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The Major Renovation: The Upstairs Bedrooms

We have not used the second floor of our house since shortly after we moved in.  Within the first year, I had gutted it to the studs in order to replace the insulation.  In 2005, we hired a contractor to completely renovate this space.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t defined “completely.”  In 2007, we had the plumbing for the hot water heating system completely overhauled, and in order to run new pipes to the second floor, the plumber had to cut access holes in the floor.

Upstairs was a mess, but now it was finally going to be finished.  And with my wife’s parents coming in a couple of weeks to stay with us for a two months, time was of the essence.

DAY 40:  Work on the 2nd floor begins

Monday May 11

A lot was happening on Monday.  The contractors brought in a helper as they began working upstairs.  The helper busied himself patching the holes in the floor that the plumber had cut in 2007.   The contractors fixed the wall in the guest room that they damaged their first week here when they erected the supporting walls in the basement.  They also worked on fixing up the rest of the drywall, since the work of the contractor that had installed it several years ago was not up to their standards.  Things seem to be moving at a very fast pace now.

drywall mud
Cleaning up some of the of the sloppy work done by the previous contractor.

drywall repair
Repair to the wall in the guest room that had been extensively damaged by the structural repairs

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the cabinet maker spent several hours installing the base cabinets that he delivered on Sunday.  We are now ready for the granite guys to do their thing.  The upper cabinets will go in next weekend.

base cabinets
The base cabinets have been installed in the kitchen.

While the contractors work, we shop

As all this was going on, my wife and I (sharing a rare day off together) headed out to shop for the hardware for the cabinets.  The supplier allowed us to borrow a few samples to see how they looked on the cabinets.  Although my wife and I were not in complete agreement, her choice does look fantastic.  I have learned that when it comes to most decorating decisions, my wife is usually right.  She is much better than I am at visualizing how things will look when they are finished.  I, on the other hand, am much more indecisive.

We also dropped by Home Depot, to pick up paint for the second floor bedrooms.  Our daughter has been very vocal about the color choices for her bedroom– the colors we chose four years ago just didn’t cut it with her.  She prefers blue instead of lavender walls, and wants a much darker pink than the pale shade we had chosen for the ceiling.  She’s seven, and I suspect her tastes will change again in a couple of years.  For now, we are going to stick with the existing colors.

While we were at Home Depot, we finally ordered our front door.  The last few times I have been in the store, it’s been impossible to find someone working around the windows and doors.  This time was no exception and it was about 20 minutes before we finally able to talk to an associate.

Our door is going to take about four weeks.  The contractors will finish the rest of the renovation long before then, so they will likely have to tie up the loose ends here after they start another project elsewhere.  On a positive note, a break of a couple of weeks will help us replenish our bank account

Day 41-43: Work on the second floor continues

Tuesday May 12 to Thursday May 14
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the three contractors fixed up the drywall (mud and primer), laid the bamboo floor, hung doors, installed trim and finished painting one of the rooms.  Was all of this work within my abilities as a DIYer?  Probably.  I did get a little overwhelmed when it came to patching the sub-floor, but as it turns out, even that wasn’t a difficult fix.  In fact, they did it exactly the same way I was planning to–  I never should have doubted myself.

However, had I finished upstairs a couple of years ago, I would have been wasting my efforts.   When the contractors repaired the structure in the basement and on the main floor, they caused a significant amount of movement to the structure on the second floor.  It is just as well that I had put everything on hold.

Could I have finished the second floor myself now?  Sure.  Could I have done it in a week?  Working alone?  Probably not.  I could have saved a few thousand dollars by doing it myself, but I would have never finished it in a week.  And there comes a time when one has to factor in how much one’s time is worth.

bamboo floor
The bamboo floor in our daughter’s room.

closet and entry door
The entry door and bi-fold closet door in the guest room.

Another shopping spree


On Saturday, my wife, daughter and I headed out and spent another thousand bucks.

  • Hardware for the kitchen cabinets:  $150
  • Mattress and box spring for our daughter’s room:  $400
  • Audio tower for the television in our bedroom; Cubeicals” for our daughter’s bedroom:  $200
  • Closet supplies for second floor bedrooms:  $200
  • Shark steam mop for keeping our new floors clean:  $100

This rather expensive excursion lasted more than four hours and, considering our late start, was our only accomplishment for the day.

I had purchased two “Debbie Travis” closet towers at Canadian Tire while they were on sale for 40% off.  Rods were not included and had to be purchased separately (hence the purchase on Saturday).  I struggled a bit putting the first one together, mainly because I didn’t have a whole lot of room in which to work and because of a few quality issues with the product itself.  Pilot holes were drilled in the wrong place, shelf pegs were such a tight fit that they were difficult to move, and the instructions  probably could have offered a little more clarity.    I took way too long assembling the first tower, but was able to assemble the second one in about 15 minutes.

I respect Debbie Travis as an interior designer. It’s a shame that she put her name on a substandard product.

Another problem with the towers is their height.  They are only 73 inches high whereas most closet organizers are 80 inches high.  This becomes a big deal when it is time to install the hanging rods.  To hang a double row of rods only allows about 3 feet of hanging height for each one, which just isn’t practical.  We don’t want the top row of clothes dragging on the bottom rod, nor do we want our bottom row of clothes too close to the floor.  So I had to make changes to my planned closet configuration.  Gawd I hate this stuff….  Even as I write this, I am rethinking my all of my closet plans.

And the problems don’t end there.  The walls in the closet aren’t perfectly square and, because the contractors over-corrected when they jacked up the joist in the basement, the floor in the closet is not level.  In such a small these imperfections are amplified.  I will have to shim the closet organizers quite a bit to compensate for the floor.

It is now Monday.  Including today, there are only three days before we leave to pick up the in-laws. That ain’t much time….

Budget?  What budget?

Before we started, we had a ballpark figure for the renovation and an approximate time of completion.  Of course, I knew at time that the estimates weren’t even close to being realistic, and I doubled both of them.  We have since surpassed my estimates.  Worse than that, I am beginning to worry that we will not have enough money to finish the project.  The one thing I keep telling myself, as I see my dream of a new garage slipping farther and farther into the future, is that we are at least paying for the renovation with money that we have.  We have not taken on any consumer debt, or added any amount to our mortgage.  That in and of itself is a relief.

This post contains content consolidated from 3 posts originally published between May 12 and May 18, 2009. Revised 2018.


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