Before & After--Exterior


At one point last spring, if you'd have asked me which was more disturbing--the wood chipper scene in Fargo or the condition of my house-- I'd probably have picked the latter. Oh. Geez. Margie.

It was month#3 of construction and I headed to the house with a little extra sproing in the ol' Chuck Taylors. I'd just received a text from our foreman saying that the latest round of demo had begun. By that point, demo messes were generally more thrilling than terrifying. Having already said goodbye to Prince's secret hideaway on the upper floor and piƱatas in the linoleum-lined living room, I felt steely and unafraid of the fresh new start awaiting our house. Yeah, let's do this!

But that morning, our crew had been especially busy. As I rounded the corner, my stomach dropped like an elevator shaft in a bad action movie. How it happened, I don't know, but apparently, my house had barfed all over itself.

our house: in progress

Yikes. In tears, I wondered what kind of costly mess we'd gotten ourselves into and whether this house was simply too challenging, as so many seemed to think when we had first bought it. Maybe we'd been naive to believe otherwise and should be flogged in penance for p*ssing away our nest egg.

Getting through the panic and self-doubt triggered by the sight of our new house laying in pieces all over the yard was amongst the most trying tests of the whole reno process. There were sleepless nights--many of them.

But then came a timely realization, brought on by recollections of our previous construction experiences: in virtually every reno, it's inevitable that things will get worse before they get better. Patience, Jedi. Big, beastly projects demand it.

The next steps, in order of priority, were to: a) stop freaking out; b) stick to the viable building plan in hand and let the project unfold more fully; and c) remember that we had an excellent crew supporting us.

A lot has changed since then:

exterior (before):


exterior progress:


our house (front):

While we loved the shell of the original 1939 structure, we were less excited about the awkward aesthetics of a 1960s addition along the south side of the house. There was no way of bringing the house back to 1939, but we were able to give it a freshened, character look. Incorporating three dormers into the roofline also gave us a better-functioning upper floor. Three cheers for headroom!

The house now feels more balanced and seemingly comfortable in its new skin. Best of all, I can sleep again.


A note: I'm so grateful to our terrific neighbours and kind passers-by. Even when the place looked like crap and our noise pollution shot through the air with merciless regularity, everyone was SO NICE, offering words of encouragement when we needed them most. Dear neighbourhood friends: thanks for your little white lies and other kindnesses, even when you were skeptical of where this project was heading. It meant a lot.

And The Ants Came Marching On

If you were to track the mood swings of a large reno, it would probably look something like a chart for a typical stock market cycle. After some initial demolition jitters, you begin a steady upward trend (yay--things are going smoothly!); then the excitement tapers off and you ease into a somewhat boring, but stable period (the "flatline".) Just when you've lulled yourself into a false sense of control...BOOM--that control is completely eroded by some nasty surprise.

Our surprise? Ants. Lots of them. Laying down roots in the framing of our front porch (aka, the one and only part of our house we hadn't torn open.)

We really loved the quaint character features of the porch--particularly, the gentle, scalloped curves of the stuccoed facade. We had planned on replicating these elements elsewhere on the exterior--until some critters crashed our party.

Now we are on to Plan B and a complete rebuild of the porch, the details of which I am still figuring out. The important lesson I am learning in this process: find something to be optimistic about, or the project will swallow you up like a sinkhole in the Sahara. The bright side here: we discovered the problem early enough to deal with it in a reasonably cost-effective way. 

In the scheme of things, I guess that's not so bad.