Making a House a Home


Well for those of you who don’t know us, Fraser (my babies’ daddy) and I live in a two story BC box style house. This house is not your typical box house. 

It has an unusual layout and was not a house we choose together but instead a house Fraser had bought in his single days. This may not have been the house we picked together but slowly we are making this house into our home. That being said it definitely has a list of things I see as a disadvantage…  Here is my list of dislikes 

  • no real front entrance (you actually enter through the carport, it’s very strange)  
  • extremely small entryway with no spot for shoes and jackets (you are immediately at the stairs)
  • Two story, it has STAIRS, I love ranchers and loathe two story houses (but I love the money a rental suite provides us with!)
  •  Fixer upper.  It an old house and therefore has so many projects (not just this old house, all old homes). 

In theory I wanted a new townhome with a little yard, low maintenance and maybe even strata provided landscaping service.   However Fraser wanted a workshop and space and freedom to hoard, he likes the yard and its maintenance, and he doesn’t want to belong to a strata. As I mentioned he bought the house in his single days when he had very different requirements from a house (but that’s good for a whole different blog post!). Basically the house has been a constant work in progress since the day he bought it and he has owned it for about 5 years, I have lived here for 4 of them!

This house did not feel like home when I moved in and to be honest we weighed all our options, do we sell or try to buy another house and use this one for a rental property, renovate or could we build. Given the times we are living in and the current housing prices we came to the conclusion that for now this is our house and we better try to make it home.  We did have great help with learning our options though… if you are thinking of purchasing a new property or if you are refinancing or mortgage is up for renewal you would be doing yourself a huge favour by calling Meghan Dodds Mortgage.  She has helped us twice and both times with great advantages to getting us what we want and helping us save money in the process. The best part is she took situations we have had very little experience in and that were a bit stressful given the amount of money we were dealing with and made them so understable and stress free!  Our original mortgage was through Fraser’s bank and we would never do that again.  SHOP AROUND for your mortgage people!!!  Sorry, I digress.

Anyways our decision to stay has first meant using the house to make us some money. The first part of this was super easy, buy low and watch the value increase! Wowza, to watch a home increase by 40% in 5 short years that was fun. The second part of this was a bit more challenging, it meant living in our basement and renting out our upstairs. In all honesty this was one of the best decisions we made. As the housing prices were increasing so were the rental prices and we were able to use this time to totally benefit and keep our mortgage relatively low. With the extra savings we had we were able to do a lot of upgrades to the yard and workshop area as well as a few updates to the basement suite. Not only that we were also able to  not have the money stresses some families face when mom is on maternity leave or when you start a family and expenses go up!

In the beginning we didn’t need more space. However as or third baby was growing in the belly we realized we were running out of room. So, with sadness our renters, who had become friends, decided to leave and buy a place of their own and we knew we needed to make some changes to our home to make it fit for our family. Not only was upstairs choppy and had a poor layout, it had dreaded carpet (for anyone who knows me this is maybe the worst feature a house could ever have!!!).  Well actually I take that back the worst was carpeted stairs… my two dislikes in a home, and our house had stairs and they were all carpeted!

We were due at the end of March and decided to start a renovation December 1st. Yes we lived in our basement suite, had two kids under 2 and I was 6 months pregnant. If you haven’t figured it out yet we are a bit crazy. Okay, okay we are actually a LOT crazy, did I mention my babies Daddy brought home a Rottweiler puppy before we had our first baby. Because really babies aren’t challenging enough for us we needed a puppy too (again another blog post). I know, I digress but I just hate to miss an opportunity to remind myself of that crazy decision!

Anyways we decide we would do a small renovation to make the upstairs more liveable, the problem with small is just that, it’s small. If you have ever met Fraser you would know small just isn’t in his vocabulary. I like to look at this trait as a real positive but sometimes it can get a bit overboard and sometimes we are bad influences for each other with the” bigger is better” mentality! If you know me you might find it funny that I am often the one trying to restrain us from going overboard (isn’t that a scary thought). Anyways we started out thinking small but first day Fraser gets upstairs to start demo and instead of removing a kitchen all of a sudden we are down to the studs and drywall has been ripped off the entire upstairs, once he started he couldn’t stop and he just figured we might as well do it all at once! LOL, yes we are officially nuts! Oh and that small just a kitchen Reno all of a sudden meant a bathroom too (such a small room, no big deal!).   I guess as you can tell we approached our Reno with as much humor as we could! Reno’s are suppose to be fun, and now I can look back and totally laugh but at the time it did seem like a lot of work and a lot of decisions (oh and let’s not forget a lot of money). I am very proud of what we have done and still need to do to our home, how happy it makes us and that we not only survived but thrived during a Reno!

So, I will definitely write more blog posts on specifics about our Reno, but for now I can sum it up with a few tips for starting:

  • LAUGH. Try to have a sense of humor and keep it all in perspective. I always said if our biggest disagreement is over what Quartz countertop to put in or which gas stove we want life isn’t too bad! (Although I did lose it when the pot filler was in the wrong spot, like come on LOL!!! #blamingitonhoromones)
  • BUDGET. Make sure you have enough money and stick to your budget. This probably was the reason we had so much fun during our Reno. We knew how much money we had and I had done extreme research on pricing before we started to make sure we could afford to do what we wanted to do. Plus we had done a small asbestos test to make sure we wouldn’t have huge costs for removal. For us there was not a whole lot of unexpected costs (but we did have a decent contingency fund just in case) and we also knew that we added some things that made sense but that we might have to wait to finish a few things (example we added gas line to our wood burning fireplace and to our outside patio but we ran out of money for a gas insert and for a new Weber BBQ so we took a nice hand me down to use this summer!).
  • VACATION. Okay this might not be realistic for everyone but we decided we would be in need of a vacation after the “stress” of a Reno plus we thought we could use a little relax time before a new baby made our life a whole lot crazier. I think as insane as this seemed at the time it ended up being a great choice for us.
  • PLAN FOR OVERAGE.   I think knowing that we didn’t have a concrete end date (originally we had thought we would have new renters downstairs again by Feb 1, we ended up with renters June 1) so planning for any financial costs as part of your reno budget that would come with running behind, for us it was lost rental income but for others it might be the cost of renting a house to live in while the reno is going on. Oh and unexpected stuff like the cost to heat a house during a reno in the coldest winter in a long time (yup it was an extra $1500). So plan for unexpected!!!

I am sure I could go on forever with tips for a Reno but these are the big ones!  I cannot wait to show you our house and all the work we have done this far.  Check back for more posts on the Reno and how it went… and please Contact Me if you have suggestions or questions, I would love to hear from you. 

Fresh Canvas, love our exposed beams and big white open space!

Go big or go home… drywall gone, ready to start fresh!