Remodeling Second Story 1950’s Home

Remodeling the second story of our 1955 home was a huge project. During the winter of 2013-2014, a record amount of snow fell in Minnesota. Our tiny 1.5 story house could barely handle the snow. We had snow piled all the way to the top of the 6 foot fence in back. Ice dams began to form on our roof and water started forcing it’s way into the attic and eventually through the kitchen ceiling light fixture, which pooled on the table and floor.

1950s 1.5 Story House

It also came through the living room ceiling and ran down the wall.

Water Damage

Attic Water Damage






Attic Water Damage Attic Water Damage



When we crawled into the attic, we discovered the fiberglass insulation completely saturated with water. Then, we found that the roof decking and framing were also saturated with water.

After discovering all this water damage to our 1950s house, I called in the experts, Fisher Construction & Restoration. They specialize in emergency damage clean up, restoration and construction. The experts advised that the reason for our water damage from ice dams is not a new problem. They said the design of our 1.5 story bungalow was never meant to have an upper half story for living space. The upper level was originally designed to be attic space only, but the builder could have added finishes and heat runs last minute to sell it with an extra half story. By heating the attic space, it was a design flaw that caused snow to melt at the peak and form ice dams when it got to the cold roof about half way down where the cold attic space starts. Even the original sale documentation showed that there had been previous water leaking from the attic. It was easy to see this occurring from the exterior when there was a small amount of snow and temperatures were not below zero.Ice Dam Cause

We decided to not only make this a repair, but also a major remodel project to correct the home’s original design flaw. I never disliked the old knotty pine hardwood paneling. It was cozy and cabin-like, especially for brutally cold Minnesota winters, but my wife was not a fan of wood paneling. So, we decided to gut the upper half and start with a fresh blank canvas. We did save the knee wall wood paneling to help with the cost of the project.

Attic Remodel

When removing all the old materials, we could see that the old insulation was almost pointless. The walls had an old open-cell spray foam that was applied from the exterior and basically fell to dust when moved or touched. The peak of the roof had been insulated with balsam wool blanket insulation. There was no vapor barrier of any kind.



Remodeling second story Spray Foam Insulation

The original 2×4 hand framed roof and attic knee walls were spray foam insulated to create a hot roof on the top half. Spray foam also filled the peak. This was the solution to stop snow from melting at the peak and freezing to form ice dams when it got to the cold attic sRemodeling second storypace about half way down.

Remodeling second storyAnd finally, the finished product.

Small Kitchen Remodel

With an older home, it can be difficult to have such small rooms. Especially when the kitchen is the most functional and used room of the house. There are many solutions for having small spaces to work with. My small kitchen remodel was inspired by IKEA kitchen designs, but built with custom cabinets, Cambria quartz composite counter tops and in-floor heat with 12″x24″ ceramic tile. This tiny kitchen is only 9’x12′ ft. (108 square ft.)

Small Kitchen Remodel Small Kitchen Remodel 2

The wall with the sink and dishwasher is 9 feet long so we had to maximize storage space by making the cabinets go up to the ceiling. Previously, the kitchen did not have a dishwasher so it was a huge benefit to add one. Otherwise, the basic layout and location of appliances did not change. The stove and refrigerator remain in the same location, but with cabinets added above. Small Kitchen Remodel 3

This is a photo of the old wall paper we discovered under the light fixture above the sink. This also shows the old kitchen crown molding Small Kitchen Remodel 4 Small Kitchen Remodel 6and oak hardwood from the original 1955 construction.

First, we placed 1/4 inch plywood over the sub-floor. Then, we sealed all the cracks with duct tape and taped down the heating coils so they would stay down when the latex concrete was poured. Before the latex concrete could be poured, the floor joists needed to be raised up with a hydrolic jack about 1.5 inches. Then, the floor joists were bridged to provide better support under the floor. This was all done to prevent the tile grout from ever moving, which would cause it to crack and fall apart.