Garage update

When the wall of the pool was removed to frame up the openings for the new garage doors, I had a few regrets about turning the pool into a garage. I had a great view from the kitchen island out the side of the house, across the lawn all the way to the barn.

Not regrets in terms of, “Stop the project! I don’t need a wall on the side of my house!” But more, “Wow that’s a lot of light and what a nice view.”

Well, the view is no more. The mudroom wall has been filled with insulation, covered in vapour barrier and sheathed with plywood (on the garage side). I don’t even have a view out the mudroom door, as that opening has been covered in plastic (we will, once the door arrives).

But the regrets are easing. We are inching ever close to the mudroom actually being part of the house, which feels like a pretty big win.

Two beams are sitting in the new garage. This week they should be installed in the archway between the kitchen and the mudroom and the patio door will be removed (good riddance).

Framing in the opening means that tile can be laid and paneling can be installed on the ceiling and walls.

Outside, the roof is shingled and new board and batten siding is almost done. I feel like both of these items are a journey in colour.

For the roof, I knew what shingles we used on the rest of the house, so our contractor was able to get an exact match. Exact except that the other shingles are 9 years old and apparently pretty dirty. I had expected the old shingles to be sun faded and lighter. But instead they’re darker. Massive pine trees, dirt from fields, dust from the road, air pollution? Who knows what all is on them? But the new shingles are already starting to blend (or my eye is just getting used to them).

For the siding, I was trying to complement our existing red brick and the new garage doors. And I was referencing tiny sample chips, just a couple of inches wide. I called my contractor’s stain supplier and asked for a sample can, and they offered me a gallon. So I held my garage door sample up to the brochure, picked a light, warm neutral shade and crossed my fingers that it would work.

Right now, I love it. It looks good with the brick and is such a light, clean sight out the kitchen window. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works with the garage doors (ETA unknown). Please don’t let them clash.

Also, please appreciate the precision of the spacing on the siding so that the light is exactly centred on the board. My contractors’ care and attention to detail consistently impress me. All of the lights across the front of the garage are each centred on their own board. The windows on the end gable wall have the same spacing all the way around so that trim is even. The battens are prenailed like this so that all of the nails line up perfectly.

Doors may end up being our speed bump (literally) on this project. I got word last week that the person doors are another 4 to 6 weeks out–even though they’ve been on order for nearly 2 months. I’ve had no word on the garage doors. So that view out across the lawn is going to be a while yet.

But, tile and panelling are on-site and ready to go. We’re also ready for soffit, fascia and trough, which will nearly finish off the outside.

It feels a bit like we are moving onto the finishing stage. Not necessarily finishing–although that is getting closer, doors notwithstanding. But installing the finishes like siding, paneling and tile feels like a good milestone.

Who else is a cross-your-fingers-paint-picker? When do you feel like you’re nearing the end of a project?

Garage update

Garage under construction

Soooo much progress was made on the garage last week. In fact, we have an actual garage now.

There’s more work to be done, of course. But it looks like a garage rather than a pool. In fact, Ellie and I drove the car in over the weekend.

We are 17 days into construction.

The exterior walls are all framed. The walls turned out to be our first hiccup because our contractor wasn’t happy with how the bottom plate of the existing walls was positioned in relation to the pool deck.

It looks like the plate had been set in place and then the concrete of the pool deck had been poured up against the wood. He wanted the plate higher up, so he reverse engineered footings all the way around the garage.

Wall with incorrectly installed bottom plate

He braced the ceiling, so that the roof didn’t fall down. Then cut out the original plate and about 6 inches off the studs. Then he put in a new (floating) bottom plate, squeezed forms in underneath and poured new footings.

Pouring footings under existing wall

This has been our biggest (not so big) surprise so far, so not tragic.

For the side wall on the new addition, he decided to reuse the existing wall (which I’m grateful for since lumber is so expen$ive these days). After a lot of figuring, bracing and some extra help, they hopped the wall (all 20 feet long with the windows still in place) out 10 feet.

Extending the garage
Reusing an existing wall when framing the garage

I love construction, so it’s neat to see the problem-solving, planning and building process up close.

The doors are all framed in as well. Seeing the garage openings made it feel much more real. It was also an opportunity to validate some of my planning. I am really happy with the dimensions and position (there’s a good amount of space to tuck recycling boxes along the side and still get out of the car).

They also mapped out the mudroom for me, so I could check the height of the floor, location of the doors and size of the landing. I really appreciate how conscientious and inclusive they are being.

And finally, FINALLY we have no pool. The excavator returned last Wednesday and gravel trucks started showing up a few minutes later. The excavator dumped bucketfuls of gravel into the pool and our contractor compacted it. It took most of the day, but by 5pm the pool was full.

Gravel pile to fill the pool
Filling an indoor pool with gravel
Filling the pool with gravel

The excavator returned the next day to finish backfilling all of the foundation, lay the driveway and take care of a bunch of other jobs that I had. Low spots were filled in, bumpy spots were leveled, rocks were moved, stumps were extracted. Soooo many things were crossed off my wishlist.

Though it felt like an expensive two days, having the excavator, two machines, our contracting crew and about 15 truckloads (250 tonnes) of gravel.

Backhoe and skid steer working on the garage construction
Truck dumping gravel

Ontario is under a whole bunch of new restrictions due to a huge wave of COVID infections, but residential construction that is already in progress is allowed to continue. So next on the agenda is framing the roof of the extension and the mudroom and pouring the garage floor.

Anyone else in the middle of a construction project (big or small)? Have you had any expensive days recently? Anyone else crossing things off your to-do list that have been on there for a long time?

Garage construction has begun

Today is day four of garage construction. I am so excited to have this project underway. And our contractors have made so much progress already.

All of the brick is off the exterior of the pool, the deck inside has been demoed, the pool floor has been drilled for drainage, the new foundation has been excavated (without hitting the geothermal), we passed our first inspection, and footings have been poured. The patio around the outside of the pool and off the living room has been taken out. One tree has been taken down and cut up for firewood (half taken down by the excavator and the other half taken down by Matt’s Dad, who also did all the cutting up). Our pile of other firewood has been moved.

Two tractors (one a toy) in front of a pile of firewood
Child walking on dirt while a tractor digs in the background
Child standing on top of a pile of dirt
Child watching a cement truck pour cement

Next up is building the foundation for the garage extension and the mudroom dividing wall.

I ended up turning over the remaining demo to our contractors. I had really wanted to do a lot of the work myself. Demo is a relatively easy way for me to be involved, which is part of the fun for me. Plus it would save the contractors a bit of time.

But the deck turned out to be a beast. I took the railing off, then spent an hour and a half on the deck itself. I got four boards off and they all split.

Indoor pool mid demolition

I hadn’t taken any of the brick off the outside when the contractor said, “I can start next week.” He also said, “Scaffolding, jack hammers, three guys.” And I said, “You can do it.”

Removing the brick from a house

I am so glad I did. They were so quick. But they were also careful.

I want to use the lumber from the deck for Ellie’s playground expansion. And I want to save the brick for some future exterior work I have planned.

They took everything apart carefully. They stacked the lumber so I could take the nails out, and then moved it to the barn for me. They piled the bricks on skids and then tucked them behind the barn. Being able to reuse so much is so helpful.

Indoor pool mid demoltion
House with brick partially removed

And we’re already at the putting things back together stage. Though it’s going to take a while before it’s all back together. I’ll be sharing more as construction progresses.

Have you started any spring reno projects at your house? Do you have any renovation plans for this year? What jobs do you take on yourself versus hiring out? Have you ever reused lumber or other materials?

Farm-iversary 9 and a new project

Tomorrow marks 9 years since the farm became ours.

I’ve been trying to think about what I want to write for the anniversary, and I haven’t been sure what to say.

Looking back at previous farm-iversary posts, year 4 feels closest to what I’m feeling right now.

Four years ago, I started to live one of my dreams. It’s been a pretty amazing opportunity. Something I don’t take for granted and that is incredibly meaningful for me.

Obviously, life has changed a lot since I wrote those words. But they’re still true. This place is special. I feel Matt and my Dad here, and I see meaning all around us. I don’t take that for granted at all.

But rather than being sentimental today, what I really want to do is celebrate.

Because we are about to embark on a new project.

It’s big.

It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time.

It’s a… garage.

I’ve been planning this for years–9 to be exact. Our official planning process with a contractor and blueprints and permits started in the fall. Demo is underway (the old indoor pool is finally going away). Construction might start this month, depending on the weather.

Matt in the indoor pool

Nine years ago, during the home inspection.

I have so, so many more details to share. I think year 9 is going to be good. Stay tuned.

Do you celebrate your house’s anniversary? What projects are you tackling this year?

Replacing our drafty patio door

The living room has a big patio door on the south side. It gives us great natural light, which significantly increased when we removed the sunroom from the side of the house. I loved sitting on the couch in the fall, watching the leaves change colour.

But the beauty of fall is followed by the cold of winter, and I knew the patio door was a big source of drafts. I had felt that the sunroom provided some thermal buffer (perhaps wishful thinking). But with it gone, the cold air had a direct path through the door and into the house.

So at the end of the year (fortunately on a mild December day), we had the door replaced.

Of course, like so many things in this house, the door was “special.” It was right between five and six feet–the two standard sizes for patio doors. We went with a five foot door, and the installers built out the jamb and added some extra trim inside and flashing outside to cover the difference so it’s not noticeable.

Ellie plays in front of the patio door every day, and most lunchtimes are a picnic in the sunbeams that now stream through the window.

The feature I’m most excited about is the screen. With the sunroom in the way, we had no incentive to open the old patio door. We would have just smelled stinky old sunroom. Also, the door did not slide well and it didn’t have a screen. Now, we have a screen and a door that opens and closes smoothly. I am looking forward to fresh air as soon as the weather is warm enough to open the windows. For now, I’ll be enjoying my new view.

Anyone else dealing with winter drafts? Or enjoying winter sunbeams?

A new door for an old barn

The driveshed (aka our small barn) got a spruce up last week. A new garage door.

The existing garage door had always been a bit of a beast. Heavy. Didn’t slide very well. It pretty much always took my full body weight to close it, and even then I couldn’t always get it latched. (I feel like the driveshed looks particularly sad in this picture.)

Broken garage door on the small barn

Perhaps because I used so much force as I pulled it down, the bottom of the door started to fall apart this year. As in the whole lower panel started to come off. Then the roller went crooked and I could barely move the door.

Being me, I thought, “I can fix this.”

I bashed at the roller until I finally broke it off the door.

Garage door with a broken roller

As I looked at the splitting, rotted, old wood, I said, “I’m going to spend days Mickey Mousing around with this and still have an old door.”

Ellie said, “Mickey Mouse? Where mouse?”

It took me a couple of weeks more to accept that I needed to order a new door, but I got there eventually.

Pushing the lawn mower and wheelbarrow around all of the detritus in the driveshed, through all of Ellie’s toys, past the garbage and recycling bins and bumping out the person-size door was not fun.

But no more. The new door was installed last week.

Installing a new garage door on the small barn

Installing a new garage door on the small barn

It slides up and down and latches, exactly as a garage door is supposed to. Even on an old barn that’s saggy and terribly out of square. (But a bit less sad looking now, I think.)

New garage door on the small barn

Upgrading our leaky hot water tanks to fibreglass

“So you find that ominous puddle of water beneath your hot water heater. As you thoughtfully mop up the floor, … you are faced with one of two courses of action. The first, and… most soul-satisfying action would be to tear the unit bodily from the fittings and heave it lustily into the trash heap. But as your arms flex under this thought stimulus, you question your physical ability to perform this feat with all the zest and spontaneity the occasion requires. After all you are not as young and husky as you once were.”

Alfred J. Taylor in Popular Home Craft, February 1945

I received a copy of this magazine over the weekend, and it contained the article “Make That Water Heater Last.” The article talks of the demands of the Second World War and the impossibility of finding a plumber or buying a new heater when the old one starts to leak. It gives practical advice about how to “fortify your resolve” and “fix it yourself and make do.”

But beyond all of that, it is so well-written. The sentences are beautiful and funny. I couldn’t resist borrowing some of Alfred J. Taylor’s words to start this blog post, even if we did not have to make do when our “faithful old tank[s]” started to leak last year.

I’ve scanned the whole article to share it with you, in case you want a glimpse into home repair circa 1945 (don’t miss the last line… or the last two paragraphs… you know what? Just read the whole thing).

When we moved to the farm, we upgraded pretty much every system in the house. As part of our new geothermal heating and cooling system, we got two new hot water tanks. But within a few months of installing them, our hot water got super stinky. We didn’t want to shower it was so bad.

After a bit of online research I was able to figure out that the anodes in the tanks had likely become home to some malodorous bacteria. We decided to have the anodes removed, and our odor problems went away.

But a new problem arose. Without the anodes, the tanks were more susceptible to rust and likely wouldn’t last as long.

Last summer, we noticed some seepage around the bottom of the tanks. They had lasted just over 7 years before rusting out.

Leaking hot water tank

We started investigating our options and getting quotes.

Ultimately, we decided to go with one of the options our geothermal company had offered when they were fixing our stinky water issues: two new anode-less fiberglass tanks.

Rheem Marathon hot water heaters

Not the cheapest solution, but hopefully the longest lasting one.

(For those asking, “What about tankless?” I don’t like tankless water heaters. I’ve used them a few places and the water never gets hot enough for me. I like my showers to be scalding. Also, our geo system generates some excess heat, which is captured by our dual tank system, so we feel like we’re pretty efficient and environmentally friendly right now.)

I often joke that we have a science experiment in our utility room between the water treatment system and the geothermal. Now we have two spacecraft as well with these capsule shaped tanks.

(And for Mr. Taylor, with his iron cement and assorted wrenches, thank you for your encouraging, educational and entertaining article.)

Tiling the east field

Our farm came with six fields, but in the years that we’ve lived here, only five have been in use. The far east field has been “in rehab.” In fact, it’s also known as the rehab field. (This post shows a bird’s eye view of the property.)

The field is boggy with two marshy areas, one of which is right in the middle. It’s hilly and on some of the slopes the soil has washed away and the ground is very stony.

Green marshy area in the middle of the east field

The farmer who rents our fields told us that several years before we bought the farm, one of the previous owners brought in some dirt and regraded the field, and after that it didn’t drain properly. In the time that we’ve been here, the farmer has augmented the soil with manure and tried various measures to drain the field. Nothing has worked.

In fact, he’s gotten more and more frustrated as his equipment gets stuck in the mud and the field remains unuseable.

This view shows the east field and the big field from the same vantage point a few years ago. You can see that the big field is a lot healthier looking than the east.

East field

Big field

Every year we talk about tiling the field, and this spring our farmer decided to go ahead.

Note I wrote tiling, not tilling.

Tiling involves running weeping tile throughout the field underground to drain the water.

Our farmer hired a drainage contractor for this project. The first step was to survey the fields using GPS to map out the best drainage path.

Surveying the field by ATV to prepare for tiling

Then the big stuff showed up. A backhoe, bulldozer, a drainage plow and biiiiig rolls of weeping tile.

Baxter surveys the backhoe

Baxter standing in front of a spool of weeping tile

The plow was a really cool piece of equipment. It was a large tractor on caterpillar tracks with a spindle to carry the giant spool of tile. The plow cut into the ground and fed the tile into the trench and filled it back in all in one pass.

Drainage plow

Even after living in farm country for seven years, the novelty of farm equipment has not worn off for me. I marvel over the tractors, the combines, the plows and all the rest. So I loved seeing the drainage equipment at work. The maneuverability and power of the tractors was awesome. They went through the water, up hills, through trees–nothing stopped them.

Baxter watching the drainage plow tiling the field

Tiling the field

The crew laid tile all through the east field, a bit into the big field and drained it all through the front field and into the creek that runs across the front of the property.

Weeping tile

Field drainage tile flowing into a creek

There is still work to be done before the field is finally out of rehab. There’s a big section where top soil was scraped off, and it needs to be pushed back. As well, the trenches and ridges from the plow need to be leveled.

Field after tiling before levelling

Ridges in the field after tiling

The ground is still a little squishy in spots, as you can see by my boots (please give me props for not tipping over and dumping the baby into the mud).

Standing in the mud

But the tile is a huge step towards hopefully making the field more useable.

Do you have any muddy spots at your house? Or have you spotted any cool equipment at work? Is part of your property also “in rehab”?

 

Repair, don’t replace, your broken vinyl window

Vinyl windows have a good reputation for being low maintenance and energy efficient. However, they sometimes get a bad rap for longevity–as in they only last so long before they have to be replaced. Wood window aficionados will talk about how their windows can be repaired multiple times and last for decades or even centuries.

When I walked into the dining room one morning a couple of months ago and saw that one of the panes of glass had cracked, I was immediately anxious. All of our windows are vinyl, and the one in the dining room is huge. Replacing it would be expen$$$ive.

Cracked window pane

After a bit of research, I discovered that there was in fact a way to repair the broken pane, and I didn’t have to replace the whole window.

Phew.

This was one of the tasks on my One Room Challenge to-do list, but I didn’t go into any details during my ORC posts. You’ve seen the new dining room, but I wanted to share more on the window.

The dining room window is made up of five panes of thermal glass. The centre is a large fixed pane. At either end we have a double hung window. The upper sash on the right side was the one that cracked.

Dining room window

My online search uncovered multiple window repair companies. I picked four and called them up.

I asked about their process and timelines, gave them the measurements of my window and got a rough quote.

The quotes were all over the map: $450+tax on the high end to $175 all-in on the low end. For reference, our pane was 17 1/2 inches wide by 28 1/2 inches high.

Beyond that, between the different companies everything was pretty much the same. Someone would come to the house to measure the window accurately. They would then order the new pane of glass. It would be a thermal pane, just like the rest of the window. The new window would arrive in 2 to 3 weeks and then a repair person would return to install it. Install would be quick, about an hour.

The company with the cheapest price (The Glass Medic for locals) had a bunch of super positive reviews online, so I decided to go with them.

There was a slight delay as delivery schedules were adjusted for the Easter holiday, but our new glass arrived, along with the our installer, Mark.

Repairing a vinyl window

The old glass was held in place with plastic strips. Mark popped them off and lifted out the broken pane.

Repairing a vinyl window

He cleaned the frame carefully and put little spacers in place to allow room for the glass to expand–so it hopefully doesn’t break again.

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

He put the new thermal pane in place and reinstalled the strips. Then he wiped off the window,  and the job was done.

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

I am super happy with our repaired window. Obviously I’m very relieved we didn’t have to replace the whole thing. I’m also somewhat surprised that I hadn’t heard of these types of repairs before.

Repairing a cracked vinyl window

Broken panes, broken seals, a variety of issues can all be repaired. This obviously saves money, but also saves waste as a whole window is not going in the garbage (an often cited objection to vinyl windows).

What type of windows do you have at your home? Have you ever broken a window? We’re not sure how ours cracked. Mark said it could have been a long-time fault in the glass that finally came out. Have you ever fixed a window? Or replaced one?

Repair, don't replace, your broken vinyl window

Barn repairs – Starting at the bottom

Barn

When we were looking for our farm, I think our real estate agent started to think we were buying a barn rather than a house. I love the beams and the stones and the history, and we fell in love with pretty much every barn we saw.

Fortunately, our barn is in pretty good shape. In fact, previous owners had done quite a bit of work on it–more of an investment than we would ever make.

But we had one issue come up–or down. Some time in the spring, a section of the barn foundation caved in.

Collapsed barn foundation

The stone foundation is double layered, and the outer layer under one of the windows fell down.

The inner layer stayed in place, but as I looked at the wall and thought about fixing it, I came up with a new plan. Take down the inner layer, remove the window and make a door.

The cave-in happened in the corner where I want to put our coop, so having a door would make accessing the birds a whole lot easier.

But first we had to access the barn. We’ve not done a good job of yard maintenance around the barn, and we had all kinds of trees and brush. Matt’s Dad brought his chainsaw and spent a day clearing the mess.

Clearing vegetation from around the barn

Then our mason was able to remove the stones and pour a new threshold for us.

Matt, Ellie and I all put our handprints in the cement (then Ralph and Baxter trampled all over them to add a few prints of their own. I retrowelled the cement and we smushed our hands in again). I love so much that our prints will be here, part of this farm and this beautiful old barn.

Handprints in cement

My brother and sister-in-law came for a visit, so I took advantage of the extra help and my brother and I removed the window and framed up the opening.

Building a door in a barn foundation

Then the mason returned and rebuilt the wall up to the new jamb. This is the same mason that built our fireplace, so he’s very skilled in working with stone and enjoyed the puzzle of fitting everything together. (These pictures give you an idea of the width of these fabulous walls. The jamb is a 2×10, and it’s just about half the wall.)

Repairing a stone barn foundation

Repairing a stone barn foundation

We haven’t figured out the door itself yet. The opening is blocked with plywood, which will likely stay up for the winter. Next year, we’ll build a door. I haven’t quite made up my mind whether it will be sliding or swinging. The opening is very large, so whatever door we have will be heavy.

I often feel that we are stewards of this property, and I feel the same about the barn. It existed long before we arrived at this farm. And hopefully, with a bit of care from us, it will exist long after.