The Remodelers Council: Remodeler's Corner

by Kim Shanahan

It has been said that the greenest, most energy efficient home is the one that never gets built - no new home, no new energy usage.  Santa Fe area remodelers, however, take that notion one step further and say the greenest home is one that is remodeled to extend its functional life and to improve existing energy efficiency.

The Remodelers Showcase, an annual component of The Santa Fe Home Show, is a great way to see what professional remodelers can do to turn old, dilapidated energy hogs into sparkling new spaces that will give their owners a lifetime of improved comfort and energy efficiency.  The Remodelers Showcase is presented in a portfolio format with before and after pictures and detailed descriptions of goals, obstacles and solutions for the project.  The portfolios are judged by a panel of architects, builders, remodelers, and building science professionals.  Entries judged worthy of merit will be recognized with Excellence in Remodeling Awards at the Santa Fe Home Show on Sunday March 10th at 1:00 pm.

Entrants for this year chose remodeling categories in kitchens, baths, whole house remodels, historic renovation, and additions.  It is on the work of the historic renovations that this article will focus.

In Santa Fe, because of strict Historical District guidelines, tearing down a home, even if common sense says it is too far gone to fix, is often not an option.  Three courageous Santa Fe Area Home Builder Association members, along with homeowners with tremendous faith, took on the often scary task of renovating old Santa Fe adobe homes.

Bill Deuschle and Chuck Caswell, the partners of Fabu-wall-ous Solutions, LLC, have made a career of historic renovations.  Although they started renovating historic structures back East, their ten years in Santa Fe has given them an entirely new genre of expertise in historic adobe renovations.

Their project off Garcia Street was about as challenging as one could imagine.  The old adobe home was literally falling apart even though it had been cosmetically remodeled just a few years earlier.  A rubble foundation was barely holding up the walls and in some areas there was no foundation at all - just adobes on dirt!  Massive excavation was necessary while shoring up the existing walls, parapets and roof structure that stayed in place until the new foundation was installed.  Great care was taken to dig up mature landscaping to be saved for replanting after work was completed.

Bill and Chuck, who is a Trustee of the SFAHBA Green Building Council, also took great pains to improve the overall efficiency and comfort of the home by adding insulation to walls and ceilings that had none, installing a passive radon control system, and increasing the efficiency of the under-floor ducted HVAC system. 

Another challenging project, undertaken by Lloyd Martinez of Edificio Builders, Ltd, was built in 1929 by the famous aviatrix Katherine Stinson-Otero, a friend and student of John Gaw Meem.  As is often the case with historic adobes, the ceilings were very low compared to modern standards.  But because one of the first rules in the Historic District is that roof heights cannot be raised, a challenge is encountered.  Lloyd and his crew solved that by digging out the existing floor by two feet, and pouring a new floor with radiant heat.

Another area of fanatical oversight by the Historic Design Review Board is windows.  If the old ones are “non-contributing” aluminum sliders, they can be replaced with windows that have an older look, but if the home has old “historic” windows, as did the Stinson-Otero house, then they have to be restored.  Lloyd spent a good deal of time and effort to seal all cracks, rebuild frames, and re-glaze panes.
They also took out the old boiler, which supplied steam heat to second floor radiators, and installed a very modern product called “Warm Board”, which allows for PEX tubing to be installed in grooves in aluminum coated sheets of plywood subflooring.  It means a radiant floor system can be installed on a joisted floor without needing to pour lightweight concrete.  That was especially important in this case since the homeowners wanted a mesquite wood floor, which can easily be applied over the Warm Board..

Danny Buck, of Daniel Buck Construction, also ran into the low ceiling issue when he took on the remodel of a foreclosed and abandoned adobe home in the historic district.  Fortunately for his homeowner, they were able to raise the ceiling without raising the roof.  While that may sound impossible, Danny encountered a situation that is not that is not uncommon in Santa Fe – a dropped ceiling of drywall to cover up beams and vigas.

While that seems ludicrous to us today, drywall was once considered “modern” and folks thought they were improving their homes by covering up those old fashioned looking logs.  Danny was able to spray foam between the exposed beams for half of their 12” depth to create a super energy efficient roof while keeping the beautiful beams exposed.

Danny also tore out all existing electrical, plumbing, and heating systems and replaced them with new energy efficient ones.  He was also allowed to replace windows with energy efficient replicas of the originals.
The portfolios of these fine builders, along with those of Bruno Lindner, The Home Construction Doctor; Bruce Wollens, Wollens Quality Homes; Douglas Maahs, D. Maahs Construction; and Will Prull, Prull Custom Builders, will be available for all to review at the 23rd annual Santa Fe Home Show on March 9-10 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. 

STAY TUNED FOR THE LIST OF WINNERS WHICH WILL BE POSTED HERE AFTER JUDGING IS COMPLETE

Kim Shanahan is the Executive Officer of the Santa Fe Home Builders Association



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