It had no insulation, single-pane windows, and two woodstoves and a fireplace all in the same room, recalls Molly. She and Mike braved two winters visiting rhe 30 x 50-foot rectangular structure; they stoked the fire and thawed frozen pipes in between checking out the area’s considerable Nordic skiing opportunities. “We wanted a slightly bigger, energy efficient, year-round getaway with enough space to accommodate three generations.”
Mela and David reviewed the fairly extensive laundry list of considerations and tackled the project from the outside first to address the challenge of the elements. “Due to some of the heaviest snow loads in the country [the area averages thirty feet of snow a year], the existing cabin was being slowly crushed by the weight of the snow and was seven inches out of level,” says Mela, who had the building leveled and a new foundation put under it.
A small play area Is tucked under the eaves.
Built-in bed nooks can be found on the second floor.
CONTINUING THE LEGACY
For those who have inherited a family cabin: lucky you! When passing down a cabin to the next generation, you might want to follow the example of the owners in this story. “We created a building that would use as little energy as possible so it would still be affordable in years to come, even as energy costs increase,” says Mela, the owner’s daughter and cabin remodeler. “The owners want to leave a cabin to their children and grandchildren with the knowledge that it would be sustainable for future generations.
The interior gutting and requisite demolition work fell to the older generation. “It’s kind of an obsessive hobby of mine,” says Molly, noting the five homes she’s worked on before for herself. “My family says we specialize in demolition because I like to buy houses and take them to the dump.’’
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With the heavy lifting done, Mela and David reconfigured the space, built a 265-square-foot addition, and expanded the total living area to a more commodious 1,800 square feet. They also provided an energy retrofit that included air sealing, insulation, and new windows.
“It was important to the owners [mother and stepfather] to create a building that would use as little energy as possible, and that meant a well-insulated envelope,” says Mela. The roof was insulated with 3.5 inches of closed-cell spray foam with sprayed-in fiberglass underneath to create a high R-value roof assembly. The crawl space was sealed and the walls were insulated with sprayed-in fiberglass. During the remodel, particular attention was paid to air sealing and thermal bridging. A mechanical ventilation system was installed to provide a small amount of continuous fresh air so that the rooms don t get stuffy’ when the house is packed with guests. When a building is this tight, you want to be sure and bring in fresh air.
A forced-air heating system keeps propane use down to around 500 gallons a year, and a condensing boiler on-dcmand hot water system warms water as needed rather than wasting energy to maintain a high temperature.
Dan Guyer, Mela’s father, helped Dave frame the addition and plumbed the entire building. “My parents are still very good friends, and we arc a tight family, so it was great having my dad s help on the project,” says Mela.