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 undergarment. 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 to Improve Your Home’s Efficiency

Energy performance should be a discussion in any home renovation where there is an opportunity to make improvements in energy consumption and improved comfort. While it should be part of the conversation, the outcome may be that additional insulation in a small sub-component of the home could actually be a bad thing to do.

Good building science works well when different components are assembled with synergy. In the 70’s during an energy crisis, insulation factors were significantly increased without simultaneously modifying the components it worked with. This resulted in premature exterior paint failure from vapor trapped in the structure, and required ventilation retrofits to make the system work “better”. 

I have also seen the “green movement” in building science morph into a few camps based on ideology instead of a simpler health, and energy science. If you want to improve the energy performance of your home, start with increased insulation value while accounting for the rest of the building system. Second, change all the lighting in the home to LED.  This will reduce excess heat in the summer and will reduce your electric bill right away with a short term payback. The third place to look is the heat plant. If you have older low efficient heating and cooling equipment, the change in efficiency from 80% to 94% will show up right away. Last but not least… if you are doing an entire exterior make-over… replace the windows. One at a time this doesn’t really change things. If you want to know what to do next… INSULATE MOREJ!

Here is a project we just completed in Wellesley. As part of a kitchen expansion, we did a complete exterior (and interior) make over. With blown in insulation in the budget along with all new windows, we discovered that a less effective insulation (about R9) had been installed by the last owner when they installed aluminum siding. We couldn’t get more insulation in the cavity so for the price of the blown in budget (about $5k) we suggested a one inch foam board to provide a thermal break. This pretty metallic red board does more than add 25-40% more to the insulation factor, but delivers a contiguous external thermal blanket that reduced hot and cold spots. This project with attic insulation and a new high efficient gas boiler shows the proof is in the pudding. Check out the comparison of last year’s energy report that came with the EverSource bill and the recent report!

The pictures of the home show the 3 phases of the exterior renovation (paint starts in a month or so).

Step one, strip to bare sheathing boards.

Step two, install a vapor barrier with 1” of foam board (they did finish the whole house… I showed up during that for the photo).

Step three, we sided with Hari Plank siding and Azek trim for a long lasting and beautiful low maintenance exterior that can be painted every 10-15 years.

Induction Cooktops are HOT in Kitchen Remodeling!

If you talk to anyone who hasn’t seen a demonstration with induction cooking, they’ll probably tell you that “gas is the best, and any self-respecting culinary specialist wouldn’t use anything else”. However, the times are changing; and induction cooking is giving gas stove tops a run for their money. There are several great reasons you should consider adding an induction top to your next kitchen. You might be surprised but induction cooking is not that new, it was introduced to Americans during the 1933 World’s Fair, but it has only recently started making headway in the U.S. due to improved and efficient manufacturing methods. Induction has been used in Europe for decades by professionals and homeowners; and it is just now starting to really catch on over here because the technology is more available and through strong educational pushes to the kitchen and bath industry. Induction cooktops use a process of alternating electric currents that create a magnetic field, this directly heats a pot/pan without heating the cook-top surface.

The first benefit to induction cooktops is their efficiency. The average induction cook top is about 84% efficient (Wolf Induction ranges come in at an impressive 90-95% efficiency), and traditional electric cook tops run at about 74% efficiency… and even more interesting, gas runs from 55-60% efficient. Second, unlike a regular electric unit, induction cooktops provide a constant temperature and precise control- similar to gas units. Third, you can boil water in more than twice the speed as a high output gas appliance- and when the pasta is holding up dinner, and that will be a benefit that pays dividends.

Last but not least, induction cookers are the safest cooktops around. Not only is there no flame to worry about, but the nature of induction cooking renders the cooktop cool to the touch-it’s only the pot that gets hot. That is a far cry from the hot surface left behind on an electric top. Items made from aluminum, copper, glass, ceramics or plastics will not heat up through induction cooking; only cookware that is magnetic will work. Of course, for some people this may mean that they would need to purchase new pot and pans, but for kitchens where the very young or the elderly live it’s a great safety value, and this outweighs the price of a new cookware.

A kitchen with an induction cooktop and steam convection ovens

Wellesy kitchen with an induction cooktop and steam convection ovens

See an induction cooktop in action- click here to watch Chef Rachelle Boucher give a video demonstration! If this article peaked your interest for what’s new in kitchen appliances then be sure to look for next week’s newsletter where we’ll talk about steam convection ovens.

Water-Friendly, Pocket-Friendly Fixtures and Appliances

Among the many important factors in choosing the right fixtures and appliances is the growing importance water conservation. Whether you are in the mood to be green or undertaking a remodeling project, water-efficient fixtures and appliance can make a big impact on saving water, and your money too. According to WaterSense, an EPA partnership program, the average household spends as much as $500 per year on its water and sewer bill and in some areas of the county much more. By making just a few simple changes to use water more efficiently, you could save approximately 35% on your annual costs. If all U.S. households installed water-efficient appliances and fixtures, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars per year! Also, when we use water more efficiently, we reduce the need for costly water supply infrastructure investments and new wastewater treatment facilities.

  • If one out of every 100 American homes retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, we could save about 100 million kWh of electricity per year—avoiding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is equivalent to removing nearly 15,000 automobiles from the road for one year!
  • If 1 percent of American homes replaced their older, inefficient toilets with more efficient  models, the country would save more than 38 million kWh of electricity—enough to supply more than 43,000 households electricity for one month.

To help you understand just how much you can save by installing water-efficient products in your home, visit the WaterSense Savings Calculator.

Green Innovation & Quality Carpentry

Splendid details meet a dash of green in this spec house located in Wellesley’s Cliff Estates.

When we decided to take on the challenge of revitalizing this 1920’s property, our team wanted to exercise their creative side and incorporate features not found in many spec homes today. Ray decided on the Craftsman style and the team went to work selecting materials that would call to mind an era cherished in architecture, and evoke an appreciation for the skills required of the carpenters who would construct it.

Green remodeling concepts were also integrated. What’s Green? Closed cell foam insulation will increase the insulation value of this home; mostly due to the lack of air fenestration found with common fiberglass. Foam insulation is costly now, but will provide years of added comfort and lowered energy costs. The air filtration is enhanced with the heating and air-conditioning system to reduce allergens and a separate fresh air system was added to further the indoor air quality, especially for those winter months when the home is closed up. On the outside, old-world stucco and generous overhangs reduce exterior maintenance while looking fantastic. In addition, we were able to save a large portion of the original home and avoid sending another four containers of waste to the landfill.

Due to be complete in early 2008, this home will offer 4800 square feet with 5 bedrooms, 4 ½ baths and a master suite with marble bath and barrel-vaulted bedroom and dressing room. The kitchen will provide both the space and amenities fit for a professional chef, the consummate host, or anyone just looking to entertain without leaving your guests.

The result of integrating the principals of quality construction and Green remodeling, is the best of old-school practices and forward-looking innovation.  We are all very proud of the project, and anxious to demonstrate how brand new style meets time-honored skill in this whole house remodel.