Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rehab Addict Nicole Curtis On DIY

If you've read at least one of my previous posts you won't be shocked to learn that I've found time to watch more than one episode of Rehab Addict on DIY.  The shows host, Nicole Curtis, is passionate about renovating and takes on homes that others think are beyond repair.  She doesn't just point her finger and tell hired tradesmen what she's wants done, she rolls up her sleeves, grabs a shovel or a hammer, and is part of the fun.        


I've only been able to see Rehab Addict a few times.  I saw Curtis re-purpose some garage doors into a basement wall and incorporate an old soapstone wash sink into one of her bathrooms.  In another episode she transformed the bathroom of a client and found an old wood door to use as a headboard.  (see The Picture Window at the Bungalow).  She did some dumpster diving in another show and candidly (and without reservation) explained how most of her furniture was discarded as trash by previous owners.  Now, this may not sound as exciting and dramatic as demolishing an old house and rebuilding a new one in a week, but that's not what Nicole (or Blood, Sweat, and Pig's Ears) is about.  

I can relate to how Curtis finances her addiction.  In the intro of one show Nicole explains how one of her project houses isn't selling quickly enough and because of this she's having to put her own home on the market for sale.  This is the reality of a freelance home renovator.  My wife calls it a feast or famine way of life.  When I'm waiting for the next buyer, I start to think of different ways to generate cash and selling a property is always an option.  On one hand it's nerve racking, but on another it is exciting and is one of the things that makes Rehab Addict subtly intriguing for people who don't live this way. 

So, if you haven't watched Nicole Curtis in Rehab Addict, and you love renovating like I do, then you need to check the television schedule and sit down for a thirty minute episode.  It's good stuff.     

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Step 8 - Redraw Your Floor Plan

Okay, so you've taken pictures, cleaned things up, made it secure, sketched the existing floor plan, and posted your permit.  It may have taken you a weekend or something longer, but this time has provided a chance to get familiar with the property and you've likely daydreamed about improvements. 

Use your sketch of the existing plan (see Step 6 - Sketch Out the Floor Plan) as a guide.  For me, the degree of alterations I've made has varied.  For some properties I've tried to keep modifications to a minimum and other times I've reworked the entire home.  When I started to redraw The Fire House, I knew the bedrooms (4) and bathrooms (2) weren't going to change so I focused on the main living areas as I began to try out potential changes on paper.  In the end, I relocated the burned out laundry room, added a hall (which created a dining room) and found room for an eating area next to the kitchen.  The redraw of The Bungalow was more involved with significant changes throughout.  It had two living areas and two back doors.  It also had four bedrooms yet only two closets and one bathroom.  I knew I wanted to eliminate a back door as well as one of the living areas.  In addition, I also needed to find a way to add a bath and make sure each bedroom had a closet.        

I really enjoy redrawing my Pig's Ears because this is when the property begins to transform in my thoughts to what it's going to be when I'm done.  As I review the layout of a home I'm going to renovate, I consider it in three ways: the living areas that everyone shares (kitchen, dining, family/great room), the bedrooms, and then finally the smaller rooms (bathrooms, laundry room, linen closets, pantry, utility closets) that are easy to squeeze in amongst everything else.  Although all my house resurrections have been different, they've all elicited a common reaction from visitors upon completion as people have routinely commented that they feel bigger than their actual square footage.  I like to add headers, columns, knee walls, and pass-thru openings to the main living areas.  I think this openness helps to create this illusion of my houses feeling larger than they are in actuality.   

I try to be practical when I redraw the floor plan.  I want to make the house better for me if/when I live there, but I also want it to be marketable when it's time to sell.  Adding closets to each bedroom of the Bungalow is an example, because most (if not all) people will expect this when they're house shopping.  A dishwasher is another example.  I can live without it, yet I'm always sure to find room for one in the kitchen because it helps the house sell.  So, when you're redrawing your layout, think of how you can make it better and what you're going to want, but be mindful of what others will want and consider the route of practicality.

The Cottage - I reworked the front roof and added some columns & headers.  This view is from the second floor Hall looking down into the Foyer.

The Hurricane House - I removed a wall and installed a header.  This view shows the dining room looking into the Living Area and the Front Door.
The Bungalow - I added a header between the Kitchen and the Living Room/Den.
The Fire House - A Cathedral ceiling was installed when I rebuilt the roof.  In addition I added columns when possible. 

Jump to The Fire House - Before, During, and After

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Step 7 - Permits

The first and most significant thing to keep in mind regarding the permitting process is that although every jurisdiction has its own rules for issuing permits, each typically share an underlying view that their way is the way.   

The first six steps I've described do not require permission from your local authorities.  However, when you start demoing walls and addressing the bigger issues, there's a good chance you'll need a permit.  I'd love to write down everything one might need to know regarding this topic (as well as the accompanying inspections and adherence to building codes), but all of this varies from place to place.  I've worked in too many municipalities to count and they're all different.  In addition, it's common for them to make adjustments and changes to how they do things periodically so I'm always prepared for anything when I walk into the local office that oversees building and construction.

In some places, you'll have complete freedom to do what you want to your property without any outside involvement from others.  However, some parts will require that you provide them some details of your home improvement plans and pay a small fee before you receive a post-able sign and can begin work.  Some may ask for drawings while others will be satisfied with a written description.  One village or city may require that you hire a licensed General Contractor to supervise/manage your renovation project while other towns may allow you to act as your own GC if your name is on the deed.  Then, there are some areas that will expect you to make the house your home when you're finished and might even require you to sign a document pledging to live there as a resident for a stipulated time period upon completion.   

So in other words, be ready when you go in for your permits and don't be surprised if you're faced with someone on the other side of the counter who steadfastly explains, "This is how it's done" as if there's no other way.  I've experienced this on dozens of occasions and with time I've grown to understand that when this happens the clear reality is: This is how it's done there.  When I'm navigating my way through the rocky permitting and inspection waters, my goal is to receive my Certificate of Occupancy at the end of the project.  However, to reinforce my point on the inconsistencies of this process even further, not all towns or local authorities issue a C.O. after the final inspection is passed.  So when you go to get your permit, be ready for anything.

And finally, get your official authorization for improvements you know you're going to make, rather than things you might do.  If you know you need to replace some drywall, paint inside and out, and you'll also be popping in replacement windows, then pull a permit for those things.  Don't talk to the local administrators about the possibility of skylights, a new master suite with a jacuzzi tub, or other things you've considered.  Just keep it simple and when you're rock solid on additional scopes of work you'll be doing yourself, you can get the bureaucratic green light for those things then.  Bringing these things up prematurely will only cloud the issuing process and could result in you paying for permission to complete work you won't actually do.