Whole House: From Boat House to Guest House

This formerly dilapidated boathouse on Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey had everything going for it and everything against it.

May 31, 2004


Remodeler: Asdal Builders LLC, Chester, N.J.

Architect: Patrick James Burke

Project location: Mt. Arlington, N.J.

Age of home: 70+ years

Scope of work: Whole-house remodeling of boathouse into living/entertaining quarters

This formerly dilapidated boathouse on Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey had everything going for it and everything against it. Originally built as an accessory structure, it had been converted into living quarters, and it held a premium waterfront location. But state and municipal regulations limited the size and scope of design and construction.

Prior remodels included adding a second floor with a bathroom, kitchen and some beds in the 1940s, followed by a 1970s kitchen and bath update that featured harvest gold appliances, shag carpeting and a wood-burning fireplace.

Architect Patrick James Burke could not enlarge the footprint, increase the number of bedrooms or exceed an overall building height of 35 feet because of zoning ordinances. Full-service remodeling firm Asdal Builders LLC, meanwhile, had to ensure that construction did not damage the waterfront habitat.

"We were careful not to lose anything into the lake," says firm owner Bill Asdal, who explains that his workers netted the perimeter of the construction site to keep debris from blowing into the water.

Asdal took the structure down to the walls of the boat level and started rebuilding from there. He subcontracted about 30% of the work, mostly mechanicals, while his crew did its own masonry, framing and demolition.

Because the footprint measures just 24x40 feet, Burke designed a 312-square-foot loft to replace the pre-existing attic. A new hip roof provided the necessary vertical space. Open to the second floor, the loft runs along one end wall and one side wall of the building. Asdal Builders reframed all the walls inside to reconfigure the living areas.

"Generally, it is the same place but with more space," says Asdal. "The challenge of transforming rectangular spaces required some structural changes." Microlam beams helped create open volume without using columns.

New energy-efficient windows, new insulation and two new split-duct HVAC systems make the boathouse comfortable year-round, though the interior has the feel and look of an old summer retreat, with retro kitchen appliances and painted bead board in the kitchen, stairways and living room. After seven months and about $250,000, the boathouse was ready to receive its owners, who plan to live there while their main house is renovated.

Bathroom fixtures: Kohler Doors: Andersen Faucets: Herbeau Garage doors: Stanley House wrap: DuPont Tyvek Paint: Benjamin Moore Roofing: GAF Sinks: Kohler Water heater: Rheem Windows: Andersen


Asdal Builders replaced the existing shallow gable roof with a hip roof to maximize volume within the structure while staying within height restrictions. (A conventional gable roof would have violated those regulations.) Architect Patrick James Burke also designed the mansard roof to complement the main building and create a structure that relates to the shorescape. Classic round head dormers enhance the exterior as well as adding natural light to the interior.

Putting strength along the hip rafters supports the 16-foot cathedral ceiling, says Burke. Instead of conventional lumber, Asdal Builders used engineered lumber. "New technologies allow beams that are the same size but with much higher strength," says Burke. "The driving force was to open up the space. The strength was translated more into the hip rafters to replace normal tie beams."

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