We have a lot of water in Maine and people love to live on the water! So we are pleased to share with you, one of our lake house renovations! There is a common misconception that you can do whatever you want with your property. However, national, state, and local laws, specifically zoning, prevent you from doing many things with your property. One of the most stringent things in Maine, is building on the water. If your property is within 250 feet of any major water body, the rules get stricter to help us preserve and protect those water bodies and the ecology of the area. Within 250 feet you have guidelines for clearing and runoff, and within 100 feet you have further guidelines for building and expansion.

Context:  This beautiful home is located on a peninsula overlooking the lake. Since it is within 100 feet of the water, there are rules that need to be followed when renovating. The homeowner contacted us to help them renovate their home with minimal impact to the lake and maximum expansion within the 30% rules of the shoreland zone. They purchased the home as a future retirement home, but found the camp was not suited for wintertime use after having frozen pipes and high heating costs. They decided to fast track the renovation project to eliminate the wintertime issues and enjoy the home fully in the years leading up to retirement.

Conclusion: Part of the shoreland zoning rules are “no more than” 30% expansion of a structure from what existed on January 1st, 1989. Luckily for us, the home had not been expanded since January of 1989 and we had a full 30% expansion to work with. The town where this home is located follows the 2008 shoreland zoning ordinance and allows of 30% of the footprint and/or 30% of the volume, whichever is less. Luckily for us, there was a single story addition on the “non” lake side of the home that we were able to build over top of.  We pulled a rarely used screen porch at the rear into the heated envelop and created a larger open concept living, dining, kitchen. The homeowner is very contentious of their impact on the lake and did not want to have a major phosphorus control system, so we did not expand the footprint. The homeowner is even taking out some of the driveway that existed prior to the renovation. Although one bedroom is small, all three bedrooms have views of the lake, the master bathroom is efficient and functional, while not large. This left enough room for a walk in closet and guest bath on the second floor. The home now has 2 full baths on the 2nd floor and a 1/2 bath + laundry on the first floor. We lowered the window sills by 12″ to improve the view of the lake while sitting and opened the right side of the home to the view of the cove. We expanded the opening between the old porch and the house which created a larger living room and a reading nook surrounded by windows viewing the lake. Now the kitchen/dining/living areas are large enough to gather and entertain. The home has 3 bedrooms instead of 2, and the walls were stripped down and re-insulated to improve the efficiency and comfort of the home.

Energy Efficiency:  We kept as much of the existing house as we could manage, but we stripped down the walls to re-insulate. We changed the orientation of the roof to maximize ceiling height on the second floor without increasing the volume by more than 30%. By changing the roof to scissor trusses we were able to have higher ceilings and blow in R-50 insulation in the attic above, where previously fiberglass insulation was stapled in 2×6 rafters. Air tight construction helped to reduce heat loss from drafty construction. The parameters to increase visibility of the lake led us to using newer more efficient windows which were installed with low expanding foam and air sealed into place. The increased insulation and decrease in air infiltration will keep this home warm in the winter and eliminate issues with frozen pipes. The homeowner is handy and intends to install a custom wood stove surround and re-install a wood stove to have toasty warm weekends at the lake until they move here year round.

Things are always more challenging when you’re building on the lake, ocean, or river. But challenging puzzles can often end up with the most rewarding outcomes! We hope you enjoyed this lake house renovation. Check out the photos below!

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