Wright: Setting priorities when remodeling a home
August 30, 2014
Remodeling projects are often a mix between updating important rooms in your home and addressing maintenance items like painting and flooring. Just like owning a car, your home needs regular service.
Eventually some items like appliances or windows become obsolete. Another common problem is workmanship or materials that were poor quality from the beginning.
Our area has an abundance of homes built in the 1980s or later, with exteriors in need of repair or replacement. Decks, siding, windows and roofing wear out, depending upon the exposure of the home and frequency of maintenance.
My clients, the Carlson’s bought a two-story home on acreage with a sweeping southern view. Initially our planning centered on a mudroom addition and possibly a sunroom.
Remodeling projects often require flexibility from all involved
Like many owner-built homes, this house was an odd mix of standard and quirky construction. The siding was an unusual product I hadn’t seen in years called Shakertown, a panelized form of cedar shingles.
Much of the exposed siding was curled and split beyond repair. Thirty years of sun and rain had destroyed the wood windows, which had no exterior cladding.
My first job was to batten down the hatches for the winter by putting heavy plastic over the upstairs windows to prevent further leaks into the dining room with hardwood floors.
We began to develop plans, in association with Erin Miller Designs. I felt the complicated roof lines and multi-story home was more than I could tackle at the time, and was thrilled that Erin could help us out.
Escrow closed and Tom Carlson came up to stay in the home during a severe cold snap in December. Priorities changed as he discovered how much cold air leaked through the obsolete windows.
The original master suite was up a set of steep hardwood stairs. The Carlson’s decided it would be a better long-term plan to have the master bedroom on the main level. Nothing had been built, and we redrafted the plans without breaking stride.
Planning a remodel before you live in the home can make it difficult to set priorities.
The plan evolved to two additions on opposite ends of the home; a mudroom with a laundry and half bath, and a master bedroom addition.
The master bedroom included an existing bath, which was reconfigured, along with a walk-in closet. The bedroom has a pair of French doors which maximize the view toward the infinity pool. We tied the additions together by replacing the siding on the first floor with Hardie horizontal siding.
All the windows were to be replaced, with new siding installed on the south-facing clearstory wall.
Permits were applied for and we were ready to break ground when my phone rang. It was the Nevada County Building Department, who informed me that the detached garage was an unpermitted structure.
There had been a permit for the slab, but previous owners had built a garage without permits. In the spirit of cooperation, we were ‘permitted’ to go forward, if the owners and I agreed to bring the garage up to code.
Things got sticky at the Planning Department when a PG&E easement appeared to come within less than a foot of conflicting with the building footprint. Again, a little bit of common sense and cooperation carried the day.
Unfortunately, everything about the garage was poorly built and undersized. We epoxied new bolts into the foundation, replaced the header, added additional structure to the roof framing and even replaced siding on part of the garage when the inspector would not accept it.
Truthfully, you could see daylight coming through the wall, but it’s just an unfinished garage!.
With permitting issues under control, we began to remodel in earnest. All sides of the home had workers installing windows, siding, pouring concrete footings and framing.
There is a certain joy in setting things right, and knowing our siding and trim details would provide long-lasting service.
We installed new piers and beams to replace shoddy work on a 12-foot-deep covered deck that ran the length of the home.
It’s a wonder the porch didn’t have a major failure during a snow event.
The original deck stairs were dangerous and had to be replaced.
The mudroom addition includes a roomy laundry with a heavy-duty utility sink and a toilet.
The use is mixed, but very functional with easy access from the outdoors. A short sidewalk connects the mudroom deck to the garage and parking.
I always consider the route the groceries must be brought into the home.
The master suite is an enlargement of a former bedroom. A hidden beam behind drywall in a closet threw us a curve, but we engineered a solution with a glulam beam that the crew wiggled into place.
The original ceiling had wood beams directly supporting the two-inch thick, tongue-and-groove floorboards of the room above.
We mimicked the old beams with new ones in the addition and placed drywall panels between for a pleasing effect.
A leftover bump out of a foundation from the original water heater shed became a TV nook on the wall opposite the bed.
The bathroom includes oil-rubbed bronze fixtures, with dark green marble counters, over stained maple cabinets.
The shower is simple and clean with light-colored tile.
A remnant of the original construction: we saved the “hobbit door,” cut on an angle to access under the understair storage.
The key to this complex project was considerable flexibility from the owners, the designer/builder and the building department as we adjusted to the realities of bringing this home to the modern era.
Andrew Wright is a nationally recognized Certified Remodeler (CR) and Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). He may be reached at WrightBuilt Home Remodel & Design at email@example.com or via telephone 530-272-6657