Sunday, November 16, 2008

(Some) Drywall is up!

Wow. I thought that the framing looked good, but now that all the vapor barrier is up and some of the drywall boards are up -- it is looking like a real room (actually, two rooms)! Yesterday we had a hired gun come to hang drywall with us. Dave is a skilled and experienced drywaller/handyman, but he is also a talented singer/songwriter in the Toronto band, The Warped 45s.

Dan woke up in the night with chills and sweats -- not good. So I got up at 7 a.m. to pull all the insulation out of the ceiling - again - because I put in too much. I replaced it with an adequate air space and started with the vapor barrier. The 22 sheets of 4' x 8' drywall arrived around 8:30 a.m. And Dave arrived right on time at 10 a.m. With Dan out of commission, it was just the two of us, and we finished up the vapor barrier and then started hanging sheets on the ceiling. My friend Chris very kindly offered to come and help out, standing in for Dan. It was great to have an extra pair of hands for the ceiling.

I learned a lot from Dave. He seemed to think that I knew more about drywalling than I really do, but since I'm good at faking it, it seemed to work out. We finished most of the ceiling and all the tub surround. At the 12 hour mark, I called it quits.

This morning I woke up with blisters on my drilling hand but a desire to keep going. Dan recovered from his 24 hour flu and together we attacked the most challenging board first. This one had six cutouts in it, plus the cutout for the recessed medicine cabinet. Dave and that DVD I borrowed from the library taught me how to properly measure and cut holes. The finished product is far superior to the work we did in the kitchen two years ago! Check out the tight fit on those receptacles and plumbing supplies. Woo hoo!

The boards in the bathroom are almost done and then we'll finish off the new office. Hopefully Dave will have some free time to do the taping and mudding, although his schedule is pretty full with music gigs and other jobs. We just may be tiling before December!!! Imagine that.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to install recessed lights

If you are in the middle of a long bathroom reno that has left you without a shower, I recommend that you embark on a side project and install pot lights in your kitchen. I mean, the whole house is already a mess, so why not wreck the kitchen too.

In my defense, the idea popped into my head when we were tearing up the subfloor in the bathroom, exposing the kitchen ceiling, which got me to thinking... while we're in there, why not upgrade the kitchen lighting. So, when my poor brother-in-law arrived to help us, or shall I say, to replace the bathroom floor, I brought up my crazy idea for kitchen pot lights, and he was very helpful. Turns out that our kitchen ceiling has been dropped 13", covering up an original tin ceiling. Quel dommage! But, there must have been a leak in the original bathroom, because the tin ceiling below the old tub is all rusted out and curled up. But the rest of it is in mint condition. Alas, we are not about to tear out the dropped ceiling now. All we want is some pot lights, dammit!!

This inspired a trip to the horrid big box stores, commencing the debate: PAR20 vs. GU10? Which type of bulb should we choose? Both are halogen. Both have a non-dimmable CFL energy efficient bulb alternatives. I read widely on the internet and could not decide which was better. (Please comment if you have anything to share on the PAR20 / GU10 debate.) It seems that the Europeans & Australians are far ahead in energy efficiency than we North Americans, due to their higher energy costs. I found out that they have a Megaman GU10 bulb that is dimmable, but have not seen these in Canada yet. Hopefully these will soon be available here.

The fixtures sat on the floor for weeks while we made small advances on the lighting each week, between bathroom reno jobs. First thing was to determine the placement of the fixtures. This required the use of a stud finder, to avoid the ceiling joists. Lots of careful measurement and finally we had the marks on the ceiling. We drilled some small pilot holes and put a fine wire up into the ceiling to make sure that there was sufficient space in each location. Only one proposed hole was too close to the joist, so we had to modify all the locations, so they were evenly spaced.

We sat on this for a week, to ensure that the placing was correct. The following weekend, we used the template to trace the proper sized circle for each fixture, and I directed Dan in cutting each circle with a drywall saw. We protected the cupboards and contents with some old striped sheets. Then we pulled some 14/2 cable from one hole to the next. We were almost out of time before sunset, but there was still time for a quick coat of ceiling paint. Robomike was here, working on the bathroom, and shaking his head in disbelief at us. Poor guy was trying to get to the table saw in the back yard, which required passing thru the kitchen/painting zone. When he was done his day of work we fed him some mediocre delivery pizza because the kitchen was covered in sheets, but he didn't complain (to us).

A week passed with no progress, but this weekend there was a big push. I did some last minute internet research to confirm that GU10 was still the way to go, and at 5 pm on Sunday, we started to put the cans in the ceiling. The electrician on Mike Holmes said that those inexpensive big box recessed lights bug him, and now I know why. They are tiny and it is hard to fit all the cables in there. Plus, they don't come with the strain release connectors, so you need to buy them separately. The instructions are very poorly written and poorly translated, so you really have to read them over a few times to try to figure out what the hell they are saying. But eventually, I figured it out, and by 10 p.m. on Sunday -- we had pot lights in our kitchen. Every morning and every night, we are thrilled with our new kitchen lighting.

Watch out. Once this bathroom is done, will the dining room lighting be next?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Let there be light!

For two weeks we have been at the electrical stage of the reno. We already pulled the wires in preparation, set them in the correct rooms, and planned the electrical layout. We need six receptacles (one GFCI), one recessed shower light, three overhead lights, one over mirror light, one exhaust fan, one TV/internet cable jack, one telephone jack and several switches to control it all. (We ran the wire for the floor heating, but we won't be installing that for some time.) I've refreshed my electrical knowledge with some books from the library, but the biggest challenge has been figuring out how to use a vapour barrier with recessed lights in a flat ceiling -- mixed messages!

For some reason, I thought that we could do all this in one Sunday. But now, as I write the list of work in prose form, it does seem like a lot. On a schematic, it seemed more straight forward.

Two weeks ago, I was thrilled when I installed a GFCI receptical which would protect all the other fixtures in the bathroom. The highlight of last weekend was getting showered with ashphault soot when pulling cables for the overhead lights and switches. It seems that when the roofers replaced the flat roof 3 years ago, the ashphault sifted through the roof boards and has been sitting on the insulation all this time. When we shifted anything in the ceiling, soot rained down on us. I was wearing safety glasses and a mask, but my face still got pretty dirty (see photo). Although I cheered up when I was able to wire the overhead fixtures.

But, there is never enough time! I still didn't get the new bedroom wired until today. We sealed the plumbing stack and window sill, and replaced 95% of the ceiling insulation. Tomorrow we hope to get the vapour barrier up and everything ready for drywall.

We were prepared to call in a pro for the drywalling, but he called today to say that he's too busy to do our job. If you know anybody, let me know. Otherwise, we're gonna try it ourselves next weekend. Wish us luck--we're going to need it!!!