Garage Floorplan Review (new plan after GC consult)

TheCatsMeowthFebruary 16, 2013

For those of you that have seen my prior posts, here are some updates after discussing plans with my GC:

- Huge decrease in square footage (the others were well over 1000, much more space than needed)
- Addition of a sunroom (not finished) which will be the future connection to the rest of the house
- I will be getting an architect to finalize all plans (including the rest of the house, which I will post in the future) before construction is started.

For those of you that haven't my prior posts, this is a garage apartment construction that will have the rest of the house added on later.

A large kitchen is very important. A separate dining area is not needed. We'll either be putting a small table in the center of the kitchen or adding in an island with eating space (not sure if there's enough space for this option though).

The office space is small, but very needed. Going down to a one bedroom apt is not an option.

Thanks for everyone's help!

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Currently there's a small spiral staircase in the sunroom (2 level sunroom), but I haven't quite decided if I want them to connect to each other yet. In the case of future renters, they may want the privacy. But for the moment, I'd personally like to have access to both while living there. Any ideas for having the staircase now and possibly closing it off later?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 11:57PM
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I doubt you will be able to get a permit for a habitable room that is less than 7 ft wide and even if you could its a bad idea.

All of the doors seem small and the one to the stair must be 3-0 x 6-8 and you will need that width to be able to get furniture up the stairway although I suspect it will not be enough. You might be able to convince the building official that the required 3-0 exit door is from the lower sunroom to the outside but that would defeat the intention of the code so I doubt he would allow it. This egress path must go directly to the outside without passing through a garage so you will not be able to get a permit for the current lower floor layout. The structure and ceiling of the garage below as well as the stair enclosure must meet certain fire protection requirements.

I recommend foaming the underside of the floor to reduce the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning. I would also avoid a door from the garage to the stair. You want the tightest separation possible in case a car is left running in the garage and walls are better than doors in that regard. The apartment will be required to have one permanently powered CO detector and in my jurisdiction an apartment over a garage would be required to have one in each room and I highly recommend doing that.

Putting a range or a dishwasher tight to a corner corner is unwise. Pull each of then away at least 3 inches for hardware clearance. Some ranges project more than usual from the face of the adjacent cabinets so that dimension could double. I would put the dishwasher on the other side of the sink, move the sink to under the window and continue the counter into the corner.

A partition or cabinet panel at the living room side of the refrigerator would improve the appearance of the space greatly.

A 5ft sliding patio door provides an uncomfortably narrow opening (possibly only 26"). A 3 ft glass door would be better and if you want more light you should open the stair and add a window.

If the exterior wall at the first floor narrows the stair, be sure it doesn't get narrower than 36" wall to wall. I would make it 42" for furniture movement. Not providing a landing at the apartment entry door forces a tenant to stand on the stair while getting out a key and unlocking the door - a terribly bad idea. The closet over the stair can be 20" to 30" wider depending on where the first riser is located.

Is it not possible to open the stairway to the living room? Why have a wall when you could have a 3-0 high wall or railing. It would transform the space for little additional cost.

Only one 3-0 wide egress path is required from a single-family house of any number of floors (in addition to the emergency escape windows from bedrooms) but since this apartment could be considered a second unit of a 2 family dwelling or an accessory apartment to a single-family dwelling, it might be required to have 2 means of egress so the spiral stair might be required and might need to be at least 26" wide.

At any rate a building inspector is prohibited from allowing a reduction in fire safety in an existing building so he might not be able to approve the removal the spiral stair later even if it is not required by code. It has happened to me.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 10:01AM
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GC's aren't architects and shouldn't design buildings either.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 11:29AM
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greenplans - No one said they were and do. Mine certainly didn't. This was a plan that I found online and tweaked. I opened up the kitchen, rotated the stairs and added the sunroom. Some of the dimensions are slightly off just because my skills duplicating the original aren't perfect yet.

renovator - I absolutely love some of your suggestions and will update this with a new draft soon! (As well as respond more deeply to your original post as I go.)

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 3:03AM
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Although it is pointless to generalize about GC's, yours did not point out the numerous obvious design and code errors in your drawing so his design skills and code knowledge are extremely poor which may not seem important since he will build from drawings but, in fact, it is.

You said, "I will be getting an architect to finalize all plans (including the rest of the house, which I will post in the future) before construction is started." You should have started instead of finished with the architect; you are following the all too common reversed design process that causes so many expensive problems and disappointments for homeowners trying to reduce design fees that often don't amount to more than the sales tax you will pay for the project.

Let the architect design the house and the garage and then have the him/her draw the garage as a separate project. The design fees you pay now will be small compared to the potential cost of a poorly thought out design.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:13AM
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My GC did point out that there were many flaws that would need to be corrected and that we were far from being ready to start construction. I shouldn't have said "finalize" and been more specific. My plans are only a basic layout to give the architect a starting point so he knows exactly what I want and save the trouble of dozens of "back and forth" by having as much of the layout done as possible before he even starts. From my understanding from reading other posts on this forum, every time you have the architect redraw, there's additional fees. I've already gone through dozens of layouts and can only imagine the wasted money it would have cost if I would have had an architect draw them rather than doing them myself.

Our preliminary meetings are more about making sure that the city and subdivision will allow the garage apartment build prior to the rest of the house and to get a very basic estimate based on my prelimary drawings (mostly the idea of square footage and living/non-living space). Depending on these results, it may be that we have to go with a different approach. I don't want to have wasted the money on architect fees only to find out that we need to restart.

For example, we heard back from the city today. There will be a minimum sq. footage based on the size of the garage. Had I hired an architect first and had the house with a square footage smaller than the required amount, we would have had to start all over and I would have lost thousands.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:39AM
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The thing you're having trouble understanding is that no architect needs a floor plan brought to him to be able to design something so simple. You wouldn't have wasted any money, because whatever you brought them on that front would have gone in File 13 immediately and then you would have gotten everything you wanted and needed by the next meeting. A small structure like this only has so many possibilities to do correctly. And they are familar with the local code restrictions, so there would have been zero revising on his part. Once and done. On the other hand, you've spend a lot of time exploring all of the wrong ways. And there are a LOT more wrong ways than right ones.

You would NOT be wasting either your time or the architect's time to make an appointment to talk about your project. On the other hand, you've wasted time worrying this over and getting nowhere. And you've wasted time talking to an obviously unknowledgable contractor. It's time to engage the services of a professional who understands how to give you what you need here.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 11:18AM
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The issues you have resolved with the city could accomplished by reading of the zoning code which I would normally do before meeting with a client even if I hadn't been hired yet. If the architect practices in your town he/she should already know the requirements for an accessory apartment or if a 2 family is allowed and only need to look them up to be sure.

The design of such a simple apartment would take no more than one meeting with no back and forths; that's what tracing paper is for. It would take longer to discuss your plan, point out the errors and explain why you should start over than it would t present several plan options.

At any rate you must design the house first.

Please excise my frustration. It is only here on the internet that I find so many people who do not understand how extensive the skills of an experienced architect are and how to use them effectively. The important task for you is to find the right one. Even though they are all handsome and charming some are better designers than others.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 11:49AM
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So all the other people that use this forum to tweak plans because if they let their architect do it it would cost them every time they redid the plans are lying? There are thousands of ways to do a garage apartment on my lot. I'm merely limiting the number before I pay for my architect to draw up dozens of plans that I don't care for. Isn't that why it's recommended to look at online plans first? To get an idea of what you want and what you would change?

I don't think the time I've put into this has been a waste of time or a worry. I've changed my mind quite a bit over the process and each time having the architect redraw my changes would have cost me.

What I don't understand is why you assume that my contractor is "obviously unknowledgeable". Because I didn't mention in my first post that he said my plan would need a lot of work and that I would need a professional involved? That's my fault and it's obvious that I didn't make that clear in my second post. It's unknowledgeable that he thought I should have a general number of what this will cost me before I dive deeper in? It's unknowledgable that we should make sure that my specific subdivision will allow this unique build before I have an architect draw up something that isn't going to be allowed?

As far as the city issues go, perhaps it's just because I live in a smaller city and in an older subdivision, but it was a little more in depth than just looking up some zoning code. City planning had to rule on a decision, not just look something up in a book.

I guess I didn't make it clear enough in the first post, but there is a rough design for the rest of the house. I only posted the garage section.

Perhaps I shouldn't post anymore on this site. I was looking for general floorplan advice rather than have negative assumptions made about my GC. I do appreciate all the advice I've received across my threads. I know that their help in tweaking/changing my designs to something more efficient saved me quite a bit in architect costs, even if it took up more of my personal time. I've heard too many horror stories of additional architect fees to be able to dismiss all of them.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 11:59AM
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Like many on this site, you have made a number of erroneous assumptions about the nature and cost of architectural services.

Good design is not a collection of ideas culled from the internet, shuffled around in an arbitrary footprint and then drawn up by someone. I've described a far better design process on this forum many times so I won't repeat it again.

I know you won't believe this but any experienced architect could show you a better plan for your apartment if he/she knew where the house will be and what it will look like but you have omitted that essential piece information in favor of designing the project in pieces. In the architecture profession this approach is called "designing in a vacuum" and it makes it difficult for anyone to help you. But no one can say I didn't try.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 3:49PM
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It's an improvement over your previous designs, and if you cut off the sunroom you have a reasonably sized garage apartment . . . but I totally agree that you need to start with the house you want eventually and then add the garage apartment. I know your plan has been to avoid paying rent by building the small garage apartment first, but I do agree that in your anxiousness to get this project on the road, you're still putting the cart before the horse.

This is a rather low-class suggestion, but if your goal really is to save money 'til you can build, you might consider bringing a used mobile home onto your property. You can buy one for "take up payments", and you'll have no pressure to get it right because it'll be a temporary fix. You'd be able to live on site while your house is being built, and then you can have the mobile home hauled away. Is this a sexy solution? Nope, but I think you'd come out ahead of the game compared to building a garage apartment.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 4:07PM
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In order to get a certificate of occupancy for the apartment you will need to provide enough space adjacent to (but not in) the garage structure for the utility service connections and any necessary meters, valves, pumps, panels and HVAC equipment.

That space will be one of the major elements of the garage/apartment design and should be located to minimize the length of the utility lines and access from the future main house but I don't see it on the plan.

I am curious where your GC thought that space would be located, how he planned to extend those services and systems into the new house and what he thought the cost premium to do that would be compared to doing it all at once.

I have designed multi-phased projects for universities, large corporations and airports and I can tell you that they were always more complicated and expensive than anyone anticipated. The idea that it would be appropriate for a house is naive. Inflation alone will probably make you lose money on the bet. The only reason to phase any project is that you have no other choice.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 6:53PM
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Sadly mobile homes aren't allowed in my subdivision (I checked....). A space for a future tenant was always in the plans, we're just switching the order that it's done.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 12:47AM
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I estimate the additional cost of phased construction (including temporary/relocated utilities, sunroom and spiral stair), separate contract documents and fees, loss of economy of scale, and increases in material cost as housing recovers, will be more than $20,000.

Since you must live somewhere while the garage/apartment is being built, the additional time you would need to live there if the whole project were to be built is perhaps only a few months.

It should be obvious that renting an apartment would save you many months of construction time and as much as $10,000 and you wouldn't have to live on site while the main house was being built. Ask your GC to itemize these costs if you don't believe me.

It is strange that you are willing to spend countless hours in the hope of avoiding the cost of a few hours of an architect's time but you are unwilling to save ten times that amount by building the project in a more cost efficient manner. And it is even stranger that no one has explained this to you.

This post was edited by Renovator8 on Tue, Feb 19, 13 at 7:17

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 7:06AM
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Renovator, you continue to make assumptions based on nothing but your own opinion. Everything being built now would have been there in the end anyways. Space for future renters/guests was always the plan. There was always a plan for a sunroom, so it shouldn't be considered as additional costs.

You assume that I would like the architects first drawings and wouldn't go through several drafts. As I stated before, I've heard the horror stories about going over on "contract time" and losing thousands. I'm not going to be one of those people. I want to know what I want before I go to the architect. If that means spending hours of my free time researching and drawing, then that's my business to spend it that way. I've quite enjoyed this project over the past year and look forward to continuing it with an architect soon, now that I know more what I want. The only stressful part is dealing with some of the people on this forum that like to assume and lecture rather than offer advice (which is what I thought this forum was for).

As far as costs, would you like to discuss the thousands that I'd be losing in interest by taking out a loan large enough to build the entire house rather than just the garage apartment? Or the thousands lost in rent that could have been put towards a house? I've spent the past year paying off the land so that I wouldn't have those thousands tacked onto the overall loan. That alone has saved me thousands (much more than your estimated $20k).

Frankly, it's more of a waste of my time to sit here and try to address all of your points when you're basing them on your opinion rather than fact. I've read some of your other posts and it seems like you're an advocate of the clueless client that just has a general list of what they want. Then you can really rack up the additional hours and charge them for it when they review each plan and want X or Y changed.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 7:42AM
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You are naive about the cost of phasing your construction project and resistant to professional advice even when it is free. Don't waste any more of your time; built it and learn the hard way.

And if you plan to mortgage the phase one construction and then increase the mortgage to include the larger phase two addition you are foolishly stumbling into a financial trap and need to hire a financial planner.

I find your suggestion that I intentionally overcharge my clients nasty and offensive. You richly deserve what this ill-advised project is going to bring you.

This post was edited by Renovator8 on Tue, Feb 19, 13 at 8:31

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 8:11AM
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Just like you made assumptions earlier, you now jump to conclusions and misunderstand me. I merely said you seem to be advocating that way of conducting business (emphasis on "seem"). That's fine for clients that have no idea what they want other than lists and possibly pictures. But it's not for everyone and certainly not for me.

As far as being offensive goes, perhaps you should reread your posts. You ignore many of the facts I present and continue to treat me like I'm ignorant. I'm very financially secure and have gone over the numbers quite a few times. The path that I'm taking will continue to save me thousands (as it already has). It's not for everyone nor would I try to convince anyone to take it. It's a lot of hard work and takes quite a bit of time, something that certainly can't be done with everyone's lifestyle and schedule.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 8:34AM
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