“Just move your bedroom”

The light and sounds from the gas station really bothered me. While the station’s operation generated little noise – their customers had loud vehicles, booming car stereos, angry shouting people, and the thunking sound when the gas storage tank portals were driven over were intermittent and constant. And the stupid tire compressor, located 6′ from the property line, accessible by anyone 24/7, was audible in most of the rooms of my home.

If this had been a new development, the site plan would have required a buffer zone, with plantings to absorb some of the sound. The lot as it is would have NEVER passed current site plan approval, as it would be considered too small to incorporate buffer zones, adequate traffic flow plans, etc. It seems like another facet of the Class War that older “suspect” areas like EOA are subject to. A station planned (as in planned 70 years ago, then changed significantly) like the one next door would never happen next door to a new residential development.

Even though I had light blocking blinds, with curtains on top of them, light still crept under and around. The difference in the elevation between the area with the canopy and pumps, and my property on a lower grade meant that their excessive lighting had a greater effect than if we were on the same plane.

As spring began, I realized that I could not tolerate another summer’s worth of late night noise, puncturing my sleep. I could hear all this with my bedroom windows and storm windows closed. With no AC my windows upstairs were open May through September.

The house is modest, with two bedrooms upstairs. There is a small room off the dining room on the main floor that had been the sewing room. I decided to move my bedroom to the former sewing room, as it would be the darkest and most quiet.

It wasn’t as simple as just moving my bedroom contents to a different room and vice versa.

The switch meant that I had to fix the largest bedroom to accommodate my sewing machines. This was the only other room that could fit the tall bookcases that I stored my findings and tools in (the room I used as a bedroom had sloping walls the bookcases could not fit under). The walls and ceiling in the sewing room and large bedroom were terrible and needed extensive plaster repairs. I also needed some strange wiring undone to have an overhead light in the new bedroom. The previous owner installed three sconces – but ran the wires down the wall inside these weird wood structures the sconces were mounted on. This made arranging furniture in a tiny room nearly impossible, and I didn’t like how the mounts or sconces looked anyhow. Even if the wiring had been run inside the wall, I could have worked around the sconce location but the dumb mounts took up too much wall space.

The realtor’s (much lightened) photo shows the sconce situation. What were those mounts – giant needles ?


I assumed the plaster had been cut to run the wires down so I was surprised when the mounts and sconces were taken down and the actual situation looked like this:


It was pointless to leave the rooms as is, as the problems were ugly and dysfunctional.

I did all the plaster repairs and painting myself. It wasn’t just patching a few nail holes. The previous owner had done some terrible things – including numerous patches with drywall that was too thick. The electrician needed to have a portion of the ceiling opened up to run the new wiring, which I had to close in afterwards.

Getting a electrician who would return my phone calls was a challenge. Even local companies in the immediate area who advertised small residential jobs wouldn’t call me back !

I had to purchase plaster, plaster washers, drywall screws, mesh tape, oil primer,  adhesion primer and wall and trim paint for three rooms. Displacing the contents of even one room at a time is disruptive and stressful. Plaster repairs take a long time to do, as thin coats need to be built up, then have to cure before they can be primed/painted. This was a less offensive solution than having some goons knock out the old plaster to slam in new drywall. Repair also generated the least waste.

I had to hire movers to get the bookcases and heavy machines up a flight of stairs. I had to wrassle my antique bed apart and get that down a flight of stairs by myself.

Once I was finally in the new bedroom, it WAS quieter. I wasn’t hearing any more 4:00 a.m. cel phone marathons in the parking lot . The twerp manager, who took many cigarette breaks, was a real chatterbox . The latest in pounding EDM tunes didn’t jar me awake now. Perfect ! And it only took months of labour and expense to get there.

Thanks gas station. You really helped improve my quality of life, by forcing me to change my priorities. It’s not like I could have used that $ 1000.00 or so for other useful expenses like food or vet bills.

(Not that the rooms didn’t need fixing – they did – but I had other projects that were forced aside so I could just get a decent night’s sleep. )

This is how much fixing the large bedroom room needed, including major work on the ceiling. I had to empty the three bookcases already in the room, then shove them around as there was nowhere else for them to go upstairs, due to the sloped ceilings:



It took a very long time to get to this:


Then I had to do it again, to the future bedroom, including repairing the oppressive little L shaped closet that goes partially under the stairs:



The little closet was its own nightmare:


I was able to buy the paint at 25% off for this room, which was a small relief at least.

Then I had to fix my former bedroom(also painted the same dark army green as the former sewing room). The plaster was the least bad in this room, but it still needed lots of patching. Did I mention that each room had trim paint that was improperly applied so I had to scrape then paint out the charcoal grey with an adhesion primer before I could paint the trim ?


I finally got to this. You can see it wasn’t as simple as “just switching rooms”:


Hey – look out the window. There’s the gas station !




Despite Everything…

…I continue to fix my house. Even though I believe its value is greatly diminished due to the infiltration of gasoline vapours. Even though the air quality may be periodically unsafe. Where else could I go ?

At present, my bedroom overlooks the gas station parking lot. I can hear the tire compressor, loud car stereos, conversations, idling delivery trucks, and it all drives me nuts and interrupts my sleep.

I am switching rooms to move my bedroom to the quietest location. However, this means I have to fix two rooms to do this – as the future bedroom had to have the contents displaced, and my present bedroom has sloping ceilings that my bookcases would not fit under.

The first room in progress is the west bedroom – the biggest and brightest of the bedrooms. It also had a tragic ceiling and rough walls, painted with that dastardly “Jackson Tan” chocolate milk color. The previous owner tried to fix the ceiling with really incomplete knowledge of what this entailed. There were large areas of shaggy, half scraped off wallpaper, painted over, NINE patches using drywall that was too thick (affixed with wood screws that were too short, not even drywall screws), lots of blobs of joint compound and visible fiberglass mesh tape.

Since the space upstairs is limited, I had to work around the three large bookcases that were already in the room. I emptied them, and pushed them around as necessary to access the wall or ceiling. All the books were displaced, which meant tall stacks in the bedroom. The contents went into the rest of the house, everywhere, a big mess.

I don’t know how many plaster washers I used, or how many buckets of joint compound I went through. I skim coated, and re-skim coated, then skim coated some more to minimize the frankenstein monster ceiling. The walls had the same terrible plaster present in the rest of the house, with the crumbling scratch coat and the 3mm thick finish coat.

All the trim had been painted with the same water based enamel, the one that had the iffy preparation upstairs in the hall. I had to scrape and sand that, then paint it all out with adhesion primer. The Queen Anne style windows each had 16 small panes of stained glass, 1/3 of which were pressed pattern glass on the inside, so these all had to be carefully cut in as it is very difficult to scrape paint off textured glass.

Every step went so slowly and laboriously. I could only fix 3/4 of the walls and ceiling, because of the bookcases in the way. This meant I had to work to finish one area while another area hadn’t been touched yet. This made the room extra ugly and chaotic feeling.

Sanding was horrible, especially the ceiling. Because of the large areas that were skim coated I had to use extra stinky oil based primer, which stuck in my hair, skin, glasses.

Finally the point came where the walls and ceiling were unremarkable looking again. They weren’t perfect, but they weren’t shaggy and cracked, with visible drywall patches anymore.

Realtor’s photo expressing the “potential” for this room, with very lightened wall color, and an inflatable bed impersonating a bedroom suite. It looks pleasant but the actual reality of the wall and ceiling situation was minimized, to say the least:


The ceiling after scraping off the loose paint and remaining wallpaper:


How much repair the walls needed. They were all this bad:


Finally the room was done enough. Not perfect but fine:



Now I get to repeat this process in the future bedroom, which has equally bad walls but a slightly less bad ceiling. No textured glass to paint around at least:


There is an iffy bulkhead (not shown) I am trying to leave alone and three sconces attached to giant, large, thick wood needle – like objects. I suspect there were major incisions made in the plaster to wire the sconces, so instead of fixing the plaster these goofy things were made to cover that. Are the electrical boxes properly and safely situated ? I’ll have to get those clunky things off to find out…

To get away from the gas station noise and light I will do this.

Now About That Fence (July/August 2018)

One day in late July someone rang my doorbell, insistently. It was a worker from the gas station.

I observed the gas station, out my bedroom window, since it opened. I saw this guy doing stuff at the station, with inexplicable goings on like an oil barrel sized drum used as a garbage can being drug to the dumpster with another guy, at 4:00 a.m.. It took both of them to lift it to empty it into the dumpster. The heavy scraping sound woke me up.

I couldn’t imagine why there wasn’t a) a garbage bag inside the drum, that was emptied when it was full and b) anyone who has ever done housework or menial jobs knows that a heavy garbage can is miserable to wrangle which is why you have small garbage cans for heavier trash and they are emptied frequently. This guy also caught my attention as he would stand around in the empty parking lot, chain smoking, having long conversations on his cel phone between 1:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.. The talking woke me up many times. I was unimpressed.

The gas station man was QUITE indignant after I answered the door. He seemed very angry that I had contacted Mobil/Esso to inquire about fencing, etc. He felt that I should have spoken to them first. I told him that I had spoken to the renovation crew, and gave them my number for the owner to contact me to discuss a fence, and that no one ever contacted me. I told him that anyone who parked nose in had headlights that shone through the canvas that I put up, directly into my kitchen and dining room windows, and this was unacceptable. I took him into my backyard to show him that the back of their building had no eavestroughing, and the water from their rooftop AC unit was running down the wall. I told him this was their property – but that water could and would undermine their building. It was already growing algae or moss, on the newly repaired wall. I showed him the blind spot by the gas mater and told him they should put a gate up, so it wouldn’t be used as a urinal or worse.

I also told him that all the other gas stations in the area had privacy fences next to a residential neighbour. He asked if I would be willing to pay for 1/2 the fence, say                $2500.00?($ 2500.00 ?!)I said that I did not think it was my responsibility, and that this (a privacy fence) was the cost of doing business. I also asked him if they would build an enclosure around the dumpster, which he dismissed as being too much trouble. Somewhere in this was a conversation about the gas station. I had found a document online that suggested the finished station had been sold for $ 1.5M. When I mentioned this, the dude scoffed, and said it was $ 5M ! Also that the owner had 27 gas stations ! Well, I thought, if they paid $5M for this gas station, they could certainly afford to put up a fence.  I pointed out how anyone at the tire compressor could see into my entire back yard, and into my house if my curtains were open.

While I had gotten a quote for the extended chain link fence, it seemed pointless to share it, as I would still need to purchase, create and install opaque privacy cloth, which had a short lifespan.  They were a business, and all the other similar businesses in the area had opaque fences. They were on a higher land elevation, so the fence should be their problem to solve.

During this period of time(July/August), one of the renovator dudes showed up with the device that paints lines on pavement. These were oriented towards the gas station building. This helped to minimize the headlight issue at least.

The gas station guy told me his name, which was long, and the short name he was called, Abi. He did not seem to remember my name, so he called me ma’am, a lot. A Note to you youngsters out there: this is typically insulting unless used in a formal context and/or the woman is over 80 years old.

Somewhere in August, the factory started to tidy up their lot. I got nervous when the trees and vines next to the parking lot were trimmed, as they created some welcome privacy. I spoke with the guy trimming the trees, and spoke to the factory owner/manager/something just to make sure they weren’t planning to remove the fence or trees.

Let me make this clear: at no time did the gas station manager (I guess he was the manager ?) or owner or anyone else affiliated with the station ever approach me to discuss a fence, or ask for suggestions or recommendations for a fence builder. I had my back fence, with the antique doors, built by an experienced carpenter. I had the posts set for that fence and the picket fence done by a company that sets posts and builds fences. My experience with both entities had been good, and I had no qualms about the quality of their work, or pricing. I would have recommended either or both, if I had been asked.

Now – if you want to build a fence, and expect your neighbour to share the costs, this is what is typically done : you discuss what kind of fence is agreeable to both parties, you get several quotes with references, and you mutually agree to put up that fence. If you are extra careful you have a survey done. If your neighbour is not agreeable, then you have the option to put up your own fence, on your own property, and pay for it yourself.

I had spoken with the tree trimming guy several times. He was a neighbourhood guy, whose aunt lived across the street. He did odd jobs in the area. He told me he was going to build the privacy fence for the gas station.

I didn’t know anything about him, except that he had been pleasant to me. It didn’t seem like rocket science to build a fence.

The morning glories planted next to the chain link fence had been doing very well. They scrambled over the fence with many blooms adjacent to the dumpster. They would have to come down. I could plant them again next year. I told him to do whatever he had to do, showed him the Smoke Bushes and asked him to not damage those.


I asked him if they were going to get posts set or how the fence was going to get built ? He told me the manager wanted him to use steel post brackets, bolted to the concrete retaining wall.


The concrete retaining wall was at least 50 years old, and I had my concerns about whether it might be crumbly or unsound when drilled into ? I was also concerned that even 6″ bolts might not be strong or deep enough to support the weight of a fence, in a windy place like London. He told me they were going to saw off the posts for the chainlink fence. Despite the age of the posts, they were still very solid.

A bunch of building materials showed up next door.

They took down the fence in the back first. I looked out from time to time as they struggled to get any of the brackets set. The retaining wall was full of pebbles and rebar. This went on all afternoon, past supper time until after dark, with a hammer drill.

Somewhere in this the manager dude came out. He told me that I would have to pay them $ 1000.00 towards this fence.

All the decisions about the fence, including who would build it, had been made UNILATERALLY. I had never been shown any quotes, or asked for my input at all, except that I had been emphatic that there needed to be a tall privacy fence.

I refused to pay $ 1000.00 for this fence, then in progress. More discussion, which digressed into shouting ensued.

I told him that having an opaque privacy fence, next to a residence was a VERY LOW BAR for a business, and the fence was their responsibility to build and pay for. He disagreed. I asked him if he was aware that the location of their vents had filled my house with gasoline fumes ? He said the vents were perfectly safe, and that he would even climb to the top of them and smoke a cigarette to prove it. I said he didn’t want to do that during a refuelling as they would be spewing gasoline vapours. I said that as a residence next a business that I am entitled to privacy, as well as safety. This was not safe. I asked him where the fire extinguishers were on the pumps, and why they didn’t even have no smoking signs on the pumps – as required by law ? He did some texting and within 5 minutes the other station employee appeared and placed fire extinguishers by the pumps ! What good were they doing in their storeroom or wherever they had been ?

And so on.

Now let’s take a moment to look at the fences I have built:


The doors were close in height and width but not identical. John did his best to make them look uniform by lining up the center panels, and trimming the doors accordingly. They were set on sturdy 6 x 6 posts to withstand the force of the many winds, and to support the weight of the doors. My photo is bad but they are certainly level and straight.


The picket fence had 6 foot posts, professionally set. I attached all the pickets myself and tried to be careful with the spacing to make it appear uniform. I had worked drafting patterns and sewing for over twenty years, and was very aware of how discrepancies of a couple of millimetres times several pattern pieces or grading can negatively affect the outcome. I am very neurotic about measurements and consistency as a result of doing this kind of work.

The first fence section in the back was assembled and put up:


I was shocked and appalled. Not only were the brackets not even properly set, the fence looked like this ! The neighbourhood dude had a helper and they both had measuring tapes, too. This is what I see when I look out my kitchen window. How could a fence be this terrible ?

The front fence section was consistent at least. They realized that setting the brackets into the concrete was nearly impossible. I had looked online and there were ways to attach a wood fence to metal posts, using brackets, like this:



I even printed out a couple of photos and gave it to the guy building the fence.

This is how the front section looked:


It’s a little hard to tell due to the tall Cosmos flowers, but nothing is straight. The 4 x 4 posts were used as part of the construction – BUT ARE NOT SET INTO ANYTHING. This section of the fence is attached to the 4′ steel posts, which are still firmly set into the concrete. However the planning and construction is very inconsistent and unconsidered. Some of the posts are attached with brackets, other parts are with the steel strapping used for ducts…

This is how it looked from their side, though.


Here’s that section in the front again. The snow highlights the way nothing is level or square:






Communication Breakdown

One day in the spring there was a guy in my backyard chipping away at the back wall of the gas station. At some point I went out and said hello, and said it was fine if he had to put up scaffolding or something, and that he could come and go through my back gate. In the back yard, next to the wall, there is a 36″ or so wide strip that belongs to them but isn’t fenced or otherwise marked.

No one spoke with me, or left a note in my mailbox advising that they would need to access the back of their building, which would mean they would be in my yard.

Since work was happening in this area I dug up any plants that might get crushed underfoot and moved them. I watched as the back wall was patched up. Over the years many of the cinderblocks had developed small holes. Some kind of small bird had colonized this, and there were many nests and bird apartments in this wall. I hoped that none of them got patched in.

There were a couple of big cracks in the wall that got sort of sewn together with rebar.

Part of the chain link fence adjacent to this strip got cut open and peeled back, so they could stucco the side of the building. This left a human sized gap that was easily accessible to my yard, that I really didn’t want. I piled up cinderblocks and pallets to block this off. I spoke with the factory to see if they intended to take down all the chainlink fence (no) and some guy hired by them patched up the hole.

One day there was a guy on a ladder painting the patched wall. I had hoped that to be neighbourly, since this wall was a big part of my yard, that perhaps someone might offer that I could pick the color ? I had even suggested this to one of the wall patch dudes. I would even BUY the paint. Nope – the wall was painted a blah grey color – which was better than brown or bright orange, it was true.

It seemed like the renovation was wrapping up. I had assumed that since this station was owned by Esso, that efforts would be made to make it like the other local Esso’s. These had grass and trees and shrubs planted around the perimeter. They also had tall fences, usually masonry, adjacent to any residential neighbours.

I spoke with the main guy I dealt with. I asked him if they were going to put up a fence. He sort of laughed and said no. I was confused. I assumed that there was a local bylaw that said there had to be one. He said the owner was coming the next day, in the afternoon and I could speak to him then. I had to work so I couldn’t. I had previously given the worker dudes my number, in case of emergency. I gave it to this guy, again, and asked him to have the owner call me, so I could talk to him about a fence.

No one ever called me.





Trying to Right the Wrong

Scrubbing the unadhered paint off with TSP and a scouring pad was kind of a rotten task. I took as much off as I could. I let that dry overnight then painted all the surfaces with an adhesion primer. The railing and spindles had been stripped and varnished – but there was nothing else in this area that had an original wood surface. I never liked the contrast – or the color of the wood so away I went with the primer, feeling approximately 0.005% guilt for painting over exposed wood.


Covering the difference between the the light colored paint below what I scrubbed off and the charcoal paint that wouldn’t budge took a couple of coats of primer. The surface was complex so using a roller was useless, and it all had to get brushed on. I decided I didn’t like the charcoal border on the stairs, so I primed that out. BUT – doing this exposed the many carpet staples that had been painted over, some with chunks of carpet that the PO had painted over. I had to dig these out individually, and patch the holes:


The almost black border (the floors were all painted that same dark charcoal as the trim) did a good job of hiding all the staples left behind. The painted surface on the stairs was showing wear, so that had to get repainted, too.

I used Benjamin Moore Advance paint on the trim, spindles, railing and doors,  Heppelwhite Ivory HC-36:


leftover BM Advance in Nantucket Grey HC – 111 for the border:


and leftover BM oil based enamel paint for the stairs, in Manchester Tan, HC-81. This was leftover from my house in 2015. I don’t know anyone else who moved with numerous cans of house paint but I did, twice. It was still good ! :


Painting the stairs with stinky oil paint in January, during a cold snap where I didn’t want to open the windows, was not my brightest idea. The contrasting stripe was painted BM Black Forest Green. Did I mention that a Previous Owner somewhere down the line had used a copious amount of floor levelling compound, probably made by Dap, as it retained that used chewing gum texture many years after the application ? This was applied over many of the stairs and their underside, which created a smeared and blobby texture. I dug as much off as I had the patience for.

After it was done it looked brighter and felt better. It needed 2-3 coats over the primer to cover the dark/light areas, and a rare sunny day exposed more thin spots that needed to get another coat. Then it was done enough. I did start thinking about the wall and ceiling color, but that was an agony that didn’t merit re-visiting.




Dear Previous Owner…

…thank you for not messing with this house too much. I really appreciate that you let the original doors and windows be, and didn’t start smashing out walls for that plague of open concept. I’m really happy you left the exterior alone, though it would have been more decent of you to have replaced that one part of the eavestroughing that was missing before you sold the place.

What you did to the kitchen was really bad,  but I feel like I have scolded you enough about that.

I do need to speak with you about the paint situation, though. It was maddening to discover that the dark grey paint that was used on the trim upstairs is a noticeably different color from the dark grey trim downstairs. Why would you do this ?

Even worse, was that while you seemed to use a good quality paint on the main floor, which has performed well, whatever you did upstairs was TERRIBLE. I don’t care what the underpaid staff at the big box store told you – you DO need to properly prep a surface that has been previously painted with oil paint, and you DO need to use an adhesion primer. If you don’t – well you can just peel that water based enamel or whatever it was off wherever it was applied. The faintest ding will chip it, revealing the light color underneath the almost black color you chose. This is partcularly evident in the areas that had the most hands – around the doorknobs and light switches, and the edge of the doors. If you had looked carefully – you would have seen that waxy brownish build-up from many years of skin oils. No paint will adhere to this !

So, dear Previous Owner, this is why I will need to spend many hours scrubbing off your inferior latex paint, using water and TSP and a scrubbing pad. Once it is dry, then I can apply the adhesion primer, then the enamel paint of my choosing.

The charcoal grey wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it isn’t terrible. I could have lived with it, if it had been properly applied. I want you to take a good look at this, and ask yourself if this was a good legacy ? You seemed to want to do right by the house, to make it presentable and attractive ? Whose bad advice did this ?




Starting On The Exterior

Many of us have been socialized to get all swoony about “potential”. When I first saw this house the peeling exterior and all the other issues were obvious – and I couldn’t shake those notions of just happily fixing it myself. I know how to prep and paint. I know how to reglaze a window – not a problem (right ?).

Finding competent tradespeople, who will do ALL the necessary steps, are scarce. The actual cost of the paint would be several hundred dollars – that seemed doable. The true cost of the exterior repairs would be the labour, which I estimated to be at least 10x the cost of the materials.

I spent the first summer emailing and phoning around about renting a scaffold. When my ex and I had painted that exterior (in Toronto), the scaffolding rental company delivered it, set it up and took it down. However – at the local places I inquired this was just not done. This was a problem. I had never set up scaffolding, so I had no clue about how to do that safely, or even what components to rent.

I wondered about an alternate approach, like renting a cherry picker or scissor lift. The cherry picker seemed like overkill – and I wasn’t clear if an operator’s license or certification was needed, which I did not have. Scissor lifts seemed to be used only on very flat surfaces, like pavement, or indoors.

Experienced US members on an old house forum recommended pump jacks. This is a kind of basic scaffolding that that the user can raise and lower by themselves. No one locally seemed to sell them or rent them, and the only thing that was identified as a pump jack was the hand operated device for moving pallets. Nope.

My experience on tall ladders was limited. I didn’t think I had it in me to paint the peak using an extension ladder, which is almost three stories off the ground.

But I had to paint my house !

This spring John said that I could use his scaffolding. This was complicated by John working 9 hours north through the summer and into the fall, where most of his scaffolding parts were.

We got the first of it set up in mid September. I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I had NO excuse to not paint my house.

In the summer, while I waited for the scaffolding, I started stripping the living room window. This house has an odd detail that I have not seen on other local houses: carved flowers in the upper corners. The paint on it was very old, faded to a sort of ochre color. As I started to strip it, small traces of red were discovered around the flowers, and the ochre paint was more of a russet brown in the shaded areas. I worried that I might gouge up the carving but I didn’t. I managed to knock off one of the dentil pieces though. I looked for days and even sifted the soil below the window but never found it.

The window was looking pretty rough. The sill had been parged with cement, but had some adjacent rot that needed to be filled. The brick mould was gunked up with caulk and paint, and much of the glazing putty was loose or missing:


The complex surfaces were challenging. I used the most flexible putty knife and a small slotted screwdriver to dig the paint out:


When it was all stripped it looked even worse. What an accomplishment !


During this time, major roadwork was being done on Hamilton Road, so gravel and dump trucks were routed down this street. The sight of a woman working on a ladder was apparently so startling that several drivers had to slow down to ask questions about the task at hand.

Once the holes were patched, the old pitch caulking replaced, the glazing repair in progress, and the window primed it started to look a little better:


I was uncertain how to paint the window, exactly. If I painted the sash parts like the other windows, the flower detail would be lost again in the black. I wasn’t 100% about painting the carved sections with a contrasting color, but I thought that if it looked terrible I could paint over it. I thought it looked okay ? I used the door paint. The original colors around the window seemed to have been a very dark green, almost black around the window frame, then that tawny brown on the sash. The flowers might have been multicoloured, with the flowers having been red, with red paint in the grooves. The flowers themselves seem to be a product of artistic license, with the leaves and stalk of a tulip, with the flower being a sort of a daisy or cosmos ?


I painted over the not-liked burgundy with the same dark green – Benjamin Moore Essex Green. As a whole I thought the house was starting to look more cohesive ?


Trim, Benjamin Moore HC-188, Essex Green:


Door, Benjamin Moore HC-02, Beacon Hill Damask:



The Black Picket Fence

I contacted the city before getting the posts set for the fence in the front yard. London is weird in that there are very few fenced front yards. Those that do have fences in the front often have them set back at a strange distance from the sidewalk, 5 or 6 or more feet back. This I understand is because while your property is measured at Y x Y feet, that the city owns a certain portion of the land adjacent to the street. – even though it seems like YOU own it

This makes very little sense to me, as the city does not mow the lawn, provide plants or attend to any of the things that a reasonable property owner is expected to do. The documents attached to my property specify the dimensions and make no note of the city owned areas. I suppose this applies when a city wants to widen a road, or do infrastructure work, as the city utilities are typically in this area – but how often does a city do this ?

The posthole company had locates done, and where they would have probably set the posts – in that odd location halfway in my yard – was complicated by the location of the gas lines. They could not dig within a meter of the gas line. Thus, the posts were set closER to the sidewalk.

What the city said to me, in a phone call and in an email, implied that as long as my fence did not violate the height guideline – no taller than three feet tall – and IF the city needed to access my property that I would agree to the fence being taken down, there should be no problem. Now that the fence is mostly built, I am waiting for that other shoe to drop.

“City of London Fence Bylaw

Part 10


10.1   Street line to sidewalk- prohibited – exception

No person shall have, erect, construct, maintain or permit to be erected, constructed or maintained a fence from the lot line abutting a street to the sidewalk and along the same on the property of the City unless:

a) such fence conforms to the height requirements as prescribed herein: and,

b) the owner of the land abutting the property of the City upon which such fence is erected obtains a licence or other authority from the City and agrees to remove the same from the property of the City as and when directed to do so.”

This was the reply I received from the city regarding this matter (city employee’s name withheld):

“Good morning,

Thank you for your inquiry.

As per the City of London Fence By-law PS-6;

  • The maximum height for a fence in any yard is 7 feet provided the fence is not within the driveway or corner visibility triangles. A maximum height of 3 feet is permitted within the driveway and corner visibility triangles.
  • A minimum of 2.7 metres (8.9 feet) from the sidewalk or street line (if there is no sidewalk) is required to place a 7 foot high fence, however, it is up to the property owner to determine the location of the property lines as to not erect the fence on City Property.

For more information regarding the above, please see the below link to the City of London Fence By-law.

https://www.london.ca/city-hall/by-laws/Documents/fence-PS6.pdf (Fence)

If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact me and I will do my best to answer them or refer you to another staff member.



Is my fence a violation of this bylaw ? Even I don’t know.

I am prepared to argue that due to the social issues in this area, that on numerous occasions unknown strangers have been personally observed:

  • drinking in my yard
  •  urinating in my yard
  •  hiding stolen goods in my yard
  •  sobbing in my yard
  •  falling down dead drunk partially in my yard
  •  walking their leashed dog in my yard
  •  throwing their trash in my yard
  •  attemping to steal the ladder from the scaffolding in my yard
  • leaving used hypodermic syringes in my yard

therefore a short fence would at least create a psychological barrier. Would they open the gate to do these things ? I need to add that the business next door inexplicably, regularly leaves boxes of its trash beside their dumpster, which blows into my yard and is never reclaimed. Would they toss it over a fence instead ? It would be easier to put it in the dumpster I’ll bet.

The City of London Animal Control Bylaw states :

” 4.11 Animal – running at large. No person shall permit any animal to run at large”

“4.12 Tresspassing – by animal. No person shall permit any animal to trespass on any property.”

Any cat except for a disabled one can easily jump over a three foot fence. However, several of my senior cats are too lazy to do so. A front fence would assist me to comply with the animal control bylaws.

The city does allow people to trap animals that are “trespassing” in their yard and take said animal to the city pound, EVEN IF THEY KNOW THAT ANIMAL IS THEIR NEIGHBOUR’S PET ! (There are no laws that prohibit a trapped pet to be dumped elsewhere – like far in the country or by a busy highway for example. Nothing legally compels an animal trapper to only bring that animal to a shelter or be charged with cruelty and/or theft). If your pet has been taken to the city shelter, and you want to get your animal back, you will charged a certain dollar amount per day that your pet is in the shelter system, or you cannot get it back. Obviously microchipping is an excellent idea.

This law is all kinds of messed up. More front fences = less roaming pets. It should be an offence to trap another person’s pet, as in the eyes of the law a pet is considered property. Trapping a pet = theft. (Obviously this shouldn’t apply in situations where an animal is neglected, abandoned, ill or injured or appears this way.)

Anyhow, I wanted to make a picket fence in my front yard.

Did you know that pre-cut wood fence pickets are no longer available in Canada, at least at the many places I looked ? Home Hardware’s Building Center had just discontinued them. I did not want a white vinyl picket fence, the only other alternative.

I did want the picket fence badly enough that John was willing to cut boards to length, then individually cut each picket. I didn’t want pressure treated lumber – it just looks awful to me. It is also so wet from the chemical infusion that you have to wait for almost a year to paint it.

We did all the pickets assembly line style. I made a template and marked the boards, John cut, and I moved the uncut and cut boards. As per my calculations – done twice – I would need 256 pickets.

I love the really old picket fences – where the pickets had fancy shapes or decorative notches. I wasn’t prepared to have my life taken over with a scroll saw, to do this myself, so I made peace with the notion of having a plain picket fence.


I watched some fence building videos, and the consensus was that it was more sensible to paint all the pickets first, before the fence was assembled.

This is what some but not all of the pickets looked like once they were cut. The wood was damp from outside storage at the lumberyard, so I propped them against any available surface to dry out


Then came my summer of black paint. I used oil paint from the hardware store, diluted with Penetrol. Penetrol helps the paint to sink into the fibers of the wood. I painted as many pickets as I could lay out to dry. I did this over and over all summer, two coats each side, including the bottoms:



When John was available again in the fall, he cut and installed the (prepainted, 2 coats on all sides) rails, then I started attaching pickets. I sat on a milk crate with my drill (corded).

I discovered that a paint stir stick was 1″ wide – the spacing I had calculated – so I used that. Since my property was on a slight incline, the position of the screw holes moved around some. I had never assembled a picket fence before. It wasn’t hard – but was slightly tricky. I needed to fudge the spacing somewhat to make the pickets all fit with no major and no minor gaps.

John had things going on in his personal life including a major move, so the gate for the driveway didn’t get made before the first snow. Despite this, I was pleased with the progress that had been made:






Fixing the Foyer


There it is – right when you walk in. More chocolate milk colored paint. More awful plaster repairs and problems.


Like the powder room, there were a lot of repairs needed in such a small space. This area is perhaps 5′ x 6′ ?

I patched, and skim coated, and sanded, and patched some more. I didn’t even take any photos – the area is so small what is there to show ? Eventually the walls and ceilings were smooth enough, so I primed and painted them Benjamin Moore “Queen Anne Pink” (HC-60) with BM “Lancaster Whitewash” (HC-174) as both the ceiling and trim color. The transom is pressed glass, in sort of a pinkish amethyst color. This made the beige pink look pinker than expected. The trim color is sort of a light clay color on its own, but this read as almost white. Neither was exactly what I expected, but it was brighter and not the color of chocolate milk. There was a lot of brushing with three doors, three transoms, textured glass, and lots of trim.




Fixing the Living Room

The living room wasn’t a major ordeal. The plaster needed repairs, of course, but it wasn’t so bad, compared to the other battles I previously fought here.

It was a relief to get rid of the chocolate milk color, another room gone. There were the familiar dings and holes but it was more of a minor situation. At least in this context this was minor.

The realtor presented this room the most realistically:


This is what the extent of the repairs looked like:


The walls and the ceiling needed repairs. Of course.

Then I primed and painted it (with BM “Castleton Mist ” HC-1, same as the powder room) and it just looked like a room:



There’s that other cabinet, that matches the one in the kitchen. It’s the perfect size for storing record albums.

One night, just after John had started work in the fall, I was out looking for my missing cat. I spotted a victorian chaise sitting by the side of the road, about 5 blocks away. It was covered in drywall dust, but didn’t have any bad smells. I didn’t know anyone who I could persuade at 11:00 p.m. to help me carry this thing home. I woke up the next day still thinking about it. John arrived, and drove me over to where it had been spotted – and it was still there ! It needed to be reupholstered, but the frame was sound. We loaded it into the truck:


I had been looking for an antique settee for ages. This wasn’t exactly what I was looking for – but it was free. The seduction of free. I had (wisely) planned to buy an antique settee that already had good, professional upholstery in the color I wanted, as this was much cheaper than paying for it to be upholstered. But it was FREE and I had been looking for a year, and the only settees that met my criteria were too far away. Did you know there is a huge amount of fabulous antique furniture in Ottawa ? Yes, it is NOT close to London, at all.

I started working on it in the winter. This was after spiralling into a neurotic state related to the imaginary color  of upholstery velvet I wanted. Years ago I had bought some velvet ribbon, probably from the late 1960’s – which was sort of a minty lime green. This particular color has not been seen since. I sent away for fabric swatches far and wide. A Toronto fabric store advertised some upholstery velvet in this exact shade on their site. I had shopped at this store many times, and they often bought auction lots from businesses that were closing out or selling off excess inventory – so sometimes you would find vintage materials there. I sent a Toronto friend in pursuit, but what they had in stock was a really disappointing synthetic avocado.

Finally I located exactly what I wanted, from a disagreeable place in Missouri.

I worked hard on it. My upholstery experience was limited to basic seat recovering on kitchen chairs. Thank goodness for the internet. I had to pull out what felt like thousands of tiny tacks, from the last upholstery it had. Being an insane person, I re-used these tacks to attach the new upholstery.

It turned out okay ?