After serving diligently on the Board of Directors of Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Ann Arbor (BRAG AA) for over ten years, Jim Acheson has been named “Local Life Director”; in effect, director for life.
In a ceremony held November 3, 2021, attended by the full board of directors, award plaques were presented to Jim and four other Ann Arbor-area contractors, marking 10+ years of loyal service to this organization.
For nearly 45 years, Jim Acheson and his company, Acheson Builders, has provided first-rate building and remodeling service to the greater Ann Arbor area. For 40 of those years, Acheson Builders has been a member of BRAG, encouraged by its mission to grow and market the best in the trade for the benefit of all.
Jim Acheson explains the value of his association with BRAG Ann Arbor on BRAG’s Facebook page (video link requires Facebook account to view).
The goal for this project was to fully update the home and add features for aesthetics and livability. Twenty years earlier we had added to this home on two floors, and remodeled some of the rooms. At that time, this couple was young and, with limited resources, needed to reduce the scope of work to meet their budget. Now more established, they wanted to do some of the things they had set aside and upgrade other parts of the house that had been on the “hoped for” list for a long time.
The homeowners had ideas and inspiration photos. They employed an architect, Susan Haifleigh, of Diamonte Design, to help plan the functionality of the Kitchen and other areas. Interior designer Leah Raitt, of Leah Raitt Design, was consulted on style, materials, colors, and more.
Jim Acheson of Acheson Builders Inc. was tasked with synthesizing the ideas into concrete buildable drawings with all the details and proportions, and then getting the work done. Acheson Builders repaired, replaced, reconfigured, redecorated parts of every room and the house as a whole — from lowering a large section of the basement floor, to adding decorative cresting on the peaks of the roof. Some rooms and parts of the home had a total makeover, including a completely gutted and remodeled kitchen.
See what a difference a small addition can make for a modest ranch home that was just too cramped for a growing family – especially in the public spaces such as the front entrance, the kitchen, and the dining area. A four-foot-wide addition along one side of the home made a world of difference!
More Room, Please
Now there’s room for larger family gatherings in the dining room, multiple cooks in the expanded kitchen, and via a small bump-out at the front doorway along with the side addition, the foyer has room for receiving (or sending off) a whole family-full of excited children and grandchildren, instead of the one-at- a-time space by the front door as in the past.
What About That Porch?
We dressed up the front porch with columns, sidelights at the front door, and beautiful stonework for the stoop and front steps. We also made it safer for coming and going with gentler steps, and an added custom hand rail all around. The new sidelights by the front door add interest as well as more light in the foyer.
What About the Cost?
The entire project was done on a carefully controlled budget. We encouraged the client to carefully focus on keeping her selections for cabinets, counters, tile work etc. within budget, while still maintaining an upgraded style. She did that very successfully!
We maintained the original lines and architectural features such that the addition is indistinguishable from the original home. The changes look like there have been no changes — as if the house was always as it is now!
Fire is supposed to confine itself to the fireplace, but in this home in Dexter, only one year old, flames reached out of a defective fireplace to engulf the middle section of this home. The owners escaped unharmed, and the fire was extinguished, only to reignite less than 24 hours later (again without injuries).
Acheson Builders came to the rescue (after the Fire Department of course) and planned out and conducted a campaign of removal, clean-up, and reconstruction of only the damaged portion, carefully following insurance company-provided inspectors’ professional Structural Engineering Report.
Beyond replacing damaged structural elements such as roof joists and rebuilding the whole middle section — with a new fireplace — the entire house required new interior finishes.
The new trusses are in, the walls put back together, paint and custom finish work throughout completed so now the owners can once again, shuck off their outdoor duds in the new four-cubby mudroom and gather around the indoor-outdoor fireplace to once again enjoy their beautiful home.
Good news! The Dexter, Michigan home that suffered a fire earlier in 2017 is nearly rebuilt and restored.
The fire, which began one night in the living room where a new gas fireplace apparently malfunctioned, resulted in no injuries but wreaked significant damage to walls, ceilings, a large portion of the roof, and to floors throughout the two-story structure.
The damage that even a small, contained fire can inflict on a house affects more than those portions that actually burn; smoke can permeate all materials and parts of a house, and fire fighters’ water and fire-extinguishing material can cause its own unique form of destruction. This home was no exception.
For this job, Acheson Builders proposed a plan for both restoring and remodeling the house (see earlier blog report on this project), and began work in July, 2017. Initial work focused on removing damaged materials remaining after a previously hired fire-disaster company had removed drywall in affected areas. Acheson Builders unscrewed thousands of projecting drywall fasteners which had been left behind by the prior drywall removal, stripped out all smoke or water-damaged insulation in walls and in the attic, and removed wiring and plumbing that was affected by the fire.
That left . . . the odor . . .
Smoke Smell — How to Lose the Burn
Special treatment was undertaken to ensure that all vestiges of smoke damage were eradicated. This required hiring a company that specializes in deep cleaning to be conducted in multi-step process. First was a patented Hot Thermal Fog™ treatment to open up the pores in the wood (see sidebar “Makeover for Smoke-Damaged House“), followed by thorough cleaning and deodorizing with an ozone and hydroxyl treatment. After this, a sealant was sprayed over everything: all remaining exposed wood, wires and pipes, etc., to prevent any residual smell from escaping. This included the entire attic, where a lot of smell had traveled beyond the burned area.
Yet another company was employed to clear out and certify all of the ductwork, to ensure NADCA standards.
Acheson Builders then re-installed insulation in all areas where it had been removed or where needed.
Roof and Framing
Then we brought in the crane. Crane? No, we did not employ a large, long-necked bird, but brought in a construction crane for removing and replacing seriously large structural trusses for the roof in the central part of the house.
(Quite a few remodeling jobs could benefit by a having a crane available but cannot accommodate one, due to site features such as hills and trees; this site was well suited to use of a crane.)
Now the roofing has been completed, damaged walls re-framed, and new sheet rock fastened on. All exterior work is complete: framing, roofing, siding, paint — all protected and done.
Installation is complete . . . a different brand from the one that malfunctioned and burned the house, thank you very much!
Extra remodeling, not related to the fire, has been undertaken in the basement. The owners decided they may as well have the basement finished (a project that they originally had planned to do a few years down the road) while we are already at the home doing other restoration. New walls are now framed and drywall will be installed by the time you are reading this. Then comes the fun work of installing all the finishes.
Believe it or not, further smoke odor treatment is needed — to the floors and underlayment. Once done, floor finishes can be completed. After that, tile work will be undertaken. And then there is the exterior: follow-through work includes cleaning up garden beds and re-mulching them. Even these areas were damaged by the fire, firetrucks, and initial demolition processes (before Acheson Builders had been called in).
Check this space in the near future for more updates!
Makeover for Smoke-Damaged House
Hot Thermal Fogging as defined by CleanFax Company
“Thermal fogging most closely approximates the very small size of smoke particles, driving the particles deep inside tiny cracks, crevices and pores of surfaces, just as the original smoke deposits were created.
When properly created and applied, thermal fogging delivers excellent odor control. . . . “
Jim Acheson grew up in Michigan and developed a keen interest in craftsmanship from his jeweler father. This may explain how Jim developed his talent for meticulous attention to detail, while also learning first-hand what it takes to run an independent family business. As a kid, he wasn’t especially sure that he wanted to work as hard as he saw his family working — but of course no one would accuse the adult Jim of being anything less than the hardest-working builder/remodeler in town.
In Jim’s own words:
My passion for architecture started as a young child sitting on the porch of our family’s historic country home. I loved the intricacy of design and latticework on the porch filigree.
Fancy scroll work wooden post of front porch in winter.
White-painted full-width porch and matching blanket of Michigan snow.
Acheson house in winter showing side entrance.
Jim Acheson’s childhood house front porch.
A fancy welcoming front porch.
As I grew up, I’d frequently be found doodling architectural ideas on scraps of paper. I later went on to study architecture at the University of Michigan and worked summers for a local builder. After 3 ½ years of college, I had to break from school in order to earn more money to keep going. The builder I worked for taught me carpentry skills, but also was impressed by my eye for design. When that builder saw a commercial opportunity he wanted to pursue, he turned over his customer base in residential work to me, and I started my own company from there (way back in 1973!) I love bringing beautiful architecture and building to the Ann Arbor area.
— Jim Acheson
45 years later, Acheson Builders is still family-run, still making homeowners happy with its highly personalized approach to house building and remodeling. While contractors and builders in general have a sometimes shoddy reputation for leaving customers feeling underserved, Jim Acheson’s insistence on listening well, assigning an interior designer and lead carpenter to every job, and offering meaningful follow-through has helped make Acheson Builders a true standout in the field.
About Acheson Builders
Basement Remodeling, Bathroom Remodeling, Custom Home Bars, Custom Homes, Deck Building, Energy-Efficient Homes, Garage Building, Green Building, Home Additions, Home Extensions, Home Remodeling, Kitchen Remodeling, New Home Construction, Roof Replacement, Siding Installation, Structural Engineering, Sustainable Design, Custom Cabinets, Remodeling, Residential Home Builds . . .
Certifications and Awards
Certified Graduate Builder, Certified Graduate Remodeler, Certified Aging in Place Specialist; Keppler Award for Remodeling Achievement 2014; Member of the Better Business Bureau: A+ rated.
Acheson Builders has been rated The Top 3 Home Builders in Ann Arbor by ThreeBest Rated two years running.
Michigan Areas Served
Ann Arbor, Barton Hills, Bridgewater, Dexter, Saline, Ypsilanti, Brighton, Gregory, Hamburg, Howell, Pinkney, Chelsea, Salem, Manchester, Plymouth, Northville, Whitmore Lake, Willis, Whittaker, Belleville, Canton, Dixboro.
Jim Acheson, president, and Laurén McCabe, interior designer, discuss aspects of Acheson Builders’ unique approach to ensuring customer satisfaction — as well as their personal experience designing, building, and remodeling homes in the greater Ann Arbor area. Among the topics are these:
• Who Wants a Long-Lasting Trouble-Free Home? ( WE DO! )
• Favorite Aspect of Customers?
• In Remodeling, How Do You Know Where to Start?
• Design vs. Function