Spring, and the contractor, arrives

Part 3 of a 5 part series on the renovation of the author’s cottage on PEI. Click here for part 1.

One lucky find leads to another

We were so lucky to secure a great contractor, Bill, for the renovations through one of Karl’s business colleagues. And from this great find came several others. Bill and his partner, Ronny, had previously worked with a good, reliable electrician named John. They were able to secure him for our project. Bill, Ronny and John along with Greg the plumber made up our renovation team.

Starting at the top (floor)

Our interior reno plans were not extensive but would make a huge difference for the two bedrooms and bathroom upstairs. The main issue was that neither of the second floor bedrooms had a door or even a doorframe. At the top of the stairs one could see directly into both rooms. One did have an arched entrance but the other was completely wide open. That room, pictured below, was used as a sitting room or office, not as a bedroom. Perhaps that was because it has the best views of New London Bay and the Cavendish Dunes? Regardless, I was making that my bedroom!

sitting room with water views through the windows
Master bedroom before

That room has large east-facing windows and patio doors to a small balcony from which you can see amazing sunrises. However, there was no closet in this room. In the second bedroom, there was a deep walk-in closet, the back of which protruded into the new master bedroom. For a property where people would be staying only a week or two at a time it was unnecessarily large.

A possible solution?

I asked Bill if he could divide the closet in half and put a door in the master bedroom side. A quick measurement confirmed it was possible and he added that to his growing list of projects. Now we have two matching closets the right size for a summer rental property. Of course every extra “little” project usually means some light fixture or switch needs to be added or moved. We also needed four ceiling fans installed: two in the sunroom and one in each of the second and third bedrooms. By the end of the project we were well acquainted with John, the electrician.

The previous owner used the room with the arched entrance for her bedroom. We could have installed a barn-style door. However to access the bathroom you would have to go through the second bedroom. Not ideal, especially for a home with no main floor bathroom. Bill added a few short walls, doorframes, doors and voilà. This change provided privacy for both bedrooms and better access to the bathroom as well.

I chose the sandy colour paint for this room to contrast with the blue of the sky and New London Bay out of the windows. The white doors at the right side of the photo below are the doors to the new closet. The two side table lamps are not the $130 USD Pottery Barn lamps. They came with the house and had a sky blue ceramic base, typical of the 90’s. A glue gun and a $15 roll of rope from Michael’s helped me completely transform them at a fraction of the price.

The final touch in the bedroom is a small linen pillow embroidered with the words “Cottage on the Coast”. My daughters gave me an embroidered linen tea towel for the cottage at Christmastime. I loved it and I could imagine it being well used and eventually losing its pristine charm. So I decided to turn it into a small throw pillow for the bed.

Master Bedroom After

Weird things in the bathroom

Oh, what to say about the bathroom, and the numerous weird things going there? In the photo below you can see the ceramic-tile printed wallpaper. I don’t think wallpaper itself is weird but it was the only room in the house with wallpaper. Second, even the walls INSIDE the shower area were papered. Third, one of the towel bars was mounted about six feet off the ground. This was not a second towel bar, above a normal height one, it was the only towel bar. In the photo below you can see the towel bar in the mirror’s reflection. Maybe the owner was 7 feet tall?

Green tiled bathroom with two person tub.
Master bathroom before

Fourth there was a towel rack above the tub in the shower enclosure. Fifth, the tub was an unusual shape with seating for two. Sixth, the wainscoting above the tube was not waterproofed. Clearly this owner used only the tub and not the shower. And lastly, the shower plumbing hadn’t been installed properly. As a result, the shower did not work even if you were willing to risk the wainscoting, the towels and the wallpaper.

The former owner’s plumber, Greg, has continued to work with us since the purchase. He told us he suggested to her that he could replace those pipes and fixtures but the owner always declined. While Greg did not do the plumbing when the house was built, he did do the renovation work for us. We consider him a gem of a find and when there is enough snow in winter, he’ll snowmobile over to our place make sure has been damaged by a North Atlantic winter storm.

The bathroom reno gets larger

Our rental property manager suggested that we replace the cheap sink, faucets and vanity that were in the bathroom. We also decided to replace the tub with a walk-in shower as work would be done in there anyway. Finally, we had Bill replace the old cushion floor with laminate planks.  

All these things meant pretty much a full do-over of the bathroom with only original toilet staying. Once the renovations began we realized how lucky we were with both our plumber and our contractor. Both were trustworthy, did what they promised, communicated with each other and provided us with options when needed. In addition we never felt they were trying to gouge us. When you’re doing a multiple-project reno while living in a different province, that trust is vitally important.

I had already painted most of the bathroom with a soft fresh green when we got some bad news from the plumber. We deliberately chose a shower designed for renovations that came in several pieces, rather than one large piece. However, one of the pieces was still too large to fit through the doorway. Our contractor said “no problem” promptly cut a large hole in the bathroom wall, put the shower piece through and then patched up the wall. Oh well, I was getting good at painting anyway.

The Kitchen

There wasn’t time to renovate the kitchen prior to the 2019 renting season. Even putting up new cupboard doors wasn’t an option as the existing doors were not standard sizes. There are at least 4 slightly different designs (some with bead board, some with arched details, some completely flat, etc).

Kitchen with yellow cupboards, walls and ceiling.
Kitchen Before

I think whoever built the kitchen used existing doors from several other places and built the boxes to fit each. When I removed them from the cabinet boxes I also had to remove, from nearly every door, a small blue doorknocker smack in the middle of each one. I then had to fill and sand all of the holes. Over the winter I put three coats of a bright white paint on the 27 cupboard doors. Trying to keep track of how many coats were on the inside, outside and all 4 edges of 27 doors was challenging and I’m sure there are a few edges here and there that have had a coat missed.

And although I made an attempt, in the end Bill replaced the very old hinges with new hinges and hardware and reinstalled the cupboard doors. Well, all but two. When replacing the old tiny hingers with modern ones, there wasn’t room to put the hinges on the two corner cabinets. So we decided to leave them as open shelving and put interesting things in there. We’ve had a few summers pass since the renovation and I don’t know if we’ll ever replace those cupboards. It’s amazing what some white paint can do and in the end, we were thrilled at how much better the kitchen looks.

The final element in the kitchen was to create a coffee station out of an existing storage cupboard. Again Pinterest and blogs provided inspiration and suggestions as to what would be helpful in a rental property. I believe the finished product is a major upgrade with little contractor involvement required.

Kitchen with pale blue walls and white cupboards
Kitchen After

Pro tip…

Although I’ve painted many things, painting 27 cupboard doors was a major challenge. The first of which was just keeping track of which door went with which cupboard. Luckily my advanced research into painting cabinets (thank you DIYers for writing so many blogs!) told me I needed to number the cabinet boxes and their corresponding doors. A piece of numbered painter’s tape on each door and cabinet box saved me more than once.

For anyone planning to reuse old hinges or screws I would recommend doing this as well. I hadn’t kept track of the hinges or screws on a dresser and dining chairs and learned a hard lesson. It makes things a LOT easier with older furniture where the screws or hinges are often not identical to each other, if you replace a screw back into its original hole.

The interior was now mostly finished. Next post: The reno moves to the great outdoors.

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