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Monthly Archives: August 2011

the real reason this reno is making me tired, grumpy, and generally nauseous…

Yep, that’s really a baby.  And yep,  it’s really ours.  And it’s also making everything reno-related very very difficult!

It’s the reason we had to hire painters.  It’s the reason we had to hire our friend Nick to tile the bathroom.  It seems that babies cost you a lot even before they’re out of the womb.

Apart from the whole ‘don’t inhale toxic chemicals’ thing, I’ve basically just been too exhausted to do anything, and avoiding dangerous toxins, heavy lifting and general precarious ladder acrobatics in order to ensure my unborn child doesn’t develop three heads has provided a handy excuse to just lay on the couch.  The guilt, however, is not so easily excused, so on top of being extra hormonal grumpy, I’ve also been extremely frustrated at not being able to do what I did last summer and it has been driving me a little crazy.

It’s been 12 weeks now of feeling like a nauseated angry zombie.

So that’s why this reno has been slow, and at times, very unenthusiastically attended by yours truly.

But I am, finally, starting to feel better as I head into lucky number week 13.  And just in time too – 9 days left before we have to move in.  9 days!

Time to suck it up and get cracking.  At least my reno shorts are elasticated.


final photos of downstairs

– well, until we do something drastic down there, like in 5 years.

So, I never posted any photos of the living and dining room as it never really felt finished.  It still doesn’t.  But now we’re about to move upstairs (in 2 weeks – god help us), so as much as it bugs the hell out me, this room just has to be documented as is.

So here goes…

First of all, that light fixture is not supposed to be there.  It was (was) a three pendant thingy that hung over the dining table before we decided to swap the living and dining rooms.  Then, being too lazy to switch the light fixtures, we left it, where it hung, precariously low.  You might guess what happened next.  Yes, Sam banged his head into it, and now we have two pendants, twisted together to move the whole thing out of the way.  Classy.

But here’s the same view before we took the wall down:

So crazy. I can barely believe it used to look like that.  We pulled up all that lino and the plywood underneath it, sanded and stained the floors, and replaced the window.

This is how it looked when we just finished (though still with the old window) and were so excited to finally have a place to sit (at this point we were living in the bedroom all the time – I don’t even think the kitchen was finished):

The floors looked ok when we were done, but they were freezing.  There were gaps in the floorboards pretty much straight down to the basement.  I started to realize why they covered the bare floorboards with layers of plywood and lino in the first place.  Stupid modern folks like us trying to have trendy bare floorboards and then freezing our asses off.  Serves us right really.

As usual, I went to the internet for some solutions.  This Old House had a video tutorial for filling the gaps with rope. Apparently it’s an old shipbuilding technique.

So, I tried it.

I kind of like how it looks, but it’s definitely not as easy as whatshisname makes it look on the video (welcome to my world), though granted, it’s not rocket science.  But as a solution for cracks and heat loss, it is, as my sisters and I would say, a bit dickish.  We’re going to have to insulate from below anyway and probably lay down new floor – eventually.  The areas where we had to fill in with new pine floorboards where the wall came down (see first photo above) also really bug me, though Sam likes how it looks, for reasons unknown.  ‘Rustic’ maybe.

Here’s the view from the other side:

So, imagine that the proper low dining room light fixture is actually hanging over the dining table, there’s not a huge hole in the chimney, and that the art is hung and centered properly (it was, but we didn’t move it either after we re-arranged the room – hence the lack of anything above the sofa).  The strip of wallpaper you see is what we found when we removed the strange half wall that divided that room:

Now THAT looks like a crack house.  I’ve probably said this before, but sometimes I look at these old photos and am still amazed that we so nonchalantly took all this on.  Sometimes I still think we must have been out of our minds.

But you know, there isn’t much that white paint can’t fix.  Or at least make tolerable.

I can’t wait to move upstairs though.  The dining table currently doubles as our desk and work space, so actually never looks like it does above (as in, empty).  I confess – there was a pile of crap on the floor behind me when I took the photo.  I’m not a huge fan of ‘staging’ photos of your home as it often just looks staged, and thus ridiculous, but in this case it was just too awful and embarrassing to leave as is.  I’m so looking forward to having the extra room upstairs for a proper office.  We will lose a dining room, but as this room was pretty much not functional as a dining room anyway, it’s not really a loss.

Sam’s record collection is going to be a problem though.  You can’t see it, but that Ikea shelving unit is currently held together by a wing and a prayer (also known as plywood and glue).  It barely made the move across the room so I don’t fancy its chances going upstairs.  Apparently you shouldn’t store crappy pressboard shelving in a damp barn for five years and expect it to be ok.  Live and learn.

So that is it for downstairs.  We have tenants moving in on September 1st and we’ll be going upstairs – where the chaos continues…

poor experiments

Renovations are usually controlled by two factors: time, and money.  No surprises there.  And when you have neither (ahem…like us), you need to make certain compromises.  And compromising means you might try things that are probably not the greatest idea ever, but you try them anyway.

Like with flooring.

Here are the lovely putty coloured vinyl tiles that cover the office/spare room floor:

Now, when time and money are on your side, you rip these puppies up and lay new floor.  Simple.

But when it’s not, you attempt something like this:

That would be paint.  Yes, on the vinyl.  And that look you’re probably making is the same one every dude in the hardware stores gave me when I tried to explain what I wanted to do. Which is probably why they don’t really make a product that is actually supposed to do this.  At least, not that I could find.

Which is also why it looks a little…well ok, it looks like crap.

I’m still hopeful though.  One more coat?  Maybe?

one room finished!

– well, almost (still need to finish baseboards, light switches and all those twiddly bits).  But it’s liveable, and that’s all we’re aiming for at the moment as the September deadline fast approaches.

Sam finished putting in the floor on Friday.  It’s actually laminate (shhhh…), but fools pretty much everyone, and what more can you ask for at $1.40 something a square foot?

It just clicks together without nails – which sounds easy breezy, but is harder than it seems.  It doesn’t always want to just click together; it buckles, and generally misbehaves in all sorts of interesting and frustrating ways.  And unlike the bamboo we put in the kitchen downstairs, you can’t just forcefully manhandle it into place with a hammer – that’s when you’ll remember it’s actually made of cardboard.  Cue more swearing.

In more fun times, we also started from what we then decided was the wrong side of the room.  Thinking that it would be better to have the full width boards start at the doorway (rather than under the heaters), we dismantled everything and flipped it around to the other side of the room (a benefit of clicking boards rather than nailed to be sure).

We then realized that for some reason, the other side of the room is not square/straight at all.  The wall had a huge curve to it (too frustrated to photograph it – also had to act as helpful and supportive partner at this point, not crazy blogging girlfriend), so nothing would lay flush against the wall.

So we moved it all back again.

I think we then decided it was time for lunch.

Our simple morning job (ha! how we are so delusional after all this time is beyond me), turned into a day and a half.
But it is done.  Here’s a reminder of what it looked like before:

Horray – less gross!  And that, really, is all you ask for sometimes.

the problem with painters

As most of you probably know, painting isn’t particularly difficult, but it can be a gigantic pain in the ass.

I was feeling exceptionally unmotivated (more on this later), and also totally overwhelmed.  I also didn’t have the help of my painting dream team like last year, so the idea of painting the entire flat alone was becoming particularly daunting.  It’s especially overwhelming when you realize that every single surface of the place needs at least 3 coats.  Balls. (I say this a lot lately – sometimes it helps.)  Sam was working basically every hour possible, and hates painting anyway, so it was down to me.  Which meant not a lot was getting done.  Which was in turn holding up basically everything else: tiling, laying floor etc.

So, I confess: we hired a painter.  I’m even cringing as I write this.  The guilt!  The waste of money!  The admission of my laziness!

I feel especially guilty about this, as painting is the one thing I always felt I could do.  Screwing it up isn’t going to potentially kill you (hello electricity), or flood the house, or basically have any repercussions beyond looking like crap.  A big repercussion to be sure, particularly when you’re as anal as I am, but no one’s going to die.

Hiring a painter might seem simple, but as with, well, everything – it’s not.  Ok, it probably is if money is no object and you actually have a budget for it, but when you’re trying to get the cheapest painter in the province to offset the guilt of not doing it yourself while justifying how much it will be worth it, it’s tricky.  Throw into the mix an old house with plaster walls that are not, shall we say, perfect, and you also have to find someone who wants to actually take the job.  Unexpected dilemma.

I had guys come in who looked around in horror, their eyes going to the cracks, the exposed pipes, the tobacco stains, and would let out huge sighs…’well, obviously you’re not ready for us yet – right?’  ‘Oh no, we’re ready!’ I would say – as brightly as possible with a smile that tried to express confidence: ‘what are you talking about?  This is my awesome perfect house!’  One looked at me with authority (well, tried – he was way too young to rattle me), and said, ‘Well, obviously you’ll be moving all these pipes…right?’  He was off the list and out the door immediately.  ‘Go back to your perfect new suburban drywalled walls little boy!’

Other people were just weird.  Don’t volunteer that you’re not going to ‘case the joint’ because you work with inmates part-time (I know – makes no sense).  Don’t tell me about your American football superstar brother, and please stop repeating his name like I’m suddenly going to care.  Don’t try and advise me about colour when you’re wearing a baseball cap sideways and a purple tracksuit.  When I say white, I mean, white.  You, of all people, are not going to change my mind.

Thank god, I guess, that I don’t have the budget to hire people to do more around here.  I would surely lose my mind.

So, we ended up hiring the dodgy guy with the prison tattoos who was the cheapest – with predictable results.

But before I get into all that, at least the hiring of a painter got us in gear to finish patching everything – especially the dreaded stairwell.

Here’s the area that needed attention:

But it’s a little death-defying:

At least for me, who is not a friend of ladders or heights.  But luckily I have Sam, who loves climbing anything scary, and we had our friend Dave’s wonder ladder – one of those that folds into crazy configurations so you can do things like put it on the stairs and not kill yourself.  Awesome.

So it finally got patched, and now it has a bit of a half-assed paint job on it.  But it looks much better.

I’m wondering now whether to photograph all the screw ups to show you (and work myself into an angry frenzy again), or just let it go.  Most of the paint job is actually not that bad.  But then, most of it is just white.  We did decide to go with a soft grey for the hallway above the white wainscoting, and that’s where the problems occurred.

I really didn’t want to paint the wainscoting the same dark brown as downstairs, as the hallway is much much brighter upstairs and has a completely different feel.

I saw this photo on the Behr website.

They won’t let me copy the photo and put it here, but anyway, it inspired me to do white and grey.  I scooted off to Benjamin Moore to get some samples (they are within walking distance while Behr/Home Depot is not).  Actually, before that, I checked some of my favourite websites to see what they had to say about grey. Apartment Therapy had some ideas – of course.

So, as you can see below, I came back with Cement Gray on the left, and, as recommended by AT, Gray Owl on the right.

We chose Gray Owl as Cement Gray was looking too purple.

Unfortunately (I guess), I didn’t have time to faff about choosing any more options as the painter was due to start the next day.  We had to make a decision fast and rush to the paint store.  Benjamin Moore doesn’t stay open late so we were forced to ask Rona to match it.  Which they did – sort of.  I had an emergency call from the painter the next day (during the auction we were working) telling me that the grey didn’t look anything like the sample on the wall.  It turns out he was exaggerating and maybe really didn’t realize how paint darkens as it dries (not a great sign for a so-called experienced painter), but it was enough to give me a small heart attack.  I told him to go ahead anyway – what else was there to do?

But it turned out fine.  It is slightly different than the Ben Moore, but not dramatically (though it is true – their colours and their paint are just better – and no, I don’t work for them, I just sometimes feel like I do).

(sorry, no lights up there right now for a proper photo)

I’ll avoid showing the close-ups that need to be re-painted.  He said he’s coming back to fix it, but as Sam already paid him, I’m not exactly holding my breath…

Changed my mind.  I am mad, the paint job does suck, and if he does come back to fix it, I will apologize and remove these photos.

My faith in humanity is restored.  The painter came back.  The paint job is fixed.  I’ve removed the photos as promised.


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