Saturday, July 31, 2010

reno chronicles #4

Hey just a little rouge readers...!

Not much to report on the reno this week.

Waiting on drawings. Thinking lots about what I REALLY need from the new space versus what would be nice to have.

Also doing some calculations based on estimating what percentage of my home we're talking about here and translating that into the same percentage of the price of the house. Good tip for setting a budget. And very effective for bringing me back down to reality.

Aside from that, I'm going to take a bit of time this weekend to snap a few pictures of a couple of things I've seen around the neighbourhood that I like...specifically, a certain type of window and an awning that might look great over the new back door.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and I'm a very visual person, so I thought it would be helpful in my next discussion with my contractor.

Aside from that, rouge was all set to participate in this year's Habitat for Humanity project (a rebuild of one of the local women's shelters) this week and was SUPER excited about it. Actually, I took two vacation days to do it...then I got an email saying the job was delayed. So I scrambled and switched my vacation so I could sign up again for two days this coming week.

And I got another email last night saying (again) that there was a delay and the job won't start until the second week in August. Sheesh. I'm sure it must be really difficult coordinating all of the details of that kind of job. But I'm afraid that I just can't reschedule my time again....and I'm sooo disappointed.

Best of luck to the build, whenever it starts! Watch for me next year!!

Have a great long weekend.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

reno chronicles #3

So “potential contractor #4” is looking good. Very good.

We chatted this week and made plans to get together on the weekend to review some ideas. And we did that early this evening.

“Potential #4” and the designer came up with lots of great ideas after their last visit. So much fun to picture and think about. Cooler heads eventually prevail and when it comes right down to it, there were a lot of cool things that maybe didn’t serve the original purpose.

That’s good, though…it’s good to think everything through and keep the very best elements of all the ideas.

We took the time to talk out all the specific elements and decided on a solid direction. It was important to get back to thinking about the main function of the new space…entry/mud room and laundry room…and a space that can happily house the puppy.

Yes, that’s the puppy I don’t have yet. But it’s important to really think though how the space is going to be used as far into the future you can imagine. And I know there will be puppy who will need some space where he can live during the day, without giving him full reign of the house when he’s alone.

Ultimately, that means that the lofty and super-cool ideas fell to the wayside and plans are back into the realm of reality. Reality that is looking good, too.

I am excited about where it’s going…but still very nervous about budget. Next up is drawings that I’ll sit with and mull over for a few days. Then comes the estimated cost.

Then, I expect, some revisions.

There are still many, many steps to come, but I am enjoying the process so far and am looking forward to the ride…

For more about rouge, visit or check out past blogs at www.justalittlerouge/

Sunday, July 18, 2010

reno chronicles #2

To bring you up to speed on the project so far, I’d like to tell you about my quest for the perfect contractor.

Many months ago, I knew this project would have to be done late summer. I started asking around and putting out feelers because I know the summer months book early for good contractors.

In fact, last summer I ran into “potential contractor #1”, whom I actually know and mentioned the job to him. He was interested and said he was mostly booked already, but could probably meet my timeline, if I pushed it to early fall. Fine by me. We talked about it at length that day and agreed he would come by in the winter to take a look, talk it out and provide an estimate.

Despite my efforts from January to March, I was not able to get him to come in the winter. He was “too busy” to even give me an estimate.

Next, I talked to “potential contractor #2” that actually did some work on my house two years ago. He did a good job. He gave me a detailed estimate/quote and let me know, in advance, of anything that would put him over that budget before moving forward.

It took him longer than he originally expected to finish the job….partly because he’s a talker and some days he may have talked more than he worked. A couple of times, I had to call him to see where he was because he didn’t show up when he said he would. And I quickly realized that he wasn’t great at the fine details, so he had to redo a couple of small things to meet my satisfaction.

Overall, he’s a nice, honest guy who got the job done. So I got in touch with him again about this reno project. He came over, we talked about the job (at length) but he didn’t take measurements and said he’d come back as we got closer to the project date and get the details. He preferred to wait a bit before providing an estimate because “the cost of materials fluctuates” and he wanted to be accurate. He did pop in once after that…but just to chat.

In early June, I was golfing (I use that term liberally!) at a work/charity event and chatting with another person assigned to be on our team. Turns out her brother is a contractor. She gave me the info on “potential contractor #3” and promised to give him the head’s up that I’d be calling. I did call and left him a message at home and at work explaining that his sister gave me his info. I never did get a call back.

Next, I called “potential contractor #2” again about a month ago and caught him in the middle of something. He said he’d call me right back…but I haven’t heard from him since.

In the meantime, I’ve still been asking EVERYONE I know to get a recommendation. Three weeks ago, a friend popped in for a quick visit with the new baby (so squeezable!). I mentioned it to her. Later, she mentioned it to her husband who has great experience in this industry. He called a few days later with a strong recommendation. I don’t know how I didn’t ask them sooner.

I called “possible contractor #4” and left a message. He called me back 5 minutes later and said he could come by that night (really?!? wow). He showed up exactly when he said he would. We chatted and I liked him instantly.

He’s keen, smart and motivated. He said he’d like to have his designer come back with him to brainstorm some ideas later in the week. They got delayed, but he called to apologize and set up another time.

They were waiting for me to arrive at the rescheduled time (that never happens!). We all talked -- they had excellent questions for me about how I was going to use the space and what my needs were. We talked about permits and timelines. They sketched out the space and took all the measurements. They agreed to go away and draw up a couple of the ideas to present back to me. Very professional, efficient and focused.

That was last Friday and I am confident I’ll hear from him this week. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think I may have found the perfect contractor for the job…

A few tips for you:
• Start looking early – it may take months to find the right contractor for the project.
• Ask everyone you know for a recommendation. You want to be sure you can be happy with both the experience and the work done.
• If possible, go see what they’ve done in someone else’s’ home. Ask your potential contractor for references if the recommendation doesn’t come from a trusted friend.
• Get everything in writing. Estimates/ quotes…etc.
• Discuss how any changes to the job specs or costs will be handled. Agree on this upfront and get that in writing too.
• Make sure your contractor has insurance. You don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting injured on the job.
• Do your homework and find out what permits you need based on city by-law. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t need them.

As I write this, it makes me realize that my quest for the perfect contractor feels a bit like dating. It requires a commitment to the search. It involves asking everyone you know for a possible recommendation. It requires developing a relationship – building trust, honesty, integrity, diligence and common sense. It requires setting and managing expectations. It requires being open to possibilities, being both flexible and adaptable.

Now, finding a contractor that you’d actually like to date…that would really be something, wouldn’t it?!

Fingers crossed for “potential contractor #4”…

For more about rouge, visit or check out past blogs at www.justalittlerouge/

Sunday, July 11, 2010

reno chronicles #1

The time has come.

When I bought my own home three years ago, I knew the little back addition that houses the laundry room was rotting from the bottom up. It was listed “as is” in the house documentation.

At the time, I thought….no problem. I’ll do something about that right away.

Now, here I am and it’s getting desperate (see “airing my dirty laundry” posting for more). Good thing I’ve been planning a renovation for about a year now. Well, mostly just dreaming about it, but I actually started to plan it about 4 months ago. Saving for it started much earlier than that...

It’s time to get the old one torn down (before it falls down). It’s time to build a small addition in it’s place.

A small addition that will be a new laundry room and mud room. It will probably be the entrance to the house I will use most often. It’s closer to where I park the car, and there will be usable space to unload my things, hang up my coat and kick off my shoes. Unlike now where the front door opens directly into the living room.

It also means that there will be a deck built on top of the new addition. Now “the door to nowhere” that exists off the second floor landing will be the door to the deck.

And the deck will be a private, safe and secure outdoor space that I will enjoy immensely. Better than my current “temporary” ghetto backyard that I build each summer and tear down each winter.

Don’t get me wrong…it was a really smart idea and it’s served me very well. But it will be nice to have permanent space that I don’t have to leash and lock down furniture or my bbq to make sure it’s still there the next day. Although, I have developed a strange fondness for the green astro-turf...

I’m hoping rouge readers may enjoy hearing about my little renovation – from start to finish, I’m going to chronicle it all here. I’m hoping there will be lots of learnings that might be helpful to you someday.

I’m excited about the process and I can’t wait. I’m hoping to see some action on this in September. But before I see tangible proof, there’s finding a contractor, making a plan, costing it all out and setting a budget, getting permits…and a whole bunch of other things that have to happen before picking the paint color and decorating it (which I’ve already done in my mind, of course!)

Tune in next week where I’ll bring you up to speed on my quest for the perfect contractor…then follow me the rest of the way over the summer and early fall.

For more about rouge, visit or check out past blogs at www.justalittlerouge/

Sunday, July 4, 2010

bathroom makeover

How do you handle stress?

Some people eat. Some people drink. Some shop, or garden, or run, or a whole bunch of other activities that are good (or bad!) stress-busters.

It’s a bit different for me, I guess.

I redecorate. Or move furniture around. Or refinish old furniture. Or paint the walls.

This weekend, I wallpapered.

Well, not just wallpapered…I removed the “old” wallpaper I put in my bathroom this winter. I’ve never really been happy with it. It was nice, but not exceptional.

So, I took it down and I’m happy to say that it actually came off even easier than it was reported it would. In fact, it was easier to peel off the long, still intact, full panels of wallpaper than it is to peel off those annoying price tag stickers.

It was down in less than 10 minutes. And the paint on the walls was still in perfect shape.

After it was down, I realized that I hadn’t even taken any pictures of it…so what you see here was the pre-wallpaper (on one wall only) look.

Of course, I had a new plan before I started this little adventure. I saw another wallpaper that I really loved a little while ago. But it wouldn’t work in my bathroom because of the brown-ish laminate countertop.

So finally, I decided to try my hand at painting the countertop because I didn’t want to cough up the cash to replace it.

It’s not that hard, although I was a bit nervous. But I did my homework and then asked for extra guidance before buying the materials. All you need to do is:

• Clean the existing countertop
• Give it a quick, light sanding
• Clean it again. Then clean it again (!)
• Use a dense foam roller to give it one even coat of melamine paint
• Wait for it to dry
• Give it another coat
• Wait for it to dry
• Be careful and treat it gently for about a day or so to give it time to dry and harden

That’s it. Now it’s a fresh, clean and updated white laminate countertop and I couldn’t be happier with the results! (Note: I wouldn’t do this to kitchen countertops…)

Now that the countertop was taken care of, I splurged on the wallpaper I loved and got to work. Instead of tackling a “feature wall”, I decided to go bold and do the whole bathroom.

It’s a bold pattern, but it’s got a sort of vintage-y feel too. Brown, teal and metallic keeps it from looking like grandma’s bathroom.

It makes me happy. What else can I say?

Mixed with the existing white, glass, and brushed nickel accessories, it came together even better than I envisioned. Tres chic.

I’m not going to lie…it was a big job. Lots of nooks and crannies in a bathroom to paper around. A sharp exact-o knife for trimming and a lot of patience are key.

And when I noticed that I was getting a bit sloppy, I stopped for a break (and went outside to enjoy the beautiful weekend!)

Well, it’s Sunday night, the job is done and I’m feeling a lot less stressed than I did at the end of last week. Some good physical labor and something different to focus my brain on always does the trick to blast any stress away.

Just in time for Monday to roll around. Sheesh.

Now, I really ought to think about learning to run…

For more about rouge, visit or check out past blogs at www.justalittlerouge/