Bungalow Re-Do

Bungalow Re-Do

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Bungalow Re-Do

by Samantha Sannella

Updating a postwar home

Ontario is dotted with charming bungalows, and it’s interesting to discover the history of these square boxes that so many of us call home. The CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) published catalogues of designs by Canadian architects from 1947 to 1974. The plans were sold for a reasonable price in an effort to improve standards and address the postwar housing shortage. These plans, which were identified by number, were sold for $10 to owners and builders, alike.

As the years passed, the catalogues reflected an evolution in Canadian living standards. In the late 1940s designs were minimal and included a living room, a kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom. By the late 1950s the three-bedroom house became more popular. Powder rooms and family rooms were also added, and the carport was a typical feature in plans from the 50s. In the 1960s, garages were added. Brick choices were generally red, salmon or light beige.

With two-bedroom bungalows fetching record-high prices in the Toronto area, it’s no wonder that owners are looking to maximize the value of these homes. Originally built for approximately $22,000, these homes were modest in their design and detailing, but can be updated for increased functionality, improved energy efficiency and enhanced styling.


Most of the postwar bungalows had a low basement ceiling and a supporting wall that ran the length of the house. Both issues can be problematic when looking to add more liveable space. If the budget allows, consider lowering the basement floor to provide more headroom. If doing a fullscale renovation, the load-bearing wall will need to be replaced with steel beams.

Once the space is open, it’s easier to reconfigure the kitchen by combining it with the living/dining area, which will offer much more space for entertaining and a growing family. To provide more light and to give the illusion of taller ceilings, consider adding a skylight or two.

Energy Efficiency

It’s a well-known fact that these bungalows were not well-insulated. This can be rectified by adding strapping to the interior walls and insulating with fibreglass, wool or foam insulation, and then adding drywall. A semi-rigid stone wool insulation works well. You’ll lose a few inches of interior space, as well as the lathe and plaster wall finish, but you’ll gain the much needed R-value.

New windows are an important upgrade to a bungalow renovation. If you suspect rot or deteriorating conditions around the frames and sills, opt for a full-frame replacement. With full-frame window replacements, the exterior trim and windowsills will need to be replaced, as well as the interior window trim. With inserts, the exterior trim and sills can be left in place and the new window is inserted. While inserts are easier to install, more cost effective and maintain the integrity of the exterior and interior trim, the condition of the existing windows and trim will need to be assessed.

The “Don’t List”

  • Don’t use over-scaled stone veneer on the facade
  • Don’t use red or green roofing shingles
  • Don’t pave the front yard
  • Don’t stucco a single-storey bungalow
  • Don’t embark on a transformation without hiring a designer


The traditional-coloured bricks used on these bungalows can be enhanced by choosing complementary colours for the trim, roofing and front door. Consider neutrals like slate, charcoal and black. These shades match most brick work and can tie the entire facade together. If you are looking to add a few contemporary touches, consider a stainless steel mailbox, a doorbell and a fashionable door handle set.

If replacing the front door, a painted steel door with a full glass panel can make a big impact, as well as updating the railings. If you want to preserve the heritage look, but want to make it more interesting, consider hiring a metal artist to customize a wrought iron design. Of course, there are countless details that can be added to set your bungalow apart from the rest. Copper eaves troughs are one such detail, and the changing patina will gracefully age your home.


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