Sunday, April 15, 2012

Back At It!

At long last! Work has resumed this project that we affectionately call our “bundle of sticks.” We have had various delays of one kind or another but now some progress is possible. The major work will be handled by Bell Construction for the duration of this project.  I will be posting my journal entries “as is” with very little editing outside of grammar and spelling. For better or for worse. 

The house with the add-on removed
The first order of business was to remove the rear section of the house removed. I for one will not miss it at all. 90% of the problems with this project stemmed from that nonsense. Leaks, roofing, funky construction, bad engineering, and spiders form hell, goodbye and good riddance.

From the Rear.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Oy! The pains of going legit.

Okay so the last entry was around 5 months ago. and since then well not much. The house stands, waiting for us to return and continue working on it.

Actually no, that's not entirely true. We've finally gotten to the point where we can go ahead and start gathering permits from the city. However I've been unfortunately side-swiped by the budget cuts and now the City is requiring that we pay ALL permit fees up front, rather than one at a time. Its a huge chunk of money that I wasn't expecting to have to pay all at once. I mean I understand that when a City or state is hurting that you'd expect that they'd do a little financial trickery to make ends meet, but most people doing renovations aren't going legit.

So then why are they punishing those of us who are trying to be legitimate? I'm not saying no fees anywhere... but how about a schedule of fees and timelines? Possible payment schedules with penalties rather than a huge lump sum? I don't think I'm being too unreasonable? am I?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

going legit.

Once the decision was made to go and do the work legitimately it meant that we had a fair amount of work to complete before we ever even broke ground on repairs.

this was back in... hrmmm have to think about this for a second and do some research.... yeah March of 2010. That was when we encountered the biggest hurdle to this DIY reno, and what ultimately made us decide that we were in-over-our-heads.

That being said we'd been in a sort of a holding pattern, as renovations are notorious for going in cycles. Incidentally if you let it get away from you the "holding pattern" can turn into a work-stoppage, which is what happened to us. Demo had gone as far as it could go with a meager staff of my husband and my then pregnant self, and we were forced to face the fact that we could not accomplish what we wanted without both professional and financial help.

OMG!!! Finally a permit!

It only took 4 times longer than expected, but we finally got a design permit approval.

Turns out that the piece of paper was literally sitting on the desk of an 'administrator' waiting to get signed. All I had to do was pester and cajole, and literally become a nuisance to the point of obnoxiousness to get some motion on the permit process. Had I known this before I might not have been so passive.

Looking at the photo, you might not be able to see it, but its there is solid black and white... APPROVED! It feels so good to be validated. Even if it was never really in question, it still feels good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Layouts and changes... again

Okay, so the last time we showed you anything there was the assumption that the work would be done by us and therefore cost and construction was a key piece of the design.

Well now we've chucked that all out the window.

We're at a point where we've been through one 'designer' (really a structural engineer... who was NO help whatsoever), and have now submitted designs to the Oakland Housing authority for review. That being said, we've finally done another key change to the layout of the house.

After much discussion, much feedback and much fighting, we've changed the layout once more.

Key thing... we got an architect (an actual professional, certified by the state, with papers to prove it) and he's actually responsible.

Thanks be to family for the feedback - as it was good.

As you can see we've killed one bedroom in favor of creating a massive dining room. We've also added an internal staircase that will go down to the lower level. Plus what's not shown, is that we've gotten bigger; Both sideways and lengthwise, we've added around 250 sq ft to the original drawing by going out 10 ft more and 3 feet on either side. This creates a kind of 'wing' effect to the house.

Positives: we gain an awesome dining room, a formal foyer, an even awesomer kitchen... and I even get a walk-in closet. (i hope.)

One big note to keep in mind, this was the first pass - and the actual design has changed somewhat for relevancy to us, and structural requirements. So this is NOT the final plan that was submitted for review by the design board for the county, nor is it the design that we'll be building to.

Now comes the fun part, getting someone to build this for us.

More advice - the worst kind of vice...

So it has been a very long time since there was an update regarding the house, its progress and any new information.

That is partly due to the fact that after discovering the 'hack-job' that was completed on the underside of the house we came to the conclusion that we couldn't finish this project on our own. It simply got too big, and too complex. What started out as moderately complex, now became unrealistic for two DIY-ers to do on evenings and weekends.

We bit the bullet, hired an architect, and began researching the permit background on the house. In the time that we've done that I've learned several things:

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH before starting any job. OMG, why don't I follow my own damn advice I'll never know.

If we'd done this first, (which BTW is really quick and easy to do in Oakland) we would have found out that the 'addition' wasn't legal in any sense of the word. It was originally a porch that was enclosed, poorly at that, and even the porch wasn't in the original plans for the house.

2. If you hire a 3rd party, DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!

Again, I am stupid for not following my own advice. The first architect that we went with... well he was a complete and total flake. To just avoid further pain we paid him off for 4 months of not calling, producing substandard drawings and leaving us in the lurch with permits. (e.g. he'd never filed for permits, and provided only external elevation drawings - no structural drawings of any kind)

3. Be patient, but consistent with everything.

One piece of advice we got from a cousin who does commercial and residential renos; Make sure that you hire someone who has solid business sense over an expert craftsman. Truer words could never have been spoken.

In my limited experience with contractors and subcontractors, I'd rather deal with the business person who shows up on time, provides updates, checks in with me (without me having to hunt him/her down) provides paperwork and completes the job as requested; than work with the craftsman. Remember the craftsman is an Artiste in the truest sense of the word... as a result the work, (when and if completed) is a thing of beauty. But its worse than having your molars pulled by a team of Clydesdales hopped up on amphetamines to get the craftsman to actually do the work, and do it on a budget and in a reasonable amount of time.


editorial note: I added this entry, as this was about the date and time when we expected to get a response back from the design office regarding our permits. unfortunately we didn't.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Blackberries "Strike Back"

As mentioned in the prior post, my husband has been attempting to 'remove' the blackberries from one corner of our yard. Initially my thoughts were to keep them alive so that I could make lovely blackberry preserves, pies, tarts and so forth.

Now that we've been messing with these wild blackberries, I too am ready to see them gone.

We've been putting off any work on the house and been focusing on the yard, as we don't need permits to at least clean and clear up what was left to us when we got the house. In addition we've also cut back how much we can work we can commit to the house, due to our own new addition.

She arrived on September 11th, and as a result we've pretty much come to a screeching halt. For those of you who didn't know I was pregnant and working on the house and yard until my 8th month, when it simply got to difficult to 'labor' in the sun and heat for more than 20 minute stretches.

(As a side note, I attribute my work on the house, and constant activity, to contributing to my easier than normal birth.)

Anyhow...the branch that launched the aerial assault, well it came back, with a vengeance.

Incidentally for scale, my husband is approximately 6'1" ft tall, 6' 3" in his work boots... so that makes this branch alone about 8' long.

Here is another scale photo... My hand is literally on top of the vine, and notice that it is the same thickness as my thumb.