I guess our journey dates back 4 years ago when we started dreaming of owning a house that was self-made. This is a dream of mine since my teens, but I never really thought this would ever be a reality. I never considered entering the construction world, yet I have a very big interest in it as I spend a big part of my free time reading about new trends and innovations. I also have passion towards ecological design. When I first started thinking of drawing the plans of our dream house, I made a checklist of what we specifically needed. It had to be practical and comfortable for two adults, three boys, two cats, visiting in-laws, and a future dog. The design must have changed numerous times before we stuck to one we both liked. One important requirement with the plans was to have no unutilized dead space, it was imperative to me that every square footage had a use of some kind. I also wanted to skip on a basement and have only two floors build on a slab. To me our last homes’ unfinished basement was designated for one thing only, that of collecting things.
That house was quaint (26’x 28’), it’s best attribute was that it held a very small footprint. We lived in her embrace for over 8 years, but the last few years we were tearing her up at the seams. We had clearly outgrown her space. The best indicator was the entrance closet, we had maximized every square footage by adding shelves, stacking the shoes and boots, there was nothing left to do to increase the room.
When it came to designing the house, I wasn’t a novice at the subject, come to think of it, I must have done this many times over the course of my youth. A home is such a fundamental part of our lives, most children play such games when little; constructing one out of refrigerator boxes, or pilling chairs and tables to throw large bed sheets over the top to create their home sweet home.
Well to get to the point, building a home, has always been a part of me. At first, what was a little intimidating to design was the kitchen and the overall flow of the house. I drew a rough sketch leaning a little towards the fantastic. To get me inspired and bring it down to reality, I looked through several floor plan magazines. We were also big “Mother Earth News” and “Maison du 21ieme siècle” readers and there was an article in once about a family in Western Canada who decided to build their own straw bale house out of recycled barn wood. They were an inspiration to me. The outside design was typically Canadian style, with three large dormers on the roof, a classic beauty. My original design had just that, three dormers with a large porch underneath. The problem that arose later on with this design is that you loose a lot of space within the dormer rooms. Aesthetically pleasing but not functional. Our architect friend Mara suggested replacing them with shed dormers, which in essence is like one large dormer. Less expensive to build since it’s not as detailed as the classic dormers. Mara was such help with adding the dimensions, I had a difficult time with the square footage of each room, I didn’t want the house too big but also not too small either. Our official first plan was very big, it included an attached garage with a massive recreation room above the garage. We decided to scale back the square footage while thinking of the added heating cost, future property assessments, cleaning and maintenance and most importantly necessity and functionality rather then extravagance.
Because we were not building in straw bale anymore, the walls needed to perform at nearly the same R –factor as straw did. In Quebec, the construction code requires the outside framing to be built in 2×6, to get an extra R-value we included 2” foam cladding to the exterior and filled the inside cavity with R-20 sustainable fiberglass insulation topped with an interior vapour barrier.
Our second design option instead of straw was a solar passive design. Large windows facing the south, so when drawing the plans I had to consider the living spaces that faced south. On a solar design, it’s important that the north has minimal windows. We decided that our south would be facing our backyard since it’s where the living space would take place and north would be our entrance.
On the floor plans, I decided to place our mechanical room, first floor bathroom, entrance and kitchen facing north. My logic was that all first three of those rooms are rarely used, and the kitchen normally stays warm from the stove. The back end of the house would hold the dining room adjacent to the living room, an office/ guestroom and laundry/mudroom.
Upstairs was a little tricky. Our first design had a balcony type hallway that looked over the living room below. This walkway connected 2 pairs of rooms on both East and West of the house. This deemed impractical, although yet again aesthetically pleasing. So we converted the open space into a family room. In essence we had one master suite (we originally had our own bathroom but we decided to convert it into a walk-in closet instead), bedroom #2 for Evan and Owen, bedroom #3 for Tristan who’s nearly a teen and room #4 art studio\ school room. In addition there is also one large bathroom with corner bath and separate shower, and a storage closet (since we have no basement) to put away seasonal clothing and decorations.
I’ll be uploading the progress of our construction journey through a mini “homemade” reality series titled “Homemade Home”. Check below, the pilot episode is done, the ones following will be uploaded week by week until we’ve reached present day.
I thank you for visiting and reading about our journey, please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.