I’ve never used the same general contractor twice. That says something right there. So every time I do a renovation, I have to start from scratch. The usual reason I don’t repeat contractors comes down to communication. I say things that don’t happen. They do things without asking that aren’t on the blueprints. They ignore installation instructions so an item won’t install properly (so I get the right part and do it myself over the weekend only to be met with wide-eyed stares). They try to install a shower drain a foot off the ground (literally) because they don’t have the right drain – which I source and have FedEx-ed.  They cut an active water line that floods the place and send me a Jimmy John’s sandwich as a “sorry.” And once they just ghosted for a month and I had to sue to recoup my deposit.

Those who read this column know that clarity isn’t typically one of my faults nor is suffering fools.

So given my track record, how do I find a contractor?

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One of four NOT Chihuly chandeliers for sale

Once you’ve checked out the Elite Auctions preview of 11322 E. Ricks Circle on Sept. 14, join me from 5 to 7 p.m. at The Claridge (3510 Turtle Creek Blvd., Units 18 A and B) for your chance to tour my Penthouse Plunge before demolition as I revive and return two Turtle Creek penthouses to their glory, and one to the market. 

Renovate: Reuse and Recycle

Every renovation has items from the existing home that no longer work with the new design. For my Athena renovation, I donated appliances, built-in cabinetry, lighting, doors and frames plus bathroom fixtures. The Claridge penthouses are no different. In and amongst the wine and nibbles, you’ll see what doesn’t fit with my plans and so is being donated, bartered, and frankly, for sale to anyone interested.

Respectful renovation isn’t the HGTV spectacle of sledgehammer-wielding destruction. It’s about taking a few minutes and finding a new home for eminently usable items that just aren’t “you.”

For example, kitchen and bathroom cabinets would be welcomed by housing charities. Ditto doors, windows, faucets, etc. You’re doing good and getting a tax write-off.

So far, in the “for sale” bin are four NOT-Chihuly chandeliers – one in each entry and two in the office (and my future bedroom). The clear/white one seen above is in the B-unit entry.

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Blueprint of remodeled Claridge 18-A-unit

I’d sketched enough plans to feel comfortable taking the Penthouse Plunge remodel of a double-penthouse at the Claridge on Turtle Creek. To review,  I’ll be restoring the combined 5,311-square-foot unit back into two infinitely more livable spaces. But my work isn’t good enough for building permits. That’s the subject of this column – getting to permit phase.

Before you begin a major renovation, you need to know what you’re doing – and not just in your head. So you’ll need blueprints prepared by a professional, and not just to get errant thoughts on paper.  First of all, major renovations – especially those in multi-family complexes – will need building permits. The governing HOA will want to know that the work is being inspected by professionals and that plans meet code requirements. With few exceptions, HOAs are not comprised of people in the construction trades.

The second reason for blueprints is to get accurate quotes from tradespeople and contractors. It will also help spec out what things you’ll need to buy – toilets, drawer pulls, tile, etc.

But how do you find the right resources to draw up your plans?  That’s where it gets interesting.

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I’m the soon-to-be the owner of a 5,311-square-foot penthouse on Turtle Creek that I don’t want and can’t afford. Now what?

As I hinted in my first Penthouse Plunge column, the plan is to separate the condo back into two units as it was originally designed. I foresee three phases.

Phase one will include all demolition and the construction of any new walls – including putting up the wall to separate the A and B units (physically as well as legally). The floors will also be repaired and refinished.

After all that dusty stuff is done, I will move into the serviceable B side while the rest of the A Unit is renovated and sold. After the A unit sale, I’ll recast my mortgage to something less breathtaking. From there, I’ll slow-poke the B unit renovation as funds become available. A small mortgage is better than an immediately fancy home – at least to me.

Follow the renovation as it unfolds (later this week you’ll read about how I found an architect). All the workers and suppliers know that, for good or bad, all will be laid bare in these pages. There will be no fake “Oh no!” cliffhangers before the commercial break – only real “Oh no!” and “Yippie!” moments here. And parties, of course …

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Back in March, I wrote a column about a mystery buyer wanting a partner-in-renovation to separate a double penthouse listing at The Claridge on Turtle Creek. Unit 18 A/B had been on the market for four years with three agents during which it had over $1 million in price reductions. That mystery buyer was me. I’d hoped to find someone interested in separating the units with each of us going our own renovation way – to no avail.

A few were interested in carving up the 5,311-square-foot unit, but they wanted so much space that it made the remaining B-unit unsalable – one wanting to leave me an oversized studio with only a half bath.

So I noodled and penciled for weeks and weeks trying to get someone to see the investment potential. I spoke with a banker to seek an investor or flipper. No dice.  So I noodled and penciled some more. In the end, a deal was struck with the help of all parties, including the seller’s agent, Sharon Quist from Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate. We all found a way for me to buy the whole freaking thing. According to Quist, “I’ve never done a deal like this in 40 years.”

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