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. This Grant Hill project will be one of the nicest historic preservations in the area.
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.
It’s finally starting to look like a house again. As I’ve said before its always fun to see it with drywall so you can get a feel for the new spaces you’ve created and how they flow together, the new master suite I built is definately going to sell this house. I’m very particular on the drywall job for these big projects, I use a new construction crew that specialize in this trade and do it all day long, every day. Of course every tom, dick and harry out there can hang drywall and tape and float it (including me) but this important step really dictates how your final finish out will appear. My guys use all the latest tools like roto zips to cut out the boxes and mud bazookas and taping machines to float it out. There’s literally no sanding when the mud is applied correctly. Tons of other rehabbers here locally are going “handyman” style and having painters hang their drywall, tape and float it and use a hopper to spray the texture. The texture on your rehab is a very important detail, some buyers probably wont notice bad texture but the 20% who are in the know will recognize the quality. Plus, after all that work to get to this point who would want a chunky uneven surface on your walls that looks like old drywall thats been retextured and patched? Hoppers are o.k. for small jobs but for a big house it will be hard to get even coverage and mix it consistently one bucket at a time. A professional crew will bring in a truck with a spray rig, one mixture and they spray the whole house evenly without stopping.
Once again, that’s what these guys do for a living. Once the texture truck pulls up 3 guys start running around masking off all the windows and can lights while the sprayer starts at the back of the house and works his way forward. The whole house takes about 2 hours to complete. For a professional drywall job like this we pay $10.00 per sheet for labor. That includes the hanging crew, tape and floating as well as the texture. I supplied the drywall itself, this house ate up 270 4×8 sheets. Of course we don’t use 8 footers so as to minimize the joints but thats how the labor is calculated, what actually went in was 180 12 footers. Per building code we use 5/8 on the ceiling and 1/2 on the walls. If you hire someone to do the drywall in your big rehab and he shows up with a texture hopper, run!
I had my framing inspection Monday and he passed me on the room addition but failed the new front porch because I had trimmed it out already and he couldn’t see how it was framed…oops. He said he would pass it with a letter from an engineer so I had to pay 300 bucks to have my engineer crawl in the attic to verify my framing was done correctly and draw up a certificate on it. I went straight into hanging all the insulation and called in for the insulation inspection Tuesday. The same inspector showed up the following day and passed me on that. Meanwhile I had all the drywall delivered. It turned out to be 150 sheets for the room addition, kitchen and existing bath. Man, prices on drywall have come down; I only paid 6.50 per sheet for 12 footers. My drywall crew hung it in a day and went straight into tape and float over the weekend. It’s coming out really nice as it’s always a cool stage to get to when you can see it all sealed up and smelling new. My drywall crew charges 10 bucks/sheet to hang, tape and float and texture. Since the existing bedrooms were not demo’ed I am retexturing the whole house so it will match. These guys are real pro; they do mostly new construction so the seams come out great. For texturing they don’t mix in a hopper, a truck with a mixing machine actually shows up and they spray the whole house with one batch so it turns out consistent. Drywall finishes and textures can make it or break it when it comes down to your final product so it’s important to get pros to do this part. In the past I’ve done small rooms myself but now that we are on a larger level I always sub this out. I also got all the wood floor patching done which included all new wood in the kitchen and I also ran it into the addition. I even put the wood floors into the master bath, which will be new for me this time and should be a real dramatic touch. With all the rain lately (6 inches in 1 night) I feel lucky that at least I’m making progress inside the house. After being in a record drought all summer now we get hammered with flooding, crazy weather here in Texas.
The local San Antonio real estate market continues to slow. So far this year we’ve had only 13,185 homes sold compared to the same period last year of 14,724 and 17,981 for 2007. Last year was the big slow down here when a lot of Realtors went starving. Things picked up a little this summer mainly due to the $8000 first time buyer tax credit so it will be interesting to see what happens to the real estate market if they let it expire. There’s a bill in Congress to raise the credit to $15,000 and open it to non-owner occupied buyers which would be great for investors and definitely clean up some inventory, but I’m not sure how we could pay for it. Foreclosures at the courthouse steps here in SA are also still rising, I ran across a Realtor friends’ house while reviewing the auction list for this month. Ouch, now that’s hitting close to home. Our strategy for this market is as always be extra careful on location, buy extremely right and offer a high quality renovation and unique product for the price level. Even with the slower market there are a lot of people continuing to move here to San Antonio and we only need one buyer.
All the tape and float is now complete and the whole house got textured today with a light orange peel. This crew did a great job and the house looks incredible. The texture guy was checking out my cactus in the front yard so I had to keep an eye on him. We ordered 13 pre-hung interior doors at roughly $68.00 ea. this week so they will get delivered Tuesday and I can start hanging them.
I chose a raised 2-panel hollow core with oil rubbed bronze hardware, which we will use throughout the house. A nice young couple has been by several times looking at the house and found me through a friend who lives on the next block. They are extremely interested and love the area however I think we might be priced a bit out of their range. It’s amazing how hot this area is and what little good inventory comes up.
Most of the houses in Mahncke Park are 2/1’s with tiny closets and not fully updated so our 3/2 with luxurious master suite will be a very unique offering and timely to coincide with the surging popularity of the area. Here is a quick walk through video from today.