Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Seven Years Bad Luck?

Ontario's 2nd annual Family Day was used to get our "family" bathroom done. After grouting the tiles on Sunday, we were ready to install the sink, then toilet. This took some time, but was pretty successful. We did have to call the plumber to ask how to remove the cap on the toilet (water closet) flange. We thought that it would just pull out, but instead we had to smash it out with a hammer and screw driver. In all my reading on how to install a toilet, I never read anything about that. Thankfully our plumber is never far from his cell phone and quickly lead us in the right direction. After an 11th hour trip to Candian Tire (on a holiday) to buy longer w.c. bolts, then stacking up two flange extenders, the dual flush water efficient toilet was easily installed.

Time for the finishing touches. We were finally ready to install our fancy mirrored medicine cabinet. When following along with the instructions, ready to put hinges on the door, we discovered a devastating crack on the inside corner (lower right corner in the photo). ARGH! Does this mean 7 years bad luck if we didn't break the mirror? It has been in the box since we bought it, nestled in its protective styrofoam corners, so I don't know how we could have broken it. But the downside is that we bought it a few months ago, waiting for this moment. We've contacted the distributor and are waiting to see if they'll replace the door. Otherwise, this could be an expensive setback. Fingers crossed that this will be resolved soon, and we can declare this bathroom done!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Prefinished vs. unfinished hardwood floors?

The last major part of this job is the floor in the hallway and 3rd bedroom. A week ago, it was exposed plywood, about 3/4" below the other floors. I had planned to buy some flooring and install it ourselves, but we never found the narrow hardwood flooring at the DIY stores. Our friends at Home Hardware actually carry the 1 3/8" red oak strip flooring, but we learned that they don't display it, because apparently, nobody wants it. Why, I wondered.

We learned from one of our tile quotes that the strip flooring comes unfinished, so after installing it, you have to rent a floor sander and sand it, apply two coats of polyurethane, a fine sand, and then a third coat of polyeurethane. Very labour intensive, smelly and messy. But the alternative was prefinished flooring that is 1" wider and won't be an exact match to the exisiting hallway. So we had three hardwood experts come in to give us quotes and ideas, and in the end, we decided to replace the exisiting hallway so we could take care of some excessive squeaking, and have a perfectly matched hallway. We decided that while we're at it, we should also refinish the bedrooms.

Easily said, but not that easy to do, as we had to move everything off the 2nd floor and then leave the house for a week. But is it a renovation without some pain and sacrifice? I think not. (Remember the four months of showering at the Y? I do!) Our only saving grace was the 25 square feet of space in the bathroom, so we packed it full of shelves, books, dressers, desks, bedside tables. mirrors, clothes, bedding, etc etc etc. The rest had to be moved downstairs, creating plenty of opportunity to scratch the walls. With a suitcase, our laptops, and all the dairy from the fridge, we took refuge at a comfy home on Gladstone for the week. Their floors were refinished by the same guys about 5 years ago, so we had plenty of time to admire the work, and dream of how nice our home will be.

On Saturday morning, we could see our reflections in the beautiful shining oak floors. We spent the day moving furniture back to its functional places, while desperately trying not to scratch the new floors. Now we must tread lightly and be careful not to slip on the highly slippery floors, while painting, installing trim, and more painting. Honestly, the fun never ends.

I would recommend our contractors, Peter and Bill at Beach Hardwood Flooring: (416) 699-2113. Courteous, knowledgeable and reliable, but they're a bit camera shy.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Is that the finish line I see, or is it just another mirage?

Oh, we are so close to finishing this lengthy renovation. There are only a few things standing in the way of a fully fuctional four piece bathroom on our 2nd floor. But the long list of "little" things are taking forever and I feel like we'll never be done!

I made a huge mistake last week. I told RoboMike (a.k.a. the Tile Fairy) that I didn't need his help finishing up the tile and trim. I figured that he didn't need to drive 73km on his day off when I have a hammer of my own. So off we went to our local Home Hardware and picked out some trim. But in one day, all that I accomplished was some priming of trim, installing a lockset on the pocket door, and hanging the pocket door. I also did tons of analyzing/worrying about how the trim should be installed, referring to my latest library book. For somebody with experience, I'm sure this is a very easy job. My father tells me that my late Uncle Wally, a carpenter by trade, could trim a whole house in one day. I can't even do a tiny bathroom in one day. 

Anyway, I didn't fully regret my decision until the next day at my niece's birthday party when RoboMike continuously teased me about "firing" him. If I'd known that he has such a deep desire to escape life with my sister for a day in exchange for some thankless hard labour at my house, I wouldn't have stolen his dream. So now I felt bad for not getting the work done myself, and for taking this joy away from a man who doesn't like to relax.

But I digress. I decided to turn up the heat and get this job done myself. So for one week, I have been leaving work promptly at 5 p.m. and changing into my work clothes and getting right to it. I nailed the baseboard trim, put up the door jams for the pocket door, and filled the countersunk holes. The next night, I put the trim around the door and window. It is important to point out that I only have a cheap plastic mitre box with handsaw that somebody leant us 2 years ago, so that slowed me down a bit. I also used the mitre box with our cheap hacksaw to cut the metal tile trim for the sink backsplash. Dan came to admire my work at 9 p.m. after his French class, and I suggested that we tile the backsplash. He didn't really agree, but next thing I knew, he was mixing up the thinset with a stick and I was slapping the tiles up (and then franticly putting tile spacers in to keep them from sliding together). The area is only 27" x 10", so how long will that take, right? Well, as it turns out, it takes a bit more time than I thought, but much less thinset. (Oops. We've got about an extra 4 litres here just hardening in a bucket.) But, the bottom line is that the tiles are up and the trim is now painted, and we are ready to move onto the next task in this fun renovation.

If I squint hard, I can see the finish line on the horizon.  (Or, is that my tired eyes blurring the glass mosaic tile into a checkered flag?) When I drive down Toronto's Lakeshore boulevard, I always flashback to those last few kilometers of the first half marathon that I ran. I can remember the exact point on the road when I had that thought: "what the hell am I doing here". Every step after that became increasingly difficult. But as I turned away from the lake and ran towards the CN Tower, I could hear the people cheering at the finish line, and I just pretended that they were all cheering for me. And those last 500m were the best, because then I was done! I have only ran past that spot one other time, when I reapeated the half marathon the following year, and I had the exact same reaction. So, while I hope that this is my last bathroom renovation, I have a bad feeling that in a few months, I'll forget the pain that I'm feeling right now and get myself into this mess again. But hopefully only one more time.