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The new (side) project

Thursday, January 17, 2013

This has nothing to do with running, fitness, weight loss, or food. Because sometimes it's good to have a side hobby or project to focus on as well. This is also one of those posts that mostly exists so I can get myself organized. It's more fun to talk through things than to just write another to-do list.

I have lots of goals for 2013, and not all of them are related to my feet or waistline. One of the things I wanted to do was start tacking a minor apartment reno, room by room. Renting stresses me out because I hate the lack of control over my living space. Unfortunately, we're still a couple years away from buying in the price range we want to look at, and we'd have to bump our monthly rent up by about $1000 to rent anything noticeably better. Calgary is pathetic when it comes to rental options; Secondary suites are illegal in most of the city, developers stopped building dedicated rental apartments in the 80's and have only built condos since then. Anything that's nicer than your bare bones apartment is going to cost you around $2500-$5000 a month under the title of 'executive rental', catering to the short-term business crowd. An average two bedroom starter condo is going to cost between $300,000 (old converted apartment building) - $400,000 (something new) unless you go way out to the outskirts or out of town, so there's a housing crunch for people in the young professional crowd who aren't quite able to buy yet, but want something a little higher quality than what we rented at 18 in university.

So, we're stuck renting for two more years and what we're renting is the best we're going to get for anything close to our current monthly payment.

The reno project takes care of a few things: For one, it'll mean some cosmetic changes that will make me happier. I can't do much, but a coat of paint will make a huge difference. This will also be a good chance to get some repairs done, clean up some nasty areas, and change the few things we can. It's also a good opportunity to do some cleaning and organization. I'm hoping I can sell a couple items and make a little extra cash (It would be nice to think that the mini-reno is contributing to the down payment fund a tiny bit).

So, let's start:

emoticon The room: Bathroom

emoticon The goal: A relaxing and clean looking room with some natural elements (I'm bringing in some wood and stone accents). It will fit in with my fitness and lifestyle goals by creating a place where I can have a nice post-run soak (or less relaxing ice bath).

emoticon Current state: The bathroom is your basic 40-year-old high rise apartment bathroom. Layout is bath tub on the right, sink and counter on the left, toilet and entry in between. There's a wall-mounted mirrored medicine cabinet and a hanging cabinet beneath the counter (which frequently starts to fall off since the giant screw they keep using to hold it up has stripped the hole).

The good: I like the tiles. They're basic white squares, nice and clean looking, and there are no weird mermaids or sea horses.

The meh: The countertop is laminate in a light beige and grey pattern. It's nothing great, but it's not offensive. Tub, sink and toilet are all white. The mirror/cabinet just exists.

The ugly: The floors are cheap vinyl flooring (*shudder*) in a never-looks-clean beige with darker flecks. The walls are also yellowy mushroom soup beige that looks dirty. The CFL lightbulbs they opted for have a horrible light quality that make you look sick. The under-mounted cabinet is falling off, which causes the doors to swing open. The veneer on the doors is dark wood grain, chipped on the edges. The sink has grunge marks around the faucet that won't scrub clean and the bath tub has rust marks in the corner. The paint on the ceiling is peeling. There's also wall paint on the light fixtured, mirror, the tops of the shower tiles, the floor and the towel rack, because apparently painter's tape is difficult. The faucets all leak.

The WTF: Someone sealed the base of the toilet with orange gunk that looks like ear wax.

emoticon Things I can't change: Tub, toilet, sink and related hardware are here to stay. So are the tiles, flooring, light fixture, medicine cabinet and countertop. I can't do anything to the cabinet doors, because everything has to be in the same state when we move out (replacing the cabinet isn't an option in this case, even though it would be such a massive improvement to the bathroom that they could probably bump up the rent for the next tenant just because of that).

emoticon Things I can change: Wall colour (I finally got permission to paint. And yes, I had to have paint chips approved in writing by the owner, even with the understanding that it'll be painted back to mushroom soup when we leave. Like I said, renters are second class citizens in this city). Removable hardware (mainly the towel rack). Light bulbs. Accessory pieces, shower curtain, towels, mats.

emoticon The plan:

- Start with a deep scrub of everything. Clean the spots off the ceiling, find something that will get through the grunge around the faucets, crawl under the sink cabinet and scrub the floor. Shine up the hardware that's not changing. See if there's a way to remove rust stains on the tub.

- Clean out the cabinets. Throw out or use old product. Set up organization system in lower cabinet.

- Make basic repairs. Patch and sand any wall holes or scuffs. Call maintenance about leaky taps and any other issues that they can fix. Try to remove paint from things that shouldn't have paint on them.

- Prime and paint. I'll be going to my mom for advice on this (she's the professional), but make sure it's the right kind of paint. Right now it looks like they've used both latex and oil based paints, which is leading to the peeling. Paint colour will be a soft grey to contrast the white tiles that cover most of the room. Ceiling, trim and door will be white.

- Replace hardware and lightbulbs. Pick up good LED bulbs that can come with us when we move. Replace towel bar, toilet roll holder and door hooks.

- Buy new accessories. Show curtain, towels, bath mat, toothbrush holder, soap dish, lotion dispenser, waste basket, brush and plunger set. These are already picked out at Nick's store (employee discount included). Add finishing touch accessories and new wall art.

- Record original paint colour so we can repaint before we move out. Save removable fixtures and old CFL lightbulbs in storage room to put back when we move. Donate decent older towels to the drop-in center.

- Buy some nice bath salts. Enjoy.

I'll probably target family day weekend and take a couple extra days off to get it all done in one go. The biggest challenge will be not having a second bathroom (we do have bathrooms and showers the floor below us in the change rooms), so once it's it motion it'll have to be done quickly. The biggest costs will be the inital paint investment (we won't need a lot for the room, but we're planning to do other areas in the same colour. Plus, we need the brushes, rollers and trays) and the new bathroom accessories. Since my shower curtain is 12 years old now and most of the other stuff isn't much newer, I have no issue with that (and Nick's employee discount lets us get some nice quality stuff at a very reasonable price).

And just as an example of how well my mom knows me: Back at Christmas, I got a couple identical looking stocking stuffers from my mom and mother-in-law. They were both flat, about a foot long, and a couple inches wide at the top, tapering at the bottom. I looked on my wish list to see if I'd requested anything specific, since it seemed odd that they'd both get the same thing. When I opened them on Christmas morning, my M-i-L had gotten me a nice spatula, since I'd mentioned that I was trying to do more baking. My mom had gotten me a really good quality wall paintbrush for doing corners and detail work. I love them both emoticon
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Good luck with all your little renos! I spend an awful lot of time daydreaming about what I'd like to do to our apartment. ...But none of that is going to happen in the next little while. I love the sounds of the white and grey - there's just something about the right shade of grey that is calming, like being encased in a fluffy cloud.
    1888 days ago
    Sounds like a really good plan. Hopefully the things you can't change will bother you much less when you are finished. It seems like I saw some stuff that was supposed to "re-shine" sink hardware like faucets browsing around the big box hardware store one time.

    1889 days ago
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