Tuesday, March 31, 2009

fingers and framing and funds, oh my!

I am a bit of a control freak. I like to do things all by myself. But I am now getting help from our awesome friend Mike, who is capable of taking control ever so gently. He does have the advantage of a renovation skill set, including monster tools and actual experience. 

As you can see from picture #1, he removed 2 walls worth of drywall, something I wouldn't have done - too much work. It will look better, as we'll actually have even corners now. My plan was strategically located furniture, the inexperienced DIY'ers friend.

This is the wall! And door! Note the desk and TV on the wrong side! And 1/4" wider than the door! Even perfectionists make mistakes...

This is a sideways picture of the closet that will hide the main water intake. I'd turn it, but that would involve technological skills I have yet to master.

This is the plumbing, sans framing, right side up. Note the brilliant flooring job around said artifact. 

This is some of my framing. Alas, not all survived, as the drywall on the right side of this picture was removed.

See the progress? See?

Next steps - well, Mike'll be back tomorrow, doing more framing. He and Hugh will be framing in the bulkheads, and adding cable outlets. I'll be attempting to earn the $$$ to pay for this - as we can't just use Mike as volunteer labour. If he just did a day to help, fine, but he's talking about framing and electrical and drywall and taping - way too much work to not pay him!

My icky 11th finger has merited me a fast-track visit to a dermatologist. My GP was concerned. Why? I've had the silly icky thing for years, if it was cancerous I'd be dead by now. Not pining for the fjords. Pushing up the daisies. Joining the bleeding choir Mehitabel. F***king snuffed it (children watching as I type). So I will meet a 3rd dermatologist in May. #1 took a nasty black thing off my leg. It wasn't cancer. #2 diagnosed a benign spider hemangioma on my 3rd child. It will vanish when pubertis rears its lovely head (pun sort of intended). Now #3 will likely shorten my icky finger, to see if it represents some form of carcinoma, and will find it's fine but may remove it anyways. That won't be fun - the silly thing has its own blood supply and starts at the base of my nail, if not lower. Ah well, now all that remains is to come up with a witty yet unassuming name for it, a task made easier by the fact that smarter minds than I are working on it! Thanks, smart minds.

Right, off to play on the Wii Fit and watch American Idol, the world's most annoying show. Waste time much? I do.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm not bleeding

We have a new subfloor! I took pictures of the before, but by the time of the after, I was not able to move enough to take pictures, let alone kick DD off the computer to upload them. Suffice it to say that it looks like a mess o' particleboard.

We started on Friday night. I say we, as Hugh figured out the cutting and did a fair bit of installation. It's a very satisfying job, as it goes by quite quickly.

What did I learn?

1. Walls aren't straight. They vary by as much as 1/2" over a 4' span.
2. If you use a prybar to pull flooring against drywall, the drywall gives more than the floor moves.
3. It's really exhausting to cut large quantities of floor tile with a jigsaw.
4. You will wear out the blade of one jigsaw, making this a rare occasion when my husband's propensity to acquire multiples of every object - we had 2 Soloflex machines for a long time - was useful.
5. If you have really calloused hands, splinters don't hurt.
6. You get a LOT of splinters installing particleboard based product.
7. Fancy cuts are really cool and look fun installed, like around a door or staircase.
8. Small children's books make great temporary spacers to keep that 1/4" gap open.
9. Croquet mallets can be used to pound the tapping block, with great success.
10. A tapping block, when hit often enough, produces enormous splinters.

I was up before 6am on Saturday, and realized using a jigsaw at 6 am would make my family AND the neighbours hate me. So I did 2 loads of laundry instead. Then used the jigsaw. Hugh did about 1/3 of the floor in total, which is impressive considering he also took Connor to his drum lesson, bought items for Zoe's party, dropped of Westley at a b-day party and spent a couple of hours at his dad's on Sunday.

I did the remaining 2/3, the laundry, cleaned the house before and after Zoe's party and bought stuff for the kids' lunches. It was a busy weekend.

The party went well. Zoe had a dozen or so of her closest friends over. I'm pretty confident I've mentioned before how loud teenagers are - they make a jigsaw seem like a lullaby. The critical number for volume to increase is 4, including Zoe. Four makes the same amount of loud, consistent noise as 15. It does not get quieter as the night goes on. We'll be adding sound insulation to the basement ceiling.

Next step - my favourite one. Mike and Hugh are building the wall today, so my job is to come home and praise their brilliant efforts. I drew the wall on the floor in a fuschia Sharpie marker, including the location of the door. It's fun drawing on the floor. How often do you get to do that?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wii wii wii!

Yesterday was DD's 15th birthday. Aside from the usual thoughts - you know, that all parents have, it feels like just yesterday she was in my arms, they grow up so fast, blah blah blah - we gave her a Wii Fit.

The Wii Fit costs $99 plus tax, at least in Ottawa. It is widely unavailable. Hugh bought one at Loblaws, our grocery store. Why Loblaws is able to stock these devices and Future Shop is not is beyond me.

I already had a Mii, thanks to my children walking me through her creation. I am not very good at picking out which Mii is me, but again, the kids helped. It also helps that my Mii's name is Sarah; why would I call it anything else?

The Wii Fit starts off by assessing your fitness age. I was expecting a grueling trial, counting pushups, testing core strength, aerobic capacity, maybe even reflexes. This was an unrealistic expectation for a small plastic board, as I now realize. I think I had to stand on the board, relatively still, for a few seconds. I had to tell it how old I was, and my height. It weighed me. So far, we all count as normal weight. It made me shift weight from one foot to the other, then told me I clearly was unbalanced and expressed surprise that I could walk. This I enjoyed. Humour in a computer game - bring it on! Even though this test was yesterday, I forget the rest. Except my brilliant result - my Wii Fit age is 40! Yippee! I scored younger than I am, by all of 18 months!

I played a lot of the Wii Fit games. I learned how to navigate down a river in a bubble. That has to go on my resume. I did push ups and planks. I ran on the spot. I stepped up and down. I dropped balls into holes by shifting my weight. I learned how to breath, and several yoga poses. I also discovered that I ROCK the Wii hula hoop. I am currently #1, #2 and #3, with a top score of 880 somethings on the 3 minute super hula hoop game. Woo hoo! I'd like to claim that spending over an hour with a fitness device caused soreness, at least in those muscles I don't use much. It didn't. But I can see how you'd learn a few good moves that you could do independently. I also liked the competitive aspect - ranking your hooping, or ball dropping, or breathing. Although getting a high score in breathing seems odd.

I'm looking forward to more fun on the Fit. In between construction work, of course - we bought a mess of subfloor and it is now acclimatizing to our basement. Hugh paid the boys 10 cents per subfloor 2x2 tile to bring them in from the car and lay them on the floor. They were thrilled. I am now the not very proud owner of a Home Depot credit card account (the card will arrive later), which got me $25 off my purchase and promises of future gift cards, should my HD spending reach heights that, sadly, are highly attainable. I'm still throttling the inner Scot, who is not nearly as keen on the cork flooring as Hugh and I are - Hugh really liked it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the project expands

I've done almost no framing in the last week. Instead, I've emptied bookshelves and moved as much as I can into the unfinished room in the basement. The furnace room. Where, if there were monsters, they would live. It's also where the laundry is, so not everything fit - no way am I blocking off or infringing on my laundry area.

I've cut up rugs, dragged them outside and dumped them in the garage. Now the room that will eventually be 2 rooms is bare concrete floor, a 300 pound 15 year old TV, a really old, solid oak desk and the computer table. Things I couldn't move - at least not without severe damage to self. And I'm feeling battered enough. We had a mess of books, and I think I moved most of them twice. Plus I dragged a few loads of, um, lovely stuff to Value Village, before opening hours, so they couldn't refuse it. I have one load left. Tomorrow.

The plan has expanded quite a lot. Initially I was going to finish the ceiling and use a bookcase for a wall. Now I'm adding a subfloor system, a real wall and door, and a ceiling. Plus I'll likely drywall the ceiling, and add a nice floor on top of the subfloor. I am leaning towards cork.

There are only a few obstacles now in my way.

1. No cash
2. Not strong enough to get the stuff home from Home Depot
3. See 1

I'll do it anyways. Heck, the entire economy seems to be based on the rich borrowing from the Chinese to buy crap we don't need. I've estimated the subfloor at $900, which I can scrounge up, and the cork at around $4k, which I can't. It is well within my line of credit availability, but och, laddy, the Scottish in me is nae so keen on that. I'll start with what I can afford. And see how I feel once it comes time to buy the fancy shmancy floor. The thing is, while I could just leave the subfloor and throw a few area rugs on it, I am really, really, really not keen on moving all the bookcases back, then moving them AGAIN when I finally suppress the inner Scot and buy a floor. My back is currently trying to throttle the Scot for thinking about it.

Our living room has been transformed from an island of tranquility to the rec room, as of course the kids can't survive without the computer or vidiot games. They are playing some Bond game on the Wii, many explosions are occuring. Happily the drum kit has not been reassembled, as that could compel Hugh and I to move into the attic. Or the basement. There's lots of room!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My 6th finger

I've read that if you get a full body scan, odds are good doctors will find 3 to 4 abnormalities, none of which are likely to kill or injure you. We're all freaks! Meaning, of course, that freakish traits are normal, and the perfect human would indeed be a freak.

I have an abnormality you can scan with your eyeballs. It's a teeny tiny "finger", growing under my nail on my ring finger, and it's icky.

I realize this isn't the easiest image to see. It's small, you can only see the tip of it on the end of my finger. Near the clearly trashed edge of the burl of a formerly nice end table. Sigh. We bought the furniture from a guy moving to Arizona, so it was cheap, and we've considered it as utilitarian until the kids are old enough to not destroy it. As child #1 is fond of hosting parties, those years are not yet in sight.

Back to mini-me, my tiny icky finger. It's been growing under my nail for years, compelling me to keep the nails long. But construction work and long nails are a very bad combo, so I cut off my nails, revealing my icky finger to the entire world. Mwah hah hah! The world includes my doctor, a lovely GP, who immediately said it's got to come off and filled in the referral to one of the very few dermatologists in Ottawa. Hence my 21st century need to document this, for surely the world would end if a minute detail of any of our lives were to perish.../sarcasm off.

OK, time to find my good friend the cordless drill and start more framing. I will try not to do any unintentional self surgery on any of my 11 digits, but if I do, I will not post images of injuries until it's safe to take pictures. I don't want to get blood on the camera. Or the keyboard, which is already sticky.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Once more, with power

I have given up on wood framing, in favour of the wonder that is metal framing. It is straight. It uses much shorter screws. It is straight. Did I mention straight?

The wood framing ressembled DNA. Lovely, I think the double helix of our genome is beautiful, and I'm sure the shape is quite useful. But it's really hard to attach drywall to. Especially with lousy tools.

So I returned to Home Depot, spouse in tow, where we purchased a smallish amount of metal framing and a largish amount of screws.

I am happy with the result so far, which took about 2 hours. This compares to a lesser result with over 6 hours of work with lumber. Now, I'm not dissing wood - wood is great. Especially when it's still growing as part of a tree. But 2x2 lumber is a few things.

1. It's 1.5x1.5
2. It's curvy, unlike me
3. It's a pain in the ass to screw without stripping the screws

You see my work? Isn't it lovely? Or at least acceptable? I am not done. Here's a picture of my favourite corner, to give you a sense of the challenge I have created for myself.

Note the bit that dips down near the letter R. Why my son has screwed a large letter R to the wall is a mystery, but if that's his chosen form of self expression, far be it from me to suggest something more personal, like a tattoo. He can continue screwing things to the wall. Especially if it keeps him from facial piercings.

I am done for the day. I finished enough to realize it will likely work, but not without much use of tin snips. The tin snips do work, I'm just not exactly muscular, and it's a bit awkward snipping a C shaped piece of metal without slicing your fingers. So far I only have a couple of scrapes, and I got them before we made it out of the store. Good thing my tetanus shot is up to date! If I start feeling stiff, I'm getting another one just in case.

Oh - I am no longer envious of the Amish. I have acquired a loaner cordless drill. It is my friend. I have already learned that no matter how hard you push, if you have the bit rotating counter-clockwise the screw will not bite. I am not going to disclose how often I did this.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I don't want to join the Amish!

My construction project has begun.

Connor, aka middle child, wants his own bedroom. This is not an unreasonable request, and he's more than happy to have it in the basement. Our basement already has a large room that is mostly finished. Mostly. The walls are drywalled and painted. The floors have an assortment of coverings, none of which will ever be seen in a home decor magazine. There is lighting, and you could call it mood lighting if the mood you want is cave-like.

There is also an unfinished ceiling and a mess of ductwork. The ductwork is sort of in one place. I'd describe it as an L with a couple of small extra legs. An unfinished ceiling is not good for a bedroom because it doesn't muffle the sound of people walking overhead. It is also really bad at muffling Connor's drumming, which, while skilled, is not quiet.

I did some research on ceilings - if googling "finish basement ceiling" qualifies as research. It probably doesn't, but is there such a thing as peer review for construction articles? There probably should be. The Journal of Competent Construction is begging for a publisher. Mike Holmes should be the editor.

I found several options. All of them, except for the just-spray-paint-the-whole-thing-black one, involve framing the "obstructions". So I decided that I would do that, then decide whether to go with drywall, tongue & groove wood or acoustic tile.

The framing directions I found looked pretty basic and feasible. I mean, it's not exactly carpentry when you can cover your mistakes with drywall, right? So I spent about an hour on Friday night, gazing worshipfully at the ceiling with it's various bits of ductwork coiling around eachother. I drew a lovely diagram of where my framing would go, carefully colour coded. In pencil and crayon. MOMA, watch out! That drawing could be the most successful part of the job.

The next day, after my usual Saturday morning cleanup, I ventured into Home Depot to buy a few bits of lumber to allow me to get started. I did a couple of things right.

1. I looked at the wood to pick straighter bits that weren't full of knots and dings.
2. I remembered to buy screws.

I also did a couple of things wrong.

1. I didn't look at metal studs, which are easier to work with.
2. I bought 3.5" screws - WAY too long.

I was delighted that the wood fit nicely into the car. I was less delighted at home when I couldn't get the window to go up, but Hugh fixed that. A stuck down window in Ottawa in winter makes a car undrivable.

I brought all the wood downstairs. Hugh found me a drill. He said I wouldn't need the table saw, which is buried in the garage, as it'd only take a couple of seconds to cut through each 2x2. I found a saw. I measured 3 times. I made the first couple of cuts, which did not take a couple of seconds but went relatively well. It doesn't matter if the wood splinters at the end, because you won't see it, right?

After cutting 2 lengths and 11 cross bits of lumber, it was time to start attaching them. Connor taught me of the existance of a wondrous item, the awl. I really, really like the awl. So far, it's my favourite part of the job. Yeah Connor! You rock.

I then stuck in a screw, attached the drill, and watched as the drill failed to turn. I ramped up the power, and stripped the screw. No problem - I bought a kilo of them. I stripped the next screw. So I found a drill bit you can use to get the hole started. But our tools are an eclectic bunch. Acquired at various garage sales over the years, with the odd 70% off kit from Canadian Tire to supplement them, they have endured many migrations and shuffling of parts. So I have a cordless drill with bits - but no charger. A powerful drill with no bits, that is an extremely effective device for stripping screws. And an antique drill that is manual.

My framing work consisted of cutting lumber with a saw, drilling holes with a manual drill, and screwing bits together with a screwdriver. I felt like I was imitating some electricity-hating commune, although I did have the benefit of artificial light.

I now have a 90" span complete with 7 cross bits, a 36" span with cross bits, the bottom bits to attach the 2 together, and really sore hands. And I woke up realizing I didn't align the already drilled holes properly so will need to redo the 4 holes in the 90" span that will, eventually, link up to the 36" span. Make that 5, as I also did one wrong and realized it yesterday.

I feel a sense of accomplishment. I have 2 spans done, although not attached to the ceiling joists yet, and only 10 to go. This may be feasible, even without power tools.

NOTE. Anyone using this as construction advice is an idiot, and should seek urgent psychiatric help IMMEDIATELY.