Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID SQUARE REN­O­VA­TIONS

GREAT ren­o­va­tions can be­gin with one seem­ingly in­signif­i­cant act.

At least, that’s how Ron Funk and Ch­eryl Digby’s reno of a 1900-square-foot bungalow in Mor­den be­gan.

“I was sit­ting at the kitchen ta­ble eat­ing sup­per when I no­ticed a lit­tle piece of wall­pa­per had be­come unglued from the wall just above the base­board. When I reached over to tear it off, a big sec­tion of paper peeled away from the Gyproc sub­strate,” said Ron.

The peel­ing process was ad­dic­tive and he found him­self tear­ing off larger and larger strips of wall­pa­per.

Ch­eryl be­came alarmed, claim­ing if Ron con­tin­ued he would cre­ate an un­sightly, ir­repara­ble mess.

“Where are we go­ing to find match­ing wall­pa­per to re­pair that eye­sore you’re cre­at­ing?” she asked.

It was a rea­son­able ques­tion as the bungalow, which they had just pur­chased, was built in 1968 and fash­ion, be­ing the fickle fish it is, rarely re­mains in vogue for more than a decade. (Where, for ex­am­ple, were they to lo­cate wall­pa­per with a hu­man mo­tif: in this case men, women and chil­dren swim­ming blithely through air?)

Ron, how­ever, re­mained un­de­terred, con­tin­u­ing to pick away at the paper, which was com­ing off like a sticky la­bel on plas­tic, yield­ing tiny scraps in some ar­eas, fol­lowed by large, re­ward­ing strips in oth­ers.

As Ch­eryl watched her hus­band, she de­cided to join him; his act of wan­ton de­struc­tion looked ther­a­peu­tic, per­haps a bet­ter stress re­liever than freestyle swim­ming.

When the kitchen walls were all de­nuded, the cou­ple re­al­ized they had crossed a line that di­vides the shal­low end from the deep end: It was time to get se­ri­ous, to be­come fully im­mersed in that capri­cious sea known as the full reno.

Pumped by their vic­tory over the kitchen wall­pa­per; they de­cided the next leap was to re­move a re­tain­ing wall that ran the en­tire length of the build­ing, di­vid­ing one side of the house from the other by a long, nar­row hall­way.

Their vi­sion was to cre­ate an open aquar­ium out of a se­ries of fish bowl-sized rooms that com­prised the 40-plus-year-old home.

A struc­tural en­gi­neer friend of Ch­eryl’s cal­cu­lated the size of a lam­i­nated beam re­quired to carry the weight of the roof shoul­dered by the load-bear­ing hall­way wall.

The de­sign called for a 32-foot beam, 12 inches high and six inches wide con­structed of ¾-inch ply­wood.

The ini­tial plan was to cut a hole in an end gable of the house so the wood leviathan could be con­structed on the ground, then worked into po­si­tion in the at­tic by push­ing it through the open­ing.

Ron was against this idea, de­cid­ing in­stead to con­struct the beam in the at­tic piece by piece.

Ch­eryl handed the 12-inch-wide by eight-foot-long ply­wood sheets to him through a small open­ing de­signed to al­low ac­cess to the at­tic.

“Be­tween the low-pitch roof and the truss sup­port chords, there wasn’t a lot of room to ma­noeu­vre,” re­called Ron, a stur­dily built man.

Not only did the ply­wood sheets need to be screwed and glued to­gether, they also had to be stag­gered to max­i­mize the beam’s strength.

Said Ron, “I spent sev­eral cramped evenings build­ing that struc­tural be­he­moth, a job I hope never to un­der­take again.”

The com­pleted girder was tied to the bot­tom and side chords of ev­ery truss with gal­va­nized metal hard­ware sim­i­lar to joist hang­ers.

With the beam in place, Ron and Ch­eryl be­gan to dis­man­tle the load­bear­ing wall be­neath.

“I re­mem­ber my anx­i­ety when the time came to take down the last wall stud,” said Ron. “I half-ex­pected it to spring at me like a piece of lum­ber un­der tremen­dous com­pres­sion. I was even con­cerned the en­tire roof might col­lapse.”

But his wor­ries proved ground­less. The stud was re­moved with­out in­ci­dent and the roof did not cave in; the at­tic beam was do­ing its job, car­ry­ing the weight for­merly sup­ported by the wall.

“Ev­ery­thing was rock-solid, not even a ¼-inch of move­ment,” he re­called.

With the wall gone, the cou­ple gained an­other 150 square feet of liv­ing space that al­lowed them to in­crease the size of the kitchen and an ad­join­ing eat­ing area, while pro­vid­ing eas­ier ac­cess to bed­rooms, bath­rooms and a large liv­ing room sep­a­rated from the kitchen by lovely red oak french doors.

With the ma­jor struc­tural work com­pleted, Ron and Ch­eryl be­gan to look for cab­i­nets to re­place the time-worn ones in the kitchen and other ar­eas of the house.

‘THE first per­son we con­tacted was sell­ing cab­i­nets avail­able in in­cre­ments of eight inches only. As we wanted ex­act mea­sure­ments, we de­cided to go with Pete Wall of Mor­den, a cus­tom builder with an ex­cel­lent rep­u­ta­tion,” said Ch­eryl.

Said Wall, “I vis­ited Ron and Ch­eryl af­ter the kitchen had been gut­ted, tak­ing mea­sure­ments for a new set of kitchen cab­i­nets and a new is­land. I al­ways mark the mea­sure­ments on the floor so the plumber and the elec­tri­cian know where to place pipes and light­ing fix­tures.”

He said Ron and Ch­eryl chose floorto-ceil­ing, white-painted cab­i­nets with solid maple doors, melamine boxes and MDF sides, as well as full-ex­ten­sion, soft-close draw­ers and Euro­pean-style hid­den hinges.

Maple crown mould­ings, also painted white, were used to cre­ate a grace­ful tran­si­tion from the top of the cab­i­nets to the ceil­ing, added Wall.

To com­ple­ment a new stain­less steel fridge/freezer, he said the cou­ple elected to go with brushed pewter door and drawer pulls.

As the reno pro­gressed, Wall con­structed sim­i­lar cab­i­nets for the home’s three bath­rooms, as well as a lovely built-in shelv­ing unit in the mas­ter bed­room and a strik­ing cab­i­net in the liv­ing room that en­closed three sides of the fire­place.

“Out of our $50,000 budget, we spent about $25,000 on cab­i­nets built by Pete and we don’t re­gret a sin­gle cent,” said Ron.

If there was re­gret, it was the day the cou­ple de­cided to tear the wall­pa­per off the liv­ing room walls in prepa­ra­tion for Ch­eryl’s daugh­ter’s home wed­ding.

“Who­ever did the orig­i­nal job ne­glected to prop­erly prep the drywall sub­strate be­fore ap­ply­ing the paper, per­haps as a cost-sav­ing mea­sure,” said Ch­eryl, adding the guilty party at­tempted to rec­tify the er­ror by ap­ply­ing suf­fi­cient glue to hold a 1,000-pound shark to the wall.

It soon be­came ob­vi­ous the only way to get the wall­pa­per off was to smash the un­der­ly­ing Gyproc with sledge­ham­mers.

“It cre­ated a cat­a­strophic mess that in­cluded bro­ken drywall, pieces of wall­pa­per and gyp­sum dust that set­tled in all parts of the room,” said Ch­eryl. “I’ll never have any­thing to do with wall­pa­per in this life­time.”

How­ever, be­ing a re­silient cou­ple, Ron and Ch­eryl man­aged to re-drywall the en­tire room and paint it just be­fore the wed­ding was sched­uled to take place.

For the paint pal­ette, Ch­eryl selected earth tones by Ben­jamin Moore in­clud­ing sandy brown and caramel fon­due. Yum. (I think some­one should in­vent ed­i­ble paint for those peck­ish times be­tween hockey pe­ri­ods. You could lick it off the walls and re­paint the fol­low­ing day.)

The only other nasty glitch they en­coun­tered was a leak­ing pipe in one of the bath­rooms.

“When we took pos­ses­sion of the house, we no­ticed a strange odour in the room but even with the help of a plumber, we couldn’t find the source,” said Ch­eryl.

It wasn’t un­til Ron re­moved a sur­round tub and shower from the bath­room that the mys­tery was solved.

Be­hind the unit, he dis­cov­ered a cor­roded metal vent pipe some­one had re­paired by stuff­ing the holes with old socks and bits of fi­bre­glass in­su­la­tion.

“Stack pipes are cru­cial to vent bath­room odours to the out­side of a house at roof level. In­stead of ex­it­ing the house, some of the stink was leak­ing back into the bath­room,” he said.

He fixed the prob­lem by cut­ting out the metal pipe and re­plac­ing it with four-inch ABS, a stan­dard poly­mer ma­te­rial used for main stacks in mod­ern homes.

Now the hard work is be­hind them, the cou­ple said they are im­mensely pleased with their re­built home lo­cated on one acre of beau­ti­fully treed land.

They passed up on buy­ing the house when it was listed for $300,000 sev­eral years ago be­cause it had a swim­ming pool in the back­yard, said Ch­eryl.

But when the price dropped to $230,000 in 2009, she said the swim­ming pool was “paid for by the dis­counted cost of the house.”


A new van­ity with a Ja­panese-style sink was in­stalled in this bath­room; the mas­ter bed­room in­cludes built-in cab­i­netry by Pete Wall of Mor­den be­hind the king-size bed; the fam­ily room fea­tures slid­ing glass doors

that open onto a large deck and ad­join­ing stone pa­tio; a large en­ter­tain­ment unit was in­stalled in the fam­ily room where Ron and Ch­eryl watch Jets games.

Ron Funk and his wife, Ch­eryl Digby, are proud of the ren­o­va­tion they com­pleted of their 1,900-square-foot bungalow in Mor­den.

The kitchen be­fore the ren­o­va­tion. The teal-coloured struc­tural wall to the right was knocked down and re­placed with a 32-foot over­head lam­i­nated beam. Far left, the re­mod­elled kitchen.

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