Not Just a Big Box

Week 3 got us pretty close to being done with the rough framing on the Modern Bungalow. We have a lot of features and angles with this house, its not just a big box so its taking a little longer than originally planned but well worth it.  You can see we got the trusses up and the roof is almost completely sheeted. I left the rafter tails open with no facia board to replicate the craftsman bungalow style. The barge rafter also has a nice detail to add some interest.

The trusses were a breeze and went up really fast, but things slowed down we moved to the conventional “stick” framing of the roof line for the master suite above the garage. There are 3 more big parallam beams up there that allow us some really fun and unique ceiling angles, I’ll save that one to show you in the walk through video.

Under the eaves I used 2×6 tongue and groove on the 18″ rafter tails. It’s a great detail that many guys skip because it adds extra cost but its the right way to do open rafter tails and really also mimics the craftsman style. There are going to be several prominent Modern elements also to the home design, so I thought it was important to have as many period details alongside them to balance the blend.

For the roof sheathing I used OSB with a Tech Shield radiant barrier on the under side. It cost about 2 bucks more per sheet but it will be another huge energy saving feature of the home and save money on electric bills. Keeping your attic cool, and well ventilated is key to saving energy as we learned while building in Texas. This product blocks 97% of the radiant heat from entering through your roof sheathing.  Adding this radiant barrier will reduce attic temperatures by 30 degrees and result in a 17% savings in cooling costs. Before putting the roof on I have to get the nail spacing inspected by the City. You have to have a big ladder available but I don’t see this guy climbing up there its so high, it’ll be fun to see what he does.

My plumber got a great start too working alongside the framers, all the ABS waste lines and black iron pipe gas lines are done. Everything inside is real close and we even got the stairs finished. The electrician and HVAC sub contractors can also start once all rough framing is totally done. There’s a cool new construction project in Encinitas called The Leucadia Collection I want to check out, similar idea to what I’m doing. We might drive by this weekend and see if they’ve started framing or have a model home up.

You’re The Boss

In any other state I could have been all the way up to the second floor framing this week but here in San Diego the City inspector wants to see your floor system framed up first, verify the hold downs and framing, then come back and inspect the underfloor plumbing lines, then come back again and inspect the insulation. You lose a day in between each inspection so this would have dragged out for a week. It really makes sense to do it this way because its easier to do the under house plumbing now, rather than crawling under the house later to do it but the reason the inspector wants it done in this order really just comes down to the fact that he’s not crawling under the house no matter what.

After framing up the floor system in a day I had my plumber come and set all the under floor ABS waste lines and fill them again with water to make sure there’s no leaks. Lastly the insulation got dropped in on nylon netting we strung between the floor joists. Its a real trick way to insulate the floor on a new construction raised foundation house. I’ve used wires in the past but the insulation always ends up falling down in some places. Once we pass then we just sheet over it. The threaded rod you see sticking up is for the Simpson HDU hold downs that secure 4X6 posts in the exterior walls all the way down into the concrete foundation footing. This is to securely hold the structure on the foundation in case of an earthquake and they are strategically placed in shear wall areas by the engineer on the plans.

Of course I had a better idea. I tried to speed things up by only calling once to have him come do all 3 inspections simultaneously. I had the insulation pulled back along the sides so he could see the framing, plumbing and hold downs thinking this would be fine, unfortunately he wasn’t really that excited about my idea. My regular inspector didn’t show up but rather a Senior Inspector who happens to be very thorough and whom I’ve dealt with before. He almost gave me the signature required in order for me to sheet the floor with CDX and start putting walls up, but he found one plumbing fitting that he said wasn’t correct so he’s coming back Monday after we change it and also wants me to pull more of the insulation back for a better look. Uggghhh. My plumber swears the fitting he used is allowed, its a Sanitee on its back for a 2″ vent pipe. The inspector wanted a sweep which is weird cause its only a vent, not a waste line. Who knows but I wasn’t going to argue with him, I told him he’s the boss but I kinda want to check the code book now though just out of curiosity.

The senior inspector asked who the general contractor was. Hesitantly, I told him I was an owner/builder. Seeming surprised he said it looked better than most jobs and kept congratulating me on doing such good work. Maybe he was just trying to make me feel better because he could see it on my face that I was bummed not being able to start putting up the walls. He knew I was totally ready to go, as he was doing his inspection I received the first delivery of truss material for the second story. I should pass on Monday and we’ll be back in action. I’m a Chevy guy but how cool is this early Ford extra cab delivery truck from La Mesa Lumber?

MCM Mechanicals

We are staying pretty much on track at the Mid Century Modern renovation, this week we updated and changed around the mechanicals of the house to fit our new design. After my old plumber didn’t show up, I moved on and hired a new guy which really handled business. To prep the exterior for the new stucco job we also had the house sand blasted. You cant put new stucco over paint. I always find it best to do this before you put your new windows in if possible so you don’t accidentally blast them too! Next up for this week is put the new windows and rear sliders in, patch all the drywall and then we’ll be ready for interior paint and tile. We’ve had several interested buyers already stopping by, just wait until they see the dramatic change that will soon take place!

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!

30% Of Americans Won’t Park In Here

We ended up going with Golden Pecan floor stain after trying about 8 different stain color samples. After applying the stain we used 2 coats of semi gloss polyurethane (buffing between coats) and mixed in a little Colonial Maple color to tint it even more. I’m really happy with the way they came out, only new wood can look like this so I’m sure the future owner will appreciate it. In the original part of the house the floors are almost 100 years old so they aren’t this perfect of course but a little distress look is appropriate due to the style house and age. As I was saying before I didn’t want to stain the whole house dark just to hide a few imperfections up front and not get to appreciate all this new red oak in the addition.

Here’s a sneak peek at the master bath. As you can see the glass company showed up this week between floor coats and installed the custom frame-less glass for the shower. The door is 7 feet high with chrome hardware that matches the other interior doors, I always design them a little higher than the shower-head. The fixed glass picture window is suspended in the tile opening with more beautiful chrome hardware.  Most builders put the clamps on either the tops or sides but I did something a little different by having 1 clamp on all 4 sides. This custom frame-less glass ran $1300.00 installed. My plumber is coming this week to set the spa tub and fixtures, with my last contractor I would have done this myself but the new plumber doesn’t want me to touch anything so he can give the future homeowner a 2-year warranty, cool with me, less work. Check out how the new wood even runs through the bathroom and into the walk-in closet, this is a killer upscale look and blows away any kind of floor tile I could have used.

I recently heard that 30% of Americans (myself included) don’t park in their garages, they only use them to store junk turning them into basically a drive-in closet. In California people have alot of pride in their cars, detailing businesses flourish with customers paying hundreds of dollars for hand waxing but then again it never rains so it makes sense to keep your car clean. Here in San Antonio we get an average rainfall of about 32 inches compared to 9 in San Diego. Even after a rain you’ll still see puddles a week later because the streets are so bad. With all this rain you’d think that garages would be hugely popular here. It’s not the case however, people would rather enclose their garages for more living space because they don’t go outside anyway as it’s too hot and humid. Plus, their car is going to stay dirty anyway, garage or not, because of the weather and the street conditions.

So, why the hell did I build this garage you’re asking? Our project is going to be priced around the $400k mark in a city where average home proices are around $150k.  Theres an unspoken rule that if you are paying $400k in San Antonio you better get a garage. Even if the locals don’t appreciate them most of our buyers are moving in from other states and telling their realtor to do searches for 3/2/2’s so we dont want to miss any potential customers. Once they get used to the SA way of life I’m sure they’ll stop parking in there, their car will be filthy and it’ll be full of crap. Either way these historic houses don’t have much storage so it’ll get used. I designed the 500 s.f. garage to look historic and match the house architecture. I’ll be using “T117 House Siding” again and I’ve left the rafter tails open, included huge 28″ overhanging eves and even a clipped gable roof. There will be a vent under the gable and of course I’ll multi-color it as well to match the house.

House Flipping Tip: Finding Sub Contractors

Finding good contractors is a huge key to your success when flipping houses. There are 2 kinds of contractors, General Contractors, or GC’s, and Sub-Contractors. Most investors hire a GC who then brings in his own sub-contractors, oversees all their work and tacks on about 30% to your price. This works great for people who have little construction knowledge or don’t want to spend the time ordering materials, checking in deliveries, writing checks on Fridays to subs and overseeing work. My feelings are that most investors are doing this anyway and basically acting as their own GC, so shouldn’t be paying for one. Homeowners these days are even acting as GC to save the 30% and hiring subs themselves while building their new home. There’s even a national company called U-BuildIt that sets you up with the list of subs for a fee. So, the key to the savings is finding the subs and managing them yourself. (more)

Plumbing Passed, Pendings Up

We passed plumbing rough-in and top out inspections this week at Target House and have now got started on the electrical. My electrician is getting a slow start so I am kind of disappointed but its par for the course here in Land of Manana, especially when you are getting great prices. I am going to stay on his ass all week and try for an inspection Friday. On the exterior I am completely done with all the siding and window trims on the new portion of the house and have started working my way forward replacing various sections on the original siding where I moved windows or there was damage. There will be alot of changes once I get up front rebuilding the porch, porte cochere and columns so that’s exciting. On the new back porch ceiling I used authentic 1×4 tongue and groove bead board, sweet!

The San Antonio housing market certainly showed signs of Tax Credit fever while everyone scrambled last week for the handout. I’ve been tracking the Pending sales and as you can see they rose by about 100 houses for each week in April all the way up until the cut off of Friday. It will be interesting to see 2 things from here, if the Pending sale growth continues and how many pendings actually close and turn into solds. The San Antonio Spring buying season typically is just now heating up, we’ll see how bad the tax credit affected future demand shortly. There are currently 11,455 homes for sale, down from 11,697 last weekend.

Week                          # Pendings

Mar 29-April4                    246

April 5-April 11                 363

April 12-April 18               430

April 19-April 25              456

April 26-May 2                  556

Target Pex & PVC

The new plumber got started mid week at The Target House and is moving fast towards the rough-in inspection which should probably happen Monday. I am impressed with the guys on his crew, they are very detail oriented, we even addressed the baseboard height so the water valves for the toilets will be at the right height. I am running 8″ high baseboards again on this project to mimic the houses original design so this puts the water valves higher than usual.  All the new Pex lines are ran and as you can see he brought all new pvc drains and tied them in under the old existing bathroom to the main sewer line by removing the old cast iron stack. This is the right way to do it, we aren’t trying to tie into anything old so there wont be any problems for the new owner. I had also asked him to minimize roof penetrations for the plumbing vents. Every drain needs a vent so a lazy plumber would have poked through my new roof 5-6 times but instead these guys tied all the vents together in the attic so I only have 3 vents visible.  I had to put my siding project on hold as its been raining all week, looking forward to finishing it as soon as the weather cooperates and the mud dries up.

The sale of The Neighbor’s House is still looking good. The buyer is using a VA loan and we are currently waiting for the appraisal to come back as this will be the last big uncertainty before closing. I got a call from the apprasier Monday asking a bunch of questions about The Hat Trick House next door, as I guessed they are infact using it as the best comp for this sale.  What were the chances of rehabbing 2 houses next door to each other and needing my own comp?

I Love the Smell of PVC Glue in the Morning

Saturday morning the plumbers beat me to the punch. I got there at 8 and there were already 6 guys all over the place and a strong odor of PVC glue in the air. My plumber brought in a new construction crew and they roughed in the whole house with a complete new system in 1 day! Monday he’ll run the new gas line and we’ll call in for an inspection Tuesday. This week I also opened up 3 interior walls creating more of an open floorplan, doing a different kind of arch this time with square corbels on the bottom. Monday the roofers finished and he apologized for trying to raise the price on me? o.k… I also wrapped the house with Tyvek and installed all the dual pane vinyl windows after they arrived midweek. I remember about 10 years ago putting in my first set of retrofit vinyl dual pane windows in my personal home, a buddy of mine who is actually a general contractor told me not to ever use foam because it would cause the windows to warp when the foam expands. This was in San Diego where it’s always 75 and sunny and probably wouldn’t matter but here in Texas it’s the code and the homebuilders foam everything including the new construction windows inside before the drywall goes in. You want to create a tight envelope in order to be more energy efficient. With these new windows, a high efficiency A/C, roof vents and new insulation in the attic the future homeowner will benefit greatly with a low power bill. Our buyer of the Hat Trick House next door has a electricity bill in the $100’s while most other original homes in the area are paying around $300/month. Hey don’t get me wrong; I love original sashed historic windows with wavy glass, but not at $300 per month. While doing the new windows I also went ahead and also redid the wood trim because for the cost and labor saved in stripping and sanding, my paint job will come out killer now. Next up to bat will be getting HVAC and Electrical sub-contractors through the house, we’ll see who I can corral this week. We are moving at a really nice pace, I’ve scheduled it so I can be doing projects while the subs are busy without getting in their way.

Plumbing Inspection: Passed; Mechanical: Failed

We passed plumbing this week but failed A/C inspection yesterday due to some minor details overlooked by my sub-contractor, which have already been addressed. Second mechanical inspection is set for Monday. After passing plumbing I went ahead and installed the new plywood sub floor and set the tub in the hall bath and shower pan in the master bath.

Tub

Shower Pan

As soon as we pass the mechanical inspection I can call for the framing inspection. It seems odd and out of order the way San Antonio does it, they inspect framing after all the tradesmen have finished. If something were incorrect you would have to rip out all those sub contractors new work, weird. So the schedule is: pass mechanical Monday. Call in framing inspection for Tuesday. Pass framing Tuesday and schedule the insulation inspection for Wednesday. Once we pass the insulation inspection we can hang all the drywall. My drywall crew is chomping at the bit and ready to get started. I am going to have it delivered Thursday, 225 sheets to do the whole 1930 s.f. house, 5/8” for the ceilings and 1/2” on the walls.

Kitchen Plumbing

Take one last look inside these walls, next time you see the house it will be all sealed up. This is always a huge milestone for me; to see the house with all new drywall really shows how it will look. It blocks out all the “old house” smell and it’s all downhill from there, baby.

New Back Door

We’ve been monitoring sales activity a little closer lately and I ran some interesting reports out of MLS last night. In our little “area” there were only 9 sales in 2008, (2 of which were ours) and avg. price was 206k. In Q1 08 there were no transactions, so far this year we have 6 pending or sold. Average price on these 6 is 257k. That’s an increase in sales activity of 600% and an avg. price increase of 19% Y.O.Y. Currently there are only 4 months of inventory making it essentially a sellers market. While the overall market has slowed down in San Antonio our area seems to be a bright spot. The Craftsman Bungalow sold for $174/s.f. last year setting a record for high comp based on $/s.f. The avg. price per s.f. is closer to $155.00 so with Hat Trick being 1930 s.f. and the level of rehab we plan on listing it for around $289k –$299k. The only thing better than setting a high comp for a neighborhood is getting to come back and use that comp in your next sale!

Get 50% Off By Haggling With Your Subcontractors

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.