Thursday, April 25, 2019

Growing Local, Buying Local, & Building Local

You don't have to spend much time in Maine to realize we are really proud of our state.  We have beautiful landscapes, beaches, lighthouses and more.  And we also have some pretty fabulous iconic products - think lobsters, blueberries, LL Bean Boots and wood.  That's right, wood.  Maine has some of the biggest timber forests in the nation.
Spring Point Lighthouse and Fort Gorges

So when I realized we needed to replace the cedar shingles on the house, it didn’t make sense to order shingles from another state (or country for that matter).  We have plenty of sawmills right here in Maine.

After some research, I reached out to Dow's Eastern White Shingles in Corinth, Maine for more information.  They've been around since the 1920's and now father and son run the mill operations.    

Their cedar shingles are a bit different than what you find at a local lumberyard.  They’re thicker – 5/8” instead of 3/8”, so they offer more structural rigidity.  They also air dry them, instead of kiln drying.  This leaves the oils in the shingle, which helps prolong the life.  They state their shingles will have a life of 50-100 years. I certainly won’t be around that long - but the next homeowners might!.  After all, the last homeowners lived there for 63 years!

It was fun to see the process of how they cut and sort.  They start with a huge pile of logs, cut them to length, saw them into shape, and then cut them to exact shape.

In our case, we went with the top grade – no knots for the bottom 6 inches of the shingle.  Since we will be leaving them natural, I wanted a clean, cohesive look.

Jeff delivered the shingles himself and we got them stacked and ready to go.

The team from Oceanside Exteriors arrived to start installation.  They made quick work of removing the old shingles and got started installing the replacements.

Woven corner and 'swoop' feature above the first floor
My favorite feature? Well, actually there are two that you see in this photo.  First are the classic 'woven' corners, which takes a lot of skill, but exactly duplicate the original (a far easier approach would be to put white 'corner boards' on the house, which would allow a simple straight cut  up against the edges, but that would change the whole look of the house).  Woven corners allow us to highlight my second favorite feature - the gentle 'swoop' out at the bottom of the shingles.  It makes me think of a skirt, that flares gently at the hem and it just adds so much antique charm to the exterior of the house.

Don't they look fantastic?  And the whole area smells so fragrant!  We have not coated them with anything.  Jeff Dow said if left alone, they will weather to a soft, silver gray - which is so typical here in New England.  And if the new owners want to paint them, they can certainly do that.

Next step is getting the house painted.  You may remember I had pinned this inspiration photo months ago. (turns out, the inspiration house belongs to one of our readers!!!  How cool is that!!) As I tried to create our version, I narrowed down to 3 different paint colors.  And after agonizing over them for days, in various light levels, I decided to use Smoky Blue by Sherwin Williams.  The teal blue looked a bit odd next to the cedar shingles.  And the deep blue had a bit of a purplish hue in direct sunlight.   The Smoky Blue is a  classic shade and will look fantastic against the cedar shingles today and also when they weather to the silver gray.

But before we could even start painting, we needed to deal with the lead paint that's on the exterior trim.  As many of you probably know, lead paint chips can be extremely dangerous and we needed to deal with it appropriately.  

We've worked with Lavalle's Painting in the past - they are terrific and certified to manage lead projects.  This means they have to surround the house with plastic, wet it down to minimize any dust, and carefully scrape the old paint.  The plastic is then rolled up, labeled and property disposed of.  Next step is to coat it with a bonding primer to ensure any remaining lead paint is properly adhered to the wood.

The rainy weather has been helpful to the scraping process.  But now we need some sunshine to get it finished.  

I know it looks a bit rough right now, but stay tuned, it will look fantastic!

Pin It

Monday, April 22, 2019

Mid Mod Marvel - The Living Room

We've moved into the house and it's starting to feel like home.  It's such an amazing house, we feel lucky to be its new owners.  And as we pull it together, it seemed like a good time to share some photos, so you can start to see the difference in the 'before' and 'after'.
Living Room 'Before'

The living room is one space that has seen some huge changes - and some not so huge.  Our goal was to still have the same soaring space, the fabulous fireplace, the wall of glass doors and the big entry.

Before - Concrete pond and garden area (with no foundation under it)

But we did have to make some changes. The big garden area had to go.  It didn't have any foundation under it and as we tighten up the building to improve energy efficiency, all that dirt, bark and moisture would create a nightmare of humidity issues.  And we discovered that algae started growing in the pond after just a few days, not quite the ambiance we hoped for.
After - pond area leveled with rest of living room, shag carpet replaced with hardwood flooring

We kept the fantastic wall of glass that opens out to the expansive deck.  But we did a major search to find replacement sliding glass doors that matched the original narrow stiles, while maximizing glass sizing.  At the same time, we wanted insulated Low-E/Argon filled glass to improve energy efficiency with the same retro look.  It was a challenge!! These doors from Marvin did the trick and we quickly discovered they were not only more energy efficient, but they also dramatically reduced the amount of street noise.

With all the changes, the thing that upset me the most was having to cut down the giant rubber tree.  It was planted in the corner of the garden area, right where we needed to put the staircase to the kitchen.   I had pruned it a bit and rooted some new stock, so we would still have baby rubber trees.  But the original was such a dominant feature, I couldn't bear to throw it away.

So at the last minute, I transplanted it.  I bought the biggest container I could find, wrapped the roots up, and tended it over the next 7 months.  It hung in there through every single stage of the construction process, often wrapped in clear plastic so it could still get sunlight, but not be subject to drywall dust and paint.

And miraculously, it lived!!!  It's still a 'wow' feature of the room and now that the construction is complete, it seems to be thriving.  It makes me so happy that it's still part of the house!

We also added a new staircase, to better connect the kitchen with the living room.  The guys custom built the paralam beams, to match the original railings.

New Staircase going in
And one of our talented carpenters is also a wiz at metalwork, so he added a new handrail that brings us up to safety code - while looking like it was an original feature.

Custom built handrail, to meet building codes
At the far end of the room, we added a window on the south wall, to bring in additional sunlight. The amazing wall hanging moved to another room, so we could make space for these Angela Adams panels.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the giant skylight.  The original skylight was sheets of safety glass, siliconed to joists across the opening.  The previous owner told us it leaked occasionally, but it dripped down into the pond, so it was no big deal.

Obviously, that wouldn't work with our new wood floors.  So we worked with Velux to find a suitable replacement.  We loved that the skylight was so large, but wanted one that would open, providing some nice airflow in the summertime.  As luck would have it, that's the maximum size for an operable skylight - it had to be made in Denmark and shipped to Maine.  The lead-time was so long, we ended up installing it in December - after chipping the ice and snow off the roof.  But once it was in, we loved it right away.  It provides dramatic sunlight all day long and we can't wait to see how it improves summertime cooling (when summer actually gets to Maine!).

Creating Veneer Panels of White Oak
And finally, we installed what we've referred to as the great wall of MCM (mid-century modern).  It took a month of work, but our fantastic carpenters veneered quatersawn, rift cut white oak to giant panels.  Then they painstakingly installed them across the full wall.  We also added transom windows, to bring more light into the adjacent hallway.  We are so thrilled with the result!

The big changes?  The great wall of MCM, new transom windows to hallway, new stairway and new skylight!
Are we finished now?  Well, sort of.  We're still figuring out furniture placement and overall details, but we are so happy with our new living room!!

Pin It

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Improving Energy Efficiency In an Old Home

One of the things we take great pride in, is dramatically improving the energy efficiency in each home we renovate.  This is primarily behind the walls stuff,  that you can’t really see.  But I thought it might be helpful to point out what we look for and do – it may give you some ideas for your own home.

First, you need to consider the ceiling and the basement.  Much like our bodies feel warmer with a hat and warm boots, your home needs to be warm at the top and bottom. 

How do you do that?  Well, let's start at the roof.  I love creating cathedral ceilings to maximize the volume in a room, but that usually means rafters that don’t provide a lot of space for traditional insulation.  We like to use closed cell foam insulation for these spaces. It has an R value of a little over 6 per inch of foam, it’s structural because it’s so rigid, and it creates a vapor barrier as well.   The guys come out in their bunny suits and get it done in a day.
Foam insulation in basement sill stops all air leaks!
Purple areas are cold and show where there are voids in insulation

We also like foam under open living spaces, like this porch that we are enclosing.  The new porch has foam insulation under the floor (in the crawl space) and in the roof.  That will keep the new office and foyer nice and warm, minimizing heat loss.  But it will also help it stay cooler in the summer.

Foam is also great around the sills in your basement.  This is an area that many people don’t think to insulate, but it can be a big source of cold air infiltration.   Foam is perfect for this application, because it fills every little nook and cranny. (The only caution here is I don’t use it on really old homes with massive timbers for a sill.  These timbers have been 'breathing' for a century or more and the foam can change the way they function – and there are horror stories about how moisture has been trapped in them, creating rot.) Your local big box store carries kits that you can use to foam your own basement sills – this is a DIY project that is really worth the effort!! We recently foamed the sills on own house and reduced the monthly heating expense by 10%.  That’s a nice ROI!  
In this house, we were especially lucky, because the sills between the 1stand 2nd floor were exposed because of all the construction we are doing.  We went ahead and foamed them as well!  This is an area that you can't always reach.

For the rest of the house, I knew that the house had been insulated with blown in cellulose at some point and thought we were in good shape.  But as a precaution, I did a scan with my infrared camera.  My happiness quickly turned to dismay as I discovered a lot of gaps in the insulation.  Sort of like swiss cheese with lots of BIG holes.
Hash marks are areas with no insulation - holes were drilled to blow it in
Here you can see the cold air gaps in purple - we filled them with foam and dense pack cellulose 

Some of that probably came from settling over the years.  But some areas just seem to have been forgotten.  I drew big hash marks over the bad areas and the cellulose insulation team came out to drill new holes, filling those areas with new insulation.  Now it’s much  better!
Next, we look at the windows.  This house had the windows replaced at some point, but the seals between the dual panes of glass had separated in about 40% of them.  Their energy properties were useless!  So we ended up replacing all the windows with new low-E, argon filled windows that will help this place warm during our cold Maine winters.  And as an added bonus, the windows will be easy to open and shut (so often in an old house, the windows have been painted so many times, you can't get them to budge).
We found chunks of coal!
New 95% high efficiency gas boiler

But that’s not all. The boiler appeared to be really old. Evidently it burned coal at some point, we even found some chunks of coal in the back of the basement.  At best, it was running at 75% efficiency. To improve this, we had the house connected to natural gas and switched to a wall hung (aka we could get rid of the old chimney), high efficiency gas boiler.  This takes us to 95% efficiency – a huge improvement!!
We’ll also install all energy savings appliances and lots of LED lightbulbs, which will dramatically decrease the electrical usage.

And don’t forget water usage!!  We’ll install low flow toilets, showers and faucets.

So while this is a 1930’s house, it will have the energy footprint of a brand new home!!! The result of all these efforts will give the new homeowners lower fuel bills - and also help the environment by using less of our natural resources.  A win win!!

Pin It

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Curb Appeal - Storybook Cottage

Usually when I talk about improving curb appeal on one of our projects, it's because the house is a 'drive by' and if we don't do something dramatic, no one will ever want to come inside.

That's not the case with this house.  It's pretty charming, with the shingled second floor - that has a romantic 'swoop' that only real shingles can create when they float above the first floor.  And instead of a boring corner board, the shingles are 'woven' on the corners - a time consuming process that creates a cohesive look.  And look at the old-school shutters, they add a similar romantic vibe.

But there are some problems.  When you get up close, you realize that the shingles are actually in pretty bad shape - just painting over them won't help the curling and bowing.  And the shutters are in similar disrepair, probably at 'end of life' from a longevity perspective.

Most of the clapboards are in good shape, but there's evidence of lead paint and it will be a major project to paint the house.  Good thing we have experience with major projects!!

So here's the inspiration.  Natural cedar shingles, blue clapboards and white trim.

But it will take some work to get our house to this level.  Here are the areas we plan to address as we create a new front facade.
New Front Facade

First step is fixing the front door - it's awkward.  The useable entrance to the house is around the corner, next to the driveway & mailbox- which is on a one way street.  Let me tell you, nothing makes a delivery guy angrier than arriving at the front door and realizing he has to drive around the block to make their delivery.  (Some just give up in frustration - the port a potty driver routinely ignores this and just drives in the wrong way).  No one ever uses the original front door and we have decided to abandon it.

So we're closing off the old front door - but need to fill the space.  Thankfully we have this amazing, original window that's been hidden in the house for decades.  It still has the old wavy glass......swoon!!!!  We will install it instead of the front door, but vertically instead of horizontally.

The new entrance will be through the former side porch - leading into a nice foyer/mudroom.  I had hoped we could simply enclose the old porch, but unfortunately we discovered some structural issues.
The porch needed a LOT more work than we anticipated
As luck would have it, we need new footings, joists, walls, insulation, etc.  It's a much bigger job than we expected, but we want to do it right.    The guys got it framed up - don't you think the new windows and front door really dress it up?

Of course that's not all!  We also need to build a new staircase, a new walkway, remove the chain link fence and do a little landscaping.  Most of those items require the ground to thaw - so it will take awhile.  But it should be lovely when we get it all done!

Pin It
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...