Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reno Day 16/17

More photos than anything else to describe the past 2 days:

Behind the pine panelling, more painted cardboard. This is NOT Tentest - it is truly 2 layers of painted cardboard with tar paper behind it. All moldy and mildew-y, quite disgusting in fact.

An exciting view of what's behind - tar paper - and gives you a idea of just how many nails were used to fasten this stuff.

Once the cardboard is removed, we move on to destroying the wooden boards that make up the inside. We had hoped to recuperate this wood, but it is too old and brittle, and splinters like the dickens. The sawdust comes from the attic where it was used as insulation. Time, the great equalizer, has ensured that the sawdust has settled down into the walls and every crack of the drying wood, and when we tear the tar paper down, this is what sails down down on us. Lucky us.
There's a lot of rot in this room. Maybe because it is the North-West corner, that corner of the house most battered by wind, rain and snow? At any rate, it also seems the nails used here were of the industrial kind, because we needed a lot of muscle-power to remove everything.

Here Eric is doing a number on the angled part of the ceiling. The amount of dust is prohibitive. Even with face masks, it becomes a bit overwhelming at times. My new best friend is the Shop Vac, a saving grace if there ever was one. It was also mild outside, the temperature even hovered above zero for a bit, so we were able to open the window and breath some fresh air. A welcome change.

During the destruction, given the prohibitive amount of sawdust and bit and pieces of paper, tar paper, splinters, nails, and what not, I hit the "reset" button and vacuum the entire space. The Sears Craftsman vacuum pictured above is like a member of the family. We can wholly endorse this vacuum as being a reliable work-horse, an item no renovator should be without. I could probably turn the thing on, leave the room, and come back and find everything clean, it is that powerful. It gobbles everything in its path. The only downside - it is VERY loud - hence the hearing protectors hanging on the handle. This should be sold as a set.

Every so often, you find something that makes you go, "Huh?":

And this is one of those things! An old pine branch, stuffed between the walls. Our only guess is a squirrel brought it in to make a nest.

So that's it in a nutshell. Today Eric will start to rebuild the outside wall with 2x6's, and hopefully be able to motivate one large beam into place. There are 3 to put up in this room, so he has his work cut out for himself. I will start to cut the wood we tore down into wood stove-friendly lengths, and act as gofer as the need arises.

Onward we plow!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reno Day Whatever

So, it is official. I have lost count.

Today is Wednesday, and if I do a bit of mental math, it's probably a cumulation of Reno Report Day 12/13/14/15, or thereabouts.

Eric finished insulating the second section shown above, and now we are at a logjam of sorts. We have several issues to deal with.

Our first issue is what to finish next. Logic dictates it would be the third section, however, this section contains the door to access to the knee-wall. It is through this access door that we need to exit when we finish the insulation of the knee wall, ergo, this section will have to be done last.

The second issue is the problem of the tool room that we have to deal with (hiding behind the wall in photo below).

The only logical thing to do is to start at the opposite end of the wall and work our way back. This is easier said than done, given that the tool room at the opposite end contains each and every single tool we own, (correction: those that aren't lying in the living room), and is therefore chock-full to the proverbial brim.

It would have been nice to leave this temple to the reno Gods untouched for a bit longer, but alas...

The tool room is so hideously jumbled that I keep the door closed at all times, and when guest touring our home point and inquire what is behind "that" door, I change the subject and shuffle everyone along quickly. Our very own little shop of horrors.

Last weekend, I went into the tool room in an attempt to move everything out, but it soon became clear that this would be Eric's job. I don't want to be the keeper of the tools, having to answer to "where'd you put the stapler/drill/toolbox/router/etc." ad nauseum for the next several months. I hung my head and left the tool room dejected. I was ready to start swinging my crowbar and take out the panelling, but I needed to wait for Eric to work his magic.

So Eric was the organizational guru who re-arranged all the tools in every spare nook and cranny of our house. I am surprised I didn't find any in the dishwasher or wall-oven when I came home from work today, because believe me when I say there are now tools everywhere. One detail sadly lacking in many old houses is an attached garage, a basement, and an accessible attic that can hold all these possessions. Hence, the need for the tool room.

But Eric plugged away, and this is how things look today:

Prior to being the tool room, this used to be our bedroom, a detail I am embarrassed to admit. The lamp, soon to be a Piñata, I despise with a passion reserved for very few things in my life. I truly hate this lamp. I am tempted to swing my crowbar at it, however, I will give the lamp a second (or more likely third) incarnation and try to find a home for it. So to whoever is willing and game...come and get it and the two others I have stored already.

When I saw the mold behind the panelling, I suddenly realized why I used to have sinus infections all the time when we slept in this room:

There's a lot of mold in this room lurking behind the panelling. Above we have a Gyproc wall, and on the adjacent wall, we finally have some Tentest:

I say finally, because it's seemingly the only finishing we haven't come across yet.

I said we were going to have a life-time supply of kindling; well, I lied, okay? We burned through the panelling like you have no idea. We have been in an interminable cold-snap that still has us in it's grips (with added snow, to boot!), so we heated the house almost exclusively with the panelling for the past few weeks.

It's now time to cut some more!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reno Day 9/10/11

Today was a (b)itch-o-rama.

We took Saturday off to take our little road trip to bring Marie home, and Sunday was a slow day. The electrician came, changed out the electrical boxes for a beefier model, and ran some more BX cable. He is also a friend, so we can bribe him out on weekends with offers of food. Some other stuff was wired (face it, we never have enough electrical outlets in the right places, so now is the time to right some wrongs), and with this out of the way, our work could go ahead.

Yesterday we opened the first of the 24" wide Roxul batts. We needed these batts to insulate the knee wall:

We placed 2 on top of another on the floor, giving us 12" in height (though the photo shows only one layer), and then we added a little retaining wall out of plywood strips to hold the rest of the Roxul in place:

The idea was to place 12" of batting upright in this space, and keep going from there. Easier said than done. It was like giving birth, but in the reverse order.

Murphy's Law dictates what can go wrong, will go wrong, and that's exactly what happened when we opened up the second bag of Roxul. We ended up with a bad batch. This is what we got:

A lumpy mess. We called Roxul and gave them the batch number, and a rep called us back. They say this sort of thing happens from time to time, and we will get reimbursed, but in the meanwhile, Eric and I both lost a lot of sleep last night, thinking the product now looked like this, no exceptions! There is no way we could have put something that looked like this in the angled part of the roof. It was impossible to cut and totally unmanageable.

This is what Roxul normally looks like:

It is compressed, and when you cut the bag open, it nearly explodes. This is a good batch. What is nice about Roxul is that it's dense. It has more "hold" than regular fibreglass pink, and it is water-repellent and fire-repellent. Just what we wanted.

This morning we were greeted with snow (again)!

Then the sun came out, and the trees looked as though they had had a dusting of icing sugar:

It was a sight to behold. There was no wind, so the trees actually stayed this way for a few hours.

But back upstairs! (Sounds of whip cracking!) Enough dilly-dallying!

Eric decided that all the tiny forged nails that were originally used to nail the cedar shakes on the original roof just had to go. There were hundreds in the 2 sections I had access to, and I broke each and every one of them off using a pair of pliers. Thankfully, they cracked off readily after being bent back and forth several times, but mind-numbing grunt-work nonetheless.

With the nails out of the way, Eric screwed furring strips on the roof. This is to prevent the Roxul from being pressed up against the roof to facilitate air circulation and to prevent condensation.

Have you ever had a product catch your eye, and although you're not sure of an immediate use, your frivolous nature makes you buy it?

Well, this quick-release magnet from Lee Valley was one of those purchases:

It features a quick-release trigger below the handle so you can easily drop what you've picked up, and is quite frankly one of the most-used gizmos we have. I used it to pick up my (million) little broken off nails, as well as hand Eric the screws he needed to put up the furring strips.

With the furring strips in place, we were now able to put batts against the inside of the knee-wall and work our way up to the ceiling:

These are the first 2 courses in place. There are 2 - 6" layers here, one behind the other, and we staggered them by 5" to give us a bit more hold as we were layering the batts. It seemed impractical to butt-end 2 layers simultaneously, hence the back batt is shorter.

We also had not considered exactly what would hold the Roxul in place as we were installing it; the batts are quite heavy and would fall down if not held in place by something. Eventually, this entire area will be covered with planks of wood and Gyproc, but in the interim, we had to improvise. We thought of screwing more furring strips across to hold everything together as a temporary measure, but then we decided to simply use string. We placed screws every 6" or so, and using surveyor's string (polyester, and really tough!), Eric spanned this across the batts.

We worked our way up the wall using this method:

Until finally, we had one entire section completed:

Bravo, Eric, take a bow!

Roxul is not fibreglass, but it is still itchy. Maybe not to the same extent, but nonetheless...after installing this product, you're entitled to a long, hot shower. (Despite the installation instructions telling you to take a cold-to-lukewarm shower. Thanks, but I'll take my chances!)

Hence, the (b)itch-o-rama.

When we have 4 sections like the one above completed, we will be ready to install the planks which measure 16 feet. And then we'll be a quarter of the way home.

(I can hardly wait).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Introducing Mrs. Cranky

I must have a horse shoe firmly planted up my posterior.

The other day, as we were wielding crowbars and reciprocating saws, the phone rang. I heard Eric answer, and pass the phone to me, giving me one of those I-have-no-clue-who-it-is grimace through his safety glasses, hearing protector and mask.

Weeks ago, as I was dealing with Mr. Cranky's owner in Alberta, not quite convinced if he would send the machine to me or just stiff me for my money, I called around to find another CSM in case the deal fell through.


On Thursday, like manna from heaven, that phone call came. I had totally forgotten I had even made a few phone calls, since I had Mr. Cranky, now re-named Albert, in my possession. The person on the other end said he had a Legare for sale, and the asking price was so laughingly low, I think he could have taken it to a scrap metal dealer and gotten more money for it.

This is how we ended up taking a road trip on Saturday.

I had no clue what to expect; I kept my hopes down, expecting to find a rusting heap of metal, yet I still had a knot of anticipation in my stomach, a faint flicker of hope that this would be my dream machine.

When the seller took the box down from his storage area and placed it on the floor in front of Eric and me, I played it cool and calm. We picked up the CSM, a Legare 400, complete with 2 cylinders and a ribber, everything crusty with years of dirt and oil, and looked at each other, eyebrows raised, giving each other that "holy-crap" vibe through telepathy.

"This'll do", I said and handed over my money. I felt like I was committing armed robbery with the bank's supplied gun.

I had to restrain myself from taking the box, running to the car, and gunning it all the way home to inspect my booty.

The machine belonged to the seller's mother-in-law. She is long-gone, but I believe the machine served her well. It was well-used, well stored, and all the accessories in good order.

The machine is dirty - have no doubts about this - however, I went through the paces with Cranky, so cleaning Marie is going to be a cake walk.

Albert, meet Marie:

The CSM came complete with it's original wooden crate, and the following accessories:

A 36-needle ribber.

A 72-needle cylinder and a 54-needle cylinder (cleaned this morning).

The yarn-stand top.

The yarn-stand mast.

Weights and bobbins.

From top to bottom: pick-up tool, single heel hook and double heel hook.

I feel so lucky I should probably buy a lottery ticket, but I think I won the jack-pot already.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Reno Day 8

We slogged away again today.

I tore down more of the ceiling. This involves wearing a mask, eye protectors and head covering, and still managing to get sawdust into every orifice. Literally. Quelle fun!

Today I found a layer of plaster board underneath the knotty pine. This does not please me simply because I am the poor slob who will ultimately shoulder the responsibility for getting this stuff out of the house. Plaster board does not a happy camper make.

The good news: the temperature rose to a balmy -16C during the day. Even the cats went outside for about a minute or two, and both promptly came in and went straight to the litter box. Thanks, boys, for doing inside what you could have done outside just minutes earlier. With this weather, one of my prime occupations seems to be scooping out the litter box.

Also from the good news file: Eric got another beam into place:

The rafter on the far wall is cut to size, but hasn't been put into place properly yet. It is a 2x8 and isn't nearly as hard as the 4x8's to place; the only purpose this rafter will serve is to provide a place to screw in the boards that will cover the rafters once the Roxul is in place.

Here is a detail of the top of the rafters:

This is how the bottom of the rafter joins the the top-plate that runs the length of the house:

Eric gets an A+ for precision. I get an A+ for patience. We both get an A+ for perseverance. The 3 P's of home renovation.

These monster lag-bolts are 1/2" x 10" and Eric is using 6 per beam. For lighter-duty fastening, we both have one non-negotiable requirement: Spax screws with Torx heads. No use messing around, these are the best screws money can buy. They should be industry standard.

The floor upstairs turns into a veritable skating rink when covered with sawdust. It is amazing just how slippery it becomes. In the photo below, the little door that leads to the knee wall is open; you can see the knee wall is not that wide. Guess who will have the honour of insulating this space? You guessed it!

(It most certainly won't be the cats, although Bob and Howie are both obsessed with this space. The Howarnator jumps over the wall, makes his rounds, and then promptly sits down on the other side of the door and meows plaintively. Apparently he can get in, but can't get out. Or maybe it's just his passive/aggressive way of showing me who's the real boss.)

This also shows the state of disorder that reigns supreme as the work is going on. They don't show you this on home renovation shows. I remember watching "This Old House" as a kid and being obsessed with Bob Vila and Norm Abram's antics. All the houses I remember them doing were pristine and organized, not at all indicative of our reality. Nary a housewife in sight, ready to hurl herself from the scaffolding.

At the end of the day, all the tools are piled into one corner, the power-tool batteries get recharged, the floor gets vacuumed, and all's right with my world once again.

We put a zipper in the polyethylene sheet that serves as a dust/cold barrier. This cool product is called a Tarp Zip-Up and if you are into heavy-duty home renovation, this is a sanity-saver. The box is adorned with a photo of a housewife, happily ensconced on one side of the tarp (the "clean" side), while she looks on wistfully as her husband and son work on the other side (the "dirty" side).

Lucky her.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reno Day 6/7 and other Musings


Words don't do justice to how cold it is outside. Here was yesterday's forecast:

It was so bad, I had to take a picture of the laptop screen. Seeing those 5 suns in a row would have been nice in the summer (where I don't think we had 5 days of sun running...), but in the winter with HIGHS of -20C, it's evil, just evil, I tell you.

This infernal climate.

The upside is the snow looks mighty pretty, and as an added bonus, squeaks under your feet as you walk (the sound does to my psyche what the sound of nails on a chalkboard does to others):

Everywhere you look, the light plays all sorts of turns on the landscape. Maybe if I stare at that photo long enough, it might remind me of a sandy beach and warm temps? Or is that wishful thinking combined with a hefty dose of cabin fever kicking in, a sort of winter delerium?

Probably the latter.

You have to experience cold like this first hand to understand. Your first breath outside catches your lungs off guard. Planes overhead whistle as they cut through the sky. Everything sounds so clear, and the snow squeaks under your feet as you walk. Cooper walks on three legs as he goes out to make his pee-sicle, as I like to call it in these temps, and the cats don't even go near the front door.

Anyhow, it is the middle of winter, the days are getting a bit longer, and with these temperatures, when it warms up to -10C, it's going to feel like a heat-wave. That's the upside.

Inside, things are humming along. There is an inevitable fine coating of dust that has settled on every surface of the house, and I will turn a proverbial blind eye to it for the sake of my already shaky sanity. In these conditions, ripping open windows to air out the house would get me committed. I just can't wait 'til it warms up...

Eric started to put up the Roxul on the east-facing wall. Roxul is a user-friendly product that is easy to install and easy to cut. One of my bread-knives was expropriated as "the" item to use to cut the batts, and it does a wonderful job, so it was worth the sacrifice. Eric looked at me sternly as I handed it over, saying, "It will never be the same, you know, so are you sure?" (I feel like I have an inappropriate fixation with my kitchen utensils). I think I have had that bread knife for 20 years now, and I am sure they don't make 'em like they used to, but it's okay, Eric, slice away. (Actually, it's a Wiltshire Laser-Sharp knife I bought at Canadian Tire for something insane like $3, if there ever was a product to endorse, it would be this).

Eric in action:

One of the nice benefits of working with Roxul is that it isn't nearly as scratchy as working with fibreglass. It's not nuclear science, installing this stuff, but Eric does it with such precision, I jokingly ask him how his origami folding is going.

Well, it's another 2 days of work under our belts, with no end in sight. Just like the weather.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reno Day 5

Eric had a bit of a shopping day today - we managed to get some Roxul Flexibatt, and at a decent price as well. In the end, Reno Depot ended up having the best deal, and as an added bonus, every 13th bag is free.

The weather has changed our plans a bit. It is going to be prohibitively cold for the next few days, so we are going to finish one east-facing outside wall. This is what Eric did today:

Eric is cutting a 2x6 to fit the wall. Since we have a 3x3 cross-beam here (under the window), he needs to cut around it. If you look closely at the 3x3, you can see that it is hand-hewn lumber, and not sawn. This is the hallmark sign of old construction. The 2x6's are at 16" on-center, this is primarily to facilitate the installation of Gyproc more than anything, and to accommodate the Roxul Flexibatt, which is 16" wide on this wall. (Everywhere else we are using 24" wide Roxul Flexibatt).

This is a picture of 2 studs which are now up:

I know, I know...don't get too excited. These are somewhat mundane details, but then again, you're not the one doing them! The boards these studs are screwed in to is the exterior of the house. The boards are from 2-1/2" to 3" thick tongue-and-groove construction, and form the main structure of the house. Thankfully, the condition of these boards is good, there is no rot, ergo, no need to replace. When we change the exterior of the house, we will have the opportunity to see these boards again, just from the other side. Hopefully, this will take a few years.

Here you can see the fancy cutting Eric needed to do to make the studs fit. Everything fits tightly, and it's straight!

This means we will be able to insulate this wall tomorrow. And that means our house just got a bit warmer.

I made a (terrible!) heel!

No, I haven't fallen of the CSM band-wagon, quite au contraire, I have been messing, and playing, and tuning, and reading, (and breathing and sleeping) CSM related thoughts and otherwise in my spare time. This little machine has me firmly in its clutches, and will not let go!

The first tube I showed in my earlier post was borne from sheer beginner's luck. A few days later, as I sat down to thread the machine and try and knit another tube, I must have re-threaded and started to cast on at least 20 times. I was using the set-up basket, and although it is fussy, by the 20th time, I was a pro at threading it. One (or twice...) I threaded up the basket but forgot to thread it through the yarn carrier. One (or twice...) I threaded up the basket, but my tail was too short. Basically, every thing that could go wrong, did go wrong. But that's part of the process, and learn I did.

I was also using left-overs from my stash that I wound on the wooden bobbin. Partly out of desperation, I decided they were cramping my style. My frugal nature didn't want me to use "good" wool for this exercise, but I finally sacrificed a 100 g ball of Schoeller + Stahl Fortissima Socka. This change in wool bore fruition, and I managed to knit a tube with 1) horrible tension, 2) much swearing (Eric just shook his head and said: give it up for tonight, will you?) and 3) many dropped stitches, however, I forged ahead, and behold, the Franken-tube emerged:

Yesterday morning, during a lull in our renovation work, I sat down with Donna Peters' Sock Knitting Machine 101 book, and managed (albeit in a horrible fashion), to turn a heel. If you have ever hand-knit an hour-glass heel (à la Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook) , you will catch on readily to the concept, but if you knit conventional heels with a flap, your first attempt might leave you scratching your head.

If you think this side of the heel looks like a dog's breakfast...well...I'm not going to show you the other side then, because it is a mish-mash of dropped stitches, but they didn't stop me...I...must...keep...cranking!

If you are wondering WHY there is a knot in my tube, well, it's because the Howarnator was playing with the weights, and also, I admit the tube is grotesquely long. It was a practical measure.

From my second attempt at knitting a tube, to my first attempt at turning a heel, several things became glaringly obvious:

1) I really need to buy a ball winder.
2) I feel bad about pseudo-ruining an entire skein of Schoeller + Stahl, but the sacrifice to the CSM Gods was necessary. I guess this yarn will become my waste yarn for years to come. At least I like the colour.
3) I must purchase (or make...HELLO?...there is a drill press in my living room!) a set of heel forks with weights, because using the heel hook that originally came with the machine does not cut it.
4) I should knit a sock bonnet to facilitate setting up the machine.

Those are my CSM musings for now. I have a steep learning curve ahead, but I also think I am heading in the right direction!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reno Day 4

Last Friday night, after cleaning the day's grime and dust off of our weary bodies, we settled down in front of the wood stove to relax a bit. After about 5 minutes, Eric looked at me and said, "What's up with that draft?"

To say it is a little cold upstairs is an understatement; the air pours downstairs, and the infiltration is a little bit too much to bear for comfort. We figured we would put up a dust barrier using some polyethylene sheeting which would help in cutting the draft and the dust.

You might say "it's just a plastic sheet", but let me tell you it's 3.5C on the "cold side", and 18C on the other, and that's without turning on any heat upstairs. It's pretty amazing what a sheet of plastic can do.

I spent the day ripping down more pine and removing nails and cutting everything to kindling-size. In the above photo, we have a patchwork of tar paper, cardboard (everything moldy), what looks like tiny bricks is more tar paper, just an earlier generation, as well as asphalt sheathing that looks like simulated brick. This monstrous product is also on the outside of our house under the siding. (When we get around to taking the siding off the outside of the house, we're going to have tons of this stuff to remove).

Eric took things up a notch today:

He went from Mr. Destructo to Mr. Constructo.

When you're at the point of actually building and not destroying, your mood is invariably elevated. Eric cut a beam to size, and motivated it into place with the sledge hammer. This is the first beam of nine beams on this side of the house and we were both encouraged by the results.

What Eric is doing with the monster drill above is drilling the beams we are adding to the existing beams, like this:

The new beams have been drilled through on the drill press. The beams are cut to size (remember, in an old house nothing is standard, and the dimension of every beam varies a couple of inches from one to another), and put into place. The sleeve he is using above is machined out of UHMW-PE (ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene) and is used to align the holes. Once the holes are drilled, he screws the 10" lag-bolts into place along 5 points along the beams. Finished, the whole thing looks like this:

One up, 17 to go.

The holes are going to be plugged with wooden plugs glued into place.

We are both encouraged by today's events. The upstairs looks like a disaster area, but we are progressing. Tomorrow will bring more of the same, and we figure if Eric can put up 2 beams a day while I destroy the old paneling, we'll really be chugging along.

Call me optimistic, but despite the house being turned upside down, with dust on every surface and no end in (near) sight, I am keeping my eyes on the prize: a finished upstairs. As I wield my crowbar and hammer, I imagine the finished interior: a warm, cozy and organized space. I visualize myself knitting or reading as the sun pours into the windows, and I smile as I say to myself: we did this ourselves!
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