Crews make up for lost time in pop-top project

July 31, 2013

Justin Pierce

Pierce, a real estate investor based in Northern Virginia, over the next few months will chronicle his experiences renovating and selling his house in Temple Hills.

After a rough start, the last few weeks have been smooth sailing for the pop-top renovation of my 800-square-foot rambler in Temple Hills.

Construction of a 1,000-square-foot addition is now moving at a fast pace, as crews are making up for the delays at the beginning of the project when we learned that we’d have to significantly alter the design.

Even though we were disappointed when Prince George’s County rejected our initial plan, the temporary setback, it turns out, has allowed us to make several improvements to the overall design of the project.

Less than a month after the county approved our modified plan, the demolition is completed, the entire addition is framed and the roof shingles are installed. Despite several bad weather days, the carpenters are done, having rolled off to another job, and the electrician, plumber and heating and air conditioning subcontractors are on site installing their rough work.

I bought the house in early May. I thought I had a slick plan to double the space by adding a simple second level. But a Prince George’s County regulation that we had overlooked forced us to modify the plan.

The contractor quickly came up with the new design and drew up the plans. We had to set our second level back five feet from the front of the house and blow out the back of the home and add a 10- foot-by-24-foot addition to the main level to get the needed square footage on the second level.

Because the home would now be significantly bigger than originally planned, we decided to add a master suite with private bath and walk-in closet.

I went to the home during frame up and when I stood in the second level I realized that the layout could be improved. On the plans, the access to the master bathroom would be gained by walking through the closet. This essentially reduces the size of the closet and I didn’t like the look. I saw this on the plans earlier but I must have had some tunnel vision going at the time.


Justin Pierce

When I stood in the space, the problem and the solution became clear. I asked the contractor to make the second bedroom, which was slightly bigger anyway, the master bedroom. From this location, the occupants could have direct access to the private bathroom. We made what was to be the main bathroom the master bedroom walk-in closet and the original master bedroom walk-in closet the new main bathroom. This gained additional size in the master closet and reduced the amount of hallways and dedicated walking area. The additional cost was just some minimal framing labor because the plumber had not yet started. Because of this, the contractor didn’t charge a change order.

Another thing: The back of the home sits out on posts. I was never crazy about this part of the design either but the problem is that expanding the basement by building full basement walls and foundation is extremely expensive and there is very little return for expanded basements. It would have cost thousands of dollars to do and only expanded the basement by about 240 square feet. An appraiser would likely give a very minimal credit for the larger basement or give nothing at all. Below grade living space is extremely discounted.

So the cost versus gain on the basement issue doesn’t allow for a full basement extension. I agree with some of the readers’ comments on my last blogpost that the addition doesn’t look good. I had originally planned to make a patio under the addition but now I’ve decided to enclose this area as a screened-in porch. It will be wrapped with bead board on the inside and we’ll install ceiling fans. That will allow us to take the siding down to grade on the exterior to hide the posts, install lots of windows, fully complete the look of the home and give the owners a great indoor-outdoor space.

Despite the several changes to the plan, we still seem to be on track for an October 1 completion. We expect the subcontractors to finish their rough work by early next week and we’re hoping to have the four-way inspection completed by the end of that week.

Once the four-way or rough-work inspection is complete, we can start insulation. After the insulation is in and inspected, we can start installing dry wall and then it’s on to the finishing work.

There is still a lot of work to be done. But July has been a really good month for this little pop-top renovation project.

Follow Pierce on Twitter at @justinpierce1.

Read Pierce’s previous posts:

With plan approved, race is on to reconstruct house for fall sale

Pop-top renovation becomes pop-back plan

Gone are the low lying fruit of real estate investing

 

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