remodel: week one

The idea to expand and remodel our house had been floating around ever since I first purchased the house in June 2001, before my wife and I met. Even though the house was only a two bedroom one bath home, it fit our lives well. Once we knew we were pregnant with our first child, we began taking dimensions and talking about remodeling, although preparing to be first time parents distracted us enough that we did not move forward with a remodel at the time. We managed well enough with the three of us, but we knew our 918 square foot home was not going to be big enough when we were we expecting our second child. Our choices were limited. To find a larger home, we either had to move out of the neighborhood or move forward with a remodel. We love being walking distance to downtown and our neighbors, so choose to stay and remodel.

The house was constructed in 1950 on a rather small footprint, but at the front and side yard setbacks. As the lot is only 5600 sq. ft. and the single car garage was going to become a part of the plan, with a detached garage taking up a large portion of the backyard, our only real option was to go up. Before beginning the design process, I first spoke to the City to get the check the setbacks, lot coverage and other potential issues and limitations that would affect the design.

While I was doing that I also spoke to a former co-worker, who was a contractor and now had his own construction company about running the project. We believed that working with a friend would be an advantage, but it ended up becoming the first and most important lesson learned. (LL #1: Never work with friends.)

As we both had good jobs and equity in the house, we took out a home equity loan to pay for the remodel. (LL #2: It is never enough.) Using a construction estimate from the contractor we felt comfortable moving forward figuring that things would be tight, but we had enough to do what we wanted. (LL #3: Multiply the estimate by a factor of three.) The contractor also supplied a construction schedule that looked like we’d be back in the home by the end of the year. (LL #4: Nothing ever goes according to schedule.)

Everything was looking good, until I met with a designer of the firm I worked with for a second opinion on the design. Originally I had the family area up front, similar to the existing house with the dining adjacent to the kitchen in the back. As we live on a relatively busy street, he suggested I consider flipping these two areas. This meant reworking the entry and the stairs, which affected the second floor as it shifted the hall. I went back to the drawing board and came up with the plans that we eventually built, which were shown in the post, remodel: the adventure begins. (LL #5: Seek out a second opinion on your designs.)

We were just about all set. We had a design, money, a contractor to manage and build the project and a schedule. The last hurdle was a personal one. I had not done any real CAD work in a number of years and the last time I had it was using DataCAD on a PC. As I did not own a PC or have access to DataCAD (not that I would remember how to use the program anyway) I had to hand drafting the construction drawings. (LL #6: Do not lose your CAD drafting skills.)

I really was not looking forward to hand lettering a set of plans, so I thought why not use Adobe InDesign? It was a program I knew and since I could scan the hand drawn plans, I could then type in everything else I needed. Good idea, right? It was, until I had to dimension the floor plans. (LL #7:  Do not ever do construction drawings in Adobe InDesign.)

Before we could submit the construction drawings to the City, I had to hire a structural engineer to analyze the design and provide structural drawings and calculations. I received a couple of bids from engineers I had worked for in the past and chose one that was more expensive, but I had a good experience with in the past. (LL #8: See LL #1 and past performance is not an indication of future results.)

After several weeks working through the design, consulting friends, colleagues and the City Planning and Building Departments the plans that I designed and drew were submitted on July 9th. Two weeks later on July 23rd, the plans were approved and the process of bidding, etc. was on!

Over the next two weekends we moved out of the house. My wife spent several weeks packing things, donating other things and throwing out everything else that were not going to move. First to move was our furniture and stuff we could not take to our temporary home into my mother’s garage for storage. Then the following weekend we moved everything else into a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment across town. Once we were out of the house the construction, something that had been contemplated for 6 years, had finally begun!