It has been a while, with sporadic work being done intermittently enough that once something finally happens, it’s not exciting, just less frustrating.

We got a surprise call from the sales guy today, inquiring about our cover color selection because he still hadn’t ordered the actual cover for our automatic pool cover.

That’s right, we have had a big, water filled hole in the back yard since mid June. We also still have big gaps in the fence. The epitome of safety,  and the pool company hasn’t even ordered the cover.
Since the summer has been cool, the water temperature hasn’t been very pleasant. Something that a cover would also have helped with.
As of today, we have most of the equipment hooked up, apart from the salt water generator, which means we are still chlorinating the pool manually.

But let’s back up and take things in order:


After the flurry of having the pool set, things slowed down. A lot. As in we didn’t see anyone from June 17th until July 18th. However we did get our pavers delivered on July 5th, and got to work laying the upper patio area.

10 pallets of field pavers and one pallet of gray brick for the soldier course. With the upper patio finished we almost 4 full pallets of field pavers left and 2/3 of the brick.

These two picture shows how things were stalled from mid June to mid July. We had the PVC pipes neatly stacked. We had the pool equipment on the pad ready to be hooked up. And then a whole lot of nothing.



After recruiting a new sub contracting electrician to come install a sub panel and electric box during the second half of June we were hoping to get things rolling again.
At least get the pump hooked up so we could filter the water…

It took until July 18th(!) for anything to happen whatsoever.


Ta-da! It took less than 2 hours to hook up the pipes to the pool pump. 
The equipment pad is not the sturdiest thing I’ve ever seen, but look!  Filter closest to the camera, followed by pump and heater. The electrical box is on the wall.

Finally the pool was usable!


On August 1st they were going to build the moulds for the concrete wrap only to realize that one side of the pool was bowing in.
Since the tracks for the autocover needed to be installed on the pool edge, to be incorporated into the pool wrap, this was not awesome.

The chains, turnbuckles and anchors putting tension on the bowed pool side.
There is dirt everywhere, but at least the pool is clean!

On August 7th the mould building actually happened

A plywood box around the autocover hideout, and tracks in place.
Rebar, copper wire (ground) and plenty of crushed limestone. Note the metal stakes holding the boards in place. Those things hurt.


The concrete wrap around the pool was finally poured on August 23, after an interesting obstacle course made up of of bare rebar and concrete moulds surrounded the pool for two and a half weeks prior.


The concrete was tinted a light tan colour (well, when dry, it looks not so light here), and they used a chestnut release. The release is the purplish powder they put on the concrete before the stamps are pressed on, and will be a darker tone in the cracks and crevices.


Bubblegum scented release in the sprayer gets applied to the vertical mould forming the coping of the pool.
This is how it looked like for a day until they came back and rinsed off the release.
Other end of the pool. And some dirt and gravel in the water.
Another angle.

The release was washed off the day after, and the moulds were removed. The day after that the concrete was sealed, bringing out the final colour.

I can live with this, the rebar is gone 😉


Dory (pool robot with amusingly erratic algorithm making her seem lost more often than not) doing her thing.


Today , August 29th, lots of things happened. The trench was backfilled, and the area for the lower patio and fire pit was dug out. Concrete moulds were placed and crushed limestone base installed.
Enough to warrant a blog update even!


Trench backfill.

We also got the stairs rearranged, to make up for the elevation change due to new moulds being used for the pool wrap. We had the option of three steps, with the lower just having a 2 inch step down to the pool deck, or two steps and some innovative solutions for the front of the stairs. I think there will be about an inch of a slightly higher step than the 6-8 inches of the rest of the natural sandstone slabs.


Crushed limestone going in first.
Placing the last stair stone. The slabs are not level and square, so getting things to be level enough without toe traps wasn’t easy.
Digging out for the lower patio. Notice the stairs now are four slabs wide!


Limestone base and the beginning of the last concrete form.


Lower patio area, with circular hole for the fire pit. Crackling fires good, exploding concrete bad.
Placing the big boulder back to the far side of the stairs involved the backhoe and a chain.
We ended up with two stair slabs extra, since one of the original nine wasn’t deep enough and the replacement wasn’t needed once we decided on the change to the stairs. 4 wide, 2 high, vs 3 wide and 3 high. So we’re trying to fix the approach from the gate to the patio. It’s a work in progress.


Supposedly we will have concrete coming on Saturday, September 2nd, weather willing.
But with how the project has been going  I really wouldn’t bet money on it…





We will Rock you

Today we went to Frank Brother’s in Lodi to pick out rocks for our new fire pit.
The easy way to do this would be to buy a kit and call it good. There are plenty on the market, and some even in the size we’re looking for, but concrete retaining wall blocks look like concrete, and you basically pay a premium for the convenience of having something that looks like concrete.
Hand chiseling stone takes more skill than we possess right now, but stacking stone and using mortar doesn’t.
We will leave a 44″ diameter circular hole in the concrete underlayment for the lower patio. This is so that the fire will not rest on top of the concrete, exploding concrete is bad. The concrete will  however provide a solid foundation for the fire pit walls and the stone of the walls will be lined with firebrick, to protect them from excess heat, and hopefully keep any rocks from exploding. Less explosions is good.
So, we needed pretty rocks!

The idea was to rent a trailer and go get a full pallet of wall stone, in a variety called ‘gray chocolate’. But alas the ball on our truck hitch is too beefy for rental trailers. We decided to go anyway and instead pick out a variety of stones and load the truck bed by hand with as many as we could comfortably and safely fit.


That turns out to look like this, 1250 lbs of rock.



Here they are unloaded on the sandstone steps that lead from the driveway down to the back yard.

We won’t know how much more we need until we get started 😉

Wet sand – Backyard mirage

We went over to American Natural Stone for our 3rd visit this week, and ordered the patio pavers and polymeric sand today!
Decision phase over, and now that it’s settled I can drop fretting about whether or not it’s the best option. It will be OK.swhpss_saharachestnutlite_lgChestnut/Sahara Lite it is, a desert themed patio, with an Onyx soldier course. Cambridge Ledgestone XL and we’re getting 3 different sizes: 15 3/4 x 23 5/8
15 3/4 x 15 3/4 and 7 7/8 x 15 3/4, 10 pallets in total to cover approximately 1200 square feet. The Onyx accent pavers will be a regular 4.5×9 sized with the same texture as the bigger pavers. I will run them about 16 inches in from the edges of the patio, with gaps in the dark line where we have stairs leading to and from the patio.


For the main patio areas we’re leaning towards pattern 3, simply because it has the shortest runs of non overlapping joints. I do like the more random feel of number 1 too though.
patterns Or maybe the Random pattern that Cambridge suggests.



That’s it for updates tonight.
The kids have been in the pool 3 times a day for the past three days, summer is great!

Don’t go chasing waterfalls – aka Pool please


A year and a half has passed. We must be missing having building dust everywhere, because after much discussion over the past year we’ve decided that we want a pool.

Our development has a clause that forbids above ground pools, which would have been the easy way out. Both being less permanent and easier to make child and dog safe (and a lot cheaper…). But no, which left us with three options, a vinyl liner, fiberglass or gunite.
Gunite being the classic base behemoth, more labor intensive to install but totally customizable. Fiberglass being more cost for the pool itself,  but a much quicker install. Negatives being that they only come in a set number of shapes and sizes. The fiberglass is coated in an inert gel coat that will not affect water chemistry, unlike gunte.
And a vinyl liner pool, either with metal walls or block/concrete walls. Generally a cheaper construction, less customization than gunite, more than fiberglass.

In the fall of 2016 we had a vinyl pool company come out and give us a quote. It didn’t feel right, and taking into consideration that we have 4 dogs, 3 of whom like water, a liner simply didn’t feel like a good option.
We decided to not go forward with it., however the idea of a pool didn’t go away, despite cold winter months and come March we were talking pools again. In April we contacted about 5 different pool companies, had several come out and in the end settled for one that specialized in fiberglass pools.

An auto cover was something I really felt was a necessity to be able to let the dogs out in the backyard without fearing one of them would launch onto solar film, get entangled and drown. Or what if one of the neighbourhood kids ever feels unhealthily adventurous  enough to brave the fence and enter the well patrolled back yard.

Whenever the pool is not in use we will keep it closed and secured. Less of a death traps.
With 2 acres and an already installed fence we had no restrictions when it came to size and style of pool. We thought we wanted a free form sport pool, with a swim jet system. Turns out if you want an auto cover on a free form pool you will have to install tracks in the decking that look like crap, alternatively do a deck-in-deck solution that also looks like crap.
A rectangular pool can have the track under the coping, less crap to look at, and we found a pool that had the entry point at the right place, with a safety ledge along the perimeter for our not-so-strong swimmer, and plenty of seating for people who not necessarily want to swim. but hang out and cool off.
Trilogy’s Gravity.



We geeked out delving into the well of information that can be found over at the Troublefree pool forum. Lots of real people sharing their knowledge about everything from pool chemistry to pump size and flow rates to filters, salt water generators and automation.

We will have mainly Pentair equipment, a variable speed pump, salt water generator, gas heater, cartridge filter and an automation system for controlling it all remotely. There will be two lighted bubblers on the tanning ledge (aka toddler area, baby cousin splash zone), one skimmer and 3 or 4 returns.

Enough words, photos already.

This is a rough draft of the deck, patio and pool area. There will be a 16 foot diameter fire pit area to the east of the pool, and big sandstone boulders acting as low retaining wall between the deck stairs and the pool wrap.

pool final


Before. With plant pots marking the corners of the pool, and the garden hose showing where the pool wrap and lower patio will be. This is the north side of the house.


Dig Day, June 8th

This is how it looked when I came home after class that Thursday.
Limestone aggregate, will be spread and leveled in the bottom of the hole, making a well compacted and even base for the pool to sit on.
The dump trucks tailgated the gravel and aggregate up by the road, and the pool crew used their little zippy bobcat to move the pile back to the hole. The orange lines on the wall of the pit marks 4 foot intervals where they check the depth of the hole with the laser level that could be seen in the first dig photo. Once the depth was correct they crossed over the marks on the wall.


The pool arrived in the afternoon!


This was the evening on Dig day, the pool was parked in the front yard overnight.




Day 2 was pool placement day.

Panorama of the finished hole.
Crushed limestone aggregate being spread and leveled.
Time to pick up the pool and move it from the front yard.
This part was truly nerve wrecking, but it worked!
Setting the pool
There were some serious measuring going on before they were happy with how the pool was squared up with the existing patio slab. Here the crew is unhooking the lifting straps.
The pool was jacked up under the otherwise unsupported ledge and some cinder block was also put in place for support. One of the workers crawled into the den like area and started packing in crushed limestone under the ledge and bottom stairs.
Digging the trench between the equipment pad and the pool. The equipment will live outside the fence, so another section of the split rail was removed.
While waiting for the late water truck, they started lifting the big sandstone blocks in place. Impressive dexterity with huge backhoe flipping and turning the blocks. The big gap in the fence can be seen here, right next to the fence gate, which was too small to be used.
The water truck arrived… and was shot on hose. Fortunately the dig crew had spare pipe to cover the 30 or so feet needed. The retaining wall rocks can also be seen here on the left side of the photo. The crew back filled outside the pool with limestone gravel keeping the fill consistent with the rising  water level inside the pool


Over the weekend we did the inaugural premiere splashings, and the boys were playing in the half filled pool the evening before Day 3. The water was a pleasant temperature by then, it was really cold coming out of the tank truck.

Day 3, backfill and more water.

A second load of water and more backfill. Here you can see the skimmer  held by Mike. Yes, we have another Mike to add to the list. This one is a virtuoso with bob cats and back hoe =)
The water return nozzles and pool LEDs got mounted and pipes attached, gray conduit for electric and white PVC for water returns from the pump.
Exciting moment when the water level reached the ledge.  The tank truck emptied a couple of minutes after this, so we still need a couple of more inches of water in there, but it should be doable with the garden hose.

And now we wait. The equipment, as in pump, heater, filter and salt water generator should be delivered next Friday. 8 more days with gaps in the fence is doable if not awesome.
The Electrician is scheduled for Monday the 26th, and we will hopefully have the plumber in around then as well.

After that they prep to pour concrete. We will have a 3 foot wrap around the pool itself, and it will be stamped. A second concrete pour will happen after that, sunk down 2 and 3/8 inches from the pool wrap making a concrete base for the pavers that will cover the lower patio. We will finish the upper patio at the same time as the lower one. We have found pavers we really like, it’s just a matter of picking the right colour(S) and blends.

Lampus Grandview in Allegheny (or slate) is Eric’s favourite. I think they’re both too dark for a deck on the north side of the house, partly under a deck. And dark pavers tend to get hotter as well.
I am leaning towards Cambridge Armortec, Sherwood Collection Ledgestone XL, very similar paver to the Grandview, but with more colour blend options.
Maybe Sahara/Chestnut Lite, the border would have to be darker, more like the stone wrap on the house.

Or perhaps Sandstone with a Riverbed blend border.traditional-patio

Cambridge has a  lighter version of the Allegheny, it’s called Toffe/Onyx Lite, but some pictures of it look a lot more saturated than this, so I am not sold on it.


That’s it for now!



The green, green grass of home

The kids started their new schools today, because it is the start of a new grading period. Meaning for the next couple of weeks we leave our current house at 6.20, drive to, through and past the city to get the high schooler to her school on time.
Then we have an hour and a half to find breakfast before the elementary school opens its doors for the other kids.
In the afternoon the roles are reversed, high schooler gets out an hour earlier than the younger ones.
This means house visits!

We’ve spied on the school bus, lounged on the hearth in front of the fireplace, and had breakfast at the kitchen island.

Here are some staged photos from the Parade of Homes.






This light will swap places with the one above the kitchen table.
Our dining table will live in the kitchen, and this area will be a reading nook.



Edited to Add: The Parade is over and the staged furniture and accessories were moved out on the 22nd of October.
All ready for touch ups that Friday, Cable guys on Saturday, Cleaning crew on Monday and our stuff on Tuesday!

shades hill october 17 2015

Front lawn is coming in nicely!
Much less work than the poor neighbours who seeded their lawns during summer.
Front yard October 17 2015

Our oak tree is changing color.
We also have our first weeds in the garden beds.

O Tannenbaum

This morning was for pointing out where I wanted our complimentary pine trees planted. We figured we would use them as a screen to the neighbour’s basketball court by the dog door corner. That way we would also get more privacy for the rear patio by closing up the only gap in the greenery around the back yard.

The six we were expecting had turned into ten, as by magic.


This is one way to make ten (eleven, since they also planted the oak tree) holes appear without the breaking of backs and gnashing of teeth.
Very cool drill.
I took these photos through the window while standing on the toilet in the master bathroom.


Placing the trees in their holes. Four pines get to live where I had planned that the Oak tree should go.
The oak had been planted offset from the front door and office window just before I arrived. It looked nice so this was way to still get something along that west side of the front yard.


Rinse and repeat in the spot where we were originally hoping to plant pines.

There is one more hole further left, so six in total back here.


Tilling after the trees were put in place, to loosen the dirt form all the heavy trucks that have passed through to the back during construction.


These photos were taken through one of the master bedroom windows.


Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, heading to the front yard for a break.


The rock hound came next, raking the top layer finer and picking up everything bigger than a fist.


Then more oldschool manpower. Lots of raking to smoothen everything out even more before the grass seed was spread.


The birch tree by the garage looks stressed, I hope it makes it.

The front was seeded and done by the time I left. They had a truck with straw and a blower up on the road just waiting for its turn. I believe they were also going to put mulch down before calling it all done.

I watched most of the planting from inside the house. Not nearly as cold and windy in there.

The cabinet maker had delivered the laundry room cabinetry and the office bookcase.
Drew, our trim carpenter, was at work finishing off the fiddly bits to make it fit in just so.

The bookcase looks nice, but at less than half the size of the one we have in our current office, it feels small.
It is scooted in a little awkwardly, showing a gap at the top, not sure who thought that would be a great idea.

I suppose we will put the current favourite books in this bookcase, and the rest in a secondary wall of books in the basement.

We’ve got board game storage though!


Different view of the great room with staged furniture.

A light fabric couch is NOT in our future, we will stick with leather thankyouverymuch. >.<


I watched as the induction cooktop was put into place by Mike-the-Builder and one more man. It was a tight fit, but it slid down to sit flush in its spot.

Also another close up of the handmade backsplash, without mint green and without drywall craters.

IMG_2897 IMG_2896

Master bathroom mirrors were going to get hung today. I guess these are the last ‘before’ photos.IMG_2924

Rubber duckie ledge in the master shower.


Not our bed, but the shield on the wall is way cool.

It and the bar stools can stay =D


The exterior painters were busy painting the white trim, and the shutters have their final colour now.
Next time, the house will be surrounded by a field of straw!

I like dirt

front grading done

Dreary last day of September, but I think it’s overcast on purpose. Look how nice the new dirt looks in the front yard against all the gray.

The last of the expected dirt has indeed arrived and been spread and final grading had just finished when I took this photo. The bulldozer was being loaded on a trailer after a job well done.

We walked into the house and saw Designer-Katie and MHC-Kate at work decorating for the open house.
Not really my style, but it doesn’t have to be.

great room

I was told to go check out the basement, so I did.

dog bath

Dog bath has been tiled in dirt colored tile!
It’s 30 by 40 with the bottom at 20″. I will paint the back wall with something that is easy to wipe off and put the grooming table to the right of the dog tub.
Add some type of cheapo plastic shower curtain/bio hazmat solution to contain the hair when blow drying.

We’ll see.

dog bath 2

Closeup. The sprayer is ordered and will make an appearance very soon.

M showerSpeaking of baths, Ms shower has doors.

Heading upstairs.
Stair runner and the cool undermounted LED lights have been installed. The Runner is covered in heavy duty plastic wrap to protect it.

stair from basement

stair light strip stair rail light stairs

The fridge and freezer have moved into their permanent positions in the kitchen.


The backsplash has been grouted, except for the 5-and-change mint green placeholder tiles above the blue water bottle.

A handful of the darker colour tiles have been ordered and will be installed and grouted and no more mint will enter this house ever again.


Still got the wrong light fixture over the dining area but other than that it looks pretty good.
I like the bar stools!
Dishwasher in the lower right corner.

Ending with some new photos of the master bath with sparkly new glass surround and door.master bath 2 master bath

master bath3 master shower doors