The Renovator’s wife Blog

Renovating with your partner and living to tell about it

The Peas’ Knees August 1, 2010

I really enjoy having a vegetable garden, and here in our new house, I can! It’s the first time in 7 years I’ve been able to plant a garden, so I’m a bit over-the-top excited about it. After building the raised garden bed (which would have made a great post, sorry, I forgot to do photos, but will when I build the next one for the berry patch), I filled the bed with dirt, planted seeds, labelled rows and waited for sprouts.

The sprouts came! Maybe not as many as I would have liked, but they came none the less and The Renovator and I are very excited to have ‘fresh from the garden’ veggies! One thing I planted  is peas. I don’t like them cooked, but raw peas? I could eat them non-stop! Yum! Once I’d planted the garden, I asked The Renovator to make me a pea trellis to hold up the peas’ knees. He said he would when the plants were tall enough to need the trellis. The recovering Type A in me didn’t care for that response, so a few weeks later I set out to make my own. Let me show you how to do it!

What you need:

About $20 to buy materials – approximately 35′ of 1 x 1 and 35′ of lath (slats of wood you’d see like in a trellis on a fence)

Tape measure, pencil, saw (plus a mitre box if using a hand saw), brad nailer of some sort (some heavy duty staplers have the ability to shoot brad nails), rubber mallet.

Trellis materials

Trellis materials

Measure long pieces

Measure long pieces

Cut 1 x 1

Cut 1 x 1

Lay your materials in two piles – the 1 x 1 in one pile, the lath in the other. Using the 1 x 1, mark 3 pieces at 54″ (4.5 feet), mark 4 pieces at 36″ (3 feet) and mark 2 pieces at 40″. Cut the bottom endof the 54″ pieces on a 45 degree angle, cut the top end at 90 degrees (straight) as well as both ends of the 36″ and 40″.

lay cut pieces out

lay cut pieces out

Lay your cut pieces out so that the long pieces (54″) are your left, middle and right. Lay 4 of the 36″ pieces across the long pieces – at right angles – to create a frame and lay the 2 40″ centre pieces parallel to the long pieces as shown (more material will hang over the top and bottom cross pieces).

Attach cross pieces to long pieces

Attach cross pieces to long pieces

Attaching cross pieces

Attaching cross pieces

Take two of the long pieces and attach the upper cross piece for your first frame section (make sure the ‘angled’ cut on the long piece is at the bottom and not the top!). Be sure to measure and mark where you want the cross piece to sit on both long pieces so that it lines up. I chose to have my upper cross piece 2″ down from the top of the long pieces.

attach bottom cross piece

attach bottom cross piece

Measure and mark placement for the bottom cross piece. – I chose 36″ down from the upper piece – then attach the bottom cross piece.

measure and mark centre

measure and mark centre

attach centre

attach centre

side one complete

side one complete

Measure the centre point between the two outer long pieces on the top and bottom cross pieces. This will give you the position for your 40″ centre strip. Once marked, attach it at the top and bottom.

Great! 1 side of the frame is done! Now, the tricky part, we’ll build the second side onto the first side. My error was that I built my trellis on the lawn, which wasn’t level, and caused an ‘out of square’ end product. Be sure to work on a level surface, like the concrete patio where I did my cutting but not the building of the second half!

measure, mark and attach cross pieces

measure, mark and attach cross pieces

top and bottom cross pieces attached

top and bottom cross pieces attached

attach long piece to second frame

attach long piece to second frame

Now, take your upper cross piece for the second side, use the same measurements for placement as you used on the first frame and attach. Do the same with the bottom cross piece.

You’re ready to attach your last long piece to the upper and lower cross pieces for the second side.  Again, be sure to measure and mark the same distances so that the two sides look alike.

measure and attach centre piece to second frame

measure and attach centre piece to second frame

Brandie showing the two sides of the trellis frame

Brandie showing the two sides of the trellis frame

Measure the centre point between the two outer long pieces on the top and bottom cross pieces. This will give you the position for your 40″ centre strip on this second side. Once marked, attach it at the top and bottom. You should have something like what Brandie is showing here.

Lath pieces measured and cut

Lath pieces measured and cut

Great! The frame for your trellis is done! Now the easier part – measuring, cutting and attaching the lath. Measure the width of the frame for side one – long piece to long piece. Cut three pieces of lath at this measurement. Measure the width of the frame for side two and cut three pieces of lath at this measurement. Measure the height of the frame for side one – top cross piece to bottom cross piece. Cut two pieces of lath at this measurement. Measure the height of the frame for side two and cut two pieces of lath at this measurement.

vertical lath pieces attached

vertical lath pieces attached

both sides with vertical lath pieces attached

both sides with vertical lath pieces attached

Measure the distance from the long outer pieces of frame one to the centre piece and mark the centre between the two on both the top and bottom cross pieces. Attach your first vertical strip of lath to the top and bottom pieces at these marks. Repeat for the other half of side one and the two halves of side two. You should have something like the picture here.

And finally, mark the long outer pieces of side one at their centres, from the top cross bar to the bottom cross bar. Attach your first horizontal strip of lath to the long outer pieces at these marks. Repeat for side two. Then, mark the long outer pieces 4″ up and 4″ down from your horizontal lath. Then attach your upper and lower horizontal lath pieces at these marks. Repeat for side two.

ready to support the peas' knees!

ready to support the peas’ knees!

Now, you’re ready for the garden! Using a rubber mallet, gently pound the long pieces into the garden. Remember those angled cuts we made at the bottom of the long pieces? They make it easier to push the stakes into the dirt. Take care not to push on your cross pieces or lath slates as you put the trellis in. Although brads will stand the weather for at least one gardening season (probably more) they won’t withstand a lot of pressure from humans.

If you need any help, or if my instructions or pictures aren’t clear, just leave a comment and I’ll help you through it! knowing how to build a trellis as well as plant peas is just another reason 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


Defining Greatness February 23, 2010

With the Olympics on, and us living in the lower mainland, I’ve been struck by how we all have special skills and abilities. Mine is writing, but I also have a flair for seeing what needs to be done to make a house beautiful (I like to think so anyway!). In the last few weeks I’ve had several people ask me how The Renovator and I choose the next house (aka: project) we’ll live in.

We didn’t plan for our process to evolve the way it has. Certainly, neither of us established who would do what when we’re looking at a house, it just came about as a natural part of our relationship. When we bought our current house, “The Mother of Ugly”, it was after looking at a lot of other houses. I’m pretty sure our realtor was exhausted by the time we signed the final offer.

Driving up to a potential house, I already have a partial feeling of whether the property can work for us or not. While we aren’t swayed by ugly furniture, bad paint colours, crappy design choices or a lack of curb appeal (in fact a crappy appearance is generally better for us renovators. You’ve seen the ‘sell this house’ type shows and know that few people can see anything but what’s in front of them), there has to be the ability to create curb appeal and a beautiful, functional, inviting house. My eyes don’t necessarily see what is in front of me – they see what could be done. At that point, I start to talk.

Here’s what I saw as we walked around, outside, the Mother of Ugly. What do you see? I see a bumped-out living room window to create a box window seat, a completely re-worked foyer / entrance and an extension to the master bedroom over the garage.

Outside view from the yard at the creek

If a house is a possibility, I feel it. I know in some part of me it can work. To get to that feeling, The Renovator and I need to look at the full picture: curb appeal, the lot, the exterior and the interior. When a house is wrong, I generally say very little, or comment on the insignificant points. The Renovator knows immediately whether I’ve got ‘that feeling’ or not, based on how much I talk.

The day we viewed this house, I started talking as soon as we turned into the driveway. I had seen the potential with the lot, all I needed was to know we could work with the house.  Although The Renovator says you can change anything with enough time and money, there are limits! We respect these limits when doing a walk through.

The master bedroom will come out 8 feet

This is such an ugly entrance! Imagine exterior stairs, a small porch and a double door at the upper level

Imagine that window being replaced with a well-patio, french doors and stairs up to the yard

A few steps inside, I began seeing a vision for the house and started my role in the process by asking The Renovator if my visions were possible. “If we deleted this wall…”, “I’d like to open this up”, “can we add on over here?”. Together, while I think about improvements and The Renovator assesses the possible, we walk through a house with a constant dialogue, building a plan.

This leaves guests wondering “where do I go?”

For this tiny split entry, I see gutting the entire mess and creating an extension to the space, putting the entry on the upper level and the stairs on the outside, like a brownstone.

As it stands, we’re still contemplating the changes we discussed when we bought the house. Some ideas have since been questioned by The Renovator, but we’ll work through those by establishing whether the cost and pain of the work will be worth it at the time of resale.

With the kitchen plan complete and the family room under construction, now is the time for me to draw basic plans for all the other spaces so that we have a game plan. We look at design and home magazines together, make drawings, discuss concepts and go to home shows to do this. If we don’t, I could come home to some big surprises! And that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.


Vacation in Renovation July 23, 2009

Revelling in the Good Renovations of Others

Last post, I mentioned that it was our anniversary. To celebrate, The Renovator and I went to a fabulous little Guesthouse (too nice to call a B&B) in Sooke, BC. It’s called Cooper’s Cove – and it was fabulous. Our weekend included breakfast both mornings, a gourmet dinner on the Saturday night and a beautiful private room. Did I mention it was fabulous? We had a great time.

Now that I’m done gushing, let me relate to the blog. Ina and Angelo have owned and operated the guesthouse for 15 years and they understand what guests want and need. The Renovator and I needed quiet solace, good food and nice views and we received all of that in spades. What we hadn’t bargained for was the fact that this guesthouse had undergone major renovations over the past decade and a half and they had been done incredibly well.

I knew that the solace of our visit was slightly invaded when I was told – by The Renovator upon returning to our room, fresh coffee in hand –  that there were photo albums upstairs showing the steps of some of the renovating. My interest was awake before I was, and I found myself caught up in The Renovator’s curiosity. I mean really, who needs solace when there’s renovation stuff to talk about?!?!


Our room – the Wildflower Room – is one of four. All the rooms are at the back of the house, so no road noise – just nice quiet views. Often in B&Bs, the bathroom is cramped, tucked away and ‘fit in’. In our room (as was the case in the other two we snooped in during cleaning between guests) the bathroom was spacious, the bedroom, though not large, was accommodating – allowing for movement and essentials. The decorating had been well done, with warm, inviting colours and custom accessories to complement each room.  It’s not like the Wildflower room was decked out in everything that had ever been adorned with a wildflower! No, it was tasteful, well-placed, imaginative. Simple things, like using the same fabric for the duvet cover as for the outer shower curtain and the custom designed towel rack and toilet paper holders.

These simple things make a room stand out. Choosing well-coordinated items will make the difference between a room that works and a room that doesn’t. The Renovator gets frustrated when I’m looking for the right item, he doesn’t understand that when I get it in my head what is needed, it clicks, and nothing else will do. They applied the same principals to the guest house. They also understood the need to make sure finishes were done well. Because The Renovator is a finishing carpenter originally and I am the queen of wanting things perfect, we’re quite particular about the finishes. Overwide grout lines, poorly cut trim and bad paint jobs stand out to us like the proverbial sore thumb. I’m pleased to say none of the above defects existed at Cooper’s Cove. I don’t know how much of the work they did themselves, but I can say it was done right by whomever completed it.

They also knew a tip that The Renovator and I are fully aware of. When you are planning a ‘full-on’ renovation you ‘live in’, do it one stage at a time. In the case of Cooper’s Cove, they didn’t redo the rooms at the same time they redid the kitchen, installed decks, added a hot tub, added an additional room and redid the landscaping. They did all of these things in separate stages, knowing that to do it all at once is nothing short of a trip to the looney bin, or at the least, needing large quantities of Prozac added to the daily diet.

My favorite room, which I didn’t get to spend near enough time in, was the kitchen. Because Angelo is a chef by trade and cooks the gourmet dinners as well as teaching cooking classes, it is obviously important that the kitchen be large and functional. With room for eight guest at the eating bar, we witnessed the chef’s steps in his creation process. Take note, your kitchen should NEVER be torn apart without a clear idea for what you want and need and a timeline to put it all together (don’t get me started on budget). Often the first idea isn’t the right idea, so keep thinking about alternatives and what could work better, what could be changed or improved.

A final learning from the weekend is that by knowing what you (or your guests as is the case) need, you’ll be more likely to make decisions that work. When Ina and Angelo decided to add on, the fourth guest room included not only its own patio, but also its own private entrance. I’m certain it would have been cheaper to omit the exterior door when they built the Blue Heron Room, but the point is that they didn’t. They recognized that people like privacy when at a romantic getaway. We want to come and go without notice sometimes and so, the exterior door was a great choice.

Next time we go, I really want to stay in the Blue Heron Room. I know the Renovator will love it as much as I will, and that’s why I love being The Renovator’s Wife.



Mole Bombing July 6, 2009

Move on, rotten mole, move on.

At long last, finally a new post. It took me a while to find the video footage I wanted. Don’t tell Warner Bros. They might bust me! 🙂 So, the long and the short of it is that we had a problem with a very persistent mole. Watch the video to see what we did. We think we’re rid of him now!

Ah mole bombing on a Saturday morning with The Renovator. Just another reason I love being The Renovator’s Wife!


Spouse Collaboration and a Paver Patio June 7, 2009

Quite some time ago the Renovator ripped the “red-neck” white painted wood deck (I use the term deck loosely) down. Complete with hole infested corrugated plastic roof, the neighbors were as happy to see it go as we were.

In its place, we decided that a 10′ x 10′ ground-level patio made of pavers would be an attractive option. We chose pavers because they are affordable, durable, create a more designer look than concrete, are low maintenance, easy to install and easy to transport.

My husband, the Renovator, spoke with my dad, Mr. do-it-yourself and together they hatched a plan to purchase “seconds” at a greatly reduced price. We got a fabulous deal, including a small batch of leftovers which were free of charge, and the entire 10′ x 10′ cost us just $160.

Lesson #1 – don’t discount family connections.

Lesson #2 – seconds are a great value and don’t necessarily mean they look bad. Our seconds, when placed strategically, look as good as anyone else’s new, $4.00 / sq. ft. pavers.

Basic how tos – you’ll see some of this in the video:

1. Decide on space. Measure and mark the layout. Estimate material needs. When you buy materials, be clear with the supplier what your actual square footage is so that you have enough for cutting as well.

2. Dig down about 7 or 8 inches depending on the thickness of your pavers and where you want the top of your patio to be. Ensure you have reached hard, undistrubed ground.

3. Prep the space with crushed limestone, compact it, then cover with 2″ of sand.  We dug down 7″, used 2″ of limestone and 2″ of sand – our pavers are 3″ thick.

4. Place pavers, keeping them as level as possible and keeping edges tight together.  Tap them in with a rubber mallet. Install whole pavers first then cut all part pavers at one time, tapping them into place to complete the layout. To cut the pavers you can rent a masonary saw, or a tile saw. We have a wet tile saw and it works fine for this size of paver.

5. Sand the top of the pavers, spreading sand with a broom. Run compactor or tamper over them. Sand again and possibly a third time if you like.

We already love the patio, even though we still need to put some steps in! Renovating can be a slow process, but it’s in our blood.

That’s why I’m the Renovator’s Wife! 🙂

Just needs beverages!

Just needs beverages!


Great House. Does it come in Yellow? June 1, 2009

Whether it’s your dream palace or a quick flip, the outside colour of a house isn’t something you should be basing a purchase on.  That being said, when the colour isn’t appealing or is looking old and tired, you can do something about it.  If you’re selling, it’s not just something you CAN do something about it’s something you SHOULD do something about. Street appeal is huge.

For years, we’ve heard that you shouldn’t paint vinyl or aluminum siding. With advancements in paint products, this is all yesterday’s news and painting your siding is in. Not only is it cheaper (definitely less than half the cost), it’s more environmentally friendly (a few buckets of paint vs. a whole house worth of siding), it creates less of a mess in your yard plus you don’t need any technical skills to do it.

First step is to assess the state of the siding. If it is basically solid, painting is okay. If it is really messed up with many holes and dents, you may need to replace.

For vinyl or aluminum, clean it well and let it dry thoroughly. Clean with TSP / bleach / and a few drops of dish soap. Don’t powerwash unless you really know how to power wash siding (yes, there is a special way to do this!). Scrub with a brush, rinse, dry. You’re goal is to remove any dirt, bugs, chalky film (on vinyl, that’s actually dried up pigment) and essentially anything that the paint will stick to before it sticks to the siding.

Once it’s clean, get your paint. For vinyl, you can use a good quality acrylic primer paint, on aluminum, you should use an oil based primer paint for metal (acrylic can cause a reaction with aluminum). The primer in the paint will help adhesion, ensuring that it sticks and won’t bubble up or flake off prematurely.  Ask at your paint store, look up your options and make the best choice for the type of siding you have. Keep in mind that the colour you choose can not be darker than the colour of the siding. By painting it darker you may actually cause the newly painted siding to buckle from excess heat. Definitely not the look you were after!

It’s a long job. Don’t expect to paint your whole house in a day or even in a weekend unless you have lots of help. You’ll need to do two coats.

Of course it’s way more fun to get a tan while you’re doing it, but it’s better to paint in the shade after the sun has passed – follow the sun. A cloudy warm day is even better. You want the paint to take a little longer to dry as it will stick better.

Really, that’s all there is to it! So if you hate the colour of your house, plan a few days to paint and make it something you love!