Fully Gutted and Full of Potential

Two weeks into owning #PipersPeak and we’ve officially taken it down to the studs and foundation.

In all honesty, we did not anticipate gutting our place to this degree. We were simply going to do a “partial gut of necessary areas” over a few days, then move forward with the build. But once we saw the variety of squirrel nests in the fluffy, pink insulation, and once we factored in down-the-road aspects—things like wanting to move plumbing, or the electrician charging us for each time batting or drywall had to be moved out of the way—we knew we needed to fully strip it.

We ripped out every last bit of drywall, carpet and insulation, we chipped-up all six layers of flooring and restored the subfloor, and we stripped every stud, post and beam of nails, screws and debris. We removed pine ceiling, sprayed mold-killing paint on any surface that showed darkening, and we pulled every electrical wire and cut every plumbing line. And then we did the same in the garage.

The work was done by myself, Mike and a co-worker of Mike’s. And there were a lot of hard, annoying, painstaking days spent on our hands and knees with a hammer and chisel, working up flooring inch by inch. Most days after demo I couldn’t make a fist or tilt my neck, but while this level of gut was physically tiring—but had its perks. In stripping the home, we got the rare opportunity to see everything and gain a huge understanding of the home’s structural aspects we wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. We got to witness a dry, level, and crack-free foundation, and we can now say with confidence that we’ve inspected every nook and cranny of the place.

Peeling back the layers to this degree also offers the huge opportunity to design the entire home with a truly holistic approach. With walls and wires gone, we can craft the design and layout of each floor however we like—which is both exciting and overwhelming. In the past, the renovations I took on were actually more like “replacement design” projects than anything where I’d work within the limitations of the existing electrical, plumbing and walls. But what we’re doing together with our place is a whole different animal…

Getting to know our home so intimately has helped big-time in the design process, and watching/learning from Mike about the building process has been so cool. By day when we’re building together, he actively teaches me what’s and why’s, and by night when we’re discussing design, he draws side-edge elevations (his favourite view) of things like footing and roof cavity details so I can understand the process and better source products at each stage. Having this understanding and knowledge makes me feel proud, and it’s empowering a design that stems from a well-rounded and informed experience of physically seeing, touching and witnessing every nook, cranny and cavity.

With demo done and under our belt, we gear up for framing and installing electrical and plumbing this week, so today I wanted to share more details, photos and stories about the first few weeks working on Pipers Peak, specifically going over the demo trials and tribulations, and the floorplan.

The General Layout, Floor by Floor

It might help you to understand that this house is comprised of three floors, each with 8.5′ ceilings. Two staircases stack along the left side of the house, leading to the loft, and to the basement. The main floor and basement are more or less identical, with the only exception being that the ceiling on the main floor vaults at the 2/3rds mark (where the stair rail is) and opens up towards the back of the house (where the big windows are). The loft floor is then sliced off at this point as well, making the upstairs footprint about half the size of the main floor and basement.

With 1400 square feet spread over three floors, the home’s existing layout did not work for us, so while gutting the space, we were also evaluating what layout did work for us. With stairs directionless and no walls, it was interesting to see what felt natural in terms of flowing from the upstairs loft, to the basement. Here are the three floorpans as drawn when the house was built.

The Loft

Up the set of stairs, we have our bedroom (which will be called the loft from henceforth). Our queen bed will be centred in the room under the vaulted ceiling and between two windows. On the lower walls (due to the roof pitch), we will have a built-in desk to the left of our bed, and a closet to the right.

The view from bed!
Upstairs, just outside of the bedroom wall, is Pipers Perch. We will put her big bed here.

The Entryway

A new entryway will be made in the space that housed the old laundry room. Located on the side of the house, the new entry door will go where the existing window is, and the staircase leading upstairs will begin to the left of the entry door (from this view).

After/during demo

Along the staircase walls, we have removed drywall and plan to install vertical wood slats to act as both the banister and a screen that allows light and air to pass through the whole main floor. So now, upon entering the home, you’ll already have a peek at the view out those windows! The photos below were taken from standing in the garage door entry (the front door being on the right-side wall now). As you can see, you’ll be able to see right through the slats to the back of the house.

The Bathroom

We aren’t changing much about the bathroom layout, but we did increase its length by two feet (which was the space the old entryway closet took up). This extra two feet will house floor-to-ceiling storage for towels and bath linens, cleaning supplies and bathroom accessories. millwork. Next to it will be the vanity, and both will be custom-made millwork pieces.

The layout/design plan

As you can see from the layout of the original bathroom below, not much is changing. We’re keeping the toilet and vanity along the back wall with a vanity, and swapping the tub for a walk-in shower.

The original bathroom
The original closet (bathroom behind it).

Above is a photo taken in the entryway looking towards the bathroom, located behind this closet. The original entry door was in the kitchen, so we stole the closet space for the bathroom and will be putting the new entrance to it on this wall as well.

Before framing the bathroom
After framing the bathroom, see new door placement!

The Kitchen

As you bypass the bathroom and begin walking into the heart of the home, you find yourself in the kitchen which vaults and opens up to the sitting area by the fireplace. Our plan is to take advantage of that long wall to house our sink and range, and tuck the fridge along the shortest kitchen wall, underneath the lower ceiling portion of the kitchen.

The layout/design plan

The kitchen before was a tiny square where all appliances opened into eachother. It felt dark, so we blew it up!

The original kitchen
The original kitchen, tiny and open to the bathroom door.
After drywall/wall demo

The stairs leading to the basement are on the right, and an island will run along the long-wall of the kitchen, tying in the post. The photo below is the view if you had your back to the fridge in our new kitchen design/layout.

After demo
After demo

This is the view if you were standing in the sitting room looking towards the kitchen. The big window will remain, but become shortened, to accommodate the run of base cabinets that will house the sink (centred with the window) and dishwasher (to its right). The little window that used to be above the sink will be covered by upper cabinets or the range’s hood vent.

The Basement

The plan downstairs is finally set in stone, but we have no renderings yet as it was a plan we only figured out in the last few days. To be honest, this whole floor was a giant question mark for me. The angled walls and door/window made it awkward to laying out a sofa or television, and it didn’t feel welcoming.

After gutting it (see below), we were finally able to walk through there while floor and completely change the layout. The bathroom remains, but we’re swapping the bedroom with the family room, and moving our laundry and mech room along the long wall.

When looking at the photo above, the new layout will see the bedroom directly to the left along the stairwell which we will board back up. The new stairs will step down to the right and enter into what will become the new TV room/lounge (along that back wall, directly left of the bathroom). A mechanical room will take up the area between the posts in front of the bathroom, and then we will have an open laundry room across the hallway from the bedroom. As our secondary entrance from outside, this space will double as a mudroom of sorts.

The view of the laundry/mud room from the new bedroom. The wall will come across the floor where you see the subfloor seam, and the door will be left of center.
Looking into the new bedroom area.

So there you have it! The overall layout plan of the whole house. From now on, as we enter design land, I’ll be blogging about the individual spaces on their own, so keep your eyes peeled for pretty kitchen mood boards, colour and texture layouts and all the lighting, paint, fixtures and floors we’re looking into. But before I let you go, I have one more important topic to bring up which is tools, and more specifically, proper tools for each job.

In this process of deconstructing our house back a foundation, exterior walls, and a roof, I’ve learned how valuable and vital it is to have the right tools, something I’m super appreciate of Mike for. I used to muscle through things and struggle, and anytime I’d find myself reverting to that, Mike would give me a whistle, point to a tool in his kit, and say “try that.” It’s made things so much faster and easier, and I know it seems obvious, but for the DIY renovator who started by Googling how to do things in my first home at 22, it’s changed the game.

In my personal renovations, I never had the tools or the understanding of how things were built so I could understand how to un-build them, and in my television experience renovating homes on HGTV’s Save My Reno, it was all about smashing down cabinets with a hammer, and kicking through drywall. I get it—people apparently like to watch people smash things on TV to loud music—but it is 100% not the way to do demo. It always left me with cuts and bruises, and I disliked it then as I do now. I even asked if I could be removed from those scenes to allow Seb to tackle it himself, but was told that, as a woman, it was nice to see my body physically getting in there and doing the same level of demo you’d see any guy on TV do. That me doing demo was a reason for people to tune in. It’s not only unsafe, but unnecessary! When you have the right tools and know how to use them, everything is actually quite easy and shouldn’t leave you injured. So in closing, here’s a roundup of tools we have in our demo arsenal:

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Well, what do you think? Have questions, or comments, join the conversation on Instagram:

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