. But I think he does want that. I’m prepared to do it, but in the end all I asked for was that he keep me posted daily as to what the plan is in the morning and what was accomplished by the evening. Three days went by before he updated me.  He is incredibly aggravating. Such an incredibly small thing I asked of him.

I’ve decided that if he is not working by next Tuesday, I will start calling around to get another company to take over, get them to assess the value of the work currently completed, and then fire this aggravating Builder. I’d call him worse but this is a public site.


Nothing New to Report

No new posts, because not much is going on. At the beginning of August we had the issue of the less than 6′ basement. The Builder went to the engineer to get permission to dig down between the footings, so that we could have a 7′ basement. The engineer took a look at the original drawings and realized what absolute garbage they were: inaccurate, not compliant with building code, and missing essential information. Of course, this is the same drawing that the Builder approved last fall, the one we signed the contract on, the one the  City approved for permits, and the one the engineer provided a stamp for, at least in regard to the basement.

I don’t know how the drawing was approved by so many people and yet now they are only noticing its significant deficiencies.

So, we’ve undertaken a new drawing.

Three weeks later we still had no new drawing.

In the meantime, the Builder attempted to move forward where he could: He’s built the main floor, the main floor walls, the main floor ceiling, and has built the upstairs walls but not erected them, because he wants to wait for the roof trusses to attach them to. Makes sense.

One ironic aspect is that once the main floor was on, it was clear that the basement was in fact 7′, even without any further digging down. Someone try and explain to me how the Builder could not have calculated that before pushing the panic button a month ago!

I’d have pulled my hair out that we’d entered this twilight waiting zone for no reason but one of the things the engineer noted from the original drawing is that the roof trusses as designed were garbage, as was the staircase. So, some kind of new truss is being designed and then we’ll have to wait for the build on that.

Another main issue is the staircase. The original design had the stairs turning into the new space, which would allow for a large foyer on one level foyer. What I have right now is a tiny space with a step that causes me and others to stumble. The engineer noted that the turn in the stairs was not accurately reflected in the drawing and did not comply with building code. Further, when the turn is accurately reflected in the space, it cuts the space in half, making it unusable and unattractive – something a homeowner would not want.

So, back to the drawing board on the stairs. Now we’re brainstorming ideas on how to get the step up out of the space. I might have to suffer with the tiny foyer area, but I will not accept a step up. That has to go. The new drawing is supposed to provide some ideas for what would work. Brainstorming will of course cost me lots of money and no doubt delays. Sigh.

Wait wait wait. Unbelievable. I’m beginning to see it will be Christmas 2017 before this is done. We’ll be freezing our butts in an incomplete house until then. A full year after it was first agreed to be finished.

Finally, on September 14, 2017, the drawing came through from the new draftsperson and the next day the builder poured the basement floor. He came and polished it the day after that and hasn’t been back since. Yesterday it rained, inside my house and out. Again, water pooling in my basement, on my basement stairs, and on the upstairs landing, which is hardwood. I am not a happy camper.

The builder says we are now waiting for the roof trusses to be done. I’m flabbergasted and amazed that this could not have been in process while we waited for weeks on the basement floor. I simply don’t understand how every step of this renovation could not have been lined up in advance. Why would a builder wait until one step is done before making arrangements for the next???

I’ve talked to a couple of people who’ve had renovations. Some go smoothly enough. Nothing’s perfect, but no real glitches. But many also go sideways like mine. I think this is an industry that needs a journalist’s spotlight and better regulatory control. There should be an ombudsman for this type of situation. I’m sure many people are just like me; have saved or borrowed a specific amount of money, have a maximum amount they can afford to devote to a change to their house, and then are held over a barrel by the builders and end up paying far more than they ever agreed to or even contemplated just to get the work done, and then not even getting what was promised. If that happened once in every thousand builds, you might say that’s a reasonable chance. But, I think it goes on much more often than that.

Cool Things

I don’t expect to find altogether too many cool things during renovations, since the house has been remuddled so many times over the last 100 years. But I have found a couple of things of note, and I’ll post photos of whatever I find here.

Note found in the stairs -April 20, 1940, “Your’n truly, Frank”

I would love to know the relationship between Gladys and Frank. Was it a brother to a sister? My records show that in 1940 the house was occupied by Joseph Roderick Roy. He died in 1957. I’ll do some research to see if Frank and Gladys are children of Mr. Roy.

Razor package, found behind a baseboard
Coal from basement
Iron cylinder with notches.
Found in kitchen crawlspace.
Tin can embedded in concrete. Found in kitchen crawlspace.
Bunny colouring pages. Found in kitchen crawlspace.
Broken bottle bottom. Found in kitchen crawlspace.
Newer adjustable crescent wrench. Found in kitchen crawlspace.

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.