Wednesday, May 20, 2009


When Spouse & I bought this house we realized we were compromising 3 things on our wish list: a garage, storage outside the house, and parking. The rest of the house was above and beyond our wish list, we got a very good deal on the house, and we love its downtown location.

So basically from the beginning we've thought about how we might be able to resolve the 3 missing things. We looked into the construction of a garage and/or carport over our existing driveway, but found we could not do either one because of property line setbacks. We looked into building a shed for storage outside the house (for beach chairs, lawn mower, etc.) but also found we could not do so because of property line setbacks. Since our street is a single, one-way lane there is no room for on-street parking. The only way we could increase our parking would be to add parking spaces in our small yard. It was not looking good.

Then I had a conversation with my neighbor Brenda who is an architect. She offered to look at our plot, consult the city's building code, and offer a recommendation. That's how we discovered we could remove one side of our wrap around porch and have enough room to attach a garage with storage and add 2 additional parking spaces in front of the garage, essentially fixing all 3 of our home's deficits.

Because of the garage's location, we decided to utilize the 'attic space' above the garage to expand our master bathroom and add a walk-in closet. Our existing master bath is adequate with its fiberglass shower/tub combo. But by opening the master bathroom wall into the 'attic space' over the garage, we will create a master bath with a 2-person shower room and a 2-person heated, jetted tub. Our existing master closet is definitely not adequate. Spouse's clothes alone overfill the closet, so my clothes are hanging in guest room closets. The new walk-in closet will be more of a dressing room, with space for our dresser/mirror and 3 walls full of hanging and shelving storage.

Then Big Ella arrived and Spouse decided we should get her repainted before the garage was built in order to prevent further rust damage. So, we contracted Brenda to draw up the official building plans for the addition.

Then the economy went into the toilet and we felt conflicted about whether or not to spend the money and move forward with the addition. My company suffered a layoff, but I was spared. Spouse works for the state and will likely have a 4-8% pay cut sometime this year. We decided to put the project out for bid so we could at least get an idea of the cost.

It took about 8 weeks to get the 4 project bids back from the builders. We were surprised by the significant price differences. We expected the bids to be rather close to each other, but the highest bid was over 40% higher than the lowest bid. To monetize that for you using random, even numbers, that would equate to the highest bid at $100K and the lowest bid at $60K. That's a huge difference!

Lucky for us, the lowest bidder was also the guy I liked the most. I could tell he listened to me, didn't ramble on to me about stuff I don't care about, and offered some creative and cost-effective design enhancements. He also happens to be the guy who built our neighbor's house, so I asked them about their experience working with this builder. They couldn't say enough good things about him, so after negotiating his price down a bit, Spouse & I gave it even more thought and discussion.

I felt confident we had the right guy at the right price, but did not want to move forward until Spouse was completely onboard. He was concerned we may end up with more invested in the house than we could sell it for. I reminded him that the addition would increase the value of the house because it would fix the 3 missing things this otherwise 'perfect' home lacked: a garage, storage outside the house, and parking. In addition to fixing those things, we would also add value by giving the home a "WOW" master bath and closet. I also reminded him that since we had no plans of moving within the next 10 years, there was plenty of time for our home to appreciate. He countered that if we lost our jobs we might be forced to move before 10 years, but I suggested that if so, the house would sell more easily since we'd made it better.

He agreed with me and said "Let's do it. There are few guarantees in life; mostly just degrees of risk. This risk seems rather low and worthwhile, so let's do it."

So I called the builder last Thurs and let him know we'd picked him and were ready to move forward. Updates will follow.

Crush du Jour: Yani Gellman


Bob said...

Good luck with the reno.

Anonymous said...

It seems as though you've done all your homework on this. I'm sure the project will go off without a hitch!

Pictures are necessary though!

Java said...

truthspew is delusional. Remodeling and building projects NEVER go off without a hitch. I hope this one is accomplished with a minimum of fuss and bother.

I'm excited. I think building projects are one of the most exciting things in the world! Yes, pictures are required.

seriously, I'm almost giddy.

wcs said...

We remodeled our SF kitchen in 1999 (completely gutted and rebuilt from the studs up) and it went off without a hitch. And it was done on time and on budget.

We were very lucky, and very happy with the result. So, it can happen.

cb said...

Please tell me the builder is hot too? Or at least his helpers are??

Peter Maria said...

Best of luck with your project! As a devoted DIY Network fan, I know you are supposed to budget at least 10% of the projected cost for "overages". But I think your reasoning for the project is very sound, and I like the fact that you've checked recent references for the builder you chose. Pix of the project in progress would be nice, but don't forget to protect your privacy. Again, good luck!

Michael said...

I agree with CB...I hope they are at least hot. You can serve them lemonade in your french maid costume. Will the work be done before our visit in the fall! Can't wait to see you guys and cruise in Big Ella.

tornwordo said...

Just be ready for, um, complications.

Good luck gentlemen.

Anonymous said...

Yani is really cute...and at the center of the current Y&R backstage drama with one actor quitting the show over a scripted man on man kiss.