Renovation Design Group https://renovationdesigngroup.com Home Renovation Wed, 20 Mar 2019 17:01:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/wp-content/uploads/cropped-RDG-logo-TagLine-50x50.gif Renovation Design Group https://renovationdesigngroup.com 32 32 Renovation Solutions: The value of a remodeling budget, part 2 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-the-value-of-a-remodeling-budget-part-2/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:01:50 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=4042 In our last column, we discussed the necessity of creating a realistic budget for a remodeling project and that the design and the budget must be properly aligned. We noted that the budget conversation must begin in the first design

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In our last column, we discussed the necessity of creating a realistic budget for a remodeling project and that the design and the budget must be properly aligned. We noted that the budget conversation must begin in the first design meeting and continue throughout the process of both design and construction.

Budget constraints are not always a bad thing. Less is more in many cases. Sometimes budget constraints actually make the project better. When there is a budget, it forces the designer and the client to focus on what matters most, what are the highest priorities and creative solutions to address the challenges that arise.

 

Budgeting for a major remodeling project is smart and makes the project run smoothly, making for a better experience.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group
 

For example, a client may come in with a vision of a massive (and expensive) addition to solve the issues with their house. When it is determined that their budget won’t allow for a big addition, it is time to step back to square one and analyze the existing space in terms of how it currently functions and how it needs to change to support the goals of the family living there. Often their original goals can be met by reconfiguring existing space, with the possible option for a smaller addition (or additions) to create a home in which the family can comfortably live.

When you are budgeting, don’t forget the architect’s and engineer’s fees. Some homeowners think budgeting for an architect is out of the question. We might suggest that you can’t afford not to. The bottom line is that planning saves money. Projects that spiral out of control and go way over budget are projects that are not well planned.

A competent residential architect has been through both the design and construction phases of hundreds — maybe thousands — of remodeling projects. We would dare say that you are hiring an architect to help you manage the process as much as to provide design expertise.

The process of creating a reasonable budget involves more than the homeowner selecting a number that he or she hopes will cover all of their fondest dreams. It really requires the participation of the whole team — homeowner, architect, contractor, structural engineer, etc. If the budget is not well-founded in reality, it is not worth the paper it is written on.

Beginning with an itemized estimate created for the proposed master plan, the contractor can change the allowance for each line item into a bid as the process moves from conception to construction. Using this process, surprises will be few and far between, though we always counsel setting aside a contingency based on 5 to 10 percent of the estimated construction cost. Along with a thorough budget to guide you in your selections, this is another measure that will reduce the stress of remodeling.

Just as there is no one totally correct design for a remodeling project, there are many ways to achieve the function and style you hope to see in your project. Having a budget gives you the framework to support the many design decisions you will have to make. Adhering faithfully to the allowances set aside for each category shown in the budget will assure that the bottom line will comfortably fall within the cost range determined early in the design process.

It also allows you the ability to “splurge” rationally — this process is supposed to be somewhat fun, after all! If you find a refrigerator that you simply must have even though it busts the appliance budget, disciplined economizing in another area, such as flooring, will pull you back in line with the budget total.

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Renovation Solutions: 3 necessary budget questions to consider before embarking on a home remodeling project https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-3-necessary-budget-questions-to-consider-before-embarking-on-a-home-remodeling-project/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:58:20 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=4038 Unless money is no object, having a budget is a critical component to every remodeling project. The time to talk about a project’s budget begins with the first design meeting and should continue in some form throughout the design and

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Unless money is no object, having a budget is a critical component to every remodeling project. The time to talk about a project’s budget begins with the first design meeting and should continue in some form throughout the design and construction process.

It is fair to say that almost every client comes in with a wish list that exceeds their projected budget range. Obviously, something has to give in order to end up with a successful project and a happy homeowner.

 

Because of human nature and most homeowners’ unfamiliarity with construction costs, most people inevitably underestimate what their project will cost. They are also sometimes almost secretive about how much they want to spend, as if the architect or contractor will make it their business to suck out every cent they can.

There are three questions you should be prepared to answer when discussing a project’s budget.

• The first is how much is your house currently worth? What could you sell it for if you put it on the market as is today? (This is not how much do you hope you could get or how much have you already sunk into it; it may require a conversation with a Realtor to get a realistic assessment of what the going market rate really is.)

• The second question is somewhat related: What is the current market range in your neighborhood and how much can you invest in your home to keep it within that range? Again, a conversation with a Realtor who knows your neighborhood would be helpful, or you can keep your eye on which houses sell in your vicinity and for how much by checking on the internet or frequenting open houses in your area. Now that you know what your existing house is worth (say, $300,000) and what the neighborhood will bear (say, a range from $250,000 to $450,000), you can conclude that it would be financially responsible to invest up to $150,000 in your current home.

• The final question is: How much do you want to invest in your home? Knowing the real estate situation and the amount that could be sensibly invested in your home, what do you want to do? Most people work with the amount determined by the above analysis, but some may not want to max out their equity option and choose to spend less. Others, convinced that this is their “forever” house and location, may decide to disregard the limit imposed by the neighborhood, and choose to spend more. They obviously have the right to spend whatever they want, but at least they do it knowingly.

This may be the time to interject a bit of reality about the value one adds to a home with a remodel. Watching cable home design shows may convince you that you will get every penny back and then some on the day the remodel is completed.

Not so, according to every return on investment chart known to man. According to “Which home improvements pay off?” on HGTV.com itself, the article cites Remodeling Magazine, which says that the greatest return on a home remodel results from a minor (up to $15,000) kitchen remodel at 92.9 percent. Replacing siding comes in a close second at 92.8 percent. It is downhill for everything else after that.

Hopefully, with a strong economy, home values are inherently appreciating so that after some years the remodel cost should zero out and even begin adding equity to your home’s value. This is why people need to be committed to their house for the long haul when they undertake a significant remodel.

Architects can speak in broad generalities regarding construction costs, such as an average cost for an all-new kitchen (about $40,000) or for gutting and replacing a bathroom (which runs $8,000-$12,000), but the final cost will actually depend on both the size of the space and the level of finishes and furnishings (appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc.) that are selected by the homeowner. A rough cost of $150 per square foot may serve as a general guideline for new construction, but an especially small or large project will skew that number, too.

The best way to face remodeling reality is to create a proposed master plan, contract with an experienced remodeling general contractor to create an itemized estimate for that plan, and then be prepared to “value engineer” the project until the design and the budget are aligned. Unfortunately, we have never been faced with the need to add more space because the budget estimate came in lower than expected! It always works the other way.

In reality, after much prioritizing and reconsidering, a compromise generally emerges: The wish list is trimmed and the budget is adjusted to meet somewhere in the middle.

In our next column, we will discuss the value engineering process in more detail.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: Don’t be your own worst enemy when remodeling https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-dont-be-your-own-worst-enemy-when-remodeling/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:53:59 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=4035 Many homeowners have a Houzz or Pinterest account full of beautiful spaces, but finding qualified local professionals who can help them determine what is realistic for their space and budget is an essential step to success. Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design

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Many homeowners have a Houzz or Pinterest account full of beautiful spaces, but finding qualified local professionals who can help them determine what is realistic for their space and budget is an essential step to success.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

So, you have finally had it with your house. It is too small, too disorganized, too dated, too many unused bedrooms, too ______________ (fill in the blank). Our current holiday season may be the final straw as you try to squeeze too many people into a home with not enough room in any of the right spaces.

Moving is one option, but if you love your neighborhood, location, views, etc., your preference may be to stay and fix the problem on site. How you decide to proceed after making the choice to stay is critical to your future happiness and prosperity.

 We would venture to say that the most common first step made by homeowners who have decided to remodel their home is to call a contractor. What contractor? Well, your sister-in-law may have a recommendation, or there is always looking on the online classifieds. Once the decision to remodel has been made, the main thing is to get on with it, right?

A contractor shows up, and you wave your arms around and discuss what is bothering you. He assures you that he has plenty of experience and can solve all your problems. What will it cost? A number is thrown out which sounds about right to you. The main thing is he can start next Monday. Let’s get going!

Perhaps you think you would never be so reckless about a remodel, and hopefully you wouldn’t. You may draw up a floor plan by hand or with a simple drafting program to more fully define the scope of the work. You might even share some photos from Houzz.com or from a Pinterest board with the contractor to help him see your vision. The next question you will ask is, “How much will this cost?”

The answer will reveal what kind of a contractor you are dealing with. An experienced, competent contractor will tell you he or she does not have enough information to answer that question and will explain the design phase of the project that needs to be addressed before there is a responsible budget estimate. If the contractor gives you a budget number at this point, it is a red flag warning that trouble is likely ahead.

If homeowners proceed under these conditions, they are quite likely setting themselves up for failure and frustration throughout the project. The contractor who begins construction under these circumstances may shortly begin to inform you of all the things that weren’t included in his “bid.” Besides the things he didn’t know a homeowner wanted to be included, there may be upgrades to the base level allowances he included for the most obvious items such as flooring, windows, appliances, etc.

At the end of such a project, there will likely be one of two outcomes: You will finally get what you want, but at a much higher price than you were expecting or you will get less than you were expecting for the money you have spent.

This is a no-win situation for all involved. Why would contractors submit themselves to such a dismal scenario? Some contractors may feel that they need to low-ball the estimate in order to get the job, and if the homeowner has failed to accurately document his intentions, an accurate budget estimate is impossible in any case. The stress and conflict that ensues for both the contractor and the homeowner is unpleasant, to say the least.

If you are contemplating a major remodeling project, plan on at least a year before it will be completed. Even a more minor project will take far longer than you anticipate if you take the time to design it well and make all your selections prior to commencing construction.

It’s said that you can only have two out of the three qualifiers for a remodeling project: Fast, cheap or good. Notice that if you choose “fast” as one of your priorities, you will have to give up either “cheap” or “good.”

A terrific contractor is a key member of any successful remodeling team. However, design always comes before construction. Skipping or eliminating this step will have an obvious negative impact on a project just about every time. It is up to the homeowner to understand the proper way to structure the remodeling project for a home.

It is also up to the homeowner to face reality in terms of what the budget can actually accomplish. People can shop around until they find a contractor who will tell them up front what they want to hear, but in the end, they will have to pay for everything they get. Coordinating a design from the beginning with a budget may not get a homeowner everything the family has ever wished for, but it will aid in completing a project with a minimum of stress and a maximum impact to improve life every day.

Be smart and realistic when planning a remodeling project. Build a team with competent professionals who will not put the cart before the horse. Design comes first and budget is an issue that should be included in every discussion along the way to a wonderful outcome.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: Do we stay or do we go? https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-do-we-stay-or-do-we-go/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:49:00 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=4031 Many homeowners clearly understand if their current house is not working for them and/or their families. The home may be too small, too large, in need of major updates or repairs, or unworkable in countless other ways. What is not

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Many homeowners clearly understand if their current house is not working for them and/or their families. The home may be too small, too large, in need of major updates or repairs, or unworkable in countless other ways. What is not always clear is what to do about the situation. Is it wise to stay and tackle a remodel, or would it make more sense to move to a new location?

If you are debating this issue, it makes sense to analyze both options to determine the best path to pursue. A good place to begin is to create a list of what you want and need in a house. It is OK to dream a little in this stage, but your main goal is to be realistic as to what you need your home to be to support your family goals. Try to be as open-minded as possible at this point. Do you want a multistory home or a rambler? How many bedrooms do you need? What about an open floor plan? What kind of gathering space do you want? In what location do you want your home and why?

 

Curb appeal is reported to be the No. 1 factor in the sale of a home and we also talk to many people whose No. 1 reason for disliking their home is that it’s ugly.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

 

Making a move

A good place to begin this investigation is with a real estate agent. You will need to know the approximate value of your home and what profit you will realize when it sells. An agent can produce figures for recent sales of comparable properties in your neighborhood to guide you in valuing your property. We almost always think our homes are worth more than the market will bear, so this is an important reality check. You can also learn the average selling time of similar properties. Don’t forget to deduct the agent fee from the prospective sale price.

The flip side of knowing what you can get out of your existing home is learning what a new home would cost. There are several online sites that will let you see homes of the size/type you want or homes in the area you want. Spending some time at open houses and in model homes is also instructive.

If the anticipated profit from selling your home is not adequate to buy a new home, you will need to decide how to bridge the gap. If you plan to finance part of the purchase price, then working with a mortgage company is useful. It is important to understand what you can qualify for in terms of a loan and what the costs of securing the loan will be. You also need to deal with items such as title insurance, appraisal fees, escrow, taxes, legal recording fees, loan origination fees and mortgage insurance.

Additional costs associated with moving must be considered to complete a full analysis of the moving scenario. This includes the actual physical moving of everything you own, along with any remodeling that may be required in the new home. Sometimes new furniture is required if the home is larger than your existing house; try to think of all the expenses that will be incurred to get you settled in your new home.

Staying at home

People generally choose to remodel if they love something about their house or about its location. As real estate agents say, the three most important assets of a property are location, location and location. The benefits of your home’s location can include a reasonable commute to work, a great school or school district, proximity to shopping and parks, pleasing views, agreeable neighbors, a church you enjoy, easy access to features such as the canyons/skiing, etc. If you love where you are, even the fanciest new house in another neighborhood may have trouble competing for your affection.

Similarly, your house itself may have features that would be difficult to replicate in another location. We have had more than one client who wants to stay in a home built by a grandparent for sentimental reasons. Obviously, these homes need some attention to function well for our 21st-century lifestyle, but they have a lot of life left in them. Once you have determined what your goals are for your home, it will be possible to work with a good architect to see if you can alter or expand your house to meet them within an acceptable budget range.

If you are involved the move-versus-remodel debate, take a good look at your location, your budget and what options are available in the market to determine what will be right for your family. There is a lot to learn and to consider, so make sure to consult professionals to assemble the facts needed to make an informed decision. Architects, real estate agents and loan professionals will each give you pieces that will help solve the puzzle of whether to move or to remodel.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Home remodels that impact resale value https://renovationdesigngroup.com/home-remodels-that-impact-resale-value/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:45:25 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=4027 The motivation for a home improvement project can come from a variety of sources. It often occurs at two ends of the home-owning spectrum: We are spurred on to action either when we decide we are staying forever or when

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The motivation for a home improvement project can come from a variety of sources. It often occurs at two ends of the home-owning spectrum: We are spurred on to action either when we decide we are staying forever or when we are getting ready to move.

It is unfortunate that so many people wait to tackle home improvements until just before they list their homes for sale. It is sad because they go to the effort to remodel, but don’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labors. However, some projects are necessary and others are a good idea to maximize the value of one’s home.

BEFORE: Kitchen updates add resale value to any home whether the owners are selling now or later. Daniel Barton, Renovation Design Group

AFTER: This kitchen remodel shows the drastic change a kitchen remodel can make to a home, which translates into resale value and sale-ability.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group
 

 

Most of the clients we see are in the “stay forever” (or at least a few good years) category. The clients who come to us as residential architects are changing major portions of their homes — moving walls/doors/windows to reconfigure existing space or adding on new space.

Typically, homeowners are not doing this type of remodel as a last-ditch effort to get their home ready to sell. It is not generally cost-effective. In most cases, there isn’t enough time to recoup the remodeling costs through the added value, despite what you see on cable home improvement shows. According to most tables on return of investment percentages, recouping 70 percent of your investment is considered good immediately after a remodel. Very few home improvements instantly recoup 100 percent equity.

However, some projects have a better return on investment than others, and some pay off in other ways, such as by attracting prospective buyers and hastening the sale of the home.

Thinking of the resale value is smart when remodeling, even when you are not planning to sell immediately. Whether a homeowner is fixing a home up to sell or just remodeling for themselves, it is important to understand what a remodel will do to the value of a home. Here is a list of home remodeling projects that can positively impact home values and appraisals.

Adding square feet

The appraised value of a home is based on hard numbers — square footage and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. An appraiser will calculate the market value of your house based on comparable-sized homes in the surrounding area. If you add square feet to your home, it will move your home into a different home value bracket. Adding additional bedrooms and bathrooms will also instantly move your home into a new bracket. While this will add value to your home, adding square footage and bedrooms and bathrooms are costly projects; therefore, the return on investment may not actually be as good as other projects. It generally takes three to five years or more to recoup the money put into an addition.

Home maintenance projects

An appraiser also gives you points for having a well-maintained home. The roof, exterior paint, interior paint and finishes that are well maintained will all add value to your house. These are last-minute home improvements that merit more value points in an appraisal. They are typically easy to do, fairly inexpensive and relatively quick. Well-maintained heating and cooling systems, new furnaces, newer siding, hot water tanks and other built-in appliances all add value to your house. A well-maintained home, including the landscaping, adds overall curb appeal to the house, which translates into market value.

Paint

Paint is one of the go-to projects people often undertake to fix up their house to sell. A fresh coat of paint does wonders for a home. Interior and exterior paint actually falls under the home maintenance category of an appraisal, and an appraiser does take it into account when setting a value on the home. It is important to know that while fresh paint won’t change the appraised value a great deal, it will impact your home’s sale-ability. People generally like a fresh, clean, neutral look, and if they are buying a home, they are likely to choose move-in ready walls over ones that need paint.

The kitchen

Updating the kitchen is another value-added project that adds actual value as well as buyer appeal to the home. An appraiser adds value to a home if the kitchen is updated. High-end finishes like granite countertops and custom cabinets impact the home’s value as well as the sale-ability of the house. A kitchen can really sell a house; if a buyer values the kitchen, he or she will often be willing to pay a little more for it.

In the end, the cost of a home is what the market will bear — a somewhat subjective guideline. Possibly the best approach is to design well for your situation, without making your home so unique that another family could not benefit from living there.

When remodeling, keeping an eye on the possibility of reselling your house will keep your improvements from becoming overly personal and the project cost from losing all contact with reality. We hope you will love your renovation so much that you will want to stay forever, but if circumstances dictate another path, you will be ready to move on with a healthy return on the investment you have wisely made in your property.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: Five basics of home remodeling https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-five-basics-of-home-remodeling/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:36:41 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=4022 There are so many moving parts and issues to consider when remodeling a home that today we want to summarize five of the most important items to consider when tackling a home remodel. A home’s style   Scot Zimmerman, Renovation

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There are so many moving parts and issues to consider when remodeling a home that today we want to summarize five of the most important items to consider when tackling a home remodel.

A home’s style

 

Scot Zimmerman, Renovation Design Group

Part of the work for this remodel was to update the exterior of the house. Updating a home is a common home remodeling goal.

The place to begin a redesign is to determine your existing home’s dominant style. This is not always easy. Some homes have a purity of style that makes it easy to identify. A true bungalow, colonial, Tudor, Cape Cod cottage, or mid-century ranch are quite simple to spot. A classic Victorian in the Avenues stands out.

However, most houses may not be a classic version of one of the above, or possibly have various architectural elements from several different styles. Less classically designed homes fall into a few catch-all categories known as “traditional,” “transitional” or perhaps “modern” or “contemporary.”

Step back across the street and really look at your house. Look at its shape and size. Consider the pitch of the existing roof, the placement of the windows, and how you enter. Do you like the basic shape, form and function of your home or do you want some changes?

After you have studied the “bones” of your home, consider the exterior materials. Do they need an update, either for looks or for ease of maintenance? Are there some parts you like and some you want to replace?

 

They did an addition and remodeled the existing home, carefully salvaging and reusing the existing brick.

Annie Schwemmer, Renovation Design Group

What works and what doesn’t

You can apply the same design-style analysis to the interior of your home, room by room. But perhaps more important is to analyze your home to determine what works and what doesn’t in terms of the way your house functions and how you and your family have to live in it.

Some clients are very clear about this and even come to us with suggestions of what they need. Others can enumerate problems, but are at a loss for solutions. Some clients just know there are issues with their house and know they need help!

Remodeled homes don’t have to be monsters. Modest remodeling projects can bring dividends to the family without creating problems when it comes time to sell.

Provided by Annie V. Schwemmer

 

An architect is trained to solve problems, but it is useful if you as the homeowner can help identify what isn’t working about your house and why. Together, the architect and homeowner can come up with solutions.

Create a master plan

The best home remodels and the best experience with the process stem from working from a master plan. Many homeowners don’t have the ability or the funds to move out of their house for a complete remodel. Many times, the homeowners do the project in phases. For example, this year they may remodel the basement and next year they remodel the kitchen.

Having a master plan helps you know the construction sequence of what to remodel in what order, and puts purpose behind each project. When a homeowner has a master plan, you know what to work on next in order to move toward your goal. You aren’t changing your ideas in the middle, costing time and money by having to redo your redo.

Create a budget

A master plan goes hand-in-hand with a budget to make sure the investment you make in your home is wise and justified. It also assures that the money won’t be used up far before the project is completed. Next to the purchase of your home, a significant remodeling project may well be the largest expenditure your family will ever make.

Once a master plan is finalized, a cost estimate should be created. This is a process that is usually well beyond the skill of the average homeowner, and often out of the league of the architect as well. Architects have broad ideas of costs, but it takes someone with current contact with the construction industry to create a valid, itemized budget for a project. Therefore, we value the presence of a general contractor on a design team from almost the beginning of a project.

A budget at this stage is not a bid; not enough information is yet available. A competent contractor with experience in residential remodeling, however, can use his expertise and knowledge to create a reasonable allowance for each item that will need to be addressed in the construction process — for excavation, framing, windows, cabinets, etc.

This budget becomes a valuable tool for homeowners as they make final selections on all the items that must be specified. If you decide you must have that $10,000 Wolf range (and the allowance was $2,000), you had better be prepared to increase the bottom line or make adjustments in other selections to make up the difference.

Your budget should contain a contingency of 5 percent to 10 percent of the construction cost to give you peace of mind during the construction phase. Spending every penny we have leads to stress in remodeling, as in all other walks of life.

Design smarter, not bigger

It is not unusual for the budget estimate made on a master plan to come in higher than the client’s actual budget. It is then time for a process called “value engineering.” This means the size of the project or the finishes have to be reduced in order to get the two in line. (We have never had the opposite situation where the budget came in far below the project shown in the master plan and we had to try to spend more!) The goal is to get the plan and the budget aligned before moving into the costly process of creating engineered construction drawings.

A basic design tenet in our office is to design better, not bigger. Most of the space issues in homes will not be solved by merely adding a big box addition to the back, side, or top of the house. Reconfiguring the existing space or moving functions within the house can dramatically impact the way a house flows and functions, with no addition at all.

If additional space is required, we often suggest small bump-out additions to add three feet here or two feet there, which will change the function of the space. A small addition can make a huge difference with functionality. Even when we go with a larger addition, the design mantra of “Bigger is not always better” always comes into play.

With these five basics of home remodeling, you, too, can confidently tackle the challenge of remodeling. Be patient, as it will take more time than you think. Be frugal, as it will take more money than you think. Finally, be wise and assemble a team of professionals who will help you through, as it will be more complicated than you think. The result can be worth the time, money and stress as you finally have a home that supports the lifestyle of your family.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: Couple turns 1880s era Avenues home into a beauty https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-couple-turns-1880s-era-avenues-home-into-a-beauty/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:30:37 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=4009 The empty property in the Avenues was dripping with potential and history. Adam Collings and his wife first saw the distressed 1880s home in 2011. The outside of the house resembled the Addam’s Family house before it was remodeled. Trina

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The empty property in the Avenues was dripping with potential and history.

Adam Collings and his wife first saw the distressed 1880s home in 2011.

The outside of the house resembled the Addam’s Family house before it was remodeled. Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

“We were actually at a friend’s barbecue when he pointed it out to us,” he said. “He said it was abandoned. We went right over there to check it out. We were not the only ones interested. The mailbox was stuffed with notes and letters trying to get hold of the owners.”

The young, optimistic couple was intrigued by the house and its potential. They were determined to find the owners and, at least, take a chance that they could purchase it. They made a YouTube video introducing themselves and explaining why they wanted to buy the house. They lived in an apartment in the Avenues and loved the area. They didn’t have children yet, so they could put all of their love, care and money into this old house.

To their amazement and excitement, the owner agreed to sell the house to them. She had originally bought the house with cash in 2004, but as a corporate banker she had taken a promotion and moved to New York four months later. She left the home with hopes of coming back, but five years went by while the house sat empty.

Historic homes take a lot of work to care for, even when the owners are living there. Without anyone living in it, this home quickly became run down: “It looked like ‘The Addam’s Family’ house,” Collings said.

The Collings used creative design to remodel the master bathroom to include the crawl foot tub.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

 

One of the big problems was the basement. During the time the home was empty, the irrigation lines had been turned off, but the main supply water line was left on. Plagued with a slow leak, the basement was gradually destroyed. The owner called a cleanup company to gut it. The bones of the house were actually in good condition when the Collingses bought it.

“It was in good shape, structurally,” he explained.

The walls, copper plumbing pipes and the somewhat more modern electrical wiring from a previous remodel were exposed. And, due to the flooding, it was partially demolished. From a construction standpoint, those were all positives.

The property was too damaged for a regular loan, but it wasn’t damaged enough for a construction loan. The Collingses were able to get an FHA 203 streamline loan that gave them $30,000 over the selling price for immediate repairs to make the house livable.

“Basically, we had to make it legal to live in by government standards,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty. We had to do flooring and paint to the point where no raw wood was exposed.”

At this point, the Collingses came to Renovation Design Group to get a plan for their new, old house.

“We got a whole house design for the entire house,” he said. “We knew we were going to live through the remodel and divide into phases, but in order to do that we needed a master plan.”

The kitchen remodel was part of the master plan for this home remodel and updated in Phase 3.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

 

They decided to do the remodel in phases for a couple of reasons: first, they wanted to live in the house during construction. Adam and his wife grew up around construction so they were comfortable with the idea of living in a construction zone. Her father was a custom home builder, and his father was in commercial construction. Doing the remodel in phases would allow them to live in one part of the house while working on another.

“Plus, as a family, we could only handle so much stress at one time,” he said.

Phase 1 of their remodel was the basement apartment. They had lived in an Avenues apartment previously, so they knew what they wanted and what was expected of a basement apartment in the neighborhood. They turned the basement into a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with a kitchen equipped with custom cabinetry, a full-size fridge and oven, microwave, half-size dishwasher and a little bit of luxury for an Avenues apartment: a garbage disposal.

 

Renovation Design Group designed a master plan for the whole house remodel. The Collingses did the remodel is three phases.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Design Group designed a master plan for the whole house remodel. The Collingses did the remodel is three phases.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

 

“We always wanted a garbage disposal in our old apartment,” he said. “No one ever has a garbage disposal in the Avenues.”

They rented the apartment and moved upstairs and started Phase 2 — reconfiguring the main level. The main level of the three-story home had a formal living room and dining room, along with the kitchen, a large laundry room and a powder room. They took out the walls between the kitchen and the dining room to create a great room which accommodates cooking, dining and gathering space.

At this point the Collingses were migrating around the house as a family now. They had a baby girl in 2012, so that changed the dynamic a bit. They took a brief remodeling break and geared up for Phase 3.

Phase 3 involved reconfiguring the master bathroom and building an addition on the upper level. Typically additions are hard to come by in the Avenues, but this was technically adding an addition above an existing addition so the Historic Landmark Commission approved it.

The open air deck above the mudroom was enclosed to create a craft room and laundry area. This space is a big, open room with four large windows, letting in lots of natural light.

In addition, Phase 3 finished off the main level: The mudroom received built-in lockers and a pantry. In addition, they updated the kitchen/great room with gorgeous custom cabinets; coffered ceilings; a custom island; granite countertops; and new, high-end appliances.

“The kitchen was designed with cooking in mind,” Collings said. “Both my wife and I love to cook, so we wanted a kitchen designed for cooking.”

Collings said each phase took about six months to complete.

“Some phases were more painful than others,” he said. “The most painful was going without a kitchen. Six-to-eight weeks living without a kitchen was hard. We ate out a lot.”

Overall, they said the project has been a wild ride but worth it. However, their time in the Avenues is coming to a close. They are starting their next chapter in the south end of Salt Lake County, this time building a new, custom home.

Make no mistake, however, the historic, once-abandoned house will always have a piece of their hearts.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: 4 useful traits in a residential architect https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-4-useful-traits-in-a-residential-architect/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:19:25 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=4006 During a home remodel, if you are looking to add on, move walls, windows, or doors, or generally reconfigure or repurpose existing space and structure, then you should consider using an architect. Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group   We want

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During a home remodel, if you are looking to add on, move walls, windows, or doors, or generally reconfigure or repurpose existing space and structure, then you should consider using an architect.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

We want to help homeowners discover the value of good design and the benefits of using an architect for a residential remodeling project. Our goal is to bring light to the industry as a whole; we are happy to see a homeowner using the professional services of any architect.

We have covered in previous columns how to decide if you project requires an architect. Briefly, if you are looking to add on; move walls, windows or doors; or generally reconfigure or repurpose existing space and structure, then you should consider using an architect. When choosing an architect, here are some qualities and traits that will be an asset to you and your remodeling project.

1. An architect who is personable and has good communication skills

Our approach is that we are creating a team that will work together to take on the challenge of your remodeling project, whatever that may be. Therefore, you need people who value teamwork and have the personality and skills needed to function successfully in such a situation.

This team will include you as homeowners, the architect and the contractor at a bare minimum. Others who may be involved include the structural engineer, an interior designer, and a landscape designer or architect, among others as needed.

You and your architect will be spending quite a bit of time together over the coming months, so you need to be able to communicate well. (This also means that your architect needs to listen well.) While remodeling is definitely hard work, it is important that you enjoy the journey and have some fun along the way.

2. An architect who is well-trained, talented and experienced in residential remodeling

One of the advantages of using an architect as opposed to a drafter is the extensive education and training required to become a licensed architect. However, being a good architect also takes talent. A keen sense of space and instinct for design are hard to teach.

The best way to recognize talent is to look through a portfolio of an architect’s past projects to see his or her work and to talk to past clients about their experiences. Look for architects who focus on residential work, and for projects that resemble either what you have in mind or which began with a house similar to yours.

3. An architect who knows the codes and zoning ordinances

Part of the architect’s job is to make sure your project adheres to the codes and any covenants that apply to your home. This will avoid any nasty surprises when your project is submitted for review by the building department or homeowners’ association.

As most projects require obtaining a building permit, the municipality’s building department will review the plans in detail. Having an architect who knows and follows applicable codes and restrictions will make the permitting process smoother.

4. An architect who is a problem solver

Most architects are problem solvers by nature, to some degree. However, problem-solving attitudes vary from person to person. As in any profession, some architects have a “my way or the highway” attitude, while others embrace a team approach to work together with your team (in this case the contractor and the homeowner) to develop a solution to problems or challenges that arise during the design and construction process. The best architects prepare to avoid problems, but if the unforeseen arises, they help to find the solution.

Design is like putting together a puzzle, especially when you begin with an existing structure. Trying to create an environment that will support a family’s lifestyle adds another element to consider. A creative mind may offer more than one solution to the puzzle, using both experience and imagination to address a situation in a variety of ways.

During construction, unforeseen problems may be unveiled. When the construction crew opens up the walls, the reality of the situation comes to light and adjustments may need to be made to the documents or design. From design through construction, your architect needs to be a problem solver, working together with the other members of the team to find solutions that best meet the homeowner’s needs and budget.

Overall, we suggest meeting with an architect for an initial consultation, interviewing him or her to determine if you are a good match for your situation and your project. Use the guidelines above to evaluate how well the architect will function on your team and what value he or she will bring to make your remodeling dream come true.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: Beyond DIY: Tips from ‘This Old House’ to save on a home remodel https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-beyond-diy-tips-from-this-old-house-to-save-on-a-home-remodel/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:12:27 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=4002 Custom details take a surprising amount of coordination between lots of trades, so designing them in advance is the best way to ensure they out just the way you want them. Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group     In this

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Custom details take a surprising amount of coordination between lots of trades, so designing them in advance is the best way to ensure they out just the way you want them.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

 

In this crazy technological world, one of our favorite sources is “This Old House” the television show, its magazine and its website at thisoldhouse.com. They recently published an article titled “21 Ways to Save on Your Remodel” by James Glave.

We can’t emphasize enough how critical a budget is to a successful remodeling project. Too many remodeling regrets are related to the budget. Some come in the form of “we should have gone ahead and done X at that time” as well as “we’re halfway through the project, but we have used up the entire budget already.” Getting budget and project aligned is a step that must be addressed in the planning stage to avoid those regrets.

With that said, we all want to save money anytime we can, so this article offered useful information for all of us. While much of it is directed at the do-it-yourself individual, there are tips that apply to any type of remodeler. Saving money with manual labor is a given. However, not everyone has the time or skill set to save money with manual labor, so we would like to point out a few of their more general tips.

• The first way the article suggests to save money on a remodel is to increase efficiency not size. That saying is practically a mantra around our office. Less square footage will always save money on the overall budget. We always tell our clients that the basic remodeling formula is Size x Finish = Cost. If you can reconfigure existing space without building an addition, you can save a lot of money. Plus, using space differently within your home can change your life.

Moving walls within your home — even structural bearing walls — is more cost-effective than adding on. Just having more space is not the answer to a home that doesn’t have a functional floor plan. When clients come to us asking for a new room out back or over the garage, we step back and discuss how they use their current space and how they intend to use the new space. Often their goals can be reached within the confines of their existing walls or with an addition that is considerably smaller than they originally imagined.

• Another suggestion from “This Old House” is to consult an architect. We love it when an outside source sees value in what we do. We can endlessly preach that consulting an architect will save money in the long run, but it will always sound self-serving. Glave writes that while not every remodeling project requires the full participation of an architect, a homeowner can benefit by at least consulting with one at the beginning of the project. An architect can help them get on the right path, and he or she can consult with them throughout the project as needed.

• Another great “This Old House” tip: Make decisions early. How often have we heard, “But we don’t have to decide that (choose that) yet, do we? Can’t we wait until we get closer to that?” One of the benefits of working with an architect is that we are great nags; we will always urge a homeowner to plan everything possible as soon as possible. This not only helps keep the budget in line, it will make for a smoother, more successful end result.

If a homeowner creates accurate and thorough specifications for the project, listing all finishes (such as flooring, countertops, etc.) and fixtures (such as appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc.), as well as selecting all building materials (windows, doors, siding, etc.) up front, then he or she will be able to balance the budget and schedule the project successfully. This is a great reality check that should not wait until the project is underway.

There are seemingly endless sources of information available these days, but the information is only as good as the source. We heartily endorse “This Old House” as a tried and true organization with great information to share with the do-it-yourselfer or any homeowner seeking to improve their property.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: Tips for choosing an exterior paint color for your house https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-tips-for-choosing-an-exterior-paint-color-for-your-house/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:05:52 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3998 Choosing an exterior paint color is an intimidating exercise. Looking at those minuscule swatches and picturing what any one color will look like spread over your entire house is tough. It really feels like a make-or-break decision as far as

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Choosing an exterior paint color is an intimidating exercise. Looking at those minuscule swatches and picturing what any one color will look like spread over your entire house is tough. It really feels like a make-or-break decision as far as the curb appeal of your house is concerned.

Paint has one advantage over other exterior housing materials — it can be changed. However, painting any part of a home is expensive to hire out and a large, time-consuming effort if undertaken yourself, so the pressure is on to get it right the first time.

Exterior paint brightens up the curb appeal of this home.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group
 

 

How does a homeowner decide what colors would be appropriate for a home if it is time to repaint, either for reasons of maintenance or for purely aesthetic considerations? One clue is to look at the age and style of the home. Different decades have their own home color styles — remember teal and peach from the ’80s? Homeowners can look to the past for some ideas. However, be wary about being too trendy in the selection of exterior paint colors.

Clearly, the style of your home will have something to say about appropriate color choices. Craftsman and Tudor homes have a long history of featuring organic materials and colors while a mid-century modern can be more daring. People are sometimes surprised that Victorian homes historically sported amazingly bright colors.

Paint itself has come a long way in recent years. It is now possible to get a paint that is also a good primer; this may save a whole round of painting now that it is easier to cover old colors. As with any kind of painting project, diligent preparation of all the surfaces will go a long way toward a successful result.

However, some materials are best replaced rather than painted, such as vinyl siding. Brick can obviously be painted, though consulting with a good professional painter is recommended. Bricks come in a variety of textures, some of which accept paint better than others. It is also possible to stain brick, as opposed to painting it.

Like many things, there is a happy medium when it comes to exterior home colors. Some neighborhoods are deadly dull with all the houses some boring version of brown and beige — beige stucco, brown shingles, brown and beige stone. On the other hand, we occasionally see a home in some eyesore color combination not usually seen on a house — and for good reason.

Classic colors, such as a gray, white and black combination, are usually a safe bet. Every year, the major paint companies select a color to promote as “color of the year,” though the public doesn’t always follow their lead. Commercial paint companies also have color palettes they have created that give suggestions of several paint colors that work well together when used on a home’s exterior.

How many colors should be used on a typical home? Three is a good starting place. The main wall color is called the field. This is usually accompanied by a trim or accent color. A third color can be used on the eaves, the front door or accents such as shutters.

 

But back to that trick of how to pick a color that will look great on your home. Of course, there are apps. One is available from Home Depot and is called Project Color. You can take a picture of your home, select a color and see what it looks like on your home’s exterior. This is more to select a general color (blue? green? yellow?) than an exact name and number of a swatch.

The other trick to finding that perfect color is to be willing to spend some money to make sure of your selection. By this, we mean get several quart samples and paint them on the house, thereby enlarging those tiny samples into 4-foot square swatches. This can help you to make an informed selection, and you can see what happens as the light changes on each side of the house and throughout the day.

Finally, look at your house in the context of your street or neighborhood. Will the new color ruffle any feathers? Will it stand out in a good way?

People more often err on the side of being too conservative (read: boring) when selecting exterior paint colors. Drive around and see what color combinations appeal to you and what will go with your house style. Make use of websites (such as houzz.com), social media and apps to explore all you can before you try colors on the actual house.

Be brave, be thoughtful, be proactive. By carefully preparing for an exterior paint upgrade, you can soon have a home that looks fresh, clean and up-to-date.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: Hot housing market impacts decision to buy or remodel https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-hot-housing-market-impacts-decision-to-buy-or-remodel/ Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:00:43 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3994   There are always areas of a home that have room for improvement. Upgrading one of these areas will improve your use and enjoyment of your home and if done well can also positively impact the value. Trina Knudsen, Renovation

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There are always areas of a home that have room for improvement. Upgrading one of these areas will improve your use and enjoyment of your home and if done well can also positively impact the value.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

The housing market is hot right now in Utah. There are more buyers than houses on the market, and most houses are selling quickly. Home values are rising, and that is a good thing regardless of whether a homeowner is selling or staying in place.

A Salt Lake housing forecast from the Salt Lake Board of Realtors earlier this year pointed to historic growth in 2015 and predicted 2016 would be another “very good year.” Now, we are seeing the prediction become reality.

There is a positive energy in the housing industry right now. It is refreshing to see the change in the dynamic from where we were eight years ago in the 2008 downturn. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index shows builders’ confidence in the market and the industry is holding steady and has been steady for the past four months. Whichever way we look at it, a hot housing market is a good thing for the real estate and construction industry.

NAHB’s press release on May 17, citing data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Commerce Department, indicates that “nationwide housing starts rose 6.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.17 million in April.”

“The fact that future sales expectations rose slightly this month shows that builders are confident that the market will continue to strengthen,” NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz said in the news release. “Job creation, low mortgage interest rates and pent-up demand will also spur growth in the single-family housing sector moving forward.”

Besides selling lots of houses, a hot market creates another situation. Because there are more buyers than houses that are for sale, some buyers miss out on getting a house. These buyers are left dissatisfied with their current house but can’t seem to land a new house either. It may actually be time to bite the bullet and tackle that remodeling project you have talked about for years.

In our office, we have seen an influx of clients coming through our doors in this exact situation. They may have decided to move but been pushed out by the hot market. Therefore, many clients are reconsidering the potential of their current house and what could be accomplished with a serious home remodel. Remember, the goal of home design is to create a home that meets your family’s needs and functions well on a daily basis.

Then there is the move-and-remodel scenario. While buying a new house can go a long way to having a house that supports your family goals, it is rarely a perfect match. This can lead to the uncomfortable conclusion that after a family moves into a new house, there will still be potential remodeling projects looming. At the very least, there will be some finishes (flooring, countertops or wall colors) that the new owners would like to change. With today’s high purchase prices, there may be no money left for cosmetic upgrades after signing on the line for a new mortgage.

Remodeling is not necessarily cheaper than buying a larger or new house. The question that has to be answered is: “By taking the same amount of money we are investing in a new home and applying it to a major remodel to our existing home, could we have the same functional results with the added benefit of new, up-to-date finishes that we select and which will create a look we will love?” In such a case, remodeling may indeed give you a finished product that will suit your needs better than a home into which you might move.

Because of the control that remodeling can give in terms of both function and aesthetics, some people take the approach of looking for a lower-cost home with “good bones” or potential that they can upgrade into their dream home. However, in a sellers’ market, this is more problematic due to the higher asking price many homes are currently sporting.

Therefore, a homeowner may be better off by using the equity in his or her existing home, taking the Realtor’s fee and the cost of moving and applying this money to the remodeling budget.

Whether a person is shopping for a new house, building new or remodeling, the first step is to assess his or her family’s needs and wants and to set realistic goals for a house. Carefully consider what kind of lifestyle the family would want and seek to create a home that will support that lifestyle.

Don’t let a house determine how you live in it. The details of home design truly dictate how homeowners use their house, so make sure they are thoughtful and thorough with decisions. If a homeowner is diligent and intentional about it, the result will be that he or she can be happy with the home regardless of whether the decision is to stay or to move.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: What to consider for kitchen remodels https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-what-to-consider-for-kitchen-remodels/ Thu, 20 Jul 2017 21:21:52 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3986   BEFORE: In this kitchen remodel, Renovation Design Group opened up the U-shaped kitchen, creating a functional work and gathering space. AFTER: In this kitchen remodel, Renovation Design Group opened up the U-shaped kitchen, creating a functional work and gathering

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BEFORE: In this kitchen remodel, Renovation Design Group opened up the U-shaped kitchen, creating a functional work and gathering space.

AFTER: In this kitchen remodel, Renovation Design Group opened up the U-shaped kitchen, creating a functional work and gathering space.

Trina Knudsen

A kitchen remodel is one of the most popular remodeling projects homeowners undertake that we’ve seen in our business and also that the National Association of Home Builders survey has reported.

As one of the most technological rooms in a home, a kitchen needs updating from time to time: Appliances evolve in terms of function and efficiency, styles have moved from the closed, servant-centered kitchen to today’s open concept designs that put kitchens in the heart of the home both literally and figuratively, and pipes and wiring just get old and need to be replaced.

Kitchen remodels can be effective in terms of return on investment when limited to minor or mid-range remodels. According to HGTV.com’s “Top 15 Home Updates,” these projects return an average of 98 percent and 91 percent of their cost respectively. A minor remodel (totaling approximately $15,000) means re-facing the existing cabinets, some new appliances, laminate countertops and vinyl flooring. A mid-range remodel (averaging about $43,000) represents new cabinets, and a slight upgrade of appliances, countertops and flooring.

More extravagant remodels, which include high-end appliances and finishes, are less likely to pencil out in terms of return on investment. While kitchens and bathrooms can definitely make or break a sale, a good rule of thumb is not to exceed 10 to 15 percent of the home’s value on a kitchen remodel. The size of the kitchen should be in proportion to the rest of the house, as should the finishes. A kitchen that is exceptionally large or fancy may be fun to use, but it will not prove to be a good financial investment.

Kitchens come in three basic layouts — U-shaped, L-shaped and galley. Each has its own set of pros and cons. U-shapes can be efficient, but people can get “trapped” in them. L-shaped kitchens are the most open and almost always include an island. Galley kitchens are very efficient, but should never be the main path from one part of the house to another. The goal is always to have people walk past the kitchen, never through it.

All kitchen types can be converted into an open-concept design by removing walls and upper cabinets on one, two or three sides. At a minimum, one full-height wall is needed for appliances and cabinetry. This type of remodel may require a reorganization of the basic elements of the kitchen, as the refrigerator needs to be on a full wall, along with the range or cooktop unless the homeowner wants it in an island.

Speaking of islands, the minimum width that can be considered for a fixed island is 24 inches. If you want seating at the island, the width needs to expand to 36 inches — a 24-inch deep cabinet under a counter with a 12-inch overhang. The maximum width of an island is two times your arm’s length, as you probably don’t want to have to climb onto the island in order to wipe it off!

Aisles around islands should ideally be 42 inches wide to allow for more than one person to function in the kitchen or to be able to pass by an open dishwasher or oven door.

Most islands today are designed to have a continuous flat counter at 36 inches high. This allows for maximum flexibility as to how the space can be used. Some homeowners still want a bit of visual privacy in their hard-working kitchens; two-tiered islands have a portion for seating at 42 inches high, which can be used to screen utility areas (such as the sinks) from the surrounding living and dining rooms.

When analyzing how a kitchen functions (or how it should function), consider three main areas, reflected in the time-honored kitchen triangle concept. As described in “Stash it All: Know the 3 Zones of Kitchen Storage,” at Houzz.com by Steven Randel (April 2016), professional kitchen designers look at the storage/activity in the refrigerator center, the sink center, and the range center.

The refrigerator center is generally the area that receives the food as it comes into the kitchen and is where food preparation begins, according to the article. A countertop space in this area is useful for depositing grocery bags as they are unpacked and items are stored in the refrigerator and freezer. In addition to being able to conveniently unload staples and canned goods, having the pantry near this area makes initial food preparation more efficient, Randel writes. This area is therefore also good for storing preparation utensils and appliances, such as mixers and blenders that will be used at this stage of meal preparation, he writes.

The sink center is best placed between the refrigerator and range centers because this area gets the most traffic in the kitchen, according to Randel. Since the dishwasher is located here, flatware, glass and dishes should also be stored in this area. Other activities in this area include waste management and storage of dish towels and soap, he writes. A good expanse of clear counter space is important in this area as well, according to the article. Because of a general lack of upper cabinets in many new kitchens today, you may have to rethink storage options for glasses and dishes in drawers instead of cupboards. Functionally, it is actually easier to set a stack of heavy plates into a drawer than to heft them onto an upper shelf, according to the article.

The range center may be anchored with a range or a cooktop and wall ovens, along with a microwave, Randel writes. This is where cooking takes place, along with preparing the food for serving. Accordingly, cookware and serving platters/dishes are best stored in this area, he writes. Cooking utensils and spices also work well located in this portion of the kitchen. A convenient counter space on which to set hot pans is another important feature that should be included in your design, according to the article.

Sinks, appliances and tile for the backsplash are all fun to pick out. However, before you get excited about colors and countertops, determine if the space will work well and function to meet your needs. Everything related to kitchen design will impact how this important room works on a daily basis. Make sure every day in your home is a pleasure because of your well-designed and well-organized kitchen.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: Determining the best architectural options in home remodeling https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-determining-the-best-architectural-options-in-home-remodeling/ Thu, 20 Jul 2017 21:17:23 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3983 Home design and remodeling takes planning. Part of that process is determining what works and what doesn’t with the house. Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group   Architecture is much more than how the building looks from the outside. While that

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Home design and remodeling takes planning. Part of that process is determining what works and what doesn’t with the house.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

Architecture is much more than how the building looks from the outside. While that is an important aspect of any design, the true test of architecture is on the inside. How does the home or building function for the end user on a daily basis?

When we worked in commercial architecture, we designed banks, schools, office buildings and many varieties of commercial and institutional buildings. Typically, our clients were the directors of the facilities departments, not the end users who would actually inhabit and use the building when it was finished. That disconnect was one of the reasons we started Renovation Design Group. We wanted to work with the end user and help everyday people understand the value of architecture.

In addition, there was a need for architects who were willing to work on home remodels. We watched our former firm turn homeowners away all the time because their projects were too small to be financially feasible for a firm tailored for projects of a million dollars or more.

Happily, we now work every day with homeowners who want something more out of their homes. We help them see and understand the potential of their house and how it can change to better fit their needs and goals.

Most clients come to us in the beginning stages of the remodeling process, though this often is after many years of dreaming/contemplating a change in their home. We certainly prefer this to the client who comes after demolishing his or her entire basement or installing new windows throughout the house. While we are happy to work under any circumstances, the best time to plan is at the beginning, rather than several steps into the project.

Through our design assessment, we may determine that the best use of funds would be on the main level, but if the basement has been demolished, our hands are tied. The same can be said for new windows; a certain style has been set with that decision. We can work with it, but again, our options are limited before we even begin. Remember: Design comes first, construction second.

Our initial consultation with every client begins with a conversation about what they like and dislike about their home, and what they think they want to accomplish with a remodel. Soon, however, we are talking about zoning ordinances, structural requirements and budgets. The “pretty picture” is only one part of the complicated process of home remodeling.

Zoning ordinances can put the kibosh on many a homeowner’s plans. The worst thing that can happen is to spend time, effort and money creating a design that the city is going to reject outright because it doesn’t conform to existing regulations. These things can get especially sticky if you live in a historic district. Professional guidance in the earliest stage of your project can be critical.

Each project has four options in terms of ways to accomplish a set of design goals. The first is to use/adapt/rearrange the existing space. Other options are to add on, add up (a second story) or go down (remodel/finish or dig out the basement). Sometimes a project needs additional square feet, while other projects have the space and just need it to be reallocated.

Over the years, we have been involved in many projects of each of the above versions, so we can discuss them relative to any new project a client brings in for discussion. A limited lot size may head the project design toward building up or digging out; a desire to age in place will influence the design to enlarge or reconfigure the main level. Each set of circumstances needs to be analyzed in terms of all the options available to determine the best architectural approach for each client.

The budget, of course, is key in this initial planning discussion. It is a given that a client’s wish list is going to outpace his or her budget. This is where setting priorities comes into play. An architect is not trained as an arbiter or marriage counselor, but we do have skills and experience in helping rank and order possibilities in terms of getting the biggest bang for your buck for both aesthetics and function in your remodel. Bringing the budget into the discussion right off the bat is essential to getting a good start in determining wise architectural options for your project.

A successful residential remodeling project is a process that requires research, consultation with appropriate experts and effective dialogue among the team members. Working with homeowners to maximize the potential of their home to positively affect their lives and families on a daily basis is a rewarding job. We are glad we made the change and can help people determine the best architectural options for their own homes and lives.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Weekend projects that can boost home value https://renovationdesigngroup.com/weekend-projects-that-can-boost-home-value/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 22:28:37 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3979 Sprucing up the front door can do wonders for curb appeal. Annie Schwemmer, Renovation Design Group     Ultimately, a home’s true value is determined by the price someone is willing to pay for it. When deciding whether to remodel

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Sprucing up the front door can do wonders for curb appeal.

Annie Schwemmer, Renovation Design Group

 

 

Ultimately, a home’s true value is determined by the price someone is willing to pay for it. When deciding whether to remodel a home and how to do it, a big part of that decision rests with what the market wants and what the neighborhood will bear. It is equally as foolish to invest a substantial amount in a remodel that does not boost the home into a better multiple listing services category as it is to over-improve a property to the extent that it no longer has properties of comparable value in the immediate area.

If your house is no longer meeting a family’s needs, it is time to remodel or move. Another possibility is that your house is basically OK but it has been neglected for a while. If you rule out the remodeling option, whether you are staying or going, this is a good time of the year to objectively evaluate your home and the impression it is giving. If you need to step up your game a bit (and most of us do after the long, dark winter months), then there are smaller home improvement projects that will make your house more appealing for potential buyers or more livable and comfortable for you and your family.

Here are four weekend projects that require minimal financial investment but can have a big impact on the impression your home is making.

Landscaping maintenance

Yard work can go a long way in beautifying any house. Even if the inside is gorgeous, a yard that is a jungle of overgrown weeds and out of control shrubs will lower the home’s appeal and value. When potential buyers and neighbors see the outside as neglected, they automatically judge the whole house by that first impression.

In addition, overgrown bushes and shrubs block out natural light and can cause problems with mold, mildew, bugs and rodents. Trees and bushes growing too big and too close to the foundation can actually lead to foundation cracks and settling. Taking control of the yard by pruning the hedges and shrubs, removing trees and bushes that have seen better days, and planting something new this spring can really impact the curb appeal — and therefore the value — of the home.

Front porch

Generally speaking, your front porch is the first contact your home has with visitors. A little elbow grease, deep cleaning, repainting and maintenance goes a long way to ensuring the first impression is a good one. Make sure the front door is clean or freshly painted and the a doorbell is working. It is time to put away the snow shovel and ice melt. Add some flower pots or a cheerful wreath to celebrate spring. Remember, your porch should be a welcoming place for guests and occupants, as well as a hint as to what is to be found inside.

If there isn’t a covered, protected area for your guests, consider adding one. A sheltered, comfortable refuge from foul weather is integral in the welcome factor. Look at your railings, columns, porch light, mail box and welcome mat to see if they are in need of replacing or repainting. Sprucing up the front porch is a fairly easy weekend project for the spring and one with a big visual impact.

Bathrooms

Bathrooms are hard-working rooms that need sprucing up now and again. Deep cleaning along with regular maintenance will make the bathroom a better experience for guests and family members alike. Remove rust stains, fix or replace drippy faucets, buy a new toilet, and recaulk the bathtub to give this room new life. Upgrading the light fixtures and adding a new shower curtain and towels can also make a difference.

Regular house maintenance

There is no getting around it: Houses need constant attention just to keep them up to par. If a homeowner neglects regular home maintenance chores, those projects don’t go away; they just get worse and bigger and can in the long run cause serious damage. Fixing the gate and cleaning the gutters aren’t huge jobs, but they will make a difference in how a house functions and looks. Remember that maintenance is always cheaper than replacement. Some jobs are do-it-yourself and some may require the help of a specialist. Attention to the sprinklers and the air conditioner or swamp cooler at this point will assure you of a summer without crises and unexpected bills

Let’s take advantage of the surge of energy that spring brings and focus some effort on our homes to improve them for ourselves, our families, our neighbors or our prospective buyers. It is a win-win whether we stay or go.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: The difference between design, decorating https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-the-difference-between-design-decorating/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:50:18 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3975 Our company motto is “Making the world a better place, one home at a time.” We enjoy having a positive impact on our community and in our clients’ lives. We get an occasional “hot mess” to fix up, but more

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Our company motto is “Making the world a better place, one home at a time.” We enjoy having a positive impact on our community and in our clients’ lives. We get an occasional “hot mess” to fix up, but more often it is a matter of taking a good house and making it better.

Homes have their own history, character and spirit. The older the home, the more respect it deserves as it has served its owners well over decades of time. As we all know personally, there is no shame in an occasional makeover. A new hairdo, new clothes or even a nip and tuck keep us in better shape, so why shouldn’t our houses deserve the same care and attention?

Getting from one half of the house to the other used to entail a circuitous route through the family room. Rearranging the laundry room allowed for a hallway that bypasses the family room, creating a much more functional space.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

 

We are all exposed to design “decoration” these days through HGTV, Pinterest and Houzz. With the exception of opening the kitchen to spaces around it, these media often focus on finishes and furnishings rather than the bones of the house. A room can look terrific in a picture and still not function well in a home.

It requires a strong sense of space in three dimensions to really understand what a home needs to flow smoothly and support a family’s daily activities. Some people are born with this spatial instinct; if you weren’t, it is important that you find a design professional who can help you with the redesign of your home.

One of the key differences between a house that was designed by a builder or other non-design professional and those designed by an architect is evidenced in how one moves through and about in the home. An architectural education is broadly based and begins with basic design training that teaches how to see, feel and use space of all kinds. A home that flows well and has well-proportioned spaces will function better and feel larger than the same sized-space that is not so well thought out.

Because circulation is so critical, the placement of doors and stairs plays a key role in managing how people move through a space. Window placement can make a difference as well. These are the “bones” of the house and must be carefully analyzed in the process of remodeling. One of the advantages of working with an architect is that we are not intimidated by moving these elements if it makes all the difference in a plan.

Of course, some say, it is not our money we are spending to move such seemingly fixed elements. We can assure you we don’t suggest such things lightly, but there are many instances where the key to the whole redesign is relocating one or more of these elements. To us, it is worth the money to get those bones in the right place. It may require a realignment of the budget, but ignoring such basic design principles is like putting lipstick on the pig.

When remodeling, it is important to identify which new elements will be regarded as permanent versus those that can be installed or upgraded in the future. For instance, in a bathroom the tile surround in the shower is going to have to remain for many years. The light fixtures and the mirror, on the other hand, are easily changed out. This should be a guide as to where the budget should be assigned; perhaps we can’t have it all at the outset, but will need to channel our resources where we can get the biggest bang for the buck.

Consider also that some features in a beautiful home can be added in the future if the initial budget is focused more on getting the basic layout right. For instance, lovely wood wainscots and additional cabinetry and trim can be added into an existing home if the walls are already in the correct places. Similarly, flooring and countertops can be upgraded in the years following a remodel without having to rework existing spaces if they were correctly designed in the first place.

Professional architectural design doesn’t come cheap. Getting accurate as-built drawings (showing the existing house as it currently is) and working to create a master plan can easily cost $4,000 to $6,000, depending on the size of the house and the complexity of the project. Construction documents on the selected master plan can cost another two to four times this initial investment. Is professional design really worth it?

Well, what are the consequences of skipping this step during your remodeling process? Basically, you can invest a lot of money and end up with a house that you still don’t love that doesn’t function well for your family and that will not stand the test of time or provide a positive return on what is probably the biggest investment you have. While not all homes and not all projects need architects, many do. If you are not sure about your prospective project, consult with an architect who specializes in residential remodeling to determine the best way for you to proceed. A free initial consultation is a good way for you to meet an architect and explore the possibility of working together to create your “dream” right in the home where you currently live.

Make sure your home not only looks great, but “lives” great, too. A home is a living, dynamic creation that should be your family’s best support and a refuge from a stressful world. Talk to an architect before you remodel to see if your project will benefit from the experience and expertise of a design professional.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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When to get a building permit and what happens if work is done without a permit https://renovationdesigngroup.com/when-to-get-a-building-permit-and-what-happens-if-work-is-done-without-a-permit/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:44:44 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3972   Even bathroom remodels need building permits.  (Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group)   We introduced the topic of building permits last week. Because of the cost involved and apprehension of working with the government, some homeowners are tempted to not

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Even bathroom remodels need building permits. 
(Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group)

 

We introduced the topic of building permits last week. Because of the cost involved and apprehension of working with the government, some homeowners are tempted to not get the proper permits for a home remodel. That is not a good idea. But when does a project actually need a permit? What does it cost? What happens if a permit is not obtained?

When do you need a permit?

When does a remodeling project need a permit? According to Salt Lake City’s Building Services and Civil Enforcement’s website at slcgov.com/building/faqs, “basically, all work being done requires a permit. The only exception to this is painting, laying flooring or other cosmetic issues.” When in doubt, request a permit. Better safe than sorry.

What does a building permit cost?

The cost of the permit is determined by the plan examiners based on a percentage of the anticipated construction cost. This is one of the many reasons why a homeowner will need accurate project plans to do a home remodeling project. An owner will usually pay a review fee upon submission of the required documentation and then pay for the actual permit when the project has been approved.

Who pulls the permit?

According to Utah state law, if there is a contractor on the job, it is his or her responsibility to get the permits and handle the inspections. It is important to understand that “if you hire a contractor and take out the permits yourself, you are liable for the work being done to code and not your contractor,” according to Salt Lake City’s building services website. “This means that if there are corrections to be made in the work, we come back to you, not your contractor. If you hire a contractor, make sure that he takes out the permit and has the inspections done.”

What happens when I get a permit?

The homeowner will receive one of the submitted construction drawing sets back with proper signatures from the municipality added to the cover sheet. In addition, he or she will receive an actual permit which must be on-site at all times throughout the project.

Various inspections will be required throughout the project, and it will be important to understand when those need to be scheduled. These include inspections of the footing and foundations before the concrete is poured, as well as inspections of the rough plumbing, the electrical work and the insulation before the sheet rock is hung, among others. This is the “insurance” that the project will be built legally and safely.

What happens if I don’t get a permit?

How does a municipality know if the owner is remodeling without a permit? Building inspectors that work for the city are out and about inspecting all projects that do have permits. They keep their eyes open for other properties that are obviously under construction. One simple phone call regarding the address is enough to determine if a permit has been issued. If they see a property in question, they will knock on the door and ask to see the permit. If you are not able to produce it, the project is “red-tagged” and shut down and will have to do whatever is necessary to obtain the permit before construction can resume. If anything has been built that does not comply with zoning ordinances or building codes, city officials can order that portion of the work to be demolished.

In addition, a fine can be levied on the project. Therefore, most professional contractors will not proceed on a project without a permit.

Anyone can call the applicable building department and check to see if a permit has been issued. That means that any curious or irritated neighbor may check with the city. In neighborhoods especially sensitive to remodeling/zoning issues, it becomes even more risky to try to skirt the legal requirements.

One significant issue of not getting the proper permits when doing a home remodel is a delayed consequence. A homeowner may get away with it during construction, but there may be repercussions when he or she goes to sell. A well-informed buyer who is considering a home that has obviously been remodeled or added on to will know to ask if the work was done with a valid permit. If the answer is no, that may be enough to send the potential buyer on to the next house.

The worst-case scenario is if the city and county records have the house listed as being 1,500 square feet and it is now 3,000 square feet. If there is no permit related to an addition, they will put two and two together. Because the addition was never recorded with the assessor’s office, the seller may be fined for undocumented permit fees, back property taxes and additional fines. It is not worth the money the homeowner saved by not pulling a permit for the work.

Permitting may be complicated and time-consuming, but it is dangerous to ignore it. Remember, inspections are a good thing. They are a built-in checks-and-balances system for home construction with another set of eyes making sure the work is done right. The codes are there for good reason and are designed to keep homeowners and their families safe.

If the client looks at it that way, then getting a permit isn’t as hard to swallow. Just embrace it. It is one of those things that ends up being a blessing in disguise.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. They can be contacted at ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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What a building permit is and why it’s needed https://renovationdesigngroup.com/what-a-building-permit-is-and-why-its-needed/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:40:41 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3969 Home remodeling is a big endeavor even on a smaller project. Almost every project will need a building permit to ensure it is done right. (Trina Knudsen)   One of the most daunting and dreaded parts of a home remodel

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Home remodeling is a big endeavor even on a smaller project. Almost every project will need a building permit to ensure it is done right. (Trina Knudsen)

 

One of the most daunting and dreaded parts of a home remodel is obtaining a permit. Working with government offices in general can be a little intimidating.

Because of that apprehension and the cost involved, homeowners are sometimes tempted to not get the proper permits when they do a home remodel. We can’t say we blame them, but it isn’t a good idea to cheat the system because it is breaking the law.

What is a permit?

The rationale behind building permits is twofold: First, the object is to construct buildings that are built properly and that comply with existing building codes; second, the permit serves to update the municipality’s records so the assessed value and the property taxes will reflect the accurate value of the home. No one likes a hike in property taxes, but everyone wants their house built to code.

Each municipality has a list of what information is required to obtain a building permit. This generally includes two sets of drawings, consisting of an accurate site plan, floor plans, a roof plan, exterior elevations, a wall or building section, a door and window schedule and an electrical plan. In addition, if any of the changes involve structural elements, structural calculations and plans stamped by a licensed structural engineer will also be required.

It is not necessary to have a licensed structural engineer or licensed architect stamp residential drawings (double-check the city requirements to be sure); however, it is usually beyond a homeowner’s skill level to provide the required documentation on anything but the simplest project scope. If you choose not to use an architect, some contractors are able to supply the required documentation, or a drafter or home designer may be employed.

For a comprehensive remodeling project, it can be complicated to know which permits are required and when. Besides an overall building permit, some subcontractors need individual permits, such as the electrician. One of the advantages of using general contractors is that they understand what is required and will oversee the process.

For a limited project, the subcontractor should be responsible for obtaining the proper permits. For instance, if you are replacing windows, the installer should get a permit. You, as the homeowner, are responsible to make sure the laws are followed. Make sure you ask about permitting when interviewing companies or subcontractors you are considering hiring to work on your house.

City and county building officials can be very nice to work with. Most are willing to talk to homeowners and help them understand what is required. Generally, these days, each city has its own website, which is a good place to start to understand the process.

Permits for very simple projects may be obtained “over the counter,” meaning on the day you bring in your application and necessary documentation. Most projects, however, are logged in when submitted and will undergo a more comprehensive review process. Depending on the size of the municipality and the time of the year, this can take from weeks to months. Make sure you factor in this step on your remodeling timeline.

Some municipalities are updating their process to require that all documentation be submitted electronically rather than on paper. The goals are to streamline the process and to be more environmentally responsible.

When the submitted documents have been reviewed, comments will be issued. These will include questions about things that may be shown on the plans and also about things that are missing from the plans. The architect and the engineer will update the drawings and calculations as required, and the plans will be resubmitted for further review. This process will go on until the reviewer is satisfied that all criteria have been met.

This is just the beginning of the permit process discussion. Next week, we will continue with when a permit is needed, how much a permit costs, who is responsible for getting a permit and what happens if one isn’t obtained.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Renovation Solutions: What a remodeling contractor says about architects https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-what-a-remodeling-contractor-says-about-architects/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:34:44 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3964 (before) This beautiful deck and pergola remodel was the result of a great collaborative effort between the architect, general contractor, and steel fabricator. (Kevin Bunnell, Renovation Design Group)   Most people who don’t use an architect for a home remodeling

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(before)

This beautiful deck and pergola remodel was the result of a great collaborative effort between the architect, general contractor, and steel fabricator.

(Kevin Bunnell, Renovation Design Group)

 

Most people who don’t use an architect for a home remodeling project either think the job is too small, or they aren’t educated on the value of using an architect. Matt Russell, an experienced home remodeling contractor with Russell and Co. Construction in Salt Lake City, says about 75 percent of his remodeling clients use an architect. The 25 percent who don’t fall into one of the categories listed above.

Here are the top benefits of using an architect, according to Russell.

Saves time and money

Russell said it is ironic that the people who don’t hire an architect are usually very concerned with cost and budget.

“They don’t understand that hiring an architect can actually save them both time and money,” he said.

We have said it a hundred times before, but the more time a homeowner spends planning a remodeling project, the easier it is to stay on budget. The approach of rolling the dice and seeing how far the money will take you without a clear plan will result in spending more money than necessary.

Makes a clear plan

Involving an architect on a home remodeling project allows for the contractor and the homeowner to be on the same page before the project starts. Since most people only tackle a serious remodeling project once in their lifetime, relying on experienced professionals to guide them through the process makes a lot of sense.

“An architect gives the client a clear understanding of the process and what is going to happen,” Russell said. “It makes everything very clear. They work out comprehensive plans ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect and how much it is all going to cost.”

Ultimately, getting plans from an architect makes the contractor’s job easier and streamlines the process.

“When we get plans with details and pictures of elevations, you know exactly what is going to happen,” he said.

If the contractor doesn’t have a clear plan, it will cost more time and money because the contractor will have to spend time (that you are paying for) trying to figure out what it is that you want and creating all the details to go with it.

Eliminates guessing

When a client works with an architect, his or her vision for the project is laid out in black and white on the contract documents, Russell said.

“This saves me as a contractor from trying to interpret their vision,” he said. “There is no guessing or miscommunication when an architect is involved.”

This also saves the project from expensive change orders. Believe us when we say a change on the plans is much easier (and cheaper) to make than a physical change during construction.

A contractor wants to provide the homeowner with what he or she wants; the goal is to have a happy customer. Therefore, the clearer the vision for the project, the better for all involved.

Helps with permits

One of the jobs of the architect is to work with building code officials.

“The architect helps pull permits, works with the different building code officials and knows the building regulations,” he said. “They work with the city, and they know what is doable and what isn’t. This saves an immense amount of time. We are going to have to pull permits anyway, and having that help from an architect saves me a ton of time as a builder.”

A good architect knows the city and county processes and works well with those jurisdictions. Thorough plans that meet the code guidelines are essential to making the permit process seamless.

“Without understanding the city systems, there is a delay in the process,” Russell said. “With the help of a good architect, we get permits pretty quick. They have already been so thorough with the plans, and the city personnel respect their work, so there is not a lot of downtime. It speeds up the process quite a bit.”

It is nice to hear that someone notices our hard work behind the scenes.

Creates teamwork

When the builder/homeowner team adds a good architect, it makes the whole process better. It adds a different set of eyes that are trying to make things work and solve problems, Russell said.

“Remodels are difficult,” he said. “But when you have a good builder, a good architect and a homeowner working together, it makes the whole process an enjoyable experience.”

Without a good team, the process could take months longer, be more frustrating and cost the owner more.

“Everyone has heard horror stories of remodeling, but when the team is all working together, the process actually becomes fun,” Russell said. “Still stressful, but enjoyable. When the team is working well together, it is a good process from start to finish. Owners have more fun with it. I have even had people say, ‘Wow, that was way less painful than I thought it would be!’”

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. They can be contacted at ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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Things to consider before removing a structural wall https://renovationdesigngroup.com/things-to-consider-before-removing-a-structural-wall/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:25:14 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3957 Editor’s note: Portions of this column were previously published on deseretnews.com and on their website at renovationdesigngroup.com. One of the most common requests we hear these days is to design an open floor plan to create a great room that

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Editor’s note: Portions of this column were previously published on deseretnews.com and on their website at renovationdesigngroup.com.

One of the most common requests we hear these days is to design an open floor plan to create a great room that houses areas for the kitchen, dining and living areas. Such a request generally involves removing walls. How simple this process is depends on whether or not the wall is “structural,” which means that the wall is part of the structural design of the home and is supporting the load (weight) of the floor and/or roof above.

Daniel Barton, Renovation Design Group

To make large openings in structural walls, beams and columns are installed. If desired, those beams and columns can become decorative elements that add beauty and interest to the room and give definition to the spaces.

We often have people say they would like to remove a wall but cannot because they think it is structural. There are two fallacies in this statement.

First, it is not always easy to determine if a wall is structural or not. A trip to the attic to look at the roof and ceiling framing can often determine this issue, but if the actual framing is not visible it is only when the wallboard or plaster is removed that the exact situation can be confirmed.

To make large openings in structural walls, beams and columns are installed. If desired, those beams and columns can become decorative elements that add beauty and interest to the room and give definition to the spaces.

Brent Murray, Renovation Design Group

 

 

Second, removing a structural wall is not so difficult that avoiding this possibility should be the driving factor in the redesign of your home. The most important consideration is to determine how your family functions and how your home can be changed to support your lifestyle. If a structural wall needs to come down to achieve your goals, then so be it.

Removing a structural wall will require the services of a structural engineer. The governing body that will issue the building permit will require a stamped, signed drawing by a licensed structural engineer. We like to take the engineer to the home before we begin drawing the final plans to consult on what we are going to assume the existing structure is. All the design professionals can do at this stage is use their education and experience to the best of their ability and proceed with these assumptions.

When the contractor actually tears into the project there is a chance that some of these assumptions may prove to be wrong. There are many ways to put a house together — some much better than others — so it is not shocking or upsetting if we have to reconsider part of the solution. That is why you have a great team with a competent, experienced architect, engineer and contractor on board. The adjustments can be quickly made, and you are on your way again. There is usually not a great financial impact to such a redesign, but if you have remembered to keep a 10 percent contingency fund, you will not have to be stressed by the adjustments that may happen along the way.

When structural walls are removed, beams and columns must be installed, but they can be placed above the ceiling and inside the walls so as not to have any visual impact on the space.

Daniel Barton, Renovation Design Group

 

 

The structural wall we want to remove has been distributing the load of the floor or roof above across its length and transferring that load down to additional structure below — either to a beam or wall in the basement or onto the home’s foundation walls. Every load has to travel down to the earth, which absorbs it. If we want to remove that wall, we need to install a beam in its place.

The proper size of the beam will be determined by the structural engineer, in consultation with your architect. We can select a number of profiles for the beam, such as tall and skinny, short and fat, etc., depending on the architectural design and how we want the beam to look. There are times when we may not want to see the beam at all; in this case, the architect works with the engineer to place the beam above the ceiling rather that under it.

In any case, the uniform load of the structure above (picture floor joists or roof rafters resting on the beam at even increments) will then be gathered at two (or more) points, which are the columns that will be holding the beam up. These columns will then transfer the load down on its way to the ground.

Understanding that the load needs to get to the ground will help a homeowner see that opening up a wall on the main level will have some impact in the basement. When a column is added on the main floor, unless it rests on a foundation wall, we will need to continue the column through the lower floor to get the load to the ground.

When structural walls are removed, beams and columns must be installed, but they can be placed above the ceiling and inside the walls so as not to have any visual impact on the space.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

 

 

In residential construction, columns are not large. They are often just three 2-by-4 studs ganged together and they can fit nicely inside a wall. In order to install them, the wall needs to be opened, but it can be patched and painted so that you will never know there has been a disturbance.

Depending on the size of the load and where it hits the basement floor, a new concrete footing may be required to receive the load of the column. This can be added by removing the flooring (for instance, rolling back the carpet), removing a piece of the existing 4-inch concrete slab, and pouring a new concrete footing. A common size would be a chunk of concrete about 3 feet by 3 feet by 1 inch, but your structural engineer will size it correctly for the load it will be receiving. As with the “disappearing” column, the flooring can then be reinstalled and you will never know the footing is there.

While it may sound like a lot of trouble to remove a structural wall, it is done all the time and is not all that daunting in actuality. It will cost several thousand dollars (but not tens of thousands) and is worth the effort and expense because of the impact it will have on how your home functions and, therefore, on the life of your family.

Our 21st century lifestyle craves light, open, inclusive spaces in which to gather family and friends together. Take charge and make your home work for you.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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When, why to involve an interior designer https://renovationdesigngroup.com/when-why-to-involve-an-interior-designer/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:17:00 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3954   Renovation Design Group worked with Lamar Lisman, Lisman Studio Interior Design, on this master suite remodel. (Scot Zimmerman) Think about the last time you moved. Your former house has been emptied and cleaned, and all of your possessions are

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Renovation Design Group worked with Lamar Lisman, Lisman Studio Interior Design, on this master suite remodel. (Scot Zimmerman)

Think about the last time you moved. Your former house has been emptied and cleaned, and all of your possessions are stacked randomly in your new space. It was time to start setting up the new house.

You took a deep breath, and started arranging your furniture. Outlet locations dictated where you placed your furniture so you can you plug in the lamps, and determined where you put your TV. Your dresser only fits on one wall and your California king only fits one way if you want to be able to walk through the room.

That’s when the realization comes that the design of the house is controlling how you use it.

We recently had a discussion with Lamar Lisman, of Lisman Studio Interior Design, about the importance of hiring an architect and involving an interior designer.

“Homeowners think they are being clever by not hiring an architect,” said Lisman. “But they aren’t. It comes back to bite them. It usually costs them in either time or money or both.”

He says the most successful projects are when you have a team of professionals involved from the beginning.

“I say it is a three-legged stool — great architect, talented interior designer and an experienced contractor,” Lisman said. “Add an open-minded client and you have nirvana.”

With a collaborative design approach, the time to build the team is at the beginning of the project.

“It is the idea of having multiple sets of professional eyes,” he said.

Many people have the misconception that hiring an interior designer means they are going to suggest you buy all new furniture and scrap everything you own. This is not true. In fact, Lisman says he would fire anyone who worked for him who suggested that.

An interior designer should take an inventory of all your furniture and consult with you as to what you want to keep for the new or remodeled house. They will also measure the pieces you are going to keep.

“It is important to know how big your nightstands are before you build your new master suite,” Lisman said. “On the plans you will just see boxes representing a queen size bed and the basic 25-by-25 nightstands, but you have 36-by-18 nightstands and a California king. That will change what you need for your room.”

When you understand the problem at this early stage, you can decide whether to adjust the size of the room or replace the furniture. Knowledge is power, indeed, when you plan the end from the beginning.

In the beginning stages of schematic design, it is our practice, as the architect, to add furniture symbols into the plans to help provide a sense of scale. For instance, we can easily see that a certain dining area comfortably fits a table for six. This can be valuable information if what you really want is a table that seats eight, and this is the time to discover this, as opposed to the day you move in to your finished project. Part of our job as architects is to make sure we all deal in reality rather than in wishes or hopes.

As we synthesize our various schematic plans and zero in on our master plan, and with the input of the interior designer, we can begin to replace the generic furniture symbols with the true measurements of any critical furniture pieces. These placements will help shape lighting layouts and outlet placement.

“You may have a beautiful piece of furniture or piece of art that may need specialty lighting,” he said. “This great piece of furniture may need a lamp but there is no existing plug in the area. This early point in the design process is the best time to have these conversations. After construction is not when you want to talk about wiring new lights and outlets.”

Since you are paying a significant amount of money for a new home or a substantial remodel, you don’t want to be frustrated about the little things. Hiring both an architect and an interior designer provides the best possibility of a seamless result for your project.

Interior design is more than arranging furniture and plumping throw pillows. A good designer will help with the hundreds of decisions and specifications involved in remodeling. Choosing paint colors, finishes, light fixtures, flooring, knobs and trim are all choices that need to be made in a home remodel.

In addition to all of these issues, an interior designer will help design the new space to accommodate everything you want to include in your new space.

Ultimately, the goal is to control the design and not have the design control how you live in your home.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Education makes the difference with an architect https://renovationdesigngroup.com/education-makes-the-difference-with-an-architect/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:10:10 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3950 People are interesting: Sometimes they respect expertise and professional education, and sometimes they don’t. We recently had a conversation on this topic with our associate Shawn Guthrie of USI All-Purpose Windows and Doors in Salt Lake City. “We don’t go

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People are interesting: Sometimes they respect expertise and professional education, and sometimes they don’t. We recently had a conversation on this topic with our associate Shawn Guthrie of USI All-Purpose Windows and Doors in Salt Lake City.

“We don’t go to our friend who is sick and ask them for medical advice; when we are sick, we go to the doctor,” Guthrie said. “We understand and respect their expertise and professional education.”

When working with an architect, you are paying someone for more than just drawing up a set of plans. Trying to save money by not hiring an architect can cost in setbacks, redesigns, delays in getting permits and a project that never reaches its full functional or design potential.

The same principle should apply to other professions, including architecture. There is a difference between asking your friend who is a good artist to draw your house plans and hiring an architect.

“It is more than just drawing a picture of a house,” Guthrie explained. “You can be a talented artist, but an architect is a talented artist with an education. The education is the strong point of an architect.”

As in the medical industry, there are different levels of education and specialties within the realm of home design and architecture. Hiring an architect is like hiring a cardiologist for your heart surgery. While another doctor could probably perform the surgery in an emergency, it would not be your best choice because they don’t specialize in hearts. They don’t have extra years of schooling, training and continuing education to bring to your situation.

Designers, drafters and even the overzealous homeowner with a DIY home design software program can draw house plans. However, that doesn’t mean it will be the best solution.

Designers, drafters and even a homeowner with a DIY home design software program can draw house plans. However, that doesn’t mean it will be the best solution. While such efforts may be good, there is a better and best option that should also be considered. When working with an architect, you are paying someone for more than just drawing up a set of plans. Trying to save money by not hiring an architect can cost in setbacks, redesigns, delays in getting permits and a project that never reaches its full functional or design potential.

Guthrie related the story of one of his clients who set out to remodel a home in Promontory Ranch in Park City. The homeowner thought she knew what she wanted, so she engaged a home designer to create a set of construction plans. While the plans looked great, they didn’t meet some of the building codes and Homeowner’s Association covenants for the community. The project ran into delays and redesigns just because the designer didn’t know better, which Guthrie said likely wouldn’t have happened if a trained architect had been used.

Part of the training an architect receives is focused on the consulting and client relationship aspect of their profession. Much time is spent consulting, asking questions, looking at the house, looking at the neighbors’ houses and studying the codes, covenants and restrictions.

“Architects are on site taking pictures of the house at different times of the day before they draw a single line on the plan,” Guthrie said.

While no training, degree or license is required to declare yourself a home designer, you need a professional university degree (either bachelor’s of architecture or a master’s of architecture), a three year internship and a passing grade on all portions of a nationally administered registration exam to become an architect. In addition, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) require that you annually earn 18 hours of continuing education credits to maintain your architect license in the state of Utah.

“Because architects are required to earn continuing education points to maintain their license, an architect is always learning,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie said he finds it is easier to work with architects because of their knowledge base in the industry and of products and building materials.

“Architects are concerned about price, but they also understand the quality, durability and longevity of a product,” he said. “They have a working knowledge and comprehensive understanding.”

He said an architect learns about all aspects of a product and understands the associated technical benefits of each one. Selecting a product as important as windows requires not only an eye to the aesthetics of the home but also a thorough understanding of the cost, function and specifications of each unit so they can be matched appropriately to each client’s needs.

“I help them if they have questions on sizes and limitations,” he said. “It becomes a team: homeowner, architect, and window guy.”

Guthrie went on to explain that he appreciates the expertise an architect can bring to a home design project.

“I have a lot of confidence when I work with an architect, and I know they bring a lot to a project,” Guthrie says. “An architect takes pride in their projects. It is their baby. Many have a signature design they add to their projects to make them theirs. They love their projects and own a job for life.”

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: Contractor explains why it’s worth it to hire an architect https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-contractor-explains-why-its-worth-it-to-hire-an-architect/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:04:13 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3945 Jeremy Jackson knows his way around a home design project. As a partner at the construction company Jackson & Leroy, Jackson has extensive experience with all types of residential projects ranging from estate management to remodeling to new home construction.

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Jeremy Jackson knows his way around a home design project.

As a partner at the construction company Jackson & Leroy, Jackson has extensive experience with all types of residential projects ranging from estate management to remodeling to new home construction.

         This is the end result of one of the many projects Renovation Design Group has worked on with Jackson & Leroy.

When asked his opinion on how involving an architect impacts a project and his job as a contractor, Jackson said building a home-design team with both an architect and contractor is crucial.

“We totally believe in it,” he said.

Although he said having a good architect on the home remodeling team impacts many aspects of the job, he elaborated on three specific points — the remodeling process, the end product and the relationship between client and contractor.

The process

Ultimately, having a good architect on board makes the contractor more efficient. “Rather than working on the size of the room, we are able to focus on what we do best: building the room,” he said. “When we work with an architect on a project, we have a clear objective. It allows us to focus on the schedule, the financial management and quality control.”

Jackson & Leroy has been in business for over 14 years, and most of their projects involve an architect. “Most of our clients have already engaged an architect, but if they haven’t we strongly encourage them to,” he said.

Interestingly, he said most of his clients are not first-timers.

“Many of our clients have done a project before and either had a bad experience or they oversimplified the process the first time,” he said. “Now the second time around, they realize the value of and need for an architect. This time, they want it done right.”

The end product

“We always want to deliver the best possible end product to the client,” Jackson said. “When an architect is involved in a project, everyone can concentrate on their expertise, which results in a better end product.”

Jackson explained that when you don’t have an architect on the job, someone has to assume that role. It is usually the contractor or the homeowner (or worse yet, both) trying to do the design work, but neither have the skill nor the schooling to do it well.

“When a contractor or an owner feels like they can take on the design, the outcome from those situations are never as good as it could be,” he said. “It is sad because though the outcome is usually fine, the homeowners don’t even know the possibility of what the project could have been.”

Having a well-planned-out professional design results from exploring many possibilities and thoughtfully determining the best solution.

The relationship

Jackson has been called upon to take over projects where relationships have deteriorated from a lack of communication between contractor, architect and homeowner. Keeping the architect involved throughout the building process can keep communication channels open.

“Without a clear direction for the project, the contractor either starts making it up as he goes or he is waiting for direction from somewhere which delays the schedule,” Jackson explains. “What often happens is the contractor will do something he thinks is right based on conversations with the homeowner, but then the homeowner sees it and says, ‘I didn’t picture it like that.’”

The contractor may respond that he had previously explained what the outcome would be, but then the situation often declines into an endless round of finger-pointing.

“No one ends up being happy,” Jackson said. “In this situation, you can see how easy it is for the contractor/client relationship to deteriorate. Working with an architect will avoid 90 percent of those types of situations.”

‘Always worth it’

Ideally, the architect and the contractor work hand-in-hand to create the best solution for the client. Working with an architect even on small, seemingly simple projects makes for a smoother, more productive remodeling process, a better end result, and a more positive relationship for everyone involved.

“An architect provides the service of discovery,” Jackson said. “You may say ‘I want a 10 x 10 room. Can you draw it for me?’ An architect will ask, ‘Why do you need this room? What are your needs? ’”

Architects can help clients determine their needs, and then an architect can apply expertise to find the best solution. Whether they provide a different solution or validate your original premise, you will be sure of your design before you spend a lot of time and money on your home.

“Whether you are just moving one wall or redoing a whole house, involving an architect is always worth it,” Jackson said.

“We totally believe in it,” he said.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Design trends to watch for in 2016 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/design-trends-to-watch-for-in-2016/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 17:58:19 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3939 We love the fresh start, potential and possibilities that a new year brings. There is an impulse for change and embracing something new. This phenomenon happens both individually and as a society. Pop culture, design and fashion trends renew every

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We love the fresh start, potential and possibilities that a new year brings. There is an impulse for change and embracing something new.

This phenomenon happens both individually and as a society. Pop culture, design and fashion trends renew every year. The home decor industry is already filling this clean slate with trend predictions for 2016.

Blue is a wall cover trend of the year (Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group)

Elledecor.com reported the Top 10 design trends of 2016 with the help of the folks at Houzz.com. Houzz asked its followers (both consumers and design professionals) to weigh in on the trends for the new year. Here are the highlights:

Kitchens: According to the Houzz trend report titled “25 Design Trends Coming to Homes Near You in 2016,” black stainless steel kitchen appliances are the latest appliance upgrade. These are a darker alternative to the shiny silver metal look we are used to. Other colors are being offered by some manufacturers, such as Whirlpool’s Sunset Bronze finish.

Another trend in kitchen design is the rising popularity of two-toned cabinets. This look has one style on the bottom and a different color or perhaps even a different style on the top. It makes for a unique look that can be adapted to fit different home styles. If you love more than one look, this may be your chance to have you cake and eat it, too. (A word of caution: Just because you like some things doesn’t automatically mean they will look good together.)

Colors of the year: Paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore says the color trends of the year are moving more toward milky whites, lavenders and grayish blue or greige (the new gray and beige neutral). The Houzz report confirms this by noting a trend of layering whites throughout the house and creating white kitchens with a strong dash of color — perhaps in a backsplash or a specialty piece of cabinetry — to add some drama to the scene.

Dining rooms: The Houzz report mentions that formal dining rooms are attracting more attention these days. In our area, we aren’t seeing a demand for the return of the traditional separate room designated only for dining, but there is some push back from the idea that we all gather in the kitchen to hang out and eat. A well-conceived open concept design can give a dining space a clear definition and personality of its own without having to close it off with walls.

More people are opting to keep the formal dining room (Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group)

Bathrooms: Trends for the bathroom that made the list were bidets, statement mirrors, bold-patterned wall coverings, and ultra-designed bathrooms with sophisticated elements such as ornate chandeliers and furniture pieces. The overarching trend seems to be an attempt to reduce the typical utilitarian feel of this essential space.

Living rooms: Traditional wood-burning fireplaces have fallen out of favor with our recent focus on air quality issues. Fortunately, the fireplace industry has made significant advances and now offers many models that create the ambience without the inconvenience or pollution. Fireplaces are now regaining their place as the focus of a living room, as the current trend is to remove the tech from at least one area in a home. Living rooms are being seen as that place where one can find a calm respite from the digital frenzy of our lives.

While you may be able to keep up with design trends in your shoes or clothing on an annual basis, home design is not so flexible. Short of updating a room with throw pillows and accessories, home design is generally seen in terms of decades, not fashion seasons. Our design decisions do date our homes; great design turns into “classic” design (such as a wonderful Craftsman bungalow from the 1930s), while design decisions that miss the mark tend to depress both our spirits and the value of our property (remember the lava rock fireplaces from the 1960s?).

Ultimately, as you look at the latest interior design trends, try to judge them with an eye to long-term investment in your home and in the way it functions to support your family’s lifestyle. Leave the trendiest decisions to paint and accessories, which can be changed relatively easily. Choose the more permanent elements of your home carefully, knowing that you will have to live with them for a while. If you will be trying to sell your home at some point, you will do better if your home appeals to the majority of potential buyers.

A home doesn’t have to be unusual or uniquely strange to make a statement. Good design speaks for itself, and tried-and-true design principles don’t bend with every wind of trendy popularity. We are lucky to have design resources such as Houzz, but the resources must always be viewed through a filter personal and home style.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.co

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How HGTV, Pinterest are changing home design https://renovationdesigngroup.com/how-hgtv-pinterest-are-changing-home-design/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 22:09:13 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3934 Between all the design shows on HGTV and the hundreds of thousands of images on Houzz.com and Pinterest.com, we are fortunate to have design tools at our fingertips. Whether we are watching on a 70-inch TV or squinting at our

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Between all the design shows on HGTV and the hundreds of thousands of images on Houzz.com and Pinterest.com, we are fortunate to have design tools at our fingertips. Whether we are watching on a 70-inch TV or squinting at our smartphones while waiting in the dentist’s office, nary a moment need go by without being bombarded by someone’s idea of fabulous interior and architectural design.

There are advantages to this plethora of design images. We no longer have to pay exorbitant prices for glossy design magazines and keep a paper file of our ideas. All research can now be done electronically, from searching to storing to sharing pertinent ideas. Ideas can be quickly and easily deposited into the hands of interior designers and architects. This makes communicating ideas clearer than ever, thus saving design time and minimizing wasting money by going too far down the wrong design road.

The architect, interior designer, and homeowner made many spatial, material and color decisions to make these remodeled spaces come together beautifully.

Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group

However, there are also some challenges to this brave new world of digital design. Here are a few concepts to consider:

Do I even need the services of a design professional these days?

The vast access to design ideas may lead individuals considering remodeling their homes to determine that they no longer need professional designers involved in their projects. In fact, the opposite may be true. Professionals may be critically needed to sort out the huge number of ideas available and to distinguish what ideas are valid for your house and style.

It sometimes appears remodeling projects have elements that were included just because the homeowner could, even though they should not have. For instance, there are many door styles that we love, but probably only a few which are really appropriate to your home and situation. How do you narrow the field and make the right choice? Call a professional.

Not everything that makes it to one of these popular website represents design excellence. Make sure you look at all ideas with a discriminating eye, and always run your choices past someone else with a strong sense of design. While your sister-in-law may qualify on some issues, you may want more educated expertise when you are spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on your home.

How will a design professional use digital tools on my project?

This new digital approach definitely is changing the way architects and interior designers function and relate to their clients, but it does not eliminate the need for professional design involvement in your project. If you prepare well and compile well-edited electronic idea books for your project, design time can be reduced and decision-making streamlined. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words in the design world.

The value in having a concept photo is just that — having a design idea that can be used to guide your choices as you turn your vision into reality. There is a practical leap involved in loving a kitchen backsplash in a photograph and having it installed in your house.

On some sites, you may be able to find out what an exact material is, but on others you may not have access to that information. In addition, there may be several other materials similar to the concept photo you love that may be more appropriate to your project in terms of cost, availability, durability, etc. It would be a mistake to pay for a wildly expensive marble that must be imported from Italy (which could take up to six months) and be lovingly cared for when you have an average budget and a kitchen that a family of five will be using. An interior designer can suggest an alternate such as a man-made quartz that will look similar for a reduced cost and will have an increased tolerance for abuse.

Additionally, an architect will help you translate that concept photo in terms of the existing structure of your home and what would need to be done to create the look you want. This usually involves a serious budget check and often studying alternate approaches to adapt the ideas in the photo to the reality of your actual home.

Reality TV is not reality

We commonly refer to channels such as HGTV as “reality” TV, but that is a misnomer in many ways. Real issues such as zoning ordinances, permits and fees, structural engineering, design and contractor fees, and an actual design process are usually missing in action from such shows. Major projects are represented as taking only weeks instead of months by omitting the above functions and others such as lead times for ordering any custom items (such as steel beams, windows, flooring, etc.), scheduling inspections and phasing trades so they are not damaging each other’s work. An architect will help you understand the reality of design and construction in the real world.

TV shows often present the model of “just start building, and we’ll see how far the money goes.” Design is done on the fly, and ideas come and go on a weekly, if not a daily, basis. Instead of planning ahead, creating a responsible design and having a competent contractor create a thorough bid or estimate, the premise is that anything that eventually gets done will be lots better than what you previously had, so what the heck?

Call us compulsive, but considering your home is likely the biggest investment you will make, we think hiring professionals who will guide you through this complicated, messy and costly process makes sense. In real life, you do get what you pay for; no TV show or photograph can take the place of well-educated and experienced design and construction professionals.

Let’s enjoy the stories on TV and the eye candy online and then use our brains to approach a real-life remodeling project by assembling an effective team. The result will be a project any TV show or digital magazine will be proud to feature.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: Solving common house problems with remodeling https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-solving-common-house-problems-with-remodeling/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 22:02:26 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3928 As we are architects who specialize in residential remodeling, every client we see has a problem with his or her house. Some of these houses just need a cosmetic upgrade (replacing outdated finishes, appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc., in their current

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As we are architects who specialize in residential remodeling, every client we see has a problem with his or her house. Some of these houses just need a cosmetic upgrade (replacing outdated finishes, appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc., in their current location), while others need a more substantial overhaul or expansion to bring the function of the home into the 21st century.

Our clients realize they need a change in their circumstances, but they don’t want to move. They still love the location, commute (or lack thereof), neighborhood, schools and church congregation, but not their house in its current state. The obvious choice in this situation is to consider remodeling.

 

An old enclosed porch was removed and the kitchen was opened up to a new great room addition.

Daniel Barton, Renovation Design Group

Here are some solutions that remodeling can provide for common housing problems:

Accessibility upgrades: Sometimes there is an accident that leads to a family member having some level of mobility impairment that makes life in one’s current home difficult. Other clients are concerned about aging in place and want to plan ahead so they won’t be forced to leave their homes in the future. Whether it is an imminent situation or just a matter of looking ahead, we work with more and more clients who are motivated to address accessibility issues in their homes. We move bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry rooms to create main floor living based on the concept of having all the everyday needs easily accessible on the main floor.

Expanding bedroom wings: The need for more bedrooms often results from a change in the family dynamic: a new baby, small children inevitably becoming teenagers and needing their space, or a grandparent moving in. Families also often add rooms to allow for a guest room, craft or hobby room, or home office.

Fixing ugly house disorder: Adding more curb appeal to a house is one of the top client requests when considering a remodel. While some issues of deferred maintenance need to be addressed on a practical level, changing the look of their home is often more of a psychological need for the client. They want to pull up to a beautiful house and be proud of their home. Home should be a refuge and bring joy and peace into your life. Addressing the ugly house disorder can turn a source of stress and anxiety into a relaxing retreat.

This bedroom remodel added built-in storage at the headboard to create much needed storage and a focal point for the room.

Brent Murray, Renovation Design Group

Opening for more gathering space: The great room is becoming a must-have for many families. Families want their homes to be the spot where their children’s friends hang out and party on. For families with grown children, the great room makes it easy for grown children to return with spouses and grandchildren. It is not uncommon that the home where you managed to rear your children cannot now comfortably hold the generation that appears after the nest is empty. Many clients are requesting a bigger gathering place, and it is a problem that can be solved with additions or by reallocating existing space, removing walls and changing the function of now obsolete rooms.

Adding storage space: If there is one issue common to almost every client, it is their desire for more storage space. Additions are an obvious solution, but one of our skills is to help clients find space in their revised home design to reallocate to storage. We tweak kitchens to find room for a bigger pantry; redesign bedrooms to add bigger closets; and design hallways, stairways and basements to include custom storage options. Many times, more space than a client realizes is being wasted by a bad design.

The first thing to do when it comes to remodeling is to analyze your house and how you live in it. Go through your house and determine what is working for you and what isn’t. Write a list of your wants and your needs. Remodeling should solve problems to make your house work and feel better for you.

Exterior remodels and curb appeal upgrades can enhance the house with new colors, facade and landscaping.

Kevin Bunnell, Renovation Design Group
 

The most efficient houses use every room every day. If you have rooms or space that goes unused while you feel cramped in other parts of your house, it is time to reallocate space. Don’t let parts of your house go to waste when they could be just what you need to solve your remodeling challenge. You may be sitting on a gold mine.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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3 more home design areas to address for holiday entertaining https://renovationdesigngroup.com/3-more-home-design-areas-to-address-for-holiday-entertaining/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 21:56:04 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3924 Like we said last week, you never should design a remodel for a once-a-year event such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. However, having the ultimate entertaining house that functions just as well on special occasions as it does every day will

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Like we said last week, you never should design a remodel for a once-a-year event such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. However, having the ultimate entertaining house that functions just as well on special occasions as it does every day will make the quality of life for the holidays just a little bit brighter.

While your house should be what you and your family need and want, it is also nice to offer your guests something as well.

A guest bathroom is always a subject for discussion during the planning phase of a remodel, especially when remodeling with the holidays in mind (daniel barton,  Renovation Design Group)

 

 

A gracious entry: Your guests’ experience at your home begins on the exterior at the curb. Hopefully, the exterior of your home is clean, neat and attractive. Routine maintenance will go a long way to make sure your home looks like a space people will want to enter. A little special attention to the front porch and door won’t be amiss for this special day.

Inside, the goal would be a space that allows for a smooth physical and psychological transition from the outside of your home to the inside. It feels a bit awkward when we step directly into the living room; it is as if the transition is too abrupt. The entry doesn’t have to be a separate space, but it can appear to be a dedicated space by carefully designing the flooring, ceiling and furniture placement. Ideally, it will be large enough that three to four people can stand there and still close the front door.

Accommodations: A guest bathroom is always a subject for discussion during the planning phase. There are three options: The first is to let the guests use one of the existing family bathrooms, usually the main hall bath. This works pretty well on Thanksgiving because you know the guests are coming and you have prepared the children’s bath to be presentable. It is not as successful on a “normal” day when guests might drop in, and who knows what the bathroom looks like.

A dedicated guest bath (also known as a powder room or half-bath) typically consists of just a sink and a toilet. The second placement option is to create a half-bath somewhat near the public, front rooms of the house and set the space aside for guest use only. The third choice is to locate it farther into the semi-private space of the home, say off the laundry room or mud room. This functions better for family use (children to wash up for dinner or dad after working in the garage, for instance) but is less glamorous for guests. (We like to keep the laundry/mud room in the “no guest zone.”) There isn’t a perfect solution, unless you want a slew of bathrooms to clean.

Socializing: The ultimate purpose for the shopping, cleaning and cooking is to gather friends and loved ones together. Newer, open-concept designs foster this goal by allowing homes to accommodate larger groups who can stay together in the same vicinity. One group will often gather in the kitchen, but those sitting at the dining room table or in the adjoining family or living room can at least see what is going on. In these situations, we rarely interact with the entire group at once, but our human nature desires that we don’t miss anything important. This needs to be taken into consideration when designing your new floor plan because it applies to your family as well as to large gatherings of guests.

Storage, flow and spatial relationships need to be considered in your design process. While you won’t actually design for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you might as well keep it in mind while you are at it. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to offer your home as party central.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: House design elements to consider for holiday entertaining https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-house-design-elements-to-consider-for-holiday-entertaining/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 21:51:07 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3919   A line we use with most clients is, “We aren’t going to design for Thanksgiving!”   (Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group) When designing with the holidays in mind, it is hard not to consider the kitchen and food preparation

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A line we use with most clients is, “We aren’t going to design for Thanksgiving!”

 

(Trina Knudsen, Renovation Design Group)

When designing with the holidays in mind, it is hard not to consider the kitchen and food preparation when so much of the holiday experience is centered on food.

Meaning, we typically don’t need a dining space that will accommodate a very large crowd. However, there are some design lessons we can learn from considering a gathering such as our annual turkey feast.

The first design priority for a home is that it will meet the needs of the immediate family or those who permanently reside there. Each person involved needs to be able to function comfortably relative to basic housing needs (shelter, food, clothing). Beyond these basic physical needs, our homes serve many other roles in our lives in terms of psychological, social and emotional requirements.

Gathering extended family and friends together is critical for meeting these higher-level needs for many families, so let’s talk about design elements that will make Thanksgiving a great day for all involved.

Storage: Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner begins with shopping. While your home cannot help with crowded parking lots and big box stores, it can provide an organized space to deal with everything you haul home. This means pantry storage, along with refrigerator and freezer storage. With today’s open-concept kitchen designs, walls are disappearing. Therefore, cabinetry in the actual kitchen is at a premium, especially upper cabinets. The more open the kitchen, the more critical it is to have adequate pantry space.

Walk-in pantries have the advantage of storage space on the floor, meaning you can put all sorts of things into this magical room and shut the door. This can be very handy when expecting guests. (Mud rooms and laundry rooms can also serve the purpose of a guest-free storage zone.) Reach-in or cabinetry pantries can store a lot of supplies when equipped with pull-out drawers and baskets. Enough pantry space in the kitchen for everyday needs is critical; capacity for special event storage on the main level is a bonus and in some cases may have to be relegated “off site” to the basement.

When planning a kitchen, consider refrigerated storage carefully. Many homes have additional refrigeration in the basement or garage in the form of another refrigerator or freezer. Today, the combination of a full-size refrigerator paired with a full-size freezer in the kitchen can eliminate the need for auxiliary appliances outside of the kitchen.

Events such as Thanksgiving often require storage for non-food items as well. These may include items such as turkey roasters and serving platters or special china and silver. In addition, some families need additional tables and chairs. In any case, your remodeling plan should account for adequate storage for objects associated with your family’s entertainment activities.

Let’s not forget that Thanksgiving occurs in November, so coats are likely to be involved. This may be one of the few times in the year that your coat closet gets a workout. When planning your remodel, if you can use this area for a higher purpose, we say go for it. A nice coat tree in the entry, or a bannister or bed will do nicely for the few times a year you might have to store a number of guests’ coats.

Food preparation: Preparing the food for your guests goes more smoothly and is more enjoyable if you have a well-planned kitchen and appliance layout. Just try preparing a traditional Thanksgiving feast with a single oven! However, today your second oven can be a combination microwave/convection oven that will be used on a daily basis, rather than just a few times a year. Besides having modern appliances that work efficiently, adequate counter space is critical to executing a well-planned dinner for a crowd.

You also need to plan your kitchen so it is not in the middle of a major circulation path — from the front door to the family room, for instance. We always want people to pass by the kitchen, not through it. No matter what we do, people will still gather in the kitchen, but by replacing the peninsula with an island we can at least get rid of the dead-end kitchen of years past so the cook can press forward even with Aunt Mildred and several cousins hanging out with us.

We hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving and happy hosting. In our next column, we will continue our discussion on renovating for the holidays and maybe spark some ideas that will be on your remodeling wish list for next year.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Navigating the great move vs. remodel debate https://renovationdesigngroup.com/navigating-the-great-move-vs-remodel-debate/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 21:45:13 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3907 When your house isn’t working for you anymore, the great debate begins: Do you move or remodel? There are many factors to consider. First, take a look at your existing house and determine what needs to be done to make

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When your house isn’t working for you anymore, the great debate begins: Do you move or remodel? There are many factors to consider.

First, take a look at your existing house and determine what needs to be done to make it function well for your family. Consulting with an architect at this point will help you gather information useful for making a remodeling decision. An architect can help you determine what can be done to your house and a broad range of estimated costs relative to your proposed project.

Next, take a look at the real estate market and see what options you have for both remodeling and moving. A real estate agent can help you determine the value of your current house and the value cap for the area where your existing house is located. This will help you create a realistic budget for the remodeling option. You never want to overbuild for your neighborhood or you will not recoup your investment. On the moving side, a real estate agent can also show you options in the marketplace to help you understand the cost of another home with your wish list features.

These clients decided to remodel instead of move because they loved the character of their older home and liked the location, including the fact that they had family members that lived next door. In the remodel they excavated their basement to double the usual square footage and updated the interior and exterior. (Annie Schwemmer, Renovation Design Group)

 

It is important to understand that it is unlikely you will find your dream house sitting on the market waiting for you. Every home will have its challenges and things you will likely want to change. Sometimes the choice may be to move and remodel the new place. You need to gather all the information and cost estimates you can while weighing your options.

According an article titled “Should you move or improve?” on houselogic.com, home improvements generally cost less than trading up, but that obviously depends on the scope of the project you are undertaking. The website suggests that homeowners can figure on paying between $100 to $200 per square foot for new construction or a major remodel but warns that figure can fluctuate depending on the type of project and local labor costs.

Recouping that cost is another story. According to the CVV report, that particular project increases the value of the property by 62.2 percent. You can review the report’s 36 popular project costs and paybacks to get an idea of what projects recoup higher values, but none of them report an immediate 100 percent payback. If you are planning on staying put for 5-10 years, general inflation will often help you break even on your investment, but an immediate 125 percent return is only seen on HGTV.

These clients decided to remodel rather than move because the house was built by the wife’s grandfather so they had a sentimental attachment to it, and family lived close by. They did an addition and remodeled the existing home, carefully salvaging and reusing the brick. Many of the design decisions inside and out were made to reflect the elements of the existing home. (Annie Schwemmer, Renovation Design Group)

Many of the design decisions inside and out were made to reflect the elements of the existing home. (Annie Schwemmer, Renovation Design Group)

Houselogic.com reminds homeowners to look around at their neighborhood to help determine what remodeling would be appropriate.

“Keep your improvements in line with those of other houses on your block or risk losing the money when you sell,” the article states. “Of course, don’t discount your enjoyment factor. If it’ll make you happy to install an in-ground pool in a neighborhood without pools, go for it.”

Cost is probably the No. 1 factor people use in determining whether to remodel or not. However, remember there are “hidden” costs to moving as well as renovating. The monetary expenses of moving include real-estate agent commissions, mortgage fees, closing costs, hiring movers and renting a moving van. There are also emotional and psychological costs relative to neighbors, schools, friends, etc., that must also be factored in.

Costs to consider beyond the basic construction budget for a remodeling project include architectural and structural engineering design fees, demolition costs, permit fees, possibly updating old wiring or plumbing, and the cost of additional furniture and window coverings for the new space.

However, your house isn’t just an investment. It is also where you live. People don’t remodel to save money; they remodel because they want to stay where they are. Houselogic.com reminds homeowners that the decision ultimately comes down to “the things you can’t change about your current home,” including school district, access to shopping, commute time, the size and shape of your yard, and neighborhood quality of life.

“If you love the spot, improving makes sense,” the article states. “But if a different location would be an improvement in its own right, then trading up could be the way to go.”

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: Budgeting, repurposing can create savings on remodeling https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-budgeting-repurposing-can-create-savings-on-remodeling/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 21:19:07 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3903 Last week, we started the discussion on home remodeling budgets and saving money on the remodel. Like we said last week and many other times, the key to saving money on your remodeling project is planning ahead. The more you

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Last week, we started the discussion on home remodeling budgets and saving money on the remodel.

Like we said last week and many other times, the key to saving money on your remodeling project is planning ahead. The more you plan, the more you can save. Your contractor needs detailed design plans in order to give you a dependable bid. The more time you spend on the planning stage, the less likely you are to have expensive change orders and costly mistakes during construction. Plus, a well-planned project will result in a remodeling job that looks great and adds more value to your house than something just thrown together.

(before)this space needed a refresher, and planning an itemized budget ahead of time will allow you to see the big picture and give you time to determine where you can cut back and where you should buy the best.

(after)construction on this space benefited from having a master plan and determining all the materials needed, which helped determine where money could be saved. 

 

Planning your itemized budget ahead of time will allow you to see the big picture and give you time to determine where you can cut back and where you should buy the best. We recommend not cutting back on the permanent components of the project. Even though it may not be the most fun purchase, it is always a good idea to get quality doors, windows, roofing and insulation. These items will be well worth the money in the long run. Electrical, heating and hot water systems are also areas to buy quality.

There are many items you will be buying for a home remodel. Obviously, there are the construction materials that will most likely be ordered and purchased under the supervision of your general contractor. You will be responsible for selecting many other items such as appliances, flooring, countertops, cabinets, lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc. Human nature being what it is, we often have an item or area in which we feel particularly invested. You may dream of a high-end, restaurant-style range or a free-standing tub in which you can soak away your cares. While you cannot respect your budget and select everything from your high-end wish list, you can probably splurge on something if you carefully balance it with bargain shopping in other areas. Unless you know the bottom line and keep the big picture in mind, such splurges will generally lead you far afield from your budget.

One way to save money in a remodeling project is on labor costs. If you have a lot of free time and years of construction experience, you may be skilled enough to be your own general contractor. Though you can save thousands of dollars, you will earn every penny of it. There are also some ways to save on labor for the not-so-skilled homeowner by being responsible for the unskilled portion of the labor on your job. This would include demolition (remove old flooring, cabinets, wall coverings, etc., under the supervision of the contractor) and general routine job site cleanup. The next level would be to do your own painting, wallpapering, or install your own floor coverings. Even laying tile is a completely doable project if you are feeling handy, and it will save you hundreds on labor.

You can possibly save money throughout your remodeling project by repurposing, recycling or refashioning items. For example, if you are remodeling your kitchen, you might not need to buy new cabinets. If your cabinets are in good shape, you might be able to just refinish them and add new hardware. In older homes, you might find beautiful hardwood floors under the carpet that can be refinished rather than replaced. When you replace the countertop in the kitchen, you may be able to use the old countertop in the laundry room remodel.

There are times when recycling and reusing may not pay off. Doors from a home built in the 1930s or ’40s may be well built, but they are also covered with layers and layers of old paint that may well be lead paint. By the time they are removed, stripped and refinished, along with cleaning up the hinges and hardware, you can probably buy a new door with the same profile for a similar cost. Contractors often prefer to demolish a roof and replace it rather than trying to tie new features (such as dormers) in to existing framing. The trade-off is lower labor costs, which often offset the higher cost of replacement materials. A good residential remodeling contractor will be able to give you advice when it comes to the best and most economical approach to the construction of your project.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Creating a plan leads to saving money on remodeling https://renovationdesigngroup.com/creating-a-plan-leads-to-saving-money-on-remodeling/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 21:11:53 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3898 At the homeowners request, this toilet room in the master bedroom, shown after renovation was designed to accommodate a future walk in tub. The required plumbing was installed behind the walls and floors to make future installation easy, while in

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At the homeowners request, this toilet room in the master bedroom, shown after renovation was designed to accommodate a future walk in tub. The required plumbing was installed behind the walls and floors to make future installation easy, while in the meantime, the space is being used as storage 

(Trina Knudsen, photo credit)

Before

 

Most of us are all too familiar with living on a budget. Successfully living on a budget is not blindly spending until the money is gone — it is planning where the money will go and sticking to the plan. Knowing how much things will cost and itemizing expenditures will help you know how far your money will stretch.

The concept of budgeting for a remodeling project is no different from budgeting for your monthly bills and living expenses. So why do so many people start a remodeling project with the mindset of seeing how far the money will take them without planning where the money will go? They are setting themselves up for failure. People who don’t plan accordingly end up either running out of money in the middle of a project or going way over budget.

This mistake can be avoided. It starts with properly planning and itemizing your project. One huge misconception about remodeling is to go to the contractor for a quote first. A contractor cannot give you an accurate quote without proper construction documents, meaning floor plans, exterior elevations, interior elevations, structural engineering, etc. He can only give you a rough estimate until he knows the true scope of the work. Before you ever approach a contractor, work with an architect to discuss the project plans and the budget.

Almost without exception, clients come to us with an inflated view of what their money will buy in the construction world. A good rule of thumb is to guess what you think something will cost and then double it. A good architect will help you determine a general project scope that will relate to your proposed budget.

Remember, the more you plan, the easier it will be for you to stay within your budget. In addition to the drawings, an architect can help you create a specifications manual. By choosing and documenting all the fixtures and finishes in your project in the planning stage, you will enable the contractor to give you the most accurate quote possible for your job. A thorough specification will substantially reduce the surprise costs that you might otherwise run into. If you wait until the last minute to choose the light fixture the contractors are ready to install, you will rarely find the perfect chandelier at just the right price.

The key to saving money on your remodeling project is planning ahead. The irony is that the tighter your budget, the better off you will be by spending more up front with an architect to thoroughly plan your project. A great set of construction documents will result in a dependable bid from your contractor. We contend that the amount you spend on an architect will be recouped somewhere within the project: You will avoid expensive changes or mistakes during construction, and because your project will function well and look great, it will result in a higher value for your property than a less successful remodeling job.

Next week we will discuss more ideas for saving money on a remodeling project.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: Home remodeling horror stories https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-home-remodeling-horror-stories/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 20:08:54 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3890 Editor’s note: Portions of this column were previously published on deseretnews.com. Happy Halloween! In honor of the scary holiday, we want to discuss some of the most common remodeling nightmares: total budget annihilation, the great disappearing contractor, and the never-ending

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Editor’s note: Portions of this column were previously published on deseretnews.com.

Happy Halloween! In honor of the scary holiday, we want to discuss some of the most common remodeling nightmares: total budget annihilation, the great disappearing contractor, and the never-ending project house. The good news is these remodeling nightmares can be avoided with careful planning and a strong project team.

Blending the new and the old is crucial to a well-done remodel, otherwise it could result in a scary design fail.

 

Total budget annihilation

Remodeling usually represents a substantial investment of time, energy and money. The client who stays within a budget is the client who plans ahead. The more detailed the project plans are, the more accurate the bids and the more realistic the budget. Making all the selections of finishes and equipment prior to commencing construction will allow you to get the big picture and consider the complete cost of the project. In addition, we recommend reserving 5 percent to 10 percent of the proposed budget as a contingency for the unexpected challenges of a remodeling project. Architects and engineers do the best we can to anticipate potential issues, but it is only when you cut into the walls, floors and ceilings that you know the whole story.

There is nothing more costly than doing the same task twice due to poor planning and improper project sequencing. For instance, don’t redo your landscaping if you are planning an addition to your home next year. Many people prefer to do projects as they can afford them — maybe windows this year and new deck next year. There is nothing wrong with this idea as long as you have a master plan you are logically working toward.

Without good planning, additions can become awkward and look like it landed on top of the house.

Here are some examples of scheduling/sequencing issues:

1. If you remodel your kitchen in its existing space, it will be difficult and expensive later to open that space up to the dining or living room.

2. You may think it safe to replace your furnace prior to a remodel, but only certain efficient models can be moved and vented to the exterior without using a chimney. If your new furnace must stay tethered to the existing chimney, this affects design decisions both in the basement and on upper floors through which the chimney must extend.

3. Reconfiguring or enlarging your upstairs master bath will require moving plumbing fixtures, pipes and traps. This may well impact the ceiling of the room below. Thus, completing all the work on the main level without considering what will eventually happen on the upper level can either compromise what you want to do in your master bath or require the reinstallation of a main level ceiling that was recently redone.

Moving ahead without proper planning will affect not only the construction phase, but the design phase as well. It is unfortunate when clients come to us wanting a curb appeal update, only to find out they have just replaced all their windows. Windows have a huge impact on the architectural design of a house, so working around existing new windows is going to limit design opportunities. Some clients end up having to pay to remove and re-install some of the windows, while others end up having to buy new windows again to match the style of their dream home. With the proper planning, you will avoid total budget annihilation.

You don’t want the remodel to feel foreign to the rest of the house like this garage addition.

The great disappearing contractor

Our next tale is of the great disappearing contractor. This is one of the scariest stories for any homeowner in the midst of a major home remodel. Being abandoned in the middle of a project is a scary predicament. The way to avoid this is choose a professional, well-recommended contractor with experience in home remodeling. A contractor who is used to building new construction or commercial projects may need a job to fill in their schedule, but remodeling is a whole different animal that he or she may eventually realize is beyond his skills and patience. Make sure your contractor has plenty of experience in residential remodeling.

Additionally, take the time to check a contractor’s references and make sure he or she is licensed and insured. These precautions will definitely lower your chances of a disappearing act.

The never-ending project house

We cringe when we see someone decide they want to remodel and start tearing down walls without a plan. You are just asking for a never-ending project house because the end is nowhere in sight. Planning the project from beginning to end not only involves issues of design and budgeting but also a realistic timeline. This gives you a map and a game plan for the final outcome. Clients are always shocked when we review the typical project schedule. In these days of design TV shows, they all expect instant gratification. We had a client come this week who thought they could remodel the house they had just purchased and be settled in time for Christmas.

In reality, the planning stage takes months, and it should, considering that this project is likely one of the largest investments you will ever make. It may be three to six months from initial project inception before permits are secured and construction can begin. If you are overly excited about beginning the project, you may end up living in a construction zone far longer than you need to or be faced with rebuilding walls you could have saved when you took a sledgehammer to your house without a plan.

Without good planning, remodels have a tendency to take on a life of their own and could go to extreme and awkward heights.

We hope after reading this column you never end up in your own home remodeling nightmare. Remember, planning and involving an architect early in the process is the trick to a sweet home remodel. Happy Halloween!

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: Home remodeling with pets in mind https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-home-remodeling-with-pets-in-mind/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 20:01:14 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3886 When we ask potential clients about the makeup of their family, it is always useful if they include their pets on the list. While goldfish and a parakeet don’t require much special design attention, dogs and cats do. Houzz.com recently

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When we ask potential clients about the makeup of their family, it is always useful if they include their pets on the list. While goldfish and a parakeet don’t require much special design attention, dogs and cats do.

Houzz.com recently published a report on a pet survey it has taken. Besides confirming that pets generally make people happy, it also pointed out that dogs and cats create housekeeping problems with fur/hair issues and the tracking in of dirt and mud. A lot of money is spent on pets these days, with 22 percent of dog owners and 14 percent of cat owners spending more than $1,000 per year on their furry friends.

When updating their existing mudroom, this family took the needs of their animals into consideration in everything from the space planning to the design of the cabinetry.

But when it comes to a home remodel, does it make sense to spend money to design for pets? Well, as in all things, moderation is in order. There are some simple design accommodations you can make if pets are an ongoing part of your family that will make your home function better.

The first area of concern relates to storage. Pets are a bit like children in that they accrue “stuff,” which will need to be dealt with in your home. This includes bags or cans of food, toys, leashes, carriers and kennels, to name a few. The larger the pet, the more impact its “stuff” has on your daily life. If you have a large dog and therefore buy 40 or 50 pounds of food at a time, storing these bags in a storage room in the back corner of your basement is not a convenient solution. If you are adding a new mudroom, make sure you design the space and/or the cabinets to handle the storage of ongoing supplies.

Feeding is another area of concern. Besides the prepared food being handy, pets need a dedicated space for their bowls. Many of us can attest to the problem of bowls placed inappropriately in a circulation route, such as in the kitchen area. Even the smallest bump can send water and kibble all over the place. Additionally, not all pets are neat eaters. They often leave drips of water and bites of food on the floor in the general area of their bowls. If a convenient, out-of-the-way space can be identified for pet meals in the design process, life will be better for all involved.

Some pets can be trusted to eat sensibly while others are gluttons that will eat anything and everything they can. This can be more of a problem if there are multiple pets in a home. A cat may stretch its mealtime throughout the day, unless the dog gets hold of the food — in which case it may be inhaled in seconds. Therefore, for peaceable living, pets may need to be fed in different places or at different levels. This sort of arrangement should be considered during the design phase of a home remodel.

Containment is another challenge relative to pets in the home. If you would not like a pet to always have the run of the house, then plan ahead and create an area in which it can be contained. The mudroom comes to mind, but it could be a larger space such as the kitchen and family room. Wherever it may be in your home, make sure you place a door of some kind where needed to avoid the overuse (or use) of annoying baby gates throughout your home. In addition, some people crate their dogs when they are gone or during the night. If you are remodeling, plan a permanent, built-in space to keep the crate rather than sticking it in the corner of the family room or entry hall.

The materials you choose for your home remodel will be affected by whether you are a pet owner. Flooring is especially critical in terms of strength in the face of nails and water and mud that will be tracked in.

The Houzz article had several people comment that they wash their dog’s paws every time it comes in from outside. Wow! That is dedication to cleanliness. If you are going to those lengths, you surely need a dog shower. Usually placed in the laundry or mud room, this consists of the bottom half of a regular shower, meaning a shower pan (usually about 3 feet by 3 feet, depending on the size of dog) with a tile surround that goes up about three feet, and a hand-held shower head instead of a wall-mounted shower head. This allows for the cleaning of pets near an exterior door where they can be washed without traipsing through the house to the bathtub. Placing the shower pan on the floor works well if you have large dogs that are hard to lift. For medium or smaller dogs, you may want to elevate it somewhat so you don’t have to kneel on the floor every time you need to spruce Fido up a bit.

A dog shower is useful for other purposes, too. With a bar installed above it, it is a great place to drip-dry laundry or wet coats. Muddy boots can be easily hosed off and left to dry, along with soccer balls and camping equipment. If you need to wash off the dusty leaves of an interior plant, the dog shower is your answer.

Other design issues include the placing of a window so an animal can see out without having to climb on the sofa, special hiding spots or climbing opportunities for cats, installing dog/cat doors, and the ever-popular question of where to put the litter box.

For many of us, animals are a necessary and permanent part of our lives. Keep them in mind when you are designing your remodeling project, and both you and your pet(s) will be glad you did.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: Tricks to front porch additions https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-tricks-to-front-porch-additions/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 19:57:50 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3882 When clients come to us looking to enhance curb appeal, we often recommend a front porch addition or upgrade. A front porch can do wonders for the look and feel of a house. In addition to helping define the style,

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When clients come to us looking to enhance curb appeal, we often recommend a front porch addition or upgrade. A front porch can do wonders for the look and feel of a house. In addition to helping define the style, the front porch also serves to add to a home’s functionality for residents and guests alike. It is most helpful to be able to stand out of the elements when you or your guests approach your home.

Any porch adds a psychologically welcoming feeling to a house; however the right porch in the right style can earn you serious points in the curb appeal category — which also often translates to added value.

Many times, a poorly designed porch addition will leave the house looking awkward. A porch must be proportioned correctly in relation to the house. The columns and support beams should be the right visual size, which is almost always larger than the size required structurally to hold up the porch roof.

Overall, the porch style should match your existing house style. The goal is to design the porch with a similar roof line and pitch as the main roof of your house. For example, adding a porch with a steep Tudor roof pitch to your Cape Cod house would not be a good match.

 

In addition to adding a beautiful front porch,the client also replaced the double front door with a single front door and sidelights, and replaced the white brick with red brick boosting curb appeal. (Dan Barton, Renovation Design group)

Detailing is also crucial to a great porch. Think of it as a little jewel on the front of your home. Not only must you get the columns the right size and weight, you must also give them some style. Colonial or Georgian homes often feature round columns, while Capes are more likely to have square. One of the bungalow’s favorite features is a tapered column, often set on a brick or stone base.

Expressing the structure of a porch is done by showing the beams as well as the columns holding them up. You can show the actual structural beams if they are timbers on a mountain lodge or glulam beams on a contemporary home. Other styles may need their structural beams beefed up and wrapped in trim to achieve the right proportions and look.

Don’t forget the ceiling, which can be flat, vaulted or curved. You will have to know the look you want before you design the actual structure, or you will end up with a porch that looks like the triangle added to every child’s first drawing of a house.

Just as with remodeling any area of your house, there are many material options from which you can choose. Timbers that can be stained or sealed their natural color are appropriate to some homes.

If you want a painted wood look, however, you may not want to stay with natural wood with its tendency to shrink and swell with every change of the weather. This quality takes a toll on paint, and may require more maintenance than you are willing to give. If you want a crisp white porch (or a painted finish), look into synthetic woods or fiberglass moldings that will give the appearance of painted wood with ever-so-much less maintenance required.

You can choose the ceiling material of a porch from a wide selection of material also. This can range from stucco to painted exterior gypsum board to synthetic bead board. Each selection should be made carefully as it will add or detract from the style you are trying to achieve.

When you consider other areas that must be addressed, such as lighting, fascia (roof edge) details, gutters and downspouts, porch floor, the front door itself, and even the doorbell, you can see that a “simple” porch may not be so simple after all.

Many communities now see the value of a neighborhood with porches, and they tend to make a street seem more friendly and walkable. However, zoning ordinances do not always support this philosophy. Often the front setback, which defines the area in which a person can build, is an average of the depths of the front yards of the houses on your side of the block. Since many neighborhoods were built as subdivisions, most houses are pretty well lined up relative to their distance from the curb. This means that you may not be able to add the porch you are envisioning. The concrete stoop and stairs of the porch can be constructed in the front setback; it is the roof and columns that may not be allowed. Sometimes the roof can cantilever into the setback slightly, which means only the columns are restricted. In this situation, consider using corbels attached to the front wall that can arch out to hold up the roof. In any case, make sure to check your local zoning before launching into a new porch design.

A well-designed porch should be the focal point of the front of your house, which means it can compensate for myriad design flaws or missed opportunities on the rest of the house. It can be an affordable way to significantly change the curb appeal and functionality of your home. Just make sure you give it the design attention it deserves.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: What to consider when adding a pantry https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-what-to-consider-when-adding-a-pantry/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 19:51:07 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3879 Lack of sufficient storage is a common kitchen shortcoming. A well-designed pantry is a design item that can positively impact your life on a daily basis. The pantry is a coveted function in any home. Lack of sufficient storage is

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Lack of sufficient storage is a common kitchen shortcoming. A well-designed pantry is a design item that can positively impact your life on a daily basis.

The pantry is a coveted function in any home. Lack of sufficient storage is a common kitchen shortcoming. A well-designed pantry is a design item that can positively impact your life daily.

However, adding a pantry will take space away from other functions in the kitchen, so it is important to consider the needs of the overall household while planning for a new pantry.

If you set a goal to add a pantry to your home, begin by determining the best location and placement for your pantry. Obviously, the most functional place for a pantry is in close proximity to the kitchen. Adding a pantry into a kitchen will require some adjustments to the existing cabinetry, at a bare minimum. If you do not want to alter your kitchen, you will need to look for space to usurp from surrounding areas, such as a hallway closet, the garage, or possibly in a mud room or laundry room.

Once you choose the location of your new pantry, it is time to customize the storage potential. Determine what you routinely want to store. Cleaning supplies, jars, cans, large bulk items, and No. 10 cans all have different measurements and shelf needs. Shelves that are too short for tall olive oil bottles or too shallow for cases is aggravating when you are trying to use them in real life. Therefore, make sure you have adjustable height shelving. Measure the items you want to store and customize the pantry accordingly.

The best pantries also allow for visible storage. If you can see what you are storing, it makes it easier to use the items before they expire and easy to create a grocery list. This requires narrow shelves (no deeper than 10-12 inches) or pull-out shelving so you can see and access the back half of 24-inch deep shelves.

You can add fun design elements to your pantry with pre-fabricated items as well. Wall racks, movable bins, sliding and adjustable shelves and drawers all can enhance your pantry and give you storage ideas and solutions. It is amazing what the manufacturers have come up with in way of pre-fabricated storage solutions these days.

Lighting is another design element that is important in the pantry. Make sure you have good lighting to be able to see everything you are storing. Another critical element in a pantry is air circulation. Plan for passive ventilation in the pantry to keep the area cool and fresh. Cool air helps prevent the food from going bad or getting stale. You will also want to keep the area dry. Humidity is not a pantry’s friend. Make sure you consider temperature as you plan your pantry. Try to locate it away from heat- and humidity-producing appliances like the stove, dishwasher, or washer and dryer. With that said, you want it close enough to the kitchen to make it functional and easy to use, but far enough away that such appliances don’t impact the climate in the pantry too much.

Remember, a pantry is one of the most sought-after elements in a home design. If you add a pantry to your home, it will benefit your life and will be a selling point if you ever decide to sell. If it is done right, it is a home remodeling win-win.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Empty nesters find family togetherness in new remodel https://renovationdesigngroup.com/empty-nesters-find-family-togetherness-in-new-remodel/ Tue, 18 Jul 2017 19:47:38 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3875 As we move through life, we need different things from our houses. Different ages and stages bring different expectations, needs and wants. College campuses have dorm rooms because all a young college student needs is a place to study and

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As we move through life, we need different things from our houses. Different ages and stages bring different expectations, needs and wants. College campuses have dorm rooms because all a young college student needs is a place to study and to sleep. That obviously changes as we get older.

Once a person decides to put down roots, his or her first home is commonly not what the person expects to end with. That is why it is called a “starter home.” As time passes, a person and their family’s wants and needs continue to evolve as they become more established.

By reconfiguring the space and adding a family room and deck off the kitchen, the space is now big enough to allow for large family gatherings comfortably.

Marriage and children change the needs and expectations of our homes as well. Nurseries, play rooms and enough bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate the children drive our housing needs. A different dynamic is created as those little ones become teenagers needing their own rooms and areas to study and hangout. Then, in what seems a blink of the eye, those children grow up and leave the family home. With that comes another transition yet again requiring different things from a house.

A few years ago, we had a client that many people in Utah can relate to. The Vernons had reached the stage commonly known as “empty nesters.” They had lived in their Kaysville home for 20 years. They reared their four children there, two of whom stayed in Utah with their families. Every Sunday, the children and their families came home for dinner.

“Basically, we didn’t have a place for everyone to gather,” said Brenda Vernon. “Everyone tended to congregate in the kitchen, even though it was really small. … We didn’t need the big bedrooms anymore. What we needed was a bigger kitchen and a place for everyone to gather.”

The Vernons considered moving, but they couldn’t find what they wanted in the market. “We just couldn’t agree on a different house,” she said. “We love our neighbors and our yard.” (They have a half-acre lot with many mature trees.) Her husband wanted a shop as well, which their current lot could easily accommodate. “Remodeling just was a better option for us.”

The design solution was to reconfigure the existing space to create a more functional kitchen. In the former kitchen, a peninsula trapped people inside the kitchen; the peninsula was replaced with an island that allowed better circulation and opened the kitchen up to the dining area. In addition, the home was expanded to the rear to add a family room that provided more space for gathering groups together. An existing cement patio was transformed into a beautiful deck off the family room. The addition isn’t huge (it is approximately 18 feet by 18 feet with the deck about the same size), but it made a huge difference for family gatherings.

“We still congregate in the kitchen, but now there is space in there,” Vernon said. “There is more space for people to spread out, but we are still close.”

“The great room off the kitchen connects to the deck, so we use that area a lot. When it is good weather, we use the deck as more living space,” she added.

The new family room also has vaulted ceilings.

“We love the vaulted ceilings,” she said. “That was something our architect came up with.”

In the remodel, they updated the rest of the house with new paint, carpet and tile. Now, their home is just what they need and want for this stage of their lives.

“If I could give any advice to someone looking to remodel, it would be do it sooner rather than later,” she said.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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How to stick to your remodeling budget https://renovationdesigngroup.com/how-to-stick-to-your-remodeling-budget/ Mon, 17 Jul 2017 16:30:06 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3871 One of the most common fears of remodeling is a project snowballing out of control. It is true that when remodeling there will always be unforeseen items that will impact the budget. Most situations can be anticipated by working with

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One of the most common fears of remodeling is a project snowballing out of control.

It is true that when remodeling there will always be unforeseen items that will impact the budget. Most situations can be anticipated by working with architects and contractors experienced in the remodeling process, but surprises can be lurking behind Sheetrock or plaster. Factoring a contingency fund into your budget (we recommend 5 percent to 10 percent of your projected project cost as a reasonable amount) is critical to minimize stress during the construction stage. If all goes well, these funds can be used for the last phases of your project (window coverings, furniture, landscaping, etc.), which often fall by the wayside if the budget is completely depleted at the end of construction.

So why do people run out of money before they run out of project? A remodeling project snowballs for several different reasons.

This client is one of the best we’ve ever had sticking to her budget. When the contractor recommended that she replace her front door, she said she’s rather spend the money to replace her kitchen sink. And that’s just what she did. (David Price, Renovation Design Group)

 

The first reason is the homeowner gets a case of the “while we are at its.” It obviously changes the dynamic of the budget when what starts out as a simple kitchen remodel turns into a whole house overhaul. While it is tempting to move into different parts of the house “while you are at it,” each decision needs to be made in light of your total project budget. Unless money is no object, funds spent up front are consequently not available later on in the process.

Planning really does pay off. The more specific you are in what you want in the planning and design phase, the more accurate your drawings (and therefore your bid) will be and the more efficiently the work can be completed. Your contractor plans the sequence of your project. He schedules sub-contractors to come in at specific times to do their portion of the work. If you decide you want an additional light fixture after the electrician has wired the rest of the project, it is going to cost you more money for that light, as well as more time to complete the project.

The attitude of “we’ll just figure it out as we go along” is a sure recipe for snowballing and will undoubtedly cost you both time and money. Incomplete drawings leave holes in the plans that will lead to costly change orders. It is not uncommon to hear of situations where homeowners bid their project without complete drawings and specifications, with the consequence of tens of thousands of dollars in change orders appearing before the project ends.

Sometimes a project snowballs through no fault of the homeowner. There are times a contractor underestimates the bid, so when the work actually begins, the real cost of the project is considerably more than the original bid. This can be avoided by carefully selecting a contractor well-experienced in residential remodeling. However, even good contractors can sometimes miss the mark on an estimate. Architects, or other project consultants, offer bid review services. Having a professional help you review and compare contractor bids can help you save money and avoid accepting bids that don’t reflect the true cost of the work. While a low bid can be enticing, it helps to look at the bigger picture. One client wanted to proceed with a bid that seemed attractive until we identified $30,000 worth of work missing from the bid, which would not have been such a bargain in the long run.

Many contractors these days prefer to work with a project model called design-build, rather than the traditional design-bid-build model described above. This means that instead of waiting until the construction drawings are complete and then soliciting bids from two or three contractors, the homeowner interviews contractors up front — beginning the process while the architect is still working on schematic designs. The contractor is not selected on the basis of the bid for the work, but rather on such items as his company structure and approach to a job, his experience with similar project types, references and a general overall markup.

This markup will be applied to all subcontractor costs, and the whole process is open to the homeowner’s review and scrutiny. The contractor then joins the design team and provides an estimate when the master plan is created. This is usually followed by value engineering, which is the process of matching the design to the desired budget. (As you can probably guess, this involves some redesign as the budget is inevitably smaller than the design wish list!)

The goal here is to recognize this discrepancy before thousands of dollars are spent on construction documents, thus avoiding the cost in time and money to revise drawings at the end of the design-bid-build process when the contractors’ bids come in too high. This process provides much better control of the project budget and is most valuable when trying to keep the project from snowballing.

Overall, planning ahead and working with professionals to help you anticipate the true cost of what you want will help you to avoid a project getting away from you.

Most people underestimate what their project will cost to build. Sitting down with an architect at the beginning of your project and talking real numbers may be a little disappointing when you find out the reality of the cost to remodel, but facing reality is crucial in the remodeling process. Many homeowners find that what they want to do to their house is not in line with what they can afford or with what makes sense in terms of investing in their home or neighborhood.

The good news is that architects are able to see your house and situation from a different perspective and can come up with design alternatives. Even if you can’t do what you originally wanted to do with your house, an architect can help you design something great that fits into your budget and will change your life for the better.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: Key to a successful DIY home remodel is a master plan https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-key-to-a-successful-diy-home-remodel-is-a-master-plan/ Thu, 13 Jul 2017 15:18:41 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3865 By Ann Robinson and Annie V Schwemmer Published: Sept. 4, 2015 Editor’s note: Portions of this column were previously published on the authors’ blog. We would like to preface this column by saying that we are not automatically opposed to

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Editor’s note: Portions of this column were previously published on the authors’ blog.

We would like to preface this column by saying that we are not automatically opposed to do-it-yourself remodels. We have seen some beautiful homes remodeled by homeowners acting as the contractor and/or laborer. Homeowners who successfully do it themselves are usually experienced with construction or handier than the average homeowner, but putting some sweat (but hopefully not any blood or tears!) into your own home can definitely be rewarding.

A few subtle design changes to this family room and office ensured that it worked nicely as the new main level master suite.

However, more often than not, the DIY remodelers’ completed project ends up looking a little less than ideal. As residential architects, we get to see a lot of homes. Unfortunately, we have seen countless examples where a previous homeowner has tried to tackle a remodel or addition themselves and it has ended in an awkward, and sometimes even butchered, floorplan or exterior curb appeal.

While the renovation probably met a need for the homeowner at the time, the solution often caused new problems when considering the house as a whole. In addition, you can often see where the remodel started to get tricky and the homeowner got in over his or her head.

For instance, when an existing electric panel is located right in the middle of a wall a homeowner wants to remove, instead of taking the time and money required to move the panel, the DIY homeowner just works around it, leaving an awkward column or half-wall housing the power panel.

Strange things can happen to the design and flow of a home when it is remodeled compartmentally instead of with a whole-house master plan in place. Never design a remodel without considering the context of the space. Look at how the remodeled portion will affect the rest of the house.

The secret to a successful remodel is proper planning — more specifically, a master plan. Having a master plan doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to do a full house remodel this year. It just means you have an ultimate vision for your house—a clear goal as to how you want it to function now and in the future. A master plan takes your vision for your home and actually puts it down on paper. The master plan looks at your house as a whole and focuses your projects to finally meet an end goal.

Developing a master plan takes time and thought. The first step is to consider the motivation for the remodel. Analyze how you currently live and try to look ahead five or 10 years. Do you need more bedrooms because your young family is growing? Do you need more gathering space because your older family is multiplying? Do you need to improve your organization with better storage areas? Thoroughly think through your motivations for remodeling so the final design doesn’t just add space, but solves problems.

Next, before you tear out anything, determine what you can afford to rebuild. You can generalize the costs by multiplying the estimated new square footage by $100-$120 per square foot, which is average for this area. You will also need to account for additional expenses such as demolition, permits, engineers and architects.

Planning takes time: A year in advance of when you want to start construction is not too early to start planning your remodel.

Your master plan should include detailed floor plans and architectural renderings of the exterior so you can see what the final product will look like and envision how it will function. A preliminary budget should be created to help you be realistic about how much your project will cost. By informing yourself about current real estate values in your neighborhood, as well as home appraisals and lending trends, you will be prepared to make an informed decision regarding the scope and timing of your proposed remodel.

Whether you are hiring it out or doing it yourself, having a clear vision with a detailed master plan will save you time and money. It will help to ensure you will end up with a beautiful, seamless remodel that doesn’t look like you did it yourself — even if you really did!

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@renovationdesigngroup.com

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Renovation Solutions: When remodeling, don’t forget interior views https://renovationdesigngroup.com/renovation-solutions-when-remodeling-dont-forget-interior-views/ Thu, 13 Jul 2017 15:07:46 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3862 It is preferable to see something beautiful at the end of a hallway, like a strategically placed piece of art, as opposed to something like an open bathroom door. Architecture is often associated with how the home is viewed from

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It is preferable to see something beautiful at the end of a hallway, like a strategically placed piece of art, as opposed to something like an open bathroom door.

Architecture is often associated with how the home is viewed from the exterior, but there are many opportunities to impact the lives of those who live and visit there in the views from within a home. Interior views are comprised of diagonal views, long views, connecting views, partially hidden views and surprise views.

Diagonal views

We learned in geometry that in a right-angled triangle, the longest line is the hypotenuse, the line connecting the two perpendicular legs. In most houses, the side and front or back walls make a right-angled triangle. If you visually draw a line from one corner of your house to the opposite corner you create a hypotenuse. Creating a diagonal interior view along the hypotenuse in your house will make your house seem larger. This is a trick we use in architecture to make a small house seem larger.

Long views

Another visual trick to make your house feel bigger is to create long views. The long view is an alignment of multiple openings and pass-throughs or a view down a long hallway from one end of the house to the other. The long view draws attention to the next space and the one beyond that, encouraging you to explore the house further. A long view requires a focal point at the far end. A window works well and extends the view even further into the yard. If the view ends in a wall, there should be an intentional use of furniture and art as well as lighting to provide a pleasant conclusion to the visual journey.

Connecting views

If a room is visually isolated from the primary living space, it is often forgotten and therefore rarely used. This is a common problem with formal dining and living rooms. The connecting view is designed to combat being out of sight, out of mind. If you can see a space, even with a partial view, you are more likely to use it. By making a new opening in a wall or by widening an existing doorway to visually connect unused spaces to your primary living space, you will make your home more functional. The wider the opening, the stronger the connection.

Just as we say that bigger is not necessarily better, we could also say that open is not always better. When you walk into a house where everything but the bedrooms and bathrooms is on display, the result can be visually confusing. Defining spaces and providing intentional visual focal points helps those who live in and visit the home understand the hierarchy of the spaces and appreciate the design and function of each space.

The next two categories explain design tools that can add interest to your home.

Partially hidden views

Interior views should not only make your home more functional but also make it more interesting. Adding intrigue to a house is achieved with the use of partially hidden views, which is often is often a long view from one end of a hallway or from a front entrance. Psychologically, a partially hidden view draws you in, engaging the eye and making you want to experience more of the home. This can be a view to the next room partially hidden by a fireplace or a hallway arch. It adds a sense of mystery for guests and subtly reminds homeowners that the room is there to enjoy. Just make sure it adds interest instead of awkwardness.

Surprise views

Adding surprise views is another way to add interest to your house. These are interior views that can only be seen from certain angles where they are generally not expected. Creatively adding a view of a piece of art only seen between two cabinets, for instance, adds a certain level of appeal to the architectural design of the house. The surprise view sometimes is a happy accident, though it can be intentionally planned during a thorough design process.

You can enhance your interior views right now by strategically placing art and home décor pleasantly in sight lines. Complimentary paint colors and floor coverings flowing from room to room will also impact interior views. Purposefully placed interior views can stimulate and recharge the occupants of a home and a home designed with interior views in mind can connect the family and create a more comfortable, inspiring place to live.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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How to design a comfortable home for guests, residents https://renovationdesigngroup.com/how-to-design-a-comfortable-home-for-guests-residents/ Thu, 13 Jul 2017 15:00:53 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3858 This renovation included adding doors to the office off the entry, so that business related guests didn’t have to traipse through the house to get to the husband’s office (Kenin Bunnel Renovation Design group courtesy)   With the social movement

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This renovation included adding doors to the office off the entry, so that business related guests didn’t have to traipse through the house to get to the husband’s office (Kenin Bunnel Renovation Design group courtesy)

 

With the social movement toward more casual, open floor plans, it is important to consider issues related to privacy when designing your remodel.

When thinking architecturally, there are three levels of interaction in your home that need to be identified and appropriately designed in your remodel, even with a casual open concept design.

The first level of privacy relates to public spaces. These are spaces in your home where anyone is welcome. For example, these spaces would include your front porch and your entry hall. Here you would interact with an employee delivering a package or someone canvasing the neighborhood for a political candidate. These spaces are not restricted and are appropriate places for interaction with strangers and casual acquaintances who approach your house.

However, seldom do you invite the FedEx driver into your living room or family room. The living/family room, dining room and guest bathroom are the next level of privacy, known as semi-private spaces. Along with outdoor spaces for entertaining such as decks and patios, these are gathering areas for those you consider family, friends or invited guests.

The third level of privacy contains rooms your guests rarely see — or maybe the ones you hope they don’t see. These are your private spaces, usually reserved for family members or very close friends. These spaces include bedrooms, personal bathrooms, and back-of-the-house areas, such as laundry rooms, mechanical rooms and storage rooms.

You may notice that we haven’t included the kitchen in any category. Historically, the kitchen was a private space, never to be seen by guests. In fact, in some of our great historical homes, the kitchen was seldom viewed even by the family, as it was a place for servants and household help.

The kitchen moved up to a semi-private space somewhere in the 1950s or ’60s when either a dining area or a family room was opened up to the kitchen. This meant guests were privy to seeing a room that was formerly hidden away. With the current penchant for opening spaces to each other — i.e., the “great room” — the kitchen may now be viewed even from public spaces, such as the front entry of the home.

In a well-designed home, areas are arranged in a logical sequence from the most public to the most private. For instance, you would not want guests to go through a private space, such as a bedroom, to get to a semi-private space, such as a family room. This is why you may prefer to provide a powder room (semi-private space) rather than have guests use a personal bath (private space).

The level assigned to a given room may vary from family to family. In some homes, an office is a private space, used only by family members to pay bills, study, read, etc. In this case, the office could be on the second floor attached to the master bedroom or down in the corner of the lower level. In other homes, the office may be used for business purposes, and people other than family members may need to access it. Here the office should be placed adjacent to the entry of the home or possibly even have a separate entry of its own.

Sometimes a guest doesn’t have to physically come into a private space to create an issue. A lot of times it is simply an issue of visual privacy. If a salesperson has a view of a child’s bathroom or the laundry room from the front door, then you may still have a privacy problem.

Circulation is critical to a well-designed home, and as we analyze a project we often need to focus on the concept of creating a more logical flow of public and private spaces. In the original floor plan of one home we worked on, the front door was not centrally located and was adjacent to the bedrooms. That put very public and very private spaces together. In addition, the view upon entering the front door was straight down the hall into the master-bedroom closet — a very private space. The front door was so awkwardly placed that people generally used the side door, which opened into the kitchen, making a normally semi-private space a public space, causing the homeowners no end of frustration.

To help create and delineate a flow of public, semi-private and private spaces, we eliminated the door that went into the kitchen and moved the front door to a more naturally public space, creating an entry that transitioned into the living room rather than the bedrooms.

Whether the changes are subtle or more dramatic, understanding and addressing the public or private use of each space in your home will help your home function at its best. Good design requires taking the larger view of your house. Don’t analyze each room as a separate entity, but look at the role each part plays in the whole function of your home.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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Small, smart additions to your home can replace expensive big ones https://renovationdesigngroup.com/small-smart-additions-to-your-home-can-replace-expensive-big-ones/ Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:53:58 +0000 https://renovationdesigngroup.com/?p=3854 Small, well-designed additions — just adding a few square feet here or there — can create sufficient space to change the way your home functions without having to construct a “big box” addition. Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

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Small, well-designed additions — just adding a few square feet here or there — can create sufficient space to change the way your home functions without having to construct a “big box” addition.

  • We have talked about reconfiguring and repurposing existing space to change your home and life without doing a large addition the past few weeks. Sometimes in such a reconfiguration, a homeowner may need to consider small additions to make the space function the way he or she may want.Small, well-designed additions — just adding a few square feet here or there — can create sufficient space to change the way a home functions without having to construct a “big box” addition. Small, thought-out room additions can give exactly what may be needed at a fraction of the cost of a major addition. They also create minimal change in the exterior appearance of a home and don’t compromise the existing yard. Small additions are especially effective in homes needing more space in bathrooms, living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens.

    Adding bay windows, which is a series of windows that project outward, in living rooms or dining rooms also creates an attractive focal point in the space while increasing the room’s natural light and views to the exterior. Bays also allow for the inclusion of window seats, which are both functional and aesthetic. They can offer additional seating, create a cozy niche adjacent to a larger space, and provide storage space under the seat.

    In a kitchen, adding just 2 to 3 feet to one side can give the kitchen enough width to add an island, providing extra counter and seating space in the room.

    If you’re interested in making a small addition to your home, keep the following design considerations in mind:

    It is structurally possible to have a small addition, such as a bay window, cantilever over the existing foundation, eliminating the need to pour a new concrete foundation.

    You can “borrow” a few feet from a room or space adjacent to the room you want to enlarge. For example, you can capture the space from a closet to add to a bathroom, which would allow enough space for a new shower or bathtub.

    If you have a large roof overhang of 2 to 4 feet, you may be able to tuck a small addition under your existing roof. If you don’t have such an overhang, you will need to extend a portion of roof to cover an addition.

    Depending on your goals, you may need a large addition, but sometimes you can accomplish your objectives by reconfiguring your existing layout or with smart, well-designed smaller additions. Having an architect assess your house and discuss your needs and wants can help you determine what type of remodel will be required to successfully impact your daily lifestyle. Remember, bigger is definitely not always better.

Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson, Deseret News

http://www.renovationdesigngroup.comAnn Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs. To learn more, visit RenovationDesignGroup.com or contact ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com.

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