Sunday, March 19, 2006

Please sir, might I have some more....??

Steve & Jocelyn said meekly : "Please, sir, can we please have some more hair-raising work that needs to be done before undertaking the 2nd floor project?"

That's how it's been this week. I've had a little pit of anxiety in my stomach about this BIG project and managing the costs.

We realized that we need to address something before we renovate the upstairs. It can be done of course, but it will cost some money and since we have a finite amount, I tend to worry about running out. The posts attached to the overhead beam(seen left), which support the load bearing walls in our building are rotting and over the years the center of the building has dropped around 3/4".

We need to address this structural issue before drywalling etc... because when you lift a house, the walls can crack and things you don't want moving (like pipes) can move as a result of the lift.

Steve spoke with a company that specializes in repairing structural problems over the phone and we got two options. The ultimate fix would be to remove the wooden posts and beam, raise the building, and replace them with a steel beam and posts. That would cost a mere $11K. The second option would be to remove the rotting posts, lift the building, and replace them with new wooden posts only. That would cost about $4300.00. We asked him how long the wooden post solution would last and he said our lifetime. We are not planning to go for the steel beams. I don't think I need to explain why.

Interestingly though, Steve was watching This Old House this morning and they had a segment on doing this exact replacement project with steel beams and posts. Granted the episode might have been a few years old, but on the show the price tag for steel replacement was only $2000.00. We don't know what to think now. We have to get some more quotes I guess.

In addition to this issue, we discovered that the power coming into the building is only 100 amps and by today's standards, we need 200 amps. Added cost: $3000K.

Then yesterday, we met with a plumber (the fun just never stops) and he presented to us a number of upgrades that would need to be done to reach code requirements for a multi-unit building: Replace the hot/cold piping with 1" (current 3/4" and they are only about 3 years old), install booster pump (helps water pressure to 2nd floor), replace bathroom stack (drain) and connections, and add a dedicated drain for the d/w. Estimated cost $9K-$12K. I've decided I hate City of Chicago building codes.

We asked the guy for a written quote and he said that he would not provide a quote until we hired him, which Steve thought was ridiculous. How can we compare quotes without having one?
So yesterday, we literally spent all day with an excel spreadsheet and going over quotes and budget crunching numbers to come up with decisions for this project. We just can't do everything that could be done on the building at this time. We're doing alot, but we can't do it all! And, I want to make sure we have some money left for our apartment for the den remodel and the floors to be refinished. One thing we had to cut was the rooftop heating/cooling system. But we figure later on we can go with Unico and we love our radiators anyway. We are also holding off on touching plumbing. We will deal with opening a few walls if we have to in the next few years. Blood from a turnip- say no more.

It was painful, but we came to some decisions yesterday. This is probably the most angst I've had since I last conducted a job search a few years ago. During the meeting with the plumber I felt like hyperventilating but I kept myself under control. I have to admit that dealing with this project has made me a tad short tempered, which I don't really like but kind of can't help.
But, the good news is: Steve and I mostly agree about what is most important and what we want to do now and we have a budget that we can live with.

Today, we're going to look at some projects of one of the guys we are considering hiring. He seems pretty good and we may go with him.

This coming week, we will be hiring an asbestos abatement company to come in and get this stuff out of our basement. It seems some of the support beams have pipes going through them (God knows why) and working with them will disturb the asbestos. It will be a good thing to get this stuff out of the building for good anyway! Some of it kind of crumbly as you can see in the below photos. Scary!


Greg said...

Holy Toledo, those are some big numbers. I would be very nervous myself. I saw that same Ask This Old House episode where they put in a Lolly Column (sp?). It sure didn’t look like no $11,000 worth of work to me.

Also, you may not need 200 AMP service. If I recall you have hot water heat and were going to forgo the AC unit on the second floor. If you cook and heat with natural gas 100 amp service may be fine. In my Residential Wiring course I took at college a few years ago we used a formula to determine how much electricity a household can expect to need. Because I have no AC and I heat, cook, heat water, and dry cloths with natural gas my estimated usage was 56 amps for the house if a family of 6 lived here. I upgraded from 60 amps to 100 amps. There was no reason for me to have a 200 amp service.

I wonder if you can get a variance from the city on the water pipe considering it is so new. Maybe check the pressure in the second unit and if you can prove the flow-rate is ok maybe they will let you keep it.

Finally, on a lighter note, I couldn’t help misreading one of your sentences and getting a chuckle. You wrote:

Steve spoke with a company that specializes in repairing structural problems over the phone...

I thought, Wow! They repair structural problems over the phone. That’s amazing!

Nick said...

Crap. Okay, that's a lot of $. I hate plumbers, and I'm not too friendly towards electricians either. Greg's right - replacing a rotted post and perhaps reclaiming a portion of that 3/4" isn't an $11K job.

I'm not saying you shouldn't attempt to do these things yourself if you're not confident that you could do them well - but they're not all that difficult.

Also - check into the your local codes on abspestos. As the property owner you may be permitted to remove it yourself. I'm not crazy - taking a few precautions and you'll be fine - and your wallet will be a bit thicker too.

Good luck!

Trissa said...

Nick is beside himself with how much this is going to cost you. We replaced rotted out beams using bottle jacks to support the house while he replaced the rotted out beams. While the jacks were in place he repaired the footings as needed. It seems a bit scary and I wouldn't have taken it on myself, but after watching Nick do it, it seems like the bid is high. If we lived closer to Chicago, Nick would come over and help you replace the post and the electrical service. Did they come out and look at the post or was it over the phone. It's difficult when you know it needs to be done & you're not planning on doing it yourself. We did something similar with having a plumber fix a section of our side sewer and paid close to $3K and ended up replacing the entire side sewer ourselves the next and spent $75 on materials. Good luck & I think it'd be worth getting another bid!

Jocelyn said...

Wow- thanks all of you for the supportive comments. We will definitely be evaluating all of this and getting multiple quotes this week. Steve only talked to one guy on the phone so that could have been high. Also, our electrician is looking at the amps to see if maybe we can go with less- he didn't realize we were eliminating the heating/cooling.

I am unsure whether we would undertake the lifting ourselves- makes me nervous-

I believe that the city may let us slide on the plumbing upgrade as long as we aren't touching the plumbing. In some ways I wish we would do no permits, but it's just too risky and we would rather do it right as it makes the building more valuable anyway.

Greg- that's funny if only they could do it over the phone right? :)

Nick- I don't seem to like plumbers either much. We have a pretty cool electrician I think but he was adding on outlets for code so fast I was getting whiplash!

The asbestos removal price wasn't so bad really- prices have come down in recent years.

Thanks again for the comments- this is what is so comforting about HB that we are all plugging for each other. I don't always comment but I am generally reading and sending positive energy to you guys on a regular basis so thanks to you too.

Emerld said...

You know there are couples counselors that specialize in partners who are remodeling. LOL. I read about it in Newsweek. Good luck Sweetie. We're going through our own Angst with the building in Cicero.

John said...

I'd definately get some more quotes on those projects of yours. We generally try to get at least three quotes before we make a decision. It is amazing how much they can differ from one contractor to another.

Personally, I'd jack the house myself, but I definately understand why this project sounds a little scary. The trick is taking your time.

Best of luck.

Kristin said...

HOLY CANOLI!!! Those numbers freaked me out ... I can't imagine how you guys must've felt. Good luck! :)

Gary said...

If that post is in your basement and only runs from the floor to the cross beam, you can use a pair of floor jacks on each side of of it and lift the structure by a half turn of the jack every week until you raised the floor the 3/4 of an inch. Then you can remove the rotting beam, cut a few inches off the bottom and replace with new wood or pour a concrete footing for the beam to sit on.
The cost of the floor jacks might be $80. The project might take a few months to do unless you want cracked walls.
Here's a deal, pay me $9,999. I'll buy the floor jacks and drive up to the "Windy City" with my Time Life book that shows how to do this. I'll keep $100 for myself and give you a $9799 rebate (or gift for IRS purposes). You can go get hitched and have a honeymoon cruise and deduct the interest as a home improvement if you took out a home equity loan.
The removal of the asbestos is easy if you are the home owner. Double bag it and don't tell anyone what it is when you dispose of it. The disposal will cost a fortune.

allison said...

The $11,000 sounds very high. We priced out a steel beam once and it was about $4,000, I think. You’re wise to get a few other estimates in writing and to go visit their previous work. I’d also insist on getting a permit. Also what kind of insurance do they have before they jack up your house? What about doing a short term fix and adding another wooden vertical beam next to the one that’s rotting – to help take some of the weight. You’d need to check to see if it would work, but we have it in our basement (previous owners did it) and it’s worked fine. Might buy you some time.

M said...

I'm curious as to what you're running into as far as requirements to bring things up to code. It sounds like you're being told you need to bring plumbing up to code if you touch it at all(?). But with electrical it is only the service and presumably the the areas you are actually working on? It's sad that Chicago really limits what we can do legally on our own re electric and plumbing because both are pretty easy once you do some research. And that post job, I would do that myself for sure. Think of it as changing a tire on a car, but in slow motion. If it is the cross beam that is bad, I would probably hire that out.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that searching the entire internet for replacing strucutral beams and posts I cannot find all kinds of contractors, but I found your blog. Amazing how similar my basement looks to yours. If deciding to replace post yourself Please make sure that if 2 cross beams end at the particular post that you jack the beams with temp. suporting post at the same rate otherwise you might get yourself in trouble... Me, I want to replace all beams with steel to increase spans, but I was thinking $5k to $6k for the whole job! Please do post a contractor if you get a good quote.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that searching the entire internet for replacing strucutral beams and posts I cannot find all kinds of contractors, but I found your blog. Amazing how similar my basement looks to yours. If deciding to replace post yourself Please make sure that if 2 cross beams end at the particular post that you jack the beams with temp. suporting post at the same rate otherwise you might get yourself in trouble... Me, I want to replace all beams with steel to increase spans, but I was thinking $5k to $6k for the whole job! Please do post a contractor if you get a good quote.

JuanCa said...

OK, Anonymous no more. I did find a contractor that will quote steel beam work, they are called Magnum Opus Builders out of Evanston and have a website. They were recommended to my by a workmate, but they might err in their costs on the high side. I have not got a quote yet, but I figured I give you the lead as another resource. In my experience the more quotes you get the better it is (to either convince yourself of the right cost of the work,to the get yourself a bargain or get within your budget).

Jocelyn said...

Hey JuanCa,

It is funny that you found my blog and thanks for the referral. I meant to reply to you on here and just got sidetracked.

I agree with you on multiple quotes- we get quotes until things sound consistent and make sense to us. We are planning to use our main contractor to replace the wooden posts with new ones. We just can't fit steel in the budget right now. Down the line if and when we dig out the basement, we will be doing steel and many other things too!

Thanks again for the tips! We'll post photos when the work is happening in the next month or so.

Natalie said...

I really enjoy your site! We are not nearly as ambitious, but did purchase a 3-flat in avondale a little over a year ago. We're having fun home improving too. Please let me know what you do about the rotting posts (we have the same thing) and a tip- we got our asbestos removed, and the company wanted $1500 to reinsulate our boiler pipes. We decided to tackle this ourselves and (not being handy AT ALL) found it rather easy. We got the pipe insulation direct from a company out in Palatine, I paid around $500 for 130 linear feet. The name of the company has left me right now, but I will dig it up from my records.

Our second floor water pressure was not up to par. A cheap fix was to purchase shower/faucet heads that increase water pressure...they really work.

Thanks for your detailed blogs!!

Rajan Roland said...

Hello Natalie, can you let me know the showerheads you used to increase your water pressure? I have the same problem in my building in Chicago.

This blog and the people responding are very insightful.