Dormer done right

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 10, 2010 - 12:34 PM

A Minneapolis couple wanted to make room for a nursery in their bungalow. Instead of building on, they went up, adding a dormer, which gave them the space they needed at a price they could afford. You can see their problem-solving addition in the Remodelers Showcase this weekend.

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The house

A 1 1/2-story bungalow in south Minneapolis built in 1927.

The challenge

Owners Doug and Anne Thielen slept in a cramped attic bedroom surrounded by low, slanted walls and had only two tiny closets for storage. The couple planned to start a family and wanted the baby's bedroom to be near their own.

The goal

Add square footage to the second floor for a nursery, master bedroom with a bathroom plus an alcove for a washer and dryer. "We also wanted the new space to match the character of the rest of the house," said Doug, who bought the bungalow in 1999 and has already remodeled the kitchen.

The solution

First the Thielens had to answer the $50,000 question: Should they add on a second story or simply build a full dormer off the back of the house? Architect John Anderson of JDA Design Architects in Minnetonka drew plans for both scenarios. Doug and Anne opted for the full dormer, which cost $50,000 less, but would almost double the size of the second floor to 660 square feet.

"We took barely usable upstairs space and turned it into a family suite," said contractor Brent Christenson, owner of Pro Time Construction in Elk River. "This young family was able to expand their living area and get more bang for their buck without the expense and headaches of moving."

A much-improved master

The light-filled, vaulted-ceilinged bedroom has French doors that open to a rooftop deck. The bathroom and shower are only steps away rather than down a flight of stairs.

Stay true to the period

The Thielens budgeted for quality upgrades such as oak hardwood floors, tall baseboards, detailed millwork and pricey maple St. Louis Miracle Doors (pictured) to replicate the 1920s character of the rest of the home. "We're proud of the approach we took," said Doug. "When it came down to cost vs. integrity, we ended up with integrity."

Biggest splurge

A master bathroom made of marble -- from the dual-sink vanity top to the walk-in shower walls. They installed custom cabinets and Restoration Hardware fixtures and accessories. "It's the one room where we wanted luxury," Anne said.

Favorite space

The rooftop deck off the master bedroom. They swing open the French doors on a warm day and grow herbs and tomatoes on the deck in the summer.

Other fixes

Additional home improvements included long-lasting fiber cement siding as well as new mechanical systems and energy-efficient double-hung windows, which cut their energy bills in half. They also remodeled the main floor bathroom and saved money by refurbishing the old cast iron tub.

Fun discovery

They unearthed newspapers from 1934 and children's toys tucked inside a wall. "We put our own time capsule with a newspaper and photo of our family in the new bathroom wall," Doug said.

Storage savvy

The new bedroom closets had awkward slanted walls so they hired a pro to design functional shelving.

Timing is everything

Anne and Doug wished they would have torn off the roof and began construction several months earlier so the project was completed before -- not after -- baby Oliver was born.

Happy they tested

The Thielens planned to use the newly-finished basement for Oliver's playroom so they tested it for radon, a harmful radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil. Because the test showed the basement had moderately-high levels of radon, they hired a mitigation company to install pipes to vent out gas from the basement up through the roof.

Best part

"Oliver never needed a baby monitor," said Doug. "He was right next door."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619



• Hire an architect to design your project. It's an added expense but a pro can help eliminate unpleasant surprises.

• When budgeting for a remodel, consider the long-term. If he had the chance to do it again, Doug said he would have considered adding a full second story to increase the home's resale value.

• To save money, buy some of the materials yourself instead of going through the contractor. The Thielens purchased bathroom fixtures, tile, washer and dryer, lights and hardware on their own.

• Cash in on available tax credits and rebates. They received a rebate on their new furnace and water heater.

• Don't overlook salvage shops such as the ReUse Center when you're looking for materials. They found a $600 door for $40.


  • related content

  • Provided photoAnne and Doug Thielen's newly remodeled Minneapolis ho...

  • Saint Louis Miracle Doors were installed throughout.

  • The new master bedroom.

  • Anne and Doug Thielen added a second floor dormer for a master bedroom...

  • Doug Thielen in the master bedroom of the newly remodeled Minneapolis...

  • A rooftop deck off the bedroom.

  • Marble gives the master bathroom a luxurious feel.

  • Brent Christenson, certified remodeler, Pro Time Construction Services...

  • The upstairs marble bathroom.

  • French doors lead to a rooftop deck.

  • Anne and Doug Thielen added a second floor dormer for a master bedroom...

  • The newly remodeled master bath.

  • A dormer added much-needed space.

  • Provided photo Anne and Doug Thielen's newly remodeled Minneapolis h...

  • Real marble was used for the upstairs bathroom off the master bedroom...

  • Anne and Doug Thielen with Oliver.

  • A handy laundry alcove is adjacent to the bedrooms.

  • The new nursery for baby Oliver.

  • A remodeled main floor bath.


    What: Tour 70 Twin Cities homes featuring projects ranging from whole-house renovations to kitchen additions to home office makeovers. Remodeling professionals will be in the homes to answer questions.

    When: Noon to 6 p.m. March 26-28.

    Events: Free seminars on kitchen and lower-level design and renovating a period home.

    Admission: Free; $5 to tour the Dream Remodeled Home in Medina.

    Information: The Parade of Homes guidebooks at Twin Cities Holiday Station stores and at Or call the Twin Cities Builders Association at 651-697-1954.

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