Saturday, August 27, 2011

And Now The Hard Work Begins Part 2

Okay when last we left we talked about the work that had to happen in the basement.

Now lets talk about the work that has to happen on the 2nd floor.

Converting Two Studio Apartments Into A Single One Bedroom

Here is the approved plan for the conversion.

You can see that maybe its a weird lay out but it fulfills our requirements for the least amount of work required. And I believe I can do this without having to have the tenant that currently occupies the C unit move out.

Here are some shots of the interior of Unit B.

The super sweet bathroom

The water heater is in a closet in the bathroom. Its an electric model.

Here's a shot of the kitchen. That's the bathroom door on the right.

Kitchen from the doorway looking in.
This unit does have a working gas range, old fridge and a dishwasher!

 The main living area of the unit.
 Here is the closet that I am going to shorten to make the hallway.

The main living area as viewed from the front door.

What Has To Be Done

Nothing!!! Hurray!!!!

Nothing!!! Hurray!!!!

I need to tie both subpanels back together at the meter base and make sure the main cut off at the meter base can handle the load.

Gots to add the wired smoke and CO detectors.

Need to add more outlets to comply with current codes-AFCI protected.

Need to add switched over head lights and exterior lights for the doors.

I'm going to have to shorten the back to back closets and create a hallway.

Remove it completely and turn it into a regular room.

I have to cap all the plumbing for the kitchen in the walls.
I have to cap the gas line to the kitchen as its meter will be servicing the new unit in the basement. 
I'm going to keep the two electric water heaters for now. I figure this way the tenant and a guest and both shower at the same time!

There is an electric wall mount heater that works... I might change it out for a newer one or go with the super hideous electric baseboard heat... I don't think it makes sense to add a furnace to this little unit....does it? Or maybe a mini-split system? It does get pretty darn hot up in these little back units...that might be getting a little fancy though?

How does that sound to everyone?
Course I haven't even thought about if I need to do things like freshen the bath? It appears to be in good working order it just looks a little dated.

Friday, August 26, 2011

And Now The Hard Work Begins...Advice Requested.

Okay sooo, got the permits to start the work....cept I just seriously threw my back out and I'm not doing any kind of anything for a while....Actually I've got a full plate of 'computer stuff' to do right now so I'll be busy but still, I wanna get this work started!!!

Except I'm not entirely sure how exactly to go about doing the work.

Here's what we have to do for the bottom floor.

I've got to turn this illegal set-up
Sorry about the lack of detail on this existing drawing, doesn't show the existing electrical or kitchens.

Into this legal set-up.

But what does that mean exactly?
I don't have to change out any of the windows, thank god.


The bathrooms are staying put as-is. Except that I will have to convince the inspector that they were installed correctly. This is probably going to entail cutting into the walls in various places so he can have a look around...I also have to redo the fan-light switch wiring because the fan and light has to be able to be switched separately. I am also adding an on the wall vanity light to both baths.

I'm going to have to add AFCI protected outlets to all the rooms as they only have one per now. Should I cut in new boxes and fish wire or just remove drywall?

Switched over head lights need to be added in most of the rooms and  hallways.

I need to add powered smoke and CO detectors to the ceilings as shown.

I'm moving the location of the units electrical panel to a different wall and probably adding several circuits to it.

I'll need to add and remove some non-load bearing walls. Biggest thing I'm going to do is remove the wall in the kitchen to open it up to the family room to have a single 'great room'.

The PO also installed bamboo floor in the one bedroom apartment that I will have to pull up as its buckled, ugly and installed incorrectly.

God, where to start.
The baths and kitchens are all plumbed already and I'm not anticipating having to do anything with the DWV stuff (lord I hope so as its all in concrete...).
But the water supply piping? Somehow, the hot water to these two basement kitchens and bathrooms is piped to the one, single lone water heater in the 3rd floor attic!!! I believe all the plumbing is in the ceiling of the basement. I wonder if I'm going to have to remove most of the drywall on the ceiling just to figure out the water supply piping?

I will have to run new gas lines to the new mechanical room for the new furnace and tankless water heater that will be servicing the unit.

I will install a tankless water heater in the mechanical room also.


Right now there is a single furnace that is ducted to heat this basement unit and the main floor of the house above. I'm going to have to untangle the ducts and separate the ducts for the two different units with two different furnaces. I've also got to fix the heating for the bottom unit which means adding registers and returns in many I've never really done before.

So that's two new correctly sized furnaces and a tankless water heater all installed in the mechanical room. All of them are of the condensing type and all of them will be vented horizontally with PVC pipe through the North wall of the house. I'll also have to figure out what to do with the condensate.

I'm going to have to 'un-build' these two kitchens

and then re-install the cabinets in the new single bigger kitchen.

Whats the best way to un-build a kitchen? Can I save the granite countertops to re-use them?
I'm going to have to add a ton of outlets to the new kitchen for the counter top, the frig, the dishwasher, range, MW, what point does it just make more sense to completely remove the drywall and start from a clean plate?

I Need A Plan:
I think I need to decide just how much drywall needs to be demo'd. All the drywall? Just the ceilings? The ceilings and the kitchen?? Would love some advice on that. Seems like all the ceilings are going to have to come down..between running new heating ducts in the ceiling, gas piping, the water piping, the smoke and CO detectors...

Here's my vague sketch of a plan.
Unbuild the kitchens myself. So they don't get F'd up.
Pay somone to come in and remove all the drywall that needs it and clean up after themselves.
Then I come in and do the expensive stuff to hire out. The wiring, plumbing.
Then pay someone else to drywall the place.
I hang the kitchen cabinets.
Then I paint and finish the floors. There is brand new carpet on the south side of the apartment. I would live to save it and keep it as is...does that make any sense? Can it be reasonably protected from the destruction-construction process?

How does that sound? Not sure about how much of a budget I'm going to have to hire any of this out after I pay for the materials...

And this is just the bottom unit work, still have the two units to deal with on the second floor!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

We Got Our Permits!!!

Well, we got half of them anyways! Hurray!!!
The super nice folks at the Alameda Building Dept (obvious ass kissing) called me recently to tell me that my permits were ready and that I could come pick them up!
Hurray!! Now we can get started on converting the illegal work in the basement into a single 3-2 apartment and converting the two studio apartments into a single one bedroom two bath apartment. All legal and above board!

We also got the plan check comments for the code enforcement work, back from the city!

These are the permits to legalize the back deck, stairway, and 2nd story landing, and to legalize the kitchen remodel all work illegally done by the PO.

I've read through the comments and there do not seem to be any real 'we're going to get screwed' comments. Most of them are about the deck and are questions the engineer will have to answer.

One question I don't know how to answer is this.

The engineer says that there needs to be a outlet for this length of counter top at the breakfast bar.

I mean, I can draw an outlet on the plans no problem but how to actually get an outlet into that counter area. All the options seem bad to me.

Besides the joy of cutting through the granite for the box I'm pretty sure that, that back splash is solid wood behind the granite...I don't know about cutting out the granite and then cutting into the wood framing for clearance for the outlet box? I'd probably have to open up the wall on the other side of the backsplash to check and see what the situation is. If I'm wrong about it being solid wood then putting an outlet in the backsplash will probably make the most sense.

I guess I could do a flush with the counter top outlet? But having a horizontal outlet there seems like a really, really bad idea.

Could I put an outlet on top of the breakfast bar in some kind of enclosure? Man, would that look ugly...

How can I get an outlet to service this counter?

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Halloween in August!?!?!?!

Okay I admit that this has nothing to do with old houses.

Rant Mode On

I am FREAKING SICK of stores putting out decorations for holidays MONTHS in advance!
I was just at the local SafeWay and they already have Halloween decorations out! Its the freaking middle of August for Pete's sake! Now everyone who's spent anytime reading this blog knows that Chez Neumansky LOVES Halloween....but jeez, in the middle of August???

I was sorta standing there stupefied looking at the decorations and at least 4 people walked by and they all did the same thing... 'Halloween??? in August!?!?!?!?' shaking their heads in disbelief as they walked away...

I can't be the only person who feels this way?

Who else is sick of seeing Christmas decorations on sale before Halloween??

How many times has this happened to you. Its about the middle of October (when 'normal' people start thinking of decorating for Halloween) and you head out to your local big box store for some fun Halloween decorations...AND THERE IS NONE!!! All they have out is Christmas stuff!!!

I have nothing against Christmas...but who wants to be assaulted by Christmas stuff starting in October? Can anybody actually handle hearing Christmas carols for that long?

Don't y'all think it makes the holiday LESS special when its in your face for like three months?

There Outta Be A Law!!!!!!!

They can make laws about, just about any darn thing...well there outta be law on holiday decorations and merchandise!

I say, no decorations up and no merchandise out until 30days before the actual Holiday!
That would mean no Halloween stuff out until Oct 1st.

That would mean no Christmas stuff out until the day after Thanksgiving. What ever happened to Thanksgiving anyways?

City Council Members can pass laws right? Or boards of supervisors? I say, everybody emails there local representative and tells them that they are SICK to death of merchants putting out merchandise MONTHS ahead of the holiday.

I'll start, here's a link to the Alameda City Councils contact info. Click on their names to email them.

Contact your local elected official and tell them,
There Outta Be A Law!

Heck, if we can't get the elected officials to get off their duffs and do the right thing we'll make our own law. A referendum or something!

 If you feel as I do please pass this on to anyone who might be interested in the message.

Who's with me??? Anyone??? Beullar...? Beullar???

Rant Mode Off

I feel better now....

Update 08-29-11
Not a single Alameda city elected politician even bothered to reply to my email. I sent them a link to this blog post with the subject heading of 'They're outta be a law'...
Guess they're too busy to answer an internet crack pot...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stupid Freaking Kitchen Cabinets.....

Holy Fricken Moly....

Wow, if you REALLY want to screw with the next owner of your house take the door off the kitchen sink cabinet, the one with the cabinet info, with you when you leave...

Turns out it is NEARLY im-freaking-possible to find out where your cabinets came from.

No Identifying Marks
I've been over every inch of the cabinets looking for a manufacturers mark. I've looked inside all the cabinets, the drawers, the tops of the cabinets...nothing...Arrrrrrrrrrrgh!

The Search For Matching Cabinets
As a commenter suggested I also thought that the cabinets MUST be from one of the local Chinese cabinet shops.

I set out one morning recently (carrying one of the cabinet doors with me) heading to the biggest and well known cabinet shop Sincere Plumbing. This is probably the biggest and nicest shop in the area. I was sure that this is where the PO got the cabinets, this was going to be a quick trip where I could get the replacement cabinets I needed no muss, no fuss.... No joy, they have a ton of cabinets but no one there could remember then ever carrying a style or color exactly like what I have.

Next I headed out to Granite Expo, a place similar to Sincere in style. There they did not have the cabinet style or color...dang...

That exhausted my knowledge of 'nice' Chinese cabinet shops...

Since they are across the street from each other I stopped into the Home Despot to see if I could find a match...Checked out the in stock joy. I actually got a kitchen cabinet specialist to help me. Schockingly enough she was helpful and knowledgeable. Home Despot did not carry the exact door design in any of their lines nor did they have a color that was a match. Kraftmaid cabinets has a color called cranberry that was close...

Right down the street from Home Despot is a cabinet place (I think its called AAA Cabinet or something like that that works out of a warehouse with a hand lettered sign they set out...what the heck, might as well try them.... No joy, no color that was close and no door style that matched exactly.

I headed off to a place in East Oakland next. This place only had a couple of different styles and again no joy...

I stopped at two other places in East Oakland that appeared to be selling sign, nothing written in English, stores in weird back joy...

To the InterWebs! After doing a search it looked like Lowe's in stock cabinets in a color called Merlot might be an exact match! Either that it looked like one of the lines they carried (that home despot doesn't might be a match) I was stoked, it made sense that the PO would of used an in stock cabinet. The PO seemed to of bought just about everything in the house from Home Despot...

Combining a run out to Harbor Fright I stopped at a Lowe' joy on the in stock cabinet..not raised panels and the color was not exactly right.

After MUCH waiting I got a Lowe's kitchen specialist to take a look a the door I'd been carrying around. No joy either! They had a finish in their Diamond Reflections line that was close but not exactly correct... But they had no matching door style. Online it looked like the Halston door in their Burgundy finish was a complete match... No joy.

Arrrrrgh! I think I've blown through all my easy options...I would of sworn the PO would not of paid real money to have a real cabinet shop make him cabinets...but what other choice is there?

What I Learned About Chinese Cabinet Shops
They all seem to carry the same stuff pretty much. Like there is one or two factories churning out the stuff.
Unless you speak fluent Chinese and love to haggle stick to the two bigger shops that actually have the prices for cabinets listed.
Everyone tells you that the doors are made out of Maple!
The hinges are bad copies of quality units...the hinges look like they won't last very long.
Cabinet quality was somewhere between in stock at one of the big box stores and semi-custom cabinets ordered from the same big box store.
They don't make right angle corner wall cabinets!! None of em! They just make the angled corner cabinet.
They only come in 36" high versions.
If I could be convinced that they wouldn't sell destruct they are probably a good value.
LIMITED choice of options in cabinet types.

Help Me Find My Cabinets!
I think what I'm left to do now is to go around to every single cabinet shop in the area and show them the door and say, 'does this look like something you make?'

There's got to be a better way! Somebody help me figure this out please! A super fabulous Chez Neumansky 3.0 themed prize to the person who comes through.

Look at this shot. The Chinese place don't seem to have options like the glass doors our the open shelves shown here.
 One thing that was throwing people off was the quality of the hinges used in the cabinets. The hinges are Ferrari Brand (made in Italy). Which is apparently much nicer than any of the hinges you'd get at one of the Chinese cabinet shops.
 But seriously, if these are semi-custom cabinets why in gods name would the PO of used these dead end cabinets?
 The color is another thing throwing people off. Its really, uh, wine the end of a cork after you pull it out of a bottle of Merlot or something.
Here is a close up of the door.
The doors are also heavier-denser than the doors of similar size that the Chinese cabinet shop folks kept saying was Maple.

Here's a close up of the door edge profile.

What seems to be throwing the most people is the edge profile of the door. Its got like a tapered edge that I have literally not seen ANYWHERE else so far....

If we can't figure this out then I don't know what else to do. We really want to put in the 6" wider stove...but we can't do that without replacing the base cabinet to the right and the two upper cabinets above the stove...

Dang, its not like we have to money to redo the kitchen now anyways....


I'd really love any suggestions as to how to solve this mystery.

One, I forgot to say that the cabinets are 42" tall...which means none of the big box in store cabinets or the Chinese cabinet shops will have a matching cabinet. They all top out at 36"

Two, I think Tish may be onto something.
Costco sells a brand of cabinets called 'All Wood Cabinetry' that is looking promising.
They sell them in 42" heights they have a style that looks like its the same.
But not a color....maybe I have a discontinued color?
I sent them an email with a link to this post begging them to take a look...hopefully they will and I will get some good news!

UPDATE 8-16-11:
Daaaaang, just heard back from the costco cabinets people and they say nope, cabinets aren't ours!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

KnifeCatching 1336 Sherman 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.

KnifeCatching 1336 Sherman St.
Up for review today is 1336 Sherman St. which has the official specs of being a 5-2 of 2475 sq ft on a 7500 sq ft lot built in 1883 on sale for the low, low price of 1.275M.

To be honest we where interested in this house because on paper its practically the exact same house as Chez 3.0....and man, does that mean Chez 3.0 is worth 1.275M????  I wish.

Here's the HBR page of the place with super fab photo's and what not.

In keeping with this new 'kindler gentler' thing I'm doing I'll start out with the good.

The Good
The house is gorgeous. The outside looks like its been freshly painted. Its got a turret!! Hurray!!!
The grounds look amazing (what there is of them).
The woodwork on the inside is unpainted! The main floor is really gorgeous with all that unpainted woodwork. There are two fireplaces with original looking tile and very fancy mantles.
The kitchen looks like its been recently redone and it is of a good size.
There is a HUGE 3 car garage in the backyard.
Its in a great neighborhood on a tree lined street. Jealous of the tree-linedness of that block of Sherman.
Its in the Franklin school district two blocks away from Franklin School and Park.
BIG attic for I guess storage...or expansion space.
Decent sized basement area with a full bath.

What The Permit Record Tells Me
Kitchen Remodeled in 95 with permits.
Looks like an elec service upgrade was done in 89 but finaled in 98?
New roof in '06.
Sidewalk work done in '07.
3-car garage built with permits in 07, permits finaled in '10...
Hey, new furnace in '11.

The Odd
That kitchen looks like its waaaaaaay newer than 95. Look at the pictures, does that look like a kitchen that is over 15yrs old?

I love old houses, but the main level of this place is just sooooo cut up into little rooms...I think its actually the most cut up of any old house I've seen. It all looks original, and the house would of always been a grand home so the little tiny rooms on the main floor just seem kinda odd to me. The small room theme is also going on on the second floor. There might be 5 bedrooms but none of them are what you'd call, generous.

No central heat on the 2nd floor? The one with all the bedrooms? The furnace is new but there are no heating ducts to any of the rooms on the 2nd floor. There appears to be just one register in the hallway!?!?!?

No master bedroom-bath?

The place really has no back yard. Its all either driveway or garage. There is a nice little deck off the kitchen but yard. Its all up front.

The Bad
The Realtor showing the house told me that it had a 3/4 foundation replacement? Which she told me meant that 3/4 of the foundation had be replaced. I checked the permit record and this does not show up there anywhere....So....either the Realtor was 'mistaken' (see kinder gentler) or the work was done without permits or somehow a big, huge, expensive, job like this isn't on the permit record.

It would also appear that the basement is finished as living space with a full bath, illegally as I can not find any permit record for that.

This last comment might seem kinda anal to some folks but... Take a look at the picture of the front of the house. That concrete retaining wall looks pretty brand new no? Count how many steps up from the sidewalk. I count 5 yet there is no handrail? That's officially unsafe by the building codes.

 I didn't measure the retaining wall but I'd guess that its at least three feet high. There's no fence around it! I saw that and the first thing I thought of is, WOW how unsafe. It's the only decent sized patch of grass on the lot which means kids are going to want to play on it...Your toddler takes a step over that edge and wow, that seems like a long way down, and that its going to end badly.

Not that my opinion matters but...

Don't you think that for basically 1.3M that the place would have a master bedroom and bath?
That there would be central heat up to the bedrooms? That there wouldn't be possible illegal construction issues with the basement and kitchen?  That the house could still possibly be on brick?

Someone called this house 'turn-key' in an earlier comment but I honestly don't see it that way. We are not of the socio-economic group that can afford a $1.3M house but we have lots of friends who are. No way the wives aren't going to want their own master bedroom retreat...or not have central heat through out the house.

Now the attic is being billed as having 'expansion potential' and that would probably be the logical place for the master retreat. That's not going to be cheap to do...especially on a house that is already costing almost $1.3M. Beside the costs of finishing the space as a higher end master retreat I'd bet that there are going to be serious hidden costs in retrofitting the structure to carry the new load safely..

Soooo, very pretty house inside and out, not turn-key I'd estimate that it would take at least $200k to convert the then is the house worth $1.5M? I don't think so, but maybe more like 1304 Morton and price it closer to $800k.

And thats the way I see it.