Last Piece of Old Kitchen Flooring Gone

If anyone asks why my DIY renovations take so long, this explains why: I’m a homeowner with no carpentry skills and I get my information from Google. The only thing I have going for me is my fearlessness (which is really just a lack of understanding of the risks) and a willingness to throw more money at my projects.

Earlier this week I took out the dishwasher, so that my brother could work on the kitchen crawlspace. Since it was out, I took the opportunity to pull out the counter and get at the last bit of old flooring underneath. That was on Saturday morning.


There was a different linoleum under the sink, and not as many layers as had been elsewhere in the kitchen.

Different linoleum pattern than discovered elsewhere

Glad to see the original flooring was not in too bad a shape.

But definitely lots of mouse activity.



Old Friends

I plugged what I could see for holes with steel wool and silicone. I think the two circular holes were where the first pump for running water sat.

Then I stuffed steel wool into crevices and around the heating duct.

I think I got this particular area sealed off from mice. But a few hours later a daring mouse on recon spent a few moments in the open watching tv with us, before running off into the kitchen. Maybe it likes Glee or maybe it was giving me stink eye for removing the super-highway. But it plainly did not care that the house is already occupied by humans.

As usual, I’m quite effective at taking things apart. Not so good at putting back together.
Taking out the old flooring means the counter dropped an inch or so, which means that the plumbing no longer meets under the sink.

As happens with homeowners untrained in carpentry, I made several trips to the hardware store to get the parts I thought I needed, but I still don’t have the right stuff (literally and figuratively). Obviously, running water and a working drain are important in a kitchen, so I have to get this figured out before the rush of the new work week on Monday.

I thought this project was small – just undoing the plumbing under the sink to the degree that I could pull the counter away from the wall, cleaning up underneath the sink, taking out the layers of flooring, filling the mouse holes, and then reassembling the plumbing – and I thought I would be done in 5-6 hours, but now it is Sunday and have another couple of hours of work because of my error on having the right plumbing parts. Oh, plus, the copper pipe that goes to the dishwasher will not allow itself to reattach – the nut will not slide down the pipe to where it’s supposed to be. I have no idea why but it appears hung up on burrs or the tube shape is no longer round, that kind of thing. But this pipe at the right length and the right fittings is not on the shelf at the hardware store. It’s custom made by a plumber.


So, I will have to call a plumber when it’s time to reinstall the dishwasher, ’cause I don’t have time to train myself in proper plumbing this week.

My liveable space on the main floor is currently at about 300 square feet. I have about 12″ of counter space to work with and all kitchen surfaces are covered in construction dust. With no running water to rinse off the dust before using the kitchen and the usual weekday rush looming, I have to get this figured out today.

Kitchen Crawlspace Update

I had some help this weekend from my brother. He’s a hard worker. We cleaned out the remaining cellulose from the kitchen crawlspace and the pink insulation that was between the floor joists.

Cleaned up crawlspace. Nice to find it has concrete floor.
A dozen bags of cellulose for the dump.

There were few signs of wildlife in the cellulose, but the pink insulation was riddled with mouseways, poop, and the odd skeleton. Ew.

My brother helped get the super-glued plywood off the kitchen floor, so now just a strip under the sink and dishwasher, and then the whole kitchen floor is down to original fir. Part of the kitchen addition has a different hardwood and the other part has yet to be revealed. I’m suspecting the same fir as the original kitchen floor.

The kitchen addition has a 2″ slope toward the back door. My brother determined that the addition hasn’t shifted since it was jacked and supported in the late 1990s, so We’re going to correct this by removing the flooring, building a level/shimmed subfloor, and putting in fir to match the rest of the kitchen. “We” means my brother, with me helping out when I can.

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.

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.

Baby steps

Three weeks after asking the builder to provide the 7′ basement he promised, he is still waiting for a new drawing from the engineer. I don’t understand the processes involved here, but for whatever reason the original drawing (acknowledged as crappy, done by a ‘designer’) would not do if we are digging down a foot, so the engineer had to do an entirely new drawing. It may have had something to do with the vague references on the old drawing regarding roof trusses and basement entry way.

In any event, the engineer is now on week two of completing the new drawing and the builder is still waiting to dig down. Properly, he won’t do it until the engineer formally approves the change.

Last week I took down what was the coal room. It had been used more recently as a cold storage room. I took off the door, the shelving, and part of the wall. This is where the door to the new basement is going to be.

Coal and cold storage room
Shelving in coal/cold storage room








View into corner of coal/cold storage room where gas meter is usually located









Coal from the wall where the shelving came down

The builder started framing the main floor and today broke through the basement wall. Very cool.


Where the doorway to the new basement will be

Also good news is that the builder has hired back the project manager that he had lined up for the previous fall. This man is much better at explaining what is going on and I have a bit of confidence now that the builder actually intends to move the project forward. Since the project manager arrived on the scene, work appears to be getting done and the work site itself is cleaner and more professional.


Baby steps.