Sunday, November 4, 2018

Amazing Prefab Garage built in 2.5 days by three builders at Sheds Unlimited in PA

My inspiration, another garage built by Sheds Unlimited
Building onto your home is never a simple task. I spoke with 6 different builders when trying to retrofit out house to move my mother into it. Initially we started with the biggest of plans, adding a full mother-in-law suite. After months of contemplation we decided to convert our basement into a mother-in-law suite and build a garage to accommodate my home business and provide temporary storage. We also wanted to build a multiuse space that could later be used for a master suite or apartment, positioning the garage on our lot so it could later be attached to the house.

Our complete garage arrives on a big flatbed truck.
I was interested in a prefab building for a host of reasons but finding one that built garages in our area proved to be limited. Local builders wanted to build the shell and finish the interior. I finally found several prefab shed builders that framed unfinished garages, a perfect fit for our needs as we wanted to finish the interior ourselves. A big benefit to prefab construction is that on-site construction time is significantly less than traditional stick building.  Pre-constructed walls and roofing were assembled in a warehouse and transported, streamlining the process. Our new prefab garage was erected in an amazing 2.5 days! No waste, no mess, and no workers at your house for months or even years.

If you're afraid of heights, this job is not for you.
Working with a company located in Pennsylvania five hours away was a little scary. I could only read online reviews and hope the company was truly legitimate. Making down payments over the phone and not receiving any product in return was unnerving. Some days I wondered if I was the biggest sucker in the world. Fortunately, we ended up with an amazing structurally sound garage, just as promised!

Foundation work by George Payne our concrete expert.
The majority of my work for this project was in planning. I had to fit the structure on the lot properly, find a concrete company, come up with the design, and convey the details accurately to Mark, my patient Sales Rep at Sheds Unlimited. I acted as the General Contractor so had to submit details to the county to get a building permit, which ended up being much easier than it sounds. Thankfully, our county does not have layers of requirements and the staff was always available to answer any questions.

AJ, Elmer, & David, our builders + our new darling garage!
When the builders arrived, it was totally in their hands to be competent enough to construct the garage. Hauling in large equipment, tools, walls, trusses, shingles, boards, trim, a dumpster, and a generator on one monster flatbed was incredible. Working from sun up to sun down is not an exaggeration. We had a few materials missing from the order and even after working 12 hour days, the guys made it to Lowe's to pick up the missing items. Extreme workers but they completed each process with ease and calm.

Loading up to leave with a lot less stuff!
We adore our new cottage garage and thank everyone at Sheds Unlimited that helped this become a reality; Mark, Austin, Gideon, AJ, Elmer, and David (plus a few shop elves).

We have a long road ahead as we'll be installing gutters, electric, insulation, drywall, trim and flooring ourselves and one day we hope to attach it to our house. Being big DIYers, this is what we call "fun" here.

This blog post is the second in a series, Finding a Place for Mom.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Finding a Place for Mom, Options and Adding on to your Home

Me and mom early 1960's
At some time during your 50's, the question, "Where should mom live" will probably arise. The situation came about for us when my father passed away from Alzheimer's over a year ago. Options will depend on the physical and mental health of your parent. Many years ago, my mother and I looked at retirement facilities and found it to be shockingly expensive and my mother's main complaint was "these people are OLD". I hear this often from seniors that have good physical and mental health but there are a broad range of options one can explore.

Aging in place is of course the top option but one should plan for the future expense of hiring in home health care. We found that having the same person assigned to my father was nearly impossible. Constant demand, patient needs and health care workers qualifications all cause the reassignment of caregivers. We finally did get one wonderful caregiver but it took several months to iron this out. In retrospect this was the best choice that my mother made for my father during his illness. Once he was placed in a dementia unit, a whole host of other - over the top - stressful issues arose. A topic I hope to one day be able to write about.

Tiling the new shower stall.
Another option for seniors is to move into a rental. After living in a home, some seniors balk at the idea of having close neighbors. There are rental communities designed for 55 and over, they often have long wait lists so plan in advance. Private home rental is another option but safety concerns must be addressed; one level, no curbs in showers, stairs, slippery flooring, drivability to shopping or alternative transportation options.  

First day of ripping up the yard.
My mother did not want to live alone and wanted no part of a retirement facility or rental so we considered a mother-in-law addition. Our neighbors built a lovely apartment connected to their home for their mother and she also has hired home health care assistance. We entertained adding a complete addition, but pricing was upwards of $300,000. The time frame of the project and expense was like building a stand alone home. After speaking with our realtor and several builders, we decided that adding a garage with a bonus room over top would help better sell our house down the road vs adding a mother-in-law suite. We were fortunate to have a one level basement with 11 full size windows and doors that was acceptable to my mother. I do not recommend putting a parent in a dark and dank space, way too depressing! We would have to add a small kitchen and remodel a bathroom, add some insulation and sheet rock to a few areas, and attach it to our new garage. If you decide to go this route, make it as separate as possible (words of the wise from my neighbor with the mother-in-law addition).

Lots of big trucks, some driveway damage is bound to occur.
It has taken 1 year to investigate remodeling our home and it seems like a century! Everything takes longer than expected and a big part of it is pinpointing exactly what you need and want. Our original concept of adding a complete suite has been whittled down to a large single car garage with office space (or possibly a future master suite if we sold our home later). We are very happy we chose this route as the thought of undertaking anything larger is truly mind boggling. 

Concrete is a messy process, hiring out is the way to go.
A list of the steps: 1) Talk to numerous builders about options and the lay of the land. 2) Get a notebook with grids to draw, draw, and then draw some more. I filled a complete notebook trying to nail down what we needed and what we didn't need. This really helped! Even with this detail, I still screwed up in the end but even I am not perfect. 3) Talk to neighbors or get on a local online neighborhood group list and find out who they are hiring. 4) Try to do what you can yourself. I am the contractor for the project. I contracted a concrete guy myself and a separate builder. We'll be wiring the garage, insulating, and adding sheet rock as my husband has worked in construction in the past. 5) Get estimates as your time allows, bite the bullet at some point. Figure that no soil will be turned for a solid year from when you begin your project due to weather, busy contractors, and to give yourself a little breathing time to not make too many changes in your design (big $$). 6) Pick a builder and try to get a concrete date of beginning 7) Get that foundation scheduled as weather delays are imminent. 8) Wait for the builder, as there is typically more of a wait than anticipated. 

Foundation DONE - Done - DONE
I have worked my way to step 8 over the last year. We selected a prefab garage builder as I really liked the idea of doing the construction elsewhere and popping it up over 2 days! In and OUT fast! The garage slab took what seemed forever as the soil was wet most days (hurricane season) for months. It was also a little more complicated as the lot sloped off and required a cinder block foundation to compensate for the elevation. We also wanted a breezeway poured that we can later enclose.

I hope this has help you think through your situation. First and foremost you need to match your decision with your parents wishes. It's never easy, but it can be done. Deep breath.

I'll be writing soon as our project develops. We're estimating mom will move in 2019 at this rate! 


Monday, August 27, 2018

How to Get Rid of your Stuff - Recycle just about everything, Donate, and Consignment

Next time you want to get rid of something don't throw it in the trash! There are numerous outlets for FREE recycling for almost everything. Since moving to Charlottesville 9 years ago, we have not had home trash pick up. We recycle or find a home for nearly every item we no longer want. I'll share a few ways to unload clothes that no longer fit, gifts that are just not your thing, and even old cell phones, batteries, and light bulbs.

Body wash that found a new home on Freecycle.
Unbelievably you can a new home for even used toiletries! Why dump down the drain 1/2 used shampoo or body wash. Almost every community has a local Freecycle program where you can post an item you will never use. You can search for the program in your area on yahoogroups or on Facebook under Buy Nothing. I've learned to place items at the end of my driveway and the person picking up my item doesn't even see me or my house. Items I've successfully "gifted"; Board games, 1/2 bottle body wash, old shampoo, tea, rubber bands (never thought that would go), foam pads, baking pans, knives, coffee machine, and even a kids treated wood jungle gym. I also have scored some great items; reel cover for our pool (easily a $300. item), packing materials, plants, cat litter box, shades, milk boxes, filing cabinet, sawdust, and more.

We love him but he creates a lot of waste!
Probably the most difficult items to recycle are electronics and other related items. I recently discovered that at Lowes, near the return counter, they have added a recycle container for compact florescent bulbs, recycled batteries, and plastic bags. If you don't have a cat, you might not realize that many homes with cats use the disposable plastic shopping bags to hold scooped cat litter (I stopped accepting these bags 5 years ago so am always in need of them). While researching the Levy Lions a few years ago, I discovered a cell phone recycle bin at the UVA Alderman library. I've recycled my phones and even friends phones.

Sold this lovely on Craigslist for $75.00 & FREE haul away.
Trying to unload something bigger like a computer or TV? Best Buy accepts many electronics and even cell phones. There are some limitations as to quantity and sometimes there is a fee. I even found a local individual on Freecycle that will take any and all electronics. I can accumulate a load and away it goes.

Of course nearly every community has a local recycle center where you can take paper, metal, plastic, cardboard. Every center is different as to what they accept and how they accept it. Our center even takes food scraps and has a book exchange where you can pick up or take books! Speaking of books, you can drop off unwanted books locally at the main library or any branch that will be sold at the MEGA BOOK SALE that is held twice a year at the Gordon Library.

Animals get incarcerated because of no fault of their own.
My favorite places to donate items locally are the SPCA Thrift Store and Habitat Restore, of course depending upon what you have to donate.

If you have an item that you would like to try and sell, there are numerous ways to do this. Several sites have sprung up on Facebook groups recently; Craigslist and Online Yard Sales. Yahoogroups also hosts the email driven Craigslist. Consider online consignment if you can find someone in your area that sells vintage on Etsy or items on Ebay. I don't have a favorable impression of most retail consignment shops because they discount your item if it does not sell and often you end up getting very little for it.

Just because you can recycle something, doesn't mean you should consume MORE. Think about all the energy and resources used to create a product in the first place. To truly conserve and be more planet friendly, cutting your consumption is the key but why load up our landfills with junk if someone is willing to use your unwanted items!

If you have exhausted all avenues for an item, I would love to know what it is and am happy to try to find an outlet for you. I've set a new goal to get rid of something every work day either by selling it or giving it away. Off to see if I can unload those lamp shades!

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