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An Old Familiar Friend

My new master bathroom in The Painted Lady is coming together nicely, it’s generous in size at 6′ x 15.’ Every time I frame up one of these tub boxes for the drop in tub I get a sense of Deja Vu, like seeing an old friend. It seems like just yesterday when I was doing a similar configuration on the Target House project only this time I’m just going with a standard 3′ high pony wall separating the tub and the shower instead of the full wall with the window opening, which will also also keep my tile price down. Every bathroom I design is a bit different, this time I’ve got everything in a line down the left hand wall and then the water closet at the end on the right. You kinda just gottta play with the space and do what works best. I’ve also got the whole right hand wall available for towel bars with this design, I’ve learned this the hard way after doing killer bathrooms and then finding out there no place for towel bars. The door swings in and onto the right hand wall, a 60″ dual vanity is first on the left, then the jacuzzi tub in the middle with a 3′ x 4′ shower at the back. I planned on dropping in a regular soaker tub with no jets to keep the budget down but after pricing them I could get the American Standard Plebe model 32″ x 60″ jetted tub for the same price of $399.00 so it’s a no brainer. There’s a window in the center of the back wall but I’ve got it temporarily sealed now.  Natural light is key for bathrooms, ideally I probably would have had another window in the shower and one in the water closet too but I’m trying to stay within budget so I’m forced to pull back in some areas. Code states that if you don’t have an opening window you must have an exhaust fan but I’ll have both.

As you can see we got started roughing in the plumbing this week,  I got a great quote of $4800.00 for the complete new system with gas lines, I supply the fixtures. I was also reminded that black ABS is used here in California and not white PVC as in Texas and on the East Coast for the waste lines.  I think PVC is better and cheaper but the only upside on ABS is that you don’t have to use primer with the glue.  ABS also gets brittle from UV exposure so it’s now common place to paint the roof stacks in California. I still like PVC better, even though it takes more time to install using the primer but I’m sure there’s some tree hugger issue with it so that’s why California uses ABS. After framing I always get the plumber in first before the electrician or hvac sub contractors, it works best because the vent pipes and waste lines are not flexible. I also wait until the plumber is done before putting on the new roof so we don’t have to butcher the new roof for the vent pipe roof jacks.  Your roof job comes out far superior if all jacks are in place before install, this trick came with experience.  After these waste lines are complete we’ll run the new black pipe gas lines and then finally the copper supply side lines. I’m still going back and forth with the San Diego Historical Review Board, they have made me change 13 items on my plans including window type, siding material, roof type & color and they even want to know the exterior paint colors. Furthermore, they are making me re-stack the exterior brick chimneys even though they’ve been eliminated inside the house. It’s really slowing me down because until I get everything approved from them I cant call for any inspections. As frustrating as it is, I’m stoked to learn exactly what needs to be done to pull off a renovation of this caliber in San Diego so I’ll chalk the delay up to contractor school.

Don’t forget the men and women who died while serving in the American military protecting our great country, this holiday weekend is not just all about beer and barbeques in the park. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day and God Bless our troops!

Master Sweet Framing

I’m getting close to the stem wall pour, the guys worked on the forms all week. Inside the forms we hung 12″ j-bolts that will anchor the house to the foundation once it’s poured. Then we laid 4 rows of #5 rebar and secured it to the screw jacks with tie wire. Anywhere the stem wall is more than 24″ high we will hang vertical rebar 24″ on center as well. This is over and above local building codes but  worth the extra expense. All the load from the weight of a house is carried on the exterior walls and down to the footings, it’s totally different for me here doing this as in Texas when building a pier and beam room addition you don’t do this perimeter foundation. The plastic sheeting you see is to keep the concrete from blowing out the back once we pump it into the form cavity. All that’s left now is to set the outside forms, we’ll cut windows along the top of the outside so we can pump the concrete in.

I also got the new master suite all framed up, it’s 375 s.f. and includes 9′ ceilings, a big bathroom that fits dual vanities, soaker tub, stand up shower and water closet. There’s also a generous sized walk in closet and french doors off the back. While the framers were there I also had them raise the kitchen ceiling, move some closets around upstairs and add some really cool tray ceilings in the living room and dining room that I’ll use for my mechanicals and central heat ducting to get upstairs. We also added fire blocking to the entire house since I had all the walls open. I bumped up the room addition ceiling  joist size to 2×8 and the roof rafters to 2×10 just to ensure the inspector likes what he sees and I get off on the right foot with him. It’s coming out pretty trick, I’m excited about how easy it was to really modernize this 100-year-old floor plan and am confident it’s going to help sell the house. The prices I’m nailing down for mechanicals on this 2000 s.f. house so far are as follows: Complete electrical with new 200 amp service: $5300. Complete plumbing with copper supply, gas lines and all new ABS waste lines: $5000. Complete new central heat system with new furnace and ducting: $1800. New roof: $2000 labor.  These are killer prices and all from legal, licensed sub contractors, I couldn’t have done better in Texas. Thanks to everyone locally who has sent me referrals, after this huge project I’ll have a great team ready for any size project!

Moonshine Jugs

I had a  productive week starting out by hanging all the OSB plywood on the room addition exterior, it really starts looking like a house once it has something on the framing. After the OSB I wrapped it with Tyvek, wow does Lowes like to advertise! Its amazing how many local rehabbers I see that dont use house wrapping on their additions. They’ll go straight over the OSB with the siding. For $88 bucks you cant go wrong and it really makes a difference on your electric bill and keeps the drafts out. The windows arrived Friday and I got most of them in along with the back door so now it all locks up again. As you can also see I had a retaining wall built this week from CMU block under the perimeter of the new addition. There was such a deep below grade cavity from my excavation that this was necessary for correct drainage and to prevent water intrusion under the house. I’ll backfill the sides now and we’ll be good to go. Another example of how we are doing things right, some guys would have thrown down some plywood and backfilled. The back porch is really neat, cant wait to see everything now with the historic waterfall style #117 siding on it to match the house.

The original owner of the house stopped by and said that their dad build it back in the 20’s. She’s going to give us all the info on the home and story behind it so we can pass it along to the new owner eventually. I am hoping she has some vintage photos of the front so when I go to rebuild the columns and porch area I can replicate it correctly. While I was under the house this week I found some old moonshine jugs, a 1927 Good Housekeeping magazine and a Texas automobile license plate from 1933. Since last weekend we’ve had 10 showings at Neighbor’s House and more offers as well. Spring buyers are out in full force. Cool stuff, stay tuned …

Post framing walkthrough ~ Target House

Here’s how my 900+ s.f. addition came out over at The Target House. The floorplan is flowing nicely even with the change in elevation to the master suite. That hallway is actually 46″ wide even though I mistakenly tell you 42″ in the video so its not cramped at all. As you can see I basically had to rebuild the entire floor in that back room this week because it was originally a screened-in porch so it sloped down for drainage. It’s all straight now and lines up perfectly with the new addition. As far as sales go, we are getting great showings at The Neighbors House, Spring is here, the weather is beautiful, flowers are planted and there is a strong smell of home buyer in the air: ).

..we have Roof

For those of you taking notes, I just completed step #4 in my standard order for major renovations.

Step#1 Demo

Step#2 Level the existing structures’ foundation

Step#3 Frame up new construction portion

Step#4 Put the roof on

As with any renovation the demo always comes first. Next, I always level the existing house’s foundation so I am starting with something straight before I add on. Thirdly, I frame up the new addition and then finally get the roof on so everything inside will now be dry. After the roof I’ll usually move towards getting the siding on which includes doors and windows then I can have my sub contractors come through and rough-in the electrical, plumbing and hvac. I like to have the house secure before new stuff goes in so this is my reasoning. You can see how the roof gable pops up moving backwards through the addition, this compensates for the interior steps keeping the same 9′ ceiling height throughout. 

After my usual price shopping all over town I ended up getting the 30-year roofing material at Lowes for $50/square.  If you are spending alot of money at Lowes or Home Depot have them send your quote to the “bid room.”  They’ll come back with another 10% off everytime. If you bring in a competitors quote they’ll beat it by 10%. In San Antonio if you can speak a little Spanish you can get a roofing laborer to put on a new layer for $20/square if you supply all the materials whereas roofing contractors charge over $160 with materials. I ended up throwing down about $80/square total after including all new flashings, tar paper and drip edges. I used my favorite color Estate Gray by Owens Corning, it goes with everything and looks rich. This isnt bad and less than half of what a homeowner would pay. This roof is 37 squares so the total price is around $4000 which is a great price for a 30-year shingle with all new metal and added ridge vents on a 2200 s.f. house.  Another rain storm caught the guys mid-way Saturday so we’re finishing it up Monday.

Foundation Complete!

We had a buyer come back for a third time on the Neighbor’s House this week as well as tons of calls and another new showing. Nothing in writing yet so we are still patiently waiting.

I got alot done this week on the Target House, with another day rental on the Bobcat but this time with the 2 foot auger attachment I drilled the holes for the 28 piers. The City of SA wants to see them 2 feet deep with #4 rebar at the bottom of each hole. I found a new engineer that came out and inspected the footings before the concrete pour. My old guy tried to raise his prices from 400 to 600 bucks for the inspection but the new guy’s price is only 350 so I am happy. The City of SA doesn’t inspect foundations for room additions anymore themselves, it’s up to the builder to supply his or her own engineers cerificate to satisfy that portion of the building permit.

After the footings were finished Friday I placed all the piers on Saturday so now I am all ready for the framers to come in and knock this puppy out. I used 12″ sonitubes for the piers but the City only calls for 8″. For the small extra cost I just think it provides for a way better product with the larger diameter piers so I always upgrade. We hand mixed 48 bags on 4000 psi concrete and poured them to the top. I’ll lay the 4×6 treated sills (beams) across the top next week before the framers get started. Stay tuned, we’ll be showing you some cool videos of the whole framing process soon!

I Am Digging It

With the use of a rented Bobcat this week I put a big dent in the backyard grading over at the Target House to get ready for the footings and piers on my new addition. My lot slopes up towards the back (again, 3rd house in a row) so I have to take away dirt in order to create space for the floor system and crawl space. The addition is 22 feet wide and goes back over 40 feet, I had to go down 3 feet deep on the driveway side so the finished subfloor is above driveway level. Additionally the plans incorporate 3 steps up into the master suite so the structure can stay above grade for drainage and ventilation issues. I’ve learned that there’s always engineering involved on a project like this, its not as simple as just drawing up a floorplan. One of these days hopefully I’ll get to add onto a house where the backyard actually slopes down so there wont be any digging. A big dead pecan tree was also right in the way and had to go bye-bye. My plans are ready, permits pulled, as soon as I can get these piers finished we can frame up this new 800+ s.f. in no time and put the new roof on.

Milking the Clock

We had a big week 3 on the Neighbors House project. Monday I passed inspection for my foundation so we ordered materials and went straight into framing the master suite room addition Wednesday. When laying out the floor joists I had the option to grab an extra 15 square feet by not cutting down my 16 footers and additionally we cantilevered the sills out and ended up with extra footage along the rear thus making our addition just over 700 s.f. instead of the planned 620. The framers kicked ass and got it done in a day and a half. I also had the stucco guy do the column bases for the front porch during the week. For the roof I went with my favorite 30-year composite shingle but since there were “Estate Grey” roofs on either side of this house (one being Hat Trick House) I had to choose another color, Driftwood. It’s really bizarre to flip two houses right next door to each other. Not only will I get to use my sales comp but also get the carryover curb appeal. My roofers showed up Friday and really got off to a slow start, it’s really disappointing to see someone intentionally dragging something out. Turns out the workers were being paid a day rate instead of a contract rate. After turning up the heat on my subcontractor he quickly changed their pay scale to per square pricing and they really started working, it was like I was looking at a different crew. These clock milkers had the nerve to ask me to buy lunch for them Saturday, I told them where they could go… to find the closest taco shop. The roof didn’t get finished due to the time lost so they’ll be back Monday to wrap it up. This week I’ll take care of the interior framing and arched openings and then its time to run the sub contractors through there for HVAC, electrical and plumbing to work towards the big milestone of passing rough-in inspections on all 3 of these trades.

Week 2 Update Neighbors House

After completing the bulk of the demo last week my main goal has been towards getting the new roof on. I always start with the new roof first (and foundation if needed) on any major remodel so if there were any leaks previously it wont trash any new stuff going in. Before I can get the roof on this house, I have to add the porch and room addition so it’s been my main focus to get these taken care of first. I had to move the gas meter back 40 feet from the house but luckily the power company showed up Monday and obliged so I got started with no delay. The porch came out really good as it completely changed the look of our house. In this historic neighborhood everyone loves the big front porches and they are an important feature in order to maximize retail sales price. I mimicked the original house design with the 30” eaves and open rafter tails. There are about 10 different Craftsman style home models in our neighborhood but unfortunately this one doesn’t come with the traditional porch so we knew we had to add it. The rear addition is the major change of this house, it will be approximately 620 square feet and contain a utility room, master bedroom, master bath, hallway and walk in closet. Once again to obtain maximum retail sales price these are things that today’s buyer will expect. We will also be giving them a walk-in food pantry and double vanities in the bath, all popular amenities to consider when given the opportunity to remodel. I was fortunately able to design around the big pecan tree so after we are done I plan to do a cool deck around the tree with a circular bench and French doors leading from the master suite. We’ve gone through 6 dumpsters so far, 3 being filled with dirt from the excavation I had to do with the Bobcat for the addition. Monday I have an engineer inspecting my foundation and issuing a certificate, which the City of San Antonio requires for our permit and then we’ll be free to start framing. Do you want to learn exactly how someone pulled down $155,510 his first year Flipping Houses in a recession? Visit our friend’s blog and see. Congratulations bro!

Post-Mud Walkthrough

All the tape and float is now complete and the whole house got textured today with a light orange peel. This crew did a great job and the house looks incredible. The texture guy was checking out my cactus in the front yard so I had to keep an eye on him. We ordered 13 pre-hung interior doors at roughly $68.00 ea. this week so they will get delivered Tuesday and I can start hanging them. I chose a raised 2-panel hollow core with oil rubbed bronze hardware, which we will use throughout the house. A nice young couple has been by several times looking at the house and found me through a friend who lives on the next block. They are extremely interested and love the area however I think we might be priced a bit out of their range. It’s amazing how hot this area is and what little good inventory comes up. Most of the houses in Mahncke Park are 2/1’s with tiny closets and not fully updated so our 3/2 with luxurious master suite will be a very unique offering and timely to coincide with the surging popularity of the area. Here is a quick walkthrough video from today.

The Old and the New

Front Siding

As you can see I have the whole house sanded down and the new windows are in. I did all 30 windows in 1 day by myself. It’s looking really good now and it’s easy to imagine how it looked in bare wood form circa 1925 with a possible Model-T parked out front. Looking in the near distance you can see the new 20-story luxury upscale condo building called The Broadway that’s being built just 2 blocks away. It’s the largest scale condo high-rise in San Antonio and the most expensive coming in at $500 per square foot. The San Antonio Riverwalk Extension will reach 2 blocks away from this high-rise and our property as well. This area of Broadway will become quite swanky in the next 3-5 years with the addition of this high-rise and more on the table. We are in good company with the builder, Mr. Red McCombs who is also betting on this area as being a good investment. Mr. McCombs is supposedly keeping the top floor for his private use while the 19th floor is comprised of two penthouses at 4 million each, one of which is already sold.

Electrical Wiring

The complete electrical is also now roughed in. All we have to do is set the meter loop next week and then we can call in for rough inspection. I hired and fired a plumber this week as well, after talking him down to the price we needed he dropped off his materials and disappeared for 4 days. He begged me to give him another chance and explained how badly he needed the work, I could only keep asking myself why wouldn’t he show up and do it then? If it’s this hard to get him over to do the rough-in then we could really be in a jamb when inspections started…better to clip this guy now. Of course we didn’t give him any money up front so we haven’t lost anything but time. The HVAC guys have started running all the ductwork for the new central A/C I’m adding. I’ve located the furnace and coil in the attic to save space. I am using a 4-ton, 14 seer Goodman system for this house. They recommend roughly 1 ton for every 500 s.f. of living space. Prices in San Antonio for a system like this with all new equipment, ducts, grilles, boxes and permits run about $5,000. Keep in mind this is a builder price; retail companies from the phone book would be quoting $8-10k easy.

New Siding

I got the siding on this week as well. I used the “historical replica” #117 siding for the whole master suite addition so it matches the existing house. I did the whole rear addition with 1 helper in a day, a big day though. It’s been pretty fun building this “new” addition in the “old” style. It reminds me of the restoration/modified builds they do on old muscle cars these days. All old and original looking but with today’s advanced technology.

Hat Trick All Framed Up

Walk through with me and check out my framing…this is how we roll.

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New Addition Framing

2.5 days and the whole master suite addition is all framed up and dried in. It came out sweet; I am really excited with the reconfigure of the floor plan on the Hat Trick House. I have the roofers coming tomorrow to put down a 30-year dimensional shingle in the color Estate Grey with ridge vents. My electrician is also getting started in the a.m. roughing everything in for the complete re-wire. I am also planning to call for framing inspection tomorrow as well so let’s hope for a pass, should be no problems as I went with 2×8 for ceiling joists and 2×6 for the roof. I had a bid yesterday for all new plumbing with permits including tying in the new room addition. This character had the nerve to bid $8,000. It’s really crazy now that construction has slowed down; some subs are actually raising their prices to make up for less work. I had him down to $3,500 by the time we got outside to the curb. I’m still getting bids and trying to hit $2,500 max.

5 Yards of Concrete & 200 lbs of Rebar Later

piers

I finished the 15 concrete piers today for the 435 s.f. master suite addition. There are 3 rows of 5 with 7 foot spacing. After the bobcat grading I dug 24” holes, 2 feet deep with an auger. At the bottom of the holes I placed #4 rebar in a tic tac toe pattern, 3 pcs each way. Then I filled the holes up 18” with 4000 psi concrete to make the footing. For the pier I placed 2 more pieces of rebar sticking straight up through 10” sonitubes. I left these 2 pieces of rebar a little high so the sill beams can lay inside them. Finally I filled the sonitubes with more concrete to complete the pier. I have to reflect for a minute on how easy this is in Texas vs. California which has all the earthquake codes and bureaucratic red tape. The City of San Antonio only requires an Engineer’s approval letter for the foundation inspection of my building permit, (which I pulled over the counter). He comes out twice, once to inspect the hole depth then secondly after the beams are sitting on the piers. Try pulling a permit in San Diego. Drop off your plans, wait for months and prepare to jump through some hoops! The framing will start on Monday. Stay tuned.

Bobcat Doin’ Work

Bobcat

Recently we switched gears to the 430 s.f. room addition for the new master suite. It’s a pier and beam foundation and since my lot slopes up towards the rear, the first thing I had to do was to rent a Bobcat and grade down 18 inches. This will allow for the crawlspace to comply with the building code of having a minimum of 1 foot space between the earth and the bottom of your sill. With the Holidays quickly approaching it’s now time to take off work for a while and spend precious time wih family and loved ones. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!