How I Found $7,000 in an Alleyway

It’s a rare June in Vancouver that lets the peonies have their day.

Vancouverites can usually count on continuous, pelting June rain that gives rise to disparaging comments about summer on the Left Coast. Peonies — the big-hearted party girls of the garden — like clockwork, unfurl their peppery scented glory on the cusp of the sixth month. Big breakers of rosy waves explode all over the garden. Sadly, it’s their very exuberance that ruins them, as the blossoms, weighed down with rain, tumble to the ground, slugs feasting on the vanquished petals.

It’s akin to seeing drunken debutantes vomiting out back of the ballroom: So much elegance and promise brought low by liquid.

Yes, if you’re going to live out here in the rainforest, you’ve got to have a plan for the weather.

Here is my plan. It involved a mild shock, glazing tape and serendipity. Its inspiration was finding a way to keep things from getting wet.

I have a trellised patio. A wonderful idea made more wonderful if it could be kept dry. I called a glass company to get a quote on glassing in the overhead trellis. It would cost $7,000.

I had estimated the cost at about $2,000. I based this upon a calculation that involved the cost of sunglasses, what a set of highball tumblers might cost at Pottery Barn, and that it seemed like a reasonable number — less than windows, but more than a windshield. Which is to say, I had absolutely no idea. Needless to say, the $7,000 came as a surprise.

The patient man with the clipboard explained to me about the gauge of glass, and that it had to be safety glass … and that I should be glad that my municipality didn’t insist on laminated safety glass because then the price would really skyrocket.

So, there was a $5,000 disparity between what I expected it to cost and what he was going to charge me. With a furrowed brow, I said I’d count the empties in the garage and get back to him.

It kept raining.

A few days later, I was driving down an alleyway and I saw a batch of shower doors leaning up against a large construction bin. In that moment, I deduced the striking similarity between shower doors and overhead patio glass. Outside of the obvious similarities of transparency and the ability to contain wet spray, they were the same gauge, same safety feature and approximately the same size of the pieces to be manufactured and installed.

So, here’s the question: If you were driving down an alleyway and saw seven crisp $1,000 bills, would you pick them up?

I did.

Not that those few doors were the whole job, but it was a start. Over the summer, some very nice construction men helped me load several shower doors into my car. The process of making the shower doors usable as overhead glass was simple. To begin with, my trellis provided ample structure to support the glass; it goes without saying why this is critical. I stripped off the shower door metal using a razor blade to remove the silicone sealant and a screwdriver to remove the few screws holding the handles in place — mere minutes of effort. (I found an ingenious use for the aluminum strips, but that’s another story.)

The glass itself cleaned up easily but even if it didn’t, horizontal glass tends to look less than pristine very quickly, so it wouldn’t have mattered.

Installation was simple. A shower door isn’t too cumbersome, so I found I could handle it by myself on a ladder. The appropriate installation materials were available at my local hardware store; glazing tape — a sort of double-sided tacky material — was the only challenge as it gripped the glass unforgivingly. Small metal clips secured with nails were the final line of defence.

When the last piece of glass was safely in place, I threw a big dinner party with a cancan line of peonies as the centrepiece and pitchers of strawberry daiquiris.

Not even the dew dampened the occasion.

The equation, however, is the real story: I saved $7,000. The landfill was saved from having to ingest more than a dozen shower doors. Another victory for thrift!

Remember: the cornerstone of WN2 — waste not, want not — is that your sustainability is tied to the planet’s sustainability. It took a little time but, between you and me, I’d have had to write a lot of articles to have made that seven grand, so the time it took isn’t a factor.

How does it look? Well, there’s no reason to show you a photo as it looks like glass on trellis, which is to say, invisible.

And here’s another consideration: Who looks up anyway? No one has yet pushed back from the table and remarked, “Why Jane, correct me if I’m wrong, but were those glass panels at one time shower doors?” No, I have to bring my work of staggering genius to everyone’s attention.

Which I often do, and it’s surprising how often I hear the phrase, “One man’s trash is another man’s trellis.”

Jane Macdougall –





Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply