Remodeling projects are on the rise. This is in contrast to the decline in housing starts in the Flathead Valley (down 44% from last year). While the reasons for remodeling are varied some folks are finding that it’s the perfect solution for creating their dream home out of an already existing structure. With real estate prices stagnant, buyers are discovering attractive deals on prime property residences and using that savings to remodel their purchases to suit their specific needs. Often this can be done for less than the cost and time of new construction.
Some of the main reasons people choose to remodel include:
Kitchen and Bath Improvements-These two rooms are the most commonly remodeled areas of the home. Improving floor plans, replacing out-dated cabinetry, countertops, appliances, and other materials can have a huge impact on the overall feel of your home not to mention its market value.
Upgrade/Update Efficiency-New mechanical systems often improve fuel and heating efficiency especially when paired with modern windows and insulation. Some builders utilize Blower Door Air Tightness Tests as well as Thermal Imaging to gauge the actual performance of a home’s efficiency.
Improve Indoor Environment-Remodeling can insure proper air exchange, control humidity and air quality, remove or seal lead paint, asbestos and other toxic materials in your home. Materials such as plywood, carpet, foam insulation, and cabinetry often contain hazardous materials and “out-gas” these toxins into your home. The use of low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) materials, along with proper air exchange, can provide you with a more environmentally safe home and reduce toxic emissions.
Adding-On and/or Improving the Overall Floor Plan-With a little ingenuity, a home can be completely transformed by altering even just a few aspects of the existing floor-plan. Changing rooflines, adding a second story or main floor addition, and/or upgrading interior and exterior finishes can add value, comfort, and beauty to your home.
If you’re considering pursuing a remodeling project there are several key factors that can affect the ultimate success of your endeavor. Below are a few suggestions for making your experience both positive and rewarding. First and foremost, what exactly do you wish to accomplish? By clearly stating your aims (additional square footage, modernization, total makeover, efficiency upgrades) you can then begin to address your project with an architect and builder.
Choosing the right professionals-When you hire a builder for your remodeling project you’re buying a service not a product. That service is crucial to the final outcome of the project and how you’ll view your home in the end. Unfortunately, the most frequently asked questions when interviewing a builder are often the least revealing. Instead of starting off with, “When can you start? When will you finish? How much per square foot?” you’ll learn more about a builder’s aptitude by asking, “How long have you been in business? What is your approach to this type of project? How often will you, the builder I may hire, actually be on site? Will employees or subcontractors be doing the work? Do you belong to any professional organizations? Have you earned any awards or other recognition in your industry?” Ask to visit recent as well as older projects so you can see firsthand the craftsmanship of the homes and how they hold up over time. Talk with the homeowners. What do they have to say about the builder, his crew, and the final result? If you’ll be living in the home during the remodel project consider that your builder is someone with whom you’ll be in contact almost daily. A good working report is essential.
Hire an architect. It’s worth it. An architect can add a whole new dimension of character to your home. Talk to architects and builders simultaneously. By doing so, you open up the lines of communication and creativity and allow for input early on when it’s most critical. Your builder and architect can work together to help you refine your vision, realize what you’re trying to accomplish, formalize a budget, and ensure that the design matches your expectations.
Site Feasibility Inspection/Pre-Construction Work-Your architect and builder will need to do a thorough site inspection to determine if and how your current structure lends itself to your plans. Is the current foundation capable of supporting a second story addition? Can the current mechanical systems handle additional square footage? Will the septic systems need to be updated or moved? Is the electrical service adequate to handle additional lighting or mechanical systems? A destructive inspection may be necessary to determine these and other essential questions. Once your inspection is complete your architect and builder can help you determine the project’s feasibility and how to proceed from there.
Be Patient and Realistic with the Timeline While Maintaining High Standards for Quality-An organized, efficient builder will have systems in place for ensuring the project stays on schedule. It’s no simple task to co-ordinate various subcontractors far enough in advance to get on their schedule without interrupting the flow of work. But it’s done. When hiring a builder look for one that doesn’t just appear to be organized but actually has a tangible system in place for keeping the project on track. That said, be realistic. There may be delays beyond anyone’s control. Be prepared to do site visits at various phases of construction-during the demo, once the framing is in, after additions or changes to the original plans and during material, fixture, and appliance selection. Things look different on paper than in the actual environment. A mid-construction walk-thru can inspire unforeseen changes and/or provide positive reassurance about the project’s direction.
Brad Reedstrom and Andy Fischer co-founded Bigfork Builders in 1992. The pair belongs to the National Association of Home Builders, the Flathead Building Association, and the NAHB Builder 20 Group, an invitation-only professional networking group of 20 award-winning custom home builders from around the country. They are among the first of Montana builders to earn the Certified Green Professional designation from the National Association of Home Builders.
On the local level, Brad and Andy work diligently to maintain their reputation for providing superior service and craftsmanship while developing lasting relationships with homeowners and subcontractors alike. Their award winning homes have been showcased in several national publications including Architectural Digest, Mountain Living, Cowboys & Indians, and Timber Home Living.