conley6.gif (2529 bytes)

All in the family
Addition adds space for mom to move in

By Lori Syverson


The addition to Barbara Heimsch’s Wauwatosa home included a living room featuring this unique ceramic-faced fireplace. Heimsch, a ceramic artist, designed and made the tiles herself. Pekel Construction performed the remodeling work.rt.

Choosing to remodel a home or build an addition can be a difficult decision. For Barbara Heimsch of Wauwatosa, it was an especially difficult decision.

Her father had passed away two years ago and her mother Anita Heimsch had also experienced some health problems. The time had come for Anita Heimsch to consider selling her three-bedroom home in Waukesha and look for other living arrangements without the maintenance.

After careful consideration of the alternatives, the answer was clear for Heimsch. Build a 600-square-foot addition to her current residence which would allow her mother to move in with her and her teenage son.

The addition included a master bedroom suite, full bath, walk-in closet and family room on the first floor. An additional 600 square feet were added to the basement as a living area for Heimsch’s son. The expanded basement also has a bedroom, bath, walk-in closet and living room.

Heimsch chose Pekel Construction and Remodeling in Wauwatosa as the general contractor for the first floor project. “I contacted three other contractors,” Heimsch said. “The Pekel bid was not the lowest, but they were recommended to me and I liked the fact that the company was familiar with Wauwatosa and had done a great deal of business in the area.”

There were a couple of issues that had to be discussed before the project could proceed. Heimsch had done a lot of work for Habitat for Humanity and was well versed in how to use the tools in a tool belt. No matter what contractor she chose they had to be willing to let Heimsch work with them side-by-side.

“You should have seen the look on the carpenter’s faces when I showed up the first day with my tool belt,” Heimsch said. “I don’t think they knew what to expect. But after the third day they realized I knew what I was doing and wondered where I was when I couldn’t help.”

In addition to the hands-on stipulation there were some other areas that needed to be explored. According to David Pekel, president of Pekel Construction, anyone considering a remodeling or addition project should make sure that the cost of the project will not price the home out of the market. Heimsch had already looked at other homes and neighborhoods and decided she wanted to stay in the area.

“The area is wonderful. We’re near schools, the freeway and hospitals and have great neighbors. And even though the area has older homes, we knew that with the addition the home would still fit into the area housing market,” Heimsch said.

In order to give Anita Heimsch’s bedroom living area a more open feeling, the design included a large bay window with a window seat which brings in additional natural light. There is a large walk-in closet and a handicap accessible full bath. The family room acts as a transitional space, joining the original living area to the addition. The combination gas and wood fireplace is the centerpiece of the family room.

Heimsch was able to utilize her fine arts background and handmade the tiles that surround the fireplace. “The fireplace is my favorite part of the project,” Heimsch said. “You can view it from any angle of the room. I can even see it when I’m in the kitchen doing dishes.”

Another concern for Heimsch was that the addition fit seamlessly on the exterior into the existing house. Together Heimsch and Pekel created a design which used the existing pitch of the roof, the roofline and even window sizes in the new area. To make sure the transition was perfect, Heimsch removed the old aluminum siding from the garage, scrubbed it and placed it on the exterior of the addition.

“The siding is older and we were not able to match the color exactly. By using the siding from the garage, the match was exact. The newer siding was then put on the detached garage where the color difference is not noticeable,” Heimsch said.

Construction was flawless with work beginning in August, 1999 and completed in January of 2000. Fortunately according to Heimsch, the large project did not disrupt their lives very much. Because it was an addition, they were still able to live in the existing living space. The few changes that needed to be done in the existing area were small and did not force Heimsch and her son to make changes in their daily living habits.

According to Pekel, not every remodeling project can be done this way. “Each project and each customer is different,” Pekel said. “There are two kinds of remodeling projects. The first one is when the customer realizes that what they currently have doesn’t meet their needs. The second type of project is when what they currently have meets their needs, but they just don’t like what they have. In both cases it is possible that the customer doesn’t quite know what they want, and may need help in looking at the options available,” he said.

Customers should also have an idea of the amount of financial investment they are willing to make in the project. How much of that investment you will get back should you sell the house in the future may also play a role. But some homeowners are willing to spend more to get what they want, knowing that at resale they may not get a full return on their investment.

Heimsch did her homework. She knew that her existing situation did not meet her needs and also determined that the financial investment made in the home would see a return should the house be sold.

“I’m very happy with the project and my mother loves her new living area. I was also very happy with Pekel Construction. Either they were here at the house checking on the progress or they were calling me on the phone to make sure everything was OK,” Heimsch said.

Both Pekel and Heimsch agree that with a little bit of homework any remodeling project can be done to everyone’s satisfaction on time and on budget.