Beginnings · Renovation · What's on Tap

Plans for a ‘new’ year…

September always feels like the start of a new year, doesn’t it? Even though there are no little ones running around this house getting ready for classes to start, Adam and I are. With both of us working at a University, this time of year is our ‘new year’. We still live our lives in 12 week semester chunks plus 2 exam weeks, plus a week or two of extra time. So yes, we live in 16 week chunks of time.

This September, there is the usual busy of the semester start-up for both of us. But there is also the impending start of a major reno! That’s right, we’ve decided to go for it! I talked about The Reno (yes, it should be capitalized) earlier this year and since I post on this blog only once or twice a year you probably thought it would never happen. But it’s happening!!! This little house is getting an addition! It’s taken nearly two years of thinking, planning, meeting with design build firms, contractors, and architects, but the day is nearly upon us when a big new hole will be dug in the backyard and the foundation poured for our new addition.

Why are we renovating?

When we bought this house 7 years ago, we knew that within our first decade here we would likely do a bit of a bump out as we called it. The house is 1128 square feet with the upstairs being in the attic – so the space can feel a bit tight at times although the flow is pretty good. So, we’ve always known that we wanted to get a little more breathing room in the house if we were going to stay here long term. There’s a deep yard for a downtown lot and that means room to bump the back out! Along the way to this point, we’ve replaced all the wiring and plumbing, redone the bathroom and kitchen, replaced some floors, fixed plaster walls, cleared the gardens back to something pleasing, and a whole bunch of other things. About 2 years ago the financial opportunity to do something more significant became a reality…but we like to take our time with really big projects. And that’s how we’re just now getting around to getting started.

Starting in the summer of 2015 we met with different building professionals. We were sometimes impressed, and sometimes unimpressed by how well people could take our conversation about what we wanted and turn that into something like a simple plan or drawing. Some blew our budget out of the water without even planning to give us some basic requirements we mentioned were really important. Others weren’t bad, but we could tell that personalities were not a good fit…and if you’re going to be doing a big project you want to at least get along with the people you’re paying.

We were really impressed when we met the architect who is now working on our project. Daphne seemed to get us…but more importantly, her initial design for our project was unlike any other we had seen and used the space in such a good way! Win #1. When we met her last year it was on the recommendation of a contractor/builder we were interviewing. He admitted that his business was at a stage where his time was better spent on the execution of a project, and he preferred working with an architect for the design and plans. We haven’t broken ground yet but our experience to date is a positive one. Fingers crossed that continues.

Our downtown lot is a narrow one and we had to apply for a variance so that our extension to the house could simply follow the line of the current exterior wall. Win #2 when that was granted.

What are we doing?

We’re taking out 1128 square foot house and turning it into an approximately 1800 square foot house. Each level will be impacted in some way.

Basement: Dry crawl space and one full height room will get added on. The doorway into the basement remains unmoved but will now be accessed from inside the house instead of outside.

Main Level: The kitchen at the back of the house will be extended to include a main floor under counter laundry and a small powder room. Down a few steps at ground level will be a mudroom with access to the basement. Our foyer and living room will stay the same. Our dining room will lose the window on one wall and have a new window installed on another.

Upstairs: Our middle bedroom will eat some closets gaining a couple of feet in size. The back bedroom will grow a lot; new ensuite, walk-in closet and bedroom are in the plans. The linen closet will get a bit bigger too. Our front bedroom and family bathroom will stay the same.

Getting Ready

Permits are still forthcoming 😦 Although we have foundation folks ready to get to digging. While we wait for the paperwork we’re moving ahead with demolishing our garage and deck which will both be in the way of the new addition. The garage wasn’t really used for anything but a bit of storage and as a home for some families of squirrels. A car wouldn’t make it into the 90+ year old building because it had shifted slightly on its concrete pad and so the doors were twisted and could quite open all the way…or close. The deck is sitting where the kitchen extension will be. In our city, the size of our garage meant that it required a demolition permit. The fine for not having one and getting caught is pretty steep so we gladly paid the $100 for the permit.

A few weekends ago we removed any plantings from the affected part of the yard into a temporary garden in the back corner. Hopefully all those transplants do okay over the coming year! The garage is demolished…just need to do the deck. Another project for this weekend! We had over a week of unseasonably warm weather and we wanted to use the deck and have easy backyard access as long as we could.

A somewhat side project is repointing the rubble foundation on the east wall of our house. We’re very grateful to our neighbours since that project has meant they are without a driveway for a couple of weeks. Yay for street parking in our neighbourhood!

Once the foundation work for the addition starts that gets the whole schedule in motion and we’ll have a sense of when rooms need to be emptied and at what points we’ll need to be out the house (like for asbestos abatement). And we know we have asbestos because part of our getting ready steps included having a whole house environmental assessment done to determine if there were any things like asbestos, lead, and other nasty stuff in the house. Oh – and we also have lead…cause you know, the house is 100 and paint on plaster was lead for a number of decades.


I know we said we like to take our time with big projects to make sure all the ducks are lined up as neatly in a row as we can manage…but we had actually hoped this project would start a few months ago. But both the builder and architect were on another project….and so we waited. That means things are getting going as the academic year starts up. Yikes! As I mentioned before, we both work at the local university, so September is not the quietest time in our lives. Oh well – we’re going with the motto of Let Chaos Reign-We’ll Make It Work.

We’re excited – a little nervous – and hoping we can keep both our sense of humour and budget in check for the duration of the project….which is going to last at least the length of the academic year. I’m wondering what the end of April will bring for us…and all I can think is it will bring a whole bucketful of projects! And then maybe decorating? Here’s hoping!


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