Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Insulation: The Day Has Finally Arrived!

Eleven months ago we had our first energy audit done by Greensaver. We had a work plan with recommendations to make our house more energy efficient and more comfortable. We followed that with quotes from contractors but before we could begin work, we had to have any electrical work done first. When we were finally ready in August, I called Greensaver, and their first available appointment was Nov. 20 & 21. So we waited. It got colder. The Conservative government cancelled the EnerGuide for Houses (EGH) program. (Thank you Mr. Harper! The environment and future generations who must suffer the consequences of our energy wasting ways really appreciate it.) But finally, the day arrived.

The work consisted of sprayfoam insulation in the headers of the crawl space (which required removing the sub floor) & basement, blown cellulose insulation in the front wall of the house (both floors) and blown cellulose insulation in the attic. They also recommended filling the north wall of the house, since it is a hollow frame, but the previous owner put rigid foam insulation on the exterior wall before he had the siding installed.

The guys came in and did the spraying yesterday and the blowing today. It was extremely disruptive as we had to tear up the kitchen floor and move all the furniture away for the exterior walls in all the spaces that were going to be insulated - on all 3 levels. And to blow insulation into the wall, they had to drill a bunch of 2" holes into the plaster & lathe, every 16"or less, to access the cavities. But they guys patched them all. We are left with the task of sanding and repainting all the patches in the living room & upstairs bedroom. Plus now we can put everything back against the wall in the basement.

But what are we going to do about that kitchen floor? For now, we are covering the holes with pieces of the old kitchen cupboards and scraps of plywood. We need to get the floor in so that we can plug the stove back in. While we are making do with the toaster oven & microwave for now, it is not a long term solution. It is hard to believe that my desire to insulate the front wall has lead to a full on kitchen reno. I'm still exhausted from Sunday, and I'm freezing from being in an unheated house for two days.

We have our final energy audit on December 6. Hopefully our efforts will be rewarded with a better EnerGuide score a maybe even some $$ from the now defunct government program.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tearing Up The Floor

What would you do the day after your big work Christmas party, and the day before you have contractors coming in? Why tear up the floor, of course!! (This post does not refer to dancing.)

In order to prepare for our Greensaver retrofit, we had to "lift" the floor in the kitchen. The finished floor is a floating uniclick tile, which we could easily remove & later replace, but then we had to cut out the plywood subfloor. I pulled out the giant Black & Decker How To book that I borrowed from the library and got some tips on how to proceed. We unplugged the stove and moved it to the back room. We lifted the tiles, carefully numbering them all on the back, and indicating their orientation. We stored them in the upstairs bathroom, one of the only spaces that Green$aver would not have to work in. We rolled up the thin foam underlay and set it aside. Then we pulled out the circular saw that Dan gave me for my birthday. (I love practical gifts!!) We set the saw blade to the depth of the subflooring levels (5/8" plywood + 1/4" poplar underlay + 1/8" old linoleum). Crowbar, hammer and lots of elbow grease, and we pulled out the first piece. We realized that the linoleum was glued to the poplar, which was staped to the plywood, which was screwed and NAILED into the joists. We decided to take the linoleum/poplar layer off first, and then just remove the parts of the plywood where they would need access in order to insullate the crawl space below.

We also removed the base cabinets, except for the two end ones, because they have plumbing running through them. Demolition can be fun. You get to bang and tear stuff out. But it was a hard day of heavy labour, and I know that it is going to be followed by many weeks of more complicated work just to bring it back to where we were. I am having major regrets. We could have gone to Paris for two weeks, but instead we are renovating our kitchen. Will it be worth it? One of my colleagues says that a kitchen that bugs you is like a bad relationship - it will keep bugging you until you deal with it. So, this is me - dealing with it. Hopefully writing will set me free.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blame it on Cuba!

How, you may wonder, can I blame a kitchen renovation on Cuba? The beautiful white beaches and turquoise waters, the spirited live music, the bright yellow coco taxis and the humble communism - how can they be to blame? Well, my good friend and running buddy Shannon has gone to Cuba with her family and friends, leaving me alone with my early morning thoughts, which I have learned can be quite dangerous.

We are about to finally complete our insulation project that we started a full year ago! But in order to do it correctly, we need full access to the crawl space under the kitchen, which means tearing up the floor. I have been waffling on this for months since I'm not sure that I want to do such a big job, which is partly to blame for the delay in the insulation project. I had different contractors in to see if they could insulate the crawl space without tearing up the floor. One company had me believing that they might be able to do it, so I cancelled my first guy, only to find out that while they might be able to do it, they also might NOT be able to do it. With no written guarantee, I decided to book the first guys again. Seeing an end in sight, I went for a run this morning and started to think about the floor. If we are ever going to put in a dishwasher and move the sink, now is the time to do it. And while we are at it, it would be good to get rid of those wood trimmed cabinets that scream 1980. And while we are at it, the yellow backsplash tiles have never been my favorite. I do love those glass mosaic tiles. And that pine look wainscotting - I don't really like it either. I'm mean, there's nothing that wrong with the kitchen. But now that the rest of the house is more tastefully decorated (no more murals, no more pink), the kitchen stands out as the one room that we've forgotten. As I pounded the pavement in my worn runners, I watched the sun rise over Christie Pits and the CN tower. If Shannon were here, what would she say? But no, she's relaxing on a warm beach with a cool Mojito while I stew in my own indecision. I made my way across the Annex to our turnaround point at Spadina when I had decided that if we're going to do the insulation, we may as well do it right. And while we're at it, let's spruce up the kitchen.

I made my way home, confident in my decision. Now I just had to convince Dan that it was all Castro's fault that we were going to spend our weekend tearing up the kitchen floor. Hopefully he'll remember what fun we had in Cuba last winter, and will see this reno as an equally fun adventure.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Zen of Craigslist

Before we moved into our house, the former owner met with us and told us about the maintenance schedule, etc for his baby - the house. He is a very sweet and organized man. He gave us all the old manuals and even the empty box for the humidifier filter, so that we could continue to care for the house the way that he had. He was also kind enough to leave us all the touch up paint too, in case we needed it after our rough move. Let me remind you that the house was painted in a pallet of pinks and mint greens. So, we really didn't need that paint, but I just didn't have the heart to tell him so. More than one year later after repainting, the paint is still in the basement. I have to get rid of it, and all the other crap that is clogging our small basement. I have Greensavers coming in to insulate next week, and they need access to the headers, and everything in my neatly organized basement has to be moved.

I was going to call the Toxics Taxi to take away the paint. But then I thought, maybe somebody could us it. I woke up early and went to the basement with my digital camera and started to photograph and measure all the junk. Within minutes, I had these items posted on Craigslist, under the free section. I had an old modem, an old fax machine, part of the old security system left behind, a light fixture, a burgundy mini-blind... the list goes on and on. The replies poured in almost instantly. Tons of people wanted my junk!!! I spent the day communicating with this online recycling community, arranging pickups for all my unwanted stuff. Before I knew it, the basement had some room to spare. People were happy with their items, and I was happy not to have a yard sale.

Thank you Craig, whoever you are! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Don't send something to landfill just because you're done with it. There are tons of people who will gladly take it off your hands. My friend Chris thinks that there should be a film about Craigslist, and I see that there already is!!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Dreams Do Come True

Last night I saw the one and only person on my myspace page that I want to meet. I passed him on the stairs going into the West End YMCA. I was heading off to yoga and he was finished one of those workouts that keeps him looking so good on TV. But how could he be at the Y when his popular HGTV show, Home to Stay, was scheduled to air in less than 3 hours. Didn't he have things to do? Shouldn't he be at the studio, watching the ratings, and toasting to his success with the network bosses? But no, this is CANADIAN television, so my TV hero lives a mere few blocks from my house, and he works out at the same gym as me!!!

Well, I can't really say that I've met Peter Fallico. Passing him on the stairs is not really a meeting, is it. He didn't yell out: "Leighsa Haze, I want to redecorate your house!" (But wouldn't that be nice.)

If you don't know who I'm talking about, check him out here or watch him on Monday nights at 9 p.m. on HGTV.

The moral of the story is: if you don't dream too big, you'll never be disappointed.