Architectural Design & Permitting: Make the Right Choices | How To Home Podcast #006

Architectural Design & Permitting: Make the Right Choices | HTH 006

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Transcript

Aaron:
Welcome
back to another episode of the How to Home Podcast. My name is Aaron Massey and
with me as always is my lovely cohost Tracy Pendergast.
Tracy:
Hello.
Aaron:
Joining
us today we have Ricardo Massio, who is an architectural designer. We’re gonna
dive into architectural design and when and how to pull permits. Welcome to the
How to Home Podcast presented by FilterBuy. I’m your host Aaron Massey, a DIY
home improvement enthusiast and full-time content creator, running
mrfixitdiy.com. Alongside me is my cohost Tracy Pendergast, a home and
lifestyle blogger operating her website heytracy.com.
Aaron:
Each
week we’ll cover the real world ups and downs of owning a home, answer your
questions, and if we don’t have the answers, we’ll talk to some experts to help
you get the most out of your remodel, repair, and home improvement projects. So
without further ado, let’s start the show. Thank you for joining us.
Ricky:
Thank
you for having me.
Aaron:
Why
don’t you give us a little bit of a background on what it is that you do, what
your experience is?
Ricky:
Basically
what we do is we do architectural design. We mostly do residential, and we do
room additions from basic remodels to brand new homes, to second floor
additions, to ADUs. That’s a new popular thing that we’re doing. Anything that
have to deal with residential that requires plans and permits, that’s what we
do.
Aaron:
I’m
kind of nerding out because I love doing design and architectural stuff. I have
tons of questions for you. But before we dive into that, I just want to remind
the audience that the show is kind of powered by your suggestions, your
questions. If you have some questions that we can incorporate on the show or a
suggestion for future episode topics, please give us a call at 978-709-1040.
That’s our voicemail number. You can call in any time or you can hit us up on
social media. We’ll make sure to post those links in the show notes. Also, you
can e-mail me. You can e-mail me at [email protected]
Tracy:
We
also want to thank our founding sponsor, FilterBuy. They are an HVAC filter
provider. You can save 5% when you subscribe, and obviously filters are really
important. They cut energy costs and they prolong the life of your units.
They’re very important to us right now as we do our remodel. They’re keeping
the air nice and clean for us and the kids.
Aaron:
It’s
a super easy service to use. You can go to filterbuy.com. You just follow the
prompts. It asks you what your sizes are to input for your furnace, air
conditioning units. I have two of them. I’m subscribed to it. I have them
delivered every three months, and you don’t ever have to set a reminder of when
to change your filters. You don’t have to worry about making sure that your
units are running efficiently, or that energy bills are lower because you’re
constantly changing them.
Tracy:
Everything
ships within 24 hours.
Aaron:
Everything
ships within 24 hours and everything is manufactured and made right here in the
USA, and they do custom sizes. If you have kind of a weird unit or something
that you’re having trouble finding maybe at the big-box store or whatever,
they’ve got you covered.
Tracy:
Good
stuff.
Aaron:
We
want to thank them for being the founding partner of the show. We couldn’t do
the show without them. Let’s dive in. I’ve got questions, so I hope you’re
ready.
Ricky:
Let’s
do it.
Aaron:
How
did you get into it?
Ricky:
Well,
I started back in 2010 I started my business, Ultimate Drafting Services, and I
just had the passion of working with architecture and homes, but I started all
the way back. Of course, when I was in high school I took drafting class, and
from there I went to trade school, but ultimately it was the desire to work
with architecture. Just working with homes, drafting. I just liked the
business, especially helping people, helping home owners, helping those who
need to do a remodel or an addition, and then make their dreams reality.
Aaron:
Tell
us a little bit about your day to day, like how you approach architectural
design or how a client might approach you and what you do.
Ricky:
Yeah,
it starts with the phone call. From there we just start the conversation. They
start asking me, “I need help to create plans to do a remodel or an
addition,” and then I start asking them questions. I do follow-up
questions. Where is your house located? How big is your house? Which walls do
you want to remove or what type of addition do you want to do? From those type
of questions we do an appointment and then from there we do a free cost
analysis. Basically we’re just going to go out there and we do a free consultation.
Ricky:
Then
from there we start talking to them and then I start helping them how to
visualize what they want to do. They already have an idea what they want to do
most of the time, “Well, I want to move this wall. I want to make this
kitchen like this or I want to do this here.” When I start directing them
is okay, what can they do within the parameters that the city is going to pass
because I think logically is what the city is going to approve. If they want to
do a certain thing, I have to make sure that it meets the code. Whatever advice
I give them, I tell them, “Okay. If you want to do this, you just have to
make sure that we’re within the parameters.”
Ricky:
I
help them in that way, and then from there we just start with the contract, and
then from there we get rock and rolling.
Aaron:
How
does a client or how does a person know that they need your services?
Ricky:
Typically
if they don’t know, like they just want know, “Oh, I want to do this. What
do I need to do,” the best thing to do is to contact their local city, or
you could just go to the website at their city and they have a list of items
that don’t require permits and there’s some that do. You could go to the
website or you could call. You could call Building and Safety or call planning
department. You could ask any questions and you could ask them, “I want to
do this to my kitchen. I want to add this. I want to do the second floor. I
want to change the pitch of the roof,” or whatever it is.
Ricky:
You
just go there and you ask them, or, “I just want to change the shingles.
What do I need to do?” You just go over there and ask them.
Tracy:
Going
through the city can be a pretty overwhelming process, especially when you have
so many different pieces. If somebody works with you, are you the direct
middleman between your client and the city? Do you take care of all of that?
Ricky:
Yes.
In our process, we take care of everything, from concept design all the way to
the permits are issued. We handle all the city transactions. We do the plan
ship process with the city. We do handle all the corrections. We do all the
interact back and forth with the city.
Aaron:
What’s
the difference between what you do as an architectural design and maybe an interior
design?
Ricky:
Interior
design is just what is described, it’s the interior design. They design the
interior. For example, this was wall here, they pick the color. They pick the
aesthetic of the room.
Aaron:
The
finishes.
Ricky:
The
finishes. The furniture. Everything. They do everything like that. What I do is
I do just what the city needs to approve. Basically construction documents is
what I …
Tracy:
You
make sure the wall doesn’t fall down?
Ricky:
Yes.
Yes. I’ll make sure that it meets the code. I make sure that the outlets that
are shown on the plans meet the code. Anything you do for the contractor to
build or a homeowner to build, that’s what I do. The interior design is like
what it’s going to look like at the end, what the finish is.
Tracy:
Someone
comes to you with this grand dream of what they want their house to look like.
It involves taking out walls or moving windows or doors. What are the steps for
you to figure out if it’s doable?
Ricky:
I
would just do a site visit. Anything is doable. It’s just how much money you
have. You know, you could pretty much do anything. Of course, if you do remove
a lot of windows, you want to make this nice collapsible door windows. At some
point, depending on the span, you just have to add steep posts. It all depends
what your budget is and what you want to do, but pretty much anything is
doable.
Tracy:
Yeah.
Full disclosure. Ricky’s done the plans for our house. My husband and I have
never done anything like this before. We didn’t change the structural design of
our last home. We’ve had to come back to you a couple times and say,
“Whoops. We didn’t know this had to be a part of the plan.” Once you
start drawing things into a plan, how firmly do you have to stick to what
you’ve provided the city?
Ricky:
Once
we submit the plan to the city, if you want to make changes, you can make
changes, but we just have to go through the city process and we have to get
them to approve the changes. Anything that is related to structurally, you have
to go back to the city and have them approve it.
Aaron:
Does
that significantly slow down the process?
Ricky:
It
can. Depends on the city, depending on the workload or the way how they work.
You have to submit the plans and it could take weeks. Some work could be done
over the counter. Of course, it all depends on the scope of work. If it’s
something very extensive, then they have to take time to review.
Tracy:
Yeah.
I would suggest just as someone who’s going through this process right now is
really, really have a clear vision before …
Aaron:
Ask
a lot of questions.
Tracy:
Ask
a lot of questions. Have a clear vision. Maybe have your contractor lined up
and discuss with them before you start putting pen to paper and submitting
those plans because …
Aaron:
Before
you start tearing your house apart and then realize, “Oh, I want to change
it.”
Tracy:
That
too, yeah. Luckily we didn’t tear anything apart before we started making
revisions, but there were things we just didn’t think of until the contractor
came into our house. We kind of talked about the nuts and bolts of things.
Aaron:
Pre-visualization
is one thing, but when you’re actually in the work, there’s always going to be
some level of change.
Tracy:
Absolutely.
Aaron:
Because
you’re kind of basing things on, you know, looking at the house as it currently
is and what’s possible and knowing the codes and all that stuff. You open up a
wall and just because something is supposed to be a certain way in a remodel
doesn’t mean that it was that way. Your plans might say, “This is what
it’s supposed to be like.” The contractor’s seeing something different and
then they’re like, “Okay. Now I got to get it to match his plans.”
There’s changes.
Tracy:
Absolutely.
There’s things that you want to do, but you don’t know if they’re possible
until you see what’s in the wall. For us, one of the issues we had is do we put
it in the plan and hope that it will work or do we leave it out until we open
up the wall, and then once we find out, resubmit. You know, these are just
little things. What would you suggest in those cases?
Ricky:
Ultimately
would probably be to talk with the contractor and see what the cost will be
from a standpoint like that. I would probably suggest to you if you want to
know 100% is you could open up the wall or you can remove the ceiling or go
into the attic and see what … If it’s a bearing wall, there’s load carrying
on that wall, if it’s going to impact the foundation. Those are the type of
things you want to do first. Sometimes we get a client who calls us and goes,
“I want to remove this wall.” The first thing I do is like what is
that wall doing? What is that wall carrying? Sometimes I go into the attic or
we look in the foundation.
Ricky:
We
typically see from the attic. The wall is usually doing something. Sometimes it
might not be doing anything. It all depends how the ceiling joints are sitting
on them. The best thing to do is to go into the attic to look and see if it’s a
load bearing wall and what ramifications could come from that.
Aaron:
Before
I bought my current home, I was considering buying the home that we previously
lived in. I want to run a scenario by you and see how you would recommend or
how I would get involved with you and what your process would be. The previous
home that we had was like … It was listed a three bedroom, but it was really
a two bedroom with a pass-through kind of office area and a single bath. I knew
that wasn’t going to work for us. I knew immediately that it was going to need
to add a second bathroom and it really didn’t have like a master suite.
Aaron:
I
had kind of previs this idea of adding like a 400 square foot kind of knock out
the back wall of the house, add a master bath off of that, so then it would
become kind of a true three bedroom, two bath. Now, if I came to you and said I
wanted to do that, what’s the scenario or what’s the process like of working
with you?
Ricky:
Just
like how you explained, we would talk about that over the phone. Then from
there we’ll schedule an appointment. Then after that, I would go visit your
property and then start looking at where this addition is going to go.
Typically let’s say you mentioned it’s going to go in the back. The first thing
I do is I go there and I look at your property. I’m standing in the back, I’m
standing on the sides, and I have my tape measure with me. What I’m doing is
I’m checking that it meets the required setbacks from the side and from the
back.
Ricky:
The
other thing I’m also doing is I’m also checking that the size of the addition
is within the requirements within the size of the home to make sure that we
don’t exceed the amount of square footage that the property is allowed. Those
are the first things I look for. Once we have that and everything looks good,
we start a contract. Then from there, you get us to go on. Then after that,
once everything is good, then I’ll send me or myself, one of my team members,
we measure the house. We have to measure everything. We have to measure the
rooms, the bathrooms, closets, everything.
Ricky:
Because
what the city wants us to see, they want to see how the house is going to flow
to the addition, how the addition is integrated to the house as a whole, how is
the addition serving the house. We have to measure the entire site, and we also
have to measure the floor plan of the house. When we present it to the city,
the first thing they’re going to check is to make sure that the addition is
within the required setbacks, meaning the distance between the house and the
property line on all sides that’s affected, including the garage. There might
be a garage there. A car has to have a turning radius into the garage. They go,
“I just use my garage as storage. I never use it.”
Ricky:
It
doesn’t matter. You still have to meet a turning radius, so the addition may
affect the garage or may impact how you drive into the garage. Those are the
things I look at first to make sure that it’s doable. If it’s not doable, then
I make suggestions. I will just say, “You know what? You can’t really go
up to here.” Let’s say your house is three feet from the property line and
you want to make your addition to continue the same line, but today’s code is
different from back in the 1950s. Now you have to make your addition five feet
from the setback. It’s going to be staggard. You have your house that is going
to staggard in an additional two feet for example.
Ricky:
I
note that to yourself or to a homeowner to make sure, “Look, I know you
want it like this, but the code is going to make you kick in the additional two
feet,” so then I do that. After that, once we have it measured based on
what you want inside, I ask questions. Okay. What do you want inside? When we
come out with the window or anything like that, I’ll have to first make sure
what your budget is because the more window or the more opening you have, the less
wall you have. The engineer has to do something about that.
Ricky:
You
can make it cost effective and give him at least three to four feet at the ends
of it, or if the budget doesn’t matter, then we could put steel posts and you
make the entire wall almost like a glass window. Those are all the things that
we’ll have a conservation on. Then after that, then I create the plans. I do a
preliminary plan first. I will email you a set of plans of what it’s going to
look like first. First, I will send you a floor plan that shows the entire
complete floor plan of the house and then the floor plan of the addition so
it’s showing it all together. You can make changes to the windows, electrical,
whatever you want to do. We make changes on that and we go back and forth.
Ricky:
Then
once you say, “Okay. I’m done. I’m happy with this,” the next step is
to do the elevation. That way you could see what the elevation looks like.
Aaron:
When
you say elevation, it’s like an exterior view kind of what the house would look
like?
Ricky:
Correct.
Correct. It’s going to be like if you’re standing in the backyard and you’re
looking straight to the back of your addition and then to the sides and then
one from the top, and then that way you could see everything like that. Then
once you approve that, we can make changes, “I want to do this. I want do
that.” Once that’s done, then we go to the second phase, which is to have
engineering started on this. I would consult with an engineer and the proposal
that we have it’s already included, the engineering is already included. They
do their thing and then they come. They look at the property, look at the
framing, or we provide pictures for them.
Ricky:
At
the same time while we’re doing that during the process as we go back and forth
with yourself or with the homeowner, we’re also going to the city to making
sure that whatever we do meets their requirements. We don’t do all this work.
We don’t spend all this time and money with the engineer and it turns out that
we can’t do it. Of course, throughout the process we’re double checking with
the city to make sure it meets all the requirements and parameters. That’s what
we do. We submit the plans to the city. Then after that, we pay the fees.
Usually the clients will give us a check. That way they don’t have to go to the
city at all. We handle all the city transactions.
Ricky:
We
fill out the applications. We fill everything out. We submit it. From there,
they give us a call once the plans are ready for pickup. We pickup and there’s
always local ordinances that they have or a calculation that needs to be done
or addressed. We handle the corrections and then we go back. We do this until
finally the plans are approved. The process could take weeks, it could take
months, or it could be over the counter, which means that it could be done in
one day.
Aaron:
It
just depends on the scope of the work. That was the question I was going to
have. It sounds like you guys carry a ton of weight. You do a lot of work. I
was like, “Well, how long does all this take?” A homeowner, depending
on the scope of the work, they should know. Then if they’re doing a huge
project, let’s say it’s March, I want to have this done by the end of the
summer, I want to get in touch with somebody like you pretty quick so that you
can have several months to knock all this stuff out. Is that accurate?
Ricky:
Yeah.
Yeah. Usually within a couple of weeks we have everything done on our end. What
the length part would be at the city, every city is different. It depends on
the scope of work as you mentioned. County of LA. They have a pretty extensive
process, but it all depends on your local jurisdiction of what their plan check
process is. A lot of the cities are backed up. They have a lot of work coming
in. Some of the cities don’t have the staff, so the outsource their plans to an
outside consultant and then they have their timeline that they meet.
Aaron:
In
my current house, I kind of want to do what we’ve discussed. I want to remodel
the kitchen. I kind of want to open up a wall, have lower cabinets and
pass-through and a range, all that stuff, into the dining room area. I would
like to do that in the next maybe year or so, but maybe what I should do is
kind of come up with a plan, approach somebody like yourself, and then from
there, knowing that I have about a year’s time before I have like the budget in
place and all that stuff, just kind of start the process and just start that
communication and then tell you maybe like, “I want to do this next
year,” and then you submit the plans much later on.
Ricky:
Yes.
The sooner you start, of course, the sooner the process begins. Then depending
on the scope, the city will take however long they take. There’s things we
can’t control. Sometimes you’re working on a particular house and discovers
that there’s termite that just affected everything, or sometimes the plans, of
course, are done perfectly square. The house is not perfectly square. Those
things happen after the fact. Once the plans are approved and everything is
done and then there’s issues at the field, then we have to address those items
as well.
Aaron:
Does
the contractor come to you or does the contractor go to the homeowner then the
homeowner has to come to you?
Ricky:
It
could be both ways. Sometimes the contractor say, “Hey, you know what? We
put a post in here, but it turns out that there’s plumbing and everything
that’s going on there, but we’re going to have to move the post or we’re going
to have to put a bridge or put a beam or something like that.” The
contractor will contact to us. The contractor, of course, will let the
homeowner know. We work with both. We work with the homeowner and the
contractor.
Aaron:
Is
there a difference between what you do and an architect?
Ricky:
They’re
pretty much very similar. The only difference between architect is they’re
state licensed. A designer, pretty much what we do is we have similar skills,
but an architect is licensed. A lot of times designers are usually more cost
effective to use and so the homeowners want to work with us.
Tracy:
Once
most of your clients get the plans from you, do you think a bulk of them DIY
your plans or do you think a lot of people are using contractors to bring them
to life?
Ricky:
We
get both. It’s more recommended usually to use a contractor because they assume
all liability. The contractor assumes all liability on anything that happens to
the house. If a homeowner does the work or does a DIY, they’re welcome to do
it. State law you could do it, but they assume all liability. If you hire a
subcontractor, if you hire someone, you hire your cousin or your uncle or
someone to do it, they get hurt, you are liable. The homeowner will be liable
on that. Usually it’s recommended to have a contractor to pull the permit.
Aaron:
Because
you have the license and the insurance and all that type of stuff.
Ricky:
Yeah.
Aaron:
It
doesn’t fall on the …
Ricky:
They
have a liability insurance. Anything, it’s their TSLB. Their license is on the
line.
Aaron:
Does
a project have to be a certain scope before you would take it on, if I wanted
to like just remodel a half bath or something like that?
Ricky:
Yeah.
There is a scope that we don’t get involved in. Like for example, you’re just
replacing fixtures. Like let’s say you gut a whole bathroom. You could gut a
whole bathroom and just go to the city and just get permits. Basically all it
is is you go to the city, you fill an application. I’m replacing a shower or a
tub or a toilet and sink and replacing the outlets and that’s it, and then they
give you a permit and you start doing your thing. When we get involved is when
you’re removing a wall or something more renovated that the city requires plans
to do that.
Aaron:
Like
a floor plan modification, something like that, like where you’re opening up
walls.
Ricky:
Yes.
Yes. What’s popular now is a lot of the homes that are in the 50s or older
homes, the rooms are … They’re all enclosed rooms. A lot of what’s popular
now is to have an open concept.
Aaron:
Right.
Ricky:
You
know what? Sometimes the people go to different homes. They go to open houses
and they like this open concept. They’re like, “I want to do this to our
house. I want to just take out that wall. I saw the kitchen like this. I want
to put an island here. I just want to do this.” People will think like,
“Okay. Well, I’ll just take out a wall,” but they don’t realize that
that wall is doing something or they get code enforcement involved. The city
truck is passing by and goes, “Oh, I wonder what they’re doing and they
have a dumpster out there.”
Tracy:
Why
is that house kind of like going back and forth like this?
Ricky:
Yeah.
Why are these people carrying all this material out here? I don’t see no
permits. What they do is they put the address and they look on their system.
They go, “Wait a minute. They don’t have a permit,” so then they get
tagged. Yeah, you always want to check with the city first.
Aaron:
Yeah.
If that’s happening, I mean there’s fines involved. There’s all sorts of stuff.
Ricky:
They
give you a break if you act in good faith. But if you don’t, yeah, fines could
get involved.
Tracy:
I
think one of the most overwhelming parts of this whole process for us has just
been the back and forth between the city, dealing with that, and then also the
inspection process. For anyone that’s about to do this and wants to know what they
can expect from an inspector who’s going to come in and out, what do you have
to have ready in your home for that inspector when he shows up or she?
Ricky:
That’s
when the contractor comes in. The contractor will usually call the city
inspector to come and inspect. They follow the plan. When the inspector comes
in, it’s usually foundation or whatever the permit is for. They’re going to
come and inspect that. They’re going to make sure that whatever they come and
inspect matches the plans.
Tracy:
But
are they looking throughout the rest of your home as well?
Ricky:
Sometimes.
If you have like a glaring thing that is not permitted or something that they
have to admit, then yeah. They do look at it. But sometimes if it’s just this
one thing and everything looks normal, then they just come and just look at
that.
Aaron:
I
think we’ll dive into that possibly in future episodes. There’s a lot of stuff,
electrically, your plumbing or whatever that … The codes have changed or
evolved over the years. You know? What was done in 1956 or 1960 or whatever is
certainly different than what the new codes are. You’re adding new electrical
in your kitchen remodel, well, your panel is not up to current code, they got
to replace all of that stuff. An electrical inspector will come in and tell you
that and that could be additional cost that you didn’t think about as far as
your budget.
Tracy:
I
was going to say, we might want to talk about that in budgeting for DIY as well
because those are just hidden costs that are scary quite frankly.
Aaron:
I
mean when an inspector comes in, their job is to inspect it and to make sure
it’s up to current codes and matches what the plans that somebody like you
would put together. If they see stuff that isn’t up to the code, it’s
ultimately going to be dumped onto the homeowner to pay to get it to up to code
because they won’t stamp it otherwise.
Tracy:
Right.
I think we had one open fine. It was for a water heater or something that was
actually just at the city, like an open-ended thing when we went to submit our
plans.
Aaron:
If
I come in with a grandiose vision of what I want my house to be, how do you
know if it’s achievable based on the home? How would you evaluate it?
Ricky:
It
all depends on how the house is being supported. Again, it depends on the
location. Of course, historical areas, you have to abide by the historical
ordinances. In historical, for example, for historical areas, you can’t just,
“This is an old wooden home. I want to put a nice fresh vinyl different
type of window.” You can’t do that. You have to maintain aesthetically to
match everything around the neighborhood. But if it’s like a typical home, we
just see how the house is being supported and we just have to make sure that
it’s adequately supported depending on what you want to do.
Ricky:
We
have to make sure that if you do an addition, we have to be within the
setbacks, within the parameters that the city allows you. Like for example, you
can’t just build, “I want to maximize my terrain. I have a big lot. I want
to maximize all the way to the property line.” No. You have to first check
with planning department because they have constraints on your property. The
reason is because they want to maintain an image of all the neighborhood. They
want to make it look very similar. You could have design. You could have color.
You could do different type of roofs and things like that.
Ricky:
Make
it a little bit how you like it, but you would want to check with local city
codes to see what you’re allowed to do, and then the structure and the
foundation to see what you can do there.
Tracy:
What
can someone expect budget wise when working with an architectural designer like
yourself? What kind of costs are involved or what would the range be?
Ricky:
Well,
the ranges all depends on the scope of work. We work with very basic projects
to very high end projects. It can range from $2,000 or $1,500 depending on the
scope of work all the way up to 10, 15, $18,000. It all depends on how much
work you’re doing, what extensive it is, what type of process the city
requires. It all depends. It could range from anywhere. The best thing to do is
to consult us and then we can see and we can provide you an estimate.
Aaron:
I
have a question in line with the budgeting thing. Does a client come to you
with a budget in mind or do you through your designs say, “This is how
much something like this may cost you to do?”
Ricky:
Yeah.
Sometimes we do get that question. I don’t get involved with construction. The
homeowner first should do is to contact the contractor to see what it’s going
to cost. Ultimately the contractor won’t know 100% because they need a set of
plans. But first thing would be is to communicate with the contractor to say,
“Look, I want to do this. I want to knock down this wall. I want to put a
window here. What is your experience? How much does this cost,” because
they know what the lumber cost. They know what the material is going to cost,
how much concrete, what rebar’s going to be needed.
Ricky:
They
have experience with city. They know what the inspectors are going to expect.
Those type of things are good for the contractor to answer that and they could
best answer budget cost for a construction.
Tracy:
What
are your tips for making this design process through the permitting process go
as smoothly as possible?
Ricky:
I
will suggest is to first if it’s a couple for the husband and wife to be on the
same page.
Tracy:
What?
Aaron:
That’s
not possible.
Ricky:
Well,
at least to be good on … Do the best they can on that, and then sleep on it.
Just think about it. Dream about it. Put it on paper. Just have like a set,
“Okay. This is what we want to do.” You know? Then have a like a
program. Sometimes they have programs. “You know what? This is what I want
to do is just …” You could doodle on paper.
Tracy:
My
husband and I work very differently in that sense. I am just such a creative
brained visual person. I cannot imagine things the way he can. I’m not
mathematical. I can’t visualize spaces. For me, he’ll show me something on the
plans and I’ll say, “Wait. Let me pull it up on Pinterest. I’ll show you
what I’m talking about.” I think that’s a really good recommendation is
whichever way you visualize things, bring those to the table and talk about
them.
Ricky:
Yes,
exactly.
Aaron:
This
is where I nerd out a little bit. I’m a big previs guy. I love doing this
stuff. If I were to go back again, I would listen to my child self where I have
found this old notebook that says like what do you want to do when you get
older and it says architect. I’d use every software out there that I can find
to see it before I do it. Is there software out there that you use to do your
plans that DIYers like myself could use? Are there programs available out there
that …
Ricky:
Yeah.
Well, there’s some free ones. There’s Google SketchUp. The cool thing about
Google SketchUp you could pretty much create spaces using objects. You could
shape the objects and you could make walls and windows. Basically the walls are
… You could make a window, you punch a hole. The cool thing about that is it
has a lot of materials that you could add. You could add like, for example in
this wall here, it has brick pattern. You could add whatever type of pattern
that you want on the walls. Same thing with the countertops, on the floors.
They have a library of aesthetics materials that you could add on there. They
could try to create this picture image quality that you’re looking for.
Ricky:
It
even has a sun on there or the type of day, how will this part look like. For
example, you’re doing a patio. How will the trellis that you want to do, how
would it look like in a certain time of day or a certain time of year.
Tracy:
That’s
cool.
Aaron:
I
use a program called Home Designer Pro, which is from a company called Chief
Architect. It’s not cheap. I spent quite a bit of money on it. What I like
about it is is kind of does a lot of the work for you from a planning and from
a building perspective. If I just draw a line that says, “I want this to
be exterior wall,” well, it builds in studs 16 on center. It adds the
sheeting on the outside. It tells you how thick the overall exterior wall would
be. I think as far as bringing it to the city like what you are saying, it
maybe enough, you know, but I’m not sure if it is completely up to code.
Aaron:
But
as far as a homeowner goes, if the want to do a Google SketchUp kind of render
or something, that will give you like a great starting point, a vision of what
it is that they really want, and then you can go in and plug in the nuts and
bolts, right?
Ricky:
Oh,
yeah. Yeah. From there we just add all the necessary dimensions, notes. I’ll
make sure it meets the code requirements and do that. The program that you
have, that you use, some of those could pretty much do everything. If you know
all the codes and everything, you could pretty much do the plans yourself and
just take them to the city.
Aaron:
The
only difference … I’m not sure. Obviously regional ordinances, even county to
county, city to city, they vary.
Ricky:
Yes.
Aaron:
I
don’t know how a program like that can keep up to code. I don’t know if you can
update it or what. It’s never a bad idea to run something like that by somebody
like yourself. You might say, “This might be sufficient. You don’t really
need our services.”
Ricky:
Oh,
yeah, as long as it has all the information needed. Sometimes I tell clients
when they give me something like, “Wow. You could pretty much do
this.” Like, “Oh, why did I get you?” I help them with
everything, but we use that and that could be cost effective for us. The client
could save money because they did pretty much all the hard work. I’ll give them
a discount because they have the plan already drawn. All we got to do is just
make sure … But sometimes we do have to, of course, incorporate it into our
plans and then we do our standards and make sure to do that, but all the hard
work was already done because they already designed the plan.
Ricky:
Then
we took it to the city and make sure that it works and then we come in. There’s
different options of doing that.
Aaron:
Who
pulls the permits? Is it you or does the contractor then need to pull the permit
once they start the work?
Ricky:
With
our service, the client sometimes don’t have time to go to pull permits.
Sometimes we work with developers and contractors who use our services all the
time. They don’t have time to go and spend time at the city and sit down and
wait and pull permits. They contract us to do it. Part of our services may
include us pulling permits. The only thing that we need is a letter of
authorization from them and it has to get notarized. The cities are obligated
to accept our letter and then we pull the permits. That’s how we do that.
Tracy:
For
people that aren’t in the LA area and can’t use your awesome services, what
should homeowners look for when they’re going to hire an architectural designer
or an architect? What are some things to look for?
Ricky:
They
want to look for experience. They want to look at past projects that they
worked on. Have they worked in the area? They want to be able to see the type
of projects that they’ve done. Ideally it would be one that is similar to what
they’re working on and what they want to do. That way they could see and look,
“This is the plan that I’ve done that is similar to like your house.”
It shows everything. Plus, the plans have been approved. They have experience.
That’s what I would look for is to have someone who has experience, who’s done
work in the area, and who could finish the project and get the plans approved.
Aaron:
We
talked a little bit about permitting. Why should homeowners make sure that they
get permits for their work?
Ricky:
Well,
the main thing is not to get busted by code enforcement. That’s one thing is
not to get fined or get busted by the code enforcement. Another one is the
safety factor. That’s why at the city it’s called Building and Safety. It’s to
protect you. It’s to protect your family. When you want something done, you
want to make sure that it’s done right. Sometimes there’s homeowners that want
to cut corners and they get subcontractor not licensed. They go, “I could
do this or I’ve done it this way,” and then just accidents happen. I’ve
seen there’s decks that just fall and break and people could get hurt. It’s
very critical to get plans or to get a permit for that, to have the inspector
look at it.
Aaron:
It
could also affect your ability to sell the home later. If you’re putting on an
addition that wasn’t permitted, it can’t be added to the square footage of the
home in terms of the sale. You may spend all this money putting an addition on
that you didn’t permit, and you’re thinking that you’re going to get that money
back when you go to sell it. You may or may not.
Ricky:
We
do projects like that where they call us and they go, “We have an unpermitted
structure.” Some cities are becoming very strict where they come before
you sell. The inspector has to go to the property first to inspect that
everything that’s there is permitted. If it’s not, they cannot sell it until
it’s legalized.
Aaron:
Wow.
Ricky:
They
make plans to make it legal. If it’s done really shoddy work that is pretty
bad, they have demo it and rebuild it again.
Tracy:
Oh,
that’s a bummer.
Aaron:
That’s
a big cost.
Ricky:
Oh,
yeah.
Aaron:
Where
does a homeowner go to make sure that they are in compliance and that they get
a permit for what is required? Where can they go and check and make sure?
Ricky:
At
the Building and Safety Office at their local city is to pull records, permit
records. It’s best to go there. Some of these homes are old and so they might
not have extensive records on everything. Some of these homes don’t have plans.
Most of those homes don’t have plans at the city. “Oh, I’m just going to
look for a floor plan and see maybe I could find it there.” What the have
there back then, they didn’t use plans. They just basically filled an application,
but they typically put the size of the house or the construction work that they
did and you could match it with that or you could check with planning
department. They pull up your house in the satellite and look at it.
Ricky:
They
could help you answer questions there, but ultimately what they’re going to do
too is pull the permit records and that’s how they could check.
Aaron:
That’s
kind of interesting. Something I never would have thought about. Maybe it’s a
topic for another episode, but as a buyer, right, could you go and say,
“This is the address of the home I’m thinking about buying. It’s on the
market. Can I look at the records and see what you have as the floor plan and
see if it is up to code?”
Ricky:
Yes.
Yes, definitely. Also, it’s supposed to be disclosed. The real estate agent is
supposed to know that there’s something unpermitted, so that when you buy it,
you know that it’s unpermitted so you assume all liability when you buy it. You
could also double check them by going to the city to making sure what you’re
buying everything is permitted and legal. If it’s not, then you understand that
okay, I’m going to get this and I’m going to have deal with whatever comes with
it. Some homeowners call me, “I just bought this house. I don’t know it
was like this.” We come and we help them. We legalize. We permit their
addition or anything that happened, a patio cover. They assume all liability
that comes with it.
Aaron:
I
do a lot of my own work, so I am constantly wondering what needs to be
permitted, what doesn’t need to be permitted, how much can I do on my own, do I
legally have to have someone like yourself involved, or can I kind of submit my
own plans. I think you’ve provided a ton of useful information for the average
DIYer, homeowner, people with various budgets. Ultimately people got to know
kind of what they want, right?
Ricky:
Yes.
Aaron:
If
there’s five takeaways let’s say for example, people have to know kind of or be
on the same page with what changes they want to make, visualize it in some way
or previs in some way, whether it’s sketch on a paper or make your own plans or
whatever it is, then considering approaching somebody like yourself who knows
the codes, knows what’s possible, and then get a contractor involved that can
give you a sense of the budget-
Ricky:
Correct.
Aaron:

before you get actually into the scope of work.
Ricky:
Exactly.
Aaron:
Then
figure out how you’re going to pay for it, right?
Tracy:
Yeah.
I was going to say-
Aaron:
Which
I think we’ll talk about in another episode.
Tracy:

put your hands together and pray.
Ricky:
Yes.
Yes. Ultimately is once you have everything done and it’s an accomplishment
that you made, you worked hard … Yeah, it gets dirty on the project. I know
you mentioned your house has a lot of dust in there, but at the end of the
tunnel it’s going to be nice.
Aaron:
That’s
going to be the way you want it. This is your forever home or your dream home.
You know? I guess that’s something to consider as well when thinking about
permits and building. Are you going to be there forever or are you just trying
to make it nice for resale?
Tracy:
Another
thing I think just what we’ve decided to do, because you do have all of this
back and forth with the city, we decided to wait until we could do all of it at
once. We’re submitting one time. There was a couple changes, but you kind of
just get it out of the way. It’s not as overwhelming in my opinion, but that’s
another thing to consider. How many times do you want to go back and forth? Is
it worth it to just wait a little while, save up that money, and knock it all
out literally?
Aaron:
Yeah.
Is that possible? For example, could I do like … Say I have a two-story home
and I want to remodel the whole first floor, but I want to do it in phases.
Could I approach you with an overall vision? Let’s say this is only what I have
a budget for right now, but this is the overall scope of what I want to do.
Tracy:
That’s
a good question.
Ricky:
Yeah,
the city will not allow to you to work on … Let’s say we do a set of plans
for the whole, like you said, entire first floor, but you only wanted to work
on the kitchen, but the plan encompasses everything, which has to do with
foundation in one area here, another area here. When the inspector comes, they
cannot just approve you for the inspection only in this one area. They have to
come and they come and they look at the plan. They have to look at everything.
If you want to do it in phases, that will be the best thing to do is just work
on that phase.
Aaron:
Then
just have an overall kind of cohesive vision of how it will come together-
Ricky:
Correct.
Aaron:

at the end of the day.
Ricky:
Yeah.
It’s like you’re doing one step at a time. I know the permits might be like
okay, you’re submitting plans again and you’re paying the permits, but it works
with your budget because that’s what you can do. I mean, of course, ideally in
the long run is you save more money when you do it all at once because you have
everything open. The inspector comes and inspects all the foundation at once.
But if it’s not in your budget, you’re more than welcome to start with the
first phase first.
Aaron:
Well,
Ricardo, thank you so much for being here. I’ve learned a ton of stuff. I’m
going to pick your brain offline about some more software stuff and all that.
Ricky:
Oh,
no problem.
Aaron:
We
can’t thank you enough for being here. We want to thank our sponsor, FilterBuy,
for making this episode possible. How can people get in touch with you if they
have questions or they want to use your services? Where they can reach you?
Ricky:
They
can reach my website. It’s at ultimatedraftingpro.com or they can email me at
[email protected] Right there we have pictures. We have everything
there and be able to answer some of the questions that’s going to be on there.
We’re also going to have like a process of how steps are laid out for starting
a project. Everything should be spelled out there.
Aaron:
Well,
thank you so much. We want to thank you you guys for listening or watching,
however you’re choosing to consume the podcast. Please rate us on your various
podcast apps and platforms. If you have suggestions, questions, comments, feel
free to reach out on our voicemail at 978-709-1040. Hit us up on social media
or email me at [email protected] Lots of ways to get in contact. Lots of
ways to get involved with the show. Thank you guys so much for watching and
we’ll see you next time.
Aaron:
The
How to Home Podcast is brought to you by FilterBuy.com, your one stop direct to
consumer replacement air filter brand and is produced in collaboration by
Amassed Media Group LLC and Intelligent Arts and Artists. The show is executive
produced by George Ruiz and Aaron Massey.

Show Notes

This week, ‘Ultimate Drafting Pro’ Ricky Maciel joins Aaron and Tracy to talk all things design and permitting. We discuss how to pick the best professional for the job, why permits are often necessary and how to find out if you’ll need one for your home project!

LET’S CHAT!

You can always call and leave your questions and comments on our voicemail!

978-709-1040

TIPS FROM RICKY:

-Visit your city’s website or call Building and Safety to find out if the project you want to do requires permitting. You can also pull records there.

– Anything is doable structurally it just depends on your budget.

– Once you submit plans to the city you can make changes, but they have to be approved. Tracy suggests having a clear vision and asking lots of questions before submitting plans to the city.

– Talk with contractor about costs before submitting plans.

– Open up walls or check in crawl space/attic to find out if your walls are load-bearing.

– Your contractor will arrange the inspection and make sure it matches the plans. If you have something unrelated that’s unpermitted they may catch it in their walk through.

– Cost range depends on the scope of the work. From 2k-18k

– Homeowners need to be on the same page before starting the process.

– Permits are created to protect you. Pulling permits is important for your family’s safety.

– Not pulling a permit can affect your ability to sell your home.

– As a buyer you can also pull records to find out if a potential home is up to code (usually real estate agents disclose this).

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ARCHITECT AND DESIGNER?

  • Architects are state licensed.
  • Designers are usually more cost effective.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER:

  • Historical locations have restrictions.
  • How is the house is being supported- structure and foundation.
  • Will you fit within the parameters of the planning department.

SOFTWARE TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR SPACE:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER:

  • Experience
  • Past projects. Have they done something similar to what you want?
  • Have they worked locally?

CONTACT RICARDO:

UltimateDraftingPro.com

[email protected]

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