Friday, November 6, 2009

Victorian Row House: A Designer Reno on A DIY Budget - Part 2



After Photo - partial view of dining room.


*Edit February 2015*
I've recently learned this former house of mine is currently for sale on MLS and also has been popping up on some other Toronto websites with links back to my blog posts here, citing that this is still my house and that i still live there.  Just to clarify - I no longer own or live in this house, I sold this house in December 2008.  I want to also mention that because of my blog posts here about my house renovation, that two years after selling it the new owners, (he was fresh out of law school) filed a claim against myself and the Home Inspector for mis-representing the property (after an earlier failed attempt at trying to get money from each of the Broker firms ).   After moving in to their very first home the young new lawyer and his  new wife were not happy with the lack of sound privacy the row house offerred and claimed the real estate listing failed to disclose what the sound levels were. (??).     To make  a two year long small claims court story short,,,,,in a settlement hearing a Judge basically said they didn't have a chance, not a chance of winning any type of settlement in court over this,  it wasn't a new build, it was a 100yr old+  row house and their expectations about what they were entitled to were completely unrealistic.  Caveat emptor.  It took two years of lawyers time to settle that.
*end of edit*



Visit here to read Part 1 of this Victorian Row House Renovation and see the plan views and more before pictures


"The Strategy"


Once my brother and I got over the excitement and shock of being the proud (or foolish?) owners of a completely broken, run-down, century old house we had to quickly figure out exactly what the scope of renovation work would be and determine what exactly the project budget would be.  The three things we did know was that EVERYTHING had to go, we had a small timeline and even smaller budget.


DIY
The key factor in both our timeline and our budget was that we would do as much of the work ourselves and hire out anything beyond our skill level or areas of expertise (electrician, plumber, tiler, kitchen installer, dry waller, wood floor installer).  Essentially, we would be DIY renovators for the next 5 months and share all the responsibilities as a team, I would oversee all the design planning, sourcing, purchasing, hiring of trades, scheduling of trades and obtaining all the building permits, stocking the fridge etc.,,,,and my brother, or "Six" as we call him (no.6, the baby of the family!) would be in charge of, well, doing everything we weren’t going to be hiring trades for and pretty much anything I asked him to do ; ).  Being both a homeowner and a cottage owner himself he was an experienced handyman who owned a large arsenal of power tools and was always looking for an excuse to put them to use (and any reason to buy more of them!)......




Six took this 'artistic' picture of his table saw??  His new best friend for the next 5 months.





Keeping the site clean and organized was a never ending challenge.......among my other duties, I would be constantly sweeping for the next 5 months....

MAKE THE MOST OF WHAT YOU’VE GOT
Our goal for the renovation work was to make the most of the structure we had - to do no structural changes and do as little relocating of electrical and plumbing as possible.  The layout of the house was pretty great the way it was so we knew we weren’t going to need to build a lot of new walls and doorways etc., the objective was to improve and enhance the spaces by replacing and upgrading everything.  Install new modern bathrooms and kitchen and increase storage and efficiency wherever possible.  Click here to see the before and proposed plan views of the house.


Before pic of the open plan main floor.  View from the Living room thru the kitchen to the back of the house.  Beyond the kitchen is a family room with walkout to the backyard.


After the demo view from the living room to the kitchen and back of the house.  Primed walls, partially primed railing and skimmed ceilings, at this point the space looks 100x better to me already.  The intense yellow and gold walls were a MAJOR job to repaint needing 2 coats of primer to start and weeks of patching and repairing.


The Roof & Eaves:
The roof was only 2 years old so we had no plans to do any further roof work.  There was however a downspout terminating at one corner of the house which over the years resulted in lots of water penetration in the basement - we quickly and easily rectified this and the basement began to dry up immediately.  Our home inspector had told us this was the number one cause of wet basements.

Heating & Air Conditioning:
The house was outfitted with electric baseboard heaters and no air conditioning, not even window mounted units.  We planned to keep the baseboard heating system, (replace all the heaters with new) for many reasons.   Because the house was a row house it was long and narrow with few exposed exterior walls and the hydro records showed the bills were not very high.  Baseboard heaters mean you have no bulkheads or dropped ceilings throughout the house or basement, and as a result we loved the high clean ceilings this created.  Electric heat is 100% efficient, meaning all the electricity used is turned into heat, with FAG there can be up to 40% heat loss thru the ducting.  Electric heat is clean, there’s no forced air being blown thru the house which continually circulates dust and particles into the air so its great for those with allergies and respratory problems.  Baseboard heaters also allow you to control the heat on a per heater basis, turning down units in spaces that aren’t used.  If myself or future owners chose to, the electric heat could be effectively supplemented by adding a gas fireplace.  One small size gas fireplace unit could heat the main level of the house. 

The decision not to add an air conditioning was an easy one. With one end of the house facing east and one end facing west, outside each end of the house were huge mature trees that shed their leaves in the fall, this was optimal for cooling in summer and letting sunlight in during the winter months.  But mainly, I considered the fact that the house was over 100 years old and no one to date had added air conditioning,,,why should I assume it would be a problem when I hadn’t even lived in the house yet.  So I chose to leave this out of the scope of work.  Considering the house had no ducting, the air conditioning would need to be a wall mounted unit or portable, something I think myself or any future owner could add if they chose.



View of the backyard showing the deck, large tree and the detached garage.  The tree was huge spanning the full width of the backyard and taller than the house.  (photo was taken during a freak summer hail storm!)


Plumbing:
Aside from a poorly placed powder room in the basement, and the fact that most of the existing fixtures weren’t in working order, the plumbing system itself was in good shape and we would only need to do some minor reworking.  The drains and stacks had all been replaced in the 80’s with a.b.s. and the water tank was fairly new.

Windows & Doors:
We chose to allocate a huge part of our budget for new windows and exterior doors.  I felt this was well worth the investment, not only would it improve the appearance (the character) of the house both inside and out, but it would increase the energy efficiency, reduce the street noise and improve the air flow by selecting a window style with larger screen area.


Before view of the old Living Room window at front of house and existing front storm door.  I'm not a fan of storm doors on fronts of houses so I couldnt wait to see this one go.  The old kneewall was being framed out here to make a new full height wall which would create more of a visual and weather barrier from the front door.



Six installing the new insulated front door, I went with a classic six panel door which I painted in a high gloss black paint.  I felt this suited the traditional victorian facade of the house and neighboring houses.



After front exterior, new double hung windows were installed and the exterior trim work was painted black.  The new windows were solid wood paint grade on the interior with aluminum clad exteriors in black.  For me, with an original brick victorian facade, vinyl windows just weren't an option.


CUSTOM DETAILS
In addtion to new windows and entry doors, all new baseboards, casings and interior doors were a must.  This is a simple and inexpensive way to dramatically upgrade the appearance and quality of the interior and make it look current and custom. Something many homeowners can do (and learn how to do) themselves.



Six cutting new window and door casing.

SMOOTH CEILINGS
Nothing make a house look better and more inviting than natural daylight and great views.  Our new windows would frame our treed views and I knew from the start we would eliminate all the stippled popcorn ceilings throughout the house.  Next to the windows this was one of our biggest budget items but I think it was worth every penny.  Smoothing all the ceilings instantly brings the house into a custom level quality, smooth, non-textured ceilings reflect more light and also make ceilings feel and look higher.  The look is clean and quality.



After demo, view of upper hallway with primed walls and newly skimmed ceilings.

The DESIGN STRATEGY
Goodbye neglected, rundown rooming house with the 1980’s builders reno.  This house was going to be transformed into a clean lined, stylish, contemporary urban space with a little touch of victorian charm.  Quality materials and fittings were a must, solid woods, stone, steel and glass, - no faux, no fake, no laminates, no standard builder grade,,,my goal was to achieve a high end look on a budget and set the ground work for further enhancement over the years to come.

The BUDGET
Our pre-closing budget of $60k was soon modified after getting possession of the house when we decided to splurge for new windows and entry doors as well as relocating the basement washroom.  We began the demo/reno with a budget of $72-75k for materials, supplies and hired trades.

The TIMELINE
Our timeline would be 4 to 5 months to complete the work and make it move-in ready which I knew was a reasonable amount of time for the work to be done properly and professionally.


More to come......check back for Part 3 of this Victorian Row House Renovation where I'll post the BEFORE's and AFTER's of the basement transformation.



Sneak Peek - basement powder room 'after'.



Sneak Peek - laundry room 'after'.



All Photos:   Carol Reed

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