Architectural Design — The Addition, and Fixing The Roof Leak

One of the major reasons I started this project was the fact that I had an annoying leak from the roof that was making a big stain on the ceiling in my living room. The leak really comes from a second floor balcony which is adjacent to the master bedroom. The design is poor because water accumulates from the roof and concentrates in the balcony, and there is no easy way for the water to run off. So it stays in the balcony and ultimately leaks onto the porch, the garage, and the living room. I tried three different ways to fix the floor of the balcony (tile, flat roofing, and rubber membrane), and none of them worked. In looking around the rest of the neighborhood with houses of similar design, I noted that they also had the same problem.

 

BALCONY DESIGN_2

ORIGINAL BALCONY DESIGN

So another approach was necessary. Fortunately, a few of the houses had a modification that put a valley roof directly above the porch. I asked the owners if that helped and they all said that it completely solved the leakage problem.

ROOF OVER FRONT PORCH-1

ROOF OVER FRONT PORCH 2

That being said, the balcony itself was just wasted space. It was hot in the afternoon because it faces South West, and it has an expansive view of the garages of my neighbors across the street. Not exactly a place where I’d hang out and relax. So, to make more out of the space, I decided to see what it took to completely eliminate the balcony and expand the master bedroom.  There were some homes in the neighborhood that had done that, but I didn’t like the outcome because they didn’t fix the leakage problem. Plus, I wanted to reconfigure the windows to provide better air flow and noise mitigation, and I wanted to rearrange the master bathroom and closet to provide a more open floor plan.

EXPANDED MASTER BEDROOM

EXPANDED MASTER BEDROOM

 

So, I looked at my original floor plan, and went back to the type of functionality we wanted. We decided to utilize the new space in an open manner, swap the location of the toilet and lavatory, make a small “room” for the toilet area with folding doors, and enable a natural flow from the bathroom to the dressing area. The dressing area would be open, yet private, and have some nice light coming in from the new windows. We also have some room for a sitting area and our desks. Simple and straightforward, but it looks pretty nice. At least from the plans!  I think it meets our requirements for making the most out of wasted space and provides a permanent fix for the roof leak.

Here are the plans:

 

ARCHITECTURAL

ELEVATIONS

 

 

 

ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN

EXISTING 2ND FLOOR

ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN

NEW 2ND FLOOR

Electrical Design

As with any other design, electrical design begins with your requirements. Lighting requirements, which I discussed in a previous post, will dictate the locations and types of switches and circuits. But one also must consider the other electrical needs of the house. This includes electrical outlets,  appliances, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), and specialty circuits such as an electric car charger or a stair elevator. When considering the electrical requirements of my remodel, I also wanted some room for future expansion to take care of needs that aren’t yet specified. In an older home, this typically means that you’ll have to upgrade the service going into the house. More on that in a bit. Here is the list of requirements that I came up with for my remodel.

  1. Significantly expanded permanent lighting to be controlled with switches from convenient places.
  2. Additional outlets for the den (entertainment center) and kitchen.
  3. Dual electric car chargers.
  4. Air conditioning system.
  5. Additional outlets in garage to support a smart home wiring closet

Now at this point of the design, we start to get on thin ice when it comes to a DIY job. You will have to start making design decisions and tradeoffs which are going to be influenced by code requirements, and unless you have some background and experience with electrical design and code requirements, it might be a good idea to enlist the help of a professional. In my case, I have an engineering degree, so I have a good handle on basic electrical design and circuits. In addition, I have several years of experience from the Navy as an electrical officer and engineer officer, so I have a lot of practical experience with electrical systems including power generation, distribution, control, and most importantly: SAFETY!! This is why I caution anybody who does NOT have experience with electrical systems to get professional help sooner rather than later. Electricity can kill you and can burn your house down, so you’d better be sure you know what you’re doing. With this in mind, I started with a focused study of the California Electrical Code, which is basically a reprint of the National Electrical Code (NEC). There are also a lot of “how-to’s” on the Internet, and there are a lot of forums where you can pick up some good tips that help demystify the arcane language of the NEC. One site, which is particularly geared to the DIY enthusiast, is Wire Your Own House. The guy who writes this is a professional electrician, and his website is chock full of good information. Turns out that there are a lot of professional tradespersons who freely share their techniques and knowledge. If you really want an education on how to do things like a professional, YouTube is a great resource. Consider it your apprenticeship program! Now, armed with knowledge, I was ready for the next step. As in every other remodeling project, the first place to start is figuring out what you’ve got. So I went to my service panel and methodically turned off one circuit after another and with multimeter in hand, recorded every switch, receptacle, and appliance, and matched all of those to my the individual breakers in the service panel. Needless to say, I found some problems.

  1. The service panel was woefully inadequate for what I had planned. It was a 100A service and it was maxed out. I knew I needed more than that. Wasn’t sure how much yet because I hadn’t completed the design, but I knew there was no room for expansion.
  2. Some circuits were not per code. I had a massive amount of lights and receptacles on one circuit, and it looked like it was messed with by the previous owner of the house. My adding some “extensions” to the circuit didn’t help much.
  3. I didn’t know what I was doing. What did I say before? If you’re not in the business then be VERY CAREFUL. Turns out that I made several code mistakes, like powering kitchen lights with dedicated small appliance circuits (a no-no) and extending lighting circuits with junction boxes buried under drywall (safety hazard — and not per code). However now that I know the code better, I’m going to right these wrongs. Plus, my design has to get approved by the building department, so they will provide an independent check. PLUS — I’m going to hire a consultant to check any work I end up doing myself. I may be smart, but I don’t know everything, and an independent look is well worth it.

Sidebar: a couple of months after I accomplished the “as installed” conditions, I had an electrical fire. No kidding! The dryer breaker fried. So I pulled apart the dryer to make sure that the heating element was OK, and it was fine. I then went back into the distribution panel, and lo and behold, the 240V wiring from the dryer in the panel had shorted out. You know, the one with the red insulation on it? Upon further inspection, I found out that there were knife cuts in the insulation, probably from stripping the outer plastic sheathing on the Romex during the original assembly. So, I put some heat shrink on the offending conductors, and clipped the blasted out wire so that I had a good solid wire to work with, and put in a new dryer breaker, the original one being a slag heap. Moral of the story: Even the professionals get it wrong on occasion! If I needed another reason to get a new distribution panel, this was a good one.

Now that I had the “as installed” configuration, I could start to work on the remodel. I went back to my design requirements and placed all of the lights, receptacles, and switches where I wanted them on the plan, and then mapped those to the existing circuits, making new circuits where necessary. Also, to be code compliant, I had to consider not only the numbers and types of circuits, but also which ones were Ground Fault Circuit Interruption (GFCI), but also Arc Fault Circuit Interruption (AFCI). AFCI is used to help prevent fires by detecting the spark (arc fault) that occurs between two conductors that short out (such as with a faulty lamp cord). Those are required in living areas such as living rooms, dens, and bedrooms. Basically, if you want to be up to code, you’re either going to have a GFCI or an AFCI breaker in your distribution panel. Not so many “standard” breakers anymore! Lastly, now that the circuit design was done, I had to calculate the loads to figure out what service I needed. The code can be pretty arcane when it comes to figuring out what you really need. Fortunately, there are some great resources on the Internet, the best one was from a website (“Electrical Knowhow“) where you can find a handy-dandy spreadsheet(ResidentialLoadCalculations) where you put in your numbers and it figures out what you need based on the code. BUT…you REALLY need to understand what goes into that spreadsheet and why it produces the numbers that it does! I referred back to the code at every step to make sure that I was putting in the correct numbers and that the results were code compliant. To sum up my diatribe on electrical design, allow me to leave you with these thoughts:

  1. Approach the design with the same top-down method that all designers use. Start with your requirements and work down, making sure that the design meets those requirements as you get increasingly detailed.
  2. Use the DIY approach to detail the design within the limits of your knowledge and experience. It’s OK to stretch a bit as long as you’re willing to invest the time and effort to self-educate. Even if you never get to the point where you finish the design, or do any of the work, the time you spend in learning the details will pay off when you hire a professional.
  3. Have humility. Don’t pretend to know-it-all and, if you’re doing this as DIY all the way, at least have the common sense to hire a consultant to check your work. The stakes are too high.
Electrical Plan_1

ELECTRICAL DESIGN FIRST FLOOR

Electrical Plan_2

ELECTRICAL DESIGN SECOND FLOOR

Here is my final electrical design.

Kitchen Design

Now that I had the house drawn up. It was time to start thinking about the re-design. A good place to start was the kitchen because it’s my favorite room in the house. I happen to be an avid amateur chef, and before I started this remodeling project, I was the food King. Meaning that I did all of the menu planning, all of the food shopping, and all of the cooking. And I’ll probably want to pick it back up afterwards because I’m going to have a great kitchen to work in! These culinary experiences and interests give me a particular viewpoint on how a kitchen should be designed. I had some concepts and constraints in mind when I approached the kitchen design. In addition to having a good physical and experience-based idea of what I wanted as a cook, I also wanted to have things easy to clean, easy to access, durable, attractive, and inexpensive. There were many features of my current kitchen which I really liked, and in the end, I kept the same basic design. Yes, I tweaked some things, and yes, I came to the conclusion that I would have to re-do the cabinets and the island, which gave me the opportunity to put my woodworking skills and tools to good use, and incorporate some additional features. Let’s face it. Every dedicated DIY fanatic ALWAYS is in search of the next “project”, so here was yet another opportunity. And in continuing my research, I found that the original design was actually a better design than I thought. One of the things that I noticed about most of the model homes we visited during our “Love It Or List It” period was the fact that most kitchen designs suck. I mean really. Most of them look great if you just want to hang out and eat, but cook? Refrigerators across the room from the ovens. Islands too far from the other countertops. Backsplashes made of expensive material that looks nice but will be a bitch to keep clean. Storage that’s clumsily arranged and hard to get to. No concept of workflow (storage to preparation to cooking to cleaning). And my pet peeve:  a microwave over the stove.  So I started with that, and then went down the list of things that I didn’t like, but keep the stuff I did.

  1. Get rid of the microwave over the stove. These things have almost zero fan power and don’t extend far enough over the stove top to trap the oils and particulate that are a part of your cooking.  So all of that junk gets embedded in the wood of your cabinets and the ceiling above. Impossible to clean. Plus, the heat from the stovetop kills the plastic and fries the electronics. And the house gets all stunk up when you’re creating yet another culinary masterpiece that you will decide is too hard to ever do again. (Why do I keep doing that?) Replace it with a good vent hood that is designed for the purpose.
  2. Resize the island to make it closer to the sink so I could easily step back and forth, and farther from the refrigerator so people could go in and out of the kitchen with the refrigerator door open. Relocate the microwave to the island. Having the microwave in the island is a universal design concept that allows easy access to somebody who can’t reach high, but is convenient for everyone.
  3. Make pullouts for all of the shelves in the base cabinets, island and pantry. Another universal design feature. As you age, it’s more difficult to get on your hands and knees and look in the way-back for this pot or that bag of flour. Come to think of it, it’s a Pain-In-The-Ass (PITA) at any age. (If I didn’t spell it out, you would have thought I was talking about some kind of bread.)
  4. Redesign the island countertop for 2 levels. One at 36” for standing work, and one at 30” for seated work. Another universal design feature.
  5. Make the inner carcass of the cabinets around the dishwasher and sink out of pressure treated plywood. The current particleboard is coming apart.
  6. Integrate beverage storage/liquor cabinet into the island design.
  7. Lower the “spice rack”. My current island has an area between the work surfaces and the “bar” where I keep all of my baking and cooking essentials (spices, flour, sugar, oils, seasonings, baking power etc.) When you’re in the midst of cooking, this arrangement is extremely helpful in streamlining your workflow because you’re not constantly going in and out of the pantry to get the next ingredient. The only downers are (a) the tops of the containers tend to accumulate detritus — hopefully solved with the vent hood, and (b) it was placed too high to conveniently see the football games being played in the den. The new design corrects this problem.
  8. Provide a place for all of my cookbooks so I would have to ferret around for them (too much, anyway).
  9. Have a pull out cart for the mixer (a king size kitchen aid) that also serves as a supplemental work surface. More universal design.
  10. Provide increased task lighting and general lighting (universal design).
  11. Make the backsplash out of white porcelain tile with a decorative glass inset. Looks nice, easy to keep clean, and inexpensive.
  12. Have a white quartz countertop on the upper top of the island. The purpose is to be have a place to roll out pastries and cookies without having to lug out a slab of marble (which isn’t big enough anyway).
  13. All other countertops will be white Formica with a decorative oak rub rail. I did this on the first remodel of this kitchen about 12 years ago, and it still looks pretty good. Yes, it needs a refresh, but these tops aren’t that hard to make and they aren’t very expensive either so occasional replacement is no big deal. I guess I’m not a big fan of these stone/granite/marble/glass composite/concrete countertops. I mostly don’t like the look because it’s distracting when you’re trying to cook because it’s not a clean background, they’re hard surfaces so stuff breaks on them when you drop something, and they’re so dang expensive. They seem to be pretty popular, but I wonder if any of the designers/builders/owners of these are actually serious cooks. One question: Have you ever seen granite countertops in a restaurant kitchen? I think I prove my point. AND, I have the best restaurant in town. If you’re lucky, I’ll have you over for one of my dinner parties!
  14. Laminate wood flooring. I know what you’re saying – this stuff has a funny sound and is not as warm and inviting as real wood (or engineered wood). Here’s the deal: It’s inexpensive, has good traction (universal design), durable, and EASY TO KEEP CLEAN. Did I mention that it was easy to keep clean? Hey a bucket of water, a greenie, and a squeegee and you’re good to go. No fancy waxes, dirt in the grout lines, peeling varnish or gouges (like linoleum). I installed it in my last kitchen remodel 12 years ago and the only defect is when my King size kitchen aid mixer fell off the counter while kneading an extra large bread dough recipe and made a divot. It has filled up with dirt over the years so I’m GTG.

Here is a rendering of what the kitchen will look like.

KITCHEN REMODEL

KITCHEN REMODEL

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a SketchUp model of the island. If you know about Dynamic Components, check out the microwave, the drawers and doors, and the cart pull-out.

You’ll have to download a free copy of SketchUp to see it. Why resist?

This program is extremely powerful. And fun I might add. It has probably 90% of what you get in the pro version, and if your aim is to model, or do some small scale projects, this might be the ticket. BUT… if you want to DIY like a pro, well, you need to consider the pro version. More on that later.

Know What You’ve Got — Modeling The Existing House

The first step in designing a remodel is getting an accurate drawing, or model in this case, of what you have. This will allow you to do some design tradeoffs and, if you have a nice modeling program, give you a glimpse of what it will look like. The other benefit from doing this up-front work is that you end up learning a lot about how the structure is built and this helps give you a good idea about how to go about doing the actual work. Since I am using the SketchUp Pro modeling tool, some of what I’m going to write about will be particular to that tool. However I’ll try my best to put things in more general terms so that the narrative will be useful to as many readers as possible.

There are a number of different ways that can help you translate your structure and land into a modeling program, but the approach you decide on depends on what your goals are. For instance, it is possible to take digital pictures of your house and read them into the modeling program, do some rudimentary modeling shapes, and you now have a house. However, you don’t necessarily have the insides. Plus, if you’re going after a nicely dimensioned layout, then you’ll have to take some time to be accurate. All of the books that I’ve listed in my reference pages under design and modeling have various methods, and I encourage you to give them a look. For my purposes, I figured that just doing actual measurements would work, and it did. I had to do a lot of them, and it took several weeks of my spare time to put the model together. It looked pretty nice when it was done, but, as I kept reading about how to use the program, I found a couple of authors who did things in a much more streamlined way. So read the books first if you want to save some time. The other thing I discovered is that the building department will sometimes have the original plans for your home. Hey, somebody had to get a building permit at one point! So it is WELL worth your time, and the administrative fees, to obtain a set of your plans. Had I known this, or even had thought about it, I would have saved a lot of time.  In addition, you will likely have to show a detailed foundation plan if you’re changing any structure, and the easiest way to do it is to copy the original plans (sure beats excavating and measuring). That being said, nothing substitutes for poking around your house and figuring out what’s what. 2D drawings really don’t give you the sense of how the thing is built that a thorough walk-around and poke-about does. You’ll also discover a few other things that need “fixin’!

Here are a few things I learned about computer modeling when I did this project:

  1. There is a “goldilocks” level of detail. Too little, and you don’t get a sense of what the project is about. Too much, and the model becomes bloated and difficult to work with. Start simple and add detail as you go. If you need extra detail, like showing framing and such, then consider having a separate model for just those details.
  2. Be accurate. Learn how the modeling program “snaps” to various points and edges. I learned that the hard way and I can’t tell you the amount of time I wasted correcting sloppy modeling.
  3. Learn how to organize your model. Michael Brightman’s book (see “Design and Modeling” under References) has an excellent method, and had I used that the first time, I would have saved at least a week of my time.
  4. Customize your modeling program for workflow, meaning setting up toolbars and keyboard shortcuts. Again, Michael Brightman has some excellent ideas that will help you model faster.
  5. Be patient. Regardless of how intuitive a given program is to learn, it will take you some time to develop the necessary skills. You will make some mistakes, and in some cases, it will be easier to start over. Don’t be discouraged. Take the time to study and go on line to go through the numerous tutorials and You Tube video “how to’s”.
  6. If it’s time for you to get a technical refresh on your computer, consider getting a system optimized for graphics. The SketchUp online community organized a special deal with a custom computer maker (JNCS) that provided an optimum system. Yes, it cost some money ($4K when you include a really nice graphics monitor, wireless keyboard, and mouse for computer graphics), but it sure speeded up the modeling and I didn’t have to put up with the crashes caused by an inadequate system choking on the model.
  7. Have fun! The time spent 3D modeling can be reward in itself. It is especially cool if you can see a finished product and move it around, look inside, and see how it mimics reality.

Here is a render of my finished “as built” model:Rev 1.0 Render #1

 

ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN

Detailed Design — Learning How To Draw

Well, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work. The first thing I needed to do was to make up a drawing of my existing house. On several of my previous projects, I used a set of rudimentary drafting tools and some skills I learned in my 8th grade shop class  to draw up some fairly nice plans. In my most recent project (a “catio” more on that later), I used Microsoft Visio to make up a set of electronic plans. That worked OK, but it really wasn’t a full-on CAD program, which is what I figured I needed if I was going to produce a set of building plans (the ultimate goal). So, I started shopping around for an architectural CAD program. Most of these programs are several thousand dollars (Chief Architect — $2695, AutoCad — $4195), and they seemed pretty difficult to learn how to use. I eventually went for a dumbed-down version of Chief Architect called Home Designer. That cost $495, and it promised to be easy to use and had a lot of nice automated features such as detailing of walls and quick rendering of interior and exterior views. So I ponied up and got the program. The term “easy to use” was relative, and I spent a lot of time learning how to use the program. I went about measuring the house and modeling it in this program. After several months of my spare time, I came up with a decent model, but I found out a couple of things: (1) I really couldn’t produce a set of working drawings with this program — it’s for “designers” who give their concepts to real architects who have these expensive CAD programs that produce “real” drawings, and (2) all of that great detailing automation meant that you couldn’t go in and customize things. You had to accept the default materials, dimensions, etc. Plus, the program was quirky and wouldn’t accurately model some of the idiosyncrasies of my house. So I was becoming increasingly frustrated as I saw that I was approaching what seemed to be a dead end.

One day, I was lamenting my woes to a colleague at work, and he mentioned another 3D modeling program called “Sketchup”. He said that he made several remodeling plans for his home with it, and he was very happy with the program. Best of all, it was free.  No kidding. It turns out that there is a free version, now called Sketchup Make, and there is a “pro” version which includes a separate program called Sketchup Layout, which is a full-on drafting program. The pro version sells for $590, which is about the same as I paid for the Home Designer loser program. So, I decided to at least try out the free version, and I discovered that it was not only intuitive, but that there was a HUGE online community that offered all kinds of help in learning how to use it. Plus, there was another group of professionals who were using the pro version to design real buildings and produce real plans. I was sold. So I swallowed my pride and bought the pro version and started afresh. That was a bitter pill because I had to start from scratch. The good news is that as I learned the program, I could customize the model and make it really accurate.

Although the program was intuitive and I picked it up pretty fast, there were a lot of nuances that I needed help with. I ended up reading a whole lot of books, which ultimately gave me a bit of mastery over the program. I have a complete list of my references under the references page in this blog. I think all of them are good, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend them,  but I would suggest starting with either the “sketchup for dummies” or one of  Bonnie Roske’s books. Also, follow the links on the Sketchup home page, check out the SketchuCation website,  or just Google search on Sketchup and you’ll find TONS of You Tube video “how to’s” and other resources. As I mentioned before, there is a tremendous online presence to help you out.

So after a lot of time, I ended up with a pretty good model of my home and some good drawings. I can say that I really came to enjoy the process, and now that I have the skill set, I feel confident that I could approach any aspect of architectural design and drawing. The building department was favorably impressed and was asking if I had any background in design. Well, I guess after 3 years of my spare time messing around with it, I could answer in the affirmative, even though my path was somewhat random at times.

I will post some of the results of my labors when I have the chance, and when I can figure out how to do it on this blog. That’s another skill set which I’m beginning to learn about.

ARCHITECTURAL

The Design — A Systems Engineering Approach

When we first started thinking about remodeling our house, our thoughts were just to fix things that were old and in disrepair. However, the more I thought about it, I started to think about a more comprehensive approach. There are many books and websites that provide information about the design process, but the more I read, the more I came to understand that the design process for a home is the same as the process for any other design. That means that I could (should) use my experience as a systems engineer.

So, what is systems engineering? In a nutshell, it is the process by which you (1) define performance requirements, (2)  break down these requirements into sub sets that ultimately result in tangible design characteristics, (3) develop alternatives, (4) analyze the alternatives and choose the optimum approach, (5) perform detailed design, (6) construct from the design, and (7) test the design to validate that it meets performance requirements.

So, to be more specific, my wife and I sat down and had a discussion (actually a series of discussions) about what we wanted in a home. We came up with the following top-level requirements:

(1) Age in place. Since this would probably be the place we would live in for a long time, we wanted to make it such that we could stay here as we became older and make it safe and accessible.

(2) Have a modern home infrastructure that would allow for accommodation of new features.

(3) Maximize the energy efficiency of the home.

(4) Eliminate chronic maintenance problems and fundamental architectural design flaws.

(5) Pay off the house in 15 years. (No house payment when fully retired).

Having these requirements agreed upon, we considered two alternatives: Selling the place and moving to a new home, or remodeling our existing home. We then took a look at the relative advantages and disadvantages of each approach and compared them.

Attribute New Home Remodel
Age in place None that met requirements. Would require retrofits. Easily incorporated in the design.
Modern Infrastructure Most new homes have sufficient capacity for expansion Would have to upgrade the electrical system and add data/video/security systems.
Energy Efficiency New homes are energy efficient by code. Remodeling would trigger incorporation of energy efficiency code requirements.
Maintenance problems Minimal risk in a new home Would require redesign of the roof over the front porch to fix a chronic rainwater leak.
Pay off house Not likely. Likely if the remodeling budget were kept to less than $100K

So, after visiting a lot of new homes, and finding that the cost would be too high and that we would have to change them to meet our age in place requirement, we decided to proceed with a more detailed design for our home.

To set the stage for the detailed design, I looked at each high-level attribute and studied what kind of physical attributes would be necessary.

1. AGE IN PLACE: I learned that the best key word for this is “universal design” which is a term that implies design for accessibility without making the place look like a hospital. The Center For Universal Design at North Carolina State University is an excellent resource , as is the book Universal Design for the Home by Wendy Jordan, and Universal Design Ideas for Style Comfort and Safety by Reed Construction Data (my personal favorite). Design attributes that comply with universal design include curbless showers, ADA complaint fixtures (toilets, sinks, faucets, shower fixtures), countertops of different heights (30″ and 36″), wider doorways and passages, elimination of trip hazards (e.g., steps), and… LIGHTING. No kidding, I didn’t realize that lighting was a big deal until I thought about it. As you age, your ability to see becomes less. So you need more light to see properly. If you don’t see where you’re going, then you may trip and fall. This is a big deal because if you trip and fall, you’ll likely break something badly and lose your mobility. And when you’re older, that can be a death sentence.

2. MODERN INFRASTRUCTURE: There were a few things that I noticed about the new homes that I felt would be good to incorporate into my remodel: (a) air conditioning (!), (b) increased electrical capacity, (c) automatic fire sprinkler system, and (d) smart home infrastructure. Each of these required some additional research to come up with a design, and I will detail these in future posts.

3. ENERGY EFFICIENCY: California Title 24 requires that all remodeling projects comply with  performance requirements based on an energy analysis computer program. Being a geek at heart, I found this really interesting, and I took the time to properly model the house and understand the program so I could make some tradeoffs in how I approached the remodel. For example, I found that the energy savings for replacing my single pane windows with fancy double pane vinyl windows was not very much compared to the cost. Plus I found that the reliability of the vinyl windows sucked, so I decided to refurbish my existing windows. Again, I will have a separate post dedicated to energy efficiency.

4. ELIMINATE CHRONIC MAINTENANCE PROBLEMS: The primary one that had to be addressed was a leak over my front porch. This was kind of tough to figure out by myself, but fortunately, some of the other houses in the neighborhood had come up with a fix that looked pretty good, so I adopted that. More on that later as well.

5. PAY OFF THE HOUSE: We really couldn’t see how we could accomplish that if we moved based on the value of our existing home and the features we wanted in the new home. We set a remodeling budget of $100K and would plan on a pay-as-you-go approach to the maximum extent possible.

With that part of the systems engineering process complete, it’s on to the detailed design!