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Thoughts about remodeling
By December of 2008, we switched gears and started thinking about simply demolishing our home and starting over. Although expensive, I estimated that it would cost about $80,000 more but we would end up with a much more energy efficient and usable home.
Our home had 7 ft tall ceilings. I liked that but Steve didn't. The height wasn't as bad as the fact that none of the ceilings were straight. In addition, we suspected that none of the windows had headers over them.
The problem in building from scratch was 2 fold: the city's prohibitive requirements and a very small lot. In December, I waltzed over to the permit department to ask them about any issues that we would have in rebuilding. Very quickly I found that our sidewalk was too narrow and that they would require land to be "dedicated" in order to widen the sidewalk. Although ADA standard sidewalks are necessary, I pointed out that the city already had a plan in place to move the sidewalks out into the middle of the street on our block. This was to become a long drawn out fight.
Another issue came to light was that our new home would probably be rectangular. Although it covered less land, the new home would have an area outside of the original footprint. Apparently this required a variance which involved money, neighborhood approval, and a 3 month wait. We had no plans in hand so I went upstairs to the public works people who informed me that the Corvallis Land Development Code strictly enforced green space with new building structures. I tried to argue that the home was built in the 40s and due to poor construction, it was not re-hab-able. The answer came back "no, you shall dedicate land for a 5 foot sidewalk and 5.5 foot green space." Later it became apparent that I would also have to dedicate land for 12 foot green space and a 5 foot sidewalk on the east side of the corner lot. The lot was only 50' x 110' to begin with, thus the city was asking for 20% of the original lot space.
We tried to consult with an attorney but unfortunately he was unable to help. Nevertheless, we pushed on. By February we were hot and heavy into designing a new house. Using some Mac software, I spent a few days designing the house and doing 3D walk throughs. As quickly as possible, a local designer drew up the plans on autocad and an engineer helped with beam requirements due to the basement and sheer and lateral design.
We couldn't figure out how to get a full stairwell and utility room on the first floor so we decided to put all utilities in the basement. Steve also decided that radiant floor heating might be more efficient with energy and space usage.
By the end of March, the application for a permit was submitted and we were beginning to look more hopeful.