In this blog I will do my best to describe the process I went through in turning my 1957 Ranch-style house into a 2006 Craftsman house as inspired by the Gamble House in Pasadena. Please feel free to comment on anything I write and ask questions as it is the only way we learn.

Note: Since completion of the house I have also decided to allow guest bloggers to post articles related to remodeling. This continues the education process.


TIMELINE
Architect Selection - December 2002 through January 2003
Getting a Permit - January 2003 through November 2004
Construction - November 2004 through September 2006
Post Construction - October 2006 through ???



This Old House Magazine

The magazine that had contacted me several months ago was This Old House. I had submitted a few before and after pictures and they really liked it. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough before pictures for them to run a story. If you remember, when this project started the plan was to add a room and try to save everything so there wasn't supposed to be any drastic changes. Also, the demolition guys worked so fast that I couldn't get any pictures after the first day.

I worked with one of the This Old House writers for about a month to get her all of the information she needed. After pitching it to the editor, it was decided they would not do anything with it due to the lack of before pictures.

If any other magazine people are reading this (American Bungalow, Sunset, etc.), you can feature this house if you like as it has not been in any magazine....yet.
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Kids Arts & Crafts Area

Now that the palm tree is gone, we have a big space (4.5' x 9') that can be used for something. After looking at the space for about 6 weeks, we have decided to turn it into a kids' Arts and Crafts area. I just bought the lumber yesterday and will be building it over the next few days. Stay tuned.

The palm tree that was just removed made for the future Arts and Crafts center.

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We Won the Pond Competition!

Back on May 13th, my post talks about how we were cleaning up the koi pond for the pond landscaping competition. Well, I just found out that we took first place for small ponds under $10,000. As soon as I get a picture of the award I'll post it here.

Landscape Award for Forte Craftsman House

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The Yard Store is Open!

We are pleased to announce the opening of The Yard Store; our new landscaping and gardening tool area. Through our partnership with WORX Yard Tools we are able to offer their complete line of innovative outdoor power tools that make yard work easier.

They have taken that simple idea and tried to offer something even more... like products which are high-quality, environmentally friendly, and recognized as being the most ergonomic tools on the market today. My favorite thing is that all of these tools run on interchangeable battery packs! Click on the picture below to be taken to the store.

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Seven Steps to Hiring a Contractor

This came up on the forum the other day and I think it is worth repeating here in the blog.
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Seven Steps to Hiring a Contractor
1) Get a referral from someone you know. In fact, I'll bet you know several people that have done remodels in the last few years that could offer up some opinions on local contractors; good and bad. I got some names from friends plus I used several contractor referral services that match contractors to you in your area based on your criteria. They are listed under Contractor Referral Services on the
Contractors Used page.

2) Hire a contractor who specializes in the type of work you need done. Someone you hire to install wood flooring or to build a deck should be a carpentry contractor, while someone you hire to install recessed lighting in your kitchen should be an electrician. There are many different trade certifications, so be sure to check the title on your contractor’s certification to make sure he or she is a specialist.

3) Check licenses and insurance with your city’s Contractor Licensing Board. Ask the tradesman for copies of the Contractor’s Certification, Worker’s Compensation status and Liability Insurance certificate. A reputable contractor will have no problem providing copies of these documents. In some areas, you may also be able to get this information online. I know that I could see all of this information online for my contractor who is in the Los Angeles area.

4) Get at least three references for your contractor and call them. The contractor will likely give you references who had positive experiences, so be sure to ask them specific questions about workmanship that are important to you. You might be concerned about whether the contractor cleaned up his work area and kept to his time line or whether the final invoice matched the estimate. When I was interviewing former customers of some contractors, I was amazed at how willing they were to tell me what to watch out for and where the contractor messed up. Having these 5 minute phone calls was very enlightening!

5) Check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if complaints have ever been filed or are outstanding against the contractor.

6) Request a written estimate. Any contractor who does not provide you with a written estimate should be crossed off your list immediately. Get at least three estimates and then compare prices with what is included. Remember the lowest bidder is not always the best.

7) Sign a written contract. The contract should clearly spell out all the steps the contractor will take from beginning to end of your job, what supplies are included, the payment schedule and the time line for the project. Put into the contract that you will get a discount of X number of dollars for each day the contractor is past his completion date. A few years ago, during the construction boom you would have not been able to get a contractor to sign up to late penalties. With the economy slowing down, now is a great to time to take control again.


What To Look Out For
• Hire a contractor who shows up on time for the initial estimate and seems professional and knowledgeable. If a contractor doesn't show up on time to bid the job, why would he ever show up on time after gets it?

• Check with the building department about whether a permit is required for the work to be done. If a permit is required, the liability is on the owner of the property to procure the permit or authorize the contractor to pull the permit.

• Make sure you hire someone with a large crew if time frame is important. My house took 2 years to build instead of one year due to manpower issues. Just think, the Empire State building was built in 14 months. Manpower is extremely important.

• You will need to provide a deposit to start the work but don't give too much up front. Enough money should be given to cover the contractor’s large expenses like construction materials, flooring, fixtures and crew to start your project.

• Contact your County Licensing Board. They can educate you about licenses, permits and trades, as well as answer any questions you may have about your project or a contractor licensed in your county.

• Don’t hire an unlicensed contractor! If you do, you will have no recourse should you be unhappy with the job. You will also be responsible for any and all code or permit violations cited by your county.
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The Palm Tree Was Removed

Southern California Edison has been trimming my palm tree every few months for the last 8 years. During that time, I have been trying to get them to underground the power lines before my tree reached them. The last trimming was one too many as they topped off the palm tree resulting in its quick demise. Here are some photos I took of the removal.

The palm tree right before it was removed. The tree trimmer is getting readt o cut the top off the palm tree.
 
 
The remaining palm tree stump. The stump grinder was brought in to remove the stump at least 1 foot below the grade.
 
 

The palm tree has been removed and there is no trace of it.

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The House is Complete, Time to Make this Site Useful

As many of you have noticed there has not been too much activity on the house lately. The reason is that it is mostly complete with minor projects and ongoing maintenance tasks in it's future.With that being said, my plan is to continue to document any upgrade and maintenance tasks as they occur, but my primary focus is to evolve this web site into something that everyone finds extremely useful with how-to tips, shopping for books, Arts & Crafts style items, products to finish your home, tools you might find useful on the job, and a Woodworkers' Corner for you do-it-yourselfers out there. Most importantly, a Home Remodeling Forum where everyone can exchange pictures and ideas, has just been created. Please drop by and show off your remodel, ask questions, and help others with your lessons learned. Be sure to add your remodeling horror stories.

Just remember that this site is for you and together we can make this a great community for both the Arts & Crafts community and Home Remodeling in general. All I need is your help to tell me what you would like to see on the site or how I can make something better and easier for you to use.

Thanks for all your kind words and questions so far.

Regards,
Mike

P.S. I am still uploading the construction pictures in the Photo Gallery. It is just taking a ton of time to keyword tag them all. Over the next couple of months this will hopefully be done.

P.P.S. Please vote in our poll on the Home page. This will help steer me in the direction of which sections to update first.
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Another Magazine Called!

I can't believe it but another magazine called asking for pictures and saying that they may want to possibly use the house in a future issue. This is quite exciting for us. I don't want to mention the name unless something is official but it is a major magazine. Keep your fingers crossed!
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Flushing the Tankless Water Heater and Streamlining the Hot Water System

I want to streamline my hot water system setup to hopefully save electricity and money. Let me first explain my hot water setup.

I have a Takagi Mobius TM-1 tankless water heater that receives cold water and outputs hot water on demand. The initial problem I had with water being on demand was I would have to let the shower run for 3 minutes just to get hot water. To remedy this, I had a 10 gallon electric heater hooked up to the hot outlet of the tankless water heater to maintain a reservoir of hot water that I would recirculate through the house every 30 minutes through the use of a recirculating pump.

The problem I have with this setup is my electrical bills have been really high and I'm sure the electric heater is not helping matters so I'm trying to find ways to lower that expense. I'm not sure how much I'll save but I think it may be as high as $50 per month.

The following pictures show the tankless heater and recirculating pump right after the electric heater was removed. The plan is to bypass the electric heater and go straight from the tankless water heater to the recirculating pump.


Since the system is open, I decided to flush the tankless water heater. You are supposed to do this every year but it has been two years since I installed it and haven't done it yet. We are using two bottles of white vinegar.


A small pump is connected to the cold water line entering the tankless water heater and a return line from the hot side is fed back into the bucket.


Here you can see the whole setup in action.

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Biometric Fingerprint Garage Door Opener

Biometric Fingerprint Garage Door Opener
I still don't have any way to get into my garage and have been wondering about a fingerprint scanner mechanism so the kids won't have to remember a code. Well, I just found one that's made by Craftsman. According to info I have read, it can store up to four unique fingerprints and takes about a minute to program it. You can read more about it here.

What I like about it is that you can program a contractor's fingerprint into it for the one or two days he needs access without giving a numeric code. When he's done working, remove the fingerprint from the system and he's locked out!


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Next Page

Be sure to browse the 2,000 picture Photo Gallery for more step-by-step construction details.