What You Should Know Before You Remodel for a Waterfront Retreat
A waterfront retreat is a dream for many people. Whether ocean front or lake view, the calming effects of a waterfront home can bring peace to hectic lives.
This years DIY Network Blog Cabin is located in Panacea, Florida, just south of Tallahassee heading toward the Gulf of Mexico. Originally built in 1992, the house is sturdy and sound but needed updates to bring it up to today’s standard of living and revised FEMA codes.
DIY Network Blog Cabin 2016 Location Announcement 01:38
First, the house had to be lifted via hydraulic jacks so it was compliant with the FEMA requirements in the area. “The bottom of the lowest horizontal members are now at 20 feet,” says Dylan Eastman, design/build manager on the project.
Coastal homes are often elevated off the ground on stilts, explains Eastman. “It affords lower level parking and an architectural beach charm,” he says. But the real purpose is to elevate the structure of the home above the FEMA flood plane.
Prospective buyers of coastal homes should consider the cost of flood insurance, he says, and any requirements to bring the existing home up to current standards before purchase. “Sometimes it can be less expensive in the long run to lift the home than to pay increased insurance premiums,” he explains.
Next, the siding and the roofing materials were stripped to expose any wood rot that may have occurred over time and replaced. The exterior got a cement infused board siding and the roof was sheathed in standing seam metal.
“The original roof shingles were at the end of their 20 year lifespan and the original cedar siding was showing signs of age,” says Eastman.
While cedar siding stands up to moisture and is commonly used in waterfront homes, it can suffer from sun damage and needs to be sealed regularly to keep it water resistant, says Eastman. Masonry products such as cement infused siding, brick, stone and plaster or stucco are also good siding materials for these types of homes, he says.
For roofing, asphalt shingles are an inexpensive option but wind loads and sun exposure can make other materials a better long term choice he says. Thus the reason DIY Network Blog Cabin 2016 was outfitted with a standing seam metal roof. “They not only last a long time but also present fewer opportunities for water infiltration,” he says.
Clay or concrete tiles are also used as a coastal roofing material but their weight needs to be taken into account for a roof not designed for that load. “No matter which roofing you choose, the installers need to use specific nailing patterns around the perimeter of the roof to prevent failure during a storm,” says Eastman.
Hot dipped galvanized, stainless steel or ceramic coated fasteners should be used to attach shingles, windows and doors, he says, because they resist rust. Hinges and latches should also be stainless steel to prevent rusting.
Speaking of windows, waterfront homeowners should look for those that have impact resistant glass. “This type of glass absorbs the impact of flying debris during a storm,” says Eastman.
The wrap-around deck skirting the house is shielded from the elements by a large overhang so it was in good shape, says Eastman. A coating was applied to preserve it and give it a fresh appearance.
While water views add something to a house that you can never build, he says, the sun, humidity, and salt spray can take their toll on materials. In Florida, for example, you need to use materials with specific Florida approval codes to show they meet the requirements, Eastman points out adding that it’s best to consult local suppliers for materials that will stand up to your location where ever that may be. “Consider hardwoods such as Ipe over pine, fasteners made of stainless steel, and refinished materials with a long warranty,” says Eastman.
The open floor plan on the first floor includes a living area, dining area and kitchen and allows for an easy, relaxed experience. An office and a breakfast nook flank the open, updated kitchen. A new powder room was added on the main level and a nearby guest room was updated and now includes an adjoining full bath.
The second floor boasts a master suite and a kids room, each with their own full bath with upgraded fixtures and fittings. “Two people can now use the master bath at the same time and we removed the bathtub and replaced it with a walk-in steam shower with multiple shower heads,” says Eastman.
When you are updating the interior of a waterfront home, choose lighter colors for cabinets, flooring, wall colors and furnishings, says Eastman. A neutral color palette allows the beauty of the water views to take center stage and not be cluttered by dark colors and patterns.
On flooring, you’ll want to choose a product that resists scratching from beach sand tracked in on your feet. “Vinyl plank flooring is the trend now,” says Rod Moeller, certified building contractor and owner of Mallard Cove Construction Company, Tallahassee, Florida who is working on the project. “Clients are asking for it,” he says.
Another option is bamboo. “It’s a good solution, is quite durable and resists scratching,” he adds. Eastman suggests making changes to a floor plan that make the water view better and to make these changes if you are required to lift the house to meet current standards. “During the lifting process, new structural needs can be accommodated better than doing a renovation later,” he says.
The plumbing and electric systems were in good shape overall so required minimal changes such as moving lighting fixtures and replacing switches and outlets. A new electrical panel was added though to accommodate a plug-in generator incase a storm knocks out power.
Storms can reek havoc on waterfront homes so it’s important to keep several factors in mind. “Along the coast, wind driven rain and wind speed are both important considerations,” says Eastman. Because the rain is under pressure, it can find its way into places your typical home won’t encounter, he says. To help keep water out, exterior decks should be several inches lower than the door thresholds especially on the East and South sides of the home, he advises.
Also, windows need specific design pressure ratings to resist the pressure loading that winds impart during a storm. “Some locations may also require impact rated glass to resist flying debris,” says Eastman. Shutter systems, although an added cost, can also be installed and closed to prevent damage to windows, doors and the interior of the home during storms.
Outside, some trees were removed to improve the view of water and limestone hardscape elements were added as was improved landscape lighting. “We used materials that are indigenous to the area,” said Eastman. The dock leading the water was in good shape so any damaged materials were simply repaired and poles were added as handrails for safety.
For any waterfront remodel, Rod Moeller, certified building contractor and owner of Mallard Cove Construction Company, Tallahassee, Florida who is working on the project suggests that even before a purchase is made on a property the prospective buyer should do their homework.
“Get an elevation certificate,” he says, stating that that will help to determine limitations in permitting, and the cost of flood insurance. He also suggests that it’s important to have a complete exterior envelope of siding, roofing, windows and doors to make the outside as waterproof as possible.
“Wind blows water into the cracks and crevices,” he says, which could lead to wood rot and over time, a compromised structure. Windows and doors should be rated for the wind zone in the area where the house is located as well. “If you’ve done a good job on the outside,” he says. “You can do what you want to on the inside.”