Monday, January 9, 2012

Garage Conversion -- On hold (for now)

It’s difficult for me to admit defeat so I’m just going with “on hold.”   We have overcome many roadblocks so far but we just can’t overcome all of them. 

Many of you know that last summer I was so fed up with New Home and Robert’s inadequate care, my family and I decided to convert our garage so Robert could live with us. 
It seemed like such a simple idea . . .

Hubby and I discussed converting the garage without a permit but since we were installing a new bathroom with a shower and not just constructing walls and plopping a bed in the garage, it seemed prudent to obtain the permit.  That was my first mistake!
Hubby went to the permit counter of our little city and was told unless we could provide two covered parking spaces on the side of our house, garage conversions were not allowed.  “Even though it will be for my disabled brother-in-law?”  Hubby asked.   “Yep,” was the reply. 

After much research and me showing the permit department their own “Reasonable Accommodation” code, they relented.  We had to jump through quite a few hoops and agree to follow every building code in order to receive a building permit.  We also had to agree to convert the garage back to the original state if Robert moved out or we sold the house (yes, that means removing the shower & toilet & windows & walls) but we agreed.  After two months, we got our planning permit. 
It took two months because we were the first people in our city to ask for such a thing so the agreement had to be created from scratch and attorneys had to be consulted but, if nothing else, at least the city now knows they have a Reasonable Accommodation code they have to follow and they won’t turn away others seeking to provide housing for their disabled relative.

Next up: building permit.  
Our “simple” project became quite complicated in a very short amount of time.  The wall we originally planned to install windows in (as well as the a/c unit) was a structural wall.  Apparently, with a two story house, you just can’t cut holes into any old wall that may be holding up the second story (good thing I’m not in construction). 

We had to track down original building drawings or spend thousands to have an architectural engineer do load calculations on the wall (which meant measuring the entire house – no small expense). 
The original building drawings were not available. Our city wasn’t a city when our house was built so they didn’t have our plans. The county didn’t have them either because they no longer have plans for us since we’re now in an incorporated city (can you say “run around.”)  We could go to the original builder to try to find them but most likely they wouldn’t have them since our house was built 15 years ago. 

Our contractor thought it would be simpler to remove the garage and install windows and a door instead of worrying about the structural wall.  We met with the city about their exiting and light requirements which, in order to meet these, meant large windows and a large door in place of the garage door.  (Remember, this all has to be removed if Robert ever moves out in keeping with our planning permit agreement).   I didn’t like the appearance of it and all these windows were increasing the cost but knew it was the only option.
Our water heater which sits quietly in our garage suddenly becomes a health hazard sitting in a bedroom.  We would have to either enclose it (with a steel door) or buy a new one and install it outside.  The a/c unit would have caused its own problems but we have friends who were giving us a deal.

With the rising cost of this project, permit fees are rising as well.
Hubby’s brothers are both handy so they were going to help with the construction which would save some money.  As an added bonus, one of hubby’s brothers is an electrician who could help do any electrical work. 

How fantastic is that?  Wonderful, except when you have to comply with the electrical requirements in order to get this building permit.  We need arc-fault something or other for all the electrical outlets in the new room which means adding space to the electrical panel for the house.  We need to add the a/c unit to the panel, too. 
We quickly learned we have a very small panel with no room to add anything.

We got quotes on a brand new electrical panel.   Brother-in-law referred us to someone who could help since he usually works commercial and we needed a residential expert.  After reviewing the electrical panel, the electric company “box” which feeds the box was nowhere to be found.  
SMUD came out to trace where the box is and found it buried under cement in our driveway.  It’s a long story but it’s been buried since we moved in. 

We have to break up concrete in our driveway to get to the electrical box to upgrade the wires in order to upgrade the electrical panel in order to provide a/c and arc fault whatevers for the “simple” garage conversion!
The cost of this project has tripled before construction begins.  I am not naïve enough to think the cost would not increase even more once we actually started construction. 

I hate to admit defeat but the electrical panel problem pushed me over the edge. 
At this point, our best bet is to hope the housing market rebounds a little so we can sell our house and buy a one story with an extra bedroom.  Then, we can move Robert in with us. 

In the meantime, he stays with us on the weekends and sleeps in the nice sofa sleeper we have for him and I watch New Home like a hawk so Robert gets quality care the rest of the week. 


mem said...


Jane said...

I know how frustrating this can be. We had to go through so many headaches when we put in our pool. Here you need a permit to put up a shed, a fence etc. Just another way for the city to get money !

We made a little room in our garage that is probably 10x10 or so I can send you a picture if you want. Yes, we probably needed to get a permit to do it but didn't. My husband did it all and it has lights, and a duct for a/c heat. He is just handy and not in construction, electrician etc.

I'm sorry if I'm being nosey but I also know if there's a will there's a way. Did you contact ADA to see if they could help? If he stays with you on the weekends on the sleeper sofa why can't that be permanent?

I know how much this means to you and hate to have to see you put it on hold.

Jane ~ mom to Nicole, 17 yo, VSD, PAH, Eisenmengers, BHJS
"If you don't like something change it, if you can't change it, change the way you think about it."

Cindy said...

ugh! We did an addition/remodeled in 2006 and I remember the code/permit craziness! We originally tried to go with a MIL type detached add on and it was denied. I feel your frustration and pain and dislike. Really, what I dislike the most is how unhappy you are with new home and that you have to leave Robert there and watch like a hawk because of all this nonsense. Is it any wonder people choose to do things WITHOUT getting a permit?

Unknown said...

Boy did this post bring back recent memories of redecorating our little apartment! Rules, regulations, approvals, Yuck! It seemed I had to fight for every little thing, right down to my choice of paint. I KNOW how frustrating it can be. But in the end I got my way on everything. The words "No you can't" simply increase my determination. "Oh yes I CAN!" is like a mantra.

This is a great story from a great writer, Trish. Thank you.


Bill Austin Howe

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Bill, Persistence is key. Right now, we have to regroup and figure out if there's another way to go about this. We've changed the plans several times in order to conform with regulations but there's no way around digging up a section of the driveway in order to upgrade our electrical panel. We'll figure something out!

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Cindy, How right you are about it being simpler to do things without a permit. Even though it was the least risky option, it has definitely proven to be the most difficult. I don't even think the people who work in the permit department realize how difficult it is. When we got approval to go ahead with the planning (before the building permit process), they were as excited as we were. I don't think any of us realized the building codes would keep us from doing the conversion. All along, I thought once we got special permission from the planning department, the rest would be a piece of cake. Such a learning process!

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Jane, I would love to see the room your husband built so feel free to send pictures of it. Is that where you and Nicole hang out? I don't think it's fair to Robert to just keep him in our family room on a sofa sleeper without having his own room. The family room is a very open area so it's not conducive to privacy. It's bad enough I wake him up when the dogs want out in the morning. :-) I know something will turn around and we'll figure out a good solution.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Momma Mara: You said it! :-)

June Sockol said...

I can't remember if I asked you this before, is there any way you can add on a room to one side of the house? Do you have a 2 story, can you add a room over the garage? Or can you cut the family room in half and create a smaller bedroom out of it?

It's amazing how difficult the city can make things when you try to do it the right way. And then they wonder why so many people do illegal add-ons. I hope you can figure out a solution that works for you and won't cause to much more headache.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Thanks, June. We do have a two story and one of the problems is we don't have a shower on the 1st level. I suppose a sink bath isn't the worst thing (it's what he gets on the weekends when he's here) but having a shower would be better. My husband and I thought about converting the laundry room which is next to the downstairs bath but it would be pretty small. Still mulling things over. I'm thinking that the perfect solution will come up and that this just wasn't meant to be right now.

I did have some concerns about the garage since I thought it might be too far removed from being inside where I could keep a close eye on him. I think the next idea will be even better. :-)

Judy Stone-Goldman said...

I posted a comment--or so I thought--but it didn't ever show up or say "saved but it will take a minute..." So I'm do an abbreviated repost!

Basically I am in AWE of what you've done! You've persisted in the face of constant obstacles and tried to problem solve confusing and expensive situations. I don't see your decision as defeat but as a reasoned measure to meet the needs of everyone as best and as realistically as possible.

I've never done a remodel and I wouldn't have the stomach--or the mind--for it! I have no doubt Robert loves his weekends with you, and at some point a great solution will present itself.

Judy Stone-Goldman
The Reflective Writer
Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing

Unknown said...

I'm so sorry this project became such a burden and ultimately didn't work out. It's a damn shame. But perhaps it happened for a reason. I hope the market works out in your favor so you can move forward. Best of luck to you, Trish!

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Dennis, I'm becoming more convinced that we will come up with a better solution. I kept trying to make the conversion happen because I do believe that "where there's a will, there's a way" but I think we need to go at the goal of Robert living with us a different way. I'm sure there's a better solution that we will figure out! Thanks for the support -- I'll keep you posted on what we do.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Judy, We have settled into a good routine on the weekends and Robert seems to enjoy them here. When he's here, he gets his church (albeit, on television), he gets good food and is able to play some cards or just hang out with us. I think having him here on the weekends has helped prepare me for when he's here full-time and I do believe we'll find a new solution!

roller doors perth said...

Home remodeling may be one of the most time consuming, fun, and best learning experiences ever. Sometimes you'd just be surprised that you had an interior designer in you.

home builders Missouri said...

It is really frustrating that certain obstacles hindered you the conversion of your garage into an additional bedroom. With the many requirements you have to accomplish, this seems to be a very overwhelming task. Hopefully, things will go in your way soon and that everything will fall into place.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Thanks, Home Builders. We are optimistic that we will be able to work out another solution. Thankfully, Robert is stable right now so we have some time.

Valerie Phillips said...

That's really frustrating. I really do hope that you guys will find another solution. Might as well try construction consulting programs maybe? OR i f you don't have time hire a contractor that will take care of everything, like getting permit, osha training etc.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Valerie, I appreciate your suggestions but our original plan just won't work (we were working with a contractor too). We have a couple of other ideas but it's slow going. Thanks for reading & commenting!

painting contractors Denver CO said...

Converting one's garage to be used as a living space is a good idea, only if you are guided accordingly and that you have consulted the right people and approved it. This is among the growing trends in home improvement these days - others remodel their attics while some convert their garage to maximize the space of their properties. Putting your project on hold is a good idea for this will give you time to regroup and come up with better plans.

Linda said...

And here I was thinking about our garage door repairs Perth, when others have heavier burdens. Sorry to hear about the stalled construction. I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Thank you, Linda. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

andieclark said...

When extending garage, it could be really more expensive because there would be more permits needed for it. But I do suggest that you invest on a quality remote control garage door from the to make your garage more secured.

epoxy flooring Louisiana said...

Sometimes, some rules and regulations are just so frustrating because they hinder you from doing something actually good. But we still have to stick with the rules to rid of more trouble. Anyway, I am so happy that Robert has a sister like you. You surely love him and that is what’s important. I do hope that everything will go well for all of you. Thank you for sharing this very inspiring post.

general contractor Palm Springs said...

There are just some factors that prevent us from doing things for our loved ones and this is really very heartbreaking. However, one should not easily give up on dreams. As one once said, “With strong will and determination, the snail reached the ark.” Thank you for sharing this post. May this inspire others to keep on doing great things for their loved ones and other people as well.

roofing contractor Houston said...

There are many reasons as to why a construction or remodeling project is stopped or delayed. It could be the weather conditions, availability of workers or financial restraints. One reason would also be the neglect to get the necessary permit for one's remodeling project. This should be among the things that a home owner should prepare for to save time and money. Anyways, the important thing is that there were lessons that were learned from this experience. I do hope that your garage conversion will be continued and finished sometime in the near future. said...

This post is nice with different ideas of garage conversion.The Garage Conversion system is good.