Category Archives: Renovations

Repairing Leaning Fence Posts

One side of my fence has been deteriorating for years and leaning towards my side of the property.  When I was out of the country, my friend came over and propped them up with some 2×4’s to keep it from falling.  The posts appear to be set in dirt and not concrete so the proper repair is to replace them which would require rebuilding the entire fence.  You can actually pour the cement mix dry and water it after which makes it a bit easier.

I came across the Simpson Fence Mender at Home Depot in the joist hangers section.  I bought one to try it out since they were relatively inexpensive.  The instruction indicate it should be installed in pairs but I figure a single one should improve the post.

The instructions indicated you should hammer on the indentation to drive it down but it is kind of hard to hit it with a mallet.  I just used a scrap piece of wood and pounded it from the top keeping it as close to the post as possible.

It actually worked pretty good and it was secure enough to remove the bracing and I bought a second one for the neigbouring post.


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Laminate Floor Installation

Browsing Home Depot, I found some 12mm laminate flooring for $1/sq ft.  This was a good deal since thick flooring is better and usually more expensive.  Though my upstairs needs new flooring, I didn’t want a patchwork of different flooring styles but will probably stick with carpet in the living areas and use plank vinyl in the bathroom and kitchen.  The upstairs addition is carpeted and gets dirty from the sliding door entry and I’ve also used the room as a work space.  I bought enough laminate to cover the addition, the foyer and stairs.

In the addition, I considered leaving the baseboards up but the correct thing to do was to remove and reinstall them.  At my parents, “professional” installers left the baseboards and then added quarter round moulding to cover the gap leaving a less finished look.

I borrowed a portable table saw, a chop saw and a laminate cutter.  The cutter was probably meant for thinner laminate since the cuts weren’t very clean with 12mm laminate so I didn’t use it.  When sawing, the good side should be UP when using the table saw or chop saw to minimize chipping the surface.

Next I had to decide if I wanted to use underlay.  Since I was installing on plywood, it wasn’t really necessary but would give the floors a softer feel.  I picked some up at Rona.

With the carpet up, I notice quite a draft coming from one outside wall by the floor.  I noticed the entire wall had been shimmed up about 1/4″ causing a major draft.  I didn’t have any expanding foam insulation so just used a large amount of caulk to try to seal the air leakage.

Back to the flooring.  For the first row, the tongue on the plank needs to be ripped off.  The thickness of the last row also needs to be estimated at this time since you don’t want a 1″ sliver on your last row.  A gap needs to be maintained on the edges to allow for expansion which would be covered by the baseboard.

The instructions indicate joints must be more than 6″ apart so the trick is to stagger the rows while minimizing waste.  I’ve seen installations where the joints on every other row line up and it doesn’t look very natural so I wanted a fairly random stagger pattern.

For the last row, you should measure the thickness at both ends of the plank since the area may not be perfectly square.  I had to redo one plank because of this problem.

Also, I needed to cut around a door jamb to slide the laminate underneath.  A borrowed oscillating saw was the perfect tool to make the cut.

With the floor installed, I replaced the molding and caulked the gaps but didn’t realize I had accidentally purchased clear caulk instead of white since it only dries clear.  Just a minor mistake.

In the entryway, I first removed the existing tile which had been laid on the original vinyl floor.  I contemplated ripping up the vinyl but decided against it.  In the entry way, you do have to worry about the laminate getting wet since water could damage it so I had some tile carpet that I used to rest shoes on.

For the stairs, hardwood nosing would cost about $10 a step while the whole step could be replaced for $30 so I decided against using laminate on the steps.  Replacing the steps will be another future project.

Replacement Vinyl Windows

One of the first major renovations I undertook in 1997 after I bought my house was to upgrade the aluminum, single pane windows with double pane vinyl windows.  Being older, my house is pretty leaky so I didn’t need low-E, argon filled, triple pane windows.  Basic double pane, vinyl slider windows with screens and drop-down locks was sufficient.

The first quote I got for 13 windows was $7469. Yes, I kept all my quotes.

Second quote was $5107 (12 windows) so there was quite a big difference.  The extra window not include here was probably the  single pane decorative glass panel above the entry doors.

Third quote was for $4430 (12 windows).

For major jobs, ALWAYS obtain a written quote so you can compare the total price including taxes and any extra fees.

I liked the style of the windows from the second company better and they said they would price match the lowest quote.  Their quote included tax, screens and installation.

To save some money, I ended up leaving 5 windows unchanged paying $3046.  In hindsight, I should have gotten a loan or bit the bullet to get them all done.

I was home when they did the replacements.  They first took the glass out and then pryed out the aluminum sills.  Some replacement window systems leave the sills in but removing them is better.  The new windows have a “rebate flange” on the outside which was caulked all around and the frame was screwed from the side rails.  In my house, the internal wooden frame was “floating” which the installers didn’t notice.  This caused the interior moulding to have gaps so they had to go back and rescrew some windows.  They also replaced one sill that had rotted.

Eighteen years later and I still haven’t got around to replacing the remaining windows.  Prices have probably gone up and I don’t think the company I used, West Coast Designed Windows, is still in business.   There could be a problem matching the window style but I chose a pretty generic looking slider window.  I will probably attempt replacing most of them myself at some point since all (except for one) is at ground level.


Repairing My Chimney Cap

When I bought my house almost 20 years ago, they had previously installed a gas fireplace in the basement and did a sloppy job on the exhaust pipe which ran up the chimney.  The cap had been removed and the second flue had been exposed.  Only recently did I decide to fix this with a new chimney pot.  I found a masonry supply store nearby, I-XL Masonry, and brought them measurements and pictures to get the correct size of a chimney pot.  I also picked up a small bag of brick mortar at Home Depot in the US.  I could only find large bags in Canada.  Research online indicated I should be casting a chimney crown with a drip edge but this would be too much work.  I would just use the brick mortar to build a small slope on the top edge for rain water to run down.  The first step was to take down the bricks and they came down fairly easy with a small tap of a hammer.  Once I cleaned out all the old mortar leaving a level surface, I installed the new chimney pot.  I also had some scrap metal screen that I used to cover the flue to keep animals out.  I then applied mortar to put a sloped edge along the brick.  I did have to go back on the roof a couple of weeks later since I could hear clanging from the chimney on windy days.  The cap on the new pot wasn’t sitting completely flush and would rock.  I remedied that problem with a little bit more mortar to fill up the space and eliminate the movement.

Painting siding with Behr Ultra Premium Plus

My house is mainly stucco with wood siding for the lower front and side of my house.  The siding was in rough shape and in desperate need of new paint and repairs.  Most of the damage was occurring at the outside corners.  I was able to buy siding at the lumber yard (Sunbury Cedar) for the repair work and 4ft pieces are relatively inexpensive versus longer pieces.  They have a rough and smooth side.  Sunbury Cedar also sells bulk outdoor nails and screws which is typically not available at big box hardware store.  Dick’s Lumber also has bulk fasteners including gold construction screws, drywall screws and roofing nails.    The hardest part in repairing siding is to not damage the piece above the one you are removing since they overlap.  Though you may split the piece, it can be glued and nailed back fairly easily.  For the main part of my house, there is felt paper underneath the siding as a water barrier so you need to be careful you don’t rip it.  The siding which acts as a rail on my deck was also heavily damaged in the corner rotting the wood underneath it and water was getting into my addition.  There was no felt underneath it, just the bare studs.  I was able to find some scrap house wrap at a construction site to put behind the siding in the corner.

With the siding patched, the next step was to scrape away any loose paint and caulk any seams in the siding where water could get in.  I used DAP Dynaflex 230 premium caulk which is recommended for outdoor use.  I also had the cheaper Apex caulk which I typically use for indoor moldings.  Though it is rated for outdoors as well, it has poor reviews when used outside.

Before painting, I cleaned the surfaces with a TSP substitute solution and rinsed the siding with a hose.  Though I have a pressure washer, I didn’t want high pressure water getting into the nooks and crannies of the siding.

After allowing a day or two to dry out completely, I painted with Behr Ultra Premius Plus in satin sheen.  Behr is exclusive to Home Depot and actually very highly rated.

The Behr paint is excellent and covers in one coat easily.  I only used a brush since the area was relatively small.  You do have to touch up areas where the paint may shrink a bit and areas you might have missed.  The paint makes the wood feel like vinyl siding after it dries.  I was only going to do the front and balcony with the one gallon I purchased, but decide to do the side of the addition and shed which ended up being another 2 gallons.

Replace your bright brass door knobs

One day it dawned on me my bright brass door knobs were really dated and it would be a relatively inexpensive reno to change them out along with the door hinges.  Indoor non-keyed knobs have two styles – passage (non-locking) and privacy (locking for bedrooms and bathrooms).  I tested a satin nickel privacy knob from Lowes but thought the knob was a bit small and thought a lever would be a better choice.  I’ve heard that the city of Vancouver building code requires lever knobs because of the aging population.  I purchased Defiant privacy levers from Home Depot in the US for all of the bedrooms.  They have a hefty lever, are reversible for left or right swing, and the latch can fit either a drilled hole or mortised latch.  The downside was they are a bit too easy to open when locked from the outside.  The slot  on the front can be turned with a finger.  Because of that, I bought a Kwikset lever for the bathroom.  It has a small hole in the front than will need a small screwdriver to open.

I purchased matching satin nickel door hinges from Dick’s Lumber.  They were actually cheaper than Home Depot and included screws.


Replace your old shower faucet

If you have an old shower with separate hold and cold taps, you know the pain if someone flushes the toilet or runs hot water elsewhere in the house.  Modern shower valves solve this problem by equalizing water pressure and maintaining temperature if this happens.

I was watching an episode of “Ask This Old House” where they replaced a dual tap shower valve with a newer mixing valve.  The trick was to use a special plate which would cover up the hole left by the old handles.  I decided to attempt this reno on my own tub but instead of using a plate, I would patch the tile.  This would be  a “temporary” fix until I could replace the tub and re-tile the walls.  Replacing the faucet would need to be done in a complete bathroom reno anyways.

I had access to the back of the shower through an access panel in a bedroom closet which made this job much easier.  I was also able to match the almond tile colour with bulk tile found at Lowes (buy a few extra pieces in case of breakage).

One of the trickier parts of the job would be cutting the tile for the openings for both the new valve and spout.  I ended up buying a circular tile cutter from Harbor Freight to do this.

I hadn’t soldered pipes before (only electronics) and had a very old propane torch.  As with any soldering, surfaces need to be very clean and flux needs to be applied.  With the torch, it was a bit difficult to light and took a few attempts so it’s best to do it outside.  When soldering pipes, the joint heats up in seconds.  You want to apply solder letting the heat of the pipe melt the solder and not the heat of flame.  If you make a mistake, you may only have one chance to reheat it to make adjustments.

One problem I had was I dropped the elbow for spout pipe in the floor cavity while trying to re-align it to get it perfectly 90 degrees to the wall.  I had to make a quick trip to Home Depot to get a replacement.  In hindsight, I should have made sure it was supported properly while I soldered it and temporarily put a pipe into it to judge the angle coming out of the wall.

Another problem I spotted, luckily before I started soldering, was that the original spout and taps were not in line with the drain and centered on the wall (not tub).

Another small mistake I made was applying too much adhesive to the tile.  I didn’t dry after a day so I removed it all and tried again with much less.