By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

We had a client who struggled for years to come up with a design to unify a duplex into a single-family home. This family completed several small remodel projects, only to rip out some of the new construction when the next round of remodeling came along. They felt as if they were continually building themselves into a corner, wasting time, money and emotional energy. All this because they didn’t have a master plan when they began.

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Whether your remodel is one- or two-room project or a whole house makeover, as seen above and below left, a master plan will save you time, money and stress.

Not to toot our own horns, but when they came to us, we were able to learn their goals, develop a master plan, and get the construction finished once and for all. Today they are living happily ever after in their single-family home.

We know there are many out there with similar remodeling experiences. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you identify where you are going and come up with a master plan to get there, your remodel can be full of excitement and anticipation rather than frustration and inconvenience.

As you develop your master plan, 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 knock 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’ll also need to account for expenses such as demolition, permits, engineers and architects.

Also, learn the time involved in planning and executing your project. We discussed this in depth last week, and we remind you that a year in advance is not too early to start planning your remodel.

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Finally, your master plan should include detailed floor plans and architectural renderings so you can see what the final product will look like and envision how it will function.

You may see why some skip the “master plan.” It does take a great deal of forethought, analysis and research. But it is easier than winging it, we assure you.

For help, you can turn to friends or relatives who have been through the process themselves. You can also work directly with a general contractor if you feel confident you can clearly communicate your vision. Better yet, you can engage an architect (toot, toot) who will help you articulate your needs, develop a master plan, and then see you all the way to happily ever after. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Master plans save time, money, sanity