The “Scary” Permit Experience

                Over the years I have heard over and over again about the worries of working with the city.  This has been from clients I have worked with on their projects, people just talking about what I do for a living, and people who have thought about flipping a house of their own.  The concerns people have with letting the city get involved in their projects can be “scary” but only if you don’t know what to expect.

                When breaking down the cost to renovate a project, adding up the number of drywall sheets or kitchen cabinets needed, are easy to see.  It’s the things that you are not always able to see right in front of you that can be harder.  This is some of the “scare” in pulling permits.  Not knowing all the different paperwork needed to have your permit approved can have the cost of your project get out of hand quickly, as well as being unaware of applicable building codes to properly estimate material needs.

                On the other hand for some people, starting your process of getting a permit to make changes to your flip may seem reasonable.  Being aware of all potential cost is important.  Everything adds up when you need a site plan, house drawings, hvac calculations, hvac mechanical drawings, plumbing mechanical drawings, ESA permits, and variances.   What may have started as a $600.00 estimated cost can turn into a $12,000.00 actual cost.

                Breaking down your cost of materials is a great way to keep control of the project budget.  If you are not aware of what building codes you will need to comply with on your project, your estimate could also sky rocket.  An outdate home may need a lot of new materials behind the walls to bring it up to code and not having these costs budgeted may sink a flip.

                With time and knowledge all these “scary” permit situations can be avoided.  Having a good understanding of the building code and permit requirements can help remove unexpected expenses, as well as knowing what a home owner is allowed to undertake.  Not everything requires you to spend $100’s or even $1,000’s on licensed professionals.  Many aspects can be done yourself with the right program, forms, or even just pencil and paper, and a little time.

The Fault In Our Stairs

Quite often when we do a house we make our own stairs. This includes using a 2 x 12 to make stringers, plywood to sturdy them and then nice cap pieces that can be stained or painted depending on the look we’re going for.

Recently we made a temporary set, using the method above, while we waited for a custom ordered set made by a local company. These steps were to be deeper than a standard step (12.5 inches instead of a standard 11) and this was to accommodate the design of the draftsman. When we picked up the new stairs and attempted to install them, we got a not so pleasant surprise. The steps were 11 inches instead of the 12.5 they were supposed to be. Huge problem since they now sat barely reaching the landing and were unsafe. It was a 6 week wait for the stairs and we had a decision to make. We could adapt our landing (a lot of work but doable), we could ask for new stairs (reasonable but a 6 week delay on the project) or complain and hope that someone else would find us a solution.

We decided after a little bit of moaning that the extra work to make the stairs fit was less inconvenient than waiting the 6 weeks for new stairs to be made. We called the stair company and preframed what it was that we were looking for. We let them know the dollar amount that it was going to cost for our time and product to change the landing and they were happy to accommodate us and apologized profusely (there was a miscommunication between two of their employees).

These kind of moments happen all the time when you’re working with contractors and specialty shops. There was nothing we could do to stop the misstep that happened but there were some great ways we could keep the project moving and the home owners happy.

Once we removed the temporary stairs we were left with some 2 x 12s that offered no further use at that job. The great thing about them is that they’ll be perfectly helpful on our next site as temp stairs again and in future we can build a set of stairs to match them and save ourselves some time and money both.

Raise The Roof

Quite often we’re faced with situations that we couldn’t possibly have foreseen. In these moments we have two choices, to wallow in the added cost, or to celebrate our new opportunity. Recently we closed on a home in Oshawa and were excited to begin the process of adding a second storey to this 800 square foot house. We had our draftsman prepare our drawings in advance and just needed to dig up a footing on closing to ensure the existing foundation could support a second storey.

Let me tell you, this was a first for us… no foundation! There is a 6 foot basement, and no foundation at all! It would appear that when this cottage was originally built there was a single cinderblock as the base, which made perfect sense in the 1940s. When they needed more space, they dug under the house, careful not to disturb their cinderblock. They poured their concrete inside of the existing exterior, which means that were we to add a second storey, the house would sink into the ground.

This is one of those moments that no amount of preparation or experience can prepare you for. We missed it, the draftsman missed it, the agent missed it, everyone missed it. We could get down on the extra $20000 that just got added to the price tag of this flip, or we could see it for the awesome adventure it’s going to be! We just gained a 700 square foot basement, because when we pour, we will be able to add an extra 2 feet in height! We’ll be bringing this house up to allow for above grade basement windows, decrease the risk of moisture, and allow for more useable living space.

These things are all great, but they’re not the best part. The best part is… we get to lift a house! We’ve never lifted one before, and will post the link to the youtube video of the adventure so that you can all watch!

Life is never predictable, you can choose to see the positive in each experience or not.