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A Starter House with a Difference

January 7, 2013

Michael Kluckner has been observing an interesting change in his east-side neighbourhood:

It is the conversion/modernization of one of the ubiquitous single-storey stucco “starter houses” – the little ones with the hipped roofs – that are so common all over East Van and in areas like Marpole and, even, Dunbar.  Usually when they’re sold there’s a complete demolition, new foundation and a big Contemporary Builder/Monster House put onto the lot. But this is different:

Starter 6


It kept the foundation, concrete front steps and main floor framing, then added a modern treatment of a traditional century-old house, fitting in well with Parker Street in Grandview. The contractor’s website talks about low energy, low impact design.

Starter 2

Starter 4

The other interesting part is the speed with which they worked – the project began in mid-July and there are already people living in it. I don’t know about costs, but it must be considerably cheaper than building from scratch.


Also, from the Toronto Star: Can living in laneways fix Toronto’s density issues?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Guest permalink
    January 7, 2013 6:37 pm

    I suspect it also has something to do with the zoning distinction between a “renovation” and a “new build”.

  2. Don permalink
    January 8, 2013 9:39 am

    I certainly haven’t seen that. Across the street, across the lane and two houses across the other street (I’m on the corner) there have been tear downs and rebuilds in the last 2 years. All of them with the exception of the laneway house on one are identical, ugly stucco, bland, boxes.

    We did major basement renovations and have been asked by almost all our neighbours, why didn’t we just tear down and build a bigger box. I wonder when I’ll be able to register my post-war bungalow as a heritage building…

  3. January 8, 2013 10:47 am

    What is missing from your story – and the contractor’s – is the “before” image – if not of the house that was there (which Google Streetsview may well have) then of something similar

  4. Guest permalink
    January 8, 2013 3:10 pm

    I recall that co-worker rebuilt his family’s house and although they left very little standing (apparently a staircase and few walls), that allowed them to build more square footage than if they built from scratch. That house was in the Marpole area. I don’t know the details though.

  5. January 8, 2013 10:58 pm

    I guess it was this house:

    * I guess it has triggered a bidding war, so the true selling price was probably higher than the 800k (“starter home” they say😉

    *But, you see, that it is zoned for duplex and the renovation eventually prevent to make use of it.

    More generally, older houses, especially the crop in question,

    – have relatively low ceiling (the ad say 8′ in the basement, but it is “buyer to verify if important” and picture tend to say it is closer to 7′), and this kind of renovation prevent to make full height in basement/and the potentially desired 9′ in low level, unless you dramatically increase the cost.

    -That is one point, another, in adition of “framing fatigue”, is that lot of houses have “settled” in Vancouver.
    Among many other, V981617 in Trout lake area: the ad doesn’t say, but it is a definitive tear down, which has been lingering on the market forever… (in US you could know it, and couldn’t need to waste your time with an unscrupulous Real estate agent -David Chen is apparently his name).

  6. January 8, 2013 11:58 pm

    What is also of more concern, and a topic we can probably only lament on, is to see some very fine turn of century home (usually stronger construction than the postwar bungalow, with high ceiling) like this one:

    Purchased to be let down like it:

    Be insured that it will be replaced with something gathering all the “nouveau riche” tastes.

    the endemic nature of it, destroying the cachet of whole neighboroods, for no added value (greater density) should be a major concern for people and city official.

  7. January 9, 2013 9:08 am

    Cost-wise, you’re probably wrong. Renos like this are usually in the same price range as a new build. The problem is that careful destruction – peeling back layers to save the original structure – adds as much cost as it saves in reduced building material. Unfortunately, with no cost incentive, most owners prefer to just scrap the old house, and any problems it may have had and start owner.

    The only way to get consistently good results is to have adequate zoning restrictions which prevent monster houses from being built in mature neighbourhoods.

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