Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Year, New Space: Less Invasive {Easy} Remodeling Ideas

Each week for the coming weeks, we will feature ideas for New Year, New Space. After the excess "stuff" of the holidays (guilty: I still have not taken down my display of Christmas cards), you may be ready to organize, purge, update, or overhaul your living space.

While the economy and the housing market are slow to recover, life goes on, and many may find that their current home just does not suit their needs. In many areas, putting a home on the market is not a desirable option, in addition to the costs and trouble associated with moving.

Dealing with a massive remodel or addition can be just as stressful, but as families grow and change adapting your current space may be necessary. Here are some ideas for less invasive remodeling:

  • First, look up: For adding extra space, look at the attic areas over the house and garage. If you want to add a bedroom, a window will be required. Also, check the floor framing. If the attic was originally designed as a "bonus room," the floor framing should be adequate for a sleeping or living area. However, if the attic was designed exclusively for storage, the floor framing may not be adequate, and updating it to current code may be more than you bargained for. Have an architect or a structural engineer do an initial consultation, as they should be able to visually evaluate the situation. Insulation may also need to be added to bring the area up to current code.
  • Next, look out: Do you ever think about how much space in your home is devoted to your car? Unless you live in an extremely cold climate, why can't your car be comfortable outside, or under a carport? The standard garage is a perfect size for a bedroom or living area plus a closet or bathroom. Many garages may even have adequate windows for egress (required for a bedroom). Also, you can consider building a new wall a few feet in from the wall with the doors, so that the garage doors can remain and you can keep some storage that can be accessed from the exterior, for storing bikes or garden supplies (this will require a ceiling soffit for the doors and opening mechanism).
  • Do you really have that many clothes?: There was a streak in spec home construction where the master closet and bathroom are huge, while the house may have only 3 bedrooms, for instance. A large master closet can be converted to an office, craft room, or combined with a laundry room. The master bedroom is probably large enough for some dressers and free-standing wardrobes, especially if there is no TV, or the existing TV is placed on dresser, over a wardrobe, or hung on a wall. Also, how often do you really use that jetted tub? Remove the large tub and build a smaller closet in its place.
  • Treasure odd spaces: Many small spaces can be hidden by drywall, such as areas under stairs or around mechanical units. Look for spaces like these that can be converted to built-ins. A space can be cleared either between the studs (if studs are a standard 16" on center, this will give you 14-1/2", about a foot after finishing), or a header added to create a wider space (consult a structural engineer if you are not sure about this). In doing this, you may be removing insulation used for sound control, but think about areas like the one under the bar counter in an open kitchen. You can gain valuable cubic footage by placing books, games, etc in these nooks.

Example of bookshelves built into the kitchen island support wall. Built-ins can be placed between studs so that no structure is disturbed.

You don't need to overhaul your entire home to create some much needed space. Look for ways to improve your existing space with minimum disturbance and maximum sanity. If you need to borrow money for a project, points paid on Home Improvement Loans are tax deductible.

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