Lakeshore Cottage

A reno blog for a cottage just outside of Toronto
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Photo recap of the past two weeks

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

I’m probably done 80% of the crawlspace walls with new insulation. Tore out the old stuff and the tar paper holding it in place. Lots of mice nests, very little insulation. I need another bag of Roxul, some rigid, and some poly to call it a day down here. Then I have some foil faced rigid to think about screwing into the floor joists. It looks so much cleaner down there now, if that can be said of a crawlspace.

I got rid of the junk in the rafters of the boathouse and tore up the carpet. If I’m doing the floor properly (I have decent laminate for it) I’ll need some more subfloor to make it stronger. Right now it’s 3/4″ plywood that is cut up and assembled in multiple pieces. It’s thick but not ideal for minimizing movement.

I was lucky and Molly was able to come up with me both days last weekend. Usually her work doesn’t allow it. Friday night we brought up a kayak, the bbq, and our road bikes. Sunday we brought the second kayak and brand new hardwood flooring (for the bedroom) I managed to score off kijiji the day before. The kayaks were a killer Christmas gift from Molly, the bikes are hot and awesome and meant we were able to go for over an hour long ride Saturday morning – first time out with the bikes this season. Hard to believe it’s March and it’s this warm. The bbq is way better than the slow cooker for meals and the hardwood flooring is an amazing score off kijiji. I love kijiji. It’s prefinished, brand new in box light maple flooring and found for about $1/sf. The bedroom is going to look amazing and I can’t wait to finish it off tomorrow/Sunday.

Progress was also made in the bathroom:

And lots of mudding/painting in the main room. It’s looking amazing.

Another weekend

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Instead of heading to the cottage not this past weekend, but the weekend before, Molly and I went off for a break in Prince Edward County. It was a much needed break from work and renos and we had a great time (doing very little that didn’t involve staying in our suite). This past weekend though, we were back at the cottage. On Saturday, two friends came up with us and it was definitely helpful for getting smaller pieces worked on.

Molly mastered the hearth tiling and aided Vanessa in applying drywall compound to the gross, textured walls:

You can somewhat see how bad it is at the top. There are about 3 or 4 different types of texture applied throughout the house. The top half is much heavier than the bottom.

The whole main room is covered in it… and there is popcorn ceiling in the front room that is attached to this room. I’m currently thinking of going over that as well, but Molly thinks that once this main room is done, it won’t be as offensive on the ceiling. It’s not currently a priority.

This is the second coat done. I think we can get away with sanding it a bit, going over with a third coat, sanding, and that’s it (for the bottom half). Not sure yet on the top – there’s only one coat applied there so far.

Mudding over the existing texture ended up being the cheapest and easiest way of “fixing” the walls. I had originally considered 1/4″ drywall between the panels and leaving the top half, but that probably would have been more work than this.

While they conquered upstairs, Corey was working on finishing up drywall in the (no longer) green room. It’s looking pretty good but we probably still need another sheet of drywall for the walls.

Molly’s “perla grey” stone mosaic hearth:

The hearth is for the pellet stove, which still sits inactive in the space between the bathroom and one of the bedrooms. It looks awesome. The sealer that Molly put over the stones ended up giving them a much nicer look and made them appear like random darker/lighter shades of grey/brown-ish. Originally the stones looked pretty uniform light grey and I wasn’t so sure about it, but I love the finished product now.

Oh hey- you know what’s fun to do? Try to clean up grout off your tile project when you don’t have running water in your house. Yeah… careful with that one! We had to scrounge for water from the various 1L bottles we had brought up with us over the past few months, and eventually ran out to a point of needing to melt snow by the heat of the 500 watt work lamp and 2 of the small heaters we have in there. That was great panic-inducing-for-Michelle times. It ended up working out fine though. We just need some trim around it, another coat of sealer, and to move it into its final resting place in the corner. Molly did a really great job and it was her first experience into tiling.

While tiling/mudding/drywalling was happening, I was dealing with the attic situation. The house was built and then had 2 sections added onto it. This meant that they built a second roof over the existing roof and access to the other attic areas was blocked off by the old roof. I had to cut two access areas in the old roof – one to get into the space above the one far bedroom and the bathroom, and another to get into the space above the dining room and sun roof/patio door area.

Here’s what I found:

The green shingles are the old roof. This is the area above the bathroom and bedroom. I’m glad that I have complete access to this area. It looks like there is very minimal insulation above the bathroom/hallway, and the pink major insulation has been placed over the bedroom.

This is above the diningroom/sunroom:

This is… not so great. They have put plywood overtop of the joists that are under it. I can see from the main attic original part of the house that there is insulation over this area (under the plywood) but it’s too bad that I can’t beef it up further. Unless maybe I can put it over the plywood? Except that cleaning this reno waste up first would be really annoying.

I need to send these photos to the eco audit guy so he can take them into account for the eco grants. Basically though, we want to increase the R-value of the insulation up to R-50 by using blown in attic insulation. I’m not sure yet on cellulose vs. fibreglass pink stuff. Considering the height of the secondary attic areas, it’s a good thing I’m short.

In addition to the attic stuff, I also did some more crawlspace work. I’m quickly growing tired of it but it’s too early for that to happen. I put 2″ of rigid foam in a small area of the headers and sprayfoamed the cracks around it. Judging by how long it took me to cut the foam and sprayfoam them in place, it’s going to be really fucking tedious and slow.

Anyway… all in all, it was a productive weekend. I really need to get the hardwood floor down ASAP so we can move the hearth and stove in place and get heat going. I think I am dragging my feet on that a bit because I feel like it’ll be a lot of work, I need to rent the equipement from HD, and I’ve never used it before or installed a floor using a nailer/air before. I really need to do it either this weekend or next, and I think it will involve me either taking Friday/Monday off and/or staying in the cottage overnight to get it all done. I’ll need to spend some quality time with YouTube to learn some technique before I tackle this.

Insulation updates and eco audit woes

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Last weekend was more of the same… another 3 bags of insulation were put between the crawlspace floor joists and the 500sf roll of poly was put down to cover the dirt ground.

The area underneath the bathroom is empty of insulation because the pipes need some sorting out and the spaces around the wall headers are empty as well. I need to put 2-3″ worth of rigid foam there first before finishing off the floor. That said, I have spent an obscene amount of time researching crawlspace insulation this week.

I have been tearing my hair out trying to understand what is the best approach for insulating the crawlspace. Currently the crawlspace is a vented/ventaliated crawlspace because there’s a hole in the foundation and an exterior hatch door that is poorly fit in place. “Real” or traditional vented crawlspaces would typically have vents installed in the foundation walls somewhere. The idea is that in the winter you close them off to minimize the cold air coming in, but in the summer you keep them open to allow humidity underneath your house to escape (vs coming up into your house through the floor). The opposite of a vented crawlspace is a “conditioned” or unvented crawlspace, and this just means that you seal off the vents or any access points that would allow air to come in, and heat it somehow. You’re making your crawlspace part of your overall building envelope/house and in that case, you insulate the walls, but leave the floor joists empty so you have warm floors. When you have a vented crawlspace, you’re supposed to insulate the floor above your house to still allow for air movement underneath, but the insulation will hopefully keep your floors warm.

There is an insane amount of information and opinion out there about crawlspaces and what to do with them. Most contractors say that conditioned crawlspaces are the way to go, and apparently that’s the way that new houses are typically being built (at least where we are in Canada). I don’t have a real vented space… it’s more like a “DIY home owner got lazy and didn’t block stuff off properly”. So when I saw the eco energy grant table online, I started blindly following it and decided that I would always have a vented crawlspace since it’s drafty even if I close up the holes properly (and I don’t have a running furnace yet to provide heat), and started putting Roxul R-22 in between the joist cavities. My plan was to follow the “new light on crawlspaces” article over at and put the insulation between the joists, and then screw rigid foil-faced insulation underneath the joists to help keep them in place. This would bring me to the needed R-24 to qualify. It wasn’t until I realized that the grant for this is $250 vs. $1000 for making your crawlspace a conditioned one and insulating the walls that I started questioning whether I was even going about it the right way. Add to this that the eco energy report I received from the inspector guy doesn’t really match up with the numbers I expected, and I’m pretty confused about the approach to take.

Apparently the auditor thinks that insulating the floor joists as I’ve about 80% done is the best way of doing it, and also would net me the most gains from the grant table. I’m not sure how he’s calculating it and he seems pretty annoyed any time I send him an email asking for clarification. He’s also insisting that the furnace needs to be running and hasn’t (currently) responded to my question about whether the pellet stove being installed satisfies his need for primary heat source for the return visit. The experience with this guy has been pretty frustrating and a bit condescending.

Add in other confusing issues like:
– I am supposed to try to improve the air sealing of my place, which means fixing the holes in the crawlspace since it’s currently wide open to the utility room (which is then attached to the rest of the house by a basic interior door)… but doesn’t that mean I’ve closed off my crawlspace?
– I spent hours trying to figure out if I would be doing any harm by insulating both the floor joists and the walls, and other than people saying it’s “useless” to do, I couldn’t find anything saying it was bad… until I found one paragraph on a document from a government of Canada Natural Resources website that suggests insulating the floors if you have a vented crawlspace, but also to create a “partially heated crawlspace” to prevent pipes from bursting by adding insulation to your walls as well. So it seems like it’s somewhat useless to do both, but might help to save pipes from breaking (which I had present in my crawlspace), and doesn’t seem like it is detrimental in any way to do both.

So… all that said, I think I am going to finish off the floor joist insulation to qualify for the $250 grant. I’ll add some rigid foam to the crawlspace walls for extra measure to bring it up to R-10 but forfeit any money off that (according to his calculations, I would only get $189 back for that).

The other big area to insulate that is not crawlspace related is the attic. I made a fun discovery that I have not even a second set of shingles under my existing roof, but a whole other roof. The cabin was originally pretty small and I guess at some point (2009?) they extended it in various directions and added a new set of rafters/plywood/shingles over top of it all. I need to cut through the old hidden green roof to access the insulation on the other side. We’re most likely going to use the atticat blown-in type insulation from Home Depot for that.

In happier news, we picked out flat pebble “perla grey” stone for the pellet stove hearth. Molly covered the wood base with cement board and it’s waiting her first tiling adventure the next time we’re up there:

And I’ll leave you with this. Who needs TV when you can have cottage tv just by looking out your window? I think these guys jumped the gun a bit with their ice fishing so early on:

Green room destruction

Monday, November 28th, 2011

I went up alone on Saturday and decided that the downstairs mud room/laundry room/scary room aka “the green room” needed to die. The space was added onto the rest of the house at some point and they created a laundry area and this mud room that they painted bright green. Both rooms are separated by a door. The laundry room is more like a utility area and has the broken water filtration system, a pressure tank, hot water heater, laundry tub (Molly’s favourite), washer/dryer, the furnace and is completely open to the disgusting crawlspace that is under the rest of the entire house. The green room is currently empty, has a concrete floor and a door that opens out to underneath the deck. When I first walked through the place when I was viewing it, I remember feeling pretty scared/disgusted with the green room. Overall it just screamed disaster and I think the 5 dogs that lived there may have used it as their latrine. It was covered in dog hair and… mud? crap? who knows? all of the above?

So inviting.

With the upstairs (minus the bathroom) being fairly clean-ish, I decided I might as well tear into the green room. Saturday was spent ripping everything to the studs. Very thin wood paneling was used on all the walls and the ceiling, insulation mostly existed but was old and torn up by mice. It was actually in better shape than I expected since there was mud from the crawlspace on the walls and the floor and other obvious signs of water damage. One of the neighbours had previously mentioned that there was water “running through the place” at one point but I have no idea if that was from a burst pipe or nature or what. I’m always surprised by how much waste even a room demo produces.

An old exterior wall with faux brick siding still attached to the wood.

The wood paneling on this wall was completely open to the damp/musty crawlspace. The other side of the room with the wall that has the brick siding was at least blocked off by the old wood exterior. Not the most ideal situation here for replacing this wall with drywall!

Sunday I came up with my brother who is able to help out about every couple weeks. After a bit of a slow start and a trip to Home Depot, he went deep into the crawlspace to fix a few burst plumbing pipes under the bathroom (I love having access to everything under the house) while I started in on replacing the old insulation with newer Roxul. I’m hoping to pretty much find everything on the cheap through craigslist/kijiji and the Roxul was one of those scores. From there we finished up with some plywood to cover the crawlspace access wall and rigid insulation on the rest of the cinderblock walls. Long day that couldn’t have been done without my neighbour’s generous hydro offering.

The plan for this coming weekend includes finishing off with more Roxul and poly overtop the walls, spray foam and rigid for the headers, and depending whether I have help, drywall. If I don’t have help, I’ll be laying laminate in the boathouse.

The overall plan for this area is to determine whether I need to add some self leveling cement to the floors to create a nicer floorspace for tile overtop, and then move the washer/dryer and laundry tub into here. I basically want to close off the crawlspace as much as possible from the rest of the house and never go in the utility room. When it comes to the crawlspace though, the work plan is to cover the dirt ground with poly, vacuum the joists to get rid of the mummified spiders and their webs, fix a hole in the wall (need a few cinder blocks) and then figure out how to properly insulate the walls and/or joists. I know there’s a specific way of doing it (poly 12″ up the walls, rigid on the cement sides, but do I rigid insulate the joists/ceiling? can’t remember) and I just need to do some more research first.

Also – pulled the trigger on the water filtration system Saturday morning. Trojan UV light with a combo of a sediment and carbon filter system.