Monthly Archives: March 2014

Building Permit Prep

March 28, 2014

It has been a busy week.

I met with the Geotech on site Monday afternoon and dug 5 test holes around the perimeter of where the new house will go so that she could determine the make-up of the soil. In all cases we hit what I call ‘hardpan’ in three to 4 ft – a mixture of course sand, gravel, and boulders packed in a dense layer. We were unable to break through this layer with the mini-excavator that I have, but memory of other excavations I have seen in the neighborhood shows it typically is a few feet thick and then transitions to a more clay like material and then closer to the 9-10ft mark goes back to this type of dense hard packed material except with more and larger boulders. I am very thankful for the very fast turn around from DAVIES GEOTECHNICAL INC.  I contacted them at 4:30 PM on Friday, received the quote at 9:00 AM Monday, met on site at 1:00 that same day and then received their finished report Thursday afternoon.  Now that is great service! And to date we have come in $1400 under budget because I had already marked the services and had my own equipment to dig the holes.

The outcome of the report is both positive and negative.  The bearing pressures of the soil are much higher than what allowed for by the Structural Engineer .  This may translate to the ability to reduce footing sizes and save cost and embodied energy which would obviously be desirable. The difficult portion of the report is that I may need to use anchors and shotcrete to stabilize the excavation wall around a cedar I am trying to retain.  Due to the proximity to the house, I will need close to a vertical wall at that location. This was certainly not something I had in my budget.

I also met with the Arborist on Monday afternoon (again, I only contacted them on the weekend and they only got the message Monday AM – great service).  Sean Wightman from Burley Boys Tree Service Ltd attended the site and we discussed the work that I will require.  I have 4 cedars that will have the canopy raised to 30ft or so in order to allow light and solar gain into the new house and also prevent the branches from rubbing against the new structure.  Both the clump of 3 and the single tree are in close proximity to the excavation.  So Sean will be bringing in an air spade to excavate along the tree fencing line and cut off any roots found.  This prevents the roots inboard of the tree fencing line from being damaged as the rest of the excavation proceeds.

We also have an unsafe cedar tree at the front of the property that we will take down.  It was previously topped prior to our arrival on the property and has 5 or 6 false leaders.  These are susceptible to wind damage and the fork they create at the base is susceptible to catching water and rotting out the center of the tree. I have asked Burley Boys to limb the tree and remove all the trunks above the previous top point.  This will leave a trunk stump in place during the build that I am using as one of the webcam mount locations.  I will then co-ordinate with Andy from to come and harvest the log and turn it into 3″ – 4″ slabs (lengthwise) that I will use in the new house for counters and possible thinner slabs to be used at windows as sills.

The most important thing that was accomplished this week was the launch of this wonderful site on Wednesday!  I am so thankful to Honeycomb Creative for their excellent work getting this site built and launched.  As with all their sites, they have designed it in such a way that is easy for me to add additional content and update in the future.  Within the first 24 hours we have just under 100 unique visitors, so I would say that was a very successful launch.  I look forward to adding additional information to the site as the project progresses.  The webcams have turned out to be the hardest part of the site and may not provide a consistent enough feed.  I would love to hear from you and your experiences with viewing the various channels.  Do the work for you?

Yesterday was a particular satisfying day as I received the final sealed drawings from the structural engineer.  This has been a long slog and I am thankful it is behind us.  Tacoma Engineering and especially Heather have gone above and beyond working through the challenges of this design and working with someone who has never done this before.

I have made a permit application appointment for next week, so lets hope the next phase goes smoothly!

Tree to Remove

This tree will be removed. It has many very tall false leaders that are a danger to the power lines nearby. The plan is to slavage the trunk and turn into long slabs that will be used for counters, shelf’s, and sills in the new dwelling.


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Variance Approved

March 25, 2014

I am very relieved that our development variance was approved last night. This locks in the design and allows for me to proceed on the building permit application.

I had a bit of a hiccup with the building permit process. My Structural engineer did not need a Geotech and the way the District bylaw is worded, it did not appear they did either. However a pre-permit app call to the District identified that ALL new construction requires a GeoTech to be involved on the project. SO I had to scramble over the weekend to set up and had my site inspection yesterday where I dug 5 test holes for the engineer.

I also was able to get an arborist out yesterday and we finalized the tree protection fencing locations and determined the course of action for the required root pruning. This afternoon, now that it has stopped raining, I hope to install the telephone pole that will support my temp power panel and also install the tree fencing. I also hope to have this site live in the next couple of days.

Last night I completed the final edits to the Structural drawings and hope to receive the final sealed drawings and Schedules A & B from the engineer in the next couple of days.

A follow up to the data crash. It looks like my personal file was fully restored. Unfortunately I was not as lucky with my company file and will have to rebuild two years worth of data. As it is a small part time business, this should not be too onerous.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Data Restored

March 19, 2014

I am a very thankful man this morning as I received word back from, that they were able to restore ALL the data in my Quickbooks financial file. As I have a tax return due soon and I am about to start building and need to accurately track expenditures, this could not be better news.

This will allow me to now again focus on the task at hand – Finish moving and prepare for the build. I still have a large number of things that have to be done before the end of the month including;

– Finalize Engineering Drawings
– Create structural steel BOM and get pricing
– Select a concrete placing and pumping crew and get a quote
– Setup the excavation contract
– Install temporary power pole and get inspected
– Finish moving and organize storage container and shop
– Setup tree protection fencing
– Receive and setup the job-site web-cams
– Work with Honeycomb to finish and launch this site
– Order ICF Blocks and Floor Joists
– Finalize plumbing plan to determine any penetrations through slabs and foundations walls
– Create basic electrical plan to determine any penetrations through slabs and foundations walls
– Get the tractor back from service and prepare the grounds

I guess I better stop writing and start working!

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I have a hearing date and staff recommend approval!

March 17, 2014

Today was spent finally getting back to the task at hand – planning for a house build.  I have to put my worries about my Quickbooks files aside until I hear back from the data recovery company – something that is not easy for me.

I spent the morning coordinating the disconnection of the gas and electrical for the end of the month.  My plan is to have Hydro just swing the service cable from the house over to a temp power pole.  This saves time and a lot of money coming in at only $306 + tax.  If they have to disconnect the service and come back another time to run a new line to the temp, I believe it is $1000 or more.  The hydro will not happen until I install a temp power pole, mast and panel and then have it inspected by the District.  I cannot do this until I get my tractor back from a major service (hope to get back this week).  The gas is now scheduled to be disconnected on the week of March 31.  There is a very good chance that gas will not be reconnected to the new house as I plan to use an Air Source Heat pump for my space and hot water heating.

It is pretty clear that I will be delayed a week so I requested to reschedule the sani/storm/and domestic water disconnects till after the 30th of March (was previously the 24th) to give me a bit more time.  I can still start dismantling parts of the house like the floors and siding as soon as I finish cleaning it out. As long as I do not do anything to disrupt the services or the structure of the house.

I then checked with the District to see if I finally had official staff approval of my variance application (see my blog entry). Not only had the official approval by staff happened, but I then got a call from my neighbour that he had received the notification package in the mail this morning and the application was set to be heard and deliberated on by Council next Monday evening. I will provide more of an update on the blog once I have been to the meeting.  I do not want to jinx anything at this point.  This was great news and a welcome relief after multiple delays on this application.

So today has ended on a bit of a positive note – about time.

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Data Disaster

March 16, 2014

It has been a horrible weekend with significant (and possibly) permanent consequences.

On Friday I investigated an issue I had with logging into my Synology file server.  Since the day I moved my office across the street, I had been locked out of the server.  Several hours of investigation showed that I had not damaged the server and in fact my attempt to turn the server off for the move had uncovered a bug with a recent server software update that had being distributed by the manufacturer (I have my server set to update automatically).

The fix involved buying a new hard drive to allow me to ‘reformat’ the system while the original three RAID drives sat safe on my desk.  The procedure entailed setting up the server with the temp drive and then shutting down and starting back up with the original data drives with all my data.  I was assured by the manufacturer and several users on the forum that no data would be lost so I did not take the opportunity to back the data up to another RAID server I have (process would have taken 3 hours and I wanted to just get on with it).

Well the fun started when I rebooted the server with the original drives.  The system needed to rebuild the volumes and was happily doing so when we left for dinner.  When I returned back from dinner everything was off in my office.  The other basement resident had again blown the circuit breaker (they had done this on the day of possession as well).  I reset the breaker but it was clear this had hopped a lot of my system.  I had to start by rebuilding the router DHCP table and re-initializing the wireless LAN bridge across the street to ensure my neighbour was connected.  The night finished with server once again starting the rebuild of the volumes.

Saturday morning I discovered my email PST files were all corrupt. I was able to use Microsoft’s PST file re-builder to recover the files but mysteriously I lost about 5 days of activity.  I used the rest of the day to recover the incoming emails from my online Google directories and tried to retrace my steps to figure out what emails I had sent.

Sunday morning all appeared OK, I had retraced most of the lost emails and because I was sick all week, I really had not done a lot of computer related work.  But then I wanted to clean up my email and file some of my recent EBAY purchases.  I tried to open my finance file in QuickBooks and found that it was corrupt.  I then tried my company file only to find that it too was corrupt.  As I had these files on a RAID server, I did not feel the need to make regular backups and in fact did not have back up copies of the files since December of 2010 when I had switched over versions of the software.

For the company file, this would be inconvenient and would probably take a week to recreate the data since 2010, but only because it is the company file and I have scanned copies of all my receipts along with copies of my statements.  For the personal file, I do not keep the receipts after I have reconciled the statements and would have no way to rebuild the last 3+ years of data.  I am particularly proud of the fact that my personal QuickBooks file has all of my data back to the early 90’s and this loss would be profound.

I spent the rest of the day on forums looking for ways to salvage the data and downloaded several utilities to try the recovery attempt.  Nothing worked.  It is not looking good.  I ended the day paying for a professional date recovery firm  They had good reviews and they have a policy that you do not pay if they are unsuccessful.

I am hoping they can perform some magic!

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March 13, 2014

This has been a poor week for progress.  My chest cold has pretty much whipped my butt.  I did a trouble shooter inspection on Tuesday where I was exposed to an attic full of mould so this also did not help.

I got a bit done bringing stuff from across the street but spent most of the last three days in bed or lying low.  Now I am really starting to get behind in the schedule and may have to delay the service disconnect on the old house if I do not have a productive weekend.

Starting to feel a bit better now and will tackle an annoying file server issue tomorrow.  Again, this has been another week with no official progress on the prep for the house build.


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I have an office!

March 10, 2014

Today was a productive day and I was able to finally set up my office in the suite and the wireless internet across the street.  Only problem is that I am sicker than a dog with a chest cold and fever.  Was not in the best shape to be moving the heavy desk but perseverance got the job done.  Was thankful that setup of the network basically involved plugging the cable modem into the wall.  My theory about being on the same node panned out.


This is the sending unit mounted to the cable mast on the rental house. It sends the signal in a 360 arc from the white antenna. It is connected via a 50ft Cat5e patch chord to my router. The Router handles the DHCP and IP assignment for all connected devices on both sides of the street.


The receiving station is temporarily mounted to a 2×4 screwed to the old house roof. It will eventually get attached to the shipping container I have at the side of the house. The chord connects the station to a hub where the rest of the network is also attached.


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Settling into a routine

March 7, 2014

The week has been much of the same.  I have been going through things at the house and putting aside stuff to go to storage and stuff to be given away.  Many – many trips up and down the 13 steps to the basement suite.  This should help in my weight-loss goals of the project. To date I have only finished going through the kitchen.

The suite is coming along.  The kitchen is almost organized and I have installed the new LED ceiling lights.  Still have boxes of stuff everywhere that will need to be sorted and squirrelled away soon.  I expect this will be the case for several more weeks as I bring stuff over from the old house.  Sleep has been hit and miss.  Even though we are now well away from the other residents in the rest of the basement, now we are under the family room of the landlord and they have hardwood floors.  It is also clear that there is no insulation in the floor assembly. The landlord family has energized discussions, especially when company is over.  I also suspect the women are wearing high heals or some form of hard sole flip-flops. Fortunately, this has typically settled down between 11PM and midnight which we will learn to live with.

This is only the second time in my life I have lived in a dwelling with others and the first time I have rented and also the first time I have been below others.  SO it will be a period of adjustment, I am sure.

Between sorting and moving and also visiting a family member in hospital, I have not done anything on the house design or building prep since we moved.  Starting to feel stressed as time is ticking.

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Getting Better

March 4, 2014

Last night was much better.  The second bedroom actually fit our bedroom furniture better and we are on an outside corner so two of the walls are solid concrete and the other two are well away from the none suite portion of the basement.  Was very quite!

Blackberry decided enough was enough and at about 3:00 AM announced that it was time I got the doors in so that he could come and go at will (I made the mistake of letting him out yesterday and he figured out that he was not on holidays and was actually just across the street from his old home – the Tofino Cat syndrome was lost).

So I spent a good portion of the day putting in the two doors and cutting in the holes and installing the two cat doors.For those interested, the exterior cat door is a SureFlap Microchip Cat Door.  This is an awesome design that admits the cat by picking up the RFID signal in a microchip implanted into the cat’s haunches.  The chip is used to identify the cat by vets or shelters if it gets lost and Sureflap developed a technology to read this signal to activate the door.  The door only unlocks for a ‘paired’ pet and is Raccoon proof.  I know as I had 4 raccoon that tried on a nightly basis for many months to get into the house before we moved.

Should have a much happier kitty now. Also brought some loads from the house including some dishes and clothes.  I can tell, it is going to take a while to empty the house.  Will need to put in long hours to stay on schedule.

Have now also tested a wireless network bridge that I will use to beam my network connections and internet from the basement suite dwelling to the job site and my neighbour’s house. I am using an EnGenius ENH200EXT as the WDS Wireless Access Point and the ENH200 as the receiving WDS Station.  These devises can transmit over distances of ‘many miles’ so should easily make the journey across the street.  Each station will be plugged into a hub which can then provide a land line connection to other computers, printers, and web-cams.  Now that I know this will work, I just need to wait for some long network cables and then will install the system and move my office to the suite.

Forgot to mention earlier, the first night I was able to plug in one of the TV set-top boxes at the suite with no interruption in service.  I figure out the nodes on the power pole lines do not have any intelligence to say what address each line coming off goes to. SO as the new suite is on the same node, SHAW do not know that this is now in a new location.  Should simplify the transfer of the internet.


New Exterior Door with Cat Door Installed


Common Hall side of suite entrance


Suite side. Cat door was installed a bit too low for Blackberry’s taste, but he will tolerate. Door was a blank slab, so I had to install the locks and cut in the hinges. Might get around to painting it soon.


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Running on Empty!

March 3, 2014

Our first night left a lot to be desired!

I had chosen the smaller of the two bedrooms to use as the bedroom because it was longer so would fit the king size bed better.  This turned out to be a poor choice.  The bedroom was not part of the official suite with access to the room from the suite being added after construction.  The problem with this is that the construction of the room did not ensure sound proofing.  At 10:30 PM, a family friend in the other part of the basement came home and started talking with a family member who also sleeps in the basement.  They were having a good discussion with excited chatter and laughter.  This continued till after 1:00 AM. The walls were not insulated and I could hear every word including the TV at normal volumes.

This morning I first disassembled the dishwasher so I could remove debris caught in the pump impeller, then went to Home Depot to buy new lights as the existing ones were so poor.  Also picked up some essentials like garbage cans, vanity for the en-suite washroom so my wife has someplace to put her stuff, over the door hooks, etc. Spent all afternoon taking out everything stored in the second bedroom, disassembling the bed again and moving it to the second bedroom.

At least now there is only one fridge in the kitchen. Both cats have adjusted very well.  Blackberry is even tolerating being locked in as I have not yet installed his cat doors.

I am now running on fumes and hoping for a quite night tonight.

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Moving Day (Or at least Day 1)

March 2, 2014

I am beat!

This morning started at 8:45 AM at my neighbours for breakfast.  I have wonderful neighbours!  By 9:45, my neighbour’s son and son-in-law and I started to move the ‘heavy’ stuff across the street. My wife had to work today and was gone by this point.

I have a history of back issues and my back of late has been particularly bad (I know – why am I about to start building a house).  Fortunately Gord and Jeremy saved the day and did all the tough stuff while I got things ready for the move across the street and took some of the smaller more awkward pieces.    By 11:30 AM we were sitting down and a local watering hole for lunch and needed refreshments.

Most of the furniture has been moved over but there was still a lot of small stuff not moved over including essentials like plates and clothes and toiletries.  I spent the afternoon setting up the bedroom so that we had a place to sleep that night and started to organize the suite but it is still a big mess on both sides of the street.  We have food in two fridges as I will use my fridge and store the original suite fridge in the second bedroom (ours has a much better layout and freezer size). But I want to do a thorough clean of my fridge before putting it in place.  I also found a door slab to use for the suite entrance.

But for now it is good enough because I just want to go to sleep.

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Thank-full today is over but tomorrow will be worse!

March 1, 2014

The day has finally come that gives some permanence to this plan of mine to build a house.  Today is the day we get possession of our cross-the-street-basement-suite.  Like every step of this process to this point in time, this was full of stress and delays.  Due to a language barrier with the landlord, it has been difficult to determine the exact plan for the handover.

We have been planning this day since early Sept of 2013.  I found out the tenant across the street had moved out and talked with the owner about holding the place for us until we needed it this spring.  A $1000 bonus and three months rent in advance sealed the deal and we were set to take possession on March 1, 2014.

The landlord found a short term renter to fill in the gap and there was some concern that the rental agreement may not be filled out correctly and that there would be no easy way to get rid of the tenant to allow us to move in March 1.  Fortunately a conversation with the tenant a couple of months later show this to be a unnecessary concern and they were aware they needed to vacate by March 1.

The next stressor came about a month before we were to move in.  The house alarm had gone off in the morning and then again in the late afternoon.  By 7:00 PM it went off almost continuously.  Shortly thereafter a carpet cleaning truck arrived.  Some investigation by a nosy neighbour (me)  determined that the sanitary sump in the basement had backed up.  I was of course now on high alert and worried that the situation would lead to hidden mould.  Fortunately the damage was confined to a part of the basement not encompassing ‘our’ suite and it was caught before the water level was able to wet the wall drywall panels or insulation.  Crisis averted!

Then last week, I went to setup up the transfer of our cable and internet account to the suite.  I have a business I am running and also have neighbour’s businesses relying on my network, so this was a rather critical requirement.  I was told by SHAW that I could not initiate the transfer because the current tenant had not initiated theirs.  I talked to the current tenant but they got back to me the next day saying they could not initiate their transfer because the place they were going to had not yet initiated THEIR transfer yet.  This was getting ridiculous.  Several days went by with several calls to SHAW with no joy.  When SHAW informed me that I probably would be able to just bring over my modem and TV set box and ‘plug them in’, I decided to just let it ride and figure it out after we took possession.  I would just leave my office at the old house until this was figured out.

Yesterday, I tried to find out from the landlord when the place would be vacant.  There did not seem to be a ‘fixed’ time which was concerning.  The latest time I heard was 2:00 PM so I planned for cleaners to arrive for 3:30.  There was really no way to contact the tenant as the entrance door in the basement goes to a common area hall, so I could not just knock on the door and ask.

Today the movers arrive to start moving the existing tenant.  The movers were done and gone by about 1:00.  We were relieved.  Everything is going to plan.   But then a conversation with the tenant indicated that he had brought in cleaners and they would not be done till 3:00.  I advised I needed to get in there by 3:00 and that I had cleaners coming that I could not cancel.  At 3:30, my cleaners arrive and his were still in the suite.  I advised time was up and that everyone had to get out so we could do the transfer and walk through with the landlord.  I did my walk-through at the same time as the previous client.  3:45 and we had keys and the place was ours.

My cleaners with their trained eyes could tell right away that the place was still very dirty.  A wipe down of back splashes, counters, and walls turned white clothes black.  I suspect the place had not been properly cleaned since a chain smoker about 3 tenants ago.  I am relieved we made the decision to have the place cleaned and did not cancel.   Rebecca from Excellent Cleaning Service ( did an excellent job.

As the cleaning was not done till close to 6:00 PM, it was too late to try and move anything tonight.  I spent the evening at home supply stores buying more shelves for the kitchen cupboards, and buying a new basement entrance door and looking for a new suite entrance door.  The landlord graciously has agreed to let us put in temp doors that we will cut cat doors into so that my cat Blackberry will be able to get in and out of the suite.  As I only had an opportunity to raise this today, I am thankful to Landlord agreed or I do not know what we would have done.

As I get ready for bed on this last night in the old house, it starts to sink in the enormity of what I am about to do.  I have to admit, I am more than a little anxious and scared!

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