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Please note: this page contains reviews and opinions sent in by Berkeley Parents Net subscribers. Your own experience may be different. Please always check references before hiring!
|Building, Rebuilding & Renovating a Garage||
We have a very strange garage/carport hybrid in our back yard which needs a complete overhaul. It is right up against the property line - has an automatic garage door, cement foundation (but no drainage), electrical and a pitched roof complete with rain gutters. It is a 2 car structure. The catch is that it has no walls and is not framed for walls either. It was clearly done without permits. It is not in bad shape, but it does not suit our needs and it is pretty ugly.
We are looking for a contractor to do this for us - with permits. We want to tear down/rebuild this structure possibly using the existing footprint OR possibly reframing it, siding and dry walling the interior, and making it water tight for storage and an artist's studio OR rebuilding as a one car structure to maximize yard space.
In other words I am looking for someone creative, not too pricey and knowledgeable about berkeley zoning ordinances. Any recommendations?
Before hiring a contractor to build, rebuild, repair, you need to do a search of your property's history in the Zoning department, and learn when it was built, if there were permits, what is the ''legal'' status of the structure.
You need to be rather discrete about this. Just see your file, get copies, you do not have to talk to anyone about what you want to do, and get a ''no'' at this point.
Then go to the other side of the office, the Building Department side, and learn what are the current requirements for set backs, etc. for a garage. Just ask for general information, you do not have to disclose your property address.
You may have to spend the equivilent of several days of time to get all the information that you need. You will save yourself time and headaches by doing this yourself.
When you have a thorough grasp of what is permitted by the city, then it is time to talk to an architect, and or contractor. But you will save money and perhaps huge mistakes by doing the preliminary research yourself.
If you have to get neighbors ok (that absence of rear setback and permit is a big red flag), or even a variance (Let's hope not) you already are empowered with facts.
Do not overlook the Berkely Architectural Heritage society which has old Sanborn maps from the early nineteen- hundreds, which may also show footprints of improvements on the property. Lynn
We live in Oakland and would like to landscape our backyard. We have a 1 car garage at the bottom of our driveway that needs a lot of repairs. We would like to tear it down to make the space in the backyard larger. Does anybody know if this will seriously depreciate the cost of the house? It seems like more people would like a spacious back yard then a garage. Anybody have any experience in this department? To keep or tear down
We need either an experienced contractor or architect (or lawyer?) who knows Berkeley planning, zoning and permitting rules inside & out and can advise us on what course of action to take to either repair or tear down a garage & shed (sounds simple, but apparently it's not due to unpermitted structures, fences and easements), apply for the permits, and, if this person is a contractor, do the work. Any recommendations as to who could help would be appreciated. Thanks! -anon
Not to scare you, but the reality is, that it has taken us 2 years to go through all the hoops and finally get a building permit.(You need to have this before you can legally begin to build/repair anything) Be prepared for lots of bureaucracy, lots of visits to the Building/Zoning department and spending lots of $$$. (Not to mention the stress...)
Definitely, get a good architect, don't try to do it alone! We worked with Jarvis Architects in Oakland. You'll need lots of architectural drawings and plans as well as someone on your side who has traveled this road before.
Also, do research and find out as much info about your property as you can; visit the library,go to the County Accessors Office, look at old parcel maps, find old aerial photos (UC library has some), talk to your neighbors etc...We found info that the city didn't have in their records.
I'll have to let you know in a couple of years, whether it was worth it.
Best of Luck! anon
would like to install storage cabinets in my garage without paying a fortune -- any recommendations? Anyone dealt with california closets or garage solutions companies? pat
The disadvantage is that they have a standard range of cabinet sizes which you fit into your space the best you can. Custom cabinets will be more expensive although they may fit a pace better. tidy garage
Hi, I just looked in the archives about garages, and I really want to have an external garage built in my backyard. I currently have a narrow attached garage. I don't even know where to start, and have concerns about permits and cost. Preliminary investigations show me that I have the space for it. Any recommendations for contractors that can work with me from square one till the final inspection? Thanks much... need help with my new garage
We need advice. We want to convert our small garage into a simple studio (no plumbing). This will not take away from the city's required parking space, but we're loathe to go through the permit process because it will take many months longer and cost 20% more of the total cost and the house we purchased as unpermitted remodeling done (although there is no reason for the inspector to enter our home). Does anyone have any advice on doing basic garage conversions with or without permits? Most contractors are asking for permits and architectural plans, but all we want is floor, dry wall, and possibly small electrical heater. Is it crazy to do it without permits or is this just what most people do and turn a blind eye? anonymous worrier in berkeley
The licensed architects and craftspersons have to consider the risk to their license - but this board has lots of suggestions for good handy persons.
Also, take a class or two at the Building Education Center. You will meet others who have successfully dealt with your issues, and meet building professionals who can help with services and advice. Lynn
You could hire an illegal contractor to do the work. Only problem is if you get ripped off you have no recourse since you are committing a crime. You could do the work yourself or hire an illegal contractor but if one of your neighbors reports you or the city inspector happens to drive and notices construction going on at a non-permitted address they have the power to make you stop. And if they feel it's a safety issue can enter your property with police escort to search for other illegal construction or safety issues. Here's the advice - Pay the extra 20% and be able to sleep at night knowing everything was done properly and that the contractor you hired did it properly. ANON
I'm contemplating converting my free-standing garage on my Albany property into a studio that can be rented out for income. It's in a desirable neighborhood. The garage is well constructed and was already finished (i.e. drywall on walls, windows installed, flooring placed) with permits before I purchased the house, but it lacks a kitchen, bathroom, and heat. So...here are my questions. I would love your advice and recommendations on any or all of these: 1) How do I figure out if it's worth going through the effort/expense? I don't have any idea how much rent I could charge, nor do I know how much the renovation would cost. And I would want to do it with permits, so it would presumably raise my property taxes well. Any recommendations about who would be able to provide trustworthy advice? (a realtor? a property manager? a contractor? specific names?) 2) Assuming I go ahead with this, I think a way to save money and be good for the environment might be to install a composting toilet so that I don't have to run a sewer line, but then there's the issue of water from the shower and kitchen sink. Are there any contractors out there who have experience with composting toilets and grey water? Recommendations? Advice? 3) For the hot water there are obvious options -- solar hot water (would that be sufficient in the winter?), on-demand hot water, and a traditional water heater. How to decide? 4) What about heat? I would prefer not to have the tenants use electric heat, so then what? Seems crazy to install a furnace for a studio. I like the idea of a gas fireplace, but there's currently no gas running to the garage. Suggestions? anon
Wondering approximately how much it would cost (and whether it be worth it) to convert our currently unused and unfinished 1 car garage into an additional bed and bathroom for our El Cerrito home. We live in a 2 bed, 1 bath and could really use another bathroom. Would this add enough value to our home to be worth the cost? Would it detract because we'd be losing the garage? We have ample street parking at all times. We would need someone to obtain permits and do the framing/sheetrock/plumbing/electrical work/put in windows/install a tankless water heater, but my husband would be able to do all of the finish work (paint, tile, fixtures, mouldings, flooring, etc). Would appreciate advice from anyone who has undertaken a garage conversion, as well as recommendations for contractors. Thanks! LS
I have a several-part question! We live in a 1600 sq-ft home with 3 bedrooms and are looking to convert our two-car garage into an office for me as I work from home. It will also have a half-bath. We have a driveway and intend to park our car in the driveway. 1) Has anyone recently gone to to the city to get a permit to do something like this, and if so, could you please share your experience& tell me what the process, wait-time, etc. was like. 2) If we don't get a permit and make the conversion, what risk do we run? Can our neighbors get us to stop the work? 3) Also, if it's not approved, does the additional living space improve the house value or detract from it? 4) Any recommendations or contractors, carpenters who can work with a tight budget? Thanks! Dreamingofextraspace
Since you will be changing the use of the building, you will need to apply for a Use Permit. Therefore the time it will take you to get an approved building permit is probably about 6 months.
You don't want to do this without a permit. Neighbors can stop you, so can a random inspector, or someone in a different neighborhood. The costs and aggravations incurred when this happens are greater than those incurred at the outset, going the prescribed route.
Additional living space improves the house value. You will therefore pay a little more in taxes.
My advice is to go to the Permit Service Center and talk to a Planner, to get the initial parameters for your project. The people there are very helpful. It is also advisable to hire an experienced person to help you through the process. . Andus
We recently bought a house in Alameda that's just crying to have the attached garage turned into a playroom. We're fairly certain we can't do it with permits, so we want it to be simple and easily reversible. It already has drywall, electrical outlets, and good windows. I think all we need to do is cover the concrete floor, fence off the laundry/water heater end of things, and do something about the garage door. Is there much chance that an inspector would come sniffing around if we replaced the garage door with a more people-oriented door/wall? Is there a way to make it look more finished from the inside while still looking like a garage door from the outside? Also recommendations people have about the first two tasks, or for people who could do the work, are much appreciated. pining for a playroom
We hired Idan Bearman of Bearman And Sons based on a recommendation from this newsletter and his references and were very pleased with our choice. We had him sheetrock the walls and ceiling, clean and paint the concrete floor, install a skylight and window, cut open a side wall and install a regular door, screw shut the garage door and build and frame/sheetrock the inside of it, build a corner bar with fridge and sink, add outlets and install an entertainment system with surround sound, xbox and flatscreen tv. My husband loves his man-cave, my son loves to hang out there with his dad and I love that their mess is out of my kitchen, my living room, my bathroom, my bed room, my... - you get the point.
Idan was great to work with, very open to our input, gave great suggestions, laid out all our options, very positive energy, clean and organized and a top notch carpenter. The work took under a month, the bill at the end matched the quote and we have nothing but positive feelings about the project. In fact, we're going to have Idan remodel our master bathroom next winter. We love our garage conversion and we highly recommend our contractor. His info: Idan Bearman of Bearman And Sons email@example.com 510 830 7927 Mikella
We are thinking of making our garage into an office/play area and don't need anything elaborate. That is, we dont want to go through all of the necessary permits, etc. We just want a very simple extra room to use, since we don't even use it for the car; and obviously, we want something affordable. One thing that I thought of, though, is changing the current garage door to something like double French doors or even a rolling garage door (ours is original 50's door). If we did this, then would we need a permit? Also, would it really affect insulation (what little we plan to have) if the entire garage is just not walled up (i.e, garage door covered by a wall inside)? Any suggestions or recommendations for the job? Many Thanks. Anon
If you do decide to proceed, remember- A garage floor slopes; do you want your extra room floor to slope? The floor is concrete, which absorbs moisture from the ground. This moisture will be absorbed by (and maybe ruin) whatever flooring you put directly on it. The garage is not heated; what will you do about this (even in our relatively mild climate, it will get cold). If it is closed in, things can get musty pretty quickly. Be sure you install a smoke detector, since the space is quite separate from your other living space. anon.
We are thinking about converting our small detached garage
in our backyard into something more useful like a studio or
play room for our child. The entire structure is in bad need
of repair, especially the roof and floor. Does anyone have a
recommendation for a contractor or carpenter who has done
this? Also, for anyone who has had a successful conversion,
do you think it has added or detracted from your property
Don't see specifics in the archives that answer my question... Looking to convert an old garage into a finished room, like a tiny studio, with a small bathroom. The structure is very old and water seeps in easily. There is no existing plumbing. Anyone have any contractors they can recommend for this type of job or have any tips? Nic
I have a free standing garage in my backyard (in Oakland) that I would like to convert to at least a studio and maybe a small one bedroom cottage. Can anyone give me a range I can expect to spend? Is it worth doing at all? For instance I saw a complete cabin in Sunset that was built for $70k Mine has no plumbing, electricity, and needs a new roof. Basically it would be a rebuild from the ground up. Thanks. Kean
I am looking for recommendations for a contractor to convert my garage into a guest cottage and do some renovation in my house (remodeling the kitchen and adding a full bath). I live in Rockridge. Is it legal to renovate the garage in this way? I would not be renting it but would like it to have a kitchenette and bath for my parents when they come to stay with us. I would also like to live in one of the structures while the other work is being done, if possible. Any experience with this is greatly appreciated! Elizabeth
Help! Our house is too small! Sound like a familiar problem? Since the garage of our little MacGregor is essentially useless (too short to house our Honda Accord), we are considering converting the garage into a plus-room. I know a lot of people have done this, but when I checked the website, I didn't find any references to this. Here's our task: we will have to create an entrance into the garage from the house (the garage is attached but only accessible through its front door), build a few steps down from the house into the garage, create some light with windows, run wiring into the garage for computer and other use, and put in some kind of not-too-noxious floor. We may be able to leave the ceiling as is. Could anyone help us with the following questions? Has anyone done anything like this? How much did it cost, roughly? Was it hard to get permits? What kind of contractor(s) did you use? Anyone you would recommend/not recommend? How long did the work take? Does the finished room feel like a room in a house, or like a converted garage? Linda
The original floor is was old concrete slab on grade. In the winter, the
water table is high enough for water to ooze through the cracks, forming
puddles. We had a contractor put down (in order) (1) a layer of thisck
plactic film (2) pressure-treated 2x4 "sleepers" (3) Another layer of
plastic film (4) a layer of 3/4" plywood, shimmed to be level and smooth.
He further smoothed the edges of the plywood using a belt sander, and I
painted it with floor paint. We didn't get any permits, and the
whole thing cost a few hundred dollars. The contractor
used a high-power nail gun that requires him to have the right license.
Lots of natural light can really improve a space. At the contractor's
suggestion, we also installed a skylight, which was easy given the
one-layer roof and unfinished appearance. At this point I'd like to add a
few small windows to further brighten the space.
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