The Barto Residence story. How we turned a tear-down house into a tea shop in Edmonton.

The Barto Residence before it was renovated.

We ended our last chapter with our terrifying, tear down house being officially approved to become a designated municipal historic site – thank goodness!

One of the golden opportunities that come with historic designation, is the grants! The city of Edmonton pays for 50% of the approved restoration costs. While this seems like an incredibly good deal, it actually is but does come with a catch.

You can’t use just any material for restoration, and you can’t use just any contractor either.

The materials used must be as close as possible to the original building materials, which meant for siding our only option was cedar. A gorgeous wood that costs upwards to triple the price of vinyl siding – Plus then the additional cost of painting it.
(Same story for windows too)

The grants provided are in an invaluable tool for restoring the old buildings, but in all likelihood no homeowner would ever be capable of taking on a historic restoration without them.

So you might be wondering why you can’t use just any contractor. It’s not because you have select one from an approved list from the city. No, it’s because very few contractors in the city have the skills to be able to take on a project like this…. and some of them that do have the skills are a NIGHTMARE to work with.

In order to get the grants approved, you must submit 3 quotes for every aspect of the work.

Once I started getting these quotes together, I found that even finding 3 different contractors that are qualified for the scope of work and expertise in historic restoration was challenging.

After finally finding 3 contractors, I couldn’t even get them to submit me a quote! 2 of them showed up to the house to assess the job, and I’m pretty certain all they saw was a little girl in way over her head. They wouldn’t come anywhere near my project.

I had to reach out to my contact at the city and ask for some help. After about 4 months of doing everything I could to get quotes, all I had was 1 quote from a contractor that I had bad feelings about and did NOT want to work with.

Was I really just a little girl in over her head, with a hopeless property?

That’s when the stars aligned, and the hero of the Barto House enters the story.

My contact at the city was able to find an unlisted contractor from past historic restoration projects. His name was Tony. He didn’t have a website or reviews or really anything other than a phone number.

I had no choice but to call him and take a chance.

He showed up, right on time as scheduled, just him and his measuring tape and a note pad. Old school guy – a good sign he can do an “old school” restoration.

He immediately got to work checking out the house and the scope work, using a bunch of terms I really didn’t understand at the time. But I had a good feeling about him – unlike everyone else who had begrudgingly showed (or not showed up) to have a look at the project.

He submitted my quote, and the city lovingly allowed me to proceed through the grant the process with only 2 quotes for a main contractor.

With months of work behind us securing all our quote, we were officially committed to start the work next spring, in 2017.

Leave a comment