This Space for Rent

Don’t mind the nervous tic, it’s just fallout from trying to renovate my garage

I've been eyeing my poor pathetic garage (which hasn't seen better days for about half a century) with a mind to renovate it and change it from a stupid garage into a workshop (so I can get the huge pile of wood & tile & glass & electronic parts out of the basement and into a well-lit space with electricity and heat) with a little office space upstairs. It's not big enough to make a modern house (it fits into a 6.1 meter cube, which is smaller than a lot of the so-called "great rooms" that infest modern house design), but it's roughly the size of some of the smaller bungalows that people used to build or buy, so it's the ideal size for a small workshop or studio.

The problem is that it's not in very good shape. Aside from the obvious, there's the teeny detail that the back is rotted out and the south side keeps having vines grow through it in the areas where dirt was piled up higher than the foundation for the past 20 or so years.

So I was thinking that the best way to renovate the offending thing would be to hire some contractor to pull the existing structure down, then run a stemwall across the front of the foundation and reassemble the whole thing with ~ a meter of wall extension and a second floor. Which seemed like a wonderful idea when I called in some demolition crews who made guesses that it would take two days and US$1600 to convert the box into a stack of old-growth lumber for me to sort through and reassemble into a slightly taller box.

It didn't seem quite such a wonderful idea when I started to get the written estimates, which were, ahem, slightly higher than the verbal estimates that I'd been given when the contractor was onsite. (And it really didn't seem too wonderful when the contract chirpily said that the general contractor (and that would be me) had to go out and get a demolition permit. And it's not because I expected that you can actually demolish structures in Portland without getting permission from The Man; I'd already expected that, and had spent a few exciting hours grubbing through trying to get ANY sort of idea about just how much I'd have to pay to get permission to make my property safe for working in. No, it's because after the written estimate helpfully provided me with estimated costs of renting porta-potties and dumpsters (and, less helpfully, offered to do that bit of subcontracting themselves at a substantial premium,) they disappeared off into the sort of vague "hey! you'll have to figure out how much the permits cost all by yourself! Hahahahahahaha!" commentary that I so love about construction.) I know that there's inflation, but a 80% increase in the estimate between 9:30am (verbal) and 4:15pm (written)?

It's annoying enough to have to deal with the city (it's a city, and even the best city is not going to go out of its way to make it easy for homeowners to fiddle with their property,) but the difference between spending US$1600+permits to have someone else crawl up on top of a roof to dismantle a structure and spending US$2500+permits is enough to make me scamper on out and start buying lally columns on the spot (if I'm going to remove the roof, I'm not going to do it until I brace the front of the structure. And I'd rather use tall skinny structural jacks than build up a massive cribbing support to do said bracing. Thus a brace of lally columns.)

Admittedly, letting the garage slowly slide into decrepitude is probably keeping my property taxes lower than they'd otherwise be (the real estate slowdown is starting to hit Portland, but I still live in a neighborhood where the value of my house has doubled in the past 9 years. And, yes, the thought of selling it and bolting has crossed my mind, but (a) I'd have to buy (or build) another house, (b) even if I could do that on the cheap, the residual money wouldn't be enough to retire on, and (c) the best is dead set on staying in Portland, come hell or high water) but it's still 122 square meters of negative space that I'd like to replace with a workshop (if there's one thing our property has, it's negative space; easily a quarter of our house is unusable space for one reason or another; it's 1100 square meters, and not only don't we have room for an office but I've been so at wits end for the past year and a half that large parts of the house have sort of filled up with random junk waiting for me to win the lottery before I can work on them.)

This does beg the question of "why do you work if it keeps you from being creative?" Well, that's easy; no work, no health insurance, bankruptcy if I get sick (which is at least officially different from "work, sucky health insurance, bankruptcy soon after I get sick" [and, yes, it would be easier if I lived in a country with a working healthcare system, but doing that requires a unanimous vote of the board of directors at Chateau Chaos and that's so not going to happen that I've given up on even trying],) so I've got to keep trying to work out ways to tidy up my life enough so I can hypothetically work on things in the tiny amount of free time I've got left after my stupid job. And having to deal with subcontractors and the city doesn't make that even slightly easier.