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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Rain Shower Head in Outdoor Shower

This outdoor shower is outfitted with a luxurious rain shower head and wooden backsplash.

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

Outdoor Shower With Built-In Towel Rack

The luxurious outdoor shower features a mix of stone pavers and mulch for proper drainage. Affixed to the privacy wall is a shelf with hooks for shower essentials, towels and robes.

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  1. hooks
  2. towel rack

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

Reclaimed Wood Kitchen Island With Swing-Out Barstools

This reclaimed wood kitchen island lends a rustic vibe to the space, which also features white diamond painted hardwood flooring. To save space, the wooden barstools were custom built to fold under the bar when not in use.

Remodeled Master Bedroom Fireplace With Green Tiles

Designer Jeff Troyer gave this pre-fab fireplace a makeover by adding a new oak mantle and craftsman-inspired green tile. The changes spruce up the look of the fireplace while keeping it cohesive with the overall look of the home.

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

Rustic Kitchen Island With Built-In Wine Cooler

This rustic kitchen island features natural wood cabinetry with a built-in wine cooler and stainless steel microwave. A neutral countertop completes the look of the island, while a small sink makes it the perfect spot for food preparation.

Mosaic Tile Bathroom Shower with Window

This lively glass enclosed shower features a brown, tan and turquoise mosaic tile paired with chrome fixtures, including a rainfall shower head. A small window offers natural light and a view of the landscape.

Contemporary Blue Tile Shower With Penny Tile Floor and Large Nook

Penny tile flooring from Ann Sacks provides a great size contrast to the larger subway tile look of this sleek, contemporary shower. A built-in nook allows for seating or storage, and a mounted removable shower head can easily be maneuvered in the space.

Contemporary Frosted Glass Sliding Door

Frosted glass sliding doors were added to separate the bathroom from the dressing area in this contemporary master bedroom designed by Jeff Troyer Associates.

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.

Photo By: JWT Associates

Cast Concrete Outdoor Kitchen With Stainless Steel Grill

A cast-in-place concrete base is the foundation of this outdoor kitchen. Equipped with a refrigerator and stainless steel grill, the barbecue is the life of the party in this custom courtyard.

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

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