Saturday, March 21, 2020

Renovating The Exterior Of A Century Home

There are a lot of old century homes in the rural area's of Ontario, the great thing about century homes is that they av survived for over a century (100 years). The bad thing is that a lot of the times because they have survived so long that people stop maintaining the old side of them and when it gets to the point that they need to be updated or repaired they don't know what to do because it seems like a daunting task.

Repairing or renovating the outside of a century home is not easy, it's not simple and its not usually cheap. The good thing though is as long as the bones of the century home are in good shape then the outside renovation should last a long time once it's completed and completed correctly.

Most century homes are brick, now brick is great if it's been kept up with, but like most century homes that need major renovations the brick gets to the point where its not worth repairing. There are a lot reasons why the brick on a century home can be compromised;


  • Foundation shifting. A lot of century homes are built on stone or ruble foundations, over time these foundations shift and move. This movement can cause cracking in the brick above, cracking that isn't a cause for concern where it comes from the home becoming structurally unsound but it does make repairing the brick properly nearly impossible.
  • Water penetration. If water has gotten into the brick overtime the face of the brick will start to shatter and fall off. There is no treatment for this, only replacement of the bricks if possible.
  • Sandblasted. There was a trend years ago that the best way to clean brick was to sand blast them. This actually has disastrous affects on brick. It removes the skin of the brick allowing moisture in destroying the clay based brick.
  • Painted brick. A lot of people wanted to change the look of the outside of a century home went and painted the brick. Once brick is painted there is no way to return the brick to its original colour.
  • Stucco. Some people wanting to cover up damaged or cracked brick opted to cover the brick in stucco or parging. What happens is that the parging or stucco cracks over time because the brick behind it continues to move and shift.
So what do you do? Remove the brick? You could but at that point you are changing a large part of the house. 

What we have found is that if you can actually cover it in new siding. Cement or wood siding is the best as it has the strength to stay in place. Wood is the preferred method because unlike cement siding wood will bend allowing you to work easier on an un level surface like a century home.

There are several things that you will have to do to make sure that your siding lasts a long time on the outside of your century home;

  1. House wrap. You have to install house wrap on top of the brick, this is to help with the moisture that will end up behind the siding.
  2. Strapping. Wood siding requires that you strap the building. This is to help with installation and also to allow the moisture to run down the back side and out.
  3. Air movement. You have to allow air movement behind the siding. The strapping helps with that but it only works if there is a way for the air to get from the bottom of the siding to the too of the siding and vice versa. Most sidings now have flashings that allow for this at the top and bottom and around windows and doors.
  4. You will need to change the windows and doors if they are not new. Once you change the siding you will not want to replace the windows and doors.
  5. New flashings. You will have to install new flashings around all the windows and doors and around the window sills. 
  6. Caulking. This is one of the most important jobs that gets overlooked. Once you have completed the siding you have to go back around and caulk all the joints in the siding. Everywhere it attaches to windows/doors and at the corners.
The biggest thing you will need is to find the right contractor. A contractor that knows what they are doing and will properly install your siding for you.

The better your contractor the better the results you will have in the end.

Rob Abbott 
Great Lakes Custom Homes Inc.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Addition or New Custom Home

Should I add an addition or additions and renovate my home or should I tear it down and build a brand new custom home where the old one once was?

This is a question that I get asked a lot by people, especially these days with the real estate market being so tight and it becoming harder and harder to find homes/chalets/cottages. In our area we also have people deciding to retire and move permanently to the area, they have to decide if they can live in their chalet/cottage and can they make it a proper home which usually means making significant changes to it.

What this really comes down too is a matter of money.

If you can afford to build yourself a new custom home then you should do it, adding an addition to it and renovating the rest of the place should be a last resort.

Why should it be a last resort? Well if you remove the matter of money, then what you need to focus on is what you are giving up by just adding an addition;

  • An addition is never as much space as you want it too be. There are many reasons for this but the main one is that you are adding more square footage to a side or sides of your current home, that basically creates two living spaces, the new addition and the old home.
  • Usually when people are adding to their existing home its an older home. Older homes are a lot different in layout and the way that they used space then modern homes. Older homes are cut up with individual rooms, this makes the space harder to use and also makes the home feel smaller. Modern homes are more open with as little walls separating the rooms as possible. This gives the feeling of more space and also allows a space to be more of a flex space.
  • Older homes require extensive renovations to be brought up to an energy efficiency when comparing them to newer homes. 
  • No matter how you tie the new addition to the old home and rearrange the inside living space its hard to make the new addition blend in to the old home, it will never look like one continuous home, it will look like a house that had an addition added to it.
  • So things in an older home are not easy to upgrade or re-furbish. Waterproofing around the outside of the home is one, to replace the waterproofing you are basically digging up the entire yard around the home.
No matter what you want to do it all does come back to money.

Renovating and adding an addition will always be cheaper then tearing it down and building a new custom home, but the the costs need to be put into context.

In today's real estate market a new home is going to be worth more money then an older home that had an addition added to it.

The renovation/addition is cheaper but is still expensive, you sacrifice a lot to save money and not as much as you think.

New custom homes are exactly what you want, in fact the new home could be smaller square footage wise but have more usable space inside. The smaller new home brings the price difference closer to the costs of renovation/additions with the added benefits that it is a modern new home.

Whatever you decide reno/addition or new custom home remember that its a lot of money not to get exactly what you want.

Rob Abbott
Great Lakes Custom Homes Inc.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Additions Not As Simple As You Think

With the real estate market in the Georgian Bay area continuing to run hot with little on the market and what is for sale selling quickly, more and more people are turning to building additions onto their existing home or chalet that they already own.

This can be a good idea for resale as any improvements made to an existing home will only raise the value of the home in the eyes of potential buyers. In fact the return on these investments will usually raise the value of your home or chalet more then you will spend on the project.

But there are a lot of things that you need to understand if you want to add an addition on to your home or chalet, its sometimes not as simple as you think.

Here are some of the things that you have to be aware of when wanting to add an addition to your existing home or chalet;


  1. Costs. Putting an addition onto your home is not cheap and can even be more expensive sometimes then if you were building a new home (when you look at the per sqft cost). Tying the new part of the house together with the old part can eat up a good portion of the budget depending on the design.
  2. Renovations. Most people think about adding an addition and the cost but they don't realize that they will probably end up renovating a large part of the existing home because the addition changes how the home functions and its new which points out all the flaws and warn out parts of the older part of the home.If you don't put money in your budget for renovations of the existing home you will be sorry.
  3. Permits. Sometimes getting a permit for an addition is not as easy as you think it is. Most townships now require extensive planning on your part as the homeowner before they will give you permission to build. These can include; surveys, engineered grading plans, engineered soil tests, septic reviews, lot coverage surveys, energy audits, a variance, storm water management plans. 
  4. TimeLines. Building an addition is a lot like building a new home, the time it takes to build an addition can take almost as long as it takes to build yourself a new home. Even though its a smaller project in scale it takes the same amount of tradesmen.
  5. Neighbours. People usually get along with their neighbours at some level, but put up a construction project beside someone for 6 to 9 months and the best relationships start to wear thin. Be prepared for backlash from your neighbours from the start. Also be prepared for an argument over the lot lines and the setbacks. People never understand how close you are legally allowed to build to the property line.
  6. Compromise. One of the things that you will have to understand is that when you are adding an addition to an existing home you will have to make some compromises. Whether its the design, the budget, the finishing's or the timeline additions are not as cut and dry as when designing and the planning a new home.
  7. Home usability. If this is your primary home or even your secondary home you as the homeowner are going to have to make sacrifices. There is now a large construction project next to were you sleep and eat, there will be times when you don't have water, or indoor toilets or electricity or heat. Can you handle living through that? Can your family?
  8. Pressure.With any large construction project there are pressure put on you the homeowner from outside forces. Pressure from your neighbours about the noise and the parking, pressure from your contractor to pay bills and to make choices quickly and pressure from your own family to complete the project quickly so that everything can go back to normal.
In today's construction climate if you want to build an addition then your going to need to find a contractor early and engage them. You might have to give them a deposit months in advance just so that you can be sure that they can start your project when you want them too.
The better the contractor the more in demand they will be, that means they book up faster and earlier. Be prepared to be patient.

Rob Abbott
Great Lakes Custom Homes Inc.