This Leslieville couple added a third floor to their tiny house for less than $200,000
Who: Lidija and Nathan Buckwalter
Purchased in: 2003, for $200,000
Cost of renovation: $175,000 to $200,000
Construction duration: 7 months
Reno highlight: They found a contractor who accommodated their frugality, allowing Nathan to keep costs down by volunteering his labour.
Reno lowlight: A neighbour’s complaint to the committee of adjustment forced them to redraw their plans and shave six inches off one side of the third level.
In 2003, Lidija Buckwalter, then an ESL teacher, and her husband, Nathan, a Canada Post worker, were in their late 20s and renting a loft downtown. They wanted space to raise a family, so they started looking for a house near Leslieville, where Nathan works. They couldn’t find much in their $200,000 price range, but they did come across a two-storey home with 1980s vinyl flooring, a faint cigarette aroma and a backyard where the grass had been replaced by gravel to accommodate the previous owner’s burly dogs. They offered $190,000, settled on $200,000 and moved in.
In 2006, their daughter, Lola, was born. Lidija wanted to stay home instead of returning to work, so she decided to make money by renting out the basement as a homestay for international students while starting a freelance interior design business on the side.
They were getting by fine until 2009, when their son, Moriss, was born. Suddenly, they were squeezed for space. They considered moving, but the only big houses available in their budget were far outside the city. Nathan didn’t want to give up his eight-minute bike commute, and Lidija had grown fond of her walks to Woodbine Beach. Rather than move, they decided they’d add a third floor to their existing house, with a new master bedroom and a workspace for Lidija. They’d pay for it by reconfiguring the second floor to make room not only for their kids but also for a second foreign student.
Their budget was modest, but Nathan kept costs down by doing the demolition and finishing work, with help from his father and some neighbours. Lidija used her design savvy to hunt down fixtures from IKEA’s as-is section, and they bunked with Nathan’s parents during construction rather than renting a place. After their reno was over, they ended up with a four-bedroom home for less than what it would have cost them to move. Best of all, it’s in a neighbourhood they know and love.
Here’s what the house looked like when they bought it:
The addition of a third storey took the house from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet. Here’s how it looks now:
The stairs are ash, which was cheap at the time because the emerald ash borer epidemic had created a glut of felled trees:
Many of the decorations are thrift store purchases or curbside scores. Lidija found the old bicycle rims on the street and spray-painted them grey to hang in the master bedroom:
The couple covered the red-brick fireplace in the living room for a rustic look and fashioned a new mantel out of some stained wood they found in an abandoned lot:
Lidija sells her weaving and macramé on Etsy. Her pieces are all over the house:
Did you add second or third storey? We want to talk to you.