Ways to give your house a lift


By Francie Healy

Some people get their hair cut. Some get a whole new wardrobe.

And when spring comes to Ottawa, some take the plunge and get a facelift…for their house, that is.

It’s an exciting and creative way to make your home look like a whole new person –er, house.

The facelift can be dramatic as well as practical. You can make your home look years younger, more vibrant, more elegant. You can make it quieter. And, and at the same time, you can save on heating costs and maintenance.

Suzanne Martin, designer and co-owner of Luxurious Living Studio, says people come to her for advice on how to change their house exterior, and she helps them make any one of a number of decisions. It’s not an easy thing to do because there are so many options, but it’s fun to imagine how exquisite your house will look after its makeover.

For Suzanne, it’s first a matter of educating clients –telling them what exterior siding products there are, helping them decide what would look best on their house, what’s involved in the installation, how long it will last, and – for some, best of all – what colour they want their house to be.

Suzanne says you can have almost any colour you can imagine. Of course, there are “colour ranges” within manufacturers, but these are wide ranges, and they’re sometimes open to customization as well.

You can choose something like cement boards. Or stucco. Or “covering” panels. Or concrete tiles. Or wood. Suzanne says a lot of people are choosing wood – real wood or man-made composites.

The products come in a variety of shapes, sizes and finishes.

“You can get cement board siding that looks like board-and-batten,” says Suzanne. “These are quality, maintenance-free products that will stand the test of time.”

TOUT-old lft front

You can “mix materials a little”, too, she adds. You might, for instance, for a contemporary look, want a two-storey house to have a couple of large wooden squares on the corners, and the rest to be in another material – stucco or concrete tiles, perhaps.

Or you can just add something for decorative impact – for example, lattice. “You could add it to the front of the building,” she says. “Maybe to windows… to corners… to a porch; you could change columns, or add them.”

Corrugated steel, like old tin siding, she adds, can also add a feature design element.

She says stucco is “a major material that we’re seeing more and more of in Ottawa over the last several years”. She explains people like it for its clean, contemporary or heritage look. And with stucco, you really can have any colour you want. In years to come, if you want to change it, you can just repaint it.

“You can trim out windows with a different colour or shape,” she explains, “giving it a flat-square look or to make it look like there’s trim when there is none.”

Stucco also makes a good insulator. Suzanne says some of her clients in older homes prefer to insulate from the outside, rather than tearing out their plaster walls and insulating from the inside.

You can block a whole part of your house with covering panels that can wrap right around from one side to the other so it flows without an apparent break in design.

Concrete tiles used to be more common on commercial buildings, she says, but now there are more and more residential versions of them – again, in many different colours.

Concrete boards have traditionally been expensive, but she saysthe price is coming down as they become more popular.

You can have wood siding of many types, including overlapping cedar shakes that are real cedar or materials that look like cedar.

It depends on preference. Some people like man-made materials that look like cedar because the colour doesn’t fade. Others want real cedar because it does change and weather with time.

Gerhard Linse, Owner and Chief Designer of Gerhard Linse Design and Building Consultants, says the dramatic impact of lighting can also transform the look of your house.

Look at your home, he says, “as an artist would a fresh canvas. Some areas will long to be bathed with even light, while others demand more intense pools of light,such as steps at the main entrance.”

Ask yourself, he adds, if you just want to wash the building with a pattern of soft light, or if you want to highlight a specific architectural feature. Or you might want lighting to provide security to key areas.

Gerhard offers some advice in this regard. Here’s what he says:

  • If you’re putting pot lights in the soffit, don’t place them too close to the building wall, or you’ll risk “lighting hot spots”, where all the light is absorbed within the first three feet of the soffit.
  • Wide soffits allow you to place pot lights in the outer third of the soffit, which will “wash” the wall more evenly to its base.
  • Pot lights with gimbled trims also help to direct the beam of the light for a more even wash. Long-lasting soft white LED bulbs are a must in high areas.
  • When placing wall sconces, consider the type and size of the fixture before positioning the electrical box.Don’t place them too high. Generally beside an entry or garage door, they should be placed about a quarter or a fifthof the way down from the top of the door.
  • Landscape lighting that is meant to wash the building and trees is difficult to do well. Involve someone with experience.

Suzanne Martin also likes the idea of investing in lighting as a transformative element to your home.

“You can literally wash light right up the face of the building and make it come to life when everyone else is in darkness,” she says.

Not a bad thing, she adds, in the long, dark days of Ottawa winters.