How to Plan a Major Reno Project Without Going Over Budget

Architect and designer Jeff Troyer offers important tips on how to account for budget-busting remodeling problems.

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You've heard the story many times on HGTV: homeowners take on a major remodeling project only to encounter unexpected problems that put them way over budget and and push back the completion date. But that's just part of remodeling, right?

Single-Family Ranch House With Cheerful Exterior

Single-Family Ranch House With Cheerful Exterior

Built in 1938, this single-family ranch house is located in The Oaks, a historic neighborhood in Los Angeles. A picket fence separates the home from the street, thus giving the residents a degree of privacy, while a blue-and-white color scheme keeps the exterior bright and cheerful.

Photo by: JWT Associates

JWT Associates

Photo by: Lee Manning

Lee Manning

Not necessarily, says Los Angeles-based architect and designer Jeff Troyer. While it's impossible to account for every potential problem that may arise, Troyer knows that you can temper your budget and time frame expectations by going undercover first.

"In order to do the project right and to make it look nice and to make it function well, you first have to focus on the bones of the house to bring it up to date," says Troyer, whose architectural passion lies in making older homes more functional for modern times.

Built-In Bookshelf Houses Cookbooks for Adjacent Kitchen

Built-In Bookshelf Houses Cookbooks for Adjacent Kitchen

A rounded square archway frames the spacious white kitchen with a reclaimed wood kitchen island. Just outside the kitchen is a large built-in bookshelf with an extensive cookbook display.

Photo by: Jeff Troyer Associates

Jeff Troyer Associates

Check Electrical, Plumbing and HVAC

When Troyer first meets with his clients, he does an in-depth inspection of their home's electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. He finds that while clients put a lot of thought into the finishing touches of a project, they often don't think about the parts that they can't easily see.

"There are a lot of hidden costs in those three items, and you have to take those into consideration before you go into a major project like that," he says.

Elegant White Master Bathroom With Relaxing Soaking Tub

Elegant White Master Bathroom With Relaxing Soaking Tub

This spacious master bathroom features a soaking tub separated from the subway tile shower by a beautiful archway. A chic glass chandelier hangs from the tall ceiling above gray tile flooring. A black vanity offers a dark contrast to the bright space.

Photo by: Jeff Troyer Associates

Jeff Troyer Associates

Bringing it Up to Code

Another step that homeowners often don't anticipate is any work needed to bring their home up to current building codes. Not every remodeling project needs these extra improvements, but major projects that require inspections often do.

The code requirements will vary from city to city, adding an extra layer of complication. Troyer's California projects often include work to strengthen structures and foundations to meet seismic codes.

"There’s a side of it that when the house is done you don’t even see, but there’s a lot that goes inside the walls an inside the roof to bring the house up to current code," he says.

Built-In Daybed in Guest Room Alcove

Built-In Daybed in Guest Room Alcove

A built-in daybed was created for the guest bedroom, which has a nice view of the pool. Pull-out storage and wall-mounted lighting keep the floor free of extra furniture and clutter.

Photo by: Lee Manning Photography

Lee Manning Photography

Is it Worth It?

Though renovating an older home is more complicated than building a new one, the extra effort is worth it in the end, Troyer says. Older homes usually offer more charm than newly-built homes, and with renovations can be made comfortable and livable for generations to come.

An architect can help homeowners navigate through the trickier parts of renovation and in some cases save them money and headaches in the long run.

"It’s very complicated when you’re dealing with putting an air conditioning system in an old house, and with all of these other components — it’s like a puzzle that has to be put together in the right way," he says. "And that’s where the architect’s expertise comes into play."

See More of Jeff Troyer's Work

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Transitional Kitchen Boasts Green Backsplash

Green subway tiles adds a playful pop of color to this transitional kitchen, contrasting nicely with the white farmhouse sink and cabinets. A large window and pendant light ensure that the room is airy and bright, no matter what time of day it is.

White Tile Walk-In Shower With Glass Walls and Sitting Bench

This walk-in shower has the space to let you shower in luxury. White tile walls are revealed through the glass surroundings. A gray tile floor complements the gray-topped bench allowing for seating. A black shower head and knob bring a dark pop of contrast color to the white.

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

Basketweave Tile on Bathroom Floor

The pristine guest bathroom features beautiful tile in shades of gray. A subway tile backsplash continues around half of the room, while intricate basketweave tile is underfoot. The dark vanity with its beadboard-inspired front is dressed up with metallic hardware and an undermount sink.

Contemporary Home With Horizontal Wood Fence

The second story addition to this contemporary home was made from a combination of stucco, stone and taupe synthetic wood siding ––––all materials which satisfy the high-fire zone requirements in this California neighborhood. A horizontal wood fence and gate frame the paver stone yard, leading to the front door.

Contemporary Open Kitchen With Eat-In Bar

The kitchen was opened up to the dining room and living area to create a free-flowing floor plan. The light cabinetry and stainless steel appliances make the space feel bright and inviting.

Neutral Outdoor Kitchen with State-of-the-Art Appliances

This stunning state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen features stone cabinets adjacent to a gorgeous wood-burning oven. Lush greenery and hanging ivy provide a phenomenal natural backdrop.

White Tile Shower With Green Accent Panels

Green tile panels pop against white tile walls in this beautiful shower. A thin line of black tile borders the green panels, accentuating the contrast within the space. A tiled niche provides storage for shower accessories.

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

Transitional Living Room With Soft, Creamy Walls

This soft-hued living room features a leather tufted ottoman, two ivory upholstered armchairs and several throw pillows in various colors. Neutral tiles frame the fireplace, while an aquatic-inspired photo adds a pop of color to the space.

Mudroom With Wood Paneling, Elongated Bench

A throwback to the 1930s, this mudroom features floor-to-ceiling wood paneling. A long bench provides a seat for removing and storing rain boots and snow shoes, while shelves above ensure that this classic space stays as organized as possible.

Photo By: JWT Associates

Authentic Butcher Block Integrated Into Kitchen Island

The hunk of butcher block, discovered in a Michigan antique store, was integrated into the design of the oversized kitchen island.

Photo By: Lee Manning Photography

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