Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hardwood flooring and back to the job world

My idyllic life as a house husband came to an end this week. For the past 2 months I have been renovating our house, painting and installing flooring, cleaning, and making lunches and suppers for Rani. The projects are not done, but it's time to earn, what cruisers Lin and Larry Pardey call 'Freedom Chips'. I am back at the CHISEL research lab at the University of Victoria working for the professor who supervised my Masters thesis a few years ago. I will also be teaching a third year computer science at the university on systems analysis, starting in September. Meanwhile, the renovations continue...

After the vinyl flooring was finished, we moved on to the living room and hallway, removing the old paneling in the living room (2 layers of it on one wall!).

Living room exposed drywall. The back of the paneling is quite a nice mahogany like ply.

The walls under the paneling were dry-walled, thankfully, so all I had to do was fill in some unfinished areas and all the nail holes from the paneling. Note the delightful russet coloured carpet and the back of the old fridge.

We painted the living room ceiling (it was stained brown from cigarette smoke etc), the walls (a llight grey green) and the hallway (a lighter shade of the kitchen yellow).

Hallway with new paint and old carpet.

We also painted the living room floors after soaking various spots along the walls with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to remove cat odours.

Painted subfloor - paint was recycled from an enviro-depot. Walls are painted a light grey green.

I could not find a second hand manual hardwood nailer locally at a decent price and renting an air powered nailer would cost $80 per day, but I managed to find one through craigslist in Winnipeg and the owner posted it to us for a total cost of $70, including a couple of boxes of nails.

The nailer is made in Quebec and is designed for the DIY crowd
because you can strike it multiple times to set each nail. 

The nailer did not come with a mallet, so I taped discs of vinyl flooring to my 2.5 lb pocket sledge hammer and another disc on the nailer face to cushion the blow. It takes me 3 or 4 blows to set a nail and I have managed to jam the thing twice so far, requiring a disassemble to free it up. However it works very well, driving heavy 2 inch nails into the tongue of each board at 45 degrees. The alternative, and what you do when you near a wall is to pre-drill for 2" finishing nails and nail each one by hand, setting the nail in with first the side of a nail set and then its point. 

Chris using the nailer.

Some of the hardest bits are around doorways and entrances. There are 9 of these in the hallway and living room! 3 Closets, 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, and the kitchen and dining room entrances. Each requires undercutting trim so that the flooring will slide under it as well as cutting complex threshold pieces. I picked up a nice old Rockwell table saw to do these longer beveled cuts.

Beveled piece bridging kitchen to hallway. The nails holes will be filled with
putty and the raw wood varnished to match.

The flooring job should be finished by the time Rani flies to th UK to visit he parents and relatives in a couple of weeks. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Installing vinyl roll flooring in a moderately complex room

The new vinyl flooring (slate tile look) is finally complete. It took about a week longer than I had originally thought it would (almost like a software development project!)

For those of you who might be thinking of replacing your flooring in the kitchen or perhaps a laundry area, here is what we went through to DIY this:

We started by removing the old carpet, which was well glued down. Ironically, our carpet installer remembered installing this carpet in the kitchen a few years back. He did a very thorough job of it, using plenty of glue.

This is the old flooring - carpet with 1960's era tiles.

Next we peeled off the tiles. Opinions vary on this and it appears that most professionals will opt to level the existing tiles in place if they are pretty solid. This is partly a cost thing and partly because the old tiles and adhesive may contain asbestos, which requires special removal gear and permits. I am pretty sure our tiles do contain asbestos, so I was careful not to break them where possible. Here is a website that will help you identify if your tiles contain asbestos (isn't the Internet great!:

I used Rani's iron to get each tile nice and warm to melt the adhesive enough to lift. It takes about 2 minutes per 1 ft square tile - 16 seconds at 6 different iron positions. The iron is at a cotton setting and I put a piece of newspaper between it and the tile to avoid marring the base of the iron or melting the tile. Fumes weren't an issue unless I got bored and let the iron sit for too long in one spot.

Iron set on Cotton. Note scraper used to get things started. The grey area has already been leveled (I did the tile lifting in stages and leveling the sticky black areas allowed me to move around the kitchen without getting stuck in the tarpit.

Half way through the tile removal and leveling process.

The 'cutback adhesive' is a black gooey tar compound, which may also have asbestos fibers in it. The reason I did not worry too much about this is that these fibers are pretty well trapped and unlikely to get airborne. This adhesive must be either removed (tricky and potentially messy) or covered completely to prevent any bleed-through into the vinyl flooring that will sit on top. To do this and to level the floor I used Planipatch with Planipatch Plus additive. The latter is used in place of water and apparently makes the whole thing more flexible and also a better sealer. It is certainly an expensive gallon of liquid - about $30 and appears to be a dilute white glue. I used close to a gallon and about 10 lbs of the patching compound to level the floor. It is applied thin in a slurry - much thinner than plaster and then spread with a trowel. Then you sand it (not too bad as it does not kick up a lot of dust) and then fill in the bits you missed to make the floor level. I did this a few times in selected areas where the plywood sheets did not quite meet evenly or there were defects in the wood.

When the floor is level and all baseboards and appliances removed, it is time to measure the room. Pros no doubt do this on the fly and dispense with a template, but I chose to make a giant paper template out of butcher paper taped together because the room is quite complex with two closets, a few doorways, and a jutting counter. The triangles in the picture are where the template is stuck down to the floor to prevent shifting.
Templating the first half of the room.

The room is just over 12 feet across and about 21 feet long, so to make things simpler, I decided to lay two pieces about 11 feet by 12.5 feet each and join them down the middle with a seam. This is tricky stuff to get just right, so I was quite good at procrastinating over the 2 or 3 days before I cut into the vinyl!

Vinyl roll laid out to template and mark on our living room carpet.

For marking and cutting, you need to lay out the vinyl on a large flat surface. Some people use their driveways but ours is quite wonky, so I used the living room floor. Ideally we would have taken up the carpet and done this on the plywood, but I was not ready to do this yet, so I very carefully traced the template outline on the vinyl  leaving lots of allowance for trimming later. It turned out that I should have trusted the template because in almost all cases I ended up trimming back to the template lines and this trimming added hours to the job.

 Here us the first half dry fitted. There is a closet around the right corner and one on the near right.

Try to do this with a real slate or ceramic tile!

The second piece was rough cut based on tape measurements and then laid over the first piece to cut the seam along a shared 'grout' line. The finished seam is shown below.

Seam is along the horizontal line nearest the top of the picture.

I then templated the second half by lining up the butcher paper with the first half and covering the rest of the room. I also allowed some tolerance here and did much trimming back to make the vinyl fit around counters and corners.

Ready to glue - the seam runs right down the middle of the room, so I was very careful when I cut and aligned it!

The next step was to apply the adhesive. This is done in two goes for each half, rolling back the bit to be glued and then rolling it out over the glue using a rolling pin and hands to work out bubbles and spread the glue. 

Installing adhesive. This tub cost about $40 or $50 dollars - yikes! The tile to the left is the 2nd piece that has been dry fitted.

And voila - here is the finished result:

Rani enjoying our 'new' kitchen.

View into the dining area. The air conditioner still has to go - a project for next month.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

10 things to know before sailing to Mexico from Canada and/or the Pacific Northwest

We just visited a couple who are leaving from Comox on a Coast 34 to sail to Mexico. Before the visit, I tried to think of a short list of things I wished we had known before we sailed. Here it is, admittedly incomplete and uneven in importance :)

1. Checking in to the US. The coast is divided into different jurisdictional areas. If from Canada, you must check in to US customs and immigration (obviously), but you also need to phone in to each new area as you proceed down the coast. You can get a list of phone numbers and names for each area to call when you first check in. Carrying a cell phone is useful because otherwise you have to land and find a land line to call from.

2. Liability insurance is required in Mexico by marinas and storage yards. It is quite inexpensive and we have been told you only need the minimum (costs about $200) because the Mexican legal system is not supportive of huge law suits. You can buy liability insurance beforehand via phone or online.

3. When you sign in to Mexico and get a temporary import permit (TIP) you will need your engine serial numbers. You can also buy a TIP online, we have heard.

4. Almost all the paper and electronic charts are very inaccurate in Mexico - especially in the Sea of Cortez and south. They are off by miles and not consistent in their inaccuracy. Some newer GPSs allow you to correct for this and there are some electronic charts that have been corrected, but do not rely on your GPS position corresponding with the chart without verifying this. The detailed chart for Ensenada in the chart book we used was off by 2 miles!

5. You will need to clean your hull much more often in the warm, rich waters, particularly near river mouths. You can hire local divers who use compressors at marinas for about 1 US dollar per foot of boat length (or water line length in some cases). If you do it yourself, plan on becoming very good at holding your breath or use compressed air.

6. In some places small jelly fish are an issue while snorkeling. Wearing leggings and long sleeve shirts helps or you can use a full wet suit or lycra jelly fish suit.

7. Dental work and medical work is cheap and of decent quality. We had our teeth cleaned for $35 by a dentist who did a thorough job. We talked to cruisers who had mole removal and other minor operations for far less than they would cost up north. Quality of care varies so ask local cruisers for advice.

8. A reliable autopilot with back up or in addition to a wind vane make the long downwind sail less stressful. We were always worried that our little wheel pilot would fail.

9. There is an excellent newer guide to cruising the Sea of Cortez available from a lovely cruising couple who publish it themselves in Washington state:  See  It is hard to buy in Canada, but can be picked up along the way (Downwind Marine in San Diego has them) or you can order it online. It is far superior to the other guides we bought that are more general (Raines, Charlies Charts).

10. There are a few food/drink things that are hard to get or very expensive in Mexico: Nuts, good chocolate (Trader Joes is a good place to stock up in California), good inexpensive wines (buy in California), black tea (the Mexicans seem to mainly drink herbal teas and coffee), sharp cheeses (most Mexican cheeses are softer and have a milder flavour).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

House Renos

Rani is back working part time at a couple of pharmacies in Duncan and I am renovating our vintage 1972 house. A couple of weeks into the renovation my brother Mike, and his wife Wallapak, daughter Claire, and mother in law showed up and spent the weekend here. Everyone camped out on borrowed air mattresses - great fun!

Our new to us house on Carmel Drive in Duncan.

Sample of the decor - lilac fixtures in the bathroom

Louis XIV towel hanger

Multi-level beige carpet in living room

The kitchen needed a bit of cleaning. I used a kg of TSP, 3 tablespoons per bucket at a time to clean the walls and ceilings. It took 4 days of scrubbing to get rid of years of deep fat frying and smoking residues!

Painting the ceiling made the 'white' even whiter.

Kitchen paint finished. Carpet is being removed.

The vinyl roll flooring looks like slate but is easier to install and warmer on the feet. This will go in the kitchen/dining area. We will install real hardwood (on the left of the picture) in the living room and hall.

Our friends Del and Ann dropped by and lent us some portable scaffolding (very useful for painting) as well as a folding table. We will be in camping mode until we get the kitchen flooring installed and then plan to move in some furniture while I put in the hardwood floor.

My brother Mike and family visited. This is the first time I have seen Claire, who was born in Thailand last August.

Our wash basin is just the right size for Claire.

We have finally finished the bedrooms - new paint, light fixtures, and carpet. Here I am scraping off the underlay, which in the bedroom has decomposed and stuck like glue to the plywood underlay. Not designed to last 40 years apparently (although the better underlay under the living room carpet appears solid!) Note that my smile is fake.

Bedroom painted and floor painted. Ready for carpet install.

Completed master bedroom with elegant borrowed inflatable mattress. Will paint the gold ceiling fixture white.  (Our neighbors gave us 2 fixtures that they rescued from the recyclers).

I am currently removing the fairly recent carpet from the kitchen dining area and will level the old tiles before putting in the roll flooring.

We are re-using the carpet on our deck and entranceway. While it is not outdoor carpet, these areas are protected to some extent. Better than the green astro turf look anyway...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nova Scotia and Driving Across Canada

As promised, here are a few pics from our visit to Nova Scotia and our cross Canada drive. Rani had met most of my friends in Nova Scotia on her last 2 visits. This time it was my turn to meet her many friends in Ontario and beyond.

We visited with my parents near Bridgewater and even got a brief sail in one day. Dad's boat is the yellow one in the background. I helped Dad put in the wharf and launch the boat.

Dad is expanding the vegetable garden this year.

Mum is working in the 1/3 acre vineyard - certainly the neatest vineyard we saw in our travels.

Patricia and Lucy Traves show us what they have planned for the garden this year. Mike picked us up at the airport after we rolled into Dartmouth after our 1.5 day flight from Phoenix (Thankyou, Thankyou!).

We also visited with Fraser and Jean Howell. The maple trees were productive this year and they gave us a jar of syrup from their own sugar shack to take home with us.

And with Curtis McIntyre - my old buddy from Unisys.

Next, we drove through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, stopping to visit friends along the way before entering Maine. We stopped in the seaside towns of Camden and Rockport, where I got my fill of wooden boats and introduced Rani to this part of the world.

We also stopped at L.L. Bean to buy a new fleece for Rani and to drool over all the lovely camping and outdoors gear and clothing.

The camping part of this trip was not ideal. Heavy rain the first night showed us that my little 2 man tent is far from waterproof and we woke up floating on our thermarest mattresses. The next day, we did get a hike in and dried out in a hotel in New Hampshire.

We left the motel with all our gear dry and restowed and headed for Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Presidential range at about 6200 feet. Pictured here are a group of snow boarders headed for the cabins at the base of a bowl where there is still spring skiing.

Near the peak, the trail is marked by cairns and the flora is alpine.

It was very windy on the top of Mount Washington - nearly 60 mph and cold.

Rani makes sure the hut does not blow away.

From New Hampshire we drove through Vermont and up to Montreal, where we visited my friend Bruce McNab, with whom I played trumpet at McGill University 25 years ago. We headed to a cottage in the Laurentians where Bruce kept me out of trouble scrubbing algae off rocks and painting the boat house.

Dinner at the cottage with Olga, little Catherine, and Bruce.

" You missed a spot!" Bruce puts his MBA to good use.

Next we drove into Ontario where we stayed with Roxy and Patrick and their daughter Natasha at their lovely home in Unionville just outside of Toronto.

We visited Niagara Falls on our (somewhat convoluted) way to Hamilton, Sarnia, and Windsor.

The Maid of the Mist gives perspective to the falls.

There was a lovely display of hydrangeas at the botanical gardens at Niagara Falls.

We had little time to stop along the way, but managed to fit in a short hike or two, in this case around some wetlands along Lake Erie.

In London, we visited with Neeta and Nikita, friends from when Rani lived in Windsor in the 90's

In Sarnia we visited with Karen, another pharmacy friend.

And in Windsor we visited several friends, including Joy, Terry, and Terry's daughter Sarah. Rani lived in Windsor for several years, so on some days we visited up to 20 people!

In Windsor, we stayed with Rani's old friend Raj, whose wife, Kash was away on a course unfortunately.

After we left Ontario, it was back to camping. We drove through Detroit and across the US on the I-80n and I-90, enjoying less expensive gas, good highways, and great scenery. I finally waterproofed the floor of our little tent after another wet night.

Rani inspects the comfortable interior of a pioneer covered wagon in Wyoming.

We visited Angelita, another Ontario friend, in Sheridan,Wyoming.

Then a few more nights camping and we were back in BC! Note the triple tarp approach - one over the tent, one under, and one inside. Of course it did not rain that hard after we did all this, but at least we were bone dry!