Spotlight on Green Renovations

I sat down with Trish and Shane Siefer as well as their builder, Corey Peck, and asked them a few questions about their home renovation and what kinds of "green" initiatives they were implementing in their new home.

Would you tell us a little bit about your home? When was it built and what is the history behind it?

Our house was built 1890, and we are only the third owners. It was called the Chase house, the first owners were the Chases. The next owners were John and Margaret Condon, who raised 7 children in the house. One of their children, Jack, owned Condon Liquors (now Vintages) in downtown W. Concord.

Siefer House 1905

Why did you decide to buy this home?

We loved the location, look and size of this house for our family of 7. We lived in the house for five years before deciding to go ahead with the renovation, as the house was very cold. The whole point of the renovation is to maintain the integrity of the house as well as to improve the efficiency and flow for our family. In the 1980's an in-law suite was built in the back of the house, other than that there have been no changes to the house.

What made you decide to do a renovation?

One of the main reasons was that there wasn't any insulation in the house and it was cold. In addition, there was lead paint on the clapboards outside which we wanted to remove. In investigating what kind of siding to put on, we found there were some key places where the wood was failing. The one thing that remains intact is the slate roof, which we are keeping the same. Lastly, the flow of the house was not good and because of the in-law suite, there were two kitchens and all of the electrical, heating, etc. was on a second system. We moved in when it was designed to be a two family, and we wanted more efficient energy usage, instead of the two separate systems, as well as to improve the flow of the house for our family.

What kinds of things did you do in your home to make it "greener"?

We replaced all windows with Pella windows which are the tightest windows on the market, and have the least heat loss, from our builder, Corey Peck.

We had to replace the existing insulation in the back of the house, as our builder found out that it was not correctly vapor barriered. Our builder is meeting with a company, called The Green Cocoon, which sells insulation that is soybean-based with closed cell foam, similar to icinene. It is waterproof to 2" thick and does not require a vapor barrier. It also prevents ice damming. We will be blowing it in.

We are replacing all siding on most of all of the exterior of the house except the back. The clapboards are 100 years old. We chose Cedar clapboards all to be covered with Tyvek wrap to prevent heating loss.

We had a 25 year old oil burning furnace and are replacing with a gas burning 95% efficient boiler with air exchangers. We thought hard about geothermal, but cannot do this right now. Perhaps in the future...

We are installing in-floor radiant heating in the master bathroom under ceramic tiles.

We are also putting in a sealed gas fireplace, which doesn't have an open flu so heat doesn't escape out of the house. This is very efficient and because it heats so well, vents can be routed to the basement, to heat this room, in addition to heating the main room very comfortably.

For lighting and electrical, we are lighting with florescent (CFL) bulbs where ever possible. We had knob and tube wiring and all this is being removed and rewired to bring the house up to the Mass. State Electrical code.

Flooring was removed in the back and we will be replacing with white oak flooring in most of the areas. We are thinking of putting cork flooring in the laundry room, which is a completely renewable resource, harvested as bark from living cork trees, and are never harmed by the harvest.

We are also removing walls and a staircase and not rebuilding them, which will save money by not requiring new wood or other resources to be purchased for these previous walls and staircases.

Have you had any surprises with your renovation?

There was an old staircase that we heard about that was for the "help" but it was covered up with a wall so we never really knew if it was there. As soon as the walls came down, we were so surprised to see it and that it was made of mahogany.  We will try to keep it as a mahogany staircase.

We also discovered some rot in the main beam of the house and we have had to replace these rotted areas, which we didn't expect.

How do you think your remodeling has gone so far?

It's been exciting so far and next month is a big month in that we will be raising the roof and will see a lot of visible signs of work being accomplished. We spent a long time living there and thinking about it and felt the house has a lot of potention. We met with Todd Fulshaw, an architect, and he has helped us through the process of what we can do for the house.

We wanted something that works for the family as well as to to reduce costs. We think this will happen after all the new improvements, such as the windows, insulation and siding are completed.

Would you do it again?

We'll see if we do it again, as when we moved here we decided this was our house for our lifetime. This is it for us. Knowing that makes things easier. Our ultimate goal is to make memories together in a house that works for our family as well as is affordable and efficient. We love to entertain and hope this renovation will allow us to achieve that more easily.  We feel we were really lucky to have found a temporary rental home in the neighborhood, to move into while our house was being renovated.  The worst was moving, but once we came to our rental home and got to know the neighbors and their kids, we are very happy to be in this neighborhood, just around the corner from our house.

Kitty Smith, Concord Conserves Website Coordinator

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