Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Want to Be on TV?

Received an interesting Comment from Kelly at Slice TV. While my wife and i totally fit the bill (i.e. having a baby and perpetually renovating), both of us are extremely camera shy and could never imagine being on TV. If you are more extroverted than us, and are going through your own reno and life changes. Below is a copy of Kelly's note:

Great Blog! I'm casting for a new SLICE TV show and we're looking for couples who are renovating a room in their house while trying to plan a wedding or have a baby. Any chance you fit into this? If not, would be great if you could spread the word to your fellow bloggers. Interested people should contact me at

Many thanks in advance!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

If I Had a Million Dollars...

As I plod along at trying to finish my current slew of home reno projects (nursery, bathroom, new floors on the 2nd level, building a new linen closet, etc), I find I sometimes get distracted with thoughts of other projects. Not projects that have any hope of ever getting completed this lifetime. In fact I’m not even talking about projects on a property I own - I'm talking about fantasy projects, like “Wouldn’t it be great to buy the house around the corner and fix it up?” type projects. So as an outlet for my wandering project eye, I thought I’d share my crazy fantasy projects on this blog and tag them with, “If I Had a Million Dollars...”. So here’s the first in what will likely be many posts.

Today’s fantasy project is 52 Pearson Ave (MLS: W198483), which is currently on the market for $749K. This solid, detached, 3-storey, Edwardian-style house would have been built between 1910 -1930 and sits on a 26 x 125 ft lot, with laneway access to a 2 car garage. It has 5 bedrooms and 2 baths, and is located on the North side of a quiet tree-lined street in Roncesvalles Village. So if I had a million dollars and was shopping for a new home, here’s what I might do…

Math ruins the fun in this creative fantasy exercise, so I’m just going to assume that there aren’t any transaction costs and that I paid the asking price, leaving me with 251K to spend on improvements. I like to always keep resale in the back of my mind when I plan or design any home improvements, so my goal would be to try to improve the value of the home too.

The house appears to be very well maintained and considering that the semi-detached house a couple of doors down sold for over $1.1M, I think there’s little risk of over-improving. The biggest problem with this house right now, is that it doesn’t work for modern families: too many bedrooms, not enough bathrooms, small kitchen and no family room. So that’s where most of the 251K will go. Here’s a breakdown of what I would do:

I would spend 120K to take down the mudroom and open up the door and window in the kitchen
to create a new family room addition across the full width of the back of the house (approximately 20 feet wide). I would also open the window in the dining room up to this new space, with a set of French doors.

With the back of the house facing North, I would design the addition to maximize natural light. I’m thinking a conservatory structure for the family room with a dining area just past the kitchen and a lounging area on the other side of the dining room French doors. Something like this:

The kitchen is just shy of 16’ x 9.5’, giving 32 ft of uninterrupted walls for cabinets and counters. This would make a very functional galley kitchen. I would probably spend about 20K on appliances, 25K on cabinets 6K on counters and 4K on other items for a total of 55K for the kitchen. Something like this - I like the dark cabinetry.

I would convert one of the bedrooms into a bathroom, making the house a 4 bedroom, 3bath house. And then I would renovate the 2 existing baths with new fixtures. At about 15K per bathroom, the total expense would be about 45K

The rest of the interior is in very solid shape and would only need a cosmetic freshening up. I would allocate about 11K, to paint and floor refinishing.

Finally to complete the makeover I would spend 20K on windows, new porch trim and i would rejoice once the chain link fence came down.

There you go, that would be my idea of a pretty nice $1M family home in Toronto: spacious, stylish, functional and in a great little neighbourhood.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Life is Good

Yesterday, a big, shiny, brand new LCBO opened up in my neighbourhood. For those who don't live in Ontario, the LCBO, stands for Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and it's where we Ontarians go to buy all of our adult beverages. Life is good!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Got Milk?

The other day I went to borrow some tools from my brother, who lives 8 doors down, he was working on a little DIY project that I thought some people might like. About 2 month ago, he spotted a set of 6 hairpin-style bentwood chairs at Captain’s Treasures in Leslieville, for $175 CAD. A steal considering a single “Vienna Side Chair” from Create & Barrel is $119 USD.
While they resemble the popular bent-wood chairs designed by Michael Thonet, these ones have a sticker with the maker’s name on it – J&J Kohn. In the mid-1800's, J&J Kohn was a separate competing company to Thonet’s, but J&J Kohn eventually merged with Mundus, which incorporated into the Gebruder Thonet Company in 1922. So we know they're at least 88 years old.
The chairs needed some re-gluing in a few spots, but remained quite solid overall. The finish however was past the point of “patina” and bordering on “distressed”. I suggested that he try a milk paint finish. It leaves a beautiful gunk-free finish unlike anything achievable by using latex or even oil, and the product is about as eco-friendly and easy to clean up as you can get. It's completely odorless and cleans up with just plain water. It doesn’t chip, scratch or peel, instead it gradually wears away over many years, in the spots that receive the most contact, allowing it to age gracefully.
So he went to Homestead House Paint Co. and picked up a small batch of milk paint powder in Coal Black, a bottle of primer and a bottle of hemp oil. After carefully following the instructions, he mixed up a batch and painted the first coat onto the chairs, followed by a second coat a few hours later. The paint dries to a very even matte finish. The next day he applied a coat of the hemp oil, which dries to a nice, mellow, warm, satiny luster.


After first coat:

After second coat:

After hemp oil:

Don’t the chairs look incredible, now?

His total cost for the chairs, glue and paint was about $260. I was so impressed, that I asked him to paint our end table, since he still had some left-over paint mixed up.
End table before. The mahogany has definitely seen better days:

End table after:

1. Milk paint is best applied directly over unfinished wood, but with the primer it can go over other finishes.
2. To get a good solid coverage, be sure to stir the paint often as you apply it. Or else the solids settle out, and the coverage gets thinner.
3. Once you get good at it, you can use it to create aged effects. Such as painting a solid colour, and then washing another thin layer of another colour on top.
4. While the finish is really warm and quite gorgeous, i would resist the urge to paint every piece of furniture in a room with milk paint, unless you want the look of a Canadiana furniture store or of an early settler museum vignette.
5. If i ever do another kitchen renovation, i will seriously consider a milk paint finish on the cabinetry. Kitchens take a lot of abuse. I love the idea of the finish wearing down, rather than chipping and scratching like lacquer does.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tub 101

While taking out the old bath tub, i discovered a classic case of what not to do. They used a drop-in tub, in an alcove situation. in spite of the copious amount of caulking they used, there was still signs that water was getting behind the tile tub surround. So i thought i'd share some tub 101, for anyone who's interested. Tubs basically come in four different configurations: alcove with apron, drop-in, alcove without the apron and free-standing. Each have unique installation considerations. So if you're tub shopping you have to be aware of what situation you have and shop for the right configuration of tub.

Alcove tubs with apron - these are the most common. These tubs are meant for both bathing and showering in. They sit in between 3 walls and usually have some kind of waterproof surround like tile. To install these tubs, you don't need to build a "deck" or a front apron (i.e. the front vertical face of the tub) because the tub comes with an integral apron. The most important thing about these tubs is that they have raised tiling flanges on the three sides that go up against the wall. The tiling flange is a lip that sits behind the cement backer board and prevents water from getting behind the surround and leaking into the room below. Below is the tub we've chosen for it's clean lines, it is an Azzura Adora, and shown is the alcove version.

Drop-in tubs - these are more commonly used in larger bathrooms where there is room for a separate shower stall. These tubs do not have tile flanges and are meant for bathing only. With these you do need to build a deck to support the tub.
Alcove without apron - these are relatively uncommon. They are basically the same as the alcove described above, except you need to build a front apron/deck on the front. These tubs are also meant for bathing and showering, but give the owner the option to finish the front in a material like tile or panelling.

Free-standing tubs - These are meant for bathing in only. And in a lot of cases, they're actually meant for looks only, because most people would be too afraid to dirty them. These are the tubs for the rich and famous...without children...with staff. They start around $1,000 and go up to the stratoshpere. I've seen $25,000 copper tubs, $30,000 marble tubs, etc. Better make sure you get a really good plumber to install yours for you!