From the Client’s Perspective : We like the house. We like the neighborhood. The house represents the neighborhood. We want to maintain the tradition and style of the neighborhood. It has good bones. It has history. We know the carved stone and woodwork cannot be duplicated, no matter what the architect says. We don’t mind spending the same money as building a new one as long as we get the floor space we want.
But we want a well-built home. We want it properly insulated so we can heat it and cool it properly. We don’t want leaky and drafty windows. We want the roof to be water tight.
We need more space. We need higher ceilings. We need a bigger kitchen. We want a big family room adjacent to the kitchen. We entertain a lot, so a massive living room and dining room are mandatory.
We want the basement to be high and dry. We want the floors to be strong and quiet. We want to lay marble tiles throughout the main floor.
We want absolutely modern and gorgeous bathrooms. We want lots of power outlets and light switches. We want lots of light, period.
From Po Ku Design Build’s Perspective : Old houses, especially those built before the 1960s, used double the amount of solid lumber and brick/masonry, both materials are costly to replace today. Masonry holds in a lot of heat and keep noise out. Ancient old-growth lumber, especially fir, are rarely seen today. Some old houses have solid full 2”x10” floor joists. Today’s 2x10s are actually 1-3/8” x 9-1/4” from younger trees. Although we can duplicate classical, traditional and period designs in mouldings, doors, balustrades, ironwork, parquetry, carved stone fireplace mantels, etc. the art and craft of classical Greek and Roman carving and traditional Western European forged/wrought iron/bronze work are very expensive to recreate.
Merits of Old Material : Old growth timber and brick and stone do not contain harmful chemicals, glues and toxins that are often present in modern building materials. We advise our clients not to use goods imported from Asia that have not been tested.
ESSENTIAL THINGS TO DO IN A REBUILD
Foundations that are built in brick and stone need structural reinforcement. Pressure injected structural grout increases the integrity of the masonry. Concrete piers and footings further increase the strength of the foundation. Parging and waterproofing the exteriors of the foundation keep water out of the house. See Construction Management section for routine underground drainage work.
Floors may need to be open up to create high ceilings. Old joists often require reinforcement and levelling. Thick plywood subfloor will replace the old diagonal floor boards.
New stud walls need to be built so that the exterior walls can be insulated and vapor-proofed.
At the end, our rebuilds and new builds are very much similar in terms of modern comfort, convenience and quality in construction. We strip the old house and save the important elements. We level and plumb the walls, floors and ceilings and reinforce the structures. We carry out proper waterproofing, vapor proofing and moisture-proofing.
WHAT WE SAW
Houses with special characteristics that have not been fully developed for its architectural perfection are the best candidates for Rebuild. Clients always want to build additions to the old house. So matching the style and quality of the new to the old is critical. Let’s look at one example:
Pall Mall House – Existing dominant features : limestone panels in front, limestone Tuscan pillars at entrance, yellow brick locally produced, beautiful Art Deco skylight and staircase, Art Deco limestone fireplace, etc. The architect was the same that designed the Muirhead/Silver Rail Art Deco Tavern in downtown Toronto. He was considered ‘avant-garde’ in the 1920s to the 1940s.His classical designs always had a twist. Wrought iron was not used. Instead he used the ‘modern’ material called aluminum. The front entrance portico was modernized by truncating it on top and aluminum railing was used there. The stair case was fitted with Art Deco style aluminum railing.
WHAT WE DID
Pall Mall House - We pinpointed the highlights of the original design and ‘finished’ the work that the original architects had started. There was not enough Art Deco features on the exteriors to work with. So we chose a more classical approach to finish the outside. The interiors were developed further into a full-blown Art Deco/Art Moderne style.
In other words, we seized the opportunities and made sure they were exploited to their fullest potential. It was not a matter of making the house better but more of a fulfillment of the original program which fell short.