Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quick update on our progress

The electricians are continuing with the rewire. They've finished snaking wires everywhere except the 3rd floor, which will be done via the attic. They've agreed to be done everything in the main house by next Wednesday, which leaves the service upgrade (which I have to go to Ottawa Hydro to pay a fee for), and the back school house. This bodes well, since we are hoping to start refinishing the floors at the beginning of February.

One of the plumbers returned today to do the rough-in for the main bathroom. He managed to complete everything except the outlet for the hand shower. He's hoping to be back tomorrow and will do some radiator work at the same time. The other plumber (same company, different guy) will be back tomorrow to install our indirect hot water tank. I'm hoping he can assist with the radiator work and fix some odds and ends still outstanding with the boiler upgrade.

We are debating whether we have the time to complete the refinishing of the floors on the main level and also all the finishing work to be done in the main bathroom. So, to keep our options open, we had 5 flooring companies come in and give us quotes. I have one more to come in tomorrow, but the prices seem reasonable compared to the effort we need to put into it ourselves.

I also had a contractor come in to give us a quote on patching all the holes the electricians have made and help us drywall and tile the bathroom. He thinks it's about 5-6 days of work in total, and his rates are good and materials at cost, so we may get him to help out. The bonus is that he has a break in other jobs next Thursday and can probably work the weekend prior to the floor refinishing.

Our preference is to do all work that doesn't require a license (ie. plumbing/electrical), but given that we want to be in the house by February 14th for good, and we still have a gutted kitchen, bathroom, plumbing/electrical to be done, floors to be refinished, etc..., I think we have to face reality. There will be no shortage of work over the next few years for us, so I'm okay with that.

Also, we had someone come in to quote us on an alarm system. I won't get into the details on the system (not really suitable for an online blog), but given the labour involved to put it in (not a whole lot), and the cost of the components (I looked them all up online), they are gouging us (try 100% markup!). It's a small enough job and all low voltage wiring (where it's not wireless), so I might just get the components myself, do the install/setup, then hire a company to do the monitoring.

I'll post pics of our kitchen progress, the bathroom rough-in, and a few other areas we're working on in my next post.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We can sand our flooring. Yey.

After ripping up 2 layers of old vinyl and linoleum flooring in the parlor, kitchen, and butler's pantry, including scraping off old bits of fiber board and removing about a million nails, we finally exposed all the original hardwood flooring. Then we got out the belt sander and sanded a few spots to make sure that the old finish, water staining, and general poor state of the flooring is salvageable. Here are some pictures of the results... We're very pleased.

New boiler pics

As promised in previous posts, here are some before/after shots of our new boiler. Not as exciting as a finished kitchen or updated decor, but this is a big thing for us.

A few comments relating to the boiler... the work isn't completely finished. We are waiting for them to come back to hook up the indirect hot water tank. The piping is in place, but the tank hadn't come in from the supplier yet. Also, the outdoor reset switch isn't installed. This is a small outdoor thermostat that measures the outside tempurature and varies the tempurature of the water in the system to provide better control and improved efficiency. Right now, the boiler is set to 160 F, which is making our two upper floors way too hot. Lastly, one of the old pipes going into where the old boiler was that they plugged is leaking. They realized the leak was there after bringing the system back up to full pressure, and since it was so cold on the day of cutover, and it's only leaking slightly (a few drips a minute) they decided to fix it when they come back.

They still have to put the cover on the new boiler too. It's so much smaller than the old one.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New boiler adventures...

So, I was all excited yesterday about our new boiler being turned on. I said in my last post that I'd have pictures to show of it and the flooring we uncovered, and that we were just happy to have our 85 year-old, natural gas-guzzler (originally oil) boiler removed.

Well... the cut-over to the new boiler went ok, until the plumbers realized that one of our radiators was too cold and froze up while they were refilling the system. The rad is in our laundry room, which was originally a 3-season sun porch, but had a radiator added to it. The room dropped to around -15 C during the shut-down period, and when they refilled the system, it froze up before they had a chance to fire up the new boiler.

It didn't help that the crawl space beneath the sun-porch is uninsulated and has several large gaping holes open to it from the electricians running the new wiring. Nor did it help that we removed the insulated drop-ceiling from it last week. And then there is the fact that the back wall of that space is adjacent to the school buildings which are heated by a separate furnace which we turned off (and then had the gas line cut that leads out there). Then there's the drafty windows in that space...

Anyway, the plumbers used their torches to warm the radiator up, then we setup some electric heaters in the space (which took some time since we blew a couple fuses figuring out how to run multiple electric heaters on our outdated electrical system). When we left for the evening, the radiator was midly warm, and the tempurature was 2 C. We laid some insulation on the floor, covered it with plywood, and tucked insulation into every drafty gap we could find. After we got back to the rental, I decided that I didn't feel comfortable with leaving that room overnight with electric heaters and a potentially freezing radiator, so I packed up my sleeping bag and stayed in the house last night, setting my alarm so I could check the radiator several times throughout the night. With the insulation on the floor and the drafts cut down somewhat from insulation stuffing, the tempurature got up to 11 C, so we're in the clear for now.

We will be spending some time this weekend insulating the floor and walls of that space to see if we can create a reasonable space to have our laundry out there. If not, then we'll have to move the laundry back to the scary basement. I'm not excited about crawling around in a dirty crawl-space in -20 C weather, but something has to be done. If nothing else, we can put an electric base-board heater out there, just to have some extra BTU capacity in that room on really cold days.

I'll see about getting those floor and boiler pictures up later today.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On a cold day in Ottawa...

I'm not sure if it's officially the coldest day this winter here in Ottawa, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is. It was -27 C last night, -36 C with the wind chill.

The boiler plumbers asked me to set the thermostat at our the house to 80 F last night before we left so that the house would be nice and warm for today because they've decided to do the cutover to the new boiler today! It was so cold last night, that the tempurature near the thermostat was only 65 F this morning, probably because we have three radiators on the ground floor disconnected for other renovations right now.

I will post some pictures and a status update later today when the new boiler is on. We also made significant progress on removing the old vinyl flooring in the kitchen and parlor, and the hardwood underneath is for the most part in great shape. I'll get some pictures of that posted later today as well.

Brrr, it's already getting cold in here. The laundry room has already dropped to -2 C, I'm glad the water pipes out there are drained right now.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

History of our house

We've done a bit of research on our house's history through some emailing to the local historical society and a brief visit to the Land Registry Office. We've discovered that our house was under construction during 1914, was completed sometime in 1915, and was sold to the first 'real' owner in 1916.

Here's a brief outline of the history of our house:

1909 - plan showing the lot is submitted to the city, owned by local church

1912 - lot sold to two real estate agents and a contractor ($3,000)

1913 - lot transferred to the contractor, real estate agents are removed from the deed ($2,350 changes hands)

1916 - property sold to the President of a local typewriter company (house is now complete) ($4001 + the new owner assumes an existing $7000 mortgage at 7% interest, so total value of transaction $11,001)

1948 - property sold to local college operating in the same neighbourhood ($18,000)

1948-1959 - college builds large classrooms at back of property

1957 - college becomes a university, moves to new permanent campus

1959 - property sold to Toronto engineer, who sets up electronics college ($19,500)

mid 1980s - engineer retires, closes electronics college, continues to live in the house

2008 - engineer passes away, we buy the house

We're going to try to pull more data from the 1901 and 1911 Canadian census records on the various people involved. We'll also head to the Ottawa archives to see if they have tax roll records like they do in Toronto. Those records show who was living in the house (all occupants, including servants and children), the occupation of the head of household, and their religious affiliation.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Second Floor Plan

Here is the layout for the second floor. I probably have some of the angles in the hallway wrong. They are hard to measure and layout accurately. But they are pretty close.

And for a quick update for today, the plumbers are here finishing some venting replacement for the 2nd floor bathroom, the boiler plumber is here continuing work on the replacement boiler, and the electricians are continuing with the replacement of the knob-and-tube. The house is very full today. I'm squirrelled away in one of the bedrooms upstairs doing some work.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Electricians, plumbers, and more...

The electricians have started today. They are rewiring the entire house. The house currently has a 100AMP fuse box (plus a 600V, 60AMP, 3-phase panel with separate service in the back school rooms, see previous posts if you're confused by the use of the term 'school-room' for our house). Most of the wiring is currently knob-and-tube (which is an insurance no-no, especially since ours is not in very good shape), but we also have some mixed-in DIY wiring, circa 1960s, which is really not safe or to code. We are having our service moved so we don't have our meter in the driveway, getting a new 200AMP breaker panel, and the entire house wiring will be replaced. These guys are really good at what they do, they snake wires through the walls, drill very small holes where necessary, and have promised not to harm our original wood trim.

In addition to the main house rewire, they are removing the 3-phase panel in the school house, and replacing it with a feeder panel (60AMP) from the main service. This makes Ottawa Hydro happy since when they came out to look at our service relocate, they freaked out when they found out we have a second service coming into those back buildings. They were even more surprised to find out it's 3-phase. The electricians have pulled all the necessary permits, are on the ACP (approved contractor program) with the ESA, and are bringing the house fully up to code (GFCIs, AFCIs where required, etc...).

We also had our hot water radiator system drained today so the plumbers could remove some rads that we need relocated, and some others that have to come off so we can refinish the flooring on the main level. It was cold in here for about 3-4 hours, but now that the system is restored, it's not bad at all. I'm sure our gas bill was big for today though.

In other news, some of our new kitchen appliances arrived today (still in wrap so we don't damage them with all the other work going on), we have a working toilet and taps in a bathroom (the 3rd floor carpeted one), and the second floor bathroom is more or less ready to be put back together.

Also, the electricians discovered that our house is balloon-framed, which means the outer-wall studs go from the foundation all the way up to the attic (with new ones tied into the lower ones as you go up). This makes the electricians happy since they can snake wires up through the walls from basement to 3rd floor without hitting floor framing. The main difference between this style of construction over the modern framing style, is that in modern framing, the outer stud walls are constructed floor by floor, with the floor framing between them, whereas in balloon framing the floor joists are hung off the wall studs and the wall cavities aren't interrupted by each floor's framing. It also provides nice cavities from attic to foundation for blown in cellulose insulation which explains why our house is fully insulated without a lot of replaced bricks.

Sorry for the long post without a lot of pictures. I'm going to try to get the second floor plan up on the blog shortly.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Help Identify our Electric Fireplace

We have an electric fireplace in our second floor den. There are no markings to indicate who made it, or anything else to help us identify what type it is. It takes 3 bulbs (I presume to produce heat) and has an old push-button on/off switch (very similar to the rest of our light switches in the house). I assume it's an antique, original to the house (circa 1910-1915), but it could have been added later. The area of the house it's located in doesn't have a chimney, so it's not a retrofit into an existing fireplace. Here are some photos. Ignore the fake brick wallpaper that is covering up the mostly missing tiles. Please help us identify the maker/type of this fireplace:

As an additional question to any fireplace experts out there. Any guesses as to the maker/type of this wood burning fireplace insert? This is in the front foyer of our house. I imagine the mantel is custom, but the insert was probably mass-produced?