Converting Multi into SFH Question

6 Replies

Hi all,

So I was just wondering if anyone knows where I can figure out what exactly I would need to do to change a multi family property into a single family- legally/physically/etc . Also I live in Alabama if that helps, or if anyone just already knows the answer. Thanks.

The first thing you migh need to do is walk your existing property and identify every single existing room with exact or near exact measurements noting in particular walls as some can exist as load bearing walls, important structural members for the exisiting structure, Make a scaled down drawing of the exisiting .Use for example 1/4 inch equals to 1 foot. Note existing set backs from the property lines to the building all around, front, sides, and back. 

You then take this drawing along with pictures of your existing building to a local architect for consultation about what your vision is or your plans for converting into a single family home. They will guide you from there. 

If you want to accomplish this economically you can simply look for a residential designer, a draftsman to help you out at this phase. 

Once you have done that you should be able to put some numbers together. Do not try doing things on your own as this is an area with many red flags which can motivate your local code enforcement officials to come and issue you a stop order which can carry some hefty penalties, and if you persist depending on your municipality might even land you in jail. This is not and I repeat, Is not, a project or process you should even consider taking short cuts on.

Is this an old SFR that was converted to apartments and now you want to convert it back? Will zoning let you do that? There are probably architecturals down at city hall. Look at those first, and see if there are any warnings about problems that might cause you to change your mind. For example, if it was originally built as a 900 square foot per unit fourplex, there are probably fire walls between the units. It might be difficult to create open floor space. There could be other issues. Look at the plans that were filed when it was built or converted, pay an architect an hourly fee to discuss things, and then if you decide to go forward, hire the architect. @Gilbert Dominguez is right, you'll need full architectural and engineering drawings, and you might need a structural engineer depending on what you are doing. Unlike the flipping shows, if you take down a load bearing wall to create open space, it's not as simple as installing an LVL beam. You will have to get a structural engineer to calculate the size, you'll need city approval, and there will have to be an inspection before you cover it up.

Contact John Hoar director of city inspections.  He is very helpful and will come out and take a look.  A lot of variables to look at; do you want to change the multiple power meters back to one (very expensive).  Are there multiple water meters? Are there 2 or more front doors?  Do you want to enclose one of them, is it brick?  If it is a simple duplex and you just want an opening connecting the two units, it may not be a big deal.  There is a duplex on North Ross (I think on the corner of Martin) that was converted to a single family.  It looks kind of crazy because you can see where the other front door was bricked up.  John will be your best source of information.

As spoken by @Greg Parker, there is nothing like hearing straight from the horse's mouth, Mr. John Hoar, director of city inspections. Consulting with him first could save you a bit of effort and some money as well. Learn to trust local official. They are actually there to help you not just to enforce building codes. Building codes are for a reason and mostly they exist to protect the public interest.

My personal experience is that if more people consulted with their local building officials first, before they go head strong into a project they would save themselves a headache or two and maybe a few pretty pennys. 

If Mr. John Hoar is willing to cooperate with you from your planning stage, I would consider that a god sent.