Heading Off Project Pitfalls

Today we want to go over how to head off project pitfalls. The more informed you are about what to avoid the easier the process will be and the more confident you will be with your project. Some of the first things to consider are the existing conditions related to your particular project especially, if you’re going to do an addition on your home. One thing to look for and this comes up quite often especially on older homes, is a lot of times a portion of the house may have a unpermitted structure on it. It’s important for us to figure out whether we are going to be able to upgrade the structure and turn it into a legal permitted space or if we need to tear it down and get it out of the way before we do the addition. This needs to be looked at very carefully as  sometimes it’s not clear. Usually we will start out with the permits that are on record at the city or county planning departments. They keep a copy of all the submitted applications and permits for construction over the years for the property.  They don’t usually end up keeping the drawings themselves. All existing square footage needs to be permitted. We usually determine what to do with unpermitted structures early on in the project when we’re doing as-builts, site dimension, and layout. We’ll make sure that the square footage that’s in the permitted records is equal to the square footage that you actually have on site. If it’s not, we’ll make arrangements to fix that according to building codes.

It’s very important that all existing utilities are in good working order. It is good to have an understanding of what might need to be changed if there needs to be any improvements. You will want to verify the existing lot size coverage of your property. In many areas the lot coverage varies per lot or per zone of that property. When you’re considering the first stages of your project an addition needs to be in scale with the rest of the house. It’s very important when we’re doing an addition to make sure that the roof structure and layout is complementary to the existing house. Everyone’s seen those additions with the flat roof on the back of the house and they just don’t compliment the home. Unfortunately the addition will end up looking like a tack on. You need natural lighting in all occupied rooms of your project. A lot of times when people want to add to the back of their house they’ll have things like the kitchen be in an area that maybe will lose it’s natural light because the windows are only on the back wall. We can take a look at that and help reconfigure the space so that we can have natural light flowing into the space. Natural lighting is actually required and part of the basic California building code requirements. And it is based on the square footage of the space. Sometimes we can supplement the natural lighting requirements with sky lights instead of regular windows depending on your particular project.

Another thing that’s very important are city codes and requirements. These are for your own interest and for the proper application of any insurance programs you might have on your property. Dare I say there might be a fire or something like that, if the project is unpermitted you’re going to have a major issue with your insurance company. Your insurance may or may not cover the damage because you didn’t permit the structure. But if you do the project properly and get the right permits you will be in good shape! Plus you’ll also have the project inspected during construction so you can have peace of mind that the wiring, insulation, and plumbing is put in properly. We unfortunately have seen many nightmares and sorts of things that have been done without permitting and they tend to lead to problems. Generally speaking, it’s usually easy to fix the structure but we need to be aware of it early on in the project to take care of it.

Some of the other basic things to think about are carbon detectors and smoke detectors in your home. Each bedroom is supposed to have a smoke detector and each hallway there’s required to be a carbon monoxide detector in addition to the smoke detectors. You can actually buy those now in combination to make things easier. Some people may be wondering why there’s a need for both a carbon monoxide and smoke detector and that’s to meet the requirements by the planning department. Not every bedroom is required to have a carbon monoxide detector. You’re just required to have one in residence. Earthquake strapping for the water heater is another thing to think about. These are the types of things that come up a lot times when somebody is selling a home. If you know about it in advance you can make sure that it’s taken care of. This also something that comes up almost every time on a remodel or addition during the plan check when the inspector is in the field.

It’s very important to keep in mind that you don’t want to take a wall out on the inside of your house. Particularly if it happens to be holding up the roof. Unless you have first verified that those loads have been distributed elsewhere through the use of a beam, columns or supports and also that the lateral forces say from a possible earthquake which come from virtually any angle have been addressed, it’s okay to tear down the wall. That’s basically a lateral analysis so if you’re ever working with any walls on the interior of your home and you think it may be a bearing wall, which typically you’ll notice that because it’ll have a foundation underneath it or it’ll have plywood on one side or it just may be obvious that there are beams coming across and supported on the top of it, in those cases you really need to get a structural architect involved with that so that we can analyze it properly and make sure that you’re not adversely affecting the structure of your home. Just keep in mind, a tile roof on a home typically weighs about ten pounds a square foot just for the tile. So for a home with about let’s say 1500 sf that represents 1500lbs which represents roughly maybe seven or eight Volkswagens on your roof. So it’s very important you have enough structural integrity to keep those loads from coming down when the ground starts shaking. California building codes have continued to improve over the years to make sure that is handled well.

It’s also important for the room layout and the appearance for the outside of the house that you consider not only where the windows are inside the rooms but how they’re going to be arranged so they look attractive and are proportional on the outside. When we design a project we design both from the inside and the outside to create a cohesive complimentary look. Another thing to help in terms of an additions rooms and spaces, it’s necessary that when you build an addition on your home that the new rooms are generally in scale and proportion to the other rooms of the existing home. Now we can push the square footage on the master bedroom because that’s fairly normal. But you don’t want for example let’s say a three bedroom, two bath house, where two of the bedrooms are 10x11 and the master is 20x20. It just doesn’t look right because it’s out of scale and doesn’t work well. Scale is very crucial and in fact the use size, and layout of the space is actually more important than the size itself. It all falls on how its laid out and how it’s developed proportionality. It’s helpful to an architect when you’re working on the layout early on in the project to write down what you plan on using each room for. And in some cases to consider your furniture in there to better scale the space. We can also generate some colored renderings, three dimensional renderings. and even walkthroughs in three dimension that represent pretty much exactly what you’re going to get when the project is complete.

We hope this post has been helped you know what to do to head off any project pitfalls. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation click here.