Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Over the last couple of days we've been working on some more finishing touches from our to-do list.  We've started the process of re-creating baseboards to match the originals (the majority of the original 7 and 3/4 inch baseboards had been removed and replaced by tiny 3 inch ones).  We love those little touches of character that the house has so it was important for us to try to restore the baseboards as best we could.  And what we couldn't restore, we would try to replicate. 

Here's some of the trim when we moved in (original)

And some of the much shorter, new trim that they had

We took a trip to a near by lumber store, Peacock Lumber, to price out how much it would cost for them to cut some matching trim.  We brought a piece of the original with us and they confirmed that it was made out of mahogany.  I'm told that new mahogany has nothing on the old stuff which is much more dense.  Either way, mahogany was not in our budget.  Especially since we plan to paint all of the trim white, we're not so concerned with keeping the type of wood the same.  They quoted us $90 for 20 feet of trim.  We would need quite a bit more than that and we weren't overly keen on the price tag that would add up to.

So we headed to Home Depot to price out some MDF.  For a 4x8 sheet of 3/4 inch thick MDF (same thickness as the originals) it would be $35 + tax.  Once we cut a board that size up it would give us 48 feet!  With our previous discussion of being careful not to over-renovate in mind, we knew this was the right fit for us.

Luckily (in terms of having to replicate them) the original baseboards have a very basic profile and Darryl and his dad knocked all 48 feet of them out in under 10mins

We had Home Depot cut the big boards into 7 1/2 inch planks

When we got the pieces home Darryl was ready to kick some baseboard butt

All done the cuts...

Then I gave them a quick sand-by-hand.....then realized that wasn't good enough so the next day I tackled them again with the power tools.  Then I brought them in, set them up in assembly line fashion and started to prime and paint over a couple of days...

Sorry for the dark picture...

Right now, the living/dining room is still looking like this, but we're hoping to be able to start putting some baseboards up on the weekend so that we can make room to set up Karl's Dad.  We're eager to have him put together!

Are you getting any finishing touches done?  Tackling anything on your to-do list?  Ever tried to replicate something original?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Worst Day of Demo

Excuse me for sharing this post, but it was such a miserable day for me (and now that it's long past, I can laugh at the situation) that I just have to record it for memory's sake.

When we bought our house there were 3 full bathrooms - one upstairs with the clawfoot

The one on the main floor that we demoed (where we showered before demo began)

And one in the basement (that I don't think even the grubbiest of grubs would shower in)


So when we demoed the main floor and eventually had that bathroom completely removed (which was the only bathroom we had ever showered in for the first year), we figured we had two other showers to fall back on, so it was no big deal that we gutted that one.

That night, after a loonnnnng, dirty, dusty day of work, around 10pm we headed upstairs to hose down.  I should mention that the previous tenants took the shower heads with them when they moved, which was strange, but we didn't panic because we had inherited about 10 random shower heads from my parents and grandparents who were updating theirs) 

So when we got to the shower we picked out one of the many second hand shower heads to thread onto our clawfoot only to realize that NONE of the threads matched up!  The shower attachment on the clawfoot was unlike any of the more modern heads we had at home (have I mentioned just how many we had!?).  After an already stressful day, I began to weep.  Sob.  Like a baby.  Why couldn't anything go right!? 

If you've ever done a full-on demo, tearing walls and ceilings of plaster down in the thick of the August heat, you'll understand just how desperately we needed to shower. 

Long story short, Darryl ended up fashioning a for-the-night shower head old kitchen sink faucet, and because the threads didn't quite match up he used some (in his words) of the "cheapest-green-vinyl-electrical-tape-ever" to hold it on.

Don't worry, the picture is PG

And yes, the faucet definitely popped off during my shower.  Which led to more tears.  That's a genuine pout right there.  Darryl was laughing at how hard I was taking the shower situation, so I started laugh-crying.

Just look at how narrow that stream of water is!!  I can't describe to you how hard it was to wash the dust out of my hair with such a small stream and next to no pressure!  oy.  I'm reliving this tragic moment all over again.

Needless to say, the next morning we headed straight to Home Depot and got the necessary attachment and were up and running that night.  Whew!

The next day my aunt dropped off some cheer-up-buttercup flowers that were absolutely gorgeous and all was well with the world again...

Ever run into a reno problem too late at night when the stores are all closed??

Monday, 28 November 2011

It Smells Like Christmas!

I hope you all had a great weekend!  We were busy busy!  On Saturday my sister, my aunt and I headed over to my mum's house for our 3rd Annual Christmas Baking.  Every year we rotate between which house we bake at (next year will be my year again and we'll have a much more spacious and modern kitchen to work with!) 

The first year was at my house, pre-demo:

On Saturday we cranked the carols (after finding out all of our ipods had issues and we couldn't listen to them, we put the radio on a Christmas station), set out our ingredients and got to work!  We had 5 recipes to tackle (and 4 batches of each recipe!):

1.  Sweet Maries
2.  Short Bread
3.  Sugar Cookies
4.  Ginger Sparkles
5.  Coconut Chocolate Squares

Sweet Maries

Short Bread

Sugar Cookies (my fav!)

Ginger Sparkles

Coconut Chocolate Squares

14 hours later I was home and ready for bed!  We started baking at 9:30am and went hard until 9:30pm!  Then we had to wait until 11:30pm for the last batch of squares to cool before we could pack them up.  It was a long, delicious and lovely day!

Although I didn't get around to any decorating (mainly because the living room is bursting with project materials that I'll share later this week), it feels so great to have one very yummy thing checked off my Christmas to-do list, phew!

Did you get any thing checked off your Christmas to-do list this weekend??

Friday, 25 November 2011

Goodbye Dusty Rose...

When we first moved into our house, long before any demo, our living room was where we spent most of our time.  Here are two pictures of our first night (hence the pizza box and and my work bins all over the couches)  But the important things to note here are, in fact, the couches.

We call her Dusty Rose

Tons of seating space right??

Fast forward two years to this sister, bro-in-law and my parents decided to come to my house to hand candy out to the wee ones.  Here's how the living room looked before they arrived...

The problem?  No where to sit!  My family is often over, so I wasn't worried about the mess on the floor, that could be (and was) easily pushed to the oppsite side of the room, but I did want somewhere decent for them to sit.  I figured since the walls were all painted, the floors were all down, maybe I could actually start to bring some furniture out of storage!  Darryl was away for work, so I asked my dad if he would mind giving me a hand when he came over.  Before everyone arrived, I went into the mudroom where the couch had been stored for over a year to clear a path and tear all the protective plastic dust-covering drop cloths off. 

I thought I'd get a head start and at least bring all the cushions in.  After lifting a few up, this is what I saw...

HORROR!!!!!!!!!  Apparently our 91 year old mudroom is not mouse proof and last winter they must have sought haven in our couch arms.  At first I thought they'd just gotten warm under the cushions - that would be manageable with a good clean.  But after a closer look I saw this...

Clearly they have tunneled and nested all the way inside the couch!  Needless to say I opened the door to my family arriving on Halloween with tears in my eyes for several reasons:

1.  We would have to buy a new couch... $$$$!
2.  I wanted a nice, comfy (albeit pink) place for my family, and preggers sister, to sit!
3.  Only one or two short months prior to this I had convinced Darryl to put the old black leather couch to the curb as it had suffered during much of the demo phase.

How did we go from 2 couches to none!?

Luckily my family worked with me and we all enjoyed our night, despite being sat on various camping chairs, stools, benches and kitchen chairs.

While we never loved the look of our inherited pink couch, it offered a heck of a lot of seating space, and it was pretty darn comfy.  We did not think we would be buying a new couch for a good year or two.  But after clearing our family out of hand-me-down couches, we realized we were going to have to bite the bullet much sooner than we had anticipated.

Last weekend we spent a day shopping at all of the usual stores, Leons, the Brick, United Furniture, to name a few.  I learned that 1. couches are pretty expensive, and 2. man those stores sell a lot of dated-looking couches!  Nothing in our price range suited our style, so we headed down to IKEA, and the couch gods must have been watching over us because it was the last weekend of their couch sale!  Buy one get one 50% off!

I had been loving on the Karlstad series for some time (or as Darryl calls it "Karl's Dad"), I like the straight lines they have.  Darryl wasn't sure about the quality, sturdiness and comfort, so we decided to go do a little sit-test.  We loved it!  So we bought a love seat and chaise lounge attachment...and then found out the chaise lounges were out of stock.  So we had to drive back later this week to pick it up, but hopefully we'll have an assembled couch to share soon!

Have a lovely weekend!!

Any couches in your future?  What do you look for in a "good" couch  (price, style, comfort)? 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Kitchen Floors Revealed

Alright!  So after a little sneaky peaky yesterday I'm back to show you how the kitchen floors turned out.  With yesterday's disclaimer in mind, are these our dream floors?  No.  Do we love them anyways?  Absolutely!  Should we get a return on our investment?  We sure hope so!

We left off at the point where we were trying to decide on which way to lay the tiles...

We decided on the brick pattern for a couple of reasons...

1.  We just plain like it!
2.  It adds a little more (free) visual interest, rather than just laying them side by side (like the bottom 3 tiles in the first picture)
3.  We hoped that this pattern would trick the eye into seeing a slightly wider kitchen once the cabinets were installed (I'll explain further once I get the cabinet post up)
4.  Having straight grid-like grout lines makes it a lot easier for the eye to pick up on imperfections, as opposed to the brick pattern that breaks it up

Here we are laying the very first tile and being oh-so-happy about it!

Once Darryl had done a few rows (while my job was again to mix up the thinset so that he had an ongoing supply), we got into a nice rhythm.  Darryl would prepare the thinset on the floor and I would back-butter a bunch of tiles and lay them out for him so that he wouldn't be slowed down by having to do that as well. 

(we left the trickier cuts - the parts around the perimeter - until the end)

This has been, by far, the most back breaking work of this entire main floor project.  We were both dying by the end - our backs from bending over all day, our knees from kneeling, our necks from looking down for hours on end and Darryl's wrists from all the thinset spreading.  The pain!  We have definitely gained an exorbitant amount of respect for people who earn their livelihood from laying tile.  Whew!  

Once the tile was all set over the course of two 12 hour days and one 6 hour day, all that was left was to grout the tile.  I found that the grout we chose, turned out nothing like the sample and I was extremely frustrated.  Now I'm okay with it.  It's just grout, right?  It's not the main focus. 

(I realized I never took "after" shots!  So I took these pics this morning which is why you can only see part of the floor but once the kitchen is revealed next week you'll be able to see it all)

So this upgrade cost us all of $230!  It's crazy how much you can save when you're not paying for anyone else's labour.  We bought the tiles while they were on sale and they came to $181 (with a few boxes left over) and the rest of the cost was for the mesh, mortar, thinset, grout and sealer.  Woot!

ps.  Check out the updates, cover plates have been put on all the plugs and light switches!

Have you laid tile before?  If so, would you do it again?  Or is it a job you'd rather leave to the pros?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Kitchen Floors - Weighing the Options

I've been slacking on the kitchen updates, so here we go.  In August (a full year after we started demo) we tackled the new kitchen floors.  I have to put a bit of a disclaimer in here if we're being honest.  Darryl and I bought this house strictly as an investment and as a way to enter the housing market.  We know that this isn't our "forever" house.  We are both contracted employees desperately waiting for permanent positions, so we didn't have a lot of area to move in terms of mortgage approval.  For this reason, we bought a house in an "up and coming area", which translates to "pretty rough around the edges". 

With all of that in mind, we have been extremely aware of not "over-renovating" the house.  All those HGTV reno shows we're addicted to have taught us that, if nothing else.  We want to be sure to see the return on our investments, which means picking nothing in the high-end categories.  You know how they always say you don't want to have the best house on the street when it comes to resale (of course, you do if you're planning to stay long term though)?  So most of the finishings we chose are fairly basic because they bring the house a long way from where it was, but will still ensure we see a return when we sell. 

With that said, the kitchen floors...

Here's a reminder of what they used to be.  (They photograph much better than they were for some reason.  They were extremely cheap laminate that was poorly installed, chipped and beaten up)

I don't seem to have pictures of us taking up the kitchen floors - the laminate you see above was easy peasy to take up, but underneath were layers of vinyl and then a layer of 1/4 inch poplar underlay and then 3/4 inch tongue and groove pine subfloors.  If only there were a way to describe just how many nails we had to pull up.  No wonder I didn't take any pictures of the process, I didn't want to be reminded.

Needless to say, we lay a new subfloor which you can see in the picture below.  So in August, we decided to tackle the tile.  Something neither of us had done before but felt confident that we could attempt.  My job was to staple the metal mesh to the subfloor.  (If you're about to do this I suggest you wear more clothing than I did, that stuff is sharp!)

Hold your gasps of horror!  Yes, we know this isn't the most modern underlay (aka Ditra).  But it's the underlay that they've used for decades and decades.  It is way more labour intensive which is a big reason why it's not as popular as Ditra, but we weren't paying anyone for their labour and so we thought it would be worth it to suffer through it.  It is drastically cheaper than the orange stuff and, while it's not for everyone, with my disclaimer from the beginning it was right up our alley.


I was sure to match each new piece of mesh up perfectly with the last to ensure that they were completely flush.  We couldn't have any variations in height or it would weaken the final product.  Same goes for the staples, I made sure they were all well sunk in the floor.

Once I was done my job, Darryl came in for his.  He laid a mortar/parge coat into the cement.

To make the process go faster, while Darryl was spreading the mix, I went outside and mixed up his next batch of mortar so that he could just keep moving along.

Once this part was all done, we had to leave it untouched, unwalked upon, for 24 hours.

The next day, we noticed the front entrance was still unlevel - it's hard to ask for perfect floors from a 91 year old house, so you can see the big circle area where Darryl added some more mixture the next day to better level it.

Another 24 hours later we started laying chalk lines as guides to be sure we were laying the tiles straight.  Then we fiddled with a few different ways of laying tiles (brick style, or just one beside the other, you can see the two different types below)

So there's a sneak-peak to the tiles, they're obviously a very basic ceramic tile, but they're neutral and miles better than they were.  We carried the tile into the main floor bathroom and into the front entrance as well.

Tomorrow I'll show you how it all turned out, which layout we chose and how much it all cost!

When you do renovations how do you pick your finishes?  Do you take into consideration whether it is your "forever house" and what is best for your return on investment?  Do you pick finishes that you love, regardless of the price tag?