Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Nearly Famous Rebuilding Blog –
Hello Sandsters –
Hopefully this post finds you well and not suffering too badly, especially if you are building through the winter in balmy New Jersey. Pocket and foot warmers are useful. Or just think of me, wearing sandals all year. It’ll make you feel a little better or at least give you a laugh.
Want to know the absolute best solution to dealing with winter weather issues? Simple – stay inside as much as possible and wait for spring – or travel to a warmer climate! As of today, Spring 2015 is only 63 days away….
Today we have Serious Inspection Frustration for you, township complaints up and down the shore, health and nutrition tips for winter survival (finally), time out of your house, perspective and sanity comments, dealing with winter construction issues and anything else I think you might find useful.
Seminar news: We’ll be holding our next Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar in Toms River in February. I am shooting for the third week, either the 17th, 18th or 19th, but don’t have a confirmed date yet. It will be held at the Ocean County Library on Washington Street from 6-9. Please drop me a note or give me a call if you plan on attending. 732 300 5619 or email@example.com.
FEMA Clawbacks – New bill introduced – Menendez – Palone Bill Senator Robert Menendez in conjunction with Senator Frank Palone recently introduced a bill to prevent the federal government from “clawing back” extra money they may have mistakenly sent to Sandy victims.
Though Bob Menendez’ politics skew somewhat to the left of my own, he has been a tireless, effective voice for Sandsters throughout NJ. This bill is a positive step. You have to make less than $250,000 and have received a letter from FEMA stating that you owed money back, and to date there have been over 800 such homeowners, each being asked for an average of $7,000 to be returned. This bill would put the onus of any mistake on the federal government. Seems fair to me. Here’s a link to one of the articles. http://www.app.com/story/news/local/monmouth-county-bayshore/union-beach/2015/01/16/fema-sandy-aid-clawback-bill/21878813/
Moving forward, let us wallow miserably in the mud of poor inspector behavior.
Deplorable Electrical Service Inspection Story: You all may know that we make every conceivable effort to get our Sandster clients back in their homes as quickly as possible, since everyone on our team knows how stressful it is to be out of your home. (In fact that’s the most commented upon and admired aspect of our projects, and the reason that our advertising budget is $0. It is the first or second thing 90% of all clients say when they first contact us – “I notice you finish your projects very quickly. Can you do my house that fast?”)
So it is with much angst that I relay this story, which sadly is quite typical.
We lift a house (in the winter), get the foundation demolished (in the winter), dig a new footing and get it inspected, complete with pumping, dewatering and soaking up excess water with paper towels before inspection (in the winter), pour the footing, block up the walls (did I mention the winter making all of this activity exquisitely painful?), get the foundation inspected ( and don’t forget the extra mid wall inspection, which may be one of the most moronic of the contrived inspections ever perpetrated upon us), lower the house, secure the girders and anchor bolts with hold downs and hardware (in the winter – did I mention that yet?) and then immediately call Ray my favorite electrician from Kean Electric and implore him to get over to the house post haste to lower the meter mast so we can get a service inspection, and ultimately get an electric meter from the kind folks at AC Electric, so my wonderful clients (who are in their 70’s by the way) can move back in their home, forget about the accursed Sandy and get on with their lives. (How about that for a run-on sentence, Sandsters?).
Ray is wonderful and gets right over there and does his thing, and we call in for an electrical service inspection from an unnamed township which shall remain anonymous (but which might have been Stafford, which is part of the Sandy Holy Land.)
Now the fun starts.
The inspector breaks off his discussions on astrophysics with Steven Hawking, comes out and inspects the service outside and proclaims it all in ordnung. Our papers are in order and we are cleared for takeoff! He then asks one of our guys (George) if he can just see the electrical panel in the house (which is completely finished inside by the way – all interior work complete from a year ago. There’s really no need at all to see the stupid panel anyway, since there is no power to the house).
George says, “Sure, let me get a ladder and I’ll let you in.”
The inspector says, “Oh no, au contraire, I can’t climb a ladder. It’s against the rules. Insurance, you know.”
George gently reminds him that the house has been raised 40” from the ground and it is quite safe. There is a 4’, 6’ or 8’ ladder available, and I have four men here who are quite willing to simply lift you into the house so you can conduct your (bullshit) panel inspection.
The inspector says again, “oh no, absolutely not, no can do, nyet, neinte, no, non, n’est pas certainment, no way José, solly cholly.”
So George looks at him and says, “Really, you’re not going to walk up 4 steps on a ladder? We have 74 year old clients that really need to get back in their house and electric is kind of important. Can you give me a break here?” George, bless his heart, tried to shame him and appeal to his better nature.
(Robert Heinlein said, “Be careful appealing to a man’s better nature, because he might not have one.” Sadly that was the case here.)
The inspector left. We now have to complete the front or rear deck and stairs, prior to even scheduling the inspection, so His Gentleness can safely ascend the princely height of 40” (5 steps, less than 3 ½ feet) in comfort to inspect the panel. We are working over the weekend so as not to delay the project.
What’s the big deal? 6 calendar days. Multiply that by the 75 projects we’ll do this year and the 1500 other projects happening in NJ, and you see the effect.
This story is sad, but miserably true. Happens all the time. I could write an acerbic blog solely on the lack of human cooperation at the Jersey shore in the building industry. It’s pathetic. That whole spirit of cooperation, all pulling together for the common good thing is dead, and that is a sad commentary on our society.
When process becomes paramount to reason, we are doomed as a society. But I digress.
Health Tips for Sandster Winter Survival: Many of you know that I wear sandals all year long, unless there is over 2” of snow. I do this for a number of reasons (I do save a tremendous amount on socks, for example) but one of them is that it keeps me grounded and healthier (I think). People always ask what I do as far as vitamins, health, etc. so I am commenting here.
In any case, I am one of the healthiest people (thank you God) you will ever meet. I do not go to the doctors and haven’t for over 30 years. Since I think “sick” is a state of mind and not a condition, I don’t ever get sick. I have never not worked because of “sickness”. (Note: there are times I feel less than perfect, but I pay them no mind.) Statistically, you are 102% more likely to die of a car accident than from heart attack, cancer or other disease, so being more careful on the road in NJ is probably your most effective protection against early demise.
Here are some of my daily habits for vitamins, nutrition, general health and dealing with the winter.
Vitamins: Each day, I take 4000 mg of C (general health – read about Dr. Linus Pauling), 800 mg of ginseng (energy and mental clarity), Fish Oil, B-complex, Glucosamine Chondroitin (joint health), CO-Q10, magnesium, Echinacea, Vitamin D, Niacin (get the no-flush), and a multi-vitamin just for fun.
If you start to feel something coming on, get Zycam (zinc) lozenges and take one every 4 hours until you finish the bottle. If you don’t take Zycam, take zinc pills. When you feel tired, sleep more. Turn off the TV. Drink more water.
Also, when you aren’t feeling 100%, increase your Vitamin C dosage to 8000 – 10000 mg a day. Make sure you take it every couple of hours throughout the day or your body will just flush it out.
As a note, whether you take antibiotics or not, viruses take about a week to work through your system. There is no cure, regardless of what anyone tells you. All you can do is treat symptoms.
Each day, I drink ½ cup of pure aloe, 3 ounces of Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar and 4 ounces of Univera Ageless Extra mixed with water in an old Gatorade bottle.
I do drink too much coffee and have been know to smoke cigarettes in the winter. I drink wine and vodka moderately. I work too much – generally between 70 – 80 hours a week. I don’t drink enough water at all. I am about 10 pounds overweight.
I don’t use any deodorant that has aluminum in it. I use Crystal (which I highly recommend – it is a solid piece of rock salt that lasts forever and you can now buy it at Shop Rite). It also doesn’t stain your clothes. Throw out your anti-perspirant and don’t let your kids use it. Rubbing aluminum on the glands under your arms is really bad for you. Google it.
I never eat anything “diet”. Throw out nutrasweet, sucralose, and all the other poisons that are designed to help you lose weight. They are dreadful and have many side effects. They weaken your immune system. Being thin and dead makes no sense to me. If you need sugar, eat it sparingly. Don’t eat chemicals.
I don’t eat too much sugar or too many processed foods. I try and keep carbs (bread, potatoes, rice and pasta) to a minimum. I do have a weakness for cheesecake and bagels, and feel that anything in moderation is ok.
I work out a whopping 5 minutes a day every other day (I try anyway. See Tim Ferris’, “The 4 Hour Body”. I wouldn’t make 10 minutes in a gym, because I have the attention span of a gnat and bore easily.)
I don’t watch or listen to sad, depressing, violent things. They take a tremendous toll on your mind and body. It’s a garbage in, garbage out thing. (Besides, I’m a sensitive builder…J)
When I am outside, I dress in layers, and wear a scarf, hat and gloves. I use Chapstick.
I try and see the glass as half full and constantly remind myself that we are all lucky to wake up in the morning. It gives me perspective and balance. I don’t stress about small stuff. I try to be pleasant, polite and courteous to everyone I meet, since I appreciate when I’m treated like that. I avoid negative people as much as possible.
I don’t complain and think complaining about anything without offering a solution is a waste of oxygen.
I try to laugh as much as I can, since it is infinitely better than crying.
Sandsters, I sincerely hope some of those thoughts help you in some way.
Back to building.
Repeat, Continuation & New Comment – Winter Building – Sometimes You Have to Just Wait…
Yes, you can pour flatwork when the temperature is at least 25 degrees Fahrenheit and rising – but this condition has to hold for at least 4-6 hours in order for the concrete to cure correctly. It cannot drop to 15 degrees at night.
However even when it is 25 degrees, you cannot do blockwork or parging without the risk that the mortar will freeze and you will wind up having to redo the entire job.
Flatwork is different from block work. With footings, garages or driveways, there is a greater volume of concrete, and often it is reinforced with rebar, which helps to avoid freezing and cracking. When you are setting concrete block, the mortar joint is only ¼” thick and is much more prone to freezing than flatwork. It is a depressing thing to see parging crumbling off the face of your new foundation.
The moral of the story is that sometimes you have to just wait – until it warms up and stops raining/snowing/sleeting etc.
(This comment is coming from someone who doesn’t like to wait for anything and thinks quite seriously that there is no earthly reason why work cannot occur 7 days a week between the hours of 7 and 7. I wouldn’t wait for an audience with the Pope for more than 10 minutes.)
Winter weather conditions are one case where brute force and insistence upon bending the laws of the universe not only don’t avail you of any advantage, but needlessly tire you and deplete your resources.
Electric Reconnection – repeat – reference: For a comprehensive understandable explanation about how exactly your electric is reconnected to your house, and what you have to do to make it happen, read the last blog from 12/13/14. There is a page that details everything.
New development: Dream Homes Mobile Web Site is Now Live!!
You can log onto www.dreamhomesltd.com from your mobile device and see a mobile site tailored to a smaller screen. Yay! Only took us 6 months to get it working, but we finally got there. Moving once again on the wings of fleeting snails, we are!
Repeat – Reminder: Start your design work now to be in for summer 2015. If you haven’t started your design work, you’re just about cutting it too tight at this point to be in for summer. If that’s your goal, call us so we can help you make that happen. If you want to get your house finished by summer, and still take advantage of cheap winter rentals at the beach, you have to get started now.
If you have your design work done and RREM under control, what are you waiting for to get started??
Worst Town at the Shore Aware & Winter Delays: Well we’re in it Sandsters (winter that is). As if there aren’t enough challenges roofing, siding, framing, pouring concrete or doing earth work when the planet seems like we’re entering the next ice age, we have the Jersey Shore building departments, which have been consistently awful across the board.
This week, the winner for Worst Township at the Shore goes to Brick Township, hands down. They are far and away at the top of the list of the worst townships I have ever had the misfortune to work in.
(Lest you think I make that statement lightly, since 1993, I have built over 1600 single and multi-family homes as well as a number of commercial buildings in 8 counties and 40 municipalities throughout NJ. I speak from direct knowledge –not theory or conjecture.)
Honorable Mention and First Runner Up goes to Little Egg, but we’ll cover them next blog.
In my humble opinion, 75% of the Brick Building Bureaucrats (BBB) should be fired immediately (the 25% that are good are all inspectors by the way, not paper pushers). Everyone else is an impediment to progress, and takes great joy in slowing the process as much as possible at every juncture. BBB’s routinely interpret the building code as they see fit, with little regard for the actual code. They are nasty and uncooperative, act as if they are doing all of us a tremendous favor by performing their jobs and have invented and implement a plethora of rules as byzantine and ineffective as the US tax code.
It is a travesty that Sandsters and builders are treated in this manner. I don’t even want to work in Brick any more, and we have a dozen clients who have the misfortune to live in that town. It’s depressing, demoralizing and makes clients and builders miserable. You must add at least a month to any project in Brick, specifically because of Brick. If I lived there and endured a rebuilding process, I would move.
Brick epitomizes the saying, “When you can’t build, inspect. When you can’t do anything productive, make damn sure you stop anyone else from moving forward.” Brick Building Bureaucrats (BBB) regularly exhibit deplorable, inconsiderate, unconscionable behavior with no regard for Sandster homeowners or their concerns.
Hello BBB – if you weren’t so busy telling us how you have the 1st or 2nd largest number of Sandy affected homes, or how you are extremely busy and can’t schedule your inspections on time, or can’t give us any kind of approximate time when you will conduct inspections, you might actually accomplish something. We all get it – you have a lot of volume.
A very wise man once said, “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” That’s in the Bible, by the way.
How about Bricktown looking at Sandy rebuilding as an opportunity to rise above instead of a chance to impede forward momentum?
Hello DCA and Governor Trying-to-Be-President Christie. Hello to anyone with a glimmer of an idea about how to speed up the rebuilding process. Fix what ails the bureaucracy in Brick and all others (may) follow.
Definitions & Important Considerations That Can Delay Your Project:
Lowest adjacent grade (LAG): This is an important elevation since the lowest point in your crawl space has to be even or above the LAG. That is important because even if you don’t want your crawl filled that much (so you have more storage space) you will not pass final zoning / final building if this condition is not met. LAG is defined as the lowest grade immediately next to your house. There can easily be a foot or more difference between one side and the other, or back to front, so if you wish to use the least amount of fill (maximizing room in the crawl) make sure you find the lowest adjacent elevation.
Elevation: Elevation refers to “height above sea level” and not the height above grade at the house or distance the house is being elevated. It’s easy to make a mistake with these descriptions and it causes much confusion. Example: If you are raising your home to elevation 11, your finished floor is 6 and your grade is 4.5, you are raising your house 5’ to elevation 11, or 6.5’ above grade. When you use the expression “elevating my home 5 feet” that means you are lifting it 5’ from where it is now. The expression “building or raising the home to elevation 11” refers to the height above sea level, not the distance you are lifting.
Survey: An exact depiction of what exists on your lot, from a top view.
Plot plan: A top view of what you are proposing to build, including new heights, stairs, entries, decks, etc.
They are not the same and you will need both for your project.
You Tube Link to a Nearly Famous Rebuilding Seminar: If you’ve missed our seminars and can’t easily attend, here is a link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVI69KoM8DRXqoEblHd94xg
It is not edited and is about 2 hours so feel free to fast forward and skip around to watch what you like and need to know.
Go Pro Action – I now have a ton of video I have to get up on the blog. I’ve been strapping on my Go Pro, filming the chaos that is a house lift and have numerous videos. Stay tuned for greater clarity and understanding about what actually happens when we lift homes.
Remember – if you have a specific question, send me an email or a text. You don’t need to wait for a seminar or a site visit to clarify a point or two. The same goes for those of you under construction. Whether or not you are Dream Homes/Atlantic Northeast Construction client or not, I’ll always try and help you or guide you in the right direction. If you’ve sent me email or left a voice mail and have not received a response within a day or so, please try and contact me again. I do miss messages here and there.
Note to Sandsters: Though I began and continue to write this blog to help as many Sandsters as possible, Dream Homes Ltd. and Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC are new home builders and general contractors who are actively renovating and reconstructing projects up and down the shore. We actually do all of the work that I talk about in the blog. We work with private clients and Path B in the RREM program. Call, text or email to set up an appointment for an estimate on your rebuilding project.
That’s all for today Sandsters. I hope it helps you move forward. As always, call or write with any questions.
Dream Homes Ltd.
Atlantic Northeast Construction LLC
Licensed NJ New Home Builder License# 045894
Licensed NJ Home Improvement Contractor License# 13VH07489000
PO Box 627 Forked River, NJ 08731
Office: 609 693 8881 F: 609 693 3802
Cell: 732 300 5619