When I sat down with George and Angela in their Don Mills bungalow to discuss their upcoming project, I told them that I was leaning toward the tear down option as opposed to the renovation option.
We spent nearly two hours talking through ideas, their needs, and the timing of the renovation. The more we talked, the more I came to realize that for their specific needs and preferences, renovating would be a better option.
Here are some of the reasons why.
George and Angela wanted their home to suit the property – they did not want to build an oversized home. The existing footprint of the bungalow is a good size. The foundation and overall structure is solid and a good base to build on top of.
George had taken a great interest in the design of the home. He spent months working on layouts, elevations, and designs in a design program he bought from Staples. He was eager to show me his ideas. Although he had no previous design experience, George’s designs were pretty good. He knew the basic principle of what he wanted.
Overall, their needs were not complicated.
They wanted to maintain the modernist style that was central to the planning of the Don Mills neighbourhood back in 1952. They did not want the style of their home to stand out from the look of the completed neighbourhood in 1965.
They wanted a 3 bedroom home to accommodate themselves and their two young children. They did not have plans for any more children and did not want to build a house bigger than they needed.
The main floor would be an open concept space. Kitchen, dining, and living areas would blend together and be surrounded by windows and doors on all sides to provide as much natural light as possible. They left room for an office or den at the front of the house in its own small, private wing. The main entrance would be set to the side of the house so that it can also offer privacy.
Most of the budget would focus on the main and second floor. The basement had a height of 8 feet, which is great. The second floor will be partial sized, rather than covering the same area as the main floor.
The exterior elements of their home include window placements and a driveway that will suit the new layout. The house will feature a flat roof and a carport to the side. Angela suggested the carport, and it makes good sense.
The zoning bylaws will not favour one of the options over the other, the existing ceiling heights were not an issue, the home was structurally sound, and there was not much of a cost difference between either options.
The meeting ended with an agreement that renovating was the suitable option. I left feeling confident about our plans and hope to help George and Angela’s vision come to life.
Free Handy Renovation Checklist: Our super helpful renovation checklist of things you don't want to forget when planning your renovation. Click here to download.
The yellow hardhat that Darcy put on when he went into his basement was not a fashion statement. It actually served a purpose. Darcy is tall.
At 6'3, he is tall enough so that the steel beam that runs across the middle of his basement was a real safety concern. The hard hat set on top of the railing leading down to the basement acted as his reminder to pay attention when he stepped down those stairs.
The largely unfinished basement was used for laundry and storage, but he also had a sizable workshop that he used regularly.
Paying attention was a must!
When Darcy and his wife Marsha decided to keep their North Toronto Cricket Club Area home, they gave us a call.
We came up with plans to make their house work long-term for the family of five. Over the winter, we worked on a plan with them to completely rethink the basement of their home.
With permits in hand, the project got started in early spring.
After consulting with our Structural Engineer, we proposed a plan to renovate the basement that included structural underpinning.
We were able to add 16 inches to the ceiling height. Along with the underpinning, the house's basement drains were replaced, with a back-flow preventer installed. This prevents the city drain backup from flooding the basement, which has been an issue in areas of the city lately with the heavy rains. An interior waterproofing system was installed to keep the basement 100% dry.
We installed in-floor radiant heating in its own zone so controlling the temperature year round is now an easy task.
Here's what we included:
The basement includes an office for Darcy because he works from home two days per week.
A luxury washroom provides the family of five with a much needed second washroom.
There is a small guest bedroom that doubles as a piano room.
The largest space is the entertainment room.
The side door leads down to a mudroom area that organizes all the kid’s stuff.
There is also a small shop that Darcy uses.
Prior to the renovation, they lived on the main and 2nd floor, which works out to 1,800 square feet. Now that the basement is beautifully finished, they added another 850 square feet to their living space.
We considered the option of adding a 3rd floor instead of finishing the basement, but dollar for dollar the basement worked out to more space and more upgrades to the overall house for less money spent.
We gave Darcy some extra head room by underpinning the basement.
What is underpinning?
This is a process that involves excavating below and reinforcing the foundation of an existing structure, like your home. It is often done in order to deepen the basement to create a full-height space. Underpinning a basement requires drawings by a Structural Engineer, soil testing by a Soil Engineer, and building permits from the city. Underpinning work should only be performed by qualified contractors working within the guidelines set out by the drawings & engineering specifications.
Low basement headroom is an issue in many older homes in Toronto. When these homes were originally built, the basement was not considered living space. So a ceiling height of 6 feet, more or less, was typical.
Besides the lower ceiling heights there are other elements that make head room even tighter. These include:
- Steel beams that support the joists of the upper floor.
- Heating and cooling ducts are often situated below the floor joist
- Radiator pipes supplying hot water to heat the house.
Creating a comfortable living environment requires some core elements:
A good use of space: Small chopped up rooms are hard to use. A good layout for the basement often includes a recreation or family room, a guest bedroom, washroom, laundry room, storage, and utility. Larger basements can incorporate other elements such as a home office, gym, wine cellar, hobby room, etc.
Ceiling height: Generally, minimum ceiling height in a basement would be 7 feet. Eight feet is more comfortable (and ideal in an underpinning situation) and 9 feet a luxury that is achievable in new basements.
Dry: The basement needs to feel dry. A damp, mildew, moldy environment is never going to be comfortable, and can present health issues. There are a number of methods to assure that your basement is dry year round. With the change in weather we are experiencing, older foundations are being put to a test year round. Heavy rains and melting snow are putting pressure on systems that were not designed to handle the heavy loads. There are both interior and exterior methods that are effective and guaranteed to provide full protection. If you are considering either option, contact us at email@example.com to see which option is best suited for your particular situation.
Temperature: Temperature is a key element for a basement renovation. Basements are often damp and cool, so controlling temperature is important. There are a number of ways of achieving a well-controlled temperature environment.
Some options include:
-In-floor radiant heating working off of an existing radiant heating system.
-Adding a new domestic hot water tank that combines as a boiler to supply in-floor radiant heating.
-Incorporating hot water radiators or adding a zone for the basement into a forced air system that enables an owner to set the desired temperature in the basement.
Light: Lighting considerations are another critical element. Source of natural light should be maximized where possible. This is going to be dependent on the basement height relative to the outside grade of the house. Window wells can be added on the exterior for homes that do not have much space available for windows.
Doing the Math: Gaining more headroom in your basement makes sense.
You don't have to be 6'3 like Darcy to enjoy the benefits of more headroom in your basement.
The added height will make your basement feel bigger and add comfort and functionality. When you consider the cost of a home in the city, the basement may be the least expensive square footage you can add to your home.
Let's say your home is worth $1.5 million and it was 1,800 square feet combined on the main and second floor. This works out to a cost per square foot for livable space of $833 per square foot. That is $833 x 1,800. This is the cost per foot for your livable space. If you could add another 900 square feet of livable space to your basement by adding head room, and making it more comfortable - how much would that be worth?
If you are an accountant or number cruncher, theoretically you could say that anything less than $833 would make sense.
Let's say that adding 900 square feet in the basement cost you $80,000. That works out to $88 per square foot, or roughly 10% of the cost of the rest of the square foot cost in your home. How far does $80,000 go when renovating your basement? Underpinning details, waterproofing, insulation specs, as well as the level of finishes will all factor into the cost.
There are two approaches to gaining more ceiling height:
You can lower the basement floor. In order to lower the floor, you will have to remove the basement slab and excavate. This requires either underpinning the footings or doing a bench footing to support the existing foundation walls. Both options are possible. There are advantages to each of these alternatives. Basement lowering can be done while a homeowner is living in the house. Structural engineering and city permits are required.
Your other option is to raise the ceiling height. This option will also raise the main floor height. In more extensive full house renovations, certain cases allow for the option to raise the main floor. Lifting the floor of the main level add ceiling height to the lower level. This option is viable if ceiling heights on the main or second floor are high enough, or if the house is a bungalow and a second floor is added.
There are advantages to each of these approaches. If you would like more information about either of these options, contact us for more details.
Carving a living space into an existing attic or building a new floor on top of your existing home is a possible option in many neighbourhoods in Toronto. While the City of Toronto by-laws vary from neighbourhood to neighourhood, in many areas the height restrictions are sufficient to allow for a third floor remodel.
Possible Uses for Third Floors
Possible uses for your third floor can include a kid’s or guest bedrooms or washrooms, a master bedroom and ensuite, an office, gym, family room, library, or kids playroom. There are many options.
There are elements you should consider in order to make third floor living spaces work. Natural light and adequate ceiling height are vital for these spaces. Often dormers are added to allow for more ceiling height and windows. Very good insulation and a well-engineered heating and cooling system to keep the space comfortable year round is important as well.
The Walden Homes team has done third floors as part of new builds and are often called in to do a third floor addition. We are currently working in the planning phase of a third floor extension. The existing third floor is small and tight. The space is not well used; the existing bathroom is too large, and the stair landing is uncomfortably tight. The two bedrooms are narrow and hard to furnish. We are going to rebuild the third floor and extend it over top of an existing second floor. We are working with Cary Linden on the architectural design and approvals for this third floor renovation project. Cary is a partner in OneDesignBuild.
There are important things to consider before starting on your third floor renovation or addition. Firstly, third floor additions often require approval from the Committee of Adjustment.
Once the paperwork is done, there are structural, mechanical, and cost considerations.
Structurally, the third floor can be tricky. In the majority of cases, the existing second floor ceiling structure is not going to be up to the requirements for a new floor.
Mechanically, heating or cooling an upper floor in many cases will require a separate system from the rest of the house. These spaces can get hot in the warm seasons and cold in the winter. Proper insulation and a temperature zone control are important elements to include.
The costs per square foot are generally more than what you would expect. The labour element for just about every part of the third is more difficult. Moving materials, safety requirements, opening the house to the elements, working above other finished living spaces, running electrical, and plumbing are all somewhat more complicated, time consuming and as a result, costly.
A third floor addition will often require some amount of re-work to the second floor, such as getting the stairs to the third floor, which will often involve some re-working of the second floor layout.
There are big advantages if you compare a second floor addition versus a third floor approach. If you are adding bedrooms and bathrooms to your home, adding them through a third floor addition rather than a second floor addition creates big advantages. A third floor renovation does not require you to change the layout of the main floor, while a second floor addition requires a main floor extension below it.
The third floor is built above the second floor. If you are on a shorter lot and do not want to take up too much of the backyard this is a big plus. The third floor option would eliminate the need to re-landscape. A main floor or second floor addition will often require an excavation for a foundation, ultimately leading to landscaping work.
A third floor renovation can have less impact in the sense that a third floor does not have to impact the overall appearance of the home from the exterior. The impact on your neighbours can be lessened with a second floor renovation, while large second floor additions create shadows on neighbouring properties.
Written by: Bruce Borden, Walden Homes
____________________________________________ Photo Credits:
Sea Island Builders LLC
Huestis Tucker Architects LLC
Structures Building Co
This reference might age me bit but I’m not embarrassed to say that this was one of my favourite shows when I was a kid.
Do you remember the house that was a central part of the The Brady Bunch television show?
The TV family of eight plus housekeeper Alice lived in a Los Angles split level home. If you take a look at the street view of 11222 Dilling Street, Studio City on Google Maps, you’ll see the house is still there looking pretty much the same as it did back in the 60’s.
The typical 1950s-60s split level home – the kitchen and living room was mom’s domain, a place for women’s club lunches while downstairs in the family den and garage was dad’s escape zone. Down another set of steps was the basement where you would find the kids.
Before we discuss the process of renovating a split-level house, let’s discuss what a split-level house actually entails.
What is a Split-Level House?
A split-level house is an architectural approach to building homes that was popularized by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The split-level home is defined by multiple levels, which are separated by small flights of stairs. Wright’s conception of the home hinged on the idea that houses should naturally blend with their landscapes, and homes with half floors would accomplish this vision. Instead of a single long staircase, living areas could be separated from private areas by just a few simple steps.
Another version of the split-level house is the sidesplit. A sidesplit is a type of split-level home. In a sidesplit, the multiple levels are all visible from the front elevation. Usually, the garage is on one side of the house and there is a floor for the bedrooms above the garage. The other half of the house is the main living area. Steps connect the exterior street to the front door on the main level. Most sidesplits also have a crawlspace, allowing for the foundation to be the same for both halves of the split house.
The History of The Split
How did the split-level come into existence? Well, the housing market was making plenty of demands in the 1950’s – people wanted more, bigger, and less monotonous houses. Neighbourhoods with larger homes eventually stopped building bungalows. Instead, developers answered with the original split-level home.
Historians credit Frank Lloyd Wright as the inventor of the split-level house; however, it’s unlikely that he conceived the modern split-level. He split his prairie style designs and he believed the split would become an affordable home for the average American. This belief was true, however, not until his original design was tweaked. His early version of the split-level home was actually beyond the means of the average family.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Split-Level House
The advantage of the sidesplit is that it separates sections of the house without the need for a full flight of stairs. It is less land efficient than a two-story house, but more efficient than a bungalow in terms of the land it occupies. While split-level homes are not large, they are functional. The benefit for a family with small children is that you can be close to one another, regardless of where in the house you are.
There are some disadvantages to split-levels homes. Some of these include the placement of the stairs. For instance, if you enter your split-level home through the garage, you have to carry your groceries up half a flight of stairs to the kitchen. The amount of stairs can also be troublesome for some people, and harder to block off when childproofing your home for infants and toddlers.
The space is also compartmentalized, which is possibly restricting in terms of how you plan to use your space, or in terms of how you plan to renovate it.
In terms of the room layout, some side-splits have dark family rooms as they are below ground. Some others don’t have a powder room on the main level with the kitchen, dining room, and formal living room so guests use the full bathroom upstairs or go down to the half bath off the family room downstairs.
Renovating Your Home
Split-level homes are often quite structurally sound. Walden Homes has modernized and updated them in the past, providing new mechanical, electrical, heating, windows, and den. The main requests are to update the finishes in the home or to enlarge the kitchen.=
The main level is usually very workable with the kitchen and is easy to update in renovations. The bedrooms can be trickier. Split-level homes often only have 3 bedrooms, and adding more bedrooms can prove challenging.
Split-levels provide a lot of natural light, and are easy to get around because of the shorter flights of stairs.
Do you want to know how to renovate your split-level home? Contact Walden Homes today for a free consultation.
When we renovate for a multi-generational family, we have to take their individual needs into account. One house where three generations live together has different needs than a home for a single generation family.
Walden Homes first experienced the challenges of designing and renovating a multi-generational home in 2007. That is when the Smith family first approached us to design and renovate a home they had just purchased in Markham. Doug and Georgia had three school age children and needed a bigger home. The elder Smiths had moved from Ottawa to Toronto to be closer to their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Instead of buying separate homes, the Smiths bought one home and renovated it to accommodate a multi-generational lifestyle. They wanted to bring the family together and to make the home renovation work for everyone.
Walden Homes wanted this home renovation to work for them so we started extensive planning. We decided to combine the main home with a side entry. This decision gave the elder Smiths a separate entrance, which allowed for additional privacy and the ability to come and go as they pleased. Their entrance led to a small living room and stairs to a basement office, where Smith Senior would be able to continue his passion as a writer. Their bedroom suite overlooked the backyard’s greenery.
The main part of the house was enlarged to create an open concept kitchen, family room, and dining area. The entire Smith family shared these areas. They were able to enjoy their time together in a large and comfortable space.
The Smiths were able to make this arrangement work financially by collecting resources between the generations and choosing to live in a re-built home in a beautiful neighbourhood.
Making It Work
Multi-generational housing is becoming increasingly common. University and college graduates are taking more time to move out of their parent’s homes, while aging family members may need more help around the house and move back in with their children. Everyone lives under one roof.
Walden Homes has done many more multi-generational home renovation projects since the Smith’s home, and every project is different. It has to be – because every family is different. We know how to meet your needs and our unique process lets you stay in control every step of the way.
Walden has finished basements, modified second floors, added second floors, reconfigured main floors, all for the purpose of providing adult children with their own living space - fully upgraded for independent living taking place under one roof.
Things to Consider
- Accessibility: for elderly members of the family, accessibility is very important regarding showers and stairs to create an ease of living.
- Privacy: this is always an issue, as separation is important but becomes difficult with so many members under one roof.
- Comfort: the space has to feel welcoming and livable for all family members. This includes considering heating and cooling preferences.
- Integration: do renovations work with the rest of the home and do they work for the family?
- Ways to renovate a house include: upgrading the basement suite, creating a separate unit as part of the main house, or integrating separate living suites (bedrooms) for everyone into one house.
- 3 main ways to make it work: Modify, add, or change an existing space to suit where the work is being done (ie. a basement suite would have different needs than a 2nd floor bedroom add on).
Benita and Vincent are both busy professionals raising a young family.
They lived in their bungalow for five years before deciding to renovate. When they finally made that choice, they came to Walden Homes to look after the complete design build for their bungalow. We developed a 3D graphic for the design of their home, a home which we are now in the process of developing.
They wanted their home to reflect a transitional style, with more space and an exciting exterior design.
The exterior was very important to them.
We came up with a roofline with open gables and simple, common forms. These forms contrasted with the horizontal elements seen in many contemporary designs. The wooden screen at the front entry also added some privacy with a modern twist.
The bungalow occupied a fairly large footprint and did not require a main floor addition. This Willowdale home was a good size. Only a small bump at the front was extended for a squared off bay window.
The large footprint of the home allows for a large open concept kitchen and family room in the rear of the house, equipped with a huge island. There is a mudroom accessible off the driveway, and an open concept dining/living space at the front of the house.
The second floor adds tons of storage throughout the house as well as 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a laundry room.
The original garage had some structural issues, so it was rebuilt to provide a solid base for the second floor addition. The main house was built well and because of its large footing and good overall structure, this house lent itself to a top up.
With all the extra space created in his home, the basement will be left unfinished and revisited at a later time.
Benita and Vincent stop in regularly to see the progress of their bungalow. With their home nearing completion, they are excited about the changes they are seeing.
Toronto’s skyline is in a period of growth. It's hard to keep track of all the new condo sites that keep popping up. We are in the midst of a massive intensification of new condo construction and an increase in density in the city.
Historically, condo construction started in the 1970s in Toronto and boomed in the 1980s, much like it has again today. All of these units are aging with many of them nearing 40 years old. In the midst of the new buildings cropping up every day, there are tens of thousands of older condo units. These units will be in need of partial or full renovations in the years to come.
Unlike the cranes that mark the skyline with each new building, home renovations, or new custom homes, condo renovations happen out of site. When a condo unit is being renovated there are no lawn signs, dumpsters, site fencing or visible signs of work in progress.
Here at Walden Homes, we are in the midst of a full condo gut and rebuild. You can see in the picture above that the unit has been completely taken apart. The only things left standing are the concrete floor, the main structural walls, and the windows. The unit will be updated top to bottom.
We've worked in a number of condo buildings over the years and the renovations differ from home renovation in a number of ways. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are planning a condo renovation.
Be aware of condominium corporation rules. Unlike with home renovations, you have to be aware of the regulations that surround renovations in condominiums. Here are some important rules that you should keep in mind.
Condominium corporations have specific regulations. They have set hours when work is permitted. Hours are generally limited Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. We have seen a few buildings that permit work on Saturdays as well.
The condo regulations will also have some limitations on the type of materials permitted. This applies to flooring materials due to sound transmission and noise concerns in general. Window coverings may also be regulated.
If you are thinking about renovating your condo, the first thing to do is speak with the building management to ask them about any rules that apply to renovations.
In a condo renovation, access can be a big issue in ways that it would not be in a home renovation. In a high rise condo the elevator is central to the renovation. Nothing gets in our out without the use of the service elevator. Access to the elevator is crucial, as everything has to go up or down that elevator. All the new materials and all the debris will be moved manually up on down the elevator.
The labour costs to load and unload all the materials are considerable. Care has to be taken that damage is not done in the access points, up through the hallways. Additional protection is installed at times and removed every time materials are moved in our out.
There are also limitations on the size of materials - everything has to fit into the elevator.
Relocating Plumbing and Electrical
Moving plumbing can be difficult or impossible in a condo renovation. There is more flexibility with electrical, but overhead lighting and in floor outlets can be difficult.
There are very strict limitations to doing any structural changes. The condo regulations are very specific when it comes to making any adjustments to structural elements of a building.
Building or renovating a home in downtown Toronto has its challenges. Renovating a condo has many similarities, but also has its unique challenges. Here at Walden Homes, we know how to overcome these challenges. If you have any questions, contact us and we will he happy to help!Toronto’s skyline is in a period of growth. It's hard to keep track of all the new condo sites that keep popping up. We are in the midst of a massive intensification of new condo construction and an increase in density in the city.
When Susan called me earlier in the week she mentioned that they needed to enlarge the front entry. Now that I was at the house I understood exactly why she called.
Getting the front door to fully open was pretty much impossible. I squeezed through the partially opened door to get inside and took a look around. The front entry was tight with shoes and boots covering the floor. It was an organized pile of shoes and winter boots. I already had a plan in motion.
We discussed a few ideas and decided to push the entry out by six feet, which is enough to fit a full-sized closet and a bench with cubbies for the kids. The opening to the main floor will be widened so that four people can comfortably enter the house. No more gymnastics required.
The plans are currently in for approvals with the city and the renovation is scheduled for early fall.
The well-designed entry
Home entryways, whether they are front entry extensions, mudroom additions, or lower level entries, are one of the most frequently requested areas of improvement that we get at Walden.
The most used room in our house.
One of the features that I like best about my own home is the mudroom that we added. For Cathy and me, it makes the day to day easier. Tasks like bringing groceries in, taking out the garbage and keeping the mess out of the main entry of our house rely on a well-designed entryway. Our kids are grown and we do not have a dog, but so many of our clients with younger children and dogs love their mudrooms for making their lives easier.
They come in all shapes and sizes and are loved by everyone that has one. The well-designed entry is the answer to keeping your home looking welcoming and organized.
Things to consider when designing your new entry area:
Does it have direct access to the kitchen for bringing in groceries?
Is it well-connected to the basement stairs for storage of sporting equipment?
Is it accessible from the driveway or side walkway?
Some amount of natural light is helpful
Is there room for a bench for putting on shoes or boots?
Is there a good amount of hanging space?
Is there enough space for a rack or shelving to store shoes?
Is there a designated place for keys?
What about a place for boots to dry?
Is the floor easy to maintain
Do you want to opt for a heated floor to make the entry more inviting?
Bruce Borden: "I wanted to complete our series of articles on third floor additions with a different point of view. We have talked about the considerations, uses, and benefits of the third floor addition. We have asked the experts. The next question to tackle is, what does the homeowner think of the third floor?
I asked my wife, Catherine Himelfarb Borden, Managing Partner the Yorkville branch of Forest Hill Real Estate Inc. for her thoughts about third floors. Cathy's has over 20 years of experience in the luxury real estate market in Toronto."
This is what Cathy had to say about third floors:
Cathy Himelfarb Borden: "Our clients really appreciate well-conceived third floor spaces when searching for their dream home. Working within the confines of the walls allows one to create extra and necessary rooms while maintaining the property’s original integrity.
Many older properties boast high and grand attics that are under-utilized. By finishing these properties properly, homeowners may be able to build much needed extra bedrooms, home offices, guest rooms or entertainment rooms. For our clientele with teenage children, third floors are often converted to luxurious master suites and serve as a retreat for the adults in the family.
On the flip side, families with young children often would like everyone to have bedrooms on the same floor. In these situations, the third floor additions may be postponed until the day when the space is needed for a growing family, or be used as home offices or guest rooms for out of town visitors.
As for new construction, the necessity of a third floor really depends on the individual needs of the home owner. Whenever we deal with buyers considering building a new home, we recommend that they consult with a builder during their search so that they purchase the right lot for them. These perimeters are the key elements used to narrow and distinguish which properties best meet their needs.
In short, third floor additions are a fabulous way to add space to a home and add value to a property by making it more appealing to buyers due to the possibilities for their use."
An addition to your home can be more than just adding space. Why not look at your renovation as a chance to modernize or go in a different direction without completely changing the character of your home? Without re-building or completely tearing down the existing home, many homeowners are deciding to mix it up a bit instead. They accomplish this by blending traditional with more modern.
Each of the homes pictured have contemporary detailed additions that project out of the original house structure. Generally, these are not large additions. Often small spaces with large glass elements project out from original home. The architects have incorporated cubes that alter or cut through the roof lines. In these spaces, there is a change in materials with a colour palette that ties back to the rest of the house.
In 2009, Cathy (my wife) and I renovated our hundred year Forest Hill Tudor home. The classic Tudor exterior was blended with a very modern addition that we built at the side of the house. The materials and colours were carried from the existing home. The new addition that we built has a flat roof with minimal detailing and large floor to ceiling windows and doors. We love that the old character of the Tudor home blends in so nicely with the surrounding neighborhood, while the new modern addition represents our lifestyle and design preference. The addition we built is open, bright, warm and comfortable. We are living in a 100 year old home that has a modern twist.
When it’s time to design and build your addition, get inspired and mix it up!
The first thing that you experience when going down to a basement is often the last thing that someone thinks about when renovating a basement. Basement stairs are a great example as they are often overlooked, but they are never bypassed. They make a statement for those using them about what lies ahead. A stair that feels too steep or too narrow can make you feel like you are about to enter an old or unwelcoming basement.
Sometimes changing the width of the stair can be difficult, but sometimes there are possibilities that can be taken advantage of when changing a stair’s size. Here is a video from one of our basement renovations where we were able widen the staircase.
The choice of materials is also an important consideration. Carpeted stairs can be a good option when working with existing stairs as carpeting is inexpensive and available in an endless number of colours and style preferences. Tile on the stairs can be more practical, but can be slippery and make the space look cold. Solid wood is often a good option because it is easy to keep clean and normally coordinates well with the surrounding materials.
Here are some examples of basement stairs using different materials and styles:
We recently completed a renovation in the High Park neighbourhood which used stained white oak stairs to lead down to the basement. These stairs blend in nicely with the more traditional elements of the house while the glass railing with stainless steel brackets add a modern element that relates to the traditional basement detailing.
During a recent renovation in the Allenby neighbourhood of Toronto, we used this carpeted stair. The stair is open to the upper landing which brings in natural light through a side door. A small but functional office space is tucked below the stair landing. This placement of the office allowed us to maximize the space in this basement renovation. If you want to learn more about maximizing space, you can read more here.
Integrating the Design
This basement stair was widened and opened with glass railings. The dark stained oak treads are paired with a painted riser and stringer. These stairs lead to a fully renovated basement part of the re-built bungalow. The basement was underpinned and the space is central to this renovated bungalow. The basement or lower living level is well integrated by the staircase on design elements that continue from the main floor. If you want to learn more about this renovation, read here.
As you enter different stages of your life, you have different needs from your home. Instead of moving and finding a home that suits those needs you can make your home work for you by renovating.
As you have children, you need more space – more bedrooms, more bathrooms, and more storage.
As your kids leave the house, you may consider downsizing or finding the right size for your home. You need less space and the focus of your home changes.
Not Everyone Wants to Move to a Condo
While some homeowners decide to move to a condo once their children have moved out, often homeowners don’t want to give up homeownership and opt for renovating their homes rather than condo living.
The alternative to a condo is redesigning your home to take on a different tone than the traditional idea of renovating to suit family living.
Those in their early life stages are geared toward getting enough space for their bathrooms, their bedrooms, kid’s toys, storage for sports equipment, and friends. Comfort features are a key element.
Condo Alternative Living
Instead of purchasing condos, people are renovating their bungalows for living one floor. The main floor has a large kitchen, entertaining space, bedroom, and ensuite, while the basement is fully furnished with all the comfort features like floor radiant heating, full-height ceilings, home theatres, gyms, and spas.
A typical home on a 25 to 30 foot wide lot in central Toronto will be gutted and 1,800 square feet of space will be used on two floors to suit their needs. They can include customized elements like 2 bedrooms on the second floor, large walk-in closets, an office, or a guest suite with an ensuite bathroom.
Condo alternative homes are forgoing the typical renovate for resale attitude and redesigning for their particular needs instead. They’re not worried about the resale factor; they’re more concerned about staying for the long term.
We have also seen clients turn their homes into a duplex so they can keep one floor of their home and rent out the others to provide income from the property. This allows for the best of both worlds, where they can have high-end features in their unit paired with an additional income allowing for ownership.
There are also a number of older mansions or churches being converted into condo type units, but forgoing the vertical home lifestyle. They still have the feel of living in a residential home, even if there is more than one family occupying the property.
However you approach the situation, renovation is a lifecycle tool that can be used to create a living environment that makes sense for you. Renovating a home in Toronto as an alternative to living in a condo is becoming more and more common.
Additions don’t always have to cost a remarkably sum of money. There exist various ways to increase the space and functionality of your home. One of the ways we often suggest for clients is a cantilever bay.
A cantilever bay is a cost-effective way to add 3 to 4 feet of depth to a living space, as it extends out from the initial structure. There are various uses for this new space. For some, it can completely change a kitchen by adding additional counterspace or room for a small island.
For family rooms, a cantilever can make room for a family sofa or a new sitting area, an entertainment unit, a window seat, an eating/dining area and so much more. It can also be a good way to enlarge an existing bathroom.
This type of renovation is a wonderful way to create depth as well as increase the natural light in a home. As mentioned above, it is an inexpensive alternative to a traditional renovation that requires a need for a foundation.
If there is one thing that all homeowners can agree upon, it is the need to maximize on the space they have. Oftentimes, it is left for us as renovators to get creative so our clients can feel as though they are getting the most out of their homes.
Above, you will see a sample of how we worked with this second floor hallway. Utilizing 2 glass panels, along with a contemporary-style white oak handrail and post, we were able to economically create a more open feeling in a narrow area. You will notice how the glass panels are set into grooves that have been set into the floor. This is a secure and practical option over those that are more costly.
This particular hallway is just wide enough to allow a door to fit at the end of the hallway. This in turn allows for larger bedrooms. By taking away from the hallway, we added 8" to the inside dimension of the bedroom. The glass panels, however, still make the hallway look wider than it actually is.
It is a great trade off of hallway space for increased bedroom space. Renovating to make the priniciple rooms as large as possible will not only increase the quality of how space is utilized in the home, it can also go towards increasing the home's value. We also like how the transitional design detail combines glass with the oak handrail. The extra space inside the bedroom is enough to allow for a desk to be incorporated, or a dressing table.
Which area of your home do you wish you could renovate to maximize on space?
Many renovations in Toronto often involve some sort of an addition. Adding more space is a very common reason many homeowners decide to renovate.
Perhaps, instead of just adding space, we should also think more about making better use of the space that already exists.
In this picture, we added tons of storage to the attic bedroom by building in cabinetry into the low headroom space. Our clients have much more storage space and no furniture taking up floor space. The room feels bigger, making better use of the space that is already there.
Can you think of spaces in your home that could be better used?
We've talked a lot on our blog about making the most of the space you already have. It is something that we are really passionate about here at Walden Homes. It's not that we are against additions. We have done hundreds of additions. But our preference is if we are going to add space, we will re-work existing space along with adding space, so the combined space is more functional, flows better, lives better and feels better.
Rather than just adding an addition to the back of your home, we encourage our clients to really think about how they live. Is entertaining a big element? Do you love hosting large family gatherings? Do you have young kids who need practical spaces to do their homework? Do you work from home? Are you a couple that loves to cook together? All of these questions need to be asked before heading into any renovation. It is important to have your home reflect your lifestyle, not just the latest trends. Make your home live the way you want to live.
In many of our homes, we are combining spaces. This helps us to make smaller homes feel and live larger. We focus on adding design interest using large windows and doors, enhancing seamless flow from existing to new spaces, comfort with energy efficient insulation, heating and cooling systems that make the whole house comfortable all year long. We design and build basements to be warm in the winter and comfortable/dry in the summer. We focus on using 100% of the house, not just one or 2 rooms.
We see that many basement renovations seem to be about the adults. And why not? Who wouldn't love to have a place to put a large screen television for watching sports with friends? Or a nice place to enjoy a great movie? Many times we see these new adult dream rooms come with a bar or wine cellar. Other most common renovations include a new gym, laundry room, storage space or extra bedroom.
However, more and more people are realizing the benefits of turning the basement into the ideal place for the kids. Somewhere special where they can have their own space, while leaving the rest of the house for more adult purposes. In fact, turning the basement into a kids area could be a great way for adults to enjoy the rest of their homes just as they like, without toys and other inevitable clutter that can come from raising children and teens.
We really like to work on home renovations that are focused on turning basements into fun places for kids. Pictured above, you can see a recent example in which we worked with our client that wanted to have an arts and craft center. We also installed a stage with lighting and there was a curtain for the kids to perform plays, as well as a backstage area complete with costumes.
And of course, what kids room is complete without a pool table, a hideaway ping pong table, a foosball table, and a music area with drums, guitars and keyboards. And no one ever said that the adults couldn't enjoy the play room too!
Our Grandview Avenue project is completed and is a great example of how to renovate a house in order to maximize its livability.
When our clients purchased the house, it was a complete mess: structurally, mechanically and functionally. The house was fully gutted and completely renovated from top to bottom. The exterior shell of the house and roof were kept intact, but the inside was a complete rebuild.
Working within the existing footprint, we opened up the main floor from front to back. Making use of what we like to call the "LiveSmart" design approach, the main and second floor plan maximizes every inch.
The main floor is made up of three distinct functional spaces that combine together to form one large open space. When you enter the house, it feels like a home twice the size.
Up on the second floor we created a Master Ensuite and closet by repositioning a few walls. There are now two washrooms and three nicely sized bedrooms.
Here are some of the key elements of this renovation:
We worked with the existing space, maximizing what the house already had.
We added natural light by enlarging window and door openings.
The centre of the house has a kitchen that is designed around a 12' island.
The casual dining space is offset to one side and has a built-in bench, located at the front of the house
The family living area connects directly to the rear yard through a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass.
The renovation to this home was a complete transformation, top to bottom. Without adding any new square footing to the house, the new spaces are large, filled with natural light and and offer our clients the flexible space they need.
We will be writing more about LiveSmart in upcoming blog posts. Contact Walden to learn about LiveSmart and how we can help you make more from the house you already have.
Once you’re done your renovation, there is still a lot to be done to bring your home together. Painting your rooms may be one of those items on your to-do list, but how do you choose the perfect match for your newly renovated space?
The first step is to define the mood. With your renovation, you’ve probably already done just that! You had an idea of how you wanted your space to feel and now it’s time to choose a paint colour that will match that mood.
Matching Paint Colour to Mood
If you’re painting a boisterous space, such as a living room where your family and friends will gather, choosing brighter colours may suit the energy of the space. If you’re more low-key, softer, lighter colours may be more suited for you.
Colour psychology can play a role here as well. Does a bold red suit your room or do you prefer a calm blue? Look into the feelings you want to evoke and remember that changing the shade of the colour of your choosing can have an impact on the mood.
Find Inspiration in Your Life
Find inspiration in what’s around you! Look at your favourite painting, vacation photos, or your favourite outfit. What is it that you like about these items? Draw inspiration from their colour palates for your own home.
Find Inspiration in Your Home
Your brand new renovation should already be making you feel inspired! Take your furniture, lighting, and accent pieces into consideration and choose a colour that matches.
Are you still unsure about paint colour? Don’t be – just ask us! At Walden Homes, we can make recommendations based on the space and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. If you're planning your renovation, download our renovation checklist to make sure you have everything you need to get started!
Our clients have many reasons to renovate their homes when they first call us. Somewhere, on just about everyone's list, is more closet space. The older homes that we renovate in Toronto typically have very small closets. We are always looking for ways to increase the space in existing closets or add new ones.
This closet was made larger by combining two smaller closets into one large, shared, His and Hers master closet. There is ample single and double hanging space, pull out drawers, open adjustable shelving, shoe racks and more.
Renovating for storage is a great reason to renovate because it allows for an organized home with less clutter, less stress and more enjoyment.
You would not think that a small five foot addition to the back of a home would have such a big impact. But it can.
The five foot deep addition we recently completed in Toronto's Forest Hill neighbourhood changes so many aspects of this home.
We added a small mudroom that gives access to the kitchen from the driveway, making it easy for bringing in groceries, kids coming in from school and walking the dog.
The 5' added length to the kitchen makes a huge difference. Now, the family can enjoy meals together around a table that is set into new bay window, overlooking the backyard.
The addition also provided an entry through double french doors that leads out to a new stone patio. This connects the kitchen to the backyard, makes having a BBQ easy and entertaining much more convenient.
The last thing that the 5' addition did was create connection to a new family room that was created out of the space that used to serve as a garage. The 20' x 20' family room steps down of the hallway and is a bright, quiet and beautiful room that our clients enjoy everyday.
We love this renovation style and are particularly attracted to the exposed brick contrasted with the contemporary open rise stair, with a stained tread that is about 2 inches thick on a steel frame. The individual materials are joined together in such a way that is not particularly about perfection, nor is it seamless in execution. The idea remains on how to best combine these materials to create a transitional feeling to the overall space.
The entire look is very clean and very simple, although it shows contrasting materials; the rustic brick, the drywall combined with steel and the natural stained treads are all perfectly combined.
The common perception that all kinds of costly surprises are hidden away to be uncovered during a renovation is not entirely accurate. The truth is that while we often will find a number of issues in most homes that we renovate, the cost for repairs, on average, represent no more than 5% of the overall project cost.
We have experienced all kinds of winter weather over the past 25 years since we started Walden – snow or no snow, building keeps right on going.
One of the projects we are working on now is a complete update to a home built in the early 1980s. The interior of the house has been largely gutted. The existing space has been reworked, better insulation installed, a complete home automation system, radiant heating and all new finishes.
The exterior of the house is also getting a new look. Work in the pictures taking place inside the tarped in scaffolding that allows us to keep working as the temperature becomes more of a challenge.
We expect to unveil the finished house in early February. We will post a picture of the before and after.