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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, May 19, 2000

Manzano family photos
The Manzanos enjoy their spacious new old home.

After the agony,
the dream house

Remodeling tips

By Nadine Kam,


ED Manzano Jr. and his wife Pamela have some advice for anyone with plans to remodel their home: dream big and get a little help from your friends.

Their friends made the difference between getting the house they wanted and a much smaller house filled with compromises.

It was only after meeting Jim Byxbee of HomeWorks at a Remodel It Right seminar that the couple found they were not totally off-base in dreaming big.

The company was receptive to the idea of allowing the homeowners to get involved in the building process, after making sure they were competent to handle the work.

Manzano family photos
The front of the home during remodeling
which involved enclosing the garage.

"With some companies, you have to go with their people," said Manzano. "I think the biggest fear of homeowners is that these companies have so much control they can rip you off left and right.

"But when you start participating, you have more control. You know where your money is going. And if you can do the work, you can learn more about your house. You know how to fix it. You feel more of a sense of pride."

The couple needed to remodel because they had outgrown the 1,100 square foot, three-bedroom Kaneohe house he had grown up in and that they now shared with their two children, ages 3 and 2 months, his father and sister. Dad's bed was the living room couch.

The roof was leaking, there was termite damage and the couple had little savings.

"It had gotten to the point that I was tired of coming home to the same house," Manzano said.

On the plus side, the home had appreciated 750 percent since Ed's father purchased it in 1964. Tapping into the home's equity would allow them to remodel the home, and the couple had grand plans.

Manzano family photos
The finished project.

Unfortunately, they started their research in 1996. By the time they were ready to commit to building in 1998, Hawaii property values had plummeted, leaving them less equity to play with.

While many of the contractors the Manzanos spoke to suggested short cuts such as cheaper materials and smaller rooms, HomeWorks was willing to work with their budget and suggested the Manzanos could save money by doing some of the work themselves. Ultimately, they were able to save about $45,000 in building their 2,000 square foot dream home. For about $100,000, they got a well-lit "new" home with a spacious interior, a kitchen and dining area built for entertaining and five bedrooms instead of three.

"I work at Hawaiian Electric and a lot of those guys are multi-talented," Manzano said. "It worked out. They let us do a lot of the work we could do, like digging the foundation, framing (windows and doors), painting and tiling."

Although Manzano didn't know how to do these things himself, friends knew a little of each technique, and he was willing to learn and work beside them, going so far as to take a class to learn how to do stucco work.

"Jim (Byxbee) said to watch out when you go with friends because that extends project time when you have to work around their schedules, and that was true, but it went pretty fast once ground was broken," Manzano said, admitting most delays were his fault. "I couldn't decide on a roof. Minor details always changed, like one window was framed too high and I wanted it lower.

"It's not enough to say, 'I can live with it.' When you spend this much money you have to get exactly what you want."

When they were through, the only element of the old house that remained were one exterior wall and an 8-foot section of the interior.

And now that his house, for the most part, is completed (home improvement is never quite done and Manzano has plans for a carport, landscaping and more painting), he reciprocates by helping friends on their home projects.

"A lot of them are working on projects we learned together, like, last month I did a cement pour, I just helped enclose a patio and I helped my in-laws with their shed and sidewalk."

But perhaps Byxbee's warning about working with friends might be modified with the word son-in-law. Manzano has been slowly trying to complete a paint job on his in-law's house, but a year has passed since he started.

"It's one of those things where if they hired someone, it would be done," Manzano said. "In fact, my father-in-law started painting it himself because my mother-in-law was complaining."

Manzano is just lucky his in-laws also live in Kaneohe.

"The rain. That's my excuse."

Remodeling seminar
offers tips from pros

Nadine Kam


As more people become knowledgeable about home building, the idea of homeowners and contractors working in partnership may become more common.

It's a philosophy HomeWorks has embraced for 20 years. Says contractor Jim Byxbee, "We've always been agreeable in working with clients, because if we can't make (a plan) work for them, we don't have a job either."

Byxbee will be among the speakers at the "Remodel It Right" seminar taking place 7 p.m. Tuesday at the St. John Vianney Parish Hall in Kailua.

The event coincides with National Remodeling Month and will cover all aspects of remodeling, from permits and financing, to design and construction. Free remodeling planning kits will be available.

Byxbee said the idea of dividing up the work has become more practical for several reasons, among them the cost-consciousness of Hawaii consumers, and the availability of information through the Internet and home-improvement television shows.

"In Hawaii, houses need a lot of work, more than homeowners' budgets allow," Byxbee said. He attributes this to single-wall construction, which doesn't last, the presence of termites and the need for expansion due to multigenerational households.

"If we let them do some of the work, they can achieve what they want to be done."

He estimates that the one job anyone can do is painting the home, and that can save $8,000 to $10,000. Doing your own floor tiling can save $2,000 to $5,000, while installing or building your own cabinets can save $3,000 in labor.

Tasks such as electrical and plumbing work requires a license, but other jobs homeowners can do are digging, trenching, grading, and some demolition.

And even if the homeowner proves inept, Byxbee said his company inspects the work every step of the way.

"Every once in a while they may try to hang a door and we have to go back and adjust it. It's a little extra work, but it's understandable."

Remodel It Right

Bullet What: Seminar to mark National Remodeling Month
Bullet When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Bullet Where: St. John Vianney Parish Hall, 920 Keolu Drive, Kailua
Bullet Cost: Free
Bullet Call: Building Industry Association, 847-4666 or go online at

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