Jesse Thompson General Contractor

Rising Tide Custom Builders Building Shell

Images © Trent Bell / KTA

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Jesse and Betsy searched for two years for the dump of their dreams: a tiny, dirt cheap, homely 1960s ranch house within walking distance of their kids' neighborhood school and close enough to downtown Portland to ride bikes into work. The hope was that they could renovate it into an affordable, high-style and extremely comfortable home for their family. As an architect and fiber artist respectively, their creative vision was clear enough to wade through the endless rough and sense the glimmer of a diamond that lie deep inside that forgotten home on Madeline Street.


The house has a striking presence in a neighborhood that hasn't seen any new construction in a few decades, but sets a quiet-colored tone with its dark stained hemlock siding and its salvaged slate base and chimney. Just past the fondle-worthy, Euro-brown entry door, the mudroom buzzes with vigor from the vivid blue wall flowing with birch plywood off-cuts / coat hooks (Credit that one to the textile expert of the family). As you turn into the living room, a sexy, curved plaster ceiling billows and heaves in all the right places to define the comfy kitchen and dining room. It quickly rises to twelve feet over the proud and sunny main living space where the custom steel fireplace surround visually locks you in. Turns out it's worthy of such attention, being that it's the family's only source of heat in this amazingly energy-efficient home.

The 1,100 SF footprint was expanded to 1,800 SF on a budget of under $100 / SF. The only footprint additions were a compact 2-bedroom volume upstairs for the kids, and the refinished breezeway, now part of the heated envelope.


The existing 1,100 SF 3 bedroom house was expanded to 1,800 sf with a guest room.

In Town

The house sits within walking distance of elementary, middle and high schools, shopping, restaurants and hundred-acre city park.

Renewable Materials

Salvaged materials were used throughout the project, including slate roofing from an 1840's barn, wood end-grain tile flooring, salvaged sinks, and manufacturer's remnant ceramic tile. The 5 1/2" blanket of exterior insulation is also entirely reclaimed from demolished buildings.

Water Conservation

Low-flow fixtures are used throughout.

Budget / Economy

Salvaged materials and careful budgeting kept the renovation costs under $100 / SF.

Sustainable Landscape

The landscape plan includes native blueberries, berry bushes and apple trees, creating a truly edible landscape.

Energy Efficient

The renovation layered 6 inches of salvaged rigid foam over the existing walls over a sheet applied air barrier. All windows were replaced with triple-glazed fiberglass R-5 windows. The final air tightness was increased by 90%, meeting the Passivhaus EnerPHit standard (1.0 ACH50)

The basement slab was over-insulated to R-10, then a new basement slab was poured to isolate the building from the ground.

The mechanical system supplemented the existing gas boiler with a compact Scandinavian wood stove that allows the house to be entirely heated by renewable local biomass for only $350 per year (that's firewood to you Mainers). A Swiss heat recovery ventilator provides fresh air year-round to all rooms.

Deep set windows and slatted exterior sunshades prevent overheating in summer while maximizing winter sunlight.

 The house meets the Architecture 2030 Challenge goal of a 70% carbon reduction by 2015. Average energy use is only ~350 kWH / month due to efficient appliances and LED/florescent lighting throughout.

This house uses only 13 kBTU / SF /YR for heating.

Award Winning

AIA Maine COTE 2013 Honor Award
AIA Maine 2012 Merit Award
Projected LEED Platinum