morgan_dhu: (Default)

It was a time of confusion and insanity, punctuated by moments of panic and despair, but we have moved into the new house.

It is a lovely house, and the renovations, with very few and very small glitches, are just what we wanted.

For a recap of the changes, here are pictures of the house as it was before we bought it and pictures of the house when the renovations were just about complete

Or, if you'd rather know the whole story, complete with architect's drawings and all sorts of neat stuff, [personal profile] glaurung_quena documented the renovations in a series of posts.

We had a lot of help preparing for the move. Our friend Sandra, who spend one afternoon helping us move the fragile ornaments and art and all the weird stuff that was shoved into all the corners of the old apartment so we would have a place to put the boxes as we packed them. Our friend Cathy, who came over one weekend to help us back the first thousand books, badly cut her thumb part-way through the onslaught, and spent much of the day being an inspiration instead, after the EMT finished putting her back together and pronounced that she did not, in fact, require stitches. The most wonderful SJ and her partner V, who left Willa at home in upper New York and drove all the way to Toronto in V's minivan this past weekend to help us move the of the books and some of the electronics and and other awkward or delicate stuff, help pack most of the rest of the stuff, and christen most of the rooms of the new house while they were at it. ;-) And [personal profile] glaurung_quena's father Gary, who drove all the way from Michigan with his truck on Sunday, and did more moving and helping in the running of important errands and moved the computers on Monday.

Tuesday was moving day. It started with [personal profile] glaurung_quena and Gary moving key bedroom furniture and a basic survival kit to the house and setting everything up in a room that the movers would not have to go into so I would be as safe as possible from colognes and anti-deoderents and detergent on clothes and stuff. While they did that, Sandra came over to be on hand in case the movers came early, and to pack some of the final bits left out until the last minute. Then [personal profile] glaurung_quena and Gary came back, and we waited for the Wheeltrans bus.

See, it was vital that the Wheeltrans bus arrive before the movers, because the driveway at the old apartment is so narrow that if the movers arrived first and parked, there would be no room for me to get down the driveway and out to the bus. So naturally the movers were early and the bus was late, and we had to ask the movers to wait until the bus arrived, and that was very annoying. But eventually the bus came, and I managed to get out to it (over the past year, my mobility has been appreciably decreased, and I was not sure until we actually did it that I could even safely navigate the handful of stairs and the very uneven, unpaved driveway to get out without falling, so this was a huge relief). So we left in the bus, the movers pulled into the driveway, Gary filled his truck with food and some stuff that we had to be able to put our hands on immediately and followed us over, and Sandra supervised the movers in loading up the furniture and other heavy stuff.

Then we hit some luck, as the Wheeltrans bus took me and [personal profile] glaurung_quena straight to the new house without having to pick up or drop off any other users, and I had my first sight of the edifice that has put me so deeply in debt.

I think I can be happy here. Once we get settled and buy some new (used) furniture to take the place of old furniture that doesn't work in certain places, and all that other adapting to a new living environment stuff.

The rest was over quickly. [personal profile] glaurung_quena set me up in my hideyhole, Gary unloaded and drove back to the apartment to relieve Sandra, then movers and Gary eventually arrived at the house and all our worldly goods were in the same location again.

We are unpacking slowly, and finding all of the things that still have to be done, but we are happy, and we are home. The only thing that's a real problem just now is that the paint used on the trim in the house is still not fully outgassed, so I'm really sick, and we are in the middle of a cold snap so we can't open the windows much without almost freezing, but once it warms up a bit (the forecast says it will this weekend), then maybe the toxic load in the air will get a little bit better, and with luck, by the time we have to start keeping the windows closed due to constant high smog levels, the trim will have finished outgassing.

And the light at the end of the tunnel here is that over time, it can only get better. There is no one else in this house to keep adding more toxic substances to the air. Of course, when we buy new things, they will need to be detoxified, but we have a room set aside in the basement specifically for that, and as soon as we fully vapourseal that room and set up an exhaust to the outside, detox fumes will never get into the living portion of the house. It is a good thing for people with environmental illness to have complete control over their living space.

We are so much in debt. And there is so much work still to be done (I'll likely post about plans for the future some other time). But we have a nice place to live. and we control it.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Today we wrote a cheque to our draftsperson and made the first of a series of scheduled payments to the contractor.

We are several thousand dollars poorer.


On the upside, the contractor dropped by to sign the contract and pick up his cheque, and he said his crew appreciated the goodie basket we left for them: coffee maker, fair trade ground coffee, cream and sugar, chocolate cookies. I wonder if we should add a tea kettle and a selection of black and herb teas? We should probably vary the baked goodies from time to time as well. What else would go nicely at break time while you're renovating a house? Doughnuts?

morgan_dhu: (Default)

We are now in possession of real building permits, the official kind that you put up in your window so everyone knows that you've got that seal of approval.

And the contractor has already had his demo crew in, taking down the walls we wanted moved and stuff like that.

It's actually happening.


morgan_dhu: (Default)


At least, I think so.

[personal profile] glaurung_quena just called me from the appropriate municipal office to tell me that our building permits have been approved in principle - our draftsperson made one small error that has to be redone on the plans, and once that is done, we will have the building permit.

Which is A Good Thing, because our contractor is ready to begin tearing down walls and things early next week.

We still have to apply for the plumbing permit, which is a different creature altogether (we are compeltely redoing one bathroom plus moving the location of the laundry room in the basement), but there are no weird things to try to fudge over in that permit, so it should be simple.

See, there is this whole annoying on-going business about whether the city is going to let us renovate in such a way that I will actually be able to get into my own house.

There are two existing entrances:
1. At the front (east side), where the house is highest above grade (it's on a slight downslope), there are some very nice but also very steep concrete steps.
2. At the south side, there is an entrance that's almost at grade, but of course, once inside it's a half-flight up to the main floor and a half-flight down to the basement.

Neither entrance, therefore, is one that I can use because with each of them there are lots of stairs with a rise that's standard or higher.

The back wall (west side) has a garage built right onto it, facing to the side street (our house is on a north-west corner lot). The other side (north side) is about two feet away from the neightbour's wall.

So the only place I can put an accessible entrance is at the back. Which means tearing down the garage (not a problem, neither of us drives or ever will as long as we live in this city), but it's illegal to remove an onsite parking place.

So our solution is to build this strange sort of L-shaped deck/stairs arrangement at the back. We put in a new door at the back on the farthest side of the house from the street, and build a long narrow deck running perpendicular to the back wall that's about six feet wide and 13-14 feet long, and at the end of that, we build a set of shallow-rise stairs running parallel to the back wall, toward the street. There is a 10-foot space between the stairs and the back wall, where the part of the garage floor that hasn't had a narrow deck built over it will serve as a somewhat shortened parking pad.

The trick is that this space is no longer long enough to be a full legal parking space that is wholly on our lot - when a car parks there, the back 4-5 feet of the car (dpending on the car, of course) will actually be parked on the city easement - so we were worried that the permit might be rejected for that reason. But either they didn't notice or they didn't care. Whew!

Eventually, we intend to fill most of that space in to create a full-size deck, and put in a new parking space (which by law must be paved, alas, which means a great deal of unendurable stink in our backyard for probably at week sometime in the future)) further toward the back of the yard. But we don't have enough money for that right now. So we do it in stages.

Of course, there is still the problem that the kind of stairs I need built are illegal, but we're handling that in a roundabout manner, on the advice of both our draftsperson and our contractor. The problem there is that for me, ramps are actually more difficult to deal with than very shallow steps. But the city building code requires steps to have at least a 5-inch rise. What I need is steps with a 3-inch rise. What we have done is submit plans specifying a 5-inch rise, and once the contractor knows who the building inspector on our project will be, he will set up a meeting to explain to the building inspector why we are not building stairs according to code. In a case such as mine, the contractor is confident that an understanding can be reached such that the inspector will approve the variance from the permit and the code - apparently, such understandings are negotiated every day.

And we've just about put in all our orders for bathroom fixtures and tiles and paint and other stuff that we have to pick out for ourselves. So it's all ready to go. If nothing falls apart, that it.

This whole process so far has been fraught with things falling apart and centres not holding. I've had enough nervous breakdowns to last me the rest of my life.

Onward, licensed carpenters, hasten to your craft,
Wiring folk and plumbers, see, our plans aren't daft -
With the city's blessing, the starting hour is nigh
Forward into renovation, wave our permits high!

morgan_dhu: (Default)

We've really started to get down to the nitty gritty of renovations. We have quotes coming in from two contractors in the next few days, [personal profile] glaurung_quena will be showing a third contractor around the place tomorrow, and today we had a very helpful consultation with a contractor/supplier who specialises in renovations for people with various accessibility requirements. He is too busy to do the work himself, but we will be acquiring various products, such as our bathroom fixtures, from him, and he will be glad to advise the contractor we do hire on aspects of renovating for a person with disabilities that they may be less familiar with.

And he has a website where I can browse though all sorts of roll-in pre-formed fiberglass shower stalls, shower seats so I can sit down while getting clean, high-rise low-flush toilets that will qualify for government eco-friendly rebates, all sorts of different designs of grab-bars and other cool ideas for the barrier-free home. I'm actually getting a little bit excited about this.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

The purchase of the house is complete.

I am a home owner. This does not feel right. Grown-ups own houses. I am not a grown-up. Therefore I really should not own a house.

I suppose I'll get used to it.

There were, of course, all sorts of last minute freak-outs and miscommunications and paperwork kerfluffles, such as the broker forgetting to email the appraiser's report to the mortgage provider, and the lawyer sending the wrong pre-authorised debit form to the mortgage provider, and me having to get a rush-job passport because new mortgage regulations require the purchaser to have photo ID, but as of November 15, the house is mine (ours, really, but it's my name on the deed 'cause I'm the one with the full-time job who was actually eligible for a mortgage).

We also remembered to do all sorts of clever things like get homeowners' insurance, switch over the utilities, find a copy of the original survey, get a draftsperson in to draw up plans so we can start talking about renovations with contractors and also be prepared for getting the various assorted and sundry permits, do an energy audit and otehr strange and arcane things.

[personal profile] glaurung_quena is talking to various contractors to set up appointments so they can give us estimates on the work we need to do, and doing very important things like tearing up the carpets and throwing out the drapes and trying to detoxify the house, which was previously owned by a little old lady, who, as is the wont of little old ladies, just loved air fresheners.

We have very cleverly unplugged the fridge, turned off the hot water heater and set the thermostat down until such time as we move in, which could well be several months yet, becasue there are those renovations to be done, and after that, we will have to detoxify the house to get out the chemicals from the materials used in the renovations.

There are times when I really, really hate having Environmental Illness. This would be one of them.

We are going to have to insist that whatever contractor we hire uses special low-VOC paints and other things, use metal or real wood (which we will have to treat with a special low-VOC sealant first) rather than plastic or chemically-treated composite building materials, and so on, which means that materials will be more expensive and in some cases there will be additional labour costs.

And then there's the accessibility renovations. A rant for another day. Let it suffice to say that we have discovered that due to a very annnoying recemtly-enacted city bylaw, we will likely not be able to afford putting in a ramp/low-rise stair access in the best place for such a thing to be, but will rather have to put it in in a far less desirable place, both functionally and aesthetically, because to do what would work best, we would have to tear down a garage (which makes perfect sense in our livestyle, since neither of us drives and we will never own a car) - and it is illegal to eliminate off-street parking spaces, and we don't have enough money to tear down the garage, put up the accessway and put in another parking space to replace the one we tore down.


Oh well. Money is tight and the worklist is long, but so far the evil days have come not.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

[personal profile] glaurung_quena and I are buying a house.


He looked at the house on Wednesday, we had a house inspection done Thursday morning, offers were due Thursday evening at 7:00pm, and by 8:00pm our real estate broker called to inform us that our offer had been accepted and we were committed to buying a house.

We are terrified.

Neither of us has ever assumed such a massive financial responsibility in our lives (we live in Toronto, where "starter houses" on tiny lots sell for a quarter mil).

We will have to do some remodelling in order to accommodate my mobility issues and there's some other things that have to be upgraded, from insulation to some of the wiring and we want to replace some of the HVAC system with more energy-efficient equipment.

But it's affordable (barely) and it's nice and it's in a decent location for people who do not and never will own a car and best of all, there will be no people using perfume or other chemical crap that makes us sick living in the basement or on the floor above us.

Out of consideration, I will identify all subsequent posts about this becoming a homeowner thing as House posts, so you can skip over them if this kind of thing makes your eyes glaze over.

September 2017

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