When David Dugoff and Vicky Bor purchased the 11,250-square-foot lot in Chevy Chase, Md., that was to become their permanent mailing address, they considered renovating and expanding the decaying cottage that sat on the site, but ultimately determined that dismantling it, calling in a recycling company to salvage its parts, and starting over was a smarter move.
“We did explore the possibility of remodeling the existing house, but the foundation was not located in a way that would work, plus it was 80 or 90 years old, and we really couldn't rely on it for another 90 years,” says DuGoff, who served as his own general contractor.
It's concerns like these that often provide the rationale for teardowns, be they about structural decay, rampant mold, energy inefficiency, or the prohibitive cost of bringing an old house up to code. Sometimes there are just too many hurdles to justify overhauling the old structure.
But those who have ventured into infill territory will testify that these tricky projects can be rife with other obstacles, from NIMBY resistance to design police, to zoning and permitting. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, more than 300 communities in 33 states have taken steps in recent years to thwart teardown development by establishing conservation districts, stalling demolition approvals, or imposing height, setback, and lot coverage restrictions. To wit: It wasn't long after DuGoff received the green light to build his own house that the mayor of Chevy Chase issued a moratorium on new construction in response to citizen complaints about McMansions popping up like oversized mushrooms in their neighborhoods.
DuGoff narrowly avoided what could have become a protracted waiting game in the quest to rebuild. But he and his wife also diffused the popular notion that all teardowns are evil by serving up a well-proportioned house that respects the scale of the street. Read on for details about their project and four others whose inspired designs generated nary a protest from the neighbors.