By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
By remodeling one bath at a time, the family in this home was able to balance their desire for two beautiful new bathrooms with their need for at least one functioning bath throughout the construction process.
We’ve talked before about the wisdom of having a master plan. Specifically, we noted that 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.
One advantage of planning to work towards the “dream” version of your house in phases rather than doing the entire project at once is financial. You may not have the budget to do it all at once. Or, you may have the budget, but your family cannot accommodate such a large scale disruption. Whatever reason you decide to phase a remodel, there are things to consider as you break it down.
First, it actually may be less expensive to do it all at once. Contractors and subcontractors have set-up charges each time they start a job. By separating a project into phases, you will have to pay a set-up fee multiple times. This means the smaller the job, the higher the cost per square foot becomes. On the other hand, it still may work better for your budget to phase the project, even if the overall cost is more.
The forethought of a master plan can also help you avoid costly mistakes. You may discover that finishing a family room in the basement this year is not wise if you are going to move a bathroom on the main floor next year. Moving plumbing may require that you tear out the beautiful, new family room ceiling you just finished paying for. Or you may realize that you should only replace the windows that will not be demolished during a master suite addition two years from now.
Construction is sequential by nature, so the phases in a project should have some basis in logic. This may require discipline, since replacing the electrical panel and sewer connection is not actually as much fun as picking out cabinets and flooring for your new kitchen. However, updating and preparing the infrastructure will make the future phases go much more smoothly.
You also should thoughtfully plan where you can stop a project and what cannot wait until a later date. For example, it would be awkward to stop after roughing in the plumbing for a bathroom and not going on to install the plumbing fixtures. Mirrors, sconces or towel hooks can come later, but you are obligated to go a certain distance just to make the room functional.
Finally, building permits are generally valid for six months and then must be renewed or extended. So be realistic about what you will accomplish in that amount of time.
But if you have a master plan for your remodel and you’ve determined the phases to get there, whether you finish in six months or six years, you’ll ultimately get the home you want with the least amount of backtracking and frustration. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.