Tag Archives: green remodel

castro corner house


at the castro corner house, the new walls were framed in, and sheetrock is now being installed.

above is the rough framed new stair to the first floor. about 20′ of new concrete retaining wall was poured along the property line. img_9947

in the photo above, part of the concrete wall is thinner to allow for the stair landing in this location – every inch counts to make the stairs work, especially in these narrow san francisco lots! img_0130

here the 6′ tall new concrete is furred out to allow for bathroom plumbing to run inside. img_0356new johns-manville formaldehyde-free insulation (for better indoor air quality) fills the wall cavities where there was no insulation before…..the globe is warming but we’re using more insulation now than we did in 1940. 🙂 img_0664from this point looking over the new stairwell you can see through the lower hallway and to the new garden door. a nice peek to the rear yard without having to go downstairs.. img_0660a view along the floor toward the new built-in bench, and spot where the gas fireplace will go. it’s a corner fireplace by Ortal. pretty slick! can’t wait to see it. we’re further along than these pictures show; some cabinetry is installed, and we’re selecting final finishes now. stay tuned, more to come!


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noe valley victorian bridge

roof framing

Once the 2×4 flimsy roof was ripped off, the new roof was framed back up pretty quickly. The top floor will have new rooms so we needed to take advantage of dormer space, and as much height as possible.  The view above is looking toward the street. old shingles

On the right is a close-up of the layers of shingles, starting with the original cedar shakes from late 1800s and a series of asphalt shingles right on top.  Note there is no waterproofing in the old roofing system! On the left is an old coffee coffee can that was found during demolition.

dormer framing

Here is a view looking toward the back of the house; the roof is a tricky series of angles and shapes. At the very back is the square ‘box’ addition from sometime in the ’80s or ’90s.


A view from the inside of the new bedroom at the former attic level. It’s a double-ridge dormer. The neighbor’s house is just outside – tight urban living! new dormerFrom the street you barely notice the dormers. There’s my Volvo out front 🙂 dormerThe same view a few weeks later after the plywood sheathing has been installed on walls and roof. triangle windowAnother few weeks and the windows are installed – this is the corner facing the street and Twin Peaks beyond, so we thought it important to have a window along the slope where the dormer meets the roof. Uncommon, but I was able to dig some examples up online. footbridgeThe ‘great room’ will occupy the area at the back of the house on the middle level. There I am crouched on the old attic 2×4 framing, which we repurposed as a bridge walkway to connect the areas of the new top floor.  The photo below was taken sometime between the two photos above, once the attic floor was taken out but before the bridge steel was installed. steel framingI am SO excited to have this steel exposed in the house; it will be a nice mix of Victorian and modern together, and tell a story of the old framing that was reused to build it.  bridge walkwayA view below the bridge toward the rear wall.  bridge sketchA sketch when we were figuring out how the bridge would meet the floor on each side, which were at different heights! lincrustaAbove is a detail of the existing lincrusta wall covering featuring birds (Swallows?) original to the house. Most of it was removed but will be replaced.  Next to that is the rectangle of a closed window found behind the refrigerator. Much of the work at the upper two levels happened while the new concrete footing was being poured around the perimeter of the house at the ground level. Groundwater was discovered during excavation which set the progress at the ground floor back a few weeks.

More to come!

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shingle bungalow: new roof

…and the roof came tumbling down – in an organized fashion of course. The back part of the roof was reconfigured as an up-slope ‘shed roof’ to create a tall wall and capture the view.  Actually the entire roof of the house was rebuilt, and we opted to vault every space on the top floor so there is no attic (hoarders be warned!) but bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, hallway all have soaring ceilings. I hope the new owners like mobiles. This first photo is the back part of the roof and dormer getting lopped off.  The additional space being framed here is the master bedroom with the money-shot view.  The new roof, at a low slope pitching toward the view. I like this because you can see the old angle of the roof, and the new roof above. That’s yesteryear’s version of plywood  on the lower part of the wall. Here is a view from the street showing the new up-slope roof at the back. This is the only change to the house that is visible from the street, so no neighbors took issue with it.  In this neighborhood there is a 35′ height limit and we couldn’t slope the roof up more than what we did without hitting that imaginary line.  Here’s a view that normally only a witch would have (hey, it’s almost Halloween…) but I climbed a nearby hill to get this shot of the new roof addition being framed.  The house in the foreground was a ‘twin’ of our project – soon to be fraternal! A view of what will be the master bedroom sliding doors. Then they moved on to the front part of the roof and started that. With existing 2×4 24″ on-center rafters, no insulation, it needed an upgrade. All the shingles were glazed in 10 coats of old paint, dry-rot, a lot just had to come down. An interesting still-life at the front bedroom of the house with the roof gone. Here’s the house re-clad in new plywood….old shingles gone, roof rebuilt. The old brick chimney is still seen but that was in very poor shape too. Looking up at the back of the house with the huge open areas soon to be sliding doors and windows. That’s a ‘Simpson Strong Wall’, a structural element that provides lateral support when there is almost no solid wall.  Other than having a moment frame.  I like the way the house has a stacked-up look.  A for Asymmetry! Stay tuned – more to come!

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shingle bungalow

A lot has happened since my last update!  On this house, and for the business: we’ve moved to a new office, and the dust is still settling… This is a mighty heap of scrap – mostly unusable – taken from the house and placed into the rear yard.  The rear yard here is/was a beautifully overgrown mass of decades-old flowering plants and trees.  To get taller living space on the first level we removed the floor to get up to 24″ of additional height to work with:

As you can see the walls were all sorts of patched together = need to be rebuilt.  Then we had to excavate into the hill to maintain this lofty new ceiling.This retaining wall represents the line between the garage that will maintain the original low height of approx. 7′, and the new living space that will have approx. 10′ ceilings.

The new stairs came down (‘bombs awaaay!’) just in time as the new 3′ addition extended the house into the rear yard. Upstairs, the back portion of the house was removed.  This was a multi-layer addition from the 1940s-70s, and insufficient to support the third floor addition.  Braces hold up the side property line walls.  We left the existing side windows in so we can replace them in-kind without having to be fire-rated (which can run about $2500 for a 3’x4′ window!)

The charming master bedroom dormer is seen here.  

Above views are from the second floor looking through the newly opened wall.  The photo below is looking up at the back of the house. The first floor is framed in, and the new deck is cantilevered 5′ beyond the wall.

Where’s Waldo? There’s a guy in all that mess, if you look hard enough.  

This is me trying to photograph a steel beam, standing on the open edge of the house!

More to come! 



Filed under bungalow remodel

the ice storm

Yes, this is not real stone.  It’s a nice representation of a (burnt?) stone wall, with several parking options for your late 70s cars, and – as an afterthought, let’s stick a front door on there for grins. One of the worst Hobbit-hole entrances I’ve ever seen..   This is the first house in San Francisco I’ve worked on that’s younger than me – but not by much!  Started in 1979 and completed in 1980, this house is an ode to all things brown and mirrored.  Walking through made me think of the Ice Storm. hot fireplace, curving hearth…you can see your casserole dinner in reverse…

We don’t mind this though – the wet bar!  It stays.  (there are two of them in the house…) The awesome tile, and the padded cabinetry so you don’t knock your knees when going in for cocktail no.4. A second fireplace – leftover stone from the facade?  Typical doorknob throughout the house…Off the back of the house there’s an enclosed patio, with covered hot tub in the corner, kitchenette and bathroom.  We think it’s pretty groovy, a nice private enclosed space (would love to have seen a party here in 1980), but definitely in need of updating.  We’re opening it up quite a bit too. The dreaded fire escape, as seen from the patio.  It’s a goner!  All these 70s treatments aside, the house has a lot of space, good bones, and sweeping views of the Marin Headlands and Twin Peaks – the reasons why the family bought it.  We’re well into demo now – check back for more progress….to the studs!

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San Francisco bungalow progress

Here’s the look of demo….the mess, the uncovered pieces, the view to new possibilities.  

This is in the kitchen – behind the cabinetry and appliances we uncovered evidence of a once-PINK kitchen!  Awesome. I thought this was a nice composition…A heap of ceiling coming down.  The issue with these older homes is that the walls have no insulation.  I’ve never done blown-in insulation, where a hole is drilled into each study bay and it’s filled with some kind of loose fiber.   View of the hobbit staircase.  Cute, but even I at 5′-9″ would almost crack my head on the way up. The old brick coal-burning fireplace.  You probably couldn’t fit more than a Duraflame log in here, on the days you can actually burn a fire in San Francisco.Here’s a painted wall we found within a dropped ceiling.  This may have once been an exterior porch.  Over the years, I’ve seen this green-blue color very often in porches, laundry rooms, ‘utility’ rooms, etc.  I like it, and am interested in knowing why this was common practice for paint color in those spaces..? Looks like someone built a house within this house at one point in time!  There’s that green-blue color again. Cobwebs, or “Irish lace” as I was told – in the uncovered attic space. Spoooky..Down at the first floor here’s the shadow of an old staircase found within a wall. It was an exterior staircase since that’s redwood sidingTwo views of eave closet spaces, matched in reverse.  Lots of old wood in this house – can we reuse some, please, someday!?  Clients are often dubious or nervous about the prospect of this beat-up redwood being turned into beautiful interior wall cladding.  I know it’s possible, it’s been done – even with lath.  It does add more time/labor but in the end, it tells a story, is warm and tangible, and relates directly to the history of the house.

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san francisco bungalow

Here were in front of the ugliest house on the nicest block a bungalow in San Francisco. This may not be a true bungalow, or one you would’ve found in a Sears & Roebuck catalog back in 1915.  However it is from 1912 and has a low, sad dormer, some brackets, exposed rafter ends, and shingles.  Random thought is that it was built the year the Titanic sank, and as we started demolition the Italian cruiser tipped over – this must mean good luck! We can’t modify the front too much due to its age and status as a potential historic resource. Around back there is a flat-roofed segment of the building added in two parts over the years.  The garden is filled with beautiful roses and other flowering plants from the former owners.  The lot slopes down away from the house and the views are far and wide: This view is from the top floor.  That tree doesn’t bug me.  At the top floor back of the house is a dormer similar to the one at the front which doesn’t really do the view justice – Part of the remodel involves extending this top floor to accommodate larger master bedroom suite that open up to the view, while maintaining roofdeck space for plantings and star-gazing.  The view pans around and up to a nearby hilltop. Inside we’ve got the usual suspects:  a somewhat vintage kitchen with some appliance ‘updates’ that result in a jumbled room – with potential, of course.  The kitchen floor is classic! I think my grandmother had the same one: Downstairs is some more flooring – and typical ‘basement’ paneling from the 60s or 70s:  Upstairs another vintage find is some loud, splashy wallpaper – great to wake up to but try falling asleep: We’ve got big plans for the house so check back soon for more – in fact, demo has already begun and all the stuff seen here has been passed on to places and friends for reuse – be green! – (shutters, doors, lights, appliances etc) including me:  I kept the front door and plan to make a table out of it : )

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raze the roof

A well-lit facade.  There’s a glow coming through the windows of this building, and looking through them you can see the sky.  In the demo phase, the (sagging, leaking) roof has been removed.  (some of these photos are terribly dark / contrasty, I took them with my not-so-great phone camera!).  These patched-together trusses, pretty in silhouette, were bowed pretty badly over the 50ft span.  A few of the pieces had large splits/breaks in them.  Most of the timber is being reused as framing elsewhere in the building and/or has been donated.  Some windows have even been passed along to an artist who paints on the glass. The view of the Lutheran church on er, Church St from the rear of the building.  The existing building filled almost the entire lot from side to side and front to back, so we’re modifying the walls in order to create legal operable windows.  Some old framing reused as staggered studs between rooms.  A view through the wall to an adjacent building. Some framing and old window openings at the front of the building.  These quirky top floor windows were only about 1ft from the floor, not really matching the interior spaces.  Toddlers would enjoy them, I suppose.  You can see how much empty space is above them on the wall…..great placement!?  More to come –

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laurel heights completion

This project has wrapped up and the owners have moved in!  They’ve done such a great job with the interior decor so far, I love it!  It will make for really good portfolio shots – I went over recently and took a bunch of scouting shots.  Below are plans of how what we changed – mostly within the walls – partially infilling a lightwell, squaring off bay windows, opening up the main rooms and adding a new stair to the lower floor.  I have to admit at first I didn’t see keeping this railing, but I’m happy they wanted to keep it!  Looks like bones – in a cool way.  The hardwood floors are original, restained and refinished.  Below is a repurposed portion of the old garage door which we saved and used in the kitchen on a barn door track, hiding a closet.  Seen below, we raised the ceilings in the kitchen – as an angle – and in the Living Rm, gaining almost 2′ of space that was formerly empty space.

The rooms now open one to next with ceiling variations and few walls to define the spaces.

The angled ceiling is an unexpected feature in the room, also allowing for a window high in the wall to capture light.   The master bedroom and bathroom have built-in walnut cabinetry by Stephen Day Design.  (again, these are just scouting shots so better photos to come!).  Lastly – I love the art my client has over the fireplace mantle.  The story is that she carried it back with her from a trip to midwest – putting it in the overhead bin on the airplane! Looks great! OK – 99.9% done – they were still painting the back when I visited…


Filed under Laurel Heights House

mill valley remodel

Hello 1987!  Or late 70s? Ugh.  This house just north of San Francisco will be undergoing a transformation in the coming months.  Seen here at the start, it was all roof, T-111 siding, and smashed, tiny windows up top facing the view.  Where is the front door?

This open second floor porch at the back of the house will be filled in and become the master bathroom.

This remodel is already chugging along – clients keeping a great blog to go along with it.  It will eventually look like this: (Gotta love Sketchup for quick & dirty 3D modeling.)

Down to the studs!   Stay tuned for more!

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Filed under Mill Valley Remodel