Saturday, August 30, 2008

Plaster vs drywall...

Deciding between plaster and drywall is a decision owners of old homes often have to make. The Internet has proven to be a valuable source of information on the subject (1, 2, etc).

The three main contenders are to:
1. save the plaster: neater/tider than gutting, more challenging when things behind the walls need modifications (e.g., electric, plumbing, insulating)
2. remove the plaster + replace with drywall: dirty and hard to live through, makes replacing mechanicals/insulation easier
3. cover plaster with drywall: cleaner than 2, allows holes for mechanical work to be covered up, makes for thicker walls

Before moving into our house we had noble intentions spurred on by way too many nights watching HGTV. We were going to gut it all and replace it all with drywall. Upon moving in we realized that the logistics of living in a house while gutting all of the living space would not quite work with one of us working from home and the other trying to do grad school. We also realized that the plaster did have some nice side effects (noise deadening!).

Saving all the plaster wasn't really a possibility though. The living room had some pretty dodgy DIY patch jobs and we need to replace the electrical which makes saving the plaster more challenging. Our current plan is to drywall over the plaster in the living/dining rooms (we'll post pictures of the electrical holes eventually), gut the kitchen and bath (eventually) and save the plaster in the bedrooms (ie. attempt to repair the plaster holes from electric ourselves).

One thing we realized when cutting the holes for the electrical that we didn't realize when looking at the whole plaster vs. drywall debate is the sheer amount of waste generated by removing plaster and lathe. Given the costs of removing waste in Toronto we realize now, how expensive our original "gut everything" approach would have been. We also realize that in our case removing the plaster isn't required to "do it right". We can put in new electrical by cutting holes and blow in insulation using a blown in insulation product. In the rooms where moisture is an issue we will be removing the plaster and in some cased replacing it with cement board/green board, but for dryer rooms (e.g., living/dining) this just doesn't make sense for us.

Well... this is the plan for now that seems to work for us. We'll see how it unfolds as things progress.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Our house has an age!

While cutting the holes for the electrical work we found some newspaper (we assume from when the house was built). It's a bit hard to see in this picture, but the date on the paper is September 17, 1920 (click for a bigger view of the picture).

More on the electrical/holes and progress later...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stack replacement

It has been a successful week for the house. This week I installed 2 new deadbolts installed and the stack replacement happened.

The stack replacement was a pretty intense thing. When we saw that the stack needed replacing in the home inspection we figured that they could cut it and install a stretch of PVC or at worst replace more of the stack above ground.. This was not really the case. As you can see in the picture below, the corrosion was pretty close to the ground. This meant that they needed to dig up some of the floor and replace the part of the stack that was below ground.

So we called a plumber and he came by and told us the stack above was in good shape and us a very reasonable quote for replacing the section of stack, however he said the pipe downstream of the stack was also probably very old and might need replacing as well. We crossed our fingers and hoped that this was not the case because this would be a very expensive item. After replacing the bottom of the stack it looked good and we were hoping that would be all we needed but when the head plumber showed up with his fancy video scope and brought us down to look at the pipe it got a little scary... turns out at some point a section of the clay pipe had shifted and now did not completely align with the following section, this shift in turn caused sewage to be leaking into the ground and water and sediment to build up inside the pipe. So we bit the big bullet and got the whole remainder of the clay pipe replaced.

It was hard to take pictures while they were working but here are a few that I managed to take:

After the first section of the stack was replaced with PVC.

The beginnings of the massive trench that stretched across our basement.

The stack and the section of pipe that they originally removed

Pieces of pipe from phase 2 of the replacement, mmm what is that thing on the end of the pipe...

Yep that's some kind of plastic bottle embedded in concrete on the end of one of the pipes... I don't even want to know what the purpose of this was.

Above are our shiny new cleanouts. They barely poke out of the ground. I wish we had a picture of the rusty old breather for comparison... Knowing the expense/inconvenience of doing this type of repair I think we will consciously avoid houses with old stacks/breathers next time we house hunt, or ask for a credit off the price (not that we are house hunting any time soon). It's definitely a hidden cost that we didn't know about.

Above is our new stack and trench all cemented back in. The cement has dried quite a bit since this was taken.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Great Refrigerator Roundup

When we arrived here our electrical meter was spinning like a top. It turns out there was an ancient refrigerator and a slightly less ancient deep freeze in the basement sucking up those precious watts.

I followed the advise of 247reno and called the Great Refrigerator Round Up to come take them away. They showed up and hauled them away and there were only two small hitches...

1) there was some type of drip tray on the bottom of the fridge, so when they tipped it up it got nasty water all over the place
2) after they were gone I couldn't find my jigsaw that I had left in the basement in its carrying case...

So I guess I have learned my lesson, don't trust people who work for free...
Anyways now our meter has slowed to a lazy crawl and the basement smells slightly better so I suppose it was worth it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

And now we wait...

After getting our stuff delivered the house is looking a bit more like home. We also got our shower enclosure delivered and are looking for a few extra bits and pieces to get it to work in our bathroom (we need a ceiling support for the shower head side of the tub and not a wall support because of how the bathroom is configured).

We're getting anxious to get started redoing the bathroom, but need to deal with some bigger issues first. Namely having the stack replaced and redoing all the electrical. We want to make sure both of those essentials get done before we start in on anythingelse major.

Here are some pics of things so far. It's amazing what furniture will do for a place... seeing it empty for those first few days was really really depressing.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Image issues

As you may have noticed we're having some issues with the images in our blog. We're working on resolving it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What's that smell?

So after arriving and looking around the place we had two main questions...

What have we gotten ourselves into?
What's that smell?

After pondering the first for a bit we figured we should try to answer the latter. As best we can figure the previous owner was letting his dogs do their business on the porch (and who knows where else). The porch smelled pretty bad (like pee) and I'm glad we came through the back door when we first got to the place or I may have just burst into tears.

So... despite all plans to not tear things apart in the first few days we ended up removing some nasty green carpet and padding/paper from the porch. It's now a bit more habitable and just smells old.

Nasty green carpet

Halfway gone.

Some old news papers

After. The porch still doesn't smell great and needs a proper gutting. But for now it will do. The slate blue color it was painted is kind of neat. Maybe we'll try to work it in when we get around to fixing it up.

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