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A short reno tale

Today I found myself uttering a string of words I never expected to say in a sentence outloud, in public, with no embarrassment to a middle aged man : " I need a good stud finder and some extra long screws."

Of course, the guy was wearing the orange bib of Home Depot where everyone talks about studs and screws and male and female parts of all sorts of equipment without blinking an eye. He just smiled and said "Sure, right this way.

Soon he was equipping me with the $29.95 deluxe automated stud finder and the 2 1/2 inch carpenters screws which he tells me will do just fine to mount ( ah those words) the corner wall cabinet that I just bought off Used Victoria.

After almost 20 years in the same house, we finally did the kitchen reno, a right of passage for any homeowner it seems. I remember how I feigned interest when other moms at the preschool playground told their reno tales.  How could sensible, bright people get so consumed with paint colours, faucet design, and the headaches of knob and tube wiring in Victoria's otherwise lovely older homes? Surely there must be more interesting things to talk about.

Of course, in my head I had my grand reno plans -- the open concept, the moving of walls and windows, the french doors out onto the back deck, the integrated kitchen and dining room with a second deck out the side. But as the years passed it became clear that big, hugely expensive dream was never going to happen.

And then over the past few years I began to just want simple things: cupboard doors that were not falling off their hinges, a broom closet,  lights that didn't zap and explode, a fume hood so that a fine mist of grease would not be dispersed over everything on the main floor, no matter what we cooked. I became reluctant to entertain because our kitchen was becoming progressively more embarrassing and non-functional.

And then, this summer, we risked losing our house insurance, or having our rates jacked sky high because it was found that, despite the appearance of updated wiring and a good breaker box, we still had fragile, disintegrating knob and tube in our kitchen ( hence the zapping lights and hot switch plates.)

I set out to do the $10,000, cheapo kitchen reno. Could it be done?  Well almost. First it started with Bob Bourgeois, our handy man who did our bathrooms a few years ago. He just happened to have two sets of white kitchen cabinets he bought off used victoria that he would give me for a song.

We started in mid August. I had grand plans to blog and post pictures through out but I soon realized three things: 1) no one wants daily updates because it is boring to everyone but those actually doing the reno.  2) It is not like Extreme Make Over where the whole process is over in five days, it goes on and on and on and it is at times like watching paint dry or writing about paint drying; some days nothing happens at all. 3) On the days that unexpected things do happen, the days when Bob phones and says: "you better come home, we've got a problem" you are so busy dealing with the problem that you don't have time or inclination to write.

I did learn one thing that surprised me: having a lack of choice when choices abound is actually rather freeing in its restrictive way. This point was first made to me way back in 1990s by a palliative care doctor in Holland about euthanasia. He ran a lovely hospice in which euthanasia was not allowed in a country where it was readily available. He said: "It removes the pressure of a profound decision... it is more simple for them in their dying days when they know choice is not an option here."

Applying that philosophy to my reno is one of the bigger writerly leaps I have made in my life, but in a way it was true. We had very little choice about what we did and therefore the choices were easy. I actually had fun.  Bob had a set of cabinets so that was what used. He had them only in certain configurations so we had to try to puzzle that out. I was keeping to a strict budget so all kinds of choices of counters and flooring and fixtures went by the wayside. I never fretted a moment about the choices I had to make ( which those who know me will know that is rather unlike me) because either there was no choice or the choice was between the few range of items in the price point we could afford. Voila, this one looks better. This is it!

And we even have a few laughs from our limited options. One drawer cannot be opened without first opening the oven door. If we had customed ordered all the cabinets this quirk would never have happened. But it was the only set that could go there. Now we know that is the drawer where we will keep the chocolate, the halloween candy and the credit cards -- you have to think twice and go to extra trouble to get at it.

I even began to delight in finding deals. Kate and I found a great cheap tile that was less than the linoleum we thought we would be forced to buy and they had just enough left to do our floor. I decided that we would do all the painting ourselves and was delighted to find that Kate was a natural with a real talent and perfectionist streak.  Maddy has a great eye, but is definitely going to be in management - she could see all the places we missed and was very good at direction, but not so keen on the manual labour herself.  I was spackling and finishing, I even worked as Bob's assistant, learning handy tips about mounting cabinets.

We were going to live with an odd gap in  one corner -- we had run out of wall cabinets. The kids said it looked stupid and Bob and I decided we would build a small book case there to fill it ( which still would have looked odd.)But for the last week I was scouring craigslist, used victoria and kiiji looking for the right cabinet to fill our hole.

Yesterday I finally found it -- the perfect corner cabinet in exactly the same design as Bob's used one. It was in Duncan. I drove up there this morning at  7 am, arriving at a beautiful farm. I wanted only two pieces -- they wanted me to haul away all 10, but we bargained and I took three. And I am going to mount them myself. Bob is now off on another job.

So we are almost done - six weeks and about double my $10,000 cost, but not bad for a complete overhaul. The counters don't come until mid-october and the fridge comes next week -- and when it is all in place I will post a picture.

But at least now we have a working kitchen. I will no longer bore my self and others with reno tales.  And last night I made a meal and turned on the fume hood. It was lovely.



Posted on Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 07:53PM by Registered CommenterAnne | CommentsPost a Comment

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