Anyone familiar with renovating an older home will know how prolonged and stressful the process can be, not to mention the unpleasant surprises that often lurk behind ancient walls. Imagine then, the prospect of completing a long, drawn-out renovation, settling in to your newly redone home and then lightning strikes and the subsequent fire completely destroys what you have just completed.
This isn't a hypothetical situation. It actually happened to Collingwood residents Jill and Noel Bates at their heritage home in a downtown neighbourhood. They were away at the time of the incident so there were no human casualties, but the damage to their home was catastrophic. Everything was destroyed by fire, water or smoke, and all that was left standing were a tiled shower in the master bathroom, three heritage brick walls and a front porch.
"We basically had to start all over again, repeating what we had just completed six months earlier," says Noel as he sits over coffee in his meticulously restored kitchen. "The only advantage of such a trauma is that we were able to make changes that would have been much more costly when we did the original renovation."
When they first decided to renovate this Regency bungalow, the Bateses faced the usual problems involved in tearing apart a 120-year-old structure. "The cost to completely gut the interior would have been exorbitant," says Noel, who has lived in and renovated seven different homes, "so instead we kept the plaster and lathe walls, the Ikea cabinetry in the kitchen that had been put in by the former owner, and did minimal alterations to electrical and plumbing. We were happy with the results, but we still suffered some of the disadvantages of old buildings like draughty rooms, ice buildup on the roof, lack of insulation, and rooms without enough natural light."
But this time, after the fire did the gutting for them, they were essentially building a brand new house. And with that came all the advantages of a modern home, like foam insulation behind drywall, new plumbing, heating and wiring, new roof and eavestroughs, skylights and new windows. And yet, because Jill and Noel are experts in vintage renovations, the house feels and looks like the historic gem that it once was.