Many of Bellingham’s beautiful neighborhoods feature historic homes that are over 100 years old. Each of these buildings is a unique piece of history with one-of-a-kind features that have survived the test of time. From Victorian to mid-century ramblers – and even homes built in the 1970s and 1980s – Bellingham’s neighborhoods capture every era’s unique architecture.

This historic home in South Hill underwent a renovation replacing all of the single pane glass windows and adding a deck that matched the original architecture of the home (photo taken before the rennovation). Photo courtesy: A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio.

These homes, however, can lack modern comforts and efficiency. It’s overwhelming to try to find the perfect home to meet everyone’s needs, with considerations made for layout, style and modern functionality. And undergoing renovations on an older property can seem daunting. But by using a design build firm to update an existing home, you can keep all the charm and style of a house while enjoying the benefits of cost- and energy-savings.

“There’s an old saying that goes, ‘The greenest building is the one that already exists,’” says Dave Falk, Architect at A-1 Builders & Adaptations Design Studio and member of the Historic Preservation Commission.

By updating a home that is already sound and standing, homeowners save money by retaining structural elements that are very expensive to construct. If you live in a home that no longer meets your needs, consider making updates before giving up on it. “We can give older homes a new lease on life,” Falk says.

This elegant 1920s tudor style home was updated with high efficiency diamond pane windows that maintained the original style. Photo courtesy: A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio.

A-1 Builders updates existing homes to meet the needs of the next generation. The design team works out a plan to preserve the period details that offer a historic property its charm and character, while adding modern materials to maximize a home’s efficiency. Even small adjustments can have a big impact.

On a recent renovation at Nathen and Alisha Spencer’s South Hill home, finding diamond pane windows to match the architecture of an elegant 1920s Tudor Revival was a challenge Design Manager Maggie Bates was happy to conquer. A tremendous amount of research went into this detail of the renovation.

“Diamond pane windows add a significant cost,” Bates says, “but what I discovered while researching Tudor-style homes in Europe is that they were typically used as an accent. So we ended up using two types of grids on the windows to maintain the Tudor style and save money.” In addition, the home’s energy efficiency was tremendously improved by replacing the old single-pane glass.

A-1 Builders specializes in preserving the integrity of Bellingham’s historic homes. Photo courtesy: A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio.

The Spencer’s home presented another challenge for the team – designing a deck that looks like it belonged with the original structure. “A lot of our most successful and satisfying work is when you never even knew we were there, once it’s done,” Falk says. “The additions are so seamless and we have upheld the integrity of the house.”

Many clients with older homes create a master plan for multiple changes, to be executed at different stages. By working with the design team to thoughtfully plan, renovations can be spaced out over a number of years without concern for building restrictions down the line.

Sometimes historic homes take on a life of their own, inciting renovations that were never part of the original plan. One homeowner called A-1 Builders about replacing countertops in an unassuming little yellow house, and then casually mentioned a low spot in the kitchen. The A-1 Builders team discovered the house had been built on top of an old coal mine, filled in with the debris of a burned down Victorian home. The entire structure was sinking. The plan for new countertops was scrapped, and instead the build team re-engineered the foundation, removed asbestos, installed a super high efficiency HVAC system, built a rain screen under new siding and completed the exterior with brand new windows. “And now it can go on for another 100 years,” says Falk.

Architect Dave Falk takes pride in upholding the integrity of the house. Photo courtesy: A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio.

Because A-1 Builders specializes in updating older homes, they have perfected the process from start to finish. “In this community, we’re the only residential design build firm with a full staff, which is an important part of carrying out these substantial historic renovations,” says Patrick Martin, General Manager of A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio. “Having an intact process from design all the way through to construction and completion is one of the major advantages we have. It can present extra challenges if different groups are involved in each step of the project.”

A-1 Builders’ full staff works together every day, allowing for seamless execution on home renovations.

A-1 Builders & Adaptations Design Studio invites you to stop by their showroom and discuss how they can make your home the best it can be.

A-1 Builders & Adaptations Design Studio
3310 Northwest Avenue


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