Friday, April 29, 2011

Bathroom: The Reality

I have put far too many pretty pictures up here lately. I think I need to bring myself and all of you back to reality. The dusty, grey, non-functioning reality. This is the bathroom as it currently exists:

On the left is the drain for the toilet. Beside it, out of site, stands a narrow radiator. On the right, the plumbing hookups for our vanity. It's a small bathroom, but I'm certain it will be functional. And oh, how I am loving the invention of a pocket door right now...

Right now, it seems to be nothing but a construction zone. But, if you look up just a little, there's one already chosen, already placed detail:

Our light fixture -- dusty, incomplete, but beautiful.

How symbolic.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thinking Bathroom: Vanity, Vanity

Bathroom vanities are expensive. At Home Depot, we'd likely be dropping at good $500 to get something we want. And then we'd still have to buy a sink. Boo.

Ikea's cheap. And we like their stuff. But none of their vanities come in the 20' depth that we need. Boo.

But wait... in passing, on the weekend, my MIL mentioned that she had once wanted to convert a dresser into a vanity to put in their bathroom. When she said it, I don't think the option fully sunk into my head. Two days later, it finds itself fully lodged in my thoughts.

How beautiful would something like this be?

I know: in this, my tastes tend towards traditional. Beautiful curvy lines, crisp white paint. Actually, my tastes lean towards traditional with a splash of contemporary. More like this.

The modern sink balances the traditional dresser beautifully, I think. I won't go so far as the distressed look though. Honestly, I just don't get that. 

I even found the perfect vessel sink:

The black marble would perfectly combine with our marble tile, adding even more depth and beautifulness to the whole thing. 

So now I just have to find a really awesome dresser that is no more than approximately 30'' high, 20'' deep, and 34'' wide. Value Village, Craigslist, Kijiji... here I come!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Progress! Weekend 4

Our 4th weekend in the house led to one of the most exciting bit of progress yet: walls!

We're mudding and sanding, so everything is especially dusty now. And, we're noticing it even more now that we have fully moved in. We're settling in the basement for now, but we don't get to escape the dust. It gets everywhere. 

The list is getting smaller and the end seems to be getting surprisingly closer. I mean, after this, what do we have? Painting, flooring, toilet and vanity, kitchen cabinets, backsplash, countertops, appliances. I didn't say the list was short. But it's a lot shorter than when we started the project. 

Painting and flooring this weekend!

Being Bold and Making Choices

Soon, I'll get around to taking a picture in proper lighting of our progress so you can see the walls that we finally have up, drywalled, and mudded. That's right: the end is in sight!

This progress means I suddenly have to make some design choices. And I've learned something: I'm really terrible at making design choices. Layout, I can handle. Tile? Not so much. Especially when, since we left our decisions to the last minute, we don't have much choice outside of the tile in stock at all our favourite home improvement stores.

Home Depot failed us this time around. Standing in their tile aisle sent me into a spiral of tile despair, not fully liking any of the available choices, completely unable to envision it, completely unable to match a floor to a tub tile surround. 

So, we trotted down the road to Rona -- Canadian! -- and my spirits lifted enormously. We found this tile:

And I loved it. But I hemmed and hawed a bit. Dark floors? Really? Is that such a good idea? It's so bold, makes such a statement... what if I hate it when it gets laid? And what if it's too slippery? It is polished marble, after all.

Let's be brave: stack 6 boxes in our plastic cart. And to match, 6 boxes of this beautiful metro tile in beige -- just a touch off white:

We've found a beautiful mosaic to add for an accent stripe on the wall, a tile that include black marble, very similar to our floors. 

Every time I think about it, I worry just a little. This could have been a terrible choice. But then, I see pictures like this:

And I think, if they can do it, why can't we? I need to take a couple deep breaths, remind myself that this is our first house -- it doesn't have to be perfect -- and learn to be bold.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This Is Community

In the process of this move, I've been thinking a lot about community, what it means, and how we fit into it all. We've moved into a ridiculously friendly neighbourhood, a neighbourhood in which people recognize each other as they walk down the street, a neighbourhood that greets newcomers, and looks out for each other and their dogs. (Well, mostly.)

But, it's not the only community of which we're a part. And it's not the most important, or the one for which I am the most grateful.

In January, we (loosely speaking) made the final decision on a church home. Since then, we've been slowly drawn in to the embrace of a very different kind of community than the one we have moved into. We've met new people, learned some new names, and began to share our lives with them and they with us.

A few weeks ago, as we left a dinner with a couple from the church and a group of chatty youth, the host presented us with an extra lasagna, carefully wrapped up and waiting for the oven. When we got our new stove, it was one of the first things we baked up in excited anticipation. It's the perfect thing. An easy dinner when I'm tired after packing and unpacking. An easy lunch for days when I have no time to brown bag anything. (Oh, right. That's every day.)

With each bite, I am grateful.

The more community I experience from all places -- our neighbourhood, our church, even at work -- the more I appreciate it and the more I understand how important it is. One day, I'd like to be able to extend the same thoughtfulness to someone else. Could we do this without them? Probably.

But why bother?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Hack Job, AKA, Our House

The more we delve into this house, the more we can see the years of neglect it's gone through, the lack of care and attention to detail. According to our neighbour, contractor after shady contractor has been hired to fix things as mandated by the city. At one time, he says, the front door was plastered in notices from the city about the state of disrepair the house was falling into.

And yet, the whole thing is just a little rough around the edges. I'm not saying that we bought the house version of a lemon: the opposite actually. Our renos that have involved demolition of what is existing have gone surprisingly well. There have been very few of those unexpected problems that people so often find beneath the surface of the house, very few problems that have added hours or days onto our renovation timeline.

But, there have been other things, things we're not quite so sure how to deal with, things that just don't look right.

Case number 1: The Basement Bathroom

I won't bother talking about the upstairs bathroom. It was much worse. But the basement has its own special challenges, more difficult to deal with because they're not so bad to warrant a complete gutting.

Like the toilet, for example.

Here, we have a toilet that does not fit in the space. The rough in allowed them to put in this toilet, but didn't allow them to put the lid on properly. Instead of taking it back to wherever they got it, they just balanced it on top and said "Meh. Oh well. Who cares."

So, now we have to buy a new toilet.

And then, there's this:

Can you see it? I know, nice light, huh? I picked it out myself. But look a little further, a little past that. Yup. That's grout. Smeared all over the tile and dried solid. I'm not sure how we're going to deal with this yet. It's likely going to mean a lot of painstaking scraping and wiping and scrubbing. And, in the end, we'll likely paint the tile in order to hide the terrible yellow grout lines. Problem solved!

Case number 2: The Stairs

I don't have a complaint with the stairs moulded out of concrete. Actually, once I get a new coat of paint on them, they'll look quite nice. It's when you get to the bottom of the stairs that you can see the terrible work that was put into the house.

They're almost wobbly, but certainly crooked and poorly built. I'm certain that one of these days, they're going to crack as someone scurries up the stairs and the creation of a new set will become absolutely imperative. 

Case number 3: The Front Porch

The front porch is a nice wide thing, perfect for sitting on and watching the neighbourhood pass. Not that we plan on doing it that much. But there's a few things wrong with it. Like the tile they decided lay instead of deck boards or something that isn't so slippery when wet.

And then, there's the way they poured the porch: they left an ugly, jagged overhang. What are you supposed to do with this?

And, of course, there's the exhaust that they decided to send out the front of the house: a nice, shiny, brand new exhaust pipe sticks out from one of the windows in the basement just beneath the porch. What were they thinking?

We've been fortunate with the bones of this house, so in many ways, we're grateful that these hack jobs are all on the surface and can, thankfully, be low priority. But someday, I'd like all these things fixed.

And my most important goal? To not leave any hack jobs behind when we sell the place -- whenever that may be.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Basement Kitchen Progress: It's a Stove!

A kitchen is not a kitchen without a stove. It's not a house if there is no kitchen.


Our house is a house! Because we found a stove!

After our unsuccessful experience with Kijiji, I was very tempted to walk into Home Depot and put in an order for the cheapest GE they had available. For a brief while, we had even considered dropping the money necessary to get a nice stainless steel stove, one we'd be happy with upstairs. That way, we could move in, have a stove, and keep watching for a great deal on a used one. When the day comes, we move the stove up into our kitchen and voila: two stoves for two kitchens.

But then, I looked one last time at Kijiji and there it was: black, gas, and priced perfectly. I emailed, got the Husband to book a U-Haul, and that night, we picked up our used gas stove for a measly $270 (after some stellar haggling on my part)! We brought it to the house, wrestled it down into the basement and stepped back to admire our finally functional kitchen.

(Actually, it wasn't at all that easy. The wrestling really did feel like wrestling. And we had some issues with hookup. But we're all good now, so those things hardly matter.)

It's a beaut. I've never cooked with gas before, so I'm kind of excited to try it out. Any suggestions of what I should make first?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How's this for dreaming? The attic!

Whenever we show people the house for the first time, it's not unusual to get this question:

"So, is there a second storey?"

Sadly, we say no, no second storey.

See, our house has a gable roof with a dormer sticking out the front. It's one of the few things that give our house any sort of curb appeal.

It also makes the house deceptively large, as if it's touting a half story beneath it's shingles. Not so much.

At least, not yet. 

During our home inspection, when the inspector flipped open the attic access in order to check out the roof rot on our roof boards, light streamed down from those dormer windows. As I peered up past him, I saw warm looking wood and a high ceiling. Space, perhaps, for a room? When we first climbed up there after taking possession of the house, our instincts were confirmed: this attic can be far more than an attic.

This is what we envision: a bed in the alcove around the dormer, two skylights on the opposite side of the roof, a small master bath and a good sized closet. Of course, it's a pretty big job. There's more than one brace that would have to be moved, full plumping and electrical, insulating, and drywall. And, then there's the access: I refuse to climb a ladder in order to get to my bedroom. 

It's very easy to look past all the work when you're dreaming.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Skeleton In Our House

By the end of the day on Saturday, the Husband was frustrated with their progress upstairs, but I couldn't be happier. The bones of our house have finally begun to reform, allowing me to envision exactly how everything is going to look. See? It's the skeleton of our bathroom!

They spent two extra hours undoing the hookups for the tub and redoing them, which set them back further than they wanted. If the Husband had had his way, the bathroom studs would not be the only things up: the drywalling would also have been finished and the space prepped for the tile we plan to put in next week.

But I don't care. I can see it now. It's going to look something like this:

Just, flipped around with a little more space between the toilet and vanity. And I likely won't tile the tub like that. Or have such a funny looking toilet. Or that particular sink. And my bathroom will have towels. And toothbrushes, contact lens solution, make up, and moisturizes scattered all over it. But you get the picture.

I spent the last half hour with our weekend help there explaining what it was all going to look like, pointing out the location of each feature: the toilet, the vanity, the fridge on the other side of the wall, the gas stove, the sink, the expanse of counter space in between, the breakfast bar. We could finally explain our vision for the kitchen with some success. 

Even if it wasn't as much progress and the Husband wanted, it made me happy. It reassured me that we will get through this, that we will not lose steam, or at least not yet, that before too long, we will have a livable, comfortable, uniquely ours home.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Backyard Mud Pit!

On Saturday, we got great big hug. Or, at least that’s kind of what it felt like to me, especially after the frustrating week I’d had. At 10 am, a crew of young people from the church the Husband and I attend showed up at our front door decked out in warms clothes and rain boots. I had looked forward to today for a couple weeks, ever since the (interim) youth leaders and I sat down and made the plans for it. It was a chance to open up our (almost) house to them and get to know them. And, we got some much needed and much appreciated help in the bargain.

Keep in mind, this is what our backyard looked like at 10 am Saturday morning.

At 10:05, as if someone bigger and greater than us knew what was going on, the rain slowed to a drizzle. By 10:30, the garbage was gone. Completely. Three of the guys turned their attention to the bramble of vines choking out our (surprisingly healthy) elm.

Meanwhile, one of the leaders dug up our tiny flower bed by the garage and planted the flat of pansies we had picked up. She also found an iris (I think?) growing in an old, broken pot and transplanted them for us.

Inside, a couple of the youth – youth more interested in remaining warm and dry – caulked the trim and scrubbed the floors for us. The room gleamed when they had finished.

By noon, the backyard was cleaned up, the garage was emptied of the past owner’s and tenant’s left-behind garbage, and most of the bags we had collected were hauled off to the garbage dump by my very helpful dad. We dug into some pizza and I bid the work crew goodbye.

Not half an hour later, it started to pour again.

Thanks guys. You did an amazing job! In a month or so, once we get some grass back there in our mud pit, we’ll have you all over again to enjoy the space and a barbeque.

Maybe by then, I'll have finally gotten all the mud out of Mocha's fur.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A List

Here we are. At Friday again.

I'm not sure what to think of the past week. Life woke up a bit and other commitments stepped in to remind me of the big picture. Despite the fact that all I think about these days are renovations, decor, and hard work, this week reminded me that my life is composed of a lot more than just this little white bungalow. Oh, balance: I need you.

But not until next week. Here we are at Friday, which means that, once again, come 5 o'clock, my focus can shift back to our dusty house. So, what's in the plans?

For the Husband:

  1. Meet the gas guy who will be moving our gas line for us upstairs so we can put the stove where we want it. 
  2. Run around the city looking for a gas stove for the basement apartment. Check out all the scratch and dent places we can find.
  3. Meet up with whatever members of the crew decide to show up for the weekend and get started back where they left off.
  4. Frame in and drywall the bathroom. 
  5. Get the subfloor down.
For the Wife
  1. Clean up the condo for a visit from our landlord's realtor. 
  2. Do some laundry.
  3. Make up a tasty pasta salad for consumption over the weekend. 
  4. Take the train to the dusty house, hopefully in time to enjoy a relaxing drink with the work crew. Try not to be too late.
  5. Greet the backyard crew in the morning and set them to work. Hand out garbage bags for ponchos as it starts to rain. Finally concede to allowing them to work inside instead. Perhaps teach them to paint a wall or two.  
  6. Practice Psalm 150 with some kids after the church service.
  7. Sprinkle grass seed all over our dirt. 
  8. Plant some pansies. 
  9. Mourn over the progress that is not moving as fast as I would like. Curse my unrealistic expectations.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cheap, Inconvenient, and Frustrating


Of course.

For our readers not in Canada, Kijiji is an online classified service, the Canadian version of Craigslist. Not that we don't also have Craigslist. But the popularity of CL has waned in Ontario in a way it has not yet waned south of the border. I'm sure you can sympathize with my frustrations anyway.

This evening, we drove to Mississauga to look at this stove:

It's perfect for the basement. Gas, not white -- we're pretty convinced our kitchen cabinets will not go well with white -- and cheap! So, I emailed. I got a response. I booked a time to go visit. We went back and forth a few times to figure out a time that worked for all parties and tonight, we did a little bit of juggling so that the husband and I could get to Mississauga by 8:30. We found the house, knocked on the door. A timid looking woman cracked the door.

"Hi." I said. "I had emailed about the stove?"

"Oh, the gas?"


"Actually, we just sold it."


We walked away. As we settled back into the car, I got annoyed, then a touch angry, then just frustrated. Why wouldn't they have emailed to let me know before we left? I had even confirmed our visit earlier in the day. Two hours after we left, we got back to our apartment feeling like we had wasted an evening.

And now, the weekend is almost here and we still don't have a stove. Which means we still don't have a kitchen at the house. Which means it's still not ready to move in. 

Back to Kijiji, I guess. Or, we give up, spend the money, and put in an order (with delivery) at Home Depot.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Backyard

Right now, we live on the 30th floor of a 40 floor condo building. We have a view directly into another building which blocks most of the sun from getting into our apartment. If you lean over the rail and look left or right, you can see the green suburbs of the city. Our apartment is such a far cry from the countrysides in which we grew up that if I think about it too hard, I get just a little bit confused about how we ended up here.

So, one of the things that excites us the most about our coming move is the quick access to ground level. In other words, we can't wait to have a backyard. Since our lot is 150 feet long and our house only, oh, 50 feet, we have a good 100 feet of backyard.

Or, almost a backyard.

According to our neighbour, the garbage comes from the tenants in the apartment buildings behind us: they aim for the dumpster from their balconies and miss. We even found hot dogs back there the other day! And there's plenty of broken glass. Not so good for puppy paws!

Yes, it's an all 'round mess. If you look in the corners, you see the garbage drifted. No corner is untouched.

I have big plans. For example, in this corner, I want to put in a privacy hedge:

And maybe some flowers to create a little shaded flower garden. And that tree has to come down: it's growing against the fence and pushing into the neigbours yard. So, we'll take it down and find a new place to plant a couple saplings.

But before we can do any of that, we have to clean up the Mess. Oh, the mess.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Past Came To Visit

Last night as the Husband and I settled into our Poang chairs -- some of the few pieces of furniture we've moved to the house for our own comfort -- after a short evening of work, we heard a bit of a bang upstairs. Mocha sat at our feet chewing on one of her many bones and Pekoe was at home at the condo, missing us, perhaps, but safe, and in no position to create any noise that we could hear.

A second later, a pair of legs started to descend the back stairs.


"Oh, you guys are in already," the stranger said. "My mom said you wouldn't be here until the 19th."

"Nope. March 31st."

He backed out of the house. "I just forgot some stuff in the garage. I thought I had more time to get it out. Is it ok?"

He was friendly, Greek, and as he started making trips into the back of the garage, bringing out buckets and brooms, he stopped every 5 minutes to chat. He was the owner's son, had lived in the house 5 years ago, presumably before they started renting it in earnest.

"We had a huge garden in the back," he said. "Oh, you're gonna love it!" His cousin whipped out his phone and started showing us pictures of a generic garden, close ups of lettuce and pea plants.

He offered warnings about our neighbour -- "Don't let him tell you that piece of land isn't yours." -- and the apartment buildings behind us -- "All that garbage in your backyard? They throw it. They're aiming for the dumpster, but they miss. It's disgusting."

But, he also told us about our other neighbour -- "That guy's the best. Awesome barbequer. And he'll invite you over too!" -- and the neighbourhood -- "You guys are gonna love it here."

It was a fun encounter and a good chance to understand a little more about our little house. Next time he comes back to collect any more mail or anything, I think we'll invite him in and give him a chance to see the changes. We hope he'll hardly even recognize the place.

The Neighbourhood

Isn't it cute?

Ok, so that's not the best picture I could have taken. But, I felt weird taking a picture of the street to begin with, so I wasn't about the step out into the middle of it.

Sometimes, I surprise people when I tell them where we bought a house. For some reason, people expect that country kids, when uprooted from their natural open spaces, will settle in the suburbs, in 2500 sq. ft. homes on huge, well-manicured lots. Our 600 sq. ft. house with it's piddly 3000 sq. ft. bit of land is a far cry from a McMansion in Mississauga, Richmond Hill, or Oakville. How can we stand it after growing up with acres and acres of freedom?

I have never felt any attraction to the suburbs. I can understand why some might: I do sometimes covet the large, expansive homes just a touch and occasionally, I wouldn't mind a little more space from our neighbours. But, when I think about actually living there? Instead of more freedom because of the space, all I can think of is the loss of freedom: being away from the subway line, away from shops and restaurants within walking distance... these are all things I've gotten so used to that I can't imagine living without them while remaining in the city.

All that said, we kind of did buy in a suburb. Kind of. A very old suburb, a suburb around which the city grew. Many of the homes on our street look to me to be century homes. A few were clearly built in the 70s or 80s, perhaps replacing older homes that had fallen into disrepair. The houses are squished together with narrow lanes in between or, in many cases, no lane at all. The closeness seems to create a strong sense of community, a neighbourhood that is truly a neighbourhood in every sense of the word.

These past couple weeks, we have been visited by a neighbour across the street and her very old dog, an older man from down the street, the neighbourhood kids, and a man from across the street and down a ways. We've held friendly conversations yelled across the street with our neighbour and stood at the back fence chatting with the man directly beside us. Even our anti-neighbour's son-in-law was excited to see us as chat for a few minutes. Everyone is so friendly and all so willing to share info about the neighbourhood, tips and warnings, and offers for help.

On top of that, they all see really excited to see us and to see our dumpster show up outside the house. One of our neighbours took us through a quick history of the house as he knew it. We're not sure how much to believe some of his stories, but if they're all true, our house has not been a respectable house for a long time. We hope to change that in a big way.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Our New Best Friends: Home Depot!

We've spent a lot of time at Home Depot lately. Hours, it seems. Some of those trips are dull, so long spent picking out each piece of copper pipe and each roll of wire. Fortunately, on the trips I have to go on because there's an important choice to be made -- such as which bathtub to put in -- I get a little companion.

Home Depot lets you bring your dog! In fact, all their employees seem to love dogs. Can you hire like that, discriminating against people who aren't dog lovers? Either way, we appreciate it. And the awesome customer service we get every time we go there. It makes what could be difficult, boring trip that much easier.

And no. No one has paid me to say that.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Almost Originals

One of the fun things about ripping through the layers of house to get to the bones is that you get to see each of those layers.

(Sometimes seeing each of those layers is maybe not actually that fun, especially if there are many layers and especially if they are installed to last. I feel for people who started demolitions only to discover five layers of tile or three layers of drywall and a layer of lathe and plaster on the walls. We did not have any extreme problems.)

Last week, when the Husband took off all the electrical covers, we discovered this green underneath:

And, in the kitchen, underneath the tile, we found this fake, pebbly laminate:

Those combined: the perfect 70s house?

This house was renovated at some point, so I know the colour isn't the absolute original: notice the light switches? They read '120V' which means it's not the knob and tube the house was originally wired with. But how long ago this was done? I couldn't say.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 9 -- April 9


It's Saturday evening and, after a long two days of work, the Husband and I have finally sat ourselves down with glasses of wine and the pets to relax. It's been a hard weekend, and a little frustrating at times, but we've made some progress!

We got the tub in:

Well, kind of. We still need to put up our vapour barrier. And there's a few more steps before I can take a bath in it. But, it's almost there!

Downstairs, we got the kitchen almost completely in:

And we painted. Or, rather, these awesome people painted:

My parents! By the end of the day, they were pretty tired, but they did an amazing job in the basement. It's amazing how much a good paint job can improve a place. None of the trim was properly painting previously, so just making sure that it was painting a crisp, glossy white brightened it up considerably.

They were pretty tired by the end of the day.

And I had lots of paint in my hair.

They didn't just get the tub in upstairs today. They made a lot of progress actually. But we're at a stage in the reno when the changes aren't so dramatic. They're all things that are going on inside the walls, fiddly things that move slowly but have to be done right. Next weekend, things will feel like they're moving fast. In the meantime, I'm comforted by the progress we've made in the basement: it looks like we'll have a place to live in a few weeks after all!

Friday, April 8, 2011


This is kind of funny, kind of comforting, and kind of embarrassing, all rolled into one.

Last night, after we got back from a 2 hour trip to Home Depot, one of our neighbours approached my brother-in-law as he unloaded his truck.

"Were you here about an hour ago?" he asked.

No, my brother-in-law replied.

"Well, there was quite a show going on at your house," the neighbour said.

Apparently, a different neighbour thought our dumpster was on fire. See, we have an exhaust pipe from our furnace stuck right out the front of our house.

I don't know why the previous owners would have put it right there. Under the stairs or on the other side of the house would have been two perfectly viable and less unappealing locations for such a pipe. We have plans to move it eventually, but at you may have guessed, it's not a priority. So, for now, it's a noisy, steam-spewing inconvenience. 

Right now, our dumpster is sitting in front of our house, half on that concrete pad where grass is supposed to be and half, inconveniently, in our driveway. (It's getting picked up today! Soon! Yay!)

Like this. So, the furnace kicked on and the exhaust started sending steam up from the front of our house and one of our neighbours happened to be passing, or looked out their window or something and saw this:

Of course, they did the sensible thing to do when you think your neighbours might be on fire: they called the fire department and reported our dumpster on fire. A few minutes later, a fire truck appeared, checked everything out, determined the cause of the call and left again. All while we were out. 

I would really love to find out which neighbour it was that called the fire department so that I can sincerely thank them. Yes, it was a false alarm and a little bit silly, but it's a comforting thought to know that we have neighbours who will look out for us and our property and take action if needed. This neighbourhood is certainly a far cry from the condo living we've experienced until now.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How Quickly Things Add Up

One of our goals with this blog is to be somewhat transparent about our budget and how much we spend so that other renovators who find their way here can gain a legitmate, real life sense of how much renovations actually cost. Our own research gave us vague ranges: $5000-$10 000 to renovate a bathroom, upwards of $10 000 to renovate a kitchen, etc. We were disappointed we couldn't find some more exact numbers. Hopefully, we can remedy that for future renovators.

Our budget is not unlimited. We have around $10 000 to play with. But, since we both came from very money-conscious backgrounds, we agree that the cheaper we can do this without losing quality, the better. That means we're doing most, if not all, the work ourselves, with the help from volunteering family members.

Here's a tip: when someone asks you to help out with some renovations or construction projects of their own, do it. You can call in the favour later!

The demoing has, so far, felt free. We ordered a dumpster, but you don't actually have to pay for it until you've filled it and they pick it up. That means it's very inexpensive to get started on a reno. They're taking the dumpster away today, at which point we'll pay a $450 deposit (in cash -- more on this later), though depending on the weight, we may have to pay more or get a little back.

Here's another tip: when someone spreads a rumour that one of the home improvement stores in the city might have an amazing deal on something you need, go check it out. Our cabinets, as I discussed in our last post, put us back $847.50 after the 13% HST. We definitely came out on top with that one.

And, last night, we went back to Home Depot -- this time taking our pooch along! -- to pick out a paint colour for the basement, pick up some extra painting supplies and buy fixtures for the basement lights. Seems simple enough, right? $457.37 later, we staggered out to the car with two buckets of paint (CIL paint chip 'Daydream' and ceiling paint) and a cartful of lights and supplies, reeling just a little at how quickly seemingly simple things add up.

We're still looking good, but after last night's swipe of the VISA, I'm not feeling as confident that our money supply won't dry up. This will definitely be an exercise in priorities so we can get the most important renovations done before we have to stop to save or run to an expensive line of credit.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Basement Apartment

One of the reasons we bought this particular house was the basement apartment. In fact, while we were looking, we told our realtor to only show us homes that either have basement apartments or at least the potential for a basement apartment. This meant we needed a home with a separate entrance into the basement and some kind of layout that would allow for a kitchen.

Of all the houses we looked at, the one we ended up buying had the best apartment and it was one of the only ones in which said apartment wasn't functioning. The kitchen is merely a rough-in with a few upper cabinets thrown up on the wall.

Despite the lack of a complete kitchen, the height of the ceiling enticed us. The only contenders to this house had ceilings that the Husband had to be careful not to bump his head on, and he's not a particularly tall guy. This ceiling is 90", just 6" shy of the standard 8'. There are good sized windows all the way around the apartment, letting in plenty of light. After some of the places we had seen, it was refreshing.

As you can see, a kitchen is required. What you see in the above picture is the water pipes for the sink and the gas pipe for the stove. Everything is already there, so this should be easy, right?

Especially since we found a great deal for a beautiful set of cabinets: 

Each cabinet was $99 before taxes. Since we got 8 of them, that's only $800. One of them was slightly damaged, so we got it for $50 instead. That's a grand total of $750 before taxes. Sure, they're not exactly what we were planning for this kitchen -- we had talked about white cabinets with beautiful butcher block countertops. But, at Ikea, we would have spent around $2000 on the cabinets alone. I think this is a fair compromise, and might even look nicer in the long run. Yes, we might be patting ourselves on the back a bit.

Once we have this kitchen installed -- hopefully by the end of next week -- the basement apartment will be mostly ready. There are a few updates I want to do in the bathroom, but since it's currently the only bathroom in the house, I don't want to do any of that until the upstairs bathroom is finished. 

And, with the basement apartment ready to go, we can properly move in! We'll sleep in a proper bed instead of on an air mattress, have proper meals in the evenings, settle back into a real life. While renos continue to go on above our heads, of course. Hopefully we'll be able to keep the dust level down...