Monday, September 27, 2010

Knife Catching 1345 Bay St.

Read This:The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. The opinions expressed in this review are based on my own inspection of the property, the publicly available facts from aggregator sites such as Redfin and Zillow and the online permit database for the city of Alameda. I am not responsible for incorrect or missing data that appears in these sources. In fact, its probably best that you just ignore everything you read here as the lunatic ravings of an unbalanced mind.

Knife Catching 1345 Bay St.
Up for review today is 1345 Bay St. Which has the official specs of being a 3-1 of 1371 sq ft on a 6300 sq ft lot. The house is a craftsman built in 1915. The asking price is a not insignificant $679k. View the Harbor Bay listing here.

Here's the google street view of the place. Sorry, I didn't have the camera with me so this will be the only pic in this review. Take a look at the HB site above for some more pics.

First Off, This place is really a 2-1.5. There is a non-permitted half bath in one of the bedrooms. What they are calling the 3rd bedroom is really the covered porch and its right off the kitchen, it does have a closet but the room is tiny, being right off the kitchen it might make a decent home office/guest bedroom.

House Impressions
Location: Well, this place certainly has location, location, location...its on the prime block of Bay St. for Halloween. The Realtor said it was 'The' block of Bay but I'd argue the blocks that dead end on the lagoon are probably 'The' blocks... This is a great tree lined street in the Franklin school district.

Grounds: That sounds pretentious doesn't it? The place has a great front yard for Halloween and a really good sized back yard. The back yard needs some serious landscaping work but it is large and has several mature trees...In fact, I'd say if you want to grow anything other than the existing trees that its got too much of them will probably have to come down. If you tour this house check out the neighbors backyard on the south side....Its got this amazing 3 story tree house thing that looks pulled from Disneyland! Its got rope bridges and a big slide and MAN I wish I was 10 yrs old again so I could go play on it.

House Exterior: The exterior appeared to be in good shape with the unpainted shingles looking to be okay. There was evidence of dry rot in the eaves and on the front porch. Several of the windows looked to be painted shut.

Interior: The front room was a good size though I would not call it 'spacious' as the add copy does. The dining room is also a good size but not humongous. Both bedrooms are actually pretty good sized with decent closet space. The half bath in the one bedroom looks a bit uh, cramped shall we say...The full bath looks original still, but it looks nice and its actually a good size, as in not tiny.
Kitchen: The kitchen is TINY and looks to be of a 50's vintage. Off the kitchen there is a little nook that they are pretending is a breakfast way, too small, and the only way into the 3rd bedroom is through this nook. This means, that you will HAVE to use the dining room to eat in, which leaves just the one decent sized but not huge front room as common area space.

I had a nice chat with the Realtor about the place and it seems like she's not trying to mis-represent the place (a nice change). She had the certified permit history there (which goes back to the 40's! and Shows that they converted the porch into a bedroom with permits in the 50's!!!) and not one but two termite reports (~$48k in work!!!) but no house inspection. I asked her if there where any issues with the house and she mentioned the electrical...apparently it would not work when the watering was turned on????

I asked her about the price, since 1290 Caroline is about the same size house on the same size lot in basically the same neighborhood why did she feel that this house was worth ~$80k more. She said, it was the location and the fact that the house was a Craftsman and that, 'Craftsmans always go for more than 50's houses...' I don't know about that. The price differential seems a bit unreasonable to me....

I asked her who her target market was, and I was surprised to hear her say retiree's. But it makes sense, the house is all on one level in a safe neighborhood.

Conclusion: The house is SMALL!!!!!!! I don't see how any family (even with only 1 kid) that can afford the Gold Coast being happy with how small the place is. The house is probably the smallest on the block. This house would work well for a couple of retirees who want to be close to the grand kids.

What The House Needs:
There was no house inspectors report to read so based on my observations.....
Even though it has a concrete foundation circa 1915 the termite report calls it out as failing! This can happen when there is too much water seeping through the concrete for too many years...

  1. New Foundation: Dig down and give yourself a real basement for storage and maybe a 'plus' room. ~$100k with good water management features.
  2. New forced air furnace and get rid of all the abspestos lined ducts.
  3. House is still partially on fuses in an abspestos lined box..might want to change that.
  4. House still have galv water pipes that look old, repipe the place in PEX.
  5. Do a pop-top master suite addition to give you the room a modern family needs to raise kids.
  6. Remodel the Kitchen annexing the 'breakfast nook' space.

We'll call it ~$300k worth of work. If you could get the place for $600k you just might break even after adding all the legal square feet....cause the place does have location....Course if you're a retired couple the place might work 'as-is'.

And that's the way I see it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Halloween Sneak Peek....

Something Wicked This Way Comes........

videoCheck out this video for a sneak peek at what's new this year in the Haunted Graveyard...

This should give you some idea about how the creepy scarecrow is going to look.

Closer-up shot of what's going to be the head for our new even creepier scarecrow.

Alamedeans, Decorate Your House For Halloween!!!!
This year I'm part of the team putting on the annual 'Alameda Haunt Your House' Contest. First prize is two round trip tickets on Frontier Airlines!!!! Woo-Hooo!!!!

This year we're teaming up with the Alameda Food Bank. Every entry will get a Halloween themed canned food collection box. We hope that people will donate food on the two days of the contest and on Halloween.

Alameda is full of neat old houses that would look even more amazing spookified for Halloween don't ya think?

Its easy to enter the contest just email your name address and the name of your entry to Deadline for entries is Oct 25th.

We're getting the word out about the contest as best we can. The Journal ran an article about it, the AAPS is putting an article about it in their newsletter, we're flyering around town, we're even working on a short 5 minute commercial to be played on the local cable access show about Alameda!!

We could use your help to spread the word even farther. Know someone who lives or has a business in Alameda who loves Halloween? Send em the link to the contest!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Garden Report Sept 25th.

Okay, just cause Aunt Sue asked for it.....

Garden Report for Sept. 25th.
If there is any kind of society for the prevention of cruelty to tomatoes I'm probably going to get picketed after this post.

The sun gold tomatoes....don't they look super healthy and vibrant and awesome?
I'm going to blame the super cold weather we've been having on how pathetic this plant looks....

The green zebra's look not much better...tomato plants are supposed to turn grey-brown right? And why the green zebras are yellow??? Heck if I know...

We've already eaten several tomatoes from this plant....we haven't been overwhelmed by the flavor..

The pineapple tomatoes are doing just as splendid as the others as you can plainly see....yikes... The few ripe ones we've eaten do taste better than the not-green zebras though...
Doesn't that plant look healthy?

The basil-pepper pot is going the best. We are constantly clipping basil and adding it to pasta...Out of two different pepper plants I only got 2 peppers....guess I better pick them soon and eat them before they get over ripe....but they just look so pretty on the plant.

The neighbor on one side has yellow cherry tomatoes that are growing up over the 6' fence! She regularly gives us bags of tomatoes! Please her heart....

Here's the other neighbors tomatoes planted in the exact same pots as mine...yet hers are growing taller than the garage they are planted next to!

Here's another neighbors garden as viewed from our stairway window....shes got tomatoes and sunflowers and well, tons of stuff!

So, to sum up the garden report, my tomatoes are sad and pathetic, and everybody elses are doing great..... Yes, I've got a brown thumb it seems....

The End.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Burning Man Comes To Alameda Year 2

Over the past labor day weekend we had our 2nd annual 'Old Farts Burning Man Experience'. I don't think that was the official name.....maybe it was, the 'We're too old, tired, and grumpy to go to Burning Man so we're bringing it to us' party?

Anywho, unlike our regular BBQ parties this party started at 6pm so that the bulk of the party would happen after dark.

Here's Natasha doing her level best to sneak into the bar....she likes the wine bottles....You can see on top of the bar the large pitcher of Sangria Irene made. It was the 'drink of the night' and wow was it popular...I think we went thru like 5 bottles of two buck chuck!

Here's a shot early on of all the people who actually showed up on time!
Actually, I included this shot cause what's going on in the lower right corner. Tasha and her bestest pal Virginia are both trying to sneak into the bar!!
Yay!! Double martinis for everyone under 2 yrs old!

Here's a shot of Tasha and daddy, just because. I think that's her pensive look.

A Burning Man Cupcake uh, thingy even showed up! The melted sugar in the cupcakes was meant to look like fire! Best thing about it though, was if you tried to eat it, it would cut you! Safety Third!!!

Once it started to cool off we uncovered the fire pit and sparked it up. Turns out you can make pretty decent jiffy pop over the fire. Trick is, to keep it moving nonstop. I think Gimpy won the prize for best popped corn.

As it got dark we started to light up more and more of the fire art.

We lit up some of the bouquets.


Here's the traditional family fire portrait, this time in front of one of our Reuben's tubes.

Nice shot of the flaming wedding arch. Looks like Gimpy is looking for somebody to get married too....

This is right before Tasha went to bed. Shes in her super cute skull and crossbones pj's.

Just a shot of family, friends and neighbors enjoying the last BBQ of the summer season.

Here's a pretty decent shot of one of the tulips firing off.....Well we had both tulips going on their lowest possible settings for a while....Don't tell a couple of 3rd grade boys that if they press this button they can make 20' fire balls....cause they'll press that button non-stop!
Apparently even though we thought we told all our neighbors what was going on somebody still thought it was the end of the world and called 911....

Apparently every single fire engine from every single fire station was rolling to our house at the same time....The first guy who showed up was a captain and he took one look around and rushed to cancel all the other trucks. Still we ended up with a pumper truck, a ladder truck, AND the chiefs suburban!! All flashing lights and sirens!!!What fun!
I love this shot, the place is swarming with fire fighters and my friends are so blase about it they're not even stopping their conversations!
In this shot I'm explaining the works to the Chief, captain and some other fire fighters.

You can barely tell from this shot but the young fire fighter here has a big ear to ear grin on his face. Actually all the FF's thought it was pretty awesome and liked all the art.
Having the AFD show up was great. All the kids loved getting their pictures taken with them and the party had many single women of a certain age who just LOVE FF's. The ladies actually made the captain blush by woo'ing at him.

Here's a good shot with me in front of the Ruben's tubes with the Chief, captain.
I convinced them that what they were looking at was essentially propane tiki torches (yes a whole lot of them) which are legal so I didn't think there should be any problem with them.... They were cool about it and just wanted me to turn off the Ruben's tube on the right here cause it was near a tree and the neighbor was bitching....They also made us turn off half the wedding arch near the fence cause another neighbor was bitching....
It was funny the FF's kept coming back in little shifts of 2-3 to check out the fire art and for me to give them a little tour. I think they liked the Ruben's tubes the best. Its neat to watch the flames dance to the music.

I thought we where done but the Captain came back and said, 'Uh, do you have something that shoots 20' fireballs???'
'Why yes, a couple of the pieces have that ability you wanna see?'

'Uh, no, one of your neighbors is pitching a fit about it.'

'Oh, OK well, I've disabled that function and it will not be re-enabled tonight.'

'OK, that works for me.'


Okay neighbors, y'all got cards inviting you to the BBQ like 2 weeks before the party. On those cards it explained what exactly was going to be happening and some of you even watched as I set up the fire art. Why in the F did you just not ask me then about what ever you where uncomfortable about? I could of shown you that the fence and your tree where not in any danger! We could of talked about it and I could of set your mind at ease.....

Instead you call 911 and have the fire fighters do the talking for you? I'll never understand that....

Happy Labor Day to Everyone (belatedly)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Check The Permit Record!!!

I've mentioned this is the past but I think I need to re-enforce the message...

Check The Permit Record Of Any House You Are Considering Purchasing!!!

If you are looking at a house in the city of Alameda you can go here to find the permit record. Yes, supposedly this online data base only goes back to 89 but I've personally seen records online from the 40's and 50's.

Of course if there was work done 20+ years ago that's a different thing...but work done in the last couple of years should absolutely be permitted. I'm sorry, but ignorance, is NO excuse!!

Here's what I've learned in the last few days about the consequences of buying a house with work done without permits.

  1. You, the new owner, will be absolutely responsible for fixing any unpermitted work issues. That means, if you unwittingly buy a house with extensive recent work done without permits and you pull a permit for something simple like adding an exhaust fan in a bath and the inspector sees all the unpermitted work, you, the new owner will be responsible for fixing it.
  2. Fixing unpermitted work can be a very expensive can of worms. The city will make you pay all the permit fees and possibly 4x all the fees and that's just the start. Then, you'll have to open up a bunch of the walls to expose the work and then, who knows what messes the inspector will find? Then you'll have to pay someone to fix them all and patch back up the walls.
  3. Some changes might not be able to be remedied. The new place you just bought has a fabulous man cave in the basement? If the ceiling isn't the right height there is no way you can make that legal habitable space. You'll have to remove all the lights, outlets, flat-screen TV, that fancy built-in bar with sink. It will all have to come out and you'll be left with one over-head light and one outlet.
  4. Getting a loan might be impossible. I spoke with 2 mortgage brokers who said that if the bank knows about the unpermitted work that the bank will require the work be permitted before a loan can be issued! How do they find out? They check the official spec's of the house against what it's being sold as against the permit record.

So, don't be fooled by pretty counter tops and fancy tumbled marble baths! If the work was done recently without permits you are buying a huge can of worms.

If you're in escrow and you find this out make the seller fix everything before the close of escrow! Or, make them cut enough off the price so you can take care of it yourself afterwards.

If your Realtor tries to gloss over this, find a new Realtor! as they are more concerned about their commission than your safety.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Permits-Schmermits!!! Looking at Another House...

We've found another house that we would LOVE to own!!!

This is not a knife catching article as we actually want to put an offer on the place and it seems sleazy to write an article bashing a house that we think we actually want to own. So while I'll describe the house and the issues I will be sufficiently vague.

Its a good size 3-2.5 of ~2100 sq ft on a nice sized lot ~6700sq ft lot built in 1907 of the Colonial revival style. The house is in a better school district (Otis) than our current house and its in an interesting location just a block off the major commercial corridor of Park St. So its a short walk to lots of fun stuff like coffee shops, restaurants, movie theater, etc.

The sellers are asking a not insignificant $865k for the place....

The house layout will work for us with sufficient common area, workshop, storage and a big backyard. Its got a nice new kitchen, new bathrooms, new paint on the exterior and interior, its got a lot new.

What's the Problem?

The Price- With several houses with similar specs that were forced to reduce their prices below $800k to sell, the $865k does seem a little optimistic. The short list of houses that we've looked at and thought that they were overpriced for the condition is, 2143 Alameda Ave, 1310 San Antonio, 1290 Caroline, 1831 San Jose Ave, 1417 Central Ave, 2132 San Antonio Ave, 1832 San Antonio Ave, and 2157 San Antonio ave.

Whew, that was a lot of houses that are all basically comparable who had to reduce their prices below $800k to sell... Wonder what the listing agent is thinking? The house has ~$18k in pest AND the pest inspector didn't even inspect the outbuildings which look to be in BAD shape...?

The Permit Situation- In other places with un-permittted work we never seriously considered buying them but this time its different..

Holy Friggen Mackerel Is There A F-Ton Of Un-permitted Work!!!!
Here is my preliminary list of work that was absolutely done recently without permits.

  1. Complete remodel of kitchen: New electrical, new cabinets, new appliances the entire thing is new.
  2. Turned a 1/2 bath on the bottom floor into a full bath! This had to of been a gut remodel. The new full bath looks great, but its completely illegal!
  3. Turned a closet in the Master Bedroom into a weird little half bath.
  4. Completely remodeled the existing full bath on 2nd floor.
  5. Finished a basement with drywall, lights, outlets, carpet, etc.
  6. Added a sub-panel in basement and did extensive electrical work. Lots of recessed lighting on both floors.
  7. Two new NG forced air heating units, one in basement and one in attic.

So, me and the showing agent of course had a 'nice' conversation about this..... Unlike some Realtors she was honest enough to put in her own disclosure that extensive work was done on the house without permits. The home owners have not done a disclosure yet....wonder what it'll say? The Realtor started to use the argument that home-owners are allowed to do their own work if its up to code...ya but you still have to pull permits for it!! And there's no way that these people did the work themselves and ANY contractor working in Alameda should damn well know that the above work requires permits.

Now, you gripe all you want about 'permit fees' being onerous or the inspection process being a PITA....but seriously, it looks like these current owners are just trying to pull a fast one. They are not paupers, in fact I'm told that they are retiring to a house on the shore of lake Tahoe (cause that's where all the po' folks live). Their house has NEVER been reassessed since they bought it 15 yrs ago! They are paying taxes on a value of $398k! I'm pretty sure that the above work, if done with permits would of triggered at least one, these wealthy folks have been cheating the system.....isn't that how it always works?

Why 'No Permits' is a Bad Thing- The sellers own house inspector called out a TON of issues with the electrical work that NEVER would of passed an actual building inspection. Issues like, scary basic electrician 101 stuff, like double tapping circuit breakers, outlets wired up backwards!?!?!?, over-fusing wires (from the new illegal sub-panel). To the super-dangerous, Federal Pacific Stab-lock main panel that has a 100amp main breaker when it was designed for less. To the over-fusing of the original wiring-putting 30amp fuses where 15-20amp fuses belong!

Also some basic plumbing things like not installing an air-gap for the dishwasher, and running the wrong kind of venting for the kitchen exhaust.

So, the sellers where willing to find 'professionals' who where willing to work without permits and surprise, surprise they got sub-standard work!!!

Here's what's scary, all the electrical, plumbing that was required to do the above work, its all hidden now, what sort of work is it? I think its safe to say that its probably of the same caliber as the exposed work....which means it could all be a huge ticking time bomb.....

There-in lies the rub..... We want the house but the 'hidden conditions' scare the poop outta us...especially for the price they're asking....What I'm trying to figure out is, whats a reasonable discount for the condition?

Having no idea what exactly the mess we'd be in if we bought the place as is I went down to the building dept to ask them.
Without giving the address I explained the work that I thought was done without permits and asked what was the most likely scenario.

The most likely scenario is this- We'd have to write up a set of plans for all the work done and have it 'verified'. We would have to pay all the permit fees which go like this.

  1. Kitchen Remodel- $1400
  2. Bath Remodel- $1100
  3. Bath Remodel- $1100
  4. Bath Remodel- $1100
  5. Finished Basement- $2375
  6. Sub-panel-elec work - $350
  7. Heating-$600

So that's $8,025 in fees alone. During the course of inspections the inspectors will absolutely require us to open walls to verify hidden conditions.... Now what's the chance the inspectors are not going to find a ton of below code work? Pretty slim I'd say...So we'll have to pay to have all the work brought up to code (what's that going to cost) and everything patched up. That is, if we are even allowed to do the work. The basement work will have to be torn out unless we apply to make it habitable space-which requires a major design review of $2500...

Here's the great part....if someone finks on the current owners then the city will quadruple the fees required!!! Now that's starting to become serious money! So the innocent but ignorant new home owners could have a huge bill waiting for them...

So, I'm at a loss as to whats a sane price for the place....What sort of monetary fudge factor needs to be built into the offer to take care of this super large potential can-of-worms?

Anybody have any ideas?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

KinfeCatching 1290 Caroline St.

Read This:The following review is just my opinion and only my opinion I am not a professional house appraiser or inspector and I am not a structural engineer. The opinions expressed in this review are based on my own inspection of the property, the publicly available facts from aggregator sites such as Redfin and Zillow and the online permit database for the city of Alameda. I am not responsible for incorrect or missing data that appears in these sources. In fact, its probably best that you just ignore everything you read here as the lunatic ravings of an unbalanced mind.

Knife Catching 1290 Caroline St.
Up for review today is 1290 Caroline St......This is usually where I say what the specs of the house are...well...who the hell knows really....check out the excerpts from the various adds we found online about the house.

From the Zillow ad.
1290 Caroline StAlameda, CA 94501
For Sale: $599,000
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 1.5
Sqft: 2,054
Lot size: 5,240 sq ft / 0.12 acres
Property type: Single Family
Year built: 1949
Parking type: --
Cooling system: --
Heating system: --
Fireplace: --
Days on Zillow: 6

The add on the Sothebys Web site.
About This Property
Located in Alameda's historic Gold Coast and on one of its rare cul-de-sac streets, this mid century home has two bedrooms and one bath on the main level. A vintage kitchen with dining booth, a downstairs party room with original bar and doors that open to a large level backyard.
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 1
Half Bathrooms: 1
Interior: 2,054 Sq Ft. / 191 m2
Property Type: Single Family Home

Craigs list add:

$599000 / 2br - ALAMEDA HISTORIC OPEN HOUSE 2:00-4:30 9/12/10 (alameda) (map)

Sherron Hogg East Bay Sotheby's International Realty (510) 719-3753

1290 Caroline St, Alameda, CA

An Alameda's Historic on the Gold Coast!!

2BR/2BA Single Family House

offered at $599,000

Year Built1949
Sq Footage1,691
Bathrooms2 full, 0 partial
Lot Size5,240 sqft
HOA/Maint$0 per month


Located in Alameda's historic Gold Coast and on one of it's rare cul-de-sac streets, this mid century home has two bedrooms and one bath on the main level. Vintage kitchen with dinning booth downstairs, party room with original bar and doors that open to a large backyard


Sorry I forgot the dang camera so no pics from me but click on any of the links above and see some pics of a super cool 50's era house.

Now, this era is not one that we have ever wanted to own a house in but....this house really does have location, location, location, Its in the Gold Coast right on the Franklin school district border and its Halloween central....

In fact, the house was sooo 50's that we kinda liked it... And hey with possible specs like a 4-2 of 2000 sq ft in that 'hood for less than $600k! Ya, you can say we where interested!!!

But, and this is the sad part, the house only has 2 bedrooms!!! The official specs of the place say its a 4-1.5 but there is just no way that the place could of ever been a 4 bedroom! I can believe that the downstairs bar room could of been a bedroom at one time but nope not a 4 not even a 3 its a 2-2 with probably the downstairs bath not being legal.

As far as sq ft goes, I didn't measure but I think that the ~1700sq ft # from the Craigs List add is probably correct.

So now you have a 2-1.5(legally) of ~1700sq ft on a decent sized 5240sq ft lot for $599k.

House Impressions: (again, sorry no pics look at one of the listing sites above and you'll know what I mean.)
The front room is a nice size with a fireplace and what's probably the dining room is nice sized also as a TV watching room.

The kitchen is way smaller and dirtier than the pics would have you believe...But its super original 50's fabulous it even has the original dishwasher and electric range. The counter tops where old and stained and needed to be replaced and man they didn't bother to clean inside the cabinets and there was something FUNKY smelling in them! The super-cool eat in diner booth thing in the kitchen was big enough for 4.

From the kitchen there is a half flight of stairs down to the bar room. Its got funky linoleum and an actual bar with a sink and what not. The ceiling in this room is low, 82" so....It has glass doors out to the backyard.

Off to the left of the bar room is the 2nd bath and like a laundry utility area with an ironing board and a door to the garage. The 2nd bath has a shower stall built right on the concrete and recently painted with epoxy paint....this seems suspicious to me.

The garage is one tiny car small and that's about it.

The backyard is pretty cool, with 2 GIANT redwoods and a GIANT palm tree. Along the back fence is what looks like a 50's era outdoor kitchen. With a fire place, a grill and some storage...this area looks way worse for the wear it was cool in the 50's. We like the backyard, its large and could be really cool.

Back inside the house and up another half flight of stairs There is a super cool original 50's bath with a separate tub and shower stall.

Both the bedrooms on the top floor were really good sized with tons of closet space...but, there was only 2 of them....we kept looking for a 3rd bedroom.....but nope just 2.

It looks like the entire interior of the house has been repainted...this makes me suspicious...what are they trying to hide? Water stains on the ceilings? Water stains around the windows? If they go to the trouble of painting the place why didn't they clean inside the cabinets and clean the dang entryway brick? Its kinda nasty.

Stucco that needs a paint job really badly....actually by the way the paint was peeling off I would be worried about water intrusion issues. The roof looks like its in bad shape and needs to be replaced. The house has all its original Aluminum single paned windows.....good for originality not so good for keeping the heat in and the sound out. There is visible rotting of the soffits next to the gutters and the gutters looked like they where full of gunk.

I don't hate the place....its just too small for us.
I do hate the way it's being advertised though....get your story straight for Pete's sake.
To make it work for us we'd need to add a pop-top master suite over the front of the house and dig out a real basement for storage and workshop space....that'd be like $300k I bet, sooooo, not really the house for us...but if ya got the money maybe.

What The House Needs: (besides the pop-top addition)
1. New Roof
2. New heating system with asbestos abatement.
3. Electrical upgrade to get rid of the fuses.
4. Still on Galv water piping so replace those.
5. Looks like knob and tube un-grounded outlets inside...might wanna upgrade that.
6. I'm worried about the windows leaking under the stucco...this could be a huge can of worms with lots of hidden dry-rot.

Still though, if you're one of those Betty Page types this house would be perfect for you...

Friday, September 17, 2010

How Safe Is This Neighborhood???

This is a companion article to the 'What School District is This House In' post.

When I'm at open houses you always hear the potential buyers ask about the neighborhood.

What kind of answer are they expecting from the Realtor showing the place?
'Oh, the neighborhood? Its full of murderers and pedophiles. Its a great place to raise children!!!'

Seriously, even in neighborhoods I KNOW are sketchy, Realtors never give a truthful answer to the question.

I've just recently discovered a way potential home buyers can get an honest picture of how safe the neighborhood is.

The APD is working with crime to have a record of crimes that can be mapped.

The crime map of Alameda can be found here.

I like that, Crime Map.... 'To the Crime Map BatMan!!!'

The default seems to be for the past week. In the week of 9/11 to 9/17 it looks like there where 80 crimes reported on the main island and only 7 in Harbor Bay.... Wow they have the best schools and the lowest crime rate!!

I wanted to get the map to show data for the past 6 months but I can't seem to figure out how to make the map do that.... I wanted to see if there were obvious crime clusters.... I've got a theory that a lot of the crime in Alameda is caused by knuckle heads coming over from Oakland. I hypothesise that the streets that have easy access to Oakland and their immediate surroundings should show more crime. As the thugs can do their crime and then make a fast get-a-way. Might be why Harbor Bay is so low crime?

So there you have it, don't believe anything the Realtor tells you and do your own research....why do those guys get paid again?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Siding and Stairs- DONE!!!

OK so it's been a while since I posted anything and I'm going to have to apologize for this post as I sorta forgot to take enough pictures as we were doing the work.....

Here's a shot of all the siding that I bought to finish the back of the house.....holy-freaking-mackerel is this stuff expensive! These 16' pieces of siding were almost $25 a pop!

A very, very nice professional carpenter who is a friend from the online world offered to come over and help me install the siding!!!! Hurray!!!!! Actually 'help' is kinda a misnomer....he did the bulk of the work and I tried to help and not slow him down too much....I also mopped his brow and fetched him cold Mexican cokes.
We decided that the old tar paper was too trashed-weathered so we pulled most of it down. It did go around the door framing and into the opening so we left that stuff there of course.

We had a HUGE amount of material left over from the previous siding job.... Side note...don't let some one work time and material +20%...if they are dishonest they will go and buy a BUNCH of stuff and not use it and tack on their 20% to pump up their bill..... Here we are using the DuPont Flex wrap to flash the sides of the door.
We decided that it should be attached to the door frame, bridge the gap between the door frame and the wall framing and then cover the king studs and come up on the concrete foundation to separate it from the trim.

We wanted to put metal flashing on the wall to separate the bottom course of siding and the foundation. I bought a 6" wide roll of galv metal flashing and we nailed it up and tried to hammer form it to take the 45 deg angle of the foundation.

After installing the metal flashing we applied the top lengths of flashing to the sides of the door frame and the sheathing overlapping the flashing.

Now, wow, I have to say a few words about modern weather proofing practices....its really, really fricken confusing!!! I'm not 100% sure we even got it 100% right....

Here we've installed the head flashing on top and installed the door trim and a spacer. The plan is to have the siding (which is the same thickness as the spacers) tuck under the door casing.
Problem is, the door is plumb but the wall is not!!!

Using the same 6" flashing we are creating a head flashing for the casing. We had to do this because no lumber yard stocks a 3" deep 'Z bar' flashing (I think that's what its called) which is what we needed to go over the spacer, the door casing, and the applied molding which is yet to be applied in this picture. I'm not sure if you can tell but I actually had to hand crimp the drip edge of the flashing with a pair of sheet metal flanging pliers.

Here's the first new layer of tar paper overlapping the metal flashing....super exciting.
Here's one thing that I don't get...if you staple up the tar paper, its not self sealing, don't you get little leaks at all those places?
We overlapped the tar papers uh, 6" I think so the staples are well covered but still.... Is fancy-pants house wrap self sealing? Don't you have to staple in the field with house-wrap???

Ta-Daa its all done!!!! See, I told you I skipped some steps.....
Look at all those white spots!
To maintain the warranty on the siding I had to drive 2 8D nails at 16" OC into the wall framing.....then I had to set the nails just below the surface,....then I had to prime the nails with this special primer, then I had to spackle all the nails,...then I had to sand all the spackle, then I had to prime the, that was a lot of holes....I feel like I know each one personally..... Look, theres timmy, and johnny, and nathanial....

Here's the door in its semi-finished state. Those thin strips on either side of the door are spacers not the door trim. I've still got to cut it and figure out how I'm going to fit it around the foundation. Then I have to apply the molding around the outside of the casing.
Though, I still haven't worked out how I'm going to do the casing sides the door is plumb and the wall is not and the casing needs to come up on the door frame with a small reveal....
Look, theres jimmy, and susan and ivanka, and mark.....

The Stairs Are Done!! Here's a shot looking down the stairs.

Here's a shot looking up the stairs!! Super exiciting I know...

Some of you are noticing the open risers.....I'm going to argue that the stairs don't need to conform to the modern codes and that the codes enforced back when this deck was built didn't require closed risers.....we'll see how that goes....

I decided to build a bottom landing because that first step without it was kinda a doozy. That, and I'll need it to pass the inspection.
See how the first step lands on the concrete wall? Eventually the ground in that area will be raised up to be even with it then I won't need the landing.
I went round and round with the friggen Winnans designer about this stair. She SWORE that there was no way in the world that you could build a staircase and have it end on the wall...her stair was built with like 3 additional steps into the side yard! Arrrrrrrgh, professional designers...bahhhh...
Actually, it turns out that the stair is super walkable. Tons of 'experts' told me that it wouldn't be comfortable at all but its really nice to walk up. We've already had a party and only one person who was wearing high heals caught her heel on the first step but she was okay after that.

Of course no building post would be complete without my list of f-ups.....
At the top of the stairs I thought it would be simple to cut the rails even with the wasn't so simple and I marked up the post a lot and the cuts ended up looking pretty ugly...

Also, all the dang PT wood around here is now brown yet all the preservative stuff is still green! Why in the heck don't they make brown PT brush on preservative to match the wood? I'd look a lot nicer.
I actually did 3 heavy coats of the preservative on all cut surfaces on the stairs...hopefully they'll last.

This top post I ran long and then cut it on the angle of the railings. I should of done this with all the posts, as if I did I coulda fit 2 lag screws into each one... Don't know what the inspector is going to say about that but the hand rail does feel very firmly attached.

I have to say that the stairs seem to of turned out pretty good. Of course the inspector will have the final say.... But, they feel very solid, the handrail and railings feel very solid, they are wider than the stairs they replaced and they are very walkable. Hurray!