The Boulevard Show House renovation is in full swing (check out the big announcement here!) and there is some major construction going on right now. With most of the walls stripped to the studs and the first floor to the trusses (you can see through to the basement), I haven’t been spending a ton of time hanging out there. Soon enough the subfloors and sheetrock will go in but, in the meantime, I am happy to share some updates with you all. Today we are sitting down with the talented Tylor Hearn, owner of Blue River Custom Builders, for an info-packed edition of “Ask the Experts.”
‘Ask the Experts’…Take 2!
Initially, Michael and I reached out to Tylor when we were considering a renovation/addition to our home on Dryden. We needed more space for our growing kiddos and Newberry Architecture had created a lovely plan to add on to our bungalow. Well… that was out the window as soon as we saw all of the space and the perfect layout of our new home on North Boulevard! It needs tons of work, but I knew exactly who to call for that! Newberry Architecture drew up the plans and then Blue River Custom Builders was on board to dive into the renovation; lucky for us, they have the expertise to guide Michael and I through the ups and downs of a historic renovation. Blue River is taking our 1925 Tudor Revival house that needed lots of TLC to the gorgeous home we envision. Today, we sit down with CEO, Tylor Hearn, to get to know this invaluable partner and to dig into his company’s role in the Boulevard Show House.
Tylor Hearn (middle), CEO of Blue River Custom Builders, and Jose Sanchez (left), project manager, take the lead on the renovation our historic home!
So, let’s get started!
LU: We are so happy to have Blue River Custom Builders a part of this project! Can you tell us what your role is in the Boulevard Show House and what Blue River is working on specifically?
BR: Blue River Custom Builders manages the full scope of the reconstruction of the Show House. From A to Z, we are working on the construction of each room within the home making sure that we construct new and more structurally sound walls, flooring, windows and a modern electrical plan. Right now, we are working on the mechanicals within the home, so we are placing the HVAC [Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning] system and finding a location for the condenser units so that they are not visible or in the way of moving within the home. We are also dealing with wood rot and termite damage, which has been an ongoing issue for this house. Next, we are going to be finalizing the locations of all the switches and plugs throughout the house. Electrical is a huge part so we are very careful and detailed in our process to make sure everything is placed exactly where Laura and Michael want it, and that it is done correctly.
LU: So you are the means of getting all of Laura’s and Newberry Architecture’s plans from paper to reality?
BR: Yes. As custom builders, we really make sure each room is constructed according to Newberry’s layout plans and Laura’s (and her team’s) plans for each room. From the first meeting with Laura and Michael where we walked through and analyzed the house, to working with Newberry, the structural engineer, and the other build and brand partners, we are the means to which all of their ideas and planes take physical form.
LU: So we have one big team working towards a gorgeous goal! And speaking of the team, who is working with you on this project?
BR: The Blue River team is made ups of Jose Sanchez, Dora Vega, and me. Jose is the project manager, he oversees the scheduling of the project and making sure that everyone is here and that we have the materials we need for the job. He manages the day to day stuff that makes this project run smoothly. Dora is our selections manager; her role is to coordinate all the selections made by Laura and Michael and ensure that we have all of the many fixtures and finishes for the house. Then I work and communicate primarily with Laura and Michael and her team, as well as Newberry Architecture and our fellow brand and build partners to ensure that their wishes and designs for their home come to fruition.
LU: So what needed to happen first before you began the renovation?
BR: After the initial meeting with Laura and Michael, we wanted to dive deep into what was expected for this renovation. So before starting the project, we did a forensic analysis of the entire home, that really gave us an idea of what we should expect throughout the building process.
LU: What does your forensic process entail?
BR: One of the first things that we do when we begin any renovation / remodel is to walk through the house and look at any and all obvious places that are or could be a problem. For Laura’s house, we noticed the windows in the front had a lot of wood rot, especially above the beams and frame. We will be replacing all the windows in the home, so it was good to see what we were working with. Then we looked at the exterior and the roof to see the extent of the wood rot in those areas. There was quite a bit, which is to be expected when working with a home of this age. Next, we moved throughout the home looking at the structure and framing of each room. The house has plaster walls for much of the first floor, so we didn’t dig into the walls too much, simply because that wall finish is so complex to install, we didn’t want to damage it if not necessary. However, we took quite a bit of sheetrock off in the front living room area and upstairs in the bedrooms, exposing some hidden windows.
Most of the walls have been stripped to their frames!
LU: Oh yes! Newberry mentioned that as well, that is such a nice surprise.
BR: Yes, it will add to the home and brighten up each room. Those are good surprises when renovating a home. Then, after looking at all the walls and windows we moved to the basement. This house has a basement – which is very rare to find in a Houston home. So, from there, we went down to check out the beams and joists within the structure of the home to see if there was any wood rot, which there was. Lastly, we moved to the new addition upstairs, this space was not done well initially so we had to pull sheetrock off along the walls and determine how to make that structure stronger. It is a day-long process, at least! We want to be as detailed as possible
LU: Wow, there is so much behind the scenes work that goes into remodeling a home. So you mentioned a lot of wood rot – has that caused a lot of structural issues within the home?
BR: Yes, definitely. We have been working with a structural engineer who has made some suggestions for combating that and what he would like us to do. We moved a couple walls and will have to pull in some steel beams to help frame up and add some much-needed support for that back, ‘new addition.’ Besides the poor edition, several of the exterior beams of the original home were rotted and needed to be replaced. These rotted beams have caused the floors to sag, but remarkably the plaster walls had no damage. Another surprise was the basement – which is not common in Houston due to the water table and poor soil – has held up very well for its age. The basement also gave us access to lift the walls, replace the rotted beams, and add additional floor joists. It has been great, allowing us to add some much-needed strength to the floors
LU: Have these structural issues been a big challenge for you?
BR: The home had a sizable and poorly constructed addition that was added about 40 years ago. That area had many poor qualities such as bad framing and support, water damage, and bad windows. To correct this, we had to take the walls down to their studs, and then some! We had to do a considerable amount re-framing to shore up the structure and bring it up today’s standards.
LU: I heard you are adding in a playroom, well really a whole extra room to the addition. The framing is looking great so far! We’re all very excited to see the finished product.
BR: Yes, and thank you! That room has held most of our attention. It is probably 25′ by 30′ and then the ceiling is 25 ft tall so we are adding a loft to that space, which is about half the size of the room. It is basically giving that space two stories and like we are building a whole new room. The room had a large wall that is about 30′ x 25′ tall and was poorly constructed, so we had to prop up the roof and rebuild that entire wall in order to make that room structurally sound. It had to be strong because we are adding windows to that wall, which will be very heavy.
LU: And you took out the original loft completely?
BR: Yes, well that stairway was holding that loft up. It was not safe!
LU: Definitely not! So was this add-on the most challenging?
BR: The add-on has been challenging, but it is all possible! The challenges now are all the things that we are finding that were unforeseen and just being discovered. Such as the terminate ridden subfloors, that caused us to have to remove all the floors on the first story. We’re currently laying out planks of wood to get around down there. These little hiccups are expected when working with a historic home like this, however as we progress the scope of work gets larger. So that has been a challenge.
Getting stronger! New beams and walls are being added to make this ‘add-on’ safe and structurally sound.
LU: I can definitely see how that can be challenging! You think you’ve solved a problem then another pops up.
BR: Exactly! But we have been able to manage it well.
LU: So what advice do you have for people wanting to renovate a historic home like the Boulevard Show House?
BR: Expect the unexpected. We have discovered everything from unidentifiable animals and termite-ridden subfloors to the most unique and interesting floor tile on the front porch. (Laura was really excited about that!) So expect some surprises throughout the process-some good, some stressful. Also, I’d recommend budgeting more than you planned. You’d rather be prepared to put more money and time into your project than not. So that will help you be prepared as well.
LU: Great! Could you tell us a little about Blue River Custom Builders?
BR: Of course, I started remodeling homes in 1999 with Hearn Renovations which then incorporated into Blue River Custom Builders, Inc. in 2005. I named the company after the river that flows through my hometown in Kansas. So, I want every experience and project to be very personal and unique for my clients. We work on projects primarily in the Metro Houston area, inside the Beltway, and they range from large-scale renovations and additions to multi-million-dollar custom homes.
LU: Awesome! If someone is interested in renovating their new home or building new, what is the best way to get started with your team?
BR: You can contact me directly for a consultation, either by phone at 832.962.7753 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can visit our website for more information about our company, check out our portfolio and learn about our main goals for every project.
LU: This has been great and so informative! Is there anything else you would like to add about Blue River or the Boulevard Show House?
BR: Yes, at Blue River we believe that honesty, integrity, and trust are the guiding principles for every project. They guide our daily decisions and help us ensure that each home is built right and we will stand behind them for years to come.
Also, regarding the Show House, I’m so glad we were asked to be a part of this project. It has been such a great experience for our company. I have done renovations like this before and I actually cut my teeth remodeling houses, so this has been fun. I am not scared to really dive in and take on these historic renovations. It is a cool project and Laura and Michael have been great to work with. It’s nice working with a creative mind that really understands and knows the industry like Laura does. So I’m excited for the finished product next Spring.
We are so excited as well! Tylor and his team at Blue River are the right crew for this job! They know their stuff and aren’t afraid of a challenge! So, with their expertise, along with our fellow build and brand partners, the Boulevard Show House is going to be beautiful. I can’t wait for you all to come by to see it in person…also can’t wait to have floors in my home, again!
I hope this second session of ‘Ask the Experts’ has given you some insight into our process and encouraged you to plan a tour of the Boulevard Show House when it is completed next Spring. We promise an amazing transformation. If you missed the last session with Newberry Architecture, go check it out! Be sure to keep an eye out for more progress updates coming soon – we have tons of exciting things coming up.
Until next time,