What’s going to change?

Posted by on Jun 4, 2011 in Featured, Structure | 19 comments

The House, before and after

The house, before and after

Everything?  Does that answer the question?

In reality, nearly every aspect of the house will be at least reconditioned.  We only plan to do this once in our lives, so we plan on doing it right the first time.  Here’s part of the ever-growing list of changes to the house.

The Basement: Part of meeting the EnerPHit standard means wrapping the entire house in insulation.  This is relatively straightforward above ground, but the basement is a special case.  We’ll remove the existing floor slab, then insulate, run PEX heat tubing, and have the slab repoured.  The exterior walls of the basement will be waterproofed and insulated with 6″ of EPS, and the interior walls will be framed with steel and insulated some more.

The Main Floor: We’re adding on to the main structure, increasing its footprint about 50%.  The new space will allow us to increase the size of our very small kitchen, plus add a family room, bathroom, mudroom and laundry.  It sounds like a lot, but we’re just using the space a lot more efficiently.  We’re also adding in floor heat to all new spaces, completely replacing the kitchen, and shaping some of the interior walls.

The Second Floor: We’ll be adding a master suite and a quarter bath with the additional space.  The floors are already heated, so we’ll likely see the least change here.  Until we look up…

The Roof: It’s going away.  We have to reframe the roof to accommodate the new footprint, as the 2×4 balloon framed roof can’t structurally handle the changes we need to make to it.  It’s also a hip roof that sits directly on top of the windows, a condition I see everywhere in our neighborhood.  That basically means that there’s no way to insulate the roof for the entire exterior perimeter of the house.  So, it has to go.  The new roof will be insulated to R-60, and covered with standing seam panels.  As our architect said once, “No Minnesota house should have anything other than a steel roof.”

The Windows: They all have to go.  They’re single pane double hungs with storm windows on the outside, have probably an R-2 value, and would be the energy efficiency equivalent of a truck-sized hole in the house.  They’ll be replaced with German triple pane marvels of technology.

The Shell: The house will be wrapped in 10″ of dense packed cellulose, creating a blanket to keep it warm and cool throughout the year.  We’re residing with cement fiber lap siding, and are using stone veneer to add accents to the chimney and entryway.  Functional shutters will be added to the west side to prevent solar gain through the windows late in the day.  The chimney will sadly be decommissioned and preserved only as a tribute to the architecture of the era.

Heat: We’ll likely enhance our existing in floor hydronic heating system.  There’s some talk of per-room zoning, which would mean that every room would have its own thermostat.

That’s a summary of the high points.  There are, of course, hundreds of other details that will be revealed over the coming months.  I’ll be posting on every one of them when the time comes.


  1. Hey Paul-
    This is awesome. I had no idea you were working on this project. I would love to do something similar with our house. How did you find all the sponsors. This does not sound like an inexpensive venture.


    • Scott – sponsorship originally came out of a wish list. We basically had a bunch of companies that represented our best case scenario, then Barb contacted them and explained what our project was. The goal for sponsorship is to a create a strong synergy, where the company benefits from being associated with a unique project, and we get significant discounts or donations from them. So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive; aside from the sponsors we’ve listed, we have another half dozen or so we’re currently working out details with, and we’re just getting started.

      As for cost, this is very expensive. Sponsorship helps a bit, but the most significant savings have been in our willingness to tackle many of the elements of the project ourselves (like this website!). We plan on only doing this once in our lives, so we’re going ‘all in’, hoping to reap the benefits for the next several decades.

  2. Paul,

    I just discovered this blog and I love it. We’re undergoing a similar (although less intense) retrofit of an old home in Iowa. We are trying to decide on a metal vs. shingle roof. I find very little data about the energy effieciency of a metal roof in a cold climate. I see that your architect though every Minnesota home should have a metal roof, but do you know why?


    • Chris, he’ll probably respond here, but here are the points that I remember him bringing up (and from recreational reading):

      * Metal roofs last a very long time – forever, compared to asphalt shingles
      * They’re lighter, allowing your roof to bear a greater snow load (important with heavy insulation)
      * They’re ‘greener’, in the sense that they can be completely recycled at the end of their life
      * They have a higher albedo, keeping your roof substantially cooler than asphalt
      * Lowered insurance rates
      * Easier, less invasive installation of solar panels

      They’re also a lot more expensive, so you have to weigh that against your plans. I’ve read that you can plan to go through two or three asphalt roofs before your steel would have to be replaced, but that might not be something you’d have to worry about.

      As for efficiency, your roof deck should have nothing to do with the R-value of your roof. Other than reflecting radiant energy, the insulation value of your roof will come from your attic insulation.

      Hope that helps Chris. Do you have details about your remodel anywhere? I’d love to check it out!

  3. Paul,

    I don’t have anything online about our house. I don’t know how you find the time to blog with a remodel going on, but I appreciate it.

    We bought and moved a 100 year old American four-square house onto my wife’s family farm. We are adding a lot of insulation and new windows, roof, plus an addition.

    We put in a geothermal heating/ac system and I’ve got some solar panels that will eventually go up. I’d also love a windmill, but we’ll see when the money runs out.

    Let me know of you have any more questions.


    • Blogging is good therapy when you’re trying to do it all at once. If we were doing this the usual route (over years), I doubt we could maintain our pace.

      I’m glad you’re renovating a family home. If we had kept ours in St Paul, we’d probably be doing something similar. Pounding out a plaster wall would have had us in tears. We like our current house just fine, but don’t have much sentiment attached to the structure.

  4. I am so amazed!!! Wow! They say if you want something done, ask a busy person – that certainly holds true here. I hope you’ll post a lot more pictures of the house when everything is done!!!!

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