Don’t vacate, renovate: Big benefits to full remodels
September 26, 2008
“Raising the roof” has taken on a whole new meaning for long-time Summit County couple Don and Betsy Sather.
Although their 1960s home’s living square footage hasn’t changed, its volume has increased by 25 percent, thanks to raising the roof, which was the first order of business for the interior portion of the remodel. The Sathers had originally only planned to heighten the bedroom ceiling, but after they saw how much more spacious and open it became, they decided to raise the 8-foot-tall ceilings in the media room and kitchen to match the bedroom’s new 12-foot height.
The original version of Don and Betsy Sather’s home in Frisco Heights is about what one would expect of something built in 1962: a rectangular shoebox with a wrap-around deck and a multitude of outdoor stairs.
Incessantly shoveling those stairs in the winter is just one of the things that Don won’t miss now that his home is in the final stage of an entire remodel, a remodel that incidentally removed all of those exterior stairs.
Onlookers would never know the Sather’s home in the Frisco Heights neighborhood and the one that occupied the same spot about a year ago had anything to do with one another, outside of the address.
The Sathers have owned their home for a quarter century and have done some updates throughout the years. They could have simply bought a newer house, but they liked their location and wanted to put their resources to the test. And so a new home was born.
Not only have the Sathers almost entirely altered their home’s exterior appearance (a double garage is about all that remains of the old model), but also the interior is equally transformed. The remodel began in 2006. While renovations have made their home luxurious and beautiful, they followed “green” standards for nearly all of the new construction.
“A healthy home is important to us,” Don says. “Science has shown the most dangerous place to spend time indoors is in your home.”
He points mainly to dust and fumes emitted from forced-air heating systems and toxic gasses from surface materials, furniture and attached garages. Replacing the furnace heat was just one of the projects on the Sather’s long list for their remodel. Making the home natural and energy-efficient was a major priority in each undertaking, from the in-floor and tankless heating systems to local pine beetle-stained beams that adorn the new living area. All of the paint, stains and adhesives used in the remodel feature little or no output of VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
It’s not too surprising that the home is such a specimen of “green” workmanship, considering the Sathers own BigHorn Ace Hardware in Silverthorne, a store that specializes in energy conserving and environmentally-friendly building materials and housing supplies. They plan to display their remodel in the 2009 Summit County Parade of Homes.
“The No. 1 thing we wanted to convey is that yes, you can update an older home,” Betsy said. “Also, in that updating, you can incorporate current, energy-efficient saving features.”
Indeed, the majority of features and materials used in the remodel came from BigHorn.
Green star of approval
The Sathers did all of the roof-raising and rewiring with the environment in mind. And some of the “green” innovations are as beautiful as they are environmental. Take the ceilings, for instance. The media room features a cork ceiling that resembles a mosaic of different browns. The cork insulates and also “softens sounds of the speaker system,” Don says.
In the four-season closet room, the ceiling is made of sorghum husks and agriculture fibers. The effect resembles elegantly woven bamboo. In the living room, a later addition is a wall fountain that the Sathers wanted in order to add to the home’s humidity, which is enhanced by the walls of American clay, a breathable, natural product that Don says “releases moisture as humidity drops.”
“Some of the projects we implemented down the line, after [the Sathers] saw how things were going,” explains Wade Artherholt, builder for the Sather’s remodel. “It’s pretty common for a big remodel to realize other changes as you see what’s coming along in the plan.”
The pine beetle-affected wooden beams in the living area feature a beautiful dark stain, possibly the silver lining on the pine-beetle epidemic, which has destroyed a devastating portion of lodge pole pine trees in the Summit and Vail forests.
“Not only are they pretty and fun, but it’s nice to use locally harvested wood,” Artherholt points out. “Especially knowing that all those dead trees you see in the forests are being used for something.”
The energy-saving features in the final product also include a high-efficiency boiler, insulated hot water lines, compact fluorescent and LED lights, a restricted flow water filtration system, a thermo-electric beverage cooler, triple pane and heat-mirror windows, Energy Star appliances and fans, a central filtration vacuum system, insulated exterior doors, spray foam insulation, weather stripping and caulk, and an induction cook top, the latter of which Betsy is eagerly anticipating.
“I’m looking forward to learning how to use it,” she says. “I just don’t know anything about induction cooking. I’ll have to learn it all ” I had to do that 38 years ago with the microwave. We bought some of the new induction cookware and video. It should be fun to learn.”
The induction cook top is electro-magnetic, isolating all of its energy on the item being cooked. It also cools immediately without wasting heat like most gas and electric stoves.
Betsy said the reconfiguration of the kitchen also makes for better use of space when entertaining, something she enjoys and plans to do more often.
Out with the old
Not only did the Sathers purchase an array of appliances with Energy Star ratings for energy savings, but they also donated their old appliances, fixtures and even doors to Habitat for Humanity and the Builders’ Association collections for towns hit by tornados. During construction, they recycled all metal, plastic and cardboard and gave away many materials on freecycle.org, a website on which anyone can donate materials that somebody else might find useful.
It’s true what they say about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure, because Don says he found new uses for planks, doors and beams that could have easily ended up in a Dumpster.
Not everyone is so resourceful. How many people, after all, include a recycling chute in their remodels? The recycling chute for commingled items reaches from a drawer in the kitchen to the garage, and a glass recycling area has been specially built into one of the kitchen cabinets.
As well as raising the roof to increase the home’s air space, the Sathers also added bay windows, providing more daylight to those rooms.
“They add natural light and add depth to the rooms,” Don says. “It really makes it feel more comfortable.”
With ease and comfort in mind, the Sathers also pre-wired their new home for televisions, communications and computers, and even implemented motorized window blinds, controlled by pushing a single button.
Although the remodel has meant moving into a tiny downstairs apartment for nearly a year, the Sathers are proud of what they have accomplished and are delighted that they can live in a new home without having to move.
“It’s possible, because we’ve done it,” Betsy said. “I think there are people who would like to update their existing home. There are people who like where they live but don’t want to live in an old-fashioned home. I think the benefits are big once you can move back in, to something brand new.”