Creative remodel – Salvaging for sustainability, tight budget




Two local builders said just tear the house down.

A local architect said remodeling the circa 1952, 950-square-foot home would open up a can of worms.

Yet homeowners Todd and Ali Givnish did not give up on their goal to reuse as much as possible of their small home in Old Town Steamboat Springs.

“We knew when we were looking at homes that we would eventually do a remodel, so even in the home shopping stage we were looking for potential,” Ali Givnish said. “We loved that it was small but on a big lot. We loved the history.”

After living in the space for months to see what worked and didn’t work for their family, the couple turned for advice to friend Chancie Keenan, a LEED accredited professional and principal architect and owner at Mountain Architecture Design Group in Steamboat Springs.

 They also enlisted the help of friend and builder John Logue of Logue Construction in Steamboat Springs. Together, the group determined they could take on the challenging remodel that led to creative problem-solving across seven months of construction.

“A big part of what made this project interesting and sustainable was finding a builder and architect who were excited to work with an old structure and materials and make them work better,” Ali explained.

The end desire was to create a fine balance between reclaimed and new, between true to cabin heritage and modern lines with a smart use of space.

“We have a great appreciation for the historic nature of downtown Steamboat,” Todd Givnish said. “While we had a strong desire to have a little more space, more light, better insulation and a floor plan that aligns with our lifestyle, we still wanted the house to represent the historic look and feel of downtown. Building within the existing footprint and reusing materials helped to tie together the new with the old. Ultimately, both of these decisions aided in keeping the budget in line as well.” 

The original home was certified by a local structural engineer as sound, but the home had an awkward layout with a single bathroom off the kitchen and 8-foot ceilings. The house suffered from hot and cold temperature fluctuations, little insulation in the attic, ice dams on the roof, no insulation in the crawlspace, partial single-pane windows, and poorly insulated 2 by 4 walls with dated metal exterior siding.

For the inventive remodel, the attic space in the middle of the house was opened up and became a 17-foot-tall living room with a vaulted ceiling and exposed beams. A loft accessed by a steep ship ladder was added on the front of the house to create a playroom for the couple’s 5-year-old son, Theo, as well as a guest sleeping area.

Two new classic-styled bathrooms were constructed on either end of the home.

On the back of the home, a wider and slightly taller truss was added to create a gabled roof for a new master bedroom loft and new ground-level covered porch. The master loft features a shutter-system wall with openings for views over the living-dining area. The shutters or panels in the wall can be pulled closed for privacy. Access to the master bedroom for the young, active couple is via a slim alternating wooden tread staircase.

“If you look closely at the shutters (in the master bedroom wall), one is framed slightly differently,” Ali said with a grin. “The king mattress fits through that (larger shutter) space with a half-inch to spare.”

A 12-foot wall section in the dining area was extended outward via a cantilevered dormer and now serves as one side of seating under a large picture window. The feature added more space without a huge financial investment to the tight budget.

Through lots of sweat equity – a combined 40 hours a week – the couple, their dads, and good friends were able to salvage and repurpose existing materials. Interior tongue and groove wooden paneling was carefully removed, repainted and reapplied to save on drywall costs and preserve the cabin feel. Old metal roofing was salvaged to become exterior wainscot siding.

“When we got in there, we did not know what would be salvageable, but as we found good materials, then we figured out where we could use them,” Logue said.

The original oak flooring was painstakingly refinished by the Givnish family. More oak flooring was needed, so the family located similar wood on a local Facebook sharing page and from a “free firewood” box from another remodel in the neighborhood. The cost for salvaging and refinishing the oak floor was less expensive that installing new flooring, Logue noted.

The Douglas fir subflooring was repurposed for such uses as closet paneling, bedroom shutters and a custom dining table. Salvaged floor framing was reused for stair and ladder treads with a main beam used for a stringer on the ship ladder.

“At multiple points in the project, the carpenters pointed out the value and beauty of the old wood substructure we were uncovering and encouraged us to work with it,” Ali said. “Both John and Chancie took the time to walk us through decision-making about materials reuse, pointing us toward good resources to research how to use and reuse, going as far as teaching me how to clean up old wood, how to stain it.”

The family saved enough money by repurposing materials that they were able to remodel the old kitchen too, which had not been part of the workplan. But they left the existing large kitchen sink, one of their favorite parts of the house.

The new building envelope is energy efficient, transforming the leaky early 1950s house into a home meeting or exceeding 2015 building energy codes.

Continuous insulation Zip panels were installed over 2 by 4 walls, then new fiberglass blow-in blanket (BIBS) insulation was added in the walls. R-30 value batt insulation was added under the floor.

For the ceiling, R-42 blown-in fiberglass insulation was used along with R-11 Atlas brand CrossVent roof insulation. The CrossVent system eliminates thermal bridging and allowed for 2 inches of air space between the roof deck and insulation, Logue explained. With a roof ridge vent, the final product created the preferred cold roof system even with the vaulted ceiling.

An HRV unit, or heat recovery ventilation, was installed for fresh yet energy efficient ventilation for the newly tightly air sealed home.

The homeowners did their best to reuse or re-home anything of value. Old doors, windows and cabinets became found treasures on the street corner. Old appliances were given away on the local freebies Facebook site.

The couple hopes to reuse more of the old metal roofing and leftover scraps of framing lumber to build raised garden beds in the backyard. Leftover insulation panels, roofing, framing lumber and a few windows and storm doors will be used to build a small greenhouse.

To start their large remodel, the couple and their young son moved their belongings into the adjacent existing garage and lived with family members and friends in town for seven months until the project was completed in April.

“We knew this would be a stressful and exhausting project and working with someone who could keep a steady head was a huge priority,” Ali said of their contractor. “We definitely interviewed folks who told us to tear down the old house, that our marriage might not survive, that we didn’t have enough money and needed to phase the project out and live under construction for five to 10 years. They seemed uninterested as it was ‘too small’ of a project in this age of 4,500-square-foot new-everything builds. John loved the house for what is was, had great ideas and just said we can make this work.”

“The entire process was challenging, sometimes stressful,” Todd added, “but being truly involved and hands-on through the process makes it that much more rewarding.”

  • Accurate Insulation – Insulation
  • Grasso Glass and Stone – countertops
  • Logue Construction – General Contractor
  • Mountain Architecture – Architect


  • Minimal site impact and reuse of existing utilities
  • Maintained home’s original small footprint
  • Creative use of space with two added lofts accessed by ship ladder and alternating tread stairs
  • Half of existing walls left in place
  • Upgraded insulation package designed to eliminate thermal bridging and increase energy efficiency
  • Increased ventilation and indoor air quality with installation of HRV (heat recovery ventilation)
  • Replaced windows for energy efficiency and improved natural daylighting
  • Salvaged and reused materials such as oak flooring, Douglas fir wood, metal roof, interior tongue and groove wooden paneling
  • Salvaged floor framing studs and blocking for $750 savings in new lumber costs
  • Salvaged main beam from floor framing reused for ladder stringer
  • Beetle-kill blue stain pine used for soffits and siding on dining room dormer
  • Forest Stewardship Council certified Douglas fir wood for new exterior siding
  • Featured as part of Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s annual Sustainable Home Tour in September

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