Triptych showing open kitchen, Acheson Builders worker on ladder, ceiling-high windows in living room.

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Read the latest news, event announcements, achievements, and notable projects new and old at Acheson Builders.

Jim Acheson Named Honorary Member, BRAG A2 Board of Directors

Jim Acheson holds award from BRAG A2.
Jim Acheson of Acheson Builders.

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.

Group photo of the board of directors of Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Ann Arbor.
Jim Acheson, center, with entire BRAG Ann Arbor Board of Directors on November 3, 2021.

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).

Jim has much to BRAG about!

Job Details: Acheson Builders’ Re-Remodeling of a Victorian Treasure

Dramatic double roof line with fancy Victorian trim and ridge adornments.

Introduction

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.

ITEMS OF NOTE:

Contributors

  • Architect: Susan Haifleigh of Diamonte Design
  • Interior Design: Leah Raitt of Leah Raitt Design
  • Metal work: SmithShop of Detroit
  • Curtains: Karen Rea of Karen Rea Designs
  • Front walk: Michigan Hardscapes

Unique Hardware

  • Unlacquered Brass
  • special Forbes & Lomax switches from England
  • Classic Brass Chautaqua Collection
  • Merit Metal (92815) Forged cupboard turn 1 5/8″ X 2 5/16″
  • polished brass unlacquered box latches on sink base cabinet and refrigerator cabinet doors

Home Office, Laundry, Powder Room, and Mud Room Flooring

  • Rusticated Marble

Paint

  • Farrow and Ball paint (having unique colors) from England
  • Kitchen cabinets are Inchyra Blue
  • Grass cloth on Master Bedroom walls

Yoga Ladder

  • Built from clear black walnut

Roof

  • CertainTeed Grand Manor, and CertainTeed Carriage House shingles in Black Pearl color in pattern shown on drawing

Heating

  • Hot water heating in mudset tile floors (Office area, mudroom, powder room, laundry room)

Electrical

  • Forbes and Lomax unlacquered brass single pole dimmer switch

Gallery: Whole-House Remodel of 1840s Historic Old West Side Home

CASE STUDY: Addition with Kitchen and Bath Remodeling and Exterior Improvements

exterior of house after remodeling

SPECIAL NOTE: Take the (Virtual) Tour:

Team Acheson Zoomed participants through this property as part of the BRAG Ann Arbor Builders Association “Showcase of Homes 2020”.

 

Smart Remodeling

exterior of house before remodeling

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?

exterior of house after remodeling
After remodeling: slender columns, sidelights, stonework, rails, and four-foot home extension on right side.

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.

Acheson Builders can remodel any home
AFTER: Kitchen remodeled, open to dining area.
Remodeling can transform your home, even on a modest budget
AFTER: Dining area leading to kitchen.

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!

In Sum:

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!

Out of the Embers: Home Rebuild Complete!

UPDATE: See the rebuild/remodeled home here.

 

photo of fire engines and fire fighters standing together at scene of house fire that was later rebuilt by Acheson Builders
Fire engines and fire fighters on scene at this home in Dexter, Michigan prior to second outbreak.

 

Fire!

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).

photo of severely fire-damaged living room wall with fireplace open to adjoining sun room showing large burned and broken windows on either side
Where it started: the burned out fireplace after fire spread to entire center portion of house.

photo of fireplace open to adjoining sun room showing glassed view through fireplace and large windows on either side
Rebuilt fireplace and living room.

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. 

 

Work Completed

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. 

Come See It – 2018 Remodelers Tour (Sept 29 & 30)

See for yourself the quality of Acheson Builders’ work by touring the home at Remodelers Home Tour 2018, one of nine homes being shown by Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Ann Arbor (BRAG Ann Arbor). 

Don’t forget to check out the newly remodeled basement, which became a secondary portion of this project.

Here is a preview of the Tour:

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Out of the Embers Update: A Truss-Worthy Builder

UPDATE: See the rebuild/remodeled home here.

photo of smoke rising out of suburban house in Dexter, Michigan prior to restoration by Acheson Builders
Fire broke out, was thought extinguished, then returned at this Dexter home.

Progress Restoring Fire-Damaged 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.

photo of fire engines and fire fighters standing together at scene of house fire that was later rebuilt by Acheson Builders
Fire engines and fire fighters on scene at this home in Dexter, Michigan prior to second outbreak.

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.

photo of Acheson Builders crew members up in roof section fastening framing pieces during reconstruction of house in Dexter, Michigan
Crew securing trusses and finishing framing.

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​.

photo of fully deployed crane ready to lift materials onto fire damaged house being restored by Acheson Builders
Construction crane in use during framing and roofing phase of restoration.

(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.)

photo of truck-mounted construction crane ready to lift trusses and plywood onto fire damaged house being restored by Acheson Builders
Construction crane in use during framing and roofing phase of restoration.

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.
 

New Fireplace

Installation is complete . . . a different brand from the one that malfunctioned and​ burned the house, thank you very much!

Basement Remodel

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.​
 

Next Steps

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!

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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. . . . “

Source: https://www.cleanfax.com/restoration/effective-thermal-fogging/

Jim Acheson’s Welcoming Front Porch

Jim Acheson at the drafting table in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

A Builder is Born

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.

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

 

group portrait photo of family of five on porch
Jim and Marilyn Acheson (center) and children (l-r) Harvey, Kathryn, and Ross visiting Jim’s family home in 1999.

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

Services Provided

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

photo of James Acheson holding 2014 Keppler Award for Remodeling Achievement
Jim Acheson has been honored with the 2014 Keppler Award for Remodeling Achievement

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.

badge award art and text Three Best Rated 2018 best business of 2018
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.

Who Wants A Long-Lasting Trouble-Free Home?

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