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Remodel Advice

11 replies [Last post]
Joined: Apr 24 2004

Just bought our first Eichler, and we are so excited about all the potential! However, we have a couple problems, and would appreciate any feedback. (Apologies in advance for the long post).

1. Ceiling – It’s the original wood – almost… It has been stained VERY dark. I just can’t find any other alternative than painting it white. Also, the former owner added on a room, and that room has PINE instead of Redwood. Suggestions?

2. Walls – They are paneled, but in poor shape. We are going to drywall and insulate the exterior walls. But, I keep hearing people gripe about crown molding… I’m considering a very modest 1” quarter round as an alternative. Suggestions?

3. Water / Gas / Electrical / Heat and AC + New Roof. Our roof is in OK shape (not leaking), but not new. Since I’m taking the panels off – I’m thinking that it’s time to update electrical, water (copper from the street to the fixtures), and possibly add a low-profile duct system for Forced Air Heat and AC. Questions is, can I put all this on the very FLAT tar and gravel roof then Foam Over it? I don’t want any of these changes to be visible.

4. Kitchen Changes. The kitchen needs work, and has already had some “Updates” Need I say more? So, I’m working with a cabinet person that has good design sense (and knows the ins and outs of Eichlers). However, when I’m done, I will have pushed out the dining room wall, added an extension on the kitchen for Washer / Dryer / Pantry, and put in an ‘Update’ of my own, ala new counter/island and new appliances. We are trying to make this look like it fits. I would appreciate any feedback on this.

5. Windows – Some of the windows are in poor condition, so I am thinking of updating. I will go with solid panes, no paneled windows (Low-e Dual Pane). I will likely get paint grade interior and paint to match trim. I am also going to order dual pane Low-e glass for the panels adjacent to the sliders in the back. Question is – do I have to lower the windows in the bedrooms to meet the current egress codes for current homes? That would make some pretty huge windows!

6. Floors – Currently it’s carpet and ceramic tile. I want something that looks like it will ‘fit’ more in an Eichler. Suggestions?

For anyone that replies – THANK YOU! I appreciate any and all feedback.

New to the neighborhood.

Joined: Apr 2 2003

Welcome to the Eichler community!

I'd say asking for advice and feedback is a great way to start gathering information so you can make *informed* decisions about your home and to minimize (but not likely eliminate) "I wish I had/hadn't". Personally, I don't have a problem with people who make different decisions than myself but I am always saddened by those who would have made different decisions "had they only known".

So, here is some suggestions to lay the groundwork for a productive discussion.

1. Time frame
- How long do you have? Usually the recommendation is to live in the home for a few months at least before making major (costly or impossible to reverse) changes to your home. That goes a long way to helping you make informed decisions based on your lifestyle and gives you a chance to gather and research information.

At odds with this can be the urge to get things done "before you move in". It would be useful for those offering advise to know whether this is work to be done in the next month in an empty house in a month or work to be done over the next year while you're already in.

2. Location
- Where is your house located? It's a good idea to indicate what city or tract you're in so that others who have similar homes can offer relevant advice. Sometimes other Eichler owners will come over or have you over so you can see in person what a particular issue or solution looks like. This can be invaluable.

3. Remodel/restoration experience
- Have you done this before or is this your first time? Knowing the amount of previous experience you have in remodeling/restoration experience will aid people in giving appropriate information and level of detail. Users of this site range from those who hire out all jobs to those who hire out none and everything in between.

4. Budget
- Have you established a $ figure with a buffer for overruns? The total $ figure is not something you need to disclose to others but it might be worthwhile to ask others what it cost them *to do certain things*. Unless you have unlimited funds, you're going to be trading off between the "ideal" and your what your budget allows.

I'm looking forward to hearing your responses on the above. After which, I (and, I'm sure, many others) will be all to happy to share what we've learned.


P.S. If you haven't given your email address on your Eichler Network profile, you might considering adding it there or posting it in a message so that those with recommendations for contractors not on this site can email you direct (per the Chatterbox Lounge policy).

eichfan at rawbw dot com

Joined: Mar 25 2003

You mention paint grade window frames. This doesn't sound like it will maintain the original look since Eichlers don't really have frames to speak of. For the big sheets of glass, you can order custom double panes with no frames that can then be inset into your current frames. For bedrooms and bathrooms you can order low profile aluminum windows that look better than the originals while maintaining the same look and feel.

For floors, you can't get any more appropriate than VTC floor tiles from Armstrong. They have the added benefit of looking great for about $1.25 a square foot. For a higher end look, everyone seems to be going with black slate. If you have the money, you couldn't do better than terrazzo. More possibilities: if you're replacing paneling with drywall, you could do a cork floor or bamboo wood.


Joined: Apr 26 2003

Well, I can address item #2 - the walls. I would suggest you put in the sheetrock, but do not put any mouldings at the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling.

Our Eichler was constructed with sheetrock walls and there are no mouldings at the ceilings or around any doors. In my opinion, the Eichlers look best without mouldings.

For a clean edge, there are sheetrock corner guards that can be purchased.

As for the ceilings, I would avoid paint if at all possible. It would be very difficult to remove the paint should you change your mind. If you find the ceilings unbearable, maybe you can look at a solid stain in a light color. I would give this issue a lot of thought.

With the kitchen, just make sure whatever cabinetry you get is plain, plain, plain. You should be looking at slab-front drawers/doors and frameless cabinets or something similarly unadorned. Also, if you have upper cabinets, I would not bring them all the way up to the ceiling, but would leave a gap. In our house, we brought the top of the upper cabinets to about 7 feet, leaving a 1 foot gap, with our 8 foot ceiling in the kitchen.

The flooring for an Eichler has been a long running issue. First, is your radiant floor heating functional? If not, there is an electric system that can be added under your flooring should you want radiant heat (STEP Warmfloor). If radiant heat is not a consideration, you can do anything: low pile carpet, floating wood floors, etc.

If you do have radiant heating, then I would stick to hard surfaces that conduct heat: natural stone (limestone, travertine, slate), ceramic tile, linoleum, etc. I personally have no experience with cork flooring, but there are those that love it. I have only seen one home with cork flooring, and that floor was badly discolored from sunlight.

I understand the desire to get things done as rapidly as possible, but you may want to consider holding off on some of your improvements until you have lived in the house for a while. We did that, and during that time, we were able to do a lot of research on what we should change, and what we should leave alone.

Congratulations on your home purchase and good luck on your remodeling.

Joined: Mar 20 2003

I would wait a little bit with painting the ceiling white. All Eichlers I have seen with whitewashed ceilings inevitably look dull, in particular if the beams are painted white, too. The paint on the ceiling can practically not be undone.
The dark wood comes as a sort of shock initially, but we came to love it after living in the house a few monts and after adding lots of (energy saving) lights throughout the house.

Joined: Apr 2 2003


I'm hoping we'll hear a little more of the basic situation per my earlier post, but in the meantime, here are some suggestions.

Of course, get recommendations, at least 3 quotes, and check the license of any contractor or tradespeople you are planning to hire. You'll find hte California State License Board website at

And if no one has mentioned it, it's not uncommon to run into termites when you're doing as much renovation as you suggest. You might want to pad your a budget a bit for such unexpected events.

- I'd agree with Tom that windows which mimic the original design (frameless) would more easily fit with the Eichler aesthetic. Several companies make them in this form. All are tempered (safety improvement): single , insulated double, low-e, low e-squared. These can run $12,000 to $25,000.

- The oriiginal panelling is very hard to replace so I would think long about this. I have heard there is a contractor who can refinish it and you might want to consider that. If not (as I say, it's not everyone's taste), consider making the panelling available to other home owners. The panels were "good two sides" which means full (no cutouts) panels can sometimes be turned, stained, and reused.

- those are 2 x 8 solid redwood planks. I've been told if they are still just stained (not painted), that you can have them sanded and restained. I can't remember the exact numbers, but the *difference* in cost between building that ceiling today in redwood and building it in cheaper douglas fir is at least $10,000. So, I'd think long and hard about painting it you have any other option.

- don't know what problem you're addressing here. But IF you were interested in recreating the original design with modern conveniences (roll out trays in lower cabinets and real drawer runners for drawers), you can have the cabinets themselves made and installed for about $15,000 (painted or stained) through a cabinet maker renman recommended. Of course, countertops, extra cabinets/drawers, etc. would push that number up.

- no matter what you decide in the end, plan to have the radiant heat system checked for leaks, etc once you have the flooring off. BTW, not sure if you are aware but IF you have the original 8" linoleum tile (under the rugs, for instance) there's a high likelihood the tile and mastic contain asbestos. If you remove it yourself, take the necessary safety precautions. If you hire an asbestos abatement team to do it, you'll need to figure in the additional cost.

Well, that's off the top of my head. Good luck.


eichfan at rawbw dot com

Joined: Mar 20 2003

Here's my two cents. I am three years into a restoration/renovation of a MCM home. While it's going OK, I've made some mistakes...

1. Ceiling – talk to pros who know about stain. As the ole adage goes, don't ruin a $50,000 ceiling with a $12 can of paint. There are lots of products out there that can lighted stain. It won't be easy, but worth it. Redwood ceiling are pretty rare these days. As for your pine, no biggy. Just match the new stain and they'll look great.

2. Walls – There are hundreds of posts on this board about rehabbing mahogany panels. But it's really not that difficult to replace. There is mahogany out there. Most home improvement stores carry it. Just be selective and choose the right stain and finishing material.

3. Water / Gas / Electrical / Heat and AC + New Roof. none of these changes will add value to your home. It is possible to update electrical with out junking your panels. I suggest getting your roof inspected before replacing it. If it's in good shape, look at replacing your gravel with a white colored rock to reflect the sun. If your radiant system works, do what you can to make it more efficient: remove carpets, replace boiler. As for cooling, a foam or duro-last white roof will help a lot. Radiant heating is the BEST! Rather than adding an expensive, energy sucking AC system, look at your landscaping plan and ventilation of your home. A light colored roof, trees in the right place, a nice cross breeze, and cool hard surface floors can reduce interior temperatures quite a bit naturally, as the homes were intended. Many folks roasting in their homes forget this.

The folks accross the street from me are perfect examples: three years ago they replaced their white/light gray rolled roof with a dark brown asphalt shingles. Last year they replaced all the single pain glass in the gables with double pain glass. Right now, they are installing a commercial cooling system on their low-pitch roof with huge ducts sprawling around like a giant metal octapuse. Aesthetics lost. Air blowing in your face gained.

4. Kitchen Changes. stay within the modernist look and feel There are many products out there today which can give you that timeless, modern look. Formica faced cabinets are nice. If you go with natural wood, stick with birch or maple, stained lightly. Simple is best.

5. Windows – Be careful when replacing glass. Windows which are high (gabled or celestory) should remain single pain are these are important for releasing heat during the hot months. During the winter, it's less of an insulation issue since the heat rises and dissipates by the time it reaches the high windows.

6. Floors – If you can polish the slab, fine. Concrete is timeless and great looking. Cork is nice, but make sure it's clued down. Take a look at VCT by Armstrong. It's basically what was original to your home, but without the asbestos. The Imperial Texture line from their commercial products is close to the original patterns. Best of all it's one of the least expensive flooring options out there. Works well with radiant heat. Again, modern and timeless. Oh ya, durable too.

Three years ago I had plans to transform my home. The best thing is to live in it for a year and research what you are doing. Don't rush into things. Mistakes can be costly. It almost sounds like your home is really trashed, or you don't want an Eichler. Best of luck anyway.

Joined: Jan 4 2004

I strongly suggest you read my article in this issue. Some of the info may seem obvious, but if you take the time to consider all your options, seek advice (such as you are doing here) and make careful decisions before committing to any work or awarding any contracts, I think that things won't get out of hand. I'll briefly address some of your questions for everyone else's (and future viewings) benefits, and I believe I owe you a phone call (I think you emailed me at the end of last week) where I can be more detailed about these issues (I talk about 7 times as fast as I can type).
1. Ceilings can be stripped, stained, painted or finished with a faux finish.
If you do any thing other than paint, know that it will take 2-3 times as long to finish. (Redwood T&G ceiling planks are very expensive, because you have to have them custom milled)
2. Drywall is a good idea, (for fire protection, sound proofing and cost effectiveness and contrary to a lot of popular belief, there is plenty of evidence to support the fact that Joe Eichler would be finishing all of his developments with a smooth drywall if he were building today (based on observations of his most recent developments that I've worked in). You can finish the drywall without installing any type of molding on top to transition, if you have a competent taper, and the results are stunning.
3. Roof retrofit- Infrastructure updating.
Very good proactive measure, but it can cost quite a bit, depending on the extent that you want to go. My experience is that all of the below slab systems in Eichlers are going to fail, period (plumbing, electrical, and radiant heat). It is a question of when, not if. I have encountered some intact conduit below the slab, but it generally is the exception, not the rule. The good news is the wire insulation used in original Eichlers is TW (thermoplastic-wet location rated), and while it will fail eventually , there is no need to panic, just be aware that it is nearly impossible to pull new wires through rotten conduit. The problem is that many of the electricians installed EMT (electrical metallic tubing) through the slab and under ground; this material is not rated for underground use; they simply did not know back then that the thin wall conduit would not last underground. The only Eichler that I have seen rigid conduit buried underground (one of a few types or conduit allowed for this type of use) is the in X-100; and that was certainly not typical Eichler construction.
My plumber has replaced many failed water supply lines and re-routed to the roof. As far as gas, supply, since the appliances in original Eichlers are all electric (except the boiler and water heater, which are in close proximity to the garage) the beat way to get gas into the kitchen is over the roof and down the walls, below the roofing membrane.
4. Kitchen
The only thing that I can comment on is that current building codes require a certain amount of dedicated circuits for appliance load. This means that you are likely in need of new circuits to the kitchen. This is best achieved through routing to a new sub-panel, or you can use NM conductors (romex) if you are next to the garage, but it is easier to branch from a closer source. Gas can be run under the slab, it has to be enclosed in a chase, and direct vented to the exterior on end. Island and Peninsula designs are very true to original design, but islands almost always involve saw cutting the slab.
5. Windows
You cannot get a large picture window in dual glazing; I am not sure what the size limitations are, however.
I do know the reason is that glass tends to bow after it reaches a certain size/ thickness ratio, which would cause the two panes to touch in the center. Eichler had all of his exterior and window trim custom milled; it is fairly easy to do with a table saw, sander and planer. The egress requirements are generally: there must be at least 2.7 Sq/ft of operable window no more than 42" from exterior grade (so emergency personnel can enter, if needed), however, many building departments allow an exception to this requirement if a replacement, or block in, (as opposed to a nail-on) window is used.
6. Floors
I refuse to comment on this. I may have been too controversial in this thread already. I generally stay away from design specifics (at least in the public forum); I appreciate good workmanship as long as is follows the design.
Whew! That is all I can type today. I hope it helps.


Joined: Oct 10 2003

In the interest of mixing it up a bit, I want to defend white ceilings. When we were looking to get an Eichler, we did see several fine examples with original unpainted mahogony walls and stained ceilings. While I can certainly appreciate finding these surfaces in nearly-original condition, the darkness of these walls and windows made the houses just look too dark inside for my taste. Especially on bright sunny days, these rooms would look extra dark.

The Eichler we bought was painted thoroughly white & off-white inside, when it was readied for sale (As I've heard it said, it looked like a white bomb was exploded inside). It does make the surfaces look very uniform (or boring depending on your taste), but the advantage is that it is uniformly bright. This helps both day and night.

So, at least you shouldn.t feel alone if you decide to lighten the ceiling by painting it.

Joined: Mar 20 2003

As the old saying goes, I may not share your opinion, but I will stand in for your right to splatter your mahogany whichever way you please and even brag about it online. Personally, It is my firm belief that everyone painting an eichler ceiling white will burn for eternity in Martha Stewart's stove. But this is just my private opinion :-)

Joined: Apr 26 2003

fxlarry, thank you for your most diplomatic response. :)

and jnstahl, you nearly made me laugh out loud!

Thank you both for adding a bit of levity to the forum.

Joined: Mar 2 2004

Is 'original' really better? Was Joe Eichler a decorating genius? ...a timeless aesthetics marvel? Fortunately, we each get to make our own choice. 'In-door/out-door living at it's best'; I think this means bringing to the in-door only what we want from the 'out-door'. I like to project indoor lights upward, and enjoy the diffused light from the ceiling. This doesn't work with a dark ceiling. Downward projecting lights can glare and close off the rest of the room. We each can get what we want, and enjoy.

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