Renovation Solutions: Dealing with the challenges of remodeling Tudor style homes

Published: Friday, Feb. 1 2013 3:04 p.m. MST

Tudor homes are characterized by steeply pitched roofs, decorative half-timbering, patterned brick work and multipaned windows.

Annie V. Schwemmer

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Several predominant home styles have evolved over the past century in the United States. You've seen them as you drive the streets of Salt Lake City's classic neighborhoods: the fairy-tale Tudor revival, the classic craftsman bungalow, the charming Cape Cod and the California ranch. With each style comes unique renovation challenges and opportunities.

We hope the next few columns can help you determine the predominant style of your home and the challenges you may face renovating that style. We will start this week with the Tudor revival.

Tudor revival

In their purest form, Tudors feel like miniature castles with towers, dormers and steeply pitched roofs. The windows are tall and narrow, with multi-paned glass, and the massive chimneys are commonly crowned with decorative chimney pots.

The outside is accented with decorative half-timbering, patterned brickwork, stucco or stone. Inside you'll find stained oak paneling and fine interior woodwork. The doorways are often arched, and the ceilings accented with exposed structural beams.

There are some spectacular examples of this residential Tudor style in Salt Lake’s Harvard Yale area. While these grand homes are wonderful to look at, they don’t represent the scale of the average home in our valley. They serve as examples of Tudor styling that has been adapted in smaller residences to include elements of Tudor style. There are many more modest homes in the valley that have evidence of "Tudoresque" style. It may be manifest in decorative brick work on a chimney, or minimal half-timbering in the stucco gables. The underlying requirement is a roof pitch with sufficient slope to evoke the Tudor style in the "bones" of the house.

The Tudor challenge

If you have a historical Tudor, you will be faced with inevitable challenges in remodeling while maintaining this distinctive style. If you have a home of another style that you wish to transform into a Tudor, you will be forced to deal with changing the massing (exterior shape) of the structure. As one of the most prominent features of a Tudor is the steep roof, that massing has to be accounted for in the new design or the style will not be realized. This means a renovation with a substantial budget.

We recently remodeled a Tudor-style house — the front porch and rebuilt a rather strange rear addition. The original rear end of the house featured a form-of-a-shed dormer on the upper level with a too-deep overhang, as well as two different additions stuck on to the main level family room and master bedroom. The reason for the two separate additions was to maintain an existing window into the bathroom. However, the benefit of natural light in the bathroom did not outweigh the resulting strange massing on the rear of the house.

The rear of this home now has the massing, look, and materials appropriate to the age and style of the home. Because this client always struggled with excess heat gain on the south side of the home, they took the opportunity to install triple-paned windows and open-cell spray foam insulation. While there are no strong Tudor elements on the rear, the style was enhanced on the sides of the home. The stucco on the gables was reapplied with a texture suitable to the 1930s, and half-timbers were added. The original leaded windows were beautiful, but leaked air like a sieve. Instead of being totally replaced, the window panels were encased between two thermal layers of new Pella windows.

Though the bathroom lost the window because of the redesign of the rear addition, the owners now have a new door to the backyard, as well as a small mudroom in the house. The additions to the family room and master bedroom are appropriately shaped, and have a new foundation to keep them strong and straight for another 80 years. The owners also added several photovoltaic panels and a solar hot-water system to improve energy efficiency. The solar panels were added on the rear roof to not detract from the stately Tudor style facing the street.

Tudor homes can be whimsical and intriguing. Even a small suggestion of the style can add charm to a home already equipped with a steeply pitched roof. By carefully choosing authentic elements and appropriate materials, you can avoid giving your home the look and feel of a Disneyland stage set as you respectfully add historic details to your home.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the Principal Architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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