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Shake the Tree Productions

Builder Jerry Effren had originally planned on a nine-month build-out that was shortened to just five months thanks to delays at the Planning and Zoning and Permitting offices. Adding fuel to the fire, he launched construction on each of the other four duplexes in the pocket neighborhood in one month intervals to achieve economies of scale and keep his team of subcontractors on the job.

Shown: The TOH 2021 Idea House in the upper right-hand corner is one of 5 duplexes being built concurrently in this Norwalk, CT pocket neighborhood.

Proper Basement Drainage

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

An excavator drops gravel around the drainage pipes that will draw water away from the bottom of the foundation.

Earth Moving: Stone Ridge Excavation, LLC

Sealing the Basement Against Seepage

Courtesy Greyrock Homes

To prevent water seepage, a polymer-enhanced asphalt membrane is applied directly to the concrete foundation. Once that dries, orange waterproof thermal insulation and drainage boards will be affixed to protect the membrane—and excavators will backfill with dirt to just below the tar line.

Installer: Design Concrete

Siding Like Wood—Only Better

The engineered wood siding looks and cuts like wood, but it creates less dust and is fortified against the elements to maintain its beauty for years to come.

The two gable ends feature cedar-texture lap siding that comes prefinished in Snowscape White, while the garage connectors and dormers are sided in a smooth vertical board-and-batten style siding painted gray to recede into the background and create the illusion that the duplex is actually two smaller cottages.

Siding: LP SmartSide; Installation: DCF Construction, LLC

Smarter Load Center

Left: Courtesy Greyrock Homes; Right: Tim Lee

Each of the cottages features a dedicated smart (and, can-you-believe-it, beautiful?) circuit breaker box. These load centers feature snap-in breakers that eliminate the need for rewiring and speed up installation—a benefit our electrical installers appreciate. And for homeowners, the system provides wi-fi connectivity for remote monitoring, diagnostics and control via a smart-home app.

Load Center: Leviton; Electrical Work: Franklin Electric, Inc.

High-Efficiency Heating System

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

Jerry believes a quality HVAC system is a smart investment that pays back in the long run. Our houses feature gas furnaces that deliver high-efficiency heat and cooling. The furnace is rated at 96% gas efficiency (AFUE), with a cabinet that’s certified to be airtight to less than 1%. The furnace’s Vortica™ II blower is one of the quietest and most efficient in the industry, saving homeowners energy in both winter and summer.

Furnace: Trane; Installer: Controlled Temperatures LLC

Purple Power

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

Having already hung the gypsum, drywallers on stilts make quick work of the tape and compound that seals the cracks before painting can begin. Jerry chose Purple because, in addition to being naturally fire-resistant, it stands up to moisture, mold, and mildew.

Drywall: Purple by National Gypsum; Installation: ECR Drywall

Special Delivery

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

With a build schedule that’s just 5-months-long, from foundation to furnished reveal, the jobsite is constantly receiving deliveries which are stored in a trailer and a container until the products are needed or can be secured once the house is closed in.

Insulation: Rockwool; Delivery via Ring’s End

Pouring the Pergola Pad

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

A cement mixer truck pours a concrete pad for the 14’ x 14’ pergola that will be installed overlooking the Five Mile River—and shared by the pocket neighborhood residents.

Concrete Slab: Design Concrete

Screen Porch Sanctuary

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

Carpenters install aluminum railings on the second-story screened-in porch which is accessed via sliding glass doors just off the great room. Tongue-and-groove porch flooring made of high-density PVC will keep the bugs out and prevent buckling from exposure to the elements.

Porch floors: Aeratis; Installation: DCF Construction, LLC

Dampening Sound

Stone wool insulation is installed to reduce sound from passing through the walls—critical for comfort in multi-family dwellings.

Stone wool insulation: Rockwool

Classic Curb Appeal

Courtesy Greyrock Homes

Traditional raised-panel garage doors made of steel have a wood-grain pattern and are insulated with polyurethane foam to keep the garage warm in winter and cool in summer.

Garage Doors: Clopay; Installation: American Overhead Door

Zoned for Comfort

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

Each cottage features two compressors to power separate first and second-floor air-conditioning zones.

Air Conditioning: Trane; Installation: Controlled Temperatures LLC

Spray Painting for Speed

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

For fast and complete coverage, a fully protected worker sprays primer on walls and ceilings. Finished wall coats will be rolled on, and the painters will prime and top-coat the trim with brushes for a polished look.

Painting: M. Salas Services LLC

Fast Faux Paneling

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

To add affordable architectural interest to the second-floor study of the empty nester cottage, Designer Sandy Effren specified a faux panel-look accent wall. Here, carpenters install simple strips of wood in a grid pattern that will be painted a deep greenish-gray to add gravitas to this home office.

Trim work: Matys Carpentry, LLC

Interest Underfoot

Norwalk Cottage, Idea House 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

Bold black and white porcelain tiles in a star motif set a fun backdrop for the children’s bath that will age gracefully along with its users.

Tile: Tile America; Installation: Baence Tile & Construction LLC

Setting for a Sweet Dream

Norwalk Cottage, Idea House 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

To create a soothing atmosphere in the nursery, Interior Designer Sandy Effren opted for a cloud motif and set the stage with easy-to-install (and remove) peel & stick wallpaper. The paper comes in a host of sizes that can be scaled up or down to fit your room’s dimensions.

Wallpaper: MongDecor via Etsy.com; Installation: Dr. Wallpaper

Kitchen Cabinet Countdown

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

The cabinets have to be perfectly level before the tiler can install the backsplash, and the countertop and appliances can be installed.

Cabinets: Mantra by MasterBrand; Installation: Matys Carpentry, LLC

Quartz Countertop Installation

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

Installers carefully place the quartz countertop onto the desk in the great room of our empty nester cottage.

Countertop: Caesarstone; Fabrication: Academy Marble & Granite

Multi-Functional Medicine Cabinets

Norwalk Cottages, Idea Houses 2021 Courtesy Greyrock Homes

Medicine cabinets have come a long way. One of two in the parents’ ensuite bath, this one features complexion-enhancing LED lighting and Bluetooth radio. Plus, inside the cabinets, magnifying mirrors, plugs and USB ports.

Mirrors: Signature Hardware; Installation: Matys Carpentry, LLC

Go Behind the Build

Watch now as Jerry Effren gives TOH editor Chris Ermides a peek at what’s happening at the Cottage Community Idea House.