Monday, September 7, 2009


Architects are sometimes called on to remodel all or part of an existing house, to design an addition to an existing house or to do a combination of the two. Designing a whole house remodeling project is similar to designing a new home. The Architect must consider the Owner's goals, desires and budgets. The design must also incorporate the existing house's structure, style and site.

When adding onto or remodeling an existing house, the Owners may require a larger home. They may have lived in the house for many years or they may have just bought the property and seek to update the existing building to meet their needs. They may want an upgrade on crucial spaces such as the kitchen or baths. The Owners may want the additions and remodeling work to blend seamlessly in with the existing house, creating a home where the addition seems like it was always there. Or, they may want to give the finished project an entirely new look.

The photos show an addition and remodel to an adobe ranch house over 100 years old, near Kit Carson, Colorado. Each generation, the family working the ranch moves into the ranch house. Each generation, there has been some remodeling done and additions added.

In the past, the home had a shallow pitched metal roof added. Ceilings were lowered from 10 feet to 8 feet in height. Many rooms had dated wood paneling. Addition on addition, built over the years, had resulted in an awkward and unusable floor plan, unsuited for a modern family.

The Owner's goals included adding a new garage and a second story family room and office. All the childrens' bedrooms and baths were remodeled. A master suite was created in a way that granted privacy and improved circulation through the house. Ceilings were restored to the original 10 foot height. All this, plus a general, overall remodel, was to be done in a way that added a southwest character to the home.

The southwestern character was gained through the use of tile and wood floors, kiva fireplaces, viga and latilla ceilings and dramatic arches cut through thick adobe walls. The addition blends with the existing house using stucco walls to match the old adobe in texture and color and continuing the metal roof, which is shaped to resemble a barrel vault tile roof.

An important aspect of the entire project was the budget. All projects have a budget that must be met. Careful planning, limiting the remodel work and eliminating extravagant items kept the costs under control.

Small touches and thoughtful details by the Contractor and Owners during construction added to the drama. In a few spots, the original adobe blocks were allowed to show through the final plaster. The ranch brand was burned into wood trim as a decorative element giving the new work a tie to the past.

Monday, March 9, 2009


A wide variety of materials are available for use in the construction of an architect designed custom home. Many factors influence the choices; costs, budget, maintenance, the site, the style of home and the Owner's preferences. Those materials used in a custom home should be decided prior to design. The materials chosen will have an impact on the design of the custom home. An earlier blog discusses roofs. This blog will discuss wall materials, doors and windows. The choice of materials used in custom homes is wide and materials may be combined.

Wood Siding: Many types of wood siding are on the market, both new materials and old or recycled wood. All wood siding should be placed over an anti-infiltration barrier. Vertical wood siding, used in dramatic contemporary designs and the "mine shaft" look, requires horizontal nailing framing at 24" o.c. Wood siding can be stained or painted. Wood weathers badly in Colorado's high altitude and extreme climate. It requires frequent maintenance and refinishing.

Stucco: Stucco is a very commonly used siding material, both for its look and its lower maintenance requirements. With stucco, the color is in the final coat, so no painting is required. Trim and special shapes can be built right into the stucco. Some small cracking is expected and tolerated. Synthetic stucco over glued down insulation board was popular a few years back. This product had some problems, and code and insurance issues pushed the industry back to old fashioned "hard coat stucco" using Portland cement. This material resists birds and has a more solid feel to it.

Brick: Brick is an attractive and long lasting exterior material. It seldom requires any maintenance. There are endless choices of different bricks available. Brick seems best to fit in suburban and urban sites design wise, and it does not seem as acceptable in rural locations.

Stone: Stone is again available in an endless variety of choices. Today, it is most commonly applied as a veneer. The stone is laid against a wood framed wall covered in a waterproof material. This allows for the benefit of a well insulated wood frame wall while reducing the amount of stone and the labor to lay it. This true stone, even laid as a veneer, is expensive. Material and labor costs are high. To give the look of stone at a lower cost, synthetic stone can be used. Synthetic or cast stone is colored concrete, formed in molds that give it the appearance of stone. It is laid as a veneer against what is basically a stucco base coat. At a higher cost, though still lower than full stone veneer, is a thin stone veneer. It is available from Telluride Stone and Robinson Brick. Thin stone veneer is made from real stone, cut to about 1" thick. Corner pieces are also supplied. It is also laid up on a stucco base coat. Because this material is real stone, it can be chipped and shaped and has a truer stone appearance than concrete stone.

Other Materials: Other material choices for custom homes exist. Various metal sidings are available. Corrugated steel is currently popular. Hardboard siding gives the look of painted wood at a lower cost and with less maintenance. Any material can be used, but some thought must be given to the materials lifespan, its maintenance and its weathering.

Doors: Doors, and in particular, entry doors, come in thousands of styles and finishes. Owner's will often pick their favorite out of a catalogue available from the manufacturer or on the Internet. Doors are often chosen as an allowance item. They are usually wood, but can be insulated steel.

Garage Doors: Garage doors are also available in a multitude of style and finishes, but can also be easily custom made. For a one of a kind custom garage door that fits perfectly into your custom home design, wood siding and trim can be applied to a Masonite door. This door will require heavy duty tracks and hardware. If windows are desired in the garage door, or budget dictates, a manufactured door can be bought. Again, there are catalogs available and Internet sites to view products. These doors can be steel, insulated steel or wood. Steel doors are painted and require less maintenance than wood doors. There are even steel doors coated with a wood like product that accepts stain.

Windows: All custom homes should use a good, high quality window. Best are aluminum clad wood windows. The exterior is colored aluminum, available in almost any color and very low in maintenance. Inside is stained or painted wood. All windows should be insulated glass and have a low e coating for energy conservation. Windows can make up 20% of the heat loss of a house. A good window reduces energy consumption and resists air infiltration.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Most architect designed custom homes use some variation of a flat roof, a metal roof, a tile roof or a fiberglass asphalt shingle. The choice depends on the style and concept of the house, the climate of the site and the budget.

FLAT ROOFS: This is probably the most expensive roof system. A flat roof is not actually flat, it slopes slightly to drain, about 1/4" per foot. The slope is created by roof trusses or tapered roof insulation boards. The roof drains through scuppers and downspouts. Most flat roofs today use some version of an EPDM rubber roof membrane. This membrane can be glued down or have a round river rock ballast. Along with a high initial expense, flat roofs are more prone to problems and maintenance than other types of roof. Flat roofs are often seen in southwestern and contemporary designs.

METAL ROOFS: Metal roofs are the second most expensive roofs. They are usually steel, but come in a variety of types; corrugated, standing seam and panels, and also in a variety of colors as well as unfinished rusting steel roofs. A metal roof can be used on very low pitched roofs. They are often used in heavy snow areas because snow tends to slide off. They are fireproof. They can drain though gutters and downspouts.

TILE ROOFS: Most tile roofs use a concrete tile, better able to withstand freezing than the old clay tiles. They come in a variety of shapes and styles; barrel vault, shake, bar, and slate. Each profile comes in a variety of colors and a roof can be made of a blend of colors for a true custom look. Tile roofs are less expensive than metal, they are fireproof, and considered a lifetime roof. Any style of home can find a tile roof to compliment the design. They drain through gutters and downspouts.


FIBERGLASS ASPHALT SHINGLES: Fiberglass asphalt shingles can be a Class A roof, fire resistant. They are far less expensive than any of the previous roof choices. Fiberglass asphalt shingles come in a wide variety of styles, shapes, profiles and colors. Drainage is through gutters and downspouts. This is the most widely used roofing material on custom homes.

ROOFING PAPER: All sloped roof materials go over some form of roofing paper. It can be nailed down or self-adhesive. It protects the wood roof deck from moisture.

ICE SHIELD: In cold climates. Ice Shield, a bituminous, water proof, self-sealing membrane is places at all eaves, valleys and trouble spots. It helps prevent ice dams and other snow and ice related problems. In heavy snow areas and at high elevations, the entire roof may be covered in Ice Shield.

COLD ROOFS: In very high elevations and heavy snow areas, a cold roof is often used to avoid problems due to cold and snow. The roof is framed with a roof structure and sheathing, then an air gap is framed, often flat 2x4's and a second layer of roof decking. This gap is vented. The final roof material goes over this double roof. This double, cold roof prevents snow and ice build up. New methods of spray on foam insulation against the underside of the roof can eliminate the need for a cold roof.

OTHER ROOFING MATERIALS: There are other roofing materials available to choose from. Wood shakes, slate and synthetic roofing materials are sometimes used. Wood shakes are seldom used anymore because of fire danger and their weakness in hail. Slate is very expensive. New, synthetic materials are an unknown when considering how long they will last.