RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: March 2014

How does our garden grow?

Yesterday I went with DD to the store and bought my first pair of gardening gloves.  Plus a bag of potting soil.  Then, while she carefully delineated and planted her first sowing of vegetables in a narrow strip by the sidewalk, I planted eight little pots with herbs.

The promise of herbs to come

The promise of herbs to come

Yup, I gardened.

One thing that you should definitely know if you are planning to build a laneway house (and I hope you are!) is that landscaping is a very important part of the process. I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating, you have to have a plan.

In the regulations it says quite clearly

11.3.3 Except as provided for elsewhere in this section, the setback area shall be fully graded and
landscaped with trees, shrubs and lawn to the satisfaction of the Director of Planning.

11.3.4 The following may be permitted within the landscaped setback area by the Director of
Planning:
(a) statuary, fountains and other objects of art;
(b) open ornamental fences if necessary for the protection and preservation of landscaping or
permitted objects of art;
(c) walks or driveways which in the opinion of the Director of Planning may be required to
provide direct access to any building or use on the site.

That’s bureaucrat for “you need some plants here, people”.

In the application for your building permit you must include

Landscape plan should include the following:
□ Plant/ Tree list (common & botanical name,
size, quantity)
□ Plant list symbols keyed to the plan
□ Indicate soft and hard landscaping

And not just any plants, either.  They want you to plant with five factors in mind:

1) low-maintenance,
2) drought-tolerance &
hardiness,
3) scale (all plants under 3ft
high not including vines &
climbers),
4) availability, and
5) variety & interest

And in the Guide the City of Vancouver provides they even list some plants that take these factors into consideration.

With the help of our landscaper Amro and his team, we have fulfilled the promise of our original plan.  We have a plum tree

Which will look like this when it's all grown up

Which will look like this when it’s all grown up

And on the laneway, we have our tall grasses, our lavender, creeping thyme and our beauty berry plants

Beauty

Also not at this luxurious stage as yet — but will be!

When you are planning your laneside plantings, you are not allowed to put in anything that will obscure the front.  We originally  wanted to put in some tall bamboo in a little hedge, but it was pointed out that would provide the perfect hiding place for someone who wanted to break into our place or who wanted to give us a little surprise when we came to the front door.

As well, because the occupants of the laneway, us, are family, we do not have to have a specially dedicated area of yard just for us — but if we ever want to rent the place out we will need to have a clearly defined area of yard just for the laneway tenants.

It’s also very important to remember that your landscaping should be substantially in place before final inspection is completed.  So unless there’s a foot of snow on the ground, it’s expected that your plants will all be planted and your land will be scaped.

When planning your walkways, sidewalks have to provide a hard surface from the street in front of the main house right to the lane and the laneway door — no meandering gravel walks — for emergency services to get to the laneway if they are needed.

When you are planning your laneway build keep all this in mind.  Just as with the design of the home itself the landscaping design has strict rules to follow, but you’ll end up with a space you really love.

 

You’ll flip for these ideas!

Due to my keen hearing and pathological interest in the other people who work in my office, I discovered that one of my co-workers has purchased an old beat-up home in their neighbourhood which they are fixing up to resell.

homeforsale

This is not just a fresh coat of paint and a swipe at the front yard then selling it for a premium, the walls have been stripped back to the studs, there is new mechanical and insulation, an open feel and landscaped property. They are now in the process of getting the new property staged for selling — and it promises to go fast (an updated heritage property in a good neighbourhood?  Catnip for buyers).

But what if you just want to get your home ready to sell?  Sure you know enough to clear out the family photos and personal chatchkes, but what are the best investments to get your place sold fast?

According to Style at Home, these are the top 10 ideas to get the most bling for your buck.

1 Kitchen
state-of-the-art kitchen is one of the most popular renovations for earning back most, if not all, of its investment. Even if you don’t fully gut and renovate, certain upgrades –granite counters, hardwood or high-end tile floors, premium appliances (especially stainless steel), islands and undermount sinks — attract attention and can increase value.

2 Hardwood floors

Especially on the main floor, hardwood is perennially popular with buyers. If your floors are refinished but worn, have them lightly sanded and resealed. If they’re very beaten up consider replacing them.

3 Premium broadloom
Broadloom is popular too (especially for bedrooms), but only if in top condition. If it’s worn, soiled or out of fashion, replace it with something more contemporary. Neutral, lightly textured weaves such as wool “sisal” are fashionable right now.

4 Master ensuite

If your ensuite is a bit tired, it’s worth upgrading, especially if you can afford a few luxuries such as a whirlpool or air jet tub, separate shower with a rainshower head, double sinks and/or heated floors. If you don’t have an ensuite, perhaps you can install one by stealing space from the master bedroomor a room next to it.

5 Radiator covers
It’s a simple carpentry job, but makes almost any older home seem more gracious.

6 Upgraded lighting
Old-fashioned  “can” track lighting can be easily replaced with more contemporary styles such as smaller cans or halogen track lights. Replace dingy overhead lighting with chandeliers (vintage or modern), or install them in rooms that don’t have any.

7 A finished basement
After kitchens and bathrooms, a stylishly finished basement is high on many buyers’ wish lists. If the ceiling is low and you can afford the investment, consider digging down to increase ceiling height. If you can’t, levelling the floor and installing broadloom will help make it more comfortable.

8 Landscaping
A well-maintained garden with attractive plantings, hardscaping such as brick or flagstone, and features such as urns or paths, add an elegant look to even a smaller home.

9 Front porch

Two or three decades ago, tearing off front porches became fashionable in some Canadian cities, but now they’re back in a big way. If you can, add a full front porch (or replace/repair the one you have if it isn’t in top condition); if not, a portico (a smaller porch that shelters the front door) can be a worthy substitute. Or add a deck in the back.

10 Adding a bedroom
A four-bedroom house will command a higher price than a three-bedroom, even if they’re both the same size. Consider dividing a large bedroom into two small ones (as long as they’re not too small, or it can have the opposite effect), or alternatively, consider converting an upstairs den or sitting room.

Ready for more ideas?  According to Forbes, these are the best ideas to give you a superior return on your investment.

1 Entry Door Replacement (Steel), Average Job Cost: $1,218 Average Resale Value: $1,243 Cost Recouped: 102%

2 Mid-Range Garage Door Replacement, Average Job Cost: $1,291 Average Resale Value: $1,083 Cost Recouped: 84%

3 Fiber-Cement Siding Replacement, Average Job Cost: $13,382 Average Resale Value: $10,707 Cost Recouped: 80%

4 Minor Kitchen Remodeling, Average Job Cost: $21,695 Average Resale Value: $15,790 Cost Recouped: 73%

5 Wood Deck Addition, Average Job Cost: $10,973 Average Resale Value: $7,986 Cost Recouped: 73%

6 Vinyl or Foam-Backed Vinyl Siding Replacement, Average Job Cost: $11,357 / 13,973 Average Resale Value: $8,223   10,119 Cost Recouped: 72%

7 Mid-Range Wood Window Replacement, Average Job Cost: $12,027 Average Resale Value: $8,707 Cost Recouped: 72%

8 Attic Bedroom Addition, Average Job Cost: $51,428 Average Resale Value: $37,142 Cost Recouped: 72%

9 Mid-Range Vinyl Window Replacement, Average Job Cost: $11,066 Average Resale Value: $7,920 Cost Recouped: 72%

10 Basement Remodel, Average Job Cost: $64,519 Average Resale Value: $45,186 Cost Recouped: 70%

And according to Bankrate, these are the best investments to get the most money when you resell;

 Top 5 ‘good payback’ projects. According to the NAR/Remodeling magazine’s 2005 Cost vs. Value report, the projects that will pay back the most at resale are:

5 projects to boost home value
1. Upscale siding (new fiber cement) replacement
2. Midrange bathroom remodel
3. Minor kitchen remodel
4. Midrange siding replacement
5. Attic bedroom remodel

The thing we learned when we sold our condo last year is this:  when you sell your place your competitors are not the other 20-year-old condos in your neighbourhood — they are the top-of-the-line modern suites with the latest conveniences and features.  Anything you can do to get your place sold is a good idea.

 

No new (stuff) is good news

Last week we went through our belongings in our storage locker and renewed our pledge to live with less.  It just makes sense.

But how do you resist the lure of retail?  After all, temptation is all around us — we see new and shiny things (or in my case, old and patinaed things); advertising is everywhere reminding us that we NEED NEW STUFF.

At this point it's mostly toys anyway, isn't it?

At this point it’s mostly toys anyway, isn’t it?

In the nick of time comes two articles from Apartment Therapy to help strengthen our resolve to fill up our lives with useless items.

First of all, avoid the idea that you are missing out on a bargain if you don’t buy that particular shirt or shoes or chatchka.

1. Avoid high pressure sales tactics.

We’ve all done it, gone into a shop for one thing and felt the pressure from the sales staff to get more.  Hey, it’s their job to sell you stuff.  But it’s not a personal rejection if you don’t submit to their wiles.  It’s your job to stick to your original plan.

Don’t have an original plan? Well,

2. Keep a list

You should always be aware of what you need, and what you buy frequently.  If you don’t keep a list in your head you may find yourself prey to the next item.

3. Avoid impulse buys.

You’ve got a shopping cart (in real life or online). Why not just slip in a couple of things that are on sale but are not exactly what you need RIGHT NOW?  Don’t do it.  You will regret that expensive impulse when you get the items home.  You know you will.  And if you bought it on sale you may not be able to return it.

4. Check the measurements and read the product info and reviews.

One of the great advantages of shopping online is being able to read the product reviews.  Those have saved me from many a foolish expenditure.  In a retail store be sure to check out the size on the package or you’ll come home with sheets that won’t fit your extra-thick queen mattress.

5. Eliminate temptation.

When we were stocking the laneway I subscribed to several on-line shopping services.  They were great when I knew I needed one white duvet and two sets of white queen sheets.  I was able to compare and was quite happy with the deals I got by waiting and checking often.

But I don’t need them any more.  There will come a time when I have to replace the sheets/towels, and I’ll subscribe again.  But right now I do not want to see a supermarket of attractive items coming through my inbox and tempting me to purchase them.

Maybe you know you have to buy a new shirt or blouse in an exact colour.  Find a sample of that colour and carry it with you to the stores.  It’s a reminder that you need THAT particular item and nothing else.

Yesterday DH and I took a little walk along Main Street, looking for a particular item.  I had a fabric swatch of the cushion covers I am making and we needed a little tray in a matching tone to sit on our ottoman and serve as a coffee table.  We whisked through second hand stores and thrift shops, zipping through in minutes because we knew exactly what we were looking for.  (We found it, BTW in the Vancouver General Thrift Shop for 50 cents).

So we’ve safely navigated the swamp of retail stores as far as impulse buying goes — what about the danger of (dun dun DUNNNNNN) Stocking up.

We can’t do it here.  We just don’t have the room for a giant case of paper towels or toothpaste.  So this article in Apartment Therapy speaks to us in the dulcet tones of truth. When you have limited room and are not expecting the apocalypse, store it at the store. What could be standing in your way?

Roadblock 1: Buy more, save more

You can save money on large quantities of things like paper and laundry products.  But we know well how much storage costs — we are paying for a storage locker.  How foolish it would be to use our in-home storage for bathroom tissue rather than bringing our good crystal home from that expensive lock-up.

Roadblock 2: Convenience

We have to go to the grocery at least every other day — our little fridge doesn’t hold very much.  And that is fine with us, we are close to 3 major grocery stores, two of which offer clothing, housewares, and yes, small appliances.  So stocking up on the bulky stuff just does not make sense when we’ll be back buying milk tomorrow.

Roadblock 3: You Might Run Out 

Once again, see Roadblock 2 above.  We are close to the store.  Running out means literally running out — the stores are open early and close late.  Plus we keep an on-going list of what we need.  We usually buy replacements for our dishwasher detergent or toothpaste just before we run out — and of course our neighbours can always help us out.

I think it’s a good idea to borrow a concept from our Zen teachers, but instead of mindful meditation we practice mindful spending.

Gettin’ down with the downsizing

Last weekend DH and I fulfilled an epic quest — we moved from a 10 x 5 storage space to a 5 x 5 storage space.  So we started out with 1100 square feet plus a 5 x 8 storage locker and we are now living in our eensy laneway plus holding on to enough extra junk, er belongings to fill just 5 x 5 x 8 feet.  And of course the big plan is that we will eventually get rid of all that extra, er, belongings.

milk

It was good to move it all box by box and take inventory.  We could see where the trims could be made, and we will make them.  We will not make the mistake we did with our old storage locker.  We will not stick stuff in little secret corners and forget about it for 11 years.  We will have to move the stuff at the front to find the stuff at the back so will mix the contents of the locker and gradually take out what we need, and get rid of the rest.

That’s the plan.

Because we are currently living with less, and loving it.  And I can tell you why. I could have thought of my own reasons, but why bother when Life Edited already lists 5 Reasons to Love Less.

1.Less is better for the planet.

It hurts to see how much we throw out.  And it doesn’t take much brain-power to see that the less you bring into your life the less you have to toss.  Less waste.

2. Less gets us into the present moment. Despite our best efforts to prove otherwise, humans cannot do more than one thing at a time; paying attention to one thing will inherently displace our ability to pay attention to another. When we have less in our lives, we can pay attention more fully to the fewer things we do have and enjoy them more.

That’s a little deep, but if we appreciate what we already have we are less inclined to be always seeking more.  And vice versa.

3. Less is easier to manage.

This is really coming across as we downsize our wardrobes.  We do the laundry a little more often and operate on a strictly restricted clothing rotation.  But it saves time and effort — as it does when we deal with fewer pots and pans and dishes, less linen.

4. Less is usually more interesting.

I get a slightly different take on this rule than the author.  S/he feels

Try less. Be unprepared. You might find yourself with a more interesting life.

But to me #4 means that you have fewer things so you have to make sure that they are the best things you can afford/find.  You can’t make do with inferior goods, you have to have exactly what you need.

And finally

5. Less helps us find out what is truly important.

To take it to the extreme, we’ve all seen those shows on hoarders, who collect cardboard and old newspapers with the same manic passion as they collect fine china or crystal.  They honestly cannot make the differentiation between items of real value and ….things. Detritus.

When you have less, you give everything more value, so you make sure it has real, extrinsic value aside from the intrinsic value we give it.

Now the secret will be to keep our promises to live with less.

We have made a good start.

Read the rest of this entry

5 ways the laneway life is changing us for the better

We’ve been living in our laneway for over three months now, time for the first inventory of how living here has changed our lives.  The differences are subtle, but telling.

Hmmmmmmmmm.......

Hmmmmmmmmm…….

I feel more in control of the changes in my life these days.  I’ve always been aware that I couldn’t complain about my job or my home because as an adult I had made every decision that had landed me where I am.  Of course those were always restricted by the available options, but it was my choices that had determined where and how I lived.

So I like to keep track of how these decisions have steered my life in slightly different directions. Since moving into our laneway,

1.  I know more about what’s going on. I never used to watch the news.  In the morning I was busy in the kitchen and bathroom getting ready for work.  In the evening I was busy making dinner in the kitchen.  Then I was in bed before the late night news.  But now I watch the news while I prepare breakfast and dinner — I’m paying more attention to it. Whether that’s better for my peace of mind or not, it’s probably much better for me.

2.  I like shopping again. I don’t buy as much stuff.  That was going to be a given.  Our cupboards and closets are full.  But I am pleasantly surprised how much more fun it is to go shopping.  For one thing I will not buy anything that is not exactly what I want and need.  You must have been poking around a store and thought “I could probably use one of those” or “I need something like that” then you get it home and put it away and forget about it because it’s not exactly what you needed, it’s just sort of what you needed.  No more of that.  If it’s not exactly what I need right now, I won’t buy it.

3. I enjoy mornings more.  In our condo the clothes closets and dressers were in our bedroom.  I get up earlier than DH, so I had to get everything ready the night before so I wouldn’t disturb him rooting around for the clothes I needed.  The door to the ensuite where I performed my morning toilette opened so that any light would shine right on his sleeping face.  Small things, I know, but now when I get ready in the mornings I can shut off the closet and bathroom with a sliding door, creating a little dressing area for myself (this isn’t a lucky fluke, BTW, our designer created this for us). That gives me a lot more options when I dress.

Plus the light pours into our upstairs even when the day is grey.  It makes it much easier to get up and go. That means the whole day gets off to a good start.

4. We are eating better.  I used to make up meal plans at the beginning of each month.  It meant we were not duplicating meals but it also meant we were getting into a rut.  We would do a big shop on the weekend because we had a big fridge and lots of cupboard space.  But now we have a tiny fridge we can’t fill it up with food we are not going to eat right away.  So we shop every day, luckily we are right down the street from three major grocery markets, and we are trying out new foods.  Polenta.  Kale.  Quinoa. Radiccio. Plus we don’t throw food out because there is no room for leftovers to become science experiments, they are used up within a few days. DH is anticipating grilling season (and his brand new natural gas barbecue).

5. I worry less.  Because there’s less for me to worry about.  It’s very odd.  The less I have, the happier I am or at least the greater my sense of satisfaction. Of course I don’t worry about our laneway home because everything is brand new, so I am not concerned about things breaking down. And since it was built specifically for our needs everything is right where we want it all the time. But experts at Baylor University have found that materialists — people who have to have things to be “happy” are less happy than other people because they have no gratitude. I am grateful every day for our home and our new life and that gives me a sense of satisfaction and, yes, happiness.

Who gets to live here?

It’s no secret that I’m a real fan of any housing that lets people live in the city of Vancouver.  Houses, duplexes, condos, rental suites, basement suites, laneway houses.  Bring them on, in greater numbers.  I think that anyone who wants to should live where they want, in the city that has won the Best City in the World award and offers everyone the joys of living in a big, cosmopolitan, multicultural metropolis such as this.

Vancouver hasn’t always been such a “cosmopolitan” place.  We’ve always been a railway terminus and a seaport, a place of sawmills, stevedores and gandydancers, hard-working blue-collar workers.  And for many, many, many years, these people have ended up in the Downtown East Side (DTES) when they couldn’t work any more because of age or injury.  That neighbourhood has been the skid road — a term that started in this town when the corduroy log-paved roads would be greased to allow logs to slide down them to the sawmills — of Vancouver.  It’s a district of Single Room Occupancy hotels, where the sad and the broken live.  There are drugs, drug users, drug sellers (they don’t have to be pushers down there, just vendors). There are people struggling — and losing — with substance abuse of every kind.  There is prostitution.  There are the mentally ill. And there are also the agencies and organizations who help these people through their struggles. It’s a tough neighbourhood — but caring.

So in the middle of this vibrant town, full of life and activity and fun, there’s a place of shadows and sorrow.

Right next to this area is Vancouver’s Chinatown, a cultural treasurehouse. But it is also feeling the pressure of urban development. 

The property these areas sit on is becoming more and more valuable; development is pushing into it, squeezing the “have-nots” into a smaller and smaller area.

 Now maybe the city has found a solution to the squeeze.

From the Vancouver Sun comes this story of a new revitalization of the downtown east side and its centre, Hastings Street.

Today, Hastings is the heart of the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver’s most troubled neighbourhood. Hastings has become synonymous with drugs and poverty, an internationally-known eyesore.

But change may be around the corner. The city of Vancouver has spent the last couple of years going through a new Downtown Eastside local area planning process (LAPP), in tandem with many of the neighbourhood’s most vocal anti-poverty activists.

And therein lies the secret to this plan’s success.  Lots of times experts and pundits and caring folk from all around the city will try their best to solve the problems of civic blight.  But it’s only because they have pulled in people who live and work and advocate here that I think that they might have a chance to make this work.

If the Downtown Eastside plan succeeds — and that’s a big if — much of Hastings between Clark Drive in Strathcona and Abbott Street in Gastown is likely to be replaced with new developments. Taller buildings filled with single room occupancy hotel rooms, known as SROs, around Hastings and Main will probably survive, but most everything else is up for grabs, unless it is a designated heritage building or existing social housing.

There will be condos allowed in the five blocks between Clark and Heatley, as well as in the two blocks from Carrall to Cambie. Any new development will have to include 20-per-cent social housing.

The condo-free zone between Heatley and Carrall is called “Hastings Central.” Maximum heights range up to 12 storeys, although pure social housing projects can apply to go higher. All new projects in this zone have to be at least 60-per-cent social housing.

Overall, the plan calls for 4,400 social housing units to be built in the Downtown Eastside. Most people think this is the rough patch around Hastings and Main, but the city plan defines it as a much larger area that includes surrounding neighbourhoods like Victory Square, Gastown, Chinatown, Strathcona and Thornton Park.

Is it going to work?  Who knows?  It’s a noble effort, there are lots of people who are fighting it — well-meaning people with good arguments against it.

I’ve had some spirited discussions with them.   Why should developers buy into this plan?  Why should we, the lucky ones, bother with these people, drug addicts and the like?

Because, that could be us.  One or two mis-steps.  Age.  Illness.  Injury.  We could be there. According to counsellor Andrea Reimer:

She figures fewer than a hundred of the Downtown Eastside’s 18,000 residents are involved in the street disorder that goes on. Most of them just “fell through one crack, and then another.”

“How many times did I meet guys who lost their job, got divorced, had gambling addictions, were injured at work and were on pain medications they couldn’t get off of. People with brutal childhoods. It’s amazing that some of them are still walking around, right? And some of them aren’t.”

I want it to work.  I want the people who live in the DTES to have clean, safe, pleasant homes to live in.  And I think it could work if those homes were a mixture of those who have and those who have not.

I want it to work because I think the true measure of a society is how they care for those who cannot take care of themselves.

Learn more about building Laneway Houses from the experts!

If you are interested in building a laneway house on your property, or if you are just curious about the process, then you owe it to yourself to attend a presentation on Laneway Houses on Wednesday, March 12.

A panel of experts will be there to answer your questions and provide information:

Ralph Case, President of the Real Estate Action Group – Investment benefits of laneway housing
Jake Fry, President/Owner of Smallworks Laneway Housing Inc. – Designing and building small
Colin Lawrence, VanCity – Financing made easy
Richard Bell, LLC – How to share title

Date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Where: University Golf Course
5185 University Blvd (10th ave. west of Blanca)

Time: 7:00pm – 8:30 pm

BTW, that address is quite accessible by bus, if you would like to go but don’t have an automobile.  But there’s lots of parking there if you want to take the car.
If this is something you think would be of value to you, please attend.  It’s the best way to get expert advise I’ve seen so far (other than reading this blog, of course!)

My Pain, My Life, My Struggles, My Fight

Come walk with me, Down My Dark & Stormy Journey BUSINESS INQUIRIES & CONTACT EMAIL : GODSCHILD4048@GMAIL.COM

annotated audrey art

Desert Artist & Coloring Book Illustrator.

kelzbelzphotography

My journey - The good, bad and the ugly

Im ashamed to die until i have won some victory for humanity.(Horace Mann)

Domenic Garisto/havau22.com / IF YOU CAN'T BE THE POET, BE THE POEM (David Carradine) LIFE IS NOT A REHERSAL,SO LIVE IT.

mannyrutinel.com/

An interesting educational blog which tackles the truth in Veganism, Politics, Ethics, general News, and more.

wegotperks

Company Perks and Resources

The Lady Who Lives Down the Lane

Lane Way Housing for the Nervous Novice

Apartment Therapy | Saving the world, one room at a time

Lane Way Housing for the Nervous Novice

House Hopes

Writing about real estate as it is and could be

The Tiny Farm

my journey towards sustainable living in the city

Slightly Snug House

building a home that's not too big and not too small

Vancouverandy

Funny thoughts from a nut like me.

My Cozy Ranch Home

Loving our Life!

%d bloggers like this: