This winter I’ve had the stomach flu, the flu flu, and following that, a terrible cold and cough. The stress of a new house and renovations kept leaving me vulnerable to the rampant contagions going around this season. But now that I’m finally starting to get over the last of these illnesses, I’m starting to see the light and getting really excited about how quickly change is coming about.
But I’m also terrified. There is so much work left to do, even after the contractor’s work is done, and it’ll all be left up to us and I’m not sure how handy we are yet. I guess this is just part of the many thrills of being a homeowner. Oh well.
So the renos are well underway, and aside from a few hiccups with getting a building permit, everything is still on schedule. The walls have been cleaned up, the joists reinforced, new ducts installed and the subfloors are down. Just that work alone makes the house look so much better already, and so we’ve started on the process of removing the multiple layers of wallpaper.
Let me say that for someone who’s been suffering from respiratory problems for over a month, it has NOT been fun removing wallpaper. It’s not even the tedium of the task so much as the smell of century-old paper and glue that’s making me sick over the whole thing. There’s just so much of it and the final layer has been painted over with latex paint making it virtually impossible to remove. And then seeing the condition of the plaster as it’s slowly revealed… it’s going to be a long time before we’re ready to paint.
One thing that has been cool though is seeing the bottom layers and the vintage patterns and scenes that would have adorned these walls in the 1920s and 30s. I try to picture the old radio playing big band music and what the people who once lived here might have looked like in their stockings, bobby pins and suspenders.
Yikes. That is what the kitchen looked like after demo day. We found a great contractor and his ace crew got the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom done in one day. When we met with him at the house that evening, we not only got to see how haunted our house looked, but we got some good news and some bad news.
The good news was that our fears about the structural being damaged due to the leaky bathroom were unfounded since the joists were found to be fairly dry and solid. The bad news was that the floor joists where the bathtub had been sitting had been cut almost all the way through in some spots to retrofit the plumbing, which we believe was not an original part of the house. (Our guess is that if it was built in the 1920s, it was probably in a poor neighbourhood and therefore they skimped on the indoor plumbing.) The bathroom floors were so thin and unsafe to walk on, it’s hard to swallow the fact a bathtub sat on the most compromised area.
That was not the end of the bad news. The walls were not insulated in as many areas as we first thought. The walls are thus like tissue paper so we can hear the neighbours and occasionally smell cigarette smoke wafting in the already musty air. There was no structural beam to support the window currently in the kitchen. Pipes have to be replaced, electrical cleaned up, etc. It was not really so bad, but it was scary thinking about how many more problems could be hiding in the walls we haven’t torn down.
Anyway, I’m already making a list of work that needs to be done within the year, and that includes insulating more walls, reframing doors so everything isn’t so damn crooked upstairs, ripping down the weird hung ceiling in the second bedroom (and probably fixing the entire ceiling because who knows what lies under that band-aid), reflooring the living and dining rooms, and adding a second bathroom, mudroom and laundry in the very raw sunroom at the back.
The basement also needs tons of TLC but no more boring lists, here are more photos of the frightful reno, including the wall in the bedroom we’re moving to make the bedroom bigger and the bathroom a bit smaller.
Bye Bye Money
It’s like I forgot I had a blog, but when you’ve just bought a house, and you need to sort out all your affairs before closing, and the desperate hunt for the money to cover all the associated costs so you don’t get your ass sued consumes every second of your being, you forget you have a blog.
So now I present the before pics of the house. The minute we walked in we knew this house was meant for us. There were high ceilings and what felt like large rooms compared to what we were used to seeing. But some parts of the house were hideous, I mean truly. The kitchen didn’t have high ceilings and was your typical ugly 1980s brown with matching tiles, but it was the inside of the cabinets that we couldn’t get over. It wasn’t just that they looked like they had never been cleaned, they were all so grungy and yellowed, it was like there was no hope of ever getting them clean. Then there was the kitchen ceiling, which was an ugly popcorn design to begin with, but ended up with a patchwork repair job that made the whole thing look like it was going to cave in.
But what had us really worried was what was behind all that rot. The bathroom is above the kitchen so that meant there were leaking issues and we wondered how long this had been going on and how much damage this had caused to the structure. When checking the kitchen ceiling with a moisture detector, the home inspector definitely found the ceiling to be wet and so the problem was still ongoing. In fact, you can see the shower curtain that was being used on the culprit bathroom wall in an attempt to impede the errant water. After we got the keys to the house, we started noticing these band-aid solutions all over and were starting to get really angry at how neglected this property was.
Here are some shining examples:
1. There was literally a HOLE rusted out in the bathroom sink next to the faucet.
2. The toilet was not affixed properly to the floor so you could move it around pretty liberally.
3. The toilet sat in an isolated corner of the bathroom facing the door.
4. There was a hole knocked out of the corner of the wall so that toilet tank would fit in that space.
5. The floors were totally crooked and rotting.
6. There was no exhaust fan.
7. There is mold.
8. The tub/shower wasn’t tiled in properly allowing water to seep into the walls and into the kitchen ceiling
And that’s just the bathroom…..
The house has two full bedrooms and an L-shaped third room next to the bathroom that was currently housing the makings of a future kitchen. It was bizarre but had so much potential as office space or a really cool small bedroom.
Before we bought the house, my husband and I made the decision that because we were likely going to get the house at a decent price, we could afford to put a good chunk of money into renovations. We loved the idea of purging all the gross parts and adding our own personal touches, it was the ideal situation. The house has good bones and we were excited about having the ability to restore it to its deserved glory. But being the novices we were, we really had no idea what kind of figures we were talking about. We hoped it would be somewhere in the $15-20 K range, but that amount has swelled to about $50 K, given all the work required. But all in all, I still think it’s a good deal, and really, we get to reap all the benefits of these renos without having to live amongst it or draw the process out over a long period of time.
Four days after closing, renos began…
Closing Day 01.10.13
It’s pretty inexcusable that I haven’t posted in so long, but things got crazy at the end of 2012.
Besides winning the offer on our new house, there were a string of weddings, deaths, illnesses, toothaches, pet problems and other distractions that kept me from doing anything but coping, eating and sleeping. It’s not that I didn’t like 2012, it’s just that the year never stopped hurling news at us, both good and bad.
But it’s a new year and that means we have possession of the new house today! After a harrowing few weeks of scrambling to make sure all loose ends were met for closing, things are finally looking up. Here’s a pic of one of the more charming parts of the house, before the last owner moved out. That’s not our shit everywhere!
Renos start Monday… more to come.
About Last Night 10.11.12
I’ve been away for too long. But for good reason. I’m pretty sure we just accidentally bought a house.
I say that with the utmost sincerity as we kind of expected to be priced out of the bidding, since we had such a low cap if indeed there were a bidding war, but as it turns out, we actually got the place and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s really us and it’s something I’ve been working towards for a really long time. But my stomach is just turning. I’m overwhelmed with emotion both good and bad, but mostly, my head is spinning nonstop and I can’t focus on any one thing. Everything’s just a big blur really. That’s why I’m trying to document this. It’s all just so fleeting that I won’t remember a thing and before I know it, I’ll be baking brownies with my 3-year old in this fantasy kitchen. (The real kitchen needs some major updating. Think taupe tiles with brown hand-painted pastoral images. And I have no child as of now.)
PTA is one of my favourite directors of all time. Punch-Drunk Love and Magnolia are top ten for me and it goes without saying that There Will Be Blood is one of the best movies ever made. So when we went on a date to The Master last night, I was riveted for the full two and a bit hours. Joaquin Phoenix is such a gifted actor and the film really paints an exhaustive portrait of the 1950s and all the shape of things to come. That’s all.
Last night’s dinner 08.15.12
We made beef sliders the other night, for the first time I might add. And they were downright amazing. So much better than a whole regular-size burger that you get sick of halfway through. These are great because it always feel like you’re taking the first delectable bite out of that burger. I also have a weakness for salad bars at the grocery store and stealing their ideas. So here we have an edamame and carrot salad with sweet corn, celery, green pepper, green onions, with a rice wine vinegar dressing. It was damn good and definitely covers off the daily recommended vegetable serving.
Date Night with Tennis
This is Tennis at the Phoenix last night. I am simply in love with Alaina and Patrick. Her voice is like velvet, and she is so petite! There’s not much else to say, other than it was a sweet date night and I urge you to check this band out.
A Country Wedding in Late July
Went to the first wedding of the year yesterday and it was simply delightful, except for the outhouses. And that’s the bride driving the tractor.
Watched the film Summer Hours this weekend and really enjoyed the ‘mortals and the art world’ premise. I am all over this song by the Plastiscines which featured at the end when some really awesome French teens dance around to it. I love French music and people and the culture so much. And have I mentioned how I’m obsessed with the teeth of French women? So beautiful.