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Modern Rehab in Vancouver BC

by Clive Bottomley last modified Nov 26, 2008 04:01 PM
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Modern Rehab in Vancouver BC

Posted by Clive Bottomley at March 13. 2006

Hi all,

Although it won't be a new from the ground up build, my wife and I are completely re-doing a 1941 bungalow in Vancouver (B.C.) The housing prices here are crazy, really crazy, so we had to buy what I like to call "a diamond in the rough"... my wife might call it something else. I liked the idea of having to do so much work that we almost had a clean slate. We were given a ball-park figure for renovating this house before we bought... that figure almost doubled when then real budgeting was done. So now I'm on a mission to "get the look for less" and that quest led me here to LiveModern. I have been soaking up the information from this amazing resource like a sponge for a while now, but with contract signing on this reno job fast approching, I thought I'd throw something onto the site and welcome any comments or advice from all the wise veterans out there.

We are gutting the interior to the bare studs and moving some of the walls around a wee bit. All the plumbing and wiring will be ripped out. Also, the roof is coming off to make way for a new upper floor. To take advantage of what we think will be an amazing view of downtown Vancouver and the north shore mountains behind we are going to do a reverse plan with the kitchen, dining and living spaces on that upper floor. We are trying to go as energy efficient and green as possible within budget restraints. Hoping to do in-floor radiant heat on the upper two floors and going polished concrete (or that look) for the finish. Open riser stairs from main floor to upper floor and then continuing up to a roof top deck accessed through an opening skylight. Roof planes will be mainly flat, in some areas they'll be sloped up toward the front and back of the house, but this was a little difficult to achieve.

Being realistic design-wise, I figured something like Fallingwater House might just be a stretch, so my dreams were "limited" to somewhere in the neighbourhood of the house in the movie North by Northwest. Of course, we had our pretty grand ideas of what we could do in terms of design dashed by the city. I knew elements of our initial sketches would be a tough sell but found out that there was an extremely tight "box" that you have to conform to, and some of the city rules made absolutely no sense at all... problem being, we bought in a very staid neighbourhood where not a lot of real difference is present, so variances are generally not an option (if one neighbour from about a 2 block radius objects, you're toast). In the end we figured out that we couldn't change the foot-print of the house more than a slight amount, so that wasn't worth doing, rear deck rules nixed "the dream", and radical rooflines were quashed by "secondary envelope" parameters. But the good news … if you can squeeze your design into the shape of “the box” you can basically go with whatever style you want.

Even though we love that modern "malibu beach house look", we realize there's not alot of houses that modern in the area (only one comes close to that in the vacinity) and we aren't trying to stick out like a sore thumb, so we are going to include some areas of rock veneer and cedar on the exterior to tone-down the harder edged modern Hardi-panel we hope to use on the other areas. And it's not like we are locked in gingerbread house land, there are a couple of "westcoast modern" houses from the 70's on the block, as well as a couple of newer, what I would call contemporary houses mixed in with pre-war and post-war houses.

Blah, blah, blah ... I'm rambling and using run-on sentences now, so I'll sign-off shortly. I'll try posting a couple of pictures and the plans if I can figure out how.

We are still searching for finish method and material ideas and it's not too late to make minor changes to floor plans and other details of the build so any suggestions would be more than welcome. I'm also willing to pass along any knowledge I've managed to gleaned so far to anyone else starting a modern reno project.

Clive Bottomley

Vancouver, B.C.

Re: Modern Rehab in Vancouver BC

Posted by Clive Bottomley at March 13. 2006

I tried to post photos... no luck ... more learning required.

Sorry, I'll try again later.

Re: Modern Rehab in Vancouver BC

Posted by Clive Bottomley at March 14. 2006

I put a photo, a couple of rough sketches and a few scans of floor plans and elevations on Flickr. If you want to see go here...

Re: Modern Rehab in Vancouver BC

Posted by Kirk J at March 14. 2006

Good luck, Clive! You can check out this reno of a Vancouver Special to get some inspiration: [url href=][/url]

Re: Modern Rehab in Vancouver BC

Posted by Clive Bottomley at March 26. 2006

Hey kirkj,

Thanks for the response, this is a very cool house. I read about it in a magazine a while ago, we have freinds that live in that neibourhood and we drove by to check it out when we were over there once, so I knew about it, but thanks anyway for refreshing my memory... it was great to see those photos again.

You don't know any builders that specialize in(or have an interest in)modern, and are looking for a project right now do you?

Thanks again,

Re: Modern Rehab in Vancouver BC

Posted by John Leung at November 18. 2008

Hi Clive,


How did things finally turn out? I am in the same boat as you wife and I are looking into renovating our Vancouver bungalow.  We have interviewed several architects and builders and hope to finalize on one by the end of January 09.  We will try to take advantage of the LiveSmart rebates too.  But who in particular did you use for a GC or designer?  I like your kitchen, although it may not be something we can achieve due to space and layout limitations.  But I am looking into opening up the main floor plan and creating tons of storage space (some open but most will be hidden).  Plans to start in 2009 - the economy will decide that!  Thanks for any advice.



Re: Modern Rehab in Vancouver BC

Posted by Clive Bottomley at November 19. 2008

Hi John,

We are now finally in the house and enjoying it very much, although there are many jobs still left to do.

I designed the house myself, with my wife and with the help of a draftsman who put it all down in proper plan form and was good at the technical stuff like lining up walls for plumbing stacks etc. That phase was was the fun part of our project.

Unfortunately, I have a long sad tale of woe to tell you about the construction phase, mostly caused by a general contractor who was either too inexperienced or too over extended to handle our project, then decided to try to rip us off, finally he quit when he was 6 months behind schedule and owed us tens of thousands of dollars in unfinished work and delay costs by the contract. To make matters worse he then filed a $50,000 lien on our house, a year later he filed another bogus $50,000 lien on the property. We spent $30,000 in legal fees and only managed to retain the $19,000 that was in the hold-back account.

The homeowner is at a huge disadvantage in the construction business mainly because most contractors are incorporated companies that will just shut down and start up again under a slightly different name when they get a judgement against them in court. Also, there is no governing body that will go after these contractors.

My wife makes a living dealing with contracts, so our contract with this guy spelled everything out very well, but in the end, it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. Be very careful who you choose, get as many references as you can, and check them out. Search the court registry for the company name as well, and ask if the company has recently changed its name and search the old name too. And, if you can, hire a separate professional project manager to keep the general and his trades in line.

I do have a wealth of information built up over the 2 plus years the construction took in the end, a lot of what not to do, or who not to hire, but also some gems of people that you should hire, and things you definitely should do, and would be more than willing to share it with you if you'd like.

You can reach me through this email address...


All the best of luck on your project,


Re: Modern Rehab in Vancouver BC

Posted by John Leung at November 26. 2008

Hi Clive,

Just tried emailing you last week but no response. Just checking and will retry again in a week or so. Thanks.


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