Chop The Top #2

Wolk360 is a real estate, design-build firm specializing in helping clients acquire property and build their dream home, business, or investment property. A recent project in Raleigh named Chop the Top #2 is a prime example of its capabilities in helping clients fulfill their dreams. Jonathan, President and founder, recently discussed the project:

We worked with a real estate agent to help their client who saw one of our recently completed projects and they liked it.

We toured a beautiful house on a corner lot in downtown Raleigh. The plan is to gut the inside of the house, reconfigure the downstairs so they will have a large kitchen, expand the front room with large windows, and a porch on the back of the house. Then we will “chop the top” off the house and add a second floor with a master bedroom, bedrooms, and a reading nook with beautiful glass.

We are going through the budgeting process and will then go over a final budget to finish the plans, submit for a permit, and get ready to start construction. We have already begun some exploratory demolition to check on things like the foundation and wall conditions. Our goal is to begin the primary demolition and construction later this month.

How old is the house?
The house was built in the early ’50s, just after WWII. One of the cool things about this property is that it’s located in an older section downtown on a corner lot. We did discuss the possibility of tearing the house down and rebuilding. However, if we tore this house down, we would not rebuild as big of a footprint because of the new “setback” requirements. One of the benefits and value this property gives is building more space by maintaining the existing footprint than a tear-down—one of the nuances I love about this property and project. We are adding value to the property by saving the house because you would not build it today.

After seeing what we did with the Hargett Street project, an old bungalow we gutted downtown, they came to us. We took them on a walkthrough of that project, and they liked what they saw. The client said, “This is precisely what we want to do. Can you help us?” We worked with their realtor to find properties and search together to see what might work. Then, we found this particular property. Being an all brick house gives it value. Even though it’s in bad shape, it’s got character and is in a great location. You could not build this house today under current restrictions and codes.

The client currently lives in the suburbs, and they are downsizing. They’ve lived all over the world and want to live downtown. They like the culture downtown. The ability to walk to a bar or restaurant is a plus as well. They can downsize with a smaller house with more character than what they had in the suburbs. The design we’re working on meets their new living needs and preferences. It has this entertaining kitchen and a nice-sized living room. We are using the space on the lower level, and instead of all these rooms chopped up like they were, we are opening up the entire lower level. The footprint and square footage is good; it’s just basically how do you open it up? How do you make it bigger than it is? And with the opportunity to add in a second-floor provides them all the benefits they need for their lifestyle and focus as they transition into empty-nesters.

What are the challenges in a project like this?
We sat down with the clients and talked about their specific needs and what they wanted. They have elderly parents and enjoyed a ground-floor bedroom that is a bedroom but not a master bedroom. And quite frankly, that was good because it wouldn’t fit with the house’s Footprint configuration.

What I like about the place is that it’s got a small foyer upon entry, but then it has this nice sized living room that’s essentially existing with an old wood-burning fireplace that we will convert to gas. Then, it had a tiny kitchen, small bedrooms, a dining room, and we decided to open up all that space to give them a nice big kitchen that works off the living room and found a nice little niche to put the stairs in for the second floor.

When you come to the second floor, you’ve got a master bedroom that essentially sits over the living room, and you have a nice-sized master bedroom that stacks. The goal was to simplify using the existing parameters of the house and staying within them. So there are multiple bedrooms upstairs and a little niche space, or a reading room. The design opportunities started to come together. We have the windows for the bedroom that cast a lot of light for the upper hallway, and that nook has a nice high window that brings morning light into the room. Going back and forth with the clients, we wanted to maintain the exterior brick and keep the stone front porch, and everything will be painted white. After putting together the design, it’s come together nicely and meets the client’s goals.

Describe the process of chopping the top of the house to add the second floor.
One of the first questions to ask is; can the footings support the second story addition? The answer was no, so we had to come in and reinforce the footings to add the second floor. In Chop the Top 1, we built additional foundations and added posts to support the additional floor. We are doing an elevated slab in this house so the whole floor is structural and easier to bring down the loads to where they should be. When taking off the roof of a home, you’ve got to look at the foundation and start underground with exploratory work to decide what the solution is for going up.

The next step is to chop it off with selected demolition on the interior and take the roof rafters off piece by piece. They will come back in and add the flooring and foundation support, then add the walls and a new second-floor roof.

It’s about a nine-month timeline, give or take a month. Supply and logistic demands will mean we have to order ahead of our specific project calendar. Spray foam insulation is an issue the industry is adjusting as we have many other supply and cost issues.

Wolk360 in Raleigh, North Carolina, is an innovative and creative buy-design-build firm specializing in helping clients create the perfect home. The firm is unique in that it has a multi-disciplinary team of designers, architects, builders, and real estate agents, so clients do not have to deal with multiple players when pursuing their dream. From acquisition, planning, development, demolition, and build they serve residential and commercial clients with high-quality start to finish custom projects.

WOLK360 was founded in 2016 by Jonathan Wolk, AIA, as a turnkey solution for small and mid-size projects to provide a single source for busy Owners. To provide cost-effective solutions to our clients, we are a lean organization with a team of reliable sub-contractors that has a long history of working together. Projects range from new residential, residential renovations, first and second-generation office, and retail fitups ranging in size from 1,000 sq. ft. up to 100,000 sq. ft building renovations.
(Phone) 919.291.7622​ Email: jonathan@wolk360.com

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