Renovation Creep

James begins!

I’m starting to think that the hardest thing of home renovations isn’t how to wield a hammer correctly or cut things to size, but figuring out where all the dominoes are and making sure they don’t all go toppling down, one after the other.

We love our house. We bought it in 2001, and since moving in, we have made a number of changes. We painted almost every room the month after closing, before all the furniture migrated from our apartment. We added bookshelves, added more bookshelves, and then upgraded to bookshelves from Ikea. We painted more rooms. We laid down new flooring in the bathroom and the foyer. But our kitchen remained stubbornly in the time warp it had caught itself in before we moved into the home. Unfortunately, that time warp was from the mid 1980s, at least. Our refrigerator was harvest gold. I don’t believe I need to say more than that.

Motivated partly by the home renovation tax credit, but mostly by the fact that we had funds available and we weren’t sure when we’d have another chance, we decided that the time had come to replace the refrigerator. So we did. And we figured, since we were getting a new fridge, then it was time to replace the countertop (which had rotted out near the faucet) and the lower cabinets. And, of course, if we were going to replace the lower cabinets, then we might as well replace the flooring, which was some hard-to-clean laminate that was laid down sometime over ten years ago.

Which is all fine and good. The flooring experiment went well, and I’m proud of the results. The new fridge is in and using 17% of the power of the old fridge. And we’re smart enough to rely on an Ikea-approved contractor to install our lower cabinets.

Except that, we bought our flooring from a truckload sale at Rona, meaning that we got the material at a deep discount and once the material was gone, it was gone. So we bought an additional 150 square feet to do the dining room as well, since the carpet is dirty, needs replacing, and Erin wants to continue the look of the kitchen out to the dining room level. And, since we were spending money on new lower cabinets anyway, then maybe buying new upper cabinets was better than refacing the old cabinets. And, as we replaced the flooring, a dresser we were using to store kitchen linens and dry foods, as well as for extra counter space, fell apart and had to be thrown out. In the resulting new space we decided there should be: more cabinets. And why not a tall cabinet for a pantry in the corner?

If this renovation were a mold growing in my refrigerator, I’d have to kill it before it developed language skills and rights under the Geneva convention.

It’s still exciting; more exciting than ever, in fact. The new flooring, the new refrigerator and the promise of new cabinets makes us look forward to our new kitchen and overlook the fact that we’ll probably be without countertop space and kitchen water for at least two weeks. But now that we’ve started to fix up the most biggest issues we have with our house, I’m forced to ask my question: how do we stop?

Hopefully before we do the whole house and decide to start over again in the kitchen, I guess.


In replacing our cabinets, we’ve decided to go with Ikea. Their customer service personnel were a lot more helpful than those we found at Home Depot, and they have a neat 3-D planner that you can use which figures out precisely the products you need and how much the materials will cost. For the countertop, however, we’re going with K-W Countertops, which are local, and who gave us the best advice we’ve had yet about our renovation.

Because the laminate around the faucet is rotting out, we were thinking about purchasing a solid-surface countertop. No wood to rot out. And the benefit of this material is that it allowed us to have an integrated sink, with no seams between sink and countertop (no place for the water to hide). When we took this idea to K-W Countertops, however, they told us that the integrated sink, being made of the same material as the countertops, could get scratched and, unlike stainless steel or porcelain sinks, take on colour. We’d be bleaching and rebleaching the sink every three years or so, which was not what we would describe as low maintenance.

They further told us that the laminate was probably rotting out because of a leak within the faucet (original to the house, we think) rather than just water standing around after the dishes were done. With this in mind, we could go with a drop-in sink (or, better yet, a full apron sink where the sink replaces the countertop from front to back) and use laminate for the remainder of the counter space. Not only would this unify the counterspace in the kitchen (we were going to use laminate for the opposite countertop where water wasn’t an issue), but it dropped the installed price of our countertop from $3000 to around $700. Really, it’s a no brainer.

So far, the renovation has gone well. We have a new floor and a new fridge, and a professional is coming this Tuesday to measure the kitchen and finalize our plan with Ikea. Anybody have advice? Feel free to post your war stories in the comments section below.

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