Category Archives: During

hiding in the attic

I’ve been in a bit of a fibre frenzy lately, and Dale has been nice enough to grant me a hiatus from the hard slog of renovations…but that doesn’t mean things aren’t getting done round the city house.

Just about a year ago I went off to London with the girls for a pre-wedding broo-ha-ha.

When I got back home this was lurking in the attic!

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not entirely unlike a blind date….

for the last two weekends Dale and I have been showing the house.  We put up an ad on the local university’s off campus housing site with a few of our best photos and a steady stream of calls have come in.  SOOOOOO glad, but that was just the first hurdle.

Trying to show an unfinished house for Sept rental with less than a month of renovation time ahead of you is a bit tricky.  Even more tricky when you are showing to wary parents eager to find the best possible accommodations for their new fledglings.  I put on my date face, and started the spin.

“Oh I know the paint is peeling, but all that will be finished by the time you move in of course…”

“why yes, the living room is full of crap and building supplies, but trust me the room is huge and its going to be great!”

“hmmmm, the glass in the window is cracked?  so it is, an easy fix that will be done before your child arrives…”

“the front door is missing a handle and lock, but don’t worry, the place is totally secure!”

and so it went.

Some people got it, while others just thought we were more than a little  crazy and totally overwhelmed…and perhaps there was some truth in both.  ha.

My fav viewing had to be the parent and daughter who seemed disappointed that there were only 2 bathrooms.

I wonder what is going to become of those kids who have grown up with everything.   Must be hard when you get out on your own and realize you have a degree (just like everyone else), and no guarantee of a job (just like everyone else) and are a long way from being able to provide or meet the standards that were set in the house you grew up in.  No ensuites, no walk in closets, no great room with floor to ceiling stone walls, no granite countertops and stove top pasta faucet, no travetine bathrooms, no suv and double car garage, no 6 figure salary.

Guess what kid, like the rest of us, your first place is going to look more like this

or perhaps this.

I dunno bout you but my student flophouses apartments didn’t come close to being newly renovated let alone even clean when I got them, and in one case  I had a bathroom just like this one…except it was carpeted, yes carpeted….

But I digress…

The happy news for this week is , with12 days left to our finish day we have successfully rented all 4 of the large bedrooms to a great group of young adults!

And now for the big push!

getting close to the end

We are starting to feel the deadline crunch so Dale went up early without me this time.   Dale’s got the luxury of working for himself, while I have the tether of an office job keeping me occupied during the week.

When he leaves to go up north and I am stuck in the city it’s torture.  There is nothing worse than coming home to an empty house; no Dale, no puppers.  Dale was pretty quick to remind me that there was no sanding and drywall either back in the city, ha.

He also told me that I’m going to be pretty happy with the progress.   Since Thursday he has  sanded the back stairwell and given it two coats of fresh white paint.  The main floor bedroom now has electricity running to the ceiling along with a brand spankin new ceiling fan installed.  The ceiling fan in the living room has been installed, and he’s prepping the back stairs for their coat of F&B’s Charlottes Lock.

Thanks to a little photoshop magic I already have a good idea of what it’s going to look like….minus the grubby walls of course!

F&B’s charlotte’s lock orange on the back stairs

We had a slight mix-up with our paint place and a gallon of high adhesion indoor outdoor latex was mixed instead of the floor paint we wanted.  Dale noticed before leaving the city and they mixed us up a new can of oil floor paint at a super discount.  I was brainstorming all the things we could do with the extra paint…

The place need a little punch of colour I think.  We shall see…

Dale’s also been hard at work on the kitchen.  We had a bit of miscommunication on the backsplash…I thought it was going to be a classic staggered subway tile design, while Dale went with a more contemporary layout.

See,  I don’t always get my way, ha!

He wired in some new outlets and also ran the under counter lighting.  We don’t have the proper size doors for the sink cabinet we decide to use, and Ikea wasn’t any help, so Dale’s going to make something work from what we do have.  I am excited to see how that turns out but I don’t think it will be done by the time I get up there.  He’s a super star but even Dale has his limits.

He put up some customized floating shelves and a couple of more heavy duty wire shelves also.  Here’s how things are looking in the kitchen so far.

kitchen backsplash and lights

It’s really hard to get the scale of this kitchen from the pictures, but everything is pretty huge in there.  Loads of storage which is why we didn’t go with traditional upper cabinets above the sink.  I am picking up some wooden stools from Canadian tire tonight to assemble for seating around the island.  Can’t beat $19.99!

simple wooden barstool

It’s funny but Ikea doesn’t carry anything like this at all anymore..odd.  Also to be finished is the old chimney stack in the corner of the kitchen that is to be covered in blackboard paint.  My old county place had a green kitchen chalkboard and it was amazing.  Kids visiting loved leaving hand-drawn pictures and it was super handy for to-do lists, notes and keeping phone numbers.

bright kitchen1

chalk wall in the Norwood farm kitchen

That Norwood kitchen was beyond huge! Here’s the view from the other side of the island.

the rest of the Norwood kitchen

We have a thing for stools in the kitchen apparently, cause both my farmhouse and the Berryman place had them.

stools stool and more stools, at Berryman st.

I can’t remember if we took these ones with us or left them with the house. Sadly that’s just how long our stuff has been in storage, ug.  Maybe in September we will have the luxury of some time to finally dig everything out and sort through what we want to keep.

The Peterborough house has a HUGE basement   (something poor ol Berryman did not have) and it’s dry (something the cellar in the old Norwood farmhouse was not) so whatever is in storage now what we don’t plan to keep, use, or sell will eventually end up there in FREE storage…or at least that is the plan.

the glitz the glamour

It may have taken us a few months but we have managed to find our good work flow.

While Dale is breaking his back lifting sheets of drywall, kitchen cupboards, power tools, skylights etc.  I strap on a pink respirator mask and glasses, get up on ladders and scaffolding and scrub away at flaking paint, cobwebs, creepy crawlies and bad plaster.  Later returning over and over and over again to sand and apply coat after coat of  drywall mud to make everything all pretty and fresh looking again.

Turns out I am better at mudding and taping than Dale.   I have that perfect level of OCDness that makes sure I work the mixture and get all the bubbles out while also feathering out the edges just right so I don’t have to do much sanding later.

hallway ceiling

This is a pretty mild case. Basically a large patch of water damage caused by holes in the roof letting water seep down between the attic walls and end up here on the second floor landing ceiling. The last owner put plaster over it all instead of fixing the problem and so what was left for us was lumpy, stained, peeling  and cracking.  Since the ceiling is now dry and the holes have since be repaired it was best to use the scraper to chip most of it off, sand down the rest and smooth over a nice skim coat of plaster that I will sand down after it dries.

The second ceiling patch I had to work on was WAAAAAAY worse.  It looks like a big ol chunk of the ceiling came down in this back bedroom due to some hefty leakage from above (this room is located under the former attic bathroom)…yucko.


I don’t think the former owner was very handy as he did the worst patch of all time.   Problem number one, he cut out all of the lathe in the ceiling so there was no support for the HUGE piece of drywall he used. Problem number two, he didn’t cut out enough of the failing plaster around the hole choosing instead to smuck on the durabond 90 (problem number three) thick and waffely to ‘hold it’… and left it like that, unpainted, unsanded, seams untaped, unfinished. Nice. Needless to say we tore it out and started fresh.

Durabond setting-type joint compound is much harder than your traditional drywall joint compound, and much harder to sand. You want to apply it in thin, smooth-as-possible coats to make sure you don’t leave yourself with a lot of unnecessary sanding in the end. Sigh…I guess no one told the last guy that.  The old ‘patch’ was applied so thick and messy and was set like concrete so Dale had to use his grinder to get it off.  There is no need to use something so heavy duty on a zero traffic spot like a ceiling.  Not fun.

This is our repair after 2 coats and I know it looks bad, but it’s gonna be great with one more sand and a thin finishing coat.  Trust me!

back large bedroom ceiling

We had some HUGE holes to fill up there and it will probably take a few more goes before it’s done and level.  What we use on these big gaping holes is a heavy duty metal mesh to bridge the gaps and allow the plaster to hold on to something.

metal mesh for patching holes in the ceiling

The mesh is pliable and you can stuff it in and the wire edges grip right onto the uneven edges left behind where you cut back to the good plaster.   Be patient, don’t over apply your mud thinking you can fill it all in one go.  It usually takes me 3 messy fills before I can get sanding and applying finishing layers.

When it’s a regular drywall seam that needs bridging we tend to only use paper tape  rather than the sticky mesh tape. I find the texture of the mesh always shows through and it’s not really worth all the bother. The paper tape is really easy to apply anyhow and you can rip it off easily to fit the seam when you are on the top rung of the ladder in some awkward position.

Paper tape is easy to work with so no worries.  You just have to have a thin layer of compound down first then you press it in and apply another thin layer on top. easy peasy! Working the compound is another story, but you will find your technique.

I like this stuff.

the mud of choice!

dust control, the mud of choice!

when you sand most of it drops right to the ground (unless you are working directly above, in which case it drops right on your head.  Also, don’t even think about using a fan in the room when you are sanding.  All the dust will swirl around and land right in yer eyes.  Makes for a VERY sweaty job, but at least you will be able to see.    Remember, with applying mud, less is more!

take 5

there’s no room for ‘pretty’ on this job-site

I find you need to wipe off your face and the inside of your mask ALOT! So here’s a tip on how to stay cool and comfy with all that dust and sticky heat.

I took a men XL shirt and cut myself a new neckline. Don’t sweat it if you cut off too much, it’s not a fashion show.

new neckline

I also removed the bands from the sleeves and cut a line diagonal from the seam upwards then a second cut straight across  the top fold as shown in the picture.  Now you have fluttery cap sleeves with an added bonus!

where to make your sleeve cuts

Those fluttery bits will  give you a built in ‘hanky’ on each shoulder that is dust free on the underside and super easy to find for the ol face (and eye if you didn’t listen to the part about not using a fan) wipe down.  Using men’s XL shirts gives you a loose fit that should help shield you from all the falling dust and have you cool by keeping the material away from the body.

Another thing the experts don’t tell you…  this dust is DRYING, as in Sahara desert dry.  I wear rubber gloves to keep my hands from being destroyed and keep my hair up in a bun soaked through with conditioner and the dust still does a number.   Most of my face is covered with the respirator mask (buy a good one!) and safety goggles but i still need to slather on the moisturizer after I shower to get the dust off.   Invest in some moisturizing soap while you are at it as well!

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nothin like a head cold in july

It wasn’t intentional, but last week I brought home a lovely treat for Dale and I.  As the head cold settled in our renovations plateaued.  Between the head crushing pain of a full blown sinus infection and the restricted breathing inside our ventilator masks our back stairwell project ended up taking a little longer than expected.

The old crumbly plaster had to be removed with new drywall board put up.  Very tight space, Very steep stairwell, and many many many complicated cuts to be made.

back stairwell


back stairwell

Dale did a great job staying focused despite all the fogginess in our heads.  Ummm I should add the poor man was also working with one broken big toe (and 2 sprained little buddies) carrying drywall sheets up and down the stairs and ladder like a champ.

He also kept his head held high as we went about our home depot shopping with one steel toe boot and one mooseskin moccasin on, rockin that dusty homeless look like a champ.
work dale

I love that man o mine.

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slowly chipping away

What with the broken and sprained toes, extreme heat and summer flu Dale and I are not really at our renovation best, but the show must go on. We had planned on cleaning up our huge scrap pile in the back yard, broken cupboards, old plaster and lathe, nail filled boards, garbage bags full of crap, basically a total eyesore.

worst backyard ever

worst backyard ever

There was no way Dale was going to be able to manage that with a broken toe, and no way I was strong enough to lift that crud on my own. It didn’t look like cleaning the backyard was going to be possible…until we got the bright idea to hire a day laborer. God bless Kijiji!  It’s pretty easy to find someone who can come help out on short notice for all sorts of trades and jobs.

Dale put in a call the Wed before and Sat morning both the dumpster and our guy was there!  We supplied all the tools we thought he might need; crowbar, prybar, hammer, safety glasses and gloves and he brought the muscle.  Demolition and clean-up isn’t fun for anyone so the less  boredom and micro-managing the better!   I like to make sure there’s lots of water and cold drinks handy (no one wants to have to ask for a drink all the time), a radio to help pass the time, a place to wash up and  a good lunch.

While our handy helper was outside getting things cleaned up we decided to tackle some of the less grueling jobs while waiting for the plaster to dry.

The narrow stairwell to the third floor poses some challenges and we have to make furniture choices based on what can go up there.  With that in mind we had gone to IKEA earlier in the week and picked up a KIVIK sofa.

kivik sofa bed from IKEA

The back and arms are completely detachable so we can totally fit this up the tiny stairwell.  The bed is a queen size and super comfortable and there is storage in the arms for all the bedding!  Plus it’s slip-covered which is always good when you have animals.  Best of all, it was on sale!

If you know Dale and I you also know we love a bargoon.  Ikea has 3 great ways to save money, lemme share.

Method one, find the As-Is department.  Every store has an As- Is section where bump and dent materials can be found.  Stock moves fast, is replenished daily and is already assembled!    This sofa was a display item and we were able to get it for 60% off.  The store usually removes all slip covers so the sofa’s look pretty shabby and forlorn, but 90% of the time you will find the matching slipcovers neatly wrapped up with the curtains and bedding in the same As- Is department.  If you are patient and know what you are looking for chances are you will find it within a month by looking here.  I find things in the flat pack boxes offer the best savings, since they aren’t already assembled and no one really has the patience to figure out what those names mean it’s pretty likely that you can find the closet or shelf or bed of your dreams by being that patient one.

Method two, shop on Wednesdays!  Every Wed each Ikea will feature some items drastically marked down.  Each store features something different so check out the locations online under Wacky Wed.

Method three, there is another discounted section called “now or never”.  This is where discontinued products go for final clearance.  The Ikea near us has a tonne of these amazing oak cupboard doors right now for rock bottom prices.

ikea fagerland doors

If you’re not so keen on all that wood, these doors would also be great  for a painted kitchen look.

Ikea also sells stone countertops, sinks, faucets, appliances and range hoods in the as-is, and who’s kidding who, you know you are going to scratch or ding it anyhow during installation, ha.

tiny room

big sofa, tiny room

Here’s the sofa all put together again in the small front bedroom.  We picked up that amazing 30’s patchwork handmade quilt at the Lakefield outdoor market held ever Sunday Morning.  We’re finally going to be giving up sleeping on the air mattress and start calling this room home until we start to work on the attic loft.

While I was cursing IKEA assembling the sofa, our helper was making quick business of the backyard and finished in record time.  He had packed the dumpster remarkably well (you have to stack and pile things neatly rather than just whipping everything in willy nilly if you want to make the most of your space) and there was loads of extra room in there for the rubble we knew we were going to pull out of the rear stairwell.

Dale had been busy taking all of the interior doors off, removing the hardware and hinges and we just needed to get them all outside for painting in our clean and tidy backyard!  Goodbye nasty yellowed wood, hello crisp, clean and glossy white!

painting doors

8 freshly painted doors

We have a Wagner airless spray gun and while it uses a lot of paint, it does give amazing smooth coverage in just one coat.  We bought ours on clearance from Home Depot (make sure all the parts are in the box and the filters aren’t used and clogged though before you go home) and oddly enough saw another one at the Lakefield Outdoor Market  for $100 (pre haggle, no tax).  There are good deals to be found.  Our tarp came from Princess Auto, hands down the best place to buy deeply discounted hardware  items that you don’t necessarily need to last.

head painter

Head painter

How happy is Dale to have some space to work in the yard again? and even better to not have had to clean up all that trash and scrap himself? Almost as happy as I am to get out of the house, sit down and put my feet up!

take 5

site supervisor

oh we are quite the handsome twosome these days….

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40 degrees and rising! part one

So it’s been hotter than hell lately.  Seriously.

Dale and I did not factor in high heat and crushing dehydration when we set up our renovation schedule.  Most of our past projects have happened with snow still on the ground and in hindsight that is a far better time to be tearing out the guts of a house than in July and Aug.

Last weekend we were looking at temps of over 42 degrees and this past weekend we hit 45 degrees.  Hard to stay motivated and on track with this sort of heat bearing down on you..and no AC.
Still, I am so proud of where we find ourselves now.  Most of the drywall and mudding we had been struggling with has been finished, rooms are painted and flooring is in.

Lets start with the kitchen!

Friday was looking like this when we arrived…

While I was busy sanding upstairs  Dale got to work fastening all the cupboards to the wall, installed a floating shelf or two and finished cutting and installing all the baseboards and trim into the room.  I had already done a final sanding of all the kitchen patches and skim coated the walls so he got right down to painting the space as well!

We put the dolly to work and moved the fridge from it’s temp spot in the living room and unloaded the GIANT 1800’s cabinet off the U-haul Trailer and into the space. Things are a little pulled forward from the walls (so the paint can dry) but you get the idea.




We will put in a subway tile back splash next weekend, along with some metal shelves and task lighting above the sink and a cupboard or two above the stove and fridge.

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going for it

I’ve just put the paint order in and there’s no turning back…blue stairs it is!

Last weekend Dale hooked up the paint sprayer and we covered the front hall top to bottom with a soft milky white.  It’s looking a little plain right now but once we coat the stairs in the F&B Hague Blue it’s going to be lovely.

hague blue inspiration

hague blue inspiration

hague blue inspiration

The colour is just so rich and deep, I think it will be amazing with the orange tones in the wood handrail and spindles we are leaving unpainted.  Depending on the time of day the stairs and floor will change from deep, rich saturated blue through to the darkest shade of inky midnight.  Lovely!

As for the back staircase….the space is so narrow but has really high ceilings so I think it best to treat the stairs as an architectural feature and go really modern with a coat of bold colour.

painted stair inspiration

I like the impact this treatment has, our back staircase leading from the 2nd floor to the kitchen  is just as angular.  This turquoise colour however isn’t really doing it for me.

I am pushing for orange, F&B’s Charlotte’s Locks to be exact.  Orange is a tricky color to get right in paint but Farrow & Ball pretty much nails it though.  What can I say, I love the color orange.

painted stair inspiration

I can’t get enough of this bold burnished orange and how crisp and clean it looks next to white.  Plus it goes so well with the soft greys palette we have chosen for the kitchen and living room.

it’s so nice to be able to think about design decisions now that a huge chunk of the construction has been finished.

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