We've got running water again

Our goal for the past weekend was to get the bathroom up and running so at least when the window guys come in, they'll have a place to do their business. We wouldn't have time to completely finish the bathroom (i.e. sand, prime, and paint the walls), but at least have the water and drains going for the toilet and sink. The house has been going without running water for a month now, so it'll be nice to get it all back and going again.

After Kel had the pipes hooked up, he still needed to close off all the open pipes that were not yet connected to anything. He was using the plastic PEX pipes for the house, so at every joint, there would have to be a metal ring where he'd crimp to the connector. After he was satisfied every pipe was connected or roped off, we did our first water test. Immediately, it was apparent that there was a leak and Kel realized that he had forgotten to crimp two of the metal rings. :P So he turned off the water to crimp the two bands and we proceeded to water test number two. I went upstairs to check on the main bathroom and kitchen pipes as he turned on the water again. They were inspecting the pipes downstairs and I gave the okay to the upstairs joints. Then suddenly, they said something's leaking down from upstairs. Apparently, Kel had drawn the pipes to our ensuite bathroom, but forgot to close them off so they were dangling out of the wall open ended! (In the picture, you can see the wet spots on the floor, but we've put the valves back in.) I swear it was starting to feel like we're debugging a software application at this point. After Kel had finished adding valves to the three open pipes, we tried again and we're in business! Everything looked good, the toilet flushes, the tap on the sink runs, and there aren't any leaks. *cheer* We turned off the water main (just in case) and left for dinner.

After dinner, Kel and I went back to the house so he can pick up his car and I can take a few photos. Upon entering the basement, Kel immediately realized that the valve they've put in to connect two pieces of old copper piping was leaking. Apparently the nut wasn't on tight enough so Kel had to fasten that on tighter. After that was done, he realized there was a slight leak at the old copper elbow joint where the pipe comes out of the water tank. He tried to solder that back a couple times, but it didn't quite work since there was quite a bit of rust and build up over the years. You can see him in the picture with the blue flame, trying to solder the old pipe in the limited space that he had, filled with pipes and wires. (Believe me, I've thought about it, if anything caught on fire, I'm going to throw a bucket of water over the whole thing. :P)

Below is how our bathroom looks now, with the toilet and vanity in. We still have to get the doors for the vanity, but that can be later since there's still a lot to be done with the walls. But its slowly and steadily coming together. :)

Trip to Buffalo

Since we had to go down to Buffalo to pick up the sink, we figured we might as well see what else we can get from the states and pick up everything at the same time. We had looked at vanity lights online before when we were looking at sinks, so we already knew which one we wanted to get. To tell you the truth, the first time Kel asked me which vanity lights I liked, I really had no idea there were options. I've grown up to and therefore only knew of the style where it's a line of light bulbs. But upon looking, I realized that there were many other choices to be had. Neither of us liked the common bell shaped ones, whether it was opening up or down, so it didn't take us long to agree on these ones.

While we were at it, I remember seeing these salt and pepper grinders when I was in Hong Kong in July. They were shaped like black and white bunnies, and everyone that knows me knows I love my bunny! I didn't pick them up at the time (although I was very tempted to), because I saw that the brand was actually American, which meant the mark up in Hong Kong would be far greater than in North America. Sogo at Causeway Bay was selling them for more than $40CDN a piece and that was too much of a rip even for me, so I've actually been keeping a lookout for them in stores ever since I've been back. Unfortunately, even though I could find stores that carried the brand, they did not have the bunnies I wanted, which made this the perfect opportunity to order them online and shipped to Buffalo as well.

I Google-mapped our route there to pick up the packages, and then the route to the outlet mall since everybody knows I can't go to the states without making a trip to Bath & Body Works. Sure, they've opened stores in Toronto now, but the sales in the states are still way better than the ones in Toronto (especially since our dollar's been pretty strong lately). And plus, its only a ten minute drive from our pickup location!

Anyhow, we've previously arranged for Erica to accompany me down, so Kel wouldn't have to waste a day going down. Since the pickup place closed at noon on Saturdays, we estimated leaving the house around 08:30 just to be safe in case there was a line up crossing the border. Traffic getting there was decent and we arrived just before 11. After paying for their services, Erica opened the boxes and quickly inspected our goods as their radio played Eva Cassidy's rendition of "Cheek to Cheek". We ripped all the loose parts from the boxes we didn't need and Erica taped the packaging back together. We rolled everything out to the car with the help of one of their hand trolleys, which was when we ran into Peter, one of the guys I play volleyball with. What are the odds? I guess a lot of Canadians do this sort of thing, afterall. We headed over to the outlet mall to the Bath & Body Works after that to hit their lotion and hand soap sale. While at the mall, Erica also bought a front zip jacket at Under Armor.

After that, we went down to Best Buy since Erica had to get a GPS for Mike. She had me google where it was the night before, but since the printer at my room wasn't working, I just looked it up and figured we'd go from there. I had a printout of the region from one of our previous routes, but it was not in detailed view and only showed the major interstates. I told Erica to go down 62 South and we should see it in about 15 minutes. After about eight minutes she asked me if we were going in the right direction since we were driving through a pretty rural area. I asked if we were still on 62 South, she said yes, so I told her it hasn't been fifteen minutes yet. Another three minutes passed, and she asked again.

"Are you sure this is the way? There's nothing out here."

"It's only been three minutes since you last asked. If you're really that scared, we can pull over to a store or gas station to ask, or even just to look at a map."

"No, its okay... Did you look at how far we were supposed to drive?"

"No and I don't remember, because everything's in miles and that means nothing to me. If we don't see it after fifteen minutes, then we'll figure something out."

".... Who looks at time as opposed to distance?! At least with distance I can guesstimate!"

*rolls my eyes* "Just drive on!"

And sure enough, we found the Best Buy after about 15 minutes. See! Google's pretty good with their time estimates! After purchasing the GPS, we went back to the car to rip all the packaging since we decided to only declare the sink and lotions at the border crossing. I walked back to the garbage bin at the front of the store to throw out stuff, while Erica rearranged things in the car. When I got back to the car, she said she was going to drive over to pick me up, but when she took out the receipt from Bath & Body Works, it flew out of her hand... (It was pretty windy that day.) She said it flew under the car next to us, but she can't seem to find it. I bent down to check, and it wasn't there. I checked under the cars in that line, and it was still nowhere to be found. It was then that I realized the wind might have carried it to another row of cars over. She was sure it wouldn't go that far, but with the wind that day, I don't think it'd stop going until it hit a puddle. Sure enough, I found it 3 rows down and in a puddle. :P (People were looking at us curiously by then and wondering what we were looking for.) We hopped back into the car and drove back the way we came. We declared only the sink and lotions as planned, and the officer didn't bother pulling us over to tax us or search the car. *phew* :D

Our Vanity Sinks...

It all started about a month and a half ago when Kel started looking at vanity sinks for our bathrooms. He was surfing around at work and sent me links to sites to get my opinion on the various options we had. It took a little while, but we did eventually land on one we both liked. The problem with shopping online was that a lot of U.S. sites did not ship to Canada, but tend to have more competitive pricing and definitely more variety. To solve the delivery issue, Kel suggested using one of those companies located by the border, whose sole function was to accept packages for others and hold them for pickup. That way, we could order other things for the house and pick everything up with one trip. I've heard of people who use these services and figured we could give that a try.

Three weeks have passed and I know Kel hasn't placed the order for the sink yet, so I suggested maybe it was about time to go ahead with the order. He said sure, he'll get right on it Monday morning since he saved everything at work. Monday rolls around and he calls me up to tell me the sink we were looking at on that site was sold out and they wouldn't get restocked until at least September. I began trolling around the web, looking for another site that had this sink for a similar price. (The problem was, the manufacturer suggested price was at $5XX, while that site had it on sale for under $200.) It took a while, but I finally found another site that had them for a similar sale price and sent the link over to Kel. We were both ecstatic, but he said there were no shipping rates on the site so he proceeded to emailing them for one.

The weekend comes along, and I asked if he's placed the order yet. He says the lady got back to him on the rate already, but thought maybe we could get something else from that site as well and save on the shipping. I told him to just order it since it'll take time to get here and we'll be needing it soon. He says he'll place the order on Monday.

Monday morning, I get a message from him. "Bad news, they're sold out." He emailed the lady he was talking to before and she told him they won't be getting another shipment until September-October... Once again, I was back to Googling. It took me quite a while, but I was able to find something similar looking on yet another site, and he went to place the order. That Friday afternoon, I messaged him to confirm he's placed the order through. He says he's been trying to, but something was wrong with the form and he keeps getting an error message that said he didn't fill in a required field. Five minutes later, he messages me; upset; saying the site now shows the sink as sold out! x_x' And he sounds even more upset than I was! So then I began looking up stores that might carry that brand, or even something similar to that sink. Before long, I found a place in Markham that does and told him to call them for a price. It came out to be slightly more, but still reasonable, so I told him I was going to leave work a little early and to meet me there. We were going to pick up this sink one way or the other and I was not to let this madness go on! We got there and had a walk around their showroom, since we had to wait for them to get us the sink from the warehouse for inspection. During that time, we picked out a second sink (for our main bathroom), and were told that if we paid cash, we can save on the tax, but it'd void the warranty since we wouldn't get a receipt. (Typical!) So while Kel waited to inspect the two sinks, I ran out to get the cash. By the end of that Friday, we finally got our two sinks.


I get to work the following Monday and gets an email from Kel saying the order had apparently gone through for the sink online because he sees it on his Visa... I replied, "It's okay. We can save that one for the bathroom in the basement..." *speechless*

Tile Dealings

After following the roadmap from my previous post, I realized that places I called were either:
a) out of business
b) don't carry that brand
c) carries the brand, but aren't stocking that line

I found a number for the manufacturer's office online and called their Toronto location to inquire about their tiles. However, the person I need to speak to had stepped out of the office, so I left my name and number wondering if they'll really call back. To my surprise they called back within 2 hours, and asked what region I was in, to give me their distributor's name. Of course, this was the same place we found the tiles in the first place, which led me to realize that their tiles are exclusive to selective stores in different regions.

By the afternoon Kel had called Daniela, the sales rep from the store, to inquire about the price and shipment dates of our tiles. To our dismay, Daniela said that the price is actually $14.95/sqft because apparently the $11.95 was the US price. They have a shipment coming in on September 1st, but our order won't be able to make that date, so we'll be looking at mid-September time frame. Kel messaged me to see if we're still a go with the inflated price. I told him to call her back to see if she can lower it some. Daniela came back with $13.95 and said that was the best she could do. During this time, I've been randomly cold calling places in other regions to see if they carried the tiles. Upon hearing the new price offer and delivery date, I called up the manufacturer again to see if I can get the name of a different distributor from them.

"Didn't Vivian call you back with that this morning?"

"Yes, but the store said they can't get us the tiles until mid-September, and we're hoping to get them sooner."

"Mid-September? But we have another shipment going out to them next Monday!" (Aug 31st)

"Well, if we could get them next week, that'll be awesome."

"Who did you talk to at the store?"

"Karen" <-- I actually mixed up our shower sales girl's name here "Okay, I'll look into this and call you back." I told Kel of the news and we kept our fingers crossed. By 4pm, Vanessa from the store called me back. She said she heard I was interested in the tiles and could offer me the price of $11.95 and have them in there by September 1st. From the sounds of it, they got quite a talking to because she asked if the date worked for me, meaning she could rush the order if needed?! I almost feel bad for putting her in that position, but hey.. cheaper tiles, faster shipping date, same store... Woot! Below is our main bathroom in transition.. the tiles are done, the tub is in, and the drywall is up on the sides.

Tile Shopping

Step 1: Find the store and their opening hours and shift your schedule to get there in time. (Most places close at 5pm or 6pm, and 8pm on the odd day. Barely open on Saturdays, and definitely closed on Sundays.)

Step 2: Browse around and price the ones that catch your eye. Find out if they have any in stock. If they need to order them from the warehouse/manufacturer, find out how long that will take and when they're placing their next order.

Step 3: If you didn't find anything that catches your eye. Go back to Step 1.

Step 4: Once you've settled on the brand and color of tile, go online and try to find other distributors of that brand, or at least, find a listing of other tile shops in the area and get their phone numbers.

Step 5: Call each of those places and ask them if they carry that line of tiles, get a quote from them if they do and see what kind of deal you can get.

Step 6: Purchase from the cheapest quote you get.

Or of course, you can just pick it up from the first place you see it at, which would be much simpler, but when tiles start costing 12 bucks a piece.. well, you really have to think about it.

Below are the two tiles we chose for our ensuite stand in shower.

Oh, and we made another trip to IKEA last Friday to order our vanity cabinets. While there, we managed to score an entire countertop (for our ensuite bathroom) for $29! Woot!

Tiling the bathroom floor

Summer finally hit Toronto this past weekend! We had 30+ degree weather all weekend and it looks like it's here to stay. We didn't end up doing very much this weekend though, because we promised we'd help Ken paint his pool on Saturday morning, and we had a wedding to go to that evening. Sunday was also the last game of the season for their softball league, so Kelly figured he should show up since he's been skipping out on all the other games. :P So for the in between hours, Kelly and his dad managed to fix some of the piping as well as tiling the main bathroom floor.

Below, you can see Kel's dad tiling as Kel cut the tiles and mix the mortar. Can't wait to see the finished product!

What the girls did

As promised, this is the hindsight picture of the hole Kel and his dad dug with the mini jackhammer in the basement cement floor to replace the main drain pipe.

On Saturday, Erica came by to help out at the house. Kel told us he needed to get rid of all the wall moldings and proceeded to show us how to pry it out with a hammer and crowbar. So the two of us split the job, Erica would pry the wood off the wall and I'd hammer the nails flat to the board for easier and safer disposal later.

After lunch, we went to Lowe's to get the tub for the bathroom. When we got there, we asked for assistance to load the tub to our flatbed, only to realize it was actually really light.. :P It's okay though, we needed him to get us the walls to the shower, as well as the drain stuff anyways. The two of us had an interesting time trying to wheel everything to the front as the walls and the box it came in was awfully big. It was like a full out obstacle course! I was pushing random ladders and mobile shelving out of the way as Erica drove the boxes through the aisles. Some random old lady was cheering us on. Erica spotted another sales guy on the floor just when we were about to make it to the main aisle, so we went over and asked him to drive. I guess it's different when you work there, because the guy was knocking over random things and going full out and people would just duck out of the way. Anyhow after we paid, we needed help moving the things onto the van. They were telling us that there was no way this would fit in any van, unless we had a pickup truck, and that we should rent their van. The other option was to tie it to the top of the van, but we'd have to be really careful driving it back. I can see Erica was contemplating just handing over a twenty and taking their van. But the thing is, we'd have to drive it back and return it, so its a hassle either way. We ended up asking the guys to help us tie the box to the roof and we slowly drove back to the house. The rest of the afternoon, Erica helped Kel and his dad, while I vacuumed all the cracks at the bottom of the walls left by the missing moldings. Besides monster size dust bunnies, there was a crazy amount of bobby pins, random lost buttons, and I even found a sewing needle! Our day didn't end until 8:30ish. Thanks Erica!

Below: Left - the new A/C unit we had installed a couple weeks ago. Right - the garbage we generated just after this weekend. (Kel and Ken already did a garbage run on Friday night and cleared everything from before..)

Plumbing & The Bathroom

There weren't any posts for last weekend, as Kel and his dad were busy replacing the plumbing in the house, so there really wasn't much to see. They rented a mini jackhammer to dig up the basement floor where the main drain pipe was to make the cut and tore out all the old iron pipes. After that, Kel was busy gluing the new pipe sections together to prep for the final replacement. (In hindsight, I should take a picture of the hole in the ground with the new pipe, and the pile of rubble on the floor. I'll make sure I do that this week.)

During the course of last week, we started to demo the main floor bathroom. Kel dragged out the vanity sink and cabinet, and hacked away at the floor made up of tiny octagon tiles. The task after that, was to remove all the wall tiles in the washroom. At first, we were thinking of preserving the walls inside the shower, so Kel showed me how to take them out with a flat head screwdriver and a hammer. While I was chipping away at the tiles, it occurred to me that this must be what it feels like trying to break out of prison! Although the hammer was only 20oz, the consistent chipping really did a number on my right arm. Ken came by that night and laughed at my attempt. :P He then convinced us we didn't need those walls and once he got the green light, he took a sledge hammer to the wall tiles. After a couple of rounds, he showed me how to do it. Once he was satisfied I was down with the technique, he proceeded to show me how to take off the regular wall tiles with an ice shovel. (A shovel with sharp teeth at the end.) So that was our main task this weekend, we finished taking all the tiles out, and Kel and his dad took out the old tub and prepped the floors for the new tiles, as well as the walls for the new tub.

The picture below is what the bathroom used to look like, and how it was after the demolition. (And if you notice the after picture, the light isn't there anymore because I accidentally broke it with the ice shovel, while taking off the tiles. I actually couldn't figure out why something fell from above me when I was trying to take out tiles below, until Kel said, "Baby, you know you just broke the light.." Whoops!)