"More Room to Live"
Jan and Don Torkelson add a second floor to their rural home

By Valerie Kiger
Photos by Anderson’s Artistic Photography

With visiting grandchildren to make room for, Jan and Don Torkelson wanted more space at their rural Byron home. But since zoning rules and a septic system prevented ground-level additions, the only way to go was up. With the help of Master Builders, the Torkelsons recently added a second story to their home, which sits on 10 lush acres full of wildlife.
   “It’s so peaceful and quiet,” Jan said of the setting. “When we bought out here, it wasn’t for the house, it was for the land. We have birds and wildlife. Yesterday we had wild turkeys in the road. The other day a deer was in the road.”

A Long Road
When they first looked at the house in 1984, they weren’t immediately sold. “I remember when we first looked at the house, my husband said there was no way we were going to live here. There was a toilet in the front yard and shaggy lean-tos, but the land was so nice. There was a blue heron in the pond, and a big turtle.” The pond that existed when they bought the land has flooded out, but the Torkelsons plan to rebuild it.

In 1993, the two remodeled the kitchen and created one large area for the kitchen and dining area that also serves as the entry area. That space once included the living room too, so they added a living room above the attached garage. Don, a welder, did some of the previous remodeling work himself. Jan is a nursing supervisor in radiology at Mayo Clinic.

Still, with three bedrooms, one of which Jan used to house her computer and sewing machine, space was limited during visits from her daughter’s family. The family lives in western Minnesota and stays at the house on visits here. Jan and Don’s three grandchildren, ages 13, 12 and 8, slept in the combined computer/sewing room during a recent two-week visit, and it was difficult for Jan to get work done on the computer. They decided they needed two extra bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. “It’s just my husband and I (living at the house now). Everybody thought we were goofy to do this. We downsized when we moved out here. We thought it was a good retirement place, a nice small place. But somehow, you accrue stuff.”

Growing Larger
Jan would like to begin quilting, as well, and a sewing room would allow her space to leave equipment and projects set up. The Torkelsons also have a son who lives in Rochester. A niece who is a loan officer recommended Master Builders to the Torkelsons, who visited with Tom Gommels during a home show in Rochester.

After working out the design, construction began in April and was completed in July. “One thing that was important to them was a real open design. We had a single window in the (second-story) sitting room. I suggested a triple-wide window because they have just a great view,” Gommels said. Now the large window looks over the forested back of the property, as well as a bird feeder off the deck that draws woodpeckers and other birds. The Torkelsons asked for knotty pine on the ceiling, adding warmth and rustic charm.

The addition creates a cathedral ceiling, with the loft sitting room and bedrooms and bath off to the side, over the existing bedrooms and bathroom. The upstairs is carpeted, but hardwood floors were added downstairs—a real plus in Jan’s sewing room. Again, the couple chose a somewhat knotty pine for the floors in keeping with the country home atmosphere. Jan and Don didn’t have many specific desires beyond the type of rooms they wanted, and they are pleased with the outcome of the project, which also included new steel siding and a generous front porch. New kitchen countertops and a spacious pantry also were installed, and stairs to the basement. One downstairs bedroom was lost in the renovations.

“I didn’t know at first, but I like the high ceiling,” Jan noted. She also likes the large walk-in closets in the bedrooms, which provide lots of storage space for the grandchildren’s toys and other belongings. Though it was the only feasible way to add space for the Torkelsons, adding second stories to homes isn’t common, Gommels and project manager Nathan Aaland said. The fact that the house is a square with an uncomplicated roofline did simplify design and building, Gommels noted. “Adding a full second story doesn’t happen very often. If people have a rambler with everything on one level, usually they like that,” Gommels said. The builders used trusses to ensure the second story wouldn’t require any support from first-floor walls.

Meeting the Challenges
Other challenges presented themselves when it came to the heating and cooling and electrical systems. That doesn’t mean building up is necessarily harder than building out, though, Aaland said. “In some ways it’s easier, because you don’t have the mess of digging. But one thing, if you’re doing a remodel like this, you won’t be able to stay in the house because it’s so major,” Aaland noted.

The Torkelsons rented an apartment above Memorabilia antique store in Mantorville for the three months it took to complete the remodeling. “It was fun. But by the time it was done we were tired of going up and down the stairs and going to the laundromat,” Jan laughed. The project time had been estimated at up to four months, for the most part went smoothly. The biggest challenge came with the ductwork for the heating and cooling system. With a three-zone heating system that enabled the existing furnace to supply heat to the home and new ductwork that reached the second floor, the basement stairs had to be moved to meet building codes, Aaland said.
   That meant the stairway to the second floor also needed to be moved. “They were moved four feet and a turn was added to get enough headroom upstairs,” Aaland said. Builders had only inches to stray in any direction without violating codes. Rochester’s Tonna Heating and Cooling performed the ductwork, coordinating with Action Plumbing of Rochester, electrician Noble Salisbury of Chatfield, and framing carpenter Terry Donovan to keep construction orderly.

Gommels noted that one electric box had to be moved during construction, and much of the existing “hodgepodge” of wiring replaced. Because of the wet spring, “We didn’t have a very big window to get the roof off and back on, and Terry did a good job for us,” Gommels said. The new roof was completed one day before a major rain, he added. Besides the change in the staircase design, other changes during the project included some special-order windows and a decision to use steel siding instead of keeping and extending the existing cedar siding.

“By the time we removed everything we needed to, power washed it and restained it, the cost difference was not much different from new steel siding,” Gommels said. As it turns out, removing the cedar revealed leaks behind the siding. “We were able to fix it before it became a major problem,” Gommels said. Jan’s happy with the steel siding and other aspects of the home that are easy to care for. “We wanted something low maintenance. What’s the sense of having something if you can’t enjoy it and have to spend all your time working on it?”

Because the number of bedrooms stayed the same (although Jan gained her work room), the project didn’t require any potentially expensive and heavily regulated septic system expansion, Aaland noted. Jan is excited about decorating the new space. “I’m real anxious to get pictures on the walls and get some curtains up. We like antiques, and before if I saw a little table I wanted I never bought it, because there really was no space. Now, I have all kinds of space, so I can shop.” Bright Ideas of Rochester helped plan out the new space’s lighting to showcase the new addition and furniture.

The decor will be in keeping with the country style, she said. “We really like the country look. I’m not a formal type of person at all. I just want to be comfortable. I do like this openness—it’s bright and sunny.” She’s also eager to work on the home’s surroundings, from laying concrete on the driveway to painting the garage doors, landscaping and getting back into her gardens.Valerie Kiger is a freelance writer who worked at newspapers in Indiana and Wyoming before moving to Rochester two years ago. She lives here with her husband, Jeff, and their daughter, Fiona.


Check out our featured projects page which shows a variety of projects that we've done in the Rochester area. >>

Our mission at Master Builders is simple. To provide our customers with High Quality and Exceptional Service. Read all about it here. >>

© Copyright 2002, Master Builders, Inc., all rights reserved
Lic.# 20039527