Renovation Stress

Generally our projects tend to go fairly smoothly. We plan and prep a ton, and usually stay on budget and don’t have many delays. However, it’s not always sunshine and roses. We too can be plagued with reno stress and generally a whole lot of crap that doesn’t go right.

This weekend the basement project fell into the not going so well territory.


El Granto headed to the motorcycle show to see a man about a motorcycle (more on that later) . I saw the sunshine from my bedroom window and thought “oh what a nice day, I’ll go to Ikea”. What a mistake. It was sunny but frigidly cold and windy. I took the subway to Kipling, and waited 45 minutes in the middle of the parking lot for the Ikea shuttle. Bonus points for Ikea making their shuttle stop without any shelter, and not in viewing distance of the station. Good work Ikea. After arriving at Ikea I braved the Saturday crowd and the arguing couples and screaming parents to pick up a (very large) counter for the washer & dryer as well as a few other accessories. I also needed to make a stop at the lighting department, as I had purchased a purported “ceiling light” which was actually a plug in light. I hoped I purchased the wrong version, and that they magically had a hard wired option, but alas no. Nor does Ikea have conversion kits or any easy way to turn their plug in lights to hard wire.

Discouraged I left Ikea with my purchases and carried a 20lbs 5×2.5′ countertop home on the shuttle and subway. By this point I was cursing myself for not renting a car, or at least going to Ikea with a pal to help carry.

How am I going to get this home?
How am I going to get this home?

I finally got everything home and went to install the countertop and realized that my lint trap above the dryer was too low and the counter wouldn’t fit. Awesome. I left the counter and called it a day.

lint trap is line 1/2" too low.
Really? That darn lint trap is line 1/2″ too low.

We headed out early to catch brunch at one of our neighbourhood spots only to find that the drunken hipster hockey fans had been up since 6am and were looking for some breakfast to sop up the booze, and all our fave brunch spots has lines out the door. (*Note to all the non-Canadians, our bars don’t usually open at 6am, but because of the early morning gold metal Canada vs. Sweeden hockey match, the government changed the rules  for the day to allow bars to be open and serving for the big game. What can I say, Canadians love their hockey and beer.)

Sad and brunchless I gave up and headed out on some errands. I bused down to West Elm to pick up a light conversion kit. A $25 fix for my $15 Ikea lamp problem, but at least I knew it would work.

The cute (but evil!) $15 Ikea light and the $25 West Elm Conversion kit to fix it

I headed home, dropped off my shopping then headed back out to Home Depot to pick  up the cladding for the basement staircase ceiling.

Ceiling cladding options: Beadboard or Barnboard
Ceiling cladding options: Beadboard or Barnboard

I decided on pine barnboard planking and proceeded to go through each and every board in stock to find only three acceptable boards. Well that’s not enough to plank a ceiling, so out went the barnboard and in came V groove tongue & groove. Another slog through the pile to find acceptable pieces and then a long hard trip home on public transit with the lumber and supplies.

After arriving home I set out to priming my planks and finish wiring and installing my Ikea light in the basement staircase (there is no light there and it’s pretty dark/sad.)

Priming the Ceiling Planks
Priming the Ceiling Planks

After struggling with the wire I’ve discovered that the light switch isn’t wired with two hot wires and meretted neutrals, but alas is wired hot in, neutral out. Uhhhh… how am I going to add a light to this circuit? I tried a few wiring options and wired up the light to test, only to drop the two tiny black screws that hold the light to the ceiling down the stairs bouncing around and getting lost forever. Much swearing, yelling and a slam of a door ensued.

I unwired the light, reattached the existing wiring (so we would have some light in the basement) and left a ladder in the powder room, a compressor in the hall, beadboard covering every surface in the dining room, a nonworking light hanging from an unplanked ceiling and construction debris everywhere and went to bed.

Tonight I am going to try to muster up the courage to take another stab at it, or I may just sit on the sofa with a slice of pizza and hope that a DIY fairy comes to fix my problems.

Blogaversary – The Truth

So its official, we’ve been blogging for a whole year and over 200 posts! I know, time flies! Our Blogaversary also happens to fall on our summer vacation. So although we’ll be taking a break from the blog for a week of sun and fun, we will have a few new things to share with you.

First up, THE TRUTH!

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs skew our perspective of other peoples lives. You don’t see piles of laundry, their kids screaming, couples having arguments, bills, stress and chaos. The internet is like a magazine, only the most flattering parts of something are shown.

I know you see El Granto & I working away on projects every weekend, but here’s the truth. It doesn’t always go as planned, sometimes we screw up, and big. When were in the middle of a project, our house is in chaos, the laundry un-done, a dust bunny rolling down the hallway gathering size, and sometimes we have cereal for dinner.


So here is a post about the truth. The good, the bad and the ugly, but all of it true.

  • Every single photo on the blog is taken with a cell phone. When we started the blog, I didn’t want to drag out our DSLR for every photo. I didn’t want to shoot raw, process, retouch and re-size. The blog is a hobby, and as such, it needed to not take up all of our time to maintain. So we shoot every photo on my iPhone, export it as a medium res image, and upload. No color correcting, no retouching. What you see is what you get.
  • I write all my blog posts on the bus. I have a long commute, and between my 9-5 day job, commute, life & our projects it didn’t leave much time for blog writing. I would rather spend my evenings cuddling on the sofa with husband and puppy that stuck in the office writing. So I have found time during my commute to write my posts. I write everything as a draft in my email (again on my phone!), then when I’m at a computer I copy and paste and upload the photos.

    whats that? oh you know, the dog ripping a hole in our $150 douvet cover
    whats that? oh you know, the dog ripping a hole in our $150 douvet cover
  • We argue. We are both very stubborn and passionate people. We have opinions and like to do things our way. We argue over how to do projects, how much money to spend on them, and when things go wrong we can be not so nice to each other. I think the key to out working together is to know our strengths, to listen to eachother and to take a break when things aren’t working right. Usually a few minutes away (most likely with a drink on the deck and a game of fetch with the dog) and we are relaxed to give it another go.plantfail
  • DIYing calms and relaxes me. I know that sounds crazy, as normally DIYing stresses people out. They do call it Divorce Dust after all. However building takes me to my happy place.  If I could quit my day job and build things all day I would be happier than a pig in s#!t.
  • I dream about reno projects. I often have trouble falling asleep at night, and to calm my brain I think about projects I’d like to do, and how I’d do them. I think planning is half the fun in a project (nerd alert).
  • I am the spastic one, and El Granto is the calm level headed one. I have crazy ideas, and he brings me down to earth and keeps me sane. We are both creative types and feed off eachothers ideas. One of us can have a great idea and then the other one will chime in to make it even better. This is both a good and a bad thing, as it usually means more work or more money to spend on a project!
  • El Granto built and maintains the site. When I said I wanted a blog, he set it up on a site we already had, and gave me one month to blog. He promised if I stuck with it, he’d give me my own domain. Well one month and 19 posts later, he realized that I wasn’t joking, and really wanted to do this. So that day he signed me up for a new domain, and was born.
  • Ever wonder what we do for (real) jobs? I work in the photography industry, and El Granto is a web developer.
  • A lot of the time we have no idea what we’re doing. We research things and watch YouTube videos like the rest of you. We’re not experts, and a lot of the time we’re just winging it. Most importantly we read the instructions. Most of the time there’s an expert telling you EXACTLY how to do something, you just have to follow the instructions.

    Yep, thats a burn in the shape of a comma, forever scarred into my arm
    Yep, that’s a burn in the shape of a comma, forever scarred into my arm
  • I use all the tools, and pull my weight in projects. Ours isn’t a house of “honey-do lists”. Everything is a group effort, and each of us pulls our weight in projects. We both have strengths and weaknesses, and things we like to do more than others. For instance, I usually let El Granto do most of the drilling, as for the life of me I cant hold a drill straight. I also am not the biggest fan of the table saw, and usually let El Granto do most of the cutting on it. El Granto hates sanding (I could probably trade him bathroom cleaning duty for sanding) but I don’t mind it that much, so I usually sand while he continues to build. However, I love the miter saw, and my anal retentiveness usually has me doing the measuring and finishing cuts.
  • We have not made a penny off the blog, and our intention was never for this blog to make any money. We were doing the projects and sharing them with friends and family on Facebook already, and thought maybe someone else out here would like to hear about them. We also have went a year without ads or sponsors. That’s not to say that we wont consider that in the future (cause hey, this blog does cost $ to run!) but we want to share what we do, and hope you get some inspiration out of it!

So that’s us, in all our flawed glory. Thanks for spending the time with us for the last year, and hopefully we can get into some more fun in the years to come. Ohh snap, sh$t just got sentimental.


Staining Fail

Saturday a load of lumber was purchased from the lumber yard, and trip was made to the hardware store for supplies. Sunday was spent cutting, gluing, screwing, sanding and culminated with applying the first coat of stain on our current project. I let the stain soak in, then wiped it off.
This is what I saw:

Stain problem
UGH! Whats that?!

(Insert four letter expletive here)

What happened? No idea. Very clearly something was wiped on the wood that has left this mark. Best guess was that I used a rag to wipe off the wood before staining. I am guessing that there was something on the rag, that left residue on the wood, and mucked up my stain.

Obviously this can’t stay this way. So what’s next? Spend another several hours sanding and hopefully remove the swipe mark. Then re-stain and cross my fingers.

The moral of this story? It’s not always easy, things go wrong, we screw up, make mistakes. We’re human. I just happened to do it on $100 worth of 2″ thick, kiln dried lumber.

Stain screwup
Thats gonna be a whole lot of sanding…

What’s the biggest DIY screw up you’ve made? Wreck any projects lately? Were you able to fix it, or did you need to start over?

Underestimating the Task

One of my faults is that I am a bit of a dreamer. El Granto is the realist, and I have my head perpetually stuck in the clouds. I think we can do anything we put our minds to (within reason). I will research the hell out of things, and have confidence I can do a task before setting out. I may not however estimate how hard (mentally or physically) the task may be. I have confidence in our abilities, and often tooo much confidence.

Here are some examples:

  • I thought I could totes carry home two 8 foot lengths of 10″ tall mdf crown moulding on my own, walking, the 4km home from the lumber yard.  Half way home I called El Granto begging him to come help me.
  • I bought a kiddie pool for the dog and then had to carry it home (on my head) through busy streets during a heat wave.
  • When I bought 2 4×8 sheets of mdf for the guest room board & batten, got the lumber yard to cut into into 2″ x 8′ strips, then tried to carry the 50 pieces of wood home on a borrowed moving dolly that had a mind of its own. It kept trying to weave into traffic, or jackknife and spilling the boards everywhere. El Granto had to steer it with a piece of wood like a gondola all the way home.

Last night was another example. A nearby house is doing a bunch of renos, and I noticed some bricks in the construction debris.  I really want to make a backyard patio area with red bricks, so I stopped by and talked to the contractor and asked what they were doing with the bricks. Yesterday he gave us the all clear to come take as many bricks as we wanted. Awesomesauce! Now we just needed to get them home. El Granto tried to book a Zipcar van or truck, but as its the beginning of the month (and people are moving) there were no large vehicles available for the next few days.

Unperturbed by this, I convinced El Granto that we should go to the building site armed with a dolly, a granny cart, some milk crates and a bucket. We could fill up the containers with bricks, pile them into our dolly and cart and that we could make a few trips bringing bricks home. We loaded up the first cart worth, realized bricks weigh about 5lbs a piece, struggled home with them and swore to never do that again.

Hopefully this weekend we can convince bribe a truck owning friend with beer to help us shuttle the bricks. After they get home, and dry out, they will need some cleaning up, removal of mortar, and then hopefully they can become an awesome patio in the backyard this spring.

One milk crate holds 12 bricks. Each brick weighs 5lbs. So this crate-o-bricks is weighing in at 60lbs.
One milk crate holds 12 bricks. Each brick weighs 5lbs. So this crate-o-bricks is weighing in at 60lbs.

Have you taken on a task that’s too big (or heavy) lately?

Craft Fail

Have you checked out Craft Fail yet? It’s great, it chronicles peoples adventures epic screw-up’s in crafting/DIYing/cooking things they found on internet tutorials.

As you may know by now, I often get an idea in my head and insist on trying it out. (Like when I cut a hole in the wall.) Sometimes it turns out to be an awesomsauce idea and sometimes not so much…

So this weekend I wanted some bedside table lamps for the Guest Room, but I couldn’t find what I wanted for the price I wanted. So I started looking around the house for stuff to make lamps with. We have two of these $9.99 Ikea Grono table lamps just sitting around collecting dust. It’s like the sad Ikea lamp commercial all over again…

Ikea Grono Table Lamp

I also happened to have two of these pretty white vases.

I thought it would be a brilliant idea to make lamps out of my vases using the lamp hardware from my Grono’s. All I needed to do was cut a hole in the bottom of the vases…

Turns out, glass drill bits are EXPENSIVE. And both El Grant & I were convinced I would bust the vases all to hell while trying to drill holes in them. So Instead I thought of all the hipster ahhem cute painted mason jars out there, and decided I should just PAINT the inside of my Ikea Grono lamps with white paint instead.

So I broke out my white chalk paint and gave it two coats. It It was all uneven and streaky. I then thought I maybe should have poured the paint into the lamp instead of painting it. So I taped off the bottom hole, poured some chalk paint inside, swirled it around, then tipped it upside down and let it dry.

THIS is what I found the next day.

Whats that? Oh its all my paint PEELING off
An aerial view to show more of the epic failing going on

Today’s lesson: Sometimes you FAIL HARD.