The News and Observer, Saturday, November 17, 2001

Remodeling Magic

By J. BARLOW HERGET, Correspondent

Woodland Ave., Raleigh

Michael Powell is talking about his remodeling project on Woodland Avenue. Instead of noting the house’s changes, he says, “One of the nicest compliments was from a neighbor who said, ‘You’ve doubled the size of the home and it looks like it was one of the original homes built here.’”

Powell’s ARCHWOOD Building Company specializes in remodeling, and he is one of seven contractors who are showing off their work this weekend in the first annual Remodeler’s Home Tour. There are six homes in Raleigh on the tour and one in Cary.

In addition to Powell, other remodelers who will have homes on tour are:

Will Alphin of Alphin Design Build
Eddie Casanave of Casanave Construction Co.
Marty Graff of Graff Custom Homes and Remodeling
Rick Parker and Larry Lancaster of P&L Construction Co.
Hardin Sigmon of Sigmon Construction and
Hank Wall of Wood Wise Design and Remodeling

Unlike new home builders, remodelers often get assignments like Powell’s “to change the house but keep it the way it is.” Will Alphin, for example, was asked to create a master bedroom suite with modern amenities but retain the feel and look of the Craftsman, bungalow style so popular in the 1920s.

The home is located at 1904 Fairview Road behind Eckerd’s drug store at Five Points.

“It is a classic bungalow,” says Alphin, a graduate of the North Carolina State University Design School. “It had three small bedrooms, and the homeowners didn’t want to lose a bedroom.”

So Alphin combined two bedrooms downstairs into one and built a stairwell to the attic storage area which became a new bedroom. He also extended the back of the house to allow more space for the mastersuite.

“One of our challenges was to match the granite used in the foundation and chimney and the wood siding,” says Alphin. The match is so exact that you cannot tell where the old house stops and the new extension begins.

Hank Wall’s client wanted a showpiece and that’s what he got. The house overlooks the golf course on MacGregor Downs in Cary, and it was a traditional Georgian two-story brick home in the “dark pine forest,” laughs Wall. Connected by a walkway was a guest wing with its own living room, kitchen, bedroom and bath.

“We converted the guest wing into a mastersuite,” says Wall. “The kitchen area became a media room and the former breezeway became a breakfast room with radiant, electric mesh heating under the floor.”

Wall gutted and enlarged the main kitchen and put in custom cherry cabinets, new, black appliances and black granite counter tops. He also took out two closets upstairs and raised the ceiling of the downstairs foyer for a more open look. A landscape company pruned the trees to better show off the house.

Eddie Casanave started his business when he was still a civil engineering student at NCSU. Today, he is president of the Raleigh-Wake County Homebuilders Association and a founder of the Remodelers Council, a branch of the Homebuilders group.

The owners of his tour home, located at 2711 Everett Ave., wanted “something with the front of the house.” The one-story brick house was built in the 1950s and looked like many of the homes on the street.

“I had done some work for them 10 years ago, and they called me back,” says Casanave who brought his notepads. As with most remodeling job, Casanave’s assignment became more than “something with the front of the house.”

We renovated the front and added a front porch with brick retaining walls in the yard. We moved the front door to put in a coat closet, new mahogany front door with sidelights and transom. They were so excited that they wanted us to work on the kitchen,” says Casanave.

Like Casanave, all of the remodelers are very proud of their work and will be on hand during the tour to answer questions. Hardin Sigmon doesn’t have to go far; he lives next to his tour home on Churchill Road. Michael Powell lives and works near Five Points, close to his tour home, too.

“It’s a mini-version of the Parade of Homes,” explains Powell. “I found out about tours in Seattle, Minneapolis and other cities and the remodelers there said it was one of the best things they had done. We want to stimulate the public’s interest in remodeling.”

Powell also has kept a detailed, neat album that describes each facet of work on the Woodland Avenue home, from “before and after” photographs to a schedule listing the sequence in which the construction takes place.

In an economy when people may be thinking more about renovating the home they have than buying a new one, the tour is timely. It also gives visitors a chance to meet the remodelers and see the quality of work available in the Triangle.

As Casanave notes, “Word of mouth is how you get the vast majority of your work.”

The fee for the tour is $5 and a portion of the proceeds will be contributed to Raleigh’s Building Together Ministries. For more information about the tour, check the Home Builders Association Web site:

J. Barlow Herget is co-author of “The Insiders’ Guide to the Triangle” and a former member of the Raleigh City Council.