keep out!

 As you can see, our floor has been done! We’re going with a mid-grey matte finish polish on our concrete floor. No photos for now..We’ve got to wait a few days before we can go inside again. After that, appliances can come in, which is going to make things look pretty finished downstairs.

We’re at an estimated 3 weeks until completion now. It’s crazy to think we only started in December. It’s felt both long and short at the same time. These last 3 weeks will probably feel like the longest! So close now…

Since Monday, we’ve had a lot of ruckus around the place with sewer and water lines being connected by the city. The machinery they bring in makes you realize why it costs so much. Three days later, we’re all connected. We’re very happy that the city added more crews to take on the huge list of connections. Our timing couldn’t have been better, as they added crews soon after we were put on the waiting list. It was the difference between waiting for 3 weeks, or waiting for as long as 18, which would have been pretty depressing. It just reveals how much construction is going on in this city. Dunbar street alone is incredibly chopped up right now, with entire sewer lines being replaced, and curbs, sidewalks and road paving being redone. It’s a little crazy around here, and here we are adding to it with our own construction.

Moving on, my Mom has already been doing a lovely job prettying up the place. Plants are moving out of ‘temporary storage’ (a.k.a. pile of dirt on the boulevard/pots on my parents’ deck) and into the new garden beds set up by the landscapers.

These guys have done a quality job and we’ve been anxious to see their work on the front yard now that the sewer line is done! Yesterday we were at this daunting stage:

And today I came home from work to this:

And this!

My mom has always wanted a more winding path leading up to the house in the front, so this was the opportunity to do it. I think it’s going to look quite lovely when everything is planted and the fence is in.

Here are a few more shots of things recently finished or in progress around here:

The recently finished garden bed in front of our laneway house, ready for new plants under the little birch tree. Our address numbers are on now too!

Pavers just went in for our entrance to the front door. Looking pretty!

Why the colour difference in pavers? We wanted to reuse the old pavers from the former garden patio, both to save money, and not have to use more new materials. This side of the house will not really be seen much so it worked out well.

This maple was bought by my parents in memory of my late grandmother. It’s had a tough time during construction, and these trees don’t like to be moved. Unfortunately it was unavoidable. Hopefully it proves to be resilient and continues to grow.

That about sums things up for now. We’re so close I can taste it!

when sewage becomes exciting

Yup, that there is a no stopping sign. What makes it so exciting? It means our sewer and water lines are being connected very soon!

Perhaps the only time a person could be so excited about sewage is a time such as this.  It marks the last big, noisy and messy part of the project. Hurray!

Moving on from sewer talk, things are looking beautiful indoors. We were able to take a peek recently so I snapped a few shots.

Here we have wrought iron spindles with oak railings, and our custom entertainment cabinetry on the right, made from alder. Alder is a very plentiful local wood, so we feel pretty good about our choice, both from an aesthetic view and more sustainable one!

The left side of our kitchen. We decided on alder cabinetry on the bottom, and white with glass on the top, to make the space feel a little taller and more open on top. I am especially fond of our farmhouse sink.

We decided we liked the clean look of subway tiles. It also goes well with our semi-industrial look.

Our custom built-in corner couch, with storage drawers and a hatch on one side to stow spare folding chairs. Also made of alder. Upholstered seat arrives soon!

A better look at our entertainment unit. The hole in the centre will feature our fish tank.

Our shower tiling detail. I saw something like this on and really loved it, so this is our version of it. I also blogged about it way back in the early months of our project. I really liked the ‘waterfall’ feel that the orientation of the tiles gives.  Quite happy with this! Sorry for the poor photo.. there wasn’ t much light in there at the time.

And now, for my favourite thing:

I have a thing for exposed beams. These were put in after the drywall, and have oak cladding. Super pleased with this! It’ll make our bedroom so cozy. At the back of the room there, we have a window seat and storage built in to maximize the space and not have to worry about finding furniture to fit in. We’ll be using basket or similar to store things on those shelves. A bookshelf is going in on the right as well.

This is becoming a long post. I also want to share what’s going on outside though. Things are looking much better these days!

We’ve gone from this:

To this!

The patio has a few garden beds lining it, one along our house on the left there, another on the right by my parents’ back stairs, and then another one against the fence (not visible) which will have a 20 foot tall tree for extra greenery and privacy. Things aren’t looking green now obviously, but I think it’s going to be a very pretty and useable little courtyard for all of us.

Things will be ‘back to normal’ before we know it.. Spring is starting to show it’s lovely buds and we’re feeling our new beginning is just around the corner!

Smallworks continues to be fabulous and we couldn’t recommend them enough if you’re considering building with them.

dig dig dig dig dig dig

Another mud-puddle day in the trenches! (As I sit here warm and dry indoors). Our corner of Dunbar holds a striking resemblance to Vimy Ridge.

vimy ridge

We even lacked flush-able toilets this morning! That was interesting.  But all this is in the name of progress.  We’re very close to having the sewer line trench coming up to the main street. Then it’s up to the City to connect us.  Fingers crossed it doesn’t take a ‘coon’s age for them to go down their list to get to us.

The old-things/antiques nerd in me that has been showing up more prominently these days was very excited to see what the guys found in the muck this morning.

lydia e. pinkham's vegetable compound, patented in 1876

It didn’t take long to find out that this empty bottle of Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound is likely around 100 years old. Who knows what the story is behind this little gem, and how and why it landed 10 feet underground on the property, but I think it’s a pretty neat little souvenir to have on display in the new house to remember the days and days of digging, and how far things have come (both in our little world of the laneway house, and the world of medicine for that matter!) Lydia Pinkham died in 1883 and never saw the full success of her medicinal empire, but her Vegetable Compound made the family fortune, grossing $300, 000 annually by her death and peaking in 1925 to $3.8 million.

An interesting and rather frightening  side note:  the same year as the Vegetable Compound was patented, a prominent American physician was urging the removal of healthy ovaries as a treatment for menstrual cramps. Yikes!! I’d rather go with the Lydia’s medicine “for the female discomforts” thank you.  I think it can go without saying that I’m  glad to be living in 2012…

Well, enough about history I suppose.  Back to the present: The roof is on, the windows and doors are in, and the electrical and plumbing will be going in shortly as well.  Excitement abounds in our little corner of the world! More photos to come soon.

In keeping with the theme of history, I thought I’d share this video passed on to me the other day. It’s footage from 1907, going through the streets of downtown Vancouver.  Probably around the same time that Lydia E. Pinkham’s bottle landed on our little street corner and got buried. Pretty neat.

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the rain rain rain came down down down

Perhaps some of you know this classic Disney Winnie the Pooh Song. It jumped into my head today as I stared out the window at the torrential downpour from our basement suite. It’s been like this all day.  I used to work in landscaping,  so I can sort of empathize with the guys working outside on the laneway house as it pours down with rain.  It’s pretty amazing to see what can still be accomplished in this kind of weather though.  I suppose it’s still better than freezing rain and snow we had earlier this month (which thankfully I never had to experience during my spring/summer stint as a landscaper!)

The framing is nearly complete, so we’re getting a good sense of what the place is going to look like! It’s kind of crazy seeing this little house right next to my parents’ house now. We’ll be able to wave at each other through our kitchen windows. As close as that sounds,  there is actually a fair bit of space between the two homes, where a lovely patio and garden beds will no doubt reside one things are finished.

the front of the house, looking across the street.

In the photo above you can sort of begin to see the front design. The builders are starting to put in the hip-roof that surrounds our balcony. The opening peaking over the edge is our balcony doorway. We’ve got a nice big window in the front and our front door is on the right there. Since we’re a corner lot, we can have the entrance off the side street instead of the lane which gives us a great opportunity to have some nice curb appeal!

This is the side facing the lane.

In the photo above we have the lane-side view. Garage door on the left, living room window on the right, and the bathroom dormer on the top. Those pre-fab walls really make the house take shape in what feels like the blink of an eye. Smallworks builds most of the house offsite and then puts it together like a big puzzle, to ensure the weather doesn’t have it’s way with the exposed structure for too long.

The messy work is still going on at the side of my parents’ house with the sewer line trench getting deeper and longer and no doubt muddier during this rain storm. The excavators were quite amused to find that we still have a steel water pipe (which haven’t been used for decades) going into the house. Turns out we need to get it replaced due to it’s ancientness and corrosion, so the house is without water for a few hours today in order to install a shiny new water pipe.  Things sure get interesting once you start digging!

our basement suite door usually exits here.. not so much right now.

As you can see from the photo above ,the trench goes right against the side of the house, and currently blocks our exit from the basement suite. I haven’t had to come home through my parents’  front door after a weekend night of being out until 3 a.m. since I was 18 years old.. it’s a bit of a flash back to say the least.

I will wrap things up with a slideshow of progress over the last week or so. I think the photos probably illustrate how Smallworks really is a well oiled machine… and a very pleasant and friendly one at that!

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darn that flying time…

Okay, it’s been far too long since our last update. Between a computer keyboard breaking (not at ALL because of me being clumsy and spilling water on it), Christmas holidays, and being sick through the new year, it’s been tough to find time or feel motivated to write something. Today was particularly exciting though, because the walls are going up! So… no more being lazy. Time to share some stuff.

Everything has been going well, except for a *minor* issue of the main house on the lot being old, and the soil around it very loose and weak. As the excavators were digging along south side of the house for the sewer line, they found it was probably risky to just fill it in normally, since the old foundation and weak soil wasn’t going to be so good for keeping the house stable. Things would start slipping over time. An unfortunate slight increase in the budget that couldn’t be avoided. My parents would rather not have their house start leaning like the Tower of Pisa for some reason. To remedy this, some concrete reinforcement will be put in place before filling in with the usual stuff.

To summarize what’s happened since the last post, It seems best to share photos rather than describe. The following are highlights from December before the holidays.

Initial digging of the foundation pit.

Taking down the hedges to make way for the sewer line.

The beginnings of framing for the foundation.

Digging the sewer line trench.

Bringing in more wood for the framing.

Pouring the concrete into the foundation framing.

There’s a lot more that I’ll put in a separate post. I shall leave you with our silly Christmas joke. Gotta pretty up the front yard somehow, right?

exposed and framed

My parents have had their house for 26 years. There has been a large cedar hedge sheltering the front yard for longer than that. Today was its final day on this earth, to make way for the sewer line digging. It’s pretty strange to see, and feels so exposed out there now! On the up side though, there will be a lot more light and space for a variety of plants to live where the hedge once was, and also less maintenance in terms off no annual hedge trimming. A lattice style fence is planned for the front and side of the house which will no doubt look quite  nice once things are grown in again. I feel a bit conflicted about removing greenery like this – probably the thing I feel the worst about (after the back garden) when it come to the whole plan. I hope mother nature can forgive us! We’ll do our best to replace what’s been lost and it’ll be beautiful again one day in the not too distant  future.

that used to be wall of green.


Those wil be gone in a couple of hours. The tree in front is staying.


As of Thursday, the digging in the back yard has been complete and the framing  for the foundation is starting to be placed. It’s the weekend and work is still being done. Now I really understand how Smallworks can get their homes up so quickly! It’s kind of neat to see this going in, as it gives a bit of an idea of the size already.

The front of the house is at the left side of the photo.


With all the work plowing ahead at full speed, I’m sure I’ll have something  to share again soon!