Interior Panorama

Interior Panorama

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Late Nights

It's been over a week now of working late every night. The other
night I checked my watch and realized that we were still running the
saws at close to 11pm. I'm sure the neighbors must hate me at this
point. The first house concert in our place is scheduled for Wednesday
August 6th. I think we'll be able to make it...actually, we have no
choice. We've already sent out the invitations.....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Farm Junk Sale: 222-2228"

Byron, my father in law, called me just as Rick and I were crawling back to Saskatoon with the first load of barn board to say that he'd just visited another site towards Wakaw.  He said that it was worth our time to make the trip and pull off a few boards.  So on Thursday night we headed out to the site for a reconnaissance mission.
Apparently Byron had been in contact with the owner and they were willing to give up the siding from a couple of old granaries, but the barn and the original house were off limits.  After a quick debate over our strategy (Byron wanted to removing it one board at a time, while I lobbied for cutting out the whole wall, lock, stock and barrel, and taking it back in one huge piece) we decided to take it one board at a time. The boards came off quite nicely and we only lost about 30% in the process.  
Let me wax about these boards for a minute...these are the best ones: they're fir, which is most common, they've got the beveled lap and a groove, so they fit nicely, and they also have a beautiful grey sun beaten and sandblasted patina to them.  These are boards that you simply cannot manufacture and they bear the scars of 100 years on the Saskatchewan prairies.  I would even go so far as to say that they've got soul.  Perhaps, a green eyed soul. (
By the time we ran out of daylight at 10:00, we'd managed to strip two sides of the building and had a decent load of boards denailed and loaded into Byron's Volvo.  Byron, being the sacrificing individual that he is, offered to skip a weekend at Emma Lake to stay back and get a start on installing the barn board.  
I'll stop there.  The pictures below should tell the rest of the story.  Note the beam projecting out of the barn just above the opening for the hay loft.  That's from the first load of salvaged lumber.
I'm out the door to return to the site for the rest of our barn board.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Barn Board Salvaging Success

My step-dad, Rick, just pulled through big time....
Working on advice of "he's got a quonset full of old boards and will give em up for a hundred bucks" Rick and I decided to drive out to Laura, SK this evening in search of siding for Carrie's barn/office.  You see, if you'd asked me what the chance was of finding old barn siding in the middle of the prairies, I'd have guessed it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.  Turns out it's been quite a challenge to source out the stuff.  I had an early success with fir 1x4's but have since been left out in the cold with respect to the barn board. I've even recruited my best team to help father in law Byron Horachek, who I'm sure has half of the accountants at Meyers Norris Penney searching for the stuff, my pops Peter and my step dad Rick.  I've even gone so far as getting Habitat for Humanity and the City of Saskatoon Fire Chief looking around for me.  Despite my best efforts, nothing had come alive until today when, if you can believe it, 4 of those people came through with real opportunities for barn board.  The Fire Chief stopped by to tour a couple of guys from the City Planning Department through the Hay Loft (I should be charging admission), Habitat had an opportunity, Byron sourced out an entire building, and Rick came through with the connection in Laura.  So tonight we drove to Laura and found a great supply of fir siding and rough lumber.
The owners were Lawrence and Shirley Fay and they live part time on the property that Lawrence's father and uncle homesteaded in 1903 (before Saskatoon was formed).  It's a very well kept farm with grain bins, an enviable quonset/garage/ultimate workshop, and a few salvaged buildings from the town of Laura.  One in particular used to be a coal shed, which apparently was used for people to store their coal.  Who knew? They moved the building to their property in 1974, just before Lawrence took over the farm following his brothers sudden passing. 
The prairies really is beautiful in July and I was reminded of that this evening.  As we were loading the trailer, the clouds turned black and we even got a bit of rain and lightning.  The colors of the landscape are just so vibrant that I had to break out my camera and take a few snaps.  Below is a picture of Rick as we were getting ready to leave.  It was really peaceful being out in the middle of nowhere, watching two deer and a fawn jumping through the pea fields, loading the lumber and then having a visit with the Fay's.  The thing that I realized tonight is that the lumber is not just a cost saving measure.  I'm an engineer (at times) and fully understand the idea of optimization and efficiency, and I can assure you that salvaging lumber is neither.  What it is, though, is a continuation of the history of our province. It's part of our heritage, part of our culture, and I find that it's a really strong way for me to connect with older generations through a process of learning more about the history of my home land.  I actually feel like I've learned more about our province's history from building the Hay Loft than I ever did in school.  
Someone should tell our teachers that....

Monday, July 14, 2008

Concrete Fireplace

So we took the forms off of the fireplace the next day to find the wall was about 80 degrees celsius.  Too bad we didn't bring any eggs, because the sucker was hot enough to fry one one...

For a first attempt at casting concrete, I'm super happy with how the fireplace wall turned out.  We totally achieved the form-board impressioned concrete look that I was after.  The downside is that it's not quite perfect, due to some leaky plasic wrap, and some spots are a bit rougher than I would have liked.  

We've since decided to use concrete for our other two countertops and have contracted Bruce Rempel at Sand and Stone by Rempel to cast them for us.  We'll continue the rough fir board texture on the countertops so that it ties in nicely with the fireplace.  I know he's going to do a killer job and can't wait to see how they turn out....

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fireplace Casting

Yesterday saw the finish of casting our concrete fireplace. Let me
tell you a bit about it...

The fireplace will be a mix of concrete (hearth and back wall of the
surround), reclaimed douglas fir boards, and a natural gas firebox.
Early on I realized that our boiler and radiant floor heating system
essentially had the potential to provide heat anywhere I could run
water. When thinking about our fireplace, I decided that having it
cast concrete with and embedded radiant heating loop, I'd be able to
have the fireplace provide heating whether the fireplace was on or
not. So I guess it's a water heated fireplace...or a
waterplace.....or a hot-water-fireplace.....or a water and fireplace.
Really, it's just an experiment.

I wanted the fireplace to serve a few purposes: first, to become the
heart and focal point of the living room and common area, second, to
provide heating to the room, and third, to add another material and
texture to the place. I decided to form the fireplace out of the
reclaimed douglas fir 1x4's and am hoping to get the grain pattern of
the form boards telegraphed into the concrete. After the forms are
removed, I'll use the same fir boards for encasing the firebox.
Essentially, when you look at the fireplace you'll see the grain of
the fir boards start in the concrete, transition into the actual fir,
then back into the concrete as you travel horizontally along the

The photos show the rebar and kitek tubing that is used for the
radiant floor heating system, along with the form just before we
started pouring yesterday. After having done two hand mixed concrete
pours this week (hearth first, then back wall) I've decided not to
pursue a career as a concrete truck.....

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Canada Day Progress Report

Notice has been given to vacate our apartment as of July 31st. I
guess that means I have to get the Hay Loft ready for occupancy.....

We've been making great progess lately and the finishing is starting
to come together: the elevator is 90% finished, the walls are painted,
flooring is being installed, kitchen cabinets are almost ready, and
the concrete fireplace is underway. We'll be tight to try and occupy
by July 31st, but you know what they say......"No pressure, no diamonds"

Attached is a picture of the concrete fireplace hearth and surround.
We've embedded radiant heating lines into it and will set the
fireplace and mantle on top of this structure. I've designed the
fireplace to integrate both the urban and prairie themes into it: the
shape of the piece is quite simple and contemporary, being comprised
of a simple base and back wall, but will be formed using fir 1x4's I
salvaged from a farm such that the fir grain pattern is embedded into
the concrete. Those same fir 1x4's will then be used to build the
other half of the surround and mantle, resulting in a fireplace that
is warm concrete and salvaged fir. I think this will be one of the
focal points of the room and the first object that the eye will see
upon entering the house.