Taking the Mystery Out of Remodeling – by Reva Kussmaul

Is That Permitted????

I got a call from a woman who wanted to add a powder-room off the laundry near the patio and porch where she entertained. She wanted to add the room because whenever she had parties her guests had to walk through the entire house, including her son’s bedroom to use the bathroom.

I called my architect to draw the plans so we could take them to the county to pull a permit.  He drew the plan for the new addition as well as a whole-house drawing which the county building and safety requires now.  I never really understood why they wanted a drawing of the entire house – until now.

As the architect got to the counter to submit his plan for approval so I could go pull a permit the agent was reviewing the whole-house drawing and said, “the upstairs isn’t permitted.”  What!?

It seems whoever owned the home in 1979 went to the county to pull a permit to convert the attic to living space – 2 bedrooms and a full bath – but never completed the process and cancelled the permit.

It wasn’t until we wanted to add a powder-room it was discovered the entire 2nd story had never been permitted to be a living space.  Why?  It is very costly to do it properly.  The floor joists must be more than what they were when it was simply an attic space.  The roof had to be supported differently and the proper height.  It appears the owners in 1979 found out how costly this remodel would be and simply decided to do it without a permit, foregoing the proper and safe structural codes.

Now what? We have to cut holes in the ceilings on the 1st floor as well as the bedrooms upstairs to find out what size the joists are and then do a structural analysis of same.  I would say we will find everything has to be changed and brought to code.  BTW, the staircase is also included in this project as the 1979 owner simply built a staircase to go to the second floor so no one would ever suspect it wasn’t “meant to be there.”

Needless to say, the homeowners are very angry as they purchased the home for almost a million dollars and have been paying taxes on what they thought was a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home.  The only good news here is, their property taxes shouldn’t go up as they’re already paying for the square footage.  However, the remodel and bringing everything up to code is going to be very costly.  We are checking to see if they have any recourse with their real estate company since this should all be checked out prior to any sale.

To be continued…….

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