Being a real estate agent for the past 10 years, I have run into all kinds of problems with properties. One of the toughest problems to solve is Cigarette Smoke Odors and Pet Odors. I once had a tenant in a West Los Angeles Condo that was a smoker. He swore up and down that he would never smoke inside the condo. A few weeks after he moved in, I get a call from the Property Management Company with a complaint that someone was smoking on the balcony of the condo.
This building has a designated smoking area where residents are allowed to smoke. I asked the tenant if he was smoking inside the condo and he said, “Of course not!” He claimed it was the person below him… I should have known right then that there this was going to be a problem.
After a few months, I got another call, this time from a neighbor, who complained that they smelled smoke coming from my unit. I live in Southern California, and California, in general, has very tough smoking laws, especially in public places.
Well after a few months of arguing back and forth with the tenant we both decided to end the lease early and go our separate ways. There was only one problem: when I got my condo back it reeked of tobacco smell. Before I tried to cover up the smell by painting the walls, which I was skeptical would work anyways, I did some research online.
I found a company out of Orange County who specializes in Odorless Smoke Removal, I was intrigued by their process because it involved using Ozone (O3 Molecules, the same ones in the Ozone above the atmosphere) to eliminate odors. I discovered that Hotels use this technology to remove odors, so I knew it had to work.
I contacted the odor removal company, and Troy the owner came out to visit my Ole’ Smokey Condo. Troy has a very sensitive nose, and he could tell right away with his sniffer that the smoke odor was very strong. For light odors, he needs 2-3 days with his machines, with medium odors 4-5 days, and for heavy odors like what I was dealing with he needs 7-10 days. He told me he was relieved I called him before painting because once you paint it is much harder to remove the smoke odors from the walls.
I asked him how to get rid of the cigarette smoke smell. Troy explained that his machines produce ozone (black cases in the picture above). Since Ozone is heavier than regular O2 (the Oxygen we breathe) he needs fans to push the ozone up into the ducting and ceiling and tops of the walls. The Ozone machines and fans work in tandem to spread the ozone throughout the spaces with odor. Ozone is a highly reactive particle, it chemically bonds with odors and neutralizes them.
Smoke removal isn’t cheap! The cost runs anywhere from $100 to $200 per day depending on the size of the space that needs to be treated. In my situation, it was a no brainer because I couldn’t rerent the condo until the smoke smell was gone so I didn’t have any choice.
Troy warned me that exposure small amounts of Ozone are fine (he actually strongly believes there are health benefits to microdoses of ozone) but if you are exposed to Ozone for a prolonged period it can hurt your lungs. When the machines are running the room must be closed up and no people can go in unless they are wearing a respirator. It’s not very dangerous but you should still use caution.
After 7 days of running the machines, we returned to the condo to smell the results. I was amazed! It was incredible, the smoke smell from six months of heavy smoking in the condo was completely gone. I was very grateful and rerented the condo in short order. Since that time I have used ozone treatments for dog smells, including pet odors and urine smells and other stubborn odors and it has been incredibly effective. I highly recommend this service to property managers, real estate agents (like myself), or property owners who are dealing with an odor problem. Troy says he works a lot with Car Dealerships and Rental Companies – so it works in cars too.
In the 1950s and 1960s building on Stilts was popular as an inexpensive way to add parking. About 80% of these buildings were wood frame construction. If you are one of the 20% that a Soft Story Building with a concreteframe or steelframe your retrofit cost will be dramatically lower – about $50 to $100/sqft compared to wood frame buildings.
Many of the Dingbat apartment buildings had tuck under parking that was accompanied by these stilts. Since Southern California is in an active earthquake zone, the city wants to reinforce these buildings and strength them from collapse in the event of a serious earthquake.
There is a great LA Times article about Soft Story Retrofits
The first step in the Soft Story Retrofit process is to hire a structural engineer to analyze your building. Most Soft Story Retrofit companies will have an in-house structural engineer or work very closely with an outside Structural Engineering company so you can just approach the Soft Story Retrofit company directly. I have compiled a Los Angeles Structural Engineer list to help you find one.
Based on the evaluation by the Structural Engineer, they will tell you what you need to do to meet the soft story retrofit requirements. Some of the common things they recommend are: adding Shear Walls, adding steel frame to reinforce the soft areas of the building, adding brackets to the framing, Anchoring walls to the foundation, and increasing the size of supports.
How much does a Soft Story Retrofit Cost?
The cost varies by the size of the building and the method used to reinforce it. A good Retrofit cost Estimate is 5K – 10K / per unit. I recommend to get 3 bids from soft-story retrofit companies (see names on Soft Story Retrofit Companies list below). The average project cost is $30,000 to $60,000 for small to midsize buildings and $80,000 to $120,000 for large ones. Permit fees are $800 to $1,000.
FYI – The city allows landlords to recover 50% of the total retrofit cost by raising rents.
How Long do you have to complete a Soft Story Retrofit?
Los Angeles 7 Years, Santa Monica 5 years, West Hollywood 5 years.
How Long Does a Soft Story Retrofit Take?
The most quickly a Soft Story Retrofit can be done is 40 -60 days. Some owners decide to move more slowly. Soft Story Retrofit Ordinances have different timelines for a structural engineer review, beginning and finishing construction. Since retrofitting is a large expense- cities allow up to 3 – 4 years to complete the retrofit.
Replacing a thermostat most times is pretty simple. Thermostats run on 24V low voltage, so there isn’t any chance of electrocution, although you can get a jolt if you don’t turn the power off. Replacing a Thermostat is a good Do it Yourself (DIY) project if you are mechanically inclined or a handyman can do it. For more complicated heating and cooling jobs: new installation, recharging freon, replacing a compressor, etc I recommend calling an HVAC contractor, but for simple things like replacing the air filters, or replacing a thermostat- a handyman is fine. With that said, calling an HVAC company is always fine if you don’t want to deal with it, they just might be a little more expensive.
What is a thermostat?
The thermostat is an “ON” and “OFF” switch for your HVAC. Thermostats come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and with different functions. They range in price from as little as $30 for the most basic thermostat that has just an on/off button and a temperature control (the landlord’s favorite) to wifi controlled, touch screen, 7 day a week programmable thermostats, like Nest that can cost $250-$300.
How much does it cost to install a New Thermostat?
The Price of installation will depend on the cost of the thermostat, but figure $100-$150 for labor (thirty minutes to 1 hr HVAC Contractor) and $50-$100 for parts. I would expect a new thermostat to cost $250 on average if you hire someone to install it for you.
How do I install a thermostat?
If you want to install the thermostat yourself or supervise your handyman, here are the basics of installation. Thermostats come with installation instructions. You can usually get by with some basic tools (screw driver, camera from your phone), patience, and following the directions.
Step #1: Remove the old Thermostat to reveal the wiring.
Most thermostats snap in and out of place, so if you tug on it firmly it will come off, but some of the older ones are screwed in.
Step #2 Take a picture of the wiring.
For replacing a thermostat, you can usually just copy the wiring configuration from your old thermostat to your new one and it will work. If you have an extra wire(s), or you tried to install the thermostat with the same wiring configuration as the old thermostat and it didn’t work, it is probably time to call an HVAC professional.
Step #3 Turn off the Power
Anytime you work with electrical, it is a good idea to turn off the power so you don’t shock yourself. You can turn off the power at your homes electric panel. Most of the time electric panel breakers are labeled so you can figure out which one is for the AC. I personally just like to turn off everything with the “Main Service Disconnect” or flipping all the breakers to “OFF” because that why you don’t risk zapping yourself or blowing a fuse. If the power is on when you are rewiring in step #5, if two hot wires touch they could cause a power surge which could damage an HVAC component or blow a fuse and then you will need to call an HVAC contractor to come to help you.
Step #4 Attach the new Thermostat Case to the wall
If you hold the Thermostat Case to where you want it to be on the wall and take a pencil or screwdriver and mark pilot holes, then remove the case and drill, that makes it easier to line up the case. You can also just punch a normal screwdriver through the wall, which is about the same diameter as the drywall anchors. Put the drywall anchors in the hole, if they are stubborn, you can gently tap with a hammer. Then place the case back over them and screw the case into the wall. Make sure while you are fiddling with the case that the Thermostat wires don’t fall back into the wall. It is a real pain to fish them out!
Step #5 Rewire
Thermostat Wiring is color coded. Thermostat Wires can range from 4 wires to 8 wires depending on the type of system. The most common is 5 wires. It is important to note that sometimes the wires are not appropriately color coded, so refer back to the picture you took in Step #2, and place each color wire into the corresponding terminal Code based on your picture.
If you are trying to figure out what the wires do, it is probably time to call a professional. The Red Wire is supposed to go in R terminal and it brings in 24V that powers the thermostat. The Yellow wire is supposed to go in Y terminal and is for cooling. The White Wire goes into W terminal and is suppose to be heat. the Green wire goes into Green terminal and is suppose to control the Fan blower. The Blue Wire is the ground and is supposed to go into C terminal.
Thermostats usually have two different terminal sides- one for “conventional” and one for “heat pump”. When you are putting in the wires make sure you put them into the correct terminal side based on your system. Again just copy from the picture you took in Step #2.
Step #6 Install the Thermostat
One the wiring is done, you should be able to snap the thermostat on to the case.
Step #7 Turn on the Power
Step #8 Test and Program the thermostat.
Thermostat not Working?
Some thermostats are Battery Operated. If your thermostat isn’t working try to snap it off and Replace the AA batteries.
You can also check if you blew a fuse. Fuses are in the furnace.
Los Angeles has great weather, so having a garage here is not as important as other parts of the country. I grew up in Minnesota. Having a garage there was essential. I remember waking up on cold winter mornings, and freezing my A$%$ off scrapping the snow from my car windows. You really appreciate having a garage then!
Los Angeles culture is car obsessed- so even though we don’t need garages, many people want them. Fun Fact: There are more cars in Los Angeles then people! Over 6M cars where registered with the DMV in 2016 and the populations for greater Los Angeles area is 4M people. For my motor-head clients, the garage is always the first thing they look at.
The primary function of a garage is to store cars. By parking your car in a garage, it protects it from scratches, dents, and dings and paint fading. A garage provides security from theft. And certainly, getting your car off the street will save you money on parking tickets!
Having a garage can also provide an alternative living or work space! Since real estate has become so valuable in Los Angeles, many people are converting their garages to living spaces and parking their cars on the driveway. For $10,000 or less you can convert a garage into a 300 sqft to 400 sqft living space. I call these “stu-ages” because they are studios turned out of garages. Converting your garage is one of the most inexpensive way to add sqft to your house. If you convert your garage without permits, one piece of advice- leave the garage door intact, especially if it faces an alley or is visible from the street. That way it won’t arose undue suspicion.
Assuming you are still using your garage as a garage, it does other things too, like provide storage for tools and equipment, lawn care items, sporting goods, and bicycles. One way to free up space in your main house is to relocate the laundry into the garage.
Steve Jobs in front of his parents garage where he started Apple
Garages can wear many hats- they can be an incubator space for a startup company, or a rehearsal space for a band, a wood-shop, storage unit, or just about anything else you can think of.
From a construction standpoint, having a garage is pretty much the same as building the exterior shell of a house, except there are no finishes inside. Like with any new construction project, make sure you permit it with the building department.
After the kitchen, the garage is the second room in the house with the highest fire risk. Building codes have specific provisions for fire prevention in garage construction. Most garage fires can be avoided by using some common sense, like safety storing flammable liquids like gasoline away from flames, upgrading dangerous electric panels, and not overloading power outlets.
One Story/Two Story Garages
One Story garages are the most common because they are significantly cheaper to build than two story garages. A standard one Story garage costs about $25,000 to build, whereas a two Story garage would cost more than double that, at about $75,000. The reason for the large jump up in cost is because the 2-story garage needs to have a stronger foundation. Many people would love to have a two story garage, but don’t have the budget for it.
If you have a single story house, that pretty much mandates a single story garage. Having a two story garage with a single story house looks strange. The mass of the larger garage would overwhelm the house and look bulky. Two Story garages blend better with two story houses. If the garage happens to be located in the rear yard of the property, instead of the front yard, the garage is not visible from the street, and has much less visual impact, so building a two story garage with a single story house in the backyard is not as jarring. The big advantage of a two story garage is you get double the space, and the extra space you get on the second story can be finished- for a rec room or guest house.
One Car/Two Car Garages
As the city has grown more crowded, and public transportation worse, Los Angeles’ building code has become stricter with parking requirements for new construction. I see a lot of old properties around town that would never be allowed to be built by today’s code because they do not have enough parking. The most poignant example are Bungalow Court Apartments. There are anywhere from 6-10 on a lot with ZERO parking. By today’s code that property would at least need 9 spaces. Owners of properties with no off street parking just park on the street.
I joke around that LA had better public transportation in 1950 than it does today. It’s partially true, because the Pacific Electric railway system was quite amazing. The Metro Subway has been expanding in recent years but it will never offer as many routes as the old electric rails. The bus system in the city is great but underutilized.
Anyway, the year built of a property has a big influence on the garage. If the property was built between 1910 to 1930, it will have a tiny 1 car garage that I like to call a “Model T” garage. During this era, having a car was for the well-to-do, and having two cars was almost unimaginable.
Cars also have gotten larger over time. These small garages won’t fit a full size car. They can fit a medium size sedan tightly or a compact car comfortably. Most people with these garages use them for storage.
In the 1950’s car’s really took off. The ranch style homes built in suburban tract developments proudly featured two car attached garages. From this time on, the garage has become an essential part of the house.
One interesting thing to note, is that building a 1 car garage versus a 2 car garage is not a very large change in cost. A one car garage may cost $18,000 or $20,000 while a two car garage costs $25,000 to $30,000. Many people will just build two car garages. The only thing that limits them is having enough space, not the cost. Architects always start with parking- since of all the zoning provisions, it is the most prohibiting.
Houses built before 1930 almost never have attached garages. At some point, builder’s realized you don’t have to have the garage in a separate building away from the house and they started Attaching them. Attached garages became really popular in the 1950s onwards. On hillside lots, where there is very little room, attached garages are a necessity. Attached Garages are more convenient for bringing in groceries, but come at the cost of natural light in the house since the wall adjoining the house and garage cannot have any windows because of firecode.
Carports are basically garages with a few less walls. According to the IRC building code, to be a carport- they may only have two walls or less and no garage door. One advantage you have with carports over garages is the floor surface may be asphalt instead of concrete.
Carports are low cost – they are about $6,000 to $7,000 to build new. Carports are a very common design feature in mid-century houses. One disadvantage of carports is they offer no security. You wouldn’t want to use them to store expensive equipment and your car may not be as protected from break in- so don’t leave anything expensive in your car.
Note: the Building Code is the legal minimum requirement- sometimes it is a good idea not just to meet but exceed the code if it is appropriate for your specific circumstances.
I have seen small lot development buildings that their parking garages meet code, but it is just too small to fit a normal size car. I’d start by considering your car size and the clearances you need around the car and comparing them with the standard garage sizes to see if they meet your needs.
SIDES: On the sides, you need more space for opening and closing car doors. 3 feet is plenty of space for the sides, in no circumstance would I go smaller than 2.5 ft. In a two car garage the space for opening car doors can overlap, because you don’t have to open both doors at the same time, so 3 feet is enough between each car. In a two car garage, if you are parking a larger car next to a smaller car, the larger car will have a larger door that requires more space, so keep that in mind.
FRONT: Unless you drive a sports car or an old VW Beattle with the trunk in the front, you don’t need much room in front of the car – I have seen as little as 1 ft clearance in front- with such a small space, you won’t be able to walk in front of the vehicle while it is parked. 2.5ft should be plenty of clearance for the front.
REAR: Since you use the trunk and most people park by pulling front in and backing out, the rear of the car will need extra space to clear the garage door and provide access to the trunk. 2.5ft is fine. I would never go smaller than 2 feet.
If you want garage storage cabinets on a wall, standard cabinet depth is 1.5ft to 2ft. Clearance should be 2.5ft-3ft, 2ft is going to be very tight when a cabinet door is open which means you probably can’t use them while a car is parked.
Have anymore questions about garages? Is having a garage important to you and you want to find a home that accommodates your needs? Contact me today by clicking the button today.
When Benjamin Moore began selling paint in 1883, they had 48 colors. The “Paint” wasn’t really paint at all. It was dry powder that you needed to “mix with boiling water, apply with a brush.”
Fast-forward to today-> Benjamin Moore paints sells more than 3,500 different colors! And you were thinking picking from 48 colors was tough! Can somebody send me back in a time machine please?
Benjamin Moore Paint Store
Picking a paint color for the outside of your house can be overwhelming because there are so many choices. Glidden ran a great commercial called “Tame the Beast” that shows paint chips turning into a terrifying monster! Picking a color doesn’t have to give you nightmares. Laurel Bern‘s says “Relax- it’s not like its brain surgery”.
When faced with a tough decision, it’s always a good idea to get a few different people’s opinions. Here are a few people to put on your shortlist, that are sure to offer up some helpful advice:
-Paint Store Colorist (most Major Brand Paint Stores have a colorist, call ahead before making the trip to the store to make sure the colorist is there- they help home owners choose paint colors all the time. Don’t forget to grab some brochures to take home with you before you leave!)
-Real estate agent
Need a jumpstart? You can buy some home improvement magazines at the grocery store, walk your neighborhood, or visit some Sunday open houses to start the house color juices flowing.
Here are my tips to help you pick a winner for the color of your house:
#1 Tip: Focus on the main color family.
There are 9 basic color families, that can be grouped into 3 types of colors.
Warm Colors: Red, Orange, and Yellow
Cool Colors: Green, Blue, Purple
Nuetrals: Grey, Brown, White
From these nine basic color families, pick the one or two color families that you like and think would look good on your house, and then pick out some individual colors from within those families to get swatches. Don’t get too caught up looking for the silver bullet paint color, finding the exact color you like might take some time. Just try to figure out which color family is the best and that will really narrow down your choices.
As a side note, I’d completely ignore “color schemes”, accent colors, or secondary colors, until after you have chosen your main color. The accent colors are dependent on the main color of your house. Trying to figure the accents colors before you have figured out the main color will have you running around in circles, like a dog chasing its own tail, until you are dizzy and fall down. Once you had decided on the main color of your house, you will find picking an accent color comes naturally.
#2 Tip: Don’t fix it if it aint Broken.
Like the color of your house already? There is no rule that says you have to change the color. You can paint your house the same color over again. The reason many owners pick a new color when they paint their house is that they just want something different. If that’s not you, stick to the tried and true.
#3 Tip: Dark Colors versus Light Colors.
Which Word Appears Larger or Smaller? Which Box Appears Larger or Smaller?
700 N Fairfax was Painted White, then Painted Black. You can see the difference in the effect of dark and light colors
Any Color can be made darker or lighter by adding white or black. Adding White to a color is called Tinting, and adding black to a color is shading.
Paint Chips with Different Tints and Shades in the same Hue
Light colors advance in space and dark colors recede. This means that light colors will make your house seem larger and stand out, and darker colors will make your home seem smaller and blend in. Larger houses usually look better in darker colors and small houses look better in lighter colors.
#4 Tip: Consider your neighbors.
Look at the houses immediately next door to yours and across the street. These houses will have the greatest impact on your color decision because they are the closest to yours. You don’t want to be a copycat and have the same color house as your next store neighbor. Or worse yet, **gasp** have three of the same color houses in a row! If you are surrounded by a white house, a blue house, and a tan house, you might choose yellow or mauve or green just to be different. Drive or walk through your neighborhood and look at other houses for inspiration. Each neighborhood has its own character. Try to follow the general color scheme of your neighborhood and you will stay in harmony with the other homes. Exterior paint colors tend to be duller and boring compared to what you can pull off indoors. That is because exterior paint colors are visible to the public. Avoid getting those dirty looks from your neighbors for picking a controversial color and stick to the basics, unless, of course, you live in a creative community like Venice, the Arts District Downtown, or Silverlake/Echo Park, where vivid exterior colors are commonplace. People in these areas paint their houses in the same wild and crazy colors that they dye their hair!
#5 What’s your favorite Color?
If you are totally stuck and can’t decide, why not pick your favorite color? It is a color you are guaranteed to like and enjoy.
#6 Tip: Work with the natural colors of your house.
Your house has design elements that have color and will not be painted. The Roof is one, but garage doors, brick or stone facades, chimneys, and walls or fences are a few other examples. If there is a strong natural color influence to your house, try to factor that in when choosing your best exterior paint color. It should blend and not clash with the colors that are already there.
#7 Tip: Choose color that match your Architectural Style.
Listen to your house speaking to you. It’s architectural style is hinting to you what color it should be.
Here is the Quick’n’Dirty of how to interpret the color signs, and make you a house whisperer, of Los Angeles 4 main architectural styles: Spanish/Mediterranean, Contemporary/Mid Century, Traditional, and Craftsman.
Spanish and Mediterranean houses are made of natural materials like clay, stone, and sand (stucco). They are designed for places in climates that are sunny with dry heat. Natural warm earthen tones blend best with Spanish and Mediterranean architectural style. The exterior paint color that these homes look best in are: White, Cream, Tan, Brown, Yellow, Orange, Rust.
Spanish and Mediterranean houses always have red tile roofs, and sometimes saltillo tile floors, which clashes with the cool colors. That is why you don’t see Spanish houses often in Blue, Grey, Green, Black or Taupe – I don’t think they look very good in these exterior paint colors. But you be the judge:
Contemporary houses are almost exclusively white. This plays into their design aesthetic of simplicity and purity of form over ornamentation. Lately, homeowners are experimenting with grey for contemporary homes- I find this new trend refreshing.
The same thing for Contemporary Homes goes for Mid Century. They look Great in White and Grey. Mid Century Houses have very little area to paint because they have so many floor to ceiling glass windows and very low roof lines.
Case Study House 22, Stahl House
So Mid Century Houses can be painted virtually any color. I personally think they look best in cool colors (Blue, Green, Muave). I’m no fung Shui master, but here is my amateur attempt to explain why. Mid Century homes have strong wind and water elements. The walls of windows are Water. Often Midcentury homes have a pool, which is more water element. Many of these homes were built in the hills, which gives them amazing views of the city and blue sky, which is the element of wind… Or maybe it’s just because I think they look cool!
A roof overhead is one of the most basic human needs. Roofs keep water out, protect from solar rays, and help with heating and cooling. The roof also is an important part of your home’s curb appeal.
In Los Angeles, we average a paltry 15 inches of a rain each year spread over 36 days. We are one of the driest states in the United States. For comparison, the wettest cities in the US (Miami FL, and New Orleans LA) get 62 inches a year over 120 days. Northern States get snow in the winter, with our warm Southern Mediterranean climate that never freezes, we get rain instead. Winter is the rainy season. Since it usually doesn’t rain that much except for the occasional El Nino, which dumps double the rainfall as normal at about 30 inches- many home owners don’t think about their roofs much.
Styles of Roofs
The three most common types of roofs you will find around Los Angeles are: Gable, Hip, and Flat Roofs.
Gable roofs at the simplest and most easy pitched roofs to build. They have two sides.
Hip roofs are more difficult to build and frame than gable roofs because they are more complex, which makes them slightly more expensive. They have less of a visual impact than Gable roofs because they are less “bulky”, so they are excellent if you are trying to tone down the roof element in the overall design. Hip roofs have four sides that all slope down from the center. These roofs can have overhangs on all 4 sides which makes them great for offering protection against weather.
In addition to these basic roof styles there are the less common:
Shed- also known as Lean-to roofs. I think people have a negative connotation with Shed roofs, because, well, they kind of look like sheds. I think for that reason people think they look “cheap”. I may not want a shed roof for my main house, but these style roofs can be really cool for dormers, garages, and additions.
Gambrel- Whenever I think of Gambrel roofs I think of the roofs on Barns. A Gambrel roof is basically just a Gable roof with two pitches instead of one. Framing for a Gambrel roof like a hip roof is more expensive then Gable roofs. One advantage of a gambrel roof has over Gable and Hip roofs is that it provides extra attic space. Fun fact: Gambrel is named after the hindquarters of a horse (which was the primary form of transportation until cars came around).
The steepness of the Roof is called its pitch. Keep in mind, no roof is entirely flat- that would just be bad roof design. Calling a roof a Flat roof is a bit of a misnomer- they are actually “low slope” roofs, but everybody just calls them flat roofs.
Pitch can be expressed in either degrees or rise over run. For example a 45 Degree angle is 12:12. A 9.5 Degree angle is 2:12. Gabled and Hipped Roofs need a slope of at least a 4:12 (20 Degrees) to function properly. For Slopes Less than 20 Degrees, Flat roofs are used.
flat roof 0-20% slope
Pitched Roof 20%-45%
Pitch roofs last longer and leak less. They are also more dangerous to work on because it is easier to fall off. In the graphic above you can see the different feelings the steepness in pitch can create. English Tudor houses (Left) very commonly have Steeply pitched roofs, whereas Mid century homes (Right) tend to have low pitch roofs.
Flat roofs are cheaper to construction, easier/safer to work on, and more cost effective then Pitched roofs for huge surface areas (this is why most commercial properties have flat roofs).
The steeper the roof, the longer it lasts. Pitch roofs can last 20-50 years depending on the quality of materials and installation, whereas flat roofs last 15-20 years. Pitch Roofs and Flat roofs have different waterproofing designs. You might be surprised to find out that a pitch roof isn’t actually waterproof! Pitched roofs rely on sheeting off rainwater quickly from its steep pitch before the water has a chance to settle and pond. Flat roofs with their low slopes will have ponding, and so they are built with many layers that are sealed together to be waterproof, so that standing water doesn’t penetrate the roofs surface while it waits to be evaporated by the sun.
One big difference between flat roofs and pitched roofs is that a pitched roof has an attic, which allows you to put in attic insulation, attic vents, install HVAC ducting in its most energy efficient configuration, or have vaulted ceilings. One advantage of a flat roof, is the possibility of a rooftop deck that is not possible with a pitched roof.
By far the most common roofing material in the US is Asphalt Shingles. Approximately 80% of homes in the US have them. In addition to asphalt shingles, Flat roofs and Clay tile roofs are common in Los Angeles.
Clay Tile Roofs
Less common roofs are:
Not shown: Metal Roofs as well as Cement Tile Roofs
Rafters – carry the load of the roof and are usually made of wood 2x4s
Wood Sheathing- also sometimes called decking, sheets of 1/2 thick plywood that are nailed to the rafters to provide a solid flat surface that the waterproofing materials can be attached to.
Felt Paper/Underlayment– the bottom layer of waterproofing. Felt paper impregnated with tar.
Roof Material– this is the covering, can be Shingles, Cap Sheet, or Clay Tiles.
Vents- Pitched roofs have vents that help control temperature inside the house and reduce energy cost
Flashing– metal strips or plastic covers that are used to make transitions and protrusions in the roof (bathroom vent pipes, skylights, chimneys) water tight.
Gutters/Scuppers and Downspouts– system used to channel rainwater collected from the roof, off it, and away from the house.
Licensing & Permitting
The California Contractor State License Board regulates contractors. Roofers are required to obtain a C-39 Roofing License from the state to work on roofs. I recommend to always hire a licensed roofer- roof repair and maintenance is highly specialized and not a job for a handyman.
Safety: The largest risk for a roofer is falling. Roofing is one of the top ten most dangerous jobs in the US- there are about 80 roofer deaths each year from an estimated work force of 250,000.
How dangerous is your roof?
Injury risk depends on the steepness of the roof, if the surface below the roof is hardscape or soft, proximity to power-lines, and the Height of building. As I mentioned early, flat roofs are relatively safe to work on because they don’t have as high a risk for falling. Same with single story roofs with a normal pitch.
If your roof is over 20 Feet above the ground, workers are suppose to wear a safety harness or install a guardrail. It is always a good idea to verify the roofing company you hire carries Workman’s comp insurance. All reputable companies have it- don’t be afraid to ask.
Permitting: The cost of permitting a roof is fairly inexpensive- the building department only charges $150-$200 for a permit. A building inspector will come out two times, first after tear off and the second time when the roof is finished to final it. This does not cost a lot of money or cause much delay. Some homeowner’s don’t want to bother with a permit- the fact is that if you are caught by the city, they just give you a light slap on the wrist. The Roofer is fined $200, and they are required to pull a permit. Many roofers recommend getting a permit, not only because its the correct way to do things, but also because the roof is easily visible from the street, so it is easy for a city official to make a citation if they are in the neighborhood. West Hollywood is very strict, the city of Los Angeles is pretty lax.
Most homeowners are reactive about doing roof maintenance. They wait for the roof to leak and then scramble to call a roofing company when it is raining. The disadvantage of doing things this way is that the roofing industry in Los Angeles is seasonal. Roofers are very busy in the winter (Nov-Feb) which is the rainy season and slow in the summer (May-Sept). In the winter month they could have a 6-8 week backlog, where as in summer months it may only be two weeks. Chances are if you are having a leak it could take a roofer a week or two to get to you in the busy season. You will also pay slightly higher prices, maybe a 10%-15% premium, in the winter rather than in the summer, because there is higher demand.
If you have a roof leak and are waiting for a roofer, a temporary fix is to put up a rain tarp with sandbags. Roofing companies usually charge between $500-$700 to put up a rain tarp. A handyman can put a rain tarp up.
Roof Useful Life
Shingle : 20-30 years
Flat Roof : 10-15 years
Clay Tile Roof: 20-30 years (underlayment) Tiles 50 years
Wood Shake: Special, see article
Concrete tile: 50 years
Slate Roof: Lifetime 100-200 years
Rock Roof: 30-40 Years
Metal Roof: 40 Years
Around the halfway point in a roof’s useful life, it will start needing routine maintenance. Some of the components in the roofing system have shorter lifespans, and need maintenance sooner such as gutters (20 years), flashing (10 years), and sealing around protrusions (5 years).
Every roof has a bunch of stuff sticking out of it that make protrusions. Some example of protrusions are vent pipes for bathrooms, Ventilation for gas burning appliances like heating furnaces, AC Condensers (if located on the roof), satellite dishes and Antennas, skylights, and ducting. Each protrusion is an area of a potential leak. They are sealed with Mastic, which is a goopy tar like substance. They need to be retarred every few years to keep them waterproof.
Transitions (chimney, walls, pitched to flat roof connections, valleys, protrusions) and Edges are the areas of the roof most prone to leak.
For houses with fireplaces, the transition where the roof meets the chimney is a common leak source.
Another transition is from a wall to the roof.
Or a pitched area of the roof to a flat area.
Water runs over the Edges of the roof. Sometimes there is space in between the gutters and the edge roof that water can get in between and damage the fascia boards.
Patching is an economical and effective solution for a roof that is overall in good condition with just a few bad spots. Patching is much less costly than a complete roof replacement and only takes a day. As time goes on, the same problem areas may require additional patches, and as the roof gets older, other problem areas may appear. At some point as the roof deteriorates, it will just be cheaper to replace the roof than keep patching it each year.
I recommend working with a roofer for roof repairs. It is actually harder to fix a leaking roof than replacing it.
If you hire a handyman, they will probably buy a can of Henry’s Roof Patch and smear it around with a brush. This method does not fix a roof leak. So stick with the pros when it comes to your roof.
Replacing a roof is one of the most expensive home improvement projects. When it’s time to replace the roof it can definitely sting in the pocketbook department. It takes 3-5 days to install a new roof. One thing to keep in mind is that the weather forecast needs to be clear of any rain before the roofing company can get started. If the roof is off and it rains, it can cause catastrophic damage.
I recommend getting three bids before you hire a roofer.
One Roofer term you should know is a “square”. Roofers estimate the cost of a roof replacement by calculating how many squares it has. The more squares, the more expensive. A Roofing crew can do about 20-30 squares a day. A Square is equal to 100 Sqft. It is a 10 Foot by 10 Foot Square.
You can get a rough idea of how big your roof is in squares, by looking at the square footage of your home. Let’s say you have a single level house that is 1,500 sqft and your roof is a low pitch, then your roof size will probably be 16 or 17 squares. When a roofer comes out to estimate the job, they will measure your roof and tell you how many squares it is. Let’s say you have a two-story house that is 4,000 sqft. Well, the footprint on each floor is about 2,000 sqft. Let’s suppose also that this roof has a steep pitch, then add some extra squares to account for the steeper pitch, maybe this roof would be 25 or 26 squares.
Cost Per Square
Shingle (very steep roofs can be more expensive)
Clay Tile (price varies by choice of underlayment)
Tear off is the first part of the job. If your roof only has one or two layers, sometimes you can just add a new layer ontop the existing layers. Doing this saves time and money. If your roof already has two or three layers, then you will probably need to tear all the old layers off and start a fresh. Tear off usually takes one day. If there is more than 1 layer to tear off, that might be an additional expense.
The removed roofing material is quite heavy. If the roofer can pull a dumpster or the back of their truck close to the roof this will save money because they can throw the old roof debris directly into the dumpster. If there is no dumpster or car access, tearoff will be more expensive because workers will have to carry the debris from the side of the house to the dumpster location which is more work and takes more time.
Sheathing is 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch thick plywood that is placed across the rafters and what the underlayment and roof material sits on. Sometimes when the roofing material is torn off, it reveals that the Wood Sheathing underneath it is damaged. This is especially common for a roof that has been leaking for a long time. The roofer will replace any damaged wood sheathing before they install the new roof. They typically charge $50 to $100 per piece for new sheathing.
Once the tear off and any sheathing work is completed the roofer will schedule a delivery of the materials. If your home has easy access then a truck with a crane or conveyor belt can hoist the materials to the roof. This saves time and money. If there is not good truck access- the materials will need to be carried by hand up ladders to the roof. This adds extra cost to the job.
Underlayment & Flashing
The underlayment is a waterproofing material that is installed between the sheathing and the roof material.
Whichever roof material you are having put on, it is installed on top of the underlayment.
Most manufacturers have a warranty on their products. Warranties can range from 10-20 years. In addition, the roofing company usually will have a warranty on their labor, usually 5 years or so. If you have problems, you can call them back to fix a problem. Keep in mind that most manufacturer’s warranties void when you transfer the property, so if you sell your home, the warranty usually doesn’t transfer to the new buyer.
The State of California passed energy efficiency standards for construction in 1975. In 2008, the Energy Commission expanded those requirements to include cool roofs for new roofs installed in all residential buildings.
What are Reflectance and Emittance?
Reflectance is a measure of how much energy from the sun is absorbed. Emittance is how quickly the energy absorbed from the sun is released.
Simply put, Dark Materials absorb more sunlight and release less heat. So to comply with Title 24, lighter color roof coverings are required. Here is a comparison:
In this experiment, the daytime surface temperature difference between the non treated and cool roofs is 40 degrees! Cool roofs save energy because homes doesn’t need as much Air conditioning.
Exemptions: If you are making a roof repair, or only replacing less than 50% of your roof, you do not need to comply with the cool roof requirements. However, if you are installing a new roof in Los Angeles then the new roofing material you install must comply with the City requirements.
The city of Los Angeles requires these values for new roofs:
Certificate of Occupancy must be obtained from the building department for new construction, additions, or change of use. The certificate of occupancy is the final document in the permit process and is a record that the project has been completed. Lenders require a certificate of occupancy before they will fund a loan, so if you are buying a new construction or remodeled property, you have to wait until the certificate of occupancy is issued before you can close. Cash buyers do not have to wait for the certificate of occupancy to be issued to close, but I recommend waiting for it because closing before it is issued can be very risky.
Certificate of Occupancy (sometimes called CofO for short) has several functions:
-Announces the property is now safe to live in.
-Signifies that the property is in compliance with building codes at the time the certificate was issued.
-Indicates the permitted use of the building.
Over the years the Los Angeles building department has changed what a certificate of occupancy looks like, here are a couple certificates of occupancy from different years:
Los Angeles Certificate of occupancy 1948
Los Angeles Certificate of occupancy 1959
1981 Certificate of Occupancy: Permitted use for this buiding is the last sentence of the description: R-1 Occupancy
Permitted Use & Occupancy
The building description in the Certificate of Occupancy includes the permitted use of the structure. It is always the last sentence of the description. For instance in the CofO above from 1981 the permitted use for the building is “R-1 Occupancy.”
Certificate of Occupancy and Permitted Use relate to building code (Section 9 of LA Municipal Code) and have nothing to do with Zoning (Sections 1 of LA Municipal Code). It can be really confusing because the building departments “Use and Occupancy” codes use some of the same names as Zoning – R1, R2, R3, R4 etc. However for Permitted Use these codes have their own meaning and should not be confused with the zoning definitions.
Los Angeles Municipal Code adopted the definitions for Use and Occupancy from the California Building Code in 1985. Here is a link to CBC Use and Occupancy definitions. Residential occupancy codes (R1, R2, R3, R4) are Section 310.
Here is my simplification of the Use and Occupancy R definitions:
Residential occupancies containing sleeping units were the occupants are primarily transient in nature, including: Boarding Houses, Hotels, Motels.
Residential occupancies containing sleeping units with more than two dwelling units where the occupants are primarily permanent in nature, including: apartment buildings, boarding houses, convents, dormitories.
Residential occupancies where the occupants are primarily permanent in nature and not classified in R-1, R-2, or R-4, including: Duplexes and Single Family houses.
Residential occupancies for residential care/assisted living facilities.
If you have a Certificate of Occupancy before 1985, the Occupancy and Use code for Los Angeles were different. Dwellings and Duplexes use to be R-1 instead of R-3. Hotels, motels and Apartment houses were R-2, R-3, and R-4.
This is a table I got from LADBS buiding Department showing the change in Occupancy description between 1980 and 1985
To have a legal Rental your Zoning AND Permitted use must comply with each other. Even if you have a Permitted Use of a building as an apartment house, if your property is an R1 zone the property can only be rented as one dwelling.
Process to Recieve CofO
To receive a certificate of occupancy the property must pass a series of inspections by city building department. City inspectors visit the property at each major phase of construction and approve the previous phase before the next phase begins. You can order and check the status of Los Angeles building permits online on the LADBS website.
9842 portola Dr, Beverly Hills 90210 Year Built 2012
This new construction home in Beverly Hills was completed in 2012. The Certificate of Occupancy was issued 8/7/2012
Here is a list of the inspections it went through in order to get the final CofO:
Portola underwent almost 70 inspections by the building department to get its CofO!
Another example I have is of a remodel in Leimert Park. The original house was 2br/1ba. An investor added an additional 497 sqft 1br +1ba masterbedroom.
3766 S Grayburn Ave, Los Angeles 90018
Grayburn Masterbedroom addition 1
Grayburn master bedroom addition 2
Here is the inspection activity for Grayburn to get the CofO on the 500sqft addition:
Grayburn had almost 20 inspections to get its CofO for the addition
There is less inspections for remodels than new construction because they is less construction work. You can see that the city goes to great length to make sure new buildings are safe. After the project is completed the inspector will final the permit and a certificate of occupancy is issued.
Buildings didn’t always have Certificates of occupancy. It is hard to believe that the population of Los Angeles, now over 3,000,000, was once only 576,000- but it was in 1920. The original city planning commission was only five members. Today, the building department has over 260 employees. Houses built before 1930 do not receive certificates of occupancy because they didn’t exist yet.
Certificate of Occupancy History
Prior to 1930
No Certificates of Occupancy were issue (they didn’t exist yet)
The City started initially by issuing Certificates of Compliance for commercial buildings (all theatres, hospital, schools, and garages.)
The Municipal Code was changed to require that a Certificates of Occupancy be issued for all building categories except homes.
The code was again changed to include a Certificate of Occupancy requirement for all new buildings. It has stayed this way to present day
Q: How long does it take to get a certificate of occupancy once my permits have been finaled?
A: Normally it takes 2-3 weeks. When there is a building boom it can take as long as 2-3 months.
Q: Where do I find a properties Certificate of Occupancy?
In Los Angeles, you will find that many home improvement projects are done without permits.
Why is this so? Because…
1. It speeds up construction.
2. Avoids Permit Fees.
3. The project violates building regulations, zoning code, or association CC&R rules, and is not possible to permit.
4. The owner has hired an unlicensed contractor who cannot pull permits themselves.
5. Because it is easier and, for the most part, they can get away with it.
For small budget projects (anything under $3,000) like replacing Rain Gutters, Installing a new Water Heater, Painting, Minor Plumbing Repairs (replacing faucets, shower heads, garbage disposals, clogged drains, etc), Drywall, Fences and Gates, Landscaping, Minor Electric Repairs (replacing outlets, replacing light fixtures, light bulbs)- many homeowners choose to skip getting a permit. Basically, anything a Handyman can do. These small budget projects are low injury risk, not technical or require a high level of skill, and if the job is completely botched, can be redone. I rarely, if ever, find permits for this type of work when I am researching building permits.
In general things inside the house are easier to do then outside the house, because they don’t have to be weather proof.
If a project is permitted you know that it was built to code. Projects done without a building may or may not be built to code. There are a lot of very skilled contractors in Los Angeles that do jobs without pulling permits. Unfortunately as a
There are three issues you have to consider if you are contemplating buying a property with non permitted construction work: Resale Value, Code Enforcement Risk, Insurance. As a real estate agent, I always recommend getting permits.
Nonpermitted construction work’s affect on Resale
In my experience, most buyers in Los Angeles are willing to accept work done on houses with no permits. The only exception to that, is additions, new buildings, or pools, not having a permit for these is a deal killer. Los Angeles buyers are use to not finding a permit for everything. The usual suspects that are missing permits include: plumbing (water lines and waste lines), electrical (except for new main panels), kitchen remodels, bathroom remodels, flooring, windows, moving around water heaters and laundry, exterior painting, installing ducting ac and heaters etc. When you get into the higher end home market permits become more prevalent.
Is the work good quality or not? Since there are no permits showing you that the city approved the job- it’s buyer beware. You have to be okay with not knowing if the work was done to code, and the possibility of dealing with an order to comply, or paranoia of being cited the next time you do a new project in your home in the future.
You can only rely on what you see, and the reputation of the contractor who installed it. I always try to track down the contractor who did the work if they can be found when I am dealing with a non permitted situation. If problems arise later, call them and tell them to fix it. The longer it has been since the job was completed the more comfortable I feel because I know that someone has lived in it and they were ok with it.
What happens if I have non permitted construction and the city finds out?
Non permitted work is considered illegal so be aware of the risks.
There are two ways an inspector can discover a building code violation:
1. A neighbor or tenant calls the Building Department and complains
2. An inspector finds a code violations during another inspection out in the field
The Risk for code enforcement depends on how likely you are to be cited and the cost to correct the problem if you are cited.
How likely are you to be cited?
It is very hard for building inspectors to spot non permitted work inside the home that is not visible from the street or any other public right of way. That is why so many home owners are able to get away with no permits- because it is hard to catch.
Here are some stories about the city citing non permitted construction:
Story 1: I heard of an owner in Silver Lake getting sighted with an order to comply for a non permitted deck, because the decks were visible from a neighbors backyard. Be careful in hilly area’s to check permits on buildings in the back yard like decks, pools, or patios.
Story 2: A home owner decided to get a permit for a new addition in their home, and when the building inspector came out for an inspection- they discovered that the heating and cooling system didn’t have a far enough set back in the backyard, went back to the office, and search on the property activity report, and discovered there wasn’t any permits pulled for installing the HVAC. He then writes up an order to comply for the homeowner to move the condenser farther away from the house.
Story 3: The building inspector is driving on his way to a building inspection and sees that a property along with way is having a new roof done, but there is no permit posted in the front window. He writes down the address and when he gets back to the office, checks the property activity report, and discovers no roofing permit was pulled and writes an order to comply.
Story 4: Homebuyer purchases a property with a converted garage to guest house, they bought the property partly because they liked having the income from renting the guest house out. A nosy neighbor who doesn’t like having “renters” nearby makes an anonymous call to the building department and reports the violation. The inspector finds out about the unpermitted garage conversion, and the zoning of the property does not allow multiunit dwellings. The building department orders the homeowner to revert the guest house back to its permitted use.
Story 5: You want extra income so you decide to turn your 4 bedroom house into a 10 unit boarding house without any permits. It is only a matter of time before the city comes knocking on your door…
How much will it cost if I am cited?
The cities process for bringing a property with out permits into compliance is reasonable. Once an inspector has identified a violation, like any of the stories above, they will write an order to comply. This automatically generates a code violation inspection fee of $356.60. No matter what the issue sited, there is a compliance period of only 15 days to correct the violation. If you are dealing with a major problem, this probably wont be enough time to fix it- so there are two options- 1. request an extension for $337.08, maximum length 6 months, I always recommend asking for the maximum or 2. Get fined an additional non-compliance fee of $550. If you delay in paying the tickets, they double and triple just like traffic tickets do.
At this point, the order to comply tells you what needs to be done to permit and legalize the work. They may demand you to demolish, replace, request a variance or modification, or attain a permit. In the case of non permitted new construction or additions, they pose the highest risk, because if they were not built to code, you may be required to tear them down and have the largest losses.
Most of the times builders or investors who add on, will make sure that it is permitted, because if they don’t the additional square footage is ignored in the bank appraisal. I’d usually recommend walking from a deal if the addition or new construction was not permitted.
For the systems in the house, there is much greater leeway here, because they can usually be fixed, and if they need to be replaced, they have a much smaller price tag.