From Where I Sit – Dispatches from the Reno Front

In my first update from the front lines of the war zone known as my kitchen renovation, I blow the drywall dust off my glasses, keyboard, and hands to write this. Lest You’re tempted to remind me, I do remember saying I’d gladly live through six months of chaos than wait for the perfect moment to start the work.

And with aching hands and weary body, I reaffirm that vow. My strategy since day one has been to do all I could alone and without complaint. I’ve tried to anticipate what would come next and be one or more steps ahead of the game.

Long ago, I removed all art and collectibles and packed them away. Then I emptied as many kitchen cupboards as I could so the cabinets on the wall coming down could be removed. I urged Roy to do a little each morning and each night. I couldn’t ask for a day of his time, because It’s the busiest time of year for farmers. But anyone can squeeze in a few swings of a hammer or cuts of a saw.

My brother-in-law Jim spent a couple of days here deconstructing part of another wall, creating the new doorway and attaching drywall to the living room wall.

Astute readers will ask: Living room, what the hell? I thought it was a kitchen remodel. Like every renovation under the sun, the scope of work has grown. You touch one thing and it leads to another. You improve one area, and it makes the rest look shabby by comparison. You find yourself uttering those verboten words: ?While we’re at it, we might as well . . .?

So now we’re redoing the kitchen, replacing all the flooring on the main floor, upgrading the wiring and adding pot lights and outlets where needed, and getting the stippled ceilings scraped and the house painted. In addition, all the interior doors, trim, and baseboards are being replaced. In the long run it’ll be more cost-effective than me trying to sand off the 50-year-old red-orange stain and repainting them. I’ve already been down that path, and it wasn’t pretty.

While we haven’t uncovered anything worthy of a Mike Holmes intervention, we have shaken our collective heads at some of the things we’ve seen. Four-inch nails used to hold things together, the odd ungrounded electrical outlet, and even the number of flooring choices we’ve had in the 25 years we’ve lived here. Particularly irksome is the shortcut taken by the master contractor who replaced all our windows after a hailstorm a few years ago. Instead of using expanding foam to fill the spaces around the windows, he stuffed in batt insulation.

Because this is my project, I’ve had to put my pry bar and reciprocating saw where my mouth is. I’ve taken debris to the landfill. I’ve swept and vacuumed. I’ve made miles looking for things I’ve misplaced. Yet despite the chaos I couldn’t be happier, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.