Selecting countertops

This post first appeared on Brownstoner.com on July 3, 2014

countertop

As you may recall, in our last installment, I was dealing with the “no-show” plumber and was in the process of firing him. Firing a plumber is actually much more difficult than I thought. The plumber has to agree to withdraw his permit from the job or agree to allow another plumber to work under his permit, or the owner has to send a letter to the DOB outlining his negligence, and after review the plumber could be removed.

Well, my plumber would not agree to withdrawing on his own, and going the DOB route would add weeks if not months to an already delayed job. In the end, I was stuck with him.  He continued to leave work half done, late and unacceptable. In the end, I  ignored his objections and had another plumber finish the work. The real drama may ensue when he has to close the job.

This renovation has literally been a second full-time job. But in the middle of the madness comes the fun stuff. And for me, the fun stuff is picking out finishes such as countertops.

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Are there any good plumbers

This post first appeared on Brownstoner.com on May 24, 2014

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Last we left off things were moving along at a steady pace. The electrical work was moving and my contractor had started the framing. And I started working with a garden designer, hopeful that I could even tackle the backyard before summer.  And I also put my rental on the market — it rented in two weeks. You can read about the rental updates here. What do they say about nothing good lasts forever?

First problem was finding a plumber who was within my very limited 203K budget. The budget was $8,000 and included updated one existing bathroom, one new full bathroom, one half bath,washer/dryer connection, and plumbing for the kitchen. The plumber I wanted to use and does amazing work was just too expensive — his bid came in at more than double the plumbing budget. I asked around for a few recommendations and interviewed a few plumbers.

The plumber I chose came highly recommended but more importantly he was within budget.  Well, everything started off right but then he disappeared for a few weeks. Daily calls, angry voicemails and promises to show up landed us three weeks behind schedule. Which means I’ll be camping out with friends after June 1 for a few weeks until at least one of the rooms and a bathroom is completed. I’m in the process of firing the plumber.

But I’m incredibly thankful for my amazing support system — including the Brownstoner community who tell me to keep pushing and that one day it will all be worth it.

Above, the kitchen in the rear of the parlor floor with its electrical, framing and Sheetrock. Click through to the jump for more photos of the progress or lack thereof.

Renting the one bedroom

We’re about five weeks away from being completed in the duplex. Will everything be done in five weeks? Who knows but I just listed the rental unit- click here. I might be pushing the price slightly for the location but hey a studio next door is asking $1900. We’ll see how it goes.
Here are some before and after photos. I apologize that not all the pictures were taken from the same angle.

Here’s what changed in the rental.

Bathroom:
New tiles, shower head and medicine cabinet. I kept the tub, toilet and sink. I painted the vanity and added a faucet . I also, moved the door to bathroom from the bedroom to the hallway.
Bathroom Before:
Old bathroom

Photos after the break…..

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Starting work on the owners duplex- FINALLY

This post was first published on brownstoner.com on April 9, 2014- as part of our cross blogging partnership

Prior tenant moving out

Prior to tenant moving out

After six months of legal wrangling, eviction notices, numerous stays on those notices and calls, the tenant I inherited finally moved a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, she was living in the owner’s unit (I have been living in one of the rentals). Since then it has been non-stop work at the house. The day after the tenant vacated my contractor started the demo work, above, and the following week he was onto framing. Continue reading

What’s new in 2014

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The New Year came and went and I still have the Section 8 tenant I’ve been trying to evict still in place. Which means I’m no closer to beginning the renovations in the duplex. She missed her December rent and we had an eviction date but the judge not only gave her a stay but allowed her to back out of the agreement and pay December and January rent late. I was out of town for the “stay” hearing , so not actually sure what she told the judge. Plus, she’s had a new section 8 voucher for several months now, which leads me to believe she’s waiting on a payoff from me that will never come.  Tenant court in this city is such a joke. The next eviction date is February 28th- please send me all the positives vibes you can.

But the good news is that my other tenants are doing great and life is the rental is quite good. Oh and I’ve been getting along great with the neighbors. They’ve been really looking out for me and even been helping with shoveling snow and encouraging me to keep going with the renovations.  All in all things are pretty good.

Bed Stuy Reno: First 203K Inspection

This post first appeared on Brownstoner on December 12, 2013- as part of our cross blogging partnership

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From the contractor’s perspective, the 203K inspection is probably the single most important part of the 203K process. The contractor doesn’t get paid for his work until an inspection actually takes place.

But let’s take a step back. The 203K inspection is the official FHA inspection of the property, and it can only be done by the 203K consultant. When applying for the 203K loan, you are required to select a consultant. Based on budget and the scope of work, the consultant determines the number of “draws.” Draws are the total number of payments and inspections.

My project has a total of five draws. I selected my consultant based on the feedback I got on Brownstoner Forum last year. My consultant has been great and even gave tips to make the process go more smoothly.

When to schedule a draw? How it works is that your contractor will complain to you about how he’s low on cash and then you will tell him he needs to finish more stuff before you call the consultant. (I’m only slightly joking about this.) Prior to the first inspection, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

I frantically emailed Pamela from the blog So We’re Buying a House! and asked a million questions, such as “do I have to fill out this crazy FHA form?” Pamela patiently answered all my questions by telling me not to worry about the inspection, and that the consultant will complete all the forms and he will determine the percentage of work completed.

The day of the consultant’s visit my contractor actually cleaned up! Cleaning is not his strong point but I was impressed that there were no longer paint cans and equipment just laying around. (Above, one of the kitchens about four or five weeks into construction. It looks totally different now.)

The consultant came and took lots of photos of all the work and asked the contractor questions. The entire process took about 30 to 45 minutes. A day or two later the consultant sent me and the contractor the official report reflecting the amount of work completed to date and the amount the contractor is to be paid by the bank.  The owner and the contractor both have to sign the form. The form is then sent to the bank by the consultant, and like magic a check arrives that you and the contractor both sign.

And all is well for a couple weeks until your contractor starts complaining about getting paid again. Next up: How to find a contractor for a 203K renovation.

This is what $4500 looks like

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This is what $4500 looks like

Yesterday, the blog got a nice feature in Brownstoner. I’ll be cross blogging once a week to the Brownstoner audience. I’m super excited about this and I want to thank everyone for their nice emails and comments. In fact, one of the comments encouraging me to keep going and not give up almost brought tears to my eyes- especially, after the horrid day in court with the tenant from hell. And for the record the NYC landlord tenant court is unfair and leaves small landlords vulnerable to professional freeloaders.

Since, we last left off I got a violation from National Grid.  When they came a few weeks ago to turn on the heat they found several gas leaks. Well, come to find out I needed a new gas line for the entire building- which set me back $4500! Anyway, keep the words of encouragement coming, I need them right about now.

Shower is almost done…with the correct tile

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The shower is almost done which is the good news. But I’m starting to feel that no one listens to me. I told the guys to use black grout on all the rental kitchen back-splashes,  hell, I even went to Home Depot and purchased the grout myself. I went to the house today and guess what color the grout is? White of course! I asked Carlo why did he use white grout when I explicitly told him to use black grout. His answer: “What?! You wanted black grout with white tiles? That makes no sense” Well, it seems that Carlo is also an interior designer. Anyway, I told him to make sure they use the black grout in the one bedroom kitchen. I also think it looks weird that they extended the backsplash to the side wall but at this point I’m willing to pick my battles.

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Always check the tile box…ALWAYS

The correct tile

A few weeks ago, my contractor changed the configuration of the studio bathroom.  The new configuration actually works better than the original plan.  When he changed the plan  I asked him to let me know how much more tile he needed.  In all honesty, I didn’t push the issue and looking back I should have been more proactive and had the measurements taken on the spot. Well, I didn’t do that and last week I got a frantic call from the project manager that they needed more tile ASAP.  I went to the tile store to reorder the tile.  The tile arrives the next day and my project manager goes and picks up the tile. I come by the house later the following day and to my horror the guys are putting up the wrong tile. Seems that the tile store filled the order with the wrong tile and the contractor nor the project manager checked the box before leaving the store or even before bringing it to the house.

All this was made worse because the previous day I had conversations with the project manger and the contractor about being proactive and being able to order things like tile correctly without me being involved.  Anyway, I made the guys take down the incorrect tile but the tile store is orthodox and therefor not open on Friday and Saturday.  I waited until Sunday to make the changes and asked them to check the boxes twice.  The guys are going to put up the correct tile tomorrow, I’ll keep you posted.