A Designer’s Renovation – Part 3

The Renovation REALLY starts!

The day after we received our permit, we set out to get things done. As a result of my neighbour and the permit process, we had lost over two months of precious time.

The first thing on our list, was to dig out some footings in our basement, to support the opening we created on the floor above.  My kitchen was to open up from a tiny 11’ x 12’ space to a 22’ x 12’ stunner.  But to do so, meant a big beam, and some supports.

It was amazing to watch the space grow. Light began to flood into the house from the front windows.  A once dark space was now bright.  The cramped rooms opened, creating flow and ease of use.  And most of all, I had ordered a ten-foot island.  Cooking is going to be amazing. I can actually have people in the kitchen now.  But all of that comes with many decisions.  Like what colour to make the perimeter cabinets. What stain on my island? Countertops? Flooring? Fabrics? Paint?

I panicked.  I had been there five years, and I still couldn’t decide.

Isn’t that what you do for a living? Don’t you have a dream? How can this be so hard for you?

People just couldn’t understand.  This is my house.  And I am a designer.  If I mess up, judgments will flow through the front door like water down the Nile.  And what if I choose wrong? No way my husband is redoing a thing. I am going to live with this renovation as long as I live here.

And taste.  That’s a question I get a lot.  What’s your style?  Your taste? Your design ethic?

I don’t happen to be one of those designers.  If you look at my portfolio, every space is unique.  I design for my clients. Their tastes. Their needs and likes and desires.  My personal taste never has anything to do with it. If it did, then they would be living at my house!

To make matters worse, I see tons of new things every day.  And I love them all! I love the rustic vibe that’s so prevalent in design now.  I love old English country roses, and modern high gloss white cabinets.  I love the coastal style that feels so good, and the formal contemporary look that magazines splash across their cover pages.  It’s endless. So how am I supposed to pick just one look?

Well, let’s move on.  More on my decision making in a couple of weeks, when things calm down. First let’s deal with the roof coming off.

The Tear Down

It started on a Tuesday morning.  Tony, a nice young chap, who worked for my contractor-friend, Darryl, showed up bright and early.  Steven (my husband) had already removed all of the drywall and insulation in the “great room” (our living/dining room).  And Tony was there to start ripping off shingles.  It must have been 35 degrees that day.  Poor kid.

We put out a cooler with some bottled water and went to work.  When I got home, Tony had made quite a bit of progress.

The next day, our shingles were completely removed, and we were ready for the crew.

Four men came the next day.  Dave, the foreman, Tony and two others.  It was a Thursday morning.  They were tearing off the roof.  Exciting and very, very, very scary.  Imagine standing in your kitchen and looking through your great room and seeing trees and sky!

No ceiling! – That’s Steven standing there. I am pretty sure that’s disbelief on his face. Notice the old roman shades still up on the windows!

By 4:28pm, my house had no roof, and all four walls were framed.  The room originally had an angled ceiling. One end was about 9 feet high. The other (on the kitchen side) was 18 feet high. They raised the back to 10 feet, and lowered the front, to make it all even. We were sad to lose the architectural feature, but it was necessary to create the addition above it.

The Build

By 7pm, the floor joists were up.  Yes, that was 12 hours of work. These guys are amazing. By 8pm, floor boards were down on the second level/first level ceiling.  In 13 hours, these guys did all of that.  It was amazing. And it hadn’t rained in a week.  We were so lucky.

Joists up!
Floor boards! Sorry for the blurry pic! That’s my kitchen now opened up in the background.

The next day they started framing upstairs. By 3pm, they had framed 3 walls.  They were pushing hard. Rain was expected on the Sunday and they wanted me somewhat safe.  The roofers were coming Monday morning.

no-place-like-home renovation build
A few walls up on the second level!
Framing Done!

Saturday afternoon, I got a call from Dave.  Who was still working at the house. They had finished all the exterior and interior framing.  The roof trusses were up. Yes, they hit a couple of snags. The fireplace wasn’t exactly as shown in the drawings, and the roof of the new section didn’t hit the exact spot on the old section.  So, he asked me, at 5pm on Saturday, if he could do what he thought was best.

I had a choice.  Trust Dave or wait for the engineered drawings to be fixed.  That fix could take days.  Rain was coming. Dave seemed to know what he was doing. I would never allow this on a jobsite for a client. I would always get the drawings…but it’s my house, and I lost two months already, and rain was coming the next day….so I trusted Dave.  Thank God I did.

By the end of Sunday, Dave was done.  The roof was up.  It had been at least 40 degrees all weekend, and he had likely worked 30 hours at my house during that time. The guys had Sunday off, and he came alone to finish up.  He had promised me a roof by then, and he was not going to let me down.

Carpentry almost complete. Tarps going up.

Steven helped him put up the tarp at the end of the day.  It was late. They were exhausted.

We covered up the window “holes”. They nailed down the tarp and we all called it a day.

The Night the Rain Came

Sunday, July 24, 4am



“I think I hear water.”

“It’s raining.” He rolls over, obviously not understanding my panicked statement.

“No. It’s raining in the house.”  I sit up, and a feeling of dread comes over me.  This isn’t your typical rainy night.  This is a full-fledged storm.  Wind tearing through your tarp, rain torrential rain hammering down at your house type of storm.

My husband is one of those people that walks at one speed. Say a 4 out of 10.  He’s hard working, and likes to take his time to do things right.  Even when the kids were babies, I would yell out to him to “come fast”, and he would maybe take it up to a 5 or 6 out of 10.

At 4am that night, my husband took it up to 10, maybe 20.  He jumped out of bed and bolted up the stairs.  I lay there, knowing there was nothing we could do, and laughing as I heard his feet running faster than they ever had, panicking and trying to deal with the inevitable.

I put on some shoes and went upstairs.  He was laying plastic sheeting on the new floors upstairs.

We then went to the main floor.  Our great-room floors are true barn-board. Pine. Beautiful.  We lay down some plastic sheets, and then stood in the kitchen and watched.

The tarp was fluttering around above us.  The water was pouring in through the ceiling, the walls, the windows.  It looked like…well I am not sure I can describe it. Just imagine that there is a hole in your ceiling and someone is standing there with a hose just flooding your house.

I turned to my stricken husband and shrugged my shoulders.

“We have to be up in 2 hours. Let’s go to bed. Nothing else we can do right now.”


And we went to sleep.  It was a pretty good two hours of sleep, all considered.

The next morning, after sending the kids off to camp, I walked into the living room to assess the situation.

Hard to see, but there is an awful lot of water on that floor. Equally as bad on the other side.

About four hours and many buckets later, the floor was dry. And the roofer, who had shown up that morning, said to me in a deep Mexican accent;

“Oh Lady, you no worry. I fix all shingles today. You never have to clean water again.”  And as he walked away from me, I heard him say; “Poor, poor lady,” whilst he shook his head.

You all have a terrific day. #theresnoplacelikehome

Tune in next week for finding hidden treasures and secrets of the past…

Have a terrific day!

The Lesson: If you can’t control it, just go back to bed.  You’ll figure it out in the morning.

The Question: Why is it, that I have never had a single major disaster at a client’s home, but my house seems to be lesson after lesson?