Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Building A House (or at least a bit of it)

I recently had W take a photo of the front of my house, so that I will always remember how it looks now, before my addition. I am excited to say that I am putting an addition on my son's room so that he will have full, straight walls, more windows, and generally more space. W is a professional photographer -- our company is Ward Vogt Designs -- and part of the business is taking photographs of homes for people who are moving, then matting and framing them so that the seller can take their first house with them (he also makes "We've Moved" cards with a photo of the new house on them, but I am getting off topic here).

This is a photo of my house before the addition. Ward popped the colors,
then he printed it for me on canvas so that I will always have a photo of my house
as it was before it goes under construction. 

This is the original photo of the house. Compare this to the above photo,
that Ward popped. This photo is nothing. The one above it is magical! Isn't he awesome?

The past few months, I've been busy trying to get an addition started. First, I made an attempt to use an architect neighbor of mine to do the drawings, but if you've been reading my blog, you know how that went down. It wasn't pretty. It was imperative that I find another architect, as soon as possible. Instead of asking around locally, I enlisted the advice of my brother, who had recently put an entire wing on his Upper Montclair home. He suggested the name of an architect, and though he's about 40 minutes away, I liked him and had him do the drawings.

I had five contractors bid on the job. One, who did a wonderful job on a friend's home and came highly recommended, came out to look at the space, took a copy of the drawings, and disappeared. It's been nearly a month and I haven't heard a word from him. I called to get the drawings back last week but still, never heard. Another contractor sent me a bid, interestingly not itemized, for $52,000, which is double what the job should be. It's been said that he bids high but $52k is ridiculous. After I laughed and asked him to return the drawings, he said he messed up and it was only supposed to be $25,000. Sure. Even if, in fact, he was telling the truth, starting off by overbidding by $25,000 is a pretty big mistake and leaves me lacking faith.

There was a really nice local guy who came in with literally 150 phone numbers for recommendations, and his bid was very low. $19,000. This low number had me wondering what he was missing, or what he would be adding on later. Still, I liked him and may have used him, but he would be away for a few weeks in August and I needed permits applied for and didn't want to wait. In addition, word on the street is that he is slow, and that his jobs can be stopped for days at a time. That won't work for me.

I did end up going with a super contractor, one who gives me confidence that the job is getting done. Gary Goldsmith walked into my house to bid on the job, on a rainy summer afternoon. Not a quick summer drizzle, but a downpour. My son was in California at the time, and I was missing him terribly and feeling down. Gary came in with a smile, looked at the drawings, then the actual room (or vice versa, I cannot really remember), and said, "This is no problem." And that was that. I loved him from the minute that he walked in the door.

We tried to apply for permits last week, but as Gary expected, we needed my survey and two sealed FARs. My architect, who had my only sealed survey, had done the measurements for the FAR, didn't think we needed them so he never sent them. And he was away on vacation with no one in his office. Luckily, my closing lawyer had a copy of my survey and she kindly faxed it to my contractor. We did what we could regarding measurements for the FAR, which didn't get us very far (no pun intended). and then on Monday, had the FAR from my architect emailed to me. I have requested that he send me two sealed copies along with my original sealed survey. Hopefully, he's gotten them out to me. We also needed surveys of the neighbors' (the nearest to my left and right) homes. I had one, from work I'd done six years ago, but the other neighbor cannot locate his survey.  Alas, I am having a survey done of my neighbor's house.

This sets the job back a week, because the town zoning officer is only in town on Monday. I am beginning to understand why any addition, small or large, can be stressful. I have full faith in my contractor, however, which relieves most of my stress. As long as the house is closed up by Halloween, I'll be happy.


  1. Good Luck with your construction ! Big KT thinks you will need many spa treatments in the meantime :)

  2. Ah, big KT! This is true. So. Very. True. I went yesterday for a quick mani/pedi and I swear that the girl was about to cry after shaving off my heels for 20 minutes...

    Can we go see Marco's work together at the s.h.e. gallery?

  3. Of course ! Will have to figure out when they are open/ opening .. etc :)