No drawings available for property

15 Replies

Hi,

I am in an escrow for a property requiring major fixer-upper work. The property has a lot of unpermitted additions and alterations which would need to be corrected. I checked with the city but doesn't seem the city has any existing building plans/site plans. 

This is my first fixer-upper so not quite sure where else I can check for existing building plans? If not, I may have to get CAD-drawings done by someone. If I have to go this route what all drawings should I get? I may be doing some renovation work but may or maynot use another architect for renovation/remodel work.

Thank you.

Updated almost 2 years ago

Not just a fixer-upper, the place requires major rehab work.

Jeff, With this project (and with almost all others) the answer is going to be it depends. 

It depends on the extent and scope of the work, the jurisdiction's requirements, and what you are trying to do with the place. 

At a risk of oversimplifying the process, most jurisdictions are checking for 3 things, structural integrity of the building, fire / life safety of the proposed space, and conformance to zoning requirements of the site. 

The first thing I would do in your situation would be to confirm what the city wants / needs to see. There is no reason to jump through hoops getting documents together if the city doesn't need you to have them. If you are already going to be doing major work on the house and there is a need to bring the place down to the studs you could ask to have have whats there inspected at that time and rolled into the proposed permitted work.

I've said this on other posts here but you should go to the city and start establishing a good relationship with them ASAP. The stance to take is someone inheriting a less than ideal situation that's trying to do things right. Let them tell you whats needed and work with them through the process, establishing that you respect their authority on the matter and are trying to work with them can go a long way in making your life easier.

For reference, a simplified lift of drawings required for a typical house permit in my area are:
- a site plan, 
- floor plans for every level calling out life safety elements, dimensions, etc
- building and wall sections describing the construction of all the building components as well as their r values
- building elevations 
- Architectural details 
- Structural drawings and details
- Structural Calculations  

Hope that helps, feel free to reach out with any other specific questions you might have.

    Hi David,

    Thank you, that is very helpful. 

    My intention is to fix up the property, rent it out until I am ready to retire there, which won't be for at least another 20 years or so. I may possibly move in there for a year or so after it is fixed up but it maybe a temporary move.

    The house already has a lot of unpermitted additions and alterations (like cantilever decks and patios, unpermitted bathroom etc.) with shoddy workmanship and electrical hazards. I am sure I will have to bring a lot of those things to back to code. I also understand without taking a look at it and not knowing exactly what I am talking about it would be difficult for anyone to answer this. However, generally speaking is it usually cost efficient to tackle major renovation (without sq. ft. addition) done at the same time or before I do any renovation, I would still first need to bring the existing structure back to code? 

    Is there any kind of combination permit (umbrella permit so to speak) that saves a lot of money vs pulling various permits for different projects in various phases over a next few years?

    Thanks.


    Originally posted by @Jeff Cliff :

    Hi David,

    Thank you, that is very helpful. 

    My intention is to fix up the property, rent it out until I am ready to retire there, which won't be for at least another 20 years or so. I may possibly move in there for a year or so after it is fixed up but it maybe a temporary move.

    The house already has a lot of unpermitted additions and alterations (like cantilever decks and patios, unpermitted bathroom etc.) with shoddy workmanship and electrical hazards. I am sure I will have to bring a lot of those things to back to code. I also understand without taking a look at it and not knowing exactly what I am talking about it would be difficult for anyone to answer this. However, generally speaking is it usually cost efficient to tackle major renovation (without sq. ft. addition) done at the same time or before I do any renovation, I would still first need to bring the existing structure back to code? 

    Is there any kind of combination permit (umbrella permit so to speak) that saves a lot of money vs pulling various permits for different projects in various phases over a next few years?

    Thanks.

     It's actually a little different than that. It depends on the jurisdiction and the scope of work. Without seeing the property and style of house and not knowing the square footage and not knowing what you want to accomplish, it generally goes like this.

    1. Get an inspection from a qualified inspector

    2. Ask him what doesn't meet code

    3. Decide what improvements you want to make

    That helps you to decide if the foundation and roof are in good shape. Assuming the house is basically structurally sound, you start with plumbing and electrical which may mean removing some walls. Keep in mind when you remove a wall in a bathroom there is no telling what you may find (mold, rot, bad plumbing, electrical issues, etc) and then on top of that you have to put it all back together again.

    And on and on and on

    So, the short answer is you don't really know until you get an inspection and then once you begin you may find issues that are in the walls. I tend to take things to the base level and redo them correctly since it saves time and I get a better result simply by getting rid of someone else's shoddy workmanship. But that's me. You might have a reason to work room by room.

    Thanks Mike M. 

    I am getting general inspection done, however the city has been to the property as well and done inspection and provided a report, which is where I see all those unpermitted additions and alterations.

    The house is from 50's so, If I want to take it to stud, it would mean professionally removing walls containing asbestos. Should I get it inspected for asbestos as well or do general inspectors test it for asbestos and lead paint as well?

    @Jeff Cliff general inspections typically don’t test for lead or asbestos. You can get lead test kits from Home Depot, etc which are a quick way to determine if lead is present. Having the house checked for asbestos is more difficult, and typically involves bringing in a specialized testing company.

    If you are doing demo yourself, you can probably get away with doing your own abatement. The asbestos and lead abatement industry is pretty much a huge racket, and once removed from your home, the material goes into the same landfills as all other waste (I was told this by the instructor of my lead abatement certification program here in Washington state)

    @Parker Eberhard

    Thank you for your response. I understand that permit fees varies not just state by state but even by cities. However, any guesstimate what would be the range for permit fees to bring the whole building up to current code (like between 5K-10K or are we talking more like 25K to 50K)? 

    Is there any online site, I could get some idea?

    Originally posted by @Jeff Cliff :

    @Parker Eberhard

    Thank you for your response. I understand that permit fees varies not just state by state but even by cities. However, any guesstimate what would be the range for permit fees to bring the whole building up to current code (like between 5K-10K or are we talking more like 25K to 50K)? 

    Is there any online site, I could get some idea?

    When I did a complete rebuild in Seatac Wa it was like $150 for the electric and another $150 for the plumbing - nothing near the numbers you are worried about

     

    @Account Closed I wasn’t really talking about the permit fees to bring a building up to code, but the cost of the actual work to do so. I know where I am (Mercer Island, WA), if you spend more than $X renovating your home (let’s say $100k, as I don’t know the exact number right now), you need to bring the whole house up to current fire code, which includes installing a whole house sprinkler system. This is obviously a very large additional cost to the original renovation scope. Other jurisdictions may require a building be brought up to current energy code (insulating all exterior walls, attics, etc, air sealing, whole house HRV (heat recovery ventilation) systems, etc), or structural code (I am working on a renovation now that is requiring the additional reinforcement of a masonry chimney)

    My point is, like so many people on BP say, is DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE BEFORE BUYING A PROPERTY, especially if you’re the new guy or gal in town. The unknowns in the real estate / architecture / construction world can be very costly and reek havoc very quickly

    @Parker Eberhard

    Thank you, good info. I checked on city’s site but very little information available on this, any idea where else I can find out if the entire structure needs to be brought to code beyond certain dollar amount?

    Thanks

    Initial estimates I have from a few general contractors vary from 100K to 200K.

    Any guesstimate how many percentage of that amount could be in fees?

    Originally posted by @Jeff Cliff :

    Hi David,

    Thank you, that is very helpful. 

    My intention is to fix up the property, rent it out until I am ready to retire there, which won't be for at least another 20 years or so. I may possibly move in there for a year or so after it is fixed up but it maybe a temporary move.

    The house already has a lot of unpermitted additions and alterations (like cantilever decks and patios, unpermitted bathroom etc.) with shoddy workmanship and electrical hazards. I am sure I will have to bring a lot of those things to back to code. I also understand without taking a look at it and not knowing exactly what I am talking about it would be difficult for anyone to answer this. However, generally speaking is it usually cost efficient to tackle major renovation (without sq. ft. addition) done at the same time or before I do any renovation, I would still first need to bring the existing structure back to code? 

    Is there any kind of combination permit (umbrella permit so to speak) that saves a lot of money vs pulling various permits for different projects in various phases over a next few years?

    Thanks.

    That all depends on your state. Permit laws differ from state to state. Usually you'll need separate permits for everything. More permits= more money for the govt. 

     

    Originally posted by @Jeff Cliff :

    Initial estimates I have from a few general contractors vary from 100K to 200K.

    Any guesstimate how many percentage of that amount could be in fees?

     You have to call your citie's Building Department. No one here will know.

    @Jeff Cliff i would go to the local building department and ask to talk to an inspector / plan checker. Tell them that you are looking at a property (don’t give them address if you don’t have to) and curious what may be required of them if you renovate.

    I have found that ‘playing dumb’ in a situation like this at the building department actually works to your advantage, as the inspectors / plan checkers like to help people

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