Tag Archives: House Plans

Don’t be a Closet Painter

My dad, Ralph Jones, has been in the Construction and Residential Design business since… well, way before I was a twinkle in his eye.  He has some stories to tell, so I thought I’d share some of there here on my blog.  We are thinking about writing a book about the process of designing and building houses, but some of these stories will probably work their way into the book to lighten up the process if not educate everyone in better building practices.  Hope this gives you something to smile about as well as watch out for in your own building endeavors!

“Back in 1952, when I was about 15, I started working for G&K Construction Company in my hometown of Pontotoc, MS.  The ancient two story elementary school building with a full basement had burnt to the ground during the winter.  I was fortunate enough to secure a job with the company doing the construction of the new building when they began the next spring.  That first summer was a tough one, digging footings and grade beams; and since there were no redi-mix concrete company’s within 100 miles, we mixed our own concrete on the job.  That sun baked red clay was almost like digging in concrete itself, but we made it through somehow.

The boss Mr. Charles Gaskin saw that I was not going to quit, however bad the job was, so he kept me on.  When school was about to start again in the fall, he told the foreman to use me in some capacity whenever I showed up for work through the winter.  Working Saturdays and holidays through the winter it rewarded me with a little spending money and also kept my job in-tact.

As we got the frame of the building up, a roof installed, and began the interior finish, some wood work was to be added; and a painter was hired.  He was an old gentleman; tall, skinny, a good natured guy, but very quiet.  As far as everyone knew, he did his job with no complaints from anyone.  His job got done, but no one saw much of him during the day; just when he came to work and as he left.

Being a school job, an architect of the project visited on a regular basis to check and see what was happening and if all was up to his required standards.  One of these requirements was the wood trim had to be coated with a coat of primer paint on both front and back before it was installed.  This old painter would lay the strips of wood trim on saw-horses and prime them in each room.  Since I was sort of an “extra” on the work detail my job might be working here one day and there the next, moving around sweeping, cleaning, whatever.  As winter progressed, I noticed that a stray Gordon’s Gin bottle would show up occasionally; empty of course.  The further into winter we went, the more bottles showed up.  I would discard them as I went about my job of keeping the job at least ‘broom clean.’  I had no idea of who was drinking the gin but I had an idea.

One day while working in a particular class room there were several empty bottles, some saw-horses with freshly painted trim lying across them, and a tall metal scaffolding setup there in the room by some other tradesman.  This room had a medium sized storage closet opening into the room, but the metal scaffolding was pushed nearly up against the only door to that closet.  Again I thought nothing of this scene but a noise or something told me to move the scaffold and see what was going on inside the closet.

Screeching back the scaffold on the concrete floor, and opening the door; there was a scene that would never be forgotten, even though more than 60 years have passed, the old painter was sitting, ‘spraddle’ legged on the floor, head down on his chest, drunker than ‘Cooter Brown; either passed out or asleep; reeking to high heaven of paint primer and Gordon’s Gin.

Gordon's-Gin - 1952

I probably should have turned him in to the boss or foreman, but I had not been exposed to such a scenario before, so I just eased the door back closed and pushed the scaffold back near the door just as I had found it.

That was the last time I ever saw the old painter.”

COLOR!

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I like color.  I especially love seeing a house come together, the entire process impresses and thrills me.  A friend asked me the other day how things were going with this, my first investment home build… I told her I was equally thrilled and freaked out by the entire process.  I was worried about interest payments, etc., then I calm myself down when I realize I only have to pay 3, or maybe 4 months worth of interest.  It’s all good!

Anyway, We were supposed to be getting brick laid starting yesterday, however, it’s been raining off and on for the past few days so the  sand for the morter is too wet, so the brick-layers have not yet begun their work, but the painters came  today said that the wood was dry enough to put a layer of primer on the wood-work, so here we have some primer.

The siding will be about this color, but the trim/cornice will be much lighter as well as the trim around the windows and the garage door and column at the front porch.  The shutters will be solid black and will be inset on the porch to the left of the front door to give the illusion of a window (but a window can no t be placed here because of the staircase directly beyond.  Well, it COULD be a window, but it would have been very expensive tempered glass, and I didn’t want the liability of someone falling down the stairs, through the glass and out onto the front porch, so we simply omitted that window.  There will be shutters at the tiny window above the front porch as well as the window above the garage door.  This house should be really cute when finished.

A new Investment home to consider

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I had a conversation with an Engineer yesterday morning.  He actually did the inspections on my current investment house that is being built.  During our conversation he mentioned that a LOT of investment homes/rent homes are being built in our area, especially North Mississippi.  I was surprised to learn this, it is rather a weird thing to build a brand new house strictly as an investment property, well, in my circle it is.  Apparently it is done in other places quite often… I’ve always thought that apartments were built just to rent which seems to be normal in most areas until they convert them to condos and sell them, which is strange to me as apartments in our area tend to become war zones, a place where sane people don’t even think of entering.  But I digress.

This is a new plan that I developed specifically to fit onto some lots in a particular neighborhood.  The footprint is really small, but given the available building area, it works.  It really isn’t a bad layout, if it were a house for SALE, I would like to fix a lot of things, the master bedroom/bathroom situation for starters, and the laundry room location and size for another.  But if you think about it, this could really be a great living plan given it’s size.  The bedrooms upstairs are actually pretty large!  There are even 3 walk-in closets in this house, which is unheard of as a rule in a 1300 sq. ft. house.

In 1388 sq. ft. there are  4 dedicated bedrooms!  There is even an expandable area over the garage which could make yet another bedroom (if a window were added).

Think about the life many people live today with blended families.  One week you have 2 kids a dog and a cat.  But twice a month (or more) you have 6 kids and stuff everywhere!  A bunch of kids who all want to watch a different TV program, half of the kids wanting to play video games.  A bonus room in a small home like this could be invaluable!

This 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 2-car garage works, though tight.  It was designed as a rental, for people passing through a phase, however, with a few tweaks it could be the ideal down-size home for those who don’t want much space.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this one.

Investment Project – Alley Loaded Garage

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Just so my readers (well, eventual readers) will know what we do, I thought I would start with a few pictures of projects.  Our home plans start at about 400 sq. ft., although with the new Tiny House Movement, well, to tell you what I think about that, I’m obsessed!  But haven’t published any of those … yet.

Here is a recent design I did.  Before you tell me how terrible the kitchen and bathrooms are, this was designed to be built BY Property Investors with the specific goal of renting this house out right off the bat.  Therefore, I was given a specific list of criteria.

1. MINIMAL Bathroom Cabinetry – they tried to talk me into a 24″ – 30″ vanity, but I refused to use anything less than 36″.  Granted a 36″ vanity really isn’t much if you need a little space, but it has that precious extra 6″ to hold at least a curling iron… for the girls.

2. MINIMAL Kitchen Cabinetry – the investors also did not want many kitchen cabinets because they often get destroyed by renters. The fewer cabinets, the better as far as replacements.  Because I have a heart for renters (I was once a renter), I TRIED to give you more cabinets, but was shot down, so, I made a big pantry that will hopefully allow you to forgive me for the lack of cabinets.

3. Four Bedrooms, Two Bathrooms, 1350-1450 sq. ft.

4. Double Garage

There were a few other criteria, like the overall width and depth of the house and of course there were some restrictions regarding the lot size, so the physical footprint trumped some of the above criteria.

If you were buying this property, particularly in this area of the country, this would definitely not be a great choice, yea there are lots of bedrooms and 2 full baths AND a garage, but the cabinets aren’t ideal especially for a homeowner.  However, if this size house is what you are looking for, maybe the “normal version” of this plan would be more appealing.  Notice the expanded bathroom on the first floor, the additional storage room under the stairs, the added cabinets in the kitchen as well, there are doors which close off the washer/dryer (in the plan at the beginning of this post, those are open to the world… not my choice, but to save money for the investors).  Yes, this is a rear loaded garage for use with an alley style subdivision, but we also flipped it over for a front loaded garage where the Master bedroom is on the back of the house.  Works great either way.

In either version of this plan, you could add a bonus room or even a 5th bedroom with minor modifications and that room could be added above the garage.

By the way: I’m told that this house was rented out PRIOR to it being completed for about $1300 per month.  This is pretty good in our market. Nice 4-bedroom/2 bath homes are apparently hard to come by around here… well, located in good neighborhoods.

Your thoughts and comments appreciated. If you are a property investor and build new homes for rent, what criteria would you ask for?

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