We have one last task to complete that requires a professional hand – window caulking. Couldn’t resist one more chance to put up scaffolding in front of our home, could we now?

Mr. T, who kept insisting that I not worry about paying the final invoice, finally came by to pick up his cheque. We discussed the caulking issue, and straightaway he noticed flaking paint along the top beams of the windows – beams from the original construction in 1979. He promptly told me that we had to scrape off the flakes and repaint before we could caulk.

As I mulled over this idea in my head… How the hell am I going to get up there? Can I climb a 30 ft ladder and scrape paint without falling? Can Elliott? Maybe if we don’t look down… Before saying a word, Mr. T gave me my answer: “You can’t do this with a ladder, Carol. I bring my scaffolding and set it up. No charge.”

Endless love for Mr. T.

Endless love for my hubby who managed to do all the painting while I took the kids to my parents for the weekend.

Endless love for getting one step closer to an open house…!

An encore presentation from the scaffolding. E did all the painting so I didn’t have to experience the high altitudes. One member of the family embraced the opportunity…

He was looking for a quiet place to read.

I’ve drafted this post in my head about six times over, about six weeks ago, and tried to sit down to write about six times now. LIfe gets in the way.

The good news is that our renovated space is being well loved. It’s been nearly impossible for me to find a moment to photograph the “after” shots since, at any given moment, the house just isn’t up to the standards required. There’s any combination of newspapers, dishes, toys, homework, hockey equipment, knitting needles or Lego laying about. Real life does not make for good photography.

I realized the trick was to invite guests into our home. Knowing someone is about to appear at my front door makes me clean the house. I know this about myself and am coming clean about it right here (no pun intended!).

House guests = a clean house = the perfect moment to take some photos.

Although they had no idea of my ulterior motives, our old friends came by and we had a great evening. With all the photographs taken and “in the can” before they arrived, I was content having killed two birds with one stone. Life stepped right out of the way and gave me a nice, sunshine filled day for some good shots…

(If it helps, take a peek at the layouts that I posted a few months ago. And remember, the before shots are truly just that – taken before we had possession of the house; just after we signed the papers.)

BEFORE - the living room, including 2 out of 3 crazy kids.

AFTER - the new living room. No major structural changes, but new windows, insulation and in-wall speaker system (in the ceiling).

BEFORE - the dining room.

AFTER - dining room is now the new office. Includes a pass-thru to the kitchen with extended cabinetry, and larger entryways with no bulkheads from living room and hallway. (Tall photo is placed where Leighton is sitting in the "before" shot.)

BEFORE - bathroom. This is actually a shot of the 2nd floor bathroom as I don't have one of the main floor. They were identical in every way except for colour. And yes, this is what we currently have upstairs. Thank goodness we now have...

AFTER - new bathroom. We decreased the size by removing the bathtub and replaced it with a shower stall. The old bathtub area is a separate room now: our new walk-in pantry (not shown).

AFTER - the before shot of the kitchen was posted previously, but here's an update: walls were removed; island installed with sink, dishwasher and beverage fridge; new appliances; new barstools purchased as a xmas gift to ourselves.

BEFORE - TV room. There's a backyard behind those curtains.

AFTER - new dining room. Lots of changes here including complete removal of walls, rejigged duct work, upper and lower cabinetry added, and of course, nearly 18 feet of sliding glass doors.

BEFORE - den/exercise room.

AFTER - new TV room. This room was enlarged by taking the floor space of the old pantry (which sat just to the left of the stairs), walls were removed, windows replaced, and again, the new sliding doors give us great sunlight.

That’s it for now folks. If you noticed, we still haven’t picked up a paintbrush. The ceiling needs a second coat, the walls only have primer on them, and all the woodwork needs painting, including the interior doors. A bucket load of work, and frankly, I’m trying to gear up for it.

Life gets in the way – extremely easily – when there’s painting to be done… and when there’s gratuitous kitten shots to be taken…

Fuzzy salad, anyone?!

Forgive him the grammatical error folks, but that was the rave review as told by my 4-year old nephew Jared. And I don’t take it lightly. Kids tell it like it is, and if Jared likes “over here” then our renovation is a huge success. (Thank you Mr. T!)

The reason Jared and my sister Susan stopped by? Our plumber showed up on Thursday last week unannounced. They installed everything in one day: oven, fridge, dishwasher, kitchen faucet, toilet, bathroom vanity, faucet and shower head (well, almost, but more on that later). Since we had to move the fridge downstairs from our temporary kitchen, we had no choice but to move back down pronto. After 6 months, we’re in our new kitchen! Woohoo! Susan and Jared were the first to officially check it out.

The "Before" shot of the kitchen. This was taken right after we made our offer on the house last year. The previous owner kindly left us her collection of fridge magnets to cover up the rust spots on the freezer door. I'm not kidding.

The "After" shot. The hood is yet to be installed over the oven. Also, the microwave should be in the spot above where it is currently sitting - electricians have one more trip to finalize their work. The window on the right is the same window seen in the "before" shot.

(And in case you were curious, yes the food does taste better when I use my new oven!)

The kitchen is literally the only room we’ve moved into. There’s a lot of dust to clear and a lot of furniture to be moved. I’ve told the kids that whenever they come downstairs, they should be bringing something with them. They’ve been abiding somewhat and slowly all the odds and ends are making their way into place. That said, I’m taking this opportunity to curate – only allowing our most cherished, useful possessions into the new space – and it feels good. When I was in school studying graphic design, the concept of “white space” was introduced to me. I’m being a good student and applying the same principal to our new space. Although now my “white space” comes in the form of white quartz countertops (!).

Now back to the plumber… Unbeknownst to us while we were tile shopping, we chose tiles that are extra hard and require patience and experience to drill. The plumber either wasn’t aware of that, or didn’t worry about it. Sure enough, it cracked about 6 inches on a diagonal. We brought Tomasz back in to replace the tile. He was worried that if he made the slightest error and chipped the neighbouring tile, he’d have to replace that as well. Which would also mean removing the newly installed glass wall. You can see how easily one cracked tile could mean several hours, or even days of work. Being the perfectionist that he is, Tomasz managed to remove the tile with no further damage, and is drilling new holes at this very moment. So far, he’s put in 7 hours of work. Perfectionist indeed.

Oh, and the plumber readily admitted that it was his fault and that he would cover the cost. Whew.

In the meantime, we will continue moving our things back downstairs. And I will continue posting photos of the transformation.

I like over here too, Jared. You can come by anytime.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised one bit, but the progress has been slow and steady…

First of all, the issue of the wood floors has been resolved. Elliott and I bought seven different tiny cans of stain and tested them all. Then our floor guy returned, and we tested our top three directly on the floor – in front of the dining room cupboards. The decision was rather unanimous once we saw them on the actual parquet. The clear winner was the stain that matched the colour of the cabinetry best. It was colour number 1: English Chestnut. Or as a friend of mine dubbed it: English Compromise. (Touché Stephanie.)

"English Chestnut" is on the far left. It was the best compromise for our patchy parquet.

As the floors were being re-stained, our garage door was finally removed and replaced. The old wood panel door weighed a couple hundred pounds (I swear!), and eventually broke. Lifting it required two people. With Elliott’s bad back and my weakling of a body, we just left it closed. With the new door, I swear I hear angels sing every time I push the button on the remote. It’s nearly a Christmas miracle in my books. The only downside is that the manufacturer couldn’t match our colour choice, so we had to install a tan door and will paint it come spring.

Our new "tan" garage door. We love it as much as the rest of the reno! It'll be painted in the spring - likely the same shade as the window frames.

Speaking of painting, there are bucket loads of it to do. Elliott and I have reconciled with the fact that we can’t impose a deadline on ourselves. We’ll paint in our spare time and keep painting in our spare time until there’s nothing left to paint. We might be done by next Christmas. Oh, and Pitres – consider yourself warned – we will have a functional kitchen and bathroom, but Christmas will be unpainted. Festive of course, but unpainted.

And last on the list of new items is the back canopy. It has a proper roof, flashing, fascia and lighting. Looks fantastic and will provide great ambiance for summer barbecues. Can’t wait. Photo to come.

Up next, our baseboards are going in at this very moment. Carpenter Rob is down and out with a massive pull in his shoulder so Mr. T found us a replacement – an alternative Rob, if you will. Which is actually no joke. He’s a carpenter, and his name is Rob. (Not sure if that’s a job requirement for Mr. T.) He’s doing a fantastic job…

Unpainted baseboards in place, and a glimpse at our new stain choice on the parquet.

Tomorrow will see another sanding and varnishing of the wood floors. Thursday will see the installation of the shower glass, and one day soon the plumber will return to install the toilet, all the fixtures and dishwasher.

See? We really are close. Thank goodness for [english] compromise. Whew.


It’s true. The dust continues. I honestly believed we’d be back downstairs enjoying the new space and decorating for the holidays. Alas, the wood floors are giving us pause…

Stephen the floor guy wasn’t available straightaway, so we waited patiently for a week. He arrived on Tuesday, sanded the parquet down and rid us of that horrible yellow-gold stain that reminds one of a high school gymnasium (the pain of Ms. Sealy’s phys ed class comes rushing back just by looking at it – or is that just me?).

Elliott has been very keen on finishing the floors with a light stain and consequently saved up his one and only “Power to Veto” coupon, which was his Father’s Day present from yours truly. He did this as he knew I wanted dark floors and that it would be a long battle otherwise. I conceded to the all-powerful coupon. Unfortunately, the parquet did not cooperate…

Elliott’s choice was a Minwax stain called “Puritan Pine” – a somewhat natural finish which looks perfectly fine on swatches. Sadly, when Stephen applied the stain to our parquet, the dark bits went incredibly dark while the light bits remained so. It’s like someone took the contrast filter on our floor and dialed it up to eleven. The solution? Well, it’s not that easy… We will likely have to re-sand the floor, choose another stain (after much testing) and cross our fingers that it works. The difficult part – Elliott still doesn’t want to go to a dark stain, and I’m not keen on the light floors. The dilemma continues – this time without a veto coupon. To be continued, folks…

The living room just after Stephen sanded it.

The dining area just after the sanding. Oh, and our temporary deck is in place until next summer. No more scaffolding!

After the "Puritan Pine" stain. Too much contrast for my taste.

Someone likes our new windows...


Our beautiful new quartz counters were installed yesterday. And the sink too. I’m very much in love with them and only wish I could go down there and make dinner! I currently have about five square feet of countertop, so meal prep is a bit squishy. I’m sure the food will taste better too (!).

Here are some pics. Don’t mind all the dust. We’re not at the point where we can clear it out yet – wood floors still have to be sanded and stained. One more round of dust to go. Good news though… In another 10 days or so and we’ll be back downstairs! Woohoo!

There they are. Ceasarstone counters in "Blizzard". Hooray!

A view from the office, into the kitchen.

The island and dining room area. Don't mind the paper on the floor - it's there to protect the new tiles until all the trades are through.

And our A-1 tile guy, Tomasz, completed the bathroom yesterday. Shower is ready to wash 'n' roll. Glass panels will be ready for installation in another week or so.

Closet doors are hung and ready for a coat of paint. I think the hockey bags should fit in nicely.

I admit defeat. I am not unique. I’m just like all the other millions who’ve renovated: I’m over budget and I want it done yesterday. I’m itching to use that new kitchen. I’m dreaming about my beautiful gas range sitting in the basement. I want to sit at the island with a friend and a cup of green tea while the sun streams in. I have ants in my pants. Made worse by the fact that our house looks more like a construction zone now than it has in months. Judge for yourself…

Family room turned carpentry shop.

Living room turned, uh, dumping grounds by the looks of things.

There really isn’t that much left to be done. Carpenter Rob has been hanging the new interior doors – he’ll be done tomorrow – and Mr. T has been finishing the frameless framing on the windows (Huh? They windows have drywall returns, so there’s no wood frame, just drywall). He says another 2 or 3 days of work for him. Our tile guy returns tomorrow to complete the bathroom – again, another 2 or 3 days of work. The countertops go in next Friday. Then we get the floor sanded & stained. After that, the plumber & electrician finish up. Baseboards go in. And we’re done! So close, but still a couple weeks away.

Here’s the door hanging in its first stage:

Two of three closet doors. They're floor to ceiling, solid wood and will be painted white.

Bathroom door. You can see the edge of the shower slowly coming together.

Pantry door. Tomasz is done tiling the floor - one room that's actually very close to being done!

Door handles waiting to be installed.

I need to include another shout out to my friend Kirsten who saved us once again. Her tip to see Sam at Century Hardware for the door hinges saved us a bundle. Remember the $1,100 invisible hinges? Well, I opted for regular, simple brushed nickel hinges. Plus they had such great hardware that I bought all the handles and the closures for the front closet. The total came to just under $200! Liking that price tag much better.

You rock, Kirsten. The ants in my pants – not so much.

There’s a voice mail message on my home phone from, and I quote, The Worldwide Blog Police. They are threatening arrest if I don’t post soon. Being the responsible blogger that I am, I will answer the call and avoid jail time…

Mostly the week has been quiet. In fact, last week not a single tradesperson was here. Not a soul. This week has seen a little more action, but slow and steady:  Tomasz our tile guy (who is amazing – such attention to detail) has been working on the bathroom and pantry; the kitchen guys returned today to place the handles on the cabinetry; and Mr. T dropped off the interior doors which will be hung on Monday.

Here are some pics…

Difficult to capture in a photo, but you can see the minimalist handles we went with. Elliott chose them. I really like how discreet they are.

Maybe you can see the handles more clearly in this shot?

Brand new pantry floor - sans grout. The drain is for the wall-mounted faucet which will be used to fill mop buckets and such..

Bathroom in progress. The shower wall tiles have a subtle grey line through them like bamboo. Another choice of E's that I'm really liking.

Unpainted interior doors waiting to be hung. Oh, and Campbell's Halloween costume.

Thought I'd throw this in to assure the Blog Police that I'm not neglecting my family. Leighton and Miro having a cuddle before bed.

Are we good, Barry? Err, I mean officer.

We’ve been doing our absolute best to keep this reno within budget despite all the warnings from, well, everyone that we’d go over. I honestly believed that we’d be on time and on budget. [Insert studio laugh track here.] It’s the finishes that are killing us. The end of the reno is nigh, and alas, so is our budget…

For example, we built our new front entry with a spacious closet. It requires three doors. No problem. Budget in the doors and labour to hang them. All good. Yesterday, I went to pick up the hinges for said doors and the gentleman asked if I preferred brass or chrome. My answer was, of course, whichever costs less (they’re invisible hinges, so what does it really matter). Well, the cheapest of the two came to $1,100. Plus tax. Once I managed to pick my jaw up off the floor, I walked out of the store empty handed. We are, at the moment, unhinged.

Pun intended.

Little did I know, that I would spend the day maneuvering similar situations three times over. None of them were part of our budget. Ugh.

The extra costs are stressing me out but E is remaining calm (thank you E). We sat down last night and worked out new solutions for some of the problems. Still, it’s frustrating to plan so carefully and then have it all go off the rails at the very end. Now I understand why renovations go over budget. I didn’t budget $850 to caulk windows. Would you?

On a brighter note, I’ve taken some shots of our nearly complete kitchen (countertops coming soon). Although, even the kitchen has had its fair share of drama. Due to a misunderstanding between E and I, the island was built to the wrong size. We have to get new side panels to make the island deeper – still waiting on those – but here are some photos to give you a sense of how close we are to completion.

Plywood countertop on the island is a placeholder (I swear!) And so is the taped paper - to protect our newly tiled floor. Island depth will cover the gap where there are no tiles. Built-in microwave will go in the white rectangle beside the fridge. Oven will slide in to the gap behind the island.

A view from the dining room area. The architect came up with the idea to have the long line of cabinetry. It's a definite highlight of the design.

And finally, a view from the kitchen in to the dining area. Scaffolding still standing behind the sliding doors until the canopy is completed.

No more men raining down on our house for today, but look what they left us with…

...dining room cabinetry and lighting that works (!)... nearly complete fridge cabinet area... windows on the back of the house...

…and last but not least…

...two new front windows!

It’s never rained men here before, but I like the results. Crossing my fingers that tomorrow will bring a monsoon.