Depression-Era Ranch Gets an Architectural Revamp
Four years of sweat and grit add up to a handsome curb appeal after—and a $1,000 Delta prize package as part of the 2016 Reader Remodel Contest
Location: Sarasota, Florida
What they did: Added architectural detail to a ranch house in a neighborhood losing its historic character to teardowns.
Their story: "The house suffered from an identity crisis. Built in 1936—the worst year of the Depression for Sarasota—its construction must have provided many jobs for people in a time of little hope. At some point it had been divided into a duplex, and we returned it to a single-family dwelling. Structurally, the house had to be rebuilt from the inside out. Once that was done, we tackled the facade, adding a new foyer with windows, a front porch, and steps with railings. We removed the azaleas and a tree and replaced the 1969 circular driveway.
Before: Hidden by overgrown azaleas, the bungalow was only distinguished by yellow siding and a circular driveway. With no visible path to the door, the front wasn't welcoming.
"Every detail was researched with attention to proportion and era-appropriate construction techniques to create a home that looks like it has been here for 100 years. We replaced all the windows and added seven Craftsman-style columns: two at the corners of the foyer addition, two supporting the carport roof, and three supporting the front porch roof. We first modeled them in 3-D on the computer, then cut a mock-up out of plywood to check the proportions. The stacked stone at the bases is from a quarry we saw while driving the mountains of North Carolina during a vacation. We ordered three tons to be shipped south without a second thought! Our kids, Cyrus and Nora, were incredibly helpful and have learned invaluable skills as well as life lessons about perseverance. And they both own their own screw guns now.
"I love when people who watched us work for four years stop to say thank you for doing such a detailed job saving the house. Sometimes someone shares a story. It used to be owned by a circus family who raised leopards in the backyard!"
Shown: Thanks to a clearly defined entry, the house now presents a gracious face to the street. The new foyer and porch give the exterior dimension, while details such as a custom-made door, tapered columns, and a slate-green paint job provide Craftsman-inspired character. Low shrubs and lawn flank the concrete path to complement the house without overwhelming it.
Hardest thing we did: Ripping off the entire east side of the house and rebuilding it. We gutted everything, jacked up the remaining roof with bottle jacks and 4 x 4s, rebuilt the floor joists, and raised the floor level even with the rest of the house. We reinforced the corners with 4 x 4s and rebuilt the walls, adding hurricane strapping. The ceiling joists were originally 2 x 6s spaced on 24-inch centers. The walls of the house were relaxing outward so we corrected this by replacing the 2 x 6s with 2 x 12s on 16-inch centers.
Strangest find: While working in the attic, we found a cylindrical tank that we needed to remove in order to do Icynene (spray foam) insulation. I researched the company name painted on the side and learned it was the largest boiler company in the U.S. and it went out of business before World War II.
Leave it to a pro: Electrical work. It is hard enough in Florida to get homeowner's insurance on a structure more than 50 years old. Doing it yourself isn't an option.
What we learned: We are a family with grit. We lived in a house with Visqueen ceilings for months (I could hear the three-doors-down neighbors' sprinklers turn on at 12:18 every night). We slept in the dining room on a mattress on the floor with the windows boarded up. We had a giant blue tarp across the front of the house for weeks. Our 22-yard dumpster was so organized that it became a neighborhood attraction, and we cleaned our job site every night and thanked our neighbors regularly for their patience and support.
Thrifty solution: The original house had no gutters, creating what we referred to as the "East Pond" and the "West Pond" when it rained. We were going to do a period-correct half-round gutter but the K-profile gutter perfectly matched the crown molding profile on the columns, so we went with that instead (and saved ourselves a whole bunch of money).