At the end of July, we decided it was time to act on some plans we’d had drawn up a few years ago for a small addition to solve several problems with the current configuration of our entry way.  We had two contractors come out to take a look at the drawings and give bids for the work on the addition as well as pouring a new circle driveway – since the addition turns the current porte cochere into a front porch, the existing driveway would need to be re-located and given a slightly different shape as part of this project to accommodate the entry way alternations.

In the last week or so, we’ve heard back from both of the contractors with their estimates.  Amazingly, the two estimates came in at right about the same cost (with only about 5% difference).  Both contractors had been recommended by the architect that put together the plans as being good choices for remodeling work, so we’re pretty confident that either of them would do a good job on the addition, but after the initial meetings with both of them, we felt that the second contractor we’d talked to had a much better sense of what we were looking for as far as blending the new construction in with the old so that it wouldn’t clearly feel like an addition.  Besides that, his estimate came in the lower of the two … so, the decision of which general contractor to use for the project was made pretty easily.

One thing that kind of surprised me about the estimates we got back from both contractors was the vagueness of what was included in the quoted price.  In each case, there were 3 or 4 sentences describing the project and then a total figure for the cost of construction and a total figure for the cost of the new driveway.  Just to make sure we were on the same page, we got together again yesterday morning to go over a list of questions we had come up with about the construction in general and what would be included in the quoted price vs. what would be an up-charge.

One of the things we talked about at length was straightening the roof structure over the existing porte cochere so that it looks level.  The current structure is slanted forward and to the right to ensure proper drainage (we think), but when viewing it from the garage or the street, it looks as though it’s leaning to the right due to structural issues rather than by design.  Here’s a picture:

The Existing Porte Cochere

The fact that the roof is slanted to one side was one of the first things we noticed when we looked at the house before buying it and it was something we asked the inspector to specifically look at before the sale was final.  Everything appears structurally sound with it – in fact the two pillars in the front measure different lengths … so, best we can tell, it’s supposed to be that way.  Before building an addition under that roof, though, it’s something we’d really like to correct.  After spending quite a bit of time looking it over yesterday, John (the contractor) says he’s going to try a couple of different things to have it look more level.  To start with, he’s going to try jacking up the roof so that he can raise the right side a bit and drop the left side a bit.  He’s not positive that’ll be enough to get it level, but we’re hopeful that it will make enough of a correction that it isn’t immediately obvious.  Once the roof is straightened out as much as possible, if there’s any slant left, our plans are to disguise it some with how we route the gutters and how the trim is placed in an effort to trick the eye and have it look level from the street.  This is the part of the whole project that we’re most nervous about … if the combination of these two tactics don’t succeed in making the roof look like it’s straight & level, our only other option for correcting it will be to re-build the roof structure altogether.  We’re really hoping to not have to go there …

Aside from the issue of straightening the roof, we also talked quite a bit about the new driveway – how thick it will be, what kind of reinforcements will be used, what the layout of the new driveway will look like, and if it might make sense for us to demolish the old concrete rather than paying for the concrete guys to do it.  One of the things we’re concerned about with the new driveway is that it will be strong enough to handle some larger delivery trucks, etc.  Since the house is kind of far from the street, we sometimes get larger vehicles coming down the drive and it always makes us nervous since we’re not sure how much weight the current concrete is supposed to handle … we’d like to beef up the new driveway a little so we won’t always be worried about it cracking under weight also.

After the discussion yesterday, there were a few different estimates we asked John to work up for some changes to what was planned in his original bid.  He said we should plan to hear back from him by the end of this week with an updated quote for the addition and driveway to reflect the changes we talked about.  If everything looks good, we should then be ready to start the project!  And the good news is that, once we give them the go ahead, it sounds like they’ll be ready to start within just a couple of weeks!  John’s estimating the work will take a couple of months to complete, so we’re hoping that means (in theory, at least) that the project should be basically wrapped up by Thanksgiving!  It will be so exciting to see the plans come to life!

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