Sarah Gallop of Sarah Gallop Design Inc. envisioned an outdoor space with a natural gas hot tub

RenoMe! with FortisBC names the grand prize winner

One Vancouver Island homeowner has a lot to celebrate this holiday season after winning the RenoMe! with FortisBC contest.

One Vancouver Island homeowner has a lot to celebrate this holiday season after winning the RenoMe! with FortisBC contest.

Melissa Tolsma of Nanaimo won the $10,000 prize for her outdoor space, which she can now put towards the renovation.

“I was leafing through the local paper one day and the ‘RenoMe! with FortisBC’ ad seemed to jump out at me off the page,” Tolsma says. “I couldn’t ignore it. I’m not usually a contest enterer, but I just had this weird feeling ‘you can win this contest’.”

Over 7,000 votes were cast, and Tolsma is very excited.

“I’ve never won anything, really, so this kind of win is unbelievable!” she says. “I don’t think it will really sink in until I see my backyard at the end of the reno process.”

Currently her backyard is only usable in the summer months, so Tolsma is hoping to be able to use her space year-round after the renovation. She and her daughter enjoy spending time outdoors, so the yard was the first place she thought of when she heard about the RenoMe! with FortisBC contest.

“We plan to do lots of outdoor living year-round!” she says. “I’m envisioning plenty of weenie roasts and toe warming on those chilly spring and fall evenings when we would normally have to retreat indoors.”

As part of the contest, Tolsma received a rendering of what her space could look like from Sarah Gallop of Sarah Gallop Design Inc.

Gallop included a hot tub heated by natural gas and an outdoor natural gas fire pit in her design, as well as space for entertaining outside. The design also features several levels to define the different spaces in the yard.

“The space looked disconnected before,” Gallop says. “This gives (Tolsma) different zones in the yard while still being connected.”

Gallop notes that many clients are now asking for natural gas appliances in their homes; a trend that she believes will continue.

“Natural gas brings warmth,” she says. “It obviously brings physical warmth but also a warm ambiance.”

Among the things Tolsma will receive as part of her prize is a gift card from Coast Wholesale Appliances. One person who voted in the RenoMe! with FortisBC contest will win a $500 gift card of their own.

A natural gas barbecue is one of the most popular appliances for a backyard. FortisBC notes that a natural gas barbecue can be extremely convenient for homeowners looking for fuel on demand, as you’ll never have to deal with running out of propane or charcoal. It also allows you to cook with different temperatures at the same time and control the heat more easily. It also burns cleaner than other fuel sources, making it good for the environment as well.

Tolsma also plans to install a fire pit powered by natural gas.

“I can’t wait to have the fire pit installed,” she says. “I see it as the focal point of the outdoor living space that Sarah Gallop has designed. Our house is under 1,000 square feet, so extending the living space outside is going to be awesome.”

“It’s kind of like camping in your own backyard,” says Gallop. “You get the informality of outdoor space with the convenience of natural gas.”

And convenient it is. Natural gas is available at the push of a button, so you no longer need to wait for your fireplace or cooktop to heat up or worry about running out of propane for your outdoor barbecue.

As part of her makeover, Tolsma is also planning to purchase a new patio set as well as some new greenery to accent what she already has.

The second and third place finalists, Gayle Curtis of Maple Ridge and Wendy Frose of Chilliwack, will each receive $2,000 towards their own renovations, for their kitchen and living area respectively.

For more information about natural gas in your home, visit

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