This is part two of The Renovation Diaries, a week-by-week chronicle of Western Living's editor-at-large as she tackles a fixer-upper. To read past and future renovation diary entries, click here.
I don’t know how long it takes to build an apartment, but it definitely takes more than a week to destroy it, piece by piece, as it turns out.
Yes, the demolition rages on at Stink Haus. At this point, honestly, it kind of feels like it always will. What day is it anymore? Who am I? How does electricity work? Is it for the best that I don’t think I would recognize asbestos if I found it?
Most days, Max and his dad go down to the apartment to destroy things, while I act as Communications Director here at HQ (a.k.a. the spare bedroom at my Mom’s), calling up tradespeople to try to shake them down for a better price. My haggling skills are, if I do say myself, terrible.
But I’ve gotten the chance to get hands-on at the job site, too. It's not all glamorous work, but I'm happy to do my part. I will admit that I was jealous that my father-in-law got to cut the bathtub in half with a metal saw while my mom and I tried in vain to scrub the nicotine out of the walls, a Sisyphean task that just seemed to make more brown ooze seep out of the paint... but to be fair, he brought the saw. So.
In all seriousness, I don’t know how we would be able to tackle this without him. There are some things we can figure out how to deconstruct through pure trial and error (see exhibits A and B: the two holes I put in the wall trying to pull off door trim) but definitely not everything. His wisdom and patience have helped us achieve what we didn't think was possible and saved us like $5,000. I'm not sure what kind of wine we could possibly gift him to thank him for his generosity and hard work. Is there something bigger than a magnum out there? (We have a dolly now so really, size is no limit!)
Things I've learned from the Father-in-Law School of Construction: Did you know you can just cut a countertop in half?! Or that anyone can just rent a jackhammer from the store?! It’s empowering, knowing that any problem is solvable, as long as Paul is there to tell you what to do!
Some days, the demolition is fun and cathartic. We’ve each discovered our favourite tools: Max is convinced an offset scraper is the cure for everything, whereas I’m more of a crowbar gal. (Opposites attract!) We karate-chopped some drywall down. I peeled up the bathroom linoleum with my bare hands like it was a bad sunburn; Max carried dank cabinetry over the threshold like a bride. It’s satisfying to see what you’ve destroyed! I get where super-villains are coming from now.
But these are the high points. There’s a lot of gruelling, frustrating moments too.
We look around and feel proud of all that’s been accomplished, but then we make a list of what’s still left to do before we actually get to start the building part, and it seems like there are 400 weeks to go. A half-wall in the kitchen that is absolutely in the way is also absolutely full of pipes and wires, which has sent designer Ben back to the drawing board, which has put a hold on the cabinetry, which in turn has put on a hold on countertops, and floors, and painting, and everything, really.
We carry on with our destruction in the meantime. A truckload of garbage goes out, picked up by a troupe of out-of-work dancers (really), but then we turn around and there’s more. We keep finding new bulkheads where it really feels like there weren’t bulkheads before (are they... moving?!). So much time is spent just wheeling and dealing with people on Facebook marketplace. We're like the Rodney Dangerfield of appliances: take my fridge, please.
One one of my days on the job site, I accidentally turned on the fireplace and almost burn down the apartment and, I don't want to name names, but this is pretty frustrating to certain husbands who are just trying to maintain a safe work environment. Oops. I distracted him from my misstep by directing his attention to his father, who was letting the sparks fly off of his metal saw directly into the open bathroom wall. I spent the rest of the afternoon hiding in the closet, trying to clean the inexplicably filthy ceiling.
Back here at Communications Director HQ (which, again, I cannot stress this enough, is my mom’s spare bedroom), I consult my spreadsheets and attempt to order all of our various materials to at least get the ball rolling there. I am confident that being organized is going to be key to getting this renovation done in record time!
….Naturally, everything is backordered.
Our faucets will take 10 weeks to get here. (I don’t know where they are: How is anything 10 weeks away in this day and age? Haven’t faucets heard of airplanes!?) It turns out this little “global pandemic” is “affecting the supply chain” and I need to “chill.”
What I'm learning mostly is that renovating is a lot of sweat, and a lot of waiting.
I feel a little guilty that Max is probably getting tile poisoning as he’s tearing up the floor with his dad today, while my biggest problem is finding a workaround for a $600 shipping fee on the backsplash we want and trying to deduce if the ceiling guy will be receptive to emojis in text messages, but we have to divide and conquer to keep this thing moving along.
Unless... I just "accidentally" turn on the fireplace again, and burn the place down so we buy something that's actually liveable and forget this whole thing ever happened?
Only 399 more weeks to go.
Follow along on Instagram and come back next week for more Renovation Diary updates!