The Renovator’s wife Blog

Renovating with your partner and living to tell about it

The Squirrel, The Bear and A Moose November 6, 2010

Filed under: General,Renovators Wife — renovatorswife @ 1:31 pm

Okay, I’ve taken a couple of months off from the blog, but I’m back!

The Renovator’s best friend goes hunting every fall and has been bugging The Renovator to go. This year, he finally caved in, wrote the test, got his licence and booked the time off. I wasn’t looking forward to him being gone for 10 days, but accepted this bizarre manhood ritual for what it was.

A few days into The Renovator’s absence, I was coerced into going to the Justin Beiber concert by my best friend. I had no interest in Justin Beiber and neither did she, but her 6 year old son was desperate to go along with the 12 year old daughter of a friend. I was in a rush to get to her place when I heard a sound coming from the living room. Wa wa wahooo! Wa wa wahoo!

I walk into the living room and hear it again – wa wa wahooo – coming from the curtains. I touch the curtains, they move back and again the noise. I, of course, completely lose it and leap back from the curtains vowing never to go near them again. My mind is racing and all I’ve got is “what is that?”

By this point, the dog and cat have noticed the sounds and are planning a menu. Brandie is barking and pacing, Avi is sitting on the windowsill looking up to the top of the curtains, thinking about dessert. I’m about ready to pass out. I’m thinking it’s a bird. I’ve tried looking from the far end of the window, but whatever this creature is, it’s sitting on top of the curtain rod, under the valance, in shadows.

I grab a long stick and poke the curtains – wa wa wahooo, wa wa wahooo! I kick the dog and cat outside. My husband is away hunting, my best friend’s husband is with him and my dad if 40 minutes away. I’m thinking about letting the cat and dog back in and shutting the door to let them deal with it. I’ll clean up the mess afterwards. Instead, I call the SPCA and explain my issue in a panicked voice.

Before Mr. SPCA arrives, I open the front door so that he’ll know he’s at the right house. He gets here quick, I fill him in, then I grab the stick to show him the noise the “thing” makes. As soon as I swish the curtains, out leaps this crazy black squirrel. I scream like a little girl, the squirrel leaps to the back of the couch, over the pony-wall, down ten feet to the foyer and out the front door. Thank goodness I’d left it open.

Mr. SPCA says he thinks it came in through the fireplace. After he leaves, I leave the front door open – it’s nice out afterall. I try to get my heart rate back down to normal and hear the doorbell. It’s Mr. SPCA again and he says to me, “You might want to close the door – there’s a bear coming into your yard.”

Sure enough there’s our local bear waltzing into the yard, wandering down to the creek, back up the yard. We’ve only seen her at 3 or 4 in the morning and here she is wandering across our yard! She crosses the driveway and sees the fence that has been extended. She hauls off and swats the fence, then grabs the tree and climbs over to wander through the neighbours yard.

Bear on a fence

She’s not very big, but she hates that fence!

I do my best not to faint, pack myself up and head off to Justin Beiber.

I would have preferred to face the squirrel again. At least the hunters got a moose out of the deal.


A Road to a Friend’s House is Never Long – Danish Proverb August 31, 2010

If The Renovator and I had a dollar for every time a friend asked, “Could you look at the house and tell us what you think?” we’d be rich! Whether they are purchasing a new place or considering changes to their existing home, our friends have come to know that they can rely on us for advice.

Often, after being asked the question noted above, I hear, “You must get sick of being asked to walk around people’s houses making suggestions and comments”. The funny thing is, we don’t get sick of it. We love it. There’s something about looking at a space and seeing the big picture – a big NEW picture – and being invited to do so. That doesn’t mean that if we come to your house we’ll pick it apart (well, mentally maybe), but if we’re invited, we will definitely do ‘what we do’.

I’ll be the one looking at the space while our friends say ‘we were thinking about this…’ then I’ll ask questions like ‘what do you want to do in this space? What are the three most important things to you about this room? and How would you like to use it?’ Then, The Renovator will weigh in on the art of the possible and what’s easy or what’s not worth the effort.

Recently, The Renovator helped out in a way we often do. He went to a house our friends were considering purchasing. They wanted to know what could be done to make the basement into a suite. What is possible and what is not. This type of request is one of our favorites because it allows us to look at the space in new ways and really consider layout and usage. In the end our friends have purchased the home and chances are The Renovator will find himself completing some of the work he envisioned. Often, I’m called upon to offer guidance around colours, finishes, lighting, etc. I never used to believe it, but the right light fixtures can make a world of difference!

So, the next time you’re looking at your existing space, or one you are thinking about purchasing, call on one of your friends who knows a thing or two about renovating. Chances are they love helping with it as much as we do and that’s why I love being The Renovator’s wife.


Why do Renovations Look so Good on TV? July 17, 2010

Well, the simple answer is, because those people are living through them, not you!

When The Renovator and I take some time to watch the tube, we often find ourselves favouring reno shows and shows about real estate. What can I say? It’s a sickness! We simply love it from all the angles! So, for this post, I thought it might be fun to tell you what shows we like to watch and why.

1. Our all time favourite is Restaurant Makeover. A designer and a chef renovate not only the restaurant, but the menu in just 6 days.

Find it: the Food Network.

Main reason we love it: it combines our two favourite things – Food and renovating!

What to watch for: Igor. The RM contractor always gives us a laugh. Like The Renovator, he believes anything can be done – if you have time.

What irks us: There are (as in the case of most design shows) a lot of egos on this show and I’ve had to leave the room a few times when certain chefs and designers throw hissy fits. Plus, it may be budget driven more than anything, but some of the materials they use aren’t super high quality.

2. Love it or List it. A realtor and a designer compete to deliver the couple’s dream home by showing new homes they could buy while renovating their existing home to make it what they need.

Find it: W Network

Main reason we love it: This shows the issues that people face. With tight budgets, what do you do to get the space you need? It’s also great to see what design options they focus on.

What to watch for: The floundering homeowners. Highly entertaining.

What irks us: In the episodes we’ve seen, the designer stays within budget, but the realtor is constantly going over his budget. Not really a level playing field.

3. House Hunters (& House Hunters International) features buyers looking for the right home while realtors do their best to find one in their budget that hits all the right buttons.

Find it: HGTV

Main reason we love it: It is amazing to see such a wide range of design options both domestically and oversees. We love the creativity we get from it.

What to watch for: Like in real life, seldom does any one house fit all the needs. See how these people make the tough decisions.

What irks us: Often the houses shown are above the homeowner’s budget. When you’re only showing three, at least find something that fits the criteria!

4. Reality with a capital ‘R’ is in Real Renos with contractor Jim Caruk – he shows renovating from the contractor’s perspective.

Find it: HGTV

Main reason we love it: This is the truth kids. This is what really happens in a reno and these are the issues contractors deal with every day. Jim Caruk knows what he’s doing and he does it well, but even he gets caught in the time trap every renovation faces.

What to watch for: The size and scale of these renos is amazing. Beautiful work and great tradespeople (usually) make for good visuals and learning.

What irks us: We can’t really think of anything that irks us about this show – the only thing we thought of was his laugh, but it’s not that bad.

5. And one for amusement is Flipping Out.A high-strung, narcissistic, prima donna, anxiety ridden, obsessive-compulsive, perfectionist who thinks everyone owes him, buys, renos and flips houses while tormenting his staff.

Find it: Bravo TV

Main reason we love it: For both of us, it’s not just Jeff’s ‘flip outs’ that we love, it’s the fact that we BOTH have had a boss who behaved like this! These are the  people that, no matter what you do, it’s wrong, you’re never good enough and you can never make them happy. Frighteningly, we’ve both heard statements come out of Jeff’s mouth that our past bosses have used on us! Makes us happy to be self-employed.

What to watch for: See how not to treat employees and how not to approach a reno when it comes to your attitude.

What irks us: well, it is kind of disturbing that this guy is so obnoxious.

You might be wondering where Mike Holmes is. He doesn’t make our list. In fact, he does nothing but irk us. While Holmes is all about making things better for people, his solutions are over the top and beyond any building code, which is unfortunate because it gives too many inexperienced renovators the idea that all contractors are out to get them. Yes, there are some bad contractors out there – I’ve had one myself. But there are good ones too – like the one I married, and that’s why I love being The Renovators wife.


Demolition Love May 26, 2010

With all due respect to Jann Arden (who I think is fabulous), her song should have been named “Renovation Love” instead of “Demolition Love”, but for the Renovator and I, the two are one in the same.

In any renovation, there is a certain amount of demolition. Like all good renovators, we think that sometimes ‘destruction’ is the best part of ‘construction’. It’s quicker, easier and helps you get out whatever aggression you’ve stock-piled while trying to finance your reno.

To properly demo takes a bit of planning. It isn’t just screaming while swinging the sledgehammer and crowbar!

1. Think about what you want to do. Is it to take the wall out entirely or just widen the doorway? Are you sure double doors are right? Or is a single door more practical? It’s easier to think about it a bit longer than to have to rebuild.

2. How will you deal with the debris? It’s fun to rip and tear, but have a plan for the garbage; fully assess what will be going out. Some renos work fine with a pickup truck, but large ones will require a rental bin. Carpet doesn’t look like it takes up much room, but think of it rolled up with underlay and that’s a lot of junk! Also, keep in mind that metal, wood and drywall are disposed of differently, so don’t heap them all into one pile.

3. Have an understanding of the steps in the process. It’s hard to hold back when you’ve decided to start, but do what’s necessary to be safe and not make your spouse want to strangle you.

  • A. Remove the furniture and items off the wall. If something is too large to remove, cover it with a padded cover to protect it.
  • B.  Screen off areas not in the construction zone to keep the mess confined.
  • C. Yes, I know you want to grab the sledge-hammer and hit the wall, but remove the little things first – trim, casings and light and plug outlet covers.
  • Depending on the surfaces you’re dealing with, and what is required, start by removing ceiling tiles first, then walls and last flooring. Carpet helps to ‘absorb’ some of the dust and bits and will allow you to roll it up and get it out easily.
  • D. Know where the electrical runs and if you’re even slightly unsure, don’t saw through the wall!

4. Keep the doors on the hinges until you’re almost done. Doors are a natural way to keep the mess confined.

5. Start with the right equipment.

  • Make sure you have a pair of sturdy canvas or leather gloves – my former mother-in-law (who is a wonderful lady) bought me a pair of calf-skin leather work gloves years ago. I completely wore them out on house #2 – there were holes in three fingers on each hand!
  • Safety glasses and ear protection as required. Knee pads are helpful!
  • Sledge hammer, large and small crow bar, regular hammer, screwdriver (for removing outlet plates), putty knife (to slide in behind baseboards if you want to reuse them), reciprocating saw, tarps and plastic sheeting, shop-vac, pliers (for pulling up staples holding down the underlay) and a heavy-duty garbage can (easier to carry the smaller pieces out).

With a bit of planning at the start, you’ll have a great demolition and renovation and that’s why I love being The Renovator’s wife.


Water, Water Everywhere!

You can drink it, shower in it, wash dishes with it… ah! Bliss!

I admit it, I’ve been lazy with regards to the blog, so my hope is to get two posts up today to make up for it. First, thank God for water pressure and a smart husband. As you may recall in the last stage of our saga, The Renovator and I moved into “The Mother of Ugly” in November with no water pressure. We’ve been having baths for 6 months because the water pressure was so bad it wasn’t possible to shower. A video reminder for those who need it:

And now, for the update.

Instead of spending the $7800 it would have cost to follow our original plan of hooking up to the water in the street behind the house, The Renovator, together with his muscles and brains, did the amazing by digging a trench 250 feet long, hooking up a new water line running the entire distance, bringing it into the house in the most professional of ‘after-construction’ ways, hooking it up to a new pressure valve, attaching the whole contraption to the house’s main-incoming pipe and then connecting it to the city water line. We saved $7400. NICE!

I had anticipated our one tiny problem – the kitchen faucet ‘couldn’t take the pressure’ literally. The hose in the old faucet blew. Fortunately, I had the foresight to buy an alternate faucet, so it was a small hiccup – and one well worth the end result. Take a look at this ‘now normal’ water pressure (It’s hard to appreciate in the video, but the kitchen faucet actually jumps there’s so much pressure – wheee!):

Water may seem like a little thing, but now, more than ever, I love being The Renovator’s wife.


Renovating and NOT Going Crazy March 22, 2010

It’s good to be slightly crazy to begin with if you plan on renovating. Whether on your own, with your spouse, or a whole family project, renovating brings out ‘the crazy’ in people. By starting off slightly on the edge it will be less noticeable when you lose it. And you WILL lose it.

Ronda’s rules of renovating:

1 – it will cost more than budgeted, no matter how much you budget

2 – something will go wrong

3 – It will take longer than expected

4 – you will go crazy at least once. And by crazy, I mean a crying, hair-pulling, “I don’t know how to deal with this” rampage

Some things take longer than expected, like our family room

Some things take longer than expected, like our family room, but I can shut the door!

What brings on rule #4? It varies, but as mentioned, it is inevitable, so it’s best to limit the number of times it happens and learn to recover quickly from it. My trigger is one large ‘issue’ after a string of small ones. Case in point – House # 2 was taking far longer than I could tolerate (see rule # 3 above). I was finishing some painting and The Renovator was working in another room. It was pouring (some of you will remember the torrential rains that caused the avalanche in North Vancouver, BC – same rain storm), but I wasn’t worried, we’d fixed all of those pesky water issues, right? I checked the crawl space and completely lost my mind when I saw 1/2 inch of water. I was crying, screaming and as far as I recall was generally inconsolable. Fortunately, The Renovator explained to me that with the amount of rain we were having it was likely that almost everyone’s crawl space was flooding. He was right, the water wasn’t an issue again. But, in hindsight, I see that I really needed that outburst. It was the peak of my frustration of the house not being finished and things not going as planned.

Since house # 2, I’ve learned to take it in stride a bit more, but to also accept the ‘freak out’ when it comes. Just let it happen and then move on. This is important when you’re living in a construction zone. Right now, we live in the ‘Mother of Ugly’ house. There are things here that I don’t want to look at let alone live with, but we can’t fix them all right now. So, to stay sane, I do three things: 1 – shut doors where possible to avoid looking at it, 2 – remember that this is only temporary, and 3 – take things one room at a time to prevent too many rooms in flux at one time.

either rip it up or leave it in!

The carpet was like this when we moved in – we just ignore it because it will all be removed!

In house # 2, I remember an evening of watching TV and coming slightly unglued when I looked around and realized that there wasn’t one single room that I could go to that was finished. This can be really hard on you because everywhere you look, you see work to be done. The Renovator and I now do our best to keep at least one room out of the path of construction until another room is completely finished. This way we always have a small ‘sanctuary’ to hide out from the mess around us. Even now, the house we are in is far from ideal, but we have a few rooms that are set up comfortably. They might be ugly, but we make them as cozy as possible and ignore the ugly – like the pink walls everywhere.  Then there’s the carpet at the end of the hall – or lack of carpet as the case may be. The previous owners ripped the section of carpet out and left a small triangle of underlay. Weird, but we ignore it. We know it’s all going to get ripped out and thrown out soon, so we keep it clean and smile knowing it’s temporary. Even the stairs have an issue – the carpet has pulled so badly that the ‘tack strips’ are exposed – not good when your toes get too close! Ouch! But this too shall come to pass, so I save up my ‘going crazy’ for a time when it will really count and that’s why I love being The Renovator’s wife.

Brandie on stairs

Even Brandie can see that the tack strip showing on the stairs is bad


Tearing Down Walls & Changing Plans January 25, 2010

The Renovator and I had agreed to several things when we bought this house. But, as is often the case in relationships, the rules and agreements change. When renovating with your spouse, the best thing you can do is to roll with it and choose your battles carefully.

When we moved in, we agreed that we would sit on our butts for six months. We’d watch TV, plan the renos and just enjoy some non-renovation living. Knowing my husband, I should have seen the flaw in this plan.

As if dealing with our “trickling water issue” weren’t enough for him to do (he’s still digging, although the plan has changed slightly!) he’ll also be installing the backyard portion of our fence to keep the dog in. Despite this, he tells me that he needs to get started on the reno. He can’t wait six months.

So, we did what any couple who is renovating does – we argued, then, we compromised.

I agreed that if he needed to start on the reno, the wall downstairs between the family room and fourth bedroom could be removed. He agreed to not do any reconstruction without my involvement and ideas. We know the house will be more appealing with a larger family room, so what’s the point in waiting?

By the time the words had been uttered, the door was removed, drywall ripped off and temporary support walls erected. Here’s a few shots of where it’s at:

Guess what? As we were discussing how the room will come together, some of my previous plans for the house were, shall we say, questioned. Yep, another argument, but it ended with both of us laughing and agreeing that we’ll see how it goes. And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.