better homes than yours · bikes planes and automobiles · Renovation

Renovation deliberation

This is our house.

(Well, this was our house before the city cut down the ailing tree, before I planted a rock garden and a vegetable patch and three fruit trees, and before our front yard started looking raggedy around the edges… but you get the idea.)

It’s a three-bedroom bungalow circa 1946 (or possibly earlier – it was built with a coal chute from the garage to the furnace room). We think it’s probably 1100 square feet. We love it.

But one day, possibly soon, we’re going to wake up and realize that life with two adults, three kids, and one bathroom is just a little too crazy for us. Or maybe we’ll start feeling cramped when our kids no longer fit into their toddler beds.

And so we’re faced with a tough decision: renovate or move?

Renovating would mean keeping our proximity to the subway and major highways, our awesome backyard, and our very walkable neighbourhood full of small, privately owned shops and restaurants and bakeries. It would also mean moving out of the house for at least 6 months and spending about $200 per square foot to build a second storey complete with five bedrooms and three baths (look, if I’m going through this renovation, I will have an ensuite bathroom at the end of it) and $150 a square foot to rearrange the main floor just a bit. Renovating would mean making decisions about finishes, the locations of light switches, and where to put the walls (YAY!) and staying on top of the architect, builder, engineer, etc (BOO!). It would mean going from 1100 square feet to somewhere around 2500 square feet (palatial, if you ask me). Renovating would mean having the exact house I want.

Or we could move. To stay within our price range we’d basically have to move to an area that is farther from the subway, thus necessitating the purchase of a second car (before you ask, no, Zipcar doesn’t have any cars in that neighbourhood). It would mean being very close to K’s school. It would mean a much longer commute for Mr. December. It would probably mean more of our life lived in the car and less lived on bikes and walking. It would mean having to get our home ready to show (i.e. make the front yard less ugly, for starters) and then moving out for a couple of weeks so the agent could show it without us having to be on our kids all the time to “keep your things where they belong, dammit!”. It would mean changing our address with all of the people who like to send us bills, and with the Ministries of Transportation and Health. It would mean being within walking distance of my parents’ home. It would mean having a house adequate for our needs, maybe even too big, but not necessarily quite to my taste.

We’re not sure which to do. I’m feeling very attached to our location despite the 10-minute drive to K’s school. I also love the thrill of designing spaces (I did our kitchen and bathroom, after all) and choosing finishes. I even love the problem solving that comes with, “There’s supposed to be a light fixture here, but there’s a stud here instead. What do we do now?” I think I would opt to renovate.

Mr. December, however, is more risk averse. He’s worried about us wasting money or getting taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors. He’s concerned that I’m not consistently organized enough to oversee a project of this magnitude. He ruminates on the issue and comes back to, “How do we know that 2500 square feet will be enough for us ten years down the road?” (my answer: “Because that’s not counting the basement with its awesome rec room. And because we’ve never coveted large amounts of space. And because we don’t want the lifestyle where family members can’t hear or see each other 90% of the time. And because we understand that a large house is a choice, not a need, even with a large family.”)

We figure we have another 2 years or so in which this house would serve our needs well. After that, it’s… renovate or get off the pot, I suppose. And we’re still so undecided.

So I’m asking… what would you do, and why?

4 thoughts on “Renovation deliberation

  1. I promise I will read it all tomorrow. But, being a Torontonian, I feel STRONGLY that you should RENOVATE!!! You are in an AMAZING location which, speaking from LIVED experience, is worth it’s weight in GOLD!!! Go hang with your parents for 6 months and RENOVATE girl!!!!

    P.S. (I will let you know if I think differently after reading the whole post tomorrow!)

    Peace and LOVE,

  2. you might be able to get a very nice 4 bedroom near me- on subway , walkable etc. West of Chrisite is still relativly cheap. If you do want to look around this area, I have a good agent for ya.

    1. Unfortunately, that’s too far from our parents (they help with the kids quite a bit). We’re pretty restricted in what areas we can choose, based on the parents, shul, school, and transit.

  3. Sorry, can’t answer until you let Mr. December rewrite the “Or we could move” paragraph to be as poetic and persuasive as the “Renovating” paragraph.

    Of course, the *real* question is, which way will life be less annoying: if you get what you want and he gets the right to complain, or vice versa? 😉

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