SP2

Here’s a Sneak Peek of the new build we are doing in South Park. Rough framing is now complete, roof on, Milgard aluminum windows in, plumbing done, HVAC almost complete, next up is electrical and fire sprinklers then I can call for the big “rough-in” City inspection.

South Park Framing Video

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.

South Park Second Floor

We moved into second floor framing on my South Park new construction house this week, it was way faster than the first floor even though there are more walls. We are up pretty high now but still within the 30′ height limits from the City. It only took a day and a half to frame everything on the second story, although there is still a lot of pick up carpentry work to be done everywhere and we still need to do the stairs.

This is the upstairs shared bathroom front corner of the house. You can see below the 3 small windows facing the street, this is one of the neat and unique features on this house, we framed a second 2×4 wall inside the 2×6 exterior wall for the windows to facilitate the window recess as seen in the architectural rendering.

The roof trusses come on Tuesday from Ramona Lumber Company, we’ve slowed down a bit because I was told it would only take 3 days to get the trusses from the date ordered but it ended up taking 6. Its key to remeasure the actual second floor before you order trusses as things can change by a few inches and the trusses have to rest perfectly on these second floor walls. My goal is to put the roof on this weekend, we’ll see. Mechanicals can start now, I always do plumbing first then HVAC and electrical. The fire sprinklers will be the last to go in before rough inspection. Windows are arriving around the 28th.

Modern Bungalow Framing

Huge progress this week in only 4 and a half days of framing, the Modern Bungalow is starting to take shape now with the whole first floor and garage framed up. I haven’t seen anyone doing this in San Diego, my architect is doing these in Austin, Texas and this is the hottest new construction style for the old metro neighborhoods. The house will still have the classic lines of a bungalow but mashed with modern construction and design features. Everyone loves bungalows but this twist is going to give you the best of both worlds with contemporary style being the most popular right now in the home design world.

The underground plumbing, floor system and insulation inspection went a little better the second time on Monday, my regular inspector said everything looked good and he wouldn’t have made me change the sanitee fitting to pass. 3 more signatures on the card and we were able to get the 3/4″ T&G CDX subfloor down.

We put up the North living room wall first and then the front, or East kitchen wall. Notice the 10 foot ceilings downstairs and the 8 foot door heights. We also made all the windows a little taller and lined them up at the 8 foot door height as well. The doors and windows are as high as most peoples ceilings, it makes the house feel so much more expansive. My framers thought I was crazy and never even do 8 foot doors, normally its reserved for McMansions and is popular in Phoenix and Texas so its probably safe to say this is a first for South Park. The coolest thing ever is walking in the front door and looking straight back at the green canyon through the custom 9 foot wide by 8 foot high patio slider doors.

The highlight of the week was lifting up the 19′ balloon wall. Its the exterior wall on the driveway side of the house that reaches all the way to the roof trusses because there is a stairway in this location. You can see the 3 headers that follow the staircase up. It took 9 guys to lift the wall in place it was so heavy with my over sized material. For this house I’m using 2×6 framing for all exterior walls instead of standard 2×4. Besides being structurally superior, this will give me room for a greater insulation barrier for huge energy savings and provide better sound proofing from the nearby flight pattern. Some builders move spacing on wall studs out to 24″ when they go to 2×6 but I left them at 16″ on center. A friend of mine who works for a large National home builder called it a energy saving fortress.

In order to do the wide open modern floorplan, I used Parallam beams to span the 22 foot living room and then hung the joists off the beams. You can see us here lifting the largest beam up which measures 7″x14″x22′

Upstairs I used engineered I joists from Trus Joist. These TJI joists are the highest quality available and resist warping, twisting and shrinking to prevent bouncy or squeaky floors. Besides allowing greater spans from the engineering, one nice thing is you don’t have to crown the wood, they are all perfectly straight and will give a perfectly flat floor upstairs. I’ll fir down each joist so the 14″ beam wont show when we drywall the ceiling in the living room.

In the shear wall locations I’m also using CDX instead of OSB. You can see how large the house is looking here with just the first floor up. It’s going to dwarf the 2-story bungalow next door. Seeing this huge 2-car attached garage and wide driveway is also very atypical for the neighborhood, of course I did a 8′ high garage door to accommodate my truck.  Notice also here how the 9′ high garage ceiling height is lower than the second floor, this is where steps lead down to the master suite from the secondary living space to provide a little more interest and privacy. I’m so happy with this cutting edge design, there’s going to be so many cool things going on when its complete to make this a real fun house to live in. We are ready to start the second floor framing this week, there are more cool design features that I cant wait to see take shape. I planned on 2 weeks for rough framing but it will probably stretch out a little longer with all the small pick up work to be done at the end.

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?

More Concrete and Inspections

Just a little more concrete last week and now its time for framing. The first thing I did was have a third party inspector come and sign off on the construction of my block stem wall. He personally witnessed the mortar mixture and rebar placement inside. Then I called the City inspector also to sign off on it once it was completed. The reason for the extra stemwall is because the outside wall is the balloon wall and the inside wall supports the load from the upstairs floor joists. The stairs go up in between these two foundation walls and each has its own footing.

When the truck came to fill it up we also had to have the third party “special inspector” on site to take a sample of the mixture that came out of the truck. He packaged it into a small box that he’ll send to a lab for analysis. They test part of it at 7 days and the balance at 28 days for compression strength by putting it in a crushing machine. Inside the stem wall I used 2500 PSI grout mix. I only normally use big rock but this is the only place that its o.k. to use the pea gravel mix. I would never use it in a concrete footing , foundation or driveway.  The cost for the 2 trips from the special inspector and the lab test was about 500 bucks. I don’t know what would happen if the lab discovered I got a bad batch from the concrete company, probably make me tear down the wall and start over. I’d rather know now though before I move in that’s for sure!

Next I poured the garage floor. First I rented a compaction machine for the dirt, then put down plastic moisture barrier, topped it with 3-4 inches of manufactured sand and then my #4 rebar 18″ on center tied into the perimeter footing as the plans called for. Once the City came and inspected it we just backed the truck right up to it and poured 7 more yards of 3000 PSI 3/4″ concrete.  Once again you’ll see a lot of guys using pea gravel mix but its not nearly as good and tends to crack faster. The larger the rock size in concrete the better. I’m ready for framing now and getting material price quotes from Home Depot, Lowes and Dixieline. Hopefully we’ll be starting on the floor system by mid week if I can get a quick delivery, the framers are anxious and cant wait to get started. I’ll order my custom Milgard windows and exterior doors this week as week so they will arrive about the same time we are done with framing.

Fill ‘er Up

Friday was a great day, after all those weeks of digging, removing dirt, building forms and setting rebar we finally got to fill ‘er up. My South Park Modern Craftsman is finally coming out of the ground. It took a little more mud than I expected because of the 6 foot deep footing at the rear of the garage. 6 trucks delivered a total of 49.5 yards of 3000 PSI “big rock” concrete and we used a pump truck to get it into the forms. The whole process took about 4 hours and then the next day we ripped off all the wood forms and started stacking the CMU block. In any area where the stem wall was higher than 30″ I stepped down the forms so I could stack block.

When you use block for any portion, the City requires a special inspection by a third party inspector. He comes by periodically to check mortar mix, rebar placement and then finally the grout mix that you fill the walls with. Once we get all the block stacked and filled we’ll move right into pouring the garage floor, and then removing all the extra dirt and doing more minor grading to get ready for the framing material delivery which we’ll drop in the driveway location. Once we get ready I think its only going to only take 2 weeks to frame her up.

South Park Stamps!

This Monday, July 16, I finally got approval stamps on my plans. As you might remember I had a huge setback and changed the whole house design around and had to start over. In this go round, it only took 2 rounds of changes on the new plans. I paid an extra $1500 bucks for the expedite plan check which guarantee’s a 8 business day turn-around. Had I not coughed up this extra fee it would take a month to get through the structural department because they are so backed up. There were a lot of minor changes to the plans that the City asked for, these requests are called “cycle issues.”  Once you change your plans to reflect their instructions, then you go down and resubmit which means basically drop them off for another 8 business days. So I waited the first 8 days, changed them once and dropped them back off, waited another 8 business days and then we were so close that they allowed us to go “over the counter” which means that you make appointments with the structural, engineering and combined review departments and show that you’ve made the changes and they stamp them on the spot. Its pretty interesting and way different than a remodel or room addition.

Everyone has been asking about the crazy fees they gouge you for here in California. Its no secret the City is almost bankrupt but I know I did my part this week when we paid for the permit fee. Yes folks, its $3.20/sf Just for the School District impact fees. They figure you are adding more kids to the neighborhood I guess. I could have got a credit for the 880 s.f. old structure that was torn down but only if it was occupied 2 of the previous 3 years before demo and if the new development commences within 4 years from the demo date. Unfortunately my lot had a house that was torn down in 2005. Total permit fees with plan check and impact fees for this 1850 s.f. home were $24,956.00 or $13.48 /sf.  The City of San Diego put a value on this project of $237,747.00 to calculate their fees, not sure how they got this number but it comes to $128.51/s.f.  Maybe its the average that most people would pay to build it.  Permit fees would have been even higher had I not already had the water meter and sewer lateral so I guess I cant complain. I think these fees are a bit excessive, no wonder nobody is building new homes in California. They tacked on an extra $1,000 Recycling Deposit also, if I show them receipts from the landfill and prove that I recycled at least 50% of the construction mess, I get it back. FYI, The school impact fees also apply for any room addition over 499 s.f. in San Diego in case you are considering remodeling.

So you are probably wondering why I started working on the foundation before I had stamps, in theory you are not suppose to, but I felt confident enough after seeing the first request for changes that there were no gray areas with the City with regards to the footprint, setbacks or structural. After all, we only dug trenches and made forms but you’re really not suppose to start. I gained 3 weeks by taking the chance but was nervous the whole time someone would complain.

I had 2 inspections this week, the first was for the plumbing underground, this is the sewer lateral that brings 2 waste lines into the structure. You have to run the ABS through the footing, sleeve-ing and wrapping it.  The trenches were dug and I laid the waste lines in pea gravel.

The big inspection was the foundation footing inspection, I passed it today. The inspector verified that all rebar placement and sizing is per plans and that the important Simpson hold down hardware is the right size and in the right location. We used 4,040 linear feet of rebar for this foundation. Rebar and wood forming materials came to around $4,500.00. I’m all clear now for the first concrete pour for the footings and stem wall, I have 30+ yards of 3000 psi 3/4″ “big rock” coming tomorrow so we are officially off to the races!

Raised Foundations for Dummies

While the City of San Diego only requires footings for a 2 story house to be 18 inches deep, went close to 5 feet in some spots. You can see here that the bottom of all my trenches remain level with steps, so gravity doesn’t take our house down the canyon. The reason the footing trenches vary in depth is due to the distance to reach native soils. No lot is perfect, in our case with this house one main challenge besides having the rear 30% unusable due to the canyon is unstable fill that’s been there for years. The only alternative to digging all the way down to native soils would be to have the whole site compacted to 90%. I could have done a slab on grade at that point but at the end of the day I felt this way will be the most structurally sound. While these deep footings will eat up expensive concrete at $95/yard, a slab on grade foundation would still need deepened grade beams and since the lot slopes down towards the back, the foundation is 3 feet high and end up being about the same amount of concrete. Note the existing 4″ sewer lateral ready to go.

The excavator we rented made quick work of the foundation dig but after the soils engineer came and inspected our footing trenching, he requested us to go farther into the native soils. You can easily see here where the brown, silty cobble fill changes to a rock hard gold color at my spray paint line. This stuff is so hard to dig we used a jackhammer for 3 days to deepen the trenches to satisfy the soils engineer. He’ll now give me a certificate which I’ll hand to the City inspector when he comes to inspect the foundation forms and rebar placement. As previously mentioned, you could roll the dice and not have a soils test but if the City inspector feels there is fill he’ll make you take all the forms apart and get the report anyway. I want to build it right so in my mind this is the only way to do it.

The first step in forming a raised foundation is pulling some control lines from which you can set your exterior forms. We build them all with 2×4’s and OSB, setting the outside of the house footprint first and then starting with hanging the rebar inside. All rebar has to be 3″ away from dirt or forms. Finally after cleaning out and debris that might have fallen into the trenches you then set the inside form. After inspection we’ll pump concrete in from the top.

Once again the City only calls for (4) 1/2″ horizontal rebar inside the foundation with vertical bars 24″ on center.  For just a little extra cost I upped the ante to (6) horizontal 5/8″ bars with verticals 16″ on center. Raised foundation houses in California have this exterior stem wall. In the interior of the foot print the load is typically carried by4x6 treated sills that the floor joists rest on. These beams usually sit on posts and piers. My raised foundation design is far superior with one more stem wall running down the middle of the house like a spine. I’ll be using TJI floor joists which will span the whole width of the house without any posts and piers. We’ve fixed so many foundations on old pier and beam bungalows, with this method you’ll also have the convenience of a wide open crawl space to run mechanicals without any posts in the way. A little extra cost but by far a superior design for a raised foundation. Most of the neighbors have stopped by now, its the talk of the street that something is going up on “old man Fred’s” lot. I’ve been extremely respectful to everyone, even buying car washes for neighbors whose cars got dusted out by all the digging. I also rented a construction fence with privacy mesh so no one has to look at the mess all summer. We should be done with the forms mid week and then we’ll get started with the underground plumbing that needs to go in before we pour concrete. Stay tuned, once I get past the undergrounds and pumping this foundation it will get framed up real quick.

South Park Floorplans in 3D

Here’s my South Park floor plans modeled in 3D. Make sure and click on the pics to zoom in and take a look around, make yourself at home! This will be our new home; )

Digging It!

I have officially broke ground in South Park. This is not a big house but its really crazy to see it marked off on the lot and try and picture walking through it, it looks very small. First order of business was a light Bobcat grading of the lot and setting a Temporary Power Pole which has to first be inspected by the City and then hooked up by SDG&E. Did you know that all new single family construction in San Diego now require fire sprinklers?, doesn’t matter if you are right on the beach without a tree in sight. Not a big deal after all, I found a licensed sub contractor who will install everything at the rough-in stage for $2100. There is a 30′ height restriction in our zone but that doesn’t mean you can be 30′ high at the front of your house. If you draw an imaginary line at the 15′ front setback point and then go up 25′ and create a 45 degree angle back to the 30′ height, this is the envelope you cannot cross.  All bathrooms with a tub or shower also now have to have an exhaust fan with a humidistat, even if there is an opening window. CO2 detectors also now have to be upstairs as well as downstairs for current codes.

Since the house is going to be on a raised foundation, I rented a mini excavator for the day from my favorite place BJ’s and we dug all the footing trenches. I’ve never re-measured and re-squared anything in my life, its such an important step getting the house in the correct position on the lot. We had the property line markers to work from that my land surveyor installed, so we set up strings and then transferred the footing locations onto the ground. A few months back I had a soils test done, they found native soil under about 1-2 feet of fill. Although the footings for a 2 story house only have to be 18″ deep, we had to dig 2-3 feet in order to reach the rock hard native soil. The soils company will now come and re-inspect the trenches before we start on the forms and sign off that its correct. If I hadn’t done the soils testing the City could have, at their discretion, made us take apart the forms and dig the trenches deeper if they felt the soil conditions were questionable at the time of form inspection. This happened to a friend of mine last year. The soil in our area is very good, not expansive and rock hard so this house isn’t going anywhere. Additionally, I plan on using a little more rebar that the minimum building code calls for, just for piece of mind as well. After the soils inspection is the critical part of form-setting which has to be perfect in order to create the level foundation from which everything will rest. Once all the forms are set and rebar in place, then the City comes and inspects it for accuracy before concrete can be poured. Its so exciting to build our own home!

South Park in 3D

Here’s my South Park project modeled in 3Ds-Max with V-Ray. Refreshingly modern and comfortably traditional all at the same time. Exploded views of the upstairs and downstairs floor plans coming soon!

South Park Plan Revisions

We just went through some major building plan revisions for the South Park Modern/Craftsman house that we are building this summer here in San Diego. I could have already had building permits and started construction but after sitting with the City and having to compromise I just wasn’t going to be happy with the end product, so I opted to go back to the drawing board and with the help of my great designer we came up with something we both felt is way better. There’s so much to learn on new construction and what the City of San Diego will and will not allow, I’m chalking this one up to builder school and moving on. It only takes 8 business days to get your plans routed through Developmental Services downtown, then they give you a list of changes for your plans, luckily they are now hiring more staff after years of cut backs and lay offs.

The newly revised design, now close to 1900 s.f., is larger than neighborhood standards. Downstairs the kitchen, living and dining rooms are linked to create an open and continuous public space where guests can roam freely and have easy access to bathroom facilities under the staircase and enjoy fluid movement between indoor and outdoor living spaces via the bi-folding rear patio doors. This new design also makes more room for outdoor living space with 13′ of yard before the cantilever deck on the canyon. Light and vertical space make any room feel larger so with the 10′ ceilings downstairs and abundance of morning and afternoon light, the space should feel very comfortable. The facade is a sophisticated blend of traditional Craftsman style with a Modern influence. The bubble framing for the staircase windows on the driveway side creates a fun and whimsical touch for this hip and eclectic neighborhood.

The 2-car garage is now over-sized and attached to the house with an adjoining mud room/utility room with full size connections and the HVAC closet. I pulled it 4′ off the side property line to give the City required side set back since its an attached garage now, detached garages can sit right on the property line in my area believe it or not.  All private spaces are nicely separated upstairs with an open gallery at the top of the staircase, 2 secondary gracious sized bedrooms and shared hall bath. The large master suite above the garage has a bonus sitting area and secondary set of stacked washer/dryer connections and then steps down into the bedroom to allow higher vaulted bedroom ceilings.  Our East-facing master retreat will get great morning light and has a walk-in closet and really cool master bath with dual vanities, water closet and a wet room feature which includes the stand-up shower and spa tub not separated by a divider wall, behind frame-less glass doors and with casement windows looking down into the canyon. The wet room design is really en vogue right now in bathroom design and works great in small spaces.

South Park Modern Craftsman Plans

Here are the plans for the custom house we’re building for ourselves in South Park. It’s a Clean Modern Craftsman 2-story design, 3 bedroom, 2.5 baths with a detached 2 car garage at around 1900 s.f. For the bungalow feel we did nice 2×8 barge rafters at the gable ends with an a-typical edge detail and bold yet simple 4×4 brackets over 6″ corner trim. Porch columns front and rear will be 8×8 in smooth Cedar, just sealed. You can see the first floor is wide open and expansive with 10′ ceilings, the entry leads you into the dining area that opens right across to the kitchen. In the island kitchen we have a walk in pantry and a peninsula for casual eating. There is a powder room under the stairs and then the whole back of the house is the great room also off the kitchen for entertaining with direct access to the back yard complete with covered porch and decking on the canyon. Indoor utility room is also just inside the rear door.

All the bedrooms are upstairs, gracious closet spaces, full master suite with sit down spa tub as well as stand up shower. Dual vanities in both upstairs bathrooms. Normally we try and put the master suite downstairs but we dont mind stairs so it worked better putting all bedrooms up. I’m doing exposed galvanized metal roofing on the open porch framing and aluminum Milgard casement windows as well to give the urban mod feel. The back porch also provides a perfect breezeway to the detached 2 car garage. Check out the balloon framing in action on the side elevation/staircase windows, this is definitely some out of the box home design that’s going to make a huge impact in South Park. Estimated completion December 2012. Thanks Morgan for the help!