Your Sustainable Mid-century Remodel: Why and How

13 min read Have you ever considered remodeling your mid-century ranch is an act of radical sustainability?

Think about it! There are 15 million of these modestly-sized, well-built houses across America located in walkable neighborhoods close to local businesses and schools. Taking on a sustainable mid-century remodel means helping people occupy them, love them and preserve them. In doing so, you prevent their demolition to build something larger or just building new homes on greenfield land elsewhere, and this is a significant environmental win.

Yes, mid-century modern style is cool and fun, but more than that – coming up with design tools to help 15 percent of US housing stock stay relevant is IMPORTANT WORK. ⠀

Continue reading “Your Sustainable Mid-century Remodel: Why and How”

What stands between you and the world, or Taking a Hole Saw to House Walls

3 min read Have you ever felt an overwhelming desire to just drill a hole in the side of your house.  Maybe not.  And that’s for the best.  But since I have, you can share in the benefit of my experience. 

When we installed the exhaust fan for the new basement bathroom, the most direct exit route was right through the rim joist of the house.  Dad got out his trusty hole saw with the largest (4 inch diameter) attachment and got to work on it.    Continue reading “What stands between you and the world, or Taking a Hole Saw to House Walls”

Speaking at MREA Energy Fair: Remodel to Create Your Green Dream House

6 min read I’m speaking at the MREA Energy Fair, Friday May 15th at 2:30 and 5:30 to spread the good word on green design and remodeling.
Here’s what I plan to say!

I’m speaking at the the MREA Energy Fair, in Custer, WI, this Friday, delivering two lectures on green building.  Continue reading “Speaking at MREA Energy Fair: Remodel to Create Your Green Dream House”

Progress: Installing Batt Insulation

2 min read Having passed the framing and electrical inspections, the next direct step for the basement was to finish up the insulation. For the first time ever, this task turned out to be easier than I expected.

It was unexpectedly challenging to find 23” batts of insulation (designed for more efficient 24 inch on center framing I used) which were ALSO unfaced (no place for moisture to get stuck) AND designed for a 2×4 wall (not an attic).  I scoured the internet for this unicorn of insulation objects, the 23” unfaced 3.5” batt and finally had to special order it to be delivered to Menards.  Continue reading “Progress: Installing Batt Insulation”

Don’t forget to improve your Passive Solar Potential when you remodel!

2 min read Remodeling is your opportunity to improve all kinds of layout flaws – tight corners, inadequate kitchen storage, not enough privacy for bedrooms – AND improve your relationship with the sun.

Don’t let yourself think of existing walls as immutable or hyper-focus your attention on the surface of things.  Gilding the lily won’t fix an awkward, dark or segmented floor plan. 
Continue reading “Don’t forget to improve your Passive Solar Potential when you remodel!”

Micro Update: Up-Down Insulated Blinds

4 min read Insulated blinds are one of my favorite micro updates.  In addition to a warmer (or cooler) house they provide privacy, controls over your daylight and a stylish update to your aesthetics.  Win. Win. Win. Win.

The snap in the air this week reminded me to adjust my insulated blinds up at night instead of leaving them at half mast for daytime privacy.  I love, Love, LOVE my cordless, up-down, cellular blinds.  They are energy efficient, streamlined and private, and I think they could be an improvement to any home.  Continue reading “Micro Update: Up-Down Insulated Blinds”

Progress: Snugged in for winter with new basement Windows

2 min read With winter coming (the weather just shifted from 70’s to 40’s this week), I was reminded of a punch list of get it done in good weather items.  One was last weeks painting catch-all.  Another is the possibly crazy goal of getting the mudroom framed in, scheduled for next week.  

This week I wanted to install the rest of the basement replacement windows.  Continue reading “Progress: Snugged in for winter with new basement Windows”

In other news: Design for a (ranch like) Passive House

2 min read So I haven’t been making as much progress as I’d like on the Togstad project in August but it is for an excellent reason.  I’ve been designing another project – a new Passive House residence to be constructed in the Bloomington, IL area.

While nothing in the design brief said “ranch” it is no coincidence that it has an elongated single-story profile and flowing open plan layout.  I do have ranches on the brain.  Here are some of my sketches from the Schematic Design phase.

   Continue reading “In other news: Design for a (ranch like) Passive House”

The Secret to (Warm) Success: Insulating behind new Basement Walls

3 min read Part of the reason I decided to entirely tear out the existing “finished basement” was aesthetic: it was incredibly dated with an unpleasant drop ceiling and an unfortunate layout.  I could have kept some parts of it however, if it hadn’t been totally un-insulated.  I can do SO MUCH BETTER than that.

I did part of this insulation work a couple of weeks ago – to make step one before framing the walls for the new bathroom – and the rest is still on my agenda.  I’ll be insulating the south and east walls next.   Continue reading “The Secret to (Warm) Success: Insulating behind new Basement Walls”

Progress: New Pipes, Water Heater and Softener, and Utility Sink

3 min read This phase is all about win-win changes.  By updating the supply plumbing for the main floor I can improve the time for hot water, get bette pressure, save energy, AND win and extra 1 1/2 inches of ceiling height!

In order to start the next stage of basement progress, framing up the new walls, I needed the plumbers to come back and move some old pipes out of my way.  At the same time they replaced a bunch of aging equipment and re-located the water heater to make a more efficient pipe layout!    Continue reading “Progress: New Pipes, Water Heater and Softener, and Utility Sink”