Saturday, February 20, 2010

Remodeling Renderings.

All the posts lately have been pretty word-tastic so I thought I'd do post with lots of pictures!
These are pictures I dug up from the cd-rom Winans Construction gave us. For some idiotic reason they were saved as .bmp files? Who the heck uses that file format for digital images anymore? I had to convert them all to a more sensible and much smaller .jpg.

The Outside of the House

Here's a back view or the south view of the house. Dig those two tiny looking windows way up high. I really like the stained glass transom over our little french doors to our new deck! I like how they even pulled off a reasonable facsimile of our sunken patio. You can just see the new dormer on the upper left corner.

South view from a slightly different angle. You can see the new stairs coming down. One thing I'm not convinced about is the placement of these new stairs. They start way farther in than our current stairs and take up a large chunk of our new deck.

Top view of the house. You can see both new dormers and the skylights on the far side. you can also see how much of our deck the stairs take up. That deck space there next to the stairs is like 4' deep. I guess that's big enough to be useful for something? I like how the new windows in the kitchen line up with the existing windows on the bottom floor and how the windows in the closets line up with those.

This 3/4 front view shows that the new windows and dormer on the back of the house are not so intrusive right? They look like they've always been there right?

Other side of the house 3/4 view. All the windows here are original in this weird mish-mash pattern. The two small windows on the top floor are new and in Tasha's bathroom. They certainly don't throw off the symmetry of this side of the house. Man this side of the house is ugly. Guess I'm glad that in real life this view is impossible as its blocked by fences, and garages.

The Master Bedroom

Here's a shot of the master bedroom. The doors on either side of the bed are pocket doors leading into the his and hers closets which are housed inside one of the new dormers.

The other side of the master bedroom in the new dormer. This shows our super cool built for two window bench seat with storage and storage cabinets on either side. In the afternoons sun will flood this area and it'll be a great place to while away a few minutes reading with the family. The door on the left that you can just barely see is the door to the master bath.

The Master Bath

This is a weird shot of what it would look like if you were standing in the shower looking out at the rest of the bathroom. You can see the tiny windows with the big trim which I think is super silly, and Irene's claw foot tub.

This is the view from the tub looking back at the bathroom. In this final version the steam shower is a bit smaller but the toilet is moved over behind it so its out of the way.

Laundry Area

This is a shot of the landing-laundry room at the top of the stairs. This shows the two new skylights we want to add to this area plus the washer and dryer. Right now theres a door at the top of the stairs and a wall about where the back of the washer is. Its very closed off and we hope that by opening this up we will be able to get bigger furniture up the stairs.

The Kitchen
Ahh, our lovely, lovely, did we pour our heart and souls into making this the super best-est kitchen ever...

This is the view from the french doors looking back at the dining nook. Look how high the windows are...I wonder if they're even be room to put them that High in reality...they're gonna need headers under them. I hope the designer took that into account... love the tin ceiling and the crown.

View from the dining nook looking back at the kitchen. That's a lot of cabinets. We just dug-up an old estimate for a cabinet place we found to make and install all the cabinets you see here plus a couple you can't see....guess how much it was? $28,000!! Actually a darn good price as it includes the custom dining area storage benches.

View from the prep sink looking back. Like all those windows along the south wall and the stained glass transom over the french doors. Also like how all the windows line up. Not sure about using the tin ceiling as a back-splash behind the stove..might be a royal pita to clean.

View from the doorway looking in. Look at all those windows! We're not going to need any lighting in the mornings. We also better make sure that there's something interesting to look at. Look how the back of the bench seat becomes the back-splash for the sink!

Tasha's Room

Here's a view from the bed looking back at the room. The doors on the left are (from the left) closet, room, bathroom. You can also see her desk-study area at the window and her built-in bookcases. Love the funky roof lines don't you?

Another view showing Tasha's bed and her built-in dresser.

Love this view as it shows Tasha's own person reading nook. Love how the designer couldn't get the wainscoting to follow the correct path.

Tasha's Bathroom

Not very exciting but the bath does fit everything our daughter will need. Though I think that the shower-tub controls are going to have to be swapped to the other side as the pocket door is supposed to slide into that wall...kinda hard to do when the wall is full of plumbing? Or I guess we could make that wall super thick?

View from the shower. Not a lot of space here but it meets code requirements.

That's it for now. We're still trying to get Winans Construction to uphold the contract we signed with them....but it's not looking good.

We're still trying to decide between two different contractors to actually do this build.

Trying to decide where the money is going to come from... ;)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

We Finally Heard Back from Winans Construction!

Well, sorta....

Its been a week since I sent my last letter, where I tell them that I had better hear from them or else the next thing they are going to be hearing from me is my in the deadline is officially past and here's what I get in my email from them...

Winans Construction wins 2010 Regional Contractor of the Year (CotY) AwardThe National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) named Winans Construction, Inc., in Oakland, CA, 2010 Regional CotY (Contractor of the Year) winner in the Residential Interior $100,000 and Over category of its annual awards competition. The award-winning entry was the remodel of the circa-1908 Alameda home of Celeste and Sam Tamura. Their small upstairs kitchen had been in need of an update for years, while other areas of the house were less than optimal. "The awkwardness of our kitchen kept us from entertaining as much as we would have liked," says Celeste, "We had to cook upstairs and bring the food downstairs to our guests." Read More.....
Winans Construction, Inc.3947 Opal StreetOakland, CA 94609(510)
Winans Construction is a 32-year old design-build firm specializing in major residential remodeling projects in the East Bay, San Francisco and surrounding areas. The company has received numerous local and national awards including the highest recognition for quality achievement in the remodeling industry-the coveted National Remodeling Quality Gold Award.KITCHENS · MASTER SUITES · ADDITIONSBASEMENT CONVERSIONS · BATHROOMSFor more information, visit our website, or

The project this letter is talking about is the one in Alameda who's references we checked and also the project where I said if Winans could show me the stamped set of plans from that were as bad as the set they are trying to pawn off on me that I'd drop most of my issues.

This email looks like it came from the top guy there too.....

Does this seem like a big F-U to you? It kinda seems that way to me.

They are ignoring all my requests to fix our dispute and instead they send me an email about how this project won awards?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

General Contractor Run-Down

And I don't mean, as in run em down with my car cause I'm so damn annoyed with em!

Over the past couple of weeks I've been emailing general contractors in the area that I have positive reviews on the Berkeley Parents Network.

I basically sent them all the same letter with a PDF copy of the plan set attached. The letter is copied below.

Got your contact info from the Berkeley Parents Network.
We have just finished the design phase of a house remodel consisting of remodeling the top floor of our Victorian into a master suite, laundry room, and guest bedroom with bath, and a kitchen remodel.

I’ve included a PDF version of the permit docs for your perusal. I’d appreciate it if you could take a look at them and then let me know if this would be the kind of project you are interested in doing.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Daniel Neumansky

I sent that letter out to 10 different GC's three of which I knew from the first go-round where we decided on Winans Construction (much to our now dismay).

Here's a summary of the interactions I've had with these GC's who are attempting to get my business.

1. Fancy-pants green build firm #1: Actually I feel kinda bad about these guys as they are nice peeps and I sorta forgot how super high-end they are with high-end overhead... They actually printed out the plan set and thought about it and came over to the house to talk to me where-in within 5 minutes it was obvious to all of us that we couldn't afford them.

2. No-so-fancy-pants design build firm #2. This place advertises itself as a green-design-build firm. But.....after talking to them the only green building experience they have is sorting their dumpsters for recycling!!! Ha! Oh, and the design part of it....not so much, they have an architect they like to work with and recommend. I don't really see this as a design-build firm ya know? So, after two miss-leading marketing ploys I was not getting a good feeling about these people. Then, after they said they'd do up an estimate from the plans they emailed me back and said, 'Well no, we want $500 to do a detailed estimate!!!' WOW! business must be booming for these guys no? For the weasely marketing they get a big NO from us.

3. Slightly less fancy builder: This is the last person from the first go-round. I hit it off with this guy pretty well when he came to look at the house originally and we've been emailing since about radiant heating stuff. I sent him the plans 3 weeks ago and have not heard anything back... not encouraging.

These new guys below are from the pool of, 'We're a small shop where we do 90% of the work ourselves and have much smaller overhead.'

4. The Russian with the Gold Card: This guy showed up with-out printing out the set of plans for himself so I gave him a set from my own stash... He really didn't want to talk much kinda quickly ran through the house and was gone....he has a ton of good reviews so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Got his bid back in a couple of weeks and he was the lowest of the bunch ~$150,000!!!

Hurray!!!! I thought, we can afford to redo the house!!! But then I looked at his bid and noticed that he didn't include a lot of stuff and the stuff he did include was super cheap home-despot type of junk like 4" MDF baseboard!! Like that garbage would ever cross our threshold. If I was playing devils-advocate I could say that he was trying to artificially lower his bid to get the sale then screw me later on with change orders...this guy gets a big fat NO also.

5. Mr. Friendly: His sister lives down the street from us and he's done several remodels in Alameda already. He was nice and affable on the phone and listened to all the stuff I said during our walk through. He did bitch a little bit too much about how much he paid to get the plans printed out. He got screwed over by printing out the plans at kinko's (never ever go to kinko's to print out architectural drawings go to a real print shop it'll be like 1/4 the cost literally) and was hoping to pass the screw-ing off to me...

Mr. Friendly got back to me with a b.s. per square foot quote (which I told him I was not going to except no way no how) of $350,000....still better than the $550,000 Winans Construction was going to charge me. Cheaper is better for us of course but I had absolutely no confidence in his # because he barely spent any time coming up with it... for not listening to me and trying to pass off a b.s. bid as a real one this guy gets a big fat hells-NO.

6. The Pretty Boy: This guy had lots of positive recommendations and has done several remodels very similar to ours. He has a small crew where they do almost all the work themselves and they love to do cabinet work in house. He said that they could do all the cabinet work themselves instead of bringing in a cabinet sub. I like this idea as then he will be responsible for the whole she-bang. He printed out the plans himself, came over on time and listened to everything I had to say. We got along pretty well, I like his body of work. One thing that was kinda cheesy was that he tried to impress me about how he used to work on an HGTV show as 'the carpenter'. Which of course us being the veterans of two reality shows about us and our friends I was not super impressed... He got back to me relatively quickly with a reasonably detailed (but not enough) bid included all the cabinet work that he could understand from the plans (I've since found the cabinet schedule and sent it to him) of ~$279,000!!!

Okay, now we're talking! Looks like he took the time to do a 'real' bid and I have a much higher confidence in his number...but really, we were hoping that it would come in closer to $200,000. One really strange thing, is that his number is almost exactly what the remodeling cost vs value report says the average price for our job should be!?!?!?!? Weird huh? I never told him about the blog. Wonder if he found it and saw that number and made it work??? Hmmmmm....

7. The Tattooed Man: This guy if from a very young firm where they've never done anything as big as our job. They've done all the individual pieces of our job but never one-big-all-in-one thing like what we've got going on here. He does have plenty of experience doing jobs bigger than ours when he was working under another GC so he's got the experience. I have to admit this lack of experience is an issue for me...

He came over on time, took his shoes off, and had the plans printed out and marked up already with questions. I liked that he had actually spent time looking at the plans beforehand. We hit it off pretty well and I like the way he is thinking about doing it. It obvious to me that he is really thinking about the most intelligent way to do things.

He got back to me with a reasonably detailed quote of ~$297,000...higher than pretty boy's but within the same range.

Conclusion: We've decided that we've narrowed it down to Pretty Boy and The Tattooed Man. We like them both and think we could work with them both.

Our plan now is to check their references more thoroughly and go see their work for ourselves so we can see just how good they really are.

If they both check-out in that respect we plan to offer to pay them to write-up a super detailed broken out scope of work type bid so that we can compare apples to apples on their bids.

Right now Tattooed Man is higher but I can't be sure that he's not including more in his bid that Pretty Boy. My suspicion is that Tattooed Man might be including more roof framing in his bid.

So, that's where we're at, looks like we can get the house redone for slightly less than $300,000.

We'd greatly prefer to have that number be $200k but this looks like a fantasy we're going to have to let go of. Least its still not at $550k right?

One thing this process has really brought to the fore front is how bad the set of plans from Winans Construction are. They are so incomplete that there will be a fuzziness to the numbers until I get a real bid set of plans done....I'm feeling kinda bad about this as in a sense I've wasted these GC's time with plans that are less than ideal.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Still No Resolution on the Design-Build Front...

Okay so I've been waiting patiently for over two weeks to hear back from Winans Construction about the letter I posted about last time.... No joy, as of yet and I'm reaching the end of my rope, so I sent them one last nice letter, which is below.

It’s been over two weeks since I sent the letter below. I’m resending it now in case there was some sort of email error.

I would appreciate a response as to what you plan to do to remedy this situation ASAP. As always, I can be reached by phone at the number in my signature.

I’ve done some digging around in the cd-rom included with the documents. I found the engineers missing 4th drawing in its raw jpg format. It would appear that it was just left off the final plans?

I’ve done some preliminary checking and even with me fixing all the issues in the plan set with Chief Architect it will cost me much more than I owe on this contract to have another engineer come along behind yours and finish the work. This is not an outcome I will be particularly pleased with.

If I do not hear from you and we do not have a satisfactory solution worked out by the end of the week expect to hear from my lawyer soon after that.

Daniel Neumansky

As the letter above states I did find the mystery roof framing plan that all the GC's I've been talking to were asking about. The call-outs in the plans actually refer to this drawing! So, it looks like Winans Construction just forgot about it!?!?!?!?! I also found the cabinet schedule on the cd-rom now if I could just find the finish schedule somewhere that would be awesome.

I just love how the drawing is broken up into two separate drawings that the designer at Winans Construction has to then paste back together in the plans and make them look professional...though I honestly have doubhts that hand-drawn plans can be ever made to look professional...

Back half of the house...

I'm starting to get seriously grumpy about seems more and more obvious to me that Winans Construction was just hoping that I would go away and forget about this?

Readers, am I being somehow unfair in demanding that they finish the contract we both signed and agreed on?

Am I asking too much? Geez...