Blog Cabin 2013: Q&A With Dylan Eastman
Q. Can you list the home’s energy-efficient features?
A. This year's Blog Cabin features the following energy-efficient features:
• Low-E insulated windows with thermally broken frames
• 2x6 exterior walls with R-19 batt insulation at all original wall locations
• Sprayed foam insulation at all roof areas, plus in the attic
• Sprayed foam insulation under the first floor
• High-efficiency ductless heating and air conditioning with individual controls in select rooms
• LED lighting in select areas
• 1' roof overhang around entire house, 8' porch overhang at first floor, 4' gable overhang at second floor
• Electronic dimmers in most locations
• Front-load washing machine
Q. Will the home be handicap accessible?
A. Unfortunately, no. The home’s location within a flood plain would have required a 40-foot ramp to the entrance, 6’x6’ space on both floors would have been essential for elevator installation, and a chair lift would have been difficult to install on the new winder tread stair.
Q. Tell us about indoor and outdoor storage features. Will there be a garage or garden shed?
A. Indoors: An integrated closet system in the master bedroom and laundry room help maximize small spaces. The master bedroom bed also has built-in storage drawers where the box spring would normally be. Two Murphy beds were also installed in the family room to make the room multiuse. There is a built-in storage area under the stair landing, capturing normally wasted space. The main interior storage closet is in the laundry room. Outdoors: Since all exterior structures have to meet the same flood and wind requirements as the house, we did not have the time or resources to build additional outbuildings.
Q. What is the depth and flow (recovery) rate of the well? Is it a submersed pump?
A. Fortunately, we were able to reuse the existing well and pump. The pump was only a year old and in great shape. It is now mounted on a flood-protected platform next to the house. The well has good flow and water quality.
Q. What is the size of the distribution box or boxes and drain-field dimensions? Is it a mound system?
A. The new septic system is a low pressure pipe (LPP) system with approximately a 115' x 30.5' field and a 1000-gallon tank. Twelve inches of engineered fill were imported for this area and four to five trees had to be removed. There was only one suitable drain area on-site; an aerobic drip repair area is protected for future requirements.
Q. What was the deciding factor in only creating two bedrooms?
A. Space. The original bedrooms were very small and renovations over the past 150 years created confined spaces that reflected a previous lifestyle. We generated approximately 12 floors plans before settling on the current one. We did expand under the porch line on two sides and added square footage to the master bathroom by removing the south kitchen. A bedroom was added over the formally single-story master bedroom and twin Murphy beds were installed in the family room.
Q. What was the most-challenging part of the remodeling process?
A. The decision to reframe was a very difficult one to make. We had no choice once we discovered the state of the second floor and roof, water and termite damage, and the structure’s vulnerability to high winds. If we attempted to retrofit, we also ran the risk of trapping old, unnecessary wood in the walls, thus displacing space for insulation and lowering the effective R-value of the walls. But what better way to honor the old heart pine framing than to transform it into interior works of art? You'll love what we came up with for the Blog Cabin 2013 episodes.
Q. Will you be installing insect screens on porches?
A. The porches are set up to receive 8' x 8' screened panels. Although we are not going to install screens, this would make a great DIY project for the winner of the cabin.
Q. Why did you decide on an underground drain system rather than gutters?
A. Gutters tend to concentrate water in a few areas, which is fine if a property properly drains and/or features storm drains. Our site offered neither. Instead we decided to install square-cut eaves with drip edge and a perimeter foundation drain. Square-cut eaves prevent water from running down the fascia. The foundation drain also helps to reduce soil saturation around the crawlspace. With roof water absorbed over a much larger area than accommodated by four to five downspouts, we reduce concentrated soil saturation and prevent surface soil runoff.
Q. Will there be generator backup?
A. Since this area is fed by overhead power lines, outages due to trees and high winds are not uncommon. There is a standby generator to the north of the house. It feeds an automatic transfer switch, which ensures a safe and quick changeover to generator power.
Q. Will you install any solar features?
A. Though I would love a future Blog Cabin to feature renewable energy, active solar energy was not a good fit this year. Here’s why:
• Poor solar exposure: Though we are blessed with a mostly south-facing house and a south beach, the south side of the existing house was narrow (compared to its east/west face). After adding a second-floor porch, only two smaller roof areas were available for panels. These areas become shaded by the gable during parts of the day.
• High wind loads: Panels would have to meet 130 mph wind loads while remaining serviceable. All exterior hardware and fasteners are fashioned from hot-dipped galvanized, copper or stainless steel so the mounts would have been very expensive.
• Use: Since this house will likely be used as a second home or a vacation getaway, the energy use will be high load/intermittent. Solar systems with battery backup are ideal for constant, low-load use situations. A standby generator is a much better fit for only occasional and high-load uses.
Instead of an active solar system, I focused on passive lighting, which is more efficient than pV or electrical lighting. Thanks to a south window layout, center cupola, open winder stairs, glass in interior doors and interior paint colors, interior electrical lighting is required only a few times during the day.
Since we have nearly constant wind speeds around 10 mph, a small micro turbine, placed on the dock, would prove a more fitting renewable energy system.
Q. Can you describe the design and direction of the driveway?
A. The driveway is existing and enters the property from the northeast of the house. A simple earthen path when we arrived, the driveway was covered with gravel to remain pervious.
Q. How are you reusing furnishings and decorative accessories?
A. No spoilers! You will love what we accomplished during the episodes. Many things, including the original fireplace surround, have taken on a new life at Blog Cabin. You will also see items turned into wall art, interior accents, outbuildings, furniture, wainscoting and ceiling treatments. Though we did use a lot of the original furnishings, the remaining items will be donated to the local museums and/or the previous owners.
Q. What is the size of the lot and property? Will you be installing property markers?
A. The property is approximately 3.5 acres. Boundary flags from a property survey remain on-site.
Q. Will you install railings on the outside stairs and porches?
A. Yes, you can see these in the last Cabin Cam images. We put much thought into railing and baluster placement so as not to obstruct views from and to the water. My original plan was to rework the grade so balusters would not be required. However, the amount of fill required was not in keeping with our attempts to remain low impact. I think our final decision accentuates the beauty of the house without taking away from its style.
Q. Will you be installing a roof or cover on the end of the pier?
A. At one point, this was a possible project. However, we have left the four corner posts high for a future owner to install this if they like.
Q. Will landscaping include native species?
A. Yes, we wanted to keep the house as low impact and natural as possible while still complementing the design. The former family had maintained many types of flower and herbs on-site. We have, for example, brought back coastal rosemary, a very popular local herb and landscaping bush.
Q. Were there any interesting objects unearthed during excavation?
A. Not as many as I had hoped. Under the house, we did find an old turpentine bottle. Inside the house, we found old newspaper print stuck to framing that was installed during the second floor add-on; however, I could not find any dates on it.
Q. Can you tell us more about the home’s security system and smart features?
A. For safety reasons, I cannot spell out the exact security system in place on-site. We did wire the house for any combination of systems the future owner may wish. The smart features include multizone programmable heating and cooling systems with remotes, remote-controlled lighting, whole-house DVR systems and a central audio system.
Q. Will a drawing or map of the grounds be provided to the winner detailing where all of the underground drains, septic system, electric lines, etc., are so they won't have any little gotchas later?
A. Yes, we will have an as-built site plan.
Q. In case of hurricanes, which room in the home is the safest space to hide in?
A. We like to say the whole house. But the safest space in an extreme event would be the kitchen. It is located near the main load-bearing center beam, features intersecting interior walls and is away from perimeter doors and windows, and protected on all sides. And hey, what better place to grab a snack or beverage while riding out a storm?
Q. What is the elevation of the property? How high has storm surge been at this site during hurricanes? How deep is the water in front of the home and also out to the barrier islands? Is there a channel if it is shallow?
A. The surrounding land varies from 3-5' above sea level. It is 5' around the house. The house itself has been raised to 8'2” ASE while straddling the FEMA 6' and 7' lines. So the house is anywhere from 1'2” to 2'2” above the flood-plain requirements. The highest surge, which reached the window sills, occurred during Hurricane Isabelle. The sills were about 2' above the original floor height of 5' ASE. So the highest surge known is 1'2” below our new elevation. Core Sound, the body of water in front of the house, is fairly shallow but has channels throughout. Twenty-foot boats have docked at the site during high tide.
Q. Were the persimmon trees and fruit-bearing bushes located near the water preserved? Were the green hydrangeas around the screened porch saved?
A. Yes, no fruit-bearing trees were removed. Pecan trees frame one of our cozy outdoor areas. I had saved the hydrangeas during the original demo but they unfortunately dried out during one of my extended absences from the cabin.
Q. What form of pest deterrent will there be under the porches? Will a termite prevention system be incorporated?
A. Due to flood-plain requirements, we cannot block any of our foundation flood vents (including areas under the porch). A liquid termite treatment system was used at the perimeter footings as well as a pressure-treated 2x12 at all mud sills.
Q. Why did you choose the ceiling heights that you chose after the original framing was dismantled and the home rebuilt?
A. The original ceiling heights were only 7', which is way too low by today’s standards. To maintain the home’s original proportions and modest design, 8' ceilings were chosen. I did not want the house to appear vertically enhanced after the renovations. As the south side of the house was only slightly over 20' wide, a 4'6” height increase (required for 9' ceilings) to the original 17' eaves would have made the completed design too tall for its width. Instead, the 8' porch roof was wrapped around to achieve a more low-slung look and obscure the main roof height increase.
Q. Will there be access to the crawlspace under the house in case it's needed?
A. Yes, there is a 24” x 18” crawlspace door on the north side of the house.
Q. Will there be any water features — a pool or a hot tub?
A. Unfortunately not this year. Due to the high water table, an in-ground pool is not an option. Since we had a hot tub last year (hot for those cold Maine nights!), I focused on cool and relaxing outdoor living areas.