Sunday, December 09, 2012

Fireplace Reno Nov/Dec 2012

  This one has been on the list for a few years and I finally got to it the past few months. I ripped out the old fireplace mantel and tossed it. The old fireplace was flush with the floor and we wanted it raised up about a foot which added all sorts of complications. In order to lift it up we had to relocate the outside venting upwards 12 inches (cutting a new hole in the outside of the house) and get the gas line moved up accordingly.

There was a large metal cover on the outside of the house that the direct vent came out of and we lucked out because it was 2 feet high. We ended up using some of the empty portion for the new placement. The empty top portion was part of a heat shield and we used that area for the new hole and left a small heat deflector in place. We tested the heat after installation (leaving it on for an hour at full blast) and there was no major heat build-up. All my neighbour's houses with the same gas fireplace just have the single 12x12 inch panel. Why ours was 12x24 inches I'll never know (a screw up at build time? It worked out though).

I built a bench to sit it on (it was sitting on unfinished plywood when I opened up the wall so I knew that would be ok), cut up the drywall, hauled the fireplace out and sat it on the bench. We got a natural gas guy to move the gas-line and do the venting to code.
  At this time we took the opportunity to get rid of the tile hearth and just continued the surrounding hardwood right to the wall.
This was great fun (not) because you had to slice up the existing interlocked boards with  a saw, chisel them out and then wack the new ones into place with a hammer and another piece of wood in between to keep them nice and un-dented. When they were in place I just pre-drilled holes and screwed them down as opposed to renting a nail gun. I found some long narrow screws for the job and they worked great.  With the hardwood done it was time for the stone veneer.

I had purchased a wire mesh backing at first, with the intent of screwing it into the studs for re-enforcement but took it back after doing a lot of reading and talking to various people. This types of stone is meant to go directly onto drywall (lick and stick). The stone came in boxes of 24x6 inches so each box did 6 square feet. I calculated the facing area of the fireplace wall, both the 3 inch deep sides, minus the hole for the fireplace, minus the mantel, added 10% for wastage (in the end I had 5 tiles left in case we have an earthquake and some fall off).

It was winter and snowing so what better time to get out the wet saw and start cutting! Tip to other Canadian December do-it yourselfers. Fill the water tray with boiling water. Because the stone sets have interlocking corners, it's easy to lop one off these "ears" off and keep it for use on the far side when need be. Another tip someone gave me was to use pre-mixed mortar bought in a big tub. With the correct mixture every time, you're guaranteed a consistent adhesive all across your project.
I laid a coat of mortar on the wall and scraped with with a notched trowel and back-buttered each tile before tapping it into place with a rubber hammer. When stuff came squiring out the sides I knew I had good adhesion (wipe off the excess with a warm wet cloth). I checked each stone piece with a level before moving on, shimming slightly here and there with sticks to maintain a good level (these stones are not totally level and neither was my floor/wall). I installed a mantel and that made for some interesting cuts around that and the fireplace switch box (I brought this out about half an inch to be flush with the stone). For these cuts and the angled ones on the ceiling I used an angle finder and made paper forms which I then traced onto the stone. If anything, i went a little big, test-fitted and then went back to trim until it fit perfectly. For the sides I just cut a pile of 3 inch wide pieces and stuck them in place. In most cases the front piece stuck out to form an overhang of about a half inch. Due the the variance in the thickness's of the stone it was impossible to be flush everywhere so I didn't really try. It makes for some very interesting adjoining pieces and I actually like it like that.

The stuff was pretty easy to work with if you know your way around a wet-saw and it's hard to make it look bad if you know what I mean. Thank got it's finished so I can go back to killing Zombies on by Xbox and playing guitar....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Taylor lake Yurt Gatineau Park 2011-12-18

Tripper, Kenmore and I made our annual winter camping hike into Gatideau park this year a week before Christmas 2011. There wasn't enough snow to ski in so we walked it the old fashioned way. I had finally picked up one of those "Canada Goose" winter coats that make you look like some sort of arctic scientist/explorer (I've been seeing people in the bush with them for the past few years and have been wanting one for awhile) and the darn thing is TOO warm. I was sweating bullets after the first hour.

What I like about it though, is the absolute ubiquitous orgy of pockets and zippers everywhere, not to mention the huge sewn-in strap at the back to make it easy for your buddies to haul your body out of the woods should anything go wrong.

There was a nice sheen of ice on the lakes when we went in. Not strong enough to chance a walk on but strong enough to bounce big rocks off of (see the vid).

I skipped bringing a sleeping back this trip, because I have not ever needed them in past trips, the cottages and huts, etc being so warm you just sleep without one. This trip was the first time we stayed in a YURT though. A thing about YURTS.. They cool down right fast when the fire goes out. A funny by-product of this is that the guy with the lowest Celsius grade sleeping bag (make that no sleeping bag) wakes up cold in the dead of night and is going to be the one who restarts Mr Fire so he doesn't freeze to death while the other two guys (I know they're awake) pretend to be asleep.

The insides are pretty snazzy, plenty of room to get around in. The sides of the thing look like a heavy vinyl material (nothing that would stop a bear or other large mammal intent on gettin' at ya). The main feature is a huge skylight that you could crank open a touch with a long pole. The inner walls are supported with a lattice of old-fashioned baby gates. The bunks were adequate, a 6 foot person just able to fit and brush the bottom of your feet on the metal rails. 

The wood burning stove was plenty warm, just that it needed stoking about 3 times during the night (by Mr No Sleeping Bag here).. There was even a gas stove for us to cook on. After eating way too much food - it's easier to carry it out inside you than in your backpack the next day(  actually depending on how your body works, there might not be all that much to carry back. There's this type of bowel movement called "The $h1t of Life"!)

I had brought my mini Washburn Rover "travel" guitar up and we had a concert to end the evening off. All in all it was a good hike up. I'd do a Yurt again, just remember to pack a sleeping bag. In the cabins, you don't seem to need them. The next day we hiked out over some fresh snow, took in some nice natural ice sculptures, and stumbled into some place they store a pile of extra equipment in the Park, including the BEAR CAGES. This is a towable cage that you stock with some type of attractant (like a poodle or something) and when the bear goes in it slams shut and you can truck him outta there. It must be very disturbing to have one of these show up in the camp site next to you out of the blue.

All in all a good trip. If you join us next year, remember you don't need a sleeping bag (I want someone else to get up in the middle of the night and fix the fire)

Friday, November 18, 2011

"I wonder if I can eat that human?"

The Coyotes out back were big this year. There's a guy who walks his Golden Retriever out there and I know how big that dog is and there are a few of these Coyotes that appear to be the same size. This guy was trotting in for a better look but took off when I cracked a bullwhip. Everyone once in awhile a pack of them will nab something at night out there and they yip and yap for hours as they gather around the dinner table. Sometimes a fire truck going by at night also sets them off, which is pretty funny (must sound like one big coyote to them).

Coyotes can be dangerous. Check this crazy guy out. The thing is trying to eat him. They are pretty though.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Everyone's first Mistake in Skyrim...

Was mine as well...It goes something like this. "Hey, what's that? A Giant? I wonder if I can kill it?"

Then they take a kind of up-swing with that stick with the large rock affixed to it and you get a great view of Skyrim from space.It happens to everyone the first time they go to do this, so much so that people post  memes on image boards. Skyrim is they best RPG to come around in a long time.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Acoustic Guitar video tutorial of John Mayer's live version of "Neon" from Where the Light is with TAB

I finally got around to making a video tutorial off my TAB of this cool piece I transcribed back in December 2010 after going on Youtube and seeing countless people butcher the thing. (see previous post here).

First off, the latest tab is here

This is the video for the Intro:

This is the video for the middle part:
And this is the performance it is taken from.. Awesome stuff!

Bluesfest storm broke my tree

That big storm that chased "Cheap Trick" off the stage at Bluesfest this summer minutes before it collapsed also snapped the trunk of the tree in my front yard. I tried re-seating it and propping it up with straps (most of the roots were still intact, it had developed a root collar from being planted too deep) but it wasn't going to work. Thankfully we had some friends with lottsa land and we went and picked out a tree. At first I was looking at HUGE trunk diameters but then quickly realized that if the tree was going to be removed by hand, it was gonna have to be of the Charlie Brown variety. Maybe we can give it tree steroids this spring....

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Interlock project from Hell Summer 2011

We were tired of the boring paving stones that came with our house and all of our neighbors were getting snazzy interlock entrances done so we decided to give it a go ourselves. My wife designed an intricate multilevel circular design with intersecting cuts and we got a line on a place that supplies the home stores with brick (why buy from Rona when you can buy from the place that sells to Rona?) so we got a catalog and went out to the place to choose the brick. The place only sells to contractors and I had a friend who did contracting on the side who would place the order for us when we were ready. My wife and her friend had designed the layout in Autocad with a ton of measurements and one nice sunny day we went out to spray paint the design on the front lawn. With the design being made up of four huge circles (the largest being an almost 19 foot arc) the best way to do this was to stake out sticks at the radius points, attach pieces of string cut to the proper radius length to the sticks and follow the extent of the arc leaving a spray paint trail behind.

Holy crap it was huge. We won't have any lawn left. The early design also incorporated a pathway that seemed to drop off into space and probably create work for me later (follow the yellow brick road) and two built-in planter areas for bushes or flowers (heck a tree if you wanted). The pathway ended up cutting right to the neighbors property line so we had to simplify. The circles all got tightened up, the pathway disappeared, we only left a single planting area and we got something we both liked. We had picked out a wall product and pavers so now it was time to order the stuff. We started by staking out the new design, spraying it onto the lawn again in a different color and checking all the measurements one last time.

It took me three days to figure out how much product to order - and that was with a hyper-accurate plan. One of the problems was that I had to impersonate a contractor in that I had to pretend to know what I was doing. Contractors order by skid layers. Johnny homeowners like me walk into home depot, grab a cart, and start piling bricks into it. When I screw up and need more, I go back and buy more. So how many blocks in a skid layer? I spend a day googling charts on the Internet until I found palette layouts I needed. What sucks about ordering by the skid layer is, if you get 16 blocks in a skid layer and you only need 8 blocks then you get another 8 just for fun! Contractors also deal in some weird measurements like wall square footage. I don't need to know that, my wall is two bricks high for the most part, I just have to know how long and how many levels of brick I'm piling up. So I had to simplify a lot of the numbers to make sense of them. The capping was weird too, they have this formula you so where you take your linear footage and multiply by 2.68 to get the number of modules you need, and a module seemed to be a collection of three bricks,an A, a B, and a C. I spent half a day staring at the front lawn trying to visualize where everything would go and when I ran into problems in my head I realized that I needed a 3D model to be sure I had it right.

I used Google 3D sketch up to mock up the interlock layout in 3 dimensions and that's where the problems began to show up. When it was designed, the layout did not take the dimensions of the product into account. We had worked out a 5 and a half inch step height but had bought a product that was 3 and a half inches high. Quickly we changed the design to use a 7 inch step so each step ended up being 2 bricks high. The way walls are made there should be a hidden row underneath for the wall to sit on so you end up buying a whole row of wall just to bury it :-). Excavation was also an interesting proposition. I wanted 12 inches of crushed stone underneath everything but since my lawn slopes up to the house and the design was a bunch of terraced landings I figured I probably didn't have to dig up the whole front lawn. Turns out I had plenty to dig (underneath the outside of all the walls and the first two circle landings) but the rest of it was piles of crushed stone. Getting rid of the earth was easy, I just dumped it in my back yard to level off the back of my property. The crushed stone was also readily available at a small quarry up the road for $32 a loader bucket full (my Dad has a trailer and I must have done 7 runs to the place and emptied with a shovel all on the front lawn).

A few days later the skids showed up on a delivery truck and there was a small problem with the order my contractor friend had put in. The supplier had misunderstood and I was missing about 34 capping blocks. I had to make a trip out to the place to pick up the missing blocks after weighing the A,B,and C ones on my bathroom scale and calculating it to be 1400 pounds (They weighed 57, 37.5 and 27.5 pounds respectively). I needed to make sure the truck I used would be able to take it. Knowing the weights of the stones was useful when the forklift operator pulled up to the truck and let me know I was going to lift them off individually by hand and load my truck with them. Woohoo!

The next day I started laying out the wall and the caps. The first level was ok, the second one was better and the third one was pretty much perfect so I went back and recut the first one. I discovered that in order to cut a nice curve you need to place the two blocks side by side on a curve, measure the outside edge of the triangular space created by the curve and distrubute it evenly across the front of the bricks where they touch side by side. This gives you radian shaped wedges that form a natural curve. Fortunately I was able to borrow a cutter. Unfortunately the cutter only had a 3 inch cutting depth and I had 3 and a half inch blocks. That meant I had to cut every block at least twice, on the top and again on the bottom. Furthermore, the blocks were 12 inches long and the max length I could cut was 10 inches. That meant each block was actually cut 4 times, top, bottom, front, back. A lot of blocks were cut on both sides so that was 8 cuts per block. I got fancy in the areas where the bricks met at the curved arcs and recessed them (so it looked like it was coming out of the wall). I cut a lot of blocks.....

As I was outside doing all of this fun stuff I got mistaken for a contractor no less then 3 times. Neighbors would wander over and ask for a quote. Then I'd take my safety sunglasses off and they'd go "Oh sorry, I didn't recognize you, Oh so you're doing this yourself." Other neighbors that caught on to this would come over and offer advice. Most of it I already knew and had researched but one or two had some great tips. It's amazing how many people think that landscaping fabric is there to stop weeds. Weeds need sunlight and the seeds come in from the top and wedge between the cracks of your brick. The landscape fabric is there to prevent the soil from creeping into the crushed stone and shifting it. It provides a barrier between the two materials.

One guy alerted me to the fact that I was building some Hornet condominiums into my design by leaving nooks and crannies in the back. I took his advice and back-filled the hell out of them with large stone the little buggers won't be able to excavate.

As far as product ordering, it was pretty good. I was missing ONE capping block (think I was going to order a skid for one block?). I went back to the brick place and they gave me a demo block for free. It was not exactly like the other ones but it would do where it was going.

When I got to the bottom row, I ran into my last gotcha. I had not taken the slope of my lawn into account where it encroached on the design. I had to cover a 1 foot drop over 3 or 4 feet and it just wasn't happening. The angle looked horrible. It looked like I needed a whole new step (Hey, on the bright side, I was able to order my missing CAP and throw away the stand-in demo one).

Tips I'd follow if I was to do it all over again..
1. Take the dimensions of your brick into account during the design phase. If your brick is 3 1/2 high, consider a step height of 3 1/2 or 7 inches..
2. Don't forget that the top of your landing is kind of like a step (Doh!)
3. Nothing beats a 3d Mockup on your PC to find your mistakes before you make them.
4. Don't forget to take the slope of your land into account.
5. Tamp and compact they hell out of your crushed stone THROUGHOUT the process and wet with water between tampings. It helps later on. 
6. There's no such thing as TOO level. Get it perfect everywhere.
7. Don't aim your brick cutter at anything you don't want coated with a fine film of sand-blasted goop.
8. Do every step of the process the best you can make it. It's not worth doing it over later on.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My Mom. Defender of Tim Hortons staff everywhere.

From the "I wonder where I get it from department" . A few weeks ago my Mom was in the local Tim Hortons and this guy got in line behind her. He was a short body-builder guy with very expensive sunglasses and rolled up sleeves so you could see how much time he spent on his enormous biceps. He wasn't in line right, he was kinda half-way between the entrance to the toilets and the area where you'd think a line would start so when some other people came in behind him, stepped around him, and got served before him and he lost it.

"Is anyone going to ^%$(*&^*%$ serve me?" He yelled. Everyone looked at him. "This has got to be the worst &%#$@% Tim Hortons in the city!" He screamed. My Mom had sat down by the window with her friend and being my Mom she could not just sit there and uhh, let the guy make an ass of himself. She had to help.

"No it isn't!" she yelled. "This is a great Tim Hortons! The service is excellent!"

The guy looked at her and told her to "No one's talking to you lady, butt out and mind your own business!"

To which she said "Yes it is, what you said was wrong, and you're the one yelling at everyone in here, you could be talking to me"

"Well I'm not talking to you! This is none of your &$%*&% business!" (again with the potty mouth)

At which point my Mom said: "It's everyone's business. You're screaming like an A-hole!"

She actually said Letter "A" plus "Hole"... Then he said:

"No lady I'm a F@cking A$$hole!!"

"Is that how you talk to a 64 year old lady!" My Mom said.

"That's how I talk to 64 year old ladies who don't mind their own f@cking business! F%$# this I'm leaving!"

Then my Mom gave him the finger. She has this thing where she checks her hand to make sure she has the right one because sometimes she uses her index finger to give people the finger by mistake.

So the guy goes outside and gets in his red sports car and slams the door and looks at her through the window, revving the engine. He is parked right in front.. And my Mom notices and yells:

"HEY! He's parked in the HANDICAPPED SPACE!" and the guy tore out of there.

My Mom.. Protector of the Tim Horton's Universe.

I take after my Dad....