The Unexpected Costs of Remodeling

Wall framing rotEveryone loves charming old homes in well established neighborhoods. Count us among that group. Long before we remodel a home or build a new infill custom home, we sit with our clients, often many times, and discuss the pros and cons of remodeling vs. building new. We do both for a living, so we have no agenda either way. There is a time and a place for both renovating old homes and replacing them with new ones and each situation is different. Our current project in the Harris Park neighborhood is a hybrid of both – renovating the existing structure and adding additional space – which is a popular solution for growing families that currently own homes close to the city center.

Invariably the question of “why does it cost so much to remodel” comes up. Followed closely by “why does it take so long?”. Well, we will attempt to shine some light on those questions with the next few blog posts. Maybe not answer it entirely, but give you a little insight into some of the challenges we run into when renovating older homes in Central Austin.

Rotting boards in the flooring system If the famed Roman architect Vitruvius was right, a structure must be solid, useful and beautiful. I don’t think he tossed those three qualities out in any random order – there is a logic to it. What good is a beautiful and useful home if it does not sit on a solid foundation (or solid piers in this case)? One week into this project, after we got into the heart of our demolition, some problems began to show themselves. The summary? Some serious rot in the floor system and the wall framing, due to both moisture and more likely termite damage. The bigger problem (in remodeling, when we say bigger we mean more expensive and longer to remedy) was that this home was in serious need of some piers. If our fancy new addition was going to be tied into this existing home, everyone – owners, architect, engineer and us – wanted to be sure that the existing structure was up to the task.

Not all decisions of this magnitude are easy to make, but our owners clearly understand that this was a case of fixing it now and fixing it correctly, or having it cause more problems down the road. They have a “do it right” attitude and they see the bigger picture, and luckily have a very long term view as they intend to live in this home for quite some time.

In future blog posts we try to explain how to solve some of these problems – by adding piers, a new floor system, leveling the home, and improving drainage. Stay tuned.