Upscale and Modern Exterior Renovation: October 2017

5 siding rear after
4siding rear before
3 siding front after
2 siding front during
1 siding front before

If it is time to renovate your exterior, why not put a little more time into an upscale appearance with lasting qualities. Here is some food for thought.

The first to consider is what other parts of the home are part of the exterior cladding that may affect future renovations.  Windows, trim and other items can be improved now or in phases if you plan ahead. The contemporary featured here has some elegant and custom window frames that were original to the home. Custom made and really cool, but many frames had signs of fatigue. Any operable window needed new frames and impacted the interior of the home. The Owner wanted that to be addressed as part of the big picture without major disruption, so we worked on that about a year before the siding.

When it was time to re-clothe the home, it was also time to give the home a fresh undergarmentJ. Calking was done in obvious places as well as some suspect areas where the Owner was aware of air leaks. A vapor barrier was put over the existing and repaired plywood. We use a crinkly “Tyvek Drain wrap” often in lieu of traditional flat house wrap because it has a vertical groove that provides added protection against water by enhancing drainage away from the wall. Because metal siding was part of the install with a vertical cedar, this extra expense was well worth it. The new house wrap that is taped at all the joints provides an all new wind blanket and rain coat.

Add some style! I mean… if you are going to set up staging and pay for the labor and materials, why not talk to a designer about options for your home.  This home is so great, although it had some existing siding elements that screamed 1970’s, like the areas that were sided on an angle… “Marsha? Marssshha!”  There were other beautiful angles and forms that follow a more strict form of 3D art in architecture which were under represented or not celebrated well by the monolithic repeat of vertical siding and single color. When the Owner showed us an inspiration photo with metal siding, we were so excited to design a mix of wood and metal that was perfect for this homes architecture. My favorite items on the project are the dual horizontal and vertical pieces with contrasting neutral bold horizontal planes and the warm natural vertical cedar. And now the door says…”Come on in!”

Happy renovating… and Fall! Ray

How Avoid Construction Surprises

If you have read my blog, you will know that I believe there are no real surprises in the estimating of construction. There is a thing called inexperience… and that usually results in surprise costsJ. I had to stop watching HGTV because the programs almost always result in the designer and contractor meeting with the Owner to let them know about an “unforeseen” issue that was going to break the budget. Also in most cases I would wonder why they didn’t know they would need a beam, that they couldn’t move the plumbing without additional expense, etc., etc.

A hidden cost in construction, that shouldn’t be a surprise is rotting sills. It doesn’t matter how expensive the home is, we are constantly finding wood rot behind the front stoop. So much so, that we already know we are likely to find it even when there are no visible signs; and we can find evidence pre-budget. The primary culprit is typically poor coordination between the builder, the person siding or the mason.

In the picture below we were performing an interior renovation in Wellesley. The client had hired a well-intentioned landscape mason to renew the front stoop, making it wider and using natural stone. Because the mason wasn’t familiar with this type of work (connecting masonry to the home), they left portions of a pine water table in place and were building up against it. They were creating a future rot and insect issue as well as leaving some rot that was pre-existing. Fortunately, they were truly interested in doing the right thing and waited for us to get a carpenter there to remove the water table and install flashing.

I know these are not sexy photos- but hopefully it will help if you are planning to replace the front stoop. Below we moved a large granite landing away from a house in Dover getting a new porch. We and found the rot we expected… about 9 feet of rotted sill plate. No problem! 2 hours, 2 carpenters, 18′ of 2×6 pressure treated lumber and NO INVOICE to the client. I can’t wait to show you the beautiful porch that will be here in a few weeks.

Happy renovating, Ray

Adding a 2nd Floor in Newton

We are excited to wrap up the frame of this project in Newton. Not just so we can reduce the anxiety of the client, also because the owners will begin to fully understand the improvement that this master retreat and newly designed 2nd floor will provide for their family.

We are often asked when we think the best time to take a roof off is. My silly answer… “when it isn’t raining”. The fact in New England is, that weather is subject to change most times of the year. Here it is early September and we have had several days of rain and the remnants of one hurricane with another on the way. The most important part in removing a roof structure is the planning so don’t be afraid to ask your remodeler what their plan is.

  • Plan the weather as close as possible with every weather app on hand! We do want a decent window of opportunity.
  • Have contingency plan to weather tight if the weather forecast is “not what you heard on the news”. The dismantling may be partial to aid in shorter weather windows.
  • Hire expert Carpenters that know how to make this process an expeditious one.

There are many reasons to go up! Newton Renovations often involve going up because the closer we get to Boston, the lots become smaller. There are also economies to this type of renovation because we do not need a foundation and sometimes going up is more elementary. In this case we had to design a somewhat complex roof system that involved a crane to get the beams up, create the open space, and not only add a master suite- complete with walk in closet and master bath- we had to create a proper laundry and larger bath for the growing young ladies.

I can’t wait to show you the after photos! Thanks to Jeremy and team for your hard work getting the roof on, Ray‚Äč

Newton addition
newton construction
newton remodel
newton remodel

What is a Master Builder?

Some light reading for the summer.

I had a job recent applicant use the phrase “Master Builder” to describe himself during an interview and wasn’t sure how to take it. Not that I was questioning this person’s ability to lead, manage and work on our projects, but because I had spent a lot of time in my younger days trying to find out the criteria for this title. Other than architectural history classes, I remember this term being bounced around a couple of decades ago and used in advertisements by self-proclaimed master builders. I never did find any courses or criteria, or special licensure that would make one a “Master Builder”.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines a master builder as:  a person notably proficient in the art of building, the ancient Egyptians were master buildersspecifically:  one who has attained proficiency in one of the building crafts and is qualified or licensed to supervise building construction. Average modern construction (much of it in my opinion) wouldn’t hold a candle to the ancient Egyptians. Nor would holding a Massachusetts Constructing Supervisors license make one “proficient” based on the criteria our state requires to obtain one.

Wikipedia, provided sources that were contemporary. In 1887, full swing of the Victorian period: A master builder is recognized as such, not only for his ability to rear a magnificent structure after plans prepared by the architect for his guidance, but because of his ability to comprehend those plans, and to skillfully weave together the crude materials which make up the strength, the harmony, the beauty, the stateliness of the edifice which grow in his hands from a made foundation to a magnificent habitation.” The Inland Architect and News Record (1887), Volume 9, p. 43. The same source also identifies a Master Builder as “the central figure leading a construction project in an Amish Community”. Now that is something I could get behind :)

On a recent road trip across Europe, I stayed at Le Place d’Armes in Luxemburg.  I had the fortunate experience to have a room in the old attic of the building. It was this experience that compelled me to think of the skill used to build the large structure that dates back to the 18th century. Here is an old photo of the exterior, where I stayed in the corner attic room, along with the beams that were likely hoisted up by pulley’s.

Le Place D'Armes

Modern times have certainly changed the way we build, more notably for efficiency rather than longevity. Because the origin of the master builder was the precursor to the modern architect according to most historic sources, I think it is safe to say that currently on all large scale projects, there are many experts involved to dream up, engineer and oversee a project. For your remodeling needs, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have an experienced team that consisted of professional designers and craftspeople…. just saying.  

Decorative Open Ceiling

A Tale of Two Front Doors: A Look into the Past and Present Architectural Odyssey

When I first started visiting homes for an appointment 25 years ago, most of them were traditional colonials with a main front door and a side “service entrance”. It would have been odd for me to knock on the service entrance door back then. That was a door designed for the dairy delivery cooler to be stored, the dry cleaning to be dropped off, and where the housekeeper would enter and exit. In these circa 1950 homes, the kitchen would be just inside so it was easier for the homeowner to retrieve their milk and eggs. But back then, a package delivery, vacuum cleaner salesman and even a close friend would go to the main door to be greeted in the foyer. This all changed as our lives became more hectic and casual and now if I ring the front doorbell I’ll hear from inside, “Can you go to the side door? This one is stuck closed.”

So, why have two front doors on a home built post the invention of the mudroom? I am not suggesting removing one if there isn’t another way into the mudroom or ripping down half the house because you currently have the common side entrance. However; I am still unsure why new homebuilders haven’t received the news that the service entrance needn’t be the welcoming space, and it certainly doesn’t need to be designed in a way that makes it unclear where to enter or redundant.

Below is a home we remodeled last year (before and after). The doors are literally feet apart and I have never been more confused about where to knock. In the re-design, the family enters 3′ farther away than before, still has an entry from the back and garage, and the house looks so much better! Mostly because the Owner has a great taste and picked a great new color! :)

Happy Door Shopping! Ray

new home exterior wellesley

Before

exterior remodel wellesley

After