the thirties grind

get up, go to work, raise kids, pay bills, sleep. repeat.

Renovating in Vancouver: first steps

329 East 24th ave

So…I’ve been on a bit of hiatus here.  2014 was a tough one for our family for various reasons.  Between my husband being treated for testicular cancer and the B.C. Teachers’ Strike, this mama was being pulled in so many directions!  Alas, my commitment to this blog waned.  It has been great to take a break, but we are at the beginning of a new, exciting project and I am planning to chronicle it here.

I’ve often discussed on this site how my husband and I go back and forth about whether or not we should sell our home and move out of Vancouver.  I know as well as anyone else how riddiculously expensive it is to live here.  We could cash in our chips and buy a beautiful property on the outskirts of the city…lots more land, lots more bedrooms and lots more free cash to spend on vacations, dinners out and activities for our kids.  Nevertheless, we always arrive back to the same conclusion…we love our neighbourhood, we love our house, we love being close to my parents and our extended family and friends.  We just don’t want to move.

So…we have decided to make our house work for us.  We’re renovating!

Renovating in Vancouver, from what I’ve heard, is not easy these days.  It’s expensive, the permit process is a nightmare (thanks, Gregor!) and there’s always bound to be a few surprises.  We’ve taken all of this into consideration, but just feel it is the best option for us at this stage.

When we bought our place, we knew the existing space had an expiry date.  We have two large bedrooms upstairs and one (the only ONE!) family bathroom.  Our children are currently sharing one of the bedrooms, but with my daughter being eight and my son being six, this needs to end soon.  Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE the fact that they have shared a bedroom and wouldn’t change it for the world.  They just need their own space as they approach their teenage years, otherwise, I will fear for each of their lives…and my sanity.

The kids room...although they both need their own space, I'm so glad they have had time to create memories here together.

The kids room…although they both need their own space, I’m so glad they have had time to create memories here together.

Our bedroom is a fine size but has an awkward closet space.  Also, because we have just the one bathroom between the four of us, we feel we’d like to add in an ensuite.

Our jam packed closet...don't even ask where my husband's clothes go!

Our jam packed closet…don’t even ask where my husband’s clothes go!


The ONE bathroom that all four of us must share. Also, because we do not have a powder room on our main floor, this serves as a guest bathroom also.

We’ve tackled renovations in our house before, but this time we are bringing in the pros.  The first step, however, is finding someone who can realize my vision for our upper floor.  We need an architect!!

Stay tuned…

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4 thoughts on “Renovating in Vancouver: first steps

  1. Good luck! It’s a stressful process, but exciting and worth it in the end!

  2. Friend of mine just sent me the link to this post. He’s in the middle of renovation hell at city hall…. though—as usual in DIY—some of the torture is inevitably self-inflicted.

    You probably need a builder more than an architect, or an architect that is not registered, or a building technologist. As you point out, you probably need help (1) visualizing your ideas and (2) stick-handling the permits process.

    For starters consider this… Raise the home. The price of raising a home has been coming down in the past few years and it involves you with a contractor right off the bat (check for experience and referrals).

    The bonus of raising a house like yours is that the computer-guided jacks that do the lifting can be used to tune out any “kinks” in the floors from 100 years of settlement. Then, the “bottom” floor can graduate from a basement to ‘the main floor’. From there you can think ‘loft space’ or ‘open plan’ for design even if you are adding stairs, a kitchen and a bathroom down there.

    Furthermore, the new building technologies make it so that we can span 26 feet (the likely width of a house on a 33-foot lot) with a single manufactured beam. On the one hand, the “manufactured” part will give you a certified drawing to put in with your building permit set; on the other hand, the ‘single span’ means “goodbye” to those pesky posts (square logs not blogs) that most vintage Vancouver houses have in the basement.

    Then we can think of the hairy stuff… Will the city require new foundations? If the answer is yes, with the house raised the ability to dig up the slab and pour new foundations may be less onerous (it will depend on the house and the site, ultimately). However, the house “up in the air” is a good thing for upgrading electrical, plumbing, computer networks, and anything else that wants to run in the walls. These ‘systems’ may prove to be easier to upgrade working from the bottom up.

    Finally, there is the issue of living in a construction zone. Once you hook-up the water & electrical into the existing floor areas after the house is raised, the basement can become the “construction shop”. Completely separate from the family home until it is ready for move in.

    I post my ideas on home projects here….

  3. An architect: Kathy Robertson.
    Local mom, so amazing. Excellent product and price.
    We had her do designs for our place. In the midst of renovating a heritage home. Good luck!
    Let me know if you need her email.

  4. Pingback: Renovating in Vancouver: realizing my vision - the thirties grind

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