Gilbert + Burke Blog

Custom Home Construction and Remodelling Tips



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Vintage is in vogue. It’s charming to own a cottage with some history and a few touches of old-
time character. But is your cottage full of character, or chaos-­in-waiting? It’s a fine line, but there are ways to make the determination between reno and redo.

Remodeling: When the bones are there.

“It’s got good bones”. You’ll hear that used to describe a home that has potential, and can be salvaged with a renovation, upgrade or addition. It means that the structure is still in good condition, and doesn’t need to be rebuilt from the ground up. We see this quite often with cottages built on a solid foundation, and where owners have invested in the upkeep of the essentials like, load bearing support beams, and critical structural elements.

In these cases, the most common choice is a remodel or addition to the existing “bones”. Additions are very popular, particularly in cottage renos, because many cottages were traditionally built with a small footprint and square footage. Building an addition can be a seamless way to keep the character of the home, while instantly upgrading the amount of space available. Adding a sunny Muskoka Room, or an extra floor for bedrooms will turn the little cottage up north into an ideal space to accommodate family and friends.

Upgrades can be both aesthetic and practical. Interior renovations, like refreshing an out of date kitchen, repainting the exterior, or even upgrading materials used (inside and outside), will breath new life into a vintage cottage. It will also help to maintain and preserve the core structural elements for longer.

It is important for you, and your builder/contractor, to consider zoning bylaws before any major remodel gets started. Each municipality will have different guidelines, and particularly in cottage country, environmental or land restrictions may be strict.

Rebuilding: Sometimes, you have no choice.

It’s a tough decision, and an emotional one. But sometimes after a professional evaluation of the property, your existing cottage may no longer be salvageable. Trust the experts. Professionals will see past the surface level conditions and assess whether a rebuild is necessary.

In this case, there are still ways to start fresh, but preserve some of the sentimental elements of the original cottage. A rebuild gives you and your family a chance to start from scratch and work with a design + construction team to build your dream cottage. A custom rebuild means you will have the opportunity to choose everything from layout, to materials, to finishings.

It’s a larger project, no doubt. Your design + construction team will need to go to the municipality, submit the plans, and receive a permit to proceed. Often, this is an arduous process, depending on the zoning laws and restrictions. It’s important to have a professional handle this for you ­ the risks are far too great. These bylaws may prohibit your proximity to water, the size and height of your cottage, and landscaping ­­ all of which will factor into the final plans for design.

At the end of the day, whether remodeling is possible, or a rebuild is opted for ­­ your vintage cottage can become a family dream destination for years to come.

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