• John Johnson

How to Design the Changes You Want in Your House

Once you have chosen your design/build remodeling company, it is time to decide what you actually want changed.  What parts of your house are driving you crazy? If you could improve just one thing, what would it be, regardless of cost and practicality? Which rooms do you spend the most time in, and which do you rarely use?  What qualities and/or feel do you want each of the rooms on your list to have? This may include access to natural light at certain times of the day, or feelings of spaciousness, comfort, warmth, serenity or cleanliness, for example. In order for your designer to plan your remodel, he/she will ask you a range of questions about how you use your house space and how you live day to day.  They will also want to get a sense of your style, colors and materials you want to incorporate into your design.  At this point of the design phase, think outside the box or that pie-in-the-sky wish list. It will be subject to plenty of adjustment before it is finalized, so don’t stress over it too much. The designer may not use all of your ideas, but it may give them an idea that might help them with the whole project.  As you work through the project from the initial design plan to the final drawings and permitted plans, the “design-then revise”process is going to be key to creating a plan you both love and can afford.  This process takes time and should not be rushed.  Expect several meetings to hone the design and the cost into the final design.

In order to avoid making a change out in the field or having to deal with a surprise, it is key to require a measured drawing of existing conditions or “as-built” drawings. The drawings become a useful tool as the designer creates the renovation plan. While they are measuring the structure, they will also do a complete look at the foundation, electrical, plumbing, mechanical systems and any structural or site concerns. Using these initial drawings with dimensions allows for an initial price comparison or Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) cost comparison with the contractors or trades.  This initial price comparison will give the client an approximate cost of how much it will cost to build.  But please keep in mind that it is an estimate and that the final number will depend on what materials and finishes you select.  This phase of the design is for you to feel confident about the estimated cost of your project and the desire to move ahead with the designer and possibly pay for additional work needed to finalize your design plan. You can also add in allowances for specific costs on items you have not fully selected yet, such as for plumbing, fixtures, sinks or lighting. This is a useful tool for you decide if you go forward or pause and possibly save more money before you begin construction. 

Refine Your Vision to Match Your Budget

You have the perfect vision of what you want your house to look like.  But when you receive the initial cost estimates, it can be a shock to find out what it will actually cost you.  But your remodeler designer and estimator can use these estimates to help you scale back your design to match your budget.  This process is known as “value engineering”, where you look at alternatives that will better match your budget.  Instead of the expensive designer lighting fixtures you fell in love with, you can find a comparable look for a lot less money and still look great.  This is a personal decision where you must decide what features are really worth the cost and what is not.  What matters most to your family?  In some cases, people have an idealized picture of their perfect home they have seen online---it looks great, but it doesn’t fit in your budget. Instead, you are ready to forgo purchasing the pricey fancy dishwasher and put the money towards the top-of-the-line stove. Your designer can suggest lower-cost alternatives to you as you complete your design plans.  A good tip is to try and select all of your materials now in order to ensure that you do not go over budget later.  Clients who go over budget on their remodeling projects tend to be the ones who decided to buy more expensive materials and products than initially planned.  In addition to redoing interior spaces, many home buyers who are renovating, decide to also update core functions like plumbing and electrical systems, home automation, heating and/or cooling. This isn’t the glamorous stuff, but it sure makes a home run more efficiently and it is much cheaper to update while the walls and floors are ripped up.  As you complete your design plan, you need to ensure your entire team comes up with the best plan for your budget.

When your design plan is nearly complete, a little extra research in the house will help to discover if there are any hidden issues which will raise the budget.  For example, if they find signs of rot or water damage, this will affect your budget.  Unanticipated problems can range from a thousand to tens of thousands of dollars to correct. If you have to pull out and replace rotted wood, you may decide to not purchase the Sub-Zero refrigerator you had your heart set on.  How much does it cost to remove that wall?  If you know ahead the cost, it can be added to the budget.  Pre-construction due diligence should be a regular part of the process. This kind of research could change the scope of work — and the price.

The No. 1 reason people decide to renovate instead of buy is a desire to stay in their current home or on their current lot or land, according to the Houzz & Home survey. Location, Location, Location!  Forty-nine percent of survey respondents who renovated cited this as a reason.

The Anne Arundel County Building Permit offices are accepting new permit applications online and have a drop box outside of the building for items that must be delivered in person.  Certain county inspections are still being done depending on the project.  When all the design approvals and signatures are completed, the construction schedule is developed along with staging the work area, approving all materials and design selections, paint colors and ordering items with longer order times and other important details. 


Once your renovation construction is complete, you can enjoy your new home. You’ve worked hard and spent more than a few dollars to create your new home, so enjoy it to the max. Revel in the way the light falls across a room and how it changes with the seasons. Find unexpected places to talk with family members.  In the end, you’ll be amazed that your new house is so much more than the sum of just its three bedrooms, living room and so on. It’s the place you get to call home and made it uniquely yours.





Phone: 410-541-1268

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