Making a house wish list

Nothing like the view from a balcony, though most aren’t as high as this one. Postmedia Network

Building a home this spring? Or, looking to gain a little more living space by putting on an addition?

If this is the case, let’s examine the wish list of home features you and your spouse, if there’s a bit of wiggle room in the budget, and if the landscape permits, should be discussing with your architect.

Please note that the following suggestions are a wish list, as opposed to a dream list of home features. Dream lists are like dream homes, very costly. Wish lists, on the other hand, are far from free, with the following suggestions, or recommendations, no doubt costing you more money than had you stuck with a standard eight ft. deep, rectangular foundation. However, these upgrades are game changers, with the added value of these great home features further differentiating your home from the masses, unless of course everybody starts modifying their homes in the same manner.

Wish list modification #1, the walk out basement. Basically, you’re replacing about six-eight feet of poured concrete with a sliding patio door. The benefit to a walkout basement is of course the fact you’ve now linked the buried portion of your home to the exterior. With an abundance of natural light, and a straight out access to the back yard, you’ll be effectively turning what was traditionally a dungeon, into comfortable living space.

A key factor in making a walkout basement a reality will be the landscaping. How your property manages the rain and snow melt will be essential construction details. Structurally, the walkout basement is a very doable, and feasible adaptation to most regular foundations.

The challenge will lie in preventing the water runoff from pooling at what will be the lowest point of the above grade portion of the home, which will be where the basement’s patio door meets your concrete or interlocking stone platform. So, once the walkout basement has been engineered and drawn up on paper, hand the plans over to a landscape designer. Don’t move forward on your walkout basement project until a landscape designer or engineer, can figure out where to divert the rain water.

Next, if your home or addition is going to have a second story, consider having a balcony extending off the master bedroom. If a walkout basement is going to be a reality, then a balcony overtop makes for the perfect house accompaniment. Basically, balconies are like backyard decks, there’s no mistake to be made with having one, other than going too small. So, whether a balcony is designed to serve a specific room, or extend the entire width of the home, you’re always going to enjoy time spent on a balcony. Similar to a walkout basement, a balcony added to a home after the fact will incur plenty of engineering and construction costs, while making it part of the original plans basically requires the contractor extending the floor joists and pouring a few cement footings in order to accept the supporting pillars. So, if there’s room in the budget, do the balcony now.

Reasons for a balcony? Better sun, better breeze, better view, if it’s a choice between deck or balcony, the balcony is always a better experience. Plus, the security, tranquility, and peace of mind to being on a balcony simply makes it superior to ground level living. When you’re on your balcony, enjoying an early morning coffee, or late night tea, the odds of you being interrupted by the neighbor’s cat, or the neighbor’s dog, or the neighbor, drop to zero.

Next, consider installing skylights. General work areas such as your kitchen, bathroom, or exercise room, will benefit greatly from the supplementary, natural light offered by a couple of skylights. Now, you may ask, don’t skylights leak? Like everything else, they leak eventually. So, and like everything else, some maintenance is required. Regardless, skylights are a terrific modification.

Next week, more wish list tips. Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Potentially ours

If you have the time, and the funds, a house with potential can be a good idea. Postmedia Network

Case #527, titled “temporarily cramped”, finds homebuyer Fred Frigozia, aka ‘Freddy the Fridge’ due to his rather large 6 ft. 10 inch, 400 pound frame, and unwise habit of dressing completely in white, which on occasion has created some awkwardness as unassuming shoppers check out his body for the optional ice dispenser should he locate himself in the appliance department of the local mall, somewhat undecided.

Fred just married Freda, a petite lady, and their plans are to have children, with these offspring likely having careers as either ballerinas, or starting linemen for the Dallas Cowboys. Fred and Freda are at a turning point in their lives. What’s at stake? Fred’s a big guy. Big guys require space, and with the family about to grow, Fred and Freda are concerned that their possible purchase of a 1000 square foot bungalow that’s most recently come up for sale, won’t suit their needs in the long term.

Now, why not just bypass this rather smallish home and continue the search for something else? Although the home is small, and in need of repair, the yard is huge, with the home beautifully located in an older community close to schools, the hospital, and various other resources. So, even though this existing home would receive a poor grade if judged on its own merit, the fact that the location is terrific, boosts this home’s grade up to one of great potential.

If money isn’t an issue, then the strategy regarding such an investment would be a no-brainer. Buy the property, tear down the home, or attempt to sell it to somebody looking for a pre-built hunting cabin, then erect a two story home on either the existing, or modified foundation walls.

In Fred and Freda’s case, the money would be available to purchase the property, with another 20-30 thousand left to put towards renovations. So, the existing needs of the home, including minor siding, kitchen, bathroom, and back deck repairs, could be accomplished well within their budget, but as far as tearing down and rebuilding, well, that’s a dream that would only be years away.

So, what to do? In Fred and Freda’s case, the answer’s as plain as the heel on Freddy’s size 15 boot. If you’re old, you base your purchases on necessity. If you’re Fred and Freda’s age, you probably have the energy, and hopefully a lot of years ahead of you, to make a purchase based on potential.

My suggestion: Buy the little home with the great lot and establish a five-year plan. In the interim, accept the cramped conditions, and slowly start making this place a little more comfortable.

The good thing about owning a home with potential is that it forever holds its value, with generally every penny put into the home recouped in the event of a sale.

Where to start? Well, the four exterior walls are the only untouchables. Other than that, and with the OK of a local engineering firm, you could possibly eliminate the wall that often separates a small kitchen from small living room. With a little ingenuity, two small rooms can add up to one big space. The same goes for the bedrooms. Three bedrooms can be reduced to two, with the master bedroom possibly gaining its own bathroom in the transition.

Next, look to the outdoors. Your new acquisition may not be able to handle you hosting the entire clan for Christmas dinner, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t have the folks over for Canada Day. If indoor living space is limited, then create an outdoor living area by replacing the existing back door and 4’x6’ laundry hanging platform, with a patio door and deck that spans the width of the home. Cover this deck area with a pergola to help shade the sun, or leave a portion of the space available to accommodate a screened in gazebo.

With potential comes greatness.

Case #527 closed. Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

Stay off the grass

Just because you cut it, doesn’t mean you own it. Postmedia Network

Case #572 titled ‘The Barber on a Kubota’ has our Alonzo Andretti, aka “Scizzors” Andretti, due to his ability to cut an average man’s hair in under five minutes, including shaving of the back of the neck, and necessary eyebrow and ear trimmings, drawing the ire of his neighbors.

Alonzo has two passions, cutting hair, and cutting lawn, doing both at excessive speed, while maintaining an exquisite quality. What’s at issue is that Scizzors tends to not only cut his neighbor’s head, but his neighbor’s lawn as well, often crossing what’s regarded as the relative property line between homes. And, as everybody knows, you don’t cut your neighbor’s lawn, unless of course there’s 50 bucks in it for you.

Regardless, because Alonzo regularly trims his lawn down to almost putting green height, while his neighbors aren’t near as meticulous in their cutting, basically encouraging dandelion growth, Alonzo’s habit of overcutting has his property looking quite larger than it is. Which legally, isn’t an issue. Having your neighbor mowing two feet over into your property for 25 years won’t automatically transfer that piece of land over to them, simply because they’ve theoretically maintained it for that length of time. However, if through the years Alonzo continues his habit of overcutting, all while the properties next to him get sold and purchased a number of times, without one of these new homeowners bothering to have a survey done, then the relative property line will certainly begin to differ from the actual property line.

In most cases, homeowners assume, and generally accept, that the property line between properties is approximately the halfway point between the two homes. However, if one neighbor has in the past built an addition, or garage, which further widened their home to the very edge of their property line, then the midway rule would no longer apply. When this widened home comes up for sale, with the home next to it being sold a few years later, without a survey being completed by either party, then these new homeowners will simply assume the line is again, running somewhere down the middle of the properties.

In most cases, neighbors get along. They may not like that Alonzo is cutting into their property, and may have even mentioned this to him in the past. But, in order to keep the peace, because in most cases it isn’t a big deal, people tend to leave the Alonzos of this world to enjoy their riding mowers. There’s never an issue, of course, until one homeowner decides to have a survey done on their property, and discovers that their neighbor’s driveway crosses their property line, or the drainage pipe running the length of their neighbor’s property, and installed by the former owner of this adjacent property 20 years before, actually belongs to them, or the just completed deck by their neighbor, stretches two feet onto their property. Then what do you do? Well, decks can be cut back, and driveways can be modified, but if a drainage pipe is serving the best interests of the homes in the immediate area, then removing such a structure may get you into a legal tussle with the local township.

It’s certainly strange that people will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home, yet forgo the thousand bucks it cost sto have a survey completed. So, if you’re about to purchase a new home in an area where the properties are not so well defined, request that the property be surveyed. If you own a home where the property line is a best guess scenario, due to the steel pins being no longer visible, or their location buried and long forgotten, pay to have a survey completed.
When the property lines between neighbors are clear, things tend to go along a lot more smoothly. And Alonzo, well, he’ll have to live with a few survey stakes guiding him back onto his property. Case #572 closed.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard