Back at it

July 25th, 2016

Monday, July 25

Monday, July 25

After an initial flurry of activity beginning mid June, everything came to an abrupt halt as we waited for our natural gas distributor, Fortis, to relocate our gas line and meter.  So although we are more than five weeks from our start date, there have only been two weeks of actual work.  However Fortis finally delivered last week.  They were here maybe 90 minutes. did their thing,  and then off they went.  Our crew is now back at it, prepping for footings and foundations.  The surveyor is scheduled for tomorrow morning.  It is his task to plot the corners of the new build, exactly, so that the foundations end up in the right places.

With the resumption of activity comes the resumption of new issues.  Like the original foundation walls of this century old structure.  Not only do they need TLC, they needs shoring up.  Yet another item not originally contemplated when cost estimates were done.  Speaking of which, we are meeting this week with Warren to review the project so far.  Part of this will include an updated time line and an updated cost estimate.  I think I mentioned that we are doing this project on a cost plus rather than fixed price basis.  I suppose that it is issues like this tired and wholly inadequate foundation wall that help demonstrate the risks of the unknowns additional costs in a renovation project.  I do not expect the total project costs to go down.

Our laundry room has now been disassembled, as you can see from the photo.  Our neighbour’s garage is still standing, as you can also see, waiting for it’s retaining wall to be poured.  This may occur later this week.  We shall see.

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In the pits

June 29th, 2016

 

June 27

Our first week of construction involved clearing the site and excavating in order to pour footings for the new structure.   Knowing we were finally underway helped us cope with the noise and seeming chaos in the backyard.  Why do construction vehicles always seem to be travelling in reverse with their incessant beep beep beep warning?  Seems to me they are noisy enough and big enough that everyone in the vicinity knows where they are.  You know where the guy operating the jackhammer is, but you are surprised that there is only one given the wall of sound they create.

Less than a week in and we have come to a standstill.  Why?  Our natural gas distributer, the sole arbiter of where the gas line and meter will be relocated, has yet to appear to make a decision.  Phone calls from pissed-off customers – even good ones like us – have no effect.

Meanwhile, the crack in the wall of our neighbours garage seems to have stopped widening.  Right now it’s being help up by piles of dirt until the retaining wall, which you can see formed, is poured.  This can’t be done until some temporary drainage is sorted out, the fear being another downpour too close to pouring concrete could cause problems.  We had several lovely pools in the backyard for a while.  (Sigh)

Still, we are underway.

 

 

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Day 1

June 16th, 2016

June 15th has become construction Day 1.  Here is what the backyard looked like at the end of the day.

Day 1

Our daughter Kim, home temporarily from Australia, has fashioned a holster for the camera.  It’s mounted on the fence and so what I plan to do is include a photo, fixed from this angle, each post.  Over time our new housing reality will reveal itself.  We have been assured that the back corner of the back yard is ‘safe’ from the ravages of construction, but judging by the way the piles of dirt seem to be shifting around and spreading out, I’m not so sure.  It’s tempting to say I’m going to do a daily photo, but then, why set myself up to fail?

It was pretty exciting when Tara the digger arrived with her machine, signifying an important turning point in the project – either the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end – never sure which.  The beginning, the 18 months of planning leading up to this day, had many highs and lows.   No doubt these ups and downs will continue as events reveal themselves.  Like Day 1, where the excitement of the first few shovelfuls taken was tempered by the fact that our neighbour’s garage foundation (the white wall on the left) needs some shoring up lest it collapse into the pit along with our good neighbourly relations.

Just about the only thing that won’t be measured on an up and down scale is the construction costs.  They only move one way – up!  Actually that’s not true as our first architect, the negligent one, refunded several thousands of dollars of fees when his errors were revealed.  Not all of his fees, mind you, just enough to avoid death and dismemberment at the hands of his incredulous clients.

 

 

 

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Contractual arrangements

June 13th, 2016

Today we signed a contract with our builder. A big step. After all, we are now depending on Warren and his crew to construct the addition that we, with the help of our architect, have envisioned. Furthermore, we really hope that by the time the construction debris is hauled away we will have spent no more than what the estimated costs are. Ya, Right! you say. Do you have a sister named Dorothy? The process of choosing a builder was challenging to say the least. You really put your (financial) life in their hands, given the ‘cost plus’ nature of the contract. Sure, a fixed fee arrangement is possible, however, with renovations the uncertainty of what surprises are hiding behind existing walls is apparently daunting enough that the hedging of bets makes this option significantly more expensive.

Finally!

Finally!

In any event a deposit has been paid and as of June 6th, our building permit has been issued and we are ready to go! Well not quite ready as our (new) line of credit will not be available to us until June 24th. What? This project has been in the works for months and you still don’t have financing in place? To answer this question we must step back in time a year or more. As a long time employee and now pensioner of TD Bank I naturally asked ‘my bank’ to arrange the necessary financing. At the beginning, 18 months or so ago, our plan was (and still is) to borrow the funds to build and then essentially have Blake repay the resulting loan over time. In retrospect it seems I overestimated my creditworthiness when it comes to current bank lending practices. After all, I am just a poor pensioner with very little income. No wonder no bank is keen on lending me much money. BMO, not TD eventually agreed to lend the amount we thought we needed and so we happily carried on borrowing little bits from them here and there as the various professionals – architects, surveyors, engineers, municipalities, submitted their invoices. As the total project costs started to come more into focus during the contractor bid process last month, we realized we needed a higher ceiling on our loan arrangements – just in case. However, BMO was not interested in increasing the existing line of credit as my income was deficient to justify any increase. They were ‘as far as they could go’ without setting up some form of construction financing. Blake suggested we talk to his bank, Vancity Credit Union, to see if they could offer a suitable alternative. Sure enough, a higher mortgage secured line of credit has been arranged. However, it wasn’t the value of the security that allowed for a higher limit, it was Blake’s co-signature on the loan. Without it, we are just a couple of house-rich pensioners. With it, we are still a couple of house rich pensioners, but ones with a line of credit sufficient to make the changes we want. How ironic that it is the son co-signing for the parents and not the other way around. Regardless, it seems a fitting borrowing arrangement given our plan all along has been for Blake and Lauren to take responsibility for the loan. And so a happy ending for financing.

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Where to begin?

April 30th, 2016

The origins of this project stretch back 18 months. Already I could write a book about what has transpired, hence my first entry’s title: Where to begin?

Actually it’s a longer stretch than that. Julie & I started to think about ‘life after the B&B’ several years ago. What would it look like? What would we be doing? Where would we live? We struggled mightily with these questions. After all, we love what we do and we love where we live. Why make changes?

When in November 2014 the District of North Vancouver passed a Bylaw allowing the construction of laneway houses, we thought our answer had been delivered. Our plan was to build a laneway house which Blake, Lauren & Ellie would occupy. We would continue to operate the B&B as long as we felt able. At some point in the undefined future, when Julie & I were ready to ‘downsize’, we could do a flip flop – We move into the laneway house and Blake, Lauren and family (which by now has grown??) would move into the big house.

We really liked this plan as it had the added benefit of providing Blake and Lauren with the opportunity of affordable long term accommodation on Vancouver’s North Shore. Oh, and the chance for us to be to closer to our little sweetie, Ellie.

It seemed perfect, only it wasn’t, and had to be abandoned. This part is a long story that I’m going to save for later. In any event, a plan B, a home renovation, emerged from the ashes in early 2016.

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A day on the beach

September 15th, 2015

The wind breaks make all the difference.

The wind breaks make all the difference.

Gwithian has an amazing expanse of sandy beach several miles long with the magnificent Godrevy lighthouse to the north.  Julie’s cousin Tamsin has a cozy chalet just above the beach and a visit to Cornwall is not complete without spending a day there feeling the sand between our toes and the chill of the ocean waters on our skin (which in my case was about up to my knees).  Thankfully, Bob & Tamsin were properly equipped for a day on a Cornish beach, which means a wind break and extra wetsuits. Even on a sunny day the chilly breeze would rapidly deplete any body warmth you might possess, but these simple devices make all the difference.

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Cornish Adventures

September 10th, 2015

For our week in Cornwall we stayed in Carbis Bay which is just outside St Ives, a 30 minute walk along a bit of the famous coastal path.

Carbis Bay beach looking back toward Hayle.

Carbis Bay beach looking back toward Hayle.

With this as a home base we were able to explore about and with two cars at our disposal it was not necessary to travel as a pack. This worked very well for us as it allowed Blake and Lauren to try to keep Ellie on track re mid day naps without requiring all of us to accept the same fate each day.
Thus Julie, Kim & I decided to drive down towards Zennor to walk a bit of the coastal path high above the ocean on this magnificent coast. But first, we had to get there. Cornwall is (in)famous for it’s narrow, winding roads.

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Cornish Made

September 5th, 2015

Julie was born in Cornwall.  So were her parents.  So were all her grandparents and all her great grandparents.  In fact as far as we know her blood is Cornish back to the mists of unrecorded time.  And so it was no small thing, genetically speaking, when her parents, David and Una, pulled up stakes and moved to Canada in 1957 where their daughter would meet and marry a Canadian (of mixed Anglo-Saxon ancestry) and produce half Cornish children.  While Dave & Una lived the rest of their lives in Canada and became Canadian citizens, Cornwall was always home.  In their hearts and in their souls they were Cornish and yesterday their ashes returned to the soil from whence they came.

David and Una's extended family - post pasty smiles

David and Una’s extended family – post pasty smiles

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Cracking walks in the Usk valley

August 31st, 2015

Seems our week in Wales flew by so quickly.  In addition to canal walks and walks into town for a pub lunch or a shop, we ventured up higher in the hills.  The first was a fine walk along an old quarry tramway and into the Craig y Cilau Nature Reserve.  We had the sketch of a map and route instructions like, “at the old wall and fence turn right and down an old track past some houses”.  Or, “from the holly tree turn sharp left up a faint path rising steadily to the foot of the cliff”.  Miraculously we managed it without getting lost.

At the trailhead

At the trailhead

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Crickhowell and Ty Neuadd

August 31st, 2015

Here I sit in our rooms which are in a converted stable which was built about the time Henry VIII’s reign was coming to an end – 1511.  The stone walls are several feet thick.  While most of the interior walls have been plastered over there is a section around the arched entry way left exposed.   Outside, in the middle of the parking area is a gnarled oak tree, centuries old.

Ellie checking out the oak tree

Ellie checking out the oak tree

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