Sunday, November 30, 2014

Making design choices when building a new home

One piece of advice that I got for getting our house built was to make sure we work out all our design choices and options so that there won't be unnecessary changes later on.

When I go about buying a camera or a laptop I like to do a lot of research check out reviews on the item. When we went about getting out house designed there was a number of choices to make, room layout, appliances, wall colors, toilets, etc etc. Since we have control over almost all the design aspects of the house, at the end of the day you can't blame anybody for any bad decisions made on your build because you have to make time to do your homework.

There is a big difference from picking a TV to all the designs and options for your house. There's just a lot more choices to make. This is how we went about our process.

1. Trust the professionals. I'm not the expert. I'll do some homework but I'm going to rely on the designers to help get us 80% there and I can fiddle with the last 20%.

2. Compartmentalize. This is something that Lanefab really helped us with. All the choices were broken down into manageable steps. First was the roof shape. Then the room layouts. Flooring and tile, appliances. Step by step we took on the design choices one by one rather then to attack the whole thing all at once.

3. Take your time. I know this might be frustrating for some but this is a big investment. Take your time to figure everything out. Imagine how you are going to use the house. Where do you want the electrical outlets? Where are you going to store the vacuum? You can't account for everything but take the time to imagine how you are going to live in this space to avoid costly changes down the road.

So far we got a lot of our decisions nailed down. We are happy with what we decided on so far, but we still have a bunch of stuff to figure out. One step at a time. 


Friday, November 28, 2014

Contrasting Home Design

An image from my wife's pintrest versus my pintrest

Its tricky combining different tastes in home and interior design. My wife likes a more contemporary and ornate look. I really like a clean modern look. She likes dark hardwood to give a warm feeling. I like concrete floors. There's going to be a lot of give and take for what we both like during the design of the laneway house. It's going to take longer to combine our visions but at the end the laneway house will be something that we both gave a great deal of time to consider all the details. 

I really wanted our laneway house to have a flat roof and a modern design. My wife wanted something with a gable roof and a more contemporary look. At the end we got a flat / shed roof combination. Which we both loved. Still a more modern take but I assured her that our choices in cladding (which hasn't been finalized yet) will be more rustic then sterile. 

Another part of the project I was pretty sure on was the back splash. I knew I wanted a clean glass back splash but Shima our interior designer recommended an over shaped tile instead to bring our my wife's taste in the kitchen. At the end I don't think this would have been something that me or my wife would have thought of but we both loved the idea of it. 
We still have a lot more decisions to make, the house isn't what me or my wife envisioned but it's going to be a good meld of our two styles. 


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Questions to ask for potential Contractors

Let me start off by saying, this isn't a definitive list of what to ask a contractor before you make your final selection, it's just what we used to get us to a point of being comfortable with our selection.

This was the advice I got from someone that works in the industry, here are the exact notes I wrote down:

Contractors: 1) Quality 2) Cost 3) Schedule

1) See past work, speak with former clients

2) How is the contract?
-Fixed Price?
-What is the pre-construction process?
-How are changes dealt with?

3) Detailed schedule up front  
-review weekly
-regular updates

4)  Who will be at the site daily?
-How do we keep in contact


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Caesarstone Countertops for the Laneway House

the Apline Mist Sample from Casesarstone
When we were searching for countertops we knew we wanted something that had the aesthetic of a natural stone but wasn't actually a natural stone because we not only couldn't afford it we also would be horrible at maintaining it. We pretty much automatically gravitated towards a quartz countertop. With help from our designer Shima (from Lanefab) we ended up going with a Caesarstone product. We weren't sold right away but we went to the IDS West show and saw a bunch of different counter top products and we still ended up with Ceasarstone. The two patterns that we shortlisted is the Alpine Mist and their Calacutta Nuvo. As of right now we have the Alpine Mist shortlisted. 


Monday, November 24, 2014

What's Wrong With This House?

In doing research for our Laneway House I watched a bunch of youtube videos and did research online. I really enjoyed the youtube videos from John Brown and Matthew North from Slow Home Studios. I couldn't wait to buy their book so I got the ebook on my Kindle. If you get the chance I would buy the actual book as the diagrams are hard to view on Kindle. I highly recommend you check out their videos on youtube.


Vancity Laneway House Mortgage

I thought I would post about something super interesting today: Financing! I’m not an expert on this but I thought I would share our experience on how we got out financing. First off we didn’t qualify for a regular mortgage even though we had enough money for a downpayment saved up, we both have good credit and steady jobs. Since we are getting the laneway house built we had to get a special mortgage. I had heard about Builders Mortgages before where they would lend you portions of cash while you build. I guess it’s because there’s a lot more risk in financing a build versus buying a finished house. We reached out to a couple banks and mortgage companies, but we ended up getting referred to other lending institutions. 

Though our research we found out that Vancity actually offered Laneway House Mortgages. We contacted them and they were awesome. They had their mortgage specialist figure out what is the best solution for us and helped guide us through the entire process. I’m not going to get into the specifics of our loan but we ended up with something that is in line with a home equity line of credit. Again I’m not an expert on this and I’m not sure that’s the actual name but we do have a line of credit for our build and we have the option to change it over to a regular mortgage once our lane way house is built. I’m sure another financial institution would eventually get us to the same solution but Vancity was great, they were easy to work with and we were very happy to get our financing quickly.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

1 Storey

Going into the design process what we wanted were two storeys. This way we could have a balcony upstairs, and then a patio on the ground level. Our plan was to have the master bedroom with one kids bedroom beside us, and a bathroom all upstairs on the second floor. We wanted to have a 1/2 bath and the third bedroom downstairs. This was our thought process: we would be upstairs with the nursery beside us, and when our second child came along the older kid could move downstairs. We would have this nice balcony we could enjoy from our bedroom and a nice patio downstairs. We were pretty stuck on this idea.
A laneway house with a sweet balcony from Lanefab 

Bryn tried to give us the design we wanted, but because of the regulations it was very hard for us to get the second bedroom upstairs. If we flipped the living space upstairs (kitchen and living room) and had all three bedrooms downstairs we would be able to get the two storeys and the balcony, but we would lose the patio. We just didn't like this configuration. After 2-3 tries at getting us the configuration that we wanted Bryn suggested for us to go with a one storey. We didn't consider the one storey at all, we didn't like taking up the extra space on the land (as the one storey has a bigger footprint), and we really wanted the balcony.

In the end Bryn gave us a really nice functional one storey design, we have all the bedrooms on one side of the house, and the kitchen and living room on the other side. We lost the balcony, but we gained a better designed house thanks to Lanefab.


Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Bedroom, 2 Bath, 1000 sq/ft

Our Laneway House plans by Lanefab
It might have been about a year and a half ago when I asked my wife what she thought about building a laneway house on my parents' property. At the time she wasn't really into the idea and was more into getting our own place. We were, and still are, renting a 1 bedroom apartment near City Hall and weren't really in a rush to move. We like the neighbourhood, it's close to my wife's work and it's pretty central for us (from family, downtown, etc). That all changed when we found out that we were expecting. 
I remember we went out for a walk and I brought up the laneway house idea again. I think by that time we had gone out to look at a few townhouses and looked at renting a two bedroom in our neighbourhood - both very expensive, I guess the laneway option was looking better and better. 

One of the key things that we wanted from a laneway house was having 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. I know that is a lot to ask for in a space that is just under 1000 sq/ft (which is the size limit of a laneway house), but we knew that having this configuration would help make the laneway house our almost forever home. Timing worked well in our favour because at around the time when we finally decided to build a laneway house the rules for building an attached garage had changed. The new rules make it so that you no longer have to build a garage, which really helped us get a configuration that maximizes our space. 

Our initial list of wants were: 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms, 2 storeys, balcony, patio, and two of the bedrooms had to be on the second level with an ensuite. If you look at the image of Bryn's mock up from the previous post you can see that we were a bit too ambitious with our small laneway house. In the next post I'll break down why we went from 2 storeys to 1.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

6 Month Post

a mock up by Bryn Davidson of our Laneway House

Well it's been 6 months since we made the decision to go with Lanefab to have our laneway house built. We thought we would get this site together to document our process. In the next few weeks I will go though what decisions we have made so far and why we made those choices. So stay tuned!