Monthly Archives: April 2018

New Flooring – Luck and the Prepared Mind.


Our lives have been in turmoil for the last week. A big truck pulled up and delivered 23 boxes of brand spanking new vinyl plank flooring and we have been installing it. It’s not hard to do but it requires moving everything and laying the flooring and then putting everything back. But I am getting ahead of myself so let’s step back to how I chose what we eventually started laying.

You can see in this picture the original old flooring in this house. It is 9″ vinyl squares. They were installed when the house was built circa 1960 and fortunately  there has not been anything installed over that. I say fortunately because in other homes I have had to tear out stuff like avocado green shag rug from the 1970s or eleven layers just plain crap. Our original idea was to tear up the old tiles. They were cracking and coming off in pieces anyway.  However, we learned that 9″ tiles often contain asbestos and have to be removed by a hazardous material team at great cost. I went on line and found an exact match to our tiles on a searchable database and the database says our tiles don’t have asbestos. My assurances didn’t matter to installers. 9″ tiles must be removed as if they do have asbestos and they just ain’t doing it, lady.

We then began researching alternatives. It had to be something that could go over the old tiles. I am mildly asthmatic and need to avoid carpeting. The old floor was always cold so I wanted warmth. We also needed something that can handle dog traffic, hair and dog nails. Thinking longer term into our old age, we also needed whatever we finally got to be sturdy, not slippery, for diminishing sense of balance. Above all we needed easy to clean and maintain. I also wanted a certain look.

I am trying to do my home in primitive cottage style, charming but not particularly  fussy about chic, because chic changes. Remember the soft peach and cream walls of the 1980s in every new home? And then there was the old style wall paper. (How many layers of that have I stripped off?) Anyone recall “the feature wall”, fake wood panelling, or mirrored tiles? These days plain greys and blacks seems to be all the rage. The problem with fashion is it changes. I have moved into houses where I can tell when it was last painted just by the colour scheme. I wanted an ageless look that was all mine. I picked colours I loved and to hell with what was fashionable. So the house is bright sunny yellow outside and many shades of teal inside. It’s bold and beautiful it’s all mine. I love it that way.

We looked at many options for flooring. Everyone recommended some type of plank flooring. Slap it on right over the tiles and forget it. We looked very seriously at plywood flooring cut into 8″ planks and overlaid with multiple layers of urethane. That method is cheap and easy to fix if you mar the floor and I loved the look. However, I could not see me, with my wheezy lungs, being able to handle and spread 6-10 layers of urethane or living within a mile of the house during the long drying process.

I was very hesitant about commercial layered stuff. A few years ago I bought bamboo flooring and spent hours putting it down only to have it mark up within days. It was a terrible disappointment. I went into hardware stores and checked out many of the flooring available and they all failed what I call the thumb nail test. I would hold the flooring in my hand and then use my very sharp hard thumb nail to try to scratch it. If I could make a mark on the flooring with my nail, it was too fragile for our lifestyle. Everything I looked at flunked the thumb nail test. I ruled out vinyl plank flooring because of that. However, I have been recently blessed a potential son-in-law who renovates homes. I was discussing the thumb nail test and he told me there is vinyl plank flooring that is a lot tougher. The stuff I had been looking at was ‘residential grade’. I wanted ‘commercial grade’. It was like a lightbulb went off. Now I had a solution with a name on it. I began researching vinyl plank flooring sticking only to commercial grade. I soon found some that passed the thumb nail test. Not only that. I took out my truck key and (while the grouchy saleswoman was not looking) tried to scratch some of the stuff with the key and failed. I was delighted and I decided my potential son-in-law was a lot smarter than I had originally thought. (Okay I need to say that was a joke. No guy lacking brains lasts long enough with my girl  for me to actually meet him, much less enjoy a serious discussion about flooring.) Without his expert input at just the right time, I would have never have figured it out.

Now I was ready to really shop. Every chance we had I stopped into places that had flooring and bypassed the ‘residential grade’ they put up front on display and asked to see ‘commercial grade’ instead. I also shopped on line at all the major chains and I got a good handle on typical per square foot cost and what kinds of colours and styles I could expect to find. All of this research paid off because I stumbled on our flooring purely by accident on a trip for something entirely unrelated. It was the precise type of commercial grade vinyl plank flooring, in a style almost the same colour as what I wanted and exactly what my husband wanted. I hemmed and hawed and acted disinterested but eventually I had my deal. Best of all, instead of the $7/square foot original price, it was end of the batch, stuck in the rear, dusty old leftover, discontinued stuff that had not moved. They were very happy to get it out of their way and make room for new stuff that would sell. I was happy to pay $2/square foot no matter how disinterested I acted. I took the 23 boxes. I think I got it at cost. I didn’t argue about the delivery charge. I whipped out my credit card and paid in full on the spot before someone changed their mind.

Sometimes you get lucky. Luck tends to happen most often when you are prepared and ready to grab it. To have such things happen you need to do the background research on the problem. You need to consult with a few experts to get ideas and avoid silly mistakes or wasting effort reinventing the wheel. As Louis Pasteur said at a lecture at University of Lille in 1854.

Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.

Or “Chance favours the prepared mind.”

And that goes for everything from embryonic differentiation waves to finding just the right flooring at a really good price.

And since that day the truck pulled up, we have had our lives in turmoil. We had to undercut the trim on the door frames. We also had to remove all the doors and cut a half inch off the bottom. We had to fill the holes in the old vinyl tile flooring with quick drying cement. The flooring is interlocking lift, place, click stuff. It often goes in easily but other times the stuff sticks and then you have to bang and smack and cuss a bit to get it right. And of course the edges never come out perfectly even and you have to cut the stuff around doors and vents and anything else coming up out of the flooring.

There are other frustrations. We moved the fridge to lay the flooring and discovered that even though we bought that fridge just last year there is about 400 years worth of detritus packed in dog hair underneath. (EEWW!!). When we moved my desk we discovered a broken drawer than needs repair. When we moved my chair we discovered we needed to put pads on to protect the new flooring because I didn’t care about the old tile but even commercial grade can’t take bare metal scraping. Tools for the job are strew everywhere. Meanwhile there is still the need to prepare food and eat, wash dirty dishes and laundry still piles up.

The puppy loves the chaos because when we are down on our knees, we are easy targets for puppy kisses and getting hugs and pats. Nothing is more fun that snatching that tool we are using and taking off with it. She’s knows she’s too cute to get into any real trouble. The cat does not appreciate renovations so he’s in huff and is trying to both get even with us and restore order by clearing off the counters and other surfaces for us before we are ready. It is amazing how much a bowl shoved off the fridge and falling on your head can hurt. Since that experience I have been making sure to never leave a hammer up high. And then there is stubbed toes. Nothing is where you expect it to be so my husband can’t go anywhere without muttering imprecations. However, it is almost finished. It looks lovely. And soon, after I repaint and replace the baseboards, we can return our lives back to semblance of normalcy or at least as normal as my home can ever be. (I hope!)


Spring has finally arrived on the 51st parallel!

I live just a tiny bit south of the 51st parallel. We escape to the southern US for the winter but for various reasons having to do with governmental bureaucracies we leave in winter and return to winter. This year that was even more true than usual due to an unusually cold spring. It was not record breaking, but you have to go back to the 1970s to match some of the weather we’ve had since we returned home March 26th.

I spent the time finishing the painting in the bathroom and hunting for deals for new flooring and exterior doors. I found the flooring, the doors not yet. Meantime in spite of how cold it was, I decided to be an optimist and knowing spring was going to come sooner or later I started some plants from seed. Unfortunately I made a  mistake preparing my seed last fall and left almost everything in paper envelopes on one jar. I opened to find everything covered in mold. I had to order new seed because of that. Live and learn. It was my third year keeping seed and now I know what not to do. Fortunately my garlic and onion seeds were not among them so I have those at least. Since I was ordering more seed anyway, I decided to try something. New to this year’s gardening is flowers from seed. I had never started flowers from seed indoors before.


Day before last it was finally warm enough to get my little greenhouse out and, as you see from the blanks in my seed tray, I have been transplanting the faster growing zucchini and cucumber into bigger pots. I have been having great luck with zucchini grown in big pots and not such great luck with cucumbers in the garden so this year I thought I would try growing cucumbers in pots. They are currently in my little greenhouse.


Now one issue with growing things in big pots is they don’t fit into this little greenhouse so when I spotted a big tent style greenhouse at a church rummage sale for $5.00 last fall I jumped at it and after getting my little one out and set up I tackled the ‘new’ one. It was quite the bear to set up because the ground is still frozen and it was hard to get the stakes in. However they did finally go when heated with some hot water and once up, the tent greenhouse was surprisingly roomy. I am considering retiring the cover on the little one and using the frame for shelving in the big one. We shall see.


The tent greenhouse already has two occupants. I have not had any luck at all getting one of my favourites, morning glories, to grow here so I decided to try them from seed. I miscalculated because they were the first thing to come up and the first little plants to outgrow their starting containers. It was astonishing how quickly they grew! Morning glories are also incredibly fussy about being transplanted and usually respond by giving up and dying. So I figured they had to go directly into big pots. I started with 12 and I currently have six left. I lost one to transplanting and four to our rambunctious puppy and one just keeled over and died for no apparent reason. They do seem to like the big greenhouse.

There is very little else in the way of spring though. Last year for Canada Day the government decided to celebrate our nations’ 150th birthday by spending our tax dollars on little seedling trees. We planted 120 on our property outside of town since they are native to our area and were extirpated by settlers. We planted several in our yard and some fared better than others. All my larger spruce trees made it through the winter, helped no doubt by the heavy layer of snow. Somewhere in my perennial bed is a bunch of daffodil bulbs I added last fall. Hopefully the red and white tulips that bloomed for Canada’s 150th birthday made it as well.

My yard and garden is a big mess. It is still half covered with snow and will need a good cleaning and the garden will need a thorough roto tilling before planting but that is still weeks away. At the 51st parallel there is no point planting before June. I did find one sign of life in my herb box. I harvested most of my garlic from seed and brought it inside to be set out again in the spring (or to be eaten as some was) but I must have missed some plants because I actually have some garlic from last year poking up through the dirt. My strawberry plants seem to have made it and my tiny Saskatoon bushes seem intact.



One more thing, our tomato bed on the back of the garage worked so well hubby dearest helped me put in a second larger bed beside it. As the season ended I dumped out all my tubs of zucchini and flowers into the garden. I threw in some egg shells as well. Eggshells serve two purposes. Female birds, especially swallows and swifts eat the shells for the nutrients as they get ready to lay their eggs and the shells break up easily and add calcium to the soil for the plants. Once the melt finishes I will clean it out, stomp the lumps of dirt down and add some fresh soil. I intend to keep using the old garden space for lettuce, greens, corn and potatoes because they did well there. Since I will be growing only those things in the old space I can put the rows far enough apart to easily till between rows with my little portable tiller.

I want to use the new space for beans, carrots, peas and other things that did not do well in the old garden spot. Plus this box is narrow enough I can plant things closer together and weed by hand and with a small trowel. Not yet though. As you can see it is still half full of snow and frozen solid. No matter, I saw the first robin this morning and the cranes arrived yesterday afternoon so I can finally say our long winter is over and spring is here. I expect we will get at least one more dusting of snowflakes and weeks more of cold nights, but spring is finally here.