LIVING

Bryan Baeumler and family go country in 'House of Bryan: In The Sticks'

12/12/2014 05:00 EST | Updated 02/10/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - As if preparing to welcome a new baby wasn't enough to keep Bryan and Sarah Baeumler busy, the couple decided to pull up stakes with their three kids to move to their new home in the Ontario backwoods — a sprawling space in need of major renovation.

The family's transition to country living is documented in "House of Bryan: In The Sticks" which premieres with back-to-back episodes Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HGTV Canada. The inaugural season of "House of Bryan" featured the family's custom home build in Oakville, Ont., west of Toronto, while the second focused on the construction of their cottage on a northern island.

The latest instalment sees the family seeking out a bit more peace and quiet and settling on a spacious home set on 6.5 hectares. Unable to afford carrying the costs of their cottage and two homes, contractor Bryan breaks one of his cardinal rules by opting to live in their new house while it undergoes major construction.

"For the average family, I still strongly say if you're doing a major builder reno like this, get out. Move away, let it happen," he said in a phone interview.

"I think very few people would be in the same scenario we were: buying a house and building an addition directly attached to it with the goal of moving into the addition when it's completed." On top of that, they were also retrofitting the existing house, he added.

"I have a lot of practice and experience building and renovating homes, and my family has a lot of practice with a lot of people around and a lot of chaos," Baeumler said. "I think if you have a strong relationship, and a strong family, and an adventurous family, you can certainly get through it — but it's certainly not for everyone."

Baeumler said the top priority throughout the home reno or construction process is safety — particularly of kids. Everyone on site was diligent and aware of the location of the children before any construction equipment or machinery was moved, he noted. And for a period of time during construction when the deck was ripped off the front of the home, Baeumler said the locked front door was secured with multiple 7.5-centimetre construction screws into the door frame to hold it shut, with the area fully blocked and barricaded.

Baeumler said it's important to separate living quarters with plastic sheets and tape off air returns. And while it's key to keep the place tidy during the reno, he acknowledged they reached a stage "where you can't keep up with it." Such was the case when they decided to toss their well-trodden carpets once construction wrapped.

"Construction isn't a two-lane highway where you have to stay in between the lines and you can only go straight. It's more of a shipping channel where you just have to keep it clean of buoys and wander back and forth; and ultimately, the destination is the same.

"You have to be ready to make changes and you have to be ready to deal with issues that arise that you didn't expect — and you have to be able to take that in stride."

For city dwellers considering a full-time transition to the country, Baeumler said there are key considerations to be made in ensuring the upkeep of the home.

"You're more than likely going to be on the septic system, not the town system, so that's another piece of equipment that needs to be maintained and operating it can be a little more costly," he said. "You're probably going to be on a propane system rather than the city's gas, so you need to be on top of that, have it filled so you don't run out in the middle of winter."

For homeowners planning to embark on a reno in 2015, Baeumler said regardless of what's on their to-do list, they need to have a plan in place that is "liquid and adjustable." While taking the time to enjoy the process, they should also identify key priorities, he noted.

"A lot of people focus on the shiny things and stuff that will make things look great. But I always tell people the first place to spend your money is the place to last longer. ... The money should go to the more permanent things.

"When I say that, I mean the structure in the home, the insulation in the home, the electrical-mechanical. That's where you put your money first because that's what lasts the longest and that's what's going to increase the efficiency of the home."

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