Generally saying hello and 'I'll be sticking around for a while'

karen_belleDecember 23, 2009

I've been reading GW for a few weeks now and really enjoying the great comments and advice. I couldn't remember my username until I asked for help so I couldn't put my 2 cents in until today.

Anyway, we are in the early stages of construction on our remodel. We knew we had to renovate our 1956 ranch, but we are slow to start. We had a big kick in the butt last March when our house got struck by lightning - a fire in the attic is a good way to get to a gutted house in short order.

It took us a long time to start construction because we had competing goals, an unknown budget and some trauma. The main points of our remodel we agreed on - get rid of the section of flat roof, bring in more light to our open but dark living area, make the family room visible from the kitchen, increase the energy efficiency of the house. I think we've accomplished all of that with our plan.

The contractor started demo on 12/1 and is almost finished with reframing the roof. Unfortunately yesterday we found a pretty major mistake in the framer's calculations, so this afternoon we're going to have an unpleasant conversation with the project manager and company owner. My husband's an attorney and really good negotiator, so I think things will go well when we tell them they're going to have to rip out part of the roof they built and try again. I, on the other hand, am a structural engineer and easily wound up by errors of this nature - I'm going to have to stifle a lot of eye-rolling and huffing when the contractor claims to have just been doing what he thought we wanted. Build to the plan man!

Ok, hopefully that was enough venting. I'll let you know later. ;-)

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I'm new too, Karen and will be lurking daily as "misery loves company". We started a major remodel early August. Roof paper was added today. Raised all ceilings except for two rooms. Will post pix later. Gutted most of the house and probably should have gutted it all with what we have done to it at this point. Can't wait to hear about your contractor's reply. Good luck. Kelly

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 9:58PM
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How did the work end up diverging from the plan?

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 8:17AM
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The best approach is to avoid blaming anyone. If the work deviates substantially from the contract documents you only need to dispassionately point that out and ask the contractor how he intends to correct the work. Getting upset usually runs the risk of making others defensive. No builder wants a homeowner telling him he doesn't know what he is doing.

Of course, you need a well written contract and a good set of drawings for this to work and that is rare in home construction.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 9:11AM
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Sounds like quite a mess and I thought the hard part was deciding what color to paint the walls :) I too am doing a remodel and just joined GW. I am doing everything myself so I hope I don't have to fire my contractor. In the works is a former carport which I have closed in for a formal dining room with big picture windows. The kitchen of my 1960's house was tiny so I have taken out a partial wall and merged it with what was formerly a small dining area. Some day I will be able to eat and cook again!

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 10:47AM
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Hey, thanks for the welcome!

Here's what happened: we had a hipped roof over the main living area, another hip over the garage (which is L'ed off the house) and a flat roof over the back of our LR, where big picture windows were put in as part of our original home's attempt to be a "California ranch." We had an architect and engineer revise the roof plan so we'd get rid of the flat section. It turned out that putting a gable on the back of the house added some light and made it possible to continue the hip over the sunny LR, but the eaves got wider and the hip was no longer over the corner of the building.

When the framer got to work he started framing the new hips with his deep knowledge of roofing - of course hips always go over the corner of the building. This decision was not communicated to us. Nor was the project manager clear in his conversations where he said "do you want all new eaves or to keep the old?" We wanted to keep what we could, but every time I said "you know, the eaves are changing in the back of the house because of the new roof" he would look at me funny.

In addition to all the roof changes, we're raising the ceilings from 8' to 9' in most of the living areas. So cut to Wednesday when the framer announces that the 2x12 beams we had planned for supporting the hip in the back were going to poke through the roof, and so therefore we needed to put in a wall, column or drop beam to carry the roof. This would have really diverged from our plan for the interior space, so after 1.5 hours of talking and reviewing the work that had been done, it finally became clear to me that the framer moved the hip, the builder didn't understand that we were raising the bearing wall's height, and that we were going to have a problem.

"Macy" is exactly right - avoid blaming anyone! The drawings weren't very clear. The GC didn't read them carefully. The framer did his best work but he is not an engineer. My husband didn't understand the engineering and communicated his desires about the eaves w/o knowing what the ripple effect would be. I failed to fully comprehend the engineering, which is not something most homeowners should be expected to do but is definitely a skill I bring to the table and should have employed more effectively. I don't know the jargon of residential construction, and I assumed (wrongly) that the engineer, architect, GC and framer were all in agreement about what was intended.

Yesterday the engineer saved the day. He had spent some time before the meeting devising a framing solution that would allow the current completed work to stay, would not require a revision of the interior, and to our benefit, would keep the eaves at a 3' depth. He is my hero of the day.

I kept my attitude to a minimum and let him lead the meeting. The GC, project mgr and framer had all done their homework, too, and understood where the errors had been made. My husband was helpful in keeping me calm. The only issue I have with the resolution is that I don't understand who is going to pay the engineer for his additional time. We've already paid him for the plans, but he has put in probably 8 hours on this problem this week.

The GC agreed to cover the additional material costs. Perhaps the engineer will eat the time? Maybe we'll split it with the GC? I don't know. But I'll let my lawyer/husband deal with that.

In my real job I deal with engineers daily and have to manage cost and schedule. I am accustomed to getting all the issues resolved before calling the problem closed. I told this to my husband after the meeting and told him that I would not get involved in the money discussion.

This morning the engineer sent revised sketches and I reviewed them as if they were my own work product. I asked him to make some additional clarifications on the sketches - it was my mistake at the beginning to assume that everyone involved would understand his drawings. He was happy to do so and I hope that we'll not have any more mistakes of this nature. But I'm sure we will.

In the end, though, I am really happy with the solution. I was very pleased at the way everyone came to the meeting with their attitudes set to "helpful," and I think everyone walked away feeling good.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 12:24PM
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illustrating the problem, at least from the roof plan view. It was the interior framing that got challenging, but this will show what happened to the plan.

Here is a link that might be useful: roof plans (before, intended, after)

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 12:58PM
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Karen, I can't believe how similar our hip roof plans are. We have been in our home for about 17 yrs. and bought the place to add on. Unfortunately, things happened and we could not make the improvements we wanted to at that time. Now, as the college age kids are moving out . . . we are able to do some changes. Overall, minus a few changes or bumpy roads here and there, things are looking pretty good. However today, I saw how they framed and papered the roof and where we previously added a bay window where our couch is, the eaves look wierd as the facia is closely wrapped around it. Everywhere else, there is a 2 ft. space where the enclosed eaves will be. I don't know how we are going to fix this. Our architect which has made numerous mistakes did not accomodate the extra depth needed for the eaves when drawing up the roof plan and now the roof is basically hugging the bay window area. The window looks bsolutely ridiculous as everywhere else, there is 2 ft of eave depth. I was sick when I saw this but hey, it's Christmas eave and my 3 college age kids are back home and healthy and I'm not going to worry about it right now. I am considering this a bump in the road. However, I hope there is a solution for this. I will post a pic (go easy on me) and hopefully SOMEONE will be able to come up with a brilliant idea to make this look decent. Ok, I have vented after my Christmas dinner and wine. Merry Christmas to all of you out there.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 11:46PM
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I am remodeling a 1950s California rancher too! Don't they ALL need remodeling about now, LOL?

Didn't have any problems with interior framing but when they started digging around the foundation to bump out the kitchen all H*LL broke loose....the soils engineers and the city had a field day telling me how crazy my old foundation was. Delayed my project by 4 months and $75,000. Sigh. We are about 6 months in and have 6 months more to go.

From Menlo Farmhouse

A few months ago:
From Menlo Farmhouse

Roof started (metal!) and exterior Tyvek on last week:
From Menlo Farmhouse

Keep us posted on your remodel! Ranchers unite!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 1:08AM
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Kellykath - your framer should be able to put a shed roof over the dormer to move the eaves out to the proper depth.

although here are pictures of what you might be worried about:, - love how they're all in England. Doesn't seem to be a big deal, but if you're not happy then the builder needs to work at a solution!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 10:48AM
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Dear firsthouse - thanks for your comraderie! I'm sorry to hear about your foundation woes. I felt lucky when we bought our ranch because I had worked on insurance cases many years ago for homeowners with failed foundations, and I thought I knew what to look for when I bought a home.

We live in Houston where the clay soils will wreak havoc unless you've made the right foundation. I think you're in California - I can't even imagine what the foundation requires for earthquake protection, and how far a 1950's house is from meeting those requirements.

For us, the original building had a pretty good pier-on-beam foundation for 1956. The owners previous to us had already replaced the drain system, which is also often the culprit in foundation problems for old slabs poured on grade. The foundation was doing well, but we had some minor movement near some mature trees. We also have an odd little section, that "California ranch" sunny area, where the original owner added 5' of slab AFTER the main foundation had been poured and the house framed. We have some cracks in the terrazo there.

I had additional piers poured interior to the house before we started our remodel, but I haven't really addressed the issue of this odd bit of slab. I spent some time talking about this with the engineer last week and we made some framing decisions related to the roof error that will hopefully keep roof load off of the odd slab section as much as possible. But I am planning to investigate further and may end up pouring a couple of more piers under this part of the house.

$75,000 is a lot to bite off for a surprise change in your plans. ouch. Your remodel looks really nice so far! That is a lot of space to add on - what a great kitchen you are going to have!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 11:02AM
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I'm back and when I can figure out how to upload some pics, I will share my "fun" experiences as well. Firsthouse, where are you in California, - I'm in Costa Mesa and so true . . . many of the these "ranch style" homes do need work. I do love living in a single story home though.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 7:41PM
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WOW, I wrote a really long post and it disappeared...when I have time, will have to come back re-write it!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 6:27PM
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Karen and Kelly:
Are we ready for some progress or what??? ;)

Now that the beginning of the year has begun and we are solidly in 2010, I am SOOOOO ready to make some huge progress! My GC says we are "on target" for June 2010 but I am ready to be done any day. Seriously!

How's everything going?

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 11:55PM
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I'll try and post an update in a new thread. Thanks for asking!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2010 at 1:00PM
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karen belle,

Ahh the joys of a hip roof!!! We are also adding on to our ranch and we even roofed the whole back of the house porch extension. I will post pictures. Our contractor walked off the job. Complete incompetent! Our new guy is amazing. His crew looked at the roof and redesigned it without blueprints. In fact, within a week and a half, they fixed the inferior framing from the other contractor, did the rest of the framing, took the old roof off and put the new roof framing up. We totally gutted our house down to the studs. I am glad to see other "ranch people" posting.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2010 at 10:52PM
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O.K. they are doing some mock ups of potential "fixes" for this bay window problem. Right now, the windows are going in. Have been extremely busy working, picking out plumbing fixtures, etc. What a "dream" to have been spending the previous 12 months slowly doing the selections instead of barely keeping my head above water here. No complaints YET except for the architect that is no longer in the loop. I will try and post pics soon. Thanks for the input Karen belle. How is your project moving along?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 11:39PM
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Kellykath, I totally hear you on the head above water thing. I have spent countless hours of the last 5 days trying to figure out what color to paint my house (exterior). The painter has been prepping all week and yesterday was my deadline. I went around and around, mainly because our new windows, which have a brushed aluminum finish, are so bright against the old paint. Our old windows, which were steel casements, had the frames painted the same as the siding - in fact they were painted shut.

I guess we could have asked the GC to paint the new window frames, but that seemed a shame, so I finally decided on a color last night at midnight. sigh.

I used the Sherwin Williams Visualizer tool to "paint" our house with several dozen colors until I decided what I like best -



It doesn't seem like much of a change, and I regret spending so many hours on this wild goose chase. But I didn't pick the old color of the house, never liked it, and I hope the new color is more pleasing for us.

What does the new bay window mock-up look like??

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 10:55AM
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How did the paint turn out Karen? We are supposed to have the roof loaded and the drywall up this week. The solution to the bay window in front of the house looks better than I thought it would. After seeing your picture, our front circular driveways are the same. I am getting rid of ours as the entry cuts it off now - the new entry is fairly large. Again, I will post some pictures. The loggia in the back has turned out just the way I wanted it to and the corner (glass to glass) windows look awesome in the great room. We are over budget as well. Unfortunately we did not include several items like new driveway or flooring in our bid so I will have to shop even more wisely for everything yet to come. We are going on 8 months now and am tired of living in a noisy "cracker box" apt. I can't seem to sleep here.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 3:05AM
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Hi karen, kellykath, firsthouse, yesa (is that everyone?!) -

I too am renovating a 1950s ranch and just saw this post!! I am a recent member of Gardenweb and have been mostly lurking in the kitchen forum (thank you, firsthouse, for your mudroom post!!) but thought I'd check this section out! We are just beginning to embark on our remodel - we have a u-shape ranch and are adding along the back of the house... basically enlarging the kitchen and family room while adding a hearth room and master suite. We also are going to have a terrace accessible from the kitchen, family room, and master, which I'm SO excited for! Our plans are pretty much set - minus final kitchen design... although I've been pooring over them and making notes to tweak (i.e. the mudroom and a possible bath layout change). We are working with a design/build company so non-major changes here and there are supposedly OK. We just bought this house so we haven't lived in it yet which is tough... but we moved from a couple of miles away so were very familiar with the neighborhood. Anyway, in terms of progress we are just in the demo stage - so far things are going well but I'm nervous about the excavation stage as I'm know that can be a spot where things creep up! I'm sure I'll be checking in - how are your remodels going??

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 8:04PM
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We are in the midst of on-site cabinet construction. Wall board is up & floated, primer's on all walls. Ceilings have been painted.

Master bath tiles are in, as are family room and mudroom. I'll try to post some pics this week.

Once cabinet guy is done (~3 weeks?) we'll have about 1 month left in our project. Halleilujah.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 10:41AM
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Oh my I HOPE we are about 6-8 weeks away from moving in. So far we are still on time....

I love the rancher remodels! We have cabinets up, tile mostly in, granite in, and are waiting for the flooring to acclimate. So many things still need to be done but somehow the next few months should see quick progress and things HAPPENING!

Here we are with one old bathroom:
From Menlo Farmhouse

Hooray, now newFrom Menlo Farmhouse

From Menlo Farmhouse

Mast bath about 75% done:
From Menlo Farmhouse

Kitchen with no flooring and no appliances in yet!
From Menlo Farmhouse

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 8:25PM
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Hi just "stopping" by. With regard to our progress, kitchen cabs are in - unpainted but in. Most of the other cabs are in as well- along with boxbeams and various mouldings around the house. All doors are in except for the exterior front and that will be finished and installed fairly soon, The painters are working in a.m and late p.m shifts. It will be 11 mo. this month. The roof tiles are in little piles on the roof awaiting other things that need to get finished pror to completing the roof. Templates were made today for the granite. I hope I'm not going to be sorry with a marble island!

How are you others coming along, Karen, firsthouse? Are you in yet? Firsthouse, I saw a pic somewhere of a green door in your home and the walls were a very soft grey. Can you share what color that was! I will try and upload some pics soon - as soon as I figure out how to do it. Thanks

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 3:24AM
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