Monday, December 29, 2014

Rescuing Antique Stained Glass

I'm not sure I realized how big a job it is to repair broken, antique stained glass.  But the glass panel in the Owner's Unit is so lovely, it really did need to get fixed.  And total elapsed time was about 6 weeks, because there were lots of steps required to complete the job.

Starting point - broken section
To start with, the guys had to remove the entire window - including the fixed pane below the fancy one.  And this is a big window!!!  They carefully extracted it from the opening and removed the stained glass unit.

Then they delivered it to Phoenix Studios, so they could start to work their magic.  Unlike modern stained glass, which would allow you to replace just the broken piece, antique glass requires the window to be disassembled from the outside edge, to reach the broken piece.  And once Jane got our piece in the studio, she realised that matching new glass to the 90 year old glass was going to be a challenge.  She had to order a couple of different samples, to see what would work best.

So here's the thing.  New glass won't match exactly.  And if she replaced just that one piece, it would be very noticeable, due to the symmetry of the design.  But we can use the symmetry to our advantage and replace the same piece on both sides of the design - and once they're both done, it will look great!  So Jane ordered a couple of samples for the replacement and found one that had the best match.  And to add to the complexity - they moved their studio during the process!  But thankfully everything went smoothly.

Once the glass was repaired, the guys needed to - carefully - reinstall.  They remounted it into the frame and then double glazed it, for energy efficiency.  Then, Kyle and James carefully remounted it into the opening.

It still needs caulking and painting, but doesn't it look fantastic?  What a beautiful accent to the living room!

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Monday, December 22, 2014

My Love Affair with Plaster

Every time the City Assessor comes out to look at one of my projects, they ask if I removed all the walls.  I guess if I completely gut the building and rebuild, it is somehow more valuable?  That's something I will never understand, because as long as I replace all the wiring and insulate the walls - I get the same benefits and keep the original plaster.

And I love those plaster walls!  Do you have plaster or drywall in your house?  There's an easy test.  Knock on the wall with your knuckles.  If it sounds hollow - it's drywall.  If it has a solid, hurt your knuckle kind of feel, it's plaster.


And there was a huge amount of work that went into creating those plaster walls.  They started with wooden lath (thin wood strips) nailed evenly across all the studs.  Then they coated the lath with a rough 'scratch' coat, that sometimes included horse hair or other binders.  That oozed between the wooden lath to create 'keys', which add strength and stability.  Then they topped it with a brown coat, to even out the scratch coat.  And finally, they added a creamy finish coat to create that smooth, beautiful finish that I love.

Sound time consuming?  You betcha!  And as you can imagine, all that time and labor was expensive.   So with the introduction of drywall, plaster quickly fell out of favour.

But plaster is pretty amazing.  It's obviously thicker than drywall, is more fire resistant, and deadens sound better.  Better yet, its durability lasts for decades (sometimes centuries).  What drywall can do that?
Lath in back bedroom

Of course this 1928 house was filled with plaster walls.  And some of them were in such bad shape, we had to tear them out.  In fact, when we jacked up the kitchen floors to make them level, several walls cracked so badly, they fell apart all by themselves.  But the other walls just had some random cracking and bowing that could be easily repaired.

Want to see the pro secrets for repairing old plaster?  Andy Lavelle of Lavelle's Painting Co. came out with his team to do the repairs.  And it was a lot of work!

Here's how he started on a hole in the ceiling.   First step, you need to cut the plaster back to a stud to secure the repair.
Once the space is prepped, you can screw in a piece of drywall to fill the space.  Add mesh fiberglass tape and then you can add successive coats of joint compound to create a beautiful finish.

This ceiling was the biggest challenge.  We had lots of cracks - looks like a spider web!  But the guys got it all patched up and finished with a final skim coat.

Watch how they do it here - doesn't it look easy??

 And of course once the repair work was done, they needed to prime and paint.

The woodwork also needed some attention.  See this before photo with the ugly old drips on the antique rosettes?  Andy scraped off the drips, repaired the bumps and now it gets 2 coats of crisp white semi-gloss.

The China Cabinet is almost finished.  All it needs is the glass shelves and the original doors to be installed.   It's gleaming after the prep work and coats of fresh paint!

Andy's got more work to do - but we're thrilled with the progress and the restored, original plasterwork!
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Progress Update - Tile Time!

As we get near the finish line, there are a thousand little things to do to get the house completed.  A big element is installing all the tile and it's coming along beautifully.

My favourite feature thus far are the upstairs bathroom floors.  We used a large format (12" x 24") tile, but interspersed glass & marble mosaic tile stripes to give it a little added interest.

These stripes also provide a visual trick to make the rooms look bigger.  They fool the eye into thinking there is more space!   We also used the mosaic around the tub surround in the Tenant's Unit, to take advantage of some of the funky angles!

In the downstairs bathrooms, we used the beautiful marble pieces that I splurged on.  The colors look a little funky with the temporary light bulb we have hanging out of the wall, but I love the dramatic pattern and mix of marble colors.

Once we get the walls painted, plumbing fixtures will be installed and they will start to look like real bathrooms!

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Kitchen(s) Update!

The kitchen in each unit is coming together quickly.

Remember the plan for the Tenant's kitchen?

Well the guys made great progress last week and it's looking good.  We used Martha Stewart's Maidstone cabinets in Heavy Cream.  I love the Shaker style door and the warm off-white finish.  We're complimenting them with a new paint color we haven't tried before - Netsuke, from Sherwin Williams #6134.

I especially like the stove and peninsula wall.  It's going to work really well for Kyle & Sam.  A cooking station with a couple of stools to pull up and watch the chef!

Dining Room View to Kitchen - Before
Best of all, I like how removing the walls from the dining room and hallway have linked the rooms and made it feel so much more spacious.  Now the kitchen feels like it's integrated with the rest of the living area.  
View of kitchen from Dining Room

Tenants Unit - Sink and Window Wall

The Owner's Kitchen is also moving right along.  The only challenge?  The cabinet over the refrigerator arrived damaged.  But they  will replace it and we're just waiting for it to arrive.

This kitchen has a slightly different floor plan, since we removed the wall to the dining room to give the living spaces better flow.

I always love how the guys do the crown moulding.  It adds such a beautiful touch to the room.  This cabinet will create a built in furniture look, with glass doors and a lighted interior.  Oh, and see how they were able to reuse the antique rosettes around the new door and window trim?

It gets dark early this time of year!
But of course installing the doors is a critical step - they make such a difference!

The next step is to make the template for the new quartz countertops.  It's all done with a laser, for a perfect, precision fit.  

We are using a quartz countertop for both kitchens.  I love the combination of colors and quartz elements in this pattern.  It gives it a unique 'texture', without overpowering the room.  They are made with 93% quartz - which is stronger than iron or titanium!!  They can handle temperatures up to 360 degrees and require no sealers or maintenance.  And they're made in the USA!

Quartz Countertop - Solar Canyon
It will be two weeks before the counter tops are ready.  Then it's time to install the tile, sink and open shelving.  So still lots to do, but it's looking good, don't you think?

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Color(s) of the Year

Since I'm always looking for new paint colors, I'm always curious what the new Color of the Year will be. And this year,  I seem to be the only person that likes the new 2015 Colors! Everyone awaits the annual color announcements to see what new palette trends they will provoke.  The color will introduce new paint combos, textiles, wallpapers and accessories for the coming year.  This year Pantone launched their new color - Marsala.  Forbes magazine says it "evoked bodily fluids and decrepit buildings".  And they claim social media calls it "a color that makes you want to go to Olive Garden or order tampax in bulk".   Hmmm......and I thought it was quite nice!

For a more global perspective, AkzoNobel , the world's largest color and coatings manufacturer, has named its color of the year Copper Orange.  It's a warm shade and per their press release: "Replacing the cool blues and greens of recent years, a warmer spectrum of pinks, reds and oranges is emerging, reflecting a more positive global outlook". 

I really like the warmth of both these colors and think they're a cozy choice (maybe it's more appealing in winter!).  But what do you think?  Love them?  Or Hate them? 

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Monday, December 1, 2014

The Decision - It's Going to be a Rental!

We have agonized for the last several months about whether or not to sell the duplex.  I liked the idea of renting it, my husband wasn't quite as keen on that idea.

But as luck would have it, one of our carpenters and his fiancé were looking for a place to rent.

They're such a cute couple and it seems like a win win for both of us.  They get a great place to rent and we get a carpenter who is working on the place he'll be living in!!!  Talk about a little extra TLC!

Kyle - Installing new Energy Efficient Windows
Kyle - Rebuilding the vintage china cabinet
They will be renting the smaller unit - aka the Tenant's Unit.  And with one unit already rented, my husband started adjusting to the idea!  So, once we get all the work done, the Owner's Unit will be available for rent.  And it's a big Unit:  3 bedrooms, 2 full baths with 1400 sq ft and a one car garage. And of course everything is brand new, including all the appliances - even a full size washer and dryer!

The only downside: we won't be staging it and holding the usual Open House.  Staging a house is a pretty expensive proposition (usually $2,500-4000) and I just can't justify the expense for a rental.  But we will have lots and lots of photos to share.  So you'll get to see all the Before & Afters!

Help spread the word, if you know of anyone looking for a place!  We won't officially put it on the market until it's finished - probably around the beginning of the New Year.  Just stay tuned to Facebook and the Blog for updates.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Trim Time!

With the drywall dust behind us, it's time to start finish trim.  This is when the guys from Waterhouse Builders really get to show their stuff - because putting these houses back together takes a lot of craftsmanship!

Our goal is to reuse the original, antique trim whenever possible.  During demo, we saved every piece of trim that was removed in the back of the garage - to keep it nice and safe during construction.  But before it gets used, there is some prep work to do - because there is usually a layer of old caulk and gunk on all the edges.  Kyle cleaned that up in a flash.

Next up - they start to put everything back together.  The china cabinet trim had to be pulled out when we removed the wall during construction - now it gets put back in place.  In addition, the guys removed the old wooden shelves that were there.  We're going to replace them with glass shelves, so the new light we installed can shine through the whole cabinet.

Scribed Baseboard - For a Perfect Fit!
What really distinguishes their work from others is the attention to detail.  See this baseboard?  It's been 'scribed' (the wavy pencil line on the right edge) to exactly match the old floor.  When they cut off the scribed edge, it will be a perfect fit on the old floor.  And will look fantastic!

See the old back bedroom?  This is the room we ended up gutting, due to a lot of cracked plaster.  Now it's sporting all new drywall and the guys are installing original mouldings.

Look how nice it looks now (and the refinished maple floors are a beautiful touch!)

Next, they tackled the new master suite in the tenant's unit.  We wanted to use the original doors, but they needed a little work.  See how they trimmed this old door?  It needed a funky angle on the top corner and then a bit of trimming on each side to fit in the new doorway.  That meant James had to reset the old mortise lockset with some chisel work.

They've got more trim work to do, but it's starting to look like a finished house around here!  Next up - the kitchens!

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