2018 Progress Part 1

It’s hard to believe it’s 2019. It feels like we’ve been renovating forever (but hey, it’s only been since 2015!).

In the next three posts I will share what we’ve got still to do and the broad strokes of what we accomplished in 2018.

“How’s the house coming? Finished yet?”

People who haven’t seen me for a while because I’ve been busy working or renovating or taking care of kids or doing housework often ask how the house is coming. Day by day is the answer. Sometimes they ask when I think it will be finished. Please don’t ask me that, I say and laugh a bitter laugh. Ha. Ha. Ha.

What’s next? I can only express our plans as hopes because all my estimates have been wrong and are at the mercy of so many factors. In 2019 we hope to finish all the railings, siding, trim and shingles on the outside of the house. We hope to finish the basement.

We hope to finish interior details like inside window frames, door frames, shelving and cupboards. We hope to put up the used solar hot water panels that some friends gave us. We hope to replace the

The house in 2009

white-picket fence which will mean we can get a dog. We hope to paint the house.

Milestones we can aim for are 1) passing our final building inspection, 2) submitting new photos to the local film commission in case any productions want to use the property as a location again and 3) doing a post-retrofit energy audit to see just how successful we were at improving the energy efficiency of the house.

That last one, number 3, has some time pressure to it. An energy audit is required before and after you retrofit your home if you want to apply for any incentives from Fortis BC, BC Hydro, or the government. The BC Government has introduced its CleanBC plan which includes incentives for retrofitting homes for energy efficiency, and, as past experience teaches, it would be a good idea to take advantage of those incentives as soon as possible, because any shift in government could make them disappear again. There’s some work to do before we’ll be ready for an audit.


Looking ahead at 2019 can be daunting, so let’s look back at 2018.

The progress we made in 2018 was more on the finishing details than the big structural issues. I found myself completing work that I have been looking forward to for years and that felt great.

Here is the house in December 2017:

As you can see, the front stairs had temporary railings; the entire lower part of the house had no trim or exterior finishing and neither did the new exterior walls on the rear extension and the rear upstairs dormer; the back porch had no permanent stairs and no finished surface so I had walled it off with plywood and clear plastic to keep the weather out; the ugly construction fence was still up around the property; the yard grade was still too high and piles of wood and construction materials dotted the property. For transport, we were still driving a 2001 Toyota Prius hybrid car and using a 1996 red Ford Ranger pick-up (the one that friends had passed on to us before they moved away) as a back-up and construction vehicle.

All of these projects deserve their own post, but here’s the Readers’ Digest version starting with…

The Front Steps.

The front steps that I built just in time for Hallowe’en 2017 needed railings so I copied the rotted out framing of the originals that I had stored in a shed during the main construction. I used treated wood for the framing but reclaimed shiplap boards for the stair walls.

I also re-used the top surfaces of the banisters. Ending up with the same number of stairs coming off the porch was a pretty big achievement for a lay-person like myself, especially after our original contractor bungled the grade elevation. If we had left the ground as high as they left it, we would have had five front steps, not eight, and we didn’t want to change the look of the house that much.

The storm door I had installed a few years ago to cut down on the heat loss through the heritage front door needed repair and I decided to take it off for the time being. Now the front door is probably the biggest leak in the house.

Another heritage element that challenged me was reproducing the tapered pillars on the front porch.

I built new ones out of treated wood and even covered them with house wrap for good measure.

An annoying set-back to reconstructing the pillars was caused by the two drain pipes that were installed in nonsensical places by the aforementioned contractor. As you can see below in one example, the drain pipe comes out of the ground where a) there is no downspout from the gutters above and b) that is where a pillar must go. If they had glanced at the plans or glanced above their heads, this wouldn’t have happened. Sigh. However, I’m getting pretty good at cutting, fitting and gluing PVC piping, and I was able to divert the pipe.

Here are the pillars ready for house-wrap and then shingles:

On the right of the photo above you can see some of the construction fence. We took it down to get ready for the re-grading and landscaping of the yard, but before we got rid of it we used a few of the panels as a pen for the bunnies that Leanne found on facebook. (The bunnies do not simplify our lives but they do have three advantages: namely, the cuteness, the adorable-ness and the floofiness.)

An Official Visit

In March, our Member of Parliament, Dan Ruimy, paid us a visit and we talked about heritage revitalization, energy efficiency, climate change and the like.

An Insulation Detail

As part of my work on the exterior finishing, I decided to improve the insulation of the window box on the south side of the house.

James in front of the window box

Unfortunately, these aesthetically-pleasing protrusions on a house make them much less energy efficient. Heat-loss occurs on all sides. That’s why I asked Element Spray Foam to spray the space under the box when they did the roof line. In the photos below, that yellow stuff is closed-cell foam that doubles as a vapour barrier and adds about R-35 insulation to under the box. Since I still had more room, I cut a piece of the 3″ thick Terrafoam EPS styrofoam that is under the basement slab (R-15) and fit it up in there, too. You can’t have too much insulation!

Thanks for your interest!

I think that’s more than enough post for one post. In the next two posts I’ll fill you in on the back porch, the landscaping, the bathroom tiles, the heating system, the basement and the new car.

Thanks, as always, for your interest and support. Make sure you check out the BC Government’s new CleanBC programs. In particular, look into the incentives for installing a heat pump of some kind in your home to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.

Happy New Year!

Published by

James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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