Monday, March 28, 2011

The dust making machine. Or, how the concrete floor grinding happens!

The dust making maching. A.K.A. Concrete grinder.

The dust it leaves behind. Yikes.

This is what the concrete would look like
if we left it as is with an epoxy finish.

The epoxy will fill the voids and leave "character."

Lots of cracks, A.K.A. character.

Sealing the poly to the windows. This better work!

Tuck the poly over the window sill and
under the window frame.

One of the tricks Matt showed me is how to seal the poly vapour barrier to the outside windows. Basically, you blow spray foam around the frame and then tuck the poly into the spray foam as it expands out and to the window frame, just below the drywall trim.  The joint is then sticky-taped for good measure. The corners will be a bit of a weak spot, but considering all the other places in the house I've wondered about, it should be fine.

Allow the foam to expand over the poly, pressing it
tight to the drywall trim.

Is plastic and sticky tape the best we can do?

I should have bought shares in sticky tape. 

Seal all the gaps. Tedious, tedious work.
It seems like I've experienced an eternity of installing the poly vapour barrier and taping the seams/joints and all the holes. Shortly after we started, I really began to wonder- is this the best we can do for a residential-grade vapour barrier?  It seems ridiculous in the low-tech use of plastic and sticky tape to prevent water vapour from getting into the cold side of the outside wall. In commercial construction, we use an exterior applied peel & stick membrane, and then put the insulation on top [also on the outside] of that.

Oh well. I really hope we have covered all the small holes, gaps and taped well enough around the electrical outlets, switches and duct penetrations. We're going to do a blower door test before drywall to check. Cross your fingers!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Story of the salvaged tub!

I was able to salvage this awesome, 200 kg. Kohler cast-iron tub! Other than the old grout bits around the top, it looks brand new! It has great molded lines and even a sloped end for relaxing in the bath.

My friend Sonny and I spent one stormy night last summer ripping a bunch of stuff out a handsome, old home slated for demolition. It was a wicked thunderstorm- and it was kinda' creepy being in an old house, with no power- with flashlights only- trying to get things out of the place. That was the first time it really struck me of how much waste we create for no better reason than wanting something new.

We bashed the walls around the tub and pry'd it out. It took four people to carry it out of there- we had to wait until the next day to solicit help from the contractor. And it took four people to carry it into our place, after we dug it out of the snow bank where it spent most of the winter. I don't know how the plumber jostled into place. So, hopefully, we get some great further use out of it. And I won't reveal the other cool stuff we salvaged until later! Stay tuned!

Insulation, poly completion thwarted!

Loft ceiling almost done.
I was hoping we would be finished the last bits of insulation and poly today. No such luck.

First, I slept in.

Second, Nigel called to say he couldn't make it.

Third, we found some lights that needed vapour boxes that didn't have them. The vapour boxes tie into the poly.

Fourth, I ran out of insulation for the loft ceiling!

 Fifth- there is not enough time in a day...

And I won't even get started on trying to get door handles on the exterior doors.

We made a huge dent though! Thanks to Matt, Eleanor, Leendert, Deana and Nadir for lending a hand!

Vapour box [blue thing] are required for
lights on exterior ceilings.

Some gaps still need work. I need to spray foam in large
gaps to the outside here.

Basement looking good!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


There was an interesting article on CBC news the other day.  It was about a house that one neighbour thought to be too high and that blocked his view. That storey has me reflecting on the process we went through to design our house and have it approved by the City and with the blessing of our neighbours.

It is with great neighbours and, the understanding of the land use bylaw, that has allowed us to build our house. Essentially it boils down to this:

1. We are building in a mature neighbourhood overlay, which limits heights to 2.5 storeys.  Now the city reviews this height as if you were building a pitched roof- where the height is measured half way up the angle of the roof!  Theoretically, you can build a house that would be about 34 to 36 feet high!  Their rules are more strict for flat or shed roofs. You can review the bylaw by clicking here.

We limited the height of our house by building a "flat roof," and had to go to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board [SDAB] to argue that it would actually be lower than a pitched/gabled roof house.  We could have built a 2.5 storey house with a gabled roof and NOT have to go through any of this extraordinary approval process. Luckily, we had the support of a majority of our immediate neighbours too! We had to seek the blessing of all our neighbours within 60m of our house- and we went even further, canvassing the entire block of people around our house. We even presented our design to the Beverly Heights Community League. We were extremely pleased that two of our neighbours even came to our SDAB meeting and spoke in favour of our house proposal.

Red outline shows the allowable, buildable area.
Notice also the tree branches in the background- the existing
trees on site shaded the neighbours too.

2. We built to a height that did not go higher than the previous, old scraggly trees that were on site and also created shade.  We showed sun shadow studies that proved the shadow of the house would not be worse than the shadow of the previous trees that had to come down.

3. We are building higher- rather than wider.  We have a small building footprint- in order to conserve a large part of the lot for an edible garden and green space. We actually only use 20.8% of the site area, which includes the existing single car garage on site.  The land use bylaw allows you to use/build up to 40% of the site area when you include the garage!

4. Like many other houses on Ada Boulevard, we built the house in order to maximize our view to the river. Our house is the last [or first] house on Ada Boulevard- which is lined with houses of various stature and heights. We consider our house as one of the variations of houses along this lovely boulevard- some of them that take a "modern" design aesthetic.

We are grateful for the support of our neighbours and the Community League for helping us gain the approval to build! We hope to be good neighbours and we will endeavour to make a positive impact on the neighbourhood we will call home.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Time to Poly!

Red line shows the vapour barrier.  We placed a
small strip behind the I-joists so we can keep it
continuous on the interior stud wall.

Loft floor poly'd up!

Matt & Nigel placing the vapour barrier.
We are 99% done insulating!  Today, we [Matt, Nigel & I] started to put up the polyethylene vapour barrier on the walls that were ready.  We only managed to get about 20% of the house done. Lots more still to do!

So cold. This winter seems to be dragging on and on...

Morning of March 8, 2011
The fog is from the Goldbar wastewater treatment plant.
It was -20 C almost all week. When will winter end?

Only just today has the weather been more pleasant at -7 C.

When I was at the house, I measured the inside temperature on the 2nd floor at 4 C, the main floor and 2 C and the basement, where I have some electric heaters, at 5 C.  I guess the 4 small heaters can't keep up with heat loss calculated at 12,000 Watts!

Railing getting fabricated!

The steel frame will be powder-coated black in colour.
The hexagons are a "landscape fencing" material I found
at a local home building supply store!

River City Metalworks is fabricating the metal frame for the stair railings, bridge and loft! I was able to catch a glimpse of this prototype earlier this week.