Whole House Remodeling Guide

Remodeled Home by KGA

The idea of a whole house remodel is both exciting and overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you start? Tight market conditions, combined with the recent pandemic, are making remodeling a popular choice for many homeowners. Maybe you’re spending more time at home, and it’s time to finally do something about the flaws that were easy to overlook before. Or, maybe your home doesn’t accommodate your new work-from-home arrangement. Maybe you’ve been looking for a new home for a while now, but there’s nothing on the market that’s just right! Whatever the reason, we’re here to help. If you’re thinking about remodeling your home but don’t know where to start, our whole house remodel guide is for you.

Create a List of Goals for Your Remodel

Organization is key to any successful home remodel. If you’re thinking about remodeling your home, start a list of goals. What do you want to change about your home? Is your goal to remodel the entire house, or just one or two rooms? Do you want to reconfigure existing spaces? Add additional square footage? Create a backyard that will be the envy of all your neighbors? Write it down, and get specific. The more detail the better. Pinterest and Houzz are great tools for remodel inspiration, and a great place to organize your ideas.

Once your list is done, arrange it in order of priority. What are your “must haves”? What would you like to do, but could live without if budget doesn’t allow? As you move through the various steps of remodeling, your list of priorities will help keep your project on track. It can be easy to get caught up in the details, and having a list of priorities to reference makes sure your original goals won’t get lost. Plus, if (or when) you start working with an architect on your remodel, your list will give you a head start on the programming phase.

Depending on your scope and goals, it’s also important to think about where you and your family will live during construction. If you’re planning a whole house remodel, keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to occupy your home once construction starts.

Know What Your Home is Worth

Once you have a list of goals for your remodel, it’s time to do some research about the value of your home. It’s a good idea to know how much your home is worth in its current state, and what it could be worth after remodeling. The easiest way to do this is to ask your real estate agent to pull comps in your neighborhood, and compare how the prices differ based on the level of upgrades.

The goal of this exercise is to make sure you don’t price yourself out of the market if you remodel, and then decide to sell your home. Think about how long you’re planning to stay after you remodel. If you only plan to stay for a few years, it’s especially important to consider how much you’re going to spend and what you hope to sell for. Planning to stay for at least 10 years? Go ahead and spend a bit more money. Regardless of what you decide, be sure to share this information with your architect. Knowing how long you plan to stay in your home will help inform design decisions. And remember, there’s no exact science to this. These are general guidelines and things to think about, but no one really knows what the market will do.

Find Out What’s Possible

Every home has a different set of rules in place that must be followed when remodeling. The city or county jurisdiction you live in has certain requirements that must be followed. Additionally, some neighborhoods have covenants or other rules put in place by a HOA that must be taken into consideration. Want to pop the top on your ranch home? It’s important to know if there are height or bulk plane restrictions on your property that may limit your options. Looking to add additional square footage? You’ll need to find out set-back and lot coverage requirements to know what’s possible. This probably sounds a bit daunting. We recommend engaging your architect or builder to help out since they regularly work with jurisdictions, and doing this type of research on your own can be challenging.

What Do You Already Have?

If you decide to move forward with remodeling your home, there are a couple of things your architect will need. The first are as-built drawings. As-builts are a set of architectural drawings that depict your home as it’s currently built. Some homeowners may have some drawings available from when they purchased their home. If you don’t have a set already, not to worry. It’s common practice for architects to create as-built drawings when doing remodels. The second item is a property survey, so your architect can see exactly where property lines fall, topography, the location of water and gas lines, easements, etc.

Know Your Budget

The research you did on what your home is currently worth can help inform your budget. We also recommend talking with a lender that specializes in construction loans. Construction loans are different than standard home loans, so it’s helpful to understand exactly how they work. It’s worth mentioning that you should always include a contingency fund in your over-all budget. There’s normally at least one surprise during construction, and you’ll be happy you planned ahead.

Budgeting can be confusing. How do you know if your budget is realistic for achieving your goals? It’s not an exact science, but talking with local professionals about the going rates for price per square foot is a good indicator. Most architects and builders calculate fees based on a price per square foot and desired level of finishes. Once you know the going rates for your area, some simple calculations can help you determine how realistic your budget is.

Once you’ve landed on a budget, don’t be afraid to share it with your team. Be transparent about what you can spend. At KGA, we see ourselves as your fiduciary, and we want to give you the best design possible for your budget. Knowing what that budget is upfront helps us to do just that.

Assemble a Team

Once you’ve made the decision to move forward with your remodel, it’s time to assemble a team! The scope of your remodel will determine the size of your team. A single room remodel probably only requires a good general contractor. Whole house remodels on the other hand will require a larger team. The core project team normally includes an architect, builder, and possibly an interior designer. If you’re wondering whether or not you should hire an architect, read about some of the benefits of working with an architect here. In addition, there are many other consultants that you may either choose or be required to involve. We recommend a collaborative team approach, which means selecting and involving the whole team as early as possible. 

Think Ahead: Future Proof Your Remodel

Remember Resale

Be careful of over-personalizing your home to the point that it would be difficult to sell. Your team’s goal is to design a home that you love while also protecting your investment by considering resale opportunities. If you want something ultra-personalized that might jeopardize resale value or limit your potential buyers in the future, there are safeguards you can put in place to help. One idea is to include the infrastructure now for a minor remodel in the future. That way, should you ever decide to sell your home, all it will take is a minor remodel to help expand the pool of potential buyers and maximize resale value.

Plan Ahead for Aging in Place

A whole house remodel is an excellent opportunity to incorporate design features for aging in place. Today’s open floor plans are helpful when planning for mobility issues. Things to consider include widths for hallways and doors, circulation space, entry paths, and stairs. Remember that elevators aren’t only for ultra-custom homes anymore. Even if you don’t want to install an elevator right now, plan ahead so contractors can easily install an elevator in the future. This is normally achieved by designing stacking closets and including the right framing. It’s also a good idea to create spacious bathroom designs with curbless showers.

Be Flexible with Technology

In the past, technology was all about having the right wiring in place. However, these days almost everything is wireless. When it comes to home technology, try to look at it holistically. Our recommendation? Talk with a home automation company about your options early in the design process. This will help you make an educated decision you can feel good about. 

Lessons Learned

Remodeling – especially a whole house remodel – is always an adventure. Here are some lessons we’ve learned from working with homeowners for over 40 years.

Make Lighting a Priority

Lighting can make or break a project. Most homes will benefit from more lighting than you might expect. Especially if you’re doing a whole house remodel, plan to commit to lighting. We almost always encourage homeowners to add more lighting than they originally thought they needed.

Expect to Find Surprises Behind the Walls

Expect contractors to find something unexpected behind the walls. More often than not, there are moments of “I can’t believe they built it that way” once contractors start tearing things apart. Since most whole house remodels occur on older homes, or homes that have been renovated and added onto multiple times over the years, there is good chance you’ll encounter substandard construction at some point. There’s just no way to tell what’s behind the walls until you start tearing them apart. Now, this may or may not create a problem. But if it does, you’ll be glad you planned ahead and set aside that contingency fund.

Plan for Code Deficiencies

If you live in an older home, it might require more work to bring it up to code than you hoped or expected. For example, many jurisdictions now require sprinkler systems in single family homes. If your home was built before that code, you might be faced with adding a sprinkler system.

Breathe, and Be Patient

Several things can slow down the permitting and construction schedule. Some of these roadblocks include municipal and bureaucratic guidelines, restrictions, and processes. Both subcontractor and product availability might also create delays. With the current pandemic, long wait times and shipping delays are common, especially for materials and products that come from overseas.

Avoid insisting on a fast-paced schedule. It will only lead to added stress, poor construction coordination, and unwise decisions. For example, if there’s a specific subcontractor you want who is booked several weeks out, it’s generally worth it to be patient and wait. The person you want and can trust is much more likely to do the job right the first time.

Starting a Whole House Remodel

We hope this guide gives you a good starting place for your whole house remodel. Done right, a home remodel can turn a home that you don’t love into your dream home. Depending on the size and scope of your project, we highly recommend working with design professionals. If you’re wondering whether you need an architect for your remodel, check out this blog for some of the benefits of working with an architect. Still have questions? Give us a call or drop us a line using the form below! We’d love to hear from you. We always enjoy discussing new projects and helping homeowners achieve their goals.

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