Designing a Dream

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A client more concerned about finish details than the budget? For some remodelers, that might be a nightmare. But if your focus is architectural integrity, it's a dream come true. These homeowners could only use their existing screened porch in nice weather, and their deck needed an upgrade. They wanted to replace both with something punchy, something unusual.

September 01, 2005

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A client more concerned about finish details than the budget? For some remodelers, that might be a nightmare. But if your focus is architectural integrity, it's a dream come true.

 
Commonwealth placed the decck on brick piers with concrete cores, but only where they would compliment the deck and backyard layout. Because the lawn came abrubtly up to meet the deck on one side, Pierce decided to set less intrusive wood columns to avoid three brick columns looking squat and bulky.

These homeowners could only use their existing screened porch in nice weather, and their deck needed an upgrade. They wanted to replace both with something punchy, something unusual. "Something that looked and felt different," they told Kelvin Pierce, president of design/build firm Commonwealth Home Remodelers Inc.

"Our client said he would not squabble over cost," says Pierce. "This was exactly the type of client we want to serve. Working on the project made our employees proud, and it definitely was a fun challenge for us all. But we had to make sure the client received the highest quality project imaginable."

 Before

With a design by Susan Pierce, AIA, the construction team went to work. Commonwealth replaced the screened porch with a 225-square-foot sunroom that opens to the breakfast room through custom-made French doors. The doors fold back on each other, creating a 6-foot opening. Custom casement windows spanning floor to ceiling along the three exterior walls of the sunroom can be opened to allow 100 percent airflow.

To make the room cool in summer and warm in winter, Commonwealth installed full HVAC; insulated the roof, floor and walls; and used doors and windows with Low-E, double-pane, argon-filled glass. The design also called for a natural gas fireplace.

 
The new deck and sunroom stand on brick pillars overlooking the owners' beautiful, treed lawn. Big windows - and lots of them - were a must.

The sunroom opens onto a custom-made, 467-square-foot deck on brick piers with concrete block centers. The old, faded deck had stood on standard 6×6 wooden posts that looked old and rickety. The brick was chosen to match the home's exterior.

The homeowners didn't want standard decking material, so Pierce suggested mahogany hardwood. However, because it is not native to the region, Fairfax County discourages its use. Getting it approved through the county was a challenge, says Commonwealth intern Shrutee Shah, who adds, "But if you have the right paperwork, you're good to go."

It was Commonwealth's first hardwood deck. Each board was individually sanded and finished with several coats of finish before it was installed, says Pierce. The team laid each board in place with precision, making sure the grains were in line and securing each piece with fasteners from underneath. The hidden fasteners required more time and labor than the traditional nailing method, says Shah, but the deck now looks like a nice piece of furniture.

 

The homeowners, avid gardeners who often move potted plants up to the deck, requested replacing the stairs on the side of the deck with a ramp for easier access. With the steep grade of the lawn just under that side of the deck, Pierce decided on more slender, wooden piers instead of the brick, which would have looked squat and bulky in the low space.

In addition to the new sunroom and deck, the homeowners wanted to replace the front door and some of the flooring. Now refinished hardwood floors cover the first level and new front mahogany doors with custom glass grace the entrance.

"The client recognized the effort we put into the project and has been a great reference for us. He has even invited over several prospective clients and showed off our handiwork," said Pierce. "You can't ask for more than that."

 

Remodeler/architect: Commonwealth Home Remodelers Inc., Vienna, Va.

Project location: Fairfax County, Va.

Age of home: 25–30 years

Scope of project: 225-square-foot sunroom addition and new, 467-square-foot deck

Products List

Deck balusters: Deckorators. Deck fasteners: Deckmaster. Doors: Weather Shield. Fireplace: Fireplace Xtraordinair. Floor coating: Basic Street-Shoe. Rail cap: Ironwood. Windows: Weather Shield.

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