Pin-Worthy and Planet-Happy Renovations

Bathroom vanity.

It is May 2021 and plywood has just gone up to $95 a sheet!

I can’t believe I just typed that.

Last year at this time it was about $35 a sheet. So there’s that!

You’d think that writing a post about remodelling wouldn’t be the smartest move to generate clicks to my blog. Because who in their right mind would consider a home renovation now? Last year? Sure. Back a few months ago? Maybe. NOW? But what if I told you that the plywood would probably be the most expensive thing you’d have to buy? Further, what if I could offer you a way to tackle your new HGTV-inspired look that is easy to do, easy on the planet and easy on your budget?

GO USED! Like, let’s talk previously-loved. New-to-you. Follow me on this one.

I worked at Habitat for Humanity for years. One of the coolest aspects of that non-profit is their ReStores, a retail environment that provides building materials at a fraction of the cost and their profits go to Habitat builds. Their inventory is made up of donations of both new and used items from big box stores, commercial suppliers, handymen and contractors. You’ll find everything from professional lines to scrap bits of tile.

When we bought the house it was in rough shape. But it had so much potential. And I love our quiet street and the neighbourhood. We are in biking and walking distance to everything. I wasn’t going to let some elbow grease deter me from buying the house. So almost ten years ago we renovated my home for under $30,000 to update and overhaul the following: a full basement reno, a makeover on 3 (and only) bedrooms, a full reno on both the main bathroom and powder room and landscaping for the front and back yards.

Sure, I have done a few things here and there like any homeowner, but that is the honest to goodness truth; it only took $28k to take my “ugly house on the pretty street” and bring it up to schnuff.

I was proud of this and wrote about it often and talked about it often, so much so that word got around, and Susan Goldberg from The Whole Family Happiness Project contacted me for an interview.

When Jessica Eusebio and her partner, Phil, began renovating the bathroom in their 1950s Guelph home, her then-manager at Habitat for Humanity issued her a challenge: “I bet,” he said, “that you can’t use only used materials for the job.”

Don’t You Dare Me

Since COVID, home renovations, deck installations, backyard remodels and facade facelifts have never been so popular. I mean, if we’re damned to stay home, we might as well love the home we’re in and make it feel wonderfully comfortable.

Below I will list my best money-saving, planet-loving tips, plus what I got out of each tip for my home:


New and used items donated by big box stores and renovators who bought a surplus of material. Let their bottomline and charitable contribution be your way to save on your bottom dollar.

Bathtub: Our tub was a donation to the ReStore because the model was no longer being sold. What would have been a $450 tub was $50 mostly due to a chip in the enamel. The tile ended up covering that inperfection, and it’s a soaker to boot! The same success story came about for both my Kohler toilets and all my Delta faucets! Can I say again how much I love my ReStore!?

Flooring: Almost all the flooring in my house came from a ReStore. Italian imported slate, high-quality, click floor, water-resistant vinyl for the basement, Portuguese cork subfloor for the basement, grey stone for the powder room, even my colourful and beloved rag rug was $5! The vinyl floor for the basement would have been $900 at Home Depot and I got it for about $400. That’s more than 50% in savings.

Furniture: I have a love for all things “Mad Men” and 60s so teak is my jam. Finding it online is hard and when I do find it at an antique shop the cost is inflated. While the other finds were pretty easy, this one did take a bit more time, but when I scored, I scored big.

Halls, basement and bathrooms: All the grey and dark taupe paints you see are from the ReStore. Yes, they accept paints that are 2/3 full or more, and I was patient and waited for colours I liked that were free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (which, thankfully, are most brands now).

Lighting: The pot lights in the basement, powder room, main bathroom sconces and I think all but one lamp, is from the ReStore.

Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace

Online platforms hosting classified-type ads from individuals and groups offering goods and services for sell or trade.

Bathtub tile: Someone in my town had bought too many large white tiles and it was JUST enough for my bath surround. I was able to find some small decorative tile at the ReStore for a band to fill in the difference. It’s stunning!

Hallway and stairs: The previous owners covered the original 50s hardwood flooring and red oak stairs. I have no idea why, but they painted it a tropical blue. So we found someone ripping up their 1950s hardwood and we got it for a steal and had to strip the stairs. A friend in woodworking installed it for us.

Interior framing: This is a great place to score drywall, studs, vapour barrier, insulation etc. People often buy too much. Instead of letting it go to the dump, they post on these sites to get rid of it quick and cheap. I can’t tell you how many bags of insulation we got on Kijiji because people just didn’t need that last bag.

Thrift and Consignment Shops

Brick and mortar store-fronts selling used, donated and/or consigned products at a reduced rate to the buyer.

Hardware: Little itty bits of jewels and sparkle for your home can cost as much as real semi-precious stones. I made sure to scour the thrift stores for towel racks, pulls, knobs etc. in matching finishes. I even found a perfect set of drawer pulls for the main bathroom from the 30s in a little consignment shop when on a vacation. I might take them with me when (and if ever) I move.

Drapes and fabrics: I had a vision for what the colours and theme would be in my head, but the fabrics I liked were expensive, and frankly, not ethically-made. Did you know thrift stores have fabric sections? Sometimes it’s very little (enough for patch work) and other times enough for drapes! I found fabric for most of my throw pillows, the headboard and the bathroom Roman blind. I just asked a local seamstress to make it happen. It was a fraction of what a traditional custom job should have cost.

Trade and Barter

We have used more pallet wood than I care to maybe admit. But, it’s there for the taking. Our outdoor lien-to, kids’ tree fort, mud kitchen and weird decorative bits can be made with a little bit of weird stuff that people are willing to trade for. We often will barter labour or baking for stuff a neighbour or a nearby farm has. What’s the worst that happens? They say, “no!” Big whoop! But what if they say, “YES!”?

Buy Locally, Well-Made, To Last If You Have To Buy New

There are a few things I had to buy new that I could not source used. I decided to go with a new sofa for the basement. We went with one locally made in Toronto with sustainable wood and soy-based cushions. It’s so well made, that even if I tire of it, I can get it reupholstered and it will stand up to the test of time. The kitchen sink and the main bathroom sink were new (both made in Canada). In fact, it’s probably easier and faster to name all the new items. You can assume almost everything in the house is new-to-me. And for this fun list, please go to the bottom of the post.

For instance, a lot of the paint (all the creams, off-whites and whites) came from the Rona Eco Recycled Interior Paint collection. It goes on like a dream and on top of being VOC-free, it is pre-coloured because it is paint that is a mix of a bunch of other non-wanted paint. SO COOL! And while the kitchen* is featured in this post, I think it’s advantageous to mention that our countertops are 100% solid bamboo, which is a sustainable and gorgeous choice.

Because I run on honesty, I want to be clear that this way does take longer. It’s true. You have to wait until the right thing pops up on your feed, or the ideal choice comes up at a thrift store; however, it is so satisfying looking around my house (which I think is stunning) and knowing I didn’t hurt the planet, I am breathing in non-toxic air, and I saved a LOT of money. Money that I ended up putting towards my mortgage, donating that year at the holidays and using towards vacations. So to me, it’s a no-brainer choice. Renovating with our planet’s considerations first is easy: easy to do, easy on the Earth and easy on your budget, and easy to accept the compliments all day long!

By the way… we are renovating a 1973 Abby by Venture tent trailer. I’ll send updates on that in my Instagram account. Same deal as my home. Except for some good-on-one-side pine plywood, it’s all used or new-to-me! We are using every bit of everything. So excited so share that with you later.

Here’s to happy walls around you.


This is a list of all the new things in my home. If it isn’t listed, you can assume it’s used, thrift, a Kijiji-find, basically, not new.

*Kitchen: (While we did have to do the kitchen, including some electrical updating, that is not reflected in the $30,000 mentioned. It was done before we even moved in and was financially wrapped up into the mortgage loan. It was $12,000.)

  • IKEA cabinets
  • Made in Canada sink and faucet
  • 100% bamboo countertops
  • all Energy Star appliances
  • back splash tiles

Living Room, Basement and Halls:

  • basement grass wallpaper
  • sectional sofa and occasional sofa from Brentwood
  • some trim, but not all
  • some quarter round trim, but not all
  • Rona Eco Recycled VOC-free paint
  • drapes
  • pillow forms, but not material


  • a blackout blind
  • sheets and some bedding
  • Naturepedic mattresses
  • some picture frames


  • light switches / timer combo for the fan
  • vanity/sink
  • wallpaper for the powder room

There were also some one-off IKEA purchases like paper-based boxes for office organization, a few frames (I like to treat my house like my brother’s personal photography gallery), some pillow forms and some in-drawer organizational compartment systems. That’s about that.

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