Terrace house: design ideas, inspiration and pictures

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What is a terraced house?

A group of similarly designed semi-detached or detached family houses are generally known as terraced houses. Since terraced houses are built in a row, they are also known as row houses. They are cheaper alternatives to bespoke family dwellings and are often built in large numbers to resolve the housing problem in a crowded city. They are generally developed in a specific area of the city.

Terraced houses are said to have been invented in Italy. They were introduced in England in late 19th century. Many of these historic row houses can still be seen in London, Manchester and Bath. In fact, townhouses like these are characteristic of many industrially developed countries of the world.

Are terraced houses common in Canada?

Terraced houses are quite popular in Canada and have been so since early 20th century. The historical structures resemble Victorian and Edwardian architecture. The newly built ones show more varied designs.

Where are terraced houses more prevalent?

Terraced houses are most prevalent in Montreal. This type of structure is known as a town house in the city. While places like Centre-Sud and Le Plateau-Mont-Royal are dominated by row houses surviving from an earlier century, the newer ones are mostly seen in Ville-Émard and Villeray. Toronto is another major city where a terrace house is considered to be a valuable possession. Vancouver and Halifax are two other noteworthy places where a terrace home is very common.

Any famous terraced house in Canada worth mentioning?

Many of the renowned terraced houses of the past like Walnut Hall in Toronto have been destroyed in the recent years for safety reasons. Among the still surviving ones, the terraced dwellings of Clairlea-Birchmount area in Toronto, Rue Sherbrooke and Ville-Marie in Montreal deserve a mention.    

Legal issues that may arise when building a terraced house.

Many of the modern terraced houses are built with duplex or triplex apartments. Naturally, they act like a multi-family home. If you are not planning to build a house more than three stories high, you don’t need any special permission. However, the design of your house must be pre-approved by the local building authorities.

If you are planning a townhouse more than three stories high and also intend to use it as a multifamily dwelling you need special clearance from the local building authorities. The safety norms are very stringent. For example, to eliminate any fire hazard you are not supposed to use wooden structure for your high rise building.

You should apply for a possession certification on completion of your house. Post review of your building, you will get it from the local building authorities. This process takes less than 10 days’ time, provided there has not been any deviation from the original plan.

Instead of building a terrace house from scratch, you can buy an existing one. The old structures may require renovation but are generally located in more prominent parts of the city. In most Canadian cities, you will also find many newly developed row houses to suite your needs.    

Pros and cons of owning a terraced house

Terraced houses are more affordable than custom designed villas or bungalows. The older ones are often located in prime areas of the city which makes your daily trips to offices, shopping centres and educational institutions fairly easy. Terraced houses are generally bigger than the city apartments. So they are more comfortable to live in. Compared with the apartments, the resale value is fairly higher for terraced houses. Since row houses are built in large numbers, you have the scope of being a part of a thriving community.

The close proximity to the city centre may also have a detrimental effect on your living environment, especially if you are susceptible to noise and air pollution. Most of these houses lack a front yard or backyard worth mentioning. If you are an avid gardener you may not like this. You may also miss being closer to nature.   

Maintenance & costs of a terraced house

A duplex or triplex townhouse costs CAD 700,000 or above in Canada. You will need to set aside a minimum of CAD 1000 for yearly maintenance activities. This will include periodic painting of the house, repairing the structural damages and keeping the insulation and plumbing systems in order. Minor electrical works may also be necessary within the house. For an old building, the cost of maintenance may go up to CAD 1800.

While calculating the recurrent charges, don’t forget to take the following into consideration – utility bills, services charges and parking fees. Most of the row houses don’t have enough parking space.

Which professionals are able to help you

When building a terraced house from scratch, an experienced architect will be able to help you choose the best design and guide you through the entire process. If you are buying an existing structure, seek help from interior architects to modify it according to the needs of your family. Interior designers will be able to help you decorate your house to a style most suitable to your tastes.

Where to find inspirations to build and decorate a terraced house?

Homify’s online platform is an excellent source of inspiration for you. Check out the images of the interior and exterior of the houses and take inspirations from those which you find most interesting. You may also take inspirations from plenty of other sources, such as the pristine nature to incorporate a seasonal mood or old paintings to give your house a period feel.