Those Old Floors Are Worth What?!? A Salvage Story.

Ah, spring. In Victoria, this season is synonymous with the storied tradition of counting cherry blossoms (17 years of living here and I still don't get the math); daffodils in bloom on the slopes of Beacon Hill Park; and tourists shyly re-emerging to saturate the downtown streets.

Of course, no spring would be complete without disposal bins populating our residential driveways en masse. Yep, it's renovation season, folks!

I'm actually quite thrilled to count our driveway among this season's 'freshly binned.' Demolition lasted a full three weeks and saw the arrival and departure of four blue monstrosities. It could have been worse (as in, even more bins-worth of trash)...except for the fact that not everything needed to bee-line it to the dump.

There's some truth to the old adage that one person's trash is another person's treasure. Remember those 50-year-old teak kitchen cabinets pictured in my last blog entry? With no expectation of successfully foisting them on anyone, I posted an ad on Used Victoria, our local buy-and-sell. Within one hour, I'd received more than a dozen eager replies. Whaaaat? The cabinets ended up in the hands of a skilled woodworker, giddy over his good fortune in finding some beautiful project materials for his mid-century modern home. It was the perfect win-win.

Other things I've learned about salvage over the past two months:

  1. There's a market for old flooring. Underneath our mint green and red carpets, we found about 500 square feet of fir and oak in good condition. Though our particular reno plans didn't include a refinishing project, I discovered that our city is rife with vintage flooring aficionados preferring the old to the new. Moreover, if you call a salvage company, someone will actually come to your house, remove and de-nail the floors for free, then pay you for the goods. The net result: a) cool, old floors can live again;  b) no landfill guilt; c) $$ saved on demo labour; d) $$ in your pocket. Genius.
  2. Appliances are worth something! Even older appliances, such as the almond-coloured stove that came with our house, may have some intrinsic value. Though it certainly wasn't pretty, the stove was 24" wide--perfect for its new owner, who used it for his small basement suite kitchen. If you're stuck with old appliances that are too far gone to sell, recycling options exist for many of them.
  3. Even if you are trying to give something away for free (or cheap), take the time to shine it up first. Saving materials from the landfill takes a little effort. Even if you're offering up a freebie on Used Victoria or Craigslist, if it's dirty or otherwise looks like junk, you'll have a harder time finding someone willing to take it. Good quality photos vs those that are blurry and dark also help when posting freebie ads online.
  4. Charities may need your stuff. Habitat For Humanity's ReStore retail locations are a great place to donate good quality household and renovation items. Just remember: they're not a dumping ground for the patently unsellable.

At the end of the day, even though the demo/ disposal process is messy and often necessary, if you can save a few old items from a fate shared with mouldy mattresses and rotting orange peels, that's a good thing. Every bit helps...and maybe you can pocket a few $$ in the process, too!

p.s.--we pocketed enough to buy a dishwasher for the new kitchen. Hurray for clean dishes!

The Reno Begins!

“You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having."
--Frank Lloyd Wright

Though I'm sure it's cliche to begin this type of discussion with a quote from an industry icon, I just can't help myself! Wright's words neatly summarize why I believe daunting projects aren't always a stupid idea. The "anything" in this case is a renovation on our family's pseudo-child, also known as the white house at the end of the laneway. We think it's destined to be our forever home.


In a way, the whole 'forever home' notion is right up there with 'soul mate' in the hierarchy of dreams or desires we, the starry-eyed (or self-deluding!), believe are worth chasing. I'm pretty sure this has little to do with white picket fences or sprawling estates; rather, it is the simpler idea of just carving out your own special nook somewhere--a place to build memories.

One thing about nooks in Victoria? They don't come cheap. Wherever you choose to buy in this city, it's inevitable that plenty of time, patience, money (and some wrinkles!) will factor into the process. We searched for nearly two years--casually, at first, and then with the kind of unapologetic aggression that makes Tonya Harding seem ladylike. I couldn't even tell you how many days we spent refreshing the real estate listings an embarrassing number of times, or phoning our poor realtor at odd hours because 'a new one just came up!' I'd sometimes catch myself muttering profanities while reading the slew of news articles about Victoria's supposed shift to a buyers' real estate market. That was one party to which we were not invited.

The long process was frustrating and thrilling in equal measure, particularly the emotional highs-and-lows of our three bidding wars. Losing out--or, as in bid#2, winning and then uncovering too many problems with the house--left us as deflated as our daughter's week-old birthday balloon in the corner of the living room. We wondered if it would ever happen for us and hoped that our growing impatience wouldn't result in a hasty decision (and subsequent re-naming of this blog to, "WTF Were We Thinking?")

But then--at last!--she arrived. The house quietly hit the market one morning last December. We were among the first prospects to view it and, oooohhh boy, what a different duck she turned out to be.

Successfully marrying original 1930s cottage charm with the brute minimalism of a 1960s reno is no easy feat--and the house failed miserably in that regard. Elegant copper embellishments and quaint, up-turned gable roof lines clashed disastrously with endless fields of mint green and red carpet, a blocky sunroom cantilevered off of the left side of the house, a maze of ill-positioned closets and hallways, and heavy-handed application of the purplest wallpaper you've ever seen. In your life. Ever.

We're actually glad that the house hadn't been touched in 50 years, for despite its oddities, it was well-built, well-located and hadn't been structurally bludgeoned by overly-ambitious do-it-yourselfers. As they say, she had 'good bones.' We're also pretty sure that the nastier aspects of the house helped our cause by scaring off buyers leery of a big project.

Somehow, some way, we won bidding war #3 (thanks, realtor Ross!) and now, the house is ours. I hope you'll follow along on this little reno journey and share in our ups-and-downs. With the help of the immensely talented team backing us--and perhaps some luck--our forever home awaits us in the coming months. For now, I choose to be optimistic about our chances.