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The reNewsletter

reNew Design Studio, Des Moines, IA

The reNewsletter is a monthly missive on renovation and design with a focus on Des Moines, Iowa. Past issues are available below.

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Technical Advisory Network: Advice for Historic Building Owners

The purpose of Iowa's Technical Advisory Network (or "TAN") is to provide technical assistance to potential grant recipients and grantees that require post-award guidance. Through this program, the State Historical Society of Iowa may make up to 24 hours of my services available to you for specific advice on your historic rehabilitation project.

For more information, please contact Kristen Vander Molen at the State Historical Society of Iowa.

Winter Digging

The hole has been started at Green and Main in preparation for the addition! Workers are currently breaking through the top layer of frost and will begin excavation later today.

Things that have been discovered so far include: buried concrete stairs and old footings from the already demolished fire escape.

Interview on WebCastOne

I had a great time talking renovation with Michael Libbie on his daily webcast, Insight on Business.

In spite of the name, we didn't talk a whole lot about the "business" of renovation design. Rather, we spent most of the hour talking about preservation - why old buildings are worth preserving, and some examples from around Des Moines.

Join us by watching below!


Deconstruction has begun in the second floor apartment at Green and Main. We are not calling it "demolition" because the work is much more intentional: all materials removed are being sorted for recycling or repurposing (note the stack of lath in the corner).

Deconstruction at the Green and Main Sustainable Demonstration ProjectDeconstruction at the Green and Main Sustainable Demonstration Project

I prepared a "Construction Waste Management" plan for this project to lay out the recycling processes and goals for the project. I also created a job-site poster to help educate all the workers and subcontractors on site.

Interview on "Insight on Business"

Monday, January 24, I am scheduled to be a guest on Michael Libbie's "Insight on Business" webcast. We will be talking about preservation, renovation, and urban issues in relation to running a solo design business.

One of the most challenging parts of running a business as a sole practitioner is managing workflow: if there's work to be done, I have to do it. This sometimes means late nights, but it also means that when I'm not working on someone's project, I'm not getting paid!

On occasion, I have subcontracted portions of a project to tap someone's expertise in a specific area, or during times of heavy workload. I don't like doing that because it directly impacts the bottom line. However, it is critically important that client expectations be managed. If I have a design deadline, I do my darndest to meet it, even if that means getting extra help or working late.

Deck Build is Substantially Complete

Back Deck Design-Build Project: This project consisted of rebuilding a back deck.  Issues that had to be dealt with included repairing flashing, regrading, and a sloped patio.Back Deck Design-Build Project

With just a few more touch-up items remaining, I am declaring the deck design-build "substantially complete"!

Exterior Complete on Kitchen/MBR Addition

Shell is not WeathertightShell is now Weathertight

The siding is complete, shingles on, and entry porch started on the addition project. How about that!?! The entire shell was constructed before breaking through the wall on the interior, in order to keep the construction from intruding on everyday life as much as possible. With the owners gone for a few days, the contractor demoed the interior wall - the future kitchen in the addition is now open to the existing dining room!

Deck Almost Done

97% Complete!97% Complete!

The deck build is almost done - there are some trim pieces that have to go on, and the inspector wants another couple bolts through the main beam and post (I think he's wrong, but not worth arguing).

Deck Details

In relative construction terms, decks are only a moderately complex undertaking. However, getting the details right is critical in two key locations: (1) attachment to the house and (2) guard rails. Mistakes in these two locations can cause damage to your house, or serious injury to people.

An experienced and knowledgeable designer can help you understand these details and communicate them clearly to your contractor.

Here's a deck I am currently building for a client. Key connections are bolted instead of screwed - many people will tell you this is "overkill", but I believe it is worth the extra few dollars in time and materials to do it right!

Deck Under ConstructionDeck Under Construction

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