A Fresh Start

It’s 2018.

Doesn’t it feel like a better year than 2017 already?

We have been living in Hammond Forever House for a full year, having obtained a conditional occupancy permit from the City of Maple Ridge just before Christmas, 2016.

December 27th, 2017 Improved insulation under the roof means the snow melts more slowly

I fear I have settled into a dangerous acceptance of the state the house is in. Have I lost my drive to finish this project? Has my family simply resigned themselves to bare-bulb lighting and unfinished cupboards?

After taking on the teaching of a second LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) class, this one in the evenings, my time to renovate is even more limited.

I’m now looking at getting the last outstanding elements done–things like basement drywall, upstairs windowsills, bathroom tile and the exterior finishes. After the holidays, I’m finding it a struggle to get my head back into the game.

However, I am optimistic for one main reason. I bought a new computer.

Well, it’s not new. (If you have been following you’ll know I hate buying new stuff (because it is wasteful and expensive and has such a huge carbon footprint.) I bought a used MacBook Pro from mid-2012 which Simply Computing had leased out to a University and was now selling for $650. I spent another $120 doubling the RAM to 8GB so it would run faster aaaaaaand so far all is well! Apparently Apple has been selling this same basic computer until about a year ago so it’s not really “old tech.”

Anyway, what this means is that all the photos and videos that were trapped on other devices because my old MacBook was too old and Leanne’s MacBook Air was too full are now at my fingertips.

I can finally go into detail.

There is a lot of detail. Every photo contains so much. For example, in this photo from three weeks ago.

December 26th, 2017


1. The diamond window is the same single pane of glass in its wood frame as it was in 1923 but behind it is a new triple-paned fiberglass-framed window (custom-made by Milgard and ordered via Haney Builders). The wall on either side of that window is now about ten inches thick and full of insulation. I thickened that wall myself based on suggestions from Monte Paulsen at Red Door Energy Design.

2. The new front staircase is the second staircase I have ever made myself and it has exactly the same rise and run and number of stairs as the original. Achieving all that is a story in itself.

3. The chimney and new chimney cap are the work of our master-crafter neighbour, Ron, who stewarded the chimney through the house-lifting and lowering process and then rebuilt it using bricks from the old center chimney that is no more.

Inside the brick is a steel liner and cap which is disguised by the period-appropriate concrete cap. Without Ron, we would have no chimney. Thanks Ron!

4. Then there is the mysterious hot spot at the bottom left corner of the roof. You’ll notice below the chimney there is a hole in the snow. That means enough heat is escaping through the roof to melt the snow in that spot. I suspect that the wall underneath that spot is lacking insulation so the heat from the living room gets into the wall and shoots up to the roof like smoke in a chimney. The solution is going to be finding a way to fill that cavity.

5. Finally, there is the level of the gravel pathway leading to the road. That is the elevation of the future path which will probably be poured concrete as it was before. By the level of the surrounding ground, you can see we’ll be removing about 6 inches more fill to get the yard to a reasonable grade.

Sometimes it feels like we’re going nowhere, but if we look back a couple of years, I feel better. Here is the front porch in August, 2015 just after the house was lifted.

August 21, 2015

Telling the whole story has always been the goal but having promised to do so also kicks my butt to keep going. I find blogging provides inspiration to push through and finish.

Is there any aspect of this project that you’re wondering about? Leave a comment with your questions and I will address them in my upcoming posts.

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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