The "Dont's" appear to be winning.

We have just spent our first week’s vacation (and I use the term very loosely) at the cottage, which is about 70% through the renovation. It was a week spent doing penance to the “don’ts” – all the bad decisions we made at the beginning. Many seemed like good ideas at the time, but turned out to be really stupid in hindsight.

Don’t #1: Don’t ever count on the “best case scenario”. It will not happen that way. There are too many variables like “weather” that really determine what will happen and when. Face the fact that you are totally not in control. It will be slower than you expected and it will cost more (just like everyone told you it would). There is no small type that reads “except for Rick and Wendie Davis”.

Don’t #2: Don’t think about not storing your furniture off site. Although the original plan (here it comes – best case scenario) was to build the addition, leaving the existing cottage in tact until the break through was done and then moving everything into the addition. That plan was off the rails before the first month was over. And by the time we tried to find a storage facility, all the units were taken.

Not only was everything totally in the way of the crew, it collected every bit of construction debris, no matter how tightly wrapped it was. When the contractor finally lost patience with us after have to move it all too many times to mention, on threat of revolt it was moved into the basement, where it collected mould and mildew to go with the sawdust and drywall dirt.

So, after spending our first five 14-hour days with a spray bottle filled with a potion of hydrogen peroxide and colour-fast bleach (found on the internet as a result of googling “getting mould off upholstery”), we have rescued nearly everything from the dank and smelly depths. Once we organized everything in the basement and cleaned it out, the mould is gone from there too.

Don’t #2: “Don’t do the kitchen first”, which I did fearing that we would run out of money before the renovation was done. (I was correct in my monetary assumption, by the way.) Miraculously, there is no damage to the new kitchen, but it was definitely another handicap and irritant for the crew, and has affected a floor decision which will not be easy to change, since all the cabinetry is in position. I am happy to live with the floors I have as my penance for this "don't".

Don’t #3: “Don’t assume that the contractor understands what you are saying.” When we told him that we were coming up to the cottage at a certain date for a week, he assumed we didn’t want him to work while we were there. WRONG. Under no circumstances did we want him to go anywhere else, when there is still so much to do. Luckily, we figured each other out and by mid-week we got the crew back. They got lots done without being in our way – though I’m sure we were in theirs.

Don’t #4: “Don’t under estimate the power of beer on Friday.” Since we haven’t been able to be there to establish this ritual at the end of the week (something our friends did every Friday through their reno), we found out just how powerful this small gesture can be. It gave us a chance to spend some time with the wonderful human beings who do the work – and gave them a chance to get to know those human beings who have been committing all the don’ts. I wish we were in a position to do this every Friday going forward, but we aren’t. Our second week of vacation is coming after the Labour Day weekend, so we will get to do it one more time. And there will be some sort of celebration when we are done, I'm sure.

Don’t #5: “Don’t lose sight of the finish line.” I think we are suffering from renovation fatigue, which plagues everyone at some point. Unfortunately, renovation fatigue is right next door to renovation remorse, with which my husband appears to be flirting. Not me – I can definitely see how magnificent it is going to be.

After we were finished de-moulding, we put a number of our favourite pieces in place including a painting on the new mantel of our incredible new fireplace. Amazingly, without paint on the new walls or trim on the new windows, these personal touches really made it feel like the home it will soon be. I am truly excited and know that it won’t be much longer before it’s perfect.

We refused to put all the furniture we so lovingly cleaned back into the basement. We put it all together in the centre of the living room and covered it with a big sheet. This time we told the contractor what we were doing. He didn’t have too much to say about it, which could mean he is o.k., or it’s our next stupid decision.

I sure hope it’s not the next “don’t”.


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