The Pop Top Story

I’ve explained the basics of our pop top project so many times, but I’ve never really told the whole story, start to finish. Truth be told, it’s a much longer story that I’d like to admit or tell, but surely if I don’t document it now, there will be bits that I forget. If I were really organized, I would have kept a journal throughout the project, documenting each step of the way. I didn’t, and maybe that’s better. The journal would have been filled with lots of emotions some I don’t care to unleash again! But now that it’s done- that we’ve moved back in and are enjoying the fruits of our (and many others) labor- I can write about it objectively.
 
 

The Backstory

When we bought our bungalow at the end of 2019, we weren’t exactly looking to move. Being a real estate agent, I always have my eye on the market. At the time, I specifically wanted to live in Sloan’s Lake. I saw the potential of the neighborhood as I spent a lot of time in the blocks surrounding our Jefferson Park townhouse and the lake. I liked the quiet feel and the diversity of architecture. We wrote an offer on a house just steps from the lake, but lost to a higher offer and decided it wasn’t meant to be. 
 
About a month later, a bungalow in West Highland came on the market. It was the week of Thanksgiving, which was a slow time for real estate, and back when prices were still palatable in that area. The bungalow was listed for $675,000 which seemed low given the home’s charm and the location. Our friends lived three doors down and told us we had to buy it:) We previewed, toured, called a lender who was friends with the listing agent, and submitted an offer. I didn’t think we’d get it. 
 
But the lender came through, we got the last look, and while we had to spend more than we wanted ($691,000), we decided," “location, location, location”, and agreed to the price. At the inspection, there was a lot wrong with the house, but our inspector hopped on the roof and said, if you pop the top on this, you’re going to have amazing mountain views. I melted a pop top was a common Denver construction project I’d admired and wanted to do. Thirty days later, we closed and moved in to our new house!
 
Fast forward to the onslaught of COVID, spending lots of time in our bungalow, and watching our two babies grow into busy little girls. We were quickly outgrowing the little bungalow and knew we needed a plan to get more space. So, we started meeting with architects, GCs and designers to get an idea of what a pop top might cost. I remember one design build firm telling me a pop top of that size wouldn’t be any less than $800k and I thought they were being dramatic.
 
We met with three reputable contractors, and one of them told us the only way they see pop tops done right is when the interior is gutted. The homeowners, they said, always regretted keeping the old stuff once they moved into the new. I listened but disagreed. Then we signed on with an architect, who helped us visualize how the second story could be laid out. We talked through the stairwell and how we wanted a side by side stack – one side going up and the other going down. That would mean demoing the old stairwell to the basement. The one Sam hit his head on daily while walking down to the girl’s room. 
 
We talked through permitting, set backs, asbestos, blower door tests and percentage of demo. We reviewed floor plans, revisions of floor plans, and more revisions of floor plans. Once it felt good enough, we decided to provide it to the contracts and ask for their bid. After lots of back and forth, we picked the contractor our architect had recommended. We liked their style and their pricing model (flat fee vs. cost plus). We signed their contract, submitted permits, closed on a construction loan, found a rental and scheduled movers. It was October 2021. We were going to pop the top! It was so exciting!
 

READ ON

 

Before Photos

 
 

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