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Renovation Tips and advice for your health and wallet!

Renovation Tips and advice for your health and wallet!

This page and my home is still under some construction so more to follow as both get finished!

We recently moved into a new home that for lack of better words was a 'fixer-upper', our plan was to use the money saved on the purchase to renovate the home. We had two goals in mind the first was to use only environmentally safe products and the second goal was to perform all of the work ourselves. I should mention environmentally safe products refers to products that use less harmful chemicals and hopefully contain no VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) my wife and daughter both have allergies and asthma so this was important to their health.

Some background information on MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) my wife worked in a medical building that was in constant construction, between the upgrades being done to the building itself and the constant renovations of offices as Doctors moved in and out of different locations meant many were subjected to a constant stream of VOC's from glues, adhesives, carpet and other construction dust. Many reported not feeling well during the worst phases of construction, many individuals complained of headaches, runny noses and other minor symptoms. Most after removing themselves from the building felt better and recovered within an hour or so. Others found that from being constantly exposed that it took longer and longer after leaving the building for the symptoms to fade, over time for some individuals it leads to MCS. When I was young I was overexposed to the sun and suffered heat stoke or hyperthermia I recovered but to this day my body will not allow me to be exposed to the sun for any long period. It's as if it my body remembers what happened and will start warning me with a headache and general sick feeling until I remove myself to the shade or cooler area. MCS works more or less the same way the body becomes hyper-sensitive to chemicals and even after a slight exposure it can take hours to recover.

The budget we wanted to work with was $20,000 so the requirement to do as much of the work as possible was to save labor costs and to ensure the type of materials and adhesives used would be as low in VOC's as possible. So lets look at some photos and I'll talk about the problems and discuss some of the previous home-owners renovations.

All of the photos in this article can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Here is the kitchen before we started doing any work, at first glance the kitchen looks very nice, it has oak doors and some nice tiles on the floor a fairly new sink with a simple white tile back splash.
The layout is a little odd with the fridge and stove mere inches apart and what happened to the nice white tile back splash, it's a greenish wallpaper now.

Then we opened some of the kitchen cabinet doors!

It looks like the nice oak doors were added to pitiful really crappy cabinets as every shelf was permanently bent

Have a look at the lower cabinets under the sink I can't even explain how damaged and bent the bottom of this cabinet really was
Well here's a job well done, the space you're looking at is where the fridge was, notice that the tiles stopped where the fridge was. We had to lift the fridge out and over the lip of the tiles to remove the fridge, lets just say it explained why nobody bothered to clean behind the fridge!

How in the heck did a heating vent end up smack in the middle of the kitchen floor!

Well it appears someone thought a dishwasher would be great in the kitchen so they found a place far from the sink and moved a vent to accommodate the dish washer.

As an added bonus the above dish washer addition also meant a vent for heating the basement was replaced with the plumbing required for the dishwasher
Well at least the basement looks pretty good, except the carpet was home to a few pets and it looked as stained as it smelled so the first order of business was to remove the carpet
Literally as soon as we had the basement carpet removed we were in for another surprise. The summer we moved in had a record rainfall and it was raining very heavy again when we daughter asked me how come we had water all over the floor. My wife thinking she had left a faucet on upstairs was gone in a flash to check. After a few minutes I discovered the source of the problem. Water appeared to be seeping up through the hole in the floor just under the furnace.
After a few more minutes of rising water I found more water literally pouring in from around the clean-out trap in the floor near the water shut-off valve, I shut the water off just in case but it didn't slow the incoming water.
Then I noticed the water was also seeping in from behind the basement toilet. Thankfully all the water was clear so it was not sewage and because we had the carpet lifted it flowed freely toward the main drain in the laundry room. It was draining almost as fast as it was entering, at it's worst we had about 1.5" of water and it appears the ground was so saturated with water the house literally was like being pushed into a bath tub and the water flowed in through any openings in the floor
After the water subsided and drained I pulled the floor off the lower bathroom to find the floor was a thin plywood and had previous water stains so we decided the bathroom was going to get a facelift. I soon discovered that the washroom in the basement was added later and the concrete had been broken to tap into the main drains. I guess they ran out of concrete near the shower as I found a gaping hole with gravel where a full floor should have been. Also the floor was very uneven so the plywood floor had been installed with small foam pucks under the plywood to try and even the floor out.
So here we have the basement free of the carpet and drying out with the help of some fans, I was lucky as the water damage was mostly to the basement bathroom and the wall nearest to the water meter. I talked with neighbors in the area and many had the same problem but luckily one mentioned that it had not happened before in the fifteen years they had lived here. I later found out some areas further down had raw sewage enter the basement. The positive side of all this was that I no longer had to worry about what I put at the curb as the entire area had drywall and construction garbage outside.
I also noticed that the outside wall near the stairs had very soft and the drywall was crumbly, I inspected for water damage but didn't find any traces. I suspect it was most likely from the wall sweating and since it only had some old insulation with black paper on the drywall side we decided to remove all the drywall along this wall. We replaced the old insulation with solid pink 11/2" styrofoam insulation and added a vapor barrier before installing new drywall.
I should have mentioned we did have a home inspection done before we agreed to purchase the house and we knew about the carpet in the basement as well as the poor condition of the kitchen cabinets. The inspection also gave us time to determine that the Air conditioner was not working. We called in our air conditioning guy and he quickly found the problem. The low voltage control wire leading to the unit was to blame. Apparently some animal had chewed through some of the insulation around the pipes and managed to sever the wires while enjoying his snack, new wire installed problem fixed.
We love gifts, the previous owner decide to leave us with three tires behind the shed, so we dragged them to a authorized disposal center for tires and were charged a mere $10 to rid ourselves of them.

That covers all the fun and entertaining stuff we encountered!

Let's move on to the actual renovations Next Page >


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