Renovation & Design

Small improvements can have dramatic effect

Don't underestimate the difference seemingly minor updates can make

Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

Several coats of a high-gloss white paint were applied to the stairwell banister.

Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

The bi-fold doors of the foyer closet were painted white.

Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

Glossy white tiles were introduced to the clients’ fireplace to accentuate the mantel and hearth border.

When a client requests a facelift, it is important for a contractor to determine whether it truly is only a facelift with cosmetic changes they are after, or a remodel — which typically involves much more invasive work.

There’s one particular home on my resumé that was in dire need of a facelift.

There were a few "musts" right from the start. The stairwell banister in a light natural wood grain would be painted white to match new white baseboards to be installed, the main-floor carpeting would be replaced with a dark-grey laminate, the linoleum on both upstairs bathroom floors would be replaced with a light-grey tile, and the majority of the walls throughout the house would receive a new coat of paint. It’s easiest to work from highest to lowest, dictated primarily by the nature of gravity and the mess it creates when stuff falls to the floor. Therefore, it only makes sense to leave the flooring upgrade until last.

Preparation began by patching the walls where required, and moving any furniture along the perimeter of the work areas into the centre of each room. Because the existing window casings were being recycled, a fresh coat of bright white trim paint was applied to the casings before the walls were painted. This eliminates the process of having to tape off the walls — the casings themselves are taped off at the wall-painting stage. The stairwell banister was tackled at this time as well. To ensure the paint would properly adhere to the natural wood, a very durable primer was first applied. Several coats of a high-gloss white paint were then meticulously layered until the banister shimmered.

Most of the walls, other than the kitchen area, received a light grey-tone paint colour. One feature wall in the living room area boasts a slightly darker grey color, in the same tonal family. This vastly improved the feel of each space — the existing mustard-colour paint was one of the main reasons why the clients sought out change — their eyes lit up upon entering the rooms for the first time, after the yellows were vanquished. It became much easier to visualize how the renovation would all come together with fresh paint on the walls. Once the painting tasks were completed and the new electrical outlet and switch plates were mounted, the facelift quickly began to validate itself. It was at this point that the topic of window coverings and lighting came up — replacing blinds and a few lighting fixtures is another easy and cost-effective way to achieve drastic improvements, which also coincide with other cosmetic upgrades already underway.

It was now time to address the flooring replacement. The carpeting was completely torn out on the main floor. After a quick chat and because the carpeting on the stairs was in relatively good shape, the clients decided to keep the stairs as is and intact. Tearing out the carpeting and existing underlay revealed a few minor subfloor deficiencies, easily repaired prior to laying down the new underlay for the laminates. In no time at all, laminate was seamlessly installed from the kitchen entryway, and throughout the entire dining room and living room spaces. Tiling the two upper-floor bathrooms came next, as well as a small area floor along the step-down foyer at the front entrance. The bifold doors of the foyer closet were removed and painted white, along with all the new baseboards before installation.

With all-new flooring installed, the baseboards were carefully fitted along the base perimeter of the entire work area. The freshly painted bifold doors were then re-installed in the foyer, as well as bifolds for the kitchen pantry and the linen closet on the second floor. The new blinds were mounted in each window cavity, and new lighting fixtures were installed in all bathrooms, the kitchen and living room areas. With everything nearly in place, a final task was introduced — how to update the stonework of the fireplace? Throughout the renovation process, my clients had intermittently alluded to their disdain for the outdated look of their living room fireplace. It wasn’t until the final stages of the reno that the fireplace really began to stand out. We discussed a cosmetic approach — glossy white tiles would be introduced to accentuate the mantel and hearth border while nicely tying in the newly painted white trim and banister. This was the icing on the cake — the fireplace became a focal point, completing the cosmetic facelift process.

Although many clients have visions of grand modifications throughout their homes, it is sometimes the little changes that have the biggest impact. Although gaudy wall colour or faintly stained carpeting is often tolerable, it can become overwhelming over time. Cosmetic updates can make a huge impact on a homeowner’s happiness and well-being. And remember, these easy-to-implement esthetic changes can also increase the value and salability of your home — without breaking the bank.


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