It’s difficult for me to admit defeat so I’m just going with “on hold.” We have overcome many roadblocks so far but we just can’t overcome all of them.
Many of you know that last summer I was so fed up with New Home and Robert’s inadequate care, my family and I decided to convert our garage so Robert could live with us.
It seemed like such a simple idea . . .
Hubby and I discussed converting the garage without a permit but since we were installing a new bathroom with a shower and not just constructing walls and plopping a bed in the garage, it seemed prudent to obtain the permit. That was my first mistake!
Hubby went to the permit counter of our little city and was told unless we could provide two covered parking spaces on the side of our house, garage conversions were not allowed. “Even though it will be for my disabled brother-in-law?” Hubby asked. “Yep,” was the reply.
After much research and me showing the permit department their own “Reasonable Accommodation” code, they relented. We had to jump through quite a few hoops and agree to follow every building code in order to receive a building permit. We also had to agree to convert the garage back to the original state if Robert moved out or we sold the house (yes, that means removing the shower & toilet & windows & walls) but we agreed. After two months, we got our planning permit.
It took two months because we were the first people in our city to ask for such a thing so the agreement had to be created from scratch and attorneys had to be consulted but, if nothing else, at least the city now knows they have a Reasonable Accommodation code they have to follow and they won’t turn away others seeking to provide housing for their disabled relative.
Next up: Building permit.
Our “simple” project became quite complicated in a very short amount of time. The wall we originally planned to install windows in (as well as the a/c unit) was a structural wall. Apparently, with a two story house, you just can’t cut holes into any old wall that may be holding up the second story (good thing I’m not in construction).
We had to track down original building drawings or spend thousands to have an architectural engineer do load calculations on the wall (which meant measuring the entire house – no small expense).
The original building drawings were not available. Our city wasn’t a city when our house was built so they didn’t have our plans. The county didn’t have them either because they no longer have plans for us since we’re now in an incorporated city (can you say “run around.”) We could go to the original builder to try to find them but most likely they wouldn’t have them since our house was built 15 years ago.
Our contractor thought it would be simpler to remove the garage and install windows and a door instead of worrying about the structural wall. We met with the city about their exiting and light requirements which, in order to meet these, meant large windows and a large door in place of the garage door. (Remember, this all has to be removed if Robert ever moves out in keeping with our planning permit agreement). I didn’t like the appearance of it and all these windows were increasing the cost but knew it was the only option.
Our water heater which sits quietly in our garage suddenly becomes a health hazard sitting in a bedroom. We would have to either enclose it (with a steel door) or buy a new one and install it outside. The a/c unit would have caused its own problems but we have friends who were giving us a deal.
With the rising cost of this project, permit fees are rising as well.
Hubby’s brothers are both handy so they were going to help with the construction which would save some money. As an added bonus, one of hubby’s brothers is an electrician who could help do any electrical work.
How fantastic is that? Wonderful, except when you have to comply with the electrical requirements in order to get this building permit. We need arc-fault something or other for all the electrical outlets in the new room which means adding space to the electrical panel for the house. We need to add the a/c unit to the panel, too.
We quickly learned we have a very small panel with no room to add anything.
We got quotes on a brand new electrical panel. Brother-in-law referred us to someone who could help since he usually works commercial and we needed a residential expert. After reviewing the electrical panel, the electric company “box” which feeds the box was nowhere to be found.
SMUD came out to trace where the box is and found it buried under cement. It’s a long story but it’s been buried since we moved in.
We have to break up concrete in our driveway to get to the electrical box to upgrade the wires in order to upgrade the electrical panel in order to provide a/c and arc fault whatevers for the “simple” garage conversion!
The cost of this project has tripled before construction begins. I am not naïve enough to think the cost would not increase even more once we actually started construction.
I hate to admit defeat but the electrical panel problem pushed me over the edge.
At this point, our best bet is to hope the housing market rebounds a little so we can sell our house and buy a one story with an extra bedroom. Then, we can move Robert in with us.
In the meantime, he stays with us on the weekends and sleeps in the nice sofa sleeper we have for him and I watch New Home like a hawk so Robert gets quality care the rest of the week.