Remodeling with a Spanish Accent

The remodeler transformed this single-family,1920s Denver home from eyesore to Mediterranean beauty.

September 30, 2008
Kitchen remodel
Experience Contributes to Remodeler's Top-Notch Approach

The home's new Mediterranean-style exterior was inspired by its proximity to the historic "Spanish Gate" entry to the upscale community. The new hip roofline is repeated on the front porch, which adds visual interest to the home's new streetscape.  After photos by Philip Wegener Photography

Simple but carefully chosen exterior changes transformed this single-family home from eyesore to elegant ambassador to the neighborhood. The primary unifying element that made the most dramatic difference in this 1920s Denver home's appearance may be the new clay tile-accented hip roof that the remodeler installed to replace a gable style shingle roof.

The house is located directly adjacent to an ornate, century-old Spanish-style gateway that leads into a well-established upscale community. The home's owners objected to the bland exterior even more so because of the striking and historic surrounding. They vowed to correct things once they moved in. The home was such as eyesore that the Denver Landmark Commission deemed it “non-contributing” to the local historic district.

Remodeling projects over the years had transformed the living spaces of the traditional residence into “something special” inside, but the changes actually had the opposite effect on the home's exterior, says local architect Doug Walter, principal with the Denver-based firm that designed its most recent and most remarkable makeover. Walter teamed up with remodeler Fred Ahlert of Consolidated Construction Management, of Lakewood, Colo., to take on the difficult project.


“Each 're-muddling' — and there were at least five previous ones — pushed the limits of propriety on the outside of the home,” says Walter. In the end, the gateway inspired the design of the residence's new Mediterranean-style façade. “This gave us a lifeline toward a way out of the architectural swamp. It was decided to make a strong gesture to both the gate and the neighboring home to the south. The real story of this remodel is how small gestures can utterly transform a home.”

“The original front elevation of the home, was not symmetrical, or unified, at all,” says Ahlert.

In addition to the completely new roofline, the project included re-configuring the front porch; removing and replacing the windows to create a consistent look; adding a second-floor sunroom, a basement office, and a rear, pergola-shaded deck; and re-surfacing the entire exterior of the home in stucco. Other elements included replacing “stick on” shutters with authentic ones, changing the exterior color scheme, adding new landscaping and replacing the front walkway and entry steps.

“The new design now gives it a much more pleasing and well-balanced exterior elevation,” says Ahlert.

The complete redesign and replacement of the roof proved to be a major challenge. Sections of the home's existing brick exterior walls had to be carefully reinforced to carry the 12,000-pound loads demanded by the new girder beams as part of support for the deep, 3-foot-plus overhangs that surround the entire structure.

When it came to restructuring the roof, the remodeler and his team worked very quickly, he says. “We literally took off the entire roof in one day, and six days later the framing and sheathing for the new one was complete.”

The rear terrace features the same finishes and battered column design used on the front porch to create unity. The new roof's deep overhangs include beautifully detailed support brackets.

The project also included some diligent babysitting from the construction team when a storm hit between the time the old roof was removed and the new one was in place.

The project superintendent actually slept in the new roof rafters under the tarp that had been installed to protect the construction work site and the living space below. “He had to spend the night bailing water off the tarp to minimize the potential for damage from water that was leaking and blowing in during the storm,” says Ahlert.

Ultimately, the team's dedication paid off. The clients were overjoyed with the results, telling the remodeler, “at last we have a house that compliments the lovely old homes in our neighborhood. Thank you for making our dreams come true.”

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Exterior remodel

Remodeler: Consolidated Construction Management, Lakewood, Colo.
Architect: Doug Walter Architects, Denver 
Project location: Denver
Age of Home: 80 years old
Scope of work: Redesign and replace existing roof and upgrade of home's exterior style to one that compliments its historic community.

Experience Contributes to Remodeler's Top-Notch Approach

Remodeler Frank Ahlert came to this Denver project with experience that helped him with a big overhaul: replace a featureless gable roof with a ttrussed hip design that included deep overhangs.

“When we build a new second-floor addition above the existing floor structure, we call them 'pop tops'. We have a lot of experience with them because we actually do a lot of these types of projects in our area.”

Timing was everything in this case, he says, because his clients actually continued to live in their home throughout the remodel, and their second-floor master bedroom was directly beneath the primary work site. “Our challenge was that we were actually working right on top of functioning living space.”

In this case, the age of the home actually made things easier for the remodeler. “Because this was an older home, it was not built like homes are today. With the 2 by 6 ceiling joists cut into the roof, the original ceiling is not compromised during replacement of the roof. The old plaster and even the insulation can remain in place if you want it to.” In this case, blown-in insulation was added to the new attic space that was created.

Ahlert has learned that one of the key elements that helps to simplify and speed a project like this one is the use of custom-built, pre-ordered trusses. “The use of pre-ordered trusses played a very important role on this project because, as we removed the existing roof, all of the existing ceiling joists and ceiling plaster were left exposed. We needed to work very quickly.”

The existing roof was removed in one day and was completely framed and sheathed six days later.

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