We had just found out that we were pregnant when my wife and I first decided that we were going to buy a house together. We didn’t know the exact area we were looking for but we knew what our budget was and that we wanted a single family home. With that in mind we went home shopping.
Anyone who has been home shopping before knows that its both exciting and exhausting. We had narrowed down our area of living to a specific area in the southeast of Calgary and we had chosen it for a myriad of reasons. My Dad had just purchased a home in that area the previous year, my wife grew up in the area and her parents still lived close by, and the location is about as good as one can hope for for the price – and I love good value.
The area its self has a somewhat negative reputation within Calgary whether it is earned or not I wasn’t going to be sure until we moved in. However, I did have some useful information when ensuring I wanted this area. I had helped renovate my Dads home and so I had spent some time in the neighborhood and formed an opinion that it wasn’t that bad. Sure there was some run down homes, lots of renters, a higher than average immigrant population and more payday loan shops than I was used to but, It did feel like a vibrant community.
We shopped the houses in the area and I offered quite low on the first one we saw that met the criteria of what we were looking for. A good sized lot, a nice looking street, good bones and inexpensive. We planned on doing a massive renovation so much of the interior layout, quality, and heating systems / electrical panel etc. didn’t matter much.
The offer was declined and countered with a much higher number and I went back in the middle which is where I wanted the price to be anyways, and it was accepted; it turns out the house was a rental and the owners were in Ontario and just wanted it off of their balance sheet as it hadn’t seen renters in many months.
We took possession of the house at the end of June and I had already laid out the scopes of work for the trades and assembled our selections so we began immediately with the demolition. I hired on a group of individuals from Kijiji and we stripped the house down to the framing – and then ripped out the framing. the only walls left were the exterior walls and the interior wall that supported the roof (in reality it was only supporting the ceiling as it is an ‘A’ frame and not a truss system so the load is actually bearing on the exterior walls and the ceiling framing holds the exterior walls together to prevent them from falling in or out).
The demolition took days longer and thousands of dollars more than expected. When were started the demolition we realized very quickly that we had some problems. The house was built during a period where drywall was just becoming relevant and they still used plaster and wire over top of the drywall – creating a headache for removal – but that wasnt all; the house was ‘upgraded’ at some point in the early 90’s and instead of removing the drywall, the contractor or homeowner just drywalled over top of the existing material – so now instead of drywall coming off in sheets, it came of in inches at a time. The whole demolition process of the main floor was the worst that I’ve had to date and was quite taxing.
The basement on the other hand was worse. While we had drywall/plaster/drywall upstairs, I had 5 layers in the basement.
The basement originally was developed with 1/2 drywall and then in a repeat performance of the upstairs, every subsequent renewal of the space was added on to of the old instead of the old being removed and then the new installed. This left us with the following;
Drywall – 5/8 T+G wood – 1/8 hardboard panel – drywall – 3/8 T+G wood
5 LAYERS. not only was this a nightmare to rip out of the entire basement, but the cost for my garbage bins was 5 fold what was expected in the basement and the labour cost was almost as significantly impacted.
Knowing that this was the case about the 2nd day into demolition, I had to reschedule the entire project in order to make sure we were still going to make our deadline – Did I mention our baby was due in October?
After rescheduling with all of the trades and making some last minute changes, we did manage to get the project to completion on time and on budget – with the exception of a few upgrades that we hadn’t initially planned. That being said we couldn’t have done it without the help of our friends and family and their countless hours of assistance.
Here are a ton of photos of the whole process and the final product.
Before & After