Hello Everyone and welcome to the July 2022 edition of The Nap Times! If you are receiving this and do not want a monthly newsletter from me, simply unsubscribe at the bottom. I totally get wanting to simplify and declutter your inbox and will not take it personally.
This newsletter topic is one I hope will help anyone who is overwhelmed by the process of any sort of addition/renovation. I am going to walk you through the process from start to finish in as much detail as I can. Many of you will already know lots of this, but I didn't and so I am writing for those unfamiliar with the process. Then, we will end the way we always do, with current things I have read/listened to/watched.
STEP 1: THE SURVEY
March 18, 2021
The first step is to have a survey done. An architect/architectural designer will not begin any plans until they have a survey. Why? A survey gives them all the info they need to know about your property. How far to the setback line? (The setback line governs how close to your property line you are able to build). Where are the trees? (We have a giant oak tree in our backyard, and we were not allowed to build within the drip line of that tree). What is the elevation of your property? etc. etc. etc. You cannot begin to add on until you know what the parameters are that you need to stay within. Our survey cost around $800 and we had to wait around 3 weeks for him to come and then another 3 weeks to get the survey.
NOTE: At the time of my writing this, it is 2022. Tons of people are renovating and building. Contractors (and really every business in the building sphere) are swamped. Many parts of this process took weeks longer than usual simply due to the high demand and supply chain issues.
STEP 2: MEETING THE CONTRACTOR
March 23, 2021
I met with the contractor in March of 2021. This was an initial meeting to see if he had availability for the project and to get arough estimate of the cost. At the time of our meeting, I didn't have any plans to show him. We mostly talked through what Nate and I were wanting to add on, when he had availability, and what the process would look like should we go with him as our contractor.
Within a week, he emailed us an estimate for what the project would cost with a breakdown of where the money would be spent. We were warned that certain costs (lumber) were very volatile and the price could change greatly depending on when we ordered supplies.
FYI - our contractor was Frankie Rogers of Rogers Custom Builders. This is not a sponsored email; he has no idea I am writing it! But if you are looking to do an addition/renovation in the Charleston area, I cannot recommend him enough.
STEP 3: THE PLANS
April - July 2021
This step was definitely the most fun, and I suggest getting the help of an architect or architectural designer if you can! There are differences between architects and architectural designers and I would ask around or see if your contractor has someone they suggest. Whatever route you choose, I would recommend bringing in a professional. They can see potential and different ways of doing things you might not think of. Either way, a structural engineer has to sign off on both sets of plans. They are going to study your plans and make sure they are structurally sound. If your plans are fairly simple, you could even have a structural engineer draw them and kill two birds with one stone!
Here's how the process went:
February: Emailed the architectural designer. I learned they needed my elevation certificate and a survey. We had the elevation certificate, but not the survey, so we couldn't move forward until that was done. (Note: I am not sure if an elevation certificate is always needed; we live in a flood zone so that puts specific restrictions on what we are allowed to build.)
March: Survey completed and sent to designer
April: I schedule an appointment for the designer to come to our house and measure to begin plans; meeting is set for May because they are booking 4-6 weeks out
May: Two women from the design team we went with come and measure and talk with us through what we wish to add on. We sign a contract and pay a $500 retainer.
June: The first draft of plans is sent back to us.
June and July: a lot of back and forth via email making small changes to the plans, talking with friends and family to get their opinions, etc.
August: Final plans done and sent to structural engineer* and then sent on to the contractor from the structural engineer
September: We sign a contract with the contractor that has an estimated cost and timeline
**We could have started in October, but I was due with Alberta and decided to punt the project till the new year. I am really glad we did this for a few reasons:
Newborn days would have made it difficult for us to move out and also my sleep deprived brain would have had to make a lot of decisions
We didn't lose all the work days around the holidays where we would have been paying to live in the rental but the work crews would have days off for Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.
This gave us time to order the things we knew would take a really long time (namely windows) so that they would arrive in time (Guess what!? we ordered the windows in October and we were still down to the wire! They came late March)
We went with Crosby Creations for our design and were very pleased with the final plans. We went through multiple rounds of edits and were able to same some money by using an architectural designer. (Note: the cost will vary widely based on the extent of your plans and the amount of edits you make.)
For our structural engineer we used Clint Shook with Three Rivers Design, LLC. If you are local to Charleston they are incredible! Including their emails for you: Clint.email@example.comMatthew.Kassouf@threeriversdesignllc.com
STEP 4: SUMBIT PERMIT FOR APPROVAL
Once all plans were in hand, the contractor submitted them for permit application. This takes about 3 weeks currently but could vary widely based on where you live. Once the permit application was approved we could proceed with the work.
STEP 5: THE BUILD
January - April 2022
WOO HOO! It finally starts to happen! The demo team started work on January 10th and we moved out of our house and into the rental house on the 14th. From here, we would have a meeting with Frankie every other Thursday at 10am. He would run us through what had happened, what was planned for in the upcoming week, and any decisions he needed from me.
My best advice is to stay as ahead of schedule as you can. Go ahead and start thinking for paint colors and grabbing samples long before you need them. So many decisions come in the final months and it's nice to already have the supplies you need to make them.
I wanted this section to be detailed and helpful, but the more I thought about it, telling you exactly how much my bathroom costs doesn't help you. Because you could do a similar bathroom for twice as much or half as much solely depending on the tile or faucets you choose. The range for each item is so incredibly wide. Instead, I am answering the biggest cost questions I had.
For reference, our addition was 700 sq. feet. It included a bedroom, two bathrooms (ours and relocating the kids), closet, and office as well as a bathroom demo.
How do you make decisions and stay within budget? There are so many choices!
This was new to me and the process was more simple than I realized! If you have a specific budget, you will tell your contractor and he will help allot money to different areas accordingly and then give you a budget for the different materials you choose. On the original scope of work, Frankie budgeted for all the different build needs. The bathroom tile had a budget of $1800. This was further broken down into square foot per area.
-Primary bathroom floor - 90 sf needed x $5/sf = $450
-Primary shower floor - 24 sf needed x $12/sf = $288
-Primary shower walls - 115 sf needed -x $4/sf =$460
-Niche, grout, caulk - $171
-Tub Surround - 77 sf x $3/sf = $231
-Hall bathroom floor - 40 sf x $5/sf - $200
total - $1800
I took Jennigray (my good friend with an incredible eye for design who helped me with a bunch of the choices I had to make) to the tile store with me. This was the best decision because I would have been in a puddle of tears without her help! We knew if I picked a more expensive per square foot tile for the floor, I would need to go under budget in a different tile. Or make up for it down the road with less expensive lighting, etc. Our tile budget went over but I made up for it in our flooring budget (the rest of our house is bamboo so we did the addition in bamboo as well, and bamboo is a very inexpensive flooring type).
How did payment work?
Frankie billed us around every two weeks. Each invoice would have a breakdown of what the money owed was spent on and how much was remaining in each category. Nate would print out the invoice and study it, making sure we were on track with our budget. We would then write a check and mail it in or give to Frankie next time we saw him.
Obviously, there will always be things that don't go perfectly to plan. For this reason, Nate added around 20% to our budget. I remember clearly that day we learned that our estimate for lumber was around $6,000 less than what we would have to pay due to the massive increase in lumber prices. What are you going to do? Not use lumber?! No. We accepted it and moved forward with the same budget because we had that padding. In total, we allotted $200,000 for our addition and came in under budget. HUGE WIN!
Another thing we didn't budget for were little things we decided along the way. When it comes to an addition, the “give a mouse a cookie” analogy rings true. We had to really assess what was worth doing while we were moved out and what wasn't worth the extra cost for us. For example: the addition needed new floors. Because of this we discussed redoing all the floors in the house. At the end of the day this was a large extra cost and our current floors were fine; we decided not to change them. For paint, however, we opted to go ahead and repaint all the walls in the existing house. This was an additional cost (the budget had paint included, but not for the entire house, simply for the addition) but one that felt worth it to us.
Does the budget include things like rugs, couches, etc?
The budget from Frankie only included work that his crew and subcontractors would be doing. It included the bathtub (there was a whole section of the budget dedicated to plumbing), but not the bathmat. The floor install, but not the rugs. I knew from the get-go that choosing things from the house had the potential to be a major pain point. Nate would just as well grab a couch from the local Goodwill. And so, we devised a plan. I give you…..
KATE'S $LU$H FUND
Months before the renovation started, I opened a bank account that on paper read “Kate Spending” but Nate affectionately called it my slush fund. A slush fund is “a reserve of money used for illicit purposes, especially political bribery.” My illicit purposes were Pottery Barn desks and wallpaper. Each month, money was deposited into that account and for months I didn't touch it. Nate actually asked me why I wanted this fund but wasn't touching it, to which I replied “oh, just wait.” And sure enough, once the build started, I started dipping heavily into that account. This was the perfect way for me to be free to make choices and budget for the things in our home without needing a conversation with Nate each and every time. Essentially, the “Slush Fund” was money set aside for me to use however I chose. I had full freedom in how I budgeted that money.
I know many spouses like to be involved in the decisions. Nate is not one of those. Once the house was painted, he actually asked me what color it was painted before! He wants a comfy chair to read in; he doesn't care much about what it looks like.
It's not that Nate didn't want nice things for our home, it's just that he didn't really care about the details. The slush fund put the decision and budgeting on me and I LOVED it. This is not for everyone, but if you constantly find yourself having frustrating conversations around home purchases, I highly suggest some sort of slush fund.
One more thing: I think the real genius of the slush fund was having the money in a completely separate account. Whether you choose to drip it in over months or allot a certain amount from the get-go for any new home purchases and put it all into the account at once, having this money separate really helped me. I could watch the balance go down and make purchases accordingly. Some months I would use it all, and other months I would let it accrue to make larger purchases.
Whew! That was a lot of info. I hope parts of it help any of you overwhelmed by the process of a home remodel.
*I am going to use this section to share things I read/watched that I would suggest. I also definitely read/listened to/watched some duds!
**Please note: the below links are affiliate links. That means if you purchase through them I make a very small commission. Thank you in advance should you wish to use them!
After the very dismal The People We Meet on Vacation, I needed a winner. I snagged one of Elin Hilderbrand's newer books, Golden Girl, and I am really enjoying it. I have decided it's the way she does her chapters that I love so much. Each chapter is a different character and she jumps between perspectives and plot lines. All her novels that I have read are structured this way, and it keeps me interested.
I read the “Summer" Chapters of Myquillyn Smith's book Welcome Home. It was the perfect refresher for how I want my home to feel in the summer. If you don't have this book, it is practical and beautiful. Myquillyn walks you through decorating your home using the five senses and splits the book into the four seasons. I read it last year and love that I can pick it up and reread the specific season as it begins. This is not a book telling you to go out and buy all the things; quite the opposite. If you want help with getting your home to feel like you want it to feel, read this book.
I have Salt, Fat, Acid Heat as my current bathtub book, and it is teaching me so much! Samin Nosrat is a genius in the kitchen. She teaches basic cooking principles in such a kind and intriguing way. She also has a series on Netflix should you want a crash course in the use of Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat in cooking.
I am still HEAVY on the Wordle. It remains one of the highlights of my day. I love how it causes me to use my brain early in the morning. Nate and I now have two texts threads we report our scores to daily. One with our close friends Seth and Cali (we compete boys versus girls) and one with his family just for fun. Now I get a text from these people daily and keep in touch in a simple way I never would have expected. I absolutely love it!
Still in my deep dive into 1990's/early 2000's movies.
So far: You've Got Mail, Top Gun, When Harry Met Sally, Something's Gotta Give*, The Devil Wears Prada, and It's Complicated
*I adore this movie. Diane Keaton is a celebrity crush of mine and such a delight to watch. I am now adding First Wives Club to my “Watch Next” List.
Alright friends, that's all I have for you this month. We are on a family trip the first week of August so I will be quiet on the gram. Have a wonderful August!