Our house, June 2017

Renovators don’t have time to be bloggers…

…but enough people have told me that I should blog our experience that I think perhaps I should try anyway.

And, honestly, the catharsis of writing has been pulling me back toward these virtual pages for some time now. I’ve missed the chance to wax philosophical about life.

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Evolution of a street view

My now-husband (Yep, that happened. Perhaps I’ll write about that next.) Johnathan and I purchased an early 20th-century cottage-style home in December 2014 and started renovating it January 2015. We moved in two months later, and the adventure continues!

In case you were wondering whether you should ever take on a reno project, here are the qualities that qualify you:

  • ambition
  • handy skills (hammer skills, screwdriver skills, holding-things-over-your-head-for-extended-periods-of-time skills, vacuuming skills, living in filthy dust pile skills)
  • ability to project stress into some other outlet (running, gardening, blogging, coffee-drinking)
  • substantial core strength, or the time to let back injuries heal
  • ability to give up any semblance of a social life indefinitely… unless your friends and family count helping you demolish or build things as quality time
  • ability to forsake any life issue or topic of conversation that does not directly involve a) renovations; b) paying for renovations; c) surviving renovations
  • notable capacity to withstand stress, time constraints, and unforeseeable complications

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Kitchen panoramas. Summer 2015, February 2016 (our whole main floor was in the kitchen while we refinished the hardwood floors), Spring 2016

It’s sort of hard to describe how I feel about renovations… On the one hand I kind of feel like we are 

Undertaking a fairly major reno project qualifies you to inform other suckers about certain realities:

  • Never assume drywall mudders/tapers will be available when the sun is shining (aka summer): EVERYONE else wants their skills and you’ll be last on the list
  • Like the idea of having a claw foot or other standalone tub? Great! Stick with that. DON’T under any circumstances try to make that tub into a shower! Unless you love spending way too much money and encountering unnecessary frustrations, in which case go right ahead.
  • There will always be someone in your life (or on Facebook) who has a better way to do something or wants to know why you aren’t using their favourite tools or thinks you installed that tile wrong. Ignore them. Unless they’re the contractor you hired, in which case they still may not be right!
  • You do need an entirely separate wardrobe for reno clothes. You’ll probably find that some of the clothes you’d been keeping but didn’t wear very often get turned into reno clothes and stored on the top shelf of a dark closet. Don’t worry, the rips in that hideous tee-shirt won’t matter. Unless your in-laws happen to come over to surprise you. Or the electrician decides to just walk in the back door.
  • There WILL be times when you think (or scream): “I hate this house!”
  • New appliances and fixtures are not immune to getting covered with drywall dust.
  • Stores you once felt distinctly “meh” about will become very familiar to you (::ahem:: Home Depot), and you probably won’t hate it.
  • You will have to live with seeing your own mistakes every day. Maybe they wouldn’t bother everyone so much, but for two perfectionists, we sort of live in fear of what we’re going to screw up next.
  • Chances are nothing will turn out quite like you had imagined. Sometimes it’s for the best, sometimes not so much.
  • You will become an over-user of phrases such as, “It’ll do,” “Good enough,” “Oh well” and “Next time.”

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Old main floor bathroom on left, new on right. We liked the colour, but everything else had to go!
In case you have been completely discouraged by this fairly scathing review of renovating your house yourself, don’t be. Contrary to what I may have led you to believe, Johnathan and I are actually quite proud of the transformation we’ve been able to affect on our little house, and every. single. visitor over the past couple of years can attest to us eagerly dragging them around for a tour of what’s changed since their last visit.

It’s a crap-ton of work, and in some stages, the cleanup itself is fairly overwhelming, but in the end, it’s worth it.

No, really.


(Most of this post was originally written in November 2016)

(Also, please forgive the iPhone pictures – it’s the best I’ve got right now!)