Thursday, March 31, 2011


I rolled out of bed this morning with excitement, a bounce that hasn't been in my step for a long time. But there was something else too, something that surprised me a little, something I couldn't quite put my finger on until I got on the bus to get to work and had a chance to just sit and think for a while.

Oh yes. That's what it is.


Perhaps the source of the niggle of negativity was the dream I had last night in which we walked into our house for the first time as homeowners and found the previous owners still there, painting the walls bright red and scrubbing the bathroom to spotless. Sure, they were friendly and Greek -- probably my subconscious latching on to the demographic of the neighbourhood -- but I certainly didn't want them there and I definitely didn't want my walls red, no matter if it's my favourite colour or not.

I don't think the trepidation came from the dream though.

I think it came from the same sense of place inside me that caused me to break down on my drive to the old farm house two weeks before my family moved when I was 18. It's the same thing that caused me to snap a picture of my student house as we packed it up and moved me out, a house I was so glad to leave.

According to OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook, (edited by Kenda Creasy Dean) rural teenagers have a stronger connection to geography, to place, than their urban counterparts. I'm not a teenager anymore -- I'm a few years gone from being a teenager, actually -- but I have a feeling that sense of place has travelled with me into adulthood. That twinge I am feeling today has been a twinge for the place we will be leaving behind, the cute little apartment on the 30th floor of a condo building in the Big City, our first home together. It was small, but we made it cozy and filled it with family. And, I'll admit, there was something comforting about living so close to other families, like we were nestled on all sides, held safe by other people living their day-to-day lives, just like we were. The building was like a cocoon.

The things I will miss? The concierge: the petite Asian girl who loved to see Mocha and cheerfully chirped, "Have a good walk!" every time she saw us leaving the building with our bouncing cockapoo on a leash. The elevator, where Mocha made her best friends. All of Mocha's best friends -- Harlow, Goldie, Jake, Bailey, Moinecka, Luna. I'll miss the dishwasher (until we get our own) and the washer and dryer (until we get our own). I'll even miss our mailbox, the only broken one among a wall of mailboxes.

I know a lot of this is because I'm a little nervous about what exactly we've gotten ourselves into. I don't have the Husband's confidence nor his experience. I could see nothing but excitement in his expression this morning. Hopefully tonight, as we pop the cork on our $13 bottle of sparkling wine (we very briefly considered the $65 bottle of real live Champagne...), the excitement will overshadow the trepidation. I'm counting on it.

-- The Wife

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Last night, we went to the bank and asked for a certified cheque for an obscene amount of money.  Clutching it tightly, nervously, in my hand the whole way, we drove to our lawyer's office and handed it over to a petite, friendly Asian man who congratulated us half a dozen times and seemed just as excited as we are.

I left exhausted. Who would have thought a few signatures can drain you so much?

Tomorrow, we pick up the keys. We'll drive right to the house, let Mocha free in the backyard and pop a cork on a bottle of champagne. In just over 24 hours, we will officially be homeowners.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Kitchen

We missed the Ikea kitchen sale. We were a little disappointed, especially when we realized we had also missed the Home Hardware kitchen sale. What is it about the beginning of March that screams Kitchen?

Either way, next to the bathroom, our kitchen is the room we spend the most time thinking about. It's certainly the room I spend the most time thinking about since I love to cook and can't wait to finally have my dream kitchen. But, we have an Issue. A big Issue.

See, we love dark kitchen cabinets. Like these:

(Picture from here.)

I found a dark kitchen warm, inviting, like a great big comforting hug. (Ok, that metaphor might be stretching it a bit... but you get the idea.)

But, we also love dark floors. Like these:

(Picture found here)

We can't have both. We know we can't have both. To much dark in one kitchen will make for a really dark kitchen. But can I be satisfied picking just one of these two elements?

Because we have to make a decision pretty soon, we are leaning toward the dark floors. We want the kitchen to flow with the rest of the house, for the floor to be seamless from the living room to the open concept kitchen. And we know we want dark floors in the living room.

I guess all we can do is hope that what we pick will be something we can love to live with over the next few years until we do it again. And maybe next time, we can choose the opposite.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Limits of Sanity

Our list of things to do is pretty long and our timeline is pretty tight. When we tell people about it, we don't generally get positive reactions to the viability of our dreams. A few of our friends and coworkers are just waiting for us to fail so they can laugh at me when I come to work with drywall dust in my hair.

You're going to be living in a construction zone for three years, they say. Maybe longer.

Our response? Let us prove you wrong.

At least, I hope that's what we'll do. I would love to blow them away with how quickly we perform some solid, quality work. I want to shock them when I bring in pictures of the completed and cleaned up demo, the new walls going up, the tiles and hardwood in place, the bathroom fixtures in, the kitchen ready to go and the basement apartment shiny and beautiful, all before April 31st. But, despite our bravado and confidence, we both know that's unlikely to happen. I know I'll be moving in to a half finished house.

But what, exactly can I live with? And what can't I live without?

I can live with a dusty house. If we have to, we'll make sure the dust doesn't travel too much into the basement and set up a temporary home down there. I can live with that. I can probably live without a kitchen as long as we have a table for chopping veggies and a barbeque for cooking meat. At least for a while. I can live without a living room, without a coffee table, without a TV.

But I can't live without a computer. Or the Internet. Or my blog. I can't live without a shower and a toilet and at least one sink. I can't live without at least a subfloor. I can't live without some kind of counter or table level surface. I can't live without a working fridge.

And I can't live in a construction zone without getting out of it sometimes. This is where the Husband and I probably differ. He would be perfectly content to never escape except for work, to come home every day and eat dry cereal for dinner and immediately get to work. Me, on the other hand? I don't eat cereal for dinner. And the dust will start to drive me crazy. I'm going to need my times away, coffee with friends, long walks with Mocha, dawdling on the way home from the subway.

Yes, I can live in a construction zone. But I can't live in one forever.

-- The Wife

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Coming Attractions

What exactly have we gotten ourselves into here?

Our new house is a 550 square foot bungalow on a 25 square foot by 150 square foot lot. There are two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a mudroom out back. The basement is finished with a roughed-in kitchen, a bathroom and two bedrooms. As soon as we get into the house, I promise you'll see plenty of pictures.

And this is exactly what needs to be done. A list:

  1. Finish the roughed-in kitchen in the basement. This will involve a few trips to Ikea and Home Hardware. I'll scrub first, then paint, then install the kitchen. And yes, when I say 'I', I mean 'I'. The Husband's focus will be upstairs on all the work that needs to be done up there.
  2. Take down the bathroom walls, rip out the fixtures, demo the kitchen and rip up all the tile. That will be quite a job. Once the floor joints are revealed, we may need to do some work to reinforce and fix any that are in rough shape. At this point, we might also insulate with sound proofing.
  3. Do some plumping and perhaps some electrical to move the bathroom from the middle of the house to the edge of the house. This step will depend a lot on what's behind the walls. If we can't do it, we can't do it.
  4. Rebuild the bathroom completely so that it's awesome.
  5. Rip up all the hardwood flooring and put down new flooring. Preferrably a beautiful dark hardwood with a strong grain.
  6. Install the kitchen include the gas stove and granite countertops.
  7. Fall down in exhaustion.
Remember our last post? We have 1 month to do all this in.

And what if we fail?

As long as we don't fail on point #1, we won't end up homeless come May 1st. We'll be ok, though we might be covered in a thin film of drywall dust forever.

The Property

Just a small post about the perporty. The size of the lot is 25' X 150'. The property is on a small quick street with only residential buildings on it, nice for walking the dog. The lot backs onto a large residential apartment building. Not sure how I feel about this but this but it's one of the reasons we could afford the house and so for the time being I'm ok with it. Comparing our house the rest of the street we are one of the lower priced homes. This will be good for resale because what we put into the house with hard work will come out as money in the end. Our neighbours on one side have the same house but mirrored. There is a small shared lane way to the left and there is a lane to the right but there is no access our land. The front yard is stone and concrete; not what we plan to have when we are done with the place, but fixing it is definitely low priority

- the Husband


We have a time limit. The house is in rough shape. It's the kind of house that will take years before it's perfected. But first, it needs to be livable, and we only have a limited amount of time before it's in such a state that we can move it. On Thursday March 31st (less than a week!) we get ownership and the keys to our new house. This will be the first day we'll be able to roam the property without being accompanied by the real estate agent. This day will also be the firrst day we can start our work but I think we'll take that night off and just enjoy the moment of owning our first home. The next day will be the first day of demo.

By the end of that weekend I hope to have everything demoed and removed from the house. We're not sure where all the garbage is going to go right now but that's a minor detail. We'll try to get a big garbage bin as soon as we can. The next week we'll bringing in a plumber to look at the water pressure. As it stands the house currently has a pressure problem. I was told that this can be fixed with some type of pressurizing tank. An electrician will also be coming in to look at the electrical and see if we will be able to hookup some power for two washing machines. I will also be looking at removing two walls.

The 2nd weekend we will be fixing any of the electrical and plumbing issue that will come up with relocating both the kitchen and bathroom. I feel this may take longer then I think and so I'll be working on this for the following week along with fixing any floor joist and subflooring issues.

The 3rd weekend I will hope all plumming and electrical will be done and we'll be able to move onto insulation, drywall, mudding and tiling in the bathroom. that coming week we feel we'll be able to work on the flooring for the rest of the house and the trim.

The 4th weekend we'll be finishing all the bathroom items. Paint, toilet, vanity, faucets and lighting. That week if we get everything done as planned, I hope to get the kitchen cabinets, countertop and sink in place. Who knows what unplanned things will come up though.

So it is going to be a busy month of work with the help of some friends and family I think it will get done and we'll enjoy the process of changing a house to a home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Bathroom

The Husband
The Wife

The Wife and I just bought a house not too long ago and we are in the planning stages of the renovations.

Very firmly in the planning stages. We can hardly talk about anything else. We've thrown around so many ideas our heads are starting to spin.

We're not sure how to design/layout a house that we haven't even moved into yet. but as far as I'm concerned we are getting there. I've been having a hard time trying to figure out how to lay out the bathroom.

Or layout anything, for that matter. The house has such a simple layout, but since it's 50 years old, we're eying each and every wall and wondering if we can just get rid of it. My hands are itching to pick up a sledgehammer. And yes, the bathroom seems to cause us the most issues.

The current size we have to work with is 65" x 80" and the door is on the short side. There is a 19" floor radiator and a large window that I've been fighting with. I've also been fighting whether or not to have a tub. I can make it work with a tub it just leave a 24" vanity and part of the window is in the tub. The only real reason I want a tub in the bathroom is for resale value: when we sell in a few years, we hope people would not be put off by no tub. If we remove the tub there is far more room to play with and I'll be able to get the bathroom in a way I like it.

Especially for pretty things! And storage things. Like a proper place to put our many towels. And cleaning supplies. Etc. Etc.

I was thinking something like what is below.

(image from here)

What I really like about this bathroom is the shower. There is no step into it and the floor is seamless throughout. I also like the look of the glass enclosure.

I guess we are going to see what the outcome will be when we go to do the plumbing and we finally have to decide.

Did I mention that I refuse to move into a house that does not have a working bathroom? Fortunately, the one downstairs doesn't need much work...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Waiting for March 31st

In the second weekend of January 2011, the Husband and I sat down in the lobby of our condo building with our realtor and put our names on a hefty offer for an adorable fixer-upper. We had been looking for just over two weeks, had seen everything in our chosen neighbourhood, and were itching to start negotiations.

Less than 24 hours later, our offer was accepted.

We were blown away, considering it was a starting offer, a solid $20 000 less than asking price. We had expected to go back and forth at least on our closing date which was almost 3 months away. We bounced off the walls for a few days and then settled in to wait.

Now, we're just 10 days away from the end of that wait and we are so excited. We've got a lot of work ahead of us -- did I mention it's a fixer upper? And not much time to do it in. We'll have our rental apartment for 1 month after we get into the house which gives us a little time to rip it apart and make it livable, but not a lot of time for mistakes and unexpected hiccups both of which I'm sure are in our future. We have 30 days to get as much renovating done as we can, 30 days until we're forced to move into a dusty house.