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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White Traditional Shower With Blue Tile Accent

This traditional white tile shower features a blue patterned accent trim near the large mounted shower head. The white tile extends from the ceiling to the white bathtub. A small indented cubby provides built-in storage for soap and other bath accessories.

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

Colonial Refresher: Shutters & Lantern on Front of the House

The front of the house was revived with Colonial charm thanks to a new front door and black shutters.

Photo By: Lee Manning Photography

Enclosed Backyard With Above-Ground Hot Tub & Fire Wall

The client’s wish list packed a lot into a 15' x 32' enclosed backyard: a dining area, firepit, grill, six-person spa, seating area and outdoor shower. The solution executed by Jeff Troyer Associates was an exotic hardwood deck and fire wall with a mini outdoor kitchen separating the deck from the hot tub.

Dove Gray Vanity With Beadboard Paneling

The vanity features custom millwork with beadboard inset panels. Marble tile and metallic fixtures complete the pristine look.

Photo By: Lee Manning Photography

Neutral Midcentury Living Room With Leather Ottoman

This friendly family room was formerly the house's foyer and it went largely unused. The designers removed an exterior door, and centered the focus on the fireplace and new built-in shelves. The homeowners now spend time in this room every day.

Backyard With Cement Paver Pathway

A tall stone wall framed by lush green plants and trees offers privacy to this backyard area. Square cement paver stones create a pathway and patio-like area in the grass.

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  1. outdoor spaces

Photo By: Lee Manning

Luxurious Spa Bathroom With Rain Shower

Sleek subway tile, gold fixtures and a large rain shower would make anyone long for this luxurious spa bathroom. Where white tile keeps the space clean and bright, the rain shower ensures that the stall is entirely relaxing.

Chic Blue Kitchen With Subway Tile Backsplash and Cork Floor

A backsplash of blue and pale yellow subway tile complements the dark gray countertops while bringing in pops of color. A mix of white and blue cabinets add contrast to the space, while a cork floor provides a unique textural element in this transitional kitchen.

Pergola Bridges New & Old

The painted wood pergola helps to connect the two-story addition to the original home, creating a lovely outdoor space overlooking the lawn and pool.

Photo By: Lee Manning Photography

Sleek Contemporary Kitchen With Black Cabinetry

This sleek and spacious kitchen features white limestone floors paired with black cabinets and neutral countertops. A mosaic tile gray backsplash adds a bit of texture to the space and continues over to the wall that frames a large stainless steel refrigerator. A skylight provides a touch of natural light.

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