Anatomy of a Renovation

Past-due for an update: tired-looking pink brick ranch

Renovated homes are a big part of an inspector’s business. Some renovations are well done, some not. Read on for a brief dissection of my renovation

The Theme 

I admire the simplicity and elegance of Japanese architecture. “Dan’s Temple” was the result.

This picture of a firehouse in Miyajima helped Joe figure out how to design a gable vent using available products

The Beginning

As I age it’s harder to devote time and energy to big projects. Experience teaches me to recognize my limitations. I wanted someone else to do this project and do it right. It was difficult getting started, especially when the original architect and addition location didn’t pan out.

The Process

Started slow. Joe was used to working on his own projects. His “houses don’t talk back”

Design Repair: two foot overhang extended to match 4ft balcony walkway

 reply to my question of why didn’t he work with homeowners is typical: client renovations require more time, interaction and compromises than builder renovations or investor “flips”. We demonstrated our willingness to move ahead by obtaining permits and prepping the job site. Joe responded by treating us and our home with respect.

The List

Screened porch and French door

Roofline extended over existing flatwork, raised soffits, new gable façade

Complete re-roof, ½ round gutters, wall insulation and ventilation upgrades

“Empty” spaces for the imagination to dwell in

The Timeline

Building is a linear process.  Site work, foundation, framing, cladding, mechanicals and finish have to be done in order. The general contractor’s task is to coordinate labor and materials to keep the project moving. The process never goes as planned, even when the schedule is padded out. Weather is always a factor, along with labor and material delays. I added four weeks beyond the estimate.  It took six.

Comprehensive and co-ordinated design

The Reality

Administrative and code requirements, electric issues, add-ons and lumber cost put the project over budget but not excessively so
We shared our home and yard with a variety of workers from dawn till dusk
Setbacks, delays and re-dos included a leaking roof, circuit outages and a delayed paint job
We did more than pray for sheetrock: there was joy and admiration as each phase was                                                                      finished

Were filled with patterns of wood, color and light

The Result

This was a quality job. We’re very happy with the results.
Joe thanked us for our patience and kind treatment of his crews. The cold drinks Kai provided on hot days were appreciated, her kindness rewarded with extra effort.
Strangers walking by remark on the improved appearance
There are measurable improvements in efficiency
Like life the process of renovation is, and never should be, complete
But we sure are happy a large part of it is over


Kai’s Kindness produced a better result

The Recommendations

Be persistent, flexible and pragmatic. Expect delay
Have a general idea of what you want and how much you’re willing to spend.  Avoid arguing specifics with the person you’ve hired to deal with specifics.
Speed the process by making construction decisions at the beginning of the job and helping with preparation and cleanup. Share your ideas in pictures. Edit your ideas with efficiency in mind.  Avoid time wasting change orders
Don’t neglect to upgrade function, safety, comfort and efficiency
Construction is hard work. Learn to appreciate the skill, intelligence and effort required

Tired grays transformed to welcoming earthtones

The Epilogue

The Danish word Hygge infers welcome, companionship and warmth. So it is with our newly renovated old home. “Dan’s Temple” shelters us like a winter coat.

Contractor Joe Thomas


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