Bathroom leaks! Another reno …

In the house we are getting ready for sale, my clients had paid a tradesman to redo their master bedroom ensuite not that long ago. I noticed when I first saw it that the tiles were a little crooked and that the tub didn’t seem to be level. However, it wasn’t until the tradesman I use, Alex Martinez, poked his head in during the other renos, that we saw a bigger problem: the tradesman had installed a wood trim at the top of the tile surround, instead of extending the tiles all the way to the ceiling.

The problem, of course, with installing wood in a shower is that it’s not waterproof. I brought it to the attention of my clients and they agreed it was a problem and that the surround needed to come down. Alex came back and removed the tiles and this is what we found:

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That black staining shows that water had already got in behind the tiles and into the insulation: it’s black mould. Ugh.

It turns out that there was no waterproofing behind the tile surround – no Schluter membrane, no greenboard– which is a kind of  drywall that is mold-resistant– just regular drywall. And for some peculiar  reason the tradesman (or someone before him, we don’t know who did it) had insulated the interior walls with fibreglass insulation. (If you’re going to insulate interior walls to reduce noise, you should use spray foam or rigid insulation: it can take a very long time for fibreglass insulation to dry out if it gets damp.)

Anyway, you can see where the leaks had occurred;  I’m surprised, frankly, that there wasn’t drywall damage on the other side of this wall.

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If you look to your left in the above photo, in behind the copper plumbing, you can see another potential problem. There is drywall there  too (which is the party wall between the two properties) that has a big gap between the two boards, meaning that wall was wide open to leaks as well.

We then discovered yet another issue. The tub had not been secured — if you sat on the edge of it, it rocked. The only thing holding in place was the bottom row of tiles. This can be a real problem, because if the tub moves like that, eventually, the pipes or drain connected to it will come loose and cause a major flood. (I had this happen to clients: it was over $ 10K to repair the damage.)

So my poor homeowners  agreed to redo all the work they’d already done and paid for. This whole fiasco really points out the need to use trades who know what they are doing and who are properly insured, and when it comes to anything to do with plumbing, use a licensed plumber.

They’re getting a new tub, and Alex is going to install greenboard and a waterproof membrane and get rid of that yucky insulation. I’ve picked out the tub  for them as well as the new tiles for the surround – they will be using 3″ x 16″ white subway ceramic tiles, which will be installed in a stacked pattern. Stay tuned for more pictures!

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A history of flooding in Elmvale Acres #Ottawa

I saw a listing recently for a home in Elmvale Acres that referred to the basement having flooded in the heavy rains on October 30th last year. Apparently the storm had overwhelmed the sanitary back up valve that was supposed to stop storm sewer water from entering a house.

The surface flooding that took place in that area was unbelievable – one homeowner, Kevin Gray, told the Ottawa Citizen that several feet of water came in right through his front door. (Picture: credit Ottawa Citizen/Kevin Gray).

Elmvale Acres

Not surprisingly, homeowners wanted answers.

The fact that the homeowner in the listing I mentioned had a backwater valve at all (even though it didn’t work) got me thinking. We normally only see these installed where there is a history of flooding in the area, but that particular storm had been touted as a once in a century occurrence. So I did a little digging.

Elmvale Acres was developed in the 1950s by Robert Campeau, and since it was a new subdivision, his company was responsible for paying for infrastructure. As the Ottawa Journal reported in 1955, city taxes were gong to be lower in that area because the builder was paying for sewer and water mains upfront.

Taxes on the houses will be comparatively low in view of the fact that the Installation of sewer and water mains throughout the project are paid in advance by the construction company and this is Included in the selling price. When completed, this subdivision will contain at least 1,700 houses.

Within two years of construction, there were already problems.  On June 24, 1957, after a storm,  The Ottawa Citizen reported there had been  surface flooding in Elmvale Acres and a “steady stream” of calls to City Hall.

I couldn’t find out what the city did then to deal with the problem, then, but if they did anything at all, it didn’t work for long. I found a reference  in the Ottawa Journal to the Urbandale-Elmvale Acres area as being “another major basement flooding trouble spot” in 1973.

According to this Ottawa Citizen news report, which quotes City Councillor Peter Hume, in 1999, the city installed a storage holding tank in Alta Vista to hold sewer water to prevent back-ups. Flood prevention measures were to be undertaken the following year. If that’s the case, once again, they didn’t work: only four years later, the area flooded again.

A City of Ottawa report dated November, 2005  refers to a history of basement flooding in Alta Vista, as follows:

There are 6 neighbourhoods in this Ward that experienced basement flooding on September 9, 2004, including Alta Vista (Chalmers), Alta Vista (Blossom/Utah), Faircrest Heights, Elmvale Acres/Urbandale Acres, Riverview Park (Drake) and Ridgemont.  Approximately 140 homes reported basement flooding in these neighbourhoods on September 9, 2004.

What is the history of basement flooding in these areas?

These neighbourhoods have experienced repeated flooding in 1986, 1988 and 1996.

The sewers in these neighbourhoods are partially separated and are aging.  The sanitary sewer system operates adequately during dry weather conditions, but during extreme wet weather conditions the additional flow contribution from connected foundation drains, flat roofs and depressed driveways contribute significant quantities of stormwater that can result in basement flooding.  The groundwater level in these neighbourhoods is very high increasing the problems associated with stormwater inflow into the sanitary sewer system.

So, this problem has been around for a very long time – well over sixty years. From just my cursory search, we have reports of homes in the Elmvale area flooding in 1957, 1973, 1986, 1988, 1996, 2004, and 2017. That’s disturbing. It certainly is something I want my clients to know about if they are thinking of buying in that area.

Kevin Kit, the president of the Elmvale Acres Community Association,  was reported as saying after last year’s flooding saying that this hasn’t been the first time that residents in the neighbourhood have been flooded, and that the city needs to start really looking into the current sewer systems. No kidding. Surely it’s time for a permanent solution.

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Renovations: Before and after shots of the hardwood flooring/tiles

With the homeowners on their way back to Ottawa, Alex got busy! He managed to finish the hardwood floors and tile, and what a difference! Here’s the before and after shots, starting with the hallway (note the new baseboard – we also painted the walls with Behr Mortar):

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At .85 cents a tile, you have to love the new entry! The original tiles were cracked, so Alex put down a new subfloor. (I actually came in when Alex was about to put down the transition and asked him to swing it around so the dark part of the board was to the left, so that it matched better. Where it was, the light caught it from the overhead fixture and made it look lighter than the planks. Now it’s perfect! )

Here’s the living room before and after (and remember that stack of hardwood is hiding the fireplace). The fireplace still needs a touch-up of paint because the painter couldn’t get to it with all that wood there.  We wanted to get the paint done before the floors were replaced so that we didn’t have to deal with tarps.

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That same entry way tile is in the hearth (the tiles there had lifted). I love the way Alex mitred around the hearth with the hardwood. Lovely work, and again, note all the new baseboards.

Here’s the area by the staircase:

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And here’s the kitchen! The original tiles were badly cracked. Alex put down a new subfloor before laying the hardwood. So much better!

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A lovely job as always, and hard to beat the price of that hardwood ($2.75/sq ft from Home Depot)! Next, the two bathrooms – stay tuned!



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The renovation continues: here’s the before and “during”photos!

So in yesterday’s blog post, I shared some photos of my clients’ home at the early stages of renovations; I popped by on Saturday afternoon, after a showing, and here’s where things are at now:

This is the kitchen “before,”  with the cracked tile floor and (to me) a very industrial look; here’s the “almost” after with the new hardwood installed. All that’s left to do now is re-install the toe-kicks , new baseboard/trim,  and a side piece to the cabinet:

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Here’s the hallway when it was carpeted; now it’s all lovely hardwood. The tiles in the foyer were to be installed Sunday, as they were cracked, so Alex was putting down a new plywood sub-floor to prevent that from happening again.

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Here is the living room, before the new hardwood and paint colour. The stack of boxed hardwood is hiding the fireplace.

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And here it is with the new paint colour. The painter has to come back to paint the fireplace surround, which he couldn’t get to because of all those boxes of hardwood. It does let you see the difference between the serene colour it is now and the yellow it was before.

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Isn’t that lovely?

Alex was going to lay the tile on Sunday in the foyer and in front of the hearth so he could grout it after New Year’s.  We’ve just found out our home-owners are coming home a little earlier than we expected — they’ll be back tomorrow (Tuesday) so there will be a bit of a scramble to get the home at least liveable for their return!

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Another renovation underway for clients – here are the “before” shots!

As most of you know, I do four or five renos a year helping my clients get their homes ready for sale. I have one on the go right now that should be finished next week.

My clients had original carpet in their living room that was getting pretty worn and dated. It ran all the way down the hallway from the front foyer as well.

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If we want to get top dollar on resale, that had to go — and they agreed to install new hardwood, yay!!!. (And note the 2″ builder basic baseboard, we’re replacing that with 4″ when the new hardwood is installed.)

They had  recently redone their kitchen and installed new ceramic floors, but the ceramic  tile had already cracked along the seams. We weren’t sure if it was structural (perhaps a sag in the floor joists?) but my original thought on seeing the problem was that the tradesman hadn’t used enough mortar, which turned out to be the case.

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Until we pulled the tiles up, however, we had no way of knowing. Levelling and reinforcing sub-floors can be expensive, so  I suggested they extend the  new hardwood into the kitchen as well. I knew the hardwood would warm up the room, which was feeling a little industrial; it would be less expensive to install than new tiles, and if the floor wasn’t perfectly level, the hardwood would be more forgiving than tile. Again, they agreed! (They are so terrific to work with!)

Originally, the quote we had for hardwood without the install was $ 4.75/sq ft, which is certainly fair, but I wanted to save them some money.  Alex Martinez, my go-to tradesman when it comes to flooring and tile, told me that Home Depot had put a lovely dark stained birch on sale at the incredible price of $2.75/sq ft. and I rushed over to see it right away. Alex picked it up for me and we left in their home to acclimatize for a while. (You need to let hardwood acclimatize for a couple of weeks where it’s going to be installed so it can adjust the humidity level, or it can buckle or warp after installation.)

There were also some cracked tiles in the foyer, so I picked up some really nice porcelain tile for them for $ 0.85 cents a tile at Home Depot. Here’s the hardwood (Birch Balsamic, it’s called), the tile I found, and the 3 x 16″ subway tiles we’ll be using in their upstairs MBR. (They had a new tile tub surround that wasn’t done properly and needed to be replaced because of leaks; the issues we found there will be the subject of another post later.)


They wanted to paint the entire main level, which was a light yellow and quite marked up from little kids and wear, as well as the stairway and upstairs hallway. I suggested either Behr Mortar, or Benjamin Moore’s Tapestry Beige, and they decided to go with Mortar, which is a light blue/grey with a bit of mud to it. It’s one of my favourite neutrals and works beautifully with the new tiles and hardwood.  Here it is on the walls of the bathroom in the investment condo on Burnside that I renovated last year (and have since sold to a very happy buyer.)


We are also changing out several lights. They had a really hideous light in the hallway with three twisty parts that looked like snakes, and a dining room light fixture made of shells that was just too big for that space. Below is the new dining room drum shade light I picked up for them at Rona for around $100. You can see the  flushmount drum shade light in the hallway where the “snake light” used to be; I got that at Canadian Tire for $40.  (And that’s Alex checking his messages!)

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I have a new light fixture for the main floor powder room too. It isn’t up yet as the room still has to be painted.  The new light is modern and contemporary;  I love it!  It cost around $100 at Home Depot, and it will be centred over the sink – the other one wasn’t. I also got them a properly sized mirror — the one they had was teeny-tiny, but that isn’t their fault: it isn’t easy to find the right size as it wasn’t standard. The new one was about $ 30 at HomeSense, on sale, and while it has a brass edge instead of nickel, which I would have preferred, it will fit perfectly.


They are away for the holidays now so I’ve been dropping by from time to time to keep an eye on how things are going. The house is in the usual state of chaos that accompanies renovations so I’m glad they are out of town while we get it done.

Below, you can see the big pile of hardwood we’d stacked in front of the fireplace. At the time of my first visit, the painter had just started cutting along the ceiling line with the new Behr colour–this is the original yellow.

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We’re also going to replace this old closet door in the foyer with a mirrored door from Mirrorworks. The new doors and installation will be around $ 460: Mirrorworks passed on their contractors’ price to my clients, which I really appreciated.

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So that’s the before. Wait until you see the progress shots and the afters — Alex is almost finished doing the hardwood, and the painter is almost done too, so check in tomorrow for more pics!

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Socks sorted and delivered – we’re done! #SockittoChristmas #Day26

We brought in all our bins of socks today (except those at Critter Jungle, which is running a separate “socks for raffle ticket” draw right up to Christmas Eve). So thank you to Freshii, and Global Pet Foods, and Cake and Shake, and Dovercourt Recreation Centre, for all of your help in hosting these final bins.

We ended up with 1215 pairs of socks and $ 600 (which is enough for Parkdale Food Centre to buy 200 pairs of socks). Cutting Parkdale a cheque was easy. Sorting 1,000 or so socks today was a lot harder!

Huge thanks to Marina Doran, Gaelan Gordon, Molly Hoyle, Catherine Duncan, and Claude Jobin, who helped me to take the socks out of the packages and sort them according to size and weight and whether they were men’s, women’s or children’s. Here we were, laughing and having fun, as if we were at a quilting bee — it was really a lot of fun (we even had a sock fight!).


Marina brought this wonderful sock monkey for me as a Christmas gift and he perched on the couch while we worked – it will be such a treasured gift, and thank you so much!



And this is what 1,000 plus socks look like, all bagged up!



We sent three bags of heavy socks to Critter Jungle to take to  The Mission; all the women’s and children’s socks went to Parkdale along with the money, and everything went to Good Shepherds of Hope, where Molly and Claude volunteer. Here’s a picture of them at Good Shepherds with seven big bags of socks!

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So over all, I really do have to say it was a very successful sock drive – thanks to all of you who wrapped bins, found raffle prizes, identified drop-off locations, picked up boxes, delivered them, numbered raffle tickets, sold raffle tickets, collected socks and helped to sort them — I think we can all feel good knowing we’ve helped so many people feel better.

I received a lovely note from Alissa Campbell, the Coordinator of the Parkdale Food Centre,  today that reads in part:

On behalf of all of us at PFC, I wanted to extend a huge thanks for supporting our Soup and Socks campaign this year. Your energy was contagious! And your contribution so generous. Thanks in large part to your contribution we were able to provide warm socks to all our neighbours over the month of December.

Thank you for rallying the generosity and energy of the neighbourhood, we are so appreciative. When the socks arrived we were mid-workshop with a group of grade 6 students who helped us carry everything in and hand some out to neighbours, it was lots of fun.

And this one from a volunteer of ours, Joseph Assaad, that shows how helping our neighbours helps us build a community:

Thank you Peggy. It was an opportunity to meet wonderful people … Karen Secord gave me a tour, to a happy place, introduced me to chef Simon Bell, ( I may go show them some healthy Lebanese cooking, fast and easy some Wednesday), I got all excited about the prospect of helping this food centre as I now know a place and people).
In the summer, I hope to bring some produce from my garden and I encourage everyone to try the same.
Thank you Peggy.
It snow balls and cause a beautiful avalanche.

So, here’s a big thanks from me to all of you who helped Sock it to Christmas!!!! Sock it to Christmas update and thank you

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AND IT’S OVER! Day #25 #SockittoChristmas #OurFinalDrawWinners

We had our final raffle draw tonight and congrats to Robyn Oliviero of Dominion Lending who won six cakes from Hollands Cake and Shake (she dropped off 60 pairs of socks today; I’m glad she won something!).  Molly Hoyle  won a gift certificate to 10Fourteen Bar;  Catherine Whyte  won a gift certificate to Whispers;  Ravinder Tumber  won a three day juice cleanse from Freshii Westboro; Leslie Williams won a bracelet and bling clips from Twiss and Weber– all realtors with my office–and Cathy Macdonald  of Mortgage Brokers Ottawa won a gorgeous framed photograph of Westboro Beach by Nancy Mooney!

As of our last count, we had received over 700 pairs of socks at my office alone and there are more yet to come from four other drop-offlocations — Phoenix Boxing, Freshii, Dovercourt Recreation Centre and Global Pet Foods. We will be picking up those bins tomorrow morning so we can sort them and figure out where everything is going. Our women’s and children’s socks are going to Parkdale Food Centre for sure; the heavyweight socks are going to the Mission and the Shepherds of Good Hope and we will probably send the lightweight men’s socks there as well.

We have also collected around $ 550 in cash; $350 of which we’ve passed on to Parkdale Foods along with around 300 pairs of socks on Monday. (Bearing in mind that Parkdale Food Centre can buy three pairs of men’s socks for $10, that’s another 150 socks.) I’m hoping we hit 1,000 pairs; I’ll keep you posted!

A huge thanks to those of you helped with this drive and particularly Theresa SeguinEric KalbfleischJennifer ForwardCarol SinclairMonica FloresJoseph Assaad Molly Hoyle Rosemary O’Brian, Marina Doran, and Steph Briscoe who helped wrap and deliver bins, number and cut raffle tickets and sort and bag socks, (and in the case of Stephanie, make our banner) and helped make this drive so successful. Also huge thanks to Catherine Duncan and Jenn Goldie for their help finding drop-off locations and prizes for the raffle.

I do want to acknowledge our donors – Freshii Westboro, Environics Communications (and Greg MacEachern), Whispers Pub, 10Fourteen, Twiss and Weber, Holland’s Cake and Shake, Nancy Mooney,  Petit Bill’s Bistro, Fresh Air Experience and the anonymous donor who donated the chocolate gift basket. Thank you for your enormous kindness and for  stepping up to the plate on such short notice and letting us raffle off such amazing prizes!

Thanks also to Chris Weissbach of Phoenix Boxing Club, Mike Holland of Cake and Shake, Catherine McKenna, Dovercourt Recreation Centre, Karla Briones and the folks at Royal LePage Team Realty for letting us use your spaces for our bins, many thanks!

And of course to all of you who were so generous with your donations!

There are two drop-off locations that will still be accepting sock donations until Christmas Eve – one is at Critter Jungle at Hampton Park and one at Critter Jungle on Orleans Blvd. Each pair of socks gets you a raffle ticket that  will be entered into a draw for a gift certificate for one of local artist Frank Van Boxtel’s gorgeous commissioned pet portraits. I’m turning that one over to Frank to finish up; after we sort socks tomorrow, my role will be over.

I’ll post final numbers for all the other bins sometime tomorrow or Friday and thanks again, Ottawa , for helping us Sock it to Christmas!



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