Getting Ready to Renovate

It’s almost spring and the heat of the summer renovation season is fast approaching. The Toronto housing market is performing better than ever and people are able to turn “fixer-uppers” into dream homes and come out on top. When thinking about renovating there is a lot to consider: budget, design and build, are the most obvious. But there are many other things to take into account, where will you live during the build? Is content protection included in the price? Do you have the financial capacity to deal with unforeseen issues? Getting ready to renovate is all about planning, making a list and checking it twice!

To renovate or not to renovate, much thought must go into this decision. It is helpful to make a list of requirements and goals. What would make your daily life more productive and enjoyable? Make a list of “must have” and “nice to have” items for your home. This will empower you to make realistic plans that suit your lifestyle. Remember when you were in grade school and learned how to do that brainstorming diagram? This is when that skill comes in handy. It may seem simple, but planning is an important way to stay focused on goals and allow you to achieve your dream home without veering too far off course.

Determine your look. Collect some photos depicting images of how you envision your home. Check out magazines, make a Pinterest board and browse Houzz. This will not only help you figure out how you want your home to look, but it will also help you determine the size of the project. Having a strong vision with photos to support it will help those you hire understand what you are trying to build in order to create a home you love.

Once you’ve decided on your look and goals, next is to determine budget. How much do you want to spend? How much can you spend? There are many ways to find answers to these questions: research the cost of renovating in Toronto, speak with a real-estate agent, consult a financial advisor or enlist a builder to prepare a proposal. Seeking professional advice can help provide insight on budget and offer answers not considered. Two items in particular that might get over looked are taxes and contingency plans. It is recommended that you have a 20% contingency plan for unforeseen situations to help from over extending your budget before the project is finished.

Okay, now you’re all in. You know what you want to do, how much you can spend and have a contingency plan in case something unforeseen happens. You’re starting to look for a builder and BAM it hits you, where are we going to live while our house is under construction? And just like that, we’re back to budget. Renting a place or living with your family while under construction is an option, probably the easiest option, but that’s not always possible. Before deciding to live in, take into consideration the disruption, will there be working electricity and water? How many people will be in and out of the house daily? If the disruption is low, perhaps living in is a great cost saving option. Otherwise, if you can swing it, clearing the decks for uninterrupted scheduling and building might accelerate the process.

Your dream home is fully realized and now you need to find a builder. One of the easiest and most reliable ways of finding someone is to ask friends and family who they use, or who they know in the industry. Working from a referral can be very beneficial as the person has already been tried and tested. That said, finding someone new with whom you’ve vetted personally can also be beneficial as the relationship is fresh and unbiased. When you start to speak with builders you may meet the first one and think you’ve found your match, but rule of thumb is meet with three. When you’re discussing your project, stay consistent with the project plan and expectations so you can do an apples to apples comparison.

Once proposals are in, go through each and look for specifics: where is the work being completed, what materials will be used, who are the specialists coming into the project, etc. Ask to see an active site, this will give you an idea of how the builder works. Is the site clean? Is there a safety board in place? Are there proper permit placards on display? Once you’ve narrowed down your builder be sure to gather and check references. Choose a builder based on their track record and your rapport with them. Keep this in mind, personality matches can be indicative to successful relationships.

You’ve selected a builder! Although this is a very exciting time, don’t rush into starting a build. Make sure everything is included in the proposal, do a walk through with the builder, proposal and scope to avoid surprises along the way. To help the project stay on track and budget, make finish decisions, plan for appliances, deliveries and decide on material specifications prior to starting. Most importantly, have fun! Remember, this is a creative process where you get to realize the dream home you’ve been planning since you were a kid laying in the grass finding shapes in the clouds.    

“Sympathetic” Restoration

front porch restoration

Originally used as a doctor’s home office, this historic gem in the heart of the Danforth was playfully coined the “bunker” for it’s bricked in front porch that made it feel uninviting. The home owners enlisted builder and Toronto home specialist, Dan Robinson to collaborate with them on a “sympathetic” restoration to open up the space, while honouring the original design. The owners wanted a front porch that would encourage community connection and add to the beauty of their home and neighbourhood.

Once the “bunker” was removed, Dan and his team rebuilt the front porch to current building code standards with new footings and a foundation that strengthened the entire structure. As the front of the house had expanded, Dan was able to build in a cold room that would add to the functionality of the basement. As all brick work below the porch roof was removed during the build, new brick work was carefully planned and sourced to match the existing design. This gave the house a seamless, consistent look that enhanced curb appeal.

The front porch, columns, railings, and stairs were constructed using the original design from the 1930s as a template. Old photographs were collected and referenced for this restoration to ensure accuracy. Finishing trim and roof details were intended to honour the craftsman style details of the original architecture. As care was taken to ensure historical accuracy, gutters and downspouts were left out of the build. Because these features are necessary for the sustainability of the structure, the roof was pitched to redirect rain water off the structure and into the front garden below. This detail would prevent rainwater from pooling on the roof while adhering to the desired likeness of the period.

The facade of the house was a significant consideration for this project. The owners wanted their home to be consistent with other homes built in the 1930s, with a look that would tie in with current traditional design. This was achieved through the careful selection of paint colour, light fixtures, a new entry door, and landscaping that had a contemporary theme. The landscaping paid homage to the 1930s gardens by keeping structural and symmetrical lines. These details paired with materials and plants found in current landscaping trends gave the exterior of the house a perfect blend of old and new.