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Here We Grow Again! Tales of a Home Renovation Project, Part 1

Posted on January 18 2018

Here We Grow Again! Tales of a Home Renovation Project, Part 1

 

It seems like just yesterday we completed our last renovation. But here we are again, at the precipice of round 4! I am as nervous as ever. Our first foray was the big one - adding a second storey to our little granny bungalow. In some ways, we are still recovering from this one!

The second renovation involved adding some windows and doors and application of insulation and stucco to the exterior. Renovation 2.5 was a new front porch and new living room window. The 3rd was attacking the always damp basement carpet, by replacing it with new hardwood flooring (with moisture trapping subfloor beneath). There was also new wall paint throughout. We also addressed the main floor front entry and hall with new floor tiles. Finally, we turned our main floor bathroom into a powder room/half bath, by removing the bathtub and turning that space into a pantry, accessible by double doors in the kitchen.

We had been very crafty and forward thinking in salvaging some original doors, knobs, wood trim and baseboards. They came in handy for the various stages of our home improvement schemes. Continuity is very important so as not to make staggered projects look piece meal and disjointed. If you don't have any extra trim for your renovation plans, consider purchasing a similar profile. As long as it's all painted the same colour and sheen, that continuity can still be successfully achieved.

With contracts signed and deposits paid, we are slowly packing up the main floor for the excitement ahead. This round will hopefully be the last and will involve a new kitchen, knocking down most of the interior walls, new wood flooring, a feature wall (details to come in a later posting) and a fresh wall colour to replace the soothing blue/grey, which has been there for a very long time. We are going for a more modern aesthetic with a nod to the traditional.

Just getting to this point has been a rocky learning curve. With our extensive experience in home renovation and my background in interior design, we started out feeling fairly confident about the process. I even had architectural drawings which were the culmination of years of dreaming and space planning. But early on in our search, we were plunged deep into the quagmire of the unknown and felt very overwhelmed.

Let me start with the process of choosing our kitchen cabinet maker. There are many different types out there.

A. IKEA or equivalent mass produced, set unit sizes, set door styles and colours, very reasonably priced, requires a lot of your involvement to use store software to design the kitchen. For a nominal fee, their in-house staff can help you do this. That cost would be waived if go ahead and place an order. I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND their installation team, unless you are very patient, have a lot of time and some DIY skills.

Rome wasn't built in a day, neither are entire kitchens flat packed in many, many pieces in boxes! IKEA is a one stop shopping destination as you can also purchase counter tops, sinks, fixtures and major appliances. Look for their twice annual Kitchen event. Deep discounts can be had, so if possible, time your renovation to work with these dates.

Many companies now take IKEA carcasses and make custom doors, which is a great way to have a custom kitchen look without the high price tag.

B. INDEPENDENT CABINET MAKERS are a good option for those who would like more custom options and higher end materials. Products are local and 100% customizable in terms of sizes and door colours. You will be dazzled by all the interior fittings and options. You will most likely have to do your own design. They will offer solid product advice, but not so much in terms of layout or design. For that, you will need to look for a larger independent company where they have separate interior designers to help with the long, step by step process.

C. LARGER FRANCHISES PARTNERED WITH HIGH SPEC APPLIANCE MAKERS are an option we didn't know about before we started looking. They are generally foreign with the backing of big name appliance companies. I would call this type of kitchen company the semi-custom option as they will have set carcass sizes and door styles and limited colours. This way, they can mass produce products for a lower price point but they look very unique. Custom options are always available. Interior fittings and options are also quite varied and fun.

Which option did we chose? To be honest, my first choice was initially B. I had a company in mind as well for one day when we could afford a new kitchen. The people were great, products were fantastic. But there was no room for haggling, no discounts of any kind available. So we went with our second choice - option C. We could achieve a similar custom look at a lower price point. Our only fear was that their products are shipped out of Germany and orders had to be absolutely perfect.

We were paired with a lovely designer who has shown great patience with us and our many revisions. We signed off only a few days ago. The kitchen journey thus far had taken about 5 months.

My advice would be to tell you that it's never too early to start looking and getting things figured out. We had no idea it would take so long to get to this point. Be very clear about your wants and needs. Ask for help but in the end, the best decisions are ones made from being an informed customer.

Take some time to really evaluate what you like about your current kitchen, what you feel might be lacking. That is a great place to start. Sometimes your particular needs will dictate the type of kitchen company which will suit you and your family's needs. Think about how you circulate in your kitchen. Is there one particular place where you seem to be bumping into each other? In what way do things feel awkward when you're hosting a gathering large or small? Observe how your guests manoeuvre the space as well. That can be very telling of what elements may be working or lacking.

In our kitchen, we face a wall when at the sink and backs are to others. We don't have a good place for people to perch for having a conversation while we go about doing things in the kitchen. We also have limited counter space and our 24" wide range is so annoying.

Another very important consideration is where you can set up a temporary kitchen during the renovation. Very few people have the luxury of being able to temporarily vacate, due to budget constraints and lack of available space at a relative or friend's home. On another floor, set up a table, bring all your small appliances, invest in a couple of hot plate burners and relocate your fridge if possible. You needn't suffer too much if you plan and prepare in advance.

We start the demolition in early March. Fingers crossed we should be able to enjoy the space by early summer. Husband and I are very excited. Stay tuned for next month's post when I detail the joys and pitfalls of searching for a general contractor.

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