The Renovator’s wife Blog

Renovating with your partner and living to tell about it

The Peas’ Knees August 1, 2010

I really enjoy having a vegetable garden, and here in our new house, I can! It’s the first time in 7 years I’ve been able to plant a garden, so I’m a bit over-the-top excited about it. After building the raised garden bed (which would have made a great post, sorry, I forgot to do photos, but will when I build the next one for the berry patch), I filled the bed with dirt, planted seeds, labelled rows and waited for sprouts.

The sprouts came! Maybe not as many as I would have liked, but they came none the less and The Renovator and I are very excited to have ‘fresh from the garden’ veggies! One thing I planted  is peas. I don’t like them cooked, but raw peas? I could eat them non-stop! Yum! Once I’d planted the garden, I asked The Renovator to make me a pea trellis to hold up the peas’ knees. He said he would when the plants were tall enough to need the trellis. The recovering Type A in me didn’t care for that response, so a few weeks later I set out to make my own. Let me show you how to do it!

What you need:

About $20 to buy materials – approximately 35′ of 1 x 1 and 35′ of lath (slats of wood you’d see like in a trellis on a fence)

Tape measure, pencil, saw (plus a mitre box if using a hand saw), brad nailer of some sort (some heavy duty staplers have the ability to shoot brad nails), rubber mallet.

Trellis materials

Trellis materials

Measure long pieces

Measure long pieces

Cut 1 x 1

Cut 1 x 1

Lay your materials in two piles – the 1 x 1 in one pile, the lath in the other. Using the 1 x 1, mark 3 pieces at 54″ (4.5 feet), mark 4 pieces at 36″ (3 feet) and mark 2 pieces at 40″. Cut the bottom endof the 54″ pieces on a 45 degree angle, cut the top end at 90 degrees (straight) as well as both ends of the 36″ and 40″.

lay cut pieces out

lay cut pieces out

Lay your cut pieces out so that the long pieces (54″) are your left, middle and right. Lay 4 of the 36″ pieces across the long pieces – at right angles – to create a frame and lay the 2 40″ centre pieces parallel to the long pieces as shown (more material will hang over the top and bottom cross pieces).

Attach cross pieces to long pieces

Attach cross pieces to long pieces

Attaching cross pieces

Attaching cross pieces

Take two of the long pieces and attach the upper cross piece for your first frame section (make sure the ‘angled’ cut on the long piece is at the bottom and not the top!). Be sure to measure and mark where you want the cross piece to sit on both long pieces so that it lines up. I chose to have my upper cross piece 2″ down from the top of the long pieces.

attach bottom cross piece

attach bottom cross piece

Measure and mark placement for the bottom cross piece. – I chose 36″ down from the upper piece – then attach the bottom cross piece.

measure and mark centre

measure and mark centre

attach centre

attach centre

side one complete

side one complete

Measure the centre point between the two outer long pieces on the top and bottom cross pieces. This will give you the position for your 40″ centre strip. Once marked, attach it at the top and bottom.

Great! 1 side of the frame is done! Now, the tricky part, we’ll build the second side onto the first side. My error was that I built my trellis on the lawn, which wasn’t level, and caused an ‘out of square’ end product. Be sure to work on a level surface, like the concrete patio where I did my cutting but not the building of the second half!

measure, mark and attach cross pieces

measure, mark and attach cross pieces

top and bottom cross pieces attached

top and bottom cross pieces attached

attach long piece to second frame

attach long piece to second frame

Now, take your upper cross piece for the second side, use the same measurements for placement as you used on the first frame and attach. Do the same with the bottom cross piece.

You’re ready to attach your last long piece to the upper and lower cross pieces for the second side.  Again, be sure to measure and mark the same distances so that the two sides look alike.

measure and attach centre piece to second frame

measure and attach centre piece to second frame

Brandie showing the two sides of the trellis frame

Brandie showing the two sides of the trellis frame

Measure the centre point between the two outer long pieces on the top and bottom cross pieces. This will give you the position for your 40″ centre strip on this second side. Once marked, attach it at the top and bottom. You should have something like what Brandie is showing here.

Lath pieces measured and cut

Lath pieces measured and cut

Great! The frame for your trellis is done! Now the easier part – measuring, cutting and attaching the lath. Measure the width of the frame for side one – long piece to long piece. Cut three pieces of lath at this measurement. Measure the width of the frame for side two and cut three pieces of lath at this measurement. Measure the height of the frame for side one – top cross piece to bottom cross piece. Cut two pieces of lath at this measurement. Measure the height of the frame for side two and cut two pieces of lath at this measurement.

vertical lath pieces attached

vertical lath pieces attached

both sides with vertical lath pieces attached

both sides with vertical lath pieces attached

Measure the distance from the long outer pieces of frame one to the centre piece and mark the centre between the two on both the top and bottom cross pieces. Attach your first vertical strip of lath to the top and bottom pieces at these marks. Repeat for the other half of side one and the two halves of side two. You should have something like the picture here.

And finally, mark the long outer pieces of side one at their centres, from the top cross bar to the bottom cross bar. Attach your first horizontal strip of lath to the long outer pieces at these marks. Repeat for side two. Then, mark the long outer pieces 4″ up and 4″ down from your horizontal lath. Then attach your upper and lower horizontal lath pieces at these marks. Repeat for side two.

ready to support the peas' knees!

ready to support the peas’ knees!

Now, you’re ready for the garden! Using a rubber mallet, gently pound the long pieces into the garden. Remember those angled cuts we made at the bottom of the long pieces? They make it easier to push the stakes into the dirt. Take care not to push on your cross pieces or lath slates as you put the trellis in. Although brads will stand the weather for at least one gardening season (probably more) they won’t withstand a lot of pressure from humans.

If you need any help, or if my instructions or pictures aren’t clear, just leave a comment and I’ll help you through it! knowing how to build a trellis as well as plant peas is just another reason I love being The Renovator’s wife.

 

Renovating and NOT Going Crazy March 22, 2010

It’s good to be slightly crazy to begin with if you plan on renovating. Whether on your own, with your spouse, or a whole family project, renovating brings out ‘the crazy’ in people. By starting off slightly on the edge it will be less noticeable when you lose it. And you WILL lose it.

Ronda’s rules of renovating:

1 – it will cost more than budgeted, no matter how much you budget

2 – something will go wrong

3 – It will take longer than expected

4 – you will go crazy at least once. And by crazy, I mean a crying, hair-pulling, “I don’t know how to deal with this” rampage

Some things take longer than expected, like our family room

Some things take longer than expected, like our family room, but I can shut the door!

What brings on rule #4? It varies, but as mentioned, it is inevitable, so it’s best to limit the number of times it happens and learn to recover quickly from it. My trigger is one large ‘issue’ after a string of small ones. Case in point – House # 2 was taking far longer than I could tolerate (see rule # 3 above). I was finishing some painting and The Renovator was working in another room. It was pouring (some of you will remember the torrential rains that caused the avalanche in North Vancouver, BC – same rain storm), but I wasn’t worried, we’d fixed all of those pesky water issues, right? I checked the crawl space and completely lost my mind when I saw 1/2 inch of water. I was crying, screaming and as far as I recall was generally inconsolable. Fortunately, The Renovator explained to me that with the amount of rain we were having it was likely that almost everyone’s crawl space was flooding. He was right, the water wasn’t an issue again. But, in hindsight, I see that I really needed that outburst. It was the peak of my frustration of the house not being finished and things not going as planned.

Since house # 2, I’ve learned to take it in stride a bit more, but to also accept the ‘freak out’ when it comes. Just let it happen and then move on. This is important when you’re living in a construction zone. Right now, we live in the ‘Mother of Ugly’ house. There are things here that I don’t want to look at let alone live with, but we can’t fix them all right now. So, to stay sane, I do three things: 1 – shut doors where possible to avoid looking at it, 2 – remember that this is only temporary, and 3 – take things one room at a time to prevent too many rooms in flux at one time.

either rip it up or leave it in!

The carpet was like this when we moved in – we just ignore it because it will all be removed!

In house # 2, I remember an evening of watching TV and coming slightly unglued when I looked around and realized that there wasn’t one single room that I could go to that was finished. This can be really hard on you because everywhere you look, you see work to be done. The Renovator and I now do our best to keep at least one room out of the path of construction until another room is completely finished. This way we always have a small ‘sanctuary’ to hide out from the mess around us. Even now, the house we are in is far from ideal, but we have a few rooms that are set up comfortably. They might be ugly, but we make them as cozy as possible and ignore the ugly – like the pink walls everywhere.  Then there’s the carpet at the end of the hall – or lack of carpet as the case may be. The previous owners ripped the section of carpet out and left a small triangle of underlay. Weird, but we ignore it. We know it’s all going to get ripped out and thrown out soon, so we keep it clean and smile knowing it’s temporary. Even the stairs have an issue – the carpet has pulled so badly that the ‘tack strips’ are exposed – not good when your toes get too close! Ouch! But this too shall come to pass, so I save up my ‘going crazy’ for a time when it will really count and that’s why I love being The Renovator’s wife.

Brandie on stairs

Even Brandie can see that the tack strip showing on the stairs is bad

 

Fixer Upper and the City October 1, 2009

Yesterday, we removed the remaining subjects from the house we’re purchasing – it is now officially ours. In order to feel comfortable doing so, I had to do some serious research, which involved visiting City Hall in our new community. Armed with a note pad, diagrams and a long list of questions, I put on my happy, ‘I can get along with anyone’ attitude (just in case you’re wondering, this is generally my natural state!) and approached the shared counter of the Building, Engineering and Planning departments.

While the house we’ve purchased doesn’t quite look like this one, the inspection did reveal several electrical problems, plumbing problems and structural problems. Fortunately, most of the issues are neither major, nor beyond the scope of what The Renovator and I had suspected.

passed down through generations

One issue we weren’t expecting was the pathetic water pressure. Like most people, I like a lot of water pressure. No one likes a stingy trickle! Through chatting with the ladies at City Hall, we learned a few things: The water line is original (1977) and comes all the way from the front of the property to the house. Not only is it only 3/4″ (new ones are 1 1/4″), but it also runs under the driveway. In the past 30+ years, chances are that it has corroded and been crushed! Rather than digging up the driveway it’s entire lenght (it’s quite long), we’ve decided to hook up to the City’s water from the back of the property where the new subdivision is. Yes, we’ll need to re-run the lines from our house to the edge of our property, pay for the City to provide our hook up and pay for the City to disconnect the original water, but in the long run we’ll get a proper water supply and we’ll save money by not digging up the entire driveway.

shag tub

No, this isn’t in the house either, but it could be! I can’t wait to start taking pictures of it and posting them! That being said, a bigger issue than a shag carpetted tub is something else from years gone by – a septic tank. City sewer hook up is possible, but again, it will cost us to get the line to the edge of the property and will cost us to have the City connect us. The Renovator wants to stay on the septic unless it becomes a problem, I however want to be on sewer ASAP. How am I supposed to design a great kitchen on a septic tank? Do you know you can’t use a garborator with a septic system?

Another issue I needed answers to was the creek. Because we want to  do additions to this house and not just renovate within the existing building envelope, we’ll need permits, inspections and the like. No big surprise there, but then there’s the creek. I’ve never had to deal with a waterway and didn’t know what kind of easements might exist. Turns out that the City knows! And, even better, we’re in the clear! Sure, we’ll need them to come out and check on the creek and do the measurements for beurocracy’s sake, but we know it will be fine.

fun balcony

Although we don’t have a balcony that looks like this, we do have a crazy little roof like the one shown under the balcony! It needs to come down. Other amusing things about the property we’ve bought? There’s a fire hydrant on the property – about a third of the way in. I looked it up myself on the City’s web site. No signs of it. I asked when I visted the City. It didn’t come up as either municipal or private. In fact, it simply doesn’t show up anywhere.

It wasn’t until I told The Renovator that there was no record of the hydrant anywhere that he said, “Oh, I forgot to mention that to you – it’s fake, just for show”. And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.

 

The Door to a Better Home September 8, 2009

Sorry the alignment of this post is pretty wonky – not sure what’s happening with the photos!

Popular for years, painting the front door of your home is an affordable, relatively easy, way to give your house some added flair. Green, black, red – there is no ‘bad’ colour anymore, so long as it goes with the overall look and style of your home. With the ‘for sale’ sign now on our lawn, this past weekend was the time for a few revisions to our front door to create a more welcoming appearance.

We purchased a beautiful new door glass from a friend in the business.

Mr. Do it yourself (my dad) and The Renovator installed it. My task was painting it with the exterior trim paint.

Prior to painting, The Renovator also took care of removing the old storm door. Storm doors are handy in the summer – but they don’t do you any favours when you’re selling and trying to create curb appeal!

Our door is metal with heritage style panels (orignally 4 panels, but the upper two were cut out when the new window went in). The paint had been flaking off for years, so step one for me was to remove the loose bits of paint and sand the door to create a paintable surface.

it's hard to see the boring front door, but it was pretty blah

it’s hard to see the boring front door, but it was

pretty blah

with window, prior to painting

with window, prior to painting

I taped off the new window and the knob and lock so that I wouldn’t scratch or damage any surfaces when I was sanding.

Window & details taped off

Window & details taped off

Once taped off, I started to peel away at the loose paint. Turns out it was all loose! I realized it was best to scrape the entire door. What a time-consuming mess! With bits of white paint flying (IMe furiously scraping old paint off still find a bit here and there in the house) I managed to strip, then lightly sand the entire door with a 120 grit sand paper. At the Renovator’s suggestion, I removed the knob and lockset as the scraping was a rather aggressive process!

Removal of knob and lockset

Removal of knob and lockset

Once the old paint was removed,  I washed the door with TSP, let it dry, applied a coat of primer to ensure the new paint would stay put, then applied the first coat of the brick-coloured outdoor trim paint. You can tell even from this first coat, it’s going to look great!

The second and third coats were done with a mini roller to give a consistent, even finish with a bit of texture to help hide the dents and marks in the door.

roller coat

brush coat roller coat

after third coat - waiting for it to dry

after third coat – waiting for it to dry

We let it dry for about 6 hours after the third coat – you want to be sure it is completely dry before closing it.  Once I was certain it was dry, I attached the knob and lockset and sat back to admire my work!

removed tape, did touch ups

removed tape, did touch ups

Upon inspection, The Renovator couldn’t help but compliment me! And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.

Wow - what a difference!

Wow – what a difference!

 

Vacation in Renovation July 23, 2009

Revelling in the Good Renovations of Others

Last post, I mentioned that it was our anniversary. To celebrate, The Renovator and I went to a fabulous little Guesthouse (too nice to call a B&B) in Sooke, BC. It’s called Cooper’s Cove – www.cooperscove.com and it was fabulous. Our weekend included breakfast both mornings, a gourmet dinner on the Saturday night and a beautiful private room. Did I mention it was fabulous? We had a great time.

Now that I’m done gushing, let me relate to the blog. Ina and Angelo have owned and operated the guesthouse for 15 years and they understand what guests want and need. The Renovator and I needed quiet solace, good food and nice views and we received all of that in spades. What we hadn’t bargained for was the fact that this guesthouse had undergone major renovations over the past decade and a half and they had been done incredibly well.

I knew that the solace of our visit was slightly invaded when I was told – by The Renovator upon returning to our room, fresh coffee in hand –  that there were photo albums upstairs showing the steps of some of the renovating. My interest was awake before I was, and I found myself caught up in The Renovator’s curiosity. I mean really, who needs solace when there’s renovation stuff to talk about?!?!

 

Our room – the Wildflower Room – is one of four. All the rooms are at the back of the house, so no road noise – just nice quiet views. Often in B&Bs, the bathroom is cramped, tucked away and ‘fit in’. In our room (as was the case in the other two we snooped in during cleaning between guests) the bathroom was spacious, the bedroom, though not large, was accommodating – allowing for movement and essentials. The decorating had been well done, with warm, inviting colours and custom accessories to complement each room.  It’s not like the Wildflower room was decked out in everything that had ever been adorned with a wildflower! No, it was tasteful, well-placed, imaginative. Simple things, like using the same fabric for the duvet cover as for the outer shower curtain and the custom designed towel rack and toilet paper holders.

These simple things make a room stand out. Choosing well-coordinated items will make the difference between a room that works and a room that doesn’t. The Renovator gets frustrated when I’m looking for the right item, he doesn’t understand that when I get it in my head what is needed, it clicks, and nothing else will do. They applied the same principals to the guest house. They also understood the need to make sure finishes were done well. Because The Renovator is a finishing carpenter originally and I am the queen of wanting things perfect, we’re quite particular about the finishes. Overwide grout lines, poorly cut trim and bad paint jobs stand out to us like the proverbial sore thumb. I’m pleased to say none of the above defects existed at Cooper’s Cove. I don’t know how much of the work they did themselves, but I can say it was done right by whomever completed it.

They also knew a tip that The Renovator and I are fully aware of. When you are planning a ‘full-on’ renovation you ‘live in’, do it one stage at a time. In the case of Cooper’s Cove, they didn’t redo the rooms at the same time they redid the kitchen, installed decks, added a hot tub, added an additional room and redid the landscaping. They did all of these things in separate stages, knowing that to do it all at once is nothing short of a trip to the looney bin, or at the least, needing large quantities of Prozac added to the daily diet.

My favorite room, which I didn’t get to spend near enough time in, was the kitchen. Because Angelo is a chef by trade and cooks the gourmet dinners as well as teaching cooking classes, it is obviously important that the kitchen be large and functional. With room for eight guest at the eating bar, we witnessed the chef’s steps in his creation process. Take note, your kitchen should NEVER be torn apart without a clear idea for what you want and need and a timeline to put it all together (don’t get me started on budget). Often the first idea isn’t the right idea, so keep thinking about alternatives and what could work better, what could be changed or improved.

A final learning from the weekend is that by knowing what you (or your guests as is the case) need, you’ll be more likely to make decisions that work. When Ina and Angelo decided to add on, the fourth guest room included not only its own patio, but also its own private entrance. I’m certain it would have been cheaper to omit the exterior door when they built the Blue Heron Room, but the point is that they didn’t. They recognized that people like privacy when at a romantic getaway. We want to come and go without notice sometimes and so, the exterior door was a great choice.

Next time we go, I really want to stay in the Blue Heron Room. I know the Renovator will love it as much as I will, and that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.

 

 

Mole Bombing July 6, 2009

Move on, rotten mole, move on.

At long last, finally a new post. It took me a while to find the video footage I wanted. Don’t tell Warner Bros. They might bust me! 🙂 So, the long and the short of it is that we had a problem with a very persistent mole. Watch the video to see what we did. We think we’re rid of him now!

Ah mole bombing on a Saturday morning with The Renovator. Just another reason I love being The Renovator’s Wife!

 

Neighbourly Advice on Renovating June 21, 2009

Your neighbours know when you’re renovating. Whether it’s seeing the Home Depot bags or watching you put the new light fixture box out at the curb or catching a glimpse of you cutting trim in the garage, they know that you’re up to something, and they want to know more about it.

Sometimes you can keep it ‘on the down-low’ by making late night trips to the home improvement warehouses, but why? Brag a bit about what you’ve got on the go and your amazing plans!

People like to know about what others are doing with their houses and share ideas. It’s fun to talk about changing our environment and to look at what others are doing. Though, that being said, it can be hard for us to accept the input from others when we’ve already made decisions and plans. But, do try to keep an open mind – some fabulous ideas come from the input of friends and neighbours.

Case in point – in our current house, talking to the neighbours about what we had on the go led to discussing what they were doing. This facilitated a couple of great things: 1) Good suggestions came up about our kitchen – ideas we incorporated easily that made our plans even better 2) The Renovator put in a few days work on their kitchen when they needed help.  Great results for everyone!

Another case – on house #2, the neighbours suggested I remove a wall in the kitchen. While I initially dismissed the idea because it wasn’t ‘in my plan’, I later ran it past friends and family who felt it was an excellent idea. In the end, I’m really glad I listened because it was a wonderful change to the house that opened things up and let more light in. I loved it.

Don’t shun the nosey neighbours. Let them take an interest in your reno, show them what you’re doing. They might be impressed and boost your confidence and they might provide some wonderful ideas. The Renovator and I believe in taking good ideas from wherever they come from, and that’s why I love being The Renovator’s wife.