Thirfty handyman saves big bucks
sellers such as Kijiji and E-bay, salvage companies, as well as Habitat for Humanity ReStores at 60 Rue Archibald and at the corner of Ellice Avenue and Wall Street. Another of Gregoire’s money-saving ideas was to purchase two-inch-byeight-inch laminated butcher blocks from Home Depot to make kitchen and island countertops and backsplashes. “With taxes, I spent about $400 on four red oak blocks,” said Gregoire. “Granite, quartz or any of the popular stone countertops would have cost thousands of dollars.” To further save dollars, he purchased click-together cork tiles on sale at a large flooring retailer. He said the tiles were easy to lay on the kitchen floor and adjacent laundry room, both of which are high-traffic, moisture-prone areas where the sealed cork has stood up well. “The tiles only required a six-mil vapour barrier underlay and they are very forgiving on the feet, unlike stone tiles,” Gregoire said, adding the couple’s two dogs have not scratched the cork so far. While renovating the kitchen, he removed some 1950s-style wood cupboards with sliding-glass panels and hung them in the laundry room above a cabinet his wife had purchased from a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. He covered the top of the cabinet with black granite tile from Rona and trimmed the edges with salvaged hardwood, repeating the process on an existing cabinet on the opposite side of the laundry room. Much of the trim throughout the house was made by Gregoire by ripping spruce boards to size and painting them to match existing colours, a real loonie saver as mouldings sold by retailers are exorbitantly priced. The creative use of inexpensive iron water pipe also kept some moolah in Gregoire’s britches. A towel rack attached to the kitchen island was made from the pipe, as were two wall mounts that support a wood frame and drywall box that hangs over the kitchen island. Pieces of pipe, some connected by elbows, were secured to walls at either end of the box using flush-mount hardware and screws, then fastened to the inside of the box with similar connectors. A space was left so the pipes could be seen where they exit the ends of the box and join the walls. “The rough look of the unfinished iron provides a fascinating contrast to the smooth, finished drywall,” said Gregoire, adding the box contains the wiring for two drop lights hanging over the island, as well as a strip of coloured LED lighting that shines upward onto the ceiling, creating a sensual ambiance when bright lights in the kitchen and open living room are turned off. Always on the lookout for inexpensive materials to be used in unconventional ways, the thrifty handyman enclosed a door frame that once led from the living room to a main-floor bathroom with a sheet of translucent plastic. Before mounting the sheet, he built blue LED lights into the surrounding wall cavity. “I could have covered the opening with drywall, but I decided the translucent material glowing blue around the edges would make an interesting conversation piece,” he said. For her part, Hernandez said she makes suggestions about what would make life easier in the small house built in the mid-1950s. “There was never room for a walk-in closet in the upstairs master bedroom, so I asked my husband if he could renovate a bedroom in the cellar to include a large closet,” she said. Even though the new master bedroom is located in the basement, it’s her favourite part of the renovation as it contains her dream closet as well as a full bathroom with a tempered glass shower enclosure. “It’s not gloomy because the walls are high and the windows are big,” she said. Her recommendations to save money are to attend estate and garage sales to find reasonably priced furniture, lighting fixtures and many other household accessories. “It also helps to have a handyman for a husband,” she added.
Front elevation of St. James renovation showing joined double-hung windows.