What I’ve been up to

The big project this month (or indeed this year) was the replacement of the flooring in the main section of the cabin. It’s almost 600 square feet, and up until now has been a collection of mis-matched and crumbling vinyl sheet goods, rotting old industrial carpet, and bare plywood. All uneven and tattered and really, really ugly. Even with rugs down the ugly came through.

The replacement wasn’t easy as it could only be done in sections; there was no place to move everything to in order to get one big empty space to work in and on. So I compressed everything into one end of the building and got at it.

There were places where the subfloor was rotted due to past roof leaks. Mould clung to the old vinyl as well. Clean-up, cut out, throw out. After that new underlay had to go down to build up the level to where the end vinyl planking would match the existing tile kitchen and bath floors, as well as the laminate I succeeded in installing in the bedroom last year. Vinyl was the only choice here, as the floor structure and surface and very uneven. It slopes off in various directions and dips and rises. “Undulates” would be one way of describing it.

Here are some of the progress pictures. Even though you can’t see what it started out like, you can see it is now much better. Not done yet, of course; it’s a house and houses are never finished.

First section completed.
Second section completed. (Note how everything is crammed into the far end.)
Third section completed.

Of course most of it will be covered in furniture and rugs (dogs slip on vinyl) anyway but it will be contiguous, and even (but not level) wherever it is.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t level the whole thing and put in, say, hardwood I assure you that was not a practical option: straightening up a log cabin that was built wrong to begin with and then had 70 years to settle as it wished is not a simple thing. Most likely it would have suffered major structural damage with any attempt to rapidly push it back to level, and as for other methods of flattening the surface (like self-leveling concrete) the distortion was too extreme for that to be viable. Example: I measured one spot as sloping 2″ in 4′, far beyond what can be simply filled or raised with shims.

We’re not after ‘perfect’ here. That would require a complete replacement of the whole building. Just “good enough”, and certainly far better than it’s ever been.

Past work

It’s raining again this week so I’m not out taking pictures or harvesting wood. Instead I’m digging back through files to present some older images.

One of the things I use photography for is documenting projects. Some of them have been extensive, like this whole-house renovation done in 2016. Never mind the story behind it, as it’s one of those “how did I ever get myself into this?” tales. The house itself is a brought-in-on-a-truck-and-bolted-together up/down design that filled many of the streets around here as the town expanded rapidly in the 1970s. Since then it went through numerous ‘upgrades’, many of which inflicted serious problems I had to correct. You just wouldn’t believe what I found. Good thing I’m an engineer, eh?

The bedroom pictures pretty much tell the story: bad design with no closet yet still intruding into the next room. An amateur finishing of basement space:


So, gut and re-frame (I literally was able to tear the walls apart with my bare hands) to make the space more practical:

And finish it off nicely:


The kitchen was a ‘simple’ update, which involved refinishing all the cabinets, moving the dishwasher, fixing plumbing errors, correcting wiring mistakes, and …

Here’s the livingroom with the renos partially started. That knee wall was to replace a flimsy iron railing that was merely screwed to the floor and yet was expected to keep people from tumbling down the stairs:


Much nicer once the work is complete:


One of the biggest challenges was the patio door in the dining area, which had been installed without a proper header. Retrofitting that (without disturbing the door or outside wall) was not easy:



Outside the now nice (and safe) door you can see the redone deck, which had just broken plastic trellis screwed on to keep people from going over the edge. I like the yellow boards better, for both safety and aesthetic reasons:


It’s hard to imagine, but this is the second time I’ve totally renovated an entire house (meaning every room needed work) by myself (no assistants). In this instance I hired someone to do the floors as I was running out of time. In fact the people were moving in while the floors and details were being finished up. Hopefully it will be the last time I try anything so foolish. The first time was our former residence (back in 2009 – I was already having health problems then), and I’d be hard pressed to say which was more work. In time this one was quicker: six months as opposed to nearly two years, but I didn’t have as many interruptions.

I found this toy car while I was doing the place up, so I “renovated” it as well: