When we bought this house ten years ago, it looked good on paper. We had a wish list of features we wanted our next house to have and this one checked off most of the boxes. A lot has changed in ten years.
Kitchen with lots of counter space and storage
Our old house had a large kitchen, but not much in the way of counter space and storage. The kitchen in this house wasn’t any larger, but seemed to have a better layout.
The reality: Looks can be deceiving. Much of the counter space and storage was awkward or impractical. Plus there were issues with the electrical.
Where we are now: We completely renovated the kitchen in 2009. It’s both functional and beautiful, and exceeds our expectations.
Large master bedroom with ensuite (more than one bathroom in the house)
Our old house had small rooms, with the master bedroom being only 10×12. Our old house also had only one bathroom. This house had a larger master bedroom and an ensuite bathroom with a large hydro jet tub.
The reality: The previous owner had removed a supporting wall to expand the bedroom, stealing space from the existing bathroom. Where there was a second bedroom, he created two bathrooms– the main bathroom and the ensuite. We rarely used the large tub because it took a lot of water to fill. It was also sunk into the floor, which looked cool, but getting in and out was very awkward. The toilet in the ensuite was tucked in a space that was less than two feet wide making it very uncomfortable to use. I gutted the ensuite in 2006 in anticipation of relocating the master bedroom.
Where we are now: We completely remodeled the bedroom and bathroom in 2009. We now have a large main bathroom with a “public” door and a door from our master bedroom. It has a smaller hydro jet tub that gets a lot of use.
The master bedroom is about the size of the one in our old house, but has an additional dressing area and walk-in closet. The structural problems have also been repaired. Oh, and we now have a second bathroom in the basement. We do have a problem with cracking grout in the main bathroom. When we rebuild the addition we will have the contractors replace the grout since they will be already be doing some tile work anyway.
Four or more large bedrooms (3 bedrooms plus home office)
Two bedrooms up, master bedroom on the main floor, a home office in the family room addition. And the smallest room was the same size as the largest room in our old house.
The reality: Shortly after we moved in, we gutted the upstairs bedrooms because of improper insulation. The master bedroom was large, but was long and narrow. The location of the closet was awkward.
Where we are now: We completely remodeled the second floor (insulation and drywall in 2006 and finishing touches in 2009. I’ve already talked about the master bedroom. I also gutted, rewired and re-drywalled the home office, which is the addition that we are now planning to completely tear down and rebuild.
Main floor laundry
This wasn’t really on our check list but was a selling feature of the house. The addition had a laundry closet. No need to go downstairs.
The reality: A laundry closet seems like a good idea, but it can turn the rest of the room into a laundry room. There always seemed to be piles of clothes (both dirty and clean) in the family room. Plus the noise from the washer and dryer impacted the enjoyment of the family room. Try watching television while the washing machine is going through the spin cycle right behind you.
Where we are now: We relocated the laundry room to the bedroom area during the renovation of 2009. It is accessible from both the back landing and by passing through the walk-in closet. We no longer have to carry laundry through the living room, kitchen and family room.
The family room sold the house for us. The family room addition is close to the size of our old house and has a stunning view of the back yard. The skylights let in a lot of natural light. There is a large deck at the back and an attached gazebo at the side.
The reality: Poor workmanship. Electrical. Insulation. Vapor barrier. Code violations. Not to mention violations of setbacks. There is too much wrong to be worth saving.
Where we are now: We are saving and waiting. We are working with an architect to re-design the addition. The new addition will be downsized–cheaper for heating and cooling. It’s not like we have a lot of choice, given the required setbacks and my desire for a garage.
The addition features a gas fireplace
The reality: We had an issue with the pilot light going out. We paid for a repair, but it didn’t fix the problem. Since the pilot light seemed to go out whenever it was windy outside, we strongly suspected that the problem might have stemmed from improper installation. Besides, we didn’t use the fireplace as much as we thought we would.
Where we are now: We disconnected the gas line to the fireplace. When we rebuild the addition, we will include a fireplace if the budget and design allow. But for now, we have no functioning fireplace.
The partially finished basement had a decent sized recreation room featuring a built in entertainment unit and a bar area.
The reality: We had the hydronic heating system completely re-piped. To allow the plumber access for running the new pipes, I removed the suspended ceiling. Because of the electrical problems throughout the rest of the house, I assumed that the basement would be no different, so I removed the drywall. Why stop there? I figured I might as well gut the whole basement and do a complete and proper renovation. Oh, and by the way, I was right about the electrical.
Where we are now: The basement is a disaster area. There is a lot of clutter– tools and junk– scattered everywhere. I need to clean and organize everything so it will be easier to do any work. If budget allows, we will finish the basement at the same time as the addition. Or it may become my next DIY project later.
More than half an acre is more than enough for us.
The reality: We were misled as to the location of the property lines. The size of the property is still big enough though. And it’s very scenic, bordering on a woodlot and watershed.
Where we are now: The location of the property lines impact what we are able to do when it comes time to rebuild the addition. And file this one under “B” for “be careful what you wish for”: More than half an acre is a LOT of grass to cut. However, the view of the back yard reminds us why we bought this house in the first place.
Anything can look good on paper. But the reality can often be far different. When we went house shopping, we had a wish list. We didn’t want to compromise or settle. This house had a lot of what we were looking for but we have had issues with every one of those selling points. When we finish renovating, the house will still look the same on paper, but it will be vastly improved over what it was.
What “must haves” in your house failed to meet your expectations?