The Renovator’s wife Blog

Renovating with your partner and living to tell about it

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.

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Water Pressure, Where Art Thou?? November 24, 2009

Have you ever experienced crappy water pressure? Sure you have. At the cabin, in the motorhome, some strange little sink someone put in a bit backwards? Yes, you know what it’s like – turn on the tap, wait for that blast, but instead you get a trickle. The Renovator and I deal with this trickle every day in our new home! Check it out:

We modify. No showers – we run a bath. Start it about an hour before you want to get in.

This will be fixed!

We knew the water pressure was a problem when we had the house inspected. From the road, water pressure is usually around 90lbs. When our inspector checked it at the front of the house, we had 15 pounds. Make it go up a floor to our kitchen sink and it didn’t even register on the gauge.

But, as always, we had a plan. Before buying, I checked with the city to see what the scoop was on disconnecting the water from the front of the house and hooking up to a line at the back of the house. “It won’t be much” she said. “I’ve never seen one come through for more than $5000, it will probably be closer to $2000.” Happy with this new-found knowledge, we bought the house.

A few days after moving in, I put in the request for the official quote to the city. We continued to adapt to the challenging water situation as we waited and planned the basics: get the plumber in to extend the water main out the back of the house (The Renovator would need to dig a trench, I’d need to make cookies for our friend the plumber), stake it, install a pressure regulator (every house has one of these except ours it seems), hook up to the city line when they completed their work, disconnect the water at the front. Lengthy process, but easy enough.

Then the call came. The hook up would be $4800 and there would be a ‘latecomer fee’ payable to the developer of the new subdivision behind us of $2600 (plus interest) for a grand total of way more than we’d budgetted for. Back to the drawing board.

I arranged for the city to come out and test the pressure at the road. I showed a couple of nice ‘management types’ that no, we didn’t have a pressure regulator and if they could find it, I’d be thrilled. They couldn’t find it. They sent out a nice ‘worker type’ who confirmed 90 pounds pressure at the road and the pee pressure of a geriatric person in the house. He did note that he could hear water running from the road pipe to the house even when I didn’t have anything running. Voila! It is a leak.

The Renovator called ‘BC One Call’ – the dial before you dig gas line – to ensure he has the layout of the gas line and now, we will dig. We’ll dig until we find the water line, then we’ll dig until we find the leak. We’re hoping we can repair the leak (and that there is only one) and be done with the whole mess. If not, it’s time to come up with another plan, or make the cat and dog get jobs to pay for the new hook up.

And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.

 

Renovators in Limbo October 18, 2009

So here we are. The house is sold, the new one purchased, plans made, sketches drawn, to-do lists and timelines firmly in place. And now we wait.

There’s packing to do and I’ve been procrastinating on that front. Then, of course, there’s the endless stream of regular activities we do on a day-to-day basis to keep things running, but what do we do with that extra time when we used to be renovating? Sometimes we do nothing!

We unhooked the satellite about 4 months ago when we were shifting rooms around, painting and finishing. We’ve just never bothered to hook it back up so we’ve grown used to not having TV. I’m not saying that we don’t miss it a little bit – the other night we were firmly glued to The Renovator’s sister’s TV like we’d never seen one before! But we’re doing fine without it. We read a lot. Something The Renovator hasn’t taken the time to do in the past. His taste is diverse as he combs my bookshelves for his next read – Nelson Mandella’s autobiography, Patricia Cornwell, little known UK writers, Cynthia Lennon’s book, “John” – The Renovator has covered a lot of pages!

I work, write, read, make notes and lists – you know, the types of things recovering Type A personalities do!

The Renovator is doing a few small things around the house. Just minor, final things we agreed to do for the new homeowners, but nothing that takes much time. Although we’re still busy and have no trouble filling the evenings, it seems as though the pace has come down a notch, which is quite nice. We’re planning on continuing this slightly slower groove into the winter in the new house. We’ll spend time working on the plans for the house and we’ll also get cable hooked up so that The Renovator can feed his sports addiction and I can watch CSI. We’ll enjoy Christmas as Christmas, instead of Christmas as Renovation Christmas, like it has been for the past several years (this sometimes means tiny trees on the kitchen table because the other rooms are ripped apart!).

We’ll allow the ‘girls’ (cat and dog) to adjust to the new house before we start ripping up the carpets and knocking down walls.

Something I’m looking forward to is a pre-Christmas house-warming party. For the party, I’m planning to attach permanent markers by string on one of the walls we’re going to rip out and invite our guests to write messages on the wall! Here’s hoping everyone has enough sense to keep it PG. πŸ™‚

Although things are slowing down, sometimes my mind doesn’t. The other night, before falling asleep, I reworked the new floorplan for the house at least 3 times. The kitchen is particularly important and for some reason I still haven’t got it quite right. Odd that my mind can’t let it wait until we actually move in, but that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife!

 

Renovating and Moving with 4-Legged Children October 10, 2009

Those of you who know me, know that I’m a devoted mom (slave) to a cat and a dog. They are my 4-legged children as I don’t have any 2-legged ones!

My friend Owen (www.owengreaves.com) has, on more than one occasion, said “the only good cat is a dead cat”, and I’ve responded ‘Shhhh! She’ll hear you, and you’ll be sorry!”

I do consider our pets in every renovation step and move we undertake. Certainly, I’ve been criticized of thinking too hard about what they might or might not be capable of feeling or experiencing, but hey, if I die and someone points out that one of my faults was that I over-babied my pets, I’ll be okay with it.

With our next move coming up in less than a month (I should be packing instead of blogging) I’ve already kicked it into high gear thinking about how to make the move as smooth as possible for everyone – including our pets.

Brandie, our dog, is a very gentle spirit. She’s happy, a bit bossy, quite jealous and unfortunately has Addison’s disease. Addison’s (in a nutshell) makes it hard for her to cope with stress .

Brandie old backyard

Brandie old backyard

Avi, our kitty, is a real princess. She’s a cat with attitude even though she is tiny! Despite that attitude, she is one of the most loving cats I’ve ever known. Recently, due to the evil aging process, she’s developed early-stage kidney disease and a couple of other issues. Normally, she’s my healthy girl! I seldom have to consider her special needs as we make changes, she’s normally very adapting.

Cat with attitude

Cat with attitude in dog’s dish!

With both girls needing a bit more care this time around, I’m even more aware of taking the right steps with the upcoming move. In fact, The Renovator and I had a bit of a ‘tiff’ about it last night because I have, once again, been criticized for over thinking their needs. *sigh*

During renovations, the biggest issues for them, in my experience, have been: changing flooring (think about it – that’s the one thing they are closer to than anything else!), changing where we sleep (they need to know where we are), moving their food or supplies and changing the access routes to areas they frequent. When you’re a renovator, change is constant. You have to change the flooring! Sometimes, the hallway they are used to using, needs to be blocked off for a few days for tiling and grouting. These things are part of the renovating gig.

So, how do The Renovator and I manage it? Well, you guessed it, it mostly falls to me. πŸ™‚

First, I make sure that if they are on medications or supplements, they stay on these regularly. Sure, I’ve fed them an hour or two late, but I always make sure they get their meds. Second, I change as few things as possible. When we were working on the master bedroom, we moved into the spare room. Much smaller, but I kept Brandie’s bed at the foot of our bed. Different room, but same habit. Third, I do my best to introduce the change with play. For Brandie, I’ll wrestle with her, rub her belly and whatever it takes to get her involved in a new change. For Avi, it’s a bit harder, but I’ll still play games like a trail of cat treats (when Brandie is outside of course!) to the new location of the food dish. Fourth, I do my best to not make a big deal out of the change. Once I’ve introduced it, I don’t keep showing it to them (unless they’re having problems adjusting of course – and let me tell you, The Renovator would say I DO make a big deal out of the changes because I keep talking about them to HIM! The point is, I don’t keep making them an issue to the girls, ahem, the pets). Fifth, I have a wonderful product called Back Flower Remedies Walnut Tincture. I put this in their water 6 weeks before and 6 weeks after a change and it seems to help even the bumps out a little. One of Brandie’s old Dr’s told me about this and I’m so glad she did. Given that we’re almost always renovating, the walnut is a constant in their water supply.

Some folks try the Bach Flower Rescue remedy with their pets. I’m going to use this on Avi when we move, but for Brandie, it really doesn’t do a darn thing. I’ve got it in a cream and apply it to their ears.

Moving, of course, is a bit more problematic. Nothing like changing absolutely everything! My strategy this time around is to take them at the last minute. There will be no furniture here and they will be stressed, but I look at it from this perspective – if they are in a house they know and they are with The Renovator and I, that’s got to be easier than going to a house they don’t know (even if our stuff is there) and having us leave them for a few hours to come back and clean this house. Thus my strategy.

Ultimately, whether you’re renovating or moving, chat to your vet. That’s why I use these techniques with our girls – they’ve been incredibly helpful and I’ve yet to meet a vet who isn’t compassionate to pets dealing with change. Find out what’s right for your specific situation and your 4-legged children. And if you start being criticized for babying your pets, let me know – we’ll start a therapy group together! πŸ˜‰

And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.

 

Fixer Upper and the City October 1, 2009

Yesterday, we removed the remaining subjects from the house we’re purchasing – it is now officially ours. In order to feel comfortable doing so, I had to do some serious research, which involved visiting City Hall in our new community. Armed with a note pad, diagrams and a long list of questions, I put on my happy, ‘I can get along with anyone’ attitude (just in case you’re wondering, this is generally my natural state!) and approached the shared counter of the Building, Engineering and Planning departments.

While the house we’ve purchased doesn’t quite look like this one, the inspection did reveal several electrical problems, plumbing problems and structural problems. Fortunately, most of the issues are neither major, nor beyond the scope of what The Renovator and I had suspected.

passed down through generations

One issue we weren’t expecting was the pathetic water pressure. Like most people, I like a lot of water pressure. No one likes a stingy trickle! Through chatting with the ladies at City Hall, we learned a few things: The water line is original (1977) and comes all the way from the front of the property to the house. Not only is it only 3/4″ (new ones are 1 1/4″), but it also runs under the driveway. In the past 30+ years, chances are that it has corroded and been crushed! Rather than digging up the driveway it’s entire lenght (it’s quite long), we’ve decided to hook up to the City’s water from the back of the property where the new subdivision is. Yes, we’ll need to re-run the lines from our house to the edge of our property, pay for the City to provide our hook up and pay for the City to disconnect the original water, but in the long run we’ll get a proper water supply and we’ll save money by not digging up the entire driveway.

shag tub

No, this isn’t in the house either, but it could be! I can’t wait to start taking pictures of it and posting them! That being said, a bigger issue than a shag carpetted tub is something else from years gone by – a septic tank. City sewer hook up is possible, but again, it will cost us to get the line to the edge of the property and will cost us to have the City connect us. The Renovator wants to stay on the septic unless it becomes a problem, I however want to be on sewer ASAP. How am I supposed to design a great kitchen on a septic tank? Do you know you can’t use a garborator with a septic system?

Another issue I needed answers to was the creek. Because we want toΒ  do additions to this house and not just renovate within the existing building envelope, we’ll need permits, inspections and the like. No big surprise there, but then there’s the creek. I’ve never had to deal with a waterway and didn’t know what kind of easements might exist. Turns out that the City knows! And, even better, we’re in the clear! Sure, we’ll need them to come out and check on the creek and do the measurements for beurocracy’s sake, but we know it will be fine.

fun balcony

Although we don’t have a balcony that looks like this, we do have a crazy little roof like the one shown under the balcony! It needs to come down. Other amusing things about the property we’ve bought? There’s a fire hydrant on the property – about a third of the way in. I looked it up myself on the City’s web site. No signs of it. I asked when I visted the City. It didn’t come up as either municipal or private. In fact, it simply doesn’t show up anywhere.

It wasn’t until I told The Renovator that there was no record of the hydrant anywhere that he said, “Oh, I forgot to mention that to you – it’s fake, just for show”. And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.

 

A New Chapter in Renovating September 20, 2009

After 2 1/2 years, it’s time. We’re on the move again! We’ve sold this house, and have just a few things to finish for the new family to move in. They’ll have almost nothing to do but enjoy.

The next house represents a whole new chapter for The Renovator and me. This is the first house we are purchasing ‘together’ and we’ve got big dreams for it. At 2/3 of an acre, 2,100 square feet of living space and plans for about 200 square feet of additions we’ll be busy making changes and creating more updates for the blog.

I don’t enjoy the whole process of the real estate game, so I won’t get into that. What I will tell you is that the house was built in 1977 and we’re pretty sure not a single update has ever been done to it. Not a scrap of flooring or a cabinet door looks newer than 1977! It has been taken care of, but let’s face it, 30+ years of living causes wear and tear. In a phrase, the house is ‘The-Mother-of-Ugly’, but it will be comfortable while we make our plans over the next few months.

What is planned? Everything. Every surface in that house will be changed. Much like the one we’re in now, and the one before, the former owner will walk into it 3 – 5 years from now and see nothing that they knew when they lived there. We’ll be reconfiguring and extending the entry, taking it from a split entry to more of a Brownstone-style walk up. We’ll extend the master bedroom and ensuite to create a proper master bedroom environment and give back some space to a tiny bedroom. Kitchen walls will be moved and removed, with my plans for an open flow into the living room, granite counter-tops, eating-bar-work-area island, built in pantry, feature cabinets and home for a wine station near the dining room. The downstairs will be reconfigured to remove the wall between the family room and small bedroom to open it up and create opportunity for a wet-bar. My office will go in the corner of this new family room, complete with a ‘well’ style patio with french doors and stairs up to the yard, to allow more light and access to where I work. The bathroom the current owners consider updated will be removed, jack-hammered, reconfigured and a new bathroom with standard height ceilings will be installed. The laundry room will be properly framed in and finished and we are likely to end up with a double ‘front to back’ garage (as opposed to the traditional ‘side to side’ style).

Outside we have plans for tall cedar trees, a formal gate at the bridge, full fencing and a gazebo for picnics at the front. Our driveway leads out onto a fairly busy street, but with the house so far back on the property, we’re not concerned. We’ll be private in an area of new houses and across the street is a coffee shop / pizza place / video store. I sure hope they have wireless internet!

Yes, we’ve planned all of this from just two visits and a lot of discussion. And yes, we only found out yesterday that it’s ours. Just goes to show that we have a lot of vision when we look at houses. This one simply ‘felt’ right and we saw immediately what we could turn it into.

I’m not sure what my next post on the blog will be about – perhaps moving? And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.

 

Honey, Where’s the Couch? August 25, 2009

Getting Ready to Sell with the Experts in Staging

So far, for The Renovator and me, at the end of renovating comes the sale of the house. We find ourselves preparing for that stage now.

I like to think I have a decent sense of design and decor. Afterall, I am in charge of all the colours, finishes, trims, etc. when we redo a house, so I’ve come to believe that I know my stuff.

My mom would probably argue this point, until she sees the finished product (she fancies herself a stager as well as a wardrobe consultant after watching numerous episodes of “Sell this House” and “What not to Wear”),Β  but I digress.

So, when a stranger arrives at our home brandishing a tape measure, notebook and digital camera to help prepare our house for sale, I tend to feel a bit uptight. Hey, I know better than anyone that some of our furniture is, shall we say, dated and ugly? But I’m also confident that we have a number of nice pieces. When it comes to arranging our home, I have done the best I can with what I have, recognizing that the eclectic mix isn’t perfect.

This time, in the vein of shedding some of my former passive-aggressive tendencies, I decided to approach the house staging process head-on. I told the stager that I was a recovering passive-aggressive and that if she let me tell her what I thought first, we’d avoid my issues and hurt feelings later. She laughed. Good start.

We walked the house, notebooks in hands. I pointed out what we love and what we hate (anyone need a couch or two?) as well as those things we recognize as being counter-productive to the staging. In this way, she had an idea of what was negotiable and what wasn’t. We gelled instantly. She loved the fabrics I’d chosen. She told me the paint colours were great and advised that my design sense was good. She also pointed out a few things that required some attention. In the end, I feel good that I know what I’m doing as The Renovator’s Wife; she has an easier job setting up the house and we both feel good about moving forward.

What I hadn’t bargained for was The Renovator putting his foot down on an issue or two. “We are NOT moving the bed”, “That’s ridiculous, people know it’s a bedroom!” and “If you’re going to do it, it will get done, but I’m not doing it” have been heard while discussing the final tasks. I do my best to take it all in stride and accept that as The Renovator, he’s doing the lion’s share of the work and he has a right to weigh in and set boundaries.

We can’t do it all, we know that, but we’ll do our best or die trying. And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.