|the house diaries| The last room

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This is the only room in our house that has remained completely as it was. But for the new electrical and heat vent, the last room stood as it had for the last family who lived here–the family that was here for nearly 125 years. Nevertheless, the peeling, yellowed layers of wallpaper from decades past clung to the walls of the last room while we tore away at its fellows throughout the rest of the house. The carpet, harried from years of abuse, laid limply while we repaired floors, ripped away vinyl, sanded and sealed hardwood where we found it.

Our house looks like a home, except for that last room. The scary room. The door stays closed. A few remaining boxes of things-relics of the move-gather dust in corners. On a few occasions, Pekoe has decided to use the carpet in the last room as an alternate washroom. I don’t blame her. I can understand the confusion. I put a fly strip in there before the summer, and months later, thick with all number of flying insects, it only added to the…ambience….

Facebook reminded me that our 2nd house anniversary (housiversary?) crept by a couple weeks ago, and perhaps in a gesture of observance, we peeled away the remaining wallpaper and started to fix the cracked plaster in the last room. This labour-intensive process involves many buckets of plaster, sanding, and stabilizing any of the wall that has fallen away from  its lath.

This past weekend, I was away at yoga teacher training for the whole weekend. When I came home, my partner and his father and primed the walls and applied a first coat of paint. While the trim, floor, lighting fixture and finishing touches are upcoming, it’s already a lot less scary.

2017-01-31 11.02.17 1.jpgIt’s a sunny January day, and from the warmth of my home I can almost picture it being early spring. Now that we’ve done a first pass on everything inside the house, the outbuildings, deck, and gardens are going to take our attention.

And then what? As most homeowners will tell you, you loop back around to those projects that you shelved. A bathroom reno upstairs is in the cards. 90% of our home is missing quarter-round.

Mainly, I can’t wait to get rid of the carpet.

The inspiration board_A kingdom of books


“I had found my religion: nothing seemed more important to me than a book. I saw the library as a temple.”
Jean-Paul Sartre

If I had my way, every room in my house would have a wrap-around bookshelf complete with ladders and singing tea cups. I’ll settle for a couple beautiful bookshelves.

Even when I was living in a full-scale reno–drywall dust flying, power tools strewn on every surface–one of the first things I managed to do was unpack a box of books. A house without books is missing a heartbeat. Even if it meant wiping off a thick layer of construction dust, or moving them from surface from surface, I refused to lose ground on the book front.

Now that we’re starting to finish the house, room by room, I’m thrilled that I am on the road to building our first official built-in bookshelf. I’m trying not to nerd out too much, but I’ve started a Pinterest board, and am already planning how to organize my little library. Dewy deciminal maybe…?

Ever since our furnace people built a couple vents up to the second floor through our living room, I’ve been ready to seal it up and hammer some shelves 0nto it. The fact that the bookshelf must mask the vents means that it will definitely have a built-in, structural element to it, though that still leaves us with a wide-open playing field.

Since the bookshelf is in the living room, I’m hoping to build a bench into it. It can be a mini reading nook, or somewhere that someone can perch themselves on when I have a few people over. I picture us eating hors d’oeuvres and reading Kafka aphorisms to one and other.

Otherwise, I love the look of raw wood and so I’m hoping to find a way to work that into the design. As always, the more I can use re-purposed and recycled materials, the better.

The Reno_Siding installed


It’s been a while since I showcased a full “Before and After” of a project, and this one has been sitting on my memory card for a while. Don’t be deceived by the after; our home is now a winter wonderland. I thought I’d also talk a bit about materials and costs, since I know some of you are here because you are rocking your own renos.

The project

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The back addition and attached garage had three issues: 1- The kitchen (which takes up the entirety of the back addition) needed better insulation, 2- The kitchen window hung too low for our new kitchen set-up, and 3- And this is the obvious one..the attached garage is visually disjointed.

Of the two outside walls in the back addition, we had managed to insulate the other one from the inside, by taking down the plaster, insulating it to the teeth, and drywalling it. Since the other side of the house needed to be unified from the addition to the end of the garage, we decided to re-wrap the house from the outside. This also meant that we didn’t simply tear down and throw out what was already there; the original clapboard and sawdust insulation is working hard to give that wall an extra little nudge of insulation.

The materials

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When we started thinking about materials, we were both on the same page: Since the original house is sided with wood clapboard and we will be maintaining the clapboard around the rest of the house, we sought out wood clapboard the matched what was already there. It may not be the most practical, but it’s true to the original construction and I am a sucker for that kind of thing.

We used foil-sided foam insulation which we attached right to the existing clapboard using those funny nails with the green hats. Ahem.

The cost

Here is roughly what we spent on this project:

  • Wood clapboard – $700
  • New kitchen window – $200
  • Previously loved door with large window – $10
  • Foil-sided foam insulation – $80
  • Paint- $50

All told, that brings us to about $1030.

We saved some money on the paint, which was a mis-tint that nearly exactly matched what we wanted. The door was another great bargain.

I’m convinced that, if we were a bit more crafty when sourcing materials, we could have done the project for about $800. We didn’t bargain-shop for the wood clapboard, since we were in a bit of a hurry to get this done before winter. We could also have saved some money on the new window, but again, we had to move on that quickly to finish off the project.

The next steps

You may have noticed that this wood is as naked as the day it was born. We missed the window to paint it–temperatures weren’t staying consistently warm enough. I’ve also heard that actually having a year of weathering is good for the wood, and that orange/yellow tint should mellow over the winter.

I hope you enjoyed this little full-scope, before/after renovation summary! I hope it will be of interest to other who are planning a “budget”, minimalist, low-waste renovation of their own. Would you be interested in hearing how much a kitchen renovation done in the same spirit cost us…?