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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, May 04, 2009

Remodeling Tips: Remodeling Contractor, Architect saves money on remodeling

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

For many of our clients, when they finally sit down with us, it isn't their first remodeling endeavor.

Often times, their first go-round was years ago when they tried to tackle the project by themselves — without an architect and sometimes without a contractor.

More often than not, these clients now need to "re-remodel" the same space.

This Re-remodeled basement professionally designed by an Architect and built by a remodeling contractor freed up enough space for two teenage sisters to have areas they can call their own.

Robin Gochnour remodeled her basement the first time 18 years ago. At the time, she and her husband thought they couldn't create a more open space with the furnace and its accompanying chimney in the middle of the basement. Plus, they didn't anticipate their future needs.

"When you only have an infant you forget teens need space to hang out," she says.

With this most recent remodel, the Gochnours gutted the basement and created bedrooms for their three kids, an open family room and a bathroom. Key to this effort was removing that furnace and chimney and relocating the mechanical equipment near the outside wall so it could be vented horizontally instead of with a chase running up through the main floor.

Along with the basement overhaul, they revamped the main level and the attic space at the same time. On the main level, they removed the walls between the kitchen and the dining room and updated the kitchen. The attic is now much needed storage space that is accessible but out of the way.

Robin says she is glad she got it all done at once, but it didn't come without challenges.

"Living in the house during the remodel was harder than I anticipated," she says. "At one point we lived a couple of weeks with one working outlet in the whole house. When it got dark, we just went to bed like the pioneers."

Her kids didn't have a place to sleep for three months. Luckily, it was the summer, so one daughter slept out in the hammock.

"I am so glad we did it in the summer months," she says. "If we would have had to deal with homework and school during all this, it would have been horrific."

But Robin says the hardest part for her was living without a kitchen. "I was so tired of every restaurant in Salt Lake City," she says. "I thought we would be able to do more barbecueing but it was too dirty to even prep anything to take outside."

Now that the remodel is finished she says it was all worth it. "I love my kitchen," she says. "And everyone in the house seems more content."

One benefit that she says she didn't anticipate was a better relationship between her two teenage daughters. "My two daughters, 17 and 14 at the time, shared a room and were constantly at each other's throats," she says. "Now that everyone has their own space there is less arguing. That was a nice benefit that I hadn't planned on."

Gochnour says to trust your architect and find a contractor you love. "Your architect should be able to recommend contractors to call," she says. "Make sure you check his references and interview him."

Gochnour says she learned the hard way to never contract anything on your own.

"Trust your contractor," she says. "General contractors have a lot more control over the subcontractors than I would ever have. Subcontractors do the job better for a general contractor because they want to be referred later."

Working with an architect and professional contractor the first time you remodel can save you from having to go back and remodel the same space again. Architects help you analyze and prioritize your current needs and will help you consider needs that may arise in the future. A good architect will help you develop a master plan. You will save money on remodeling your home because you will avoid re-remodeling your home later. 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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