Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 4: Rock

Marc had left at 6.45am this morning for his work day-trip to Sherbrooke. JF arrived at 7am on the dot. Hiram was wagging his tail against the bed long before I heard him knock at the door. The snow was almost gone and I was looking forward to the progress that could be made on the digging today.

Marc was in the middle of his Sherbrooke presentation to management when JF's first call came in. Then there was second call, rock, and third call, foundation issue - need engineer. You can't fault the guy on his communication skills :) He had hit rock, and not just the rock pieces he'd been dealing with earlier. We are talking about giant slabs 3 feet thick. Well, there's the bible story about the wise man who built his house upon the rock... but nothing about the couple who wanted to jack hammer through it.

Rock has been one of our greatest risks for the digging, and so we thought we had built contingency into the excavation contract for this. However, I think this is more than even JF had expected, so tomorrow is the moment of truth, when we find out how he'd like to re-negotiate. To be fair, Marc and I feel JF is being very open and honest about the situation. There are pros and cons to having rock; it takes more time to dig, but is easier to pile up and remove. As for the second item, foundation issues and engineer, we need to do a little cash deal, and she'll be here next Tuesday.

Despite the slow down from the rock, the guys cut through the exterior wall and managed to dig out all the earth from the front left of the house (this is where Jen from 1800-got-junk had spent the morning 2 weekends ago, crouched over removing wood from very limited space). We now have 2 big tractors in the back yard and a little digger under the house! When I arrived home this evening, the smell of gasoline from them was terrible. I hope that's not too typical. A few open windows and it wasn't too bad to get rid of.

I can't finish this post without a mention of our amazing neighbours. Marc had a good chat with them, while positioned precariously on the spiral stairs (the only solid structure left in the back garden!) I listened, and understood a lot, but my French skills did not feel quick enough for joining in the discussion. First there was banter on how things are going, next there was appreciation for the fact that we've been trying to keep all our neighbours (left, right, up and back) informed of our plans, and then most unexpectedly, they offered to look after our BBQ and my tender golden, Hiram. Marc and I had already decided that the work was too much for my dog to handle, I think it's just too noisy. He spent today in the bath - tell tale sign being Roland Rat in the tub. I'm amazed at how kind people can be. Of course, the neighbours have not spent a day with Hiram the furball yet, so they may want to retract their offer, but I'll definitely take them up on it for now!

As for tomorrow, I need to pick Lenny up from the mechanic ($), the plumber is coming ($$), Marc will renegotiate the digging contract and go to the bank (more $$$), and then there's our normal jobs (which help pay for our crazy schemes).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 3: No Change

There was still snow on the ground this morning, so no progress today :(

Tomorrow JF (the excavation site manager - or a title along those lines) hopes to have broken through the exterior wall into the basement by 10am! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

D-Day arrives! And then there was snow...

The sun was shining, the day was raring to begin, there was a roar of trucks in the back alley, and all at 7am on a Monday morning. But I'd forgotten about Lenny (my camper van used to drive across the country last summer for my move from Vancouver to Montreal). We're trying to get around needing a permit for blocking the ruelle (back alley) by being able to use our 3 parking spots for all the works vehicles. Despite having charged his battery just a couple of weeks earlier, Marc was unable to get my boy started, and had to fish out the battery charger kit. Of course, this all takes time... and just one irate neighbour later, Lenny was parked over at Alex's (for a little maintenance and an inspection for his new "je me souviens" plates).

Now the day was starting to get going and a lovely red excavator tractor was making the earth move. The hole for the English courtyard which is to ultimately provide access into the basement, was well under way at the end of day 1. However, work had been slow due to a lot of rock fragments. But our contractor, Mini Excavation Beloeil had the equipment to deal with it, so far.

There was no rude awakening, day 2; we were allowed to sleep in. While it had been t-shirt and beer patio weather the day before, a light covering of snow caressed the ground and was continuing to fall steadily. A little later in the morning our guys were able to start work on dismantling the patio deck (and adding supports). But it was just too wet to finish off today.

The slushy snow is supposed to continue into tomorrow, but the forecast is currently 26°C for Saturday... Crazy Montreal weather!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

D-Day: Minus 1

This weekend we completed the final preparation work for D-Day. We had prepared well, having spent Friday evening at El Zaziummm, with Kiwi Kate and Aussie Vanessa, followed by a long walk in our neighbourhood and finally letting Marc play Montreal Mont-Royal tour guide at 1am.

The weather was spectacular all weekend. Marc's dad arrived with power tools, which allowed them to chop up the last few pieces of wood that had been too big for the 1800-got-junk truck last week. So things were moving along nicely, the boys had the trailer loaded and went off to the dump (Eco-Centre). Unfortunately they arrived back all too soon, and still with all the debris. While the car in front had been allowed in, the centre was just "too busy". C'est la vie! So off they trekked to St. Michel, which was even busier, but at least let us dump the old wood. Merci pour l'aide, papa!

The rest of the weekend, with help from the kids too :) we removed all the patio stones, moved a hydrangea bush, emptied the balcony and fought to remove the steps. At one point I had a stressful moment when I thought I'd lost my dog, but it turned out he wasn't so keen on all the activity, and had found a cool, quiet spot under the balcony.

All in all, a successful weekend in the sun.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Digging Starts Monday!

At least... that's the plan. (Hopefully I won't have to eat my words)

Marc went to the city today to find out about this other permit. Fortunately, they agreed that we don't need it as we're not digging close to city property. So, unless something else comes up, we're FULL STEAM AHEAD!

Toot toot!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Junk Removal Photos

Last weekend we had cleaned up the backyard in preparation for the junk removal. Marc removed the basement window in the morning, the plan being to pass everything through that window (yes, that small one you see in the picture) and into the truck that would park in the back alley (ruelle - en francais)

This plan worked surprisingly well and the four of us (Rod a Concordia economics student - hoping to replace his broken down Ikea furtniture with superb finds from this junk job, Jen a fulltime nurse - lucky to have reasonable shifts, supplementing her income with our crap removal, plus the 2 of us).

The morning went fast and we filled 1 entire truck within the 2 hour time limit (after which it would have cost us an extra $100). After this, Marc and I were able to move all of our non-junk stuff from the basement and pack it away on the ground floor (rez de chaussée - en francais), the goal being to completely and utterly empty the "cave" of EVERYTHING! Jen and Rod returned with a near empty truck (and proudly showed us the treasures from the last job, including a poster of a nipple!)

Halfway through the day... (it was fun jumping on the huge cardboard tubes to flatten them!)

The second truck is starting to get full. Jen is rearranging the contents to fit as much in as possible.

Finally the basement is empty.

But that old freezer will have to wait until the back wall comes down. It's big, heavy and not wanting to go anywhere. No idea how it got down here to start with!

The tired and dirty couple... :)

Basement cleanup

Yesterday was the official beginning of the “Just two weeks” project. With the help of Rod and Jen from 1-800-GOT-JUNK, we were able to fill 1¾ trucks of crap from our basement. I would say that 85% of the junk was wood and the rest was metal pipes. It is amazing to see how much stuff people can keep. It was a lot of fun crawling in that dusty “cave”. The result is amazing and with some imagination I can see the basement taking shape. (Some people would say I'm crazy). We did not find any treasures but some interesting things that I still need to investigate and identify (more to come…).

We finished the day at a new restaurant in the neighborhood called "Le chien fumant". Beautifully presented and tasty cuisine (stuffed rabbit and trout) with a nice Italian wine (watch out - the cheapest on the menu is $40).

In French we say “une image vaut mille mots” an image worth thousand words so here come some images of that busy day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How many permits do we need?

Today I had on my project “to do list” to call the city in relation to a form that was in my permit envelope from the city. This form is a request for digging in the public domain. I was under the impression it was not necessary since the initial digging is under the house. So I called that other city department called public works. It was obvious for the gentleman at the end of the line that I needed to apply for that permit. Actually he told me that the permit I got is not for digging. So work is scheduled in less than 2 weeks and I don’t have all the required permits. Nobody informed me of that. Integrated view and “one stop shop” seem not to be the strong asset of a city citizen services. To add to the irony, I also need another permit for the connection of the sewage. One thing for sure, I know now where my taxes are spent!!

Since we are going to get the gas, I was logically thinking we should synchronize the digging for gas and sewage. I will call the contractor and the gas company tomorrow to try to sort things out.

Digging is coming soon, April 26. Also this weekend it is the basement junk removal……it is suppose to rain…..;-(

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

City Permit & Brick Work

This morning I again went to the city borough office to apply for the permit and the subsidies. I am getting pretty good at finding my way since I think it is the 5th time I walk my body over there. For the project we need a separate permit for the masonry since it is considered a patrimonial house (construction year 1915) and the brick is really rare. The brick was made in Scotland between 1915 and 1920 so any substitutes needs to be approved by the city of Montreal. Because of that we can apply for a subsidy that could cover 30% of the restoration cost (Like the city gentlemen told me, it is not renovation but restoration) so I could see the dollar sign in his eyes.

Here a drawing from Lisa (our architect) of the planed restoration

I apologize for any English syntax and grammar error; Joanna did not have the time to read me before the posting.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fence Removal

Today was the first test of our relationship. How are we going to cope over the next months (and years!) as we renovate our triplex home?

Having spent a fun evening at Sharx last night (bowling and beer), 1-800-got-junk called at 8am for our scheduled appointment. It's going to cost us $568 (1 full truck in 2 hours) + $100 for an extra hour + tax. De-junking starts next weekend, same time, same place. I don't envy the work, that needs to take place. Marc removed the security grill and tested removing the windows in preparation for emptying the place. I hope nobody breaks in, in the meantime...

As for today, we removed the "privacy" screens, back fence, blackberry tree and roses in preparation for the digging. No idea if the plants will survive, the tree was particularly savaged.

All this was followed by a review of the basement contents. Marc is very manly; he was oooh and aaahing over the solid blocks of wood he found. There are potentially some nice doors that could be recovered, but I suspect we'd spend more time and money repairing them than would be worth it.

The end of the day was nicely rounded off with a BC Mission Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, fresh pasta and divine chili chocolate from our trip to Guadeloupe last week.