Ranch homes exist in every region of the United States. Easily recognizable by their low-slung single-story exterior, the homes made sense when they were built and they still make sense today. After all, how many older homeowners want a steep span of stairs greeting them when it’s time to go to bed at night.
Unfortunately, as neighborhoods turn over and young families replace older ones, the tendency has been to knock these houses down or put a two-story addition on them, doubling the square footage of an already healthy-sized footprint. While that can make sense in some instances, it didn’t pass muster with the builder/designer team, who took one look at the worn but lovable ranch exterior in the Orlando neighborhood of College Park and opted to celebrate the ranch form but freshen it to appeal to today’s home buyers.
A Clever Plan
“We wanted to take a ranch style home and beautify it—give it a new style for today’s buyers,” builder Jon Pleveich explains. “We also want to show what you can do without adding a lot of square footage.”
Pleveich and Foy called on Raymond Rocha, an architectural designer and principal of Catalyst Design to bring the ranch back to life.
“With the 4:12 roof pitch, overhangs, lateral appearance of the windows, and shallow height of the house, designing a traditional house would be overbuilding and changing the character of the house,” Rocha explains. Instead, he redesigned the one-story form into an updated Napa style.
Rocha believes that street appeal is key to any remodel. “One of the most important aspects was the entry and the fireplace portion of the front elevation,” he says. “Creating a house that could be built today without changing the character of the existing house enabled us to maintain much of the exterior.” The team spec’d stone veneer, stucco, and then topped the house with a cool roof product by MonierLifetile, a Boral Roofing Company.
The original 1,800-square-foot house had three bedrooms and one and half baths. The new design gives it four bedrooms and three and a half baths at 2,400 square feet.
“In the 1950s, when this house was built, all the bedrooms were grouped together,” points out Foy. “With the new plan, the master is on the opposite side of the house and has its own master bath.”
Rocha designed an addition to accommodate the new larger master suite and also stole space from an oddly located den. “The house had two family rooms right next to each other,” Foy notes. “It originally had a detached garage and the space resulted when they attached that garage to the house.”
Along with the new master suite and updating the kitchen and existing bathrooms, Rocha addressed a number of other design flaws. He created a proper entry and foyer, brought the laundry room in from the garage, added a powder room, and created an 11’ by 20’ covered outdoor living space.
“We maintained the general flow of the house while improving those areas,” Rocha says. “And the interesting part is that we were able to make the existing parlor a space that could flex as a formal dining room or simply remain a parlor.” The team included a family dining room off the kitchen, which they think is more likely to be used by busy home owners than a formal dining room.
Rocha raised the ceiling height to 9’4” in the new addition, which includes the kitchen, grand room, and master bedroom. “We didn’t want too much of a discrepancy with the 8’ ceilings in the rest of the house,” Rocha explains. “We only cut out the center rear of the house to make it taller.”
All told, the team added about 600 square feet of space (approximately 125 lineal feet of foundation), but the livability of the house is imminently more usable.
Rocha kept the unique aspects of the house intact. “We tried to keep the costs down and also keep the architectural character of the house,” Rocha says. “We kept the corner windows in the bedrooms and living room and maintained the chimney placement and location and the way the windows flank it.”
High Performance Dream
While this house nails the green finishes and floor plan flow, it is also energy efficient, which is important to today’s remodeling clients, who expect an energy savings payback. The house’s initial HERS rating was 128, with the goal to get it to under 50.
The team achieved this be careful selection of products and systems, as well as a lot of old-fashioned air sealing. The builder used Honeywell’s closed-cell spray foam with Enovate HFC-245fa Foam Blowing Agent at R-6+ per inch. The air barrier aspects of this product can potentially save 20% to 40% on heating and cooling energy.
The team chose Rheem's HP-Series Hybrid Water Heater/2.0 energy factor (twice the efficiency of standard electric water heaters), which is Energy Star rated.
And other products add to the efficiency of the house. The beautiful concrete masonry veneer on the front of the house is premolded over polystyrene panels, offering R-13.5 insulation. All the appliances are Energy Star qualified, and many of the lighting fixtures are LED.
The house will fit nicely into the neighborhood of bungalows, Key West-inspired homes, Spanish Revivals, and mid-century moderns. “The house has the biggest lot on the street,” Pleveich says. “We didn’t want to overbuild for this neighborhood. ... Keeping the ranch without a second story is a cool look.”
“We wanted to take a older ranch and offer an example of a quality renovation,” says Pleveich’s building partner, Kim Foy. “Often, add-ons or renovations aren’t well thought out and you walk in and floors drop down, roof lines don’t match up. Putting on additional square footage takes extra steps but done right it adds value because it doesn’t look like an addition. It flows like it was always like that.”
Most important to both the builders, though, is that the house inspire other people interested in remodeling. “We want people to know that you don’t have to get crazy,” Pleveich emphasizes. “You can take an older house that needs love; give it love, and make it energy efficient. People should never shy away from doing this kind of project.”
To view this article as presented in our May 2011 issue, please visit our Magazine Archive, or visit our ReVISION House page.