Tag Archives: Barn reno

Almost done, it must be about time to move again!

We’ve been on a concentrated push to truly finish the barn. That is, our home. It’s been “adequate”, by my standards, for some time, and I’ve been living in it, but the true goal is to have all the trim and paint and handles and whatnots complete. It’s tiresome to be constantly surrounded by a to-do list in 3D.

We’ve finished all the floor, putting in click planks of cork. It’s a compromise; I wanted gluedown because it looks better and has no adhesives in the laminate, but the cork could outlast the subfloor so it’s nice to be able to take it up, and I was told that Torlys has peerless environmental practices. We finished all the last voids of canvas, plated all the outlets, finished all the baseboard and thresholds, exterior wood, made custom curtains, a tile pad for the woodstove, and many storage shelves. It was more work than it sounds like.

Not that I was ever out to prove this, but I feel I’ve proved that a home can be as sexy and cozy without plumbing, with wood heat and minimal electrical, as a house much bigger with a $1000/month mortgage (I’ve been there).

We have a strong ethic of not buying any materials if we can figure out a way to avoid it. This frees up money to spend in the right place, IMO- on better quality and more attractive versions of what does need to be purchased. It also means multiple varieties of wood trim, reused and denailed lumber, and using stuff for applications it wasn’t exactly meant for.

The creative alternatives tend to be more satisfying and unique. Ceramic insulators and baling wire for curtain “rods” (I have a hunch that champagne corks with a hole bored in them would be pretty cool too), DIY wooden switchplates, 12″ tall (short) wainscotting pieced together from dozens of scraps, and of course a pulley-operated dumbwaiter. My favorite is the dumbwaiter, to send morning tea up to the loft. No home is complete without one.

It’s very satisfying to have all the inevitable stuff of life support organized and arranged for optimal accessibility and function. It takes a fair bit of time and attention to orchestrate that. It’s quite emotionally satisfying, a relief even – in H.W.’s version of “A place for everything and everything in its place”: “Everything has a holster and everything is holstered”. Our kitchen won’t look like the average kitchen (maybe anyone’s kitchen), but it has functional zones and we can lay hands on everything commonly used instantly, and less used easily.

I’m especially in love with this composting container from Lee Valley Tools. It’s meant to hang on a cupboard door, but since we don’t have one, I made a custom catch for it to hook on, and it slides the length of the counter and slides off to take it and empty it. The unexpected advantage of this is that it slides the length of the counter, and one can deftly sweep all the crumbs straight into it with a flourish!

The final price tag for this entire reno, from the starting point of roof, framing and dirt floor to (plumbing-free) suite, is under $12 000. The biggest chunks of that expense were the certified chimney, the Roxul insulation, the cork floor, and the essential but unseen drain tile.

Accidentally Green

Hi!

I’ve been suffering from a staggering fit of Blogger Guilt:  the common condition of being overwhelmed by so many things to urgently write about, compounded by feeling that there’s not enough time to ever catch up.   It causes some kind of neurological paralysis specific to bloggers.

Since we’re home from the holidays, we’ve been immersed in an aggressive push to finish the house (barn), while we’re still living in it.   Truly finish it, so that I can sit a chair, say, and look around and not see missing baseboard, shelves that need to be built, absent curtains, etc. It would be really nice to get the barn DONE and then be able to just live in it while exploring other interests – the kind that other people have, when they don’t live within the unfinished construction project of their home (whatever those interests may be?).

For a change.  My typical pattern is to make a home truly habitable just in time to start packing, handing off the dwelling to someone who doesn’t have the building skills to create a habitat out of thin air.

We were on a tight 10- day plan (we really are tantalizingly close to “really done”) but I optimistically neglected to add that crucial 20%, and a few more things arose to plump up the to-do list, so we are again paused at “almost-complete” to pay attention to other important aspects of life.

Like the world at large!  Watch out for posts coming out of chronological order to catch up on our recent train and hitchhiking adventures!

Drain tile

Been having drain tile put in around the barn and various other changes made in the landscape while the machine is here. With so much melt this spring and unusual runoff, it became obvious that drain tile was really necessary, although not really a cosmetic upgrade.

Also, when I don’t do something myself, it doesn’t feel like it’s really happened, but there it is, done.

Living with Wildlife

Omega-3 is the cutest!  About the size and colour of a flying squirrel, with big pink mouse ears.  I caught a glimpse when s/he was doing laps in the lane between my stacked boxes and the wall while I was quietly writing after dark.

I also know now it’s not nesting in my stuff, but rather in a corner of the “old barn”, the exiled, untouched, un-reno’ed third of the barn that I’m not working on, and it’s dragging in grapes and grape leaves from the vine on the outside of the barn.

I know this rodent could be a BIG problem in many ways, but I have this romantic notion that we can all get along.  I really don’t want to trapkill or poison it, and as long as it doesn’t fuck with me and my stuff, can’t we co-exist?

I just need it to be a little quieter.  I’m used to the scurrying, but get startled awake by the gnaw, gnaw, gnawing.  I stare, listening, trying to think of what the hell the packrat could be destroying now, and wondering if there’s anything worth getting up for to check on or maybe save.

But I can’t find any damage in the daytime.  Although at night it sounds like a beaver is consuming a 2×4 under my bed, I can’t find evidence of what O-3 is snacking on in the night.

Mogi’s cats only work the day shift, so until I have lockup and can borrow one and make him spend the night in the barn, the packrat is safe during the day.  Maybe Ill just leave my compressor plugged in overnight, so it can randomly scare the daylights out of both of us in the wee hours.

It’s kind of nice, to hear life around me.  Sometimes I hear Mucky chewing or sighing, and the packrat being a packrat in the night… it’s not so bad.Living with Wildlife

Barns and bats and rats, oh my!

I came home to a dismal, depressing scene of neglect and destruction, no cat, and a frustrating mountain of work.

It could have been worse, but still, it was enough to make me weep.  Hours of cleaning and a long therapeutic session of cleaning the paddock restored my space and my sense of hope, but the mountain of work remains ahead.

I think I have a packrat.  It ate my rice cakes, made half of a sheepskin vanish, and appeared to be subsisting on flax seed.  Clearly, it cares about nutrition. I did not find it’s abode, but I’m sure it’s very well lined.  My cat would roll over in her grave, if she had one, at this home invasion.

The other cats clearly need to be encouraged to exercise their feline instincts around the barn.  They’ve been hanging around, but they’re not used to me around too.  When I came “home” after dinner last night, I scared one cat so bad he fled out the second story window, and I don’t know if he leapt straight out or if he climbed down the outside wall, the way he seems to get in.

I had a choppy sleep, too, waking up often to the sound of scrabbling, and trying with my flashlight to catch a glimpse of the invader, whom I’m calling “Omega-3”.  I’m really not into it running across my face in the night or something- that would be entirely too “country” an experience for me.

Doors; windows; lock-up:  Urgent!

Happily, I still have bats roosting in the other side of the barn.  I’m glad the reno has not totally dislocated them. Build bat house- on list.

Pallet palace

I was going with a concrete slab in my head, for several days.  I thought that was “doing it right”.  It would last forever, easily translate purpose to a garage or shop, and would be flat, level, and smooth.

That changed.  The tipping point was thinking about doing yoga on a cold concrete floor.

The other option I was considering was throwing a bunch of pallets onto the leveled grade over a sheet of poly, and sheeting it, which had some merit.  Easy.  Cheap- the pallets were all readily available for the taking free from the garden supply.  Recycled and “eco”.  I just like pallets.  The downsides were that it won’t last nearly as long as concrete, as it’s wood, it’s organic and will eventually rot, relying on the poly for a vapour barrier, and like a cluster of lilypads, they will only create as flat and level a floor as the packed dirt beneath is leveled.

An immense amount of shoveling and raking ensued, removing piles of earth from the dirt floor of the barn and scaling it off to reasonably flat and level.  Then I rolled out the poly, and moved in the pallets, tacking them to each other, essentially creating a floating floor frame.

They worked so well!  Thankfully, the first few went in perfectly solid and flat, because not all of them were so easy to settle in place, and that would have been a disillusioning start.  Oh, so cool.  I’m so excited that it’s working so well.  It’s such a thrill and relief when something untried and suspect works out the best way that you hoped.

Just as I’m about to leave for my ridiculous mission, the sun warms the grass and the air seems full of life and I’m touched with enthusiasm for rending and tearing and building.  I’ve been so buried in work I haven’t wanted to force anything else into my overcrowded brain.  But I had a look at the barn I need to work on and found it patiently and hopefully waiting to be shucked from its shell of disrepair and turned into something cute.  So much potential!

I need to create an envelope of insulated living space to move my stuff into it.  I’m thinking rockwool insulation, canvas instead of drywall, a couple patio doors replacing the barn doors for some passive solar.  Definitely bedroom in the loft.  Composting toilet.   I’m planning to partition the giant space and make a smaller habitat at first, that can be expanded later.  I’m still mulling over the plumbing.  How much is enough?

Then there’s the garden.  There are a number of retired gardens, all owned by grass again.  I’ve got my eye on the old pond.  The ruined liner is tattered, but the earth beneath is black and rhizome free because of the water and poly.  It would make a lovely terraced garden, and in the middle of the horse paddock, it’s already fenced for deer. The obvious downfall is that the depression will be a cold sink, with all the coldest air around pooling there, frosting earlier as well.

Then I can move on to camper renovations.