Fire allows Mt. Lebanon couple to rebuild according to federal Energy Star standards
March 2, 2013 10:00 AM
Bar area at McQuaide house.
Stained glass in bathroom at McQuaide house.
Helene and Regis McQuaide with their dog Stella in their new kitchen.
Rear view of family room windows and patio with fire pit at McQuaide house.
Kitchen island at McQuaide house.
Living room and dining area at McQuaide house.
Family room and kitchen area at McQuaide house.
By Kevin Kirkland Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Helene McQuaide said she and her husband, Regis, were drawn to this house in 2006 by its style, an atypical one for Mt. Lebanon.
"I liked the lines -- California ranch with the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright," she said.
Today, its 1952 exterior looks much the same despite a fire in July 2011 that destroyed its core and killed the family's two dogs, the only ones home at the time. But the interior? It is contemporary, "green" and Energy Star-certified, thanks to the careful planning and execution of the McQuaides with design help from Rachel Pavilack.
"I got the addition I always dreamed of but not the way I thought I'd get it," Mrs. McQuaide said.
Their nine-month project, completed by workers from Mr. McQuaide's contracting company, Master Remodelers Inc., was chosen by judges from the Post-Gazette and Design Center Pittsburgh as the winner in the large category (over $50,000) of the Renovation Inspiration Contest, sponsored by Dollar Bank. Contractors are allowed to enter the contest -- Master Remodelers designed and built a Squirrel Hill kitchen that won in the same category several years ago -- but a contractor has never won before for his own house.
Although the McQuaides had access to skilled subs and knowledge of the latest in sustainable materials, they didn't have an unlimited budget. Manufacturers and suppliers (listed in Sources on Page C-2) came through with discounts and technical support while workers had to fit the 5,600-square-foot project in around other jobs. The couple had to make some cost-saving concessions. One was using Treefrog veneer instead of solid wood on the kitchen island and a bathroom vanity. Another was installing HardiePlank siding left over from other jobs.
"Rachel and I would have liked a different profile," Mrs. McQuaide said. "You pick your battles."
To achieve R-47 insulation values in the roof, Mr. McQuaide insisted on structural insulated panels. A crane lifted them into place on a balmy 56-degree day in January 2012, and salvaged terra-cotta roof tiles mixed with replacement tiles were reattached.
"This was one huge geometry project," Mr. McQuaide said.
Fabric stretched across the underside of the panels deadens sound in the new 25-by-15-foot family room, which has a 10-foot ceiling rising to the 14-foot peak. The floors and some of the walls feature Warmboard radiant heat and high-velocity air conditioning. All contribute to the house's Energy Star certification, which was monitored by Rob Hosken, an architect and energy auditor with Building Performance Architecture who pitched in on several design elements.
The new family room and kitchen are the showpieces of the project. Unique features include laminated beams, Marvin venting picture windows with screens at the edges, and a Bioglass-topped buffet/wet bar that visually links the dining room and family room. Furniture maker Arthur Reitmeyer built the buffet from wenge and replaced the burled walnut top of the dining room table that had been ruined in the fire. The table, which he originally built, is surrounded by reupholstered 1950s Dunbar chairs.
Ms. Pavilack said she used materials such as rift-sawn oak to create continuity in the interior. "The house is not so big, but it feels like it is," she said.
She and Mrs. McQuaide had originally selected a larger Heat & Glo gas fireplace to match the scale of the family room's 65-inch flat-screen TV. Then Mr. McQuaide realized 28,000 Btus was too much heat and cut back to a 10,000-Btu fireplace. He joked that the room's dimensions were determined by the large sectional sofa and family Christmas tree.
The kitchen, which features Cambria quartz counter tops, a plumbed-in Miele coffee maker and a handy charging station, was the last piece to be finished on the main floor. The McQuaides, who rented a house nearby and lived there with their two children, ages 12 and 10, returned to their house in October 2012.
She and her husband opened the house for tours partway through the project and plan to offer it for an occasional fundraiser. They see the renovation as both a marketing opportunity and proof that a green renovation can be both functional and beautiful.