In the time that we've taken to nail this reno down (i.e., figure out the nature of the structural challenges, come to terms with it emotionally and financially, consider the alternatives, arrange financing, vet architects and design/build firms and contractors and just about everyone else on the planet, close pre-existing permits, get new permits, deal with stupidities in the municipal system requiring super-human approvals (designed to provide the City with cash), clean out our fucking fire-trap of a basement (this is ongoing) etc.), most of the like-minded people we know have done their entire renos and had a few new-home holiday dinners since.
No one's going to accuse us of being proactive.
Let me clarify - the reason that this has taken so long is, in part, because Scott and I have been at odds with the process in one way or another. He doesn't want to start because he's the designated hands-on project manager and he knows what he's in for. (Note: even though we have a project manager on the job, you know - one we're paying, this ain't our first time at the rodeo. We get that we're the ones who will manage the outcomes, when all is said and done.) And it's not like Scott doesn't already have a full-time job.
My conflict arises from my perpetual anxiety about destruction of this place (before reconstruction). Order is my salve. How will I handle the chaos? Just the chaos of preparing for a reno fills me with dread.
Allow me to remind you that all of this started cuz I wanted some fucking French doors.
The most recent turn of events isn't about timing - this thing is on schedule for a March-April start. It's about scope. For a variety of complex and boring reasons, the proposed price of this upgrade has skyrocketed still further (like by another 33 per cent) and we'll be tearing down still more of the house. At this point, the only part of the ORIGINAL house that will remain is the front third - the part worth salvaging. This consists of an entrance hall, stair case, dining room, living room, upstairs hallway and 2 bedrooms. Given that I live in a row house (which is attached to our neighbours at both sides, at different places on either side), one set of our neighbours will have an interesting summer along with us: We're tearing down part of our house that is currently attached to theirs. Don't worry - they know about it, it's entirely legit and our builders are insured up the yin yang. Also, apparently this happens with extensive row house renos. Not that I've ever seen it.
At this point it's firm: we're going to have to move out because there won't be any accessible bathrooms. Or much of a house to speak of. (On the plus side, we'll have 2 new bathrooms at the end of the day). Just the thought of moving out temporarily fills me with horror. And what does temporarily even mean? Goddamn it, I'm going to be back in this house by this weekend next year (Thanksgiving) because that's my non-negotiable end date. Have you ever tried to find a new house in an appropriate neighbourhood of an absurdly expensive city for some period of time that you cannot predict? Seriously, just that is enough to throw me over the edge. More to the point, when does one just say fuck it, and move elsewhere permanently??
We've had that discussion too, btw. And given my love-feelings for this home (which, frankly, have eroded over the past 3 years of increasing decrepitude), it's pretty shocking that we did.
But this is what we keep coming back to:
- We love our location and that's the one thing you can't create after the fact.
- To move, even down the block, would likely cost us (in the end) about as much as doing this reno - even after all of the scope creep. I'm not going to move into a place that isn't completely "done" and, downtown, those places are like unicorns that generally sell for 300K above asking.
- Even if I were to move, I wouldn't know what elements of that new house are destined to fall apart or under-function once I take ownership. We spent our first 10 years in this house fixing it foundationally. In fact, this next reno is as much about structural improvement as anything else. I don't want to go somewhere new and then have to spend time and money fixing the things that can't be revealed at a showing or a cursory inspection.
- When this is done, I will have EXACTLY what I want (well, within the limits of my budget and general floor plan). Exactly what I want probably looks like a 3 million dollar place in Summerhill Gardens, but that's not in the cards. My house will still be 15 feet wide and attached to its neighbours, but man, those 15 feet are going to be chic (and over multiple levels).
- This renovation will structurally stabilize a piece of history for another 125 years and I am a steward of this home. When I sell it, it's going to be worth that much more because it will be a) gorgeous, b) functional and c) stable. Houses that fit this bill, in central TO, are pretty rare. This is going to form a relevant portion of my retirement fund so I need to invest in it now to recoup the benefits.
- And on that topic, now's the time when I have as much disposable income and financing credibility as I've ever had. I also have the energy (well, this is debatable but I'm not seeing my aptitude for major reno increasing as I age). If this is going to happen, let's get on with it.
In truth, I'm afraid that this reno - in its massive scope - is going to destabilize me as new-motherhood did. And, Lord, I'm not up for that. Yeah - I get that I became a mother in my late-20s and now I am an emotionally mature woman (most days), almost 17 years older. I have much more life experience than I did back then. I survived the descent into parenthood. I learned from it. I re-emerged. I also understand my triggers now, in a way that motherhood clarified like nothing else. And I have systems to manage anxiety, systems that have been years in design and application. Furthermore, one imagines that I have some sort of fucking perspective, at this point, yes? But I do crave order in my environment. It symbolizes my mythic internal order. It makes me feel like everything's ok.
You can see why I'm freaking out.
Any perspective you might have is so welcome -whether you've done a reno, had a baby, gone through both or neither. We all encounter ourselves at the edge for one reason or another. I'd love to hear stories about how the hard work was doable (if legitimately hard) and nowhere near as punishing as expected. I'll also take stories about the end supporting the means. And if there's someone out there who feels that tearing down and rebuilding a house was rather easy by comparison with new motherhood - please, leave a comment! I want to hear from you!