the thirties grind

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

Renovating in Vancouver: tempered expectations

So…we have the architect and have hired a contractor.  Over the last few weeks a lot has happened – alas, no actual work to our house has begun.

When we were originally looking at our upstairs, we wanted modify the layout so that we would have three bedrooms (we currently have two), a family bathroom and a three-piece ensuite in our master bedroom.  Our architect drew up the plans, which called for the family bathroom being bumped into what will be our son’s room.  Also, in order to gain the full ceiling height across the east side of our house, we planned to extend an existing pocket dormer (which houses the bathroom) the full length of the house.

Everything was looking amazing and we were getting super excited.  Then we consulted with an engineer.

Now, I have nothing against the engineering profession in general, but man do I hate those guys and their precise, scientificy, safety-loving ways.  I know, I know…we don’t want our house to fall down but, jeez…the things that were called for structurally for this renovation were insane.  Craned in beams, point-loads (wtf are those?) into our basement, foundation supports  — the list went on and on and my goddamn head nearly exploded.  All in, the cost of these structural upgrades was going to add close to another $100K to our renovation budget.

// had to do some serious soul searching. Was having an ensuite going to be worth $100K??  I know, I know…it was a torturous decision.

// the end we were like “hell no” because, guess what, we don’t have an extra $100K just lying around burning a hole in our pockets. So…it’s back to the drawing board. On the bright side, it looks like the project just got a whole lot simpler.

// really had to consider what we would be gaining by spending that extra money…not a lot of floor space, as we were just increasing the head-room on one side of the house. We, literally, were gaining a shower. Our compromise was to forgo the enlarged dormer and work within the existing space, which means no shower in our ensuite. We’ll still get a little powder room, and that will at least alleviate our traffic issues when we’re getting ready in the morning.  We don’t usually shower or bathe at the same time…but there are usually two people at any one time who need to pee!!

I guess what I’m saying is that you can’t always get what you want (unless you have a money tree), so expectations need to be somewhat tempered when making these decisions.

I think we made a good choice…do  you?

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5 thoughts on “Renovating in Vancouver: tempered expectations

  1. Sometimes an ensuite + bath is too much. But you can get a bath that divides up into two or three space. You know, something crazy like a bathroom with a shower and a tub (redundancy) and two toilets (family good sense). Or you can shower downstairs.

    A good rule of thumb is to think in terms of “proportion”. If you have a 998 SF main floor, then the house is not a monster home out in the suburbs. Think Paris sheek (they pee in the videt if they have to) and not Canadian Living Magazine.

    Yeah. Its a compromise. Or it is thinking out of the box and re-inventing the way we live. Just depends on the score on the fun meter.

  2. Stick to your guns, but recognize that in this battle the other side has nukes.

    The problem is both the Vancouver implementation of the National Building Code and the ludicrously conservative nature of structural engineering practice here in the city.

    The fact is that your house was originally overbuilt, and in fact built just so in order to accommodate change: dormers, bay windows, finished attic spaces, new roofs and sidings, and almost whatever else time would bring. Your likely 3/4″ shiplap siding is bomber structurally. Sure it’s not new plywood, but certainly better than than the non-continuous sheathing without adequate rain screen or uniform breathability that seems the rapidly-deteriorating norm in Vancouver.

    Your home is likely stronger than anything out there that is 1/3 it’s age.

    Likely. But of course who’s go to say for sure, and for how much?

    Does the engineering profession have any incentive or interest in defending the building materials and practices of the past? Hell no. To even try would be an indictment of the “improvements” of the newest codes. The engineering profession does not even try to test older buildings, as after all, they are all “different” and were not built by modern-day structural engineers with “all their new knowledge.”

    However, older buildings prove themselves by the test of time, as “unscientific” as that is.

    The new building code is not progress whatsoever, but a biassed and even “colonial” attack on the practices and understandings of the past. And, it is there primarily to generate ever greater income for the building trades and professions, and to avoid liability.

    Do new houses not fail, and often as often or more so than the old? Yes; just consider the $15 billion “leaky condo” fiasco in Vancouver. And NO ONE lost their license, or was successfully sued. They simply hid behind both the faulty building code and even faultier practice and inspections. Neither have changed in any certain way.

    It’s a sham, and you are right to be deeply offended and pissed off.

    A woman’s home is her castle. Yes?

    No. Private property died a long time ago. We have no rights inside our own homes anymore, even to repair them, let alone to adapt them as they were designed to accommodate to fit our lifestyles and new needs, especially regarding the needs of children.

    Welcome to why so many young families are fleeing to the suburbs, to less bureaucratic jurisdictions with lower costs for everything, including engineers and tradespeople. Vancouver’s schools lose 600 students per year, and now you can appreciate why.

    But, please do not leave. Stick it out, adopt your plans, but only a little. Do the minimum now while opening up opportunities to “repair” things later. AND KEEP WRITING ABOUT IT. Help people to understand life in Vancouver, or lack thereof.

    Remember, home “repairs” require no permit and no engineers. So keep your power dry for later upgrades put in after the permit is complete.

    Finally, what was your architect thinking? How did he or she not consider what structural “upgrades” might be triggered. That worries me. Or, maybe it is your engineer who is way off base.

    Either way, you’ve entered the twilight zone now. There is no certainty anymore, but the high fees of people and institutions with no credibility, no track record, and no stake in your very real needs and your rights to have those needs.

    We wish we could help more, but there is no countervailing power to oppose this predatory behaviour of industry and government, now more than ever joined as one.

    In the 1930s, they had a name for that economic and political relationship.

    And you thought you were just building a new, better living space!

  3. Hello! Wondering what stage you’re at with your reno? We just engaged an architect, geo tech consultant and structural engineer to see if we can support an additional level on our house… It’s a lengthy process!

    • TheThirtiesGrind on said:

      Hopefully getting started early June! We’re ready to go…just waiting for our contractor to finish a few jobs.

  4. Pingback: Renovating in Vancouver: let's get this party started - the thirties grind

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