The perfect porch for a scary client
The challenge? Transform a classic Kelowna residence by replacing an existing porch with a large, covered veranda that would perfectly match the house’s traditional design.
February 24, 2012 by Robert Koci
The challenge? Transform a classic Kelowna residence by replacing an existing porch with a large, covered veranda that would perfectly match the house’s traditional design. The owner’s solution? Hire a tried-and-true contractor, outline the vision, toss him the keys and leave the country for two months. Contractor Ken Reid, owner of KSR Construction of Kelowna, B.C., admits he was “humbled” by the trust the client showed in him.
Reid has worked across Canada, mainly on residential and light commercial work. KSR has served Kelowna and surrounding areas since 1986, providing renovation, project management, design and general contracting services. Residential renovation is the firm’s bread-and-butter and almost all the work comes by word-of-mouth and referrals. Design-build is a featured service, and Reid credits his experienced staff for giving him the time to focus on the design side of the business. “The design portion of the design-build business happened out of necessity, a number of years ago,” he explains. “We were finding, with clients who had hired designers and architects, that the drawings just weren’t complete enough.” Reid would offer his suggestions to clients and get an enthusiastic response. The next step was getting his ideas on paper. “I was constantly doing little hand sketches and that sort of thing to get my point across,” says Reid. “I am self-taught as a designer. I’ve been a journeyman carpenter for 27 years.”
Change in lifestyle
Several noteworthy projects over the years have involved large deck additions and the Ladner residence is one of the more significant, according to Reid. The owners gave KSR a general idea of what they wanted and then left the country. “They trusted my judgment and creativity more than I did!” says Reid with a laugh. “I take it as a huge compliment when someone talks to us about what they would like to do and then says they are going away for a couple of months – they’ll leave it with us,” says Reid. “It was like, ‘Have fun, guys,’ and off they went!” The home was a traditional “I-house,” sited near a brook on a 20-acre parcel of land surrounded by orchard and farmland in Kelowna. The family had spent most of its time at the back of the house, until a large development began on a nearby property. That led them to decide on finally expanding the front porch, long on their to-do list.
The total project cost in the $70,000 range and KSR completed the work, including interior and exterior painting, in just over three months. “We transformed the traditional exterior from a plain, concrete stoop with four-inch posts to a large, covered veranda with a recessed second floor deck accessed off both the master bedroom and a guest suite. I like to think we captured the look they wanted and still maintained the traditional look and feel of the home,” says Reid. He wanted to build something that would complement what was already there – not take away from it.
The permitting process went without a hitch, partly because it was such a large property. Work began early in the spring, with bad weather hampering things early on. “After that, it all went smoothly,” says Reid. It was very standard construction.
“The whole thing was based on pads and posts for the footings for the deck. The home had a basement, but we didn’t really impact that.” Drainage of the upper deck levels required some thought. “The drains are all concealed inside the porch columns and then tied into an underground dispersion system,” explains Reid.
Some of KSR’s staff have been with Reid for quite a while. “They are very well-versed in handling the adverse situations that you occasionally run into when doing renovation additions,” says Reid. “One fellow has been doing this for close to 30 years now,” he explains. “They have a great wealth of knowledge and skills.” The result was a straightforward project that required no special equipment.
KSR usually employs from four to six people and Reid
had four working on the Ladner residence, as well as subtrades. The design process was interest- ing given the very open-handed mandate. “Things kind of pop up on the fly. With myself and the guys that I employ, the creativity is very exciting,” says Reid. “You can’t rule with an iron fist in these things, you have to be open to ideas, suggestions and criticism as well.”
A good example was the decision to add a second-story deck to the structure. That idea came out of a discussion about the roof height. “We said ‘Hey, this roof’s going to be a little high – how are we going to cut it in? It would be nice if we could knock it down flat,” says Reid. “That progressed into, ‘If it’s flat, why don’t we make it a deck?’”
It was crucial that the concept complement the house’s traditional appearance. With the roof line going over top and tying into the second floor, it was visually and aesthetically important to balance everything. There is a master bedroom on the left side of the deck and a guest bedroom on the rights side, explains Reid. “Just through evolution, we decided it would be nice to build a little deck off of those rooms.” KSR created a flat section of roof that was concealed inside the roof section. They took a couple of windows out, transferred them indoors and put in a little dormer roof. “It just kind of helped to balance the whole structure,” says Reid.
The owners wanted a rustic, natural look for the porch. “They didn’t want a high-end finish on it, because it’s a working farm. They have everything from dirty shoes and boots to dogs on there. In fact, a horse made its way up there once!” he says.
The porch flooring is all 2×6 tongue-and-groove pine. The ceiling is tongue-and-groove cedar. “It’s all natural, with just some clear coat on it,” says Reid. “All the shake siding out front is all-natural cedar shakes that were stained and applied.” The trims and finishes used were labour-intensive, explains Reid. “There wasn’t much that we just could go out and purchase. It was all created and crafted on-site,” he adds. But that was a positive for Reid and his team. “That’s what we take a lot of enjoyment out of – putting our own touches on these projects.”
The finishes turned out to be one of the challenges with the project, simply because of the springtime weather. “Once you get out of the rough framing and start on the actual finishes, keeping the finishes in good condition prior to getting the actual finish coat on them is a real challenge in bad weather,” says Reid. The protection of the finishes meant that a lot of the work had to be tarped. As well, KSR put plywood shields over some of the wall finishes so workers could move material and tools around without worrying about denting or marking anything accidentally.
The porch also has recessed lighting throughout the deck as well as some lighting in the dormers on the upper balcony.
While not specifically aiming for a “green” project, the rustic look the clients wanted called for natural products and latex-based finishes, says Reid.
The acid test
The project was definitely a highlight for the firm. “Without blowing our own horns, the work speaks for itself. It was a fun project. It was very humbling to have a client trust your judgment and your creativity to the point where they left you completely on your own to transform their home,”
It was one of those projects where you show up for work in the morning with a smile on your face. “The guys that work for us enjoy being able to put a little bit of their own creativity into the project,” says Reid.
The acid test was going to be the owners’ reaction when they returned from their trip. “Not having the owners around to bounce ideas off certainly lends itself to a bit of concern; you
are really hoping that what you’re doing is going to work,” says Reid.
The reaction? “We blew their socks off,” says Reid. “Their jaws dropped when they saw the house, for all the right reasons!” Then, they offered what Reid considers to be one of the nicest compliments he could get: the clients said “It looks like it has always been there.”
Is there anything Reid would have done differently, given a second chance? “There isn’t much I would change on it. It was a neat progression of ideas that just kind of came together.” cc
Jim Barnes is a Toronto-based freelance writer with more than 30 years of experience as a business journalist and editor.