Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

When we first got the keys to the new house, i pretty much went straight form the Lawyer's office back to the house to pull up all the carpet.  Part of me was dying to see what was under there, while another part of me was dreading to see what was under there.  You really never know what you'll discover when you pull up carpet that someone else has put down in an old house.

Here's what i found, some of it was quite a surprise for me:

The Good - I started pulling up carpet on the main floor and i got really excited when i found that the original 100 year old quarter sawn white oak was still intact.  I got even more excited when i realized the living room also had a beautiful hardwood border inlaid around the perimeter.  As i peeled back the carpet i felt like i was hitting the reno jackpot.

The wood was dull, dirty and covered in paint splatters, but hopefully they could be refinished.  I was feeling pretty good...That is until i hit The Bad.

The Bad - Turns out the closet in the foyer isn't original.  I already figured as much, because the house has two foyers (one after the other), which doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  I know in the other neighbourhood houses we looked at, there would be one large entry hall, often with a fireplace in it.  The kind of hall where you could put a large Christmas tree or a grand piano if you wanted too.  Well ours once upon a time was like that too.  At some point the corner fireplace was removed to put in a double coat closet.  And once i removed the carpet i discovered the large ugly concrete remains of where the corner fireplace once stood. You can see it under the broom in the picture below. If i wanted to refinish the floors, i would need to find a way to cover up the concrete.

As i worked my way up the house pulling off carpet, i learned a lot.  First i learned that 30 year old carpet smells and gives me big red hives.  Secondly i learned that the builders of this house used the best stuff on the main floor (all quarter sawn white oak with herringbone and inlaid borders), meh stuff on the second floor (mix of rift cut and flat cut red oak), and cheap stuff on the third floor (soft wood).  Even the stairs and landings used cheaper wood the high up you went.  The stairs from main to second were ash, and the stairs from second to third were soft wood.

The Ugly - Unfortunately the second floor hardwood was completely shot.  They had been sanded down to the point where nails and sharp shards of wood were beginning to stick up and become quite dangerous.  This was not salvageable.

Decisions, decisions, decisions - I knew i couldn't leave the second floor as is, and wasn't sure if i could salvage the beautiful main floor hardwood, i worried about the cost to get the floors back to a safe and presentable state.

Re-carpeting would be the easiest and cheapest option, to recarpet everywhere that i had just pulled carpet off, would probably run 8K for anything decent.  I however am not a fan of carpet (the big red hives were still fresh in my memory), and i felt that carpeting over the splintery second floor, is like burying your problems.  I knew replacing the hardwood everywhere would be ridiculously expensive, and frankly not something i was willing to entertain.  So i decided to use the same sort of ingenuity the builders of the house used.

Here was my plan - Restore the hardwood on the main floor, and pray to the reno gods, that the floors had enough left for another sanding, and more importantly that the hardwood in the closet could be used to patch over the concrete, where the fireplace once was.  Replace the hardwood on the second floor with what would have always been there, 2" wide red oak strips in a mix of rift and flat cut then as a cost saving measure - paint the third floor floors.

After talking to many other hardwood guys, who encouraged me to just replace it all with pre-finished hardwood (um...NO!), i finally found Bill from Smithwood Floors.  And i'm glad i did, cause this is what my floors look like now:

Living Room:

Patch over the concrete remains of a fireplace, made up of pieces salvaged from the closet:

The hallway:

I'm over the moon with how the floors look now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Guest Post - Brian Turner

Whoa, it's been a long time since i've posted!  But what that means is there has been some reno progress which i will be posting soon enough.  Before i update you on what's been going on at the High Park Eddy household, i have a guest post from Brian Turner, a healthcare advocate and blogger with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, who shares some important things to keep in mind for those of us working on old houses.

Home Renovations and the Asbestos Threat

Asbestos has been getting a lot of media attention lately, due to the increasing number of mesothelioma cases in the United States.  Mesothelioma is an uncommon but life-threatening cancer that results primarily from asbestos exposure. However, it can remain dormant for decades after exposure. At the time of diagnosis, it is usually too late for aggressive cancer treatments.

Some segments of the population are more susceptible than others to develop mesothelioma. Military veterans, factory workers, automobile mechanics, construction workers and demolition crews are high-risk groups for asbestos exposure. However, a new round of mesothelioma cases is appearing in the United States. These new cases involve American homeowners and do-it-yourself carpenters.

Asbestos in Home Renovations

Home renovations are a popular alternative to purchasing a new home, especially in an unstable economy. Many Americans are starting new projects to renovate or expand their homes. Many toxins pose health hazards to homeowners: lead, mercury, formaldehyde, asbestos and more. The asbestos threat is greatest in older homes, from historic buildings to contemporary structures built in the latter twentieth century.  

Even if asbestos is present in a home, it is usually not a serious problem. Solid, intact asbestos materials are generally safe. The danger occurs as asbestos deteriorates over time, or if it is damaged during a home renovation project. Damaged or disturbed asbestos materials release toxic particles into the air, and this is when it becomes a health hazard.

Common Asbestos Hazards

Asbestos is a tough and flexible mineral substance that is resistant to fire and heat. It was a popular additive in many industrial products throughout the twentieth century. Many building materials and supplies contained asbestos for reasons of safety, flexibility and economy. When the toxic qualities of asbestos became known, the government banned its use in American industry.

Many homes that were built before 1977, however, still contain asbestos materials. Do-it-yourself home renovators may not know which building materials contain asbestos unless they were labeled. Professional asbestos consultants and contractors can identify asbestos through sampling and analyses.

Some roofing and siding shingles are made with asbestos, and some flooring tiles also contain the substance. Asbestos was used as insulation in many old homes, especially those that were built between 1930 and 1950. The material was also used in paper, wallboards, cement sheets, paints, patching compounds, pipe coatings, gaskets and other supplies.

Preventing Asbestos Exposure

Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause many diseases in addition to mesothelioma. Lung cancer, asbestosis, pleurisy and other respiratory problems are possible outcomes of asbestos exposure. The risk of serious illness increases with the number of fibers inhaled into the lungs.

Most products today do not contain asbestos, so the risk of exposure is slim in newer homes. If homeowners discover asbestos during a renovation of an old home, they should leave it alone if it is not damaged. If it shows signs of wear, deterioration or water damage, homeowners should contact an asbestos abatement professional.

Repairs to asbestos materials should be done with extreme caution and regard for safety. Encapsulation and enclosure prevents asbestos fibers from entering the air and threatening health. Asbestos repairs are typically less expensive than removal, but only experienced renovators or qualified professionals should tackle this type of work.

American homeowners can obtain more information about asbestos exposure and its health risks from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Lung Association (ALA).

Saturday, August 4, 2012

We got the keys!

We picked up the keys earlier this week, and have some cosmetic changes that we'd like to knock off right away before moving in, as well as one major project.  On our last house, we would usually jump into projects with so much gusto, that i would often forget to take "Before" shots until it was way too late.  So to prevent that from happening, i brought my camera to make sure i have documentation of how everything looked the day we got the keys.  Here is a home tour of "Befores".  Most of the immediate changes are of the pulling up carpet and repainting variety, so i should have some pretty dramatic "Afters" soon.

Front of house:

Front Vestibule:

Foyer and hall:

Dining room:


Living room:

Family room - soon to be Adam's nursery:

Front bedroom - soon to be Sidney's nursery:

Back bedroom 1 - soon to become new family room:

The sunroom - soon to become kid's new craft and play area:

Back bedroom 2 - soon to become Sheila's (our live-in care giver) room:

The third floor master suite:

And pretty much as soon as i finished taking these pictures, i swapped my camera for my tools and started ripping out carpet.  What was underneath may shock you, but that'll be the next post.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What's Your Style?

What's your style?  In our old house, i would have said we were going for "Vic-clectic".  Yes, i completely made up that word, but i guess what i mean is stuff we love, placed in our Victorian home, hopefully with super stylish results.  Unfortunately in our case the "stuff we love" didn't always happen to go together.  So to better illustrate the style we were after, check out one of our all time favourite examples of a Victorian home that wears its Victorian architecture and its owners' collections and belongings seamlessly and beautifully.  When i say Vic-clectic, images of Emma's beautiful home pop into my mind.

From the Marion House Book

Pretty gorgeous home, eh?  We still admire and drool over it, but our new home has very different bones - Edwardian bones.  Straighter, simpler, lower-ceilinged bones.  And with our two young kids, having a house full of "stuff we love" can inevitably be heart breaking.  So with this new house we wanted things to be simpler, more durable and more replaceable.  But we still want it to be stylish, and we still want to love our things.

So what's our new style going to be?..."Mod-wardian".  Again, i made that up and it probably doesn't mean much to anyone but me, so here are some pictures to illustrate what inspires our new look:

Claire Stubbs Home via The Marion House Book:

Sama Studio via The Marion House Book

For another wonderful example follow the progress on a big Mod-wardian renovation at The Bennett House, where Keira and her family are injecting some modern influence to a grand old Edwardian home.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Welcome and Happy Birthday!

This is a blog about our new home and some of the projects that we'll be doing around it.  If you've ever read my previous blog Roncesvalles Victorian Reno Diary, you'll know you can expect some DIY projects large and small.  In this blog i am going to try to focus on maximizing design dollars.  I'm also going to put more emphasis on designing child friendly spaces, that are both stylish, comfortable and durable.

The home is Edwardian in style and was built in 1912.  Happy 100th birthday home!  It has been kept in immaculate shape by all of its previous owners.  Almost all of the original details are still intact.  In fact it even still has some of the decommissioned piping from when the home was lit with natural gas lights.  Here is just a small sample of the detail that would be very hard or near impossible to replace today.

Oak herringbone floors:

Beautiful hardwood border in foyer:

Leaded glass:

Original doors, with original door knobs:

You could tell that the couple we bought the home from loved it very much, not only by the pristine condition they kept things in, but also because they generously gifted us with a binder full of the home's history that they researched from the City Archives.  Like them we plan on keeping the original details intact.  Like i said at the outset, we plan on keeping this renovation budget-friendly.  And the best way to do that is to work with what's there.  Hope you join me as i makeover this 100 year old beauty.