Sometimes the right company for the job is the one that can cut through the red tape. In the case of the Boathouse project along the Pettaquamscutt River in Rhode Island, Davitt Design Build, Inc. was that company. They were able to work with Coastal Resources Management Council to get the project approved and work through building restrictions to make this Saunderstown, R.I. remodeled boathouse work.
Davitt Design Build, Inc. headed by president and CEO Matt Davitt, CGR, CMB, CR, started in 1982. After working for a contractor at the time, Davitt decided to go it alone and built a company that was at approximately $6.2 million in gross income last year. Davitt Design Build focuses their attention on waterfront properties in all of Rhode Island, southern Massachusetts and northern Connecticut.
The Boathouse project was a referral from a boathouse project Davitt was working on five doors down. The homeowner went to see the work being done on his neighbor’s house and decided he might have found a company that could help him out, because he needed someone who understood how to get the project through the coastal management agency and building inspection.
“Today they wouldn’t let you build this boathouse this close to the water,” says Davitt. “Because I work with coastal resources all the time, we got the project under a maintenance assent to maintain the existing structure. That’s what we focus on, helping our clients get through the coastal process because sometimes it can be a real pain getting projects approved”
The boathouse overhangs the Pettaquamscutt River, also known in the area as the Narrow River which is part of the Coastal Resources Managment Council. The council is a management agency with regulatory functions who’s members are appointed representatives of the public, state and local government, and a staff of professional engineers, biologists, environmental scientists, and marine resources specialists. It is a state agency created by the General Assembly that balances economic considerations with environmental protection. This agency controls development along the coast and balances economic development with environmental conservation. For home-owners living on the water, this means that all remodeling taking place near the shoreline have a little more than local building codes to consider. Even vegetation is regulated by what can and cannot be planted and how much planting is needed to avoid erosion by the ocean.
The homeowners wanted to know what their options were. Could the boathouse be rebuilt? Could it even stay in the same spot? With some of these waterfront buildings, coastal management requires moving structures back 75 ft. from the shoreline in order to address erosion issues. The homeowner’s special request for Davitt was to get the permission to do something with their crumbling boathouse.
The boathouse is essentially made up of two areas. One section is a storage area toward the back of the structure, and the front half, overlooking the water, is a porch. The homeowner wanted a hand in the design to keep costs under control and to be able to spend more on the structure, because although Davitt had other designs, they would have run the budget up higher.
Also a concern for the homeowner was making sure the finished boathouse had a certain aesthetic appeal to passing boaters. The Narrow River is a well traveled waterway, so there is a lot of boat traffic there. This river runs through three towns and ends up in the ocean. Fairly simple in design, this project would turn out not to be so simple in execution.
“We had to work within the same footprint and on the same foundation — the pilings that were there,” explains Davitt. “We could not expand it. He wanted it opened up with cathedral ceilings — as light and airy as he could get it. He also wanted it to feel kind of porch-like so we did a bead board ceiling and shingled it on the inside.”
An additional problem the Davitt team had to deal with was electricity, and this problem was twofold. First, there couldn’t be any overhead wires going to the boathouse. This meant that in order to get electricity out, the building’s wires would need to be buried. The second problem with electricity for the structure was that Coastal Resources Management Council would not allow any machinery within 75 ft. of the river. The team got to work digging the trench and plugging in the boathouse, but the problems for this simple structure wouldn’t end there.
“Another issue we had was that some of the pilings were rotted and we had to replace them,” says Davitt. “We basically left the floor system intact so we ended up having to hold up the floor structure in order to get the old pilings out and the new ones in.”
The Davitt crew also had to put staging in the water to brace the front gable. Here they had to deal with the issue of low and high tide, so timing became critical in order to roof and shingle the gable hanging over the water. With no place to put sidewall brackets, the team had to be inventive and just continue to deal with sinking in the sand.
To finish this project, Davitt Design Build also put in a new stairway coming down to the dock because what was there was rotted. Luckily the new stairway also fell under maintenance with Coastal Resources Management Council. When complete the homeowners had a new porch overhanging the river and a 4- by 9-ft. space for storing winter items or fishing poles.
“Working with the homeowner was great,” explains Davitt. “We have even designed another building for him.”
This little boathouse has spurred some bigger business for Davitt Design Build. With a workshop up higher, away from the water the homeowner turned to Davitt Design Build to help him transform it into a bunk room/recreation room for the family when they come down for the summer.
This time, in order to work toward the light and airy feel managed in the boathouse, the roof would have to come off, but Davitt and his team were on top of it and still tied it into the architecture of the whole house. The homeowner is now talking about redoing his kitchen and putting an addition onto the home. And just how do the homeowners feel about their new boathouse?
“They love it and were great to work with,” replies Davitt. “They live out there by the water, relaxing and eating their meals when they’re down here.” |
|Doors exterior||Therma Tru Fiberglass|
|Lighting fixtures||Seagull Lighting|
|Door casings||Western Red Cedar|