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  1. #1
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Anyone renovate/expand their dwelling space?

    Admittedly, doing a bit of daydreaming here- I'd appreciate if you humor me

    Long story short, wife and I like our current location- so much so, that we are considering about possibly making an offer to the landlord. If we do this, we will want to increase the living space somewhat (currently 3/1/1, ~990').

    She's thinking a total gut job down to the studs, tear off the roof, and add a second story throughout. I'd rather do a partial conversion of the garage, add new space behind the garage/next to an existing bedroom, and either add a second story to just that space over the garage/new build or just finish off the attic (never actually been up there to check headroom ).

    Anyways, who would most likely be the first stop should we attempt to turn the dream into reality? The City Planning/Zoning Commission to see if any of that would be allowed (though there are plenty of examples scattered throughout the 'hood...), an Architect for blueprinting/design work, or a General Contractor who may be able to facilitate all of that?
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    Gutting the walls is the way to go, it's less work in the end to start with a blank page. Hire a contractor to avoid delay and headaches (let the contractor deal with the individual workers)... unless you plan to do the work yourself which is completely different.

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    DBA
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    sorry, but you mentioned landlord. Why are you renovating the landlord's place?

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    NFL Owner monogodo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    ... we are considering about possibly making an offer to the landlord...
    Quote Originally Posted by DBA View Post
    sorry, but you mentioned landlord. Why are you renovating the landlord's place?
    He's thinking that he'll purchase the house from the landlord.
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    DBA
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    Quote Originally Posted by monogodo View Post
    He's thinking that he'll purchase the house from the landlord.
    oh..that's what he meant by making an offer.

  6. #6
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    Admittedly, doing a bit of daydreaming here- I'd appreciate if you humor me

    Long story short, wife and I like our current location- so much so, that we are considering about possibly making an offer to the landlord. If we do this, we will want to increase the living space somewhat (currently 3/1/1, ~990').

    She's thinking a total gut job down to the studs, tear off the roof, and add a second story throughout. I'd rather do a partial conversion of the garage, add new space behind the garage/next to an existing bedroom, and either add a second story to just that space over the garage/new build or just finish off the attic (never actually been up there to check headroom ).

    Anyways, who would most likely be the first stop should we attempt to turn the dream into reality? The City Planning/Zoning Commission to see if any of that would be allowed (though there are plenty of examples scattered throughout the 'hood...), an Architect for blueprinting/design work, or a General Contractor who may be able to facilitate all of that?
    Been there done that.

    Wife does some architectural drawings and paintings, so she gave a crack at doing the working drawings... she has done detail drawings in the past too... and has submitted to building department (she hates doing the latter).

    First come up with ideas... if you can do it without changing your footprint, you will save significantly. If you have to change the footings/foundation... then you run into all sorts of potential building code issues... such as what else might have to be updated when you add square footage. Could be as simple as updating fire alarms, or as complicated as electrical or having to add septic tanks.

    We had friends that went through their own major building projects at about the same time as us... one had limitations due to septic, one had hillside issues that required special footings. We had code issues that limited our ability to grow to the sides... we had to leave space for firetruck easement. All these can be quite complicated and require visits to local building departments... depending on your building department, they may answer questions right up front, or require proposed plans. Or even require complicated "review" typical of hillside projects or historical projects or projects that may fall under local special review.

    Work with an architect if you can afford it... they will listen to your ideas and may help you with the building department. You will need some sort of plans to move forward.

    Contractors... uh this is a sore point for me... we had major problems with our contractor, even after having cleared him with others that worked with him. My other friends also each had issues with their contractors. (all different) This is not saying that contractors are all bad or out to get you, but that no doubt a lot of folks become contractors and perhaps not all of them are well qualified... and you have really little chance to verify how good they are, or if your project is the one they finally fail on. Get everything spelled out up front, make sure everyone understands dates, payments, changes and has full knowledge of all the expectations regarding the work up front and the final details... down to who does the paint and how the sidewalks are finished... DETAILS count... a lot. Do not leave out any decisions until the last minute.

    Any remodel will reveal unknowns in the way the house was originally built... from previous owner changes to failures in things like foundation or plumbing... be prepared for upwards of a 25% cost overrun.

    Proper Prior Planning prevents problems.

  7. #7
    Administrator CbadRider's Avatar
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    I gutted the kitchen and bathrooms and replaced the flooring in my current home. My friend's husband is a contractor and he recommended the contractor I used.

    I had no issues with the contractor, but there were quite a few problems that cropped up during the renovation. We started referring to them as "the code violation of the week". A previous owner had her boyfriends do renovations instead of someone qualified. When the electrician looks in your electrical panel and says "Oh my God!" it's never a good sign.

    I agree with with planning on a 25% cost overrun. Plan on it costing more than you thought and also taking longer than forecasted.
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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CbadRider View Post
    I gutted the kitchen and bathrooms and replaced the flooring in my current home. My friend's husband is a contractor and he recommended the contractor I used.

    I had no issues with the contractor, but there were quite a few problems that cropped up during the renovation. We started referring to them as "the code violation of the week". A previous owner had her boyfriends do renovations instead of someone qualified. When the electrician looks in your electrical panel and says "Oh my God!" it's never a good sign.

    I agree with with planning on a 25% cost overrun. Plan on it costing more than you thought and also taking longer than forecasted.
    Sounds like you had no "footprint" changes... or things that modify the roofline. Doing mods inside a house that don't involve bearing walls is somewhat easy... sure, any remodel comes with it's own set of headaches, but the ones that involve just moving walls, changing interior "furniture" and upgrades, are probably nearly the easiest.

    The easiest of course is just changing flooring materials and wall colors, perhaps adding molding and baseboards and cabinet faces... basically a "facelift."

  9. #9
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    If you have the property, I say forget the second floor and go with one floor living. Remember you are going to get old some day.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  10. #10
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Been there done that.

    Wife does some architectural drawings and paintings, so she gave a crack at doing the working drawings... she has done detail drawings in the past too... and has submitted to building department (she hates doing the latter).

    First come up with ideas... if you can do it without changing your footprint, you will save significantly. If you have to change the footings/foundation... then you run into all sorts of potential building code issues... such as what else might have to be updated when you add square footage. Could be as simple as updating fire alarms, or as complicated as electrical or having to add septic tanks.

    We had friends that went through their own major building projects at about the same time as us... one had limitations due to septic, one had hillside issues that required special footings. We had code issues that limited our ability to grow to the sides... we had to leave space for firetruck easement. All these can be quite complicated and require visits to local building departments... depending on your building department, they may answer questions right up front, or require proposed plans. Or even require complicated "review" typical of hillside projects or historical projects or projects that may fall under local special review.

    Work with an architect if you can afford it... they will listen to your ideas and may help you with the building department. You will need some sort of plans to move forward.

    Contractors... uh this is a sore point for me... we had major problems with our contractor, even after having cleared him with others that worked with him. My other friends also each had issues with their contractors. (all different) This is not saying that contractors are all bad or out to get you, but that no doubt a lot of folks become contractors and perhaps not all of them are well qualified... and you have really little chance to verify how good they are, or if your project is the one they finally fail on. Get everything spelled out up front, make sure everyone understands dates, payments, changes and has full knowledge of all the expectations regarding the work up front and the final details... down to who does the paint and how the sidewalks are finished... DETAILS count... a lot. Do not leave out any decisions until the last minute.

    Any remodel will reveal unknowns in the way the house was originally built... from previous owner changes to failures in things like foundation or plumbing... be prepared for upwards of a 25% cost overrun.

    Proper Prior Planning prevents problems.
    An idea did come to me after I started this thread there would be no way to come close to recouping the cost of a major project later on. Zillow has the estimate at $48k in a 'hood with prices ranging in the low $50's to high $90's- a couple broke the $100k mark but that has to be an error.

    I'm now thinking that we just convert the garage into a master suite by adding a 3/4 bath and bigger, more accessible closet space. Then move one of the kids into our old room, make their old room into a den, and make the living room the new dining area. Get the table out of the kitchen (thing will seat 12 if need be) then I can put up a run of upper cabinets along the wall next to the garage (much needed storage) and a countertop underneath w/stools (would more than double counter space).

    The space I'd earmarked for expanding the square footage could then be used as a deck instead. So no blowing roofs off and minimal foundation work (plumbing for new bath- and that would be right next to the main plumbing stack anyway).
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  11. #11
    RacingBear UmneyDurak's Avatar
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    From my understanding is foundation and roof are most expensive things. What I seen people do here, is literally jack first floor up, and build under it. Thus turning it to second floor, and keeping original foundation and roof. Then gutting everything inside. Probably has something to do with permits and how it gets classified/taxed also.
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  12. #12
    long time visiter Alfster's Avatar
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    What's making you love the place so much you want to buy it, then build onto it? I'd assume there are many nice places for sale, which would cost much less than what you're looking at doing. If you're intent on going through with this, then make sure you plan for the additional stress that major renovations add to a relationship.

  13. #13
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alfster View Post
    What's making you love the place so much you want to buy it, then build onto it? I'd assume there are many nice places for sale, which would cost much less than what you're looking at doing. If you're intent on going through with this, then make sure you plan for the additional stress that major renovations add to a relationship.
    Most of what I need- primary care/E.R./dentist/pharmacy/grocer- are all within 3 miles, which is walking distance for me. The kids are in arguably the best dependant school district in OK, crime isn't really a concern- unlike in Tulsa- and my wife actually prefers a longish commute. The lot is perhaps the choicest corner lot in the whole addition.
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  14. #14
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CbadRider View Post
    I gutted the kitchen and bathrooms and replaced the flooring in my current home. My friend's husband is a contractor and he recommended the contractor I used.

    I had no issues with the contractor, but there were quite a few problems that cropped up during the renovation. We started referring to them as "the code violation of the week". A previous owner had her boyfriends do renovations instead of someone qualified. When the electrician looks in your electrical panel and says "Oh my God!" it's never a good sign.

    I agree with with planning on a 25% cost overrun. Plan on it costing more than you thought and also taking longer than forecasted.
    Ditto here: master bath & bedroom were one project, flooring was another, and we just did the kitchen last year. We hired friends who knew what they were doing (they were contractors and friends... and we're still friends) to do the master and flooring jobs, then hired a couple subs to do the kitchen. Everything turned out pretty well.

    Like you, we liked where our house is, but it was showing its age when we moved in. Good bones, bad cosmetics. It's comfortable for the two of us and our two cats, and we'll be here for a while.

    Here's the flooring & interior spruce-up: Our house remodel 2008
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    I'm looking at doing some remodeling next year (just replacing a lot of stuff, no re-configuaration or additional rooms). In general, if you're just adding a room on the ground floor without added plumbing (just electric), the cost is cheaper that going to a second story; that requries bolstering up the existing walls to support the weight of the second story. You might also consider beefing up the electric on the house to account for any increase in applicances and electronic stuff; a lot of older houses only had 100 amp service, newer ones get 150-200 amp service installed, some as high as 300 if you're a computer pro needing to power extra equipment like a node or server (my brotherwent up to 300 amps, plus a few 3-phase power plugs) or installing a pool/spa or other 'power-sucking' stuff .
    Are we having fun yet?

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    You've got to be extremely invested in your house and prepared to go through misery for several months.

    We are in a land-locked area, with fairly high prices. Our 2bed 1bath was valued at 200K back in 2000. A 700ft2 bed/bath/office partial 2nd story cost 90K to build and we barely hit that number (290K) with new appraisal. Remodels are quite expensive here because labor isn't as available as other areas. This price was even with me doing quite a bit of the demo and finish work. I installed the laminate floors and tile in bathroom, fixtures, etc.

    Was it worth it? For us, yes. We love our neighborhood and couldn't find anything comparable for the price. Would I recommend it? Hell no. You've pretty much got to be crazy to do a full reno. But if you are, go for it and have fun.

  17. #17
    genec genec's Avatar
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    OK worst case scenario... Just to outline how bad it can be. I've already offered some input here, and mentioned that at the same time we were doing our remodel, we also had other friends that were either building new or doing a remodel... each of which ended up having some "nightmare situations" with the different contractors used. The three of us friends would get together and compare notes, and to this day we all still wonder how it all happened.

    One couple went through it fairly straight forward... except the contractor and crew would disappear for weeks at a time, and while the end result is pretty good, they have some foundation issues with the new built stuff that shows up as major cracks in floors and walls, now, some several years later.

    Another friend had major approval issues... he was building on a hill side in earthquake prone San Diego and that took "hill side review" which in itself required over a year just to get permits. This was a normal part of the process... hillsides in the city of San Diego require special review.

    After finally getting building department approval for his new home project, his contractor hit the ground running and built a foundation that will withstand anything. But about half way through the building process, after the foundation and initial framing, but before all the plumbing and electric were complete, and before walls were covered with drywall, the contractor developed a drug problem. He disappeared for several months. Eventually he came back, laid out the sob story and then proceeded to finish the work... which in the long run has turned out quite good. Needless to say, he missed all the deadlines from the point after the foundation was in onward. This left our friend with a need to rent space for far longer than was originally anticipated.

    My personal tale is of a contractor that started well... then started bringing in "student help." He brought in apprentice framers, cement trainees and trainee electricians... all while he starting to show up less and less frequently to the job, and asking for payment before phases were complete.

    A building inspector has to approve the work at various phases, and at one point the inspector pulled us, the homeowners, aside, and told us he has never had to come back and re-inspect a worksite so many times... ultimately 31 times. The work wasn't being done to code.

    Eventually the contractor stopped showing up.

    We contacted the state contractors board and were told that before the case could go to review, there was a year long "cooling off period" in which the contractor could return and finish the task. So for a year, we lived in a partially framed house, with gaps to the outside, covered with tar paper. We did not have a kitchen, and we essentially lived in the living room, which was not part of the remodeled area... dust and materials were everywhere, except where we cleaned up just to have habitable space. Fortunately, we did not remodel the one bathroom at that time, as we expected to finish a new bathroom and then go back and just do cosmetic work to the old bathroom.

    After the mandatory year "wait period," the license board told us we could proceed with binding arbitration. I showed up at the hearing with the contract, canceled checks, the plans, and all supporting documents, and a spreadsheet outlining the payments made, and what work was supposed to be complete. The contractor did not show. (he had been notified by the license board of this whole process... from the "year to complete" to the "hearing date..." all by registered mail) Since the contractor did not show, the arbitrator awarded us, the homeowner, the maximum award the state would allow. Of course the contractor never paid, nor finished the work. The state eventually took his license, several months later.

    So we sat with an unfinished house, no monetary compensation for work not finished, and well over a year delay. I started contacting other contractors... each one arrived, looked at the situation, assessed that the original contractor "walked" and then they either "no bid" or bid outrageously high. Eventually, a neighbor recommended a friend of his, but the contractor friend would not start the work until he was assured that the original contractor had lost his license. ("I'll do the work, at a fair rate, but I want to ensure that the original contractor can't give the rest of us a black eye.")

    The new contractor came in and finished the rest of the work in about 6 weeks, with me doing the final touches on things like paint and kitchen trim, door trim and floorboards. (items that had been covered in the original work contract...) The new contractor finished all the dry wall, the new doors and windows, (most of the material was already on site) and exterior stucco, as well as all the unfinished infrastructure in the kitchen, and the new driveway and sidewalk.

    We later hired this same contractor (the one recommended by a neighbor) to do the cosmetic changes to the previously untouched bathroom. That worked out just fine.

    So there is the whole tale... three different remodels (well, two remodels and new build), three different contractors, various levels of contractor "issues," including a full on arbitration hearing that resulted in one contractor losing a license.

    Pick your contractor well folks... and make sure everyone knows what is to be done, how and when.

  18. #18
    NFL Owner monogodo's Avatar
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    I'm sure it's been mentioned before, but if you do any work yourself, or hire a "handyman" to do it for you, make sure the work is done to code.

    My wife was out doing yard work yesterday afternoon and was digging up some small bushes that she didn't want growing next to the garage. She saw what she thought was a root, and used the limb trimmer to cut it. When she did so, the "root" arced, tripping the circuit breaker. The previous owner had run the power to the yard light underground, and had only buried it about 2 inches, and had used indoor wiring. So now I've got to redo the wiring to the yard light. We're just glad that she wasn't hurt, and a fire wasn't caused.

    (I turned the breaker off, exposed the live ends of the wire and put individual wire nuts on them to make the circuit safe until I can get it repaired. My electrician brother has given me the list of supplies I'll need, and listed the steps involved to fix it.)
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    Senior Member Zedoo's Avatar
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    Home improvement can be much worse than the stories above.
    Nightmare on Highbury Court | Local News | Detroit Metro Times

  20. #20
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zedoo View Post
    Home improvement can be much worse than the stories above.
    Nightmare on Highbury Court | Local News | Detroit Metro Times
    Interesting story, but how can one get a lien without a written contract... Somewhere down the line, some form of written contract should have had to be presented to a judge.

    Maybe things work differently in Michigan, or when one is "connected."

  21. #21
    NFL Owner monogodo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zedoo View Post
    Home improvement can be much worse than the stories above.
    Nightmare on Highbury Court | Local News | Detroit Metro Times
    Thank you for causing me to lose 2 hours reading the entire story (had to track down part 2).

    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Interesting story, but how can one get a lien without a written contract... Somewhere down the line, some form of written contract should have had to be presented to a judge.

    Maybe things work differently in Michigan, or when one is "connected."
    If I'm understanding your question correctly, he got the lien in order to collect the court judgement.
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    Me & Mine?

    I bought an 'as is' Outright, the Space was rearranged, by last owner , and opened up going from what was 3 likely rather small Brms.
    to 1 , with 4x12 beams to open up the space, replacing small room bearing walls ..

    _Projects: dry wall up but not fully taped & finished. also Paint finish window trim, etc. inside ..

    Gutter in places, needs replacement. etc.

    several windows have to be replaced , stick in the sliding track instead of a Proper Lock.
    Single pane, when Double will keep the heat in. better

    basement only tall enough for a 5'6" so floor has to be torn up, slab cut up , and hauled out
    dug deeper , a foot at least, then re poured..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 10-16-14 at 01:10 PM.

  23. #23
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    The issue is now moot- no way I'm gonna make an offer on this place after today.

    Long story short, I found out that the main plumbing stack is something called "Orangeburg", which according the the plumber and wikepedia, is no longer used for a reason.
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  24. #24
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by monogodo View Post
    Thank you for causing me to lose 2 hours reading the entire story (had to track down part 2).


    If I'm understanding your question correctly, he got the lien in order to collect the court judgement.
    Right, but a lien, at least in CA, requires proof of a contract to do the work... even if from a sub to a main contractor... somewhere there had to be proof of a work order before a lien could be set. If it was done with a handshake, there is no proof of said work order. This of course is to protect a homeowner from an unscrupulous contractor falsely claiming a lien for work that was never ordered. But then who knows what they allow outside of CA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    The issue is now moot- no way I'm gonna make an offer on this place after today.

    Long story short, I found out that the main plumbing stack is something called "Orangeburg", which according the the plumber and wikepedia, is no longer used for a reason.
    Good call, it's bassically cardboard. If it's used inside there is a good chance it was used outside. There is a development in my town that was built with this stuff, including the the horizontal line from the house to the street. They started failing about 25 years after being built. The home owners had to dig it up and replace it with something better, like PVC. How did they know it failed? Sewage backed up into the house. You don't want that to happen to you.
    If you don't know the way, you shouldn't be going there.

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