We’re Reducing our Ecological Footprint!

First of all – great news!! We’ve made it to the Top 3 Bed & Breakfasts in the Truro & District Chamber of Commerce’s  “Best of Colchester” awards. Congratulations to Eagle’s Landing B&B and Mrs. O’Leary’s B&B who join us – we’ll find out the winner at dinner on June 7th. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for us – we are so grateful!!

Renovations are going well. We are slightly behind schedule, but I’m still holding out hope that we will be finished by Wednesday at the latest, as planned. We received the written report of our energy audit in the mail this week. A lot of it is somewhat difficult to understand (for me – D’Arcy the Science teacher understands the abbreviations and measurements) but I do get the gist of the important information:

  • The blower door test produces a standardized measure of the air tightness of a home, and provides a number which represents the number of times all of the air inside your home would be replaced with outside air in a one-hour period if the wind were blowing at about 56kph (35mph).  Ideally, the air in your home should be replaced with outside air once every three hours. Our home replaces our inside air with outside air 9.11 times PER HOUR!!  No wonder we rarely get colds or flus!! Lots of fresh air here!
  • The Equivalent Leakage Area (sq.in) is a theoretical measurement of all the air-leakage areas in a home. The report says to “Think of it as a single hole through a wall equivalent to the area of all the gaps and air leakage places in your home. (For reference, an 8” diameter hole would have an area of 50 square inches.) Our home’s ELA? 801.9 square inches!! That’s the equivalent of a 5.5 square foot hole in the side of our home. Or, if you’re visual like I am, it would be the same as having no glass in our den window:

Thank you for the visual D’Arcy – you’re a great teacher!

So, as you can see, we really did have our work cut out for us. Last Thursday & Friday, MJM Energy came and blew 800 cubic feet of cellulose insulation into the sloped walls of our upper floor where there had been none.  The guys were fantastic – flexible, accommodating, and understanding of working around our guests.  The insulation was blown in from the exterior of our home as we are getting our roof re-done as well, so it was easier all around.

We had a very small window of opportunity without bookings to get this work completed. The workers have all been teasing me because I have everybody lined up just so, with little room for error and no time for rain! We officially closed our B&B to guests on Sunday night, and first thing Monday morning, phase 2 began.

D’Arcy had spent Mother’s Day weekend preparing the basement to be insulated. This meant that everything had to be moved 4ft away from the walls, some walls had to be opened up and some ceiling had to come down. D’Arcy called me from school on Friday at lunch and said, “As long as we’re going to be moving everything anyway, why not have a yard sale – tomorrow?” So we did. As an aside, our girls had their first lemonade/iced tea/coffee stand at the yard sale and raised over $50 for the new Truro Hospital!

The entire content of our basement, pushed into one pile. (Please don’t mind the mess!)

The stone walls of our basement foundation before.

Chad, from MJM Energy arrived first thing Monday morning and blew on a closed-cell polyurethane foam directly to the entire foundation and up into the headers, then covered it with a fire-retardant coating. It looks kind of space age down there now, but luckily I don’t have to go down into the basement too often! 😉

An example of what the foam looks like now.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Gordon & Chris from Apple B Contracting had started shingle-ing the South side of the roof (our backyard). What a job they had cut out for them due to the slopes & height of our roof. We chose slate gray shingles, not to be confused with gray slate shingles! I had wanted to put on a slate roof, but due to its size, was told “NO”… These shingles, however, offer a lifetime warranty, so I’m glad that we like them! It took from Monday until Wednesday to get the South side of the roof done, but they had to cut around two windows, work in the L-shaped corner, and deal with the staging. We figured that section probably amounted to 1/3 of the roof. They moved around to the front of the house on Thursday & Friday, and I think the neighbours were happy to finally be able to see what, exactly, was happening.

They have been doing a fantastic job and we are really pleased! They are accommodating and pleasant to work with. They understand that we are on a tight timeline and work from 8am – dark each day. We had a small glitch in the front, when they discovered that some of the roof’s boards were rotten, so they replaced those.

On Friday, Mark & Kevin from Advanced Solutions arrived to install our solar hot-water panels! So exciting. We’ve been told that these panels will provide up to 75% of our domestic hot water (showers, laundry, dishwasher) during the course of a year. And you can just imagine – we use a LOT of hot water between our family and the B&B!!

It was great fun to watch them lift the panels onto the roof.

The boom truck gets ready to lift the panels up to the roof. Each panel weighs approximately 100lbs.

Ready to go…

On the way up…

Grab it! Good view of what the old roof looked like!

Maneuvering the solar panel safely onto the roof.

The solar panels in their final resting place on the South roof, over our Minuet room. (And isn’t that new roof pretty?!)

They have run most of the piping through the house (D’Arcy knocked out the closet wall in the Serenade room to make it a bit easier for them.) They’ll be back on Monday to get it all hooked into the hot water system. D’Arcy spent last night putting the gyproc  back up in the closet and I have the rest of the room torn apart to get it house cleaned. The Serenade room also had developed a cracked bedroom and bathroom window over the years, so we’ve taken the opportunity of replacing the glass in those windows while the staging is up!  D’Arcy is outside doing that as I type.

Especially lots of fresh air in here at the moment! 😉

Inside, I’ve been getting lots of housecleaning and organizing accomplished, while my dad has been helping me out doing some painting. The boys have been put in charge of yard work, so it’s a real family affair. I’m happy to report that things have been generally going as smoothly as possible and we are happy to know that through these renovations we are reducing our Ecological Footprint in a BIG way!! They can’t help but make a difference!

We’re been disappointed to have to turn away a number of rooms this week, but look forward to re-opening on Wednesday with a refreshed look!

Have a great long weekend – I’d better get back to work!

Big plans!

As you can imagine, running a business while living in an 108 year old home means that there is always a project to be worked on.  I say we joke about how the list of priorities is always being re-arranged, but it’s actually the truth. We’ll think we’re going to tackle one project, and another will come up which becomes the top priority. Because the past two years were so busy while  both of us were teaching, a number of little jobs that need to be done have piled up; however, our top priority has become saving energy.

This big, old, home is beautiful, but not energy-efficient. We have  original cast iron radiators that throw wonderful heat in winter, but the water that runs through them is heated with oil. As is the hot water we consume. You can just imagine – using oil to heat the water used for six family members to bathe/shower, plus three rooms’ worth of guests, plus all the laundry we do each day, plus the water that needs to be heated for the radiators. Did I mention that an energy audit concluded that the draft in our home with four fireplaces &  poor insulation is the equivalent of a two square foot hole in the side of our house? And we don’t want our guests to feel cold? (Family? Sure. Guests? No.)

The result? We burn approximately 8000 Litres of oil each year.

Oil this year has cost $1.10/Litre – before tax.

Starting next month, we’ll be performing some big renovations: installing a new roof, adding insulation in the basement & exterior walls, and installing two new solar collector panels to pre-heat our hot water.  We’ve been told that we may be able to reduce our yearly oil consumption by up to 75% as a result.

We have a short window of opportunity to get the work accomplished, because we’ll (obviously) have to close out the B&B while much of the work is being performed. Since our tourist season is quickly approaching, we’re scheduling workers around our guests who have already booked, hoping to cause the least amount of disruption.  The next two weeks are quite busy here due to the Truro Music Festival, a Bridge tournament, and the Colchester Home Show, so we’ve got the work scheduled to begin in early May. While the work is being done, we’ll also be painting fences, replacing worn doorsteps, and doing the other small jobs that need to be done.

My goal is to have the B&B ready-to-go by the time the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) Annual General Meeting is held in Truro on May 24th & 25th.

We’ll keep you posted…


D’Arcy finished sanding yesterday morning and returned the machines. We played hooky from renovations in the afternoon and went to Halifax to the museum and then to visit D’Arcy’s parents and have supper with them. It was a wonderful, bright, Spring day and we had a fun visit. Not only did we get to visit with the McDonahs, but D’Arcy’s brother Brian, his wife Morag & daughter Kelly, his sister Erin, and brother Kevin, his wife Karen & their three boys (they live in Truro at the other end of Broad Street) were also visiting.

D’Arcy stayed up VERY late washing down walls and cleaning sawdust from surfaces so that he could start the varnishing this morning. Today, I washed down all the windows, mirrors & glass doors. After a final go-over of the floor with a tacky cloth, the varnishing began!

“We’ve” (the royal we) managed to get three coats of clear, satin-finish on the floors today, and hope to get one or two more on tomorrow. Then the floors sit and cure until Thursday night when we’ll move the furniture back in.

The weather looks good and spring-like for the next few days, so my plan is to Spring clean all the guest rooms and guest areas this week while we’re closed. (Hopefully a bit of our own area too!!) We’re back in business on Friday night!

The first coat of clear varnish (satin finish)

The first coat of clear varnish (satin finish)

The first coat finished in the Living Room

The first coat finished in the Living Room

Dining Room, second coat

Dining Room, second coat

Dining Room, second coat

Dining Room, second coat

Floor progress update

So, as always, things are taking a little bit longer than expected. However, D’Arcy does have the rough sanding done on both rooms. He’ll have to work on the edges more tomorrow, and I’m not sure when we’ll start varnishing. Here are a few photos of the progress so far:

The very first passover with the sander

The very first passover with the sander

The centre of the living room floor

The centre of the living room floor

Hard at work...

Hard at work...

The contrast between the raw wood and the old, yellowed varnish

The contrast between the raw wood and the old, yellowed varnish

Dining room, first sand

Dining room, first sand

Will photograph the continuing progress again tomorrow…