Friday, April 27, 2012

Deck Project Planning

Alright, while we are waiting the 3-4 weeks for our kitchen cabinets and exhaust hood we need to focus on getting the deck up to snuff...and when I say up to snuff I mean untrucking all the wacky stuff the PO did and bringing it up to modern code. From what we can tell the deck was built around 5 years ago, which means its built with the extra nasty PT wood.
What I think that mostly means is;
   Adding risers to the stairs.
   Changing out ALL the non-PT rated hardware, bolts, washers, screws, nails, joist hangers...etc...hurray!
   Adding code compliant hand rails to the stairs.

Here's how the deck looks from afar.
Pretty big and impressive isn't it?
Now, lets look a little me figure out what needs to be replaced and how?

First there are no risers to either run of stairs.
This run has 6 1/8" clear between the treads.

This run has 6" clear between the treads.

I need to put in a riser that passes the 4" sphere rule.
Does anybody have any opinions on the best way to do that?
I think a single PT 2by4 would work and pass the 4" rule and allow some light to pass through.
I'm sorta thinking if it was centered in the opening it would be best.
I have PT rated pocket screws. Would two in each end and into the beefy 4by12 carriage be a strong beefy connection?

It also looks like I'll have to replace all the treads in the lower section that are not PT as they are showing signs of rotting...

Speaking of Stairs.
The PO used some sort of bracket that is not a Simpson Bracket and I don't know anything about it.

Unknown stair bracket.

The bracket itself doesn't appear to be rusting but those bolts sure do...and I believe you have to fill every single hole with these brackets.

The PO really, really, liked nails...

None of these nails should be rusting if they are of the correct type right?
So, I think I have to replace every single (if its actually doing anything useful) rusting out nail with something else.
I'd like to replace them all with PT rated structural screws from McFeelys, does that sound reasonable?

Corroded Structural Bolts
Notice how rusted the washers are. The bolts don't look so bad but I haven't backed one out yet to see...I'm afraid too..

 Look at all the rusting out nails holding this stuff together. Are they even required with the bolts in place? Seems to me that the nails are mostly just chewing up the wood.

Whats a PT rated joist hanger?

Or hanger nail?
None, of the fricken joist hangers are PT rated...just standard hangers and they are starting to rot pretty well, some are actually green and fuzzy from corrosion...It also bugs me a bit that they use hangers for 2by6's on 2by8's and 10's.

Questions: (remember that this is a one man operation)
Is everything that is rusting after 5 years need to be replaced? IE, the correct hardware would not be doing this right?
What's the best way to remove and replace the joist hangers? I've got slightly over 50 to do!
What's everybody think of my idea to remove the rusting out nails and replace them with PT rated structural screws?
Best way to add a riser to the stairs? Does my idea sound reasonable?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Yes, I know that the most sensible thing to do is to tear the entire thing down and do it right from the beginning but we don't have the money or time for that.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Home Despot Cabinet Quote

Just got back from my third appointment with the Home Despot kitchen designer.
We think we've got it all figured out and this is our final, best KraftMaid version of our kitchen.
We've decided on the Englewood door style in Cherry wood and 48" high upper cabinets, the tallest KraftMaid makes...which caused us a couple of problems...their 'best' construction option APC, which is all plywood finished ends and nice pulls and handles and crown and light rail and, and, and,.....seems like it goes on for ever...

First, The Floor Plan
Looks pretty familiar doesn't it? They basically got everything we wanted to fit to fit with a minimum of filler panels. Kraftmaid can only do cabinets in 3" width increments so I was worried about this. Also, the upper corner cabinet only came in the angled front design in the 48" height...not supper happy about that and it doesn't have lazy Susan's in it? All the next sizes down do..what up wit dat?

Now Some Pretty Pics.

This view is standing at the stove corner and looking back at the kitchen.

This view is standing at the corner near the fridge and looking back at the kitchen.
We hadn't thought of a farmhouse sink before but we like the idea but in stainless of course.

View of the pantry.
Seems like none of the designers I spoke with could figure out anything more clever than shelves in the pantry. The narrow width and sloping ceiling are stumping them. These shelves and brackets will match the cabinets exactly. What I will have to do is stair step the shelves (not shown) up the wall.

What's It Gonna Cost???
Take a guess....its actually less than I thought.

Kraftmaid and Home Despot are actually running a couple of specials right now...we got the crown molding, the sink base and trash base all for free!!!

The total without discounts $20803.09!!!!
The total with discounts is $14263.20!!!! and that includes shipping and tax.
We knew that quality kitchen cabinets are not cheap but this actually seems pretty reasonable to me....its not pocket change that's for sure but it does seem reasonable.

Next Up
Where's the designs and quotes from the two other guys???

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kitchen Cabinet Quotes

Okay so we think we have a design for the kitchen that we the big question is, how much are these cabinets going to cost???
To that end we've sent out our best design idea to three different cabinet 'shops'.
We sent them these three diagrams, which all of you have seen before....

The bare walls only version.

The closets and appliance list.

Our Best Idea
Then you have to write an essay about what type of people you are and how you use the kitchen....this is what ours looked like.

Background Data:
The ceiling height is 9’ exactly.
We generally prefer the cabinets go all the way to the ceiling.
We like crown molding and light rail molding on our cabs also.
We are not a multiple cook household really. It’s just me cooking with maybe someone else helping prep.
We are not BIG BAKERS but we bake sometimes. So, I don’t need a dedicated baking station but I need somewhere to put a reasonable amount of baking supplies.
The kitchen is in the center of the house so there are no windows or skylights.
We do use the breakfast bar all the time to actually eat at and at parties we put the drinks up there and people can sit there and watch me cook without getting in the way. We don’t have to keep that exact breakfast bar set up but we need something like it.
We’re looking for a kitchen that will look ‘right’ in our Victorian house. Something that will look good now and 40yrs from now. No avocado green or harvest gold please.
My wife likes the furniture look with the feet and what not..but she hates to see exposed hinges…yes I know its contradictory.
In the floor plan that has the cabinets. That is our current fav layout that we’ve come up with but we encourage you to ‘think outside the box’ with your design. The only wall that can be adjusted/removed though is the wall where we inset the fridge.
We need to use the odd shaped pantry closet well. We need somewhere to store our bulk goods and small kitchen appliances.
The smaller broom closet, we are at a loss as to what to do with it.
Hopefully that’s enough info to get you started.
Please email me a PDF of your plans and I promise to study them and get back to you with our comments-changes quickly.

The three places we have chosen to get quotes from are Home Despot for Kraftmaid cabinets, Precision Cabinets & Trim and Crown Point Cabinetry. We believe that cost/quality wise the Kraftmaids will be on the low end, then Precision and then Crown Point.

We've asked them all to start with our design and quote it in stained maple and cherry, no paint, no beating the cabinets with chains.

Let me go through what I know so far about the different options.

Home Despot
Ya, I know, its Home Despot...but Kraftmaid only sells their cabinets through dealers and Home Despot is my closest dealer and they do the design and quote for free! Used to be $50 refundable when you bought cabinets. We've used these cabinets before and found the quality to be good as long as you upgrade to the all plywood construction and the good drawer slides and hinges.
The designer appears more competent than the last one we used. She says that she is one of the last of the 'old guard' she's been working for HD for 12 yrs and when she started you had to go to kitchen design school for two months before they would let you near a customer....she says they dropped that policy a while ago and now they just hire people who supposedly already have the know how that goes....
So, this is the 'known quantity' option the bench mark that we will judge the other against.
I have an appointment with them on Tues to see what they've come up with.

Precision Cabinets & Trim
Precision Cabinets & Trim is a localish (friggen Brentwood) cabinet company with a full CNC cabinet shop. This means that they can basically build cabinets in any size. When we were going to do the super cool kitchen in Chez 2.0 this was the place that we picked. We are working with the same designer who doesn't appear to be cheezed off that we sold the house instead of buying his cabinets. This place also includes installation with their quote. Actually, I don't think you can get it any other way as they want to control the product from start to finish. This is a philosophy that I like, you have one company to go to for any issues. They are supposed to have a quote to me by Wednesday.

Crownpoint Cabinetry
Crownpoint Cabinetry is similar to Precision as it is a full custom CNC shop. This is the company that advertises in every single home magazine that I read. They say that they are furniture grade cabinets that will last a lifetime. By all rights this should be the high-end super high quality option. They are not local which means I'm going to have to pay to ship their cabinets from the East coast.....that can't be cheap...They also don't do a full design for free....they want 2% of the total cabinet costs...they will do a rough draft estimate and quote for free that is what they are doing for me. I am supposed to have it by this Thursday.

Our plan is to try to get all three places to quote the same kitchen as closely as possible and then pick a winner from there.

Quality Comparison
I don't know enough yet about the exact materials and construction methods of the three places to do an honest comparison. None of them make it easy to know this information, so I'm still working on it.

Some of the qualities that I believe make a good cabinet are.
  1. Solid Wood face frames at least 3/4" thick-joinery method, not sure about.
  2. Cabinet boxes made out of furniture grade plywood. Which I think means at least 7ply and 1/2" sides, bottom, top and back. Not sure on best joinery method here either.
  3. Solid wood drawer boxes with dovetail joints-not sure about the thickness of the drawer bottom.
  4. High quality full extension soft close under mount drawer slides and high quality soft close hinges.
So, did I miss any thing?
Does anybody have any idea about what the best joinery methods are?
Next Up
The Home Despot Quote.....

Friday, April 20, 2012

KnifeCatching 1118 Grand 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 1118 Grand St.
Up for review today is 1118 Grand St. which has the official specs of being a 2-2 of 1973sq ft on a 3150sq ft lot built in 1900 on sale for $699k last sold I-don't-know-when, its been in the same family for a looooooong time.

The listing company has a web page on the house where you can see lots of pics.
Here's something I find odd....the main Real Estate web sites don't even say the house is for sale? How is that possible? Someone seems to be asleep at the wheel.

The story of the house is pretty familiar for Alameda. The house was lived in for a loooong time by an elderly person who has passed and the heirs are selling it. I don't know if the recent owner died in the house or what.

The house looks like it was defiantly a grand home back when it was new.
There is a lot of fancy trim and molding on the exterior and interior of the house.
The interior appears to be mostly original and in decent but slightly dirty condition...c'mon heirs, scrub the place out and slap a coat of paint on it.
Woulda made the place look a ton better.

The bedrooms are on the top floor along with an oddly laid out bathroom. There is also an illegal bathroom off the back of the house. It looks like that at some point in the 70's the kitchen and back room were redone...unfortunately at this time the original mantle was removed!?!?!
The bedrooms on the top floor where of a good size and one even had a closet.
There is a sun porch with laundry hook-ups.

Some Fun Details
For some reason a couple of the bedroom doors had been converted to dutch doors.

Trim detail on the stairs.

Nook in the Master Bedroom.

Nice Closet.

The Good
Its all original for the most part! Only the back has been remuddled.
The location is close to Franklin Park and School.
The A tag is where the house is.

The backyard, while small, was nice.
Hardwood floors that look like they are still in good shape.

The Bad
Its all original it needs everything.
While the house is close to some good stuff its also on one of the busiest streets and therefore loudest streets in town.
On brick foundation.
Needs a new roof.
Has a 40amp stab-loc panel...can you say fire hazard?
Needs all new systems-elec,plumbing, heat, etc.
The lot seems small for the 'hood at 3150sq ft.
No garage.
No master bathroom and an illegal bathroom on the main floor just off the kitchen.

Ha, well this price might not be as ridiculous as some but I still think it needs uh, adjusting.
For the house that needs everything.
New foundation = $100k
New Roof = $35k
Upgrade to 200amp service and rewire house = $20k
Repipe House from galv to copper = $10k
Remodel fugly 70's kitchen = $20k at least.
Add a master bath = $10k at least
New HVAC = $5k
Did I forget anything?
The total for that is $200k min...but that's still for only a 1973 sq ft house.
So, assuming you could sell this place all done up for $800k (a big ass-sumption) that puts a sensible price at more like $600k.

This house could be really great with just a little bit of depends on how much you love your kids. You could just go in, scrub the place out, redo the floor, repair the walls (plaster is failing in several spots) and repaint and you'd have (on the surface) a pretty nice house. Not safe, but pretty, this would be 'the flipper way'
What I'd do is bite the bullet and have the basement dug out completely and redo the foundation adding a garage under the front of the house. Maybe turn some of the basement into legal living space.
Then upgrade all the mechanicals and roof and enjoy a nice safe house in a good neighborhood.

One of the things I do when I review the house is hang around and check out the types of folks who are looking at the house. In this instance there were two distinct types of folks.
1. The young couple with a small child looking for a place that they can afford and put some serious sweat equity into.
2. The illegal contractors-real estate investor-flipper types.....this was a bit troubling to me as to how many of these types of people where there...Its troubling because I know exactly what these guys are going to do, gut the place to the studs trashing all the original details and doing a homedespot makeover on the place...and still not do the foundation and then turn around and try to sell it for $900k...

The sellers seem to be courting the first group with info on 203k loans on their website.

Please 'young couple with small child who wants to put in a ton of sweat equity into the place', buy the house PLEASE!!!

And that's the way I see it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

KnifeCatching 1007 Morton 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 1007 Morton St.
Up for review today is 1007 Morton St. which has the official specs of being a 4-3.5 of 2811sq ft on an 7500sq ft lot built in 1898 on sale for $1.359M!?!?!? Last sold in 06 for $1,330,000. The house has been on the market for 17 days with no price drops yet. I've been calling this the 'stealth listing' as there is no sign on the house and they've only had one open house.
Since I didnt' think that they were going to have any open houses I actually talked to a couple of the houses neighbors who have lived there for 20+years and knew the previous owner well. When they both heard what the current owners were asking for the place they both said, 'Wow, they must of put a ton of work into the needed everything....' foreshadowing... Both neighbors also offered up the info that they thought that the garage had been converted into a rental unit on the sly.

The Realty company showing the house has a nice website done up for it. Lots of nice pictures and a refreshing amount of actual info. I suggest you go there post haste and check out the pics, especially the night shot of the front of the house with the lights on....ARTY!

Super-Fab Street View
 The house shows super well from the street. It looks great and has very pretty grounds front and back, with a chicken coop in the backyard (how trendy). The house has the two main floors plus a finished basement with a bath and a decent sized attic. The house is bigger than the official specs of 2800sqft as that number does not include the basement or attic living space...
The two main floors are still very original with NO PAINTED WOODWORK!!!!! Hurray!!!! Really, the interior of this place is just stunning. So much beautiful wood and original details.
Its got a great front porch with an original looking stained glass window.

The Good
This place has location, location, location. It's located on one of the nicest blocks in the Gold Coast right across the street from Franklin Park in the Franklin school district.
Gorgeous woodwork!
Large house.
New foundation done in 92!
Elec service was upgraded in 98.
A bathroom was added with permits in 98.

Location Baby!
The A tag is basically the location of the house. You can see Franklin park and the school at top.
Really, a great, safe location to raise kids.

The Bad

The kitchen looks like its the original cabinets with new counter tops. I don't think that the existing kitchen would be considered up to snuff for folks buying in this price range.

The roof was last done in 87! and it looks to be in bad shape to me. From the attic I could see the original shakes so that means the place needs a complete tear off, sheathing and reshingling....

Unpermitted Work Issues....
Isn't there always?
I've searched the permit record several times and several things jump out at me.

The permit record doesn't say anything about converting the basement to legal living space.
Here's a picture of the basement.
Does that look like unimproved storage space to anyone?

The attic is only reached by the steepest and most treacherous flight of old house stairs that I've been on in a while....which is fine for a storage space....
Does that look like storage space?

The add copy calls this building the office.
Its the old garage converted to well, it looks like a separate rental unit to me.
I don't see anything on the permit record that would support this building as legal.
It is nice on the inside with a kitchen, full bath and a sleeping loft....

Since the current owners have lived there these are the only permits on file.
E07-0085 Electrical Permit FINALED DANIOS ELECTRIC 04/04/2007 05/01/20

Work Description:

P07-0453 Plumbing Permit Issued A T WEBER PLUMBING 11/16/200

Work Description:


Maybe all these unwarranted improvements where done by the previous owner I don't know. But the point is, the buyer is going to be on the hook for all of this stuff.
I think the garage conversion is probably going to be the stickiest wicket if the city gets wind of it...
Do these issues make sense at this price point?

The Price.....
Okay, this is the point in the past where I would say something like, 'What kinda crack are they smoking.' or, 'How much weed did they have to smoke before that price made sense?' Well, now that I am a kindlier, gentler knifecatcher, this is what I'll say.

There are several things about the price which don't make sense to me.
1. Current owners bought near the top of the market in '06 and according to their permit record have not made any major improvements, yet, now that the market is waaaaaaaaaaay down they want more for the house?
2. I know for a fact that a similar house in the same neighborhood was just appraised for a refi at $850k. The appraiser claimed that, that was the most he could justify given the available comps. If that appraisal is even remotely correct, how do the sellers justify the difference?
3. 1336 Sherman St. which on paper is basically the same house, on a slightly less desirable block couldn't sell for $1.275M and it was on the market for a looooooooooong time.
4. With the permit issues and new roof needed how does that price make sense?

Its got location, location, location out the wazoo!!!
Its a gorgeous mostly original Victorian with a great front porch.
Seems like it could be a great place to raise some kids.
The price is just waaaaay too high.
If they dropped the price down to $1M they'd have a chance to sell it I somebody with a HUGE down payment who wouldn't have to worry about the appraisal.

This house is so far outta my price range that maybe I just don't understand how people who can afford a house like this think. It needs a new kitchen, roof, and all the permit issues squared away...and then you still don't have a garage to park your Porsche....

And that's the way I see it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Another Kitchen Redesign Idea

I've had a lot of imaginary friends helping with the redesign of the kitchen....ahem

Here's a slightly modified floor plan for the kitchen.
What's different here is that we've moved the fridge to a new wall and recessed it into what was originally going to be some sort of broom-trash storage closet.
We also flipped the DW and the sink because EVERYBODY says you can't have a sink at the end of a run of cabinets....

I like this idea because it frees up space around the stove...but now I'm not sure where the broom closet stuff is supposed to go?

Where can we put the mop, broom, trash and recycling bins?

We Still Need Help With The Closets-Pantries.

Here's a different shot of both closets and the appliances we need to fit.
How can we best utilize the space in the pantry closet for bulk storage and small kitchen appliance storage...and now possibly broom closet stuff also?

Pretty Pictures.

Here's what this current design looks like if you are standing at the stove and looking back at the rest of the kitchen.
Sorry about the odd color walls...but the granite and cabinet colors are spot on for what we have now....yes our kitchen has a silly amount of granite...

Here's how it looks standing at the corner by the fridge and looking back.
Yep, lots of granite....

Here's how it looks from the dining room entryway looking into the kitchen.

And here is how it looks if you are standing in the entryway and looking through the breakfast bar opening and into the kitchen.

So, whats everybody think?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Realtors, WTF Is Up With This Practice?

You know that because I am a Real Estate gadfly that I'm always looking on Craig's List for interesting houses for sale in Alameda. Something that I've noticed with the listings recently seems really uh, odd to me.

The vast majority of listings on Craig's List for houses for sale in Alameda are posted by a Realtor who is not the listing Realtor??? Now everybody who reads this blog knows that I don't have the highest regard for the integrity of the average Realtor....ahem....but this, to me, seems pretty reptile realtor-ish.

Here's a screen shot of today's listings for Alameda CA.

Just about all the purple listings are from the same realty company listing other agents houses....
I'd guesstimate that 60-70% of the listings are like this?

If you click on one of the links you get this.

This is for the most expensive house for sale in price mentioned...AND they misspelled luxuriant.....just the kind of impression you want to make with folks who can actually afford to buy a $1.8M house....

Clicking on the link in the CL add takes you here.

Which has a bunch of properties listed and really, you're not sure which one they are talking about in the add are you? Because I know the house I know its the top house for sale.

Click on that link and you get this.

Wow, lots of pics, and data and stuff that looks like its all taken from other sites.
Except that when you look at it there is no link to the official website for the house or a link to the selling Realtors web page about the house??? You have to look REALLY hard to even determine who the listing Realtor is. I'm sorry but the screen capture isn't super readable...

Sneaky or No?
To me, this looks like one Realtor trying to pass off another Realtors listing as their own?
This just seems really, really well, reptile-ish to me.
I actually spoke with the listing Realtor for the house in this example and she was NOT happy about this, especially with the incorrect English...

So, Realtor's WTF is up with this practice? Is it a legitimate uh, sales technique or what?

For me, as a potential house buyer scanning the adds this practice is a HUGE PITA. You have to weed through a bunch of crap and half information just to figure out if you're even interested in the house.
To me personally, I'm super annoyed about this practice and would never use a Realty company that practiced it.
Potential buyers, how about you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We Need Range Hood Help!

Arrrrrgh.....anybody ever look at what high end range hoods cost!?!?!
Holy freaking mackerel they are expensive...
What I love is, often you have to buy all the parts that $1600 for the hood is just for the shell of the hood...its another $1000 if you want a quiet motor option.

Because we have no common sense we want to install the 36" wide pro style stove that we've owned since 2000 in our new super tiny kitchen..don't bother trying to knock some sense into us we're doing it.

Our stove is Wolf model# R364C which you can see below acting as the worlds most expensive cookie sheet storage rack.

We are going to shoehorn it into this space currently occupied by a 30" wide stove.

The Specs
According to the manf I need a 27" deep range hood that's rated at 900cfm.
I can only use a 36" wide hood because of space issues.
I would like it to be as quiet as possible also.
The research I've done so far is pointing me to a remote mounted fan-the type that's mounted externally to the house and has the motor in the wall cap.

Because of the length of the exhaust and one elbow I will need a fan rated at more than 900cfm, 1100cfm seems to be correct.

I've been doing web searches for a while now but I'm not really finding any good hard info to help me with this. Most of the manf sites point you to a brick and mortar authorized dealer and they don't exactly tell you what its going to cost.
I also can't seem to find sone ratings for the different hoods?

Or, the range hoods you can buy online seem to be off brand (at least to me) and I have no idea if they are any good.

Can anybody help me out?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chez Neumansky 3.0 Is Sold!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes that's right folks!*

Chez Neumansky 3.0 Is In Contract!!!!!!!!!!

We were not planning on selling this place ever but we got an offer we just couldn't refuse!!

A friend of a friend knew a couple who were looking to buy a big Victorian in the Gold Coast.
The crazy thing is, the husband is a Facebook millionaire and the wife is a Twitter millionaire!!

They made us an all-cash offer for just slightly over twice what we paid for the place!!!
Cash!!! Can you believe it?

It all happened so fast that now we have to scramble to find somewhere else to live as they insisted on a 30day close!!!

We've decided to leave Alameda and move to one of those wondrous, glorious McMansions in a very upscale gated community in the Danville hills. You know the type of place, where only the 'right sort' of people are allowed in...

Hello Conspicuous consumption, here we come!!!

*April Fool