My husband and I are both planners, and always shared the dream of building our own home. Before we were engaged (knowing we would eventually get married), we purchased an older bungalow together and rented it out for 4 years. During this time we got married, and bought a smaller home in an up and coming area in the city. We didn't have a set plan, and didn't imagine that we could build when we did; the cards simply aligned. When our tenant told us he would be moving out, we evaluated our current situation, and realized we could sell the home we were living in for a great price (the one time I was grateful for the booming Toronto housing market!). Just like that, we sold our home, moved in with my parents, and began our journey.
Architecture and Build
Who was your architect/ builder?
Nobility Homes did our architecture and project managed our build. We hired Nick (Nobility Homes) as a project manager vs. a builder so that we could also source trades ourselves, and save where we could along the way - we were very involved in the whole process. Basically, Nick would provide us with his contact and then we would find a few trades on our own to compare, however in some areas (ie. HVAC or framing) we went with Nick's recommendation without looking any further.
Who was your interior designer?
I did the interior design for the entire home. When it came to the kitchen and cabinetry, I worked with Jack Creasy from Bloomsbury Fine Cabinetry.
Did we renovate or build? What would you recommend?
We did a new build. When we first began our journey, we were hoping to "renovate" - essentially keep one wall as well as the basement, and build up. This would've saved us a bit of time in terms of city approvals and debatably, a bit of money. As we began to work with our architect we realized that it made more sense to completely rebuild.
We would be limited by the existing footprint, which wouldn't get us the home we had envisioned. Also, sometimes dealing with an existing structure can lead to unexpected bumps/ costs down the road. We have family who has done both, and everyone recommended starting from scratch.
I think at the end of the day it comes down to budget and preference. I've seen tons of STUNNING homes that were built from an existing structure/ renovated.
How long did it take?
From starting the drawings to moving in, it took roughly 2.5 years. From breaking ground to moving in about 2 years, however weather and Covid delayed us; more on that below.
How do you start the process?
Since we already owned the home/ property, we began by interviewing architects. We asked family and friends for recommendations, and also did a bit of research of our own. We then made a list of our top 5 architects to interview. We ended up only interviewing 3, before we made our decision to work with Nobility Homes. I think there is a benefit of having an architect selected while looking for properties, as they can help you visualize what can be done on the property, and let you know of any restrictions/ issues you may run in to.
Any hiccups along the road?
YES! You have to go into this process knowing that there will be hiccups and you have to roll with it. We originally targeted to move in October 2019, however we didn't end up moving in until May 2020.
There were a few things that caused delays:
Weather: living in Canada, the weather is so unpredictable, and until your roof and windows are in, progress is very much dependant on the weather. We broke ground August 2018, which isn't ideal, but we wanted to begin ASAP. The best time to begin a build is in the Spring.
The city: permits take a LONG time! We also had to go to the Committee of Adjustments, which we were aware of when we began our drawings, but some of these processes took longer than expected and were out of our control.
Trades: No matter how well you plan, schedules change. Often times one trade needs to finish before another can begin. If someone takes longer to complete their work due to weather, the next person can't begin, and often times they move on to another job, which then delays when they can come back to your project. It sucks, and it didn't happen often, but it's a reality.
Neighbours: This isn't the case in every build LOL
Covid: We had plans to move in earlier, but when the city went into the first lockdown, approvals took longer. This essentially pushed out our occupancy permit by a few months.
Permit Application Tips
Try to avoid the committee of adjustments (but if its worth the fight, go!). If you do end up at the committee, have a back up plan so that you know what you're willing to bargain with. Also, be prepared to have to give up some of your wants to meet zoning requirements.
Don't forget to account for tree permits. If you have any city owned trees, the city will require a safety deposit on each tree and it's not pocket change - its about $10K a tree in the city of Toronto! In our case, the city won't return the deposit until 2 years post build to ensure the trees don't have any lasting damage.
There are also a few other permits, but my memory is a bit foggy. If you're in the thick of this stage just allow yourself time. It's quite the waiting game.
What's more cost effective - building or buying a new home?
I've never purchased a brand new home, so I don't know from experience, but I'd say it depends on a number of factors. After building a home, I would want to build again vs. purchasing a new home, if I was given the option. There is nothing quite like picking every finish to perfectly fit your taste.
What was your budget?
We budgeted roughly $225.00 per foot
Did you go over budget?
Yes, we left ourselves some wiggle room, however we still went over budget. I would recommend adding 10-15% to whatever your budget is.
What did you over/ under budget for?
We under budgeted for cabinetry, hardscaping and radiant heating/ snow melt. We went over budget in these areas because our list of wants/ needs grew overtime. It just made sense to do certain things in the moment, as it would've been more expensive down the road (i.e. pool, snow melt). Most of these items were things we thought we would do later on. We under budgeted for a few items such as excavation, flooring, insulation, and foundation.
Recommendations for budget allocation?
This is definitely a personal choice, however there were 3 things we took into consideration when making decisions.
1. How long will we live here? We built this home as if it would be our forever home, because this very well may be our forever home! What this meant, was splurging on some items that we may have not splurged on otherwise, because they wouldn't hold much value for resale. This was mostly with respect to some of our finishes (ie. selecting the tile we loved vs. the one we liked due to cost).
2. If we sell, what will hold the most value? We considered this, because you never know what life throws at you! With this in mind we still chose finishes we loved (as per my point above), however we focused most of our budget on the kitchen, living area, master bedroom and ensuite, as we felt like this is what potential buyers value most. These are also the areas where we spend the most time, and where you typically entertain.
3. Is it easy to add/ upgrade down the road? Things like insulation, windows, cabinetry, and flooring aren't things that you typically swap out every few years. With that in mind, we wanted to invest in good quality product that would last a "lifetime". There were also other items such as snow melt, which would cost a lot more to add a few years down the road, so we decided to allocate budget to it now. Other things such a knobs, light fixtures and so on could be easily swapped out. We also considered this when we were deciding on what was trendy vs. timeless, but that's a whole different conversation!
We chose to save on spaces like the girls shared bathroom, our guest room and ensuite, the basement etc. These rooms (although many still unfurnished - furniture was cut out of the budget quite quickly LOL) still look pretty, but at a lower cost.
Again, budget is a personal choice. We did have to compromise on some finishes that we REALLY wanted even if it was our forever home, but overall considering the 3 points above was very helpful.
Windows & Doors
What kind of windows did you install?
Aluminum cladded exterior and wood interior windows. In the basement we did vinyl.
Who did your windows?
We worked with Ridley Windows & Doors for our windows and exterior doors (with the exception of the front door). We are VERY happy with their product and their customer service is amazing.
Where did you purchase your front door?
Our front door was designed by myself, and custom made by Craft Door. I am obsessed with my front door. It is SO well made!
Where did you purchase your window coverings?
Our window coverings were custom made by Sunbrite Drapery. They also did our bench seat cushions and I'm very happy with how everything turned out.
Paint & Wallpaper
What colour are your walls?
Our whole house, including the ceiling, trim and kitchen cabinets are Oxford White by Benjamin Moore. It's crisp, clean, not too cold, not too warm and it doesn't have any yellow undertones. I would do the same colour if we were to do it all over again.
How did you select your paint colour?
It's very easy to overthink many things along the way when you're building a home. I know paint could be one of those things and I didn't want to go down the rabbit hole. I really trust our painters, and I asked, what whites are best from their experience; they've been in the biz for years! They narrowed it down to 2 or 3 and I selected from there.
Where did you purchase your wallpaper?
Who was your painter/ wallpaper installer?
Riverlea Painting Inc. They're AH-MAZING! (Lou 416 953 5145)
Floors & Stairs
What make and colour are your floors?
Where did you purchase your tile?
All of the tile in our home is from SS Tile & Stone. Their selection is amazing!
Are you floors heated?
Yes, all of the tiled floors in our home are heated, as well as the basement, driveway and front pathway. We opted for radiant heating, and although it resulted in us going over budget, it's definitely been worth it!
Who did your stairs
Deluxe Stair and Railing
Who did your carpentry?
We purchased our trim from Doorland Group and the labour was done by a local carpenter, who was great! If you would like his contact, please contact me directly.
Who did your kitchen?
What colour is your kitchen?
Oxford White by Benjamin Moore. Our island, and floating shelves are a custom white oak stain that was done by Bloomsbury.
All the countertops in our home and the kitchen backsplash are from Select Surfaces Corp.
Kitchen: 1.5" Oriental White Quartzite
Powder room: 1.5" Bianco Luciente Marble
Bathrooms: 1.5" Pegasus Quartzite
For the laundry room we did a 1.5" white oak butcher block countertop from Knotty's Woodwork. Laundry room reveal coming soon!
Where did you purchase your lighting?
Lighting was very painful to source - it's expensive and we were at the tail end of our budget, so it took me a very long time! I didn't have one place in particular where I purchased all the pieces, however I've listed a few shops below. As I reveal each space in our home, I'll include links to the specific fixtures in each space. The kitchen and Stella's bedroom are already on the blog!
RH Baby & Child
Our Overall Experience
We truly enjoyed the whole process, but this is also right up my alley!! There were definitely moments that were more stressful, but overall we throughly enjoyed it. Joe and I were both very involved in the build, and surprisingly fought very little when it came to the house. For the most part, we were both on the same page in terms of budget, and stayed in our lane; Joe was more involved in the construction (i.e. foundation, materials, trades etc.) and I did the design work. We learned a lot throughout the process and would love to do it again one day if we're able to.
If you're currently building or renovating, I'll leave you with 3 pieces of advice:
- Prepare yourself for hiccups and know that things will take longer than expected because of them
- Research your options, but narrow them down to 3 or 4. With the Internet today, it's so easy to find 50+ sources for everything - tiles, hardwood, etc - and it can become very overwhelming!
- If you're stuck on one single thing (i.e. knobs), step back and focus on the big picture. It's so easy to narrow in on one thing, as if that's the only item anyone will see when they walk into your home; this happened to me with the kitchen and door hardware! If you take a break for a few days, and come back to the selection process looking at the space as a whole, you'll have a much easier time coming to a decision.
I hope that you found this helpful! Most of the questions that were asked were answered above, however there were a few that I will cover in separate posts, as they require more real estate. If additional questions come up, I will continue to add to this post to ensure it's up to date for you!