Renovating An Existing Home

To Renovate or Not to Renovate? 

An AIA architect can help you decide. The costs of renovating should be weighed against the value of your house, neighborhood real-estate values, and the availability of other properties that could meet your needs. Many times, renovations are not, or are just barely, cost effective. Kitchens and master bedrooms typically bring a higher return on your investment than other spaces or amenities. When analyzing your wants and needs, an architect might ask: Do you want to improve your house for you and your family or to increase its resale value? If you intend to move three to five years after the renovation is complete, it may not be worthwhile going through the renovation process.

It is easy for renovation projects to snowball when you begin to consider existing utilities, wiring, insulation, and windows–even finishing touches such as window coverings, furnishings, and artwork. Meeting with an architect to plan your renovation sets the stage for building cost-efficiency into your project. By setting parameters early in the renovation process, your architect can help you control costs before construction begins.

Your architect will help you understand how you use the space you have now, and how you’ll use the space you want to create through the renovation. Do you want formal, quiet space separate from common areas, or airy, informal space? Have you thought about how the renovated space could be designed to fit your family as it changes in the future? Have you thought about how the space could serve a dual-purpose, such as a home office that can double as a guest bedroom? Designing for multiple purposes can minimize the additional square footage you’ll need and maximize the square footage you’ll create. For example, you might want to expand the living room to provide quiet space for reading and occasional work at home. But after exploring how your family currently uses space, the architect might demonstrate how the space and privacy you desire is best attained by creating a large master bedroom instead. Your architect has the knowledge and experience to show you the possibilities.

Anticipate potential problems lurking behind walls and floors: behind those walls and beneath that floor can lie potential problems, especially in older homes: plumbing, wiring, heating ducts, and foundation. It is important to consider how these systems might be affected by your renovation and the potential effect this could have on your budget. Outdated wiring may not support the increased power needs of your modern home office or family room. A new kitchen or bath might require considerable rerouting and replacement of existing plumbing. A weak foundation might have to be reinforced to support an addition. An AIA architect takes such possibilities into account when assessing your situation and developing a design, which can help avoid costly surprises later when you are under construction.

Visit the job site and administer construction: an architect’s involvement does not end with preparing drawings for the renovation. As your adviser and agent, the architect will visit the site to protect you against work that is not according to plan. With an architect observing construction, you get informed reports of the project’s progress, a trained eye toward quality control, and even a check on the contractor’s invoices–mandating that the contractor does not get paid until the architect is satisfied that the contractor has fulfilled all obligations to you.