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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Building from ground up has plusses, minuses

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer


Even our most experienced homeowners find a challenge when they choose to tear down their home and rebuild from the ground up.

Just ask Chris Burckle and her family.

This was their third remodeling project on three houses in Salt Lake City's historic Avenues district.

The interior of the Burckles' home has a modern kitchen while the exterior blends well with their Avenues neighbors.

The previous renovations were a complete interior remodel on the first and the building of an upper story on the second. However, the Burckles didn't grasp the complexity and headache of building a brand new house — in the Avenues, no less — until they did it.

They have always loved the neighborhood and the charm of the homes in the Avenues, but these old homes come with designs that don't function well for today's lifestyles and with old materials and systems that need updating in order to raise the home up to modern standards.

In this case, the 900-square-foot home's structure was in bad enough shape that there was no choice but to tear down the house and start over.

The Burckles knew that was the case when they were looking at the house, but they decided to buy it for the land. A quarter-acre lot in the Avenues was "a dream come true" for the Burckles.

Having done two previous remodeling projects in the Avenues, they had some understanding of the challenge of working not only within city building and zoning codes, but also within a neighborhood with a distinctive historic flair and residents who keep a sharp eye out for compliance in all remodeling projects.

They knew they had to work with an architect that was familiar with the process.

"You can't just hire any old architect when you are remodeling in the Avenues," Chris Burckle says. "It gets too complicated. All it takes is one complaint from a neighbor — which may or may not be valid — to get a permit pulled and stop a project. When this happened to us, it took six weeks to get our permit back and get back to work. Your architect has to be prepared to plead your case and revamp the design if needed."

It has been a little over a year now since the Burckles moved into their new home, and they can happily say it was worth it.

"The process was definitely a challenge," Chris said. "But it's everything we wanted in a house. We love our home."

They created a 1940-style bungalow to fit the neighborhood but used new products and materials. They chose durable materials such as cement-fiber board siding to minimize maintenance and make their new "old" home last for many years to come.

"We didn't want to cheap out on the structural products," she says. "We wanted quality materials to make a solid foundation and structure of the home. That was more important to us than the smaller interior things."

While the outside blends well with the other homes in the neighborhood, the interior design is fresh and fits the modern family's lifestyle. It has an open floor plan with an ergonomically designed gourmet kitchen, which opens up to a great room with vaulted ceilings and hardwood flooring throughout — definitely not what you would expect to see from the exterior look of the home.

By building a brand new house the Burckles were able to get everything they wanted, but the problem was they had to pick out everything they wanted.

"We will never build again from the ground up," Chris says. "Design is a tricky thing and building new is completely different than renovating. I suggest finding an existing house you can enhance. It was just too huge of a project that I will never attempt again."

Despite the challenges, Chris has advice that applies to anyone looking to remodel or build new: "Once your project is done just love it and move forward. The whole reason for doing it is to love where you live anyway."

We agree. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at ask@renovationdesigngroup.com.

© 2010 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.


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