Winter AKA “Before Baby” To-Do List

Yep, a few things on our list have changed in priority due to the impending arrival of Baby H. I love doing these lists because they really help me stay accountable to Future Cathy, who is notoriously hard to please. We managed to get most of our Spring/Summer list done, with the exception of the sunroom, which I didn’t think we’d get to til next year anyway. Honestly, I’m just so glad we got the foundation done!

Here’s what I’m hoping to get done before the end of February (fingers crossed Baby H doesn’t decide to come any sooner):

  1. Finish the nursery. Obviously, we need somewhere to put that baby. We are most of the way there, or at least we have all the furniture. I still need to do all the requisite organizing of baby clothes and hang pictures on the wall, but we’re making progress! Check out my post on our plans for the nursery for more details. I’m particularly loving this corner and have been trying out that rocker already! As you can see, we’re still deciding on a paint colour for the accent wall.IMG_5112
  2. Work on the back entrance. Now that our kitchen floors are done, it has put into sharper focus how truly terrible the back entrance is. We’ve been using it as our main entrance while we wait on redoing our landscaping- we don’t have a path leading to our front steps any more (come to think of it, we don’t have front steps period at the moment) and due to Richmond’s lovely clay based soil, this leads to an obscene amount of mud being tracked in the house- so we’re using the back door until we figure that situation out. Luckily (ha) all the snow we just got has covered up the entire mess of our lawn so we can pretend it doesn’t exist until April-ish. I’ve already ripped up the old carpet, which has reduced the old person smell drastically! The paint colour will be the same as our hallway and the trim will just get a fresh coat of white paint. We’ll probably continue the vinyl tile from the kitchen here, maybe with painting the steps and risers.CPZY1511
  3. Shoe moulding. Seriously, for real this time. After ripping up the carpet in our living room/dining room and laying the new tile in the kitchen, this is the last step we have to finish the floors off in that half of the house, and somehow it keeps getting pushed back by other stuff. It’s the kind of thing you can ignore for a long time and as soon as you notice it again you’re like “Hmm. This looks really crappy and we should change that. But wait, let me do this other thing first…” and repeat 10x.
  4. Floors in the hallway. After we discovered the hardwood didn’t continue down the hall like we had hoped, my husband ripped up the vinyl flooring that was underneath the old carpet and the first layer of subfloor as well. Since then we’ve been living with it and it’s annoyingly shabby looking, and is really affecting my selfie game. Plus those different levels and rough wood won’t be so kind on sweet little baby hands and knees. We want to try to match the hardwood in the living room and hopefully the transition won’t be too obvious.
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  5. Touch up paint. Ugh, but I don’t want to. Our carpet installation messed up some of the pain paint (haha, I just Freudian slipped that) in the hallways and bedroom trim, so that needs to be touched up. Also, one wall of the kitchen never got a 2nd coat of paint and it’s kind of obvious in certain light. Plus there are just spots that I didn’t do the world’s best paint job on initially.
  6. Basement plans. Now that the foundation waterproofing is ♫ALL DONE♫ (sing it with me!) we can start to think about how we want to plan out the space- all 1100 square feet of it. It’s entirely unfinished so it’s a beautiful blank slate for us. Our plans will most likely include at least one bedroom, enclosing the laundry room and adding a toilet/shower there for a second bathroom, walling in a family room/rec room, and figuring out some sort of extra pantry storage area. Part of the basement will also remain unfinished for tools and general storage.

And that is probably enough to keep us busy! Realistically this will probably take us into the Spring as well, I’m sure I’ll find the time with a newborn baby… I hear all they do is sleep and poop, right?

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard anything lately about our bathroom reno, it’s because we decided to put it on the back burner for now. Although it’s hideously ugly in all its green, bronze, floral-wallpapered glory, it is functional. And it’s our only bathroom. Our strategy going forward is to rough in a second bathroom downstairs before we start any work on our bathroom, now that we have firsthand experience about how not-fun not having water is from our foundation well water line shenanigans.

Stay tuned for my progress!
-C

Installing Peel and Stick Vinyl Tile (for Realists)

That’s right, I’m still milking our kitchen makeover for every last blog post I can squeeze out of it! Today I’m ruminating on vinyl tile installation, and its pros and cons. To get up to speed on what we’ve done since we moved in, check out this post. Here’s a quick and dirty comparison of the old and the new floors:

floors before and after

Installing peel and stick tile sounds really easy to do, and looks really easy on home reno shows. I mean, it only has two steps: 1) Rip up old floors and 2) stick on tiles! Well friends, I’m here to burst your bubble and will not sugar coat this for you.

We went with peel and stick tile because we thought that it would be a quicker and cheaper option than ceramic tiles. One of our future plans is to do a complete kitchen reno, and we didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money on ceramic tile only to rip it up once we change the layout of the kitchen. I naively thought that using vinyl tile meant this could be done in a day, or a weekend tops; this turned out to be a huge underestimation. Between all of the steps involved (yes, I was lying when I said this only had two steps), we spent a week on this. We weren’t super efficient about it, but still, it took a lot more time than I was expecting. As my husband put it, using peel and stick makes the easiest part of installing tiles- the placement of the tiles- even easier; you still have to do almost the same amount of prep work before you can apply the tile. But getting to a level, smooth, clean surface takes a lot of time. So buckle up and let me take you through what this project actually involves!

Step 1A): Remove Old Flooring

If the original floors had come up easily then this would have taken a lot less time and I would be less bitter about it, but the linoleum was an absolute nightmare to remove. At first we could only get it off in 1 inch or so chunks that chipped off when we tried to peel it, leaving a paper and adhesive layer behind. I had a friend helping me with this step (Thanks MT!!) and after about an hour of making almost no progress, she suggested we look online for help. We found a few YouTube videos that recommended using a heat source to soften the glue first, which ended up being a lifesaver. We found the best method was using a heat gun to first soften the glue and a flat edge trowel to lift up the flooring- this left the least amount of paper/adhesive behind. Other variations we tried were an iron and a metal cake lifter, and a hair dryer and a putty knife. During this step, we wore half face masks with P100 cartridges for vapours and particulates- we had no idea what was under the floors and heating the linoleum gave off a pretty nasty plastic smell. We also kept all the windows open for ventilation, so this is not a Canadian winter friendly project.

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Using a heat gun and putty knife to lift the old linoleum

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I gave this step got a major thumbs down

Step 1B): Patch Uneven Areas & Repair Damaged Subfloor

Once the old flooring was up and the remaining adhesive and paper had been scraped off, we patched the surface with a product that Home Depot recommended, SimplePrep Pre-Mixed Floor Patch. My husband did this step and he didn’t like this product at all. Next time (haha, next time) we would use the stuff you mix yourself, because he found the consistency too thick. The product says it takes 4 hours to dry which was not the case for us; we found it took at least a day and some areas needed more than one coat. But we did have some pretty substantial areas to patch. Once the patch dried, we went over the floors with a scraper to even out any remaining bits of adhesive or raised edges from the patch and made sure to clean it really well. Some of the areas were still raised after this step so we drilled floor screws in to try and flatten these spots.

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Close-up of our super damaged subfloor before scraping off excess adhesive and paper

IMG_4720Subfloor after scraping off adhesive and applying patch compound

Step 1C): Prime Surface

When the surface was as smooth as we could get it, we cleaned it really well and then primed the subfloor with special vinyl tile primer. They didn’t sell this at Home Depot and we were actually advised by someone there to just use paint primer (like what you would use for walls) on the floor to prime it before laying the tile. This didn’t sound right to my husband because the paint primer wouldn’t have had good adhesion to the patched spots, which is similar surface to cement; so we kept looking online until we found a multipurpose surface primer by TEC, which Lowe’s sold. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if the patched spots were minimal, but we had large sections that were patched.

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Action shot of my husband painting on primer

Step 2A): Apply Tiles

After the primer dried we were finally ready for the easy part- sticking on the tiles. This was pretty straightforward and there are lots of resources online to help with this. Basically you measure the room to find the midway point in either direction, then snap two chalk lines at these points that intersect at the centre of the floor. You put down the first tile at the centre point (without removing the backing) and do a dry run first so you can move the center tile towards either wall if necessary- like if it will make the last tile on either side of the room an awkward length. We ended up snapping an additional chalk line 12 inches off the centre line so that we could line up the offset tile for the next row as well (our tiles were 24×12 inches). Most people recommend laying the tile in sections, not in rows- this helps to keep everything lined up and squared nicely. Since the tiles were vinyl, we were able to use a heat gun and a utility knife to cut them when required. We pretty much worked outward from the centre in sections in a sort of stepwise fashion, and periodically ran over the surface with a floor roller to make sure they were really stuck on.

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Lining up the first tiles with the chalk lines

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Making sure the tiles are good and stuck with a floor roller

Step 2B): Grout Tiles (Optional)

Although you can place the tiles right next to each other without grout, we decided to use the grout because I thought that the slightly beveled edge would collect dirt if we didn’t, and also I wanted this to look as much like ceramic tile as possible. The grout was applied differently to grout you would use for ceramic tile; we used a piping bag and a grout float to get it in the cracks and wiped the excess off the tile immediately with a wet sponge so it didn’t dry.

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In Conclusion…

The end result does look pretty fabulous, but honestly it was so much more work than I had planned on, I am feeling a bit jaded about it. I should have been more realistic about how long it would take to get the old floors up and the surface prepared. This will vary from floor to floor, and it’s the kind of thing you can’t know until you start. Also, the kitchen is kind of an important room. Not having a kitchen for a few days is really inconvenient, especially if your kitchen is in the middle of the house and prevents you from going in the basement. We ended up eating a lot of take out and microwave meals while this was in progress, so if you don’t love Beefaroni like my husband does, you may want to reconsider the impact that not having an oven or stove will have on your diet.

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On the whole I would say in the future, flooring is something I would consider hiring out, and I’m not buying the perception that vinyl tile is so much easier to install than ceramic (coming from someone who has never installed ceramic…). This was also our very first flooring project, so on the flip side, maybe it was a good way to learn? It was definitely cheaper to go with vinyl tile over ceramic; we spent about $400 on the tile and the rest of the supplies, including renting a floor roller.

Do you have any stories to share of projects that seem so easy and then snowball into a horrible nightmare that won’t end? Can you assure me that the floors look awesome and this was totally worth doing? I’d love to answer any questions you have about this project!

-C

Ripping up carpet and next steps

Well, we are officially out of our apartment and in the house permanently! The big jobs that we wanted to get done before moving in (ie. painting the walls and ripping up the carpet) got done just in the nick of time. I was hoping to do a lot of purging before we moved but there just wasn’t time with all the stuff we were trying to finish at the house, so a lot of boxes went into the basement for Future Cathy and Future Allan to deal with (suckers!).

It’s funny because I have discovered that there are jobs that are time consuming and don’t have much payoff, like painting trim, and then there are jobs that take no time at all and make a huge difference, like ripping up carpet. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent prepping and painting trim- and sure, it freshens things up and makes a difference to the final look once the walls are painted- but until you get to that point you don’t feel like you’re making any progress. But the satisfaction of spending a few hours cutting and rolling carpet to reveal the hardwood underneath made up for it.

If you follow me on Instagram @cathyatdeardiy, you will know how disappointed we were when we discovered that the hardwood ended before the hallway. We were hoping that it extended at least to the threshold of the bedrooms, which we discovered after the home inspection had vinyl tile under the carpet.

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Ah well. After we got over it, we set to work. We had to be careful when removing the carpet in the living room and dining room, so we folded it over a 2-3 foot section and then cut along the folded edge to protect the wood.

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Then we rolled up each strip and bundled it with twine so that the lovely waste management workers of Ottawa would take them along with the trash.

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You can see that carpet removal is fueled by beer and cider.

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This is what it looked like before we patched and primed the hell out of the space above the fireplace, because the previous owners had never painted the drywall where the large mirror had hung. No stud finders needed here!

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The new colour (Dove by Behr) is not that different from the original paint, which was a blessing because it went on in 1 coat! But it freshens it up and having a grey beige as opposed to a yellowy beige really modernizes it.

We lucked out in that the carpet underlay was in really good condition, I’ve heard horror stories about it disintegrating into dust but ours came up in one piece. There was also hardly any dirt underneath, which speaks to how clean the previous owners must have kept it. Now we will be spending a lot of quality time with our friends Messrs. Hammer, Pliers, and Cat’s Paw to rip up all the nails, staples, and carpet tack.

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Seeing the mountain of rolled up carpet was also very satisfying, and it will probably only take a few months of our biweekly garbage collection for them to take it all…

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Seriously though, how gorgeous is that hardwood? It’s a bit on the orangey side but it’s in really great shape. We think it’s red oak but I’d love to hear if someone knows for sure. Now we just need to figure out what to do next… start the bathroom reno? Paint the kitchen? Refinish the original hardwood or install new hardwood first? Stay tuned to find out!

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