When local clients of Pine Street Carpenters, in West Chester, Pa., purchased a five-bedroom bayside house in Delaware and asked the company to work with them on the renovation, the firm agreed. Pine Street Carpenters occasionally works on vacation homes for clients, usually within a two-hour drive of its offices, and “does enough [coastal work] to know products that work in that environment” of harsh wind and water conditions, says design manager Bill Dolan.
But the structure of the 10-year-old house proved to be a challenge. The walls are 18 inches thick: 12-inches of cement block with 3 inches of rigid foam, plus the exterior stucco and interior plaster. “Anytime we wanted to attach something,” Dolan says, “we had to come up with a real solid way of blocking from the inside or outside.”
Major renovations have been completed in several phases, but Pine Street Carpenters continues to work on upgrades.
Though the original house included a roof deck, it wasn’t well-built. During demolition Dolan’s crew uncovered several membrane layers under the pressure-treated wood, as if the owner had tried to fix leaks. The team decided to tear it all out and start from scratch.
The new deck sits between three roof peaks facing the ocean. Pine Street Carpenters’ clients wanted the remodeled deck to be higher than the original “to make it seem like you were sitting between the sky and ocean and not see too much structure,” Dolan says. Height restrictions limited the design, but in the end, Dolan says, the homeowners like it “because the three surrounding roof peaks provide privacy, but the ocean side is wide open.”
Dolan and his crew also rebuilt the porch ceiling on the front of the house, which enabled the deck to be larger. The overall effect was a transformation “from a thick pressure-treated eyesore to a clean-looking slim-line deck,” Dolan says.
Originally deck access was via a ship’s ladder to a heavy roof hatch, which was “cumbersome and dangerous,” Dolan says. The owners wanted safer access, but didn’t want to block the ocean views from top-floor bedrooms. The solution: a spiral staircase located near the edge of the expanded porch.
Leaving It Wide Open
A 2-foot-square cement block column originally blocked the water view from the living room, which designer John Lester says really bothered the homeowners. He and Bill Dolan worked with a local structural engineer on how to replace the column. “When you’re working with everything in concrete, you can’t just take a saw and cut it out,” Lester says. The engineer specified a steel beam to carry the load, and helped Pine Street Carpenters figure out how to support the structure while crews removed the concrete column (see “in progress” photos slideshow).
New patio doors lead to a 3-foot-deep, 12-foot-long balcony. The original 5-foot depth would have extended past the setback line. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control also would not allow a support to rest on the sand beyond the existing structure, so the crew decided on a cantilever design. Dolan didn’t want to use the home’s floor assembly as a support because it might compromise structural integrity. The team came up with the idea of building three steel L-shaped brackets to support the balcony. The brackets are bolted to the exterior wall and attached to the balcony’s pressure-treated frame.
See a video of another Tom O’Neill jobsite inventions: the zip line debris chute.
Designer John Lester says that the client wasn’t happy with the appearance of the home’s entry. Pressure-treated wood decking and lattice around the entry stairs to the porch had not held up well to the elements. The stairs lead to the main floor entry where the living room, dining room, kitchen, and master bedroom are located.
For its work on the exterior, Pine Street Carpenters took into account the harsh beach environment. “The wind blows sideways for six months of the year,” Dolan says. “We were thinking like we were building a boat.”
The wood stairs and deck were rebuilt using pressure-treated lumber and ipe decking. The new pergola above the deck is made of cedar. The owners chose porcelain tile for the 6-foot-deep alcove around the front door.
Kitchen & More
The interior work included upgrading the kitchen, renovating the master suite bathroom, and relocating the laundry room from the main floor to the ground level.
West Chester interior designer Ronal Fenstermacher helped the homeowners finalize 80% of the products before the project started, Bill Dolan says.
The clients encouraged Pine Street Carpenters to work with local suppliers and subcontractors on the project, which “was a good experience for us to broaden our horizons and to establish new relationships,” Dolan says.
Below is a video of the project.