Home Theater

Looking around their soaring living room space, Bob and Linda Wiggins have nothing but rave reviews for their dramatically transformed house. Producing the whole-house remodel was high drama of another sort for ICON Remodeling.

September 06, 2000


Stucco and red brick replace the old brick and vinyl siding. The home features bold angles, trapezoidal windows and a dozen skylights.


Looking around their soaring living room space, Bob and Linda Wiggins have nothing but rave reviews for their dramatically transformed house. Producing the whole-house remodel was high drama of another sort for ICON Remodeling.

Robert Myers, who with Vali Mahak co-owns the Salt Lake City, Utah design/build firm, calls the experience "a comedy of errors." Mahak says one of the biggest accomplishments of the job, along with making the customer happy, was that they didnÆt give up.

Act I. The curtain goes up in November 1997, when the Wigginses meet with Myers to talk about upgrading their 2,400-square-foot split level. Several months earlier, ICON had remodeled two bathrooms in the Salt Lake house; now the Wigginses want ICON to give the 1959 house a totally new look.

"The scope wasnÆt defined," recalls Myers. Every part of the house was game for change -- except the two bathrooms. The clients signed a design agreement, and Myers began sketching out preliminary ideas. Then the Wigginses put the project on hold for several months during LindaÆs recuperation from minor surgery. During that period, the Wigginses went for walks in the neighborhood. ThatÆs when they came across a house similar to theirs that Salt Lake architect Thomas A. Buese, AIA, had redesigned with flair. By March 1998, the Wigginses were ready to proceed with the remodel -- but with BueseÆs firm, TBA, rather than ICON as designer. Because ICON was promised the construction contract in excess of $300,000 -- "the biggest part of the job" -- Myers agreed to release the clients from the design agreement and proceed under the new arrangement. ICON and TBA had never worked together before.

"TomÆs very artistic," explains Bob Wiggins. "We were putting a lot of money into a major addition, and we needed an artistic statement." (The Wigginses love their remodeled house, but in retrospect, Bob says, they could have looked at MyersÆs fully developed plan. "If Bob [Myers] had been a little more aggressive and convinced us to work with him, we [might have done so]," he says. For his part, Myers says, "We often hire architects on big jobs. We probably would have outsourced to produce what the Wigginses wanted.")

Act II. Fall 1998. TBAÆs design, though still unfinished, is nearing completion. It features bumpouts on three of four sides of the house; a new entry; a more open interior with lots of windows and skylights; andùthe show-stopperùa 19-foot-high roof carried by grand scissor trusses. ICON needs to start construction as soon as possible if the massive job is going to be completed, as promised, by the following summer before school starts. Myers recommends a time-and-materials agreement so that work can proceed as the design develops. The Wigginses agree and sign the agreement.



Nov. 18 Initial meeting; preliminary design agreement signed

Nov. 30 Client postpones job

Mar. Meetings with client; release client from design agreement


Sept. 15 Meet with client and architectÆs assistant; working drawings near completion

Nov. 22 Cost-plus construction agreement signed

Nov. 25 Begin excavation

Dec. 5 Begin floor framing; revise roof plan; add four to six weeks to schedule

Dec. 20 Begin interior truss installation


Feb. 10 Build new roof over existing roof

Feb. 20 Begin demolition; remove old roof

Mar. 1 Begin interior framing; window installation

Apr. 1 Begin rough electrical, plumbing, HVAC; exterior stucco finishes

May 1 Begin drywall; drywall delays painting by four weeks

June 1 Begin painting

July 1 Begin work on kitchen cabinets and counters; complete lighting and electrical installations; three- to five-week delay receiving lighting

Aug. 1 Countertops installed

Aug. 15 Interior finishes, plumbing and electrical completed

Sept. 25 Final inspection (conditional occupancy); clients move in.

Within days, excavation and floor framing began. Soon it became clear that the roof system would not work without extensive engineering and several posts in main areas of the house. Instead, the architect proposed an exposed-truss joist system. No manufacturer closer than Montana could produce the 66-foot-long, open-girder truss, so ICON took on the job of fabricating it on site. After two weeks of planning and materials ordering, ICON crews crafted the system in two sections, using glu-lam beams and custom-fabricated gusset plates. A crane lifted the post and truss sections into place. The whole four-week construction process was amazing to watch, says Bob Wiggins. "IÆm sure they spent as much time doing the layout as doing the assembly."

Fortunately, ICON planned to build the new roof above the existing roof, so that the two remodeled bathrooms and the basement would not be exposed to the elements. This helped keep construction on track despite the last minute change in roof system. Once the new roof was in, the old roof beneath it was pulled out.

Act III. Winter 1998-99. As the project proceeds, more changes emerge. ICON and the architect butt heads on design issues, but shield the clients from the raw edge of this tension. Bob Wiggins is aware of the conflict but not too concerned about it. He knows that ultimately, design decisions are his to make and, as an engineer, heÆs confident there is a "solution that we can work out." Myers and Mahak believe the architectural plans lack details needed for construction and contain some flaws that must be corrected on site. In BueseÆs view: "Some things are left for the contractor to figure out. The owner and ICON did have input in changing details, but the major concept is there and was kept."


The 1959 split level floorplan.


With the roof structure in place, ICON began interior framing. At this point, even the two carefully preserved bathrooms were changed somewhat. The master bath was expanded to accommodate a whirlpool tub. Because the house wall bumped out, one bathroom lost windows and gained a solid, tiled wall. ICON created new ceilings for the bathrooms, too, since the new volume ceiling would not work for private spaces. To lend privacy in the bedroom wing of the house without blocking light, ICON recommended a glass artist to the Wigginses. The artist designed custom glass inserts for the truss openings.



The floorplan after construction.


Beneath the soaring ceiling, the original entry stairs looked puny. Bob Wiggins suggested a wider stairway, which ICON created. One of the new front porch columns would have blocked a window, so ICON shifted its position.

Mahak took the lead in helping the Wigginses select finish materials. He brought them samples, took them to showrooms, painted walls in sample colors, made recommendations. The Wigginses wanted premium products -- such as granite counters, wood-frame windows, customized cabinetry for the new study -- regardless of price. "I saw the cost going up," says Mahak. Having to build around the two bathrooms pushed the labor cost to twice what it should have been, he says. To moderate costs a bit, Mahak arranged for some services, such as the electrical engineering and the landscaping, to be provided directly to the clients, without running the charges through ICON.

Act IV. Spring 1999. The beautiful new structure is taking shape. ICON anticipates smooth sailing to project completion. Then problems with subcontractors develop.


The Wigginses wanted to retain the master bath as is, but eventually decided to expand it, adding a whirlpool tub, separate shower, twin lavatories, linen closet and glass shelving.


The electrical upgrade was "massive," says Myers. The house had to be wired for an intercom system, a sound system, cable and computer connections, and state of the art, low-voltage lighting. ICON lined up an electrician the company had used before, and an electrical designer/installer whom the electrician had worked with and recommended.

Attracting the electrical engineerÆs attention proved difficult, especially when the deadline for ordering special light fixtures slipped by. Though officially the designer/installer reported directly to the Wigginses, Mahak had to step in. He made repeated phone calls, then "put a note by his front door at home saying, æWe need you, or weÆll have to hire someone else.Æ [It] was a lot of headache for me," says Mahak. As with other rough spots in the production process, however, the Wigginses seem to have been spared the worst effects. "The lighting designer didnÆt always follow through," says Linda, "but weÆre happy with the end result."

Adding to MahakÆs headache, the electrician moved his business to Las Vegas before the electrical installation was complete. With such a complex job, ICON decided not to switch electricians midstream. "We brought the electrician back from Las Vegas three or four times to finish the work," says Mahak.

By the time the house was ready for drywall, ICONÆs drywall subcontractor had another project under way. He was running back and forth between jobs, says Myers. That, plus the demanding nature of the Wiggins project -- with its 19-foot walls, vaulted ceiling and rounded corners under windows -- caused the drywall process to drag on for an extra month or more.

Act V. Early September 1999. The Wigginses are anxious to move back into their house.


The two Wiggins boys share a loft that can be reached from both of the childrenÆs bedrooms. Custom-designed glass inserts dress up the girder trusses while providing sound control.

"We needed to push to get the job done by the start of school," says Mahak, because Linda Wiggins is a teacher. Besides, says Linda, the "lady we rented from wanted us out" so the next tenants could move in. ICON scheduled the painting, finish and electrical trim work tightly, says Myers. "Many subcontractors came through. We could not have done this job without their commitment." By the third week of September, the house was ready for occupancy, with a handful of finish details yet to complete. Boxes of belongings made the trip back across the street, and the Wigginses were home again.

Curtain call. Bob and Linda Wiggins come forward to thank the cast.

Commending the architect, Bob says, "I like working with Tom. HeÆs very artistic." Commending Bob Myers, Vali Mahak and the rest of the ICON crew, Linda says, "They did a really good job. Their work was excellent." Pointing to their bright, spacious, one-of-a-kind house, Linda and Bob say in unison, "It exceeds our expectations." Bravo.

Also see:

ICON Remodeling


Budget History

Cash Flow Analysis

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