When Ken Connor first saw the home in 2008 it was the Milwaukee Breast Cancer home. The three-story house was sold to the current owners shortly thereafter. A beautiful 1918 historic home overlooking Lake Michigan, this house had great bones. Connor Remodeling and the homeowners have had a long-standing relationship and worked on many remodeling projects over the years.
Imagine Ken’s surprise when they called and wanted to discuss a swimming pool. At his arrival, Ken turned to scout a location outside when the husband said, no, they wanted the pool in the basement. This basement has had many lives including its original use as garage with a turn-table floor, a skateboard room with ramps and graffiti and most recently, a workout room. An unfortunate biking accident resulted in a knee injury for the wife and was the reason for wanting a pool at home.
As any (former) football coach knows, a team is only as good as the players and how well they play and communicate together. This project had many challenges – installing a pool in the basement of a 118-year old home perched 150 feet above Lake Michigan – Ken knew he needed an expert team. Connor Remodeling first involved its architect. Once the plans were approved, the team tackled the first hurdle: a sub-basement.
Half of the sub-basement was beneath the garage area and half was underneath an outside deck that had doors to access the space. However, the bluff had deteriorated making access to the sub-basement impossible. This led to phase one – building a retaining wall.
The Connor Remodeling team started in November. Building a retaining wall in November, especially in Milwaukee, presents challenges. They used frost blankets to ensure the ground didn’t freeze and impede progress. Luckily, the weather was relatively mild and the wall was successfully installed. Phase two required scaffolding beneath the garage floor from bottom to ceiling. This provided the necessary support so that the concrete floor of the basement could be removed. The team partnered with a great company who cut an 8-foot by 8-foot square in 2-foot by 2-foot blocks – just like brownies in a pan.
Effective communication was critical since the landscaping crew had to hand-dig the space. Additional challenges were presented in that there was no easy way to remove debris. The team had to fill five-gallon buckets, put on a conveyor belt, and deliver to a bobcat and dump truck. The dig out took a total of three weeks.
With the primary excavation completed, Connor Remodeling created a 20-foot by 10-foot swimming pool. There were numerous structural issues, but one of the biggest challenges was the ceiling. It wasn’t part of the original plan as that phase was still on the drawing board. Connor Remodeling’s long-standing relationship with the homeowners and the level of trust developed was crucial. Since the ceiling plan came much later, it required communicating on a daily basis to remind the crews that finish height was critical – not just the height of the work in progress, which involved extensive structural, plumbing and finish work. The crews all worked together to make sure the finish height was as tall as possible. The coffered ceiling with recessed light really makes the space and it doesn’t have the dark feeling of a swimming pool in a basement. It’s bright and welcoming.
Ken Connor and Connor Remodeling are thrilled to be recognized with a National CotY Award for the project. They credit their success to the support of the homeowner for their vision, and the strong teamwork of all crew members including an architect, mason and all the other specialized members of the many crews.