Posts

Thinking Outside the Framework

Addition

Ever tried to make an omelet without breaking an egg? If you were searching for an analogous challenge in residential remodeling, it would no doubt be adding a second story addition without pulling off an existing roof.

STRITE’s president, Bob Mundy, is hardly one to walk away from a challenge — particularly when it’s structural in nature. Among the pleasures of being in our industry, after all, are the problem solving opportunities inherent in working within existing constraints rather than building from scratch.

We recently finished up a project in which our clients wanted to add around 200 square feet to the second story of their home, in what had been dead attic space, in order to create a dedicated quilting room for the wife. The attic was located above the first floor dining room, with about half an inch separating the two, floor and ceiling. Seeing this, along with identifying a bearing point on the common wall with the kitchen, Bob decided to do something STRITE had never before attempted. When our clients realized that in taking the approach he recommended they could continue to live virtually undisturbed in the rest of their home during the course of the remodel, and without adding cost to the project, they were only too happy to consent.

bob

How could you not trust a face like Bob Mundy’s?

“Basically, what we did was to take the single story truss roof off one side of the house without affecting the entry, another side, or rear of the home,” Bob explained. “This is very unique.”

STRITE’s construction team began the process by cutting a hole out of the trusses, after removing all the insulation from the attic. “We then ‘sistered up’ 2x12s to the existing trusses to give them strength, and began to cut the trusses out,” said Bob.  We covered the hole so we wouldn’t go into the dining room,”  an accomplishment that our clients greatly appreciated.  “We could be sitting at the table having dinner and not know that anything was going on above us,” observed the husband.

“I came up with the idea of doing this from seeing what was structurally possible based on bearing points down below,” Bob said. “We found a bearing point on the common wall with the kitchen and then put a header on the back of the house to carry the weight of the floor system and the roof.  The trusses are attached to the new house wall in line with the existing roof. It’s a first!”

While it may be a “first,” it is hardly an “only.” Said Bob, “We’re doing something similar in Surprise Valley…overcoming single story trusses. Rather than take the whole truss off the back of the garage we’re just cutting it back so that as you look at the back of the house you’re seeing a wall that has now become the point of strength for the house. In the old days you would just have pulled the whole roof off. This approach maximizes the homeowners’ square footage, which adds additional value to the house as well as saving them thousands of dollars.”

We love thinking outside the frame — and having someone with Bob Mundy’s experience makes doing so second nature to us, and a source of professional satisfaction.

Designing Minds: A West Boise Home Ages Gracefully…Along with its Owners

Addition

“Outgrowing” a home is a common motivation for remodeling it — especially as households expand with the addition of children or extended family members. When it comes to aging, however, the concept of outgrowing a home takes on an entirely new meaning — a reality that our clients Pete and Diane discovered with regard to their West Boise residence.

“We both had bad knees and some hip arthritis, and our master suite was located upstairs,” says Pete. “We considered options — moving, elevators, etc. — and in the end we decided instead to expand the house and put a master suite on the ground floor. Our kids came home often enough that we knew we could still use the one upstairs as well.”

In approaching the design of their remodel, which would involve the conversion of two existing rooms (a laundry room and a downstairs bedroom) along with the construction of an additional space, the couple drew on past experience.

Says Pete, “We had been involved in the redesign of places that our parents lived in, and we had also observed my brother as he built a home that he designed himself. We merged the best ideas from those experiences and brought them to our meeting with (STRITE designer) Michael Snow, who contributed more ideas as well. The final product was a compilation of good ideas.”

Among this compilation of good ideas were certain “must haves” for Pete and Diane. These included combining a downstairs bathroom and laundry room to increase the functionality and convenience of washer/dryer/storage orientations, and adding a large walk-in shower and a urinal. On this last item, Pete wryly comments, “Any family that has young boys or an older man should have a urinal. It’s much easier to clean and use — and it makes living easier with the wife.”

Along with the Pete and Diane’s design preferences, Michael Snow came up with a plan that would also give the couple the larger bedroom space they were looking for, while only adding around 500 square feet to the total space of the home. As Pete recalls, STRITE came up with some other enhancements as well. “At first, we were more focused on minimizing cost by placing the plumbing close to the existing fixtures, but Michael showed us a better way to locate them that didn’t really increase cost, but created a much better flow. He also included skylights and a sun tunnel that really added a lot to the space. The biggest contribution he made, however, was with helping us see the best overall layout for the rooms.”

While the middle of winter might not seem the ideal time to start a residential remodel/addition project in Boise, Pete and Diane’s project began in January. Although the cold weather presented challenges, the new master suite was ready that summer. “The weather caused us some grief — I remember trying to get the backhoe work completed before the ground froze, and there were rainy days that complicated things, but there weren’t many issues that extended the completion date for the project.”

Pete and Diane's new addition gets a chilly start.

Pete and Diane’s new addition gets a chilly start.

Pete and Diane’s patience with the construction process was more than rewarded by its results. “The remodel is the best thing we’ve done — it’s just phenomenal,” Pete says. “As you get older, there is a greater ease of living with having everything on one floor. At the same time, we have an expandable part of the house upstairs for when the kids come. We can have both our children’s families stay with us, and there’s plenty of room. We can take things out of the dryer and put them in drawers or hang them up — that’s a real convenience — and our new bathrooms are safer with the walk-in shower instead of the tub shower.”

Flush from the success of the master bedroom addition, Pete and Diane decided to take on yet another project aimed at further accommodating children and grandchildren: a family room remodel. As Pete explains their decision, “Our motivation was simply to have enough room for five grandsons to be here and romp and stomp and enjoy themselves, while allowing us to participate in whatever is going on.”

The couple’s home had a great room where their kitchen and family room met, with an eating area in between the two. The original family room was a too small for five boys (who are now between the ages of 18 and 8), so STRITE added about 200 square feet to the area by repositioning a fireplace and windows, then putting in a couple of sliding glass doors to allow access to the back and side yards.

The new master suite creates an unobtrusive bump out to the existing floor plan of the home.

“It was a fairly straight forward remodel,” Pete explains. “The biggest issue was the positioning of the windows and moving the fireplace, which was in the center of a wall that had to go in order to open the space up. It either had to move, or be converted to a walk around, which conflicted with having the open space for the grandkids.” In addition to relocating the fireplace, STRITE converted it from wood burning to gas — another lifestyle convenience that the couple appreciates every winter. “The area we spend most of our time in is warmed enough by the gas fireplace that the furnace doesn’t come on unless it gets really cold,” says Pete, “which saves us from having to heat all the other rooms. I wish I had put one in the bathroom!”

Looking back at the modification of the family room, Pete still marvels at the way it complimented the existing design. “Michael did great work on blending the rooflines, so as with the main suite extension, you can’t tell that it was added on — it just looks like it was built that way from the get go. STRITE has an unbelievable talent for this.”

Having experienced home construction and remodeling on a first hand basis, as well as an interested bystander, Pete succinctly sums up his lessons learned: “You get what you pay for.” Another especially applicable piece of advice that Pete offers anyone considering a remodel is to “be involved from start to finish — you’ll end up with a much better product in the end.” And since living with the remodel process for six months can be trying, Pete also advocates patience.

“You know its going to be a mess — it’s going to be noisy, it’s going to be dusty — but all that will eventually be gone and you’ll be happy with the results. STRITE is very conscious of the impact of a remodel on your life, and they isolate the work area from you as much as they possibly can. In our case, they totally isolated the construction area with false walls. They protected the house, even while still making the laundry room accessible. It was more like living next door to a construction site than living in one.”

Thinking about the most enjoyable aspects of his and his wife’s remodel experience, Pete describes it in two words: Michael Snow. “Doing the design was a lot of fun, and Michael made it that way. Diane and I had our little square footage models and cut outs that we played with, and we had the enjoyment of actually seeing our ideas come into being. Michael would do anything for us, and we know that STRITE will stand by what they say. If we called them today and said that something needed to be fixed, they’d send someone over to do it.”

Thinking about his home, post-remodel, Pete can’t imagine that he and Diane will ever want to leave — and thanks to their remodel, there is no reason they should have to anytime soon. Which begs a question going back to Pete’s earlier comment on cost: How do you amortize peace of mind?

Addition-Remodel-Boise-10-001-abd

After…before…during. STRITE’s remodel not only adds not only space, but visual appeal to Pete and Diane’s west Boise home.

 

And Baby Makes Five

Addition

When a family increases by one child more than the number of bedrooms, it’s time to consider a larger home — but that doesn’t mean buying a new one.  Think of this situation as an opportunity to customize, as well as add on.

Vision

Our client’s family had increased by a child, and with only two kids’ rooms in their current floor plan, they needed to add a new bedroom to accommodate number three.  Having recently spent some time overseas, however, they wanted a design that would reflect a new esthetic sensibility as well as provide more space.

Challenge

The original floor plan design for the new addition had been created by an architect whom our clients had hired.  As the folks who were responsible for building it, however, we found some aspects of the design to be a bit awkward.  The first thing we did in redesigning the space was to create a larger family area as part of the new bedroom addition.

Accomplishment

We ripped out the two original kids’ rooms and used the space over the home’s garage to frame three bedrooms and a family room.  This was a more technically demanding project than it might seem on its surface, since we had to accommodate existing duct work in the construction.  In designing the layout of the new rooms, we made sure that each of them had windows on two sides — something we are big believers in doing.

Highlights

Along with the windows in each child’s bedroom, we added a skylight to the new family room space to bring in more natural light.  The result of the project was a balancing of personal and communal space that appealed to the newfound sense of esthetics that our clients had acquired while living overseas, and gave new meaning to the expression, “one big happy family.”  Great design, when applied to where we live, has a way of bringing joy to our lives.

Click on the photo to enlarge: