Morningside Renovation

Our Journey Through The Renovation Process Of Our Future "Forever Home" In Morningside (Atlanta,GA)


Able to Save Some Money on Roofing

If you’re somewhat familiar with our story and if you read any of my posts over the last few months you know that if we’re to complete our house we’re going to have to get creative and find ways to reduce some of the construction expenses.  When we were re-interviewing Contractors for our second go at this project a lot of them talked about how they were good at value engineering projects and how they would “probably” be able to find ways throughout the course of construction to lower some of our costs while not sacrificing our finished goal or the quality of it.  I’m sure some of them would’ve been able to do so but one of the reasons why we chose our current GC is because he actually provided us with true examples on the front-end of how he would be able to do it and deliver to us our dream.  From the bids we received he wasn’t the lowest in price nor was he able to get his bid as low as we were hoping but he assured us that he would continue to look for avenues where we could save money.

I was skeptical at first for a few reasons; the contract with our current GC is a true Cost Plus contract. Meaning, we pay our contractor for the actual cost of the material and labor plus a predetermined percentage of those costs which basically is his profit. My feeling was that because of this arrangement he had very little incentive to reduce any of the expenses because that would in turn lower his profit.  My second concern was just the simple fact that he was walking into a project that had challenges.  The house was built in 1927, so who knows what issues he might find when he starts getting into the original structure.  Plus, directly because of the “improvements” by our former GC our house now had structural issues.  AND we’d been told by all of the contractors we interviewed (I believe 11 total) as well as our structural engineer that if we didn’t want to compromise the quality of our home or somewhat drastically change our overall plan of the house, then directly because of these past “improvements” there would need to be adjustments made to our framing and roofing plan which would significantly increase the overall costs.

So my concerns seemed realistic, not only why would he look for options to lower the costs which would reduce his profit but how would he even be able to do so?  As stated above, we knew that going forward there would be extra costs associated with the construction, framing, roofing, etc…and we made certain that the quality of our current GC’s work was above par and that he wasn’t one to cut-corners – quality GC, sterling reputation, past clients give him nothing but praise – still just doesn’t seem possible.

Well our house is far from complete and fortunately  our GC has been true to his word.  At the onset of our project he took it upon himself to have our roofing plan redrawn.  Our original roofing plan had more peaks and valleys than the Himalayas.  The amount of lumber required was enough for a house twice the square footage.  By redrawing our roofing plan, while making sure that it didn’t change the street appearance of our house, or that seen by the neighbors, he was able to simplify it thus reducing the cost of lumber, shingles, labor, etc… At the same time he was able to find us a comparable shingle as to what had originally been spec’d which also helped to reduced some of the costs.  We still have a lot more ground to makeup but overall this attributed to a 23.6% REDUCTION in what was budgeted for roofing.  Of course I wish that would become a trend and we could reduce all of the expenses by 24% however I’m just grateful that he not only took the time to explore various options but even more so that he actually did it and lived up to his word.  Amazing guy, so thankful we found him.

A few pictures below of the shingles. Try to ignore the exterior of the house, the trim will be added shortly, as well as replacement of all of the windows and they’re waiting until the interior improvements are complete before they paint the bricks.

Barkwood 2

The shingles are Timberline HD which are manufactured by GAF and the color is Barkwood

Barkwood 1

Barkwood 3

One piece of advice, I would strongly recommend that before the shingles are installed that you inspect a few of them just to make sure they’re the same color as to what you’re expecting.  While we confirmed that what was written on each of the packages was the same as what was ordered, we personally neglected to actually view the shingles and when we saw them on the roof we were somewhat disappointed as they seemed a little lighter in color than what we saw on the shingle board, as well as what we viewed online.  (GAF also recommends the above on their website)  They all came from the same batch however they’re definitely lighter, my hope is that once the trim is added and the brick is painted that less of the redness in the shingles will be highlighted and the brown will become more dominant.

Going one-step further, it would be even better if one was to use the same approach in selecting a shingle color as what is recommended when painting an interior wall.  If possible take a few shingles of various colors and have them placed on your actual roof so you can get a better idea as to what you’re getting and how the sun might alter the look/color.  Sample boards aren’t always accurate and I’ve been told that not everything you read or see on the internet is completely accurate as well.

Advertisements


Bathtubs have Arrived

Just thought that I would give a quick update on what progress has happened at our house during the last several weeks.  As you can imagine the holidays basically brought everything to a halt and if it wasn’t the holidays it’s been the rain.  However the rough plumbing was recently completed and just last week our GC finished installing the tubs.

We were originally going with a standard tub in all of the bathrooms, except the master, however our GC, amazing guy, was able to secure these awesome Kohler Devonshire tubs which have a 20″ depth and gave them to us for the same price as the standard ones. This guy is incredible.

 

misc 12212012 019

The hole(missing concrete) in the above picture was where our former GC originally put the plumbing…in a bedroom…bright guy huh?

 

misc 12212012 025

And for the Master Bath (below) we decided not to go with one that was jetted, so we chose a 41 1/2″ x 70″ Bathcraft tub manufactured by Craftsmen, model A97040-00.

misc 12212012 052

misc 12212012 051

It’s funny, it will be a while before the house is ready and we’re able to actually utilize the tubs but it’s still pretty exciting having them installed.  Plus, it’s the first time I’ve seen the boys excited about taking a bath – we’ll see how long that lasts. 

The holidays are behind us and even though we have rain forecasted throughout the end of this week I’m hoping for good weather in the near future…we still have a long way to go.


7 Comments

Is Spray Foam Insulation Worth the Expense?

So our GC asked me the other day if I had any further thoughts regarding the type of insulation for our house.  Originally we were planning on having Spray Foam Insulation however this was unfortunately one of the sacrifices that had to be made and replaced with a much cheaper solution when we decided to move forward with our project.  It pains me as it seems as if all of the more energy-efficient, “green”, selections are getting replaced by more traditional and initially cost-effective options.

However due to Mike Holmes as well as numerous articles I’ve basically fallen in love with spray foam and all of its attributes and it’s hard for me to let go.  I realize that the winters in Atlanta aren’t near as brutal as those to the north however I still find myself trying to justify the added expense or better yet, trying to find areas where we can reduce other costs.  Yes, I’m starting to believe that I’ve had a taste of the Kool-Aid or at least smelled it and now I want some.

So far we’ve done a decent job at trimming our expenses, however this was a forced necessity and now I find myself acting like our government.  We need to trim more of the expenses to be able to complete our task however now I want to spend that “savings” and further increase our overall cost of the project.  Well I’m not completely like our government – at least I’m not going to our neighbors and mandating that they pay for these additional expenses to subsidize out project.

Now if you’ve read any of my prior posts you know that I can be a little hard-headed or stubborn, however the inside of our house is completely exposed, down to the studs, and if we’re going to do it – now is the time.

A brief and elementary rundown of what I’ve learned after a little “research”

Spray Foam Insulation – there are two types: open and closed cell.  Open Cell seems to be less dense and doesn’t insulate as well where Closed Cell is a better insulator however it is more expensive than Open Cell

Blown–Cellulose Insulation – Cheaper alternative of the three, can be done as a DIY project.  Make up of product is generally material which has been recycled.

Rolled- Fiberglass Insulation – Commonly thought of as the Pink Stuff, has traditionally been known as a high-quality insulator.

Disclaimers

  • Since our GC is contracting this out, I’m not going to focus on the ease of installation from a DIYr’s perspective, although I’ve read that spray foam is best left to the professionals as it’s more challenging to install when compared to the others.
  • I have only considered research conducted within the Atlanta area and it’s possible the results can differ by region.
  • Yes, I read about the various environmental concerns of spray foam insulation, however after reading numerous reports and articles I have decided not to address or take into account due to the simple fact that I find both sides highly debatable.
  • By no means is the following chart entirely accurate as I purposely neglected to weight the individual categories

Now that all of the disclaimers are out-of-the-way it is probably best to know that I’ve rated the following with 3 being the best and 1 being the least desirable.

insulation chart

So there you have it, of course the more expensive option is more superior, but is it worth it?  I’ve heard the arguments about the return on your investment through savings achieved by a reduction in energy costs but I still wonder if that is really the case and there’s a big difference in that return being within 3 years versus 7, 10 or 15 years.  I’ve also looked into various rebates offered by state and local governments as well as one of our utility providers however those still do little to offset the initial costs associated with Spray Foam being that it’s almost double the expense.

Is Spray Foam superior to the others?  My thinking is yes, without a question.  While there is no such thing as a perfect product it seems through research that it is a better insulator than the other two options.  That’s not to say that Cellulose or Fiberglass Insulation don’t perform well or have their own positive attributes but by comparison from research and word of mouth they don’t seem to match Spray Foam.

So what does that mean for our project? As I mentioned earlier we’re unfortunately having to eliminate a great deal of the “energy-efficient” options from our project.  It’s disappointing but my Velux Sun Tunnels are looking as if they will remain on the elimination list.  This decision wasn’t easily made and it wasn’t due to the quality of the product, however we’ve been forced to trim our budget and it was hard to justify the added expense. So does Spray Foam remain in its seat alongside the Sun Tunnels? Not sure just yet.  I’m infatuated, possibly in love, with it, however I’m trying to prepare myself that it might just be that we have to settle for the pretty pink stuff just because of the added expense.

Would love to hear your experiences with the three options.

Good article giving a brief overview on insulation options:
http://www.atlantahomeimprovement.com/blog/2012/03/28/why-insulation/


2 Comments

The Value of Capturing the Moment

It probably goes without saying but I never knew the true value of it until our ordeal.  Take pictures if you’re in the process of or about to begin a renovation/building/remodeling project – lots of them. Pictures can be extremely helpful if there is ever a dispute about the quality of work that was performed. I imagine most people generally take a few “before and after” pictures as well as when their project reaches certain milestones.  However I would strongly recommend taking pictures more frequently, possibly everyday if there is a lot of work being done – and make sure that you take them covering all aspects and phases of the project.

These pictures can potentially save you thousands of dollars in the future by showing proof of inferior workmanship. Unlike our first experience, and quite fortunately, the vast majority of General Contractors are admirable, trustworthy and competent professionals, but they’re humans.  Everyone makes mistakes and some of these mistakes could end up costing YOU a tremendous amount of money in the future, especially if it’s critical to the structural integrity of your home. Also, it would be great if we could all depend upon our local municipality’s building inspector to catch these mistakes but that doesn’t always happen and in most areas they’re indemnified and can’t be held financially liable. All of the more reason to do everything you can to protect yourself.

Of course you want to be mindful of those working on your project and not get in their way.  And you don’t want to be viewed as a homeowner that is just trying to find a mistake and looking to build a case – sure fire way to destroy a contractor/homeowner relationship. At the beginning of your project start with an open and trusting mind while giving the professionals you hired the benefit of the doubt since they do this a lot more frequently than most of us – we hope. These pictures should just be viewed as insurance, same as we have for our cars and house.

Now, if you do find a mistake make sure you take detailed pictures of it along with the surrounding area.  Keep in mind that if these pictures are ever presented to a third-party in order to make a judgment you want there to be undeniable proof of your claim– remember that the burden of proof is always on the homeowner.

From the beginning of our project I took a lot of pictures out of pure excitement, not even thinking that I might need them one day. Every day I would stop by the house and take pictures of the progress.  A few of them I’ve posted on this site and Flickr however that is a small percentage of all of the pictures which I’ve taken. When I started finding mistakes I made sure to take a lot of pictures from all angles and views.  For instance, after the initial framing was completed and we discovered that the ceiling height in the basement was going to be at least 6” shorter than what was on the plans I made sure to document this by taking pictures and videos showing the error and I even used a tape measure which gave more accurate proof of our claim.

Keep in mind that any litigation will be an uphill battle for a homeowner. Unfortunately when going before an arbitrator or a judge homeowners are often at a disadvantage and at times prematurely viewed in a negative light before a hearing even begins.  The contractor has more knowledge about construction(most of the time), knows the jargon and depending if your contract includes arbitration language with an arbitrator already identified, they could possibly already have a relationship established with those determining the outcome.  While not a guarantee of victory, pictures can certainly help to even the playing field and take away some of your contractor’s argument.  They say pictures are worth a thousand words and in these instances it couldn’t be truer.

Thankfully most people won’t have a similar situation as we experienced however these pictures can still come in handy years from now by serving as an x-ray of what’s behind all of the sheet rock and finishes.  This alone could save you hundreds of dollars.  One too many times a contractor has probably said to a homeowner “we have no idea what’s behind those walls until we open it up”, your pictures will eliminate some of the guess/exploratory work and expense. 

There it is and pretty simple, take pictures and lots of them – before, during and after your project. If you have a video camera it’s not a bad idea to utilize it as well.  Download the pictures and/or video to a disk or external hard drive and keep them someplace safe.  Hopefully you’ll never need them but if you do they can prove to be invaluable.


2 Comments

Velux Sun Tunnels, Are They Worth the Added Expense?

The Velux Sun Tunnel

P_GL_INT_00971_280[1]

Originally I was planning on having these installed in the Master Bath, our walk-in closets, Kitchen, Boys’ Bathroom, and Laundry Room but since can lighting is less expensive and we’re cutting costs this is one of my “wants” that had to be eliminated.  Unfortunately I can’t seem to let it go, meaning that I’m trying to find a way to justify the added expense.  Of course I know the argument that “they’ll pay for themselves overtime with reduced electrical use however that just isn’t enough. So basically I’m asking you, “are you familiar with them, have you used them and are they worth the added expense?  I’m also concerned about the potential of them leaking.  They seem to be an amazing product, adding a lot of natural light and at this point I’m totally sold on them, I just need either more information, a cheaper alternative or to know that they’re not worth the it. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find very many contractors around the Atlanta area that are familiar with them. Let me know your thoughts if you have any experience or history with them.

So we’re moving along with framing, completed the majority of the interior frame-work, closets, baths, fireplace, stairs, etc…as well as the sheathing on the roof.  It is beyond exciting to see it actually all starting to come together.

Fireplace in the Great Room

Fireplace in the Great Room

Stairs - landing in the new basement area

Stairs – landing in the new basement area

View from Great Room into the Kitchen Area
View from Great Room into the Kitchen Area
Great Room

Great Room

       

Back of the house
Back of the house


Maybe a Virus Gave Me Some Clarity

Not Really – I’m a little behind on posts being that my computer had a nasty virus that basically destroyed my hard drive, but I’m back.  During the “down time” I realized how time-consuming it can be to actively blog.  Of course I entertained the thought of abandoning it altogether, but that time away was actually good.  It allowed me the ability to reflect on why I’m even blogging.   As you know a few posts back after reading an article on blogging I wrote about my concern with this site/blog not having a true purpose.  This site was originally started as a way to keep our friends and family updated on our renovation/remodeling/expansion project – basically an online journal with updates and pictures.  I thought this site would be active for 5 maybe 7 months at most.  Life(shit) happens and nothing against professional bloggers but I never expected that 12 months later I would still be typing away.

This “journey” has taken us from our initial excitement – to watch our progress, we’re so excited – to crap I can’t believe this is happening, what do we do – to Ok, we’re committed to this, we have to somehow find a way to pull this off. 

Shit happens, we had an incompetent as well as less than honest GC and to now accomplish our original goal (or as close as possible) we’re going to have to do it with an even tighter budget. Unfortunately I don’t have the experience to “Super Man” the job and singlehandedly save us.  We’ll have to rely on our new GC to value engineer areas, hopefully I can assist by doing a little DIY work where it’s appropriate, but mostly  it will depend upon us making wise economical decisions and choices.

So maybe I’ve found (uncovered) the underlying purpose of this site.  From our past misfortunes and during our forward journey my hope is that we’ll be able to share a few areas where we’ve been able to make up ground – create savings.  It won’t be easy and there’s quite a gap to bridge but someone once told me to never underestimate determination.

Last, I would love to be able to provide a proven method on how to assure that you won’t get screwed or taken advantage of by an unscrupulous contractor, or at least minimize the risk.  However I’ve come to realize that a guaranteed method just doesn’t exist.  We read and followed all of the various articles, tips and advice but it still happened. So what do you do if you find yourself in our position? Is it worth pursuing?  I’ll try to journal that as well.

So there it is – any bets on if I stick to it?


Framing Work

Since so much framing progress has been made over the last several days I thought it might be best just to share some of the pictures.

Also & fortunately during framing our GC discovered that the vast majority of the rafters and joists in the original house are still in good condition so it was great to learn that we won’t have to replace those.  Also, because of all the water damage to the original hardwood floors due to our former GC not tarping the roof correctly  we thought we would have to replace all of the ORIGINAL hardwood floors – fortunately it looks as if we will be able to salvage the ones in the foyer, dining room and one of the bedrooms.  My hope is that the transition from the original to the new won’t be too noticeable…

Trey Ceiling in the Foyer

Trey Ceiling in the Foyer

Trey Ceiling in the Foyer

Trey Ceiling in the Foyer

Trey Ceiling in the Master Bedroom

Trey Ceiling in the Master Bedroom

Future Family Room

Future Family Room

framing 074

framing 064