Renovation & Design

Creative fix required for cottage renovation

What you can't see is often just as important as what you can

Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

The tongue-and-groove pine from the kitchen side of the main beam was carefully removed, recycled and installed on the old porch side of the ceiling to make way for the new dining room area.

Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

Once the pine was removed from the kitchen ceiling, the press-board backing was breached to introduce the electrical required for LED slim lights and two danglers above the island.

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

The transformation from old porch to new dining room added 60 square feet of living space and a beautiful sitting area full of natural light.

When the main objective of a renovation is to expand a cottage’s interior living space without actually expanding the cottage itself, it can only mean one thing — a front-porch conversion.

As simple it sounds, there’s a lot that goes into this type of transformation.

Although most steps would be tedious yet obvious, a few of the esthetic tasks had me stumped for a while.

Let’s begin with the obvious aspects of this porch conversion. The existing exterior walls, which consisted primarily of rudimentary screened-in openings within the studs, would be reframed to accommodate new windows once the entry-door location was moved roughly four feet north of its original place. This entailed incrementally removing the existing studs and roughing in headers for the new windows along the way.

Once the new framework was in place, it was time to remove the existing interior walls that partitioned the old six-by-10-foot screened-in porch area.

After confirming that the interior walls were not load-bearing, the studs could be systematically removed one by one. Many electrical wires were first carefully rerun temporarily away from the soon-to-be-removed walls. And once the walls were gone, thereby eliminating the old porch, the south-east corner of the cottage seemed much more open, and really began to take shape.

It was at this point that all my focus shifted upward, toward the ceiling.

When the cottage had been previously renovated, all the ceilings had been finished with tongue-and-groove pine. This presented a problem where the old porch had been, because the ceiling of the porch had been excluded from this upgrade.

To avoid the appearance of any obvious seams, the existing pine ceiling adjacent the old porch would need to be completely removed up to the closest full row of pine boards just past the porch breach, to then be reinstalled at full lengths in a congruous fashion.

However, it was obvious there was not enough pine to accommodate the additional square footage required to fill the old porch-ceiling area. To overcome this hurdle, I presented an option to my clients that remedied two issues at once.

Because the kitchen was also being renovated, the introduction of seven LED slim lights and two danglers (above the impending island location) had been requested. Running any new wiring cleanly behind the existing pine ceiling presented a huge challenge. It had dawned on me that because we needed extra pine for the old porch area, why not "remove and recycle" the pine from the kitchen ceiling and use it there? This would allow me to breach the press-board backing to run the respective wiring circuits for the new lights without having to worry about how it affected the esthetics, because we could then drywall the ceiling in the kitchen, as it is isolated from all other ceilings in the cottage.

The clients wholeheartedly agreed, and the process began.

Every length of the kitchen ceiling’s tongue-and-groove pine was carefully removed and "de-nailed" for reuse. The old porch ceiling was prepped by strapping with one-by-threes before the insulation and vapour barrier were installed. Press board was then affixed to the cross-strapping to completely fill in the vacant area of the ceiling. Row by row, the recycled tongue-and-groove pine was reinstalled until it reached the south wall of the cottage — it now looked as though it had always been that way, the old porch a distant memory.

The kitchen lighting was then pre-wired and the drywall was installed. Once it was taped, mudded and sanded, the bright white ceiling paint allowed the kitchen area to come alive.

Several steps occurred following the completion of the ceilings: the walls were painted; new laminate flooring was installed throughout; and the kitchen was fitted with new cabinets, countertops, a backsplash and a range hood, as well as new stainless steel appliances.

Elsewhere in the cottage, the new bathroom configuration featured a custom tiled walk-in shower stall, new sink and vanity and so on.

But it was the pine ceiling above the new dining room area that caught my eye every time, those last few visits to the job site while wrapping up some finishing touches before releasing the cottage back to the clients.

The decision to snag the pine from the kitchen to fill in the gap left by the removal of the old porch ranks as one of my all-time favourites. Not because it stands out — because it blends in so well. No one would ever know how much effort went into this porch-conversion process unless they heard the whole story.

And that’s sometimes the point, isn’t it? What you can’t see is often just as important as what you can.


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