Real Estate Development & New Home Construction

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Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
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What is the process for adding an external structure to a house

Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
Posted May 18 2022, 19:20

We want to have a permanent patio built onto our house (Fremont, CA).  Up until now, every year once the rainy season ends, we've been putting up a heavy-duty tarp; 12'x10', two corners attached to our eaves and two held up with 10' wood poles, attached with cords to posts pushed into the ground.  When the windy season (or rain, if we get any in a given year) arrives in autumn, I take it down; the tarp generally lasts 2-3 years before needing replacement.

Anyway, I'd like to replace that with a robust permanent structure, which I'm envisioning as being a similar structure as the tarp thing; two corners attached to 2x4s in the eaves, the other two out in the yard attached to a 2x4 or 4x4 set of wood posts, fastened securely to the cement surface in the yard.  The top should be well-supported wood panel design, possibly with the same composite-tile surface that our roof has...

So, I searched on Yelp for general contractors who had good user ratings; the first two wouldn't even discuss such a small job; the third asked me 'do you have drawings?' ... ummm... no, I don't... he said he would talk to his people and call me back, but he never did so... I'm taking that as a "no bid" situation...

So now I'm a little baffled... am I really going to have to hire an architectural engineering firm to generate drawings, for such a simple project?  This is almost sounding like a 10s-of-thousands-of-dollars job... that is *not* what I was envisioning...  I mean, if I *have* to, I can just stick with the tarp-and-poles solution that we've used for the past 20 years or so...

So I'm back here at BiggerPockets again, looking for insight and wisdom... are architectural drawings really necessary for a job like this?  

And the big question: how do I select contractors (or whatever else is needed) for a job of this scale??

San Jose, California

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Colleen F.
  • Investor
  • Narragansett, RI
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Colleen F.
  • Investor
  • Narragansett, RI
Replied May 19 2022, 06:06

@Daniel Miller you don't have to get an architect, we used a draftsman for an addition, much cheaper.  Based on your description though wouldn't an awning be viable.  Or here we have a post and beam company that does something Similar all the time and probably has designs you modify to taste. 

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Scott E.
  • Developer
  • Scottsdale, AZ
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Scott E.
  • Developer
  • Scottsdale, AZ
Replied May 19 2022, 06:57

The right way to do it is hire an architect or a draftsman who will draw up the plans, work with a structural (and probably electrical) engineer, and submit the plans to the city for a permit. The draftsman and engineering fees on a job this size should cost you ~$4000-$5000.

A lot of GC's out there will build a structure like this without plans and without a permit from the city. Working with somebody like this will save you the draftsman and engineering expense, and will get the job done a lot faster. But you run the risk of it not being built to code, or the city requiring you to tear it down if they catch you building it without a permit.

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Replied May 19 2022, 08:36

Are you just looking for something to provide some shade in the warmer months? If you want to go the GC route then go for it, it's your money, but you could probably get the same benefit from a pergola at a fraction of the price. Toja Grid also sells the corner joints for pergolas and kits that you connect to the exterior wall, then you buy the lumber yourself. 

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Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
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Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
Replied May 19 2022, 17:13
Quote from @Colleen F.:

@Daniel Miller you don't have to get an architect, we used a draftsman for an addition, much cheaper.  Based on your description though wouldn't an awning be viable.  Or here we have a post and beam company that does something Similar all the time and probably has designs you modify to taste. 

Hi Colleen; I had previously looked at retractible awnings, on Ebay and other sites, but all had significant numbers of users who said the devices were not reliable, and fell apart after a few years... I want to put in something that will last for 20 years without being messed with... otherwise, I might as well stick with the tarps...

If I wanted to talk to a 'post and beam' company, as you mention, what would I search for??

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Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
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Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
Replied May 19 2022, 17:20

as far as permits go, we've lived in this house for 25 years now, and it is paid in full...  I certainly don't want to do a half-way job, and I have more confidence in contractors who consider permits a normal part of doing business...

I don't know if the drawings are typically part of getting a contracting job done, but I really would prefer dealing with a company who does everything needed to get the job done right, including drawings, permits, planning, and building... as I commented previously, I want to get an addon which will be as robust as the rest of the house, and will last the rest of our lives!!

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Colleen F.
  • Investor
  • Narragansett, RI
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Colleen F.
  • Investor
  • Narragansett, RI
Replied May 20 2022, 06:52

@Scott E.  the draftsman did plans for our second story addition for about that or a little less. I would figure this kind of thing would cost less but maybe not and it is california. 

@Daniel Miller  I would search patio or garage post and beam.  These are normally local companies that also build houses or other freestanding structures like garages. The advantage is they may have a design build team in house and some easily adaptable plans.  However, it may be that those kind of companies are more common here then in your area. 

As for the retractable awnings it is just a thought. If you get a lot of heavy winds they can be an issue. Also  as they age when things break the companies don't support replacement parts.  They are best if you don't want shade all the time. Also a pergola is another option if you don't want constant shade.

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Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
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Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
Replied May 20 2022, 06:57
Quote from @Colleen F.:

@Scott E.  the draftsman did plans for our second story addition for about that or a little less. I would figure this kind of thing would cost less but maybe not and it is california. 

@Daniel Miller  I would search patio or garage post and beam.  These are normally local companies that also build houses or other freestanding structures like garages. The advantage is they may have a design build team in house and some easily adaptable plans.  However, it may be that those kind of companies are more common here then in your area. 

As for the retractable awnings it is just a thought. If you get a lot of heavy winds they can be an issue. Also  as they age when things break the companies don't support replacement parts.  They are best if you don't want shade all the time. Also a pergola is another option if you don't want constant shade.

Thank you for these suggestions!!  The pergola is interesting; some of them look pretty rugged; I could probably get a handyman to bolt it to the wall and patio surface without much trouble... I'll consider that; in the meantime, I'll try searching for "post and beam" constractors, though my initial search didn't turn up much...

And *yes*, winds are definitely a consideration here; we get winds up to 40mph here, especially in autumn and early winter; that, rather than rain, is what usually drives me to take down the tarp every year...

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Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
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Daniel Miller
  • Fremont, CA
Replied May 20 2022, 09:44
Okay!!  Thank you all for your recommendations; I've spent last night and this morning researching options, but there is *no question* that a pergola does *exactly* what we want, is sturdy and robust, and won't cost nearly as much to get installed... not to mention we won't have to worry about our house getting re-appraised... that is definitely a winner...

You folks are the Greatest !!!!!!!!!!!!

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Scott Mac
  • Austin, TX
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Scott Mac
  • Austin, TX
Replied May 20 2022, 11:24

If your hire an Architect to design and oversee the construction, you will have a greater chance to have it look like it was originally part of the house.

Vs letting your GC be the contractor to whatever his eye thinks is best.

 A unified looking structure vs pieces and parts attached together.

Maybe make it 8 foot deeper than you think you want it, then when company comes over it's like a big outdoor shady room.

Just my 2 cents.