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False alarm

October 17th, 2009

Modern fire alarm systems seem to be designed to spare you a fiery death by killing you quickly with a heart attack (brought on by the 300dB screeching pulses coming simultaneously from every alarm in the house).

Or perhaps my (in hindsight extreme) reaction to the alarm was just that it was my first as a Dad. (In university days, false alarms barely roused me from sleep.)

Well as long as I’m never sleeping again, I guess it’s a good time to start reading up on why fire alarms might go off for no apparent reason and see what can be done to fix it.

I don’t think it would have been a CO alarm, unless a vent line in our furnace has a leak. (The system is entirely sealed to the outside.)

An errant bit of plaster dust flying about the basement, perhaps?

Since all the alarms are linked (by building code), we really have no idea which alarm actually triggered the event.

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NOW we’re getting toasty

October 13th, 2009

Jerry’s Insulating Co. paid us an unexpected but very welcome visit on Monday. Up until now the roof has been uninsulated and our second floor dropped to 15’C at night (we’ve been bundling the baby in 4 layers at night as he’s not one to keep his covers on).

From what I’ve read on HomeStars, Jerry’s Insulation seems to have a real problem with their spray-foam division, but like others on that site, we were very happy with the guys who came to do our loose-fill insulation for the attic. Professional, friendly, and accommodating. Because our baby needed to get down for his nap at the time they showed up, they rushed in, got the attic done and cleaned up in just 30 minutes.

They did show up without notice, though and we’ll leave that as our one gripe (someone couldn’t have called?). I don’t want to get the story too complicated but someone else was booking the insulation and we were trying for over a week to both rush the job (because it was getting colder at night) and find out when they were coming.

But at least we’re all cozy now (and the baby had no trouble getting down for his nap as soon as they left -whew)!

It’s worth mentioning Foam Comfort again, who are the excellent folks who put in the spray foam in our loft area. It seems they also have been reviewed positively on HomeStars, if interested.

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Painting Disaster on Move-in

September 13th, 2009

Just a quick note to say the move went… poorly.

We made a somewhat last-minute decision to have the painters who completed the priming of the house and painting of the ceiling, actually complete the painting of the entire house instead of tackling that ourselves.

The head painter said he’d have 5 people on site on Wednesday and complete everything in 1 day. There was 1 guy.

The next day the same guy showed up. Calls to the head painter were met with repeated claims of “I’m on my way” for several hours. By about 1:00pm the 1 painter just left leaving his tray and cans open (probably thinking everyone else would be showing up soon). They finally showed up at 3:30pm and did work quite late, but they weren’t done.

“No problem.” They were going to show up early the next morning and finish everything in 1-2 hours. Since we wouldn’t arrive with our movers until 11, that was no problem.

The movers arrived to wet walls and work in progress everywhere. No rooms were complete but rather at some stage of completion. Therefore NOTHING could be moved against any wall, everything would have to be piled into the centers of every room. Chaos.

Try to have a 1.5 year old running around a house where everything is teetering. We couldn’t be more than a foot away from him unless he was in the master bedroom (our one ‘safe’ zone).

It took the movers at least an extra hour to complete the move as a result and we’ll now have to spend the next week moving everything into position. :-\

Shortly after settling down after the move we started to look around and realized the paint job was awful. Just really really bad. (Our costly Yolo Zero-VOC paint smeared across the walls instead of rolled; bad cutting; bad seams around the windows; drips on the walls; drips/spray on the floors, unfinished wood trim, door handles, etc.)

There was a somewhat heated exchange with the painter on Saturday and we plan on picking up the discussion about how (and who?) is to be compensated on Monday. He had said he would bring a rep from the painting union and we wanted to discuss the issues with our builder.

He insists he can fix all these problems but we can’t possibly allow him to burn up another 10 (or so) gallons of paint trying to make a sloppy, clumpy wall look smooth.

We’ve spent the last two days with one of us taking care of the our young fellow while the other tried to clean & organize but it’s going to be a long process, it seems. This is really not what we needed now.

And another horror story starts for the blog. Unbelievably exhausted right now. It may be a few weeks before I get another post up here, while we focus on getting things settled.

(I should add: the house is frickin’ awesome otherwise. Just about everything else came together much better than we had hoped!)

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Power on. Gas on the way!

September 10th, 2009

With one day to spare the power is finally on at that house. The gas is ready to be turned on and Enbridge is scheduled to turn it on today!

The house is still being painted, the front porch still being completed, and there are a few critical taps that need to be installed but it all appears to be unfolding well at the end!

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Not moving in

August 29th, 2009

Well, we aren’t getting in for the end of the month. We’ve talked to our current landlord and since he (fortunately for us) hasn’t rented the place, we’re going to take it for 10 more days.

There is a lot of activity at the house right now with the electrician, plumber, finish carpenter, etc. all trying to complete their pieces. The siding has a long way to go.

If all goes well, the drywall will be complete by Tuesday so we can start cleaning the air and moving things in.

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Solid Maple Stairs by Charlie Bois

August 24th, 2009

It turns out stair building is a highly specialized craft. It typically takes between 4 and 6 weeks to get them made.

We were very fortunate that a fine carpenter named Charlie Bois (who we found via his positive reviews on HomeStars) had a hole in his schedule just big enough to build us three fine staircases. He came out to the house with some great suggestions for improving the stairs as they had been designed.

Solid Maple Staircase by Charlie Bois

And just check out those joins in the close-up. Practically seamless!

Charlie will be back in a few weeks to finish up our railings for us as well.

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Kitchen by Jeff Taylor, Sink by Copper Casa Cruz

August 14th, 2009

We’re always eager to give credit where it’s due here at Our Sustainable Home, and these two craftsmen have certainly delivered some beautiful work to our home.

Jeff Taylor of Taylor Made Cabinets (905-772-1649, 866-772-1649) delivered our kitchen today. It’s solid maple (no chipboard or veneer) and will be sealed with hemp oil (is there anything hemp can’t do?) and beeswax.

Kitchen by Jeff Taylor, Sink by Copper Casa Cruz

Our sink came to us from the fine folks at Copper Casa Cruz. My wife initially found them through their store on eBay. They are a family run business out of a small town in Mexico and they offer a level of customer service that most other businesses could learn from. They are extremely easy to deal with, accept custom orders, and delivered our sink to our door in just SEVEN days from the time we ordered it. You’ll even like (if not be completely floored) by their prices. Their products are also duty free (thank-you NAFTA!), though you’ll have to pay the usual federal/provincial taxes.

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Stairs, Floors and Delays

July 31st, 2009

Now that’s comedy.

I’m not sure what the stair company was thinking when they went ahead and installed our stairs for us. You’d think that when we said “Hey we don’t want chipboard risers and plywood corners. These are supposed to be solid wood.” they would just take them back. But they decided they’d fix them on site.

But the truly bizarre part is that the ground floor stairs don’t even fit. They aren’t long enough by TWO FEET and overhang the basement stairwell. But they put them in anyway.

We’ve been trying for weeks to get either Home Depot, Dynamic or the stair manufacturer/installer to tell us how they plan to fix all this but no one is talking. Our builder’s last note to them indicated he was just going to cut them out if they didn’t reply and as far as I know, they didn’t.

The worst part is that the stairs are holding up drywalling, flooring and other finishes. That, in turn, is holding up installation of the kitchen and bathrooms. We had managed to avoid this ‘delay spiral’ up until this point but it looks like it’s got us in its grips now.

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Firewall for the North wall of loft

July 8th, 2009

Just before going on strike our inspector indicated he wanted the North wall of the loft area to have a 45 minute fire assembly. (The loft is singled out since it is a stick-frame construction, not ICF like the rest of the house.)

Any walls of a house that face a neighbouring property (at a close distance) need to have a 45 minute fire rating, but this is usually just for fire that would occur inside the house. As such, putting 5/8″ drywall on those walls is sufficient.

But (as I understand it) a “45 minute assembly” needs to have that rating on EVERY side of the wall (top and bottom, too). Because we didn’t have a good way to do this, we were looking at having to drop our cool soya-based spray-foam insulation from the north wall, and use Roxul.

Roxul is a great product but it doesn’t provide the air-seal that spray-foam does. This morning, *just* before the drywall was to go up, the fellow from Ryerson who is researching our house called to say he had an engineer who could give us a letter describing a fire assembly to satisfy the city requirements!

A flurry of phone calls later, it looks like our friends at Foam Comforts can come back tomorrow to complete the air-tight seal we’d been hoping for in the loft! This is another one of those: it now feels ‘right’ moments. And more importantly the house temperature will ‘feel right’ too!

The loft area uses 4.5″ of foam (R-31) insulation on the roof and walls.

The solution, by the way, is quite simple: We just need to put 5/8″ drywall (probably concrete board for moisture protection) on the outside of the house as well. Our builder was very worried about the spray foam carrying a fire through the wall, but since each 5/8″ sheet provides 45 minutes, the flammability of the inside of the wall can be discarded (assuming it isn’t an accelerant, which I don’t think it is). Then we just add our ULC-rated cladding (hardieboard, in this case) to the outside of the house and we’re good to go!

Good save, team! 🙂

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Front Doors Installed

July 7th, 2009

I should open with some bad news on the finishes front: Raw Linseed Oil apparently attracts mildew; It just loves the stuff.

I found this out *after* I had treated the our brand new front doors with it.  But the doors should be fine. After waiting 4 days for the Linseed to dry (that’s an other problem with it) I put on the requisite coats of varnish, which should seal out any mildew that might otherwise want to take up residence in the door.

We’re currently investigating the Circa 1850 line of non-toxic finishes and cleansers for our baseboards, kitchen counters, etc.

So all is well, and the doors were finally installed today!

Front Doors Progress 25: Front doors and porch

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