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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Antique Mirror Adds Depth to Powder Room

Positioned above a marble-topped single vanity, an antique mirror adds depth and dimension to this transitional powder room, making the space seem much larger. A brightly-colored woven rug gives the room a youthful touch.

Photo By: JWT Associates

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.

Contemporary Master Bathroom With Balcony and Soaking Tub

This beautiful and spacious master bathroom takes you through an archway to a soaking tub looking on to french doors that lead onto a balcony. The archway is echoed by the wall outside surrounding the iron railing. The natural light paired with a rounded glass chandelier create a bright, inviting space.

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

Contemporary Blue Kitchen Island With Built-In Storage

A large, blue kitchen island not only offers room for prep and cooking but also features seating, built-in cookbook storage, drawers and a wine refrigerator. A metal chair has a modern look against the contemporary cork flooring and blue tile backsplash.

Exotic Hardwood Deck With Coordinating Outdoor Table

A cast-in-place outdoor kitchen separates the Iron Wood exotic hardwood deck from the seating area in this backyard abode. A paver and grass walkway connects the separate outdoor living spaces.

  1. outdoor spaces

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

Midcentury Modern Dining Room With Built-In Bookshelves

The dining room features a vaulted ceiling with painted boarding and battens. Less traditional in style, the built-in shelving is painted red. A midcentury modern dining set anchors the room.

Modern Rancher With Drought Tolerant Landscaping

The full renovation of this modern 1959 rancher included the seamless integration of an environmentally friendly HVAC system. The landscaping was replaced with drought-tolerant species that blend into the surrounding hills.

Woman's Spacious, Walk-In Closet With Drawer and Open-Shelf Storage

This walk-in closet is a perfect storage spot for a woman. Open shelving gives easy access to folded clothes and other storage while built-in drawers provide more private organization. Countertop space works for extra storage, prep room and even seating, keeping the middle of the room open and easily maneuverable.

Contemporary Backyard Pergola With Glamorous Chandelier

This spacious backyard features a small sitting area with black Adirondack chairs and end tables, and a gray area rug. A pergola painted black and gray and finished with a glamorous chandelier tops off the look of the outdoor space.

Photo By: Jeff Troyer Associates

Bright White Living Room with Pink Accents

Bold blocks of bright pinks pop in this fresh, white living room. Soft grays and neutral wood balance out the bursts of color for a chic look.

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