Friday, September 18, 2015

Exterior Living Spaces

Exterior living spaces - architect speak for porches, decks, screened-in porches, patios and sun rooms - can add immeasurably to a home without adding square footage.

Often a deck or screened porch is located on the back, and offers a private area for outdoor entertaining, eating, or relaxing. A screened porch acts as one of those wonderful spaces somewhere between being outside and being inside.  Add glass to swap out for the screens annually, and now you have extended your ability to use that outdoor-feeling space further into the cold weather.

A front porch can be used to greet visitors or for relaxing on a porch rocker; in our family it's often where group/family photos get taken, too. It's part of what we call the "entry sequence"- creating a transition space between being completely outside and inside the home. Lastly, it's roof and posts can help create pleasing interest or shadows to dress up the front of a flat house and clearly show everyone where the entrance is.

See more on the idea of "Transition Zones" at my website: CWB-architect

The "farmhouse" renovation I currently have under construction has large interior spaces, so it called for generous exterior spaces. As a rule of thumb, exterior "rooms" always need to be larger than interior rooms. The same principle that makes the Christmas tree you select at the farm or lot look much larger once you bring it into your living room is at work here. Nature is big! The sky is WAY higher than our ceilings - making an outdoor room that is built too small feel very cramped and not give you that "I'm in the great outdoors" feeling you were trying to get when you spend time in it.

Large deck w/ glass doors to house. Screened porch off Family Room in the distance.

Another thing about outdoor spaces is that they need to deal with a lot of weather- sun, wind-driven rain, snow, etc. These spaces become a good spot for using some of the high-tech materials available now. For these decks and porch floors I specified a synthetic flooring and guard rail system. This is composite material (not wood at all - made from recycled plastics) that is rot resistant and can be ordered in different colors It never has to be painted or water-proofed, so is considered maintenance-free.

Larger front porch gives organization to the front elevation while providing protection and a front-yard outdoor space

Front - before with a much smaller/understated porch
As an aside, you can see the new gray clapboard siding is starting to go on (left side of front porch photo) the exterior walls. The trim around the windows and along the fascia and such will be painted white; This is also a synthetic material made of recycled poly fly ash, and it looks sort of tan in the photos now.

Stay tuned for more pictures and info from the New House Next Door!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

When is a building too far gone to renovate?

Front - before
 I've been working with a couple on the renovation of an old farmhouse that has been in her family for generations. The home was rough, but with (sort of) good bones, and a lot of sentimental long-time family use and memories. The location on 150 acres with beautiful mountain views is priceless.

The stone rubble foundation walls were inspected by a structural engineer and his suggestions for having a mason re-build the bowed walls were doable. The kitchen area had a tacked-on foundation that barley extended below grade, and and strange flat facade and crumbling chimney that all had to go.  The roof system was undersized and sagging. The cramped interiors, plaster walls and old wiring were to be gutted. The side used as a tractor garage was to get a floor system and become the family room. This was a substaintial renovation!

Back- before
The plan called for raising the roof with new dormers (similar, but larger than the current ones) and removing interior walls to create larger rooms and allow for more light and space.  There was going to be a lot of demolition work. With the amount of changes being made -all new windows, siding, insulation, wiring, bathrooms, kitchen, roofing and some interior partitions being moved to make a first floor master bedroom- there wasn't much of the original structure left.

When demolition commenced we found that what we had planned to reuse was built using poor construction methods and that much of the wood had evidence of rot and should really be replaced. When is comes to a building how much is too much to replace? At what point do you say "there is nothing here worth re-using"? We decided this was the case. Sustainability can be tricky. In this case, the best thing to do is start over with a new house that can be handed down from generation to generation and last for the next 100+ years.

Rotted Sill

Knee wall w/ broken top plate

Floor Joist System is cobbled together

So, what started a year before as a renovation to upgrade the family hunting camp into a more modern family vacation home, grew into a full gut-rehab, and has now been changed to building a completely new structure.

I will keep you posted once construction begins!

New building site staked out for new house
Proposed New Front Elevation