Lakeshore Cottage

A reno blog for a cottage just outside of Toronto
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Bathroom reno from hell – Part 2

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Read Part 1 of the bathroom reno here.

It’s taken me a while to finish this bathroom wrap up post but the bathroom is basically finished. We were pretty burnt out and worked like crazy after the holidays to wrap it up because we had a Cuba sailing trip in February and visits from friends to look forward to. The sailing trip was amazing, btw, and we highly recommend it.


Cuba sailing with G Adventures

After the Durock went up it was a matter of thinsetting the seams, applying Redguard, and getting into tiling the shower.



We used 4×16 white subway tile stackbond pattern. I have a laser level that I throw up on a tripod and test every few rows. I love it and won’t use anything else now for these type of tiles. The green tape on some of the corners is because although we shimmed the studs on the back wall, the wall still slanted out and left a bit of a gap after the two side wall tiles. Frustrating but at this point we wanted to get it done. In hindsight I should have ripped a 2×4 down the entire length of the studs to fix this and spent more time on it. “It’s a cottage” became our mantra for cosmetic shit we couldn’t easily fix.






Grouting happened. The lake water has a tendency to leave a coloured residue on the tub so we went with a light grey to help hide it.




We didn’t have a fan in the previous bathroom and it would get humid at times when showering, even with the window open. The cottage was built as a small main room with several other rooms added on, the bathroom being one of them, so when you’re in the attic there’s actually a second roof under the current main room above the bathroom (and the dining/front room on the other side). Because of this we decided to go with a in-wall fan to avoid needing to cut through two layers of roof/shingles and avoid disturbing the blown-in attic insulation we did a few years ago. We bought a Panasonic FV-08WQ1 WhisperWall fan which was considerably more expensive than a ceiling mount and one of the more expensive things we bought for the bathroom. It wasn’t difficult to install and the fan is great. I splurged on a humidity sensor switch so if someone forgets to turn it on, it’ll come on automatically.


Installed some fixtures:


The in floor heating is amazing. Definitely was worth the time and stress of pouring self leveling cement. I keep kicking myself for not doing it at our house in Toronto. Considering we got the mat at 50% off clearance online at Home Depot, it was a steal. Was pretty amazing to connect it all a month later and feel the floor warming up.

Instead of having another gross closet thing we drywalled behind the shower and created shelves:




Another thing we hated about the bathroom was the popcorn ceiling. Instead of scraping it off or pulling down the drywall (we hate drywalling ceilings and who knows if it’s asbestos) we decided to go full cottage and put up wood planks. It also gave us a reason to buy a new finish nailer (we only had a brad) which is a pretty awesome tool. We bought the wood from Lowes, let them acclimatize for over a week, painted, and nailed them up. We ran out at one point because they’re pretty awful (30% or so are waste) and were stuck buying more at a Lowes near us (instead of in Toronto) where they only had cottage grade, which basically meant 50% of them were waste. We kept the shitty ones though and will use in the outhouse build this summer (another project to come).




Some final photos:



Overall we’re really happy about the bathroom. We totaled the cost for it before our trip and it came out to about $3700. We have had further Home Depot trips since then so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come out around $4500.

It’s hard to believe how different it is from what we had before. This project was definitely worth it but all the work leading up to the holidays, during the holidays, and the weekends after were a total slog. There was no way for us to know how bad it was going to be until we got into it. Completing this project pretty much means that we’ve redone every (big) thing upstairs in the cottage. No more leaks, no more gross bathroom. It’s awesome.


Bathroom reno from hell – Part 1

Monday, January 18th, 2016

We’re currently in the middle of renovating the only bathroom at the cottage. We both had 10 or so days off over the Christmas holidays and figured we weren’t likely to get another chunk of time off like that, so I set out planning the demo and reno of the bathroom. It really could have been possible over that time, but we ran into unexpected issues that basically took 4 days away from our schedule. It’s been a fucking brutal slog.

This is what we started working with:






It doesn’t look too terrible in the photos, but don’t be deceived. It was a gross, shitty bathroom, and I hated all that brown puke cracked marble (!!) tile. I don’t have photos handy, but the bathroom was originally an even scarier place. The entire room was basically covered in those heavy marble tiles. They ran about 4′ up the wall, on the floor and in the shower. Probably a year or so after buying the cottage we swapped out the old wood vanity, which they had tiled around, so we took it as an opportunity to lose a wall of tile and ran new drywall and a light+switch. This time around, all of it was going.




It was obvious that the shower was leaking but we ended up discovering that the toilet was also leaking. That said, the (surprising) 3/4″ subfloor under it all didn’t seem in such bad shape. We had spent the two weekends prior to the holidays demoing the room. 1400lbs (!!!!) of crap taken to the dump later, we thought we’d be able to start the process of putting the room back together starting December 26. We booked 3 nights at a hotel nearby because we expected we’d appreciate the ability to shower after each day of work.




What were we thinking? No such luck.

After getting down to the plywood we realized that the floor had way too much movement in it when just walking across it. Around the toilet it was like a trampoline. There was no way we were going to put anything new on top of the existing floor, so it meant another day of demo to pull up the floor to see what was going on under it.

This is what we found (ignore the new wood under the top wall):



Would you like some shitty floor joists? Because we had them. They were 2x6s (!!!!!) that had been poorly sistered. I guess the first bathroom leaked (tub was stamped 1969), rotted the joists, so they threw some new ones in beside them. Why not, eh? Yeah, too bad those ‘new’ ones rotted with the second bathroom. I guess we’re glad the tub was too gross to take a bath in?




Do you see those pieces of blocking between each set of joist near the side wall?


That’s all that held the joists into place. Once we cut the blocking out we were able to move the joists with just a finger; they weren’t secured at all. Add this to the 2x6s used and it explains all the deflection.

We also found this lovely gem:


The wood under the floors had disintegrated and the walls were propped up with air. No big deal, though! It’s not like it’s an exterior wall or anything…

We put some new stuff in there:


And then set out rebuilding the entire floor. After realizing we were left with a mess to rebuild, we went to the hotel early and did hours of reading on wtf process to take.

We decided it was better to start fresh and replace all the old joists. We had to use 2x6s again because that’s all the room we had under the walls, and it didn’t seem like using 2x8s but notching them at the ends would actually add anything worthwhile. We’re lucky that the length from the exterior wall to the beam they rest on is only 8′, and we used hangers to secure them 12″ OC instead of the 16-17″ they were before. We also put a shit ton of blocking and replaced the subfloor under the exterior walls. Using this we were able to get a tile deflection rating that would safely work for the new floor we were going to put back in. I write this like it was No Big Deal but it was a lot of fucking work.





We also used construction adhesive to glue and screw a 2×4 flat along the bottom of the 2x6s. This apparently does some engineering voodoo magic to improve the strength and stiffness of the joists.



This stole about 3-4 days from our original schedule, but when you’re spending money on a new bathroom, there’s no point in cheaping out on the subfloor. BTW, that’s the crawlspace under the bathroom, and the insulation between the joists was one of the first things we did for an eco energy audit early on. It was pretty disheartening to have to remove work already done, but also spend so much time confined in a space of about 2′ of height dealing with old plumbing messes and gross spiders.

You can see how much the old floor had dropped under the weight of the marble – almost an inch:


At this point we were able to start rebuilding. Since it’s a small room and the floor tile gets cold when we run the pellet stove only, we splurged on some discounted in-floor heating, which got covered in self leveling cement. We haven’t worked with it often but it scares us every time. It was especially stressful considering how much time we had spent just to get to the bare subfloor, but it went totally fine. Caulk every gap or hole, know where your low spots are, and use a rubber floor squeegee thing with notches cut out of it to spread it around. It came out totally smooth.





Next up was the Ditra and tile. This is how we spent our NYE. The dogs relaxed, we worked.





We woke up the next day and had no water. The temperature had dropped significantly overnight and the heat trace hadn’t been sent on high, so we thought maybe we just had a frozen pipe. We gave it til pretty much mid-afternoon before packing it up and heading back to Toronto three days early. No water = no grouting.

We came back three days later on the Sunday before going back to work, armed with bottles of water, and grouted.

It was too cold and windy/snowy that day to properly examine the water line from the lake but there was one part that seemed icier than the rest of the line (which had snow melted away from it because of the heat trace). We contacted the water company we had used in the past to see if they had any ideas or availability to come check it out and they suggested it might be a leak or blown pump. Last weekend the weather wasn’t as cold and we found the source of our water issues:


Thoughtfully, the water gauge and pressure relief valve also decided to give out at the same time, so they got replaced. I’m glad we didn’t blow the pump since the lake is now frozen.

After drywall, grouting, minor plumbing work and finally getting water, we got to this very exciting stage – a functioning toilet!


And now we’re off to the races. We only came up for a half-day yesterday but were able to finish the Durock around the tub. We ran out of seam tape however, so weren’t able to thinset like we had hoped.





We’ll have to do that this coming Friday evening, and then waterproof using Redgard on Saturday morning. Tiling should start Saturday afternoon and probably continue through to Sunday. We plan on using 4×16″ stacked white subway tile so hopefully we won’t need longer than this weekend. Argh.

Fiberglass canoe repair

Monday, August 17th, 2015

My brother found a 16′ canoe at the end of someone’s driveway that was “free to a good boathouse” and asked if I would be interested in it. Of course! It came with the warning that it needed some TLC and he was right. It started to take on water as soon as we got it in the lake at the cottage from large cracks on both sides. Never one to shy from a challenge or learning a new skill, I decided to rehab it when we took a week off work to spend at the cottage. After a few hours of research and some great YouTube videos, I started into the process of cutting out all the old holes/cracks, sanding it down inside and out, tracing the holes on transparent plastic to transpose onto fiberglass, and did 4 layers of fiberglass cloth/mat in stages. Did a final sanding, bondo and more sanding, then painted it with Tremclad Rustoleum Fire Red and light grey on the inside. It came without seats so I used some leftover brown pressure treated from a deck for that. After curing for a week, we tried it this past weekend – no leaks! Not bad for a free canoe. I hope it’ll hold up long term but it’s pretty awesome to know you can cut huge holes in the side of something and patch them after.












Finishing the windows

Monday, April 21st, 2014

We took a break from the house renos (currently finishing up the bathroom in our basement apartment) and spent the weekend at the cottage. It was great. We worked on finishing up the window trim and also replaced the broken whirlybird roof vent thing (no photo, though). These were some of the easiest tasks we’ve done but they’re so satisfying to see finished.






Fast forward two years…

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

I totally forgot about this blog until recently and now I can’t believe that two years have passed since my last update. We ended up buying a house in Toronto and it (of course) was a “handyman special” so we’ve spent more time working on the house in the past two years than we have the cottage. The house has slowed down a bit, however, and now I’m trying to refocus on the cottage as much as possible before summer hits and renovations are furthest from our mind.

We redid the kitchen last summer:

We’re IKEA kitchen converts and especially subscribe to the belief of leaving the uppers and just replacing the lowers if you can get away with it. We sanded and painted the upper cabinets to match the new lower cabinets and replaced the door handles. Also swapped out all the appliances with basic (read: cheapest) white ones to match. We never did paint the ceiling like I had originally wanted and it’s totally fine now that the rest of the kitchen doesn’t scream WOOD WOOD WOOD!!!! At this point, I think the only thing left in here to do is another coat of white paint (we ran out the first time) and to replace the front door. We love it.

Another huge update was replacing the large front windows and patio door. My brother and I had replaced all the other (smaller) windows ourselves up until this point but we decided that a patio door was too big a thing to potentially mess up and waited for a 15% off sale at Home Depot before moving forward. It took months for the windows/door to come in, the door was originally made the wrong size, it was too cold for the caulking to dry, an installer was let go so they were having scheduling issues, and I think the installation date was moved at least four times, but finally they got replaced.

We went with fixed in the front since the patio was coming with a screen and a large picture+slider on the side to allow a breeze to come into the diningroom if needed. The slider area is a lot less than the old one though. The old windows were super drafty, one was leaking, and the metal bar separating the picture from the slider was right at eye level when sitting at the table. These are so much better and we’re really happy with them. They were also insanely expensive compared to the other windows we ordered and installed ourselves which was hard to stomach, but it wasn’t something we really wanted to undertake and probably wouldn’t have gotten done in a day had we done it.

We painted the exterior trim to match the rest of the trim this past weekend:

Also repainted the inside room a different grey… it was minor but I wasn’t really a fan of the old shade.

Last fall we also got a local water company to replace the water line from the house to the lake and install a new heat tracer in it so we could continue to have water throughout the winter. There were a couple power failures that resulted in the line freezing but it always thawed and came back after a day+, even with our exceptionally brutal winter this year. I think it’s safe to say that it passes the test, although we didn’t get to come up in the winter as much as we would have liked.

Upcoming projects for the year include:
Next couple weeks:
– interior window trim on the smaller windows
– we need to make window boxes and add casing to the new front windows, the drywall is too wonky to do it any other way
– roman shades everywhere
– finish off baseboard and trim
– paint all trim
– figure out whether there is a better way to lay out the main room

– install a new basement door – the replacement is currently sitting on our front porch in Toronto because the truck was under the weather all winter
– build a new dock (spring)
– get an air hockey or fooseball or something table for the front room by the patio door

– replace the front door (this might be tricky)

I would love to sneak “redo the bathroom” on there but that probably won’t happen this year. Maybe the fall? Would also love to sand/refinish the kitchen/dining/front room floors (basically the only floors we haven’t replaced) but that might also be a fall project.

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