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from the ground up

June 1, 2009

zora naki

i’ve been working my way through this blog that covers the building of a modern house – it was syndicated in several places (including livemodern).

Found a great idea for flooring. We have oak hardwood on the main floor and i would love to repeat that upstairs, but i’ve gotten quotes ranging from $10 to $12/square foot for doing the upstairs. not in the budget! Laminate doesn’t do anything for me, cork was too pricy, concrete isn’t feasible. But I loved their solution – sheets of 3/4″ birch plywood cut into squares (i think we’ll do 2′ x 2′) and laid with the grain alternating.

This is their architect’s version (with 4′ squares)

birch plywood floor

You lay it down – the architect splinthed (sp?) the squares together (routed a groove on the side of one tile, added a sticky-out bit to the side of the next, stuck them together). The homeowner glued his plywood tiles to the subfloor and also nailed them down with brads. I’m not sure what a brad is. Then he finished the wood with multiple coats of polyurethane to protect it, since the veneer is only a thin layer. Plywood is supposed to be a greener choice, given that it uses lots of the less desirable wood as the inside layers of the “sandwich”. Also, shop birch is from the U.S., so lower transportation costs. Best of all? It works out to less than $2/sq foot. There will be an open study upstairs with a built-in desk, and I’m thinking that baltic birch plywood would be a great work surface.

I know I’m skipping ahead to the fun stuff, but I also liked his taste in faucets and door handles. For the kitchen – a pull-out faucet by Grohe (the Minta). It comes in water-saver version.

Grohe Minta

I looked at Faucet Depot and a few other online stores, but the cheapest option still seems to be on eBay (around $350 before shipping). I’ve had good experiences in the past buying taps online, as long as I had pre-researched in an actual store to check out the ‘feel’ of it and to make sure I had the model # correct. There always seems to be Euro-versions of the same models, and I don’t know if there would be problems with the connecting bits (cross-cultural communication), so figured it was best to avoid the issue altogether.

He also was keen on Omnia door handles. I checked out their website and found this puppy, which I really like.

Omnia Industries door lever

Emailed them to ask for a local dealer, got a very prompt response. Called for pricing – $130 for a privacy set. Ouch. Of course, I have no idea what is reasonable for a door knob, but I’m guessing that’s way out of line. The store owner I spoke to was very nice and also suggested Linnea as another source of door hardware. I’m sure I’ll find decent handles somewhere. What I was more concerned about was hardware for the pocket doors. Everything I’ve seen in local hardware stores has been very boring and small. I want something easy to grasp (for small hands and big). So, for each pocket door, I’ll need two flush pulls and an edge pull. I like these designs by Omnia.

Omnia flush pull

omnia flush pull

The rings range from $17 – $19 each, the rectangle is $28. Sounds like a reason for a field trip to me!

Back to packing. The movers are coming tomorrow at 9:00. ack!



Post a comment
  1. ourfriendben #
    June 1, 2009

    Cool ideas, Zora! And good luck with the move tomorrow!!!

  2. June 1, 2009

    Thanks ofb! As long as we remember to take the kids, we should do okay…

  3. Mel Ford #
    June 3, 2009

    Your blog is very interesting. I live in Vancouver too and have a similar square footage issue with my house – the non-habitable basement which counts towards the allowable floor space ratio. I have been told by the City that they will reject a building permit and I will have to appeal to the Board of Variance.

    It’s encouraging to see that you can actually win an appeal at the Board of Variance based on the argument that it’s a hardship to have a non-habitable basement space count towards floor space ratio (if that is what you argued). Did you do it yourself or did anyone represent you? Any recommendations or advice for someone going to the Board of Variance?

  4. June 4, 2009

    Hi Mel!

    Yes, we went with the argument that our house was built before existing by-laws, therefore we were suffering ‘undue hardship’ by having our basement count towards the total square footage. It helped that our above-ground square footage (with the addition) is still significantly under the allowance (about 300 square feet less). We also were careful to stay under the height of our neighbours’ houses (with the addition) to strengthen our argument.

    Our designer came to the meeting with us and he suggested pushing the family angle – that we have 3 kids and needed the space for bedrooms, etc. (all true). We covered this in our letter that went in with the application. But really, the board (about six of them were there) was very businesslike and to the point. They dealt mostly with the issue – small house, big basement, 1940 construction, request for square footage.

    I would suggest meeting with the city planner guy first and getting him on board before your meeting. We did this, and he was invaluable in the meeting. He clearly explained the problem, the by-laws, etc. and totally made our case for us.

    We had some letters against our proposed addition. I did go around to the neighbours to let them know of our plans ahead of time (and kind of wished I hadn’t). I’ve since talked to other people who have actively canvassed and gotten signatures in support of their application, which helped them out.

    If there is opposition to your application, you can get copies of the letters prior to your meeting and prepare your counter-argument. I also took a number of pictures of houses on the block in support of our application and got the sat photos off of VanMap.

    Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

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