Sisler Builders’ total space conversion

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When Sisler Builders’ owner Steve and his wife Sharon built their house in Waterbury Center in 1984, they had no idea it would go through several transformations over the next 38 years. Like most builders, they were game for the challenge of improving their own living space, and in 2000 they doubled the size of the house with an addition on the back. In 2012 they added a third bay to the 2-car garage with a space for a custom woodworking shop above it.

Sisler Builders
Danish Rais circular stove in the living room is propane-fired and comes from Green Mountain Fireplace, Williston. Larch flooring by MAFI, Siberian larch on sloped ceilings, and western hemlock for window trim and cabinetry.

As the business grew, the demand for custom woodworking services increased. It didn’t take long for the custom woodworking division to outgrow the space above the garage. In 2019 they relocated custom woodworking to its current location on Route 100 in Waterbury Center.

Steve and Sharon were faced with a new decision: What should they do with the vacant space over the garage? They considered numerous options: a caretaker for when they traveled, a place to age in, a finished apartment for visiting friends and family, a show room for what the woodworking team could do. They settled on a long-term tenant and negotiated a lower rent in exchange for housesitting when they were away. The tenant also agreed to allow Sisler Builders to occasionally use the apartment as a showroom.

Sisler Builders
KWC kitchen faucet and Kraus stainless sink from Close to Home. Native Vermont Royal Danby marble countertop and backsplash by Burlington Marble & Granite. Custom-made ebony door and drawer handles by Sisler Builders’ woodworking team.

Steve’s vision for the apartment had percolated for years. He wanted a Scandinavian feel—open, sunny, light colors, and specific wood finishes. “Western hemlock is my favorite wood and Siberian larch complements it. I used the more refined hemlock for cabinets and doors and the larch on the sloped ceilings and floors.”

Sisler Builders’ custom woodworking team excelled in the kitchen. Their detail-oriented skills highlighted the horizontal grains of the western hemlock that flows seamlessly from one cabinet to the next, uninterrupted by hardware.

“Western hemlock has a very straight and linear grain and was perfect for this application,” said custom woodworking division manager Seth Allen. They had some solid hemlock leftover from a previous job, but not enough, so the woodworking team resawed the hemlock into 3/16-inch solid wood veneers, thereby achieving the square footage to fulfill their needs.

Sisler Builders
Elliptical wall between living area and bedroom allows for adequate space in each room. Curved wood soffit helps differentiate various areas, and provides space to run the fresh-air system ductwork.

“We started with the curved sofit and used its framing form as our hemlock form. Once that was done, we brought the rest of the cabinetry and mill work to fruition. We engineered every piece for the kitchen as well as several cabinets and doors, all of which carry the linear matched grain theme throughout the apartment, necessitating diligent labeling and sorting when engineering the parts,” said Allen. “The result was a stunning look to a space that Steve had spent a long time designing in his head before anything was put on paper.”

 

 

Sisler Builders
Elliptical wall between living area and bedroom allows for adequate space in each room. Curved wood soffit helps differentiate various areas, and provides space to run the fresh-air system ductwork.

The apartment’s living space is small and effective, with many built-in spaces that cleverly blend with the overall layout, yet the open floor plan lends a spacious and airy feel. The clean, stark, benign Scandinavian ambiance is softened with transition zones and elliptical elements.

Another major challenge Steve wanted to master was maintaining the look of the exterior, which meant keeping the existing windows where they were. “I thought for months about how to get an adequate-sized bedroom and living room, while keeping the windows in place, thus the crux of the entire project—an elliptical wall.” The curved theme is enhanced by the kitchen soffit, necessary to hide ductwork and mechanicals, and the height transition helps delineate spaces. The kitchen and hallway have 8-foot-2-inch ceilings while the living room has a 9-foot-4-inch ceiling. The curves happen at the intersection of the ceiling height change, in the kitchen island, and also in the wall that separates the living space from the bedroom.

Sisler Builders

Sisler Builders
The hip-high divider at the top of the stairwell has 3/16-inch strips of white oak woven through verticals to create a basket weave. The dark stain was achieved by oxidizing steel wool with vinegar, which causes the steel to break down. The tannins in the oak react with it to create an amazing deep black stain.

The entire apartment (as well as the house) is net zero, due to an off-site solar array. The magnetic induction range and refrigerator are electric, lights are all LED, and the living room’s stove is propane and serves as an emergency back-up to the high-efficiency air-to-air heat pumps that become less efficient at temps below minus 10 degrees.

The result is a stunningly beautiful, highly local, super-energy-efficient apartment that provides a much-needed long-term rental near Stowe, as well as a space to showcase the custom woodworking team’s amazing talents!

Modern Alpine Home in Stowe

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Modern Alpine RetreatThis modern alpine home in Stowe plays off the alpine appeal of town’s early ski homes. Designed by McLeod Kredell Architects, the footprint has four quadrants, each taking advantage of subtly different natural woodland surroundings. The quadrants have a simple roof form above, terminating with an angled prow that draws aesthetically from traditional A-frames that once dotted Vermont’s landscape. Each prow creates a sheltered area for an external living space, an outdoor shower, a parking area, and a loading area.

“I provided the architect, John McLeod, with a small order,” said the owner. “I knew I didn’t want extra bedrooms or a basement. I had been coming to Stowe to cross-country ski and had rented homes that had all that. For my own home I wanted it to be compact, with no wasted space that I wasn’t going to be utilizing. I outlined a living room, kitchen, bedroom, mud room, and a light-filled, airy workspace/pottery studio.”

Early on, the owner and McLeod visited the site on snowshoes. McLeod felt there was so much more than just the view to the south, and came up with the general concept and courtyard idea.

“I had seen two modern homes by Sisler Builders in the process of interviewing architects, so I had the comfort that Sisler was up to the task of constructing a non-traditional building,” the owner said. The house was a work in progress, taking a year to design and another year to build.

Custom home Stowe Vermont

 

Custom home Stowe Vermont

In hindsight, the owner came to realize and appreciate how much precision was required when building the home. “Everything had to match up exactly, there was no room for error. Everyone on Sisler Builders’ team understood that and brought it to fruition. Working with project manager Bryan Kelley was a treat. He didn’t miss a thing and there were so many little elements. Steve Sisler had his own insights and was a pleasure to work with, and Kelley was on site daily with his own ideas.”

Sloped ceilings throughout are paneled with beautiful, warm-toned, grain-matched Siberian larch, the world’s hardest softwood. Sisler Builders’ custom woodworking team played an important role, fabricating the modern, maple wood living room built-ins, kitchen cabinets, and floating built-ins that flank the bed’s headboard.

Custom home Stowe Vermont

“I realize a one-bedroom home is unique in Stowe,” said the owner. “It took me awhile to get there, but a circle of ski friends does not get bigger as you grow older. Besides, I was building in Stowe, where there are so may housing options, so friends and family have plenty of places to stay.”

Custom home Stowe Vermont Custom home Stowe Vermont

The owner says his favorite part of the house is the living area, where he spends most of his time. “I also love the bed tucked into the cozy niche, and the carport was a nice surprise.”

http://www.sislerbuilders.com/portfolio/custom_homes/61-Modern_Alpine_Retreat

Monochromatic floor tile conducts radiant heat and a high-tech efficient wood fireplace adds warmth and ambiance. Roof-top solar panels offset electric usage. Concealed door hinges and architectural quirks at trim/plaster interfaces accentuate the home’s sleekness.  As the owner requested, there is a designated place for everything.

Keith Wagner of Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture designed the low-maintenance landscaping, which consists primarily of river birches and landscape pebbles in square areas between the quadrants, and an iron-fenced courtyard on the north side of the house. The trees soften the exterior’s angular elements.

The owner is delighted with his modern alpine home in Stowe, and on days when driving to ski is not in the cards, he can easily access the nearby snowmobile trail for unlimited cross-country skiing, an unexpected bonus to the property’s location.

 

Kitchen Remodels That Optimize Space

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Kitchen remodels that optimize space are in high demand right now, often  due to the fact that everyone’s been cooking at home during the pandemic. Many are discovering that their poorly designed kitchens don’t suit their newfound culinary creativity. Sisler Builders has recently done a number of kitchen remodels that optimize existing spaces, improve work-station flow, provide more storage, and look great. Here are three examples of our pandemic kitchen remodels.

Interim kitchen

Custom kitchenremodel Custom kitchen remodel

This kitchen was part of a full renovation and structural revision of an old garage. The owners are staying here while their new home is being rebuilt on the property. The objective was twofold: improve the immediate, albeit temporary, living situation and provide a completely separate space for guests once the owners have moved into their rebuilt house.

The garage’s second floor was originally supported by posts that were inconveniently located and took up space on the first floor. “We cut the floor system off the walls and jacked it up about two feet, installed a steel I-beam to eliminate a structural post in the garage below,” said project manager Luke Sisler. “Then we removed the old roof system with a crane to build new second floor walls and a roof on top of that.”

The kitchenette was created with ultimate efficiency in mind, including European appliances, dishwasher, range, open oak shelving, and oak flooring. Due to the pitch of the roof, custom cabinets were essential. Sisler Builders’ woodworking division stepped in to create that cabinetry. It was the first complete kitchen that came out of our newly expanded woodworking shop. In order to provide more storage spaces, our crew also built custom pull-out drawers.

Custom kitchen remodel Custom kitchen remodel

The original architectural draft included a pantry off to one side, but on site it soon became apparent it needed to be reconfigured because there was no place for a couch. Sisler Builders reoriented the access and replaced what had originally been a closet-style pantry to a space-optimizing floor-to-ceiling arrangement with more pull-out drawers.

Sisler Builders upgraded the living space so that the owners would be more comfortable during the house rebuild. It will also provide a charming place for visitors when the house is finished.

Kitchen designer’s kitchen

Custom kitchen remodel Custom kitchen remodel

The owner of this house is a kitchen designer on Martha’s Vineyard, and she had a clear goal from the start. “We bought the house in 2019. It was old and a bit unpleasant and we wanted to update it to be more our style,” she said. “It was different being the client, it was both easy and hard. My husband is very detailed oriented and thankfully, our project manager Luke Sisler was very patient. The best part was we had a vision and Sisler Builders replicated it.”

Custom kitchen remodelSisler said the most challenging aspect was cutting the concrete slab in the kitchen to lay conduit to power a new island’s beverage cooler and microwave. “There was significant owner involvement and much to our delight she was responsive and timely. She supplied the materials and we did the installation of cabinets and flooring.” The countertop, which the owner brought up from the Cape, was installed by Burlington Marble & Granite.

Sisler Builders also remodeled the adjacent entryway by removing a closet door and wall and installing a custom-made bench, thus creating a modified mud room. “The rustic oak bench was a late addition, created in our woodworking shop,” Sisler noted.

The owners were happy with the process and result and are looking forward to splitting their time in comfort between Martha’s Vineyard and Stowe.

Go with the flow

Custom kitchen remodelA family from Montreal had been coming to their vacation home in Stowe for many years, and as they continued to come, the family continued to grow … to the point of outgrowing their home. Their renovation began by enlarging the garage, which required raising the roof. Four bedrooms, a bath, and media room were added to the upper level and a large mudroom, pantry, and laundry to the lower level. The owners were so pleased with the transformation they also had us reconfigure the kitchen.

Custom kitchen remodel“It was a major transformation in terms of functionality for the home,” said project manager Bryan Kelley. “We remodeled the kitchen for better flow and a renewed look.” The main task was to remove the projecting peninsula that divided the kitchen from the living room. It was replaced with a dining island. All cabinets, countertops, and backsplash tiles are new and the refrigerator was relocated, providing more counter and cabinet space. Recessed lighting was removed from the ceiling, replaced with matching chandelier and pendants.

Sisler Builders also created a pantry/storage area with a sliding barn door. In keeping with the new country-style theme, they also installed sliding barn-style doors in other rooms to unite the style change throughout the house.

 

Energy Audits and Retrofits on Vermont Churches

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Vermont Churches Eden
Eden Congregational Church

Holy audits! What if Noah’s ark were this leaky? Sisler Builders recently had the privilege of performing energy audits and retrofits on Vermont churches. The old churches, the ones built before you were born!

Though Vermont is classified as one of the least religious states in the country, no one can deny that church buildings throughout the state are centerpieces in each community. These buildings are meeting houses that strengthen community and deserve attention.

Vermont Churches Newport Vermont
St Mary Star of the Sea Newport

 

 

 

Sisler Builders’ investigations revealed that these old buildings vary from “fairly leaky to ridiculously leaky… but always drafty,” said Mike D’Muhala, Sisler Builders’ energy efficiency specialist. These qualitative descriptions help interpret the data. Quantitatively the numbers mean energy loss. Many of these old gathering places have mechanical systems that are only meant to be used during church services or community gatherings. Draftiness puts a higher demand on the under-designed systems during heating cycles. A moderate retrofit focusing on air

sealing will successfully stop 30 to 40 percent of air leakage. Air sealing is the most cost-effective way to improve thermal performance of most old Vermont structures.

Vermont Churches Montgomery
Methodist Church Montgomery

Many of these unique old churches in Vermont’s towns need further updating to continue to provide use for future generations. Sisler Builders hopes to have the privilege of performing more energy audits and retrofits on Vermont churches well into the future.

Great Collaboration Leads to Great Success

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Sisler Builders Spruce Peak House
Dining room and living room showing volume of space highlighting the Douglas fir timbers, white oak wall paneling, and massive stone fireplace.

When the perfect team comes together to build the perfect house, it is as if they were all members of the same orchestra, bringing their best performance to the music, ending with a grand finale, and receiving a standing ovation. That pretty much sums up the construction of this Spruce Peak ski house. The collaboration of all parties involved created nothing short of a masterpiece and proves that great collaboration leads to great success.

The owner has a passion for building houses; this was his eighth. He had visited Spruce Peak in the early stages of its development and was struck by Stowe and its beauty. “I put one of the best lots under deposit and waited a decade to build,” he said. Meanwhile, he did his homework and found an architectural firm whose style suited his vision.

The firm, Shope, Reno & Wharton, out of Connecticut, has an affinity for the Adirondacks, and much of their work embraces the Adirondack construction feel. “I studied their mountain houses for years,” said the owner. “They do amazing shingle-style work, very striking, but not over the top.

John Gassett, the architect with Shope, Reno & Wharton, who designed the house, said the owner felt the Adirondack look was appropriate for the Spruce Peak site and fit the context and character of the region. “The site certainly lent itself to that. There’s no bad view,” he said. It was Gassett who steered the owner to Sisler Builders, because he was familiar with their work and recognized a symbiotic construction style.

Sisler Builders Spruce Peak House
Three-season porch detailed with the same materials and curved shingle elements as found on the exterior of the house.

The 7,500 square-foot, 5-bedroom house did not come without challenges, one of the first being the topography and steepness of the site, combined with the small triangular shape of the lot. These were solved with a collaboration between Sisler Builders, the architect, the landscape architect, and a civil engineer. “We modulated that well, and it’s nice to see how the house grows out of the topography,” Gassett said.

Sisler Builders Spruce Peak House
Sinuous handrail from lower level to upper floor. White birch twigs as part of balustrade.

Sisler Builders rose to the challenge of orchestrating details, such as curved soffits, curved pilasters on outside corner elements that buttress those corners, curved trim on front entry windows, an interior staircase with one single uninterrupted run of handrail going two full flights of stairs, three floor-to-ceiling fireplaces, and a spectacular balcony off the master suite with panoramic views from Smugglers Notch to Camel’s Hump. Sisler Builders’ woodworking shop built dozens of custom cabinets and a number of custom interior and exterior doors. The interior design firm, Tracker Home Decor, out of Martha’s Vineyard, played an important part in the interior design details, blending the mountain-house feel with modern touches.

From the onset, energy efficiency was a priority, and Sisler Builders brought a great deal of knowledge and experience to the table. “The envelope is very tight, with no substantial leakage,” said Mike D’Muhala, Sisler Builders’ BPI-certified energy division manager, who ran the blower door test to determine the level of efficiency. “It has an ACH50 of 0.72, which is more than four times tighter than the national energy code and an amazing achievement for a house that size,” he said.

 

Sisler Builders Spruce Peak House
Master bedroom with mixed-width “beam-face” oak flooring, custom-milled white oak paneling on walls and ceiling, Douglas fir timbers, fireplace surround in Vermont Woodbury granite.

“This is consistent with our approach of achieving the best bang for the buck on energy efficiency,” said Steve Sisler, owner of Sisler Builders. “We don’t try to achieve an arbitrary level of performance going down the path of diminishing returns. We build to a cost-effective, high standard.”

“It was a great collaboration with everyone involved, and a great partnership with Shope, Reno & Wharton,” said Sisler. “The owner was hands-off, yet enthusiastic and supportive. All players stayed consistent with the architect’s theme and came together to yield a home the owner is really pleased with.”

Sisler Builders Spruce Peak House
View from kitchen to dining room, with library in background, red pantry cabinets in foreground. Library fireplace made from same stone as exterior veneer.
Sisler Builders Spruce Peak House
Master bath with twin vanities and a freestanding bronze tub.

“The level of quality blew me away,” said the owner. “Sisler Builders did a magnificent job and the entire crew was amazing. Everyone worked well together and my involvement was limited. They only communicated when they needed input from me. The house exceeded my imagination and I am thrilled with it.”

The Spruce Peak ski house shows perfectly how great collaboration leads to great success.

See more photos of this house on our website at Adirondack-Style Ski House.

 

 

Transformations that Exceed the Vision

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Embrace a house design that matches the owners’ needs and desires and then build a home that will exceed the vision. Sisler Builders applies this methodology to all the homes they build, and to their renovations and remodeling projects, too. “It’s what happens when a building team is experienced, knowledgeable, trustworthy, focused on quality, and puts their heart into whatever they are building,” explains Steve Sisler, founder of Sisler Builders.

Here are two projects that exemplify the exceed the vision doctrine that has served Sisler Builders well for over 35 years. One is a whole-house renovation; the other, a major remodeling of several rooms and substantial energy reduction measures.

Tapped potential

We collaborated on a whole-house renovation for a young family who bought a dated property on a south-facing lot in Robinson Springs. They wanted a modern, energy efficient, low-maintenance, open floorplan home that would make full use of the existing space without going beyond the footprint.

exceed the vision
BEFORE: notice the beamed ceiling, half wall, and support post.
exceed the vision
AFTER: half wall, ceiling, and support post were removed to open it up!

Originally from Australia, currently living in Boston, the couple had come to Stowe so their teenage boys could learn to ski. “We liked the area and started looking for a house to buy,” said Grace. “During our search, we saw a few Sisler Builder houses and were impressed with the craftsmanship. We chose them to renovate the house we bought, not only because we liked their work, but because we felt we could get along with Steve. Having a good rapport with our contractor is important to us. Renovating a home is personal and we wanted to be involved in the whole process.”

“They were receptive to my ideas and recommendations and we had a good collaboration throughout,” said Steve Sisler, whose suggestions included converting the three-season covered porch into an airy vaulted-ceiling family room; opening up the living room by removing much of the beamed flat ceiling, replacing the associated beams with a steel tension rod to support a catwalk; removing a half-wall divider and post between the living room and dining room; replacing a kitchen pass-through with a gorgeous marble countertop island; and converting the multi-story brick fireplace into a sleek, Vermont slate fireplace with a live-edge cherry mantle. These alterations, in conjunction with multiple window changes, contributed to the desired open feel, with living spaces subtly defined by ceiling height and materials.

exceed the vision
Kitchen BEFORE
exceed the vision
Kitchen: AFTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The owners had a history of working with Cushman Design Group who designed the exterior, did interior conceptual plans, and managed the structural design work. Sisler Builders developed the detailed interior plans collaborating with the owners on materials choices and finish details.

exceed the visionThe renovation continued well beyond the main living areas. The redesigned kitchen is fully open to the dining room, thanks to some creative structural work. The master suite was also completely reconfigured. Two upstairs bedrooms and the shared bath were upgraded. The catwalk received a transparent handrail system capped by a native maple rail and maple flooring. The previously unfinished basement was transformed into a light, multi-purpose area with new south-facing windows, a family room, laundry, office, full bath, and mechanical room.

“It was a modest, yet significant, project,” said Sisler. “We took a dated home that had potential and turned it into something special. It was built on a relationship of mutual trust. We find these types of projects particularly gratifying. Through teamwork and good collaborative ideas we tapped its potential. We did exceed the vision!”

 

Repeat business remodel exceed the vision

Repeat business is the best business.  By virtue of being asked by a former client to collaborate again, there was an implicit message that, from their perspective, the relationship was positive and worth continuing. We love receiving this message and work hard to earn it.

This remodeling project was for another couple from the Boston area that Sisler Builders had built a home for in 1992. They sold that home and left Stowe for a while, but as everyone who lives here knows, there’s something about Stowe that’s hard to resist.

exceed the visionThe couple returned and began looking for a vacation home. This one caught their eye. Although a 2,800-foot addition had been added to the front of the house, they were still faced with older construction in the original space. They asked us to take a look, and all agreed it was a home in a location worth pursuing.

Sisler Builders encouraged the owners to hire an architect to integrate and detail the big-picture ideas within the footprint of the existing structure. They chose Lee Hunter whose insights further enhanced the design. The major mandates from the owners were single-level living with a master suite close to the kitchen, dining, and living area; separate offices for each; suites for their frequent guests; and a deep energy retrofit.

exceed the vision“We proposed converting the garage into the master suite. It was close to the kitchen and had incredible views to Mt. Mansfield,” said Steve. “We framed an elevated floor system at the same level as the main floor, added a large sliding patio door and windows, and voila, a stunning master bedroom!”

The former sunken master bath and ancillary bump-out were removed, and a guest wing with two en suite bedrooms was streamlined. Each spouse got their own office, and the couple and their dog now enjoy a xc ski-in/ski-out mudroom that opens out to a fenced-in yard. Our custom woodworking division did a fair amount of the woodwork, including barn doors to the master suite and custom vanities in all bathrooms.

exceed the visionWhile the remodel was taking place, every effort was made to increase the level of insulation and reduce the level of air infiltration, the first step of the deep energy retrofit. We replaced the thirsty old oil boiler with a high-efficiency gas model as back-up heating. Air source heat pumps provide heating on all but the coolest nights, while providing summer cooling. A substantial solar array was installed on south facing roof planes. Now, a home that regularly had annual heating energy bills in excess of $6,000, has heating and cooling costs in the $2,000 range!

“We were relatively easy clients, comfortable being absentee homeowners,” said the husband. “We visited a handful of times during the six-month remodel process and love the outcome. We are able to close off the back of the house when only two of us and our dog are here, and open it up for guests. The process was easy. There was no anxiety. Steve is trusted and easy-going and we felt comfortable the entire time. Sisler Builders completely exceeded our expectations, again!”

We love to exceed the vision!

Sisler Builders Renovations and Remodeling Projects

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Remodels and RenovationsYou may know that Sisler Builders has a long history of building beautiful custom homes. You may not know that we have an equally long history building custom renovations and remodeling projects. We are most efficient and cost-effective building a wide array of projects in our small geographic area.  Our substantial construction, energy retrofit, and custom woodworking expertise bring comprehensive value to any size project.

Remodels and RenovationsWhole-house renovations

Our whole-house renovations breathe new life into tired, outdated buildings. We help our clients, along with their design team, envision what their home can become, and turn it into a reality they can truly enjoy, long into the future. It’s an exciting process. As we get to know our clients and their lifestyles, we introduce methods to enhance their existing home in new and creative ways. Our goal is to help craft a home that will complement and support its owner’s lifestyle for years to come.

Remodels and RenovationsSmaller remodeling projects

When it’s time to remodel individual rooms—from kitchens and baths to finished basements and three-season porches and decks—we create spaces that enhance a home’s overall functionality and beauty. Often, remodels don’t require formal plans, so we help our clients explore interesting possibilities based upon the many projects we’ve completed over the years.

Next time you work with a client who wants a total home renovation or individual rooms remodeled, or any kind of renovations and remodeling projects, please consider Sisler Builders. To see our portfolio of all we do, go to www.SislerBuilders.com.

Housing in Waterbury, Vermont

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Decent housing in Waterbury, Vermont, is scarce as hen’s teeth, so when Sisler Builders converted a derelict building into five apartments, they were snapped up like dollar bills thrown about Grand Central Station. Well before completion, all five apartments were rented.

Housing in Waterbury, Vermont
BEFORE

“The more people you can have living in town, the better for community economics,” said Alyssa Johnson, economic development director for Revitalizing Waterbury. “A variety of housing options support a diverse, multi-generational, multi-income, multi-ethnic community. These five apartments fill a need for dense, multi-family housing in Waterbury, Vermont. It’s a wonderful option where people can remain in the community and have safe and secure housing at market rate.”

Sisler Builder’s renovation was not just about providing much needed housing. It was also about preserving the character of Waterbury’s

Housing in Waterbury, Vermont
AFTER

downtown area and removing a lingering eyesore on Stowe Street, directly opposite Thatcher Brook Elementary School.

Steve Sisler, owner of Sisler Builders, grew up in an environment of historic preservation that has influenced his construction ethics. “My mother was involved in historic preservation in Ithaca, N.Y., when I was growing up there. She educated me about the importance old buildings play in the character and beauty of downtown areas.  Part of that education was about architectural trends at the turn of the century.

“I’ve lived in Waterbury for 37 years,” Sisler added. “Our sons went to Thatcher Brook from 1993 to 2000, and we would see that neglected property every day. I wanted to remove the eyesore and create something beautiful that fit the architecture typical to the turn-of-the-century, when the original house was built, that was cohesive with the school and had the timelessness of a brick exterior.”

Housing in Waterbury, Vermont
Open floor plan for kitchen and living room.

The Sislers purchased the building in 2010 and immediately replaced the stone and brick foundation, which Steve believes would not have survived Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Sisler Builders got busy with other building projects and just did band-aid repairs to the building. When it became clear the roof wouldn’t make it through another winter, and they had the capacity to design and build a new building, they tore the old one down.

The new building, completed in November of 2018, has three single-bedroom apartments geared towards seniors on the first floor. The second floor has two apartments: a two-bedroom and a three bedroom for families. All are energy efficient and use no fossil fuels directly for heating and cooling. The solar array on the roof makes it nearly net-zero, and the building exceeds Efficiency Vermont’s second-tier energy compliance guidelines. Consequently, they are very comfortable to occupy and inexpensive for the occupants to operate and maintain.

Housing in Waterbury, Vermont
Living room with bright natural light and luxury vinyl plank flooring throughout.
Housing in Waterbury, Vermont
Vermont green slate window sills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle Abajian, who works for the Vermont Bar Association as their lawyer referral and membership coordinator, moved into the second-floor three-bedroom apartment with her three children ages 16, 14, and 10, who live with her part time. “I can’t get over how lucky I am to have landed here,” she said. “It’s clean, modern, easy to maintain, and has everything I need, including a mud room. The layout is thoughtful and it has nice light. The best part is the location. It’s ideal. I’m in the village, near school and the public transit bus line. I’ve always lived in this village and didn’t want to leave.”

Housing in Waterbury, Vermont
Green slate sills in kitchens.

Abajian’s daughter, Amelia, says she likes that it’s new and clean and has a modern look. Her brother, Peter, likes it because it’s easy to remember where he lives. They all love the size of the living space—spacious without being cavernous. There is also ample parking and a courtyard area with dining set and grill.

Alyssa Johnson concurs that Sisler Builders was thoughtful about the building process. “The ease of accessibility, regardless of age, is a bonus. The bottom floor apartments are ADA compliant. It’s easy to walk to downtown and the neighbors are thrilled to not have to look at the old eyesore.” She also points out that this was a private building project that the town did not have to make happen. “It’s transforming and provides value to the community. We wish there were more like it.”

 

Housing in Waterbury, Vermont
COURTYARD BEFORE
Housing in Waterbury, Vermont
COURTYARD AFTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening with Sisler Builders

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Gardening with Sisler Builders
Matt’s granddaughter, weeding the peppers. The concrete blocks serve a couple of functions. Peppers like to cuddle. They do better when they are grown close together, close enough that the leaves touch when the are producing, and the holes in the blocks make that possible. Peppers like sulfur and magnesium so they are easier to feed. They get what they like with less influence on other plants in the garden, and of weeding is a bit easier too.

Summer time is gardening time in Vermont, and several Sisler Builder employees have the gardening bug. They enjoy working the soil, pulling weeds, and reaping the benefits of their labor. We went gardening with Sisler Builders employee, Project Manager Matt Rouleau, who has been gardening since he was a child, annoyed when his mother asked him to help with the weeding of her garden. Now it’s his summertime hobby. He derives great satisfaction from a well-tended garden and passing on his love of plants to his granddaughter.

Matt was happy to discuss his gardening obsession. “I call it my therapy. It relaxes me to go home after a day at work and play in the garden. It helps me unwind.”

Vegetables or perennials?

Gardening with Sisler Builders
Cherries ripe for the picking. Matt’s trees produce a sour cherry that makes the best pie ever. He pits and freezes the cherries for a fresh pie any time of the year.

I have a vegetable garden, but my favorites are fruit trees. I love working with plums and cherries. I just like the fruit, and I like that you have to bring each tree forward to the next year. I have planted one tree a year since I moved into my home. I also like blackberries, raspberries, and grapes. Did you know you can root grape clippings? I started growing them because my daughter-in-law wanted to make wine. I have a couple varieties of Vermont-hardy species.

Pest control.

To keep the wildlife out and the dog in, I have a five-foot-high stranded wire fence around the vegetable garden and a four-foot-high sheep fence around the yard. I’m mostly organic and don’t put anything on the food I am going to eat. I try to pick off beetles, cabbage worms, and other pests, but sometimes you just can’t keep up with it.

Seeds or starts?

I used to do a lot from seeds, but now I mostly buy starts. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, and jalapeno peppers for canning. The jalapenos are great in sandwiches. All the rest is from seed.

Fertilizer.

We have our own beef cattle and as a result have plenty of fertilizer. I rotate manure piles so that by the time I’m spreading it it’s usually four years old.

Gardening with Sisler BuildersMost important detail.

You have to pay attention to the soil. I test mine myself with a kit, like Rapitest Soil Test Kit. I like it to be fluffy and crumbly. I add peat and leaves if it gets too dense. I try to keep my blueberries and raspberries as acidic as possible by adding pine chips.

What about mulch?

I use chips for my berries. The veggie garden I weed and cultivate, but don’t mulch. I don’t mulch my trees, either. I just let the lawn come right up to them.

Gardening with Sisler BuildersFavorite hand tool.

A regular hoe. Sometimes I use a Mantis. You really have to do a lot of hand picking between the plants or the weeds will take over.

Favorite tomato.

Plum tomatoes for sauces and cherry tomatoes for the kids.

Gloves or not?

I never wear gloves.

What about flowers?

I have some lilacs and peonies, but I mostly grow annuals. Sunflowers are my favorites and I grow lilacs and snapdragons for my wife.

 

 

 

Enhanced Woodworking Capabilities

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Sisler Builders expanded and enhanced woodworking capabilities.
This American black walnut and stainless steel dining table was designed by the architect to be harmonious with the reclaimed black walnut floors on which it sits. Our build quality led to a collaboration with that architect for a number of other tables.

Our local economy is growing, and Sisler Builders is keeping pace with that growth. An exciting recent development is the move of our woodshop to a conveniently located, much larger space in Waterbury Center. We have seen a steady increase in the demand for high-quality wooden products that complement the buildings they are designed for, making them more beautiful, functional, durable, and occasionally whimsical. In response to that demand we have expanded and enhanced our woodworking capabilities.

Our new space is the result of a collaboration with a long-time friend and client, who had an under-utilized building he was willing to upgrade to meet our specific needs. Together we made the space easy to heat and suitable for our carefully thought-out woodworking facility. It has a state-of-the-art environmentally friendly dust collection system that allows us to collect raw wood dust in a trailer, and sheet goods waste with formaldehyde glue in a different bin to be disposed of properly. The raw dust is transported a short distance to Grow Compost, another local business, where they integrate it into their compost production. In keeping with our goal to reduce our carbon footprint, the equipment is powered by our landlord’s on-site solar farm.

Sisler Builders expanded and enhanced woodworking capabilities.
Our client wanted a unique front door and found the perfect solution. Glen Waller salvaged massive oak pieces from a nearby dam. We cut that wood, which had been stained by the water’s interaction with the ferrous iron bolts used to hold it together, into the veneers that face both sides of this door. Visually there truly is nothing else like it!

Our woodworking team, Seth Allen, Glen Waller, Craig Gants, and Jeremy Lindorff, spent many hours searching for used equipment at a reasonable cost. They purchased machines that optimize our shop’s production and enhance efficiency. We now have more milling capabilities with a 36-inch planer, a 54-inch-wide belt sander, a sliding panel saw, a larger radial arm saw for selecting lumber in the rough, a 16-inch joiner, a 24-inch cut-capacity band saw, and 2 large shapers. Glen, who is a locally renowned mechanical genius, modified a few of the more vintage machines to exactly suit our needs. It’s exciting to now see this older equipment smoothly humming along with new purpose.

woodworking capabilities
The staircase was designed by an architect who came up with the geometric pattern balustrade we fabricated in our shop and installed in another home. We carefully selected native red birch with stunning “flame” character for the newel posts, handrails, and the integrated bench. The remaining components are quarter-sawn red birch.

We enhanced our shop’s office with more powerful computing capability so we can generate Auto CAD drawings efficiently. This enables us to produce drawings for customer and architect review. Once the drawings have received final approval, they are immediately suitable for production, really streamlining our process and providing value to our customers.

When thinking about your next woodworking projects, please consider us. We have decades of experience and now we have enhanced capabilities. Our product range is diverse. We’ve done custom exterior and interior doors, furniture, built-ins, kitchen and bath cabinetry, mud rooms, and even a custom shuffleboard table. We are always enthusiastic about new challenges.

The new woodshop is located on Rt 100 just across from Sunflower Natural Foods. If you are in the area, please stop in to see the space and discuss your woodworking needs with us.

You can see more of our work at SislerBuilders.com/Woodworking and reach the shop at Woodwork@SislerBuilders.com or by calling Seth Allen at 802-760-9975.