Introduction & Overview

Welcome to our cottage renovation! Hopefully, you can gain some insights, inspiration, and cost savings by seeing what we’ve done to bring our 30-year-old cottage into the modern era, while at the same time, adding some much-needed space for our growing family.

This cottage renovation is being done in two stages. We tackled the kitchen back in 2014, followed by major renovations to the interior, exterior, landscaping, and screen porch starting in 2019.

The screen porch will be the biggest renovation/addition to the cottage, transforming the existing (20′) screen porch into a 3-season lakefront porch that extends the full (40′) width of the cottage. Inside the new porch will be a 3-season eating area and sitting area with a wood burning fireplace.

There will also be a new 6′ x 10′ side porch located off the dinning room to serve as a sheltered BBQ area, located close to the kitchen. This mini porch will be enclosed with screens and a roof.

The 2019 second stage of renovations continues through to 2022. The long length of time required for stage 2 is attributed to getting the necessary building permit, which involved several minor variances involving setbacks and lengthy committee approvals.

Let’s get started!

Step1: Kitchen Renovation

Haliburton, Ontario, Canada


Located in Haliburton Ontario, Canada, this lakefront family cottage was built by the current owners. The land was purchased in 1987 and the cottage was ready for occupancy in 1989.

Renovation Plan:

Interior & exterior renovations plus expand the screen porch.

STEP 1 – Complete Kitchen Renovation
Tackling the dated kitchen.

Here’s a look at the original kitchen installed back in 1989. The cabinetry was melamine with Formica countertops.

The cabinets and layout were (very!) dated, plus we wanted to add more light by incorporating a window located on the oven wall.

Kitchen renovation date: 2014

The additional window (right) was added on the old oven wall

Kitchen Renovation
New drywall and windows

In addition to replacing all of our windows, we added more windows whenever possible. Here in the kitchen A 2nd window was added to provide more natural light.

The kitchen was gutted right down to the studs.

Kitchen Renovation
Radiant in-floor heating

With the old floor removed, we added in-floor radiant heating before tiles were installed.

Tile floors get cold in the winter so we all appreciate the warmth and luxurious feel of heated floors in the dead of winter!

It’s tough to beat heated floors in the winter!

Adding more windows is never a bad idea in cottage country!

Kitchen Renovation
New Window Installed

The new window shown on the right really opened up the kitchen. Plus, it allows us to see when guests come down the driveway, or anyone partying on the new driveway deck.

After all, no one wants to missed out on a good party!

Kitchen Renovation
Stone accent wall

We added an accent stone wall made from stone veneer sections fastened to the wall using a stone adhesive product. It’s an easy, inexpensive project.

The finished result looks like dry stacked stone built by a stone mason. This was a very economical way to add a little rustic charm to the kitchen.

The stone accent wall by Kawartha Ridge, style: Precision Ledge.

The drawing above was provided by Emmerson Lumber in Haliburton

Kitchen Renovation
Pantry/Servery Addition

We wanted to expand the kitchen to the left of the fridge to include a tall pantry and a servery.

The servery incorporates an upper cupboard, microwave, counter space, and a liquor cabinet below.

Kitchen Renovation
Pantry/Servery Installed

The liquor cabinet includes two maple hardwood pullouts – one for liquor bottles, and one smaller pullout for cans/mix.

Note: To make room for these cabinets we removed the cottages’ side door that was located where these cabinets have been installed. You will see where larger side door was added as the tour continues!

Side door was removed
Kitchen cabinetry by Kitchen Craft Cabinetry – shaker doors, Seashell finish

The Finished Result…

The new cabinetry, appliances, granite counters and centralized island transformed our dated kitchen


  • Be prepared to use lots of self-leveling compound on floors with large format tiles.
  • Heated floors are worth the investment, whether heat pads or heat lines like we did.
  • We purchased a 36″ island range hood that came with a large curved class surround but removed it after hitting our heads a few too many times! Be careful which style you choose.
  • Under-counter LED lighting is a must-have.
  • The (Pottery Barn) stools around the island are very popular spot for friends & family.
  • The added window brought in much needed light and transformed the kitchen.
  • Given the relatively low cost of stone veneer, the accent stone wall creates a nice look.

Step 2: Living Room & Dinning Room

Living Room
Level Sunken Living Room

Back in 1988 when we built the cottage, sunken living rooms were a popular option – so was Cheers! But it was a time for a change and we wanted to create a more modern, open look with a centralized fireplace.

Note: We always appreciated the wood box shown to the left of the wood stove. There was a rear door on the outside of the cottage for feeding wood directly into the wood box.

Building a new floor on the existing floor was the most economical route.

Living Room
Building the Sub-Floor

After removing the brick fireplace surround, wood stove, and wood box, a new floor was constructed on top of the existing floor to create a level floor throughout.

Note: The window frame also had to be lifted before a replacement window was installed. The new living room window is now at the same height as the dinning room window.

Living Room
Levelled Living Room

By creating one level on the main floor, and removing the railing that used to divide the sunken living room from the dinning room, the transformation was even greater than we had envisioned.

Note: This photo also shows the pine removed from the wall to get ready for the fireplace.

NAF Engineered, Hickory Grey Stone flooring at 18mm x 165mm

Dining Room
Hardwood Flooring

After adding lots of wood screws to take away squeaks in the old plywood flooring, the new engineered flooring was installed throughout the living room and dinning room.

Note: We installed the new flooring using flooring glue and staples, VS the floating method that allows room for expansion.

With engineered flooring installed on the entire main floor (except kitchen) the space feels MUCH bigger!


  • The decision to make the main floor one even level, versus having a sunken living room was tough from a nostalgic perspective, but we are thrilled with the result. Because it was a lower living room we had to have a railing for safety and building code. The railing created two separate rooms, and as such we had wasted space. Now it’s one big open-concept room! No comparison…
  • The flooring we chose is NAF engineered flooring with a textured hand-scraped finish that really stands up to heavy traffic and pets. We highly recommend this style of finish.
  • The flooring installer gave us the option of a “floated” flooring installation whereby the boards are glued together, but not glued down. This is a less expensive installation and allows the floor to expand and contract with changing temperatures and humidity. However, we chose the other, more expensive alternative of gluing the floor down and using flooring staples.

Step 3: The Fireplace

STEP 3 – Fireplace
The Mantle

The first thing we wanted to find was a rustic antique mantle to fit our fireplace. It’s hard to imagine how these old railway ties and barn posts could ever be turned into a beautiful mantle, but after a lot of TLC and five coats of lacquer, mission accomplished!

About: We discovered these beams at Gilldercroft Furniture in Uxbridge, Ontario. The total finished cost for a 7-ft. mantle was $700.00

The fireplace is a Napoleon AX36 with driftwood logs and porcelain panels

Fireplace Framing

The next step was positioning the propane fireplace and framing it in. The fireplace vents out the back wall behind the future TV cavity.

Note: The new side window locations can be seen here. These windows will give us added light and a great view of our side forest.

Framing begins to get plywood cladding
Note the TV electrical outlets and cable piping
STEP 3 – Fireplace
Fireplace Stones

It’s time for the stone mason! There is a real art to masonry work so finding a good dry-stack stone mason is worth the investigation. The mason’s labor cost for this project was $4,000 – and worth every penny!

Note: The newly installed side windows can be seen in this photo.

Dry stack stones by Eldorado Stone: Mountain Ledge, Charleston Flats

STEP 3 – Fireplace
Fireplace Side Cabinets

Flanking both sides of the fireplace are custom cabinets with a cushion top. The grandchildren get a kick out of having a place to hangout on these cushions.

One cabinet is used for TV electronics such as the DVD player. The other serves as a handy place to store games and blankets.

The cabinets were finished in a matching color to the kitchen cabinets.

The Finished Result…

Without a doubt, our new fireplace has become the focal point of the cottage.


  • Wood VS Propane fireplace: Because we installed a new furnace as part of our renovations, we no longer had to rely on our wood stove for heat in the winter. So, given the choice between slugging wood around as we had done for 30 years, versus pushing the remote control button to have instant heat and ambiance, the decision was easy. Plus, the new three season porch being built will incorporate a real wood fireplace. After all, you can’t beat the aroma and cozy warmth of a real fire – especially when it’s primary purpose is only ambiance!
  • Planning ahead to include piping for electronic cable access behind the TV has proven to be a wise move. We used central vacuum pipes to run a conduit from the TV to the side cabinet where the DVD and other electronics are housed. Be sure to buy long enough HDMI cables to reach.
  • LED Lighting: We installed a 75″ TV on a heavy-duty mounting bracket. On the back of the TV, about 2″ inset from all edges, we added an LED light strip. This comes with a small remote control to power the lights ON/OFF, and change the color of the lights. It’s well worth the purchase price!
  • We’re also happy we installed two LED pot lights in the ceiling to shine down on the fireplace stones. Be sure to buy Gimbal type pot lights so you can direct the light where you want it.

For more fireplace ideas and how to select the best fireplace or wood stove for your home or cottage, we have a comprehensive guide. Click here

Step 4: Cottage Exterior Siding

Exterior Siding
Existing Cedar Siding

The cedar siding served us well for over 30 years but it was time to say goodbye. The woodpeckers made countless holes in the siding and some even made nests! So it was time to explore siding options and redo the whole cottage.

This was also time to say goodbye to the railway ties that created the two-tier garden beds.

Time to say goodbye to the cedar siding and railway ties


Step 1: Remove old siding

Step 2: Install energy shield

Step 3: Install new siding



When it came to selecting the siding our number one priority was low maintenance. After 30 years of maintaining natural cedar siding, we were ready to toss the stain brush!

One consideration was prefinished wood siding such as Maibec siding. But in the end we chose a board & batten vinyl siding for ultimate low-maintenance.

Gentek Iron Ore siding

To dress-up the exterior we o added stone accents along the front, back, and corners. The product used is called Fusion Stone, Great Lakes Fawn, Dry-Stack. The top sill colour is Rock-Stone, with a beveled edge.

We are very happy with this siding/stone combination. It is an economical way to achieve a high-end look.

Here we go!

The low ground level caused water to pool by the stairs.
Exterior Siding

In addition to needing new siding, the 5 support posts were starting to decay below ground level so they were added to the list.

We also needed to raise the ground level because a deck is being added and we wanted to keep the deck height under 24″ to avoid railings.

Exterior Siding

We dressed up the 5 replacement support posts by adding 45-degree braces to give it a post & beam look, and painted them in a matching colour thanks to Benjamin Moore Paints.

With the ground level raised about 20″, the new deck height is below 24″ so we were able to avoid railings.

The Fusion Stone accent gives the vinyl siding a distinctive look.



Home owners conceptual sketch

Architect interpretation – Replacing existing screen porch with a full width, 3 season screen porch

Existing Screen Porch

We have nothing but fond memories of our original screen porch. It was actually an addition to the cottage back in 1995, replacing a deck that wrapped around the lakefront side of the cottage.

Although it was a favorite gathering space for family and friends, it was getting too small for our ever-growing family. So the decision was made to expand the 20′ porch across the entire 40′ width.

However, upon inspection our contractor advised removing the porch and building from scratch as it would be more economical and structurally sound.

The existing porch was a cozy getaway from the bugs!

Time to say good bye to the old porch!
Remove Existing Porch

The last section of the porch roof was kept on until the new roof gets installed to keep the rain out. The windows and door were covered for added protection during demolition.

Porch Floor
The New 14’x40′ Floor

It was quite a shock to see just how large a 40’x14′ floor is after living with a 20’x12′ porch.

Our young inspector tested the floor and said she’s looking forward to bringing out the Barbie gang in front of the fireplace.

Time to test the new floor!

You can see the (4) 8″x8″ posts to create a post & beam look
Trusses & Framing
Taking Shape!

With the wall framing in place, the trusses were installed in under three hours!

Due to the large spans, building code called for the yellow colored support beams, called LVL – laminated veneer lumber.

Our first view from inside!

Above will be our outdoor dinning room. Photo on right shows where the seating area and wood burning fireplace will be located between the two windows.

Our first view from the outside! The new porch has transformed the cottage profile.

Composite Deck

The new 40’x12′ lakefront decking is installed and ready for the hot tub!

November 2021 – Deck Framing & Composite Installed



Home owners conceptual sketch

To have the BBQ conveniently located nearby the kitchen, we decided to construct a small covered side porch with a shed style metal roof and screen-in walls to keep the bugs away.

November 2021 – BBQ Deck Framing Installed
BBQ Deck Foundation

This is the future location for our enclosed BBQ deck. It will be fully enclosed with a 36″H knee wall and screens on three sides, plus a black metal roof.

There will also be a set of stairs on the right hand side, leading down towards the lake.


Our renovation is still underway.

This website will be updated as work progresses so come back for more!

Greg Jones

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