Remodeling, a Tricky Endeavor

"The neighbors down the street just added a screened porch on their house; it sure looks great.  We could do that, too . . . couldn’t we? " Remodeling your home, it’s a tricky endeavor.  There are so many things to consider.  How much can you spend?  Will you get my money back if you decide to sell?  What do you actually need in the way of space?  But, oh my gosh, you need new siding, too!

Typically, when I get that initial call from a client for help with their remodel, most folks have a definite idea about what they want.  We schedule a meeting.  I visit their home.  We walk around, look at the existing home, and then talk about the realities of what they want to do.  In the course of the conversation, I inevitably hear about a handful of additional items they would like to do if they had the money.  My goal is to help you get the most for your hard-earned money,  whether it’s a new bedroom and bath so the kids all finally have their own rooms, or adding new insulation, windows, and heating/cooling system so you can drop your energy bills in half.

When you decide to build a new custom home, there are many things to consider, and that's true for  a remodel or renovation, too.  In many ways, a renovation can be more challenging than building new.  My blog today isn’t going to give you many facts or numbers.  Instead, my goal is to give you some things to consider as you decide about your renovation plans.

There are a lot of questions to ask and things to think about.  A good place to start is to list your thoughts, needs, and goals.  For example:

  1. Why?  Why do I want to do this renovation?  Am I just trying to “keep up with the Joneses?”  Would we actually use a screened porch, or would it be more realistic to add a couple of windows for a view to the back yard?  I barely cook in the kitchen right now, so would I really use an outdoor kitchen?  Do I want to do the minimal to sell the house, or do more and sell it for more?  Would I actually recoup the money I’ve put into it?
  2. How long do I plan to live in this house?
  3. What do we actually need in the way of space?  More storage, bigger kitchen, an office, another bedroom and bath?  Do the kids honestly need a play area, or do they really need some built-in computer desk space to do homework?  Now that I’m working from home part-time, I need my own quiet office with lots of storage space.  Maybe I just need a large walk-in pantry, then I wouldn’t need a whole new larger kitchen.  Maybe we could just change the color and the tile in the bathroom or get some natural light in there somehow.  Or maybe we just need some storage where I can organize my stuff and store it away; then we could get rid of that eye-sore of a storage shed in the backyard.
  4. Where can we easily get space from the existing?  Attic? Yard?  Garage?
  5. Is there anything we need to do to maintain the existing?  A whole new roof?  New siding?  Fresh paint?  New energy efficient windows?  More or better insulation?
  6. Will this old air conditioning system handle the additional load?
  7. Do we want to focus on improving our energy use and reducing our energy costs?  Maybe we should do some home energy testing first.
  8. Are there rebates, tax credits, etc. out there we can take advantage of for some of this?
  9. Do we need to get an engineer out here to look at the foundation first?
  10. Do we have to get permits for this?  What information does the city need from us to get permits?  I’ve heard about impervious coverage something or other, how’s that going to affect me?
  11. What will the neighbors say?  Do we need to talk to the home owners' association about this?  What if they won’t allow us to do a metal roof so we can collect rain water?
  12. When do we want to do this and how long will it take?
  13. Can we live in the house while the construction is going on?  If not, do I have to move everything I own out of the house?
  14. Wow, is our septic system large enough for us to do this?  And if not, how are they going to make that larger?  Remember, we still want to do that back yard pool!
  15. Ooh, you think we could get a decrease in our home insurance if we use this product instead of that one?
  16. Do we need an updated survey of our property and all the structures on it?

To get answers to some of these questions, you'll have to spend a little money up front to find out if you can actually build what you want.  A perfect example:  the house's foundation.  Just because you want to add a second floor doesn’t mean that the current foundation can actually support a second floor.  That uncovered patio slab where you BBQ grill sits might look fine, but that doesn't mean it will handle the addition of a roof, stone tile flooring,  and the elaborate stone-work around your grill you’ve always wanted because it will turn it into the “outdoor smoker of the year!”  Arranging to have an engineer come out and inspect your current foundation should be one of your early steps toward remodeling your home. For many of your questions, it's likely you won’t have an answer upfront, but that’s okay.  These and many other questions will come up during the course of your early meetings with your builder and designer.  We can help you work through some of these issues and give you homework on what to do next and what we need from you.  For more thoughts and information on this subject, check out the Solluna blog post from July 18 on 10 Ways to Improve Your Remodel, plus an earlier blog post on Information Your Builder & Designer Must Have.   The latter post was written specific to custom home construction, but it's applicable to remodel work as well.