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Eichler atrium

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Joined: May 10 2008

Hi everyone - We are currently considering purchasing an Eichler. The current owner has roofed over the atrium and we are trying to get a budget estimate of how much it would take to return it to its former glory. Has anyone had to tear out roofing, sheathing, ect to restore an atrium? What would a ballpark number be to do this work? What waterrpoofing issues have people encountered when doing this? Thanks a lot.

Joined: May 10 2008

Oh I forgot to add that the roof has been recently replaced, so I was wondering if a lot of times people use the re-roofing to upgrad their electrical? Aren't a lot of electrical conduits located in the roof. Any insights with the atrium would be really appreciated.

Joined: Aug 30 2003

It will cost tens of thousands of dollars to turn a roof-over atrium back into what it started out to be...and it will be worth it. It's not just removing the roof that costs, you also have to remove the added flooring, probably add some windows back in, and more.

The only electrical in the roof is for the ceiling lights. But if you are re-doing the roof it's a good time to consider adding more lights and running new lines to the kitchen and bathroom, since the lines under the slab can rust out over time.

You need to have an expert Eichler-experienced contractor handle that project or you're asking for trouble. Contractors who don't understand how Eichlers are put together should be avoided. I highly recommend Henry Calvert, contact him here

Barry Brisco

blinkbeforebeauty wrote:
Oh I forgot to add that the roof has been recently replaced, so I was wondering if a lot of times people use the re-roofing to upgrad their electrical? Aren't a lot of electrical conduits located in the roof. Any insights with the atrium would be really appreciated.

1959 A. Quincy Jones atrium model in The Highlands, San Mateo

Joined: Feb 8 2005

Is the Eichler that you are referring to the one on Phoenix Street in Concord?
If so, it appears that the roof over the atrium is not an actual roof, more like a cover which should be fairly easy to remove.

Joined: May 10 2008

Thanks bbrisco and dommi99 for the information. I don't think we would be redoing the roof completely. The house was re-roofed a couple years back and should be good for a while. We will probably do the whole re-atruim project in stages. We would be taking out all the flooring in that area anyway, and the house most of the interior atruim windows still intact. The cutting of the roof, new flashing, re-finishing beams now exposed to the exterior, sawcutting the slab for drainage are all things we are concerned about.

The house that we are considering is in so cal, so unfortunately Henry's company wouldn't probably be willing to help us out. Anyone know of any good general contractors in orange co. that have a lot of experience working on Eichlers? I guess you need to email me because of the no-mention-good-people-that-can-help rule here.

my email is


Joined: Mar 16 2005

I don't have an atrium (but a courtyard), but it looks like how the cover was installed and what you'll find underneath will dictate costs.
(1) Basically, it costs $800/day for a skilled carpenter-type worker ($75/hour plus 20% overhead). Cleanup, setup,, etc. will add, so count on several thousand $ for at least a 2 person crew.
(2) What's underneath the atrium cover is your next hurdle - - atrium beam dry & wet rot is common so while you're at it, beam repair and capping is highly recommended.
(3) Yes, whenever you do work in an Eichler, always consider other upgrades - - once the initial work is done, it is very costly to do the upgrade later. I think Barry is right; only overheads (switched) run on the roof.
Since the roof was re-done, you lost your chance to wire additional circuits and put in boxes for track lighting (table tamps take up too much footprint in small BR's) - - my Eichler only has 1 circuit serving the Kitchen counter/DR wall -- connected are my refrig, microwave, landscape lighting (2 x 300w transf), coffee maker, gabage disposal & exhaust fan (I think) and kitchen counter outlets (GFCI) . . . and since the panel is on the opposite side of the house, a roof run is the only way to bring another circuit to this area - - what were the architect & Eichler thinking of when they designed this model. Another "feature" in my Eichler is 1 15amp circuit serving 2 BR/1B and 1 15amp circuit serving the remainding 2BR/1B plus several overhead light boxes (incl. our LR TV (200w) & halogen overheads (300w) - - use a hairdryer with bathroom lights (200w) and we're at our sustainable limit for 3 rooms.
The issue with my Eichler is that electrical service is concentrated in series; in the East Coast, I was used to seeing each room serviced by 2 circuits so the load is better distributed rather than concentrated onto 1 circuit with unused circuits elsewhere.

In general, if your rely on contractors on maintain your Eichler, it is far more expensive than a conventional house - - therefore, you need to really want the Eichler "outdoor in" design.

Some samples - - siding is $450-$550 per 4x9 sheet installed w/ back primer; foam roof is $10/sf plus recoating ($15K); radiant heat replacement is a nuisance and several thou$; mini-split AC is $6,000; (skilled) painting with preparation, remediation & primer is $9,000, etc. - - don't forget California "features" like cracked foundations & driveways, root damage to sewer lines & sprinklers . . .

Joined: Apr 20 2006

Are these prices quoted actually close to reality ?

- "siding is $450-$550 per 4x9 sheet installed w/ back primer; foam roof is $10/sf plus recoating ($15K)"

1. This year, FOUR average sized Eichlers are being recoated for $15,000. It is easy when done at 5 years....and won't be needed again until 25 years. When an Eichler is put on the market, smart owners have the roof recoated, so it looks like new and has a fresh contract with warranty for the purchaser. This really helps. Try to explain that your dirty 28 year-old roof is 'just fine' to a purchaser or Home Inspector.

2. In 2006 we had to charge $5 per foot, plus extras for a new roof. Today the cost is about $6 per foot, plus extras. A foam roof is comparable in cost to a tar roof, especially when insulation board is added.

Joined: Mar 16 2005

(1) Siding replacement prices are from this site's service providers -- I constantly hear from Willow Glen Eichler owners about their prices, but I can't seem to get them when contractors come to my neighborhood (probably because I'm not a RE agent).

(2) Foam roof -- I'm guessing I have about 2,300 sf of roof space (1,600 sf of taxable/living space, plus garage & overhang) - - so at $6/sf for roof space, how far am I off from $15,000 for a new Foam roof with no tear out ??
Re-coating is extra after a new roof - - 25% for re-coating is a lot, don't you think ?? which is the point of my comment - - fortunately, the poster indicated the house has a fairly new roof, but $4,000 for a maintenance item makes a top 5 list (but only only a fraction of private school tuition !).

Joined: Mar 16 2005

Hello, wife of Prefab here - (the Eichler lover in the family aka the architecture lover in the family) and I just want to say something about siding. I researched our siding project, as I research all of our improvement projects. I'm not an idiot (most days!) about these things because I spent many years in the property insurance business dealing with the cost of building things, rebuilding things, repairing things and what happens when you cut corners or hire people without insurance.

We opted to replace about 70% of the siding on our house. We had several places, most around hose bibs, that HAD to be replaced. The rest could have been cosmetically fixed up with bondo and paint, or just lived with, but we plan to live here forever and leave the house to our daughter, so I didn't want to do a so-so cosmetic fix-up, or live with it, or piece in siding yadda yadda yadda. (While Mr. Prefab may complain about Eichler quirks - that often equate to wonderful architecture BTW - he loves his 15 year 4.78% fixed mortgage, 2003 based property taxes and the raves our house gets from the neighbors who live in the ranchers outside our Eichler enclave, so his negativity isn't as serious as it sometimes sounds).

Anywho, I really wanted to replace our siding at $300 a sheet (installed) but discovered I would be hiring an experienced but unlicensed, un-insured handyman and his possibly experienced, un-insured helpers. The job could have turned out perfectly, but if something happened to one of these un-insured people while climbing around my house, cutting gas lines, tweaking the electrical, adding circuits, welding water lines and all the stuff that goes on with a large siding project...they could have sued us and taken everything we've got. Or if they maybe didn't know how to cut gas lines correctly, etc, our house could have blown to smithereens and while we have insurance to rebuild (a Dwell prefab for Mr. Prefab no doubt!), I'm more concerned about my 6 year old surviving the fire, quite frankly (and yes, Mr. Prefab too!). Am I conservative because of what I saw back when I was dealing with actual situations like these during my days as a property insurance executive. You betcha. We had an excellent siding experience with our licensed, insured, highly experienced, Eichler Service Provider (Calvert) and while I would have LOVED to have spent $300 a sheet installed, I could not find ANY truly reputable contractor who could do it for that price.

While I am rambling on about siding, a few words about painting your house. Paint is the real reason we had to replace so much of our siding. Here's the story. We are the 3rd owners of our 1973 Claude Oakland Eichler. The original owner was a co-founder of one of the Valley's biggest semi-conductor companies. The good news is he was a batchelor who never did a thing to the house in terms of "improvements" nor did he have kids to beat up the place or a wife to "decorate." The bad news is he hired the cheapest painters and only when the trim was peeling. You'd think a guy with a PhD in physics and lots of dough would get a good paint job for his house, right? Wrong-o. Owner #2, a couple with a non-destructive child (wife loved Eichlers, husband also had a PhD in physics making Mr. Prefab the dumbest man to ever live here ha ha ha!) did a few things - all in the right way - including putting a good paint job on the house, but not a GREAT paint job which by then it needed thanks to owner #1's neglect. Had the house been properly painted by owner #1, or had owner #2 had a great $6K paint job done...we wouldn't have had to replace so much siding nor would we be spending $9K repainting our house. Yes, and I researched the cost of THAT too. Why so high? Well, first there's a ton of new siding that has to be primed twice with oil based primer and then coated with 2 coats of premium paint (to last) and then there's stripping almost ALL the trim along the roof line. Huh? Read on if you're still awake.

Once you let the paint go like owner #1 - Dr. Gazillionaire - did, the siding starts to absorb water, crack, invite termites, etc. We were luckly to have only a tiny bit of dry rot on one of our support posts by a hose bib once Calvert removed the siding. LUCKY. As for the trim, once you let trim paint go to the point it is buckling (aka failed paint) which it will around the roof need a painter that will take ALL the paint off down to the raw wood and start over if you want your house to look the way old Joe E. and his architects intended and if you want the trim paint to really hold up. No, sanding doesn't really do it. Yes, it will look okay, but it won't hold up and it won't be perfect. I confess I like perfect, but even more, I like stuff to last. I only want to spend $6K the next time we paint the house and I don't want to need a paint job for another 7 years!

Just our experience and thoughts, of course. Never intended to offend, only offered for the heck of it! Happy Eichler living and loving!

WoP (Wife of Prefab)

Joined: May 10 2008

Thanks for everyone's responses. It is interesting to hear the siding discussion, even though that wasn't really what I wanted feeback on the most. We made another visit to the house yesterday to check items we couldn't the first time and sure enough there is def. a section of exterior siding that will need to be replaced.

We just wanted to get an idea of a ball park cost figure to restore an atrium to a house which the atrium had been covered up with a new roof. There are so many great design features of these homes, it just seems like if we end up getting the house that restoring the atruim would be one of the biggest improvements we could make to the house for ourselves and the potential re-sale value years down the road.

If anyone knows of any orange co. contractors with Eichler experience I would love to start making a list. You can email me directly with any ideas..

thanks! have a good sunday

Joined: Dec 20 2004

I have had my roof over my Atrium removed and I'm I happy I did. I would have liked to restore it back to original but it would have been a much bigger and more expensive project. Besides the way I did it, it turned out really nice because you can get in the house with out getting wet and it provides a little more shade in the morning and evening (back of my house is due South.) Also you don't need to worry about the beams rotting through and if you wish you could put a retracting roof or skylight up.

Some things you should know. First of all it will be colder in the winter and hotter in the summer with the roof off. In my case it was a few degrees and I'm use to it now so I don't notice. Second is that it will rain inside now so make sure the water has a place to go and your atrium is slopped properly to run off water.

What did I do? I just took the roof out between the two beams in the middle for the same distance front and back as the original. Then had the opening framed and the roof fixed. Also I broke out the concrete and put in dry sump or a 3x3x3 hole and filled in some of the old concrete for the rain water to drain in. (Also note: it could be 4x4x4 for easier digging and you need to put thick felt at the bottom to keep the rocks from sinking into the dirt.)

It was first estimated at $10k but ended up being about $5k not including the roofing work. Also I dug the dry sump myself.

Here are some pictures:

The Atrium is not done yet but I'm stopping here for now :-)

I highly recommend you do it.


-- Ralph

PS I recommend getting home owners insurance that protects you for being sued. Anyone can slip and fall on your property not just workers that are uninsured.

Joined: May 10 2008

Thanks for the response Ralph! That was exactly the kind of feed back I was looking for. How long did it take your roofing team to cut open your atrium and put back the trim and flashing? Seems like it would probably go pretty fast. Did you also have to cut out the slab in your atrium? Does the 5k you mentioned include the cost to cut out the slab? Your atrium looks great, even though it might not be the exact size of the original. I like the idea of having a bit more coverage to get into the house in the rain. Although it doesn't rain too much in so cal.

Joined: Dec 20 2004

Hi Brian,

I think it took two weeks.

I rented the concrete saw and jack hammer and removed the concrete myself. I rented a trailer to bring the concrete to the dumps.


-- Ralph

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