Siding and Mud

My new construction project is running very smoothly. After passing the inspection on my house wrap Monday, we were finally able to start putting the Hardi Siding up. I have really been anxious to see what the house will finally look like after all the rough work that gets buried and nobody will see. Now comes the fun part, which actually gives the house its personality. What’s inside the walls is just as good as you guys know, but this part is what I’ll look at every day.

First, I framed the windows with 1 x4″ Hardi Trim. The Hardi Lap Siding on the bottom goes up pretty fast in 12 foot lengths with a 7″ reveal, I went with the smooth version to look clean. The Hardishingle Staggered Edge style up top on the other hand, is quite labor intensive. The pieces are only 48″ wide and go up with a 6″ reveal, but really give the house some dimension and texture. I ran a 1×8″ dividing band board with a 1×2″ shelf on top to separate the styles and add even more detail. The siding comes in primer, but oddly enough the color is similar to what we will actually be using for paint. We are now on our second wall, I can see this siding project stretching out to several weeks as there is tons of detail work and not much room around the house for the scaffolding, but its looking great!

The second inspection we passed this week was on Thursday, for the drywall screw spacing. The mud crew was on standby to start taping and floating everything once the inspector signed off on the hanging  job. Once again, this is an extremely specialized crew. Different guys than the drywall hangers last week. We are putting one of the best drywall crews in San Diego on this project and after the whole house is taped and floated we’ll be doing 2 coats of a level 4 smooth hand-troweled texture.

In order to keep up my construction pace, I ordered all the pre-hung interior doors last week, bought the Red Oak unfinished hardwood flooring material this week, and am currently about ready to pull the trigger on the millworks package. It’s all about thinking 2 steps ahead to make sure you don’t run into a 3-week wait for a special order, which in my case is just about everything.

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.

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.

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

117 Siding and New Plumber

I started getting the siding on this week and have been interviewing new subcontractors for the 3 trades that will be next in line to rough-out the house. I love the historic style #117 wood siding, it gives my projects a real edge over the competition as most guys run HardiPlank on their additions. It cost a little more at about 45 cents a foot but well worth the price for my projects. Its always my goal also to find the best prices for any work that I have to hire out because it increases my net profit. A dollar saved is a dollar earned, right?  My DIY method of doing these rehabs does not involve hiring a general contractor who would tack at least 50%  profit right onto your cost but instead managing the subs personally and working right alongside them doing most of the work myself. This gives me the freedom to pick my own sub contractors and negotiate with them directly and pocket the savings.  As with many of the subs in the past, I started to experience “price creep” with my plumber on every house we did with him. With construction as slow as it is I cant justify paying a higher price for the same job so we give new hungry guys a shot.

Out of the 3 trades I always do the plumbing first, its hard pipe and cant move whereas the electrical and mechanical can work around anything. I accepted a bid from a plumber yesterday that I’m really excited about. He’s been is business over 25 years, does alot of new construction homes, comes highly recommended and has beat our last guys price substantially. We are getting a complete new plumbing system with “15 fixtures” including new pex supply lines all the way from the water meter,  new pvc drains all the way to the sewer and complete new black pipe hard gas lines from the gas meter throughout the house to 4 locations in order to qualify us for the “Smart Energy” title. Our local energy company CPS right now is really pushing awareness of using a combo of gas and electric to builders but we’ve of course always done this anyway. They designate your project a Smart Energy House, this combined with all the Energy Star appliances has been a real plus for our customers. His bid also includes supplying the hall bath tub and 50 gallon hot water heater. I am getting a 1 year warranty as well and he wont even let me touch the fixture installation to save money as he’s that concerned about his liability. The price is $5900 for the job where previously we were paying over $7000 and having to furnish the tub, heater and do the trim out myself so effectively I think I’ve shaved about $2000 of this one trade alone. I hope he works out, he is suppose to be all roughed in and topped out this week for an inspection.

The Neighbor’s House is under contract again as of last weekend. We are passed the home inspection and are expected to close at the end of the month. Additionally there is a back up offer in the lurch. I still will share all the juicy details from all the previous offers we received and deals that fell through but not until the sale closes. This house is incredible and someones going to be very happy to own it. What a great project and fun story!

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 …

CSI and Rock Stars

I had my first theft at the jobsite this week, someone came in the backyard after hours and stole my 45 dollar extension cord. Since it’s been raining all week the thief left some good footprints when he tracked mud onto the driveway. I’ve taken photos, made castings and measured the prints and concluded the perp is a size 8. This happened the night before I installed the exterior doors and locks so we’re Fort Knox now if he decides to come back for a second helping of construction materials. My bad for leaving it out anyway. Before the rain started this week I got all the #117 siding on the room addition and the front of the guest house, also building a cool balcony deck. The rear unit is turning out swell and will make someone a great rental unit, granny flat or at home office space.

 Master Suite Addition

Guest House

 I failed my mechanical rough-in inspection this week due to multiple small items that my sub-contractor overlooked. They left off a little insulation on the copper and also drilled through the furnace exhaust vent with a small screw when strapping it in the attic. Additionally they “forgot” the secondary overflow from the drip pan under the coil. It’s hard for me to believe he can still keep failing inspections for basic stuff as we’ve gone through this so many times and he knows what needs to be in place to be legit and pass. I never saw him personally in the attic during the job…maybe that explains it. The inspector also called me out for my placement of the dryer vent from the laundry room. The V in HVAC stands for ventilation. When he comes to inspect the rough-in of new heat and a/c equipment he also looks at the dryer and hot water heater vents even though my a/c sub-contractor has nothing to do with these items. I have the dryer vent placement about 2 feet from the back door and he said it is a fire hazard to leave it that close. It needs to be a minimum of 3 feet from any opening to meet code, chalk that one up to another learning experience. Also, keep your dryer vents clean, there is a serious fire risk from lint build up and it reduces energy waste. I also handled the hall bathroom subfloor on Friday and set the tub Saturday morning.

Master Suite Framing

Bathtub

After my regular electrician burned me on the last project I was back to square one getting bids from new guys. 3 out of the 4 bids were twice as much as I usually pay. I ended up finding a good price from my plumber’s referral and the guy rocks, literally. This master electrician is also the lead singer in a local San Antonio Judas Priest cover band called Sad Wings of Destiny. He can hit Rob Halfords’ lyrics note for note. Still waiting for him to bust out while we are working.

Nice Hidden Surprises

This first week of getting started on “The Neighbor’s House” has revealed some nice surprises. As we were doing the demo in the kitchen we noticed all this new Romex wire, turns out the whole house has already been rewired so this will save me some money. I will still rewire the kitchen and have to add some circuits for all the recessed lighting but having everything new already is a huge plus. I had my foundation guy over and we went underneath and discovered it really only needs some shimming to bring up a couple of corners an inch or so. The main thing is making sure the rear of the house is perfectly level before we do the addition so it lines up well. We also spent 2 days taking off all the fake brick and shingle siding. I had assumed the original siding would be wrecked and had budgeted to replace it but low and behold the original waterfall historic wood siding was in clean perfect condition underneath. It was like unwrapping a Christmas present, only one coat of paint on it and smooth as a baby’s butt. This is going to be a breeze to paint, no grinding years of peeling paint jobs.

 Chimney

Probably the most dramatic surprise is the original fireplace chimney design we found underneath the faux brick. It’s really cool and nothing like the other houses on the block. I had my stucco guy come redo it this weekend so it’s back to its historic original condition and is going to add a nice detail to how our new façade will eventually look with the new front porch; stoked. I also had the power company out this week to move the gas meter back 40’ for the room addition. We might be waiting 2 weeks for them to get around to it so that kinda sucks as I wanted to get working on the new piers for the addition but we can’t bring the bobcat back there until the gas meter is moved. We also can’t do the new roof until the room addition and front porch are framed up so I am stuck until we get that gas line capped off.

 Chimney

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.

The Siding Experience

We had a good first week. Outside I trimmed up the landscaping so you can actually see the house now and also removed all the asbestos siding to expose the original waterfall siding. Inside we took care of all the demo which included a complete kitchen and bath gut as well as a makeshift rear addition that was on the back of the house. We filled up a dumpster and a half with all of that. Upon tearing out the kitchen cabinets we discovered what the horrible smell was that we had originally thought might be a dead rat in the wall…there were dead raccoons above the cabinets as well as in the attic. After the demo we tackled the foundation. Since there was a previous foundation job done on the house which included 45 concrete piers we only had to use steel shims to lift it 2″ max in some areas.

KitchenAll the framing also went really smoothly. As planned, we opened up the kitchen to the dining room and the dining room to the living room with two dramatic arches. Inside the kitchen we firred out a wall to accomodate a stacked washer & dryer as well as a food pantry. We also closed up the 2nd front door to the house and installed a pull-down attic ladder. Additionally, the electrical is now all roughed in including flat-screen, surround sound and cat-5 wiring throughout.