Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Roofing… end of Day 1

So, the roofers have redeemed themselves.  They showed up early Monday and worked right through until 6pm and were back again at 7am today.  They’ve done all the demolition/removal work, repaired some rotten roof decking, and started doing the ice and water shield.

What a difference having the area between the two dormers open makes to the overall look of the house.


After a discussion with the roofers about our poor condition stucco on the West side of the house, we’re considering changing that dormer area to cedar shingles, and getting rid of the Tudor elements that are there.  We already have cedar in the dormer on the North side of the house (about the same size), so it wouldn’t really be against the original style elements, and it would allow us to leave the (slightly better condition) stucco on the Front (south), and East side elevations for next year (we don’t want to lose those Tudor elements).  We’re waiting for a quote.  If we do go with cedar shingles on this dormer, we can replace the asphalt skirting on the cantilevered sun porch with cedar shingles as well, which will tie things together nicely.


The sun porch metal roof was two layers thick and in pretty bad shape.  Here are some before, and ‘in-progress’ pictures:

roofold1IMG_1128  roofold2IMG_1129

And finally, here are a couple pictures of the exposed wooden roof decking for the small portion that cuts across the second level of the front elevation (it was getting dark, sorry for the poor quality).  It was previously covered with a painted galvanized metal apron, and will be covered with a new metal apron shortly.


If you look closely, you can see what our roofers are calling the ‘ski-jump’ angle of the roof.  Basically, all our eaves and small roofs at the base of the dormers have this change in angle.  It will look quite nice when clad with the new metal apron.

The roofers were unfortunately not able to match our existing wooden trim that is rotten, however they are salvaging and consolidating the stuff in decent condition and putting that in the most visible areas (lower roof elevations in the front), and found a reasonable match to use in the less obvious areas.

One of the roofers found the remnants of a pigeon nest in between the dormers with 2 eggs intact and said he felt bad about having to remove it (that nest has been inaccessible for a few weeks now, so I told him not to worry).  then he found an intact nest of starlings with 4 baby birds inside.  They found an opening into the soffit area through a previous metal patch that had lifted at the corner of our roof.  They had to replace the decking, so they were very careful and made a new opening in the trim work on the soffit so that parents could get in and out.  We’ll get the wildlife control people to come back in a couple weeks once the birds fledge.

We’re also getting rid of our whirly-bird (turbine) roof vent and putting in a new roof vent like this:


This type of roof vent is ideal as we have a lot of snow in the winter.  They are relocating it from the front roof slope to the rear so it’s less visible from the front of the house.  We may get some lower gable vents as well to help with attic ventilation as we can’t do soffit vents (the brick comes above the roof eaves and as a result we have closed soffits).

Lastly (sorry, long post), the roofers were kind enough to help install our new top damper for our parlor fireplace.  You can see it at the top of the chimney in the first picture on this page.  Now we can seal our fireplace flue from the top via the stainless steel cable that comes down our chimney.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Roofers came… and went…

Our roofers started this week.  They showed up on Tuesday morning after giving us an hour’s notice that another job had been delayed and that they wanted to start the repairs to our roof.

It seemed to be going well.  They set up scaffolding at the front of the house, brought in a 60 ft ladder (the longest I’ve ever seen) to work on the front dormers, and setup two ladders with a work platform between them on the side porch.

That was on Tuesday.  They have been back for very brief periods since then but haven’t done any further work.  I called them today and they said they had to deal with some emergency jobs and that they’d be back on Monday.

It’s a bit dissappointing, but hopefully they’ll make good progress next week.

On the bright side, I did end up climbing their 60 ft ladder to get on top of the main roof, and measured the size of our chimney flue opening so I could order one of these:


Our fireplace in the parlor on the main floor was originally coal and has a coal insert with it’s own built-in damper.  The chimney itself doesn’t have a damper or a smoke shelf.  We’ve been back and forth with some chimney experts on whether we can use the fireplace for burning wood or not.  A couple chimney sweeps we brought in said we have to get a gas insert as the chimney flue is in bad shape, but I think they might be biased as they also sell those same gas inserts they say we need.  I called in another sweep who said the flue looked fine, and we had a mason who rebuilds chimneys (inside and out) who said it’s fine and quoted us on putting in a new damper (which is quite expensive).

So, the advantage of the lock top damper is that we can seal the flue at the top to keep heat in and stop drafts from the chimney, and if we do decide to use the fireplace for wood burning, we don’t need a damper at the bottom of the chimney, the lock top damper will work just fine.

I’m hoping it arrives before the roofers remove their ladder so I can install it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Den and Side Sun Room

We’ve been working on the bathroom on the second level and had to have a room to store building materials and bathroom fixtures other than the bathroom itself so we could have room to work.  For no good reason, the second floor den and sunroom became catch-all spaces for everything for the renovation and a bunch of unpacked boxes.  For those who don’t remember our second floor plan, here it is with the den/sunroom indicated:


We finally got it cleared out a few evenings ago.  You would think this meant that we must be finished the bathroom, but no, we haven’t.  We decided that our son didn’t need 3 play rooms on the second level (his room, the rear sun room, and the extra bedroom at the back), so we sacrificed the small bedroom, and moved everything from the den there.  Up until now, our only TV has been in the third floor office.

Here are some photos of the den and sunroom now.  Excuse the lack of and condition of the furniture.  When you move into a house that is twice the size of your last one, you don’t typically have enough furniture to fill every room.


The sunroom has a lot of window “issues”.  Lots of broken panes of glass, and the condition of the glazing and paint is very bad.  It doesn’t help that the steel roof over it suffered from significant ice damming this past winter, resulting in a lot of water damage to the room.  Where you see red tuck-tape indicates a broken pane of glass that I either patched with plexi-glass I found in the basement or just taped to prevent it from falling out.


Here are some shots that illustrate the poor state of the windows:

IMG_1106 IMG_1107 I had to reattach a number of storms that were falling out or were stored elsewhere in the house.  One interesting feature of many of our storm windows is a sliding pane that can be opened for air flow.  We have that feature on probably 1 in 8 of our storms. 

IMG_1108 IMG_1109 IMG_1112

I’m thinking of making some small screens that can be put in place when the pane is open to keep the bugs out.  It’s a nice feature to have as it allows you to leave your storms up all summer, but I’m not sure of the weather tightness of it.

The sunroom is getting a new standing-seam steel roof in a few weeks with ice and water shield and new roof decking.  Then we’ll remove the damaged plaster and ceiling, insulate as much as we can, and hope that takes care of the ice-damming.  We also plan to strip down all the windows, reglaze them and repaint.  Given the number of windows we have to repair, we’re going to concentrate on the storms first so that if we run out of time before next winter, we’ll at least have weather-tight windows.  We can address the poorly functioning double-hung and damaged in-swing casement next season if need be.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Replacing a Residential Water Main

More pictures from our water main replacement

The trench to our house partially filled (they do the digging in stages so it’s easier to backfill):


The gas mains (new one is yellow) in the middle of the street.


Our new sewer line and a conduit for the new copper water line going under the sidewalk:


Lowering a trench protector into the pit in the street so the city workers can attach the new water main: IMG_1082

A device they attach to the new copper line to prevent corrosion (it just gets buried with in the pit): IMG_1083

The old water main (c1915):


The old water main cleaned up with drilling device attached:


The results after drilling.  A new tapped valve in the water main.  The puddle is partially from the drilling machine when it relieves pressure in the valve they attached, and partially from rain:


The new water line (3/4” copper) to our house with anti-corrosion device attached.


The shut-off attached to the line at our property line (the metal post coming off the copper line).  You can see where the copper feeds into a conduit.  They used this so they could bury their trench they dug across the street so they could do everything in stages and not shut-down our street for 2 days.

IMG_1099 Overall, we’re quite pleased with the results.  Our water flow has improved, and we don’t have to worry about tree roots in our sewer line causing a backup.

Just waiting for the bill from the city now…

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Our Attic

Before having our roof repaired and to verify that no animals were currently living in our attic, we decided to venture back up there and take a look.  We had been up in December when we had our energy audit, but not since.

The attic is in a T shape, with ceiling heights at the peak of the roofline of around 7.5 ft.  There’s no sign of leaks, but there have been animals in our attic in the past.  We found a squirrel carcass in the small dormer, which was probably a year or two old, and another that was probably 20 years old.  Thankfully nothing is living in there now, except for some starlings living in our soffits (which aren’t open to our attic).

The electrical you can see in the picture is all new.  I guess the electricians decided they didn’t need to be very neat with their work up there and there’s at least 4 junction boxes (which are allowed in attics as long as they’re accessible.  There might be some old knob and tube wiring you can see, but it’s all inactive.


Here’s a shot of me climbing into the small dormer where we found the dead squirrel:


After our roof is completely repaired, we’ll be having people come in to add 15-17” of insulation to bring the attic of up to R50.  They will also be turning my self-made hatch (really a large hole) into a proper sealed hatch.  The insulation you see here in the pictures of either old mineral wool, or old cellulose.  It’s about 2 inches thick in the best areas, so about R2-R5. 

Pigeon Nest and Roofing Update

We’ve had a family of pigeons nesting in between our two front dormers.  They’ve had babies, and we let them fledge before calling in an animal control company to try to encourage them to move out.  We now have a family of 6 pigeons hanging around our roof and perching on wood trim ledges, but none in our roof anymore!

Note the 44 ft ladder they had to use.  It’s definitely not in my comfort zone and I’m glad we hired someone for this work:

IMG_0994IMG_1001IMG_1003 You can see the pigeons hanging around wondering why they can’t get back into our roof.  All of this is temporary (and ugly, but oh well) until we have the roof repaired…

We’ve finally hired a roofing company to fix our front dormer situation.  They are going to restore the roof to it’s original setup, with the dormer roofs separate with a gap between them.  They are also going to replace the lower metal apron roof, and put a new standing seam steel roof over the cantilevered sun porch.  They will be starting at the end of May.  Stay tuned!

Yard Cleanup

Our yard was in desperate need of attention.  I don’t think it’s been properly maintained in a long time.  The side yard in front of the coach house was overgrown with blackberry bushes, other vines, rocks, and general debris.  Our front yard evergreen trees needed trimming, and the rear area of our driveway still had the remnants of an old wooden garbage bin that was partially destroyed to make way for our new electrical service.

We decided to tackle as much as we could this past weekend, as we had people coming to work on the water and sewer mains this week and there was no room to move.  Here are some before and after pictures:

Front yard:




Rear driveway (note the new BBQ, yey!):



I didn’t get a good picture of the rear yard, but can confirm we put out about 10 compost bags, and 6 bundles of tree trimmings.  The yard isn’t perfect, but it will suffice for now.

Water and Sewer Upgrades

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the first couple years with us in the house will be filled with boring, non-cosmetic renovations, and our current project is no exception.

When we took possession of the house in early December, we signed up for a City of Ottawa program to replace our lead drinking water supply from the city.  Ottawa has a program that allows home owners with lead supplies to have the city contract the work out for the entire job of replacing the line, including both the City portion (connecting to the main, digging in the middle of the street), and the home owner portion (digging a trench on your lawn, connecting to your existing plumbing).  At the same time, if your sewer connection is in the same trench as your water supply, they’ll replace that too.  You pay for the home owner portion and the city pays the rest.  The advantage is that it’s all done at the same time, and the work is cheaper than you hiring someone yourself.

When we signed up, they had 2500 home owners on a waiting list!  However, if you have a child under 6 years of age (which we do), they move you to the top of the list, as lead in drinking water is a no-no for young kids.  Our supply was tested for lead levels in 2005, and was well under the provincial limits, but still high enough to warrant replacement.  The lead lines over time can form a build-up inside the pipe that reduces water flow as well, which is another reason to replace it.  As for the sewer, when we moved in, I noticed about 20 (!) RotoRooter stickers (each one for a service call) stuck around the room containing the main drain cleanout.  Every one of them listed tree roots and backup as the reason for the visit.  So, we figured it was just a matter of time before we added to the sticker collection with a backup of our own.  Fun times.

Anyway, the city called a couple weeks ago, came out to take measurements, and then called on Friday to say they were coming on Monday to start the work.  So, we now have an 8 foot deep trench running across our yard.

They are already done running the new sewer and copper water supply pipes in our yard and are starting the road digging tomorrow.  I took some pictures on my mobile phone which I’ll find and post, but here are a few from the camera.

My son and our cat took an interest in the digger right outside our window:



Look closely at this one and you’ll see a jet of water coming from one side of the bank:


The water is from our supply.  I guess the old lead line had a weak spot and when they excavated near it, it burst.  It took almost an hour to fix the leak, which was done while the line was spraying them with water (they couldn’t get the main shut-off to work at the street).  They ended up splicing some copper into the line with compression valves.  It will hold until Thursday when we cutover to the new fully copper line.

History Update

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll see various items about the history of our house, particularly from around the time when Carleton University owned our property and used it as the Student Union Building.

We’ve had some assistance with our historical research from the kind people at the Carleton Archives, and from the Office of Corporate Records at Carleton.  We were contacted by the Corporate Records staff recently and asked if we wanted a copy of a 1958 real estate appraisal of our house. 

For a mere $9 photocopying fee, we now have a very detailed review of the state of our house as of late 1958.  The appraisal report discusses the state of each room, including floor finishes, trim work, lighting fixtures, and condition of plaster/wall paper.

From this report, we now know that the rear outbuildings were in fact built by Carleton.  They are referred to as the recreation hall.  The three rooms contained in the buildings were at that time one room, with supporting pillars between the original coach house structure and the newer concrete structure.

We also know what renovations the previous owners undertook to the main house between when they bought it from Carleton and when we bought it from them.  The biggest changes were a second floor bathroom renovation and the installation of the PVC windows on the front of the house.

The report discusses yearly heating costs ($378.45), assessed taxes for 1958 ($508.58), contains a detailed neighbourhood description including transit, automobile routes, and nearby shopping, and has comparable house sales.

In case you’re wondering, our house was described as being in poor condition, and the appraiser recommended it be sold for use as a triplex.  The appraised value was $18,500.

Also of note is that the report contains appraisals of two other properties on our street (one two doors down, another across the street and 5 doors down).  They were owned by Carleton at the time, and were used for classes and department offices.  Carleton was in the process of moving from the old Women’s College building on our street to the present day campus and had the report done in preparation for selling all of their properties that were no longer needed.