The complexity of design in a home renovation

On this edition of our VE blog we want to share with you the design complexity behind a renovation project we’re currently carrying out in the West side of Vancouver, and the challenges faced when making the best custom place for our client.

Let’s start this project by highlighting one of the key features of this home renovation, its amazing set of stairs that seem to be floating and held up only by floor-to-ceiling glass on each side. In short it looks magical, but how is it being supported? Let’s dive into the details and the complications that come with such an intricate design.

As designers, we love these great, beautiful show pieces, but it all comes down to the execution; This is where our Design-Build process really shines!

For this showpiece with we started with a temporary set of construction stairs, the final set of stairs will come towards the end. The landing will have a structural metal frame that reduces the bulk, coming off the back wall. The glass panels will be on the side where the kitchen is, so it will be full glass, and of course, this structural glass will need to be specially made for this showpiece as it will not only support the landing but also every single riser that comes through.

What are some general complications with an extensive renovation in an old home?

One of the things about old homes is they’re not level, they’re not square and generally, everything’s just not quite true, so one of the big challenges with adding a showpiece like these stairs is trying to get everything straight, levelled, squared and with enough support for it. Its almost like the home is working against these changes!

In terms of build, one of the biggest challenges w over this stair design was that everything was so off level, and everything had to be wrapped apart and redone, which obviously adds cost and a bit of extra time. For this project, we had to give up the u-channel and instead we needed to add wood stops. We designed a wood stop system which allows them to have one side-stop mounted slide, and the stairs in support.

However, there’s one new challenge to overcome, the client did not want a landing support on the walls, they wanted it to float; we had to explain to them that we can make it “visually look floating” but structurally the laws of physics still apply, and that’s still required.

Lessons learned and tips

  1. When doing a renovation make sure that you are having a good team behind you and that’s both; design and construction because designing renovations need a bit more time and cohesiveness between teams than a new house and your build team needs to be very exact
  2. When you get a confident design it’s important to have a design-build team working together from the beginning and ensure all teams are on same page
  3. Designers can dream up anything and everything but to build it correctly and properly is the test of a great team – bottom line is you’ve got to be able to build it!
  4. Make sure you find contractors whom you can build a good relationship – not every contractor is willing or able to have a good team with solid relationships

For more about this project check out our portfolio here.

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