Allison Scanlon once fell in love with a backyard on Sunset Road in North Haven.
Just not the modest cape in front of it.
It’s any wonder why she and her husband, Michael—who own Sag Harbor Fireplace—decided to buy it. Between the hideous shag carpeting, circa-1950s kitchen, one bathroom to be split by five and, worse yet, the yellow vinyl siding, they knew they had their work cut out for them.
But when they pulled pack the carpets, the couple found beautiful oak floors. And underneath the tired façade, Ms. Scanlon envisioned what the house could be.
Seven years later, she is finally able to start seeing what she’d always imagined.
This past summer, the Scanlons began an extensive renovation by demolishing and rebuilding the garage-turned-living-room, Ms. Scanlon explained last week outside her home. They then began tearing down half of the yellow siding and replacing it with HardiePlank fiber cement lap siding in Iron Gray—a project that will resume in the spring, she said. The front of the house is now resided, as is a section of the back.
“Already, I couldn’t believe the difference in how well it insulates the house, even when we just did the siding for this part,” she said. “I remember, it was early November and I was coming home and the sun was out. I put my hand up to the vinyl and it was so cold. And then I touched the HardiePlank and it was really warm. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’”
The Scanlons’ project was an aesthetic one, albeit one with energy-saving benefits. But, due to the predominate architecture here on the East End, most homes will need similar refacing due to their cedar shingle-style, which is the most expensive material to upkeep, explained general contractor Steven Griffiths, president of East-Hampton based David A. Griffiths Inc.
Any façade’s enemies—though particularly shingles—are water and direct sunlight, he said last week during a telephone interview, especially for waterfront homes in the Hamptons.
“If you look under the butt of the shingle and the next shingle down, if you see it’s really thin where the rain has run down behind them and worn down the shingles, it’s time for new ones before worse things happen,” he said. “Once they start getting thin, that’s when they start falling off.”
The process begins by removing the existing siding and installing a vapor barrier, which was first Kraft Paper insulation and then tar paper, Mr. Griffiths said. Now, he opts for DuPont Tyvek, a lightweight barrier that “breathes a little bit more” than the antiquated materials, he said.
After reflashing—or waterproofing—any windows, doors and patios, the shingles are ready to be installed. While Mr. Griffiths prefers the look of red cedar, additional choices include white and yellow cedar, which come in different varieties, grades and stains that affect pricing. For a roof, reshingling roughly costs $1,100 per 100 square feet, he said, depending on the cost of the shingles, which can fluctuate from month to month.
“People have to keep their houses up because it’s not going to get any cheaper to repair them after things start getting old,” he said. “You have to upkeep the house. It never ends, like the car. There’s always something to do.”
Oftentimes, refacing is simply a matter of aesthetic appeal, according to Shelter Island-based contractor Chris Chobor. He recently transformed a quaint cottage on Oak Drive in Sag Harbor from a tired, bygone-era look in blue into a more up-to-date shingle-style abode. It is one of his most striking makeovers yet, he said last week during a telephone interview.
“The most dramatic in terms of how many people noticed that house and called to thank me for the new siding,” he said. “I got several jobs from that house. Ugly blue house now looks like it fits into Sag.”
For homeowners who aren’t in the market for a completely new façade, the three biggest face-lift items are porches, entryways and dormers, Mr. Chobor reported.
“Putting on a covered porch changes the front of a house completely. Same thing doing an entry,” he said. “Taking an old, single door and putting in a door with side lights and a little dormered, covered entryway, some steps coming up to it. Those are little, simple things make big, big differences in the look of a house.”
The least expensive of the three is an entryway, coming in at around $20,000, as does a very small porch, Mr. Chobor said. Two modestly sized dormers can run anywhere from $25,000 to $55,000, he said.
“Dormers will take a large, flat roof face and give it detail,” he said. “If you have a single-story home that looks very bland, we can put in a new entryway and dormers. It completely transforms what it looks like as you pull up to it.”
Once the weather warms up, the Scanlons will get back to work on their major renovation project and tackle the second floor—which will include a new dormer, faux-bricking the three chimneys and topping them with copper caps.
“I’m happy with it. I’m definitely happy with it,” Ms. Scanlon said of the progress so far. “I thought once we bought it, we’d immediately draw up plans and get permits and get going on it. But we couldn’t because we were barely paying the mortgage on our new commercial building for the fireplace showroom.”
She shook her head with a smile. “We waited and waited and waited for the economy to turn around so we could start fixing it up,” she said. “It’s been worth it.”