Winding down the narrow gravel road that leads to the home of Dr. Craig and Angie York of Morrilton, one can become lost in the beauty of an area near the I-40 and US Hwy. 64 corridor. Stepping outside one’s vehicle, it becomes apparent why this Conway County couple chose to build their new home in the silence and beauty atop their three-acre lot.
Their home on Chaney Drive is the first to be built by either Craig or Angie York. Craig designed the floor plan before handing it off to an architect to finalize the blueprints. Since the couple’s blended family is getting older, the Yorks chose to place additional bedrooms downstairs while keeping the kitchen, dining room, master bedroom and bath, and an office on the first level.
When the pair is not busy working at his Morrilton clinic – he as chiropractor; she as administrative coordinator – the Yorks find time to enjoy family. In addition to newly-acquired pet daschund Izzy, the family includes Kyler, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville; Cody, a high school senior at Morrilton; Allison, a high school sophomore, and Sam, a vivacious seven-year-old.
Construction on the 3,000 sq. ft. two-story home began in February 2005 after the lot was cleared and prepared for building. A sloping backyard, which the family hopes to develop into a zero-scape meadow, leads to a small pond at the base of the hillside. A pool adjacent to the back deck and an area for a hot tub is planned.
Wood from the cleared acreage is being used to heat the home, which is warmed primarily through a radiant flooring system powered by a wood-burning furnace located outside.
Radiant heating is a concept first used by the Romans in 60 A.D. to warm enclosed spaces. Radiant heat turns large surface areas, such as floors, walls and ceilings, into large low-temperature radiators by controlling the rate at which a body loses heat.
After in-depth consultation and study, the family decided to heat the new home using the Wirsbo system, a method which operates by circulating warm water through PEX tubing engineered to withstand high temperatures and pressures. The system utilizes a Hardy Outside Woodburning Furnace located a few yards from the home. Since the Yorks chose to use ceramic tile and wood flooring throughout, the heating choice was a natural.
The Wirsbo system is a unique and affordable alternative heat source which radiates heat to floors, furnishings and occupants in much the same way the sun radiates heat to the earth. The company’s AQUAPEX tubing system provides a safe, durable and installation-friendly alternative to copper, lead and other plastic pipes used in today’s plumbing systems.
Four tubing “loops” found under the first-floor trusses, the downstairs concrete slab and near the air handler carry circulating water of between 95 and 100 degrees throughout the York home. On a recent day when the outside air temperature was 38 degrees, the home was a toasty 76 degrees.
“And, its amazingly efficient! You can get it very, very warm inside if you are not careful,” added Angie. The unit takes about four hours to adjust to the often sudden changes in Arkansas’ temperatures, say the Yorks. They consider this a small inconvenience compared to the efficiency, cleanliness and cost-effectiveness of the system.
Radiant heating envelops the couple’s large walk-in shower, off-setting any “cold” feel and appearance that floor and wall tiling traditionally emits. It provides a cozy, even temperature when the couple prepares for their workday, minus the “cold feet!”
In fact, the woodburning unit heats all domestic, or “potable” water used throughout the home — heating the water used in kitchen, showers, bathtubs, and one day soon, a hot tub.
Working with Jon Holbrook, owner of Energy Dynmaics in Dardanelle, the Yorks selected the same type of system used to heat homes, churches, warehouses, office buildings and other venues in a clean, cost-effective manner. Holbrook said he first installed the Wirsbo system locally about 15 years ago in the diesel shop of Wayne Smith Trucking in Morrilton.
Although installer Holbrook bears no resemblance to the King of Sweeden, the two share a common thread, nonetheless. The Wirsbo Company was founded in Sweden in 1620, the same year that the Pilgrims sailed to America on the Mayflower. They began their North American operations with two-people in Rockford, Ill., and incorporated in the United States in 1984. Energy Dynamics is one of few local dealers to handle and install the Wirsbo system.
The Hardy outside wood furnace, which heats the unit’s circulating water, is filled with wood each day by the York’s 17-year old son, Cody. Dr. York says he also enjoys that responsibility. “Maybe it’s that ‘pioneer spirit’ of providing for my family,” he laughed.
While the Yorks are currently using cleared wood from the building site, Craig estimates that they use approximately two ricks of wood each month. With current costs averaging $45 and $50 per rick of wood, the cost pales in comparison with traditional heating expenses.
While the Yorks are quite pleased with their choice of heating systems, early construction woes were worrisome. Their original home contractor eventually walked off the job, leaving the remainder of the house to be completed. Craig and Angie picked up the pieces, making arrangements to have the work completed and doing the bulk of the interior painting themselves. They moved in during October 2005.
Upon entering the first-floor of the home, visitors are greeted by a fabulous wash of color which flows from entry hall, to living, kitchen and dining areas. While many couples disagree over wall color and fabrics, the Yorks quickly agreed on their color choices. Selecting vibrant colors with the assistance of Arkansas Tech professor and friend Ray Moll, the Yorks applied rich shades of dark apple green to the living room walls and cayenne red to the master bedroom and bath.
“We had a previous home in Little Rock, bathed in white and beige. The first thing we did there was repaint it, using rich, vibrant shades,” the couple added. “We both love strong colors.”
A number of furnishings were brought from the York’s previous home, all reflecting rich, deep color. A pair of comfy, plaid chairs flanks either side of a central fireplace. Positioned on the opposite side is a radiant red sofa. Colors carried into the adjacent formal dining area also reflect the couple’s love of rich earthy tones.
The walk-in shower (above) is gently warmed using radiant heat flooring, keeping the walls and floors a comfortable temperature even on the coldest mornings. Water supplied to the home is heated using an outside woodburning furnace fueled by wood cleared from the lot where the home was built.
A beautiful 50-year old Iraqi rug compliments the tile flooring beneath an exquisite dining table, keeping with the color scheme. An original acrylic painting, designed by Angie’s sister Amanda Beadoin of Tuscon, serves to anchor the main dining room wall.
“The picture hung in our other home, but at a 90-degree angle. We got the artist’s permission to rotate it,” Angie chuckled. An additional Beadoin painting hangs above the fireplace in the master bedroom.
The couple’s spicy decorating flavor is carried throughout the home. Consistent throughout is an open, inviting floor plan which unveils itself easily to guests.
Seated in high-backed stools surrounding the kitchen island, family and friends can chat while Angie prepares an inviting meal. A natural gas cook-top occupies its position on the island, hiding a pop-up ventilation panel. A dark Cambria counter-top affords both easy care for a busy family and adds a warm reflection to the surrounding kitchen.
Work continues downstairs where the bedrooms used by the growing family are located. Angie says it is still being finished and repainted. She points out an area near the dining room and wall space in the living area upstairs where she continues to decorate and plan final touches. It is obvious that she enjoys the new home.
While Angie is busy with work, the family and their home, Dr. York adds that he is not “tied to” his chiropractic practice.
Both husband and wife find time to be with the kids, travel occasionally, and enjoy golf — though Angie says she’s “just learning.” The pair actually met on a blind date encouraged by his former golf partner.
He also calls upon another favorite pastime, a once-possible career choice in music, to keep him occupied. He plays in a new band, “Relic,” and in an impromptu band, “The Monday Night Pickers.”
While he eagerly grasps his guitar and discusses an eight-year stint playing for showcase bands in Los Angeles, he admits to playing harmonica and offering lead and backup vocals with the locals. His experiences in California, the early musical exposure, and a car accident led to his eventual career as a chiropractor.
Whether working, planning or playing, the Yorks are confident that time spent in pre-planning the heating, layout and design of a home they plan to live in “forever” is crucial. As the family enjoys the warmth of their home on the inside, they plan their next phase of homeownership — when the weather warms outside.