Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mega Rot

That could be the name for a heavy metal band (and maybe it is already!), but Mega Rot is what Eric found when he opened the knee wall on the south side of the house. Happy Birthday Eric!

What a lovely surprise! The tar paper you see through the hole is actually the tar paper that is behind the siding of the house if you are standing outside. Basically, what I am saying is, if I wanted to put my fist through the wall of the house, this is the place I could do it without any effort.

Eric has to fix this before moving on...

From the hammer in this photo, you can get an idea of the scale of the hole. Eric cleaned everything, and using our small circular saw, straightened out the ragged edges in preparation for the rebuilding. I am not sure exactly how Eric is going to repair this, in fact, I am not even sure Eric knows how he is going to repair this, but I will be sure to let you know with a blow-by-blow account.

On the bright side, spring is right around the corner, the days are getting longer, and the geese are overhead and in the fields, enjoying last years' corn. The Robins and Red-winged Black birds are back, but the swallows' return is still several weeks away. It might have been my imagination, but one field had a tinge of green today.

The fields are still too wet for walking, but I did a little foray with Cooper to test things out. By the time we got back, the dog was ready to be hosed down, he was that wet and muddy! I think we will have to wait another week or so before resuming our regular walks. And on a totally different note:

The Howarnator is so funny. Sometimes, he likes to sleep with all of his paws and tail tucked in beneath him. Our blobbular cat, sleeping happily on his sheepskin, dreaming of squirrels and birds. Howie looks like he needs a diet, stat, but he's all fur. In fact, he is the most unmotivated cat when it comes to food; all the others run to my side when I go in the kitchen, waiting in anticipation, but The Nator just sits on the back ledge of the couch and looks at the desperation of BobCat and Schatzie and Baby Grey with disdain. Those poor souls, he must think. No, The Nator comes into the kitchen, sits below the drawer that holds the cat nip, and meows his little demand. The meow comes out sounding like this: Ack mack. That's the cat nip call. He's my little junkie, what more can I say?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reno Day 69

I whipped out the calendar and counted from January 7th, the day we started to tear down the knotty pine purgatory, until today, March 16th. That puts us at 69 days into the reno from hell. We are progressing, however, it is never quick enough, and we are both starting to feel the drudgery of it all.

My hands looks like a construction workers' and I am tired. During this work, I have worn through a pair of leather gloves, have callouses on the TOPS of my feet where my work shoes bend, shredded 2 pairs of jeans, nearly electrocuted myself once, hit myself with a crowbar in the neck (don't ask for details), nearly taken off several fingers with a reciprocating saw, (again, don't ask), and have been generally in a perpetual funk, saying obtuse things like, "time to make the donuts" in reference to the Dunkin' Donuts ad, which if you recall, (how could you forget?), the employee was saturated by...making donuts. That pretty much sums up how I feel.

Eric is also tired and fed up. Living in a house during a major renovation takes patience, industrial doses, I might add. He wears an ice pack on his elbow held in place with an Ace bandage as a permanent measure because of the tendinitis in his elbow. He is currently on a 2 week vacation, which he refers to as his "construction holiday", or "another 2 weeks down the hole" depending on how bad things get. We both have so many splinters that we have learned to ignore them. We go to bed exhausted and sore, and wake up exhausted and sore. My right hand cramps up into a permanent I-want-to-hold-a-hammer-or-crowbar pose.

On the bright side, the upstairs isn't just warm. It is UNREAL just how toasty it is up there. Seriously, we went from -3 to about 22 degrees, and it's still cold outside. When the rooms are finally finished with Gyproc, I joke that we will be able to heat with a light bulb.

Today we moved the guest room bed from the former guest room to the new guest room. The room is far from finished, but we are having guests staying over this weekend, and we warned them they were staying in a rustic room, as in 2x4 rustic:

Since the photo below was taken, Eric finished the insulation and put up the vapour barrier. We didn't use Ayr-Foil this time, but found a tougher product that proved easier to install. We are calling the guest room the Disco Room because it looks a bit...retro...with the foil vapour barrier. All that's missing is the mirror ball in the middle of the room. (And because I lost my duel and Eric put up an outlet in the middle of the ceiling, it could be a possibility!)

The photo below shows the opposite end of the same wall; I pulled off the knotty pine, the vapour barrier, the Tentest, the vertical wooden boards, and this is what we are left with (once I clean!):

This wall is now ready for the studs and insulation, and then we'll have another full wall complete.

This is what the wall looked like behind the baseboard heater; the pine doesn't even go down to the floor. Craftsmanship? What craftsmanship? There was also varnish dripped all over the heaters from when the floors were done, and this has been bugging me for years. I am happy to see these baseboards go to the metal recyclers. Ecstatic, in fact.

I read an article recently that said you should move out of your house during a major renovation. Get real. The wusses can rent a hotel room, but I'm staying in the trenches, dust and all. Pass me the crowbar. I've got another wall to tear down.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Eric's Tube Amp for Headphones

Eric has a penchant for listening to music with the mood striking him mostly late at night. I always joke that we live in different time zones while living under the same roof, simply because Eric works mostly nights, and I work days. I am an early bird, and he is a late riser. This, coupled with the fact that Eric's amplifier does not have a headset jack, lead Eric to build a high-fidelity tube amplifier for his headphones so he could enjoy his music while I slumber in peace.

I am not an audiophile. I can listen to a radio station for hours and not realize it isn't tuned in properly. Eric's ear is so sharp, I just stand there and shake my head in agreement when he says, "listen, just listen, can you hear that, that little nuance, that little...", until my eyes glaze over, my head nods on its own, and I have to fight the urge to run and hide in a corner with my Walkman and an old Madonna tape.

All that to say I shouldn't be a judge of hi-fi audio sound, but believe me when I say this headset amp kicks butt.

Eric BUILT, yes BUILT this amp by himself. This was his first foray into the crazy world of DIY audio. Here's a picture of his amp during the day:

Ahhhh. All nice and shiny. Eric spent hours buffing this baby to a mirror shine. The case was made by a local tinsmith out of copper, and the brass volume knob and copper rivets were machined by a local machinist. The switch is lit by a LED and glows at night. Observe:

Without boring everyone to tears, this amp was designed by a gentleman in Belgium and featured in a French audio magazine called Electronique Pratique, issue number 310. Either a CD or a radio or even a tape deck can be used as input, and the output goes to the headphones.

I am enthused by this amp mainly because I no longer have to be subjected to Eric's plethora of music, from Sigur Ros to Rammstein, from Stan Getz to Arvo Paert, and from Ozric Tentacles to Van der graff Generator. Eric says I am closed-minded when it comes to music, but truth be told the music in my head is enough for me. I enjoy silence interspersed with a bit of CBC or NPR. Eric is a bit more eclectic. A lot more eclectic.

Let's just call the tube amp a win/win situation for both.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I have lost count!

Even though I have not been posting regularly, not one single day has gone by that we have not worked on the renovations since my last post in February. Things are moving along, but there was still a mood of discouragement in the air this morning. This is how things looked:

Well, if that's not enough to make even the most hardy of home renovators let out a sigh and shake their head in sympathy, I don't know what is.

The north-west wall is now clad with wood, and just needs to have the Ayr-Foil and Gyproc applied. This is rough-hewn lumber and it is a bit warped, ergo there are a few gaps where the boards join, but it is solid and once the Gyproc is up, I can vouch for the fact the wall will be as straight as an arrow.

All of the inside divisions are gone on this side of the house, and it feels strange to see such a vast expanse of space unencumbered by walls. We are going to change the placement of the walls slightly. Instead of making two equal-sized bedrooms, we are going to make one larger and one smaller by about 2 feet per room, to line up the walls over the beams we have in our living room downstairs.

Eric made plugs to fill the holes he drilled for the lag-bolts that join the new rafters to the old. These were glued into place and then made flush with a chisel.

Here we are putting up the boards. Eric decided to place 1/2" shims behind the boards to give the insulation just that little bit more space to fill, so we have a true R44 insulation rating. We removed the pink surveyor's cord as we worked our way up the wall, and this little ingenious fix proved to be just the right solution to keep the insulation in place as we went along, without getting in the way.

Eric started to replace the wood of the ceiling in the former tool room yesterday, and I am happy to report that by the end of today, the job was complete. I had already removed the knotty pine blight, the insulation foil, the Gyproc and the tar paper last week while Eric finished up the wall, and yesterday, Eric started to replace the boards one by one. Since the pink fibreglass insulation that is in the attic would fall down if we tore down the entire ceiling with one fell swoop, Eric replaced each board one at a time. At the fourth or fifth piece, he found some rot in one of the collars that was not visible when we emptied the attic of sawdust several years ago. In order to make this repair, he needed to take down the boards he had just put up, which drives home a point I made earlier: use screws, and not nails to fasten everything. Had the boards been nailed, they would have been impossible to remove without damage. It took mere minutes to unscrew the boards, and once the collar was jacked and repaired, the boards were screwed back on, and we could resume our work. As an added bonus, the ceiling ended up straight once the repair was done, much to our delight.

Here we have a detail of the wall paper I found in the closet, once I had removed the cardboard (yes, cardboard) that lined the closets. I like finding this kind of detail, and wonder who had put it up and when.

Since the sawmill was not operational when Eric ordered the wood, he took what they had in inventory. This meant having to handle 16 foot long boards. The easiest way we found to deal with them was to put them in bucket of the tractor, and hoist them up to the window in our bedroom. From here we reached them across the window sill, and into the main part of the house we are renovating. Of course, we could have cut them into smaller, more manageable pieces outside, but 16 feet happens to be exactly half of the length of the house, so we made do. It is far quicker to install a 16' long board than two 8' long boards, provided there are two people doing the job.

In the above photo, the former tool room ceiling is finished, the wood pile that had been unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the room yesterday has been cut into kindling and is now warming me as I sit beside the wood stove and ruminate about our progress.

Tomorrow I will continue to destroy the knotty pine in the guest room, and remove the boards in behind. Then Eric can work some more magic by rebuilding the wall with 2x8's, then insulation and wood cladding. We are still arguing about the lighting in the former tool room, which in its new incarnation will be a guest room. Eric wants a light in the centre of the room controlled by a switch for practicality, whereas this idea just gives me the heebie jeebies. Tomorrow we will have a duel with the cordless drill and reciprocating saw, and I will probably end up winning. Hope I don't lose a finger. Or two.

Wish me luck.
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