29 January 2006


It seems like there's no such thing as 'spare time' when you're working on a house project.

Today was errand day ... got fancy tiles to go around the edge of the fireplace surround, clothes for The Boy (whose arms are suddenly too long for all his existing shirts), and an electric powered brad nailer. I have an air compressor driven one, but I've got so much overhead work to do that dragging the air hose around and dealing with the compressor is more effort than I want to expend. The electric one was only $80, and I think it'll get used enough to be worthwhile.

What else did we pick up today? Oh right: smoke detectors that can be hardwired in (I'd gotten battery operated ones but apparently they have to be hardwired), face plates for the outlets, and a motion sensing light switch. That one is for the light that goes to upstairs - The Boy is not always very good at remembering to shut the lights off behind him, so the one that lights the way to his room is going to be on a motion sensor. :)

Speaking of The Boy, he has a fairly nasty cold that's been brewing for a few days. Now he's got a fever and is looking pretty pale, so he'll stay home from school tomorrow. There's a PD day at school on Tuesday as well, so it looks like we'll be at Union Guy's place for the next couple of nights. That means not much will get done on the house this week, but I suppose that's how it goes.

28 January 2006


This week, I started putting together the kitchen cabinets. They are from Ikea, and since whatever furniture I didn't inherit I seem to have purchased from Ikea, at least I have some experience in this particular area. Anyway, I got all the base cabinets put together and the upper corner cabinet as well.

Oh, the other intriguing news for the week is the refrigeration plan: originally, I had hoped to purchase a Sunfrost refrigerator, but they are about 3K and towards the end of a construction project the money tends to run low and 3K is harder to find than one might have expected (or about as hard to find as you might expect, depending on how much experience you have with construction projects). Anyway, Union Guy did some research, and has come up with a clever plan to solve the problem for a reasonable cost. A standard chest freezer (7 cubic foot) is fitted with an exterior thermostat that means it runs only a minute or two out of every hour, just enough to keep the interior at fridge temperature. Because you open the lid, the cold doesn't fall out like it does if you open a fridge door, although it's a bit weird digging for stuff inside. Apparently the wise use of baskets for organizing contents is very important. Anyway, the thermostat thing is on order and this weekend I'll go look at some freezers and see what I can find. The whole solution will cost about $400 instead of $3500, so right there, it's a done deal. And it uses less power.

Today I got one single board hung up in the bedroom ... not a lot done on the house today, but I was busy with The Boy's 4H stuff - we went to the SPCA and a pet store to tour and look at various animals and what it means to be a responsible pet owner. Walls can wait, I suppose, kids matter more. :)

25 January 2006


I don't like installing tile. It is hard work.

Yesterday I took the day off work and stayed home to work on the house. I did a lot of cleaning up: carting insulation down to the crawl space (so it's not filling up the kitchen anymore), bagging up the garbage sitting outside (and inside), and sweeping and tidying in general. Then I got brave and mixed up the cement stuff and started installing the tiles that go behind and around the wood stove. What a messy job! I used Contractor Man's brand new tile saw, which he kindly left for me to use, but I'm not really all that good at cutting straight lines on tile. (I wonder, is anyone? It's hard to do as they tend to chip off in odd places...)

The end result looks pretty good, though, and my mom tells me that grout hides a multitude of sins, so when that's on I'm sure it'll look even better. I'll post a picture after I recharge my camera battery.

The really good news for the day, though, is that the batteries were charged up to full with the generator, and stayed at green light status until well into the evening ... then when the sun came out yesterday, they charged themselves back up to full green light status without any help from the generator. The little meter on the inverter said that the sun gave us 1.9 kWh yesterday, which is pretty good for a winter day, I think.

23 January 2006

... and a shower!

Just got an update from Union Guy: we have a working shower today, as well!

Yippee, now we can even be clean! I'm sure my coworkers will appreciate this new development. :D

Also, an administrative notice: I had several comments backlogged here .... if you commented earlier and didn't see yours show up, it's there now. Sorry about that!

21 January 2006

The sink works!

The sink works! We have hot and cold running water at the bathroom sink. We also have a completed shower enclosure, which will have water and a drain hooked up by the end of tomorrow. Yippee, we'll be able to take showers at our own house next week!

We started the day at The Boy's 4H Public Speaking competition: he had to give a speech to a room full of strangers (mostly strangers, anyway) and do an improvised speech as well. He did very well - he took second place (okay, there were only two kids in his division, but his marks were still very good). He went from terrified to confident in a week - it was amazing to see.

When we got home from the morning's adventures, The Boy went out to play and I started working with stain and sealant. I got the loft wall restained with Pickling Stain (the Pickled Oak stain I had wasn't quite white enough for what I wanted), stained several packages of boards (so they'll be ready to use when I do more work on the ceiling), and then sealed all of that with Varathane. Once that was done I started putting vertical pine boards on one of the bedroom walls (the one that divides the bedroom from the bathroom) - I want to see what the walls look like with vertical pine, and then I want to stain one wall with the same Honey Pine Minwax Polyshades (all in one stain and sealant product) that I used on the doors and see if I like the colour. I'm thinking of saving the cedar for the living room only, where there are lots of windows and not a lot of wall so that the extra money spent on wood will "go further", and just use pine in the bedroom and other less visible places. The only way to know if I'll like it is to try it out, so that's where I'm currently at.

We are spending the night at Union Guy's place, enjoying laundry and bath facilities. :) More updates soon!

19 January 2006

More progress

Today the whole crew was out working - Contractor Man's Assistant is injured and unable to do heavy labour anymore, so Union Guy has been going out to help most of this week (wonderful man that he is). This is Contractor Man's last week, as he heads to Arizona on Tuesday ... so everyone's working hard to get things done before he leaves.

Today vapor barrier work continued: only a few spots remain to be coated in plastic. I have heard a lot of complaints about the tar used to seal the gaps in the vapor barrier: "This is the worst stuff in the world to work with!" according to Contractor Man (rumor has it he said this several times today, like when his stapler got stuck in the stuff). Union Guy has black gunk all over his arms tonight, having forgotten to rinse with varsol before leaving the house. I have to agree, this stuff really is sticky and gross. Oh well, it serves it's purpose.

Plumber Man was working again today: apparently my shower is well underway. I heard that Plumber Man was putting extra glue in the seam in the shower enclosure where the shelves go because "you know how those women are, they need all kinds of shampoo and stuff". With all my long curly hair, well ... that's pretty much true!

The house is really starting to feel like a house now, it's very exciting. I am so happy that it feels the way I thought it would - it is the size I had imagined, and the 'shape' I had envisioned. It's so hard to know for sure what a house will be like from drawings and floor plans alone, but I am very happy with this one. I was putting stain/sealant on my interior doors last night (Minwax Honey Pine all-in-one stain and sealant) - they look beautiful even with just one coat, and it's so nice to finally feel like I am part of the construction crew. Up until now there's not been a lot that I could really do, as so much of it required more strength and/or skill than I have, but the interior finishing will fall almost entirely on my shoulders. I know it's going to be a lot of work, but in an odd way, I'm looking forward to it.

I'm quite sure that someone is going to remind me I said that, when it starts feeling like the house is never gonna be "done" and I'm tired of staining boards and putting cupboards together and laying tile...

The luxury of indoor plumbing at last!

We have indoor plumbing!

We have a toilet that flushes.

We almost have a sink, but a piece was missing from the package and Plumber Man will bring the replacement bit from his stash of gadgets and hook it up today. He did, however, install a set of laundry taps for me, so that I actually had running water last night as well as a flushing toilet.

Tonight, I'm supposed to even have a shower.

Plumber Man is officially my Favourite Person of The Week!

It feels like such absolute luxury to have these things. In our part of the world, we tend to consider them 'necessities' and take them entirely for granted. Next time you turn that tap, take a moment to think about how wonderful it truly is!

16 January 2006

A bit of a crazy day

The construction crew had a bit of a crazy day today ... the generator was being irritable and didn't want to run (seems the gas line had frozen up a bit), the batteries were nearly dead, and Contractor Man's diesel truck didn't want to start in the cold either.

Eventually all of these problems were sorted out, but it took up a bunch of time that they would much rather have been doing other things. They did get the vapor barrier finished in the loft, though, which is good cause that means less fibreglass fuzzies and dust in my nose at night. :)

Plumber Man called with the news that the specs we understood from the Well Guys don't make sense, so our well controller isn't ready yet ... I recommended he just call the Well Guys himself tomorrow since they will presumably speak the same language and have less chance of things being lost in translation.

Union Guy is working at my place again tomorrow, so we are in town again tonight (might as well save on fuel, with the cost of diesel being what it is). He'll take The Boy to school in the morning on his way to "the job site" and I'll have a shorter drive to the office.

Tomorrow night, though, we should have the opportunity to test out this new toilet. I realize this is probably not as exciting to anyone else as it is to me ... but believe me, I'm very much looking forward to this!

14 January 2006

The next milestone

The Boy and I stayed in the house again last night, warm and cozy. I spent the evening staining pine boards for the ceiling, testing out the "Pickled Oak" stain for colour and intensity. It doesn't really do very much to the pine, although it brings out the grain and lightens the colour a little bit. Compared to plain unstained wood, it just seems to have a little more depth. I think that for the rest of the house I may want something a bit whiter, more like a true pickling stain. I'll have to get some different ones to test out.

This morning I put the pine boards I'd stained up on the part of my ceiling that is also the side wall of The Boy's loft, I think it looks pretty good. The pine will wrap down and under to the ceiling (which is the floor of the loft), and there will be pine on the angled part of the roof as well. The walls will be cedar, although I haven't bought any of that wood yet.

After that was done, I put the vinyl tiles down on the floor in the bathroom, which had been cleaned and swept for me by The Boy. He was really helpful today, sweeping up all the dust, clearing out the garbage from the crawl space, fetching things for me when I was up on the ladder, and generally being very useful.

Today, Plumber Man was out again working on the hot water tank and the well pressure tank. We still need a controller device for the well pump before we can have running water, but that is scheduled to arrive on Monday, so now when it gets here, everything else is ready. I am told that by Monday evening, we should have running water! How cool!

The biggest milestone today is that we have ....

(drumroll please)

a toilet.

True, we have no running water, but you can still use it - you just flush it with a bucket of water. The septic system is in place and everything is hooked up, so everything will go where it's supposed to go. This means I can tell the porta potty guys to come get their outhouse and take it away!

I am so very excited. By Monday night, I should (if all goes well) have running hot and cold water! And a toilet! And maybe even a shower, if Plumber Man gets that set up too. (The shower is the white shape you see at the bottom of the picture.)

13 January 2006

We slept in our house for the first time!

Last night, I decided it was silly to burn another $7 of kerosene as well as pay for natural gas to heat the house at the same time.

So, we moved The Boy's single bed, our buckets of clothes and food, and the fire extinguisher (saftey first!) into the house.

The twin bed is very small, but fortunately neither of us is too big yet, so we both fit and nobody fell out. :)

It was amazing to be able to get out of bed and walk more than four steps ... and in any of several directions! It was amazing to be able to spread out our blue buckets, lay out clothes on the two chairs, and boil the kettle to make tea and porridge. It was amazing to wake up in a warm building, without having to get up and relight the heater. It was amazing to open the door without having to hip check it and bust it loose of the frost.

It was even more amazing to lie in bed, looking out those huge windows at the full moon shining on the snow. Even more amazing was the shape that appeared when the moonlight reflected on the plastic vapor barrier over our heads: the way the folds and wrinkles in the plastic met the light made a shape that looked like an angel, with wings spread, shining over us in the night.

We have been blessed with the generosity of friends and neighbours and contractors and family and helpers and strangers. We have had angels watching over us all this time, we know it.

We've met some of them.

12 January 2006


Yes, the heat is on in the house!

Plumber Man worked very late last night (he was there until long after I was asleep) and got the boiler going, the pumps to circulate the water through the floor heating pipes going, and this morning when I opened the house door to check on things ... it was WARM!

Wow! Heat!

Plumber Man is working again today, putting in the insulation under the floors (to make the heat go up where it is needed) and soon we will have water. Water! Heat! It's almost like a real house! :D

11 January 2006

The warm glow of lights in the window

Last night I saw the most beautiful sight on the way home - I crested the hill, and saw golden light glowing from every window in the house. I grinned all the way down the rest of the road!

The Boy was inside with Contractor Man's big work light on, clearing up insulation bits and getting things ready for tidying up. We swept, mopped (it smells much more lemony in there now), had supper, and had a good sleep in the warm cabin. It snowed all night, and there's lovely white fluffy snow all over everything ... sure does look pretty.

Contractor Man is working again today, and I think (hope!) Plumber Man is coming to turn on the heat. Wow ... heat!

10 January 2006

And today's update...

Insulation is complete, or nearly so, Plumber Man couldn't make it out so we don't have heat yet, but Solar Dude was there and we do have fully charged batteries (the generator had to be run to top them up, as it's been pretty cloudy), the outlet for Plumber Man to use to power the boiler is in place, wired and live, and the propane heaters have been keeping the house warm for the guys working there. The cabin is warm, with the heater running in there (that's where we'll sleep tonight).

I'm on my way to get dinner and head on home - we'll eat and then spend some time sweeping and clearing up and mopping the floors with some nice lemon scented Lysol. :)

More updates tomorrow!

09 January 2006

Insulation and heat

Well, we have a lot of progress now!

The insulation is mostly in, and will be done tomorrow. We passed the preliminary electrical inspection with no problems at all, so we were able to just proceed with insulating and tomorrow will be vapor barrier. Yay!

Plumber Man has got the boiler in place and the in floor heating almost ready to go. The natural gas meter is on and we are ready for heat! By the end of day tomorrow we should have a closed in, warm house.

The cabin is ready for habitation again ... I need to do some cleaning in the house (the cats have been living in there, and the floors are in need of a bleaching) and I'd like to have the inspector come through and go away before I move my bed inside. However, we can use the electricity from the solar system to power the electric hot plate (that my friend's mom generously lent to me so many months ago) to heat our dinner, and on the weekend I used an electric kettle to heat water to wash the floors. I know it probably sounds weird to be all excited about this, but really, after six months of having power only from a battery on wheels, this is really a big deal.

And, as Plumber Man says, after heat is in place you can do water (before that you risk things freezing and bursting and that is just NOT good), so ... we must be getting close to having an actual toilet. Wow. And then a shower and a bathroom sink. Running water. Electricity. Heat. How incredible.

Contractor Man was looking for some pictures of them working on the roof with the lift truck: I hear it was his first time driving one of these things, you'll notice that his passenger (Contractor Man's Assistant) is holding on with both hands in these pictures. :)

This is how they got the roof finished, and Plumber Man (who is also Natural Gas Man and Fireplace Man) got the chimney installed on the outside of the house. I hear this was a most exciting day for the crew!

08 January 2006

Home again

We are back from our trip to the Island (which was very nice). I ran out to the house last night to check on all the critters (no casualties from my neglect, thankfully ... it would appear that the contractors refilled the food and water bowls, which is great!) and I see that the boiler is in place. Of course, it doesn't fit where we'd intended it to go, so we have more reorganizing to do in that front entryway, but it's very important to have that in place as it is all the heat for the house and the hot water!

The weather looks like it should hold warm for another week or two (judging by the Weather Network report), so I'm doing laundry today and will go out and reorganize and clean up the shed. Maybe I can even get the sink unfrozen ...

The good thing is that we do have power at the house now, so if we need to recharge the juice box, we can do that at the house rather than hauling it back into town, and if we want to use the electric cooktop for a bit, we can. These are all good things. Hopefully we'll get the house to vapor-barrier point by the end of the week, then the bank person can come and say "yup, look, a vapor barrier" and give us more money (money would be good!), Plumber Man can hook up the water and the toilet, and The Boy and I can move in (to one room or other) and get started on interior finishing.

Plumber Man also sent me the info on the wood stove, which will go in the living room (you can see the chimney outlet in one of the pictures below). This will allow us to diversify our heating bill (so that not all our heat comes from natural gas) and give us a place to cook hot dogs in the winter. :)

Time to go do some more laundry ...