Mark and I were looking to purchase a duplex as an investment, which made this property attractive. I was also intrigued by the potential of the structure itself. Like most of my projects, this house was in rough shape when we bought it. There were major problems with the foundation and roof and some unfortunate cosmetic issues on the exterior – an oddly out of balance front entry and some bad replacement windows that were oversized for the period of construction. All of that said, you could still see what the house once was, and the two units had really functional floor plans that could easily be modified to make them even better.
I thought my biggest challenges would be (1) dealing with the foundation settlement and (2) reworking the flat roof system on the single story rear and side additions. I had the foundation jacked up and leveled, though it’s still about 3% out of plumb. You don't feel the imbalance on the first floor, but you are aware of it upstairs. We’re planning to use shims when we lay the flooring upstairs to level it more.
As for the flat roof on the rear and side additions, that turned out to be more of a mess than I had anticipated. I'm actually surprised that the roof had been performing as well as it was, given the structural unsoundness of the additions. I had my engineer come in to shore up what was there by redesigning the ceiling joists and strengthening the supports underneath the house so that a roof top deck could be added.
Every property that I renovate comes with a few unanticipated challenges. This project was no exception. The cost of building materials coming from China has sky-rocketed as a result of recent tariffs, which has had a negative impact on pricing for kitchen cabinets, countertops, drywall and concrete. I didn’t adequately account for the long lead times my subcontractors now require. With the housing market as hot as it is, many of my subs are booked out months in advance - so scheduling issues have caused some pretty significant delays on this project. I also encountered some duplex-specific code requirements for drywall and firewall ratings that I wasn’t familiar with, which added another layer of complexity.
I’m pleased to report that we're finally getting ready to drywall the interior of the house, which is one of the most exciting parts of a project for me. Once the drywall is in, it's a pretty straightforward process to completion. We’re hoping to have the duplex ready to occupy by the end of January. We’ll post an update as we get closer to completion.
Jeff Williams is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere Chambers Bay, specializing in residential real estate in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, University Place and Lakewood.
Jeff Williams: (253) 303-1135