This isn’t HGTV

A guilty pleasure of mine, whenever I’m somewhere with cable tv, is watching HGTV. I love the makeover shows where they transform an entire house in the span of the show. Also, even though House Hunters is so formulaic, the voyeur in me loves to see how much house you can get for your dollar in different locations.

We have recently undertaken some major house renovations, but ours have been quite unlike the seamless ones you see on HGTV.

If you’ve ever done a home construction project, you are probably very familiar with your local building supply store. I remember helping my dad build a shed when I was a teenager. Although his garage is well-stocked with tools, there were frequently times when we would stop and make a quick trip to Lowes or Home Depot. In rural Alaska, we do not have this luxury. This made our recent home renovation project quite challenging.

The challenges began in the design phase. With limited time in Anchorage, we stopped by Spenard Building Supply for about 30 minutes one day in February. We wanted to spend more time there, but we had a plane to catch to come home and a screaming toddler.  We identified some of what we wanted in that time and then decided to do the rest via email. We went home with some sample pieces of cabinet, but when I looked at them in our house the colors were all wrong so we had to start over again. It was hard to choose colors from the catalog pictures, but with my friend Karen’s help we made some choices. Kyle took careful measurements and we placed the order for our cabinets and countertop.

When we placed the order we asked them to hold the cabinets until the end of June, since we didn’t want them arriving while we were gone. They dutifully did this, but the air cargo company worked more quickly than we anticipated and the cabinets arrived on a plane in Dillingham while we were getting on a plane in Boston. Thankfully, Kyle has a really good friend who picked them up for us and stored them in his garage.

Two weeks ago, Kyle’s parents arrived and the work started. Prior to the renovation, Kyle had ordered the major materials from Anchorage. Yet each day, they found some small tool or material that we needed that we didn’t have on hand. In Dillingham we have a small hardware store, but they frequently run out of things. One day Kyle and his dad Bruce went in for some screws. There was an entire shelf labelled screws, with only three boxes of screws on it. And of course they were not the size needed. Another day they went to get drain pipe for the sink and found that none was in stock. Later, I called to ask if there was mortar, “What’s that?” the employee responded. It was challenging to make do, but Kyle and Bruce found some creative solutions.

After the majority of the cabinets were installed I went to go open them and said, “Uhh, how are we supposed to open these?” Apparently, we had forgotten to order handles for the doors. We found some we liked online, ordered them, and crossed our fingers that they would come quickly. A similar thing happened with our vent hood. We had planned on reusing the previous one, but once we saw the cabinets we knew that a new one was needed. We called our person at Spenard Building Supply in Anchorage and said, “Could you please send us a vent hood in the mail?” Thanks to the wonderful USPS, we got it in less than three days.

Although there were many challenges, in just two weeks Kyle and his dad successfully redid all of our plumbing, installed an entire kitchen, and tiled the area around our woodstove. HGTV doesn’t present the reality of renovation challenges, but doing it yourself with people you love is worth all the challenges.

Before- Sink Area
Before: They aren’t closed because they literally did not close.
Before- Cabinets and Chest Freezer


Erika Written by:

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