Out of the Embers: Home Rebuild Complete!

September 5th, 2018

UPDATE: See the rebuild/remodeled home here.

 

photo of fire engines and fire fighters standing together at scene of house fire that was later rebuilt by Acheson Builders

Fire engines and fire fighters on scene at this home in Dexter, Michigan prior to second outbreak.

 

Fire!

Fire is supposed to confine itself to the fireplace, but in this home in Dexter, only one year old, flames reached out of a defective fireplace to engulf the middle section of this home. The owners escaped unharmed, and the fire was extinguished, only to reignite less than 24 hours later (again without injuries).

photo of severely fire-damaged living room wall with fireplace open to adjoining sun room showing large burned and broken windows on either side

Where it started: the burned out fireplace after fire spread to entire center portion of house.

photo of fireplace open to adjoining sun room showing glassed view through fireplace and large windows on either side

Rebuilt fireplace and living room.

Acheson Builders came to the rescue (after the Fire Department of course) and planned out and conducted a campaign of removal, clean-up, and reconstruction of only the damaged portion, carefully following insurance company-provided inspectors’ professional Structural Engineering Report. 

Beyond replacing damaged structural elements such as roof joists and rebuilding the whole middle section — with a new fireplace — the entire house required new interior finishes. 

 

Work Completed

The new trusses are in, the walls put back together, paint and custom finish work throughout completed so now the owners can once again, shuck off their outdoor duds in the new four-cubby mudroom and gather around the indoor-outdoor fireplace to once again enjoy their beautiful home. 

Come See It – 2018 Remodelers Tour (Sept 29 & 30)

See for yourself the quality of Acheson Builders’ work by touring the home at Remodelers Home Tour 2018, one of nine homes being shown by Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Ann Arbor (BRAG Ann Arbor). 

Don’t forget to check out the newly remodeled basement, which became a secondary portion of this project.

Here is a preview of the Tour:

Come to Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show 2018 – Free

February 24th, 2018

montage of photos of Acheson Builders home show booth showing visitors, Jim Acheson, staff and examples of custom cabinetryFree Tickets to the Home Show

Come visit us at the upcoming Home, Garden and Lifestyle Show March 17-18, 2018. The show is sponsored by Builders & Remodelers Association of Greater Ann Arbor (BRAG)(click for more info).

This event typically draws over 7,000 visitors from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Grass Lake, Manchester, Milan, Saline, Ypsilanti and beyond. It features many examples of local remodeling and home & garden resources.

As in years past, Acheson Builders is pleased to offer you gratis admission coupons — get into the show free! All we ask is that you stop by the Acheson Builders booth and introduce yourself. (You’ll find us in the main building, right side. We’ll be the ones with the custom cabinetry and wall panel of featured projects! )  Just CLICK HERE to open a printable image for tickets OR download this PDF for printing — and we’ll be seeing you at the event!

photo of custom cabinets with alder veneer

Custom Cabinets with Alder Veneer —
photo: Detroit Free Press

photo of custom kitchen cabinets and Island by Acheson Builders

Custom Kitchen Cabinets and Island by Acheson Builders — photo: Detroit Free Press

 

photo of Jim Acheson with Guest at Acheson Builders booth of the Home, Garden, and Lifestyle Show in Ann Arbor 2015

Jim offers a homeowner remodeling ideas.

photo of custom-made blonde wood credenza with large end cabinet doors and three central drawers plus marble top

Custom cabinetry on display at Acheson Builders’ Home Show booth.

photo of custom wood four-sided kiosk showing use cases and step-by-step methods of Acheson Builders

Whether building a new home or considering remodeling your existing abode, Acheson Builders has a time-tested design & build process for you to take advantage of. Come to the Home Show to see case study examples from the many homeowners we have helped!

 

Out of the Embers Update: A Truss-Worthy Builder

December 4th, 2017

UPDATE: See the rebuild/remodeled home here.

photo of smoke rising out of suburban house in Dexter, Michigan prior to restoration by Acheson Builders

Fire broke out, was thought extinguished, then returned at this Dexter home.

Progress Restoring Fire-Damaged Home

Good news! The Dexter, Michigan home that suffered a fire earlier in 2017 is nearly rebuilt and restored.

The fire, which began one night in the living room where a new gas fireplace apparently malfunctioned, resulted in no injuries but wreaked significant damage to walls, ceilings, a large portion of the roof, and to floors throughout the two-story structure.

photo of fire engines and fire fighters standing together at scene of house fire that was later rebuilt by Acheson Builders

Fire engines and fire fighters on scene at this home in Dexter, Michigan prior to second outbreak.

The damage that even a small, contained fire can inflict on a house affects more than those portions that actually burn; smoke can permeate all materials and parts of a house, and fire fighters’ water and fire-extinguishing material can cause its own unique form of destruction. This home was no exception.

photo of Acheson Builders crew members up in roof section fastening framing pieces during reconstruction of house in Dexter, Michigan

Crew securing trusses and finishing framing.

For this job, Acheson Builders proposed a plan for both restoring and remodeling the house (see earlier blog report on this project), and began work in July, 2017. Initial work focused on removing damaged materials remaining after a previously hired fire-disaster company had​ removed drywall in affected areas. Acheson Builders unscrewed thousands of projecting drywall fasteners which had been​ left behind​ by the prior drywall removal​, stripped out all smoke or water-damaged insulation in walls and in the attic, and removed wiring and plumbing that was affected by the fire.

That left . . . the odor . . .

Smoke Smell — How to Lose the Burn

Special treatment was undertaken to ensure that all vestiges of smoke damage were eradicated. This required hiring a company that specializes in deep cleaning to be conducted​ in​ multi-step process. First was a patented Hot Thermal Fog™ treatment to open up the pores in the wood (see sidebar “Makeover for Smoke-Damaged House“), followed by thorough cleaning and deodorizing with an ozone and hydroxyl treatment. After this, a sealant was sprayed over everything: all remaining exposed wood, wires and pipes, etc., to prevent any residual smell from escaping. This included the entire attic, where a lot of smell had traveled beyond the burned area.

Yet another company was employed to clear out and certify all of the ductwork, to ensure NADCA standards.

Acheson Builders then re-installed insulation in all areas where it had been removed or where needed.

Roof and Framing

Then we brought in the crane. Crane? No, we did not employ a large, long-necked bird, but brought in a construction crane for removing and replacing seriously large structural trusses for the roof​ in the central part of the house​.

photo of fully deployed crane ready to lift materials onto fire damaged house being restored by Acheson Builders

Construction crane in use during framing and roofing phase of restoration.

(Quite a few remodeling jobs could benefit by a having a crane available but cannot accommodate one, due to site features such as hills and trees; this site was well suited to use of a crane.)

photo of truck-mounted construction crane ready to lift trusses and plywood onto fire damaged house being restored by Acheson Builders

Construction crane in use during framing and roofing phase of restoration.

Now the roofing has been completed, damaged walls re-framed, and new sheet rock fastened on. All exterior work is complete: framing, roofing, siding, paint — all protected and done.
 

New Fireplace

Installation is complete . . . a different brand from the one that malfunctioned and​ burned the house, thank you very much!

Basement Remodel

Extra remodeling, not related to the fire,​ has been undertaken in the basement.​ The owners decided they may as well have the basement finished (a project that they originally had planned to do a few years down the road) while we are already at the home doing other restoration.​ New walls are now framed and drywall will be installed by the time you are reading this. Then comes the fun work of installing all the finishes.​
 

Next Steps

Believe it or not, further smoke odor treatment is needed — to the floors and underlayment. Once done, floor finishes can be completed. After that, tile work will be undertaken. And then there is the exterior: follow-through work includes cleaning up garden beds and re-mulching them. Even these areas were damaged by the fire, firetrucks, and initial demolition processes (before Acheson Builders had been called in).

Check this space in​ the near future for more updates!

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Makeover for Smoke-Damaged House 

Hot Thermal Fogging as defined by CleanFax Company

“Thermal fogging most closely approximates the very small size of smoke particles, driving the particles deep inside tiny cracks, crevices and pores of surfaces, just as the original smoke deposits were created.

When properly created and applied, thermal fogging delivers excellent odor control. . . . “

Source: http://www.cleanfax.com/restoration/effective-thermal-fogging/

Gallery: Whole-House Remodel of 1840s Historic Old West Side Home

October 6th, 2017

Old West Side House Remodel: Bringing Together Four Eras

October 2nd, 2017
Part Two of a Two-Part Series

(see Part One of this series here )

 

photo of 1840 house in Ann Arbor Michigan after complete remodeling by Acheson BuildersDesign Challenges

In undertaking this very large remodeling project, Acheson Builders had many challenges. One good example: we didn’t want to block a feature window that is at the front of the house while adding a new staircase to replace a vintage narrow straight run set of steps (see part one of this series for solution). The homeowners also asked us to create a coat-closet space for that part of the house. 

photo of sweeping wooden staircase curving past window

To accomplish this, we designed the new stairs with a turn midway up, so that the upper section of stairs along the front wall could be above the feature window. We were then able to fit a small coat closet under the upper stairs, while adding a bonus hidden storage area under the lower section of stairs. All done in period detail.

 

When it comes to working on older homes such as this that are considered historic, contractors such as Acheson Builders must hue to the call of the Historic District Commission of Ann Arbor, Michigan. One governing rule of the HDCAA specifies that additions to classic homes in its purview look different than the historic parts of those houses. For this 1840’s home, there were four different styles incorporated, each from a different design era. Although required to have the addition look different, Acheson Builders and the home’s owners didn’t want it to look drastically different — we wanted some continuity, a sense of a unified building after integrating the new with the old. Part of our solution was to use existing ornamentation, seen in the taller front section of the house, as inspiration for the embellishment used on the rear addition.

One somewhat painful decision that the owners had to make involved losing an outdoor sauna. Acheson Builders replaced a badly deteriorating old deck and sauna with a new deck (but no sauna) built on the sunnier side of the house, which also allowed for a larger addition, while at the same time including value-added maintenance-free Azek PVC materials.

One challenge with using Azek materials for the deck and railing, was that Azek does not make a top handrail for stairways that qualifies as “graspable” under the building code. We were able to solve this issue by custom-fabricating, using Azek stock, a top guardrail for the steps that conformed to the code but which also matched the profile of the manufactured top rail used along the level guardrail sections. To fabricate this required handrail, we glued Azek stock pieces together, then milled them for the desired profile. This type of work is quite sophisticated and is only done well by highly skilled carpenters (such as ours)!

Some Design Process Considerations for this job:

  • Deck Height: House sits high relative to the backyard; deck needed to be just a step or two down: this allows for a better view of the yard from inside the house while taking minimal space away from the deck
  • Embellishment: New entryway to deck and backyard from Kitchen and Family Room creates a stunning look as seen from both interior and exterior perspectives; it is a highlight and new rear focal point, with inspiration from other portions of this historic home
  • Addition and deck size: allow for good furniture layout, walkability, storage (both interior spaces, and on deck itself)
  • Width of deck stairway: wide design allows for traffic flow to yard, room to sit on steps
  • Additional features and thoughtful design: one of the skirt panels below the deck opens, so the space is accessible for storage under the deck

. . . and on and on, so forth and etc.; there were a myriad of other issues, both interior and exterior in this the complex design and remodeling process, especially for issues relating to an historic home. Challenging and satisfying — for the homeowners and for Acheson Builders!

— Go back to Part One of this series

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Ann Arbor Old West Side Whole-House Remodel Succeeds with Style – Part One

September 29th, 2017

Remodeling for a New Era

(Part One of a Two-Part series —go to Part Two here)

photo of 1840 house in Ann Arbor Michigan after complete remodeling by Acheson BuildersThis most fascinating older home on Ann Arbor’s “Old West Side” embodied several eras of style:

A Greek Revival settlement-era original from the 1840s, combined with a mid 19th century (1860s or 1870s) practical-but-poorly-built addition, a showy 1890s Victorian era addition, and a 1970’s update on the cheap.

While possessing lots of charm in the details, and a lovely front elevation, the home was awkward and limiting to live in.

CREATIVE, THOUGHTFUL DESIGN SOLUTIONS BY THE ACHESON BUILDERS TEAM

photo of Kimble Wright, Lauren Schaefers, and Jim Acheson

Acheson Builders’ design team (l-r): Kimble Wright, Lauren Schaefers, Jim Acheson

Renovation ideas from two different designers hadn’t met the owner’s goals, before the Acheson design team was called in. Creative problem solving, attentive listening, and abundant experience enabled the Acheson team to meet both the homeowner’s goals and local Historic District requirements, as well as Acheson Builders’ high standards of functionality, refinement, and classical esthetics. Relocating and improving the main stairs (see below) turned out to be one of the keys in re-configuring this home to meet a growing family’s needs, and this stairway became an elegant focal point for the newly created foyer area by the front door. 

RENOVATIONS INCLUDED:

Graceful and sophisticated custom staircase

  • Gorgeous walnut flooring throughout main floor, tying in to original
  • Addition (partially two story) encompassing new Kitchen, Dining and Family Rooms
  • New Azek Deck with wide stairway to yard
  • Newly created bedroom space on second floor, with enlarged 2nd floor bath
  • Loads of classy custom cabinetry and custom built-ins and unique storage in Kitchen, Family Room, and bedrooms
  • Interesting ceiling lines and custom mouldings add great charm
  • Circular stairway to lower level; wall displays some original 1840’s stonework
  • Fully finished bright Basement with bedroom

MAIN STAIRWAY: DRAMATIC BEFORE AND AFTER!

DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

The original stairs from the 1840s Greek Revival part of the home went up to a second floor which was formerly a large sleeping loft, with no original partitions and no bathroom (they used outhouses back then).

photo of steep very narrow straight staircase leading to second floor prior to replacement with new open staircase by Acheson BuildersThe stairs were incredibly steep and unsafe — with tall risers, narrow treads. and barely 24” of width so that a broad shouldered man would have to go up the stairs at an angle.

The home’s living room was located right inside the front door. It had no coat closet nor enclosed vestibule to block the winter cold. It was also a major pass‐through room to get to all other points in the home. As you can imagine, it was a very awkward location for a living room. By placing the new stairway in this area, these main stairs became part of a newly created foyer space, and the back three‐quarters of the home was then freed up on both levels to reconfigure for more functionally pleasing living spaces on both floors.photo of sweeping wooden staircase curving past window

 

 

Continued . . . go to part two about this amazing project.

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Out of the Embers – Remodeling After Fire

July 17th, 2017

UPDATE: See the rebuild/remodeled home here.

photo of fire trucks at scene of daytime house fire in Dexter, Michigan 2017 - post fire rebuilding to be undertaken by Acheson Builders

Dexter Fire Department at scene of house fire. Damage was mainly confined to the home’s interior.

Fire-Damaged New Home to be Made New Again

Tragedy struck the owner of a new 3000 sq ft home in Dexter, Michigan earlier this year: a chimney fire forced him and his family to flee and damaged much of the house interior before being brought under control by local firefighters.

architectural line drawing of floor plan of home dagaged by fire in Dexter, Michigan 2017

Fire began in chimney of fireplace.

After the smoke cleared and insurance company assessments were completed, the homeowner chose Acheson Builders to come to the rescue. Work has already begun to completely renovate the great room and other parts of the house.

photo of fire-damaged Interior fireplace of Dexter Michigan house - fire began in fireplace chimney

Fire, smoke, and water-damaged walls and floor around fireplace chimney where fire began

 

Laborious Prep Work

Acheson Builders’ skilled carpenters and workers don’t often don hazmat jumpsuits but are doing so now in order to prepare the site for new construction. Among the first tasks has been to deal with fire- and water-damaged walls. A fire-damage specialist company had stripped out drywall material that had become waterlogged by firefighting efforts. This left wall studs exposed. Ordinarily this would provide a clean slate for installing new drywall, but thousands of drywall fasteners remained, jutting out from every stud where they had held the original drywall in place. Acheson Builders team members are having to remove all of these fasteners by hand, one by one.

Better Than New

After months of traumatic waiting following the fire, the beleaguered homeowner has told Acheson Builders how grateful he is to have his rebuild/remodel job in such good hands and that Acheson Builders had been singularly recommended as “the best remodeler in town.”

photo of new multi-level home prior to 2017 fire

How it should look — and will again after Achesons Builders’ post-fire remodeling.