Framing under the Big Top

[UPDATE MARCH 2016: since this post was written, Leanne and I have entered into a contract dispute with Ridgewater Homes. For more details, click here.]

I’m a little behind.

Last week I told you about the stress of waking up in the middle of the night to find the tent that is keeping your heritage house dry is blowing in the wind.

But what was being done under that tent?

Well, in January when work recommenced after the winter break, it was time for the exciting step of adding the upstairs dormer and stretching out the rear addition to cover the newly expanded basement.

The house was back on earth.

That first week I was working longer hours than normal, so I didn’t get the daytime photos I wanted, but here are a few. Under cover, the rear section of the upstairs roof was removed and the main floor was extended out.

Below you can see the batt insulation in the sloped ceiling section of the kids upstairs bedrooms. 5 and a half inches of fiberglass is just not enough. Above the pink fiberglass, you can see the two layers of Roxul batts that I managed to fit in the tiny triangular attic space in 2008. That’s R44, folks!

The upstairs dormer windows will let in the morning sun from the east. From them, we can also see the park and playground about a block away. “Kids! Time for dinner!”

The plan -- any room for magic?
The shaded area indicates the new space on the top floor.

On the main floor, the large deck takes shape and the new bathroom beside it (on the right).

The addition of the dormer, with its spare bedroom and bathroom, plus the shed addition on the main floor, with its deck, bathroom and walk-in closet, as well as the roomy new basement with its 7′ ceilings makes this project hard to define.image

Are we a Near-net-zero Retrofit a la The Now House Project I drew so much inspiration from? If so, why all the new living space?

Are we a renovation for a growing family? If so, why go so deep with the insulation?

Are we a Heritage Restoration project? If so, why are we changing the look?

The master (bathroom) plan
The master (bathroom) plan

People seem to have trouble defining what we are doing. If that is you, consider the name of my blog. Creating a Forever House means making it sustainable, but also comfortable for our family. Celebrating its history is an added bonus, but I also believe that preserving heritage houses by only allowing updates that use the building techniques of the time they were built creates museum pieces, not liveable houses.

The neighbourhood of Port Hammond Junction has a lot of lovely heritage homes that deserve care and attention. The best way to ensure they get it is to help owners update them in a way that is sensitive to their history, but also makes them more comfortable and efficient.

That’s all very nice if you can afford it, you say? Well, that is the elephant in the room.

Nobody can “afford it”. We certainly can’t. That has become painfully obvious as we watch the end of our financial resources loom. That’s why I’m telling this story.

If we acknowledge that preserving existing buildings, maintaining comfortable, safe and healthy homes for families and reducing our carbon footprint are important goals, then we must also face the fact that those goals are currently out of reach for people like…well, pretty much everyone!

I hope you enjoy reading about our project, but I also hope you start to feel a little angry at how difficult doing the right thing by our homes is. Let’s see if our frustration can bring about some change.

Final note: Leanne and I didn’t want to get in the way of the crew, so aside from taking care of all the construction waste, we pitched in on the weekends.

James taking off sheathing of the original shed addition.
James taking off sheathing of the original shed addition.

Published by

James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *