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When does a remodle become a Rebuild?

by Rick Underhill on 01/25/15

Dwell Inspired Makeover
J. Rick Underhill

At what point does a remodel become a rebuild?

A 40 year old Red Brick Ranch style house in Marietta, Georgia has been recently rebirthed as a California style Contemporary Dwelling. The make?over has taken over five years, with massive changes inside and out. The house’s owners, Jose and Melissa Mayaudon, intrepidly occupied the residence during the remodel; endured the demolition with the inconvenience of no water, no power, and no sewage periodically; with the fluctuating piles of material debris and stacks of materials and hardware waiting to be used; and reluctantly embraced the incessant sound of power tools during daylight hours. They have been rewarded with a spectacular home that fits nicely on its landscaped lot.

Located in an older Atlanta suburb that was originally built to house Lockheed?Martin employees back in the seventies. The house sits well back on its half?acre lot, away from the paved road, behind a huge, five foot diameter Pin Oak tree. Large magnolia trees flank the driveway on the west side, with a stand of
river cane screening the road, and unbeknownst to the passersby, an incredible secret garden is tucked behind the house for those needed Zen moments for the Family to stay in touch with nature while living in suburbia.

The remodel began simply enough, with the desire to increase the size of the main bathroom.  Once underway, walls were moved to create larger rooms; the carport was enclosed; the roof reworked and attic improved; inefficient windows were replaced; the plumbing and electrical were completely
redone; a second add on garage behind the main house was rebuilt into a rec room; and the master bath that started the process was completed with a heated floor, jet tub, steam shower, new built?in cabinets, and a custom floating vanity to reflect the glass sink. Outside, the Bricks were stripped off, then replaced by Cypress siding and art deco inspired millwork. A new entry was designed and constructed with curved, inviting stained concrete steps as well as a stained concrete walkway around the perimeter of the house. Both compliment the new poured curvaceous concrete driveway, allowing great access to the house. In short a complete make? over fueled by a subscription to Dwell Magazine which provided much of the inspiration. In fact, during the process, we were referring to Dwell on almost a daily basis for ideas and alternatives for design.

Why would someone put this much work into an existing structure? The simple answer is Location, location, location. Nowadays, it is difficult to find an affordable prime location with easy access to shopping, schools, and highways. This house had all three. With its trendy East Cobb County address and located in an older stable neighborhood, the Mayaudons would have had to move even
further out and away from these Metro Atlanta Suburbs to find a cost effective alternative or spend far more money for a less well built structure, closer in. Jose had spent his adolescent years in this location and was satisfied with where he and his new wife, Melissa, found themselves.

Fifteen years of living with small dark rooms in a typical Georgia Ranch style house and spurred on by a vermin infestation in the space between the bricks and the sheathing, incentivized the Mayaudons to consider their options in order to deal with the immediate problem.  Once the door, (pun intended) was opened to the necessary amount of work needed to conquer the vermin, the possibilities of positive change, rather than reaction, was a natural consequence. Once the process began, reconsidering the layout of the house and its function as their home began to stream though their combined consciousness as they realized that they could design their own environment from the humble beginnings of this Ranch style home. 

Having worked in the construction trades for several years and witnessed first?hand the sometimes shoddy techniques used in order to make a larger profit by a few of the contractors he had worked for. Jose had developed his own ideas about construction, especially since he was at first doing most of the work himself. He experimented with various construction techniques until he was
satisfied with the results. Jose and Melissa hired an architect to do the original remodel, but their brief experience with doing so was not especially productive,
and somewhat costly, so eventually they found themselves back at the tried and true method of real time innovation.  Jose worked at a particular problem until he found a solution that pleased him and Melissa and then proceeded. And when Jose’s process is viewed in hindsight, and having contributed personally to help create his vision, His methods simply worked, and the results do speak for themselves.

When compared with the current cost of new construction and the usual cut corners, this remodel was not only done to Jose’s specifications, but far exceeded the quality “norm” of current construction practices.  Jose acted as his own contractor and did the entire job “out of pocket”, without a bank involved to demand that an outside contractor be hired. Why is this important? It cut out the cost of the contractor’s profit out of the budget and the inevitable conflict between the home owner and the contractor over said budget. With Jose’s conscientious purchasing and management of the process, this dream home came together naturally and relatively problem free. 

Examples of Jose’s unique approach follows: The entire structure is screwed together, that way changes or modifications were far easier. Since what looks
good on drawings doesn’t always translate into adequate space needs or a previously unconsidered issue arises. Hence the movement of a wall a few inches one way or another is simplified. The same applied to the cypress siding, all the siding boards were screwed to the house with Stainless Steel grabber screws. This made modifications easy and quick. Note: over 4000 screws were used and three drill operations were needed to set each screw. All the cypress siding was pre?stained prior to attachment, saving a ton of time and resulting in a drip free finish. 

Another example was the decision to use steel I?beams and posts in order to open up the floor plan, which resulted in a large kitchen, dining/living room that opens into the great room/media room. These open areas really help to create the “natural” feel to the house and open the rooms to the sunlight from the southern exposure at the rear of the house. 

Desiring a more energy efficient house, Jose and Melissa
added passive light wells that bring light into the hallways during the day, as well as extensive spray insulation, abundant LED lighting, and new appliances to accomplish the goal, including a new efficient Heating and Air system controlled by a Nest Thermostat. To aid in the circulation, Ceiling Fans are located in the Media Room (2), Living Room (2), and Bedrooms (1) for active air movement.

Electrically the house was rewired with fresh 12/3 Romex, new breaker boxes, GFCI outlets throughout the house, along with cat 5, and audio cables for access in any room. The attic was heightened for easier access and additional storage with two separate large doors, one of which is a double door. The metal roof was added for longevity and to capture the “music” of  the rainfall.

The interior floor is defined by Large Ceramic tiles, stained concrete, and cork tiles. The walls are pastel yellow in the foyer, kitchen, living room and hallway; light green in the bedrooms; and dark Gray in the Media Room. Ceilings are the respective wall colors. The color scheme adds to a pleasant calming atmosphere that harmonizes with the millwork and furniture. All the walls are trimmed out with a dark stained pine base trim and door casings, All the Furniture, built?ins, and millwork are in Natural Cherry and Walnut finished with a clear topcoat. Finally, artwork of all kinds adorns the walls and corners, along with the many souvenirs from the Mayaudons’ worldwide travel.

Inside and out there is nothing left of the “old” house save the basic structure/foundation, with improvements to the floor joist. Part of the original goals for the new layout was to bring the garden into the house, so to speak. This was accomplished with enlarged windows and sliding glass doors both in the kitchen and the master bedroom, which face the garden. Jose, an avid gardener, has created a nicely designed landscaped garden with varieties of Japanese Maples, Gingkoes, a fruit and vegetables section, along with all kinds of bird and butterfly friendly low shrubs behind the house. This Garden is a great compliment to the design and finish of the home. The melding of
the two elements have meshed incredibly well together. 

During the exterior work, complete strangers would stop by every day or so (the house is visible from the street), commenting on how unique and cool the House looks with the new stained siding and millwork. It certainly felt great to have a steady stream of accolades throughout each week as the work progressed.

With the pouring of a new concrete driveway the project has drawn to a close. The rec room has been paneled with ½”, lightly stained, maple ply wall panels, just in time for the arrival of the Mayaudon’s first children, twin boys. I can’t help thinking, “what a great place to grow up with your best friend.” Kudos to the Mayaudons for creating such a wonderful environment amongst the
Pines, in Marietta, GA.

Full Disclosure requires me to confess that I was on the Mayaudon payroll for over two of the five years. I was responsible for the Cypress Siding, Millwork, concrete forms, and the concrete staining on the exterior, as well as the fabrication and installation of the Bar, Back Bar, ceiling panels, Vanities, built?in Bench, Dining Room Table, and the paneling of the Rec Room. If I am biased I apologize, but it was a pleasure to help fulfil the Mayaudon’s vision and I am proud of having the opportunity to have contributed a bit of beauty to this great, gorgeous Georgian home.

Rick Underhill
Rick Underhill Woodwork & Design 678 Ash Loop Road
Blue Ridge, GA 30513  www.outofthewoodwork.biz

















Copyright J. Rick Underhill

Bessey Auto-Adjust Toggle Clamp Review

by Rick Underhill on 10/03/13

Having been chosen to be a "Bessey Toggle Clamp" tester, I have to say that I felt a bit honored to have made the grade, so to speak.  Over the next month or so, I eagerly awaited the delivery.  Having used the gamut of Bessey clamps over the years in different woodshops across the country and during the last twenty years in my own shop, I have come to depend on the versatility and solid construction to accomplish my work.  The other brands of clamps that I have used sometimes fell short by slipping or just generally being aggravating to use as I secured a part or scrambled to get the joints tightened before the glue began to set up.  Time and time again the Besseys were spot on, especially my favorite, the "Red Heads". 

Anyway, when the opportunity came to test the new Toggle Clamps, I applied right away.  I had been using another brand of toggle clamps that were solid enough, but a bit finicky to get adjusted properly and the rubber tips never seem to get a good bite without slightly moving the work piece.

When the Bessey's arrived I opened up the box and found the four pairs of clamps that I had chosen to test, each having a different configuration, two pair for flat mounting and two pair for side mounting.  Each of the two mounting pairs of clamps had both a vertical and a horizontal clamping direction.  The kind of versatility that a custom fabrication shop needs.

I started out as a Tool & Die maker back in the day in order to work my way through college and I developed a critical eye for manufactured tools, always comparing to the precision of my machinist tools; as I suspected they would be, these new toggle clamps are very well made and handled everything that I have thrown at them.  I especially like the small hard plastic cap that covers the clamping surface, it has just enough texture to hold and not slip, but was just the right size, without getting into the way.  The tips on these Toggle clamps do not deform like my previous rubber tipped toggles did.  The clamping handles work well and have a low profile which doesn't get in the way as you handle your jig or fixture.  The really cool feature was the “Auto-adjust”, which allowed the clamping tip to pivot as the clamp is tightened.  The old toggles had the rubber which deformed and pushed the material, yet did not truly secure it as the rubber has some give to it.

My assessment after having used them for a few projects is that they are keepers and make a great addition to my shop.  Any tool that can increase the fabrication productivity and function smoothly in the work flow, is always welcomed and appreciated.

Great work Bessey, another set of winners!!!!


Rick Underhill

Design: tastes in woodworking

by Rick Underhill on 12/09/12

Spending a bit of time on Facebook has been enlightening as to popular tastes.  the most prominent of the strong woodwork designs has been Rustic interiors.  Mostly very masculine indulgence in raw natural wood and it's shapes.  It seems as if most of these are log homes that are a second or a third vacation homes and/or active lodges.  The next most popular designs are the DIY projects for kids rooms (very simplistic rectalinear structures), next are pallet restoration into furniture, which is great for the budget.  And every so often a show piece of Fine Furniture. 

What about your work.  What styles of design do you prefer?

Where shall we begin?

by Rick Underhill on 12/09/12

As we begin to define this blog, I will begin adding topics. Please feel free to post here if you wish to broach another subject.  Your suggestions will be considered and evaluated.



Well I finally got it done!

by Rick Underhill on 09/09/12

This website is the culmenation of several months of work.  I hope that it will benefit the woodworking community.  Let me know your thoughts.


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