Out with the old
A kitchen renovation is like being on a seemingly never-ending rollercoaster ride. The highs (approving the final designs) to the lows (two weeks without progress) are not for the faint of heart. Even celebrities aren’t immune to the drawn-out process of renovations. Harry Styles recently told Vogue his London home took 18 months to complete, a project that initially began as two weeks’ worth of work he had planned to do himself. I feel you, Harry, I feel you.
If you’ve been following my column in Reno + Decor, then you may remember the kitchen had always been the “big” project we wanted to tackle first. It was usable, but it felt dated, worn, and didn’t utilize the space to its full potential (having come from an 800-sq.-ft. condo, we knew a better layout was possible).
Enter my soon-to-be sister-in-law Jessica Fehr, a designer with Madison Taylor Design. She was thrilled at the idea of helping us with our designs, and once we sent over our kitchen measurements, she eagerly started designing. This was my first experience with an interior designer – from now on, I plan to use one for any major renovation to come. Why? Fehr was able to help synthesize everything I told her we wanted and needed, and come back with designs that made sense. That’s the other thing, there are endless combinations of finishes you can choose from, and they know what works and what doesn’t. A clashing kitchen is an expensive mistake I didn’t want to risk making, and as a pro, Jessica was able to help guide us through.
Ordering our custom cabinets was a top priority – even in June they were booking out to the fall. We decided to splurge on custom cabinets by Absolute Cabinets, as we plan to stay in this house for a while. And with almost 10-ft. ceilings and uneven floors, you get more precision and what you want, versus going out-of-the-box.
Finding a contractor was the next major task on my list, since the alternative would be hiring and coordinating all of the trades ourselves – a job neither of us had the time or patience to do.
A colleague of Fehr’s recommended Corner Contracting. After meeting the owner Dylan, we decided he was the right fit based on his friendly demeanour, previous experience with old homes and transparent contract.
Before we began tearing down walls, we replaced two windows to change to a drywall return style (no casings). Truthfully, we need to replace every window in the house, but not replacing these kitchen windows at this stage will create an expensive future issue, since our new backsplash surrounds them.
At the end of September, a complete gut was finished, right down to the studs. To save money, we did this ourselves. Instead of smashing the cabinets a la HGTV home reno shows, we carefully removed everything and donated the kitchen (including appliances) to Habitat for Humanity. The cabinet removal led us to discover significant evidence of mice (ew!), an issue we were able to resolve by ensuring there were no gaps in the subfloor and sealing any possible openings in the foundation.
Another money-saving job we did ourselves was adding Rockwool Safe ‘n’ Sound soundproofing insulation to the ceiling, as our daughter’s bedroom is directly above the kitchen.
Once that was complete, Dylan contracted a plumber and electrician to get everything right behind the walls… which is when our first big issue was revealed. Our plumber, Paul Corcoran, PWC Plumbing owner, discovered all of the plumbing in our home had Kitec pipes. This is a product that was considered top-of-the-line in the early 2000s but essentially is faulty. A burst in the pipes isn’t a matter of if, but when.
We replaced everything in the kitchen, including the lines to the laundry room, as that wall was going to be covered by our new cabinetry. Dylan also suggested we consider using Flo by Moen, a smart water security system that gave him personal peace of mind in his home. Not only does it track your water usage, but it can detect leaks, read temperature and humidity, and lets you shut off your water with the click of a button on your phone (meaning, you could be on vacation and shut off your water from the beach). In the end, we added the shutoff system, two additional sensors and a leak sensing cable, and we’re planning to add two more sensors – one in the attic and another by our water heater – for further protection.
Our electrician, Adam Boyce, owner of Electric All, helped us make sense of our lighting configuration. This meant changing our outlets from double-gang to single, adding additional pot lights, moving the island pendants, adding outlets to the island and putting up a second fixture to frame the back door.
Next up was to replace all of the subfloors and drywall the ceiling and walls, so our hardwood floors and cabinets could be installed. We didn’t plan on replacing our subfloors, but it was sloping down towards the back of the house, and too uneven for laying the hardwood (another ding to the budget).
Once the floors and walls were up, we finally felt like we had made some progress. From there, we had a few weeks of smooth sailing, while cabinets and countertops were installed. The next best day was when our appliances were taken out of their boxes, and our sink was hooked up (no more lugging dishes up and down from the basement), and we could officially stop using our temporary kitchen that was set up in our living room.
The bulk of the work happened within about two months, then the rest, petered away, one task at a time. For example, we had to wait a few weeks for our contractor to find more of our backsplash, as it’s now a discontinued style. Add in a COVID-19 scare (thankfully, no one tested positive), a labourer who quit, a broken truck and a missing ledge – all things out of our control that dragged out the process.
In total, the process has been almost nine months, from when we started reviewing designs and looking for a contractor, to today, when we can fully live in and enjoy our kitchen. No one said renovating was easy, but having a space you love is worth the wait.
Trades: Madison Taylor Design. madisontaylordesign.com | CORNER CONTRACTING. cornercontracting.ca | ABSOLUTE CABINETS. absolutecabinets.ca | PWC PLUMBING. pwcplumbing.ca | ELECTRIC ALL. email@example.com | MARIO’S WINDOWS & DOORS. marioswindowsdoors.com | Countertops in Arctic White (perimeter) and Colton (island) by CAMBRIA. cambriausa.com. Installation by ELEGANT SOLUTIONS. elegant-solutions.ca | DECOR & HARDWARE: Old Fashion Mosaico BACKSPLASH by Ston. stonitalia.it | PAINT in White Dove (island, upper cabinets and walls); Simply White (trim and baseboards) by Benjamin Moore. benjaminmoore.ca | CABINET HARDWARE in the Ellis Collection Davenport in matte black by Top Knobs. topknobsdecor.com | High arc pulldown KITCHEN FAUCET and Flo Smart water security system by Moen. moen.ca | Quatrus double bowl undermount SINK by Blanco. blanco.com | Classic light filtering ROMAN SHADES window treatments in White Linen by Select Blinds. selectblindscanada.ca | Madeleine leather seat collection COUNTER STOOLS in black oak drifted by Restoration Hardware. rh.com | RANGE AND DISHWASHER by Samsung. samsung.com | 800-Series FRIDGE by Bosch. Bosch-home.ca | MICROWAVE by Frigidaire. frigidaire.ca | RANGE HOOD by Kobe. koberangehoods.com | APPLIANCES from Canadian Appliance Source. canadianappliance.ca | Linear PENDANT by Wrought Studio. wayfair.ca | Arti SCONCES and Skye Globe PENDANTS by Hinkley. wayfair.ca | Tompkins Industrial DINING TABLE 74 in., in black. westelm.ca | Restored vintage mid-century modern DINING CHAIRS by Poul M Volther from Kijiji. kijiji.ca | ART by Holly Addi. hollyaddi.com
A writer and editor for more than a decade, Stephanie Gray has covered everything from luxury travel to modern parenting challenges.
Her work has been featured in publications including Glamour, Elle Canada and Best Health.
She recently bought a century-old home north of Toronto, in need of updates, which she’s taking on with her husband (and toddler in tow).