Spring… it’s home renovation time

— by Peter

Here we are at the end of March and it looks like spring has finally arrived. Some of our perennials are just poking through the mulch and it won’t be long before our magnolia tree is in full blossom.

And with spring our thoughts have turned to all the home improvements that need to be done. My wife and I already have two at the top of our list—a kitchen renovation and a master bathroom makeover.

We plan to start with the bathroom renovation. We did a major home renovation back in 1995, when we removed the top floor of our East York storey-and-a-half home and we added a complete second storey as well as 12 feet on the back. As renovations tend to go, the project was messy, ran over budget and took longer than we expected. By the time it was coming to an end, we had exhausted most of our savings and there was very little money left for quality fixtures in the master bathroom. We settled for a box-store shower enclosure, two sinks, taps and toilet. Now, after 18 years, our master bathroom is way overdue for a renovation.

On a website called HomeStars, my wife started reading reviews from consumers on their experiences with various contractors. She found three that had all garnered very high ratings, plus we had personal recommendations from friends. How a contractor does with this bathroom renovation will certainly determine whether or not we will use the same person for our kitchen renovation. 

I left messages with three contractors and explained the details of our project. One contractor got back to me immediately and we set up an appointment. He came and took measurements and photos, and we had a quotation in our hands later that same day. His job is project management, and when commitments are made his company strives to be 100% on time. His proposal is to build us a six-foot by three-foot shower enclosure with ceramic tile floor, walls and ceiling. His quoted price includes only labour; we would have to source and purchase the tiles, plumbing fixtures, double vanity, countertop, sinks and exhaust fan. 

We were a bit taken aback by this because we were looking for a complete turnkey solution. I would have thought that companies have sample books for plumbing fixtures, countertops and vanities. I couldn’t see my wife and I running all over the city to look for all the hardware that we needed. I will be calling him back to see if there is a way to resolve this.

Contractor #2 impressed us a great deal. His company actually manufactures their own cabinets, so you get a custom install. They have a showroom where you can select the style and finish of the vanity and they will source out all the components for us based on our tastes and budget. The contractor was in our home for over two hours and he measured, photographed and made before-and-after sketches. He said he would work towards keeping our project to our budget figure and will get back to us in about two weeks with a detailed design and price.

Contractor #3 was recommended to us by two of our friends. He had done a master bathroom for one of our friends, plus a complete kitchen and two bathrooms for another. Unfortunately, we didn’t hit it off well. He seemed argumentative and wasn’t really listening or being sympathetic to our needs. He scoffed when we said we did not want or need a heated floor and he made a face when we suggested painted MDF for the vanity. He suggested a thermofoil finish which really has a fake wood look to it. We do know that he is a master plumber and the quality of his work is without question, but we just can’t see the project turning out the way we want it.

We’ll probably get quotes from a couple more contractors. So hopefully in the next few weeks we will have settled on one and our first renovation project can begin. 

Our kitchen renovation will be a much larger project so we have hired a designer to draw up detailed plans for the kitchen. We’re excited to see what she will come up with. It will probably be early fall before the kitchen renovation is completed. 

Here is what our kitchen looks like now:

The year 2013 promises to be a challenging year for us with these two major renewal projects.

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