The project that never ends that hasn’t even started yet

Problems that have beset our landscaping:

1) Our wishlist was so extensive that it is beyond our budget. Slowly, everything has gone on the chopping block. Goodbye green wall (never even knew ya), drop down countertop, built in bench,  stadium steps.  We are now reduced to a new deck/landing, a patio, a single Japanese maple.  Sob.

2) Our magnolia tree died a sudden and unexpected death this spring.  #### <–insert foul language.  We were first alerted by the lack of flowers.  Then…nothing.  The only contractor who visited confirmed.

3) Which brings us to: not being able to get a quote from anyone but ONE contractor thus far into the process. It’s already mid-August and the project is/was to take place in September to coincide with the neighbours, which brings us to:

4) Neighbour decides, all of a sudden, to do his work in August so he can throw a party at the beginning of September. So first this created problems of access, because the contractor who has been working with us does not want to damage the finished work of the neighbour (we are boxed in between two townhouses with no access to the backyard except from kindness granted by neighbour).  This morning the neighbour (luckily he is a charming and jaunty fellow) wakes me up to tell me his chosen contractor (a questionable type to begin with) has backed out of the deal by adding $10,000 to the first quote.  Ha ha ha ha.   And neighbour has my bro swallowing the kool-aid, that if the neighbour’s property is going to be done for X amount, then ours should be substantially lower than that, instead of the same X amount neighbour has in his mind (our current quote is between $10K-15K).  Neighbour can be very persuasive, but no contractors are signing up to do his job for the price he has in mind (his property is about double ours because he is a semi-detached vs. our townhouse).

5) What to do with the shoddily placed AC?  We discovered, with the contractor, that our original AC guy had done a shitty job for us and not buried the pipe leading to the AC.   Stupid, stupid.  Contractor proposed hiding AC under the deck, but now I think we may just end up leaving it where it is, but burying the pipe, because apparently contractor ‘doesn’t do that kind of work’ (so it’s not included in the current quote).  I looked at this article about hiding eyesores but it wasn’t that helpful. No pictures.

All this chaos.  My brother at least began demolition (shaving about $400 off of the quote) but now is grappling with the removal of patio stones that are much heavier than he originally thought.  And was forced to cut down the dead magnolia with a flimsy hand saw.

Plus the brother was promoted (so new work) and is purchasing a condo…he’s a tad stressed.

In better news, my daughter took her first step in the past two days!  She’s been standing and bouncing, and squatting and standing again, all without support, but when it came to moving from point A to point B, she would get back down on her knees and crawl.   Walking is around the corner! She’s almost 11 months old.

By the way, I have an amazing Pinterest board devoted to designs that you will love but perhaps not be able to afford.  Wait. I’m talking about myself.  Enjoy the dreaming phase.

5 Things/ That you should not cheap out on for your bathroom renovation

You can’t even see the things you shouldn’t be cheaping out on in this lovely photo.

Bathrooms are scary. What I mean is, bathrooms are scary to renovate.  Much scarier than kitchens even though kitchens are larger, more expensive and involve appliances.

Why? Because there is water involved.  And water, not properly dealt with in a confined space, leads to nasty & expensive problems like mold.  And also because I know nothing about all the seemingly magical items and fillers and gooey things and screens that go into bathrooms to prevent nasty & expensive problems, outside of standard reno TV viewing.  But I SEE them (by them: qualified experts) put various doo-dads in there and I also see Holmes on Homes talk about how this is all usually done very badly, and then I start to quake in my slippers and see dollar signs flowing down our designer drain.  There is obviously so much more to consider outside of the tub, toilet, faucets and tile and the whole fun design-y aspect of this enterprise.

For instance, did you realize that there are a bazillion configurations of shower faucets/heads?  According to faucetdirect.com, you can have a ‘multifunctional showerhead’, a ‘handshower’, a ‘deck mounted handshower’, a ‘diverter’, a ‘deck mounted diverter’, a ‘shower system’ (etc.) and your shower can be ‘ADA compliant’, have a scald guard, and may include handles or a hose (you mean those things are usually not included?!!).    And then when you click on the actual item for purchase a little note pops up saying things like “This part needs this other part you’ve never considered before, watch out!” and when you read the reviews they say things like “This is the most complicated shower to install on the face of the planet and our plumber could not do it” (!!) or, “Oh, when my plumber was doing this he installed for a wall mounted shower but oops, this shower is not wall mounted” and it all just makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and say “Let’s pay someone to know this stuff for us!” (Which contradicts my frugal urges which say, “You need to learn this stuff yourself!”)

So I am approaching our bathroom remodel with trepidation and a lot of research.  Little Hogtown House has a major project in the works.  Before pictures to come. Firstly, there is the cosmetic updating of a dank and moldy 2nd floor bathroom.  Secondly, there is building a brand new bathroom from scratch on the 3rd floor.

DIGRESSION:  Single or double sink? The new ensuite went from a double sink-separate-bath-and-shower-ensuite into a single sink, tub/shower combo bathroom, as in, it got basic.  Because even though we have some savings to do these renos, we are miserly and don’t want to spend all of our hard earned cash on fanciness like dual sinks that nobody is going to use.  Do people actually use their double sinks, I pondered?  I did a formal poll to find this out.  “Mom,” I said, “Do you use your dual sinks?” “No, not really,” she said.  “I mostly need counter space so I can dry my hair while your father is getting ready.”  My mom just saved me at least $500 worth of sink, faucet and associated labour.  AT LEAST. But seriously – if you put in a second sink, you must plumb that sink, not to mention buy the sink itself and the hardware. My second poll involved asking my peer, “Should an ensuite bathroom have two sinks?”  The response to that was, “No, that’s some luxury ish.”  Thus the decision to eliminate the second sink was confirmed. I similarly eliminated several other items.  I should make a separate post on that.)

My bro poo-poos the cause because the reno is not scheduled until mid-fall.  “That’s really far away.”  Bro, we actually have the luxury this time of planning.  When we first renovated the kitchen back in 2008, we bought the house and gutted the first floor right away. Oh man, was that reno ever a nightmare.  And I have many regrets. Sad face. A story for another time.

Somehow we recovered from it though and managed to live together again.  The point is, those were bad times. Let’s not go back there, so that my disorganized ultrabudget contractor can do things like lay tiles in a squiggling crooked row, or forget about the molding around the window when installing the light switch, and cut a piece out of the molding to accommodate it.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

My approach is to do as much research as possible to satisfy my inner control freakiness.    Researching leads me to great articles like this one.  Ostensibly it is 13 common mistakes, but in practice it is actually a list of about 10 things people cheap out on and how that will come and bite them in the ass.  Therefore I compiled my own list, based on that article.  It is called:

8 THINGS NOT TO CHEAP OUT ON THAT ARE NOT PRETTY AND YOU WON’T GET EXCITED ABOUT

  1. Underlayment (floor surround)
  2. Diverter valve (keeps you from being scalded when someone flushes the toilet)
  3. Toilets.  (But we already bought low-flow toilets and we are definitely not buying new ones, so we fail that test.)
  4. Shower surround (they recommend Schulter-DITRA which sounds like a quality German product)
  5. Sealant (use silicon and expensive caulk)
  6. Faucets and shower components – “Be sure that your new faucets (and shower components) have ceramic disk valves (not rubber or plastic washers) and that the finish is of the highest quality.”
  7. Pay to replace shut off valves
  8. Pay for proper design (oops, we’re not doing that either).

Then at the end of this list, they hilarious say you should not overpay for your bathroom.   Is the fear in you, too, now?

There are some other great tips, so feel free to go to the article proper.

Ugly backyard to get major makeover

Little Hogtown House's backyard of sadness. Even the magnolia did not deign to bloom for us this year, and it was our one saving grace.

Little Hogtown House’s backyard of sadness. Even the magnolia did not deign to bloom for us this year, and it was our one saving grace.

I thought I would thrill you, dear reader, with pictures from the LHH’s ugs backyard.  We are not kidding when we say ugs. UGS!

Our backyard is on the petite side, being an urban yard.  Previously the townhouses we were a part of appear to be, um, used as rooming houses.  Maybe.  You will learn more about the odd configuration of the house.  But we were undeterred! Or at least I was, and the other owner trusted me because he didn’t know any better. And everyone shook their heads.   We took over said rooming house, owned by elderly Asian couple who followed us around when we were touring and the gentleman in particular seemed very excited that I have an elementary level of Mandarin, which prompted him to laugh a lot and make random comments to me in Cantonese, of which I speak not a lick.  It was all very off putting.  The better to scare away other buyers! I told myself.

And now, regarde, mes chers, the canvas for our future work.