Fall project: adding an addition

The Menascos have made numerous improvements to their 1907 home, but the new addition being built onto the house is the most extensive home improvement project they’ve done to date. Photos by Derrick Knutson
Photo by Derrick Knutson

There are certain sounds associated with fall – leaves rustling, geese honking overhead as they fly south for the winter and crackling backyard fires that help offset the slight chill that begins to permeate the air.
The sounds of construction – hammers pounding in nails, saws slicing through plywood and sanding tools smoothing floors and cabinets down to a smooth finish – aren’t noises one might connect to the season, but those are sounds North Branch residents Mike and Irene Menasco will be hearing during the early part of fall.
The Menascos are building an addition onto their 1907, tastefully refurbished home, while still trying to keep the house’s unique character intact.
The main purpose for the addition is so Irene’s 87-year-old mother, who lives with her and Mike, can get around the house more easily.
The addition, which Mike estimated will take about eight weeks to complete, will include a downstairs bedroom and storage room. The upstairs will have a master bedroom.
Irene’s mother will stay in the downstairs bedroom, closer to needed amenities like a bathroom and the kitchen, and she’ll no longer have to go upstairs if she doesn’t want to.
Prior to beginning the addition, the only bedrooms in the house were upstairs.

The Menascos are the general contractors on the project, but they’ve hired another contractor and sub-contractors to help ensure the work gets done right. Mike estimated the addition would take about eight weeks to complete.

The Menascos also plan to convert an upstairs bedroom into a bathroom.

Tips about the process
The Menascos are the general contractors on the project, but a word of advice they had for homeowners planning to build their own additions is to partner with the right people so the construction gets done right.
“You get the right people and you don’t have any problems,” Irene said. “You want to get the right contractors and subcontractors.”
Mike said word of mouth is sometimes a good way to find a reputable contractor – the Menascos are going with a contractor they know, Larry Jesinoski of Ark Construction out of Eagan – but if you don’t “know somebody who knows somebody,” he recommended using the website Angie’s List to find contractors.
He said the site allows users to rate and write reviews about contractors; so finding someone reputable is fairly easy.
The Menascos also suggest checking with City Hall early to make sure a planned project falls within the parameters of zoning laws.
Their addition, which was approved by the city of North Branch, encroaches about five feet into a setback, which means they needed a variance from the city to go ahead with the project.
Obtaining a variance can be a time-consuming obstacle, and it took the Menascos a few months to have their project approved.
Searching for unique wares
Mike said trying to find rare wares to give a house character isn’t too difficult, as long as a person knows where to look.
For those who want to give the Internet a try, Mike said Craigslist is a good bet.
He recently purchased 100-year-old hardwood flooring from a seller on the site that he and Irene plan to refinish and use in their house once the addition is further along.
Mike has also been to some stores that specialize in antique house amenities, like Better Homes and Garbage in Minneapolis.
The Menascos purchased a cast iron bathtub and vintage sink from the store they plan to install after the construction on the addition is closer to completion.

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