My Dad’s Ideas

I am blessed with a smart independent thinker for a Dad. He always seems to look at things from an unexpected angle and never takes for granted what the experts say without verifying it himself.

I have been part of a few conversations during which an expert gives Dad a piece of advice and is bombarded by sceptical questions. You can tell the expert isn’t used to hearing these insightful and probing questions, but I watch as the respect for my Dad grows.

Dad has spent quite a bit of time thinking about our house. Here is an e-mail he sent on my son’s third birthday in 2011. Concise, descriptive and helpful as always.

Hi Jim and Leanne

I want to speculate again on aspects of replacing the old 8′ (all dimensions approximate) extension on your house (that includes the bathroom, office and porch) with a new 14′ (ie an additional 6′) extension which would align with the existing doorways in the back bearing wall of the original house. New because when existing old 8′ extension walls, floor and roof are removed nothing is left. With nothing in the way, large machines can make a big hole very quickly, so you might as well have a full basement under the new 14′ extension, being careful not to interfere with the footings of the original house back bearing wall. I guess that the basement room could be about 23′ x 14′, big enough to include a basement bathroom, if desired.

As I imagine it, the new extension main floor might accomodate –

1.    4’x8′ closet for the bedroom with 4’x6′ storage space above an outside ground-level basement entrance.
2.    6’x14′ bathroom with ceiling skylight to avoid the need for a wall window in the tub/shower area. A standard acrylic tub (~$250) and acrylic sides (~$270) plus fixtures would fit – or whatever.
3.    7’x14′ office/pantry (slightly narrower for more bathroom space).
4.    10’x8′ entry/laundry with stronger floor, level with kitchen, weather-proof windows.
5.    10’x6′ open porch with weather-proof floor, windows optional.
Dimensions are rough (everything needs to fit in the width of the original house, about 28’6″) but it looks fairly straightforward and doable. I wonder what Annabel thinks? The simplest roof consistent with the house style might reduce the slope of the existing roof  from about 2 in 8 to about 2 in 16 – probably too flat for shingles but OK for a torched roof. You might even consider a roof deck? The dormer for the second floor bathroom might include a door out to the roof deck?

While the 14′ extension would be new construction to code, the roof edges, walls and trim would need to be like the original house. I expect that any reno on this scale would cost more than $30,000, but efficient layout and construction should give the best value for money.

[Your Mum] does crosswords, I do plans. I hope this helps.

It sure does, Dad, thanks!

As you know, our plans are to add 10′ to the back of the house, not 6′. We have some other differences of opinion, but discussing the house with Dad has helped us crystallize what will make the house our happy home for decades to come.

Here is the very helpful drawing that Dad attached to his notes.

Lengthen the bathroom, lengthen the office, add a small back porch, and put the basement stairs inside the house.
Lengthen the bathroom, lengthen the office, add a small back porch, and put the basement stairs inside the house.

Dad consistently mentions that the original back extension will probably have to be removed entirely and reconstructed because attempting to retain details like the windows and walls of the sunroom (originally a back porch) will be too costly. As he says, the ceiling and floors of those three rooms will be re-done. He is probably right, but I view that as a construction detail. We will cross that bridge when we reach it.

I’m glad we have opted for a generous back porch because I think if it is big enough, we will use it a lot. We already have a small front porch which is really only big enough for two or three people to sit on looking out at the road. Maybe we’ll use it in our old age to yell at the neighbourhood kids, but right now, it is under utilised.

The other difference we have is what to do with the basement stairs. Dad points out that if the stairs to the basement door are outside the house, they create a well for people to fall into and for water to collect. In his drawing he suggests having the basement door at ground level with stairs going down inside the house. This would mean the stairwell taking up a chunk of living space from the bathroom and/or the closet. As you can see, he suggests using closet space for this and perhaps putting shelves or drawers in above the stairwell.

We considered these ideas, but ultimately are very happy with the current plan, outdoor stairwell and all.

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 *