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.

Related To:

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

See All Photos

Transitional Bedroom With Dark Brown Furniture

This bedroom provides a stunning contrast by pairing dark brown wood furniture with white walls and carpet. A brown leather chest sits at the food of the bed, providing storage and a place for decorative accents, like framed photos. A white window seat with drawers offers a relaxing spot.

Sophisticated Contemporary Living Room With Inset Fireplace

This cozy living room features a brown leather sofa with striped throw pillows and a brown faux fur throw. Black wood panels enclose an inset fireplace, while a framed black and white photograph hangs above the sofa, adding an artistic touch to the space.

Contemporary Black-and-White Foyer Lighting

The foyer features chic black-and-white pendant lights that hang from the ceiling at various lengths. A large window offers natural light and a view of the second story balcony.

Backyard Spa Area With Teak Deck

This backyard spa area features a vibrant blue-tiled pool and hot tub surrounded by a gray stone wall and lush tropical plants. The teak deck and a matching bench complete the look of the space.

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

Ivory Paneled Bathroom With Marble Bathtub

This neutral toned bathroom features ivory wall paneling, a gray and white mosaic floor tile and glass enclosed shower. The drop-in bathtub is framed in Carrara marble, while an aquatic inspired photo finishes off the look of the space.

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.

Wood Tones are Mixed in Contemporary Bathroom

Two tones of wood are mixed for high impact in this luxe bathroom. The contemporary pale wood vanity is offset by the warm wood accent wall and glitzy metallic fixtures.

Porthole Window in Walk-In Shower

The bathroom was reworked to include a separate walk-in shower and tub. A porthole window was installed in the shower for natural light.

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

Keep Reading

Next Up

"Skinnylap" + More Hints of What's to Come in Fixer Upper Season 4

Fixer Upper's fourth season is shooting now and, as reported by Joanna in a filming update from the Magnolia Market blog, you can expect some new and different things in the coming episodes.

The Easiest Way to Update Your Kitchen Without Remodeling

Breathe new life into dated cabinets with a fresh coat of paint.

6 Design Tips to Steal From John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino's Home Kitchens

HGTV's Cousins share their tips for everyone's favorite room.

HGTV's Property Brothers and Cousins Go Face to Face

Jonathan and Drew Scott take on John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino in a special episode of Family Feud.

A Must-See Fixer Upper Reno: Rustic Barn Doors, and a Barn to Go With Them

Call it alternative country: In this new 'Fixer Upper' makeover, Chip and Joanna Gaines take on one of their most unusual and distinctive renovation projects yet: a full-blown barn-to-home conversion.

Your Best Ideas: How to Display a Collection Without Looking Like a Hoarder

Don't confuse a collection for clutter. When displayed the right way, the things you love can make an artful statement in your home.

Can't Move to Waco for Your Own 'Fixer Upper' Reno? This Is the Next Best Thing

Admit it: You've thought about moving cross-country for a chance to get a Chip and Joanna home makeover. Here's another option. 

Wine + Junk Food Pairings: Find Out Which Snacks Go Great With Your Favorite Glass

When cheese just won’t do the trick – try tater tots!

Go Behind the Curtain: 41 Sneak Peek Photos From Fixer Upper Season 3

You don't have to wait until December 1! Get a sneak peek of season 3 right now.

Meet the Team

Get to know the talented writers and editors of HGTV's show and design blog. 

Go Behind the Blog

From the Archives

Take a look back at our past posts, from entertaining and design trends to up-and-coming HGTV shows.  

Read All Our Past Posts