To answer this question you need to start with what you know about your house. There are really just two basic questions to ask:
What ties us to our current neighborhood and home?
Is our house worth the money and the risk of tackling a major renovation?
Consider them in that order. If there are numerous reasons for staying put, then you definitely have a starting point. To answer the second question, you may need some help. Have a look around the areas where you don’t often go: the crawlspace/basement and the attic. Then call for professional help in assessing what you’ve seen. You probably know someone in the building professions or you can call a home inspector or a crawlspace specialist. A general assessment can be made in as little as an hour or two.
The following questions will help you focus your inquiry. The ultimate success of your remodel comes down to specific design and planning. If you can pinpoint the areas that would most change/enhance the way you live in the house...or most improve its efficiency...you will be pinpointing how you can get the most for your money. Once you get it right, you will have truly transformed your house into the home you need.
- Do we have to move...for work, family or other reason?
- Are we abandoning special friendships (particularly the children)?
- Do we love the area?
- Are there things we do here, relationships we have, that would be difficult to find (or take a long time to develop) in another place?
- Does this neighborhood provide the recreation, amenities, and convenience (to school, shopping, work) that we need?
The ’Bones’ of the Yard and House
- Do we like the way the house sits in the yard?
- Do we particularly love something about the garden, pool area or the landscape? Do we especially love the trees we now have?
- Do we love the view? Could it be improved?
- Is there sufficient room to add an addition or the expanded outdoor space that we need?
- Is the house basically solid and well-built?
- Is the house basically energy efficient? Could it be easily improved?
- Are there any obstacles in the zoning, the house structure or the property that would increase costs dramatically or even rule out some improvements that we need?
The Exterior of the House
- Do we find our house attractive?
- Do we particularly like the siding, roof shape or the overall design?
- Would upgrading the siding, roofing, trimwork, porches and/or other outdoor spaces substantially improve the house?
- Is the shape of the house distinctly odd or unusual? Could it be changed to accommodate the style we now want?
- Will a specific feature, such as a new porch or bay window, significantly improve the look and function of the house?
The Flow of the House
- Is the house entry in the ‘right’ place? Is it properly welcoming to our guests?
- Do the spaces in the house feel too loud, too dark, too blah, too isolated –- or vice versa?
- Do the rooms of the house feel closed in? Is this the case throughout the house or only in one or two rooms (the kitchen, in particular)?
- Are the stairs in the right place; are the bathrooms conveniently located; is there sufficient and beautiful access to the backyard?
- Are the bedrooms sufficiently separated for privacy?
The Way our Family Lives
- Do we need so much more space that an addition to the existing house would be prohibitively expensive?
- Is the house already close to what we want, so that one or two additional rooms (such as a great room or a master suite) would make it perfect?
- Are we as a family ready to put up with the inconvenience and disruption of remodeling work?
- Are there special needs that we wish to fulfill for our children? Can what we have in mind for our toddlers be easily adapted to the needs of their teenage years?
- Should the remodel address any special needs of an elderly parent? Should we be including Universal Access design for ourselves as we grow older?
- Does the house feel comfortable, both in terms of size and shape as well as temperature, humidity, and sunshine?
- What level of overhaul does the kitchen really need? Are new cabinets required or would the money be better spent elsewhere in the house?
- If we need to upgrade our appliances, can this be done in stages? Do we need the highest grade or could we be satisfied with Energy Star appliances of a lesser grade?
- Will the septic tank or zoning regulations limit the number of bedrooms we can have?
- Will our septic system or electric service need to be upgraded in order to make the changes we want? Will the cost be acceptable?
- Are energy or water costs unusually high? Would we realize significant savings by upgrading the efficiency of the plumbing, electric and HVAC systems in this house?
- If we do need a specific addition (a garage, a new shop, a storage building, a pool area, or decks), are there other needs that would dovetail nicely into that project?
Once you have suitably answered questions such as these, you will have established starting points for your project. You are ready to consult a designer and a contractor.