What could you do with $150,000? You could buy a small, modest home in some communities. You could sell your home and move to a larger home. Or you could redesign and personalize your current home so that, although it will appear average on the outside, looking undistinguished from the neighbours’, there is absolutely nothing average about the interior once the work is complete.
Exactly what sort of project are we talking about? Interior renovations and redesign with minimal, if any, work being done to the exterior of the home. Most often such a project will include all the areas that make up the “entertaining zones” of a house – kitchen, dining room, living room, entry, hallway, and a powder room or washroom – basically just the areas that guests would definitely see. Sometimes these projects also include the staircase, and depending on the scope of the space planning changes and original layout of the house, some slight modifications to the bedrooms may come about as well. More often than not, these projects involve structural work, plumbing, electrical, and tons of finishing work.
Usually when such a major project is undertaken, part of the purpose is to create a more open-concept space within the existing exterior walls. Although it is easy to presume that fewer walls equates to fewer costs, this is a major misconception when it comes to renovations, because there are many more issues that have to be addressed:
· Chances are that at least one wall to be removed is currently load bearing (structural). The load will have to be temporarily supported until the new permanent structural elements are properly in place. A consultant (structural engineer or similar) should be involved.
· In many municipalities, a permit is not required for a simple renovation, but the minute you start touching anything structural a permit becomes a mandatory acquisition and expense – not to mention a potential delay if the application was not submitted early enough. Check with your municipality for specific details concerning timing, cost, necessity, and other pertinent information.
· When you demolish a wall, you are left with a damaged area of flooring which usually necessitates replacing the entire floor. On occasion you can get away with installing a coordinating or contrasting inlay of another flooring material, but this tends to cost in labour alone what a whole new installed floor would cost.
· Demolishing a wall also creates the need for repair on the ceiling and on any adjoining perpendicular walls. Although not an expensive fix, it is certainly costlier than just plastering a few nail holes or other imperfections.
· Electrical wiring, outlets and light switches all have to be rewired and relocated.
· Pipes, plumbing stacks, ventilation conduits, ducting, and the like, all have to be relocated to be concealed within floor/ceiling constructions and within walls that will remain.
As with any renovation project, labour accounts for approximately 30% of the total budget. Consultants’ fees (designers, engineers, etc.) and contingencies (unforeseen circumstances) are both higher for this scope of work than for a simple renovation project.
What motivates homeowners to go to this extreme with interior redesign and renovations? There is actually no typical homeowner profile for projects of this scale. Sometimes a house has been purchased inexpensively and putting a large amount of money into renovations would still be within the purchaser’s budget and not bring the total too far over the market value. Other times a family has lived in the home for many years, the mortgage is either paid off or now quite low, and they just can’t imagine moving, so major renovations are the best solution to meet their changing needs. Sometimes such projects come about due to physical needs; major renovations are often required to make a home fully usable to someone in a wheelchair who wants to maintain their independence. It is also common that an older parent moves in with his/her adult child and their family – in this case renovations would be done to facilitate both added privacy and improved family space. The reasoning behind investing so much into a home is completely based on personal and/or family-life lifestyles and dynamics, budget and finances, changing needs, a love of the home and its location, and so much more.
The implications of such a major redesign on a home vary as much as people’s reasons for taking on such projects in the first place. Depending on both the specifics of your project, and the community in which your home is located, the value of your home may increase by about as much as the budget of the project, or as little as about 25% of the value of the renovation. Property values could be discussed with a knowledgeable and experienced local real estate agent prior to commencing the project. It is important to remember which information the real estate agent can provide that is of value to you – it is not in a real estate agent’s field of expertise to counsel you concerning wood species for cabinetry, and his/her personal opinions should be taken exactly as such. However, you will want to listen to his/her point-of-view concerning the benefits or negative implications of things such as creating a huge washroom vs. a walk-in closet for the master bedroom, or a home theater room vs. a larger kitchen with a cozier family room. But in the end, it is your needs from your home and space that should have the final word on how the project unfolds. Possible implications extend beyond resale value. Also on those lines though, are property taxes and ease of sell-ability. Even if you are increasing your home’s value by $75,000, there is a chance that it will take longer to find the right buyer should you ever decide to sell – it is sometimes a bit of a challenge to sell a home priced significantly higher than others in a neighbourhood, no matter the justification for the price.
One implication of large-scale redesign projects, which has to be taken into account during the design phase, is temperature control. Especially if you are opening-up the floor plan, you will want to keep in mind that the walls you have now play a role in stopping cold air from the front door from blowing straight through to the back of your home. In summer months, the walls prevent hot sunlight from reaching areas from all sides. How sound travels through your home will also be affected with fewer walls present. Your requirements from your kitchen ventilation might also have to be reevaluated. If you have any young children, or pets, you may find it more difficult to restrict them from certain areas (such as the kitchen when the oven is hot) without walls or doorways. At the same time though, you will have better visibility of your home from almost any given area. Communication with a family member from the next room will be effortless. The sense of isolation that often comes with being in the kitchen to prepare a meal will be a thing of the past.
With little effort, you can prepare a list pages-long of the pros and cons of open concept floor plans, and major redesign projects in general. Everyone you speak to will have strong opinions about your project, its goals, and the alternatives available to you. Keep in mind that others’ preferences do not affect how you and your family use your home; some of us function at our best with smaller but more numerous rooms, while others thrive in open space. The only way to ensure that a project of this scale will be all that you dream of and more, is to hire the proper professionals… interior designers, engineers, general contractors, or others, early enough in the planning phases. Before committing yourself to a contract with anyone whom you will have to work closely with, make sure that the right “chemistry” exists between you – your input and questions should be welcomed by them, and their responses and reactions to you should give you a sense of confidence.