The Reno_Siding installed


It’s been a while since I showcased a full “Before and After” of a project, and this one has been sitting on my memory card for a while. Don’t be deceived by the after; our home is now a winter wonderland. I thought I’d also talk a bit about materials and costs, since I know some of you are here because you are rocking your own renos.

The project

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The back addition and attached garage had three issues: 1- The kitchen (which takes up the entirety of the back addition) needed better insulation, 2- The kitchen window hung too low for our new kitchen set-up, and 3- And this is the obvious one..the attached garage is visually disjointed.

Of the two outside walls in the back addition, we had managed to insulate the other one from the inside, by taking down the plaster, insulating it to the teeth, and drywalling it. Since the other side of the house needed to be unified from the addition to the end of the garage, we decided to re-wrap the house from the outside. This also meant that we didn’t simply tear down and throw out what was already there; the original clapboard and sawdust insulation is working hard to give that wall an extra little nudge of insulation.

The materials

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When we started thinking about materials, we were both on the same page: Since the original house is sided with wood clapboard and we will be maintaining the clapboard around the rest of the house, we sought out wood clapboard the matched what was already there. It may not be the most practical, but it’s true to the original construction and I am a sucker for that kind of thing.

We used foil-sided foam insulation which we attached right to the existing clapboard using those funny nails with the green hats. Ahem.

The cost

Here is roughly what we spent on this project:

  • Wood clapboard – $700
  • New kitchen window – $200
  • Previously loved door with large window – $10
  • Foil-sided foam insulation – $80
  • Paint- $50

All told, that brings us to about $1030.

We saved some money on the paint, which was a mis-tint that nearly exactly matched what we wanted. The door was another great bargain.

I’m convinced that, if we were a bit more crafty when sourcing materials, we could have done the project for about $800. We didn’t bargain-shop for the wood clapboard, since we were in a bit of a hurry to get this done before winter. We could also have saved some money on the new window, but again, we had to move on that quickly to finish off the project.

The next steps

You may have noticed that this wood is as naked as the day it was born. We missed the window to paint it–temperatures weren’t staying consistently warm enough. I’ve also heard that actually having a year of weathering is good for the wood, and that orange/yellow tint should mellow over the winter.

I hope you enjoyed this little full-scope, before/after renovation summary! I hope it will be of interest to other who are planning a “budget”, minimalist, low-waste renovation of their own. Would you be interested in hearing how much a kitchen renovation done in the same spirit cost us…?

Making things grow (part 1)

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I blame earwigs for my lack of green thumb. As a child, my family rented a small plot of land every year to grow vegetables– a działka, as my family referred to it. This was before the proliferation of community gardens, but is basically the same concept. Every weekend we would drive out to the country and I would water the plants with my child-sized watering can, and pull of vegetables when they appeared. But then I discovered earwigs. Or more truthfully: They discovered me. They were out to get me, and I wanted nothing to do with them.

Twenty years later, I tried to grow vegetables in my small yard in Toronto. Nothing came up, and so that seemed to be the end of it. It was clear as day: gardening wasn’t going to happen for me. I was not going to be one of those industrious hobby gardeners, waving my vegetables around in the faces of my friends and colleagues (a.k.a “the dream”). I reluctantly hung up my spade, for good. Or so I thought.

I’ve had the great luck to have met some truly amazing organic farmers. My partner’s mother, for one, has a sixth sense reserved strictly for plants. And one of my very best friends feeds hundreds of families every year with her market garden. It’s admirable. Inspiring.

And so, with a lot of help (and some incredibly supportive neighbours), we’ve carved out two gardens and a few pots of assorted edibles. Now, the trick is to keep it alive.

In a couple months, I’ll follow up on this “Before” post and hopefully have more to show than a few gnarled, abused, sun-burned plants, quivering for water and starved for love. Weed, water, repeat…right?

The house diaries: One month as an owner of a century-old house

Photo credits for this post go to the wonderful Marla McKenna — see her work here.

My father-in-law told me this story: He and my partner were hauling logs from behind the chicken-coop (normal, Sunday afternoon kind of things) when he noticed an old man looking down our driveway from the road. He was there for a while, just watching. Finally my FIL waved and said, “Hello,” inviting him over.

The man was a relative of the previous owner. A little bit of backstory: The previous owner had lived in this house (our house, now) from ages 2 to 83. Can you believe that? 81 years in one home. In years, it is still more his home than our home. Of course, not from a legal perspective…what with us having signed with blood on a dotted line.

The old man was in tears as he walked into the house. Our house, I should say. We have heard this from other neighbours, but it’s always nice to hear: Everyone is so glad we’re not tearing the house down. The old man echoed this sentiment, and walked through the house remembering it as it was….

Tearing the house down?! What? The idea hadn’t crossed our mind. The white clapboard with gingerbread trim along the porch, the plastered walls, amazing cave of a basement… all of it is why we bought the home. Some of the things we fell in love with (cracked plaster, old cistern in the basement, dilapidated chicken coop) are things that might send someone else running for the hills (my mother, for example). For us, these are perks. Perks? Maybe that’s not quite the right word.

I wanted to share some pictures of our first month as owners of a century home. Looking at the photos, I’m not sure if the progress is as evident to you as it is to me. These photos aren’t even the most “up to date” but give some idea of what’s been going on this past month-and-a-bit. We haven’t gotten very far, but we have removed almost everything that we needed to remove and added up-to-code electricity.


This last photo is a bit of a cheat…this is Matt and I walking through the house on our second day as owners. I can’t wait to show you what that room looks like now…

We had a couple big wins this month:

  • A master carpenter helped to make sure everything was stable, and even jacked up the house to resolve a small dip in the floors on the top floor.
  • The electrician has done his bit. And I’m never spending money again.
  • We repaired nearly all the plaster in what will be our bedroom.

Our next steps:

  • Duct work in place for natural gas, which we’ll put in as soon as the ground thaws.
  • Insulation. And then more insulation on top of it.
  • Changing the windows in the back of the home.
  • Finishing one single room. Just one. To feel like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope you’re enjoying these house updates as much as I am. I’m going to post updates on Mondays, and other house-related things on Wednesdays and Fridays.