Friday, October 10, 2008

House Remodel -- First Step

I debated with myself about whether to blog about our journey through the house remodel. It seems like it might get a bit too personal. But then again, I really wish I could read about or see a start-to-finish discussion from somebody else, with all their lessons learned, tough decisions, and which contractors were good and which ones weren't. And the cost. Nobody wants to talk about how much their remodel cost. It's like a taboo subject or something. Well, dammit, we'd all be a lot better off if we shared this stuff! So I decided I'll blog about our journey, unless Mrs. objects. You, the reader, are free to ignore remodel-related posts or you can follow along. You certainly are invited to share any ideas and experiences of your own.

Our first step was hiring an architect. He's pretty experienced with Goleta tract-house remodels, and we get along well with him so far. He's $100 per hour, and I'm figuring we'll end up paying him somewhere between $5K and $10K. In addition to generating the drawings and plans, he'll be responsible for getting approval from the Architectural Review Board and the necessary building permits.

This is our current floor plan, and what he has to work with:

We want to redo the kitchen (new cabinets, counter tops, appliances, floor, and ceiling. We will add a guest bedroom and bathroom in the front, but we also want to keep a separate living room, so he'll need to push forward. Miscellaneous other things: all new windows, wood floor throughout the house (except a couple bedrooms), raised ceilings in family, dining, and living rooms, refurbished fireplace, and new roof and photo-voltaic solar panels.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

I think your estimate for an architect is low. Typically in the industry, an estimated cost of between 5%-10% of the construction cost is used for architect/design fees. 5% is used on larger projects and 10% towards the smaller ones. My dinky project cost me $8K in arch. fees.


Marco Fanelli said...


I hope you are not right, but we'll see. He himself has thrown around the $5K to $10K range, but perhaps this will be the first of many bait-and-switches...

Mark (aka marco)

Anonymous said...


My offer stands if you and Gina would like to cruise by and see what we did with our kitchen and bathrooms if you're looking for ideas. I also have all the records ($$) that I have no problem sharing with you, but not on the blog. One thing I learned working with contractors is to "trust but verify" and to follow up and confirm things.


Glen said...

I have to agree with Mark on the 5% to 10% of construction costs for architect fees. Tips: get a minimum 3 estimates for the construction. Question the high and lows. Provide all bidders with the same detailed "Scope of Work" to avoid the "Bait and Switch". Ask for references and don't be afraid to call them. Ask if it is OK to contact their current project's owner. Avoid Home Depot like the plague, unless it is an in stock item you can inspect before leaving the store. We have found a lot of good deals on fixtures for our customers on Ebay. Good luck with your project.


Anonymous said...

Uhhh, let's get this straight. The economy seems to be on the brink of at least a recession and maybe even on the brink of a major depression, but no matter how you term it, the U.S. and it's economic cronies are in the worst economis straits of modern times. Yet, you're talking and writing about a huge-dollar remodel of your Santa Barbara home in spite of all that.

Seems a bit contrarian if I may say so, though not in the context that one usually uses the term. Not that there's anything wrong with all that you're doing of course, but you could certainly forgive a "non Santa Barbarian" for thinking that this blog has become yet another example of a further dividing of the classes and I'm not referring to the divisions within USA Cycling.

Now I don't mean this to read like a rant, but it most likely does. I don't mean to do that. If life has been smiling on you, then good for you as I'm sure you have earned it. I say enjoy it, because for many people, these are very trying times indeed where a $5500 bike and an expensive remodel on a home on the American Riviera are very, very alien concepts indeed.

Anonymous said...


This is becomming a great time to remodel and your bids should be reasonable compared to a year or two ago. People are just trying to keep busy these days.

The architect is questionable but I recommend NOT going T&M on anything else. Who is doing the structural calcs? T&M there too? For you I would also recommend bidding out all the subs and skipping the general. You have time to run the job and it ain't rocket science. If you speak spanish - even better.

I'm sure concepts include living room becoming new bedroom, living in front, and pulling out a new entry near the front edge of the garage.

You'll probably finish your job before I finish mine! I didn't hire anybody after the drywall was up. It's been slow going but rewarding.

I'll talk to you on our next pant up OSM.

Marco Fanelli said...

Thank you all for the comments.

Re the architect, if he comes up with clever ideas, then he'll be worth every penny. I have a good feeling about him, so that's a good start.

Re the 10:44 comments... I appreciate your points, please believe me. I don't mean to be insensitive to anybody, and the timing is unfortunate. This economic meltdown has not been kind to me and my family either, but certainly many others are much worse off. Right now I'm on somebody else's computer and I don't have time for a more thoughtful, indepth reply, but I'll try tomorrow night.

anony-miss said...

It seems to me that the entry to the house from the garage is unfortunate. Taking groceries from the car to the kitchen is probably a pain. It was such a trek in my house growing up, and we would buy so much food with 5 kids, that when we could hear the car come back from the store, it was time to hide, lest we be recruited.
The front entry practically screams to be moved forward when you move the living room wall, and the area in front of the office made into a mudroom with access through to the garage, and an operable skylight put in the office in place of the window.

Marco Fanelli said...

Miss Anony-

I agree that the garage access is not optimal, but I'm not sure how it can be changed. You cannot have a room like my current office without a window, I think, because of safety and building code. Maybe there's another way.


Mr. Anonymous 10:44-

Your comments hit home, and I've reflected a bit more. I think perhaps you are correct that this line of blog posting is not in the best taste right now.

I do not consider myself (and by extension, my family) anything but middle class. The only reason we live here on the American Riviera is because it's where we went to college and we liked it so we stayed. We purchased this modest tract house 21 years ago, when it was a lot more affordable, and have done almost nothing to update the place. It's pretty shabby and outdated, and finally we want to improve it. We live cheaply and we bypass most of the trappings of a modern, middle-class lifestyle. I assure you that the cost of this remodel staggers me and is not something I take lightly. In fact, I haven't really come to grips with it yet.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make is this: I am sensitive to class distinction, and I hate it. If I were king, we'd all live on community farms where everyone would work together for the common good. Even me, as king, would work on the farm pulling weeds and other dirty jobs. And then, when the work day was done, we'd all go on spectacular 3-hour bike rides ...on roads with no cars... until dark. Then we'd prepare and eat delicious meals made with the fresh fruits and vegetables we grew, wash it down with homemade wine and beer, and then all take turns giving each other great massages. Yeah, that.

Anonymous said...

Two comments.
I know I would love to keep in touch with how your remodel is going. It is a really cool thing you are doing, and just because you have lived your life in a way that allows you do do something like this, shouldn't reflect poorly on anyone else. You are just smart/lucky enough that you have the means to do it.
One thought about your floorplan also. I noticed that you have the furnace in a closet. Consider putting it up in the attic. We did that when we redid our house and it is great. Much quieter, and we gained a closet, for not a lot of $$.

Steve Boelter

Anonymous said...


I don't know a lot about what you have done in life, but what I do know this from our conversations is that you have worked really hard in life, you have been very good with your money and paid your dues. What all this means it that you should enjoy spending your money to remodel your house.
In addition, I think that you have a lot of really good resources in cycling community to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck; afterall, we have electricians, contractors, people who do floors, ect. riding this us. Hope you are well.


Anonymous said...


I don't know a lot about what you have done in life, but what I do know this from our conversations is that you have worked really hard in life, you have been very good with your money and paid your dues. What all this means it that you should enjoy spending your money to remodel your house.
In addition, I think that you have a lot of really good resources in cycling community to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck; afterall, we have electricians, contractors, people who do floors, ect. riding this us. Hope you are well.


anony-miss said...

I certainly don't know codes, as I have never worked in the industry, but I thought it was bedrooms that required window exits. Since there is no closet, perhaps that doesn't count as a bedroom.
Good luck!

BTW- If forced to classify you, I would classify you as upper middle class. From Wikipedia:

While many Americans see income as the prime determinant of class, occupational status, educational attainment, and value systems are equally important. Income is in part determined by the scarcity of certain skill sets. As a result an occupation that requires a scarce skill, the attainment of which is often achieved through an educational degree, and entrusts its occupant with a high degree of influence will usually offer high economic compensation.
Overall, members of this class are also secure from economic down-turns and, unlike their counterparts in the statistical middle class, do not need to fear downsizing, corporate cost-cutting, or outsourcing -- an economic benefit largely attributable to their graduate degrees and comfortable incomes, likely in the top income quintile or top third. Typical professions for this class include professors, accountants, architects, urban planners, engineers, economists, pharmacists, political scientists, physicians, government administrators, commissioned military officers and lawyers.

Marco Fanelli said...

Tanx Boltero, Carissa, and Miss A.

Yep, furnace up to the attic. We desperately need a new one anyway, as our current one is probably original from the 1960s.

Carissa, I've already been bending ears of Pops and Tim Marquez. Will probably pester Steve Bertrand too.

Miss Anony, You may be right about the code. We'll want to keep "the office" in a state that it can be a bedroom if needed, thus the window requirement. Interesting wiki definition of upper middle class. I suppose that fits the popular perception.

Chester said...

All Hail king Marco,

All Im saying is sign me up man- The only thing I would add to your kingdom would be the option to drink home made sasparilla in the evening and community bike races on the weekends... Other then that it sounds like a place I'd like to be.

Chester said...

Plus, If if I was there our community farm would have "street cred"...

Anonymous said...

Tankless water heater. And use this opportunity to add insulation to your walls. A foreign concept in California I suspect, but your home will remain cooler in summer and there's no better time to do it than on fresh walls before the drywall goes up. In the attic also, if you're going up there with the furnace. Are you re-roofing the whole house? Do you have attic vents? How about an attic fan?


Marco Fanelli said...

Jake! Yes, I wanted to get the tankless, on-demand water heater. But the architect pointed out correctly that our current heater is only a couple years old and has a lot of life still. Plus we have a solar heater, which does the bulk of the work. I just looked... the solar tank is full of 140-degree water. That's actually too hot!! When it's time to replace it, we'll go tankless, and assuming we generate a nice surplus of electricity with the PV, then we might go electric-tankless instead of gas-tankless.

Definitely we'll insulate everywhere we can. Bats in the new walls and everywhere else that gets opened up. We'll probably drill into the other walls and use blow-in material.

Yes, the plan is to re-roof the whole house. I hadn't thought of an attic fan, but that is a good idea. I hear they work well. Suck all the hot air out in the evening, right?

So now, two questions for you Jake:

1. Are you getting any sleep?

2. Are your legs hairy yet?

TnA said...

Living in earthquake country, you might want to rethink your desire to go to a tankless water heater. If an earthquake (or any other disaster) knocks out the water supply for a period of time, it's good to know that you've got a handy 70 gal. or so supply of fresh water available, isn't it?

I remember thinking about this during the wildfires this last summer when it was revealed that the local "water works" had only a 24 hour supply of diesel fuel on hand to run their generator to keep the water pumps running. Any longer than that would require resupply from the outside...what happens if an earthquake knocks out some of the major transportation corridors??

BTW, using solar cells to create electricity, to then heat water just seems to be an awfully inefficient setup...especially when you can have the sun just heat up the water in the first place. My recommendation would be to keep the solar hot water system in place. If your solar tank is that hot typically, you aren't using much energy at all no matter what "backup" heater you use, tanked or tankless. Maybe the best of both worlds would be the solar hot water with a flow-through tankless as backup? It only would fire up if the water from the primary solar tank wasn't hot enough. Plus, you still would have your "emergency water source" in the form of the primary tank ;-)

Marco Fanelli said...


Oh yes, most definitely the solar water heater is key. My ideal configuration is to keep the solar (and it's huge tank) which in turn is connected directly to the tankless system. That way, the water is already at least warm and the extra on-demand heating is minimal if any. So it's not back-up, rather, the two systems work in series with the solar first. BTW, the only reason to go electric is if we are generating excess electricity.

So, to your very valid point... I will definitely keep a tank.

BTW, something else I didn't mention... I want to set up a rain-water catch system using a few cisterns placed around the outside under gutter down spouts. The water would be for irrigation of course, but it would be there in an emergency.

TnA said...

Sorry about my confusing terminology...yes, that was exactly what I meant at the end. The tankless heater is only supplemental if needed to bring the water up to temp. Definitely the "pro setup" :-)

jen said...

That wiki definition isn't half bad, but the huge inflation of housing costs relative to income makes profession a problematic measure of economic security in California (among other places). Demographics plus profession/education better tell the story. An assistant professor who moved to California in 1975 to join the faculty at a UC was considerably better off relative to the wider economy than the same assistant professor would be in 2008. And considerably more secure against financial hardship. The significantly higher cost of housing relative to wages is a big part of the decreased standard of living for the 2008 assistant professor. (As is the rapid increase in education costs and health insurance relative to wages, but that's another story altogether.) Proposition 13's effect on property taxes reinforces the demographic divisions that are more meaningful in terms of describing economic well-being than traditional definitions of class.

LOL, me, well, there is no conceivable way I could have bought a house in 1985. I did, however, buy a very nice Schwinn ten speed with my very own money. It was blue. But I digress.

I'm surprised angsty Anonymous was bent out of shape at the house remodel. If I was in a flame-flowing sort of mood, which I'm not, but if I was, I'd have gone after the wish for a new depression. But then I'd have to get all historical and stuff. And it's far too nice of day for that kind of thing.

And actually, I think I rode far too much today for this post to make any sense at all. Che sera...

Marco Fanelli said...


Thanks for the always-thoughtful comments. Have house prices gotten out-of-whack relative to wages, or were they too low in the past? I don't know.

Flame away whenever you want. Yeah, I know The Depression was harsh, and while I don't really want people to suffer, I do think our society has become soft and too materialistic. We need to change our ways.

Just yesterday I was reading some surveys about people's perspectives on their personal economic futures, including their "retirement" plans. The surveys also showed statistics about savings and debt load. Let me tell you, there is a huge looming crisis. Retirement will not be an option, EVER, for most Americans.

I was glad to see Barack at least mention that people will need to make sacrifices as we work our way through this economic mess. If it isn't obvious already, I really dig him.