When Trying to Save Money on Remodeling Actually Costs You More

We get this question a lot:

“So, how much do you think my (insert project) is going to cost to build?”

Fair question. Money’s important. You don’t want to spend too much.

But if that’s your ONLY important question, you’re going to be disappointed with what your money will buy.

When you spend your money on space, that’s what you’ll get –more space. But space might not be what you need. And that can end up costing you more.

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Your house was originally designed with a certain static family size in mind. Three bedrooms. Four bedrooms. Etc.

Families, however, rarely remain static – two children, three children, etc. And then the process reverses until it’s just Mom and Dad again, and an empty house.

In both cases, a little remodeling may be in order, and that remodeling probably involves some new need or new use (another bedroom or two, a home office, a larger garage).

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need more space. Sometimes more kids = more family areas = more space. But what happens when the pendulum swings back, and it’s just Mom and Dad?

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It’s perfectly natural to think that the solution to “not enough space” is more space.

Running out of space in your house usually happens for one of three reasons:

#1 – you have more people living in your house than before.
#2 – you have more stuff than you had before.
#3 – you don’t live in your house the way you did before.

Number two’s easy to deal with. You know what to do (actually doing it, though…).

Number one and number three are not as easy, because they’re related – more people living in your house changes the way you live, but also, as we discussed above, when those people LEAVE your house, your lifestyle changes again.

And not necessarily back to the way it was before you had more people living in your house.

[Above: Mr. B’s dining room before remodeling]

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A Story of two Homeowners.

Mr. A’s family has grown bigger, and he’d like for all of them to be able to sit together in one room – watching the ballgame, sending emails, gaming, pinning recipes on Pinterest.

He doesn’t have one room big enough for everyone to do that, so he’s decided to add a new family room. And while that solves his immediate space problem, it creates two new problems.

Problem #1 is what to do with the space the family was using before he built the family room, which they won’t be using at all now.

Problem #2 is what to do with the Mr. A’s new family room when the kids are grown.

Mr. B has a growing family too, and also needs more space. But when he looks around his house he notices some space in his house that he isn’t using at all. Which got him wondering whether adding MORE space was really going to solve his problem.

He’s also thinking about how he and Mrs. B are going to use the house when the nest is empty again someday. He knows that they’d like a new kitchen, and that they’d like to have better access to their backyard.

He also knows that they have a formal living room and a formal dining room that they rarely use.

And he’s noticed, over the years, that sooner or later, everyone ends up in the kitchen. Almost like it’s the family room.

All of that is a bit of a revelation for Mr. B, and he realizes that what he really needs isn’t to build more space; it’s to make the space he already has work better.

So he’s started thinking about what to do with the whole house, and has decided that instead of building a new family room, he’s going to convert existing unused space in his home into space the whole family can use.

He finds a way to combine the kitchen, living room, and dining room into a shared space that’s big enough for the whole family to use, but also comfortable for just himself and Mrs. B.

[Above: Mr. B’s dining room/kitchen after remodeling]

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Here’s what all of this means to you.

If you follow the example of Mr. A you’ll get more space, and because it’s a relatively simple project, you’ll get it at a relatively smaller cost.

BUT – you might not be gaining useful space; you might just be shifting your family from one side of the house to the other.

And while you didn’t spend a ton of money to create the space, you didn’t accomplish much with the money either.

That’s wasteful, and nothing’s more expensive than waste.

The Mr. B approach probably costs more – you’re not adding space (or maybe adding just a little space), but you might be putting in a new (larger) kitchen, and remodeling quite a lot of the first floor of your house.

But if you’ve thought this through, you’ll have a far more useful, functional, updated house that works for you now, and works for you in the future.

Without wasted space or wasted money.

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The question of how much a remodeling project is going to cost is an important question, but it’s not always the most important question.

Most important is considering the use of all of the space you already have in your house when you’re thinking about adding on.

You’re going to spend some money – might as well spend it on something that’s fully useful to you, now and in the future, rather than on something that only satisfies immediate needs.


Need expert Residential Architectural advice for your new home or remodeling project? Contact Richard Taylor, AIA at RTA Studio to arrange a meeting or an online consultation.

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