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Ask a Contractor: Alon Toker

Ever wish you could ask a licensed contractor some remodeling questions with no hint of pressure to sign a contract? Here is your chance.Alontoker

This week’s guest expert, contractor Alon Toker, will be answering your remodeling questions online through Sunday.

Here are the facts:

Name: Alon Toker
Title: President
Company: Mega Builders, Chatsworth
Contractor’s License No.: 623980
Website: www.megabuilders.com
Awards: Grappling with Indecision
Remodeling Magazine feature: Before + After: Down to the Details

What is your remodeling question for contractor Alon Toker? Please post your question in the comment section below, then check back for the answer.


8 Comments on Ask a Contractor: Alon Toker

  1. Hi Alan,
    We recently bought a home and are thinking of adding square footage…is it more economical to expand the first floor or add a second story. Our lot is not large, so I feel that adding a second story would save the square footage of the back yard, but we are on a budget…thoughts?
    Thanks!

  2. Hi Alan,
    We’re adding a deck and are thinking of either a Nanawall (stackable, retractable window wall) or going with more traditional french windows. The basic idea is to integrate the the outdoor and indoor spaces. Have you had any experience with such construction and/or any tips on what approach is preferable? The Nanawalls are certainly more money….

  3. Anne,
    Going up is typically more expansive by 30%-50% as compared to adding to the first floor. You also have to figure the space a stairwell would require at both levels and the cost of (often unavoidable) work to the existing first floor.
    On the other hand, going up will not take away from your available yard – an important consideration in and of itself, and the second floor might offer views, air flow, privacy and security superior to that of the first floor.
    Good luck!

  4. AC,
    To fully realize the potential of a Nanawall (or similar) system, the typical door opening(s) should be enlarged. Essentially the wall will need to be entirely eliminated (else you are basically replacing your sliding/French door(s) with a bi-fold like system).
    The main issue with eliminating the wall would be loss of shear strength.
    If you are aiming for an all-glass wall, you should consult with a structural engineer (the city will want to review plans and structural calculations before issuing a permit for the work).
    To compensate for the loss of shear value (i.e. the ability of the structural to resist lateral movement) the engineer has a several options, some of which might be rather costly (e.g. a steel moment frame across the opening).
    To explore your options, you might wish to go to Building & Safety with a sketch and see what they say. You might also wish to ask an engineer to take a look and offer his/her opinion. This way you would know what you are getting into before you are already there. Good luck!

  5. A general Question….
    What is the cost per square foot in the L.A./Orange county area, to either build new residential housing or to completely remodel a 60+ year old house and add on about 1250 sq/ft?
    (nice, good quality construction: not cheapy – not expensive luxury)
    Is it usually better to remoldel/add on, or tear down and start from scratch?

  6. S.W.,
    As there are simply too many variables at play, without substantially more data and a site visit anyone’s guess as to costs is liable to miss the mark and be of little or no value to you.
    All things being equal (they rarely are) it is more cost effective to remodel and add on than tear down and rebuild.
    As far as average range of costs is concerned, your add-on (and new construction) will likely run in the $150-$250/SF range, while the remodel will be in the $100-$175/SF.
    The best approach is to define a budget first and than ‘reverse engineer’ a project ‘into that budget’.
    If you have a competent design team working with you, you should be able to realize most/all of your objectives and remain within your budget.
    Good luck!

  7. Hello Alon -
    I didn’t include my real email address because I don’t want spam. My question is- we live in a really nice part of Seattle, kind of spendy homes, and doing a remodel. What is your opinion of a tiled entryway (rest of main floor would be hardwood – probably dark exotic wood)? It’s rainy here, so I’d like to put a really nice tile in the entryway and heat it with a heatpad, to make it more inviting. If you like it, do you have any tips on what to consider when choosing the tile?

  8. Jackie,
    A nice tile floor could look great next to hardwood.
    In your case, I think an important consideration and possibly the deciding factor would be your floor plan; is there a way to define the entry area with different flooring without having the flooring transition seem odd or forced?
    If you can figure out a flooring layout that ‘flows’ and feels right, than by all mean go for it as your reasoning for doing it is solid.
    As for radiant floor heating in the entry, save your money. Unless your family is in the habit of taking off their shoes once in the house, a heated floor would not be noticed.
    Good luck!

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