Pulling Permits with the City
Without blueprints, there was no real way to see if this addition would fly. We needed to take the plunge and pay for an architect and then shop our plans around to see if anyone was interested in the project. But we also needed to get the city’s sign off.
In case you missed it, we hired an architect to draft blueprints for our addition! Very exciting stuff, guys. You can learn about what we learned in the process and what that experience was like in that post.
Working with the City
Before diving too deep into our plans, we first reached out to see if the city had any regulations for height. That was our architect’s first concern actually. They told us three stories was the max height, so we were in the clear. Just by looking at other houses in your neighborhood, you may get a feel for what is acceptable, but asking first is always a good idea!
We then reached out to the city Building Official. (I always like to do these sorts of things in-person.) There are rules about only being able to build on a percentage of your impervious surface, but since we’re only building up, that wasn’t a problem. I know you also have to be careful about how much space is between you and your neighbors, but again, no problem here. Knock on wood, so far we’ve had pretty smooth sailing with our city building officials, but I’ll list a few of the things we needed to go back and forth on below.
One of the first things we needed to do was determine if our house footings were big enough to support this addition, or if we’d need to pour new ones. Panic! We got a few different quotes from excavators to dig them up, and it was at least going to run us $2,000. Until we met one excavator who told us we could probably dig up our own footings from inside the house if we had access to them. So we asked the city and they said sure, just send photos. We rented a pneumatic jackhammer chisel similar to the one we used to dig our drain pipe for the shower and got excavating. We had access in the laundry room, so it was only a few inches to the foundation.
With that crisis averted, we were feeling pretty confident. But next up, the city wanted to make sure the house walls could support the new weight, so we needed to get some load calculations done by our lumber supplier.
Don’t even ask me what all these mean. Engineers run a bunch of tests on computer software to determine where the load is distributed and if it can handle it. There was originally some talk about needing to jack our house up, but we ended up not having to do that, thank goodness.
Instead, we needed to beef up some headers (this picture is a header load calc from a bedroom), sister some 2×4’s and reinforce some other spots. These didn’t end up in the most convenient of places, but we’ll get to that in the demo phase…
Tall Wall and LVL’s
This first photo is a rendering of where we need to reinforce the structure. Those horizontal black blocks represent the LVL’s, or laminated veneer lumber, if you ever get that question in Tuesday Trivia. They are super strong engineered pieces of wood layered together. These spots need to be exposed and reinforced. The vertical ones are where we need to sister 2×4’s.
This lower photo is our tall wall dimensions. Because we’re doing such a high 12/12 roof pitch, we needed special tall lumber. Our friend Steve calls this a balloon wall. Not sure if it’s the same thing, but essentially it’s super strong (expensive) engineered lumber that can span multiple levels of a building. They recommended Timberstrand.
Rough Opening Sizes, Means of Egress, Tempering
Windows, where to begin? We have a secret window contact who has hookups on overstock discounted windows, so we began with her. We showed her our preliminary blueprints and she looked for similar sizes to fit those spots. It was a lifesaver. And when you’re working on new construction, you’re able to build around any size window rather than hunt for specific sizes, or worse — custom windows.
There are rules about making windows escape routes in case of a fire, so make sure to find out about egress restrictions. We also needed to know if there were any code restrictions on tempered windows. Turns out there are. The city sent us a bunch of roman-numeraled paragraphs, but from what we gathered here are a few main rules:
- No untempered glass near a bathtub
- No untempered glass in a stairwell down by your feet
- No untempered glass near exterior walkways
- Any untempered glass must be 18″ off the ground
Moral of the story: check your local city for code.
So we took our window dimensions and our architect plugged them into the blueprints. We had a giant list of window sizes. We didn’t find out until later about needing tempered windows in some places, so I actually scored a couple from a surplus home store called MN Home Outlet, it’s similar to ReStore. I went home to make sure they’d work and sure enough, they were a perfect match with the rest of our stash. Joe’s mom was able to snatch them up for us. Score!
Going Down to the City
Finally. After all this was settled, we decided it was safe to submit our application for a building permit. If you have a contractor, it’s likely they do this for you. Here is what the application looks like.
And then, you wait…
And get approved!
We wrote a check for about $1,500 and walked away with a giant set of blueprints (which are not blue at at all) with notations from the city (in yellow).
We also got a golden ticket. Inspections are required for each line item with an X, in that order.
On Track to Start
I’m sure this is a wayyyy oversimplified version of what goes into it, but this all happened between December and April. We now have the go-ahead to start building. Now the challenge is to find the right builder…