Laurentian Mountain Cottage in Quebec Canada

Started by Adam Roby, August 06, 2016, 11:32:12 PM

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Adam Roby

The wife and I have been actively looking for the "perfect" cottage in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec Canada that we can both afford to purchase and that meets our specific criteria/needs.

Rather than simply saving money in the bank, we've decided to put a hold on that and channel our monies to a cottage purchase. The main goal is to have it paid off in 15 years, so by the time I am 60 yrs old we'll have both our home in the city and home in the country completely paid off.
We figure an investment in real-estate will probably yield a higher return on investment than a savings account can.

That being said, we are also planning on renting it out for single week or weekend renters, depending on the season. Generally in this area, everything is rented solid in June, July and August (12 weeks or so).  Then all the holidays and sporadic weekends throughout the rest of the year.

Last Sunday my wife caught a new posting and was the very first person to call the agent.  By Tuesday we were up there having a look.  Every single time I have seen a place I come back with a list of reasons why I don't want it. Cracks in the foundation, sitting on tree stumps, lake water with no well, illegal septic ... this place I couldn't find a single thing wrong with it on my first pass. We were heading on a road trip for a long weekend (Fri-Mon) and put in an offer on Friday morning 7:00 AM using e-Z Sign (electronic signature makes it all legal like).  They countered on Sunday, and we accepted their counter on the following Tuesday.  I never thought we'd go through that whole process so quickly...  the house was priced to sell, we got a deal, and we got a lot of inclusions.  We just got the water analysis back yesterday with the thumbs up, so the offer was only pending that it passed the house inspection, and we found a reputable place with knowledge and experience in the area.  Just did the inspection today.  There were a few things pointed out, one floor I need to replace because of ground moisture issues in the utility room where they cut the slab to lay plumbing and left the dirt exposed.  It is only a 2'x4' section, but enough to have cause the floor to rot.  Positive side of opening that floor is that I can make sure to add proper drains to empty the system when not there for longer periods of time, and perhaps add some heat tape where I want things to stay thawed.  Needs more soffits, add some insulation in the attic, and we probably need to up the electrical because its only 125A and we'd like to add a spa. 

Sounds like we have just bought it.  It should rent fairly well in the winter time since its very close to a few nice ski hills.
It is not on the lake but a short walk to the lake.  Small no motorboat lake but good for families with small children.
We are also sitting on 3.8 acres of land, so I have all kinds of crazy ideas to entice potential renters to choose us over others...
(swing sets, playground, tree house, zip line maybe, bench and sitting areas...)

Also planning on doing some deck work and adding an outdoor spa...  money is the only limit with that much land and privacy, and of course ROI comes into play. Then, when its not making money, we can enjoy it ourselves. We're taking ownership in September, but the current residents will rent it from us for 1 month while they pack and move to their new home.  It was an elderly couple, they had it built back in 1977 and have been living there full time ever since.  I got a really good feel from them, and even during our visit they had someone working on the flower beds (they seem to take pride in the place).

We'll start looking it over in October to see what needs to be done, probably only really start renting it out next summer although we already have 2 couples we know who are interested in renting this fall and winter.

Not the cabin build I wanted to do, but its finally a country place and I tend to take full advantage of it whenever I can.

Here are a few pics:


Congrats on the purchase!  I'm sure you'll find even more ways to keep yourself busy updating and maintaining the place.  Looking forward to a virtual walk-through in October.   ;)
My cabin build thread: Alaskan remote 16x28 1.5 story

Adam Roby

Many thanks... I will post a floor plan (as best as I can guess) tomorrow.


Looks like a really nice place Adam, congrats. Being in the great outdoors is what it's all about. Love that big overhang protecting all the windows and doors. I'll bet the winter is spectacular.

Is it a 3-4 hour drive for you guys to get up there?

Adam Roby

Actually the nice thing about living in Montreal is that "up north" is really not that far away.
This is only about 1h15 drive door to door which makes it very manageable.

Based on pictures and measurements taken from the listing, I managed to put this together.  I am sure things are off a little, but it gives a pretty accurate feel to how the place is laid out.

Adam Roby

One of the additions we'd like to add is a spa (outdoor hot tub).  I was reading a few how to's and they recommend a concrete pad underneath of about 4".  I just did a quick calculation, a 10'x10'x4" pad would require some 74 60lb bags!!  Is that right?  Can I use anything else, like a wood deck with joists every 6" instead?  There is no way my back could handle that many bags for such a "small" area.  I really doubt a cement truck could climb that steep of a driveway (few hundred feet in and pretty steep up), especially with nowhere to turn around you need to back in or back out.

What would others suggest?


Well it looks like you've got some Canadian shield poking out right by the house, you have a good starting point.

Sometimes those decks even have an area that has extra reinforcement for a hot tub.. did you inspect it yet?

I think the easiest cheapest thing would be to reinforce the deck to hold the tub.

Even if you had to temporarily pull the deck floor up to reinforce, I'd much rather do that then deal with all the concrete.


Your math on the number of bags is probably spot on.  Just looking at volume of the pad you've got 33.3 cubic feet.  My bagged gravel I've been using runs about 60 lbs for 0.5 c.f., so a comparable amount of gravel would be about 67 bags.  So yeah, that looks right.

One option if you want to consider concrete is to have a truck bring the wet concrete as close as it can and finish with wheelbarrows.  It's been done before.  If I went that route I would hire some day labor for the grunt work.

Depending on the model of spa and the number of people you would design for, you're looking at an additional live load of at least 100 pounds per square foot.  There are plenty of wood decks that have been built to accommodate hot tubs so it's just a matter of ensuring you have enough joists and girders where needed.  If beefing up a deck, I think I would pull up the decking just to make it easier to put in additional joists.

Edit: re-reading NathanS's post I see he made that point already.  Doh!  Reading comprehension is apparently a two-step process for me....
My cabin build thread: Alaskan remote 16x28 1.5 story

Adam Roby

I just came back from the cottage, had a final meeting with the old owners (current tenants) until the end of this month.  We wanted to go over everything and make sure I understood how the how works and what maintenance and schedules must be kept.  Very nice elderly couple.  They are moving into a rental unit, they needed money and were getting pretty old to take care of the place.  They really took a lot of pride in the place and it shows.  The man took me to his (my) shed and showed me all the tools and equipment I inherited.  He said he has no use for any of it so might as well leave it for me.  I was quite humbled.  Too many items to list them all, but I will mention a few. 
- 10,000 watt Subaru generator with electric start (already wired to the house and essential appliances).
- Husqvarna 45 chainsaw (maintenance just done including tune up and chain sharpened).
- Big Craftsman snowblower
- Lawnmower
- Weed wacker
- ladders, table saw, jigs, gas canisters, ...  list goes on, not even sure what else.

I can't wait to get in there and spend a night.  They told us a family of wild turkeys had visited them that morning, and most mornings around 5:00 AM they have deer eating their plants out the living room, sometimes even moose.  Seems like the forest goes on and on, its only around 4 acres but feels so massive and very private. 

Adam Roby

I've been mulling over a security system for a while now, trying to determine my best possible option and least expensive solution.

A standard alarm system requires a landline telephone hook up.
I do not like the idea of having to pay $35 for a basic phone line that only has local calling for free.  Anyone using long distance will be hard for me to track and charge them for.
I want to use the Fido home phone, which is only $15 per month for unlimited calling Canada wide.  This uses cell technology, and you need a one time $40 purchase for a box.
Problem with this solution is that the alarm companies are not compatible with it.

If I use a PC to take care of security, then I need an internet connection.  The cheapest rates I can find are also around $35 per month for very limited bandwidth.  Problem with this is that I can not tell renters they have internet because someone can blow the limit the first week of rent and the next 3 renters for the month will exceed the bandwidth, costing me a lot.  Unlimited even with the lowest speed will cost in the neighborhood of $50 per month.

Since we still don't know when it will rent, how much it will rent, adding $85 of extras, plus the alarm company rates just sounds like an expense I want to avoid.


Here's my idea.  I start off by purchasing the $40 Fido box and have a home phone installed. This will give renters a way to call home providing they live in Canada, or call for pizza or whatever else they might need a phone for.

I want to hack an old touch tone telephone, open it up to get access to the electronics.

Using an old PC, and some of my own electronics (PICs and such), monitor the house using the PC and actually telephone myself when a problem is detected.

* This PC and Fido box will need to be on a UPS battery backup, hidden somewhere in the attic that is not easily reachable.

1)  AC Power monitoring

I can use a simple 5 VDC transformer plugged into a standard wall plug.  That will go to the PC which my application will then keep an eye on.  If that power goes out, then I know the AC power has been lost.  I can use either an I/O board or perhaps the parallel port for this, to be determined.  Once I detect the power is out, I may give it a 5 minute or so window to make sure it is not just a glitch.  Once I decide I need to be notified, my hacked telephone will be used.  I want to release the "hang up button", then use a DTFM modulator to synthesize dialing my cell phone.  After a certain delay, start a "text to speech" script, using a speaker from the PC to the handset of the phone, and in a loop (maybe 3 times" repeat the relevant information.  "Security update, AC power has been lost as of x:00 PM, Saturday October 1st 2016".  I would have to unplug the PC and see how long it could last on the UPS, then once I have an idea do a fail-safe power-off through the application at perhaps the 75% drained period.  I could have my application autostart, and keep a flag set to know the status so when the PC comes back on it knows to call me to let me know the power has been restored.  Logistic to be figured out... how to trigger the PC to turn back on and such... that's where my PICs come in probably.  For now, its just an idea I want to work on.

2) Security Alarm

There is already an alarm connected in the house.  It has sensors on the windows and doors, and it has 2 loud horns, one inside and one out.

Since it will not be connected to a central anymore, I could always tap into it to determine the current status of the alarm.  If it sounds for whatever reason, again I could send myself a phone call to let me know "Security breach, window in living room has been triggered".

3) Cameras

I could install a capture card and cameras, but I can't send images over a phone line unless I setup some kind of BBS system with a dialup modem, but that is getting a bit complex.  Once thing I can possibly do is to buy a PVR system with cameras (China has them for $80) and they have built into them a motion detection system.  I could potentially tap into this "alarm" state as well and send myself a message that a camera detected movement.  I wouldn't mean much because there is so much wild life, but I could note the time so when I go back up I know what time slot to look at.  If however I get a notification that there was motion on the driveway, then 5 minutes later get a notification that the alarm is active, that is a double confirmation that a potential robbery in progress.  I would like to speak with the neighbors, ask them if I can call them in that case to go have a quick look, not sure if calling the police at that point is reason enough for them to go, and/or if they would be able to get there in time anyway.  Having the recorded images would at least give me perhaps license plate numbers and such to give to the police when making the report.  Maybe sending a neighbor could be dangerous for them, perhaps more looking out the window to see if they see some punk with a TV in his hands to call the police.

4)  Temperature Sensors

This is still something I am looking for, but I want to maybe use a USB thermometer that I can inquire the current temperature using software.

When I would report that the power is out, and possibly subsequent messages when I detect the temperature has dropped below a certain threshold then I could report that back to myself using the text to speech.


So this is just some of the brainstorming I have been doing.  I can find old PCs from local shops for pretty cheap, I want to find one that uses the least amount of power as possible so I will probably look for a compact PC and then find a suitable UPS battery pack.  From there I need to work on the I/O, how I will monitor the outside world, and how I will control the outside world.  I am sure I could design something using USB or serial, but again it gets a bit convoluted.  Using the parallel port gives me some options that are easier to implement.  Then each of the above needs to be focused on, starting sequentially from #1 since that is my biggest fear... losing power and having the pipes freeze.  If I get a call that the power went out and do not get another call after 4 hours... then I head up and start a fire to warm things up.    Also knowing a break-in occurred is important so that would be step 2.


Interesting. There is something of a dilemma when one is off grid; no landline phones or land line internet either. Cell phone coverage available at about $48/month. And even more of a dilemma when travel time between home and cabin is 90 minutes at best and the sheriff response time may be better measured in hours than minutes, especially if it is just an alarm going off with no other proof of entry.  It seems that the bad guys get to dictate how we use our property.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.

Adam Roby

Question about firewood...

We took a walk through our forest last week and there are several fallen trees scattered about.  Some maple, some pine, birch... the first question is, can I cut up already fallen trees to be used as firewood providing they have not already rotted?  As I understand it, normally you cut into logs and then let dry naturally for 1 year before burning.  We have a pile now, left overs from last winter that have not yet been burned which we think will last us this winter since it will take some time before rentals become more active, but since I want to clear the woods for trails now anyways I thought it would make good use of the fallen trees if I could cut and stack them for next year. 

Part two of this, the old man that sold me the house has the wood stacked against the house.  The main level is blocks which have been parged with some design in it.  He said it helps with insulation, the inspector said its a source of moisture... I am not sure.  I was thinking maybe putting a 1" foam board against the house then stacking the wood there, would that be advised? 


Carpenter ants could tunnel through the foam and up to the wood framing of the house. I don't like exterior foam in contact with the ground. Some say you can use metal flashing to keep them from getting into the framing, I don't like 'barrier' approach though. The other problem is that with foam, you could have a problem and never see it.

Nothing wrong with taking already downed wood. Less work and safer. If branches held the trunk off the ground it could already be partially seasoned too. Lots of people stack wood next to their houses. IMO I would never do it in the warm months. Once it is cold out and bug activity stops I don't think there's much risk in stacking wood by the house.

I don't think it will have any insulating effect.


Ditto, do not stack wood against or in the house. The main pile should be some distance away, it is full of wood eating bugs, more if you are using downed wood (which I do all the time). Bring up a small amount of wood at a time in the winter. Any insects should wake up from the cold inside the woodstove. I've been in several basements where the insect damage didn't come from outside, it came from a pile of firewood inside the basement. It clearly showed me those piles are full of bad potential.

I took the foam off the outside of our foundation when it started being tunneled.

Adam Roby

OK - thanks for the feedback.  I think I will setup an area away from the house using the cement blocks with 4x4's that I think I saw Gary do. 

Adam Roby

I discovered something annoying/problematic at the cottage this weekend.
We are still not really "using" it as I am doing a ton of work every weekend, from plastering and painting, to installing security cameras (yesterday actually).

In the master bathroom, there is a humongous Jacuzzi bathtub.  I have yet to test the pump because I need to fill it with water past the jets before turning on the pump as to not damage the pump (or so I am told).  The tub has got to be 6' radius, with 3' tall sides... I have never seen something this big, and it is surrounded by tile steps so it completely fills a 10'x10' area... massive and from the 80's.  I decided I worked hard all day, I will try out the tub and soak a bit.  I start to fill it and get about 6" deep when I run out of hot water.  There's another 6" to go before even reaching the jets...   how the hell can anyone actually use this tub?

The hot water tank is only a 40 gallon, and was installed in April of this year.  The PO obviously did not account for filling this massive tub when they replaced that tank a few months ago.  My options are pretty limited...  a larger tank might help if there is enough room, a bit of a shame considering the existing tank is only a few months old...  I am thinking maybe a "point of use" tankless hot water system, but my electric is only 125 and already maxed out, and these systems require 50-80 amps of dedicated power.  I can maybe go propane, but I would need all new everything... and in the end I hate this tub.  It sits in the center of this 10'x10' space.  My only option if I remove it is to go with a free standing tub (standard size) but my wife hates them and wants a wall tub with cripple wall on the opposite side.  Problem is, all the pumping can't be moved as it is all exposed downstairs as part of the kitchen ceiling. 

Damned if I do, damned if I don't.
How safe is it to turn up the hot water temperature to hopefully require less volume to help fill the tub?


Not particularly dangerous, you have a temp/ pressure safety valve. Where does it discharge? Or, make sure if it discharges it won't ruin anything. You will pay all day every day for turning it up though. Don't let those pumps and plumbing freeze in the tub or it'll be an easy decision.

Farm raised catfish?

Adam Roby

LOL... I could put it in the yard and fill it with gold fish...  would be more useful anyways.

The discharge is right over a drain, so should be OK.  I shut off the water when I leave Sunday nights, but that's still potentially 40 gallons to deal with should something give...

I think there is only really one decision.  I wonder how much it would be to replace just the tub with something smaller, 10'x16' maybe of floor tile...   Gonna run the numbers and make some 3d drawings for the wife.  That should sell her on it...

Adam Roby

Was looking through my recordings for last week and saw a nice family of wild turkeys.  They seem to frequent the property and act like they own the place.  I saw plenty of deer tracks in the forest surrounding the cabin but have not caught any on camera yet that I know of.  I might install a salt-lick on the shed to attract more wild life.


Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.

Adam Roby

In order to offset some of the financial burden of owning two homes, we are renting the cottage and just left the very first weekend renter alone in our house.  I have to admit, I am bit nervous about this endeavor.  It was a middle aged woman, and her sister and two kids (7 and 11) were going to join her later on this afternoon.  It will be a 4 day stay.  We figured this will get our feet wet, and we should get some feedback as to what's good and what's bad with our rental. 

We wanted to wait for nicer weather, and it has been beautiful for a couple of weeks but as Murphy would it we had freezing rain and now the temperature has plummeted to -33 C.  It is damn cold, and our heaters are having trouble keeping up.  We had to turn on the clothes dryer, and turn on the stove with the door open for 45-60 minutes just so the temperature would get over 18 degrees C (64 F approx).  It got to 21 (almost 70 F) before we left but temps are supposed to drop even more tonight.  I really hope I don't get a call that they are freezing to death.  We have a wood burning fireplace there, but it was never cleaned from the previous owners and I am afraid to make a fire before having it inspected and cleaned thoroughly, but because of the heavy snow and cold temps nobody want to clean it until the summer.  We had to call someone in to scrape the driveway and lay down some sand, it was a skating rink.  It is already a very steeply sloped driveway and about 120' long, there was no way of getting up.  Even with the sand, and 2 bags of gravel I laid down, I had to park the lady's car for her because she was too scared to do it and I got up maybe 20 feet before spinning to a stop.  It was a bit scary, even in park with the handbrake on the car was still sliding down the hill a bit.  I turned the wheel towards the mountain, hopefully it it moves it will be stopped by the hill and not slide into the street. 

I'll let you know next weekend how everything turned out.  We can't take time off work to go up on Tuesday to inspect.

Adam Roby

Question about flooring...

The cottage is built on a slab.  There is some kind of subfloor under the hardwood flooring, not sure how thick but the floor does spring a bit so I know there is something there.  The floor is always very cold, I fear it is not insulated at all.  The hardwood needs to be redone, sanded and re-varnished or replaced. 

To save money, sanding and varnishing sounds like the best option, but it does not address the apparent lack of insulation.
Would it be possible to drill holes along the cavities, fill with some kind of spray foam, then plug those holes and sand / varnish?

Ideally I would need to pull the entire floor, check if there is any insulation, add some, make it better, and install new flooring. 
That sounds pretty expensive and time consuming... but in the end might give a much better overall look and better results.

Any advice on this subject?  I do plan on doing some investigative surgery this spring in the bathroom of that floor since its linoleum and I can just remove the washer/dryer and pull back the sheet, inspect, reinstall worse case. 

*Small note:  The heaters don't seem to be able to keep up with the cold temperatures.  If I do pull the floor, would radiant in-floor heating work with a wood floor overtop of it?  I think that could potentially resolve the heating problem by both adding heat and keeping heat in, just not sure if that works with wood floors or just ceramic/concrete flooring.  It is a cottage in the mountains so I think a wood floor is a must for comfort and look.


I recently moved an exterior door for a friend up in New Brunswick, Canada.  The door was under the eves, not on a gable end.  They get a lot of snow, and wanted to move the door around a corner to the gable end.  While I was sizing up the situation, I noticed the floor had a LOT of spring to it.  It is built on a slab.  Long story short, I pulled up some flooring and found that the builder had put non pressure treated sleepers between the concrete slab and the sub floor.  They had also done a ridiculously bad job of installing the door; virtually NO caulk/whatever under the threshold.  Melting snow ran under the door and rotted the sleepers.  So I got to re-do about 50 square feet of sleepers, subfloor and flooring (why do projects done as a favor always get so big?).   So if you have a springy floor on a slab, you might have a similar problem.

There are radiant heat systems that can be put down over a slab, and there are wood flooring systems that can be put down over radiant heat.  Neither are a cheap date, and you'd have to have a boiler that can handle the new situation.

Just a couple thoughts,

Adam Roby

Thanks for the feedback Gary.  That would make a bad situation even worse, and it can very well be what's happening on mine.  Is pressure treated wood on the inside of a house not dangerous for off-gassing?  I guess it would be under the floor so probably less likely to cause any health issues. 

For radiant heat, I was leaning towards an electric version, heated wires inside a pad kind of thing.  No room for a boiler...


If there's no insulation under the slab you will lose a whole lot of heat into the ground with heated wire or water on top of it.

Might not be a bad idea to pull up part of the flooring to see what's underneath. You could even poke a hole through the concrete to see if you have an insulation or at least a vapor barrier under the slab.

If you don't have any insulation under the slab, I think you would be better off laying down 2" of foam on top the slab then putting the furring strips and floor back on. Concrete basically has an R value of 0. Adding the insulation could likely also solve the heating problems and would also act as a vapor retarder. Winter sure is coming back with a vengeance this week.

I think the main thing with pressure treated is to not breathe the sawdust in when you're cutting it. I have also noticed that the new stuff is wet and gloves are a good idea too.