• Purple Thumb Renovations

Renovation of a 100 Year-Old Attic - Part I

We walked up the stairs and were underwhelmed, to put it mildly.

The space was dark and awkwardly separated in two by cupboards and drawers lined with mismatched contact paper. The type of carpeting typically reserved for office space covered the floor that creaked with every hesitant step we took. The bathroom was so small that when Matthew stepped into the tub I immediately pictured Will Ferrell taking a shower in an "Elf"-sized bathroom. It took weeks of looking at equally underwhelming and overpriced homes for us to finally put an offer on the old 700 square foot house in Embrun.

We knew we needed to put some serious thought into how we were going to renovate this house once we moved in. We needed to start with the attic because it's where the (only) bedroom and bathroom were, but ultimately we weren't going to know what was possible until we started taking it apart.

Demolition took weeks. Three weeks, to be exact. Four full-sized dumpsters later we were left with one large open space. We took everything out, including all of the built-in storage. We were blown away by how many layers of wood we tore off. It was obvious they kept building over whatever material was already there instead of replacing it. It made for a lot of work, but in the end it paid off.

Aside from the few inches gained in the bedroom, we gained half a foot of head space in the bathroom where we needed it the most. We also uncovered a few original elements we knew we wanted to incorporate in to the new design.

  • The original collar ties for the rafters were in great shape and would add a cool architectural element.

  • The tongue and groove wood planks behind the drywall were so brittle we lost most of them, but we managed to keep one section intact.

  • We saved some of the newspapers - all dated between 1919 and 1922 - that were used to keep the insulation in place.

With the demolition out of the way, we needed to deal with all of the deficiencies. Nothing was level or plumb, so we started by levelling the floor and reframing the walls, storage areas, and door opening. We knew storage was going to be important since we weren't going to be able to fit a dresser, so we maximized the dead space in the walls and built a closet for hanging clothes under the window. We widened the bathroom by a foot to give us the room we needed for a larger vanity, and moved the opening to accommodate a sliding door. Finally, we framed what would be one of the coolest features of the new attic - the stair railing.

Now, we were ready to start the fun part!