Category Archives: My Blog

Batten down the hatches!

For those of you who live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, you know that the weather is not all unicorns and rainbows. There is nothing like a week of torrential wind and rain to expose all of the structural flaws in your aging home and this last couple  of weeks  has seen me lose more than the normal amount of hair worrying about just how much money it’s going to take to get my house brought up to 2016 standards.

Don’t get me wrong, my roof is in great shape so it’s not like we have leaks or anything. It’s morel like when the wind blows and I stand near a window, door, or anything else that opens to the outside world I can literally see the dollar signs flowing out of the not quite airtight casings. At the moment a complete replacement of my windows and doors is not in the budget. So I thought I would research how to snug up a house on the cheap and share my findings with you all.

One easy way to see if hot air is escaping ( or cold air intruding) is to hold a lit candle in front of windows or doors when the wind is howling outside – it should be easy to see if you have an issue. Proper windows and doors should ideally be completely airtight – that flame shouldn’t be dancing. If it is – like every single window in my house – then we have to take some action. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Two words – weatherstripping and caulking. Applying weatherstripping and caulk to your windows can go a long way towards rectifying the energy sucking vampire. If you’re not super handy like me – practice on some windows that aren’t readily visible to visitors – I did the windows in my garage first then moved on to more prominent windows. weatherstripping goes in the big gaps – caulking for tighter spaces.
  • For doors – if there is a gap at the bottom of the door you’re going to really feel it in the winter. Invest in a draft stopper ( check it here on wikipedia). There a few different types – the sand filled “socks” that just lay on the floor in front of the door or the type that you screw into the bottom of the door – you just slide it on and affix – really simple and the style that I prefer.

Overall these are some really easy and cheap fixes that can be taken care of in an afternoon. I would consider them temporary fixes – as new windows tend to be much more efficient that older ones and I would consider new windows/doors to be an essential part of an overall renovation – but when you’ve got limited funds you have to prioritize. Most home improvement sites I researched quoted a 10-15% increase in energy efficiency could be realized by following the above recommendation. So for a short term solution, it should pay for itself very quickly and help you save up for the rest of the house!

Adventures in babysitting (while renovating)

Anybody ever try doing home repairs while the kids are around? Yeah, right. First off, before anybody starts freaking out, I’m not talking about the dangerous, circular saw type of renos. I’m talking about your run of the mill hanging a curtain rod or prepping walls for paint kind of thing – you dig?

I want my kids to see their parents doing things around the house for themselves. I never saw any of this from my parents so it didn’t come naturally. I also think it’s ok to see Mom or Dad try something and fail (I actually think this is pretty important), I want them to see us trying to figure out something and if it doesn’t work out I want them to see that it’s not the end of the world and in fact some of the best things are born from a failure (or three).

So we know that as parents we do not have a lot of the skills to renovate a home. We also know that we are resourceful and if we want to stretch our dollars we’re going to have to learn a few new tricks and add some skills to the proverbial tool belt. So where to begin teaching these lessons to our girls – for us it was painting. Pretty safe, no major ramifications that can’t be fixed (proper dropcloth usage a must) if things go awry. And a lot of fun. Once we prepped the area carefully to account for the inevitable Jackson Pollock imitation we were about to witness we turned the music on and started painting. And handed a brush to our 4yr old and just let her watch and imitate us. She was so delighted to be doing something where she was not only allowed but encouraged to color on the walls. Seriously one of the cutest things I’ve seen.

Thanks for stopping by!

Hi there, welcome to my new website called VDVEXPO . I hope to share our adventures of renovating our 25-year-old 2-story home in Surrey, B.C.

I hope to provide others that are undertaking this journey some insight into how we make decisions, save money, and (hopefully) keep our sanity along the way. We are on a limited budget as any family that is buying a home in the Lower Mainland these days can likely understand – so every dollar spent has to be well thought out. Unfortunately – I have already made a BUNCH of bad decisions with materials, trades, timing, and the list goes on – that is a big part of the reason for starting this blog – if it helps a few people avoid some of the pitfalls we have encountered I’ll consider our job done – we’re just trying to pay it forward here!

I’ll be doing my best to update regularly, but balancing work, renos , kids, and dog can at times be a challenge. Check back in tomorrow and we’ll see what we should tackle first.

How to Choose a Plumber

Ok – here we go. We went through a few different plumbers – I’m pretty cheap, so like a rookie the first plumber I chose to for our kitchen reno was chosen because he had the lowest price. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson “D’oh!”. I’ve learned that the cheapest quote can sometimes be the most expensive in terms of stress AND money.

So here’s what I’ve learned about how to choose a plumber:

  1. Be as specific as possible when requesting a quote.Get 2 or 3 of them and don’t necessarily go with the cheapest. Feel free to ask the most expensive company why they are more expensive than the other quotes, if any company wants to see a competitive quote I will share it. Another plumber will see through any BS and should be able to educate you on why the quotes are different and what you should specify with the lower quote. In my experience, a really low quote should actually be a red flag.
  2. Pricing provided over the phone is not always a good thing. For simple jobs like a faucet install, getting a quote over phone or email probably isn’t a problem. For more complex jobs a plumber will need to have a look at what the job really entails to be able to provide an accurate quote.
  3. Tell every plumber that you are getting multiple quotes and will compare – and that price is just one of several factors to be considered.We found that this one tactic typically made every quote come in a little more competitive, sounds silly but it works.
  4. Get references from real people. Online reviews (both good and bad) are notoriously unreliable. Get some real local people to vouch for the plumber you choose.
  5. Pay attention to the guarantee. Not all guarantees are created equally – get it in writing.

If you follow these five steps you will be way ahead of the game , and these steps hold true for any and all trades. We had to kiss a few frogs before we found our Prince(s) . This is a good example of asking a plumber about another company’s quote – they shouldn’t take offense, they should walk you through both their quote and the competitors. In my case there didn’t appear to be any difference that was readily apparent on the quote itself so the plumber doing the estimate for Langley Plumbing Co. gave me a list of questions that I should be asking any plumber quoting a job of this kind (I never would have thought about 90% of them). When I followed his advice it became painfully obvious that what was being quoted was apples vs oranges – I went with the company that gave me a sense of trust in the end. These are the guys we went with, Langley plumbers. If you’re in Surrey look them  up  – they get our stamp of approval.

Oh, one more thing. DO NOT pay for the entire job up front. Agree to pay for materials but don’t pay until the job is done – I can’t stress this enough. If the tradesperson is reputable they shouldn’t have a problem with this. It’s ok to pay as work is completed, but we have had several instances where jobs took forever to complete and we had no leverage as we paid in advance – yet another rookie mistake. Maybe that’s what I should have called this blog – Rookie Reno’s , kind of has a nice ring to it.