Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Don't Welcome These New Neighbours

The last person that you want to move into the house next door is this guy. It is even worse if he takes to sunbathing on your back fence!!!

Sure, baby raccoons are cute but they are also very very destructive. And when you see one baby raccoon, you know that a whole family is close by.

Dan came home at lunch and found this guy being chased out of our neighbour's yard, so he set up shop on our fence. His sibbling was trapped between the compost bin and our fence. Dan went back to work and was surprised to find they hadn't moved in 4 hours. We had to make them feel unwelcome or they would take over, so we pulled out the garden house and sprayed them away. It worked. This guy moved over one more yard and sat there. Later that night, I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye. We turned on the light and saw a big mamma raccoon with SEVEN babies on our neighbour's garage roof. They were on a rescue mission to fetch the two that had camped out in our yard all day. Just to make sure that all eight of them felt very unwelcome, we got the hose out again for a late night shower. They got the message and ran.

I know that a family of raccons live in the attic of our near neighbours - about 4 houses down. They love garbage night and all come out to sample the Montrose buffet. We put our garbage out in the morning, but most of our neighbours have a garbage phobia and insist on setting it curbside at the earliest possible moment: 6 p.m. in winter and 7 p.m. in the summer. It's like putting out raccoon bait! But I doubt that I can change their behaviour. They love to hose their sidewalks down daily and they love to put the garbage out early. What can I do? So for now, I put hot sauce on the back fence, to keep the raccoons remembering that they are definitely not welcome at my money pit.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

You need to have the right tools!

Have you ever stripped wallpaper?

It is not fun. My house had one wallpapered bathroom and two wallpaper murals. My friend Chris removed one of the wallpaper murals for me, and then he helped me strip the bathroom, over the course of two days. TWO DAYS. It came off in little strips and gouged the wall to shreds.

Hours after the newest residents of Upper Montrose took possession of their new house, Chris rushed in to strip the wallpaper off the upstairs bedrooms. He finished one bedroom in 10 minutes. The other bedroom's wallpaper would not strip. Not at all. So that's when Chris said: you need to have the right tools. He got on the horn and found us a steamer. Ian ran out to get it, and then we got to work.

It took forever to get the flipping thing working. Then the heat and steam poured out. And we got to work - stripping, and sweating. The smallest bedroom in the house, which was only half papered, took us 3 hours to do. We finished around midnight, then cleaned up, and called it a day. We went back in the morning only to discover that the wallpaper in the mainfloor powder room was equally stubborn. So two of us crammed into the smallest room in the house and got steamy. I cannot imagine how long it would have taken to do this without the steamer. It just goes to show you that the right tools make all the difference!

Friday, May 18, 2007

New Kid on the Block

Obviously this house is not new to the neigbourhood, but the occupants are. Today, my friends and their 3 month old baby take possession of this lovely 3 bedroom home on "upper" Montrose, just up the street from my own money pit. This will be handy when they require a babysitter or a handy woman. A wise move on their part.

After my day at the office, I will stop by and help out with the mini-makeover that a home needs when its occupants of over 20 years move away. I plan on spending the May 24 weekend there, removing wallpaper, scrubbing walls with TSP, and painting. I am looking forward to the painting and the physical labour. We haven't done any work on our house for about two months, although there is a long list to do. For some reason it seems easier to get work done outside the house. (Although, I have not yet done anything...)

It won't really be like spending a weekend at the cottage. I think that it will be better: we won't spend any time in the long weekend traffic, no bugs, and I won't miss my Saturday morning squash game. Plus, we will have some great new neighbours.

From all of us Monty's: welcome the three newbies. We'll meet you in the back laneway at dusk for a dance off.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bathroom Envy

I never thought that I'd have bathroom envy, but here I am, coveting my neighbour's powder room!

Maybe you had to see the 'before' shot to truly appreciate this remarkable transformation, but this cloud white dream has absolutely no affiliation with it's former self. Talk about extreme makeover. And, just like on TV, they did it in record time. The demolition began on a Saturday and the transformation was revealed at a huge house party only 6 days later. The work was completed by two savvy men who were also juggling full time jobs at the time. How the hell did they pull this off? "No sleep", was one comment that I heard.

I was called in on day 2, when the shutoff valve was not really shutting off the water. Having completed a 9 week plumbing course at Central Tech, I am the most logical person to call in this situation. I got out my propane torch and plumbing supplies and rode off on my bike, to see if I could help. I cut the pipe and tried to solder a cap on it, so Matthew could tile the floor without water dripping onto it. But, it kept leaking. Just a slow drip leak, so we tied a rag around it and he carried on. The plumber came a few days later to install the new toilet and sink, and he informed us that you can't get the copper hot enough if there is any water in the plumbing system. We did turn off the water and drain the pipes in the basement, but our fatal error was not draining all the water upstairs too. Lesson learned, if I am ever brave enough to do more plumbing!

My favorite part of this story was that Matthew rented a paint sprayer so that he could cover the spray foam insulation and the ceiling joists. Major overkill for a room that is only 4' by 3'. I was told that a gallon of paint was sprayed in a matter of minutes. The whole room was raining white. Imagine that.

Just as a reminder, the homeowners have placed a framed photo of the former bathroom just outside the door, so you can really appreciate the transformation. Maybe they'll send me a copy to post here!

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Renovation Vacation

It is always nice to get away from home and stop thinking about the little repairs that remain incomplete. But it turns out that home renos can follow you on vacation. While in Paris for two weeks, I was graciously invited to stay with my former neighbour Melanie and her husband Jerome. They moved into a charming house just steps from the Paris city limit in the village of St-Ouen. Both are interior designers by trade, so they are working on one majorly cool home renovation, already five years in the making. The house is deceptively small looking from the street, but beyond the pseudo-Mediterranean exterior hides a four bedroom, three bathroom home with a private sunny garden, a huge workshop, and a garage that currently parks three cars. A house this size in Paris is exceptional. And so are their building plans.

Melanie and Jerome are not only expanding their home, they are also expanding their family. Melanie was 5 1/2 months preganant when we arrived. I was there when she had her 2nd ultrasound and found out that it will be a girl. Exciting! But baby needs a bedroom, so the push is on to get the main floor done by September. Jerome completed the subfloor during our first week there, and they had a few different tradesmen in during my visit. I thought that they would have the inside track on all the best contractors & tradespeople in the city, but in fact, they said that good contractors are hard to find in Paris, just as here in Canada. So, they are in a holding pattern, waiting to get work done.

It seems that on either side of the Atlantic, home renos can be equally frustrating. Yet also equally rewarding. The work that they have done so far is very impressive, so I can't wait to see the next phase. Just one more reason to want to go back to Paris -- as if I need an excuse!!!