12 Steps On How To Plan Your Reno

When Aaron and I decided that we wanted to be heavily involved in the process of renovating our home, I personally never thought it would be so time consuming. After all, I wasn’t planning on doing any hard labour myself. Now that they’ve begun framing, there’s so many details to consider and bargains to hunt for. Being our first time, we had no idea how much things should cost or when things needed to be ready by.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you along the way, and some things you should think about to prepare to have your renovations completed within a reasonable time frame.

  • Step 1 – Drawings: drawings must be prepared prior to the demolition of your home in order for a work permit to be issued. Ensure that you’ve thought about the practicality of your desired floor plan and work out as many potential kinks as you can prior to submitting your drawings to the city.
  • Step 2 – Demolition: by this time, you should be looking and researching different suppliers to purchase items from for your home. See if your contractor has an account with any suppliers if you are ordering the items yourselves – they are usually highly discounted if they have an account is set up with the supplier.
  • Step 3 – Subflooring/Framing: this would be a good time to start looking into kitchen designs and deciding where you wish to have your electrical run. Soon enough, the drywall will be up, and the rough-ins for mechanical and electrical will be put in. Where do you wish to have your power outlets placed? Will your bathroom have over-the-mirror lighting, pendant lighting or ceiling lighting? Will your vanities have one or two sinks, or will they be stand-alone or floating? Will this require one or two light fixtures? Will you have a gas stove, or electric? Do you want hanging pendants over that breakfast bar, and/or a chandelier in the dining area? What kind of showerhead do you want? So many of these decisions must be made prior to the rough-ins being put in. Come up with a plan that you love and consider all the little details that it entails.
  • Step 4 – Mechanical/Electrical/Insulation: by this time, you should be ordering tiles and flooring, choosing your kitchen designer and deciding on a more definite layout for your kitchen space. Take into consideration if any of your orders are special orders or if they’ll be available upon ordering. If your orders are special order, make sure you calculate the amount of time in which it will take to come in.
  • Step 5 – Drywall: have your kitchen designer ready to go to do final measurements once the drywall is up. Tape the kitchen layout out with painter’s tape and see how it will look realistically in the space. Custom kitchens can take anywhere from 3-10 weeks to be made and delivered. Always keep your time frame in mind when selecting a provider as well as a style.
  • Step 6 – Tiles/Flooring: the house is finally coming together, and the vision is starting to develop. There are numerous things to consider when tiling and laying your floors. Have you chosen your grout color? Would you prefer your tiles to be laid staggered, aligned or even herringboned? Would you prefer 12 x 12 tiles, 12 x 24 tiles, or a mosaic? What about polished or matte? Will the polished go on the floor to create a more rich look, or rather on the shower walls to prevent a slippery floor? Will you be tiling the shower ceiling and the tub encasement? Did you want a shampoo nook in the shower stall? All of these questions impact the quantity of items to order and will play an integral part in the style of your home. This would also be a good time to ensure that any faucets are ordered and that plumbing is ready to be hooked up when the vanities are delivered.
  • Step 7 – Vanities: the final touches are now beginning to be placed. Now is the time to begin thinking of things such as paint colours, or wallpaper patterns. While there’s lots of great options to choose from, ensure that you stick to your original style to nicely coordinate your home.
  • Step 8 – Painting: time to start purchasing mirrors. While mirror sizes should be considered much earlier on in your renovation process (because often times the sizes of your mirrors directly correlates to your lighting selections), now is the time to buy if you haven’t already. Do you want circular mirrors, wall-to-wall mirrors or mirrors with frames? Will you be mounting your mirrors with plastic clips, spring loaded clips, fixed mirror clips or tape and glue?
  • Step 9 – Light Fixtures/Faucets: everything should be coming together nicely! Do your faucets and light fixtures coordinate with one another? Is your breakfast bar pendants polar opposite than your dining room fixtures in an open concept home? Make sure your selections are consistent within your rooms unless it’s to make a statement! Don’t mix polished chrome and brushed nickel together. These are little details that can make or break a room.
  • Step 10 – Exterior Work: are you re-facing your home or replacing siding? Ensure that the colors of your windows and doors will match with your selection. Are you having your roof replaced? Be mindful of the colour you choose for your shingles.
  • Step 11 – Doors and Windows: it would be a good time to buy other outdoor items you may need, such as your mailbox, house number or doorbell, again, always ensuring that they are consistent with the style of the exterior of the home.
  • Step 12 – Landscaping: when selling, this is often as important as the interior of your home! Have you ever heard of “curb appeal?” A buyer’s first impression is the outside of a home and this can often make or break a potential sale. In fact, if your exterior isn’t attractive, some buyers may not want to even look inside!Not planning on selling anytime soon? Choose a landscape design that fits your outdoor needs. Do you like to entertain? Think of having built-in seating and a gas line for your BBQ. Do you hate upkeeping your yard? Think of removing the grass and using interlocking stone instead with low maintenance shrubbery. Have young children? Maybe decks with multiple levels isn’t the most practical route to go. Want a built-in fire pit? Check the by-laws before buying. Hate the city noise? Think of putting a water fountain to mask it. Ask for a professional opinion and research ideas that you can mix-and-match to make the perfect outdoor space for you.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:10


Building Strong Foundations From The Ground, Up.

Alas, at last! The workers are in the process of laying down new sheets of plywood for the subfloor. Within the next few days, Aaron and I will spend our time writing prayers on these same floors, dedicating our home to God.

Psalms 127:1 states that, “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” Whether it be a home renovation, or the way in which we choose to live our lives together, keeping God in the center of everything that we do is of the utmost importance to us. God’s sovereignty has been proven to me in numerous ways in my life. I’m a control freak – I find it extremely difficult to relinquish control. I often am confident that I can do things on my own – in my own way, with my own agenda. In fact, I often think that God is untrustworthy, and that I can most certainly do it better if I handle things myself. That is, until God, time and time again, proves me wrong and gives me a reality check that without Him, nothing is possible. He’s shown it to me on multiple occasions through the purchase and renovation as I’ve worked overtime to ensure that things worked out perfectly, with little to show for it. Each time, it’s only been after I’ve made the active decision to hand things over to God where the seemingly impossible has become possible. Through something as simple as writing prayers on the floor of our home, it’s been my commitment to allow God to take the lead and to try my best to demonstrate my understanding that, without Him, everything I do is in vain. We’re building a strong foundation from the ground, up.

Want to help us bless our home? Shoot us a message with a prayer or note for us to scribble down.

“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 3:11

All In Two Day’s Work

And so begins the fun! Demolition has been completed, debris has been removed and the workers are in the process of re-enforcing the support beams and basement joists. The stairs have been taken out completely, and unless you grow a set of wings, there is no way onto the second floor for the time being.

Our home is a blank slate. No, really. It’s a brick box with a few wooden beams here and there. There’s so much we could do with it, so many stylistic routes we could take…but only so much money to spend! Here’s some of the things we’ve taken into consideration while choosing the layout for our home.

  • Neighborhood Needs: certain communities, believe it or not, embrace specific layouts more than others. We’ve chosen a combined living/dining with a galley kitchen with a peninsula at the rear of the home to maximize space and adhere to the community’s ambience.
  • Practicality: Riverdale is a family-friendly community. We’ve ensured that there’s a powder room on the main floor, something that is not always common in downtown properties (as a suburbanite, I still can’t wrap my mind around not having a bathroom on the main floor!) We’ve ensured that there’s plenty of cupboard, closet and storage space in order to keep a family-filled home clutter-free. We’ve exercised our brain power to come up with a concept that includes a sizable main bathroom, not to mention a bomb.com laundry room, which in my opinion is a necessity for a growing family. Decide what’s most important for you to have, and what would add value to your home in comparison with the homes around you.
  • Space: with our home having limited width, we’ve chosen an open-concept layout with the use of glass to encase our stairs (or lack thereof at the moment!). This will make our home look as spacious as possible while exhibiting the exposed brick wall.
  • Colour Palette: we’ve chosen a bright and light colour palette to amplify the size of the home and to give the house a warm, contemporary feel. We’ve chosen light hardwood to compliment the exposed brick and modern white kitchen with accents of driftwood for a chic/rustic appearance.
  • Financial Feasibility: we’ve chosen a layout that won’t break the bank. Remember, you can have almost anything you want – for a price. We’ve made some sacrifices and have decided to scrape the basement rather than underpin it (an estimated extra cost of $25,000) to fit our budget. We’ve decided to allocate a little extra money on the finishes to make up for the height of the basement. Decide what’s worth spending money on, and what’s not. Don’t become so overly attached to your ideas that you break bank trying to attain your design desires.

Want the inside scoop of what we’ve chosen for our finishes, and the thought process behind our design decisions? Check out our next blog post – coming soon!

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”
Psalm 27:4



21 Millbrook: Demolition

We warned you! And there was none…well, nothing much other than a pile of rubble! To others, this may seem like a disaster, but all I see is potential! This is going to be a beautiful conversion when all is said and done! Sometimes it’s hard to see past what’s right in front of you, but behind every setback, there’s opportunity just around the corner! What’s your setback, and how can you use it to your advantage?

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
2 Corinthians 5:1


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


21 Millbrook: Before

Working in real estate, it’s amazing to me how a house can look one way one way, and completely different the next! What’s even more exciting to me is that Aaron and I get to use our imaginations to re-create our home. This is what our home currently looks like. Follow us to see the changes that we make and the formations we create!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2  Corinthians 5:17

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And Then There Were None

Finally, the big day has arrived. Demolition begins today! It’s been a crazy month of trying to balance a full-time job in real estate (plus 3 hours of travel time alone), partaking in the weddings of my sister and my best friend Emma, going to family and friend events (this is what happens when two people with massive families join together – there are parties, showers or celebrations of some sort every weekend!), attempting to study to get my realtor’s license (key word here is attempting), keeping up with every-day duties, personal budgeting (did I tell you I’m not good with numbers?), staying healthy and spending well-needed quality time with my partner. Not to mention this renovation which is to be completed by end of August and planning for the condo we purchased earlier this year which closes in November.

There’s setting up utility accounts, creating financial spreadsheets, guestimating expenses for a major project, figuring out practical floor plans, beginning to select finishes, and blogging the whole experience while we’re at it! Yeap, it’s been a busy one and I don’t see things slowing down any time soon!

One of the things I enjoy most about this process is that I have a boyfriend that shares in the experience with me. We bounce ideas off each other, go selection shopping together and most of all, he’s always there give me a hug and knock me down a notch when I get overwhelmed and stressed with our busy schedules. It most definitely IS overwhelming. My brain is on constant overdrive thinking of what needs to get done and how I’m going to do it, whether it’s work or all of the projects that I’ve taken on over the last little while.

Here’s a few tips that Aaron’s taught me about life while renovating:

  • Learn to balance your time. I like to think I’m superwoman, but I’ve learnt that you can’t do everything all at once, or on your own. Create a to-do list and give yourself reasonable deadlines to get things done. We both have iPhones and are able to sync our calendars and memos which we’ve found to be extremely helpful!
  • Create a budget. Always give yourself a maximum number of spending that is under what you expect your renovation to actually cost. Plan for the surprises that may happen along the way, and don’t break your bank when they unpleasantly come banging on your door.
  • Start thinking about and selecting your finishes before even beginning renovations. Consider what style of home you’d like, what colours would look good together and how those selections fit into your budget.
  • Create a spreadsheet of all items that need to be ordered, down to simple items such as light switches and socket covers (see our resources page). Choose what items you will purchase yourself and what items your contractor will be responsible for supplying themselves.
  • If you are selecting the finishes yourself, ask your contractor for floor plans and measurements for the finishes you’ll have to begin ordering. This will help you with your budgeting. See how many dollars you can allocate towards flooring or tiling or kitchen design, and then begin to look for selections that fit within those numbers.
  • Don’t go crazy if you plan on selling soon – there’s a balance between renovating a home that is both beautiful and financially plausible.
  • Research ideas that would look good in your home and don’t always rely on how outlines look on a floor plan. Some things you think may look good in your mind or on the drawings won’t necessarily look as favorable in person.

And most of all, enjoy the process! This is supposed to be rewarding and fun! Let your creative juices flow, and don’t become overly stressed – it won’t speed things up (if it did, my renovation would have been completed by now!)

Don’t Take No For An Answer

I never knew that a mortgage could be denied simply (or not so simply) because of the condition of a home. That is, until Aaron and I purchased ours and we had to learn the hard way.

I’ve worked in real estate as a business manager for over a year with a brokerage that mainly focuses on renovation projects. I know real estate paperwork inside and out. What I don’t know anything about, I’ve found out, are mortgages and how intricate they are. In this competitive market, it’s extremely difficult to submit an offer on a home with conditions. When we purchased 21 Millbrook, I decided to submit a condition-free offer firstly because I wanted to have a competitive advantage, and secondly because I never assumed financing could be an issue if it’s not related to financing. I hate the be the one to break it to you, but take this as a warning if you’re ever to find a fixer-upper. It may not be as simple as it seems.

I’ve been saving since I was 2. More specifically, I’ve been saving for my first home since I can remember. There’s not much more that I want in life than a husband, a family and a home. When I submitted my initial mortgage application to a Schedule A bank and found out that it was 90% approved, I was over the moon. What I’ve always wanted was right at my fingertips! That is, until the bank sent in an appraiser and the property got appraised at 90% land value…and that same mortgage application got stamped a big, fat, disappointing DENIED.

Appraisals are completed as a protective measure by the bank in order to access the risk of providing you with a mortgage. Should you ever default, the bank can foreclose on your property and sell the home for the amount that you owe on it. Most banks have a difficult time lending more than 80% of the appraised value. With 20% down, and only 10% in home value, we were in trouble.

We hopped from broker to broker, from Schedule A to Schedule B bank, with no luck and little time to rectify the problem at hand. Our closing date passed, and we were forced to get an extension, incurring extra costs to cover the seller’s expenses. We switched brokers yet again, and we were lead to believe that our mortgage would finally be approved at a higher interest rate. With no other options in sight, we agreed. To our dismay, we were rejected, yet again, solely based on the condition of the home.

We were forced to explore the avenue of private lenders, who, at the time, were hiking up interest rates astronomically due to the the fact that Home Trust, the largest Schedule B banking institution, was in financial difficulty, leaving home buyers with little to no other options and private lenders with little grace. With a one-million dollar property on our hands, and an offer of a 12% interest rate, not inclusive of the lender’s fee, I ran out of hope and prayed God would somehow save me from financial ruin.

I again, with faith as little as a mustard seed, applied, on my own, to a Schedule A bank, and increased our down payment. If you’ve read my post before, my God is in the miracle working business and somehow, after much stress, phone calls, applications, paperwork and time, the mortgage got approved and we got the keys.

Here’s a few tips on tricky mortgage approvals:

  • Pray about it. If it’s God’s will, there’s a way.
  • Ever heard that two heads are better than one? Well, sometimes two names are better than one as well. If you haven’t considered it already, find a co-signer.
  • Don’t leave your mortgage application until the last minute. Even if your home doesn’t close for a few months, always ensure to secure the funds early on. That way, if financing falls through, you’ll have time to explore other options.
  • Try your best to go with a Schedule A or B bank. Explore your options and do your research on banks that not only offer the best interest rates, but fit your needs in the future. Buying to sell? Be careful of fees incurred to break your mortgage early. A higher interest rate with an open mortgage may be more financially feasible than a lower interest rate with a high penalty.
  • Keep your debts low and pay your bills on time. Get a handle on your finances. It pays off in the long run when you have collateral.
  • Be responsible and start saving now. You never know when having extra funds in the bank will come in handy.

Though it was a two-month process filled with stress, discouragement and at times, fear, our hard work, dedication and trust in God paid off in the end. I encourage you to do your research. One of our failures was truly understanding how mortgages work and what we were potentially getting ourselves into. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before your purchase and during your application.  Find a reputable agent and mortgage broker who will help you out along the way. Pray about it. And don’t take no for an answer.

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”
1 Timothy 6:17