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Calling all do-it yourselfers....

Discussion in 'Other Off Topic Forum' started by BigDog, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. BigDog

    BigDog Formula 3

    Nov 1, 2003
    1,285
    under the sea!
    Currently I'm in the process of planning a rather large home improvement project... remodling my basement. It's a rather large basement so I've been doing quite a bit of planning. I plan to section it off so I have:

    1) a dedicated hometheater room
    2) an extra bedroom
    3) area for a home gym (free weights, etc)
    4) small room to serve as a library so I can get some books out of the office upstairs...

    Currently the basement is unfinished, and is bone dry (thankfully).

    Any how, I was wondering if anyone here has attempted such a project themselves, or did you land up contracting it off to someone? I've visited Home Depot and picked up a good book to help me through. So... what are your (horror) stories? :D
     
  2. Horsefly

    Horsefly F1 Veteran
    Rossa Subscribed

    May 14, 2002
    6,929
    Bigdog, good luck with your project. A friend of mine is a doctor, and he's not short on money. But he has been trying to construct a 40 by 60 foot garage for about a year now. The first step is to build a retaining wall on his sloped property, then haul in truckloads of fill dirt to level the property in preparation of pouring a concrete slab. In the grand scheme of things, his project is not very big. He has brought about a dozen different smaller contractors, landscapers, family and church friends in the construction business, etc, over to his house and they all act like "no problem, we'll get right to it." But NOBODY ever comes through with any DEFINITE dates to start the work. He says that you can't believe how many people are so "wishy washy" when it comes to doing a job these days, even when you are almost waving money in front of their face. His garage project is about 2 years behind now. It's almost like you would be better off right from the start to just "do it all yourself" if that's possible.
     
  3. BigDog

    BigDog Formula 3

    Nov 1, 2003
    1,285
    under the sea!
    I did get a quote from a contractor... he's asking for roughly $25k paid in installments for the whole deal... including electricty, painting, putting down the hardwood flooring, etc etc.... but it seems to me that he's trying to make a killing off the "labor" costs. From what I'm reading, the most difficult task seems to be framing the walls, but then again... this is my first major project so I can't really say if it is or isn't.
     
  4. Horsefly

    Horsefly F1 Veteran
    Rossa Subscribed

    May 14, 2002
    6,929
    Paying in installments sounds like a viable plan. Pay for the first part of the project and then see how that goes. You would have a chance to inspect the work BEFORE you lay out more cash. You could pull the plug at any time if you saw something that you didn't like, such as shoddy work or materials. But depending upon your area, you might not be able to do the work yourself. Unless you did everything by yourself on the sly, inside, out of sight, you would probably be required by local building codes to obtain a BUILDING PERMIT, even if all the work was carried on sight unseen inside your house. AND most electrical work would have to be done by licensed electricians. I think that some areas only require the finished electrical work to pass inspection, but I would bet that some places REQUIRE a licensed electrician to do the actual work. Like everything else, it just depends on the local building codes. Most urban areas in the northwest (like New Jersey?) have stiffer building codes than way down south here in Arkansas. The local Home Depot would probably know alot about the specific laws in your area. My friends garage project is on unzoned, agricultural land. So no problems for him except getting somebody to actually do the job.
     
  5. Miltonian

    Miltonian F1 Veteran

    Dec 11, 2002
    5,933
    Milton, Wash.
    Full Name:
    Jeff B.
    Well, I've only been in the home contracting business for a few years, and I don't claim to know all of the answers, but I think you'd have to be totally nuts in the head to tackle a job like this yourself. The main reason I say this is that it's hard to believe that you would see your remodel actually COMPLETED, so you could enjoy it, within the next 5 years. If you're looking for a project that you can putz around with on spare weekends, and you don't care if it takes 5 years, then fine, go for it! If you want a beautiful finished basement that you can enjoy in the near future, hire a general contractor. The cost may shock you, but the results will be worth it. You would probably have to hire subcontractors anyway.

    For now, concentrate on putting together your design. Make some good scale drawings that you can show bidders. Give careful thought to where you want the walls, doors, closets, etc. Make sure you have enough electrical capacity in your panel. Have you thought about heating? Plumbing?

    You should also make a trip to your local Building Department to make sure that your plan will meet local codes. For instance, if you add a bedroom in the basement, does it have fire egress? Also, check on the cost of a Building Permit - it may amaze you! And don't forget the additional property tax for the finished floor space. And the insurance. And a hundred other things.....
     
  6. wax

    wax Four Time F1 World Champ
    Advising Moderator

    Jul 20, 2003
    41,761
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    Dirty Harry
    Horsefly's right. This time. *snicker* As is Miltonian.

    Get blueprints and contract in writing.
    If, for whatever reason, this licensed contractor stops - you've still got blueprints for another licensed contractor to go by, and have legal recourse if terms of contract weren't met, etc.. Either way, your ass is covered. Oh, make sure he owns a level. heeheehee

    Tip: instead of actual hardwood flooring, check out the fake hardwood floors - fantastic looking stuff now & EZ care. Very hard to tell the difference & nothing chintzy about it at all. Cheaper to buy and apply as well.

    Personally, I think this decision should be made in the early stages, as it will prevent the job quote from remaining high, thus allowing a self-serving contractor to pocket what should be your savings, AND given possible variations in your current basement floor materials adhesiveness or level, IF certain sub-flooring needs to be put down for either respective type of exposed floor covering, there's less talk about woulda/coulda/shoulda, and more action.

    That's a long-ass sentence if I've ever seen one. Yikes.

    I built custom cabinets for 5 years & trust me - cabinetmakers are tough to please when it comes to any finish work and long-ass sentences, by gum.
     
  7. pete04222

    pete04222 Formula Junior

    Nov 1, 2003
    613
    Maine, USA
    Full Name:
    Peter Cyr
    I think I would echo some of the sentiments on here. I'm a DIY'er but I have my limits. I look at cost vs. time. I just installed a dishwasher yesterday and it came out great, the wife is very happy. I redid my garage roof, but I am going to hire someone to do the house roof. Sure I could do it, but it would take me forever to do it and I would have to purchase some specialized equipment.
    Hire a contractor, they bring in like 6 guys who know what they are doing and they bang it out for you in 2 weeks. Done.
    I think the job you are considering would best be left to the pros.
     
  8. BigDog

    BigDog Formula 3

    Nov 1, 2003
    1,285
    under the sea!
    I'm starting to share similar sentiments... it's a shame, I thought I watched enough Tim Allen reruns that I'd be able to build the Taj Mahal in a week.... apparently this is not so :)

    Thanks for everyone's insight, it's much appreciated
     
  9. Ed P.

    Ed P. Formula 3

    Dec 28, 2002
    2,177
    Long Island
    Full Name:
    No Longer
    Do you have any experience at all in this type of work? If the answer is no, I would recommend using a contractor for the project. This doesn't mean you should be totally uninformed about the cost of things. Even though this is a small project, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

    1) Start with building plans. (many contractors can draw them for you or can refer you to a draftsman) Some building Departments may require stamped plans by an architect to get the building permit.

    2) Get quotes from a few contractors (usually 3 is a good number).
    But also take the plans to a lumber yard 0r Home depot and get a material list, just so you have an idea of cost for yourself. You should have all materials selected before you do this. If you do hire a contractor have him purchase all the materials (price agreed upon upfront in the contract) rather than setting up an account that he can just use. This always backfires on the homeowner.

    3) You can price out the electrical work, plumbing, HVAC, drywall, painting, flooring, dumpster, etc. separately also. (This may be a way to save money also, since many GCs will add a percentage to these costs for coordinating them for the homeowner) (which they are entitled to).

    4) Make sure you get a written contract. Payment schedule, start and completion dates, a schedule of costs for potential "extras". If you decide to "GC" the job yourself, make sure you have all the "gaps" filled between the different contractors too.

    I'm not trying to discourage you from trying something that could be a rewarding project for you, but just make sure you go in with your eyes open. Good Luck!
     
  10. pete04222

    pete04222 Formula Junior

    Nov 1, 2003
    613
    Maine, USA
    Full Name:
    Peter Cyr
    I apply the cost vs time theory to the Ferrari also. Last year I changed over the ignition from points to LED. Big job and I did that myself. I also wanted to setup the carbs. In order to do that properly I would need an exhaust gas analyzer. I looked and found one on EBay for $500. How many times am I going to setup the carbs to justify that expense? Plus the fact that this is my first time doing it. Sure I can do it, but it would probably take me a full weekend. I found a Ferrari mechanic who did that and a front end alignment and wheel balance for $350 and it was done correctly the first time. He'd done it before.

    Keep watching Tim Allen, he'll let you know what you shouldn't do.
     
  11. Erich

    Erich Formula 3

    Sep 9, 2003
    1,138
    Poway CA
    Full Name:
    Erich Coiner
    I say go for it.

    I built a 1000 sq ft workshop a few years ago. It took 6 months of weekends from the day the dozer started to the day I finished the insides. I subbed out the grading and the exterior stucco. Everthing else was done by myself and friends. I will NEVER do drywall again.
    The pros do it faster, better and cheaper than I can.

    I also remodeled the kitchen. This was a complete gut it to the studs, move walls, change window locations/sizes, makeover. It took 4 months to do. I farmed out the drywall, cabinet and granite installation.
    I did demolition, window, door install, wiring, lighting, paint, tile floor.

    Just do it. And don't quit till the baseboards are installed. If you stop and say I'll get those real soon, they'll be missing 5 years from now.

    Erich
     
  12. Miltonian

    Miltonian F1 Veteran

    Dec 11, 2002
    5,933
    Milton, Wash.
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    Jeff B.
    Erich: Funny comment about the baseboards! My wife's sister used to live with a guy who built his own house. YEARS after the house was "done", there was still no trim around the front door! Everything else was done. I always wondered about that....

    And you're right about drywall, too. It looks easy. It isn't. But get a crew onto it, and it's done amazingly fast.
     
  13. BigDog

    BigDog Formula 3

    Nov 1, 2003
    1,285
    under the sea!
    how difficult is it to drywall? from whaat i'ce read, it's basiclly measure, cut as needed, put it up, tape and patch, and then sand as needed... am i simplifying things too much?

    the last major projects i've done were refinishing my hardwood floors (2 stories worth), and repainting the interior walls.... both took about a month worth of weekends....
     
  14. Teenferrarifan

    Teenferrarifan F1 Rookie

    Feb 21, 2003
    2,989
    Media, PA
    Full Name:
    Erik
    Hanging drywall is not easy. BTW what part of NJ are you in. I actually have a friend that is from haddonfield in the dry wall business. Let me know if you are close by. He doesn't travel more then an hour. His guys do good work at good prices.
    Erik
     
  15. pete04222

    pete04222 Formula Junior

    Nov 1, 2003
    613
    Maine, USA
    Full Name:
    Peter Cyr
    Hanging drywall is not difficult, but it is very labor intensive. What is your time worth? Bring in the pros, they bang it out, its done. Your wife can paint it whatever color she wants.

    "both took about a month worth of weekends.", are you willing to put a couple more month's worth of weekends into this or was there something else you'd rather be doing?
     
  16. DrStranglove

    DrStranglove FChat Assassin
    Rossa Subscribed Owner

    Oct 31, 2003
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    DrS
    My "remodeling" project is in its 10th month. Get experts, and BTW if your whole house cost as little at $150,000, $25,000 to finish the bottom is about right, if not down right cheep!!!!


    DrS
     
  17. JamesH

    JamesH Formula Junior

    May 11, 2001
    268
    San Carlos, Californ
    Full Name:
    James Hom
    Hanging gypboard on walls is easy, hanging them on the ceiling is a little tougher. Check into using metal studs for your walls since the walls will not be load bearing walls. You will get a straigh wall and it will also be fire resistant at about the same cost as with wood. It sounds like you already have plans otherwise you would not have been able to get a price from the contractor. If you can handle the work, go for it and hire people to do the work that you are not able to do. The good part about doing it yourself is at the end, you can stand back and admire your hard work.
    On the hardwood floor, if you are going over concrete, have the concrete checked for moisture and install some kind of vapor barrier otherwise you will end up with a warped floor.
    If you do hire a contractor, bid the work out to several contractors. Have a complete set of bid documents and bid instructions for them to bid off of.
     
  18. miked

    miked Formula Junior

    Feb 7, 2001
    618
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Full Name:
    Mike Dawson
    I can agree with most of the comments so far based on my experience. I rebuilt/remodeled most of an older house as well as many remodeling projects, both large and small, through the years. I also designed and built (as in me, not contractors) my own house. The time and problems issues increase exponentially with the size of the project and things can quickly get out of hand for even the most experienced DYI'er. In many areas of the country all the work, including design, must be done by licensed professionals. Even in areas without such laws you end up having to do the work 1 1/2 times better than the pro's in order to satisfy the Building Inspecters as you don't have a track record that they can rely on. Building codes change annually and if you don't have your work completed on time you may have to redo it to meet code upgrades (don't ask me how I know this). Anything that alters or adds to structural, plumbing, hvac or electrical componets requires building permits/inspections. Often one can proceed without the Building Dept. knowing about the project but two things can happen 1) a neighbor "turns you in" ( which can result in you tearing out the remodel) or 2) if there is, for instance, a fire at sometime, the Insurance Co. can refuse your claim.
    A large project quickly becomes a lifestyle rather than a fun experience. Even if you are your own contractor there are things to watch out for. Sub contractors (elect, plumb drywall etc.) sometimes don't pay their laborers or material suppliers which means that they can come after you. Contractors would rather work with repeat customers (developers) than a "one time" job, they could put your job on hold indefinetly in favor of other jobs not to mention the level of workmanship may suffer.

    IMO working with an architect or general contractor who has the experience and contacts for the best subs would probably put you way ahead for anything but the smallest remodel. Often the pros can do it better, faster and cheaper (esp. drywall).

    Yes, I know that the Building Dept. has created a need for their "services" and the Tax Dept. will raise your property taxes when the project is completed. Also, Inspectors will drive around on trash day looking for building/remodeling scraps in your garbage (do you have a permit?).
     

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