12/08 unedited tahoe mt. news story
By Kathryn Reed
Everything Susan and John Baker didn’t like about their old house was burned and everything they wanted in a dream house was incorporated into the home they moved into Thanksgiving week.
They never talked about not rebuilding on Granite Mountain Road after the Angora Fire wiped out the home they’d lived in since 1991. They’ve been in town since 1974, raised their two daughters here and are eager to watch their 6-month-old grandson grow up in Tahoe.
Ten of the 12 houses on their street were destroyed. Many are in various stages of being rebuilt. A couple lots are vacant.
Across the street are friends Renee and Mark Gorevin, whose home survived the firestorm. Showing a sense of humor, they brought the Bakers a welcome back to the neighborhood gift with a fire theme – smoked Gouda, Burning River pale ale, Firefly wine and other assorted goodies.
The house is so new that the port-a-potty is still out front.
John Baker needs to complete the office area for his electrical engineering business and build a work bench before he can say the garage is complete.
A sun room is off the back of the garage, which leads to an area where a hot tub could go. They had one before, but money is keeping them from shopping for a new one.
They have good things to say about Liberty Mutual. They weren’t nickel and dimed about contents. Their case is settled. However, they were drastically underinsured. A loan from the Small Business Administration helped.
Finances are what made the Bakers choose to be owner-builders on the project. John Baker’s contacts in the construction business were invaluable. However, the stress, money and unforeseen obstacles of building a house may make them actually think twice if they are ever again faced with the rebuilding question.
This house is about 500 square feet larger than what they had.
“The space is used more effectively,” Susan Baker said. Their room is on the same floor as the main living area – something new for them. This house has three bedrooms; the other had four.
“I still don’t know where all the light switches are,” she said as she started a tour of the home.
Building plans are from a house in Florida that relatives through marriage had built. It was tweaked to fit their needs and desires. Architect Blaise D’Angelo worked with the plans and suggested how best to situate the house on the lot.
Most of the views are away from the rawest of the burn area which look up to Forest Mountain Road and beyond. Pre-Angora, houses on that street weren’t visible from the Bakers’.
The wrap around porch allows them to take in sunrises and sunsets. The lack of trees plays a part in seeing those colors.
When it came to interior desires, Susan Baker focused on the kitchen. Window casings and doors are made out of knotty alder. They mix will with the granite countertops. Enough granite was left over to use on the gas fireplace in the living area.
Upstairs are two guestrooms – already in use as the family filled the house for Turkey Day weekend.
A large family room like the old one is upstairs. Through French doors is an enclosed deck that looks onto Forest Service property. Vehicles on Tahoe Mountain Road can be seen – something that wasn’t possible before June 24, 2007. Despite the charred tree trunks, the Bakers hope the greenery at the top is a sign these pines will survive.
Using local businesses was an automatic for both. They wanted to support area businesses as much as a possible. A few things were purchased off the hill – partly because a particular item couldn’t be found here or was too pricey here.
They went to J.E. Higgins Lumber in Reno because the company had the laminate wood flooring they wanted to cover the hydronic heating.
John Baker estimates Meeks Lumber got about $100,000 from them.
Kirk Morris with Mountain High Cabinets did all the cabinets in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room. The latter is a room they didn’t have before.
“It’s hard when you ask them where they’ll put certain dishes and they say they don’t know because they have go out and buy them,” Morris said of his half dozen clients in the burn area. “It’s a very emotional thing when you go out there.”
Hickory is what he used at the Baker house.
Some of the other area businesses the Bakers used include Rudy’s Heating for fireplaces, South Shore Fire Sprinklers, Tahoe Paving Stones, Truckee Overhead Door, Sierra Window and Doors, Tahoe Valley Electric, and Insulation Solutions.
Some businesses like Rudy’s, Bijou Furniture and Tile Outlet offered discounts knowing they were fire survivors.
Susan Baker laughs as she points to inexpensive Kmart blinds covering the front windows, noting their measurements were off by a couple inches. Her friend Sheri Schimmel, who owns Mary’s Draperies, is likely to be called into service down the road when money allows for better window coverings.
With the 30 or so trees on the lot gone, sunlight is definitely more abundant.
Landscaping will wait until the spring – it will be drought resistant. No more lawn and sprinklers for the Bakers. Manzanita is already sprouting.
Cement siding and fire resistant decking were used.
“If fire comes again, it will have a helluva hard time burning this down,” Susan Baker said.