Lakeshore Cottage

A reno blog for a cottage just outside of Toronto
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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.

3 day weekend update

Monday, December 19th, 2011

This weekend was pretty productive, although the theme for this kind of work seems to be that everything takes longer than you expect. We both took Friday off and headed up to the cottage with the dog early afternoon. We began by clearing out the old laminate/particle board flooring that we left scattered throughout the house which improved the overall smell of the place. We were able to finish off most of the drywalling in the green room save for one corner and a partial wall… we ran out of ceiling drywall in the corner. It’s looking a helluva lot better down there now.

We did do a run to HD for more drywall and parked it in the room for later – it’s annoying to have to go to HD during the middle of the day because it kills at least an hour from working time. The closest HD is located very conveniently at the exit I take off the 401E on the way to the cottage so usually I am able to plan out what I need to buy/bring with me to do whatever and am able to pick it up on the way in for the day.

I feel like we did more work on Friday than just drywalling but I’m feeling pretty tired right now and can’t remember everything. We didn’t stay too crazy late and headed to our hotel to shower up and check in (second weekend we’ve done this, it’s a “fun” and cheap getaway when the price of gas is painful with my truck) and then went off to the main drag in Port Hope for what ended up being a really awesome and drawn-out dinner at a local restaurant.

Saturday was an early start due to the continental breakfast ending at 10am and we started off with a trip to HD for a toilet, tar paper and some other things I can’t remember now. Or maybe the toilet was Friday. Not sure. It didn’t get installed though and is sitting in the kitchen currently. Under the laminate flooring that we took up last week was plastic/foam underlayment that we finally took up Saturday, because we had intended to put the tar paper overtop it, hoping it was in decent enough condition. Turned out that the initial wood subfloor/paneling that had been laid down was saturated with dog urine in some areas so badly that the wood was still wet and rotted. I tore up one piece before it sunk in that the entire floor needed to come up. Painful work that lasted a long part of the day. Hundreds of nails.

Molly put plastic wrap on some of the windows and then helped with the nails. We did a HD trip for some new wood and then headed back to the city at a decent hour to make another round of Christmas parties.

I headed up alone late Sunday and worked on putting the floor back together. I didn’t get to the tar paper because by the time I was done, it was too dark to figure out if the floor was still moving in some areas and possibly needed more screws. It helps to watch someone walk around on top of it to see where there is still movement.

I was too sore at this point to put together the cabinet we bought for my tools and just cleaned up generally before heading out. Also, Rosie (the dog) was miserable until I figured out too late that I needed to sacrifice one of the heaters and point it directly at her to keep her (and me) happy:

I’m really happy that the height of the new floor basically matches the height of the existing hardwood. It’s a totally different colour but I don’t care since I am going to be sanding it all anyway. At this point, we’ve torn out and replaced so much of the house that the only thing left that has any chance of holding the urine smell is the existing hardwood. As much as I didn’t want to have to do it, tearing out that subfloor (and seeing the clean stuff under it) was the right decision.

Things I learned/shit to remember for the future:

1. I need to buy a second battery for my cordless drill. It died halfway through my floor screwing and using my corded one is painful after a while because it’s much heavier/larger than the cordless.

2. A 2×4 is helpful when drawing straight lines across large pieces of plywood

3. Make sure whatever you’re using to hold up your plywood is far enough away from your saw when you’re cutting it, or you’ll hack into your (in my case) plastic totes

4. The jigsaw is not as clean but so much easier to handle alone than a circular saw

5. Drilling holes in each corner when you are cutting out shapes like floor registers/vents is so much easier to deal with than just drilling one initial starter hole

6. When putting down your subfloor, stagger the seams so it’s stronger. Plan out where the full panels can go too… if you’re going to have a lot of foot traffic in one area, don’t end a panel in the middle of that space.

I’m not sure when I’ll be back at the cottage (sometime after the 27th) but my to do list includes:

– Any leftover floor screws for spots with movement
– Tar paper overtop the subfloor
– Shingles to make the floor flat to even out valleys
– Heading into the crawlspace under the house to vacuum between the floor joists (so many dead spiders, it’s disgusting) and then…
– Putting Roxul R-22 between all the floor joists and then XPS rigid foam under that if I need the extra R-value for the eco audit grants
– Figure out how I can start planning the hearth I need to build for under the pellet stove (am I laying the hardwood floor under it, or just building it ontop of the subfloor?) and then…
– Build the hearth, so I can move the stove in place to get it working to heat the place. I’m thinking a 2×4 frame with a plywood and cement board top, with leftover tile on top of that.

Exhausted but happy. Overall it was a productive and awesome weekend, for so many reasons that don’t just pertain to cottage work. Life is good! Happy holidays to any readers.


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.

Out with the old

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Holy fuck, I’m exhausted. I had an unexpected extra set of hands today and we ripped out the flooring in one of the bedrooms. At first I was hesitant about whether there would be enough to do with my friend who came to help out, and when we easily pulled up the initial layer of cheap laminate flooring in like 5 minutes I almost felt bad that she came to help me… fast forward hours later and we’re still on our hands and knees trying to rip up the crappy particle board that was underneath the shitty laminate. What a painstaking, horrible thing to do to a friend. It took hours because of all the nails. All I can say is, if you’re ever stuck with this horrible task, use one of those Wonderbar super bar things (there’s a reason they’re called wonderbars) and shove them in as close to the nails as possible and then pop the particle board up so the nail stays in the floor. And repeat. forever. and ever. We did survive though, and discovered half-way decent 3/4″ of plywood underneath which is more than enough for whatever less shitty sort of hardwood/laminate flooring I’ll put overtop it. Although we did buy some 1/4″ OSB that I’ll screw on tomorrow (with my amazing girlfriend) just so the flooring has something new to touch (and to even out the floor height).

An interesting find was realizing that the particle board/tile mix went underneath the wall that separates the two bedrooms, which means this place was originally built as a one bedroom. This is interesting because one of my first plans was to tear down the wall to make it a one bedroom until the whole “think of its resale value” took over and I decided that the point of a cottage wasn’t to have one huge bedroom, but probably to have people over enjoying it with you, and decided to leave the wall intact.

Another realization was that tearing up particle board, which seems to run throughout the entire place, is a completely horrible task and there is no way that I want to tear up the floor in the main room. I had originally planned on making the main room + 1 bedroom the same flooring but I am not so sure now. It was way too much work to tear up the one in the bedroom that I can’t imagine doing it in the main room when the floor is not that horrible. I might as well lay whatever flooring on top of it and try to match the height level to the bedroom. If not, too bad… it’s a cottage.

On the electrical front – today was also fucking cold without heat. My contractor friend from Toronto came late in the afternoon and checked it out and will send me a quote on Monday to do the work. Even more exciting is realizing that the boyfriend of a fellow rugby teammate is an electrician, so hopefully I’ll have another quote in the mix. Still waiting on the local guy who came out to the place, and the other 3 guys I called still haven’t called me back when they said they would. Fun times.

Oh yeah – it didn’t take much for our fingers to go through two parts of the main exterior facing wall. So there’s some drywall to repair. It’s missing insulation and a vapour barrier and I had to think for a few minutes about whether I wanted to rip down the entire wall to sort that out. I checked myself again with the cottage mentality and decided I’d survive with the crappy R7. Drywall repairs are needed.