A reluctant renovator starts her renovation

Nanaimo's Melissa Tolsma was the winner of the RenoMe! With FortisBC contest and has recently started her outdoor space renovation.

Melissa Tolsma was last year's winner of the Reno Me! With FortisBC contest.



By Melissa Tolsma

Reno…Me?!

I’m a reluctant renovator.  I’ve always been of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or the “if it’s a little broke, a little duct tape’ll fix it” school of thought.  So this whole renovation thing is brand-new territory for me.  I’m also not much of a contest enterer or lottery player.  It was pretty out of character for me to even enter a reno contest, let alone win it!  But, thanks to the support and patience of my family, friends, and co-workers, I did.  The renovation roller coaster ride begins!

As one of three finalists in the contest, I received a rendering of my space by Sarah Gallop Design.  Their gorgeous vision included a multi-leveled deck and hot tub along the back of the house and a fire pit area at the side of the yard.  The alluring design, with its woodsy, contemporary West-Coast style inspired me to relentlessly harass everyone I knew (and even people I didn’t know) to vote for it.  As someone who is cadaver-cold from September right through to May, I fantasized about simmering in the hot tub and roasting by the fireside. However, the luxurious design was a little beyond reach of the $10,000 grand prize, so it was one or the other: hot tub or fire pit, the first of many decisions to make.  Daughter lobbied for hot tub; I leaned towards fire.  The hot tub alone would have gobbled up most of the budget, leaving little left for decking or other finishing touches, so I made the fire pit decision fairly quickly.  Through some web searching I discovered a Vancouver-based company, Solus Decor, who make beautiful cast-concrete fire bowls.  Their sales representative, Martes Ferrugia, patiently and enthusiastically answered all of my many questions about fire pits and using natural gas.  She suggested that their Hemi 36 fire bowl would be a great focal feature for my outdoor living space.

The next big decision, of course, was to find a contractor who could make my reno happen.  I started my search the way I imagine most people would; by asking everyone I knew for names of good contractors who might be interested.  I also decided I’d contact a couple of local companies whose work I had admired around town.  One company was more of a landscaping company just getting into building, and one was more of a general builder, a “custom” builder with a sustainable approach, which was appealing.  Both contractors were pleasant, professional, and prompt.  They had very different approaches, though.  The first one tried to replicate the original design in a cost-effective way, with a modest deck extension and a paving stone patio at the side of the yard where the fire pit would be located.  The second one, Jonker Custom Building, suggested a different design – a curvy, cedary one-level deck extending the length of the house, incorporating the fire bowl into the deck rather than placing it away from the house on a patio.  The existing concrete patio area (in really rough shape) would be removed, allowing for a little extension of the lawn and more area for gardening. Initially I was resistant to this idea; I think because I had become attached to the Sarah Gallop design.  But this new idea was actually much more practical – I had wanted more room for food growing but didn’t want to give up lawn space, as my daughter and I are quite avid badmintoners.  And lawn is a whole lot cheaper than deck or patio!

I’ve decided to go with Jonker Custom Building, and I’m excited that Brad Fraser and Piet Jonker of Jonker Custom Building are willing to take on the project!

Just Posted

Kevin Wall hits ground running with Chilliwack Chiefs

With four goals in his first five junior A BCHL games, the New York native has had an instant impact

Strong demand for cannabis retail applications anticipated in Chilliwack

Chilliwack council approves new cannabis retail zone and will monitor how it works for a year

Another successful year for Chilliwack’s ‘We Got Your Back’ backpack program

Sponsored by local businesses, program stocks backpacks with school supplies for students in need

Abandoned kitten safe and sound thanks to Chilliwack homeless man

‘Jay’ found little black-and-white kitten in a carrier next to a dumpster by a local pet store

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by Chilliwack animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for both the shelter and municipal election

VIDEO: Education Minister talks SOGI 123 and the Chilliwack school board election

He said people are making ‘noise about side issues but student safety is important’

Are you feeling lazy? That’s OK – it’s just science

UBC study shows that humans are hardwired to prefer being sloth-like

LETTER: Who do we blame for the tragedy of Marrisa Shen’s death?

The B.C. girl was killed in a Burnaby park last July

Competition tribunal to hear B.C.-based case on airline food starting in October

The competition commissioner argued Vancouver airport authority had exploited its market position

Seek compromise with U.S. on cannabis at border, lawyers urge Ottawa

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency sent tremors through Canada’s burgeoning cannabis sector

Trudeau says Canada wants to see ‘movement’ before signing revised NAFTA deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is back in Washington in search of a way to bridge divide

Young people need us to act on climate change, McKenna tells G7 ministers

Catherine McKenna led off the three-day Halifax gathering Wednesday

UPDATE: Man arrested in shooting on Abbotsford street near Aldergrove

Nobody injured in shooting, which is not believed to be related to gang conflicts

5 to start your day

B.C. parents sue after toddler dies in unlicensed daycare, vehicle explodes in Pitt Meadows and more

Most Read