Room to Live"
By Valerie Kiger
A Long Road
In 1993, the two remodeled the kitchen and created one large area for the kitchen and dining area that also serves as the entry area. That space once included the living room too, so they added a living room above the attached garage. Don, a welder, did some of the previous remodeling work himself. Jan is a nursing supervisor in radiology at Mayo Clinic.
Still, with three bedrooms, one of which Jan used to house her computer and sewing machine, space was limited during visits from her daughter’s family. The family lives in western Minnesota and stays at the house on visits here. Jan and Don’s three grandchildren, ages 13, 12 and 8, slept in the combined computer/sewing room during a recent two-week visit, and it was difficult for Jan to get work done on the computer. They decided they needed two extra bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. “It’s just my husband and I (living at the house now). Everybody thought we were goofy to do this. We downsized when we moved out here. We thought it was a good retirement place, a nice small place. But somehow, you accrue stuff.”
After working out the design, construction began in April and was completed in July. “One thing that was important to them was a real open design. We had a single window in the (second-story) sitting room. I suggested a triple-wide window because they have just a great view,” Gommels said. Now the large window looks over the forested back of the property, as well as a bird feeder off the deck that draws woodpeckers and other birds. The Torkelsons asked for knotty pine on the ceiling, adding warmth and rustic charm.
The addition creates a cathedral ceiling, with the loft sitting room and bedrooms and bath off to the side, over the existing bedrooms and bathroom. The upstairs is carpeted, but hardwood floors were added downstairs—a real plus in Jan’s sewing room. Again, the couple chose a somewhat knotty pine for the floors in keeping with the country home atmosphere. Jan and Don didn’t have many specific desires beyond the type of rooms they wanted, and they are pleased with the outcome of the project, which also included new steel siding and a generous front porch. New kitchen countertops and a spacious pantry also were installed, and stairs to the basement. One downstairs bedroom was lost in the renovations.
“I didn’t know at first, but I like the high ceiling,” Jan noted. She also likes the large walk-in closets in the bedrooms, which provide lots of storage space for the grandchildren’s toys and other belongings. Though it was the only feasible way to add space for the Torkelsons, adding second stories to homes isn’t common, Gommels and project manager Nathan Aaland said. The fact that the house is a square with an uncomplicated roofline did simplify design and building, Gommels noted. “Adding a full second story doesn’t happen very often. If people have a rambler with everything on one level, usually they like that,” Gommels said. The builders used trusses to ensure the second story wouldn’t require any support from first-floor walls.
The Torkelsons rented an apartment above Memorabilia antique store
in Mantorville for the three months it took to complete the remodeling. “It
was fun. But by the time it was done we were tired of going up and down
the stairs and going to the laundromat,” Jan laughed. The project
time had been estimated at up to four months, for the most part went
smoothly. The biggest challenge came with the ductwork for the heating
and cooling system. With a three-zone heating system that enabled the
existing furnace to supply heat to the home and new ductwork that reached
the second floor, the basement stairs had to be moved to meet building
codes, Aaland said.
Gommels noted that one electric box had to be moved during construction, and much of the existing “hodgepodge” of wiring replaced. Because of the wet spring, “We didn’t have a very big window to get the roof off and back on, and Terry did a good job for us,” Gommels said. The new roof was completed one day before a major rain, he added. Besides the change in the staircase design, other changes during the project included some special-order windows and a decision to use steel siding instead of keeping and extending the existing cedar siding.
“By the time we removed everything we needed to, power washed it and restained it, the cost difference was not much different from new steel siding,” Gommels said. As it turns out, removing the cedar revealed leaks behind the siding. “We were able to fix it before it became a major problem,” Gommels said. Jan’s happy with the steel siding and other aspects of the home that are easy to care for. “We wanted something low maintenance. What’s the sense of having something if you can’t enjoy it and have to spend all your time working on it?”
Because the number of bedrooms stayed the same (although Jan gained her work room), the project didn’t require any potentially expensive and heavily regulated septic system expansion, Aaland noted. Jan is excited about decorating the new space. “I’m real anxious to get pictures on the walls and get some curtains up. We like antiques, and before if I saw a little table I wanted I never bought it, because there really was no space. Now, I have all kinds of space, so I can shop.” Bright Ideas of Rochester helped plan out the new space’s lighting to showcase the new addition and furniture.
The decor will be in keeping with the country style, she said. “We really like the country look. I’m not a formal type of person at all. I just want to be comfortable. I do like this openness—it’s bright and sunny.” She’s also eager to work on the home’s surroundings, from laying concrete on the driveway to painting the garage doors, landscaping and getting back into her gardens.Valerie Kiger is a freelance writer who worked at newspapers in Indiana and Wyoming before moving to Rochester two years ago. She lives here with her husband, Jeff, and their daughter, Fiona.