Most people in need of a home upgrade opt to move out and hire others to reconstruct their house.
But Santa Clarita Valley locals Mike and Joanie Hambel discovered that the best way for them to get the house expansion they’ve been wanting is to do it themselves.
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“We couldn’t afford to do it (otherwise),” Mike Hambel said. “But both our families have a background in the construction business.”
As a fireman paramedic and an ER nurse, the Hambels and their two children already have their hands full working full time.
But the Hambels still managed to find time to build their dream house essentially on their own.
What began as an idea of wanting to expand their single-story home soon became a hands-on family project to add an entire second floor to their Saugus home.
The couple is about halfway through completing their reconstructed home, and they say that they are pleased with their decision to build the add-on themselves.
But the choice to take matters into their own hands was not always an easy one.
The Hambels noted that the deciding factor on whether they were going to start building for themselves was money.
“We found out that if we built the add-on ourselves, we would gain more than 20 percent in equity,” Joanie Hambel added. “So it made more sense to do it that way.”
Now that the construction to add a second story to the Hambel house is under way, the couple haven’t found the work as strenuous as it first appeared.
“It’s not really more difficult (than hiring someone), but there are a lot of things you don’t think about when you take a house apart,” Mike Hambel said. “A lot of the stuff will happen completely simultaneously. One day you’ll be working on the staircase, then the next day you’ll have to fix a vent in the bathroom, then you’ll move on to the roof.”
To keep track of the process that has taken more than four months so far, Joanie Hambel has decided to keep a blog on the reconstruction.
Her blog covers the major details of the home renovation project, with the first post dating back to July 5.
“One of the reasons for starting the blog was I wanted to have something to look back on,” Joanie Hambel said.
“I’ve built houses before with my dad, but you forget so much of what happened. I wanted to document the whole process.”
Joanie Hambel writes that her husband “had always planned on making (the house) larger, but he never had a real reason to” before she and their two daughters came along.
When the timing was right, Joanie said that the couple submitted their own outline and plans to the city in the hopes of getting an OK before they began to expand on their current home.
“Most homeowners are scared of the whole permitting process,” she said. “It’s like walking into a club and not knowing anybody.
“But (city of Santa Clarita officials) were amazing — they were so friendly and so helpful. They wanted us so badly to succeed,” she added. “That reiterated why we live in this town.”
When the city approved their plans, Mike and Joanie Hambel immediately got to work to make their plan a reality, even when it wasn’t all easy.
“We tore drywall off of walls, pulled out insulation, cut/jack-hammered out foundations,” Joanie Hambel wrote in one of her demolition day blog posts. “On day 5, (Mike) and I both had to go to our real jobs. It was like a vacation.”
After months of hard labor, the couple got ready for the prewrap inspection.
When they first started the home improvement process and their neighbors saw them working, people thought they were only doing minor construction.
“Our neighbors think we’re crazy,” Joanie Hambel explained.
Now that the process has been going on, community members have started to show their support.
“Saving lives and property are what one would expect from a nurse and fireman,” said Gene Dorio, one of the Hambel family’s neighbors. “But to literally create their own home is astounding.”
Most of their neighbors have a similar outlook.
Neighbor Robin Clough liked the idea of community involvement in the Hambels’ house reconstruction project.
“In the initial, more labor intensive days it was exciting and heartwarming to see dozens of their friends roll up their sleeves in an old-fashioned type ‘barn raising,’” Clough said.
The couple hopes their renovations will allow them to stay in their Santa Clarita Valley home for as long as possible.
“So many people in society today look at houses and think ‘I’ll live there for 5 years and then sell it’,” Joanie Hambel noted. “People don’t think, ‘This is our home and we are going to make memories here.’”
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Source: Santa Clarita News