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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do I need an architect? What do I get from a consultation?

Considering building a new home or remodeling your kitchen? Want to  know if you can add that second story but not sure where to start? Not sure if your project is big enough to involve an architect? Give me a call and I can give you some free advice. I would first start out by saying that all projects can benefit from having an architect involved. Even if it is just for a short consultation to ask questions and get advice. I do this all the time for DIY's (Do it Yourselfers) and often times I help redirect the conversation to include things they haven't thought of or even considered. This can lead to significant savings and prevent costly mistakes. Below are some FAQ's that get from people during a consultation.

Question: What do you charge?

Architect's charge for their services in many different way's. Hourly, percentage of construction cost, fixed fee, etc are ways in which architects can structure their fees. Most often the simplest way is to just bill hourly. I often estimate a range of cost for the various phases of the project so clients have a general idea about how much the end price will be. This works the best because design is a "process" and that process is different for each project. Considering the large investment you are making in your house, this is a pretty small percentage of the whole investment. I'll add that studies show that homes that are designed by an architect sell quicker and for a higher cost per square foot.

Question: Do you work on smaller projects such as kitchens and bathrooms or just new homes and large remodels?

Yes, I work on kitchen and bathroom remodels when I get the opportunity. Like I said above, every project can benefit from having an architect involved even for a limited time. How? An architect can help with space planning, phasing of larger projects, preliminary pricing, sourcing of materials at discount prices, interior design, and suggest contractors or subcontractors if you plan to manage the construction yourselves. 

Many of these services can done on a limited basis for projects like bathrooms and kitchens for a reasonable hourly rate. I often encounter clients who decided to remodel the kitchen initially but after talking about the entire house and their goals we determined that it was best to consider another part of the house before the kitchen. 

Question: I know what I want, so I can just skip the architect part and just hire a contractor, right?

It's great that you know what you want, but can you do it based on Building and Land Use codes? Also, builders usually want drawings so they can accurately bid a project. Owners usually want to know what things cost before proceeding, right?  Loosely drawn plans usually result in wide ranges of cost and the owner finds this out the hard way once they are already down the road in construction. This results in huge cost overuns. A good architect can help mitigate this from happening by creating complete drawings that give the builder proper specifications and details. 

Question: Building designer, kitchen designer, interior designer, registered architect. Which one do I hire and why would I use one over the other?

There are a variety of people in the construction business offering design related services, but many have limited or no significant formal training and therfore they cannot use the word architect.  There are lots of "talented people" out there, but it is against state law to use the word "architect" "architecture" or "architectural" unless you are a registered architect that meets the following criteria:

Attained a degree from an NCARB accredited university (5-6 years of schooling)
Worked as an intern under a licensed architect for a minimum of 3 years and completed IDP
Passed a series of rigorous comprehensive examinations totally 40+ hours and register for license with state.
Complete yearly requirements for continuing education

Therefore, when hiring a registered architect you will get someone who is a competant trained professional that can look at your project holistically and can bring to the table experience of the entire process of design and building.

Question: What can I expect to get from a free consulation?

Think of this as an opportunity to get professional opinions about your project, suggestions on builders, some code clarifications, helpful questionaires to guide you through your design decisions, ballpark pricing, etc. Ofen times I'm just educating clients on the design process. Most people have never undertaken a building project before and it can be intimidating. I like to make the design process fun and inclusive.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

MP House #6 - Warmboard


Warmboard is a product used for in-floor heating. Radiant heating can be installed several ways. 

1. Tubing is set in  gypcrete that is poured over the subfloor
2. Tubing is attached to the bottom of the subfloor against metal plates to dispurse heat.
3. A panel system with routed out channels that the tubing fits into. This is installed over the subfloor .

I chose a version of option 3.  It differs from other  systems like Quick-Track. The Warmboard version is a superior product providing heat closer to your feet and distributed more evenly.

Here is a link to their website if you want to read more about it. 

Warmbord 2'x4' panels are nailed to subfloor. Tubing is
set into channels.
Warmboard with PEX tubing set in. Ready for flooring
Adding Ramboard over Warmboard for protection prior to
drywall installation

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MP House Diary #5 - Windows

Windows and WRB

The choice of windows  was one of the most important decisions on this project. Large expanses of glass were used to break up the "box" architecturally while providing lots of natural light and bringing the outdoors in. The windows are Fleetwood thermally improved aluminum windows (Westwood and Kona window wall). One of the few aluminum options left out there that can meet the energy code requirements and have the testing to prove it.

The weather resistive barrier (WRB) is a breathable product called Vaporshield "Reveal Shield". This version is black because we are doing an open rainscreen siding installation. The Vaproshield is folded into the openings and adhered with a liquid flashing to create a full protected opening. Windows are set on metal pans to further protect from water intrusion and allow proper weeping to occur.

Vaproshield "Reveal Shield".

High fixed windows along South wall. Ready
for head flashing.

Window flanges sealed with Dow 758

Close of up of a window wrap mock up. 

Installing the Vaproshield

Entry porch window looking through dining
area towards kitchen

High South Windows. Steel angle is now
welded to steel flanges and stiffen the lower
Applying liquid flashing to sill, jamb an heat
Fleetwood "Kona" window wall system. Thermally
improved unlike a storefront system and has nailing flanges
so the building wrap can be integrated into the flashings.
Now that is a wall of glass!

Kona window wall system wrapping the
outside corner. Thin stile entry door by Aluminex
a Canadian company.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Preparing to meet with an architect

When I meet with clients for the first time one of the first questions I ask is, "Have you ever worked with an architect before?" If the answer is no, then I try to spend some time educating them on how the design process works, explaining the different phases, how contracts can be structured. This goes a long way in answering a lot of their questions and concerns. 

I wanted to post today a link to the American Institute of Architects website that has an article titled "Working with an AIA Architect".  I think it is helpful in reading before meeting with your architect for the first time.

Working with an AIA Architect

Also, if you would like more detail I have a book I can recommend. I have a copy myself and often lend it to people that want a more in-depth information. It's called "How to work with an Architect" and you can purchase it on Amazon. Or if you want you can give me a call and you can borrow mine! 

How to work with an architect


MP House Diary #4 - Roofing


This roof is a flat room with an un-vented cavity. The roofing system requires that the slope be built up with tapered rigid insulation and we used a TPO single-ply membrane. It is more expensive than an EPDM application, but last longer and is easier to install and comes with a longer warranty. The TPO membrane is white and reflects heat better than the old black torchdown type roof you can see on the neighbors roof in the background of the first photo. The roof cavity is filled with a combination of spray foam and batt insulation. 

6 mil vapor barrier with minimum R-10 polyiso rigid
insulation to keep that roof sheathing surface warm to
mitigate condensation

Rigid insulation being built up. 

More views of the tapered rigid insulation along with the
polyiso insulation on top. 

Rolls of TPO roofing that will be mechanically fastened to
the rigid insulation. Seams will all be overlapped and
heat welded

All plumbing vents and roof penetrations were in place
prior to roofing installation

Top of parapet wall. TPO roofing runs up and over the
parapet and will receive a sheet metal coping. 

Mechanically fastened TPO roofing membrane

TPO roofing ready to be heat welded

TPO roofing run up and over parapet, heat welded
together and ready for metal coping.

Roof penetration fit with a "boot" and is heat welded to
roofing membrane

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

MP House Diary #3 - Framing


Framing was done by Grondahl Construction a Seattle framing company. 

First floor framing on existing foundation. Notice floor is
has been shimmed up 7.5" from top of foundation wall
to give basement a 7'-1" basement height. 

New North Wall ready to be raised up

New South wall ready for steel posts

New steel posts in South wall

Steel bucket to support beam. The welded tabs "stiffen"
the wall below and transfer shear. Once in, a steel angle
was welded to the tab that ran parallel to the wall to give it
added stiffness. 

Thank goodness that Plywood Supply has a large
knuckle boom to drop that load of lumber where we need it.
Notice the fence and the powerlines. This guy knows how
to thread a needle!

West wall beam. Needed a beam lifter to get
this one into place

Beam lifter to set flush framed beam along
South wall. 

Birds eye view as they set beam in place

Upper windows along south wall. Steel beams transfer
shear loads to the wall below.

Monday, October 14, 2013

MP House Diary #2 - Foundation

Foundation Work

In this post I'd like to show how we dealt with the foundation on this house. The existing house was built in 1941 and the foundation was in good shape. Like homes of this era the floor framing spanned from exterior wall to a bearing wall the ran down the center of the plan. The basement had a sump pump which we were able to remove and install a gravity based interior footing drain that dumps into the sanitary sewer.

Using an existing foundation can be tricky. Some things to consider.

1. Do you have a footing? Older homes built in the 20's often times didn't have one. 

2. Is there any signs of cracking or settling? If so, has there been water intrusion?

3.  Is there a footing drain (often call a french drain)? Is it functioning?

Temporary shoring in basement to support
main floor while we pour new footings and install
flush beam to open up basement plan

Sawcut original slab. Excavation for new footing. 

Excavation for new footing. You can see
the line of the old bearing wall in the foreground

New below grade plumbing work. 

Below grade plumbing work. New back
flow preventor, waste line

Friday, October 11, 2013

MP House Diary #1 - Demolition

The house comes down! This was the beginning of a 8 week demolition by hand. The plan was to save the main floor walls and add a second story. Once we got into it we discovered rotten framing and decided that given all the changes we were making to that main floor exterior wall that it made most sense to remove the walls  and re-frame the main floor exterior walls with 2x6's. At that point it opened up some new possibilities. Why not take off the main floor joists and raise the basement height to code minimum at least? This is how change orders happen. 

Existing 1941 home. Cute but all original and needed a major upgrade.
Our plan was to transform this into something entirely different. 

View from neighbors house to the South. 

Removal of the masonry chimney by hand. 

Old stair going up to the old 1/2 second story. 

Dumpster couldn't be pushed back to the house
due to 24" difference in grade between alley and
backyard. Therefore, all debris had to be loaded
by hand.  24 dumpsters later we were finished. 

Front of old house. Rotten sheathing and all!

View of  interior of old house. 2x4 walls with no insulation.
This house was expensive to heat! Notice scaffolding. I
don't like heights!! 

What's left of the chimney. Note the duct
protruding out of the top. This was the exhaust
for the old oil furnace.

Only the stair left now. Main floor framing was so
rotten and hacked through that my framer decided it
was best to remove the rest of it. I did recycle the
bay window you see in the foreground

Off came the old floor joists to be reused. We decided to raise up the
main floor to give the basement the proper height once we decided
that the rest of the main floor walls were going to come down.
The old f
urnace is in the foreground. 

Scott Grondahl the framer was nice enough to
remove the rest of the chimney for me. Thanks Scott!