Kitchen Remodeling

Posted by Doug Storey on Tue, Oct 11, 2011

"Our new kitchen is everything we hoped for.  Why didn't we do this years ago?"

These are very pleasant words to my ears at the end of a project.  They signify a satisfied customer, who is very happy with the result of several months of disruption and creation in her home.  In any project, it can be hard to see the forest through the trees at first, but with careful planning, detailed project management and constant communication, the end result should be bliss - a sense of joy at the outcome and wonder of why they had lived without these changes for so long.

I recently completed a kitchen renovation in Brookline that was started in April and finished in July, taking four months for an addition and complete kitchen and bathroom renovation.  This was a very reasonable time frame given the scope of work.

The customer had talked to me the prior year in her planning stages and was checking around to find the best contractor for her project.  After meeting and reviewing our credentials, references, experience and acumen for the project I didn't hear from her for a while.  Then the message came in February - "I'm ready to go and I want you to be my contractor - can you do it?"  Well, I certainly was interested in the project and needed to get the many pieces of the puzzle in line to make it happen.

We met and finalized her plans that included several substantive changes to the layout including the cabinetry, the walk out deck and the window scheme in the space.  She wanted light in her kitchen that had been too dark, she wanted more space to entertain, and she wanted a more contemporary updating of her wonderful 100 year old Victorian home.

We immediately began to meet with the critical suppliers for the project.  We had to finalize the cabinet and window orders so that we could get them placed and start the clock ticking.  These are the biggest ticket items, but also the longest lead time items so we needed to have them on order to put together a realistic project schedule. 

The before pictures looked like this:

Kitchen before

And the exterior looked like this (we found a big stump under the old deck!)

exterior before addition

We bumped out the back of the house just 6 feet by 24 feet to add an addition of 144 square feet that would really make the kitchen much bigger than before.  We added full height glass all around and three skylights above to flood the space with light. we gutted and rebuilt a bathroom, and changed two doorways, adding a pocket door into the dining room where where only an opening had been before.  The flooring was changed to a warm tung oil finished red birch with radiant heat below.  The new cabinet layout added a center island with a hood above and different workspaces around the room. 

The change was quite significant:

New cabinets in kitchen

But the beauty in this kitchen was really in the details, as is often the case.  This homeowner knew exactly what she wanted and had a vision of what she wanted her kitchen to become and it really was my role help her flush it out and then execute the nuances to her expectations. 

For example she wanted a technology nook for her computer and phone and we built it in a space of the stairway below.

Computer nook

She also collected art from around the world and wanted to create a place to display some  masks on the wall leading into the kitchen.  We opened the wall and exposed the timber frame behind it to create pockets of storage.

Art nook

And she had a lovely landscaped backyard where she loved to garden.  So we built a new deck with curved stairs to tie the outside to the inside of this new space.

Curved stairs of new deck and addition

The proof of a job well done is of course the satisfaction of the customer.

In showing these pictures and explaining the process of achieving the end result, we are able to best share with future cusomers how we can do the same for you.  The best projects are born of a collaborative effort between the homeowners, the designers and the builder. In this kitchen remodeling project, we truly had the best of that collaboative process.

Transom Windows

Skylights, hall and bathroom area

Key Suppliers:

Remodeling an Attic Space

Posted by Doug Storey on Wed, Aug 31, 2011

We recently remodeled an attic space that transformed 300 square feet of storage space into beautiful useful finished space.  Int his case it was intended for a play room and recreational space for children but it could also be used for a extra bedroom suite or a home office.

This space was a raw, unfinished 100 year old attic!  It did have walk up stairs which is necessary for a finished space so that was a big plus.  It also had several windows which is also necessary, but we needed to change them out to make them larger, energy efficient and sufficient for emergency egress.  

attic stairs resized 600 

We started by designing the space to meet the needs of the occupants.  We needed a finished space and also two storage areas. Because the house had several gables heading in different directions we were able to frame off two of them for storage and leave three for the finished space.   Once the design was acceptable we began construction.

We started by spraying polurethane foam (SPF) insulation throughout in all the rafter bays and wall cavities.  SPF is great for an attic and creates a tight building envelope and well insulated energy efficient space.  We were able to add 4-5 inches of foam insulation which equates to an R20 - R25.  The floor was already insulated to R30 which we left to keep the space below well insulated.

Next, we covered the wide rough floor planks with Dricore, a product that incorporates a vapor barrier with an OSB based underlayment.  we often use this product in basement renovations and found it to provide a flexible subfloor in an imperfect rough attic environment.  This didn't make the floor perfectly level but hid all the obvious imperfections and created a base for the engineered floating hardwood floor we installed above it.  The floor was glued together on the tongue and the entire assemble floats together.  The engineered floor was installed over a quality floor pad to prevent squeaking and soften the floor.

A floating floor doesn't move around.  It does allow for minimal expansion and contraction that occurs in any hardwood due to normal changing humidity and temperature conditions.  Base trim around the perimeter hids the expansion joint.

This attic had sufficient head room in the middle of the gables but had pitched  rooflines than ran down to approximately 40" at the walls.  We decided to put beadboard on the walls and wallboard on the ceilings to break up the walls from the ceiling and help create a feeling of greater height.  We also added a piece of molding at the break as well.  It worked well.

The beadboard also allowed us to frame in and create access panels for storage under the eaves.  This allowed for a tremendous amount of storage space that could be filled with bins of various items the homeowner stored in the attic.  The access panels are attached with magnets to make it easy to open and remove when necesary.

Access Panel and engineered Flooring

Clear birch doors were added as well as square base trim and casing.  finally the stair railing were installed.  These use cable rails and maple posts for s simple open see through look.  The stairs are pine treads to match the rest of the house.

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Recessed lights were installed in the flat of the ceiling and cable and internet access was wired to make the space modern and functional.

Attic view with recessed light in ceiling

After painting the space is extremely comfortable, energy efficient and fully finished.  What a great way to add space to a home!

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Products Used:




Helping with Disaster Recovery

Posted by Doug Storey on Wed, Aug 31, 2011

We have just been through Hurricane Irene in the East Coast and its after effects will be felt for many days and weeks to come.  I was lucky.  For the first time that I can remember in a bad storm we didn't lose power.  As a result I was able to offer my two generators to friends and neighbors who were not so lucky. I did loose a few trees but again was lucky that didn't fall on my home or vehicles.  Some friends and customers were not so lucky. 

I just visited this customer's home in Newton that had a tremendous tree fall directly across the roof.

Tree fell on house

Here is how I helped: I immediately returned her call and asked if she was all right and if she needed immediate help.  Once I determined that she was safe and could wait until the following day, I made sure she had called her insurance company immdiately to let them know and open a claim.  I set up a meeting to go to her home the next day.  I advised her to stay off the roof and let the professionals handle it.  I visited her and brought a ladder and went up on the roof and surveyed the damage.  Luckily the second story addition we had built her a few years ago was sound and strong enough to handle the tremendous load of that 1000 year old tree falling on her home.  And the tree was secure and not going to cause additional problems.  I advised her of the damage in writing and gave her a preliminary estimate for the repairs for her insurance company.  I helped her find the correct experts - professional tree removal services, to get the tree removed safely and to begin to get on with her life.

I actually had three similar calls yesterday and visited each of them.  All were previous customers of mine and knew they could count on me to help them.  I tried my best to survey the situation and offer the best advice for how to fix their problems caused by this terrible storm.  Often it is to point them to another source who could best help.  If it involved repairs to their home, than I put together a plan to help as soon as possible to do that.  We are at a home repairing a roof today.  That is what we are here for.

Remember the following in an emergency such as this:

  1. Be careful - don't put your self in harms way. Don't go out into the storm if you don't have to. Watch for down power lines and falling trees.  Stay clear!
  2. Make sure your family is safe and secure before moving on to next steps.
  3. Contact your insurance company.  Have you policy information handy.  Keep your critically important documents in a safe and accessible location
  4. Contact family, friends or contractors that you trust to help you.  Don't ever try to do something beyond your capability or expertise.
  5. Have emergency numbers readily available.  Know who you will contact and how you will do it.
  6. Understanding that power, phone lines, internet service can often be lost in an emergency consider having resources such as a generator (trust me it is pretty hard to find one today!), a smart phone, a valuables safe, and a disaster kit available for the next time.


More importantly, I feel my responsibility is to be a resource to my customers to help in good times and bad and to be avaialble when they need me.  Lucky for me I only lost my internet service and had a smart phone to keep in contact with people.  For others it was so much worse.  Let's work together to help each other out!

Building and Remodeling Resources - Part 2

Posted by Doug Storey on Tue, May 10, 2011

Doug Storey, owner and managing partner of Two Storey Building

I started to think the other day how many different sources of information I use on a daily and weekly basis to continue to learn how to best serve the needs of my customers and continue my never ending education in the building world.  It really is mind boggeling.  I thought it might be usefull to others so I decided try to jot it down in a blog.

Old world printed resources:

  1. The Boston Globe - daily, good source of real estate and housing industry general information, "Handyman on Call" on Sunday
  2. Remodeling and qualified Remodeler Magazines
  3. Journal of Light Construction
  4. Fine Home Building
  5. Builder and Professional Builder Magazines
  6. Custom Home and Residential Design Build Magazines
  7. This Old House
  8. Design New England, Boston design, New England Home
  9. Boston Home

Websites and Online Resources:

  1. - Excellent industry synopsis each day by Leah Thayer 
  2. - The expert in the new EPA RRP law
  3. - National Association of Home Builders
  4. - Builder's Association of Greater Boston
  5. - Industry expert Michael Stone offers advice and lots of useful information
  6. Cost vs. Value Report - of common remodeling projects -
  7. Harvard's Joint Center For Housing Studies - Leading indicator of remodeling activity (LIRA):
  8. - where we have a profile and show projects


Green Building and Energy Efficiency Information:

  1. - Also publisher of environmental Building News and the green spec Directory - Alex Wilson
  3. - great newletter and real scientific analysis of building problems and solutions
  4. - including the information on Federal Tax Credits:
  5. - LEED
  6. - Northeast Sustainable Energy Association

Building and Energy Codes:

  1. - Building Code and BBRS
  2. - Energy Codes, Lead Paint and much more
  3. - International Code Council
  4. - Conflict of Interest Law

Social Media:

  1. Linked In - Construction Business Owner's Group - among many others, link @ Doug Storey
  2. Facebook - friend and follow us @ Two Storey Building!
  3. Twitter - follow me @destorey!

Websites for sharing photos and other info:

  4. and

My favorite building suppliers websites:


Of course I could go on and on but these are all great resources.  I hope they are of help to others. 

As always, feel free to drop a line and ask for my feedback on anything I have listed here.


Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling

Posted by Doug Storey on Fri, Mar 11, 2011

Kitchen and Bathroom remodeling are certainly among the most common projects that we are asked to build for our customers.  Everyone has a kitchen and everyone has a bathroom, and if they over ten years old, they could often use an updating.  Also they are some of the most critical and well used spaces in your home.

I think it is important to have a process to follow to prepare for one of these projects.  Most importantly, the homeowners have a lot of preparation to do before the builder can begin the design and construction.

The first step for the homeowners is to define the scope of the project: 

  • Do you want to completely remodel the space or do you want to do selective work? 
  • Is an addition required because the space is not big enough or needs to be reconfigured?
  • Do you want to open any walls to other space or add some windows for better lighting?
  • Are we changing the flooring, the walls, the lighting, the plumbing, the fixtures?

Most of our projects are complete renovations that start with a full gutting of the existing space.  And why not?  If you are going to renovate a space, you gain the most flexibility by starting from a clean palette. 

Here is a before picture of rough framing stage of a kitchen renovation that included an addition beyond the existing exterior wall on the right:


Kitchen renovation at rough stage


At the very beginning of a new project I ask both homeowners to make a list of wants and needs.  It is important that each person do this so both perspectives are considered and accounted for.  My wife and I did this on our own kitchen renovation and I was surprised at how different our lists were.  But I was also happy to see that we each had key areas we were concerned about and they were not in conflict.  Once we realized this, we agreed she could focus on the mudroom, the paint, and the fixtures and I could focus on the cabinets, the counters and the flooring. 

Also, I encourage homeowners to look at magazines, websites and kitchen and bath articles to get ideas and to indentify what you like and what  you don't like.  I love it when a customer has a bunch of pictures they like and has already started to formulate the look and style of the finished product.

Then, I give you a comprehensive list of decisons that need to be made on all of the details of the project.  I explain that we need to finalize each of the items on the list in order to build their project.  It is a long list and may seem daunting at first, but usually many of the decision have already been made or are pretty far along.  I try to make it fun.  This is the creative part of the project planning.  Picking out all the fixtures and components of your new space.  How exciting is that?

  • Will you have a wood or tile floor?
  • Will your cabinets be raised or flat panel, standard reveal or full overlay, oak, maple, cherry stained or painted?
  • Do you want any open cabinets, glass doors or special functionality in your design?
  • What style of hardware do you want to use?
  • What will the counter material be?
  • What finish do you want on your fixtures?
  • How many appliances will you have and what will the finish be?
  • Do we need to add vent fans or a hood?
  • Will you incorporate recessed lighting, undermount lighting, and pendant lighting?
  • Will we include any special moldings?
  • What will the color or colors of the room be?

I also give a list of websites, showrooms and suppliers to visit to see real examples and understand options, styles and cost considerations. 

After all this preliminary planning work is done we sit down and begin to put the plans together for the new space.   This where it all comes together.  We end up with a design layout, specifications and completed plans. 

Now we are ready to build your dream and make your home more beautiful!

Here is the same kitchen renovation space after removing the old wall and opening up the space to create a much more functional and modern kitchen.  Quite a change!


Kitchen renovation after work is done


Remodeling a basement

Posted by Doug Storey on Wed, Jan 26, 2011

Many years ago my Dad finished our basement in our small ranch home and we were amazing and excited about all the additional living space we gained.  It was a simple remodel with carpeting over the concrete floor, framed walls separating the finished space from the mechanical space, and a drop ceiling.  Oh yeah - electric heaters on the wall that we would only turn on when we went down to the basement because they used so much electricity.

Well, times have changed quite a bit since the 70s and so have building standards for remodeling a basement. At least they have for Two Storey Building.  Now a finished basement often an extension of the space above with multiple uses that complement the rest of the home.

We approach remodeling a basement like any other design/build project.  To get it right you have to understand the way the space will be used and plan for that use.  We meet with our customers in several stages of the design phase, first to understand their needs and desires, then to review conceptual plans we have prepared, usually more than one with different layouts.   Next we meet to review and detail the specifications for each of the components (floors, ceilings, soffits, walls, built in furniture etc.)and finally we meet to review the construction documents before we actually begin construction.

How long does this take?  It can be done in as little time as a few meetings over a few weeks and in some cases requires additional meetings and take a little longer.

Remember, as a wise person once said "God is in the details".

We want to be sure we have helped you think through each aspect of the project so that what we build is exactly what you want.  Also, we want to be sure that when we start the construction phase we are prepared to move efficiently and productively so the renovation takes follows our prepared schedule and we are done on time. 

"We started with a solid vision and concept, and found that the design/build creative process allowed us to achieve that vision, consider its implications, and make it real.  After several meetings and planning sessions with Steve the architect and Doug the builder, to lay out and conceptualize the many important details of the finished space, we ended up with exactly what we wanted and envisioned.  I don't think we would have ended up with as nice a finished space and as close to our original ideas without the design/build process." Tom and Susan Oblak, Bolton, MA

What are your dreams for the space? 

Are you looking for additional play space for your children and a place to watch movies?

Finished basement space with wainscoting and carpet


Do you want a sports bar or man cave?

Sports bar version of a remodeled basement in Bolton


Do you want a more formal place to entertain and create a home theatre environment?

Formal finished basement with media viewing area and a gas fireplace on a raised hearth surrounded by built in bookcases

Do you need additional features like a bathroom, an exercise room or even a kitchen? 

Basement exercise room with mirrors and tv 

We have built basements to fit each of these scenarios and we love to do it for you.  The possibilities are endless.  We just need your ideas and we'll take it from there!


Choosing the best building contractor for your project

Posted by Doug Storey on Mon, Dec 06, 2010

I recently read an article about “Avoiding Contractor Rip-Offs”. The implication being that most if not all contractors would rip you off if you don’t watch out. 

Well, I categorically disagree with that sentiment and believe that most contractors are honest and want to do a good job for you, while attempting to earn a decent living. In fact I wrote a letter to the editor that was published Jan 2nd:

To The Editor Boston Globe Magazine - RE: "Avoid Contractor Rip-Offs":
The title implies most or all contractors will rip you off if you aren't careful.  This is simply not true.  Most contractors are earnest, honest and want to do a good job while earning a decent living.  We have to be licensed, to carry insurance and stay up to date on the latest building and energy code changes, Mass State Law and many belong to a professional organization such as the NAHB or NARI to continue opportunities to learn and grow in our field.  The article was correct that homeowners should be sure to check that the contractor they are considering is licensed, does carry the proper insurance, does have the necessary training and has provided a list of prior customer references that will give direct testimony to the experience with that contractor.
Unfortunately some contractors, who otherwise pass these tests of professionalism, may still fail and go out of business.  The best source of information is a reference from their last job.  
Doug Storey, Managing Partner
Two Storey

There are of course many different types of contractors and many different degrees of sophistication and professionalism within the contractor profession and homeowners need to follow a clear process in choosing the best contractor for them and their particular project.

Here are some helpful tips and a process to follow:

  1. Educate yourself and do the necessary research to make yourself knowledgeable about the important aspects of what you are considering.  The internet is an endless source of this information.  Building magazine and websites are also helpful as well as home improvement programs.  Many classes and seminars are offered and open to the public to provide a more detailed level of knowledge.
  2. Have architectural plans and project specifications developed that clearly delineate the scope of your project as well as the details that are very important to you.  An architect or a design/builder can help you with this.
  3. Identify potential contractors that fit the type of work you are about to do.  A small project may require a handyman or replacement contractor.  Larger projects require a builder or remodeling contractor with a much greater experience and background.  A design/build contractor can help with the plans and provide a one stop source for the plans and building of your project.
  4. Check their credentials thoroughly:
    1. Are they a member of a professional organization such as the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) or the Builder Association of Greater Boston (BAGB)?
    2. Do they have specialized expertise or training that may be required on your project?
    3. Are they up to date on the latest building and energy codes (IECC 2009 and Stretch) and regulations like the EPA RRP lead paint law?  Are they are Lead Safe Renovation Contractor?
    4. Do they carry the insurance (workers compensation and liability) and licenses (construction supervisor and home improvement contractor) required in the State of Massachusetts?
    5. Meet the builders and review their proposals:
      1. Are the owners personally involved in the process and will they be involved in your project?
      2. Do they listen to your needs, desires and biggest priorities?  Do they demonstrate flexibility in their approach?
      3. Have they provided you with a detailed estimate and explained the content so that you feel comfortable that they are offering a fair and reasonable approach to determine the cost of your project?
      4. Check their references- Check Several:
        1. Do they provide a list of prior customers with the type of project, the date of the project and the email and phone contact information?
        2. Talk to several former customers and ask what it was like to work with this contractor, did they stay on schedule and on budget, how were changes handled, do they trust the contractor?
        3. Personal referrals from a trusted source such a family member, friend, neighbor, or other contractor are the best source of information
        4. Check out third party websites such as Angie's List as well.
        5. Trust your gut – do you trust this contractor, are they honest and do they conduct themselves with integrity, will they be professional and manage all aspects of your project, are they flexible, creative and fun to talk to?  At the end of the day you are forming a relationship that will be critical to the future of your family, your home and your comfort in your home.
        6. Once you have selected your contractor you must execute a written contract (for all projects over $1000 in Mass.).  This is a critical piece and roadmap for the project and must not be taken lightly. 

I’ll give a detailed description of what a construction contract should look like in a future blog.

Custom Builder Advanced Framing Presentation

Posted by Doug Storey on Tue, Nov 30, 2010

I am a member of the Builder's Association of Greater Boston (BAGB), Green Building Council.  Our council presented a "Stretch Code Bootcamp" on Nov. 30 at the Boston Design Center to help over 100 participants get up to speed on the new Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code.  Architect Steven Baczek and I gave the presentation on Advanced Framing.  This was one of six presentations in the boot camp.

In this presentation we discussed how a builder utilizing advanced framing techniques can reduce the degree to which framing structure of a building can create areas of thermal bridging.  The goal of advanced framing is to minimize wherever possible the total amount of the framing structure by using techniques such as two stud corners, two foot on center framing, roof trusses, and eliminating unecessary studs, jacks and headers.

This can help building become more energy efficient while using less materials.

Advanced Framing Diagram

Specifically the requirements for the new stretch code are as follows from the Energy Star Website:

4. Reduced Thermal Bridging:

  • 4.1 Raised-heel truss or equivalent framing / insulation method used in the attic 8
  • 4.2 HVAC and other attic platforms installed to allow for full-depth insulation below
  • 4.3 Reduced thermal bridging at walls using one of the following options:
    • 4.3.1 Continuous rigid insulation sheathing, insulated siding, or combination of the two;
    • > R-3 in Climate Zones 1-4, > R-5 in Climate Zones 5-8 9,10, OR;
    • 4.3.2 Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), OR;
    • 4.3.3 Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs), OR;
    • 4.3.4 Double-wall framing11, OR
    • 4.3.5 Advanced framing, including all of the items below:
      • 4.3.5a All corners insulated > R-6 to edge12, AND;
      • 4.3.5b All headers above windows & doors insulated13, AND;
      • 4.3.5c Framing limited at all windows & doors14, AND;
      • 4.3.5d All interior / exterior wall intersections insulated15, AND;
      • 4.3.5e Minimum stud spacing of 16" for 2 x 4 framing and 24" for 2 x 6 framing unless construction documents specify other spacing is structurally required16

See this link for more information on the Massachusetts Stretch Code:

Favorite Residential Remodeling Websites

Posted by Doug Storey on Tue, Nov 09, 2010

My top ten favorite residential remodeling websites:

Welcome to The New Two Storey Building Website

Posted by Doug Storey on Mon, Nov 01, 2010

Welcome to our newly revised and updated Two Storey Building Website!

We hope you find the content contained within it to be useful in planning your building project. We’ve tried to focus on the most important information we can share with you and eliminate the unnecessary stuff. That means the information that is useful and relevant to our customers and our potential customers.

First, we know you like to see pictures of the type of work we can do for you. So we have enlarged our Portfolio and tried to make the sections more relevant to what the type of projects that we are most often asked to build including Custom Homes, additions and Whole House Remodeling, Interior Remodeling, including refinishing rooms such as basements and adding architectural details, Kitchens and Bath remodeling, Sunrooms Porches and Deck, and Exterior Improvements, including siding and windows, stone works and patios, pool houses, bocce courts, garages and front entries.

We also have included an explanation of what we do and how we work and how the process of selecting a builder plays out. We realize this is a difficult decision for you and want to be open and honest and tell you who we are so you can decide if we are the right fit for you. Our customers often find that our transparent approach and our desire to be your consultant, your advisor, and the keeper of your budget, as well as your project manager is exactly what they are looking for.

Finally, we are constantly searching the internet and the real world for the best sources of information in the building industry and we want to share that with you. So we have an extensive listing of suppliers, architectural plans, display showrooms, green building sites and much more. Please take a look at our Resources to see if this will help you in your journey!

Please let us know what you think and what else you would like to see on the website. We look forward to hearing from you!