Monday, November 02, 2009
Details important when remodeling older, boxy homes
By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer
We know the little boxy houses of yesterday do not meet the needs of the modern family — and they haven't for decades.
So, it wasn't surprising to hear that Ty Robbins' 1937 home had been remodeled four times over the years.
After so many little homemade additions, the house was like a funky jigsaw puzzle with little attention to flow. "It was not useful anymore," says Robbins.
A loft had been added in the attic of the original two-bedroom, two-bathroom home. Ty deleted the loft and added a bedroom on the main level. The house grew from 1,750 to 2,000 square feet all on one level.
To achieve the design he wanted with proper circulation from one space to another, he decided it would be necessary to tear down most of the Murray home and gut the rest. His original plan was to save three outer walls.
When the builders started demolition, however, two of those walls didn't have proper foundations. "They had concrete chunks as a foundation, literally hunks of concrete of different sizes and the floor was built with 2-by-6s," Robbins says.
"A builder usually adds a 15 percent contingency to the bid," he adds. "Well, that contingency was gone after they found that weird foundation and had to tear out more walls and pour more foundation."
Luckily, Robbins had somewhat planned for contingency issues.
"Even though you want to be optimistic, homeowners need to understand that the extra cost is going to come. You are incredibly lucky if it doesn't come, but with remodeling it most likely will. You never know until they take off the roof and they see what is really going on."
Usually, the tendency is to build as much as you can afford. If you have $500,000 you want to build a $500,000 house. But Robbins warns that you need to save some of your budget for the unknowns.
"New construction is easier to calculate, but remodeling always has weird little things come up," Robbins adds. "You can't predict it all."
Robbins knew he didn't want to spend his whole budget on "house." His philosophy is one that we stand by. He wanted to build his home a little smaller and spend the money he saved on the details.
"I upgraded everywhere and tried not to skimp on anything," he says. "I wanted to put more into a smaller space. I didn't need a large house but I wanted it nice — quality over quantity."
He had been in plenty of large homes with just high, plain walls. "But there was nothing to draw in your attention," Robbins says. "I wanted to put time into making this area cool and add to that other area. I didn't want a huge house with cheap lighting and cheap hollow doors. To me, the details were important."
He prepared those details beforehand. "I tried to do everything I could on my end to make the process as smooth as possible — plus I was freaking excited," Robbins says. "I picked out all the fixtures, flooring, paint colors, everything I could before construction even started. I created a big binder with all my specifications; where you could find it and how much it cost. The builder loved that. It made his job easier and kept us on track."
At the top of Robbins' list was radiant heated floors all throughout his house. He says they are his favorite part about his new house, especially now that winter has arrived.
"Radiant heating is so much better than running the furnace and spreading around dust," he says. He took a lot of thought in sealing his house and invested in insulation and the best windows he could find. He didn't want a drafty house and wanted it as dust-free as possible.
Now, he finds that he stays home more. "My house is warm and comfortable, like a home should be," he says.
"You want to come home from work and, ahhh, just relax. That is the kind of house I wanted. And with the help of a lot of people that is just what we created." As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.