Start of a new remodel project

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  • Start of a new remodel project

    TL;DR. This will be a diary of an interior remodel project I am taking on in our house. The permit is good for a year, but I *hope* I can wrap it up by next Spring. <Edit> Your comments are welcome.


    When we bought our house 2 years ago, we always wanted to open up a wall between the kitchen and the future living room. We live in a manufactured 1986 split-level ranch and the doorways are narrow (30") and obviously "open concept" wasn't a thing yet.

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    The ceilings in most of the house are pretty low--7'6", but the kitchen (back side of that middle unit) ceiling is vaulted from the rear of the house up to 10' where the two halves of the house meet. I learned this is called a studio vault truss. The kitchen is usually bright and sunny most of the day (east facing) whereas the LR remains dark (neighbors have a 30' tall row of junipers between our houses. We had some other requirements inside that necessitated the addition/subtraction of walls, too. We also have some changes we want to do to the exterior, but will touch on that later.




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    It was also obvious that center wall is load bearing and I should enlist the help of a pro. So earlier this year I started looking for an architect/structural engineer to help draft plans for a building permit. We were still overseas at the time and we started working with a firm, but for whatever reason, they ghosted me after a couple meetings (after I asked for references). So then I just went to Yelp and found a guy not too far from our house who could do it and had MANY good Yelp reviews. I sent him a powerpoint of what we were thinking and after some calls and texts, he met us at our house in mid-July when we moved back. After a couple visits, a signed contract (we were paying per hour plus travel), and a couple drafts and emails back and forth, I had a plan set with his engineer's stamp which I submitted to the county permit office. Everything is handled electronically there and you can see the progress of each approval step. The county had no questions and after a week, I got my permit electronically (one week ago).

    My engineer is actually retired and does this for "fun" now. He's also an engineer and not an architect so it was on us to design it and he just provided the drawings. He uses software called Chief Architect but couldn't or didn't know how to export it to anything I could use in Visio or Sketchup. No biggie. The drawing on the left is actually from the real estate appraiser, but I took his flat drawing he exported to PDF, drew walls on top in Sketchup and projected them up to help me and my wife visualize the new space. You can see his drawing peaking out below the model. He was pretty impressed by that. My wife went back to work in Central America so I was the go between. Since we're paying him hourly, I didn't want to do round after round of drawings so this worked for me and my wife. For example, my wife and I placed tape on the wall in July where we thought we wanted the walls to end. He measured and drew to those markings, but after seeing the render, my wife and I decided to bring the doorways in a few inches on each side. His final permit set was a mix of his flat drawings from Chief Architect and hand drawings on graph paper for the foundation pier and new rafter layout.

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    The middle section of the house is over a 4' tall crawlspace. There are concrete masonry block piers about every 8' that run down the middle of the house. One end of the new wall falls over an existing pier so I'm good there. The other end is about 2' away from a pier so the engineer specified a new post column there although he was on the fence if it was really necessary but better safe than sorry. My permit only required a framing and close-in inspection, but no footer inspection for the new post. I didn't want to frame the new walls and have the inspector realize no one checked the support column so the county added a footer inspection on my request.

    Yesterday (Friday) after work, I started demoing the main wall. I need to locate exactly where my jack and king studs will be so I can locate my support column. I drilled 3" inspection holes in each stud bay first to check for wiring and plumbing with my GoPro. I mentioned this is a manufactured house. I was expecting two separate 2x4 walls, but I was also expecting to see the back of the drywall in my LR. I found this foil-faced hardboard instead on the backs of each stud wall that I also have to cut out. I also learned the studs are offset from each other. That horizontal length of Romex was capped off and just hanging out in the stud bay. It's not hot, but I think I will now demo beyond the right side of the new opening to make sure it's not connected to anything. There's a receptacle to the right where the in and out cables run down from the attic. That is going to be relocated to the right of the opening.


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    Today I will at least demo the LR drywall and do more investigating. The engineer is calling for a doubled up 1 3/4" LVL beam sitting on double jack studs (for each half of the house--4 LVLs total). I've still got to dig the footer, get it inspected, and install the post before I can even cut out the studs (after temp wall) so that's probably an October project. I still have to source those beams, too.

    My wife returns Monday night so I also need to clean the house.

    I'll just keep adding to this post as I go. I welcome your comments and your advice as this is all new to me.

    Thanks,
    Paul
    Attached Files
    Last edited by atgcpaul; 09-17-2022, 01:08 PM.

  • #2
    You might want to look at Sweet Home 3D - it's free software that really helps in visualizing plans, I have bee using it for my remodel planning. http://www.sweethome3d.com/
    --------------------------------------------------
    Electrical Engineer by day, Woodworker by night

    Comment


    • atgcpaul
      atgcpaul commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks. I'll check it out after the dust of the day settles

  • #3
    You started this post off saying it was your diary. Are you inviting comments? suggestions? previous experiences? questions.

    Comment


    • #4
      Originally posted by capncarl View Post
      You started this post off saying it was your diary. Are you inviting comments? suggestions? previous experiences? questions.
      I guess you didn't read down to bottom.

      Yes, comments, etc are definitely welcome!

      Comment


      • #5
        I just love creating more work for myself.

        I wasn't paying attention to how long my recip blade was or how far I needed to go up when cutting through that interior sheathing and cut into the crown.

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        • #6
          The important demo is done upstairs. The studs on each half of the house are staggered by 8". It's already much brighter in the living room.

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          I hit a snag digging the footer in the crawlspace. The engineer called for a 20x20x8 concrete footer, but if I center the new column on the footer, it overlaps the existing footer by almost 8". If I put my box right next to the existing footer, the base of the column will be right next to the box's frame. If I'm allowed to do that, I will remove that side of the box. Now I'm regretting asking for that footer inspection. I think it will be acceptable to drill 5/8" holes into the existing footer then epoxy in 1/2" rebar (need to rent the drill and that epoxy is not cheap), but I will check with the permit office first.

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          • woodturner
            woodturner commented
            Editing a comment
            "I think it will be acceptable to drill 5/8" holes into the existing footer then epoxy in 1/2" rebar (need to rent the drill and that epoxy is not cheap), but I will check with the permit office first."

            That should be fine, if you tie the structure together with rebar. I would extend the box length to give you the specified length and width of new footer, but the column can be places where you want, it is OK if it is a little off-center

          • atgcpaul
            atgcpaul commented
            Editing a comment
            I called the permit office and the operator and I decided an email with pictures would be more helpful. So those are now sent to the appropriate perople and I wait for a response. I basically just left it open ended and asked them what I needed to do to pass inspection. I didn't mention the rebar as I'd rather not have to do it, but will if that's required.

        • #7
          lots of difference in comments vrs questions, opinions, and recommendations.

          I love how engineers and architects spec residential modifications to industrial standards. A 4” pad would be more than adequate with a 12” cardboard tube full of concrete for the structure mount. On your footer, if it makes you feel better, box in new footer to the existing footer, and you are following the architectural designs and bigger is always better.
          What is the recommended rebar schedule?
          How much room is in your crawl space? Looks kinda roomy in the photo.
          Is the room in the attic for a bridge?

          Comment


          • #8
            Originally posted by capncarl View Post
            On your footer, if it makes you feel better, box in new footer to the existing footer, and you are following the architectural designs and bigger is always better.
            What is the recommended rebar schedule?
            It's the county's call now as to what they will accept, but that's what I'd like to do. I have not worked with this office before so I hope they're the helpful sort. There is no rebar specced on my approved drawings, but all my Googling said I should have some for an 8" pour. I made a grid of 1/2" rebar 4 sticks in one direction and 3 in the other sitting on rebar chairs. I cut them to 14" long to keep them 3" from the exterior edge of the footer. I'll make it smaller now and ask at inspection if they want it or not since it's not on the drawing.


            Originally posted by capncarl View Post
            Looks kinda roomy in the photo.
            It is roomy (and dry) and I'm thankful for that! I have 4ft from the floor to the bottom of the joists at this narrower spot. Some people shorter than me and more flexible can walk in it hunched over. At the far end, my electrician who's about 5'6" can stand upright with his head between joist bays. I've also got my NG furnace and AC blower as well as my electric shorty 50gallon water heater in there. There was so much trash and debris down here, though, including a metal loveseat frame at the back wall. I paid two guys to haul it all away to the dump. Later I need to redo the plastic vapor barrier sheet.

            Originally posted by capncarl View Post
            Is the room in the attic for a bridge?
            I don't know what you mean. I haven't been to this section of attic yet but after my coffee I'm going up to pull up the existing electric wires.

            Comment


            • #9
              Asking for opinions/advice. That existing doorway in the corner is getting closed up. A dining table will go where that couch is, and on this side, you'll be next to a wall. On the other side, I'd like to make it into an open display niche/bookcase, but adding a 2x4 stud in the middle will reduce my depth by 50%. Is there anything that says I can't turn a 2x4 flat and have drywall on the dining room side and 3/4" ply on the other? I would lose even less space if I layered two sheets of ply and drywall on the dining room side but 1) not sure if that's allowed and 2) not sure it wouldnt be too flexy.

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              • capncarl
                capncarl commented
                Editing a comment
                It’s still a “door” whether or not you have the swingy thing. You should be able to drywall it over on the dining room side and skin the back side of the drywall with a sheet of thin plywood or paneling without filling it up with unnecessary studs. If you install a couple of strategically located fixed shelves they will act as you studs that you can stiffen up the drywall.

            • #10
              Atgcpaul, I think you are imagining something that is not there in your local building permitting and code enforcement office. I would be surprised if there a single engineer in the bunch that specializes in residential buildings. The majority of the office is county employees, glorified paper pushers. Most inspectors and code enforcers do come from the building trades but it is unlikely they have the knowledge or authority to actually advise you. ( and are probably unwilling to advise you at all) What they have knowledge of is what their counties interpretation of local code is. Hopefully they have some knowledge of the International building code, international fire code and international electrical code. That said, you couldn’t put the printed version of these 3 codes in a very large wheelbarrow, much less have a good understanding of it!

              My recommendation is to do the best you can with your interpretation of the footer, add rebar where you think it should be and go with it! (in the last 100 years a stack of concrete cinder blocks held up all houses just fine.) When the inspector does his inspection you should quietly stand by and smile, there is nothing magic about a footer.

              Disclamer; I am not a building inspector nor have not been one. In my previous job in the USMC Public Works Engineering Dept., Inspection was a large part of my job.

              Comment


              • #11
                The plan reviewer was on vacation all last week so there's no determination on the footer yet, not that I had time after work anyway.

                Today I opened up the adjacent wall (part of the plan) after a change order from my wife. We originally planned to create a 9ft opening, but instead we're only opening up the wall to the right of the existing opening by an additional 3ft. I wouldn't have to relocate a triple gang switch box or an outlet, just a thermostat. And I could get by with a simple 2x laid flat instead of building a header even though this is a partition wall.

                When I opened up the wall, though, I found an old switch with wires buried behind the drywall. The wired weren't hot, but I don't want to just bury them again so I'll pull them back into the attic and put them in a junction box just in case.

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                ​​​​​​
                A previous owner also reframed this opening at some point. I didn't like the way they had attached the old header so I fixed that up to my liking.

                I thought moving the thermostat wire would be a breeze but it wasn't. The wire was actually inside the return plenum the HVAC company made by enclosing the bottom of the floor joist bay with metal sheeting and then foil insulation. I had to remove the nails holding the sheeting, pry open the sheeting, and do an interesting fish with my tape. When it was all reconnected in its new home, the digital thermostat didn't turn on. I saw an error code flashing on the blower unit, figured out what it was in the manual, and looked for a solution on YouTube. Dummy (me) didn't turn off the power to the blower and shorted a fuse. I had to go to the blue Borg for some stuff and found the 3A fuse there. All better now.

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                I really don't want to go back into the attic. Access is through the garage and I have to crawl through a narrow opening from the garage attic to the main house attic then crawl to the opposite end of the house. My shoulders just barely fit, and even though I do it in the early morning, the Tyvek suit feels pretty miserable.

                Comment


                • #12
                  Question, in your first entry you said, “When we bought our house 2 years ago, we always wanted to open up a wall between the kitchen and the future living room. We live in a manufactured 1986 split-level ranch and the doorways are narrow (30") and obviously "open concept" wasn't a thing​“. Am I reading this right, to mean it was manufactured off site and moved as a whole or in component pieces?

                  Let me explain my earlier comment asking if you had room in the attic for a bridge. This is a building a truss or a bridge in the attic to take the ceiling and roof load and support it from other existing structural walls (and their footers). This allows you to remove sections of walls that are considered load bearing and supporting their load from above. ….. and if that doesn’t work you can always add some curtains and blinds!

                  Comment


                  • #13
                    Originally posted by capncarl View Post
                    Am I reading this right, to mean it was manufactured off site and moved as a whole or in component pieces?

                    Let me explain my earlier comment asking if you had room in the attic for a bridge. This is a building a truss or a bridge in the attic to take the ceiling and roof load and support it from other existing structural walls (and their footers). This allows you to remove sections of walls that are considered load bearing and supporting their load from above. ….. and if that doesn’t work you can always add some curtains and blinds!
                    From everything the house inspector, engineer, and I've seen, yes, the house was built in separate units and assembled on-site. There are two separate load bearing walls between the kitchen and LR, and both are being opened up to create a passageway. I've never done this kind of work, but it's straightforward. I have not heard of the bridging technique, but it sounds like that is more attic time than I care to explore.

                    The bedrooms on the second level are also two separate units. My kids' rooms are on opposite halves and the seam runs down one side of our MBR. I always noticed a slight slope on one side of our room and when I ripped out the carpet to lay vinyl plank, everything was revealed. It bothered me enough that I poured a self leveling product.

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                    • capncarl
                      capncarl commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Some houses do have “adequate” room to maneuver and set a bridge. Like you said, your attic is not user friendly.
                      I have visited a couple of manufactured home factories and was impressed with their homes. From what I could deduct they were much better built than site built homes. Even though they were cost competitive with site built homes they didn’t catch on in my area, and these factories are long gone, The one manufactured home in my neighborhood, a 2 story probably 3500sf hardy plank with 3 car garage is a very nice looking house. The original owners visited the factory several times to do a walk through inspection with the house completely set up

                      One suggestion. Don’t open up more walls than you can finish in a reasonable time. Project slip causes a lot of fatigue.
                      Capncarl

                    • atgcpaul
                      atgcpaul commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Good point about the walls and fatigue. These are the only two walls being opened up, but I am enclosing the other end of the room to make a pantry off the kitchen and an office.

                      The engineer drew all those walls on the plans I submitted for the permit. Since the entryway opening is no longer following the plan, I need to amend that with the county. I'm also leaning towards nixing the pantry/office off the plans at the same time. That way at the framing inspection, I'm only being scrutinized on these two walls and the minimal electric, and not the new work, too. After that's all done, I'll do the pantry/office which are really just the addition of partition walls.

                  • #14
                    Are your municipal permitting and code enforcement that strict? I can see doing a structural modification and having to get approval, but not moving a door. I’m of the opinion that it is my house and if I want to screw it up it’s on me, not some Karen with a badge. ( I’m also opposed to HOA ruling anyones lives)

                    Comment


                    • #15
                      Originally posted by capncarl View Post
                      Are your municipal permitting and code enforcement that strict? I can see doing a structural modification and having to get approval, but not moving a door. I’m of the opinion that it is my house and if I want to screw it up it’s on me, not some Karen with a badge. ( I’m also opposed to HOA ruling anyones lives)
                      I guess this was my mistake. I should have had the engineer produce 2 sets of drawings. One with everything on it just for me, and one with the new opening in this load-bearing wall just for the county permit. Last night I needed to submit online for a revision to this permit that I wasn't going to open up that one (non load bearing) doorway as much as we had planned, and that I wasn't going to install those partition walls for the pantry/office. Of course, what this is also probably going to mean is that I'm going to also have to pay the permit office an extra fee to review and process that revision. Nothing is free, right?

                      Other than some questions that were answered by email before I submitted the permit, everything is done electronically through the county website. Their website is also calling for an electrical permit which I do not want to pull. I must have checked a box, or the plan reviewer realized that some of this work is going to need new receptacles/switches. None of these would be new circuits, just new branches of existing circuits--IMO. I also filed a separate revision request to remove that from my current application since I am nixing the office/pantry. And if they question the other electrical that I might need to move for the rest of the reno (they want you to pull a permit for running low voltage wiring!), I'm going to try to argue that none of it is new. Homeowners are not allowed to do their own electrical unless they pass a homeowner's test. I'd rather avoid it altogether.

                      The plan reviewer just got back from vaca Monday, and I guess they were expecting him to be swamped because some lady is doing his voicemail message. So assuming all communication through their web portal catches their eye more than direct emails, I also asked the question about the footer there, too.

                      I'm not sure how far back their online records go, but I can search for a permit for any house in my county just by the address. Our house was built in 1986 and I see the first permit pulled in 2009 for the solar panels then 2013 for a gas generator hookup. Definitely no permits for the buried electrical I've found in 2 places, and I've also seen a ton of new plumbing and other electrical in other parts of the house, too. You could argue that that would be a nice to know, but I also know if the jobs weren't too complicated, I probably wouldn't have pulled permits on those either.

                      Ain't bureaucracy grand?!

                      Comment


                      • atgcpaul
                        atgcpaul commented
                        Editing a comment
                        And 15min after I made this entry, a Senior Permit Specialist emailed me saying I'd need to get square with plan reviewer first then resubmit the revision.

                        I let her know I did but would wait a couple more days to let him catch up after vacation. Seems like he holds all the cards so not going to get on his bad side.
                        Last edited by atgcpaul; 09-28-2022, 04:08 PM.

                      • capncarl
                        capncarl commented
                        Editing a comment
                        It sounds to me like they are running a money harvesting permitting office. Kinda like some municipalities run speed traps. ( I can’t remember if it was just a state thing but a municipality’s speeding fine harvesting couldn’t be more that … 45% (can’t remember if this is correct either) of their tax income, so they manage to get a few bucks below. *******s)

                      • capncarl
                        capncarl commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I added a 14’x45’ shed roof on the back of my shop without getting a permit. It would have exceeded all codes. Nothing happened. 7-8 years later I installed another 12’ extension to that shed roof. Nothing happened. I did notice that both roofs had been added to the plat of my property in the county tax records.
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