Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yet More Troubles in Design-Build Land

Got a letter in the mail today from Winans Construction from the big boss.

Why they felt the need to send it snail mail is beyond me. I'm not going to transcribe the entire thing but the gist of it is......

We're the pros you're not and we think the plans are fine as is pay us the money now!!!

That kinda chapped my hide a bit as I believe that I have several legit concerns that they are just glossing over....

I sent them the following email just now, we'll see how they respond.

Having received Garys letter today I thought it prudent to clarify a few things from my earlier emails. The following is the complete list of issues I have with the plan set and the design contract in general.

Plan Set Issues: I am willing to entertain the idea that the 4 independent GC’s who looked over your plans and who all basically had the same issues are somehow wrong. You have recently done a house remodel in Alameda correct? If you can show me the set of plans for that job stamped and approved by the city and the cities engineer and those plans are not significantly different in detail-style, i.e. the engineers’ plans are hand drawn with no dimensions and missing sections I will concede most of the points below.

Plan Set Issues:

Engineers Plans: I understand that there can be back and forth with the cities engineer regarding the engineering portion of the plans but I believe my issues are separate from that.


E1) The final engineering plan shown in these documents is not the plan the engineer and I settled on and is not what I believed I was paying for.
E2) The engineers’ plans do not appear complete. The call-outs reference parts of the plan that are not shown. Call outs A, B, C, D are not shown in the engineers framing plans. It really appears that the engineer simply forgot to include the roof framing plan in this set as these call outs would seem to reference this. Do you realize that he doesn’t even call out the size of the parrallam ridge beams anywhere?
E3) My concern that the plans being hand written and hard to read several of the post call-outs are incomplete.
E4) Why are there no dimensions on the engineers plan?
E5) How is the engineers wet stamp not included in the price of these plans?
E6) Where are the engineers calcs that have to be included for permit submittal?

General Concerns:

G1) It looks to me like all the plans need to be ‘cleaned up’ there are spurious dimension lines, and dimensions, on the 2nd floor demo plan, the 1st floor construction plan, 2nd floor construction plan (G), and (H) is misnamed 2nd floor construction plan when it should be 2nd floor electrical plan. I mention this as I believe that these are the kinds of things that will get it kicked out of plan check in a hurry.
G2) The lack of a real zoning/planning set of plans. The zoning set is significantly different than the permit set I do not understand how you can consider them to be the same.
G3) Where are the details for flashing the doors and windows and roof?
G4) Where are the details for flashing the doors and windows and roof?
G5) Is there going to be an insulation plan?
G6) The electrical plans were much too cluttered-trying to show too much on the same diagram.

General Design Agreement Issues:
D1) From your letter I do not seem to have in my files your section E-1. If this was done it should be a simple matter of printing it out and sending it on or emailing it to me.
D2) Where is the finish schedule. I believe that part of this process was to spec out all the finishes with costs, I do not have this in my files.

I can not consider our design agreement fulfilled until all the above items are corrected to my satisfaction.

For future correspondence please reference my concerns by item number, i.e. ‘We are discussing issue E1 with the engineer and will get back to you asap’ While I understand that several of the above items can be considered a matter of opinion E1 and E2 certainly are not.

Respectfully,
Daniel Neumansky


If Winans Construction will not make good on the above issues we are kinda screwed. I've already got a rough estimate from another engineer and its going to cost at least $3000 to have him redo-check-complete the existing engineering plans....this is more than I owe Winans Construction to complete this agreement.

I'll have to create the zoning plan set myself, I'll have to clean up the permit set myself. I don't really want to do this as one, my time is precious and two, I think I've already paid them to do this for me.

Arrrrrrgh!!!!!

Irene and I sat down today discussed what we thought we were getting from Winans Construction with this agreement.

  1. A complete permit ready set of plans. This to us means a really complete set of plans that have a reasonably good chance of being accepted as is.
  2. A complete scope of work broken out with costs for each section
  3. As part of the scope of work a finish schedule showing the costs of all the lights, tin ceiling, etc.

I'm willing to concede that what I thought I was getting is a bid-set of plans which is really what we need, but the wording of the agreement is for a permit-ready set of plans which has less detail.

We'll see how it goes. I'll keep y'all up to date.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Troubles in Design-Build Land...

So, the week after new years a box showed up on my doorstep with several copies of our house plans and a cd-rom of digital versions of such. I'd like to note that we were promised this box-o-goodies the week after Thanksgiving!! and had not heard so much as a peep from Winans Construction in the intervening several weeks....

I realize that none of this is going to make any sense unless you look at the drawings. If you right click HERE and select save target as you should be able to save the pdf versions of the plans to your local drive.

After finding time to look at the plans we had several concerns that we voiced to our project manager that weekend. The email is cut&pasted below.


Hello Amy,
We’ve had time to look thru the plan set in detail and have some issues with what we are seeing and a couple of things that we don’t understand.

Plan Set Issues we have noticed so far.

Engineers plan is not what we decided on still shows new footing in radiant heated areas.


Concerned that showing the proposed deck at the back of the house will be an issue-confuse the planning and building dept people.


The plan shows the proposed rear deck starting 2’ in from the side of the house; we need it to start at the edge of the house and use the 2 existing columns.


Concerned Engineers drawings will be too light for city to accept. I have been chastised in the past for drawings where they thought the lines were too thin-too hard to read.


The engineer’s wet stamp is not included in price? How can his stamp not be included in the price? We do not understand this.


Your note says that we have 2 copies of the planning plan set and 3 copies of the building permit plan set. What I see is 5 copies of the building permit plan set. It is our understanding that the planning set should be different from the building permit plan set. I believe that the planning set needs to show such things as all exterior views before and after, and not show interior detail, the planning set might also require photographs of the exterior views of the house and the neighboring properties?


It looks to me like all the plans need to be ‘cleaned up’ there are spurious dimension lines, and dimensions, on the 2nd floor demo plan, the 1st floor construction plan, 2nd floor construction plan (G), and (H) is misnamed 2nd floor construction plan when it should be 2nd floor electrical plan. I mention this as I believe that these are the kinds of things that will get it kicked out of plan check in a hurry.

I’m sure that you are eager to bring this matter to a close, as are we, but these issues will need to be addressed to our satisfaction before we sign off on the project and send you the final check.

Respectfully,
Daniel Neumansky

After a week had gone by and I had not heard anything I resent the message and bcc'd the project managers boss. Here's the message;


It’s been a week since I sent this email and since I have not heard from you I’m resending it.

I’ve been looking thru my documents and I have a few more questions.


I don’t see where I have a broken-out quote for all the work shown in this plan? That would be the entire upstairs plus the entire kitchen area plus the new deck wouldn’t it?


Where are the finish selections defined?

I’m sure that you are eager to bring this matter to a close, as are we, but these issues will need to be addressed to our satisfaction before we sign off on the project and send you the final check.

Respectfully,

Daniel Neumansky

I pretty immediately got a reply from the big boss which was simply, that he would look into it and get back to me that week.....

Well a week went by and in that time I had other general contractors look at the plans and I sent Winans Construction this email.


I’ve had several local contractors look over the plan set you have provided me and there was a consensus of opinion on several issues.

The consensus opinion on the engineers plans were: Why are they not computer drawn like the rest of the plans? They are hard to read. The writing is not legible enough. Why are there no dimensions on the plans and the plans do not appear complete. They are all wondering about a roof framing plan and feel that the call-outs do not explain enough. In fact the ridge beams are not even shown in the engineers’ sketches? They are also wondering about the framing for the dormers with the swoop roofs. None of them can understand the need for the C 10 to be bolted to both sides of the 6by10 beam in the basement? They all felt that the city would not accept the engineers’ portion as is.


Where are the details for flashing the doors and windows and roof?


Where is the finish schedule?


They felt the electrical plans were much too cluttered-trying to show too much on the same diagram.


When asked if they felt this was a complete enough plan set to build the remodel they all said no. One said after looking at the plans for over an hour he’d probably have 40 questions for the engineer and designer of the plans.

Respectfully,

Daniel Neumansky

We have not heard back as of yet from the folks at Winans Construction....this is kinda bumming us out as they appeared to be stand up guys but there is sooo much wrong with the plan set that they sent us that I don't know what to do about it. The engineers plans are just plain wrong, not the plan we had decided on at all and the floor plans look more like a 2nd rough draft as opposed to a final copy.

When I hear back from Winans Construction I'll let y'all know what they say...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What Should Our Remodel Cost?

Remodeling magazine has a very famous report they do every year called 'Remodeling Magazines Cost vs. Value report' I am going to use the values from the report to get a ball park figure for our house remodel.


The report is pretty neat. They poll a ton of contractors, estimators, appraisers across the U.S. to get numbers for the costs of the 'standard' projects they track. To get the payback numbers they then poll a bunch of Realtors to arrive at a consensus view. To me it seems like the cost numbers are much more closely tied to reality vs the value numbers which seem more like a consensus of opinion.


Here's the main page of the interactive online report. You can click on your region and then if you're lucky you can click on a more specific region where you live to get numbers tied to your reality as closely as possible.


The San Francisco Bay area numbers can be found here. Its no surprise that the costs for our area are higher than the national average by a good amount.


The left most column is what the job costs and next is how much that job added to the resale value of the house. The third column is the most interesting in that its the % of cost recouped.


The SF Bay area info is most interesting and different from the national in that several jobs return more than they cost! The national average only shows that adding a steel front door returns more than it costs! San Francisco truly is a world onto its own.


The jobs that had a positive net return were (these are for the mid-range projects);




  • Attic Bedroom at 102.6%


  • Deck Addition at 104.2%


  • Window replacement (vinyl) 104.3%


  • Window replacement (wood) 104.5%


  • Minor Kitchen Remodel 112.2%


  • Entry door replacement 119.2%


  • Major Kitchen Remodel 100%

Hey that's looking really good for us as several of the above are projects that we plan on doing!


The only project that apparently will lose us money is the master suite addition which only returns 86.2%.


According to the descriptions the jobs that sync up most closely with our remodel plan are, Major kitchen remodel, attic bedroom, deck addition, master suite addition.


Attic bedroom: Cost = $65,829 Value= $67,531 Description: Convert unfinished attic space to a 15-by-15-foot bedroom and a 5-by-7-foot bathroom with shower. Include a 15-foot shed dormer, four new windows, and closet space under the eaves. Insulate and finish ceiling and walls. Carpet floor. Extend existing HVAC to new space; provide electrical wiring and lighting to code. Retain existing stairs, but add rail and baluster around stairwell.


Major Kitchen Remodel: Cost = $67,789 Value= $67,815 Description:Update an outmoded 200-square-foot kitchen with a functional layout of 30 linear feet of semi-custom wood cabinets, including a 3-by-5-foot island; laminate countertops; and standard double-tub stainless-steel sink with standard single-lever faucet. Include energy-efficient wall oven, cooktop, ventilation system, built-in microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and custom lighting. Add new resilient flooring. Finish with painted walls, trim, and ceiling.


Deck Addition(wood): Cost= $13,642 Value=$14,196 Description: Add a 16-by-20-foot deck using pressure-treated joists supported by 4x4 posts anchored to concrete piers. Install pressure-treated deck boards in a simple linear pattern. Include a built-in bench and planter of the same decking material. Include stairs, assuming three steps to grade. Provide a complete railing system using pressure-treated wood posts, railings, and balusters.


Master Suite Addition: Cost= $132,443 Value= $114,104 Description: Add a 24-by-16-foot master bedroom suite over a crawlspace. Include walk-in closet/dressing area, whirlpool tub in ceramic tile platform, separate 3-by-4-foot ceramic tile shower, and double-bowl vanity with solid-surface countertop. Bedroom floor is carpet; bathroom floor is ceramic tile. Painted walls, ceiling, and trim. General and spot lighting, exhaust fan; electrical wiring to code.


The attic bedroom, major kitchen remodel, and deck addition are pretty much exactly what we are doing. The Master Suite addition is not as this entails building a new part of the house on its own foundation with its own new roof. We are just mostly using the space we already have but with the new dormers, and earthquake retro-fitting we have to do I feel its comparable.


Now for the total average costs of doing all these jobs here in the SF Bay area......drum roll please.....


Total Average Cost = $279703


Total Average Value = $263646


Net loss = $16,057


Not pocket change for sure but the above cost number is about half what we were quoted by Winans Construction. The above is an average and I used their mid-line numbers so there may be some wiggle room in that total but still...enough to double that number? I don't think so...


As a mostly DIY'er I can look at those cost & value numbers in a different way. If I can do those same jobs for significantly less than the value they add they should all pay back even more. If by doing some of the work ourselves we can get the master suite number below $100k we'll supposedly make money on all this when we sell the house! Ya right....


It is encouraging though to know that if you do the work yourself and do it decently well you can achieve a net payback when you sell...that is, if you believe these numbers...


Using the Upscale numbers where they exist (these projects really don't match ours if you read the descriptions as they are waaaay fancier than what we are doing) you get a total of...


Upscale Total = $507876


Still less than the cost we were quoted...for work that is fancier than what we've spec'd.

Looks like we are going to be shopping the plans out to some construction firms with less overhead than what we've been dealing with.

One Step Forward 2 Steps Back.

We haven't talked much lately about our dealings with the design-build firm we hired Winans Construction. That's because there really hasn't been that much to tell. They were supposed to deliver to us the final parts of our contract the week after Thanksgiving..... They showed up on our door the week after new years.... Anyone noticing a pattern here? They set this deadline and they blew right through it without as much as a 'by your leave.'

Irene and I had a chance to look over the plans they dropped off and we found numerous issues...here's a copy of the email I sent our project manager.

Hello xxx,
We’ve had time to look thru the plan set in detail and have some issues with what we are seeing and a couple of things that we don’t understand.

Plan Set Issues we have noticed so far.

1. Engineers plan is not what we decided on still shows new footing in radiant heated areas.


2.Concerned that showing the proposed deck at the back of the house will be an issue-confuse the planning and building dept people.


3.The plan shows the proposed rear deck starting 2’ in from the side of the house; we need it to start at the edge of the house and use the 2 existing columns.


4.Concerned Engineers drawings will be too light for city to accept. I have been chastised in the past for drawings where they thought the lines were too thin-too hard to read.


5.The engineer’s wet stamp is not included in price? How can his stamp not be included in the price? We do not understand this.


6.Your note says that we have 2 copies of the planning plan set and 3 copies of the building permit plan set. What I see is 5 copies of the building permit plan set. It is our understanding that the planning set should be different from the building permit plan set. I believe that the planning set needs to show such things as all exterior views before and after, and not show interior detail, the planning set might also require photographs of the exterior views of the house and the neighboring properties?


7.It looks to me like all the plans need to be ‘cleaned up’ there are spurious dimension lines, and dimensions, on the 2nd floor demo plan, the 1st floor construction plan, 2nd floor construction plan (G), and (H) is misnamed 2nd floor construction plan when it should be 2nd floor electrical plan. I mention this as I believe that these are the kinds of things that will get it kicked out of plan check in a hurry.

I’m sure that you are eager to bring this matter to a close, as are we, but these issues will need to be addressed to our satisfaction before we sign off on the project and send you the final check.

Respectfully,

I sent this Sunday night and have not yet heard back from anyone at Winnans. I think what chaps my hide the most is they are trying to get us to pay EXTRA for the engineers wet stamp. The plans are useless without it and there is no way that it shouldn't of been included in the original price.

What I'm afraid of is, Winnans uses the design services as a loss leader and then makes their margin on the construction side. They've realized by now that they are not going to get any construction money out of us and are trying to do as little additional work as possible to close out our contract...we of course will not pay until they complete their end of the agreement to our satisfaction. We've held back $2500 out of the $8500 total which I thought would be enough to get them hopping to finish this but apparently not...live and learn next time we'll hold back more.

They were also supposed to give us electronic versions of the files and Chief Architect X1 native versions of the files which they have done.

Our plan now is to shop out the permit ready plan set to several other builders to get quotes to see if the $500k+ figure we got from Winnans is waaay off the mark. If it turns out that all the quality builders we contact come in around the same price then we will move on to phase two.

We'll then have to act as GC's and shop out the 'shelling' of the house option to quality builders-framing crews. If the cost of this option is still way insane we will move onto phase three.

Phase three is paying Winnans Construction designer to adjust our plans for a much cheaper remodel where we don't alter the roof at all or the windows in the kitchen. Then we go back to the quality contractors we've already identified and get a consensus view on what it will cost to have them do the entire thing themselves versus us acting as GC's and doing some of the work ourselves.

Then we decide what its worth to us and which route we'll take. One thing I can safely say is that we will never take the $500k+ route...unless we hit the lottery big time that is.

Wow, no pictures!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

More Ghetto Kitchen Goodness...With Lights!

So, we have a ghetto fab kitchen....but the problem was, that with the one single bright ceiling light in the center of the ceiling when ever you were working at one of the 'workstations' you shadowed it and it was hard to see. It was especially hard to see at the sink-stove area. Something had to be done.....Enter the ghetto lighting...


One thing we missed from our old wonderful super-fab kitchen was the under cabinet lighting. We kept finding ourselves instinctively reaching for the under cabinet switch when working at the counter under our lone kitchen cabinet. A quick trip to Home Despot yielded a 3-puck line voltage halogen under cabinet light kit.





The kit came with 3 lights but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what to do with the 3rd so we'll keep it as a spare. As it is I fabbed up an angled mounting bracket for one of them out of a scrap piece of 2by6...Ghetto!





But the results are certainly not ghetto. Check out how well lit the counter top underneath the cabinet is! And the counter top over the dishwasher! Doesn't that 'homemade' pizza look good under the warm halogen lights! As you can see behind Irene the sink-stove area is still pretty dark.





We needed a ceiling light over the sink-stove area but we didn't want something too bright. Here's me measuring out from the wall to center the light over the work area.





We went with this 2' long double fluorescent light that uses T-8 bulbs. It came with a cover and I figured it wouldn't look too shop-lighty.





Here's me doing some ghetto fab wiring. I hung it from the wall on one hook and wired it up with lamp cord...





Wiring's done! Doesn't that look classy! You can barely see the white lamp cord on the wall.





Putting the final installation touches on the light. It took me longer to put the diffuser on than it did to hang the dang thing!!!







Another example of ghetto awesomeness. The in-line switch couldn't fit the lamp cord so I only put the hot wire through the switch. Well, hopefully its the hot wire, as the plug I used is not polarized so depending on how its plugged in I could be switching the neutral...now which one is the neutral? The marked or unmarked wire???





Here's the fabulous light installed and turned on! Notice anything strange about the light? Does the color look a bit off perhaps? It doesn't really show in this photo in the daylight but the light bulbs were crazy hurts your eyes blueish purple! You couldn't even look at it for very long....





Turns out, at Pagano's the only type of lights they carry in this size are grow lights!!! Which were clearly not marked as such! Had to go back to home despot to get some regular fluorescent bulbs. See the difference in color! Crazy!





And here's a shot of the light with the correct bulbs installed. Its a little cool white but its fine.





Now, check out how bright our kitchen is! The sink-stove area is so brightly lit that I realized that I need to do a better job of cleaning around the washer and dryer. Irene washed the baby tonight and everything was brightly lit and THAT BABY GOT CLEAN!