Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –
Hello Sandsters –
I hope this blog and your families well. If you are really lucky, you are somewhere warm and sunny, and not glued to the Weather Channel hearing about the coming of the next Ice Age.
We’ve been pretty lucky the last few weeks and have avoided the worst of the winter storms. That doesn’t mean we missed out on the freezing temperatures, slush, ice, snow and frozen ground, but we didn’t get 3’ of snow in the last month either. The glass, although slightly murky, is persistently half full.
Warm weather update: Spring 2015 is occurring in 37 days. Today we have 53 minutes more daylight each day than we had on December 21. That’s positive. This time of year, any good news and happy thoughts are very welcome.
Today we have some interesting RREM news, the latest RREM scorecards on progress, and (surprise!) some of the state chosen contractors in Path C are less than stellar. We talk about elevation considerations for HVAC duct work under your house, working with experienced RREM contractors, more on the pleasure of winter construction, enduring the CO process, health and nutrition tips III, and an update on our next Rebuilding Seminar on February 19th. It’s a pretty aggressive schedule tonight. Maybe I’ll even finish it and actually post it…
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar schedule: We’ll be holding our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar in Toms River next Thursday February 19th at the Ocean County Library. It is on Washington Street from 6-9. We’ll have great speakers, including Evan Hill, PE, Kathy Dotoli, Esq., Scott Lepley, AIA and Kris Pitcher, LS. As always, I’ll be moderating and providing general construction commentary and we’ll tell you how to design it, survey it, build it and protect it. We’ll be serving light refreshments. As a note, the Green Room seats 30 at most, so please drop me a note or give me a call if you plan on attending, so you don’t have to stand out in the hall…JJ 732 300 5619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tip: If you don’t want to miss any of my blogs, go the blog and “follow” it. Sometimes I don’t send email alerts when I blog but if you “follow” the blog you will get an email reminder when I scribble away.
Sandsters are constantly saying to me, “Thanks – no one ever told me that and it’s really important”.
This next point is one of those items.
Elevation height – Make Sure you consider your HVAC duct below the house: This item can be critically important and is often overlooked by (almost all) engineers, architects and builders who haven’t done many lifts.
Simply put, you must determine what your township will allow as far as elevation of the HVAC duct in the crawl space. Some townships have no restriction, some are at minimum Base Flood to the bottom of the duct, some are at BF+1 to the bottom. No, I am not talking about the furnace or any other mechanical device, which must always be a minimum of BF+1. I am talking only about the duct work.
We are working in 11 townships. There are a total of 6 different sets of rules involving this one item. Really.
Some townships have more demanding requirements than the FEMA or state code, as is their right. This is not an item you can worry about later after your house is lowered down on a new foundation, since you will have to either move your entire HVAC system (a disaster if not planned for) or waterproof your duct (another not pleasant experience.) It is much better to know beforehand, as opposed to going for final building inspection and having the inspector tell you that your duct height is not acceptable. If this happens, you will be really unhappy and well and truly in the soup. Divorce and bitter words will inevitably follow.
Summary: If you have duct in your crawl space, make sure you account for the height when you calculate your lift. Either elevate 2 or 3 extra courses (good for flood insurance rates, bad for extra stairs), move your duct (messy, intrusive, expensive and involves soffits and sheetrock repair) or waterproof your duct, which is a middle course that though a bit costly, is often a good alternative to higher elevation.
RREM News – Fair Housing Report, Contractor Vetting and Progress:
There has been a lot of RREM news recently, and I am inserting links for a few good articles. As is usually the case, the version of events portrayed in the media, is not completely indicative of the actuality. Sometimes the reality is worse, and but many times it is more positive than the spin.
Here’s a good NJ Spotlight article that gives a lot of information: http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/15/02/05/housing-advocates-criticize-christie-administration-s-handling-of-sandy-recovery/
Reality: Though you are hearing that only 400 RREM projects have been completed, that does not tell the story. About another 600 – 800 houses are substantively completed (Sandsters back in the house, CO received, all inspections made, everyone happy (except for the fact that RREM might take 2 months or more to issue the last check) but the RREM Paperwork Nightmare from Hell is still burning along. It is really cumbersome and inefficient. (Several witty phrases come to mind. “No sense using 50 words when 5000 will do.” No reason to do anything quickly when you can take as long as you like!” “No sense eliminating paperwork because it generates a lot of activity and kills trees! Who likes trees anyway?”)
So we’re really doing a bit better here in NJ than the news leads you to believe. That’s not to stay that we are anywhere near close to finishing this job. We have another 10 years at least and a ways to go before we can call ourselves efficient or proficient at a governmental oversight level.
In the “If you wanna get really annoyed” category, the latest RREM audit findings have concluded, among other aggravating tidbits, that 12 of the original Path C contractors were not properly vetted by the state of NJ!
I know, you’re shocked.
(Author’s Note: To all of you reading this who have chosen to convert or stay in Path C, remember that when one lies down with dogs, one must expect fleas. If you are stuck in Path C through no fault of your own and couldn’t choose Path B or convert, God be with you.)
(Author’s note #2: Believe it or not, there are still people that are switching out of Path B into Path C which is foolish in the extreme. Choose Path C over Path B be only if you are reallymasochistic. You are much, much better off trusting your own potential skill and common sense than a government entities’ fairly certain incompetence.)
To any Sandsters trying to decide if making your own decisions about your rebuilding project and staying in Path B is the intelligent way to proceed, read this article and think about trusting someone the state inflicts upon you in the hopes that all will be jes’ peachy.
For real titillation and long Maalox moments that last for hours, read the entire Fair Share Housing Center 2nd Annual State of Sandy Recovery Report. You can access it here: http://fairsharehousing.org/images/uploads/State_of_Sandy_English_2015.pdf
Which brings us to….Working with Experienced Contractors:
It is vitally important that your contractor or builder have experience with actual elevation projects, as well as experience dealing with RREM paperwork and payment delays. The contractor who did your interior renovation after Sandy is probably not the person who should do your elevation project. They are 2 different animals. Before you retain anyone, ask how many actual elevation projects have been completed (we are at 62 with another 26 currently active) and how many are under way. Ask if they are familiar with RREM paperwork requirements as well as the delays in payment. You don’t want your contractor or builder to stop working because RREM is paying slowly and they can’t fund operations. Be cautious if they have little experience in either of the above categories. You don’t want your elevation project to be someone’s opportunity to learn. Remember, the pioneers are usually the ones with the arrows sticking out of their butt.
Health Tips III for Sandsters:
Milk – Stop Drinking It: Regardless of what the dairy lobby tells us, cow’s milk is not healthy. It has casein protein in it, which is indigestible by any mammal other than baby cows. It is decidedly not good for you. (Google it).
It is not a natural source of Vitamin D, which is added to make you think that milk is a good thing. It is not. Vitamin D is a great thing but drinking a lot of milk is similar to ingesting Plaster of Paris. Drinking milk to get Vitamin D is like drinking vodka because you think it’s important to get more grain in your diet.
If you have allergies, your sinuses are constantly stuffed up, you feel bloated, or have inexplicable ailments that no one can figure out, stop drinking milk and watch what happens.
Don’t ever feed cow’s milk to your kids (unless you don’t really like them or they are truly bovine).
Other alternatives to cow’s milk include coconut, almond or soy milk which are all excellent. (As a note, soy milk contains estrogen, so if you are male, you don’t really want to drink that in great quantities unless you’re hanging out with Bruce Jenner).
These alternatives were not available until the last few years but now you can buy them in any food store and they are the same price as regular milk. Be kind to yourself and drink anything but regular milk.
Winter Weather – Part II – A nod to anyone working in this weather and a special thanks to all our guys:
We don’t like it, but we do it. Neither rain, nor snow, nor idiotic bureaucracy shall slow us down. We work 7 days a week when needed and in all kinds of crappy weather when we have to. Being out in the field gives one a great appreciation for how difficult working in harsh weather can be.
Otherwise, it’s the same old, same old unpleasant nonsense. It’s a mess and everyone feels the same – cold, annoyed and aggravated. Ground is frozen so you have to drill, jackhammer or use frost teeth on a machine just to break through the frost and dig. Getting footings inspected and poured (usually 2 separate days unless you’re really lucky) is an exercise in frustration involving ice, mud, slush and frozen pipe.
Come on Spring….hurry up already.
New development: Dream Homes Mobile Web Site is now Live!
You can now log onto www.dreamhomesltd.com from your mobile device and see a mobile site tailored to a smaller screen. Yay! The question is, does anyone really care about this development?
Repeat – Reminder: Start your design work now to be in for summer 2015. If you haven’t started your design work, you’re just about cutting it too tight at this point to be in for summer. If that’s your goal, call us so we can help you make that happen. If you want to get your house finished by summer, and still take advantage of cheap winter rentals at the beach, you have to get started now.
If you have your design work done and RREM under control, what are you waiting for to get started??
Worst Town and Most Improved at the Shore, weekly update: The first is a tough one to call since there are several contenders. No one is winning any awards in the last few weeks for making the business of working in the winter any easier.
On a positive Most Improved note, Brick Township (who I treated a bit harshly in a previous blog) called me for a meeting to discuss possible solutions and improvements to the inspection process. Kudos to Joanne the business administrator for her efforts to facilitate progress and investigate ideas to improve the process. I also met with Dan Newman the head of the building department, and the Township Engineer.
The good news is that some computer improvements are in the works which might (should) help the process.
The bad news is that many of the ideas I presented were dismissed as impractical or not likely to be implemented.
Some of the conversation was darkly humorous (the reason the township won’t give out the inspector’s schedules is because people (both homeowners and contractors) stalk the inspectors. Really.) I hadn’t thought of that.
Some of the conversation was just sadly revelatory. It turns out 90% of the time that most building departments spend is dealing with homeowners who have not the slightest idea of what they are doing. This factoid does not bode well to the building professionals who are actually performing 90% of the work. I can’t figure out how to cure that one other than having 2 categories of inspections (professional and homeowner) which was rejected.
(Author’s note: The reason general contractors and builders are licensed and insured is because they actually do construction science for a living and are (supposedly) more proficient at construction than the average Sandster. They are also more efficient and utilize a lot less resources at the building department level.) I suggested different ways to speed up the CO process and I can tell you nothing I said on that subject helped much. (I say that from personal experience.)
All in all, we spent an hour and fifteen minutes in collegial conversation and I’m not sure we accomplished much. It is good to make the attempt though…talking never hurt anyone and if one small process is improved, thousands of Sandsters benefit. I won’t go to inane public forums and bang a drum, but I will gladly make an effort on a professional level to improve process.
Definitions & Important Considerations That Can Delay Your Project:
Lowest adjacent grade (LAG): This is an important elevation since the lowest point in your crawl space has to be even or above the LAG. That is important because even if you don’t want your crawl filled that much (so you have more storage space) you will not pass final zoning / final building if this condition is not met. LAG is defined as the lowest grade immediately next to your house. There can easily be a foot or more difference between one side and the other, or back to front, so if you wish to use the least amount of fill (maximizing room in the crawl) make sure you find the lowest adjacent elevation.
Elevation: Elevation refers to “height above sea level” and not the height above grade at the house or distance the house is being elevated. It’s easy to make a mistake with these descriptions and it causes much confusion. Example: If you are raising your home to elevation 11, your finished floor is 6 and your grade is 4.5, you are raising your house 5’ to elevation 11, or 6.5’ above grade. When you use the expression “elevating my home 5 feet” that means you are lifting it 5’ from where it is now. The expression “building or raising the home to elevation 11” refers to the height above sea level, not the distance you are lifting.
Survey: An exact depiction of what exists on your lot, from a top view.
Plot plan: A top view of what you are proposing to build, including new heights, stairs, entries, decks, etc.
They are not the same and you will need both for your project.
You Tube Link to a Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar: If you’ve missed our seminars and can’t easily attend, here is a link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVI69KoM8DRXqoEblHd94xg
It is not edited and is about 2 hours so feel free to fast forward and skip around to watch what you like and need to know.
Remember – if you have a specific question, send me an email or a text. You don’t need to wait for a seminar or a site visit to clarify a point or two. The same goes for those of you under construction. Whether or not you are Dream Homes/Atlantic Northeast Construction client or not, I’ll always try and help you or guide you in the right direction. If you’ve sent me email or left a voice mail and have not received a response within a day or so, please try and contact me again. I do miss messages here and there.
Note to Sandsters: Though I write this blog to help as many Sandsters as possible, Dream Homes Ltd. and Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC are new home builders and general contractors who are actively renovating and reconstructing projects up and down the shore. We actually do all of the work that I talk about in the blog. We work with private clients and Path B in the RREM program. Call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.
That’s all for today Sandsters. I hope it helps you move forward. As always, call or write with any questions.
Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894
Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 13VH07489000
PO Box 627 Forked River, NJ 08731
Office: 609 693 8881 F: 609 693 3802
Cell: 732 300 5619