Thursday, March 30, 2006

Renovations, what would I know about renovations?

Our first house we bought together was in a cookie cutter neighbourhood. We actually hate these types of neighbourhoods as a matter of fact our working name for the 'hood was "post modernist trailer park". We decided to buy the house because it was our first house and wanted a "safe" (meaning mostly maintenance free) purchase and more importantly we were buying it from plans and it would be built to our tastes, or at least we thought. We chose the model of house based upon it's simple design and its complete lack of house behind garage looks that are so prevelant in the area we were buying in. The builder woooed us into believing that we were getting a premium flat lot for free and that they had the best options available for customizing the house the way we wanted it. Oh and did I mention the real reason we were buying a house? We wanted a dog and basically having a house meant having a dog. So we lined up a breeder, bought a pup from an unborn litter, put a down payment on the house and then went on a trip to Jamaica, exciting times indeed.

Our first surprise came when we realised the "customizations" that we could make to our house came in basically two choices, do you like this crappy tile or this crappy tile? We walked away being really disappointed in the whole experience, and i think we were still excited to get the house but I think this planted a seed in us, a seed that would blossoom in a couple of years. We felt a little alienated from this new house because it felt like a series of compromises. Once we took possession the neighbourhood was still under construction and we didn't get our next surprise until 6 months later when they came to grade our very small backyard. Once grading was complete we had a huge ditch that ran through our yard. To add insult to injury the rest of the yard that wasn't ditch was on a massive slope leading into the ditch. Basically the yard was almost completely unusable by our standards, we couldn't build a patio without affecting grading we couldn't put lawn furniture out, we could barely throw a ball in the backyard for the dog. This sealed the deal for us, we officially didn't like this house despite having many other good characteristics, such as really good neighbours.

After only a year and half in the house we began looking for different houses. Our criteria? Something with a real backyard, a neighbourhood with trees ( I cannot tell you how depressing it is to live in an area without trees) , a little character and a pool. We looked at a couple of houses we could afford and nothing came to mind and our new (remember maintenance free) house needed a lot of work before it would be ready to be sold. So we stopped looking and put life on cruise control.

But life of cruise control sucks, it sucks really bad, it's mind numbing. I decided if I'm going to be paying for something, anything for that matter I have to make sure it is exactly what I want and not a compromise. I hate working, I detest, spending the majority of my life doing stuff I do not like to do so that I can pay for things that I do not care to own. I would rather quit my job and own nothing, I would be infinitely more happy.

So the decision was made, house has to go, but will only go if I get a house I want to own, which means working a job I don't like to work so that I can afford it. If I can't find one I like, then not owning a house seems like a better idea. Although I was confident that we could find one that we would like (notice how I change from I to we there?).

We started looking again and one evening we arranged to view multiple houses that had the criteria we were looking for in our price range. We walked in the first house that night and BOOM, I don't know what it was exactly but both of us felt it immediately and strongly, this was the house. My first question to our estate agent Roger was, "How do we buy this house?" To which he promptly replied "Well we have 3 other houses to see tonight, after seeing them, we can check other listings then see them after that you can ask to have a second viewing and if all is well put in an offer." Sound advice but silly agent, I want to buy this house, not after looking at 3 or more other dumps I want to buy this house now! I felt such an immediate sense of urgency out of nowwhere, here's the house I want to buy and I don't want anyone else to buy before I can. We found the house and I wanted it, Roger was blathering on about seeing the rest of house or having an inspection or something like that, i don't know I wasn't listening. Roger is a very skilled agent and beyond that he has many years experience under his belt and he was constantly issuing advice of caution, he even very subtly tried to disuade us from buying this house. You see this house we wanted so bad was a complete fixer upper. (perhaps that's a warning sign in some language, perhaps even english but i don't know the language that well yet ;)

Roger reminded us that in order to buy this house we had to sell ours, which means fixing everything that needed fixing and painting the house (it was still builder white), so we spent 2 straight weeks fixing our house up, put it on the market and within 10 days sold our house. That's a long story for another day. Once our house was sold we bought the house we wanted.

Sorry about the long back story but I think it's necessary to get you to the current situation, I am neck deep in bathroom renovations. You see pretty much the house needs renovating, despite it being a very well put together house. It is starting to show it's age a little bit. We started last may 24 weekend ripping out the existing kitchen, then spent the next 3 months installing a new kitchen. We then took some breathing time off and had a new furnance and central air installed. This left the entire basment bathroom completely gutted and unusable. So january was spent rebuilding the basement bathroom, basically putting it back the way it was. Next comes the upstairs bathroom, it's tiny, really tiny, it has some practicality though, it is divided into two seperate rooms so that one person can be using the toilet while another is using the sink, and it has a seperate entrace into the master bedroom making it almost like an ensuite. But it is small and the lacks many of the modern facilities we have gotten used to. So rip down the adjoining wall with the closet from the bedroom and make it into a large a bathroom and add a full soaker tub, with seperate stand alone shower. Making this reno difficult is that all through this the bathroom has to be completly useable. And that's where I am at, the tub is almost in, after that the rest of the bathroom will be demolished and in six weeks I might be finished.

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