Day 5 – Renovating my investment condo – priming and new tile!

Today, Geoff Fandrick, owner of Ontario Stipple Removal, and his helper, Mike, were hard at work putting the last skim coat on the ceilings now that the popcorn is down. Here is shot of Geoff  (sorry it’s so dark: I used my new smartphone and haven’t yet figured out how to use it properly!)

Geoff 3

And here’s a picture of Mike, who was busy priming the second bedroom ceiling.

Geoff 4

That ceiling stain in that room (see below), is all gone along with the popcorn and so is the metal closet door track which Geoff removed for me, in preparation for Mirrorworks to come and install new mirrored doors late next week.


This morning Alex and I went down to Lowes to pick up my tub and vanity for the main bathroom. The new vanity (Liezl Grey) is one of my favourites and very inexpensive at $299. It’s a light grey with a cultured marble top and goes with pretty much everything.

The Sapphire tub from Lowes is one of my favourites as well with its clean, crisp lines, and a great price at $ 329.


I was still debating what to do with the horrible peach coloured tiles in both the  kitchen and the MBR ensuite.  I thought I could work around them, but today I decided they had to go:


While at Lowes, I came across some gorgeous ceramic tiles in a light grey mix that I really liked. At 93 cents for a 13 x 13″ tile, I couldn’t say no to the bargain (again, no HST today!) so we decided to pick them up and Alex got a further 5% discount as a contractor.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture but they work perfectly with all the elements of this reno: you’ll see them in the after shots when we’re done.

I  had also picked up some encaustic tile at Euro Tile late yesterday for the front foyer Again, I hadn’t planned on replacing the foyer tile initially, but then I found a couple of holes in the tile (holes, not cracks, and no idea why). I love this new tile, and it works perfectly with the grey-brown hardwood flooring. Plus it is definitely on trend:

Geoff 2

In my high-low world, this one was a splurge at $10.95/sq ft. But for a small space (25 sq ft), I think it  will have a big impact, particularly when the new mirror doors go up and the cool flushmount ribbon light fixture.

The new paint colour will be Satin Silver (Benjamin Moore). Here’s how it looks in a finished room on the Benjamin Moore website–fresh and clean!

Geoff 8

Still lots to do! We discovered we have to install a hot water shut-off before we can do the  tile surround in the main bathroom  so I’m scrambling to find a plumber who is available on short notice. Alex will be back tomorrow AM to fix the drywall behind where the old baseboard heaters were so that my electrician, Mark Dods, can come back Tuesday to install the new ones. Alex is still working on building new boxes for the new kitchen cabinets and plans to install the foyer flooring before Wed when Mirrorworks will come to install the new closet doors. The painter will start painting this weekend. Sometime next week, Alex will start tearing out the bathroom.

We are shooting to have everything done by the end of next week, two weeks from when  (UPDATE: May 26/2018 – we just decided to move a wall in the mechanical room to make more room in the laundry, now looking at first week in June to be finished, but it could end up being mid-June, the way things keep getting added to our list!)

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Day 3 & 4 – renovating my new investment condo!

The last two days of renos have been spent on electrical and removing the popcorn ceilings in most of the unit. The new potlights are up in the kitchen, replacing that hanging pendant and the off-centre flushmount light that was really bugging my eye. Here’s the before:

Burnside 2

And here’s where we are at now: we had to pull the potlights out so that Geoff Fandrick from Ontario Stipple Removal could get to work on the ceiling. You’ll need to use your imagination and think of them as being flush to the ceiling, but you get the idea!


Before Geoff could even get started on the popcorn ceilings,  however, Alex had to repair a big hole left behind when the previous owner removed the wall between the kitchen and dining room. Instead of repairing it, the tradesman had hidden it with a piece of trim.

Alex taped it and gave it a first coat of mud, and Geoff is now working to make it disappear altogether. A few more skim coats and you won’t know it was ever there. But it was quite a surprise — and honestly,  it should have been done properly and repaired when that wall came down and not hidden behind trim that way. That’s just lazy, in my view.


I popped by on Monday night to see how Geoff was doing and wow, what a difference! He and his helper were still working hard at 6:15 PM; these are the kinds of guys you love to work with. In just one day, the popcorn was down and the whole ceiling had been skim-coated! He also taped everything off to protect the paint on the walls, which I really appreciate: I’ll be doing a lot of painting but I hope to keep the paint in the hallway and possibly the dining room.


Mark Dods, my electrician, also came back today to do some small odds and ends. One thing he did was remove the exposed cable to the heat pump/air conditioning unit.

Here’s the before, with the cable hidden inside a big gray plastic tube that was installed on the outside of the baseboards:

burnside 1

And here’s the after: he removed the baseboard and cut a trench to conceal the cable. When we put new baseboards back up, you’ll never know it was ever there.


Mark also replaced a number of plugs and covered up other receptacles. For example, this had been left in the kitchen inside a cupboard that we removed  — initially, he thought it was a live receptacle.


Turns out, it was for a baseboard heater that was removed long ago. He’s closed it off properly and will create a receptacle elsewhere. And as I had requested, he’s moved the phone receptacle (for the intercom) and the old receptacle so they are just above the new counter we’ll be installing instead of high up on the wall.


I think I mentioned that we took down two cupboards that were flanking the kitchen window. They had been cobbled together from old cupboards and shelving screwed together, and the sides were peel and stick. Ugh. This one (on the far right) had been installed so it was crooked, as you can see below.

burnside - kitchen

And the peel and stick on this one was bubbling:


We took it down and that long cupboard beside it (the one that had the receptacles I mentioned above): it was sitting on the granite with an awkward space below it that made no sense at all. Here’s the after:


So much better! The kitchen feels ten time bigger without those, believe me.

With the top edge of the stone backsplash exposed after removing the two flanking cabinets, I had to find something to give it a finished look:


I found some travertine bullnose trim trips at Lowes for $ 3.49 each (no HST this weekend either!) but they were a light marble colour and when I brought them to the unit, I realized they didn’t match the stone.  I looked on Google and discovered you could stain stone a darker colour with ordinary wood stain.  I happened to have some grey stain on hand: I used a rag to rub the stain in and now they’re a perfect match.



So that’s where we are at! Geoff will keep working to get those ceilings smooth and ready for painting; Alex will repair the holes in the drywall along the baseboard and in behind where the new baseboards heaters will be installed, and Mark will come back next week to finish the electrical.

Still to come: new tile in the foyer, new bathroom, new lighting, new laundry room, new window treatments, new paint … there’s lots left to do!


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Day one – renovations! #investmentcondo

A lot of the first day of renovations at my new investment condo was spent with Alex trying to figure out what we are going to do with the cheap kitchen cabinets (which had peel and stick siding and in some cases were cobbled together from bits and pieces of other cabinets hidden behind new doors). Ugh.

And we found a LOT of electrical issues as well.

But we also made a lot of progress!  The pendant lighting is gone and we have pot lights up now: Mark Dods, my electrician, has to come back next week to do some odds and ends, including installing dimmers and hiding a cable line to the  heat pump, among other things.

Here’s the before to the kitchen with that off-centre flush mount and pendant lights:

Burnside 2

And here’s the work in progress (I will post afters of the new pot lighting soon!). We finally figured out where the new lights would go but it took us more time than it took Mark to install them!


One thing that was a surprise was that there was a strip that ran along the ceiling where the wall between the living  room and kitchen had been opened up by the previous trades. When we pulled the strip down, it turned out that it was completely open!

Instead of repairing the drywall, the contractors had covered up the hole with that trim strip. So today, Alex repaired and taped the hole, but here’s what it looked like when he got started.


With those repairs done, Geoff Fandrick from Ontario Stipple Removal will start work on Monday to remove all that popcorn. Can’t wait!

That awful cabinet that was sitting on the granite is also gone — it was actually silicon’d into place!  Here’s the before:


And here’s the after.

Honestly, with this gone, the room feels like it can breathe again.


And here’s that horrible door that was Velcro’d on – I personally pulled that one off! I can’t believe they did that, but believe me, the first thing on my list was to get rid of it. Gone!


One other thing we are going to do, that I forgot to mention in my last post,  is build a bigger box for the cabinet over the refrigerator as well as a side panel, so the fridge looks built in. Here’s what it looks like now (the fridge isn’t levelled and tips forward; we’ll fix that too):


And finally, I bought a Sapphire tub and a vanity today from Lowe’s – there’s a “no HST” sale on until May 23rd,  so I got a great price. We’ll redo the tub surround, flooring, etc. in this bathroom. The new vanity is smaller (31″ vs current 37″) so the room will seem bigger. Here’s what it looks like now. The existing cabinet, that I thought I could keep, is in bad shape with a peel and stick (peel and stick!) side panel that is already coming apart. Again, ugh.

202 -2

One thing I noticed today when I was at the condo t is that the ensuite toilet is leaking. (Of course it is.) I hate the tile in that room and the kitchen. So I’m thinking that we will replace the tile in that room when we pull the toilet out; as for the kitchen, Alex and I are still discussing that one. I really didn’t want to do it but the tile is a horrible peach colour that nothing works with.

I’m wildly over budget already, but the more I get into this reno the more I find that wasn’t done properly.  (And isn’t that typical?)  If you’re going to do it, do it right! Stay tuned!

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My new investment condo – here we go – more renovations!

I bought an investment property a couple of months ago and just got the keys to it yesterday.

While the owner had paid a lot for renovations, there were a lot of things in it that I wasn’t happy with (and that I sure wouldn’t have paid for) and that I’m going to redo.

For example, I really didn’t like the placement of the light fixture in the dining room (I hate those extenders).  I’m going to move the junction box and centre (and change) the fixture to something more modern.


The kitchen cabinets were refaced, but honestly, they are a real mess. The side panels are covered with peel and stick and we discovered that one door was attached to a wall by velcro strips!

One that particularly bothered me was this long cabinet which is  sitting on the granite counter and which contains the hook up for the telephone you need to use to get the door to open. That’s coming down for sure. The cupboard to the right of the window? It’s coming out too. It is actually made of two separate components: a cabinet to which someone had added essentially a shelf that was screwed to the bottom and then covered with a full sized door exposing the drywall behind it, which they didn’t even paint. Ugh.


One thing that really does bug me about this unit is the way the granite counter tops were done. Alex pointed out that the cabinets are off by 1/2″ and that no two surfaces are the same height.

They also were cut to overhang in a weird way, leaving lots of dead space.

We’ll build some custom cabinetry to fill the void under this overhang and cut back the overhang on the other end (not shown). The cabinets are currently 25″ deep which is very wide for a small kitchen. We’ll cut those back to 18″ deep with a 2″ overhang, which will provide a lot more space.


(If you look closely above you will see that the granite has a big gap in the backsplash. The backsplash is coming down too. Too hard to explain here what we’re doing but it will be a huge improvement, I think!)

I couldn’t make up my mind what to do about this hanging pendant, but I decided today that it’s going and we’ll put up potlights in the kitchen instead. That will give way more flexibility with other lighting needed on this main level – while I like this light, it is a very strong piece. And I’m also removing the centre flushmount, which is actually off-centre and is driving  my eye crazy. (Don’t get me started on the kitchen sink which isn’t centred beneath the window either.)

Burnside 2

Look above again at the bottom of those plastic plantation doors and you can see how they warped – they were right over the baseboard heater. They are on all the windows and they are coming down as well. I much prefer curtain rods and curtains to wonky plastic, and actually, when I went to open this ones, the outside strip was hanging off – I pulled it off with my hands.

The vanity in the main bathroom also has a peel and stick outside panel that is coming loose in the corner. Who uses peel and stick when they’re building a cabinet? Ugh. Whoever installed it made a real mess of the drywall at the back of the vanity when they installed the new plumbing. What a mess!




We’ll fix that for sure.

Alex has offered to build a new vanity to get rid of this horrible peel and stick version, and customize a quartz top – I’m trying to decide if I’ll do that or just go and buy something. We’re going to finish the kitchen first so I have some time to decide — I may replace the tub and it definitely needs a new tub surround.

Like my other investment condo, the dryer on the other side of this bathroom is vented into it. That has to go: I’ll buy a new ventless washer and dryer and take these out to the cottage. We are also going to move the plumbing and electrical so that the new stacked unit sits flush to the wall on the right, for a little more room. Alex pointed out that we could even up the wall and gain a few square feet from the hallway: I’m thinking on it.


And there is random shelving all over the place; we’ll clean that up, repair the holes and repaint. Alex also pointed out that this shelf with the metal bar is not installed properly: it’s resting on a small piece of wood, which won’t carry much weight for long. We’ll fix that too.


The other repairs involve removing all the popcorn ceilings and fresh paint (that red will be gone in favour of something more neutral). I’ll replace bathroom towel bars and toilet paper holders and I’ve already found new bathroom lights I prefer to the ones that are here now. It’s going to look great!


I’m removing the baseboard heaters from the two bathrooms and installing brand new baseboard heaters with programmable thermostats in the main living area and the bedrooms. And finally, the cable that connects to a heat pump A/C unit was left exposed and runs around the perimeter of the living room will be hidden by baseboards – it really is ugly.

Stay tuned for work in progress pics and before and afters!

Mark Dods of Black Bear Electrical  is doing my electrical, Geoff Fandrick of Ontario Stipple Removal will get rid of that popcorn ceiling and Alex Martinez is working on everything else!



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Are Realtors Really Driving Ottawa’s Hot Market?

The Ottawa real estate market is crazy hot right now. Inventory is at a historic low, and we are seeing multiple offers almost everywhere. The speed with which properties are selling has created a situation in which most of us are holding off on offers for our listings for at least a few days.

A story in today’s Ottawa Citizen calls that a “high pressure sales tactic” that is forcing buyers into quick decisions, and describes it as cut-throat. It adds:

High-pressure sales tactics such as “offer nights,” where realtors accept blind bids within a short period of time, are putting buyers at risk.

So let me just unpack that a little, because these statements are unfair and mistaken.

My obligation to my seller is to get as many people through the door as possible so that I can get them top dollar. In this kind of market, if you are acting for the seller and don’t hold off on offers for a few days, any decent property that is reasonably priced will sell within a few hours of being listed, and long  before it even hits This is because there is a delay in uploading information from Matrix (our back-end to into the MLS/ system.

If we didn’t hold off on offers, the only successful buyers would be those whose realtors could get them in the door within the first few hours of a listing going live. It’s frustrating to have a buyer call me about a new listing they saw on and have to tell them it’s already sold, and often with multiple offers.

By holding off on offers, I at least give all interested buyers a fair shot at seeing the  property and a fair chance at getting it.  (And yes, the bids are blind, because our governing legislation requires that terms and conditions of an offer be kept confidential. If you want an open bidding system  that works like a regular auction, where everyone knows what bids are, lobby your legislators to change the REBBA legislation. Until you do, blind bids are required by law.)

The article blames realtors for pressuring buyers into making quick offers without doing their due diligence when it comes to home inspections:

As bidding wars over real estate in Ottawa intensify, some home inspectors say buyers are under increasing pressure from realtors to make decisions under tight deadlines without doing their due diligence.

Now, no realtor that I know would ever urge a buyer to remove a home inspection condition. In fact, a prudent realtor includes the home inspection condition in the offer and requires the buyer to strike it out and initial it if they decide to waive it to make it very clear that they are doing so knowingly.

I have only had one buyer insist on waiving a home inspection clause in an offer this year  and that was against my strong advice to have one. Believe me, I felt almost sick when my buyer told me she wanted to waive the inspection. Our unconditional offer was accepted and I arranged with the seller to let us in to have an inspection later that week: we were lucky and nothing serious turned up. Far from pressuring our buyers, then, we tell them the risks and let them make adult, informed decisions.

The story quotes the President of the Ontario Home Inspectors Association, Murry Parish as follows:

To protect buyers in a hot market, Parish suggested the seller should be the one paying for a home inspection before listing a house.

That doesn’t protect the buyer: that protects the seller!

Some sellers do get home inspections, but the contract for the inspection is between the home inspector and the seller, not the buyer. If the home inspector misses something, the buyer has no privity of contract, they can’t sue. So the buyer who relies on a seller’s home inspector takes a big risk: they really should have their own inspection if they want to be protected. At least when we hold off on offers, that gives our buyers the time to do so.

The home inspector quoted in this article, however,  claims that “good inspectors are usually booked seven to 10 days in advance, so squeezing in a last-minute appointment is difficult.”

First of all, I can’t imagine any seller agreeing to give a buyer  a fulll ten days to get a home inspection done in a hot market or a cold one- they would never tie their property up that long. We usually get inspections done within a few days, regardless of market conditions. And secondly, there are hundreds of home inspectors in Ottawa, so there are plenty of good ones available on short notice.

So take this article with a grain of salt, please. We are not at fault for market conditions (see my previous post on why the Ottawa market is so hot). Despite what this article says, we are doing our best to work hard for our buyers and sellers in a very tight market.



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Giving back to our neighbours! #ParkdaleFoodCentre #FillTheFreezer

I met with the folks at Parkdale Food Centre a few weeks ago to see how I could help there and they suggested I host a Fill the Freezer event. That’s where you get a group together to cook food that you will leave behind for those who need it. They supply the kitchen; you supply the ingredients.

So I booked two events: one was Friday the 13th and the other will be on April 27th. I posted it on our Carling realtor page for Royal LePage Team and quite a few realtors volunteered for the different events. I also put out a call on social media and got a couple of volunteers from there as well.

Today we made two kinds of soup: carrot-ginger and creamy potato-leek, and for $ 60 worth of ingredients, we made 54 containers of beautiful soup for our neighbours.

Here we are (L to R), Angela, Kevin Drew (from my office); Winn; me (in the red apron), Shelagh MacDonald (again from my office) and Marlene. Missing is Tara Shields, also from my office, who was on the phone in another room when this shot was taken. (I won’t use last names to protect the privacy of the folks I met on Twitter.)

Parkdale 3

And look at the beautiful soup we made for our neighbours! The potato leek soup was topped off with sour cream and chives and everything was popped fresh into the freezer.


If you would like to do a Fill the Freezer event, contact Alissa Campbell at the Parkdale Food Centre. When we do the next one on the 27th, one of my friends is bringing her two kids: children are welcome!

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Giving back to our neighbours! #TheOaks

One thing I love about Royal LePage Team Realty is how generous my fellow realtors are. You’ll remember the sock drive I did in December (Sock it to Christmas!) that generated donations of around 1,500 pairs of new socks – most of those were donated by realtors in my office.

Sock it to Christmas got me interested in doing more along similar lines. I reached out to Jeff Turnbull, the doctor who co-founded Inner City Health together with Wendy Muckle. Inner City Health  works closely with the homeless shelters in town and also manages the Safe Injection Site trailer at Good Shepherds on Murray. Through Jeff, I met Wendy, who is the Executive Director of Inner City Health. We chatted on the phone last Friday morning and I asked her what she needed most.

There are a couple of things that are urgent. One is cookies and juice boxes for the Safe Injection Site. Wendy said that they are trying to get the people who come in to stay longer: as I understood her, people who are addicted crave sweets as they start to come down. Wendy said they get $ 50 a week from the city to cover these items, but they are spending $ 300 a week as demand goes up.

I threw out a call on social media and several people said they would stop by with donations. However, my  hope was to find them a reliable, ongoing source of these items. I mentioned the situation  to a realtor in my office, Joanne Batchelor. It turned out she knew someone in the Executive Office at Costco: and thanks to her, Costco is now considering a bulk donation. So,  while it’s not the reliable source we are still hoping to find, it will be a generous donation nonetheless if it comes through and meanwhile we’ll keep looking.

Another item Wendy mentioned to me was bath towels. The shelters are in desperate need of bath towels because without them, the folks there can’t shower. Who knew?

It occurred to me that perhaps we could find an ongoing source of towels by contacting local hotels to see what they do with their discards. If they are only going to end up in landfill, we’d take them!

I reached out to The Westin on Twitter and they were  right on it — they referred the request to their Assistant Director of Housekeeping immediately!  She’s been away this week, but she’ll back on Tuesday and she will see what they have on hand. If that works out, that’s another problem solved!

Wendy and I also talked about what I might be able to do for The Oaks. This is a managed alcohol treatment facility located very close to my own neighbourhood, Westboro, near Merivale and Kirkwood and just a few blocks from my office. It’s run in partnership by Inner City with Good Shepherds.

This particular facility was the subject of a Fifth Estate documentary called The Pour, which is well worth watching. Chronic alcoholics are given managed amounts of alcohol throughout the day there (staff actually make the wine in the premises) and as their conditions begin to stabilize and improve,  other supports are there for them as well. In many cases, after decades of living on the streets, they are able to reconnect with their families. It’s pretty amazing.

Director, Ray Maquette, and he and Elise, their nurse, gave me and three friends of mine   a tour on Thursday. Again, two of them  are fellowrealtors, Angie Zarysky and Rebecca Wilson, the other is a mortgage broker we work with, Cathy Macdonald. We were impressed! They are  doing great work and when we asked what they needed most, Elise said they were in dire need of a hospital bed. Many of the residents are getting older and they really need a hospital bed they can raise and lower as currently, the nursing staff are bending over all the time to examine them.

And it turned out that Rebecca had a hospital bed which she immediately offered to donate – another problem solved!

Ray and Elise  said they really need those raised toilet contraptions and walkers as well, as many as we can find, so when I got back to the office, I got hold of MacLean and Associates. That’s an auction house that does estates sales, located right around the corner from The Oaks. (I do a lot of estate work with Canada Trust and that’s how I met them.) Anyway, they got back to me right away to say that they don’t have any now but when they do, they will not only donate them, they will deliver them!

Anyway, that  was my week. If you can help in any way with the items I’ve mentioned, do let me know, and thanks!



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