It was an 80-year-old feeble house, but to its new owner, it was the house of her dreams. "Most would have considered it a tear-down," says Rick Stageberg, CGR, vice president of remodeling for VB Contractors Inc. "But she loved the house and grew up down the street from it."
The home's location in Virginia Beach and views overlooking the Chesapeake Bay were both its greatest assets and greatest limitations: The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act of 1988 restricts expansion of properties on the water. Indeed, many neighboring homes have been torn down to abide by the environmental restrictions. "Tear down or remodel," Stageberg says. "We even went through that exercise. But the difference was the vision the owner had for the house."
The addition necessitated re-centering the original front door, which was refinished and reused, to maintain the symmetry called for by the Greek Revival architecture. By shifting the opening to the left, where a double window had been, VB Contractors was able to reuse the old header. The company tore off the existing 4x6-foot front porch and replaced it with an 8x22-foot open porch with a swing and a railing around it. Workers poured new footings but used bricks from the old porch for the skirt of the new space — using original materials where they are most visible, Rick Stageberg notes. VB Contractors replaced the worn and brittle cedar shingles with cedar perfection shingles that are thin, tapered and uniform.
Columns: Fypon. Doors and windows: Andersen. Roofing: GAF, copper.
After photos: Elliott Photography
Jodie and Robert Berndt wanted to maintain architectural and historic authenticity in the planning and execution of the remodel, but also needed a home that could accommodate the needs of a modern family that includes four children and a dog.
VB Contractors started with a drafty house with multiple sets of wiring, nearly shot plumbing, an oil-heat furnace, window air-conditioning units, single-pane windows, and no insulation. The structural problems began in the basement — an unusual feature in the area because of the high water table — where the earthen cellar had eroded over the years. In addition, the house had been built on hand-dug brick spread footings. To shore up the structure, VB Contractors built retaining walls in the basement.
Removing a side office and a rear sunroom and combination laundry/bathroom maximized views of the bay and left about 1,680 square feet of the original 2,000-square-foot home. The preservation act limited the expansion of the footprint, so the architect and contractor designed an addition that went up instead of out. Gaining variance approvals, however, required nearly six months of serious planning and working with officials.
The resulting 36×38-foot, three-story addition grew the square footage to 4,002 square feet. Construction of the addition and remodeling of the existing home took another seven months, until May 2003, and averaged $220–250 per square foot.
On the first floor, the expansion accommodates a larger kitchen, breakfast room, family room, rebuilt mudroom and new screen porch. Upstairs, the Berndts now have a second-floor master suite and balcony. VB Contractors added a stairway to the third floor, which previously had been just an attic, but now includes two bedrooms and a bathroom.
"All additions had to be free-standing in order not to put additional structural loads on the original house," Stageberg notes.
The good news was that many of the existing home's interior features were in good shape. VB Contractors salvaged a corner hutch, refinished the floors, rebuilt a number of doors, and copied a newel post from the original front steps so that the front and back stairs had matching railings, balusters and newel posts. Though the company took down most of the plaster walls in order to replace the wiring and insulate the whole house, the team put plaster back up rather than use wallboard.
To retain historic street appeal, the company replaced the single-pane windows with new energy-efficient windows that give the appearance of true divided light.
In blending the addition with the existing home, Stageberg says that his team used the original materials in the most visible locations whenever possible. For instance, VB Contractors hung original doors with crystal doorknobs on the first floor and in hallways, while the second-floor closets received replacement doors.
"When you are looking from one doorway to another, everything must match," he says.
The original attic was strictly storage, but the architect carved out two bedrooms, a bath and a loft by raising the roof and adding a dormer. “We tried to work within the existing space,” says Rick Stageberg. An engineer designed the framing to support the third floor. New knee walls helped to straighten existing rafters, while new floor joists and beams transferred loads to the footings. Sheathing was replaced as needed with 3/4-inch plywood. An operating brick chimney from the original living room runs up through the space. Compressed insulation provides an R-30 insulative value while only using up 81/2 inches of space.
Carpet: Mohawk. Insulation: Kraft. HVAC: Lennox. Paints: Benjamin Moore, Duron.