Talkin’ ‘Bout My Renovations: Part III

Reno Collage 1

I’ve already dealt with the agony of the renovations we had carried out to our condominium apartment this past spring.  You can find those panic-inducing jaunts down Unpleasant Memory Way here and here.

But now, months later, it’s time to revel in the glorious ecstasy of our very-nearly-all-the-way-completed renovations!  Revel, I tell you!  Because we have friggin’ EARNED THIS.  There’s really just some patching and painting in the bathroom that remains.  Otherwise, this place has been updated and improved in every way possible – new tiles, new carpet, updated plumbing, new fixtures, new furniture, intensive cleaning, fresh paint throughout, and a much-needed toss and re-org of our storage areas.  And with the move away from our old, raspberry red walls to this fresh new turquoise hue, it sort of feels like an entirely new apartment.  Which was kind of the entire point of the thing, was it not?

So now that we’re firmly on the other side of stupid here, I feel comfortable sharing the after photos of these renos that yes, I have griped about virtually non-stop (spend two months without a bathroom and tell me how chipper you’d be!) but that I am also so, so pleased to finally have completed.  Pretty well from the very first day we moved into this unit, we’ve had a major project (or projects, plural) going on in a state of half-completeness – it was time to just tackle this stuff head on and get. it. done. already.

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Below you’ll find some photos I snapped of our apartment in its current state of post-renovation spic-and-spanness.  All joking and frustrations with the process aside, we’re really pleased with how our home looks, and even more pleased that it’s once again just that – a home.  Not a work site and not a gigantic stressor.  I hope you enjoy this little peek into our newly updated surroundings as much as we are enjoying living in them.

First, the bathroom, and arguably the reason why we undertook this entire crazy endeavor in the first place.  Our bathroom was old and falling apart and to flush the toilet you had to take the top off the tank and plunge your hand all the way to the very bottom in order to jostle the little flushy flange up and into place.  Seriously.  So it was continue on with that, or just fix the damn thing already.  I think it says a lot about how the renos ultimately went that there were a lot of days where I really missed the old ice-cold-plunge-up-to-the-elbow routine.  At least it was a (semi) functioning toilet.

Bathroom Reno Collage

Our new toilet is much nicer, wall-mounted and all that condo-required jazz, and something called “comfort height.”  This means you’re kind of sitting way high up off the ground – a matter of inches, maybe two at best, but it’s been months, and I’m still unable to shake the feeling I’m perched on an honest to goodness throne.  But it flushes, so I freakin’ love it, no matter its size!  We also took down the gungy old celery green tiles on the bath surround and replaced them with clean, glossy white subway tiles.  We also had a new, blissfully deep tub installed, and all new fixtures, including this dope Victorian faucet and tap.

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We really didn’t reinvent the wheel with our bathroom reno; it was simply a matter of updating the old, broken elements.  So our vanity stayed the same, although we replaced the countertop, sink and fixtures.  We also had the rabbit warren of gently rusted pipes and other outdated plumbing components under the sink dealt with – untangled and updated, freshened and cleaned.  And you can’t see it in these photos, but the scarred-up cement floor (loved stepping out of the tub onto that) has been replaced with the same porcelain tiles we installed in our hallways and kitchen.

Sink Reno Collage

Speaking of our kitchen, I painted the entire thing (ceiling, too, and man, was it a shoulder-destroying dink.)  I repainted all of the cabinets, including the lowers, which we took from a darker version of the turquoise now on our walls, to a rich, charcoal black.

Kitchen Construction Collage

We also added the above-mentioned porcelain floor, as well as actual doors on our pantry!  It’s really so weird walking into the kitchen and NOT seeing three boxes of Cap’n Crunch and a wall of Kraft Dinner just sitting there (what, we kind of eat like toddlers!)

Kitchen Collage

In the diningroom off the kitchen, we took the walls from a faded raspberry pink to a lovely, soothing turquoise.  I actually painted everything in our apartment – including what felt like miles of wainscotting and molding – but for our bedroom.

Diningroom Collage

We also binned our old, sagging diningroom chairs and replaced them with these smart, tweedy-type seats.  We also had all of the flooring not covered in porcelain tile carpeted in a plush, grey-brown wool, including the diningroom, the livingroom and the two bedrooms.

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Looks pretty nice in the warm, pink glow of an August sunset, does it not?  Now I just need some twee little lampshades for our Game of Thrones-esque chandelier.  My father hates the thing, aesthetically, and also because every time my parents come over for dinner, he somehow manages to drive his head straight into it, even if we’re nowhere near the table!  I love it.  It looks like it could kill a man.  It certainly has eyes on my dad.

Livingroom 20

Nice to see you back on the wall and alight with fresh battery power, Nightmare Before Christmas cuckoo clock.  This guy hangs on the wall opposite our diningroom table, and in this instance, it’s my mom who hates the thing.  My parents are lovely people, but maybe not totally sympatico with my whimsiquirkalicious approach to home decorating.

Livingroom 9

Down two steps into our sunken livingroom, I repainted six bookcases, as well as the walls, the trim and two full walls of VERY GRUNGY baseboard heaters, the 2,000 or so individual vents of which first needed to be cleaned out with two 500-count boxes of Q-Tips, a bottle of bleach cleaner and about six hours of my time.  We also took this opportunity to cast a critical eye over a lot of our possessions, repurposing a number of things, while outright tossing others.  We then tried to organize whatever was left into a more intuitive, easier-to-use fashion – like things with like things, for instance.  Like all of the books you can’t see in this photo, because they’re hidden behind the lower shelf doors (bless you, IKEA Billy bookcases, you hide all manner of bookish sins, such as my raggedy, grease-splattered cookbooks, and three solid shelves of RPG manuals.)

Livingroom 21

And these are indeed your standard IKEA Billys, simply sexed up with a crisp white paint job and a strip of molding so they look like built-ins.  Bit of an IKEA hack for you there.  I love these shelves because they hold so many of my favourite things, starting with the Shelf of Stephens.  Somebody (mebody) might have a King problem, no?

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These shelves also hold precious mementos from our lives – a glass candy jar filled with Disney Magic Bands, The Greatest Picture Ever Snapped – and dear gifts from even dearer friends, including Funko Jack and Sally, a darling gift from one of Mr. Finger Candy’s gamer buddies; a trio of Sally’s little grey potion pots, a Christmas present from my brother-in-law and his wife; and our beloved Nightmare Before Christmas snow globe, a wedding present from lifelong friends.  Yeah, we’ve got a lot of NBC stuff.

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Livingroom 3

Livingroom 5

Over in the actual seating/TV-watchin’ part of the livingroom, precious little has changed, save two new chairs, some new lighting and, of course, a whole crap ton of painting.  SO. MUCH. PAINTING!

Livingroom 13

Livingroom 15

But this area also benefited from a bit of organizational tidying, if only to free up space for a couple of very important items, arguably the only two “possessions” we give a shit about in this world – the little wooden boxes containing our cats’ ashes.  We miss our girls so much, and we like having this discreet reminder that they’re still here with us, even if only in spirit (thank goodness only in spirit; they would have been SO PISSY about the renos.)

Shelf Collage

Walking back down the hall to the second bedroom, I – yup, you guessed it – painted the walls and trim, and my husband took apart and then, once the carpet was installed, put back together again that heavy-as-crap daybed, which actually has three very large and useful drawers beneath it that we have stuffed with our Disney mementos, and enough static bag-encased computer components to open a Best Buy.

Livingroom 18

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Speaking of computer components, the second bedroom closet is now pretty well devoted to those things you play ON computers, video games!  PS3 games, PS4 games, Vita games (a what now?), Wii games, DS games, and a whole metric crap ton of The Sims for PC.  Those are mine, and I just can’t part with the boxes – it was those tantalizingly detailed boxes that drew me to the game in the first place, back when I used to haunt the aisles of EB Games while my then-fiance pre-ordered the eleventy millionth sequel to, I dunno, Call of Duty. 🙂  This closet also houses, as you can see, old Rock Band peripherals, even more computer parts, and two honkin’ huge concert amps.

Livingroom 17

Next door in our bedroom, not much changed, save a major reorg on our closet, as well as the items in our under-the-bed drawers (mostly a lot of unframed, unhung artwork and other decorative items.)  This room is due for a painting, and I really ought to have tackled that before the carpet went down, but I just ran out of time.  And energy.  And motivation.  So a project for another day.

Livingroom 19

And that’s pretty much it!  Wow, that felt sort of anti-climactic after nearly 1,700 words and a dozen and a half photos.  Also the three months and change it actually took to carry out all these renovations.  And you may be saying to yourself, “None of that looks like it should have taken three months,” an assessment I agree with wholeheartedly!  But there were other considerations at work here, chiefly the fact that we live in a condo, and that complicates things greatly.  So greatly, I wrote those two other posts about it, Part I and Part II of this three-part series about our quarter year in full reno hell. 🙂  If you’d like to check out those posts and don’t feel like going all the way back up to the top of this post to do so, please click here for Part I and here for Part II.

Thanks so much for following along on this crazy arse journey.  Glad it’s done, even gladder that we can now enjoy it a bit. 🙂

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Renovations: Part II

Reno Collage 4

Scene: A darkened bedroom.  A man and a woman lay beneath the sheets, lightly snoring.  The clock on the bedside table reads 3:58 am.  At 3:59 the alarm begins blaring.

Me: (sitting bolt upright) Sweetie.  Sweetie?  SWEETIE!!!

Him: (throwing off the covers and tumbling halfway out of bed) GAAAAAHHHH!  WHU–HUNGH–WHAAAAA?

Me: (standing up, taking off my jammies and pulling on my clothes) It’s 4 am.  We have to go downstairs.

Him: (confused, holding a pair of pants by the leg as if he’s never seen such a thing before) Downstairs?

Me: (through gritted teeth after standing on an exposed nailing strip) Yes, downstairs.  In the elevator.  To the change rooms.  So we can use the bathrooms.  Because we currently don’t have a bathroom. (muttering under breath) And with the way the renos are going, I’m not sure if we’ll ever have another one again.

Him: Yeah, but why 4 am?

Me: Because our neighbours are disgusting bloody savages who can’t stop banging in the sauna, so the change rooms are closed between midnight and four.  You know, this is why we can’t have nice things.  Also why we’ve been running down the hall at 4 am, trying not to piss ourselves before we even make it to the elevator.  Speaking of, how are you doing with those pants?

Him: (has fallen back asleep on the bed with the pants over his face)

Me: Right you are.

Aaaannnnnnddddddd…SCENE!  Then just lather, rinse and repeat for about two more solid months.

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Right, so I’m not going to mince words.  On the subject of the home renovations we carried out this spring, they sucked.  Despite doing what we thought was appropriate due diligence on the contractors, materials and overall scope of the job, we ran into problem after problem, issue after issue, obstacle after obstacle.  The entire process could best be termed an ordeal.

Our general contractor was in over his head, and we were far too accommodating of this.  Nice, friendly dude, really seemed to know what he was doing when he came to spec the job, got on well with my mother, a woman with a lot of experience in home renos who was acting as our “sanity contractor” – seemingly all good things.

General contractors can be skilled in specific trades, but the main job of a general is to co-ordinate a project.  That means arranging for sub-trades, pricing, sourcing and picking up materials, and just generally putting out any small fires as they flare up.

And our general did all that – with the exception of the materials-sourcing, nearly all of which was done by my mom – but in odd fits and starts that wildly threw off the too-optimistic one-week timeline for the project (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)  Construction in our building can begin at 8 am, but he’d show up at 9:30, 10 and announce that he still had to go pick up an item clear across the city.  Then he’d disappear for the next five hours, leaving some combination of me and my mom to “supervise” the workers.  It wasn’t uncommon for him to pop by for just half an hour of work every few days.  All while I had to sit there and play baby-sitter to our unit and our building.  I can’t tell you how much time I spent this spring just sitting around staring at shit videos on YouTube, simply trying to keep myself awake and coherent enough to answer any questions the trades might have, or to guide a worker around our rather labyrinthine building.  Our contractor just didn’t seem to have a very good handle on the job, and so it dragged.

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On the subject of the trades, we were mostly happy with the people the contractor brought in.  The one glaring exception was the tile guy, who was the replacement for another tile guy, who was on site maybe 15 minutes before he was sub-subbing the job out to yet more tile guys.  And those tile guys?  Barely restrained animals.  Slammed doors, threw their tools at the ground, BLARED their nu-metal, swore constantly, yelled, pissed off my neighbours and, unfortunately, scared the living crap out of me in my own home.  I was upset – and then ANGRY – to find myself, on the day they descended on our apartment, kind of cowering in a corner of the livingroom, phone at immediate hand, sizing up the heft and weaponability of the small wooden box beside me that contained our cat’s ashes.  They also directly went against our requested design plans, and tiled me into the apartment (and Mr. Finger Candy out of the apartment) for six hours.  I snapped this photo the day they were here; just looking at it gives me a mild panic attack.

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I addressed my concerns with our general that evening, and he didn’t know his tile guy had subbed the work out to these tile guys; did not even seem to know who they were, disconcertingly enough (only if you look at it from the perspective of the safety of my person, family and home.)  He apologized profusely and said they would not be returning to complete the job.

So guess who showed up the very next day?  Let’s just say it was an awkward handful of hours.

Nice guy or no, our contractor’s laissez-faire attitude towards just about everything caused a lot of problems and delays.  There was simply too much competing work being proposed for too small a space, in too little time.  And with virtually no oversight happening, it took next to no time for things to just spiral – pun intended – down the drain.  You know, if we had a drain.  Anywhere.

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That’s how we wound up using a public bathroom five to 10 times a day – just not between the hours of midnight and four because, you know, banging neighbours – for two months.  That’s how we wound up attending a friend’s wedding in the only clean formal clothes we could dig out of the random pile of de-closeted vestments heaped on our second bed (themselves buried under tote bags of shoes and boots, the glass shelf from the bathroom and two or three ceramic tile samples.)  That’s how we wound up nearly breaking every single one of our toes and all four of our ankles after returning home from that same wedding, quite inebriated, to a floor full of ceramic tile clips that we were positively forbidden to stand on (really, really super difficult when it is your only path to and from your bedroom, and also when you’ve been drinking things called Fishbowls.  The joke at the wedding that night was “Woah, woah, woah, slow down!  You two are drinking like you’ve got access to a bathroom!”)

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By the time it became clear to our contractor how very far things had devolved – things we had been pointing out to him, to little note – the damage was done.  Our home was no longer our home, just a bombed-out work site that we (fitfully) slept in.  By that point we had been living with bare floors for months, floors piled high with weighted underlay, and partially completed floors laden with clips.  All of our possessions were in boxes, stacked high on any elevated surface we could find, as well as both balconies.  Our livingroom was a mini warehouse of construction materials, plumbing components and every single door we owned, unhinged and leaning against any available surface.  Everything was covered in a fine layer of dust, dirt and construction debris.  We did not have a functioning kitchen for over a month, and our appliances had all been pushed out into the diningroom.  Our bathroom was still MIA.

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It’s also why we were deeply, unpleasantly unhappy, bickering and sniping at each other every single day.  It’s why we were stressed and short-fused and prone to snapping.  It’s why I woke up every morning for two months with a knot of dread in my stomach – what stupidity was going to greet me this particular day?  Everything was just a perpetual, torn-up mess.  Without a kitchen, we ate terribly – a lot of takeout, too much pizza, and whatever cold things we could grab from the fridge in the diningroom.  And without a bathroom, we were loathe to drink too much, so I’m sure we were both wildly dehydrated.  And while we were very fortunate to have bathroom facilities on site that we could access for most of the hours of the day, our 3:59 am wake-up calls were doing nothing for our general dispositions or biological systems (you will never be so hellishly aware of how crucial all of that is to your very functioning than when you’ve been denied access to a bathroom.  Turns out the earth does not revolve around the sun, it revolves around a bathroom.)  We were also carrying out a terrific amount of after-hours cleanup, because none of the trades, save the plumbers, had any respect for our home.  Add some nosy, justifiably ticked-off neighbours to the mix, a dash of enforced boredom (I’m one of those people who can’t work/create/entertain myself very well when there are strangers about; I sat in my livingroom for weeks just listening to music on my phone) and a joint sleep deficit that probably numbered in the hundreds, and you’ve got a recipe for great unhappiness.  We weren’t the most pleasant people to be around.

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Then one late spring day it just ended.  I don’t even think I was here for the final day of work; pretty sure I subbed that out to my sanity contractor while I popped out for coffee.  By that point, I simply didn’t think my brain could handle one more SPECK of stupidity, of which there had been so very, very much.  And frankly, I just didn’t want to see our contractor – I don’t think he was aiming for anything malicious here, but he didn’t have a clue, and we paid dearly for it.  I’m sure he was grateful I wasn’t here.

Then our part of the piece began – the cleaning and the painting (why do we have so much wainscotting?!) and the putting back of possessions.  All of which took forever, but not as long as the actual renos, hey-oh!  Okay, so this was the bad, boring part – the WHY? portion of a film trilogy – but there’s a satisfying ending to this three-part tale, and that’s a lovely, updated apartment with an actual functioning bathroom!  So please join me next time for the big reveal, including a little Cribs-style video I shot of the (nearly) finished product.

Carpet Diem

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Renovations: Part I

To paraphrase one Walter Elias Disney – smart man, done some things, you might be familiar with his work – it all started with a crowbar.

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Okay, to back up a bit, it actually all started with this crowbar last year when I began ripping up the engineered hardwood in our apartment in anticipation of springtime renovations to our home.  We were looking at the total replacement of our bathroom, as well as some small work in the kitchen, a whole mess of painting, and entirely new tile and carpet throughout.  It was going to be a lot of messy work, and like a couple of loons, we were also going to try to live in our apartment while it was being renovated.

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So naturally the very best time to begin tearing up the floor, splinter by agonizing splinter, was eight months out from the start of the work, just to make the intervening time as uncomfortable, awkward and dangerous as humanly possible.  That our lower limbs did not succumb to gangrenous affront is something of a miracle to me, after half a year of wandering around on bare concrete floors with partially exposed, toe-puncturing nailing strips lying in wait.

Reno Collage 2

A month out from the planned start of work I began filling out the approvals paperwork required by our condo board.  Roughly a month later I had the paperwork finished, after jumping through hoop, after hoop, after hoop stipulated by the board.  Some of the hoops were understandable and reasonable – of course we can’t use gravity-assisted toilets in a stack condo, we’d be pissing on our neighbours’ heads.  It has to be a wall-mount unit, duh.  Other hoops were less reasonable – thinking here, of course, of the hideously expensive, ungodly HEAVY and completely unwieldy underlay we had to purchase, the installation of which, in retrospect, is what set the entire job back by about three weeks.

In response to a letter of complaint I sent to our property management firm, the property manager disagreed with my pissed-off assessment that the condo board appears to be made up of a bunch of weekend DIY-ers who have no business approving decisions related to major infrastructure.  She has absolutely no evidence to back up her assertion, but I certainly do – the board-mandated underlay, for instance.  Also the toilet that was board-mandated and approved – I even included printed schematics in my submission! – except when we went to install it, it didn’t fit.  I don’t know how I managed to hold it together, but there’s a boardroom in my building that’s lucky it didn’t have a wall-mounted, low flush porcelain crapper thrown through its window.

Toilet Collage

But to use the underlay as an example, had any one of my neighbours on the board actually taken a good look at the product in question – 10 to 12 millimeter-thick, National Research Council-rated padding to lay under hard flooring types such as ceramic – they would have noted that it was 1) total overkill (are we soundproofing our home or a concert venue?) and 2) a completely inappropriate stipulation given its cost, availability, and general immovability.  Two young, fit guys STRUGGLED to heave those gigantic rolls up to our apartment, and it took another young, fit guy two full, very sweaty days – plus setting time! – to actually install the underlay.  To say nothing of the many, many framing and trim workarounds we had to employ after the fact to accommodate a floor pad that was now more than half an inch higher.

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And while things are beginning to change, the age mix in our building still skews pretty heavily toward folks born in the 1930s and 40s – people in their retirement years on fixed incomes.  I can’t imagine they’d be super pleased to bear the various costs – to their wallets, homes and bodies – of this product that they are being forced to use by a board that has not done its due diligence.  I’ll amend my earlier critique to now call them a bunch of rubber stamp-happy, weekend DIY-ers who have no business approving decisions related to major infrastructure.

And I suspect I am not alone in this assessment, because once the work actually began in earnest, it became quite clear that we were some of the only people adhering to the rules and regulations set forth by the condo board.  Rules and regs regarding the booking of the service elevator, rules and regs regarding the kind of materials we could use in our renos, rules and regs regarding the disposal of construction materials, and rules and regs regarding the behaviour of contractors in and around the building.  Again, some of these stipulations are valid – I’ve got no problem keeping a watchful eye on strangers in the building, even if I invited them in; that’s just good safety policy.  But most of the stipulations were cumbersome and pedantic, like the board was given a 100-point checklist titled Little Ways To Really Piss Off Your Condo Owners, For Fun and Profit!  As such, I think a lot of my fellow residents said, “Oh, sod THIS” and went their own way, without board approval or, more importantly, board oversight.  Because you don’t have to jump through their hoops if they don’t know what you’re doing.

Which led to all manner of sneaky subterfuge happening in the building, and I’m not just talking about the couple I found banging down in the women’s sauna one evening.  Or the naked ladies boogeying to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack in the women’s change room.  Or the guy trying to stuff two thoroughly dead and dried-out Christmas trees down the garbage chute one pre-dawn May morning.  It’s amazing what people try to get away with when they think no one’s looking.  My neighbours are animals.

Change Room of Fear

But animals who apparently know well enough to keep The Condo Man out of their business, which includes co-ed naked sauna-ing, Dirty Dancing and inappropriate disposal methods, yes, but also includes more serious infractions like carrying out their renovations however and with whatever they see fit, without making submission to the board for approval.  Which is a super big piss-off when you’re actually playing by the rules and paying dearly for it.  That ridiculously expensive and cumbersome underlay, for instance?  The guys who installed our carpet and through whom we sourced the underlay – they’re probably the biggest, oldest flooring concern in the city – confirmed that we are some of the only people they have sold it to in our building, where the construction is never-ending and this material has been mandated into use by the board.  And yet we are the ONLY people I saw schlepping this stuff around.  If it’s a required material, why do we seem to be the only residents actually using it?

At the end of it all, I’m glad we stayed on the side of right, even if it cost us time, money and precious, precious sanity.  Plus I now get to be a righteous ass – WE DID THINGS THE CORRECT WAY, SO GTFO.  But there were many, many times when I questioned why we were adhering to the process so strictly, and seeing no immediate benefit in return.

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But really, this entire process was an ordeal, and that was all before ground had even been broken, so to speak (don’t joke; a giant hole in our floor was pretty much the only problem we didn’t have!)  In the next installment of this three-part series, we get down to work on transforming our home and losing our minds.  I hope you’ll come back and join me as I wade a little deeper into this journey – somebody needs to throw me a life preserver when the memories get to be too much. 😉

Monday Bloody Monday

Toilet Collage

Ah yes, but a better Monday than LAST Monday, because on this particular Monday Bloody Monday WE HAVE A TOILET!!!  I so jinxed myself last week talking about it, too, as I knew I would – sure enough, the plumbers went to install the thing, only to discover that the piece that connects the toilet to the pipe in the wall would not fit.  And this on a model whose specs were mandated, recommended AND approved by the condo board, individuals who presumably (?) have functioning eyes and brains, although you’d never know it.  Too busy giving me crap because the contractors left a bit of dust in the elevator to pay attention to critical matters of shared infrastructure, I guess (made all the more galling by the fact that they had the printed schematics from the manufacturer right in front of them, something we didn’t actually need to provide, but did so out of an act of woefully misguided kindness.)

Anyhow, we ran about the city sourcing a new toilet on our dime and time, returned the old guy and paid the supplier restocking fee, paid the plumbers for the first aborted install, wrote a furious e-mail to our property management company, Reid Property Management, which has gone completely ignored (edit: received a response today, one of those classic “Sorry you feel this way” non-apologies), wrote another furious letter to our condo board, put the wheels in motion to move out of this horribly mismanaged hole if this reno ever nears completion, and finally – finally! – had our new toilet installed on Friday afternoon.  The rest of our bathroom is within striking distance of being finished, but I’ve learned not to talk about this stuff too much, lest I absolutely jinx it.  So I’ll just be over here smooching my new toilet, as you do, because I’m just so happy that it’s here and it fits.

I also have a new Disney foodie video I published to our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, all about yummy grub to grab at the Animal Kingdom, a mostly reno-friendly activity I’ve been pinning my sanity to in the absence of nail art or reading or just having two seconds to myself where I’m not besieged by filth, grumpy contractors or my own dumbass neighbours.  I love putting together these little videos.  Love how righteously ravenous they make me ever so slightly less, particularly when our kitchen is also out of commission, but the memories are nearly enough!  Enjoy!

Bedlam

For all intents and purposes, this is a nail blog, but observant observers may have noticed that Finger Candy has been most bereft of actual nail art for quite some time now.  And that’s in part because I’m currently mired in a renovation hell of my own making that I’m beginning to think I may never emerge from?  What was to be a one-week job has now sprawled out into its third week, and our second full week of no plumbing.  Having (regrettably) lived with renovation-like activities for my entire life, I knew things were not going to proceed exactly as planned and to schedule, but I’m starting to feel quite twitchy about how long this has dragged out.  Maybe I’m just worn down by REPEATED eyefuls of my naked neighbours in the bathroom change room, which I visit on average about 10 times a day.  In their defence, that is what one does in a change room – get changed, which does require a temporary state of nudity.  The key word there, however, is TEMPORARY, so I really don’t get these broads that strut around with their everything out in the breeze, gabbing with their friends, washing their unmentionables in the single sink (WE HAVE LAUNDRY FACILITIES, YOU CHEAP OLD FREAKS, HERE’S A LOONIE FOR THE WASH SO YOU CAN REMOVE YOUR GUNGY OLD GIRDLE FROM THE SPOT WHERE I’M TRYING TO BRUSH MY TEETH) or maybe chatting me up in the mirror while I attempt not to look at anything with too much specificity.  I’m (Joker) smiling in this picture, but that’s just because my brain has broken and I’m two seconds from being hauled off to Arkham Asylum.

Change Room of Fear

And while I’ve already discussed the neighbours I walked in on the other evening boning in the sauna (did I mention that?  Well, they were, and I did, and I’m now horribly traumatized) I shall never speak a word about the bathroom-encompassing biohazard that greeted me at the beginning of the week, and which I think has been the deciding factor in us coming to the conclusion that when these renos are done, we’re moving.  Our neighbours are disgusting friggin’ savages, and I’ve got zippo desire to continue tying our financial futures to these animals.  I don’t even want to share a common wall with them.

Anyhow, while I was ripping out the floor, I tore off every single one of my nails on my good hand, so I’ve been living a nail art-less existence, as has this blog.  But until I return to my adventures in acetone, I thought maybe I’d lay out how this reno process has been not going for us, so if you’re contemplating any major renovations of your own, I can thoroughly dissuade you.  Please learn from my mistakes and frustrations – some good has to come of this.

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First, the major obstacle to these renovations (new bathroom and flooring throughout) has been the fact that we live in a condo apartment.  For those of you who may not be familiar with how condos work, they’re essentially buildings or communities in which you purchase a stake, said stake being your unit.  This is really no different than purchasing a home, and indeed, we own our apartment just like you own your house.  But we also have a financial responsibility to the community or the building as a whole for things like landscaping, maintenance and building management, and we pay for a portion of those items through monthly condo fees.  This is essentially what a person with a single family home would spend every month on maintaining their property.  That’s utter bullshit, of course – our condo fees are gigantic, and I highly doubt you spend nearly $900 every month on maintaining your home, because while your teenagers might be kinda gross and perhaps not the most respectful of your space, they’re not 2,000 disgusting stranger neighbours (“You haven’t met my teenage son,” you may be saying.  Fair enough!)

So owing to the quasi-communal nature of our living arrangements and the fact that financially, we’re really all in this together, there’s a lot of oversight to living in a condo.  As in the condo board will be up your ass every second of the day, as will your neighbours, who apparently don’t mind midnight sex parties in the sauna, but will rip your head off and rat you out to the board if you so much as allow the pizza delivery dude through the front door as opposed to the SERVICE ENTRANCE (yes, we have a service entrance, like we’re effin’ slave-owners over here.)

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More specifically to this renovation, we’ve had to jump through some Cirque du Soleil-level hoops to get everything from the work, to the materials, to the actual tradespeople themselves approved.  And we have jumped through their hoops, pushing the work back by about two weeks while we sought out all the necessary approvals.  But now that everyone in the building seemingly knows our business (news travels fast in a biddy-based building, let me tell you) I feel like we’re under the microscope.  Everyone’s watching us for that moment when we break the nit-picky rules and regulations (and it’s happening; the restrictions are cumbersome.)  Like, are you really giving me shit about the tilers lugging their stuff up in a non-service elevator when I can’t book the service elevator in the first place AND someone has turned the women’s room into an abattoir?  One of these things is not like the other.  So if you live in a condo and you’re contemplating renovations, first give some thought to the reasonableness of the condo board and its (your) policies.  Because while I’m in full agreement with any rules and regulations that make life easier for my neighbours, my neighbours are not extending me the same courtesy, and trying to renovate around that simply may not be worth it.

But if you’re mental like us and you’ve decided to jump in with both feet, the best piece of advice I’ve got for you is to split up the job(s).  We quite hopefully – naively – thought that the best way to approach this was to blitz it, which means our home has been completely torn up for three weeks now.  We have the use of the sink in our kitchen, but our appliances are unplugged and sitting out in the diningroom, and our bathroom currently looks like Bosnia.  All of our possessions are sitting in boxes on our balconies and any elevated surfaces I can find, and everything is filthy all the time.  We are camping in our own home, and this campsite is a nightmare.  Please gaze upon the state of my diningroom right this very moment:

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There’s just too much planned work going on in too small a space, and we’re tripping all over ourselves.  So while it may be tempting to say, “Yes, let’s get this done as quickly and efficiently as possible,” those are two descriptors that generally don’t apply to renos, so save yourself the hassle and break it up.

But really, at the end of the day?  Maybe just, you know, DON’T.  I was visiting with a friend the other day who’s contemplating some pretty major renovations to her house, and I do believe my tales of woe scared the living crap out of her.  She really likes her house and it’s a good fit for her family, but given the extent of the proposed work, I’d recommend that they just move.  But I’m ready to move to an entirely different solar system at this point, so (frustrated) grain of salt, yeah?

So in conclusion, class, what we learned today is that if you live in a condo and you’re contemplating renovations, your best bet is to take all your money, light it on fire and then slingshot yourself into the sun.  Problem solved. 😉  See you on the other side (of my sanity), peeps.

Dispatches From the Reno Zone

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This little anecdote pretty well sums up our experience here in our condo while we’ve been gutting and renovating our bathroom: The water has been fully shut off for about two days now, but we’ve been lucky enough to have access to a full change room bathroom down by the indoor pool.  Can’t say I love padding down to a humid public change room at midnight in my jammies to tend to those pesky human nature needs, but I really am beyond grateful for access to on-site indoor plumbing; we are far luckier than others in our position (thinking of friends of mine with five-year-old twins and one bathroom who are contemplating extensive renovations to their home.  Feel free to come over here, guys, when the time comes – there are showers and a sauna!)

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But perhaps my friends won’t wish to take me up on my oh-so kind offer once they read about this morning’s adventure, which found me down in the bathroom about 6 am washing my face and brushing my teeth while my 83-year-old neighbour stood beside me stark bucking naked and talked into the mirror at me for five solid minutes about the plight of our city’s migratory birds (the weather’s been total winter crap, and the early birds can’t find food.  I think I would have been much more interested and engaged had my neighbour not delivered this sad news to me in the softly jiggling altogether.)  I do not even know this woman’s name, and I really didn’t take the time to enquire.

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Anyhow!  Piles of dust and a sledged-out toilet and starkers neighbours, oh my.

I do not recommend extensive renovations, friends, if you live in a condo.  Or possibly ever.  More updates to follow – just hopefully none having to do with my naked neighbours. 😉

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