I know, I know … it’s been ages. But we’re still here and we have SO much to share!
The quick recap since that last post wayyyyy back in May goes something like this:
- Demo, demo and more demo. I’ve lost track of how many dumpster bins we’ve filled, but every time I called for a new bin I was met with a “Mama mia! More? Are you not done yet?!!?” from the bin guy. We salvaged and saved what we could, but unfortunately there wasn’t much worth saving. And because we moved literally every wall in the house, there was A LOT to remove.
[Sidenote: when I say “we” demoed, that’s exactly what I mean. Andy and I, with some help from our rock star nephews and the occasional support of our kids, took out everything but the load-bearing brick wall that literally held up our house. We were permanently filthy for months, but the kids learned their mom can swing a sledgehammer 😉].
2. Once school was out, I took the kids and dog to the cottage for most of the summer and worked remotely from the lake. We are SO lucky to have had this option, particularly since our house got a little more “open concept” as time went on:
I mean, we’re campers, but …!
Andy travelled back and forth to keep tabs on things and keep us on track. It wasn’t perfect, but it gave our kids some much-needed fresh air and the dog could roam free. And we had working bathrooms, a place to cook and a front door 😊. As the new school year approached, we made the difficult but necessary decision to book into a hotel until we could get back into a (reasonably-functioning) house.
3. The months rolled on and work continued with Andy managing at least a dozen trades, ensuring we had the necessary material on site, and troubleshooting issues. This all sounds rather straightforward, but it’s really not. An incredible amount of work goes into contracting your own home, and things rarely go to plan. You must understand what needs to happen, in what order; where there are interdependencies between trades; what needs to be inspected, by whom and when; and be ready to do some heavy lifting yourself. All of this was made more complicated by COVID, which created material and logistics delays that had to be managed to ensure the project stayed on track.
For my part, I focussed on the design elements and the 4,976 decisions that would ultimately guide our home’s look and feel. Hardwood, tiles, countertops, millwork, a new kitchen, appliances, lighting, four new bathrooms and paint colours inside and out were all part of my purview. I worked with the electricians to determine a lighting plan and the location of all our switches (spoiler alert: we have too many pot lights – more on those lessons later); the plumbers on the position of our fixtures; the tiler on the placement and layout of our selections; and our kitchen company on the layout, design, finishes and details of our custom cabinetry. Although none of this is new to us, this time a few additional constraints required creative thinking:
- Unprecedented material and product delays due to the pandemic. Windows, lumber, plumbing fixtures, tile and appliances were all significantly delayed. In some cases, we pivoted to find alternate options, but in others, we just had to wait like everyone else.
- Our budget. While budget is always a consideration, renovations tend to have more unknowns than new builds. Like all renovators, we definitely ran into surprises that took money to make right. We also found that both labour and materials costs have risen significantly, which helped blow our budget out of the water.
- Committing to a renovation mindset. The fact that this is a renovation and not a new build also meant we needed to be flexible. We’re striving to create a whole new look and feel largely within an existing envelope, without sacrificing the final product. In this case, we wanted lighter, brighter, more open spaces. What we couldn’t do: create 12-foot ceilings. What we could do: open the floor plan, install bigger windows, pick lighter, fresher finishes.
In the end, we spent four months at the hotel and have how been back in our house for a couple of weeks. It’s not “done,” but we have floors, a mostly-done kitchen, functional bathrooms, and bedrooms for everyone. We’re living on the upper floor while work wraps up on the main level, and while online learning and working from home mean we’re all here all the time, we’re grateful to be back.
Wherever you are, I hope you are navigating these strange times well! Take care, be safe … and I promise I’ll post again soon.