The Yucky Part 2 of Renovation

College Street / Little Italy

So it’s near 30 days since I wrote about my trials and tribulations at the Movie House during its first month of a redo. If you’re new to my blog, I’m taking my twelve year old ‘builder’s grade’ sliver of a loft located in College Street’s vintage Movie House Conversion and turning it into a dazzling live/work jewel box. Along with my fretting over what stays and what goes, debating whether my proposed upgrades are prudent or excessive, and whining about how much I despise the lacklustre albeit essential installation of replacement building components, I also confessed my reluctance to rip out the 1998 rainbow slate tiles in the washrooms. What on earth was I thinking? Here’s a link to that post called The Yucky Part Of Renovation.

While the first month of my four month renovation program was dominated by demolition and trouble-shooting the design / build program (until you have actually opened up the walls you never know what you’re in for), this second month has been installing all the ‘behind-the-walls’ electrical and plumbing upgrades, as well as a whole lot of drywalling. As I type there are an abundance of new electrical outlets to serve the reconfigured kitchen plan, the bedroom’s media entertainment system, and all the office equipment including printers, computers and the paper shredder. The ample but not overkill recessed lighting is mostly installed on each of the three levels, while outlets for ceiling fixtures have been added or realigned. In the plumbing department, a too-narrow shower stall has been intelligently reconfigured, a ceiling bashed out for an indulgent rainshower, plus new temperature valves are being added. All of this necessitated moving the shower and bathtub hot and cold water lines and adding new concrete board for the imminent tilework.

Like most production-based housing, the location of my unit’s exhaust venting and heating/cooling ductwork was installed with the greatest ease using the least materials without violating the building code, while a whole lotta framing and drywall was installed without consideration for the space plan. The awkward bulkheads on the unit’s highest ceiling are being reproportioned to match and will be covered by massive crown moldings. On the lower level, several exposed ducts have been relocated into an area containing a mishmash of bulkheads. All this mechanical blight is being covered by a new dropped drywall ceiling containing sparkly recessed lighting.

To maximize space, a closed cavity under the stairs has been reclaimed to add 30 additional square feet of storage, and a laundry utility closet has been narrowed to benefit the guest room a critical 9 inches. Seriously. There was a time I couldn’t justify the expense to gain nine inches of living space, but I now recognize there’s value in correcting design and construction flaws that impede profit-potential. Despite the price for perfection, I believe elevating proportions, maximizing space, and bringing beauty through balance ultimately translates into profit. Am I right or wrong? We’ll see.

Which takes me to last month’s issue of keeping or losing the 1998 rainbow slate tiling in the washrooms. Along with their servicable condition I was struggling spending the additional $2500 cost for their replacement. But upon reflection I decided ripping them out was the right choice. First, I don’t like them anymore. I knew in my gut that once the place was complete I would always cringe and regret not making the change. Second, as a realtor I’m often showing properties where an owner has done a substantial yet selective remodel. It might be a renovated kitchen where the counters, appliances and backsplash are new but the cabinets are original, or a refurbished family room which has new broadloom, paint, and custom bookshelves but the 60s feature fireplace remains, or a house which is colour current and smartly upgraded except for the 1980s plate-sized recessed floodlighting. In most instances the owner made the decision to retain them because they were still ‘perfectly functional’ or because the additional cost was straining the budget. In other words, their dilemma was exactly my own. But I share from experience – instead of the delicious bling standing out – the original items will be glaringly noticeable. Unless you modify the original items to make them look current (like spray-painting old cabinets), these elements will create stylistic discord, appear dated and scream obsolete. Sure, in your mind your prospective buyer is revelling in all the upgrades, but I’m telling you they’re secretly calculating the cost to replace all that’s old while deducting the sum from your list price. Worse, if it happens to be something more permanent like, er, um… rainbow slate tiles which, once covered in new custom cabinetry, plumbing and the like make fixing the 1998 blemish a huge hassle to correct, then one’s also gambling the prospective buyer dissing and dismissing your place. I hear it all the time! So while one, and that would be me, might save $2500 keeping the rainbow slate, the ultimate cost could be losing a future sale. Who wants to risk that? I don’t!

Stay tuned for more Renovating The Movie House Loft in Toronto, Ontario, Canada!

~ Steven and the urbaneer team

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