Tag Archives: renovation

Upgrading Spaces

Back in August I mentioned that I had spent the weekend working on ‘phase one’ of a playroom  remodel and that I would show it to you when it was completed.  There are still a few bits and pieces that I want to add but both of the big weekend projects have been completed so here goes:

The old music/workshop area was working well;

My problem with this space was that it was a little cramped if the children decided to form a music group and dance.  Now, I can’t perform miracles and create a bigger room but I could reorganize the shelving to increase the usable floor space like this;

One thing you can’t see in the picture above is the mirror that is on the wall on the right hand side — the children love dancing in front of a mirror but the old music area had no available wall space.  This part of the project was phase one – phase two involved the old housekeeping area and the walkway;

The walkway (area with grey coloured mats) was necessary to get to the nature area but if children were building in the block area they often blocked the walkway.  In such a small room having a dedicated walkway was a waste of 12 square feet of playspace.  I began working on a plan to combine the walkway with the block area – more building space – and in the process we got a new housekeeping area too;

On the left side of the above photo you can see the music area mirror.  The block storage is in the area where the walkway used to be and the entire floor space under the library loft is now open for building;

The clear plastic panel on the back of the block shelf allows a viewpoint between housekeeping and block areas.  Also, because the counter area is combined with the block shelf there is more floor space in the houskeeping area too – bonus!

When the new housekeeping area was built we used a bigger bowl to make the sink – and my husband put in a drain too – thank-you 🙂

We left space under the sink to add a drain pipe and a water line (non functioning) but they haven’t been added yet.  In this photo you can see the space under the sink counter and the view into the block area;

The stovetop and oven were not included in the counter area and instead they have been relocated over to the area by the refrigerator and laundry centre;

Now I want to get some silver paint to upgrade to ‘stainless steel’ appliances 🙂

My Vacation – 2012 Edition

Today is the last day of my vacation.  Around here vacation time is not for relaxing or travelling.  Two weeks with no childcare schedule or programming.  Two weeks without young children in my home. Vacation time is when we tackle those big projects that can’t be completed in a weekend.

So, what did we do this year you ask?  First I’ll give you a little history.

We’ve lived in this 100 year old house for 16 years.  It is relatively small – 1040 square feet with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.  It was in rough shape when we moved in but over the years we’ve fixed floors and shingles.  We’ve had new windows, doors and a furnace installed.  We’ve painted, built cupboards, put on siding and done many landscaping projects. The bathrooms have been on the ‘project list’ since the beginning but we keep putting them off.

The basement bathroom gets the most use.  It is dark and dingy.  It has an ugly plastic shower stall that leaks but it works.  It is permanently dirty – stained — cleaning seems pointless.  Upstairs the vinyl floor is cracked and buckled and there are pieces missing.  The bathtub finish is rough and uncomfortable – I never use the bathtub but some of my sons do.  The plaster walls are ugly and the paint is bad.  Both the floor and the paint are yellowish from age – I hope.

The dilemma was which bathroom to attempt first.  I want to replace the plastic shower in the basement with a tile one but I’ve never installed tiles before.  What if we encounter issues and the project takes longer than two weeks to complete? The daycare children use the basement bathroom and although I could let them use the upstairs bathroom temporarily I didn’t really want to.  So, even though it doesn’t get much use, the upstairs bathroom would be this year’s vacation project – the ‘practice’ project.

Of course I didn’t remember to take a ‘before’ picture because we started demolition as soon as my ‘vacation’ began.  I think my husband and I make a good team for these projects because we have different skills.  I’m more into details – the plans, the lists, and the finish work.  My husband is better at the loud, messy stuff – and I rely on him to use those scary power tools.  (shudder)

We have different methods of working too.  Even when he doesn’t need assistance he likes to have someone (me) nearby so he can ‘vent’ – I ‘help’ by ‘listening’.  There’s always a sense of urgency when he is working. Sometimes I offer suggestions and he retorts ‘Do you want to do this?’  I prefer to work independently – slowly and methodically – analyzing and pausing often to reflect on the progress.  My husband helps by pacing and ‘encouraging’ me to stay on task.

In the last week I spent a lot of time here;

I wasn’t sleeping in the bathtub (although it is comfy enough that I could have); the sheets and quilt are there to protect the new tub from paint, caulking and grout.

Tiling was something new for both of us so there was a lot of trial and error and many trips to the store.  I discovered that there are special tile nippers for glass tiles – the ones I was using worked but they left tiny little shards of glass on the floor.  The slivers of glass were easier to find if you just followed the trail – took me a while to figure out what those red streaks were, I felt no pain.

The walls are painted ‘Liberty Gray’ to match the lighter parts of the wall tiles.  It is a shade of blue but I had a mild anxiety attack when I first opened the paint can – it looked purple (mauve). I don’t like purple and I detest pink and red.  I usually stick to earth tones so even blue is unusual for me but I’m really happy with this color scheme.

Overall it was a slow process – not as physically demanding as some of our projects but there were so many steps and periods of waiting for caulking/grout/paint to dry.  Two weeks of time and a $1500 budget and the upstairs bathroom is now complete.  I need to find/buy some towels that match.

It functions well but we don’t use it.  I often turn on the light and stand in the doorway to look at it – like a piece of artwork.  We use the bathroom in the basement so we don’t get the new one dirty. 🙂


Last year I began making plans to overhaul my front yard – I wrote about it here. I ordered my plants months ago and made arrangements to pick them up on May 27th.  This weekend – all three days – I was planning to get the yard ready for planting.  The weekend is over and I’m not finished the prep work.

First, I had a list of little things that could be done on evenings and weekends before the May long weekend – very few of them got done ahead of time so that made my weekend ‘to do’ list even longer.  Three days were probably not going to be enough to get all the work done. Then there were a few other obstacles.

Friday evening there was a thunderstorm.  That was really not a bad thing because if there had not been a storm I would have probably wanted to plunge right into the yard work with only a few hours of daylight left.  A few hours of work is just enough for me to really get ‘into’ the job and I wouldn’t have wanted to stop.

The real setback was the full day of steady rain on Saturday so no yard work got done that day.  The day wasn’t completely wasted – I got a lot of paperwork done.  I finished work on the 2013 resource calendar and sent it off to MCCA for final edit so that big job is completed – early.  However, the yard renovation was way behind schedule.

On Sunday the weather was absolutely perfect for doing yard work.  Dealing with canker worms was the only issue.  We may have gotten a lot of work done but even though I skipped a meal or two I didn’t want ‘protein’ added to my coffee.  My husband suggested that we should patent my fancy cup covers (empty plastic containers turned upside down).

By Monday morning I had already realized that there was no chance that the yard work would be complete.  It was a good thing that I hadn’t ordered soil to be delivered for the garden beds because I wasn’t even close to having the gravel moved out of the way yet.

My husband and I dug up and relocated 18 small and medium sized sidewalk blocks to make room for the new flower beds.  Then we made a horrifying discovery – ten years ago, when we put all this gravel and sidewalk in, we put it over the original sidewalk.  We had forgotten that it was there so now we were staring at three 30” x 36” slabs of concrete that were four inches thick!  I was certain that my native prairie plants would not be happy if we just put soil over those slabs.  We would have to take them out.

While we worked on our yard there were many real estate agents and prospective buyers coming to view the house next door. I struggled with trying to be friendly without coming across as the nosy neighbour. Wielding a sledge hammer I may have come across as crazy.  I had an enjoyable conversation with one woman until our husbands interrupted us.  Maybe she was crazy too – I liked her.

We got one concrete slab removed before the rain returned and we quit working. The whole project may have been too big for two people to complete in three days.  It was definitely too much for the 1 ½ days of good weather that we had.  It is not complete, the reality is – it is a work in progress.

Spring Changes

Since the snow melted I have not done a major overhaul of the back yard but I have made some significant changes. Several weeks ago I rearranged the storage area for the loose parts.  Now it is more spread out instead of all being clumped together;

More recently I rearranged the larger components like the tipi and the seating area.  They had been arranged like this;

I repositioned them to this configuration;

Which opens up the centre of the gravel area to improve the flow;

And has the seating area in a more secluded and shady space — hard to show with a picture taken on a cloudy day;

You may have noticed that something else is missing — the slide is no longer on the hill.  We had been having some issues with stability of the slide and soil erosion on the hill.  I’ve left the slide loose in the yard so the children can still use it;

It has been interesting watching them find a spot to position the slide and check the stability before climbing on.  There had been some reckless behaviour on the slide when they thought it was firmly attached to the hill.  Now they are taking responsibility for assessing the risk instead of having me continually redirect them.

We’ve also now got some cribbing around the base of the hill which has made it a more inviting place to play.  Yesterday they used the cribbing as a place for the snakes to go to get a drink of water;

I’m hoping that once the plants grow more the animals will play in the ‘jungle’ too.  Up until now the children seem to have viewed the plants on the hill as a decoration and not an area to play — that was not my intention.  Playing with animals in the garden is one of my most vivid childhood memories.

There are some more changes and additions that I am considering for the playspace.  They will happen gradually as I observe how the children interact within the space.

The Long Weekend Project

This past weekend we put in the new flooring in the sunroom and kitchen.  This is the final piece of the two year project to have a cohesive decorating scheme between the sunroom, kitchen and dining room.

This phase started with picking out the flooring – deciding between the tiles or the laminate.  We have put in both types before.  There has been laminate in the hall and kitchen for the last ten years – I have mixed emotions about it – it has endured a fair amount of damage over that time.  The tiles we have in the front and rear entrances – they’ve been there for about three years and show no signs of wear.  I decided to use the tiles.

First, I should explain that these are just peel and stick tiles not ceramic or stone tiles that would require a skill set greater than mine. These are thick tiles that can be installed with or without grout.  I did not use grout in my entranceway installations but this time I wanted to use grout because I felt it would make in easier to clean the cracks between the tiles.  As we stood in the grout aisle with our cart full of tiles contemplating which color grout to use the sales associate came by and redirected us to the type of grout needed for out particular tiles.  This changed my plan since I didn’t like any of the color options available here so I decided to go with the ‘no grout’ option.

Back at home, the work begins.  First step, clear the room and put down the new sub floor.

My husband accused me of ‘staging’ this picture because I had the tree in the corner – really I just put it there to get it out of our way when we were working on the other side of the room.

Putting in the sub floor gave me the opportunity to use the new ‘multi tool’ we recently bought.  Cool, add this one to the list of power tools I like.

There is a long list of power tools that scare me – table saw, circular saw etc – I will not use these tools.  There are some power tools like the chop saw and the drill that I will use on some occasions.  Then there are tools that I think are cool – like the air nailer/stapler and now the multi tool.  I briefly got distracted from the project because I wandered away looking for other things I could use the multi tool on.  My husband insisted I stop playing and get back to work.

End of day one and we had the new sub floor in and primed – by 2:00 am.

Day two began at 7:00 am with me arranging the tiles in various ways to plan the best layout.  It took a little longer than I expected but I finally decided on the herringbone pattern. Installation began and I started sticking down the tiles as tightly together as possible.  My husband doesn’t enjoy the tedious parts of the projects so he leaves them to me – just like I let him use the scary tools.

It wasn’t long before I noticed that there were some spaces between the tiles because tile edges were uneven and impossible to keep completely flush together.  I began to think the installation directions should have read ‘must’ be grouted instead if ‘may’ be grouted. Some of the gaps were nearly 1/8 inch but even the smaller ones were noticeable.

As I sat there contemplating how to fix this issue my husband walked by and began to flip out.  This is one of the differences in our work habits that sometimes makes these projects difficult.  Faced with a problem I like to step back, take some time and think through all the options.  My husband on the other hand rants — loudly. He demanded I fix it now!  Sigh, I know, the bright white primer visible between the brown tiles is very noticeable but I’m going to wait until all the tiles are all in before I address that issue.  He stomps off muttering something about needing to close the daycare for a week while I decide what to do.

My husband felt the work was progressing too slowly so he began installing tiles too. There were so many intricate cuts.  We finally finished installing all the tiles by 10:30 pm. I like them – except for the white spaces.  The sunroom looks huge without anything in it and I got to paint the walls that were hidden before – and will be again.

Day three and my plan is to paint all the white spots between the tiles.  I may decide to grout the tiles in the future if the gaps become a problem but for now this will work.  Tiny little paint brush and two colors of paint and I’m set for a couple hours. I actually really enjoyed this intricate job.  Every once in a while I took a break to talk to the fairy that was flying around the room.  No, I wasn’t hallucinating – I think it may have actually been some kind of a moth but it reminded me of a fairy so that is what I called it.

I took a brief break when I noticed that the fairy had landed in the paint can and got stuck. Luckily it didn’t die. I managed to get it out of the paint, took it outside and released it safely where it belonged.  As it fluttered away I waved good-bye and tried not to think about any of the other dangers my little friend might face.

A few more touch-ups and the room was finally ready for all the ‘stuff’ to move back in.  Malta seems to like the new floor – maybe she thinks I chose it because it matches her.  Hmmm could be a lesson about camouflage…