Diary of a POP TOP Second Story Addition Project

169 Replies

@Todd Whiddon  

Im starting a similar project in Chicago.  Look forward to seeing the progress on your build out. 

@John Weidner  Thanks for following along! Is there a "Pop Top Union" involved?


The GOOD news is we are still on schedule, the bad LESS than desirable news is that a mix up at the lumber company kept our framers from getting the roof on over the weekend.  The 2x8 ceiling joists were delivered as 2x6s, and no one caught it Friday.  While this could have been corrected with an EPIC Home Depot run on Sunday, my BEAUTIFUL wife and I have a LIFE to live, and we just dealt with it Monday :)

Too bad that wasn't the ONLY framing problem we had to deal with this week!  The lumber company delivered a nicely LAMINATED copy of the iJoists layout.  Only problem is that the engineer made a few REDLINES to the iJoists layouts that are ONLY on the jobsite prints, NOT on this ROGUE laminated copy from the lumber company...

Guess which version the framers used to frame the second story floor???

Sooo... a few beams that the engineered lengthened to line up with the new footers in the basement DON'T exactly line up where they need too.....

This really isn't the framers fault, This really isn't the lumber companies fault, This is one of those things that just happens sometimes.  PLAN MANAGEMENT is CRUCIAL!  Both ONLINE and "OFFLINE" 

Last year on the Diary of a New Construction House our foundation company had an old set of plans and put ALL the piers in the WRONG spot.  Lesson learned from that, we HAVE been doing a better job of keeping vendors up to date using Dropbox to give them access to the latest and greatest plans, but even that isn't foolproof as old or outdated plans can still CREEP onto the jobsite!

So now that it HAS happened, we have to make a decision...

Option A: Build Temp walls on the 1st floor, rip out beams, make a BIG mess, spend lots more $$$$$$ on new beams.

Option B: Do NOTHING, hope the house stands up long enough to get to closing and change my number

Option C: Dig a few more footers in basement to line up with current beam placement, no time lost backtracking, and minimal cost.

Which way should we go.... Which way should we go????

This is a great post.  I have been looking for properties to do this very tactic for a couple years.  I think it is great for you to show that even very experienced rehab guys can have what seem like "stupid" mistakes, but the reality is that there is a lot going on with a major rehab and having an older copy of plans on site is not at all uncommon.  That last photo of yours that shows the beams ending about a foot short of your exterior wall is priceless.  It is great that you are able to show that these things just happen and you pick yourself up and figure out the best way to resolve and you move on.  And then ideally you put in place a system or procedure that prevents it on future projects.  Love the post and your candid display of how this stuff really works.

LOL the fun never ends, and you can keep it going if you choose Option B! I assume you are choosing Option C (after talking to the building department and being sure they will allow it)?

On our job they had to go over and re-measure everything before ordering up the floor joists, because the architect forgot to compensate for the stucco thickness, thankfully they realized it before having the joists made, or we'd be in that boat with you!

@Scott Graves  Thanks!  Yup, experience comes with LOTS of stupid mistakes and it's ALL about HOW you recover from them and HOW you TRY to prevent them in the future. 

While everyone should strive for EXCELLENCE in all they do, it's also important to remember that if your NOT making mistakes, your NOT expanding your horizons! 


Come one,  Come All!   Now comes the FUN part when we get to put the house back together!

It pretty much took 5 minutes to walk from one side of the house to the other this week with all the bracing in place. 

So we hope to see everyone at the end of next week to be among the FIRST to walk on the SECOND story! 

Also, for anyone attending next week's BP Atlanta meetup I will be headed to check this project out afterwards and you are welcome to tag along! 

Anyone the needs the address just PM me or let me know in the thread! 

Updated over 4 years ago

Friday 11- 21 from 11-12


DA ROOF is on fi....  Better not jinx myself! 

@Todd Whiddon  completely agree about broadening one's horizons.  By the way, I see from one of your recent photos that you have a QR code on your sign in front of the house.  Based on what I can see from the sign, I assume that links to your website with a message about you buying houses.  Do you also have a phone number on that sign?  If so, what percentage of people click through to your website versus call the phone number?  Have the QR codes been effective for you?  I like it.


One of my favorite aspects of Real Estate is DESIGN. I probably DEFINITELY spend WAAAYY too much time designing kitchens, houses, decks, trim, bookcases, you name it. But I really enjoy it, so I'll keep spending too much time on it, while I outsource boring stuff like making sure the Port-O-Johns arrive on time and doing drywall takeoffs.

Here is the progression of our design process on our first Pop Top.

Our Dynamic Draftspeople Duo "The Girls" come out and measure the house for an "As-Is" Floorplan.  This is important for coming up with a DEMO plan, Planning the ADDITION, as well as some municipalities will REQUIRE one for permitting purposes.

It's a good idea to have your STRUCTURAL ENGINEER involved early in the planning process as well.  If you or your architect cannot identify the LOAD BEARING WALLS, have your engineer make a site visit to do so.  This way you know what walls can be taken out / moved without worry, and which ones need to be accounted for in the new design.

Next we discussed our "GOALS" for the NEW house.

- HUGE Kitchen

- HUGER Living Room

- HUGEST Master Suite

- 4 Bedrooms

- 3-4 Bathrooms

- "Craftsmanny" Style Exterior

Also since the existing house is brick, we wanted to try and keep the first floor walls As-Is as much as possible. We kept the window sizes the same on the front of the house, but added many more and moved some on the back, so there will definitely be some brick work to be done.

Here are the conceptual sketches our draftspeeps came up with.

The elevation was abit to Tudor-ish for what we were going for, also we wanted to move the laundry upstairs to be closer to most of the bedrooms and also to give the kitchen some more room, so back to the drawing board!

NOW We're talking! We REALLY liked Craftsman Front Option B and the Interior is getting closer to what we had in mind.  We make a few redlines....

and give them the go ahead to turn the sketches into CAD drawings...

Now Comes The EASY Part

Anyone that has experience in New Construction or Bigger Rehabs knows the feeling.

There is a BRIEF moment of relief.

A little weight is lifted OFF the shoulders.

There are STILL things that can and will trip you up. And there are still some SURPRISES on this one that we have uncovered that we have yet to tackle. But when framing is complete there is a LIGHT at the end of the tunnel.  The nebulous surprises of what lurks behind the walls have been dealt with.   The schedule can be tightened up as weather isn't as much of an issue and multiple subs can now work simultaneously.

On another note, I think I'm gonna QUIT real estate and become a photographer, not sure how I did it... but this first pic just looks REALLY cool if I do say so myself!

We should have the invoices from the lumber company soon and I will post them along with some lessons learned on ordering a lumber pack for a Pop Top Addition.  All in All were REALLY lucky that our framer has a LOT of experience with this type of project and aside from a couple mishaps like the beams being installed according to the WRONG plan everything has gone smoother than expected on the framing, I say that now.... maybe I should wait until we pass our framing inspection!

I've talked with some of our framing crews that do our new construction during this project, and they wouldn't touch it with a 10' 2x4.  I've also talked with our Pop Top framer and he doesn't want to touch New Construction.   The moral of this story is everyone has their NICHE of what they are experienced at and the type of work they want to perform.  There are challenges and unique situations that come with remodel type work, and even though you may find a framer that has built 1,000 houses, if your project is the first one they have remodeled, you BOTH could be in for a less than desirable experience.

Originally posted by @Scott Graves :

@Todd Whiddon completely agree about broadening one's horizons.  By the way, I see from one of your recent photos that you have a QR code on your sign in front of the house.  Based on what I can see from the sign, I assume that links to your website with a message about you buying houses.  Do you also have a phone number on that sign?  If so, what percentage of people click through to your website versus call the phone number?  Have the QR codes been effective for you?  I like it.


Thanks! We actually JUST installed these signs on all our projects so I don't have enough data for analytics yet.   My thought with the QR code was even if no one actually uses them, they LOOK cool and GET people's attention. We have gotten a pretty good response in the short time they have been deployed, which is exciting.  It's kinda like a High End Bandit Sign.

This is the first time I have done any marketing to speak of so hopefully good things will continue to come from it.  We have several projects going on some high traffic streets and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to try and capitalize on that!

The signs are just the first step of a MASSIVE marketing BLITZ that is about to be UNLEASHED on the ATL!


Wrapped the week up with the House Wrap. Roofers hopefully had a productive Saturday as we're getting about 2" of rain today!

@Todd Whiddon  

Is felt still commonly used as underlayment in your area?

We have stopped using organic and use only a synthetic underlayment along with {at least} one width of ice & water shield {a necessity here} ... on low pitches we've done the entire roof with a shield.

Originally posted by @Roy N. :

@Todd Whiddon 

Is felt still commonly used as underlayment in your area?

We have stopped using organic and use only a synthetic underlayment along with {at least} one width of ice & water shield {a necessity here} ... on low pitches we've done the entire roof with a shield.


Yes Felt is pretty much the norm down here. We'll do ice & water in the valleys but that's about it.   We're working on a project right now with CRAZY low roof pitches to make it work for a zoning overlay with a 28' height restriction. On that one and anything under a 4/12 roof pitch we will definitely shield the ENTIRE thing!

Here is the roof plan for the Pop Top, pretty straight forward..

And here is the one we are working on with a crazy low height restriction...


Roofer's came through for us over the weekend and got the house dried in before the rain!  Windows and doors were delivered this afternoon and will be installed tomorrow. That is pretty much the only thing happening here this week as my team and I are taking some extra time with our families for the Holiday.  Mechanical roughs start Monday.


We JUST got the roof ON..... You Want us to TEAR it OFF.....AGAIN!?!?!?!

House Wrap Finished Up.... Windows and Doors Installed....  Time to call in the Pre-Cladding Inspection so we can start siding, Which will be the FIRST time an inspector has been out since we started framing.... The following texts detail the DRAMA that ensues.....

Could THIS be Happening!?!?  Could THIS be TRUE?!?!?  Tune in SOON for this post PART 2....


You know those times where you end up with MORE cabinet than wall?   Or more Wall than cabinet?  I've DEFINITELY been guilty of PLENTY of tape measure "mis-reads" over the years, and even though my heart stopped beating for a few minutes when I first got these texts, I knew  REALLY hoped that this inspector was guilty of the same thing...

So the moral of this story is....  TRUST your inspectors, but remember they are people too and we ALL make mistakes!  The inspector used a grade rod

along with a good ol' fashioned tape measure to measure the height of our roofline, only problem was he did not have the grade rod fully extended which threw his measurement off by about 5 feet!!   When we double checked his measurement with our LASER tape measure, we knew something was up and called him back to go over the discrepancy.  

Our project manager handled it perfectly by just asking the inspector to come back and review what he had found out, the inspector apologized for the scare, and signed off on our inspection.  

Had our project manager been like "BOO-YAH! IN YO' FACE YA DUMB %#$%@" which I'm sure is what he really wanted to do, our results would have most likely been much less desirable.

Its always better when it is someone else  that fd up.  Of course as long as that someone isn't working for you! 


December has been a rather CRAZY month, and this thread has deviated slightly away from REAL TIME, but I'll do my best to catch us up here shortly!

We moved from framing to mechanicals as soon as we were "DRIED IN"... 

Which is builder speak for "Ain't nuttin gonna git wit"....

Which is Southern speak for, "The Interior of the home shall remain free of moisture"....

We have been using PEX in all our new builds and re-pipes for the last few years.  I'm sure this will spark some debate.... I even debate myself on it from time to time!  One of the BIGGEST advantage for us is that it is NOT copper and isn't as much of target to be stolen!   

We try to make our Master Baths a WOW feature of the home, so the master shower gets MULTIPLE spray heads and instead of the TIRED OLD framed in tub, we will be using a FREESTANDING tub... 

More Expensive?   YES!  

Worth EVERY penny?   ABSOLUTELY!

I'm sure if the previous owners walked the house now, they would be SURPRISED to see a shower where the front door used to be!

When scheduling mechanicals... Plumbing, HVAC, Electrical, Low Volt, In Wall Pest Control.  We ALWAYS usually go in that order since it's harder for the plumber to work their pipes around other stuff, and easiest for the electrician to run their wires around other stuff.

Thanks for the update, Todd! This thread is like chocolate. I need my Pop-top fixes. :)

I have a couple questions, please excuse me if they're very basic:

Multiple showerheads - I think I see two, will there be more?

Low volt - for doorbells and alarms right? Do you need a separate permit for that?

I've never heard of "In wall pest control." What is it, and is it a necessity or a good selling point?

Originally posted by @Sheree H. :

Low volt - for doorbells and alarms right? Do you need a separate permit for that?

Not only a separate permit, but in City of Atlanta, a separate contractor!  Well, doesn't have to be a separate contractor, but City of Atlanta requires the contractor to have a low voltage license, which isn't very common among most electricians in the area.

Todd and I did our first new construction project together a couple years ago, and this little issue threw us for a big loop.  Ultimately, we ended up doing essentially no low voltage wiring because we couldn't find a reasonably priced contractor to do the work (they gouge you because they know there aren't too many licensed low-voltage guys).

The other option, of course, is to pass your rough inspections, and then throw the low voltage in the walls before closing them up.  Just don't get caught!

Now, all that said, I don't remember which city this project is in...it may not be City of Atlanta jurisdiction, so permits may not be required for this particular project...

Originally posted by @Crystal Smith :

@Todd Whiddon  Just found this thread.  Love it.  Is PEX less expensive than copper?

 Yup, mostly due to the reduced labor cost of installation...

@Todd Whiddon:   Thx.  We're going to put this in our arsenal for our next renovation.

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here