The Boulevard Show House: Ask the Experts with Blue River Custom Builders

The Boulevard Show House renovation is in full swing and there’s some major construction going on. Most of the walls are stripped to the studs and you can seen through the first floor to the basement. I haven’t been spending a ton of time hanging out there, but soon the subfloors and Sheetrock will go in. In the meantime, I’m excited to share some updates with you in another info-packed edition of “Ask the Experts.”

“Ask the Experts”…Take 2!

Michael and I reached out to Tylor when we were considering a renovation/addition to our home on Dryden. We needed more space for our growing kiddos and Newberry Architecture had created a lovely plan to add on to our bungalow. But after seeing the space and perfect layout of the home on North Boulevard, we decided it was time to move. The home on North Boulevard needed tons of work, but I knew who to call for that. Blue River Custom Builders is taking our 1925 Tudor Revival house that needed lots of TLC to the gorgeous home we envision. Newberry Architecture drew up the plans and Blue River is diving into the renovation. They have the expertise to guide Michael and I through the process of renovating a historic home. In today’s post, we’re chatting with one of our invaluable partners, Tylor Hearn, CEO of Blue River Custom Builders. We’ll be chatting about his company’s role in renovating the Boulevard Show House and learning how to work with custom home builders. Let’s get started!

LU: We’re thrilled to have Blue River Custom Builders be a part of this project! Can you tell us what your role is in the Boulevard Show House and what Blue River is working on?

BR: Blue River Custom Builders is managing the full scope of the renovation of the Show House. We handle everything from A to Z. We’re working on the construction of each room within the home. We’re making sure that we construct new, more structurally sound walls, floors, windows, and a modern electrical plan. Currently, we’re working on the mechanics within the home. We’re placing the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) system and finding the proper location for the condenser units. We want to make sure they’re not visible or in the way as you’re moving within the home. Another thing we’re dealing with is the wood rot and termite damage. It has been an ongoing issue in the house. Electrical is a huge part of the renovation. Next, we’re going to be finalizing the locations of all the switches and plugs throughout the house. We follow a careful and detailed process to ensure it’s done correctly and that we place everything where Laura and Michael want it.

LU: You’re the means of getting all of Laura’s and Newberry Architecture’s plans from paper to reality?

BR: Yes. As custom builders, we make sure we construct each room according to Newberry’s layout plans and Laura and her team’s plans for each room. We had an initial meeting with Laura and Michael to walk through and analyze the home. But we also work with Newberry, the structural engineer, and the other build partners. We are the means by which their ideas and plans take physical form.

LU: We have one big team working towards a gorgeous goal! And speaking of the team, who is working with you on this project?

BR: On the Blue River team there is Jose Sanchez, Dora Vega, and me. Jose is the project manager. He oversees the scheduling of the project, makes sure everyone is present and that we have the materials we need for the job. Jose manages the day to day things that keep the project on track. Dora is the selections manager. Her role is to coordinate all the selections Laura and Michael make. She ensures we have the all fixtures and finishes for the house. My primary job is to communicate with Laura, Michael and her team. I keep in contact with Newberry Architecture and our fellow brand and build partners to ensure their wishes and designs come to fruition.

LU: What needed to happen first before you began the renovation?

BR: After the initial meeting with Laura and Michael, we did a deep dive into the renovation expectations. Before starting the the project, we conducted a forensic analysis of the entire home. That gave us an idea of what we should expect throughout the building process.

LU: What does your forensic process entail?

BR: One of the first things we do before we begin any renovation or remodel is to walk through the house. We look at any and all obvious places that are or could be a problem. The forensic analysis is a day-long process at least because we want to be as detailed as possible. For Laura’s house, we noticed the windows in the front had a lot of wood rot, especially above the beams and frame. Though we’re replacing all the windows in the home, it was good to see what we’re working with. Another thing we look at is the exterior and the roof to see if there is any wood rot. There was a substantial amount of damage, but that isn’t uncommon in a home of this age. Next, we moved throughout the home looking at the structure and framing of each room. The house has plaster walls on much of the first floor. And because the wall finish is complex to install, we didn’t dig into the wall. We didn’t want to damage it if it wasn’t necessary. But we did take a bit of the Sheetrock off in the front living room area and upstairs, which exposed some hidden windows.

Most of the walls have been stripped to their frames!

LU: Oh yes! That’s something I talked about with Newberry. It’s such a nice surprise.

BR: Yes, it will add to the home and brighten up each room. Those are the good surprises to find during a home renovation. After looking at all the walls and windows, we moved to the basement. This house has a basement, which is rare to find in Houston. In the basement, we checked out the beams and joists within the home’s structure. We wanted to see if there was any wood rot and there was. Next, we moved to the “new” upstairs addition. Unfortunately, this space wasn’t completed properly in the beginning. We had to pull Sheetrock off on the walls in order to figure out how to make the structure stronger.

LU: Wow, there is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into remodeling a home. You mentioned a lot of wood rot. Has that caused a lot of structural issues within the home?

BR: Yes, it has. We’ve been working with a structural engineer to figure out what we need to do and he has made some suggestions for combating that. We’ve moved a couple of walls. But we’ll need to pull in some steel beams to help frame and add some much-needed support to the addition structure. Besides the poor addition, several of the exterior beams of the original home have rotted and need to be replaced. These rotted beams have caused the floors to sag, but surprisingly the plaster walls had no damage. Another surprise was the basement. Though basements aren’t common in Houston because of the water table and poor soil, it’s held up well for its age. In addition, the basement gave us access to lift the walls, replace the rotted beams, and add additional floor joists. It has been great because we’ve been able to add some much-needed strength to the floors.

LU: Have these structural issues been a big challenge for you?

BR: About 40 years ago, they added a sizable but poorly constructed addition. That area had many poor qualities such as bad framing and support, water damage, and bad windows. To correct this, we had to take the walls down past their studs! We had to do a considerable amount of re-framing to shore up the structure and bring it up to today’s standards.

LU: The framing is looking great! We’re all excited to see the finished product. I heard you’re adding in a playroom, which is more like a whole extra room in the addition.

BR: Thank you and yes! That room has held most of our attention. It’s about 25′ by 30′ and the ceiling is 25 ft tall, which gave us the flexibility to add a loft. The loft is going to be about half the size of the room. It adds two stories to the space and is like we’re building a whole new room. The room has a large wall about 30′ x 25′ tall, but it wasn’t constructed well. We had to prop up the roof and rebuild that entire wall in order to make sure the room was structurally sound. It had to be strong because we’re adding windows to the wall, which are heavy.

LU: And you took out the original loft completely?

BR: Yes, the stairway that was holding the loft up wasn’t safe!

LU: Definitely not! Was this add-on the most challenging?

BR: The add-on has been challenging, but it’s all possible! The current challenge is all the unforeseen things that we’re discovering. Like the termite ridden subfloors. We have to remove all the flooring on the first floor. We’re laying out planks of wood in order to be able to move around. When you’re working in a historic home like this, you learn to expect these little hiccups. As you progress, the scope of work gets larger which is challenging. Getting stronger…new beams and walls are being added to make this addition safe and structurally sound!

LU: That is challenging! You think you’ve solved a problem and another one pops up.

BR: Exactly! But we’ve been able to manage everything.

LU: What advice do you have for people wanting to renovate a historic home like the Boulevard Show House?

BR: Expect the unexpected. We’ve discovered everything from unidentifiable animals and termite-ridden subfloors to the most unique and interesting floor tile on the front porch. (That made Laura excited!) Expect some good and some stressful surprises throughout the process. Another thing I tell clients wanting to renovate is to budget more than you planned. It’s better to be prepared to put more money and time into your project at the beginning.

LU: Great! Could you tell us a little about Blue River Custom Builders?

BR: Of course, I started remodeling homes in 1999 with Hearn Renovations, which was incorporated into Blue River Custom Builders, Inc. in 2005. I named the company after the river that flows through my hometown in Kansas. We work on projects primarily in the Metro Houston area and inside the Beltway. They range from large-scale renovations and additions to multi-million-dollar custom homes. I want every experience and project to be personal and unique for my clients.

LU: Awesome! If someone is interested in renovating their new home or building new, what’s the best way to get started with your team?

BR: You can contact me either by phone at 832.962.7753 or by email at for a consultation. You can visit our website for additional company information, see our portfolio and learn about our goals for every project.

LU: This has been awesome! Is there anything you’d like to add about Blue River or the Boulevard Show House?

BR: Yes, at Blue River we believe that honesty, integrity, and trust are the guiding principles for every project. They guide our daily decisions and help us ensure that each home is built correctly. We will stand behind them for years to come. I’m glad we were asked to be a part of this project. It has been such a great experience for our company. I’ve done renovations like this before and I started out remodeling houses, so this has been fun. I’m not afraid to dive in and take on these historic renovations. It’s a cool project and Laura and Michael have been great to work with. It’s nice working with a creative mind that understands and knows the industry like Laura does. I’m excited to see the finished product next spring.

We’re excited as well! Tylor and his team at Blue River are the right crew for this job! They know their stuff and aren’t afraid of a challenge! With their expertise, along with our fellow build and brand partners, the Boulevard Show House is going to be beautiful. I can’t wait for you all to come by to see it in person. And I can’t wait to have the floors installed in my home! I hope this second session of “Ask the Experts” has given you some insight into the renovation process. And I hope it has you planning to come tour the Boulevard Show House after it’s completed next spring. We promise an amazing transformation. Be sure to keep an eye out for more progress updates. We have tons of exciting things coming up. Find out more about the Boulevard Show House and see progress updates on our blog, Facebook page, or the Boulevard Show House website.

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