Updating older houses

Older homes can sometimes look rather sadly outdated.

Exterior renovations sometimes look a bit too much like lipstick, that soon wears off or smears badly. And then we regret the new updated look. But some old houses are just so butt ugly …

Here is a neighborhood house that the owner transformed from a rather plain box with a minimally sloped roof, into something that certainly catches the eye.

In addition to the vertical wall solar panels on the front and side, there is an array of low-slope panels on the roof. Presumably if the wall solar panels are removed, the reddish faux wood panels would be installed in their place.

Notice that there are back yard houses similarly renovated.

I am least in love with the horizontal brown siding on the front façade, and most like the side walls. I wonder if a heavier fascia board across the front roof line might have disguised the low slope. The double hung windows are suitable for traditional houses, but I wonder if something a bit more adventurous (for example, 3 equal panes) would have suited the very modern exterior now being installed.

I certainly intend to head back to check out these units once more work is completed, for eg on the verandahs and front steps.

What do you think: should plain old houses be updated or restored to their original look?


PS: I searched my files for an old house of this style that had been restored with wood (not aluminum or plastic) siding true to the original build, but couldn’t find one. Let me know of ones you know, and I’ll try to get a pic for another post.

15 thoughts on “Updating older houses

  1. I know this house well. It has been very slow progress on the outside renovations. It is definitely unique in design for this street. Across the road and a few doors down, a similar house was updated with grey-blue siding and cedar shake singles on the front.

    I live in a similar style and my street is also changing as people buy up the old houses and then update the outside. Another trend I see in the neighbourhood beyond the modern or updated siding, is foam panels covered with smooth stucco. Personally, I welcome all the different styles. The houses here are old and while the structure may be solid, the outside finishes are not. I have seen a lot of very worn siding, or even awful faux brick shingles nailed to the walls.

    Preston area does not have brick houses (at least not South of the highway), so why not have a little fun and do something a little different. We are lucky to be in an area where the homes are not cookie cutter, or brick fortresses, let’s enjoy the little things that bring some flavour and interest to the neighbourhood.

    1. Ok, I need to admend my previous comment about brick houses off Preston. I was walking this morning and saw brick, more than I had previously realized (or noticed). There are still alot of the old 2 story style – the working-class houses of the original immigrants to the area.

      I know that the majority of the houses in this area (the house above is on Pamilla), were the 2 story, wood frame homes. In the Ottawa-Hull fire of 1900, all the houses burned upto Pamilla area. I have a photo of my own street with houses still standing, taken after the fire. I wonder if after the land was cleared, if the next generation built with brick?

      My house is one of the wood frame styles. It was built in 1890 and I am the fifth owner in it’s history.

      1. It was strange and interesting when a friend sent me a link to this blog. We appreciate your interest in our property, and debated all the issues you addressed in deciding on renovations. The front house has been converted into a music school and studio, we invite you to visit the website at theshinegroup.com . The renovations should be complete by December 1st. Your comments are appreciated

      2. The original wood is still under the exterior. It resembles barn board or train track planks. We appreciate the history of the community (my grandparents first home was actually on pamilla). However, neighborhoods evolve, and we chose a modern style because the house is now a business and should reflect that. The materials were chosen do to their durability and insulation. We took advantage of all the environmental microfit programs, including solar panels. We weighed all the pros and cons, and feel that we have made the right choices.

    2. Thanks for your post, our house was the subject of this blog and I feel the same way. Our neighborhood is awesome and we should have fun with designs. I don’t even mind the faux brick. I feel lucky to live in this neighbourhood every day (and we were in the Glebe previously lol). I think that we should embrace the gentrification, including new styles. (it can’t be worse than the 40’s stucco and leaky roof)

  2. It took me several years while growing up in the Glebe to realize that most of the houses in a block were originally ‘cookie cutter’ designs. Residents since these houses were built in the 20s and 30s had been renovating constantly, and they did not look at all similar to each other by the 70s and 80s.
    So I can live with old houses being updated.

    1. And as they were renovated during the 50s, 60,s 70s, and 80s, maybe into the 90s, you didn’t have Nosey Parker neighbours whinging that the renovations and changes were “inconsistent”, “out of character”, or three inches higher than the house next door, and running to every municipal politician and planning agency to stop the outrages from happening in Their Back Yard.

      There’s an object lesson in there.

      1. When people did renovations and the like up until the end of the 90s, they also generally stayed within reasonable bounds, perhaps out of respect for their neighbours. Back then, building envelopes were the space within which you placed your smaller building, not the starting point for the shape and size of the building which you would try to further enlarge. The goal of renovating or improving wasn’t to try to cram the biggest possible house onto a lot. If they requested a relaxation for something, they were probably not doing that in addition to having completely filled the building envelope. Neighbours didn’t complain because there wasn’t much in the way of outrages in the first place because most of the people doing renovations actually cared about what their neighbours thought about them as they expected to be, well, neighbours. They actually wanted to be neighbours and not just adjacent residents. That kind of self-restraint is one of the things we seem to lose as the city gets bigger and communities lose their adhesion.

        The object lesson is the decline in neighbourliness in the past decade has led to an increase in acrimony.

      2. Reasonable bounds or not, people didn’t get their testicles in a knot over their neighbours changing up a porch or adding a storey or painting the damn thing purple, the way they do now.

  3. Most of the older houses that get restored to their glory were attractive to begin with. In this case, though I have not seen the original, it appears to have been a simple structure so I think the re-do is fine. Personally, I don’t like the use of so many different materials on the outside. The problem with having so many different materials is that over time, where two differing materials come together you often have difficulties. So the fewer materials the better. I too dislike the dark brown horizontal feature. Having said that, I like the idea of mixing new and old styles. It does add flavour to a neighbourhood.

  4. I have an old house off Preston (on Beech) and over the course of this year we’ve totally redone the inside. At some point, finances permitting, we need to redo the outside. It’s pleasantly shaped house; one of those 1 1/2 stories with the gables pushing out from the roof line but over the years they’ve put a lot, well, ugly finishes. Faux stone in front, 60’s era red brick on both sides and a lot of plain white siding up top. Other than a designer I wonder if there are firms that do the work that can also provide design assistance. I would want a kind of updated Arts and Crafts look likely. When I put in a new kitchen, they did the design, the cabinet manufacturing and the install. Anybody have a recommendation?

  5. I like this house too. It happens to be owned by my son and his partner. He researched and had consultation with an architect so he didn’t venture into it lightly. He is upgrading the neighbourhood with this look and most importantly he has made it energy efficient. As Hh said, the front house is a business and reflects this. A new neighbour moved in across the street and one of the reasons he bought in this neighbourhood was because the street is slowly updating it’s appearance. It’s a wonderful neighbourhood!

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