Home Renovation - Part 1

My wife and I bought a new house as we had outgrown our old one with the welcoming of our first child. Going in we knew it needed some updating to suit our lifestyle so we have embarked on a pretty substantial renovation of the main level of our 4 level split home, consisting of the living room, dining room, and kitchen. It was very closed off and unfunctional compared to what we had been used to at our old house so we wasted no time and dove right in to ripping out walls, flooring, redoing electrical, plumbing and a host of other things that inevitably and unexpectedly needed to be done.

I love seeing the process of renovations from start to finish so I thought I would share our experience not only for personal documentation of what we have gone through, but also to help others with things I have learned along the way that can hopefully make the process easier for people about to embark on a similar project. 

First off here are some before photos of what we were working with. Lots of dividing walls, popcorn ceiling, carpeting, old aluminum wiring, and honey oak. 

After coming up with somewhat of an idea of what we wanted to do with the space, we met with one of our friends who is a wonderful designer/architect. She put our wishes into a 3D program and created a rendering of what it could look like. 

That rendering was then given to the company that is making our cabinets. They recreated it it to fit with their products.  

One of the most important things for us was to have a large open concept area combining the living room, dining room and kitchen together so we could cook and watch our son at the same time. The biggest concern was how difficult it would be to remove the walls as we weren't sure if they were load bearing or not. With a little digging I was able to find the original building plans that were registered with the city planning department that shows how the roof, along with the rest of the house was constructed.

It's made with scissor trusses which means all the load is placed on the outside walls, allowing us to rip everything out without having to create any headers or support beams in the middle of the room to support the ceiling. Of course building plans shouldn't be the only thing that determines if you can just go ahead and rip out walls. Consulting a structural engineer is also recommended, as is pulling all the necessary permits prior to starting any work to make sure what you are doing is done properly. 

After we knew we were safe to proceed, I convinced a few buddies to come over and help me knock down all the walls. This is the time when you can expect some surprises, often expensive ones you didn't budget for. We knew we had to deal with the relocation and addition of lots of electrical outlets and switches, but discovered that we had the exhaust vent for the gas hot water tank running up one of the walls and through the roof. That was remedied by replacing the gas hot water tank with an electric one as they don't need to be exhausted. And of course that also led to a roof and shingle patch repair. We also had to relocate a bunch of forced air vents and central vacuum pipes that were in the wall to some more conspicuous spots.

Once the space was opened up we were without a front entry closet so I built in a preassembled one that will have 8 foot high mirror doors on it. 

We are currently in the process of having the house drywalled and should be able to start priming everything this weekend. It's starting to resemble a house again and things should really start to pick up once that's done! 

Coming up next week, hardwood flooring will be installed and kitchen cabinets and appliances go in the following week. 

Stay tuned for part 2!

- Justin


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