major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

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absolutFinance
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major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

we have a major remodel that we are planning to start later this year. we are finding that our plans and our budget may be at odds with each other. an initial estimate (before construction drawings) from a GC came back at more than 2x the budget we had in mind. our architect was a bit baffled so we are getting another bid right now from a builder he's worked with before on several occasions.

i'm curious to hear from other BHs what things they regret not doing due to adhering to their budget. also curious to hear about things you're glad you splurged on, above what you had initially budgeted for.

we are currently looking at a 400k construction budget but may stretch as high as 675k on a 50's midcentury modern home. we live in a HCOL area. already on our list:
redoing all major systems (electrical, plumbing, HVAC)
new kitchen
redoing all the bathrooms

thanks!
harrychan
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by harrychan »

Are you doing any expansion? That is really high even for a HCOL area. Expansions here in Los Angeles average between $120-200/sq feet. Remodeling certainly shouldn't cost more unless you are upgrading to things like Italian marble for walls!
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.
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Artsdoctor
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Artsdoctor »

Absolute,

This is tough to say without knowing what size you're talking about. You said bathrooms, but not how many, for example. As far as the "guts" of the house might go, I don't know if you're talking about ripping out plaster walls to get to the plumbing, where the HVAC is going to be channeled, etc. Also, it's a matter of how far down to the studs you're going to be taking this (walls out, keep the floors, etc.).

You mentioned a high cost of living area, so your figures might not be too far off, if you're really going to be doing "everything." In my neighborhood, $200/sq foot for remodeling would not be considered outrageous and could be quite a bit higher if the infrastructure will be completely changed.
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

Paid $275 a sq foot about 4 years ago in HCOL area, but that was for an expansion, new bathrooms, mudroom, roof, hvac, electrical, plumbing, windows, siding. I expect that price to only have increased if I were to undertake that same project today - next time, there will be no next time, never again would I want to live through the mess, dealing with contractors, suppliers, etc.
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njboater74
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by njboater74 »

Not trying to be cheeky, but I did a substantial remodel on my house once. I wish I'd just sold the house and bought a house that already had the features I was looking for, I would have saved a fortune.
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Dottie57 »

I had my kitchen remodelled about 5 yrs ago. Same footprint used, but cabinetry completely gutted.

Kitchen designer worked well. He had great suggestions. Didn't push me over budget- did that to myself. It turned out better than I expected. It was pricey for me but made my whole home more liveable.

Don't go with the cheapest. Go with an excellent reputation.
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by radiowave »

We did a new build a number of years ago, but relevant to your situation if you have "bare walls" to work with. Some considerations:

- put a few Ethernet cables in areas where you will be working with a laptop to avoid using WiFi (and the security and performance issues with that)
- speaker cables to a home media entertainment center (it's easy, and relatively cheap to put wires and junction boxes in the walls when the sheetrock is down)
- hard wire doors and windows for a security system, wiring for motion detection.
- consider replacing hose bibs if you are in a winter climate where it could get very cold
- and consider your insulation status, may be time to replace the old insulation with newer and more effective insulation
- insulation around the bathroom for soundproofing?
- put freeze protection (insulation) on any water pipes along outside walls
- put a slop sink in the garage if you have that ability = one of the best investments we made in our new and current house (my wife is a gardener)
- we did a home automation project and one of the quirks of current technology is you need a neutral plus a ground at each outlet box you are putting in a switch (you will always have a neutral and ground for receptacles). So if you have any inclination of doing a home automation project in the future, while you are replacing your wiring, talk with the electrician on how best to accomplish this. It takes a little more work to get a neutral at the junction boxes you'll need to add the automated switch.
- prewire for security cameras, may require some cabling behind walls to a central location.
- add some outside spots in house corners and put big junction box at front door and if you have a garage, wire so you can turn the on/off from both locations.
- laundry shoot?
- heated tile in master bath?

that's all I can think of off the top of my head.
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Topic Author
absolutFinance
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

thanks! this is exactly the type of feedback I was looking for
radiowave wrote:We did a new build a number of years ago, but relevant to your situation if you have "bare walls" to work with. Some considerations:

- put a few Ethernet cables in areas where you will be working with a laptop to avoid using WiFi (and the security and performance issues with that)
- speaker cables to a home media entertainment center (it's easy, and relatively cheap to put wires and junction boxes in the walls when the sheetrock is down)
- hard wire doors and windows for a security system, wiring for motion detection.
- consider replacing hose bibs if you are in a winter climate where it could get very cold
- and consider your insulation status, may be time to replace the old insulation with newer and more effective insulation
- insulation around the bathroom for soundproofing?
- put freeze protection (insulation) on any water pipes along outside walls
- put a slop sink in the garage if you have that ability = one of the best investments we made in our new and current house (my wife is a gardener)
- we did a home automation project and one of the quirks of current technology is you need a neutral plus a ground at each outlet box you are putting in a switch (you will always have a neutral and ground for receptacles). So if you have any inclination of doing a home automation project in the future, while you are replacing your wiring, talk with the electrician on how best to accomplish this. It takes a little more work to get a neutral at the junction boxes you'll need to add the automated switch.
- prewire for security cameras, may require some cabling behind walls to a central location.
- add some outside spots in house corners and put big junction box at front door and if you have a garage, wire so you can turn the on/off from both locations.
- laundry shoot?
- heated tile in master bath?

that's all I can think of off the top of my head.
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absolutFinance
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

we will be adding about 600 sqft to the home, which is about 3200 sqft.

typical remodel costs for homes like ours start around $300/sqft
harrychan wrote:Are you doing any expansion? That is really high even for a HCOL area. Expansions here in Los Angeles average between $120-200/sq feet. Remodeling certainly shouldn't cost more unless you are upgrading to things like Italian marble for walls!
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absolutFinance
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

1 master bath, 2 other bathrooms being redone, a new bathroom being added along with a bedroom. there's quite a bit of work right there in addition to the major systems and the kitchen. all new flooring except for about 800 sqft of the house which has relatively new hardwoods.

we're hearing $300/sqft is kind of typical for our type of home in our area and easily reaches $400/sqft
Artsdoctor wrote:Absolute,

This is tough to say without knowing what size you're talking about. You said bathrooms, but not how many, for example. As far as the "guts" of the house might go, I don't know if you're talking about ripping out plaster walls to get to the plumbing, where the HVAC is going to be channeled, etc. Also, it's a matter of how far down to the studs you're going to be taking this (walls out, keep the floors, etc.).

You mentioned a high cost of living area, so your figures might not be too far off, if you're really going to be doing "everything." In my neighborhood, $200/sq foot for remodeling would not be considered outrageous and could be quite a bit higher if the infrastructure will be completely changed.
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absolutFinance
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

Grt2bOutdoors wrote:Paid $275 a sq foot about 4 years ago in HCOL area, but that was for an expansion, new bathrooms, mudroom, roof, hvac, electrical, plumbing, windows, siding. I expect that price to only have increased if I were to undertake that same project today - next time, there will be no next time, never again would I want to live through the mess, dealing with contractors, suppliers, etc.
did you live in the house during the remodel? we're planning to move out until it is completed.
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absolutFinance
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

Dottie57 wrote:I had my kitchen remodelled about 5 yrs ago. Same footprint used, but cabinetry completely gutted.

Kitchen designer worked well. He had great suggestions. Didn't push me over budget- did that to myself. It turned out better than I expected. It was pricey for me but made my whole home more liveable.

Don't go with the cheapest. Go with an excellent reputation.

thanks - yes we have basically picked one of the best architects in our region. he's helping us with contractor selection and it seems to filter all the way down to ensuring we find good people to work with
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

njboater74 wrote:Not trying to be cheeky, but I did a substantial remodel on my house once. I wish I'd just sold the house and bought a house that already had the features I was looking for, I would have saved a fortune.
i'd be up for that - but unfortunately supply was and still is so limited in our area that we didn't have a choice but to get a "fixer". a 1.3m fixer at that! :annoyed
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Watty
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Watty »

njboater74 wrote:Not trying to be cheeky, but I did a substantial remodel on my house once. I wish I'd just sold the house and bought a house that already had the features I was looking for, I would have saved a fortune.
+1

And it would have saved a lot of grief even if the project goes well.

Have you lined up some place to store all your stuff and where you are going to live while the work is going on?
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by TomatoTomahto »

Everything radiowave said, plus a few others:

In general, our GC was afraid we'd cancel the project if he went top-shelf all the way, which we realized too late.

Don't go cheap on sound insulation, especially between floors.
Don't go cheap on door hardware.
Don't use plastic drain pipes where metal is better, or at least insulate well. I can hear an upstairs shower draining from downstairs; don't like it.
Don't install steam shower unless you know you'll use it; we've used ours twice.
Install shower fans that are silent (Panasonic iirc) on timers
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
arsenalfan
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by arsenalfan »

AS always, very personal and YMMV.

Edit: tailoring it to your situation; much of what we love is minor, but makes a big difference to us - e.g. dimmers on everything vs on/off, and motion sensing switches:

Do Again:
Dimmers on all switches
Motion sensing on/off switches in areas of entry and/or your hands are full (entry hall, laundry room/pantry, walk in closets)
Motion sensing on/off switches in areas lights tend to be left on/you don't go into (kids playrooms, basement rooms)
LED bulbs everywhere (cheap - just be sure contractor is installing LED bulbs of temp you like)
Laundry chute 2nd floor to 1st floor
Drywall, plumbing rough-ins for any future expanded spaces (basement sink/refrig & bonus room)
Larger farm sink
Upgraded interior doors and door hardware.
HUGE mudroom with wall storage for tons of shoes. (don't expect shoes will be off the floor, though!) - YMMV we have kids & dogs
Indirect lighting (undercabinet, etc).

Not worth It
Steam Shower
Natural Gas Home Generator

Splurge, but can cut if too $$
Radiant heat in master bathroom/tile areas you use a lot and are barefoot
Solar (bought, didn't lease; had new roof so made sense).
Instant Hot
Built in Cabinetry/shelving

AS always, YMMV.
Last edited by arsenalfan on Tue Aug 02, 2016 6:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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absolutFinance
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

Watty wrote:
njboater74 wrote:Not trying to be cheeky, but I did a substantial remodel on my house once. I wish I'd just sold the house and bought a house that already had the features I was looking for, I would have saved a fortune.
+1

And it would have saved a lot of grief even if the project goes well.

Have you lined up some place to store all your stuff and where you are going to live while the work is going on?
storage - yes. where we're going to live, not yet. we will start the search once we get the permit applications going
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absolutFinance
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

TomatoTomahto wrote:Everything radiowave said, plus a few others:

In general, our GC was afraid we'd cancel the project if he went top-shelf all the way, which we realized too late.

Don't go cheap on sound insulation, especially between floors.
Don't go cheap on door hardware.
Don't use plastic drain pipes where metal is better, or at least insulate well. I can hear an upstairs shower draining from downstairs; don't like it.
Don't install steam shower unless you know you'll use it; we've used ours twice.
Install shower fans that are silent (Panasonic iirc) on timers
thanks - this is great!
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absolutFinance
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

arsenalfan wrote:AS always, very personal and YMMV.

Edit: tailoring it to your situation; much of what we love is minor, but makes a big difference to us - e.g. dimmers on everything vs on/off, and motion sensing switches:

Do Again:
Dimmers on all switches
Motion sensing on/off switches in areas of entry and/or your hands are full (entry hall, laundry room/pantry, walk in closets)
Motion sensing on/off switches in areas lights tend to be left on/you don't go into (kids playrooms, basement rooms)
LED bulbs everywhere (cheap - just be sure contractor is installing LED bulbs of temp you like)
Laundry chute 2nd floor to 1st floor
Drywall, plumbing rough-ins for any future expanded spaces (basement sink/refrig & bonus room)
Larger farm sink
Upgraded interior doors and door hardware.
HUGE mudroom with wall storage for tons of shoes. (don't expect shoes will be off the floor, though!) - YMMV we have kids & dogs
Indirect lighting (undercabinet, etc).

Not worth It
Steam Shower
Natural Gas Home Generator

Splurge, but can cut if too $$
Radiant heat in master bathroom/tile areas you use a lot and are barefoot
Solar (bought, didn't lease; had new roof so made sense).
Instant Hot
Built in Cabinetry/shelving

AS always, YMMV.
thanks! another great list
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Artsdoctor
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Artsdoctor »

You're describing a fixer which you paid about $400/sq ft for. You're going spend a lot whipping it into shape, but if houses in your area are fetching $800-$1,000 sq/ft then the cost would be seem reasonable.
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

yep - there's a house the same size, same era, up for sale down the street at 2.4m that has minimal updates (kitchen only). it's a valid point but this is also our forever house so we're willing to get it where we want it to be, within our financial limits, even if we get ahead of comparable in the neighborhood. at 2M for 3600sqft. we're at $556/sqft.
Artsdoctor wrote:You're describing a fixer which you paid about $400/sq ft for. You're going spend a lot whipping it into shape, but if houses in your area are fetching $800-$1,000 sq/ft then the cost would be seem reasonable.
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PAW
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by PAW »

We gut-renovated -- down to the joists and the plaster lath -- an 1870s brownstone (20 ft x 30 ft, 3 stories).

What we did right and I would do again: Focus all the money on the infrastructure and mechanicals and save money on the finishes (flooring, fixtures, etc). Those are easy to replace later. (Though I do agree with ArsenalFan on certain items: We did splurge on dimmers on all switches, solid wood doors and quality door hardware, and rough-ins for spaces we plan to flesh out later. We also put in more plugs and more built-in lighting than we need, on purpose. I've never regretted it. That's what the dimmers are for.)

What we did wrong: We stayed in the house, thinking we would save money, since rentals are very expensive in our neighborhood. But the dust abatement and the need for the contractors to work around our tiny little remaining living space created far more expense than renting would have. In addition, some of the joist and structural work just couldn't get done because the building would have needed to be uninhabited. I wish our contractor had told us how much staying in the house was going to cost us.

Another thing I wish I'd done: Every time the contractor said something structural would be "too difficult or expensive" (like steel beams vs wood or double plywood walls vs sheet rock, or sound insulation vs none), I wish I'd told him to do it the way I wanted it done regardless of effort or expense. I regret every bouncy floorboard and every sound I hear from next door, and problems like these are very expensive to fix after the fact.
Last edited by PAW on Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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radiowave
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by radiowave »

If you want to splurge a little bit in the garage, strip it bare, clean it very well, steam clean the floor, then drywall interior (consider insulation if you like to tinker in the winter time), spray paint ceiling and drywall white, epoxy the garage floor or put down industrial tile, add some hanging racks (the kind you get at Home Depot that hang from the ceiling), add some new shelving, workbench, etc. If the garage door is still circa 1950's may be time to hang a new one. And one last item that is worth every penny, is get one of those 50 foot electric reels, hang it right near the end of the track near the garage door opener and plug it in the spare receptacle. And replace those dinky single bulb overhead lights with 48 inch dual florescent lights.
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Miakis
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Miakis »

We did a remodel - full kitchen re-do, hardwoods throughout the house, and new tile/heated floors in the bathroom.

After lots of money, hassle, and time - our favorite thing about the remodel are the heated floors in the bathroom and they cost very little in the grant scheme of things (less than $1000 to add them).

There's nothing I hate about the remodel - but my husband spends a lot of time in the basement and he says it's much noisier with hardwood floors, so he regrets getting rid of all of the carpet, a little bit.

I wish I would have spent a little more time researching our appliances - but we had to make that choice at the end of the remodel and we were fatigued and over-budget. So we said, "Do whatever you think is best, within the budget." Now we have an oven that takes a million years to preheat, a tiny dishwasher, and a fridge that runs like a freight train.

I don't know if our custom cabinets were "worth it" - but they sure are pretty and give the kitchen a very nice look. They were also very expensive and were the cause of the most delay during the project.
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by WaffleCone »

We've been planning to start "this fall" for about 2 years now, but we're finally getting closer.

Our architect suggested that we pick out everything we can "see or touch" before the remodel begins. If you don't, you'll either have to accept whatever is convenient/cheap for the contractor or you'll be rushed into making a quick decision with fewer options than if you planned. This goes for highly noticeable things like flooring, windows, sinks, lighting, built-in's, etc. but also applies to mundane items like light switches, door hardware, towel bars and bath valves. All those little things add up to thousands. Good advice above about sound insulation. Read the a/v forums for suggestions on what to use.

In the construction phase: if it doesn't look right, it probably isn't.

We're in the bid phase now. Two of four contractors flaked out and another gave a 1 page estimate with few details. The final contractor is providing a detailed proposal based on the architect's plan but it's taking him a while (3 weeks already). I would be very wary of sqft pricing. A few of the better bids I've seen have a description of the work being done, materials used, and allowances for bigger ticket items. If it's not written down don't assume it's being done. A detailed proposal (not an estimate) will protect both parties.
Grt2bOutdoors
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

absolutFinance wrote:
Grt2bOutdoors wrote:Paid $275 a sq foot about 4 years ago in HCOL area, but that was for an expansion, new bathrooms, mudroom, roof, hvac, electrical, plumbing, windows, siding. I expect that price to only have increased if I were to undertake that same project today - next time, there will be no next time, never again would I want to live through the mess, dealing with contractors, suppliers, etc.
did you live in the house during the remodel? we're planning to move out until it is completed.
Lived in it, but even if I moved out, I still would not go through a remodel, sometimes the contractor shows up to work, sometimes they are off on other jobs, sometimes the inspector shows up, sometimes they don't. It was a hassle, not to mention the nonsense with unforseen events and conditions that seemingly occur when you open up walls that were last built in the 50's or before that blow up the budget.
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Grt2bOutdoors
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Grt2bOutdoors »

WaffleCone wrote:We've been planning to start "this fall" for about 2 years now, but we're finally getting closer.


In the construction phase: if it doesn't look right, it probably isn't.

We're in the bid phase now. Two of four contractors flaked out and another gave a 1 page estimate with few details. The final contractor is providing a detailed proposal based on the architect's plan but it's taking him a while (3 weeks already). I would be very wary of sqft pricing. A few of the better bids I've seen have a description of the work being done, materials used, and allowances for bigger ticket items. If it's not written down don't assume it's being done. A detailed proposal (not an estimate) will protect both parties.
In my experience with vetting contractors, allowances are bs. Give me the price for the work, I will provide the materials (which enables me to find the lower cost option on fixtures, etc) rather than give me an "allowance" that enables the contractor to juice the price upwards and then make it seem like they are giving you a break or a "gift". Allowances are gimmicks. Every contractor who said the word "allowance" to me was not given the job.

One other thing, once you decide what materials you want, do not change them midstream construction, those "change orders" can literally kill your budget, what was a $250 interior door is now $500 or $700 because you didn't like the "look". Now multiply that by 10 doors, you'll see how fast things add up.
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WhyNotUs
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by WhyNotUs »

absolutFinance wrote: we are currently looking at a 400k construction budget but may stretch as high as 675k on a 50's midcentury modern home. we live in a HCOL area. already on our list:
redoing all major systems (electrical, plumbing, HVAC)
new kitchen
redoing all the bathrooms
thanks!
Suggestions:
• Really understand your plan before you start to minimize change orders
• Tearing into a 50's home and changing systems will likely mean surprises, have a 20% contingency in your budget with identified upgrades to spend it on if you do not use it
• Insulate attic
• Kitchen- make a lighting plan and tape out new kitchen and hold up shop lights to estimate the lighting scheme. A critical location for lighting
• We used stainless counter tops and backsplash and I really like them, but not everyone does
• We bought quality cabinets without tricks like self-closing and built in specialty racks, I do not miss them
• Bathrooms- just finished master with a fair bit of labor by me. Took it down to the studs. What a disruptive project. Had everything on hand before starting demo except cast iron shower pan. Did demo and it arrived broken. A week of no progress and a big mess. We added more lighting with separate switch and like that.
• Like the glass shower walls, still working on squeegeeing them daily though
• Darker grout unless you have a cleaner
• Enhance use of natural light in bath
• Have contractor/architect do a big materials board and really understand your choices. A friend recently spent a fortune on Italian glass tile and when done, they both dislike it but spent too much to change it. They were making decisions based on a single tile, ouch.
• I redid all of the outlets in my house recently and added a couple with usb ports in strategic locations (guest room and counter where we tend to leave things like phones)
• From my perspective people spend lots of money on gimmicks in baths and kitchens that will not last the test of time with regard to value.
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arsenalfan
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by arsenalfan »

Wish I'd thought of/done, as pretty cheap to do when walls are open; pain and $$ to do after:
1. Conduit from your TV/media area to the attic. This is for an antenna if/when you cut the cord later.
2. Conduit for 2nd wifi router if necessary - second floor, dead zone, etc
3. Outlets galore - especially outdoors. Do holiday lighting? Imagine doing it without all the random extension cords!
4. Spigot placement if you garden - think where you want them
5. If garage, larger is better. Storage, bigger cars, bikes, etc. YMMV.

General advice:
1. Agree about change orders costing $$$. Don't waffle on design/major decisions
2. Watch EVERY DAY what is done, especially towards the "finish" phase - E.g. the alarm keypads and thermostats were slapped onto walls randomly - wish we'd corrected their placement.
3. Don't live with it, ask questions/for changes ASAP. Harder to get them back on-site after they think job is done.
4. Think about which spaces you really use, and invest in them. We didn't do much with guest bedroom/bathroom or dining room as those rooms are only used 3-4x per year. OTOH, kitchen, family room, mudroom, master bathroom are where we spent most of our $$.
5. Think HARD about practical placement of switches. e.g. If double vanities far apart, be sure that each has light switch for the light over sink.
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BolderBoy
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by BolderBoy »

Grt2bOutdoors wrote:
absolutFinance wrote:did you live in the house during the remodel? we're planning to move out until it is completed.
Lived in it, but even if I moved out, I still would not go through a remodel, sometimes the contractor shows up to work, sometimes they are off on other jobs, sometimes the inspector shows up, sometimes they don't. It was a hassle, not to mention the nonsense with unforseen events and conditions that seemingly occur when you open up walls that were last built in the 50's or before that blow up the budget.
You are singing my song! I lived in mine, too. 3 month remodel turned into 2 YEARS! due to all the problems they found along the way. $100k remodel turned into $400k! They'd work a week and disappear for 3 weeks. Looks nice now, but...
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect
hoffse
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by hoffse »

We gutted our kitchen last summer. Found a contractor who did it in 2 weeks, start to finish. He was great, and we'll use him again if we ever get around to doing our master bath.

Things we would do again:
-Undercabinet lighting
-Drawers in the lower cabinets. Other than the sink and 1 other small cabinet where we store very tall items, we have no doors on our lower cabinets, just drawers. They are AMAZING, and every kitchen we have going forward will be designed like this. I can reach pots/pans, bowls, small appliances, etc. without killing my back.
-Splurged for the granite we really loved, instead of going for the one that would lower our final cost.
-Vented the microwave. It ended up being a really cheap add-on
-Recessed lighting and more lights than you think you will need
-Dimmers
-Wiring up our butler's pantry
-Paying for "his guy" to build us the cabinets. It was a lot cheaper than anything we found at HD or Lowes, and they are completely custom. He did not charge us extra for installing drawers, either. Any design was wanted was the same price per linear foot as any other design.
-Double oven
-Taking uppers to the ceiling. We have 8-foot ceilings
-Added a garbage disposal. We are on septic, and there are mixed opinions on this, but it's so nice to have a disposal. We will pay to pump our septic every 3 years instead of 5. Worth it.
-Extra outlets
-Big sink with only 1 basin. No double basins. My cookie sheets and large skillet lie flat in my sink
-Made sure that once we made a decision, we stuck with it. We had no change orders, other than our floors. The end result is our bill was within $100 of the bid, outside of the floors (which we added after demo started).

Wish we had done:
-Paid them to paint... we painted ourselves to save money and it turned out fine, but it was a huge PITA to paint around our brand new cabinets. It took forever, and we were paranoid we would get paint on them.
-Soft-close doors. We just totally forgot about this and will probably add these eventually
-Assumed the floors would need to be refinished. We originally were not planning on doing this, but when the old appliances came out there was so much damage that this needed to be done. I wish we had assumed it would need fixing at the beginning.
-Glass shelves in the butler's pantry. Glass shelves are $$, and we will add them eventually, but I wish we had just done it while everything was under construction
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Watty
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Watty »

One thing that I have not seen mentioned is to make the house handicap friendly even if it is not up to 100% handicap accessible specifications.

Even if you don't plan on living the rest of your life there you may change your mind or need a wheelchair at least temporally after an illness or car accident.
metalworking
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by metalworking »

whole house surge protector :D
pshonore
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by pshonore »

Anybody whos does a "remodel" and doesn't go to suppliers and pick out all this stuff ahead of time has no one to blame but themselves. I'm talking doors (interior and exterior) including hardware, plumbing fixtures to include tubs, sinks, faucets, etc, flooring, tile, trim (moulding), and appliances. There are still enough cabinet shops around to look at if you're redoing kitchens, vanities, etc. to get ideas and see the various finishes and woods available. Doing all that stuff will give you a much greater appreciation for what things cost and differences in quality. Then you can spec all that stuff with the contractor. Note that its difficult to do this unless you have a detailed working drawing. And some GCs like to work with certain people (partly because they've worked with them in the past and know their capabilities). I have to say some of these numbers are mind boggling though. I'll bet I could built a high end 3000 sq foot house almost anywhere in New England for $150 sq ft - WITHOUT THE LAND. Now I could put it on a $150K lot or on a $1Mill lot and price it accordingly. Of course sometimes its cheaper to build new then to renovate
Rupert
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Rupert »

If this is going to be your forever home, go ahead and install supports for grab bars inside the walls around your primary toilet and shower.
123
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by 123 »

One thing I wish we would have included in our remodel that we didn't was small built-in electric heaters in each bathroom. It's easier to get out from under the covers in the morning if you know the bathroom will heat quickly. It's a waste of energy to have the whole house get warmed up early just so the bathrooms aren't cold.
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Scamp
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Scamp »

In no particular order

- if you have the time to spend you can source everything waaaayyyyyyy cheaper than the GC or designer will. They want fast and easy for them. They want to feed sales to relationships that aren't necessarily your best choices. It takes time so hopefully you have some to invest but you can find quality products (cabinets, tile, wood floors) at way lower prices if you hunt for deals and make very small compromises. I initially got bids for 40-60k for our kitchen but was able to get everything I wanted for 25k. I just found cheaper sources and put a bit of of work in. I bought HomeCrest cabinets with all the tricks like dovetails and soft close. They are semi custom but cost like half what fully custom would just and I love them. I bought tile and wood on sale or closeout. It saved a lot but is still all top end.Home Depot and Lowes were not competitive on cabinets and flooring. I went to more discount oriented small shops.

- In hind site I wish I had done quartz counters instead of granite which I think is going out of fashion. I wish I had last out some of the glass tile bling out. It is the only part of the tiled baths and kitchen starting to look a little dated 8 years later.

- Other's have said it here but really think about electronics and wiring. Houses rarely have good places to put the routers, modems, wifi, Network attached storage, etc, etc that are so common now so I'd build a central closet for them. Figure out where the TV's are going to go and put 7.1 surround sound wires in the ceilings even if you don't want it now someone will. Cables and wires are cheap, opening up walls is expensive.

Good luck
radiowave
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by radiowave »

One other thing I thought of . . . we had lights in our closets in our prior house and not now. They were 2 foot single florescents with switch right outside the closet door. I really liked seeing what was in the closet to grab coats, clothes, that attachment to the vacuum I can never find, etc. Again, it's cheap and easy when you tear down the drywall and have plenty of access to run wiring and boxes.

On other nit picky thing I wish I had or done previously is to stud out 3 and 4 gang junction boxes. Over time they start to sag so having the junction box secured on both sides is helpful.

You can also throw wire behind walls for future use, e.g. sensors, speakers, etc. Put a good magnet at the end of the looped wire and you can find it pretty easy with a compass and take a picture what's behind the wall before you put up the drywall. One other thing to add to Scamp's post is if you are wiring, especially low voltage and LAN cable, be sure to label the terminal ends and write everything out so when you set things up after the refurbish, you won't be scratching your head thinking what is that wire?
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TXCLGLF05
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by TXCLGLF05 »

We have remodeled the last two houses; mostly aesthetic stuff (new floors, master bath remodels, countertops, etc.). Did most of the work myself with some help from contractors (when they actually decided to show up). The quotes I received from the contract help were outrageous and most wouldn't come down much thus driving me to figure it out with youtube. In summary, the wife and I have learned a lot and saved a good amount, but we won't be doing it again. We plan to buy a home that is less than 5 years old or build a new one with the features we want. Good luck!
daveatca
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do differently

Post by daveatca »

We did a major reno in 1987.
Bought house for $135K and spent same on renovations.
We popped the top of a bungalow.
In hindsight, we should have scraped. But, it just was not done back then.
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Sandi_k
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Sandi_k »

We've done a lot of remodeling, and I've built space out at work as well. Things that have been important:

- Lighting. Agree totally with LED and color temperature, especially in kitchen and baths.
- Heater for the bathroom, whether that's underfoot or in cabinet.
- Storage for towels in the bathroom, instead of in a hall closet.
- Dimmers on everything.
- Double pole switches for bedrooms, living rooms, etc.
- Separate switches for ceiling fans and lights, so you can leave the fan on, but the light off without hunting for a pull chain.
- Place for litter boxes, if you have cats. I have a friend who built them in a cabinet under the counter in their laundry room, another did this in the bathroom.
- Good windows - they'll help with insulation as well as noise abatement.
- Zoned HVAC, with the proper sized motor
- Closet rods that are supported every 4 feet or so, to prevent sagging.
- A place for cookbooks in the kitchen.
- The microwave in an area away from the stove, if you have kids - so they can get snacks without interfering with dinner prep.
- A place for garbage and recycling that's out of sight.
- A place for pet food bowls that's outside of regular traffic patterns.
- Outside lighting on timers that are adjustable for seasonal changes. We have them on our front porch, and around the garage, and they're great.
- Electrical outlets sunk in the mantlepiece, for holiday lights and decor.
- A tuck-away spring-loaded shelf for the mixer in the kitchen island.
- Under cabinet lighting in the kitchen.
- Rainglass style/textured glass for the shower doors, so every water drop doesn't show.
- Built in shelves in the shower, so you can avoid those damn hanging "shower caddies" over the shower nozzle. Make the shelves big enough!
happyhiker
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by happyhiker »

We just finished a whole house remodel and a second story addition of about 700 sq. ft. Like you we had given a budget to the designer, but once we got bids from contractors we realized it was going to cost us more than double that original budget. I then looked at every "move-in ready" property in our desired neighborhoods, but there was nothing even close to what we wanted. So we went ahead, moved to a rental a few blocks away, and hired the contractor we liked best. His wasn't the lowest bid, but he had a great reputation and was available to start immediately.

We are extremely happy with the results. The contractor finished on time and on budget. Things I would do again? Upgraded windows, doors and appliances. The 14 foot bifold door was definitely worth the splurge. Plaster walls. Metal roofing. Fiber cement siding. Spray foam insulation. Moderately priced flooring.

Things I would not do again? We ended up with too much lighting. The electrician insisted that we needed all of it, but now that we have it, it has to be dimmed all the time. A big waste. Also, I would have gotten less expensive plumbing fixtures, because the ones we got ended up looking very different than they did in the showroom, because of how they were installed and the thickness of the walls. When you look at schematics of shower controls, for example, they often have a range of the distance the control will project from the wall. In the showroom they fit nice and tight to the wall. Ours stick out. I have gotten used to it, but if I had to do it again I would pay much closer attention to those details.

A word about landscaping: we changed our landscape plan quite a bit, in part because we spent so much on everything else, but also because we noticed that most of the newly landscaped yards in our area are seriously overplanted. So we took out half the plants and much of the hardscape, and we love the simpler look, which goes really well with our modern farmhouse style. And it requires less maintenance.

We ended up somewhere under $400/sq. ft. but definitely over $300. If we had to sell the house tomorrow, we would probably lose money. But our neighborhood is great and we are hardly the most expensive home in it. Also, this is our retirement home, so we won't be moving anytime soon. So I think we'll be ok.

I hope you keep us posted about your project.
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absolutFinance
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by absolutFinance »

thanks! i will try to keep this thread updated. lots of great posts so far.
happyhiker wrote:We just finished a whole house remodel and a second story addition of about 700 sq. ft. Like you we had given a budget to the designer, but once we got bids from contractors we realized it was going to cost us more than double that original budget. I then looked at every "move-in ready" property in our desired neighborhoods, but there was nothing even close to what we wanted. So we went ahead, moved to a rental a few blocks away, and hired the contractor we liked best. His wasn't the lowest bid, but he had a great reputation and was available to start immediately.

We are extremely happy with the results. The contractor finished on time and on budget. Things I would do again? Upgraded windows, doors and appliances. The 14 foot bifold door was definitely worth the splurge. Plaster walls. Metal roofing. Fiber cement siding. Spray foam insulation. Moderately priced flooring.

Things I would not do again? We ended up with too much lighting. The electrician insisted that we needed all of it, but now that we have it, it has to be dimmed all the time. A big waste. Also, I would have gotten less expensive plumbing fixtures, because the ones we got ended up looking very different than they did in the showroom, because of how they were installed and the thickness of the walls. When you look at schematics of shower controls, for example, they often have a range of the distance the control will project from the wall. In the showroom they fit nice and tight to the wall. Ours stick out. I have gotten used to it, but if I had to do it again I would pay much closer attention to those details.

A word about landscaping: we changed our landscape plan quite a bit, in part because we spent so much on everything else, but also because we noticed that most of the newly landscaped yards in our area are seriously overplanted. So we took out half the plants and much of the hardscape, and we love the simpler look, which goes really well with our modern farmhouse style. And it requires less maintenance.

We ended up somewhere under $400/sq. ft. but definitely over $300. If we had to sell the house tomorrow, we would probably lose money. But our neighborhood is great and we are hardly the most expensive home in it. Also, this is our retirement home, so we won't be moving anytime soon. So I think we'll be ok.

I hope you keep us posted about your project.
Leemiller
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Leemiller »

We have a 50s home as well that was pretty much original when we purchased it. We are remodeling in stages, which lets us cash flow and learn as we go.

The kitchen - best decision was to go with a top, award- winning designer. We took down a wall and changed the footprint. He did an amazing design job, and because we went with his cheaper line of cabinets he didn't really cost more. He also recommended our GC, and we think that relationship gave the GC more incentive to stay on time & budget.

I picked out and ordered faucets, French doors, door and window hardware, lighting, light switches, and vent covers. The high end faucet looks great in our space so I'm glad we splurged there and I love my insta hot/ filtered water by the sink. We just stuck a cheap microwave in the pantry and got a 36" gas range with no double wall ovens. Kitchen is large enough more ovens & cabinets could be added later. Panels on the dishwasher and fridge look great and were worth it in our somewhat opened up space.

Regret - not putting an extra prep sink in the island and perhaps leaving some open space where more cabinets could have gone.

We did a heavy up on the electric, so I had to pick out new light switches for the home and installed dimmers in many places. I'm a big fan of the dimmers. For our gutters we have them draining through PVC pipe vs the black accordion ones.

It is hard to keep the budget in line. I'd have loved to add a huge accordion door to the walk-out basement, but we are trying to keep future resale in mind.
Leemiller
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Leemiller »

^^
Forgot to add, our designer gave us his to the trade pricing on a couple of things, which saved us money.
carruthers209
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by carruthers209 »

Rupert wrote:If this is going to be your forever home, go ahead and install supports for grab bars inside the walls around your primary toilet and shower.
Rupert's definitely got the right idea. If you are doing a major remodel you might seriously want to make sure that it incorporates principles of "universal design." Universal design isn't just ADA or disability planning-it incorporates planning and design for young children through old age. We're all headed in that direction and if you love your newly updated home, it is smart to put these principles in place so you can enjoy this home when you are not so nimble and maybe even wheelchair bound as the years tick by. If we can live at home for several more years when we are elderly, our quality of life will definitely be impacted for the better. Find a contractor or designer who knows how to take your plans or even draw you up new ones that will make your life more comfortable and livable. This includes a master bedroom/bathroom on the first floor, 3 foot wide doors (for wheelchairs), no front stairs or back stairs, all one-level living, a curbless shower (again, wheelchair friendly), room to turn a wheelchair in the bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchen, lower countertops, toilets that are a couple of inches higher than standard toilets (it's amazingly helpful), wide open showers (you don't need shower doors but do need tile to cover the floors and walls), grab bars in the bathrooms including the toilet paper holder and in the showers, etc. We just did this and our home expansion came out beautifully-the house doesn't look ADA-it looks universal design. We used higher end products-real tile, engineered quartz, beautiful carpet, custom stained cabinets, etc.-we're planning on several generations living here and I don't want the materials to look cheap and dated in a few years.
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Miriam2
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Miriam2 »

Recessed ceiling lighting.
radiowave wrote:And one last item that is worth every penny, is get one of those 50 foot electric reels, hang it right near the end of the track near the garage door opener and plug it in the spare receptacle. And replace those dinky single bulb overhead lights with 48 inch dual florescent lights.
What does the 50-foot electric reel do?
SwampDonkey
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by SwampDonkey »

We purchased a home that that was recently remodeled and these were a few things we really liked:
1. Instant (super) hot water spigot at the kitchen sink - perfect for tea, cocoa, etc.
2. Lots of shelving in the pantry.
3. The kitchen "cabinets" under the counters weren't cabinets at all - they were pull out drawers. This made retrieving pots and pans so much easier.
4. Gas line was run to the back patio for future use as a either a BBQ or fire pit.
5. 220v electrical was also run to the back patio for future use for a hot tub.
6. Multiple lighting options in the master bathroom.
7. This may sound weird but they actually installed a urinal in the master bathroom. We thought it was really quirky ....until we moved in and realized it was such an awesome thing to have. Everyone we tell thinks it's weird (and it probably is) but we would install one if we were to ever build from scratch.
8. On the far side of the garage wall (the wall the cars pull up next to when pulling in), they installed shelving that run 3/4 the length of the garage at about the 7.5' height. The height meant the cars could park under them and people could walk under them with no impedance. The shelves were just sheets of 1/2" plywood ripped in half (e.g. they were two feet wide). This was the most useful and practical storage throughout.
9. Insulated the attic.
10. Wiring run to all four corners of the house in the attic where the roof met the walls. Made installing exterior lights very easy and allowed for excellent perimeter lighting.
11. The light switch to the exterior lights that were at the front door and on either side of the garage had a digital switch that automatically turned them on at dusk and kept them on until a certain time each night (we had it set to turn off at 11 pm each night). There was a manual switch as well if you wanted to override it. We loved never having to go home to a dark driveway/home because the lights would turn on automatically each night.
12. Speaker wire was run from where the main stereo would be expected to be placed to the back patio for a 2nd set of exterior speakers. This was an awesome feature and we used it extensively during the summer/fall months.

Things we initially thought were of value but didn't really use them:
1. Under cabinet lighting.
2. The fancy extra faucet that unfolds over the stove top to fill pots and pans with water while they sit on the burner.
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Info_Hound
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Re: major remodel: regrets or things you'd do again

Post by Info_Hound »

If you think you will age in place in this home, putting in support features now while everything is tore up will save you in the future.

This does not mean the ugly bulky handicap bars, there are other models that are beautiful and do not look like assist devices. Consider how wide the doorways will be, can you get a future walker or wheelchair through. Simple things like the placement of light switches on walls make a home elder friendly but does not detract from its general appearance and future marketability.

Consider a zero threshold shower in the masterbath and make it big enough to get an assist device in and out without needing someone to help.

There is a whole industry/field on how to make a home elderly friendly, stylish and liveable. Your designer should be aware of this and help you decide if there are features that work for you. BTW - the cost is very small when you are doing a reno of the scope you are planning.
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