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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Analyze wants, needs before starting remodeling project

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

As residential architects, we naturally question what triggers someone to turn those remodeling dreams into reality.

We have discovered there are three areas that motivate people to get the ball rolling.

The first is the tangible need for a different physical arrangement. For example, the anticipated birth of another child, a change in jobs with a plan to work from home or the need to bring an aging parent or relative into your home on a permanent basis.

The second driving force is more emotional or psychological. This impetus stems from a desire to upgrade our current situation to make our homes more functional, livable and/or attractive.

While a new mudroom may not be critical to the family's survival, the increased control of clutter and the ability to find coats and backpacks easily on a school morning will contribute to your family's quality of life on a daily basis.

Before redoing a room such as a kitchen, determine what works for your family.

Progress is also important to mental health: While we may look back fondly on the early days of marriage with its hodgepodge of hand-me-down furniture in a basement apartment, as the years go by we expect our situation to improve. The home we live in is one measure of this expectation to progress in life.

The third incentive to plunge into remodeling is available money. A sudden windfall, such as winning the lottery, would make the decision to remodel much easier! However, we don't recommend waiting for this option.

There are some realistic scenarios that could lead you from dreaming about a remodel into real-life action. Such situations could include getting a promotion and raise at work, receiving an inheritance or finding a great interest rate on a loan that takes advantage of equity you have built up in your home.

Current economic conditions also play a part in this decision. While we all feel the adverse effects of the events of recent months, there are some benefits of the current situation that favor remodeling.

The downturn in new construction has left many contractors — particularly subcontractors — looking for work. A year ago, you couldn't hire a good framer to save your life, but they are now out there ready and willing to work for much less than they were charging last year.

Materials, such as lumber, are also cheaper today, thanks to the decrease in demand. And, while it may be harder to qualify for a loan these days, if you do you can take advantage of the lowest interest rates seen in years.

The decision process should start with analyzing your needs and wants, both tangible and psychological.

Step 1: Analyze your current house in terms of what's working and what's not.

For a recent client, a second marriage meant blending two families. A home remodel was definitely in order.

For them, location (staying within the same school boundaries) and a fabulous valley view was on their "what's working" list. On their "not working" list was a lack of bedrooms, bathrooms and a large gathering space.

Step 2: List your needs and wants.

This family decided a separate bedroom for each child was key to their success as a new family. Because the children were older, the new bedrooms didn't need to be near the parents' bedroom.

They had two existing bathrooms but wanted four. A space for doing homework was important, along with a larger kitchen and great room. They also wanted to keep their backyard pool, so any additions to the house could not extend out back.

Step 3: Talk with an architect.

When these clients came to us, they had analyzed their home and their family. When it came for this step, they were prepared.

When they said, "We want more bedrooms," and we said, "Great! Why?" they knew exactly how to respond.

When you meet with an architect, bring a list of needs and wants. The architect will help you refine your list and use this information, along with their knowledge of building codes, structural issues and good design principles, to start on some real-life plans. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

© 2009 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.

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