Daily Robin update

Here are some quick update pictures of the robins – they were peeking out of the top of the nest at me when I went out today.

It’s hard to believe how fast they are growing, both in size and in the way their plumage is starting to fill out. The battle for space in the nest is going to be heating up over the next few days I suspect.

Upstairs Bathroom Renovation (Part 4)

Silver Satin. That was the colour that we finally decided on out of the myriad of off-white options available to us. The idea was to have something in the silver/grey range and not slip too far into either the yellows or the reds.

I started painting first thing in the morning as we are expecting a scorcher today and there is no air conditioning in that part of the house. At 10AM it is already 28°C but feeling like 33°C and going up to 34°C feeling like 42°C later this afternoon. To help the drying, and in anticipation of the second coat after lunch, I set up the portable AC blowing full blast into the room.

Putting the paint on, I had immediate misgivings about the colour but as it dries it looks more and more like what we expected. I know its hard to see in the photos but there is just enough colour that I think it will really make the tile and vanity counter pop once they are in. One benefit of having the tile going around the entire room is that the paint only needs to go down to about 36″ above the floor – makes the process go a whole lot faster. For some reason, I don’t really mind cutting along the ceiling line but find it really difficult to do the same at the bottom of the wall. Must be something with the angles.

The only outstanding question was whether the thin strip of sloped ceiling along the door side wall should be painted to match the wall or ceiling (the sloped portion is painted as ceiling on the window wall). You can see the area I’m talking about in the picture above at the top and there is a close up below, though it doesn’t show very well.

The unanimous decision was to make it part of the ceiling, which keeps it consistent with the window wall. Nice thing about it is that it’s easy to change if we decide to do so later. The whole room, with two good coats of paint is only going to use about 2/3 of a gallon of paint anyway. Plenty left over for touch-ups.

Really starting to come together now. Amelia came in commented on how it is starting to feel “finished”. I can’t wait to see how it looks with the floor and tile in place too.

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

Part 5 of the renovation can be found here.

Upstairs Bathroom Renovation (Part 3)

Last evening was ceiling painting time. While painting still provides some of the most instant gratification, doing the ceiling is the least fun for me – always the spectre of drips of paint in your hair and such. I got away with a single drop on my shirt so I’ll mark that as success.

For those interested, I used a Zinsser satin white anti-mildew ceiling paint. It came out really nicely though I’m not sure you can really tell from the picture. The satin is quite a bit more reflective than the matte that I usually use on ceilings but the guys did a great job on the drywall and there are really no imperfections to hide so all is good. When I first rolled it on, I nearly had a heart attack as it looked super high gloss but once it dried, the lovely satin sheen that remained settled me back down.

Still haven’t decided on the wall colour yet though we are getting close. Ivory is out as anything too yellow seems to muddy up the appearance of the vanity top (now have a sample to compare against). Feels like we are going to end up with an off white in the cool grey range but which one, of the apparently hundreds that are available, is still undecided. Who knew there could be so many different whites!

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

Part 4 of the renovation can be found here.

Robins are growing

Just an update on the robins. I snapped a quick picture of the nest to see how they are doing. All four still there and, to my eye, threatening to outgrow the nest in short order!

Upstairs Bathroom Renovation (Part 2)

Last night I put the primer on the walls. Though it is a bit messy, I find painting incredibly rewarding. There is really nothing else that one can do in renovating that makes such an immediate positive change. That being said, there is also something vaguely disturbing about the primer coat. When you are putting it on, you see all the splotches and visible inconsistencies of raw drywall seem to disappear. However, when you come back and look at it a little while later, the limited pigment in primer means that you still have ghosts of those inconsistencies showing through demanding a coat of actual paint to cover them. Its like your brain adjusts and your sense of the job quality becomes much more acute once the glaring difference between the drywall and raw mud is even partially covered by the primer. I’m sure someone has studied and named this phenomenon – I wonder what it’s called.

Next stop the paint store. First a can of ceiling paint for bathrooms. Then I need to find a colour that we can all agree on for the walls that works with the tile and woodwork that will be in the bathroom. I don’t have a sample of it on hand, but the counter will be a synthetic marble with grey veins on a white field – fixtures are all chrome. It will be interested to see what works.

People interested in seeing the full renovation process as tracked in this blog should start here.

Part 3 of the renovation can be found here.

Robins Nest

In what is becoming an annual event, robins have set up a nursery in a nest over our back door light.

I’ve been following the development of the family since it started – chronologically shown below. Note that the eggs showed up one at a time a day apart each though I didn’t catch a photo of them until mamma robin had already laid two.

Not sure if the last photo is a function of perspective or if there really was that much disparity in egg size. Seems the largest egg is almost twice the size of the smaller one – if accurate, it is more variation than I would have expected.

After that, things got quiet and I even started to suspect that the eggs might not be viable as it seems the mother wasn’t around brooding them. To be sure, I stuck the camera up top once more to find that all four had hatched.

They’re not very loud right now but based on past years, I’m assuming that we’ll be hearing the constant cheeping starting soon.

Meanwhile, mother robin is on the prowl and dive bombs Ralphie any time he is in the back yard. I’ll try and catch a video of it – kinda funny as he can’t seem to figure out why she is so upset.

Last years fledging was not very successful and I’m not sure any of the young survived so I’m hoping we have better luck this time around. Fingers crossed…

Upstairs Bathroom Renovation (Part 1)

Well we finally got the girl’s bathroom renovation up and going – something that was a long time coming and absolutely needed but had to wait a few years after purchasing the house until we could afford it.

I thought I’d capture the renovation process here but am starting late by a few weeks. As such, this first post will be a bit long to catch up. The rest should be considerably more reasonable.

For those of you that aren’t aware, we live in a Victorian Italianate that was built in 1886. The previous owners had a lot of the underlying mechanicals such as electrical panel/wiring, plumbing, and boiler done as well as a number of cosmetics. The work that they had done by professionals is exemplary – the work that they attempted themselves leaves something to be desired. As a result we have a combination of both work that was never gotten to and needs doing as well as jobs that were done, but poorly, and need to be reworked.

Chief among the jobs that were never done is the renovation of the girl’s bathroom – a pearlescent yellow tile monstrosity, likely from the forty’s, that was both in rough shape and not representative of the stately Victorian ideals of the house. It also gave us a chance to flip the tub around and get the shower head up to a reasonable height for adults. You can see “before” photos of it below. Notice that the tub was resurfaced sometime in the past – that was now peeling off in numerous places.

The first step, as expected, was the demo – right down to the studs. I was actually out of town while the demo was going on so didn’t manage to get a picture until after they had started framing the shower alcove and putting in the new tub.

For those who are interested, the tub is a cast iron Kohler Bellweather that replaces the old peeling standard steel tub. I’ve always loved cast iron tubes, not just for the way they hold heat, but also the fact that they don’t flex or bounce at all – really says “quality” to me. On the other hand, they are deadly heavy. The plumber doing the installation mentioned (jokingly) that we must hate old plumbers! Clearly he’s done this before though as he brought along a pair of good sized younger guys to do the job of wrestling the tub into place.

If you notice, while the tub is level, there is a significant gap to the right side with the floor. Here is where 130+ years of age in the house make themselves known in the sagging floors and crazy angles. More on that later.

Back to the demo. As you can see above, and not unexpectedly, there isn’t a whiff of insulation in either the wall or the sloped ceiling. Along with the rough plumbing and electrical, insulation was put in place in both walls and the sloped ceiling.

You can see that we have some space at the end of the tub where a niche will be put in to hold shampoo and the like. It is framed in more completely below.

Next was the drywall with cement board in the shower alcove.

On to the mudding. This is never my favorite part as the dust is crazy but has to be done. Here is how it looks now.

Remember that I mentioned how wonky our floors are? Well we were out by about 1 1/8″ over the width of the floor. This is a significant issue seeing as we are putting white subway tile part way up the wall running around the perimeter of the room. Trying to make everything match in the corners would be a nightmare with the floor that far out.

Rather than try and level that all up with a mortar bed, Harold, the foreman for the renovation crew did the most amazing jigsaw puzzle of floor shims I have ever seen gradually building things up from one side of the room to the other to get things into something approaching level. While I’m reasonably competent (though slow) doing most renovation jobs myself if I have to, this is one job that I wouldn’t have had a clue how to approach. Kudos to Harold for the great job! You can get a sense of the work involved from the photo below:

That’s it for the moment, I’m on to painting next. We’re handling the painting ourselves to try and keep some sort of control on the costs of the reno. I need to get primer on the walls in preparation for the tile guys showing up next week. We may even attempt to get the first coat of paint on the upper walls though we have yet to decide on a colour. Heidi is leaning to ivory at the moment, I’m not sure. I’m going to take a sample of the tile and the wood for the cabinets over to the paint store and see what options I can come up with.

Stay tuned, I’ll update the build as it goes along.

Part 2 of the renovation can be found here.

Welcome to EllFamily.com!

We’re a family of 5 (6 if you count the dog) living in beautiful Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. In addition to my wife and I, there are our 3 wonderful daughters and a cute little brown and white piebald dachshund named Ralphie whose pictures feature prominently here.

After many fits and starts, we’ve finally got a web site to go along with the domain name that we set up a couple of years ago. There is no particular theme to the site, just a bunch of random content that the various members of the family have put together.

To get started, we’ve put up a bunch of pictures of some of the birthday cakes and gingerbread houses that we’ve made over the years. We’ll add other stuff as we think about it.


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