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Concrete Jungle

What’s an urban restoration project like without adding just a tad more hardscape to blend in with the mass expanses of paved metropolitan living? There is always a danger of adding too much concrete and having your house look like a parking lot but I think I pulled it off and managed to give the new owners a place for 4 cars to park securely while also enhancing the landscaping design with the sweeping walkway around the side yard. After receiving multiple bids in the $5 – $7  per square foot range, I managed to pull off the 22 yard pour for just around $3.75/s.f.

There was a block wall that was cracked and leaning over out front so we formed and poured around it after some reinforcing with rebar. Once I crack off the forms we’ll give it a swipe with spec mix for a sanded stucco finish to match the foundation walls. I thought this was a good quick fix as opposed to demolishing everything and having someone stack a whole new block wall which technically would also have to be permitted with the City. Inside this week, we also stripped all the paint from the 100-year-old staircase after deciding it will look better in its natural redwood state rather than painting it with all the trims.

Got Trim!

My special order interior doors from Home Depot came in so I jumped right into trim carpentry all week so I could get one step closer to painting the inside of the house. As you saw last week, my hardwood floors went in first, after protecting them with rosin paper I then trimmed out the entire house on top of the floors (baseboards, doors and door casings). That way you don’t have to notch the floors around door jambs and casings or undercut everything and you actually get the wood floors under the baseboards for a better finished product. I am using the same style door as on the Target House called “Riverside” from the Masonite Anniversary Collection. They are a 5-panel raised profile that look good with historic homes. These hollow core MDF doors are cool and are fit within my budget at $80.00 each for the complete pre-hung door with jamb. I also bought matching door slabs for the bedroom closet sliders so everything is consistent. You get to choose the finish on your hinges so I ordered chrome again so I can use brushed nickel knobs and still match modern chrome bathroom and kitchen hardware. They come pre-primed so after everything is installed, caulked and holes filled I will spray them along with all baseboards, window trims and closet shelving in place then lastly, apply the wall color with brush and roller.

For those of you do-it-your-selfers out there, here’s a good trick for ya. Install one side of the door casing with the door on the ground, then tip the pre-hung unit into place and secure it with the finish nailer. Afterwards go to the other side and install the door casing. This is way faster and easier than hassling with shims and battling it for an hour to get it straight. This is how the pro’s do it so give it a try next time you’re hanging doors and you’ll never use shims again. For my door casings I used square profile MDF in a 1 x 4″ to match the original period mouldings that would have been in the home.

I had to go with the huge 1 x 8″ baseboards on this house, I’ve used them before but with the giant room sizes and high ceilings it was a clear choice, not to mention its close to the size that were originally there. After asking all around town I finally found out where everybody gets their trims and its not Home Depot. Builders Moulding Supply in El Cajon has just about any style and size moulding you could want, that’s all they sell and you get it in bulk 16 footers right on spot from their warehouse at a price 30% less than the big box stores. I spent about $1,000 for everything I needed for my trim job minus the closet build-outs which I’ll use pine for because it seems more durable and holds more weight then the MDF. I was pretty happy to see that they also come pre-primed because my old supplier used to only offer them raw. After everything is painted I’ll peel up the paper on the floor and lastly nail in the shoe moulding on the bottom of the baseboards to complete the historic look I’m going for. We’re getting alot of attention at the house now, several interested parties stopped by this week asking when it was going to be done. I’m pushing for late September but its going to be tight especially because I’m doing an equity grab and not paying out a bunch of labor costs in the final stretch. I figured either way it wont be prime selling season so I might as well save the money. The good thing about the timing is that If I get into the next project soon I can stay busy this winter and hit the Spring selling season perfectly. There are so many things about this project that I write off to warming up in San Diego, I’m ready now to dial in my system on the next house. It’s been 100 degrees for months in Texas, it’s been nice to finally be home and we’re having fun!

Bold and Fresh

It’s really nice to be able to try new materials when you are flipping houses, I’m really happy with the hand scraped and distressed hardwoods as an alternative to what style I usually use. In the big expansive space they look bold and fresh. With the large rooms and white walls I still get the expansive feel but with the warmth of the darker wood. Before nailing down the wood you can see I put down 15 pound felt paper as a moisture barrier. With one helper I installed 1400 s.f. in 3 days. Sub contractors were charging $2-3 bucks a foot so by doing this myself I shaved 3k in expenses. The walls are primer now so you can start to visualize how the white interior paint will look. I chose Benjamin Moore Cloud White and hopefully will get it put up soon.

We also installed the 2 new front fixed windows. I made some historic replicas with the mullion across the top. Now the house is finally aluminum window free and all evidence of the former owners 1980 remodel are removed except for the black interior paint on the staircase handrail which will disappear soon enough. My electrician stopped by and made up all the switches and receptacles so now I can have light inside while we paint. We also spent the majority of last week still re-hanging the original windows and trimming them out, there is so much little stuff to do it really seems like its slowing down but I cant pull in a bunch of subs because it will blow the budget so with the help of my right hand man we are tackling everything ourselves. I ordered the interior pre-hung doors so hopefully next week I can get them in and trim out the whole house with casings and baseboards. Currently up on deck I’m planning on interior paint, tile and kitchen cabinets. From what I’m noticing on the streets it seems like the market is slowing down and inventory is not moving as quickly, I’m not really bothered by it because we have such a specialty project but if I was one of the high volume, run-of-the- mill San Diego house flippers I would be careful. Home prices are down 8% from last year so its extremely important to use recent comps when looking at investing in San Diego real estate. This is when quality over quantity pays off.

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Victorian House Colors

Of course its not done yet but we’re 90% there on our Victorian paint job and its really looking good. The steps and front porch will be green and all the windows are still missing the plum color but if you look closely you can see we put it up on one of the porch windows to get a visual. I still have to figure out which color I’ll bring down to the front door, the decorative brackets as well as the two-toned porch railing I’m still going to make. The last 2 remaining big aluminum windows on the front of the house are also getting changed out this week which will complete the package. I’ve got a guy hand making 2 custom big wood frame plate glass windows with mullions on the top. I honestly thought this color scheme might be too crazy but once it went up it didn’t look that loud at all. They are all rich tones and together work perfectly. The missing plum on the windows is really going to give it the finishing accent it needs. I love the way the sunburst, scalloped shingles and gingerbread all contrast on the green body and trim colors and the light blue front porch ceiling looks great with the greens as well. All the little details I fixed are really standing out now. Here are the 6 colors I used, all from Sherwin Williams Victorian House palette:

1. Body: Renwick Olive SW2815

2. Trim: Rookwood Dark Green SW2816

3. Accent 1 (gable shingles, front door) Rookwood Amber SW2817

4. Accent 2 (sunburst, brackets, porch, rosettes, porch detail) Rookwood Terra Cotta SW 2803

5. Accent 3 (windows) Rookwood dark Red SW 2801

6. Accent 3 (porch ceiling) Bluebird

EDIT 11/2011 If you want to see how the finished house looks here’s a link     http://tomtarrant.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/painted-lady1-1024×751.jpg

I bought the floors this week as well, they will be delivered Thursday and we’ll start installing them. I’m doing something different this time and mixing it up. I went with a more modern 5″ wide hand-scraped and distressed hardwood, kinda Jeff Lewis style from Flipping Out, and on my wall color I’m going to keep it white and clean, just softened up enough to make the white trim contrast. With the smooth hand troweled wall texture its going to look really modern and high end. I think that with the size of the rooms and the abundance of light coming in that these floors are going to be killer even though normally they are reserved for Tuscan or Old World interior designs. Your typical Red Oak flooring with the expansiveness of the space just wouldn’t have given me what I’m looking for.  And, at $2.60 / s.f. its more budget friendly compared to unfinished Red Oak at $1.99 plus another $2.00 to finish it. After all, the name of the game is to keep the exterior historic but have the inside modern and up to date. What do you guys think of the colors?

Paint on the Lady

The painters I hired for The Lady turned out to be a little in over their heads. Throughout the week I found myself initially letting some poor prep slide, then finally by the end of the week I was actually showing them how I wanted things done and had my hourly helper doing their work. Since we had agreed on a contract price and not hourly, I told them it just wasn’t working out and I wanted to break up. The straw that broke the camels back is when I had my guy re-sand a whole wall because they didn’t prep it good enough and then before we could even put some primer on it, they sprayed color right over the raw wood. I feel much better now after letting them go, me and my guy will probably just finish it off ourselves. The paint job is real important on this house and as you know its all in the prep, but even though I had not planned nor budgeted for the caliber of work we’ve done in the past, it still needed to be better than what I was getting.  This is the first sub contractor who hasn’t worked out so I’ve been really lucky getting back here to San Diego and having to build a new team and at least the error is on something I can fix. I am super excited with my colors, the first one we put up after primer is the dark green on the big eaves. Victorian color schemes are known for dark eaves and trim and lighter body colors. The pictures are large format again so make sure and click on them if you want to zoom in: )

The second color we sprayed was on the gable shingles. This accent color will also be carried down to a few other spots later. Notice the ornamental rosette discs I found online to replace what must have been there originally. When we pulled the siding off last month I noticed these circle marks and figured out what had been there years ago. These little details are going to pop after all the colors are up. I’ve got one more period detail big surprise with the front porch handrail, the house is looking really good now but only half way to the impact I’ve got planned!

The drywall crew is doing a great job and should be finished in a few more days. The hand troweled smooth texture is coming out perfect so that’s my good news for the week. Here are a few pics before the texturing went on, the huge tray ceilings are really dramatic. I also went with the new style “mini-bullnose” for the corners, its smaller than your typical rounded corner but very sharp and clean and usually reserved for high end custom homes. My plan is to keep pushing on the exterior so we can get all the colors up before coming back inside to do window trim, interior paint and flooring. We had a good home sale a few blocks over, its another historic 2 story rehab, 500 square feet smaller and only a 2 bedroom went pending after only 5 days on the market for $425k. We’ll have to see what it closes for but I’m sure they didn’t take too much less with that short market time.

Drywall and Exterior Prep

After having 6-7 drywall contractors bid the Painted Lady I finally pulled the trigger. With the lack of new housing starts in this town a lot of the high volume big specialty crews are not around anymore. Of course there are drywall “companies” here but they all charge more than I want to pay. Any handyman can hang your drywall so it can be tricky to get a good price yet also get a good job, its one of the most important things to get right in order to have a nice finished product.  We always say you can only get 2 out of 3;  fast, good and cheap. It might get done fast and be cheap but it wont be good. It might be good and cheap but it wont be fast. Lastly, it might get done fast and good but it certainly wont be cheap!

In searching for drywall sub contractors I relied on referrals primarily. In our business we always break costs down to price per square foot on anything in order to budget for things. In Texas everyone used a labor price per sheet which was around 11.00. Here in San Diego all the contractors are using price per square foot and quoting .45 to .65 cents for labor which includes hanging, tape an float and texture. Out of all the rehabbers and other investors I spoke to nobody knew how much they were paying but just agreeing on one price.  Things they take into consideration are the ceiling height and any other details that might slow them down. Our house has 11 foot ceilings with trays downstairs and coves upstairs so it adds a lot of time to the job. While a lot of bids came in at .59 cents I ended up getting it finally from a highly recommended guy for .40 cents. Another thing that’s driving my price up is because I am going with a smooth finish texture to replicate the old plaster found in these homes originally. A quick light orange peel spray job would have been way cheaper but I couldn’t do that to this house. At 10,000 s.f. of drywall I’m paying $4k for labor. I’m pretty happy, the hanging crew is done now after 2.5 days with 5 guys and we have the inspection on Monday for screw spacing then Tuesday we can start taping.

On the outside of the house I stayed busy with recreating some more of the missing details that make this house so cool while the painters started prepping. The biggest thing was that the sunburst under the front gable was broken so we had to scale a 32 foot ladder and take it down to copy it. I made a sweet new one and got it back up there in place, its weird to think that the last person who touched this was over 100 years ago and nobody will touch what we did for probably another hundred years. I’m putting in a little extra effort to make sure the front of this house and all its historical little ornaments are intact. We installed the TM Cobb Victorian front door with stained glass window and rebuilt the original transom as well. I also hand made some cool brackets for under the front porch. Since the original ones were missing I used the mini gable facia for inspiration and came up with a heart-Celtic-clover design, they came out cool and are now in place. Its neat when the sun hits the front of this house all these details create shadows on the siding. I also made some fake scalloped shingles for the top of the mini gable that were missing. I cut them out of 1/4 plywood and even put grooves in them to make them look real, another small detail that will pay off. We are getting color on the outside this week, stay tuned to see some Lady paint.

Siding and Insulation

We finally passed all rough-in inspections and have now hung all the insulation. It took 2 tries with   my hvac sub contractor, he forgot to strap down the furnace and didn’t run hard pipe gas line through the unit so we had to call for a second inspection after having him come fix the two issues. These are small details which he should have caught but nonetheless we got all the signatures now on our inspection card and the City inspector is starting to warm up to me a bit now that he sees we know what we are doing. Right after passing I scheduled the insulation to be hung the next day and its called in for an inspection for tomorrow. I insulated the exterior walls and complete sub floor.  This is over and above what my permit called for but having all the walls opens provides such an obvious opportunity to save energy and provide someone with a product we can be proud of. I’m sure the new homeowner will unknowingly be thanking me every month when they pay their electric bill. With all the walls open I also ran Cat-6 and cable wires to all the bedrooms. We are in a heat wave right now in San Diego, I wouldn’t have wanted to be the guy under the house all day itching and scratching trying to hang this stuff. I jumped outside and started trimming out the exterior also, I re-framed the front porch and used 1×3 tongue and groove for the decking that’s historically correct. It’s a little more than I could have spent on another material but its details like this that will pay off in the end and especially since its on the front of the house which is always the most important to focus on.

I also got some of my windows installed and I’m telling you they are so neat. TM Cobb makes a mighty fine wooden double hung window for historic homes. I’m totally happy and cant wait for the missing 2 to arrive with the Victorian front door so I can install them too.

Here’s the bank of 4 windows on the study or optional 5th bedroom. This room is going to be killer with all the light that’s coming in. There was a lot of missing trim on the corners of the house that was probably removed when the metal siding went on. This stuff is easy to replace so we’ve been working our way around the house getting everything back to how it should be.

For the rear master suite room addition I purchased 10″ cedar beveled channel siding from La Mesa Lumber at $2.50/foot. This is the first time I’ve used it and boy is it nice. It comes pre-primed and its very straight, unlike the T117 siding I’ve frequently used on the Craftsman bungalows. We wrapped the room addition with Tyvek first of course and are now putting the 773 siding up. It’s great to use all the correct materials, in this case its costing me about $1400.00 for this siding but its going to be worth it. The historical review board here in San Diego wouldn’t even have let me use Hardi Siding if I wanted to. My colors were also approved this week so once the exterior trim and siding is all complete I’m going to have 2 crews in simultaneously painting the exterior of the house and hanging the drywall on the inside. Once the drywall is hung we have to get a nailing inspection where they verify spacing on the screws before we tape and float over it. Stay tuned, we’re going to see some dramatic changes soon. Also, Get on over to Biggerpockets.com and check out the video interview I did with Josh. I break down our business model and explain what kind of projects we look for.

Painted Lady has a New Hat

This is the craziest roof I’ve ever done and it didn’t help that my roofer only saw it necessary to bring one helper. The pitch is a very steep 12′ on 10′ so it makes walking on it humanly impossible. Not to mention that there were 3 layers including the original wood cedar shake shingle that needed to be removed before we could even install the new roof decking made this an all consuming  job. It was slow going all week due to the steep pitch, they even had to hand carry the individual shingles up the 32′ ladder as we couldn’t load the bundles anywhere on the roof. It’s always good to pick your roof color to go with what exterior paint colors you’ve got planned, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen rehabbers make this crucial mistake, like a brown roof with a green house. I usually use the Owens Corning 30-Year Estate Grey but this time I went with something new its the Lifetime GAF shingle in the color called Slate. It’s mostly grey but with a hint of blueish green to make it look like slate on an old house. I think its going to tie in nicely with my paint color scheme. The roof on this house is real important to get right because its so visible. I took this opportunity to remake the historic scalloped decorative facia board also on the mini front gable and it came out sweet.

I also picked up my new wood historic style double-hung sashed windows by TM Cobb this week. These windows are so cool I wish I could replace all of them but the budget just doesn’t permit it. I’m putting in 8 new ones that are either unsavable or someone had already replaced with aluminum and refurbishing the rest of the original windows per the historic board guidelines. I cant put them in until I pass framing inspection. The electrician finished up this week so I’m now finally ready to call for rough-in inspections on framing, electrical, plumbing and hvac all at once. I think I’ve got 7 killer historic colors nailed down for the exterior, they are from the Sherman Williams Victorian House color collection. If the Historic Board approves it, I’ll be using a lighter green body, dark green trim, burnt orange accent on the sunburst, plum windows, medium orange for some accents, and light blue for the porch ceiling. There will also be a grey wood front porch to keep it period correct. These are some heavy colors but I think the Lady will hold them well as long as I use the accents sparingly and in the right places.

Hidden Surprises for Fathers Day

First and foremost, Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there! The coolest thing we did this week at The Painted Lady was to remove all of the 1970’s Sears metal siding, of course we recycled it to help save the planet. This is the third time I’ve done this on a historic house but I’ve never removed 2 different layers to get down to the original wood. It’s always a gamble because you never know of the condition underneath but its been my experience that the asbestos or vinyl that’s on top actually preserves and protects the old wood and I’ve always been surprised to see near perfect siding with minimal paint jobs buried underneath. The more the homes get painted over the years, the harder it is to prep so in this case when I found the original yellow paint job with nothing cracking or peeling I was excited.  As we removed it, I found tons more hidden architectural details that these Victorian houses are famous for so I had to tell myself it must have been a pretty good salesman in a polyester jacket who was able to convince the homeowner with his “never paint your house again” pitch years ago to cover all the character of their house up. These cool details in the trim on the house are going to put my paint job over the top.

We also finally got the foundation poured, it took 2 full trucks with almost 20 yards of concrete total, as well as a pumper rig to fill up the spaces we left open around the house in the forms. Once filled we removed the forms while it was still green and hand troweled the finish. Its harder to work with but I used the 1.5″ rock aggregate although most guys use the pea gravel mix. Since the stem wall is 3 feet high in some spots I wanted it to be as strong as possible. This house isn’t going anywhere now for another 100 years. The Historical Review Board also asked me to replace the visable portions of the old chimneys in order to keep the house period correct. The old ones were crumbling and dangerous and I deleted them from inside the house to maximize my floorspace and intended not to re stack the exterior, they weren’t fireplaces inside but only basically a brick flue for stove exhaust. I found some used bricks on Craigslist and had them re-stacked just from the roof line up, I had to knock this out before the roofers show up on Monday.

I finally met with some sub contractor drama this week from one of my subs, I knew everything was going too good to be true. It’s crazy, but unfortunately I cant share the story although it involves the FBI. Hopefully he’ll have his helper finish up next week so I can call for rough in inspection and be ready to insulate and drywall after the new roof goes on.

Painted Lady Week 6

Here’s a walk through to show the progress of The Painted Lady at week 6. After waiting 4 weeks for historical board approval we finally got the green light so we started calling for inspections. It was quite interesting to say the least, initially we failed both the foundation and framing because of a few small issues. The trench for the foundation was 2″ too shallow,  the plans I drew noted a 24″ deep trench which is overkill because a 2 story house only requires 18″ deep footings but I wanted to beef it up a little. I also upgraded the rebar size from the nominal 1/2″ as code requires to 5/8″ just do make it stronger. None of this mattered when the inspector showed up, he failed me anyway for lack of the 2″ to make it match what the plans called for. On the framing I was missing a few nails as the plans called for. I knew it wasn’t a big deal to make these few changes so it really didn’t bother me to fail. We fixed them quick and called the inspector back out 2 days later.

This is when I learned that nothing is going to just get signed off on that quick. When he arrived it took him all of about 10 minutes to measure the trench depth and check for the framing nails. He then proceeds to tell me that he can only pass me on the foundation but I’ll have to wait to pass on the framing. Really, didn’t you just look and see I made the corrections?  I’ve heard that they commonly show up and will only sign off on one or two things due to time restraints. The framing inspection includes about 4 categories; roof, floor, wall construction and sheer panels and could take up to 40 minutes in theory. Although he already verified everything was o.k. he only passed me on the roof portion “so I could stay busy and put my roof on.”  As you can imagine there’s not much new construction going on, so last year half of the inspectors got laid off so I don’t think morale is at its highest level.  With half of the staff now the inspectors are covering twice the territories so there’s not much time when they show up. When dealing with inspectors always tread lightly, give respect and remember not to rock the boat. The best rule is to close your mouth and just listen. This is exactly why most rehabbers look for the cosmetic flips or sneak by without permits.  Next week will be big, plumbing is now completely done, hvac done and electrical 75% done. Monday we are finally pouring the foundation after waiting forever for the City. Even with the slow downs I’m still pushing,  small set backs are just part of the business.

Several other cool things in TomTarrant.com land for this week;

1. There is a new contest at REIClub.com that I am nominated for. It’s another Best Real Estate Investing Blog shoot out. I’m up against some really popular sites so please go and cast your vote for me. Voting doesn’t begin until Monday, June 13 and goes through midnight on Friday June 17. This one is big, I could win a $250 Apple gift card which my wife would love. I need your help on this one guys, if you like the info I share here for you, please take a second and go vote for me!

http://www.reiclub.com/realestateblog/best-real-estate-investing-blogs-2011/

2. Joshua Dorkin over at Biggerpockets.com asked me to do an off the cuff Skype video interview for him where we’ll cover general real estate investing stuff and info about my house flipping business.  Make sure and go by his site next week and look for the interview. I’ll probably spill all the secrets you’ve been wanting to know.

http://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/real-estate-interviews/

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!

Skinny legs, old yellow dress

So we finally got started this week on the huge foundation repair in which we are completely leveling the house and adding a new perimeter concrete stem wall. Before this huge stem wall can be formed and poured, we had to level the house and dig the 24″ trench around the sides. The house was only 2″ off at the most so the leveling was easy and we got the entire house within 1/4″ with a digital level going from one side to the other.  I hired a foundation guy who has worked for me in the past even though I had a cheaper bid from a new guy, I just felt it’s such an important part of the rehab and I didn’t want to go down that road with a new sub contractor, especially on my first project back in San Diego. The only downside was I had to wait for him to finish another job so it slowed me down a bit. I’m not sure that I would have wanted to be under this huge house with jacks on a Friday the 13th! The next step now will be to set all the wood forms for the stem wall and tie all the rebar inside per building code.

My sub contractor has been doing foundations for over 25 years so he’s got cool little tricks to make things easier for himself. I always enjoy learning these little tidbits from a true experienced professional in their field. As you can see here he’s got the outside of my house sitting on “sacrificial homemade screw jacks” we made out of 3/4″ galvanized pipe with 5/8″ all-thread inside and nuts and washers for the adjustments. Once everything is level he uses these jacks to hang the rebar on, and they’ll actually remain inside the new 8″ wide concrete stem wall permanently. Inside the trench they are sitting on small 8″ pier blocks, additionally he’ll hang the j-bolts from the new treated bottom plates so the house will be anchored to the new stem wall once its poured. It’s looks crazy to see this huge, heavy house sitting on these skinny legs but most of the weight is actually on the beams underneath a short distance away. Hopefully by the end of this week we’ll have the forms built and new foundation poured so we can get on to the framing.  After the framing I’ll do the roof, plumbing, hvac and electric. Everyone is ready to go for these trades so stay tuned as things shall move along a little faster soon. I pulled off some of the Sears metal siding that’s probably been on the house since the 70’s and as I guessed, the original 1909 ship lap wood was in perfect preserved condition with only one coat of faded yellow paint.  I’m pretty stoked as this could have gone either way with what I was going to find under there. On a side note, I had to rent a temporary construction fence this week to keep out the local kids who’ve evidently adopted the house as their local hang out at night. Every morning I’ve arrived to small surprises such as spilled ice cream, candy and even an egging. While nothings been stolen, construction sites are just not safe places to play so for the first time I’ve had to go on total lock down. This flimsy fence wouldn’t have kept me out 30 years ago but it gives me a little more piece of mind now knowing it’s not wide open.

Remodeling Plans & Permitting

After hearing all the horror stories about how hard it is to work with the City of San Diego with regards to permitting your rehab project I have to say that it really isn’t that bad. After designing my floorplan on graph paper I hired a draftsman to put it together for me. Since my company is the owner of the house I’m able to pull an owner/builder “Combo Permit” myself without being a licensed GC. I actually found my draftsman’s number on a bandit sign believe it or not, and he’s doing drafting work while putting himself through architecture school downtown. A real smart young guy and his price was great at $700 for a full set of plans showing all mechanicals, framing, foundation, connections, elevations and it even included him to accompany me downtown to submit the plans for approval. It’s always good to have your architect go with you because sometimes they let you make changes on the spot. Here’s my boy making changes to the 3 sets of plans during our appointment.

In order to submit the plans I had to provide 3 complete sets, the County building records and 4 photos of the house, one from each side as well as the jpeg images on disc. Once you arrive downtown you check in with the receptionist and tell them you are there for an over-the-counter permit and plan check. They do take appointments but I opted to just go early in the morning and wait as they open at 7:30. First you get sent to a preliminary desk that makes sure you have everything you need, then they send you across the building to wait for plan checking. The plan checking is very intensive and I found it to be completely opposite than in Texas. Here they look at every little detail, framing connections and sizes, mechanical placement, setbacks, elevations, demo plans, structural, and even smoke alarm/CO2 placement. Additionally, there are all these other disclosures you have to show on your plans, you even have to designate trash areas, concrete clean out areas and account for storm water run off with regards to keeping your debris on your lot in case of a downpour. In Texas to the contrary, the City didn’t even want to look at the plans but rather left the responsibility up to the inspectors as they went through for rough-in and final inspections to make sure everything is correct. It’s a little more red tape up front here but at the end of the day its easier to build it once you have such detailed plans for all your subcontractors to refer to. All in all, we had a great experience with our plan checker and even learned that we can request her in the future if we want to. On the second visit downtown we got stamps on the plans showing approval but now we have to wait the mandatory 10-day historical department review. The only item on my plans that’s still unclear is with regards to what type of siding they are going to request for the new rear portion of the house. Total cost for the permitting and plan check was about $2700. A far cry from what would have cost $300 in San Antonio.

While we wait for the historical department approval I’ll have my foundation guy start doing some prep work so we are ready to start leveling the house the day we get the permit. With the arrival of dumpster #4 yesterday, all of the big demo work is done minus pulling nails and some small framing stuff which we’ll do at the time I frame the master suite. I’m still spending a lot of time getting bids from sub contractors, its always one of the most important parts of any project but once I get my team in place on this first project, then I can just improve from there. It’s a lot of work acting as your own GC and now I’m essentially starting over without all my valuable San Antonio contacts but with a good team of subs I’ll be able to really stretch my budget thus enabling me to compete in this competitive market.

Hammer Time

Feels great to be back doing what I love, creating new spaces, and most of all home in San Diego. We spent all week doing demo on The Painted Lady, with 3 laborers I gutted just about the entire house, maybe only a half day left and we’ll be done. I filled nearly (3) 40-yard roll off dumpsters at $427.00 each. I was really worried that we weren’t going to be able to get the dumpsters into the back yard, having to put them on a public street is a pain in the butt as you have to have a permit. My only other choice was paying someone with a dump truck to drive the loads to the dump one by one. This would have been very time consuming and costly. The house is huge inside, I am really excited and can see the final product already. Next up on deck after the demo is done is the foundation work, then I’ll be ready to re-frame the back of the house and put the new roof on. So far it seems sub contractor prices are not that much higher than I was paying in Texas, although I still haven’t nailed down a good electrical or plumbing contractor. Here’s a walk through video so you can see this great floor plan.

New Project – The Painted Lady

74 days after arriving home in sunny San Diego we’ve finally bought our first rehab project, The Painted Lady. I’m real excited about it, she’s a 1909 Folk Victorian Gingerbread. The house is located in an Urban Redevelopment neighborhood just 1 mile from Petco Park and Downtown, with incredible views of the Coronado Bridge and all the way to Tijuana.

There are original hardwood floors under the carpet, 10 foot ceilings, and a lot of original details still intact. This is a huge project and needs just about everything a rehab could require. I’ll be leveling the foundation by adding a new perimeter stem wall and 40 new footings, new roof, re-framing a 360 square foot master suite on the back, replacing all the mechanicals, new kitchen, 2.5 new baths including adding a half bath under the staircase, some new windows and complete landscaping and fencing with an automatic gate on the alley. The house has aluminum siding that’s probably been on there since the 70’s. I peeked underneath it and there’s fiber shingles probably from the 50-60’s . Under the shingles I found the original wood board and bat siding which I’ll expose and also add some of the missing period details like the gingerbread ornamentation and porch decoration the Victorians are famous for.

The Victorian era began in the 1830’s and ran until roughly 1940. Our house is a Folk Victorian, more simple in design than the ornate Gothic or Italianate Victorians, and was usually built more modestly for the middle class. I’m excited to see the scalloped shingles under the gables which I’ll paint multi-color and the decorative gable bracket. This architecture can really hold color well so I’m planning on using a minimum of 6 bold colors to bring her back to life. I’ve done a lot of Craftsman style houses but this will be my first Victorian and only the second 2-story house we’ve rehabbed. With the huge scope of this project it will be a perfect welcome home project and enable me to become reacquainted with the City permitting, historical and inspection departments this summer as well as dial in my sub contractor team. If you can’t see the potential in what we have here, Google “Painted Ladies San Francisco” and you can get an idea of where I’m going with this project. Stay tuned for demo and a walk through design video!