For the fourth year, Jim Burton Architects was chosen as Best of HOUZZ, in the Design Category. Thanks!
This was an addition and remodel of a one-story house in the Magnolia neighborhood. The structurally unstable east wing of the existing house was demolished, and replaced by a two-story addition. The west portion of the house was retained, and incorporated into the new design. A new stair separates the two halves.
The addition contains a family room, powder, and laundry on the first floor, and three bedrooms, two baths upstairs. The master suite has new views of Puget Sound. The existing kitchen, dining and living room areas were left relatively untouched, to keep within a limited budget. The existing one-story portion that remained was re-roofed and re-sided to match the updated style of the addition. The HVAC system was replaced with an energy efficient hydronic system, with a heat-recovery ventilator for fresh air.
The steel stair railing was fabricated by the architect.
After an extended hiatus, doing large commercial projects, I’m back doing residential design. I’ll follow up this post to show some recently completed new projects. In the meantime…
This past summer my family spent several weeks in Europe, mostly Italy. While there I was reminded of the time I spent studying in Rome, many years ago. I spent two semesters there in grad school, and much of the time was spent sketching. We made many field trips, around Rome, and across Italy, always with our sketchbooks in hand. I regretted not thinking to bring a sketchbook with me on this recent trip, but resolved to begin sketching again when I returned home (and I actually have)!
Here are some sketches (and a couple of more finished drawings) from back then:
See article here:
Budgeting is an important concern on any project. By starting out with reasonable goals, understanding what you want from the project, keeping some important ideas in mind, and developing realistic cost estimates from the start (and revisiting these as the design progresses), you should be in good shape.
First of all, think through your reasons for taking on the project. Are you adding needed square footage? Increasing functionality? Making aesthetic improvements? Wanting to add value to home? Understanding your own goals can help make decisions about budgeting easier.
What is the smallest project that will achieve your goals? Ask yourself what project will have the most value to you – i.e. give you what you want in the most cost-effective manner. Is it a minor remodel (mostly cosmetic improvements)? Is it a major remodel (involving opening up floor plan, new kitchen, etc.)? Is it an addition, perhaps as part of a remodel? Or is it a total tear-down (or I should say, deconstruction) and new building?
Think through what your budget is, and remember to consider not just Construction Cost but Project Cost. The Project Cost includes professional fees (architect, consultants etc.), permit fees, bank fees, insurance, in addition to the cost of construction.
Be realistic – account for reasonable costs to estimate your budget. I had a potential client who came to me wanting to do a full second story addition for $40K – and wanted to have it completed (designed, permitted & built) in 4 months!
Some homeowners try to hide (low-ball) their true budget from a contractor, thinking this strategy will lead to a lower cost estimate. I believe it’s better to be up front from the start about what the actual budget is, and then develop a team that works together to respect (and meet) that budget.
It’s always wise to include a contingency in your budget (5-10%). This is especially true in a remodel, where you often don’t discover issues until the existing walls are opened up. A contingency has the benefit of making you feel more at ease entering into a project, and can allow you to splurge on some things further into the project.
Rarely does a client’s initial budget equal the initial construction cost estimate. And guess what? – usually the former is lower than the latter. On most projects there is some juggling of the elements of the project – the budget, scope, or schedule. For example, often the clients have to raise their budget to achieve their goals and program, or if their budget is set in stone, the scope has to be reduced.
Ballpark S.F. Costs
To estimate construction cost early on in a project, the easiest way is to apply typical square foot costs. Numbers I often use are:
New construction = $225-275/s.f.;
Major remodel = $150-225+/s.f;
Minor remodel = $100-150/s.f.
On an addition project, remember to account not just for the new construction, but also the cost of work to the existing parts of the project. For example, in a full second story addition, don’t assume the construction cost only includes the area of the addition, times the new construction factor. There will be significant costs to the existing portions of the house too, where the structure to support the new second story needs to come through to reach the foundation, to connect new to existing plumbing, electrical, mechanical systems etc, in addition to new stairs the reach the second floor.
Strategies to Control Costs
Think small – the best way to control budget is by reducing the size and scope of your project. Often rooms can be combined to serve more than one function – an office can act as a spare bedroom when needed, or the laundry can be located in a mudroom or powder room. And do you really need a separate living room?
If you’re planning a teardown and new house, consider a remodel of the existing structure,. This is not always a cheaper option – it depends on the project.
Keep the floor plan simple. Keep the design simple. Use straightforward vs. complicated elements and details – there can be a beauty in the simple expression of natural materials that don’t need elaborate trimwork to “spruce it up”.
Prioritize your program and concentrate on highest value goals. Save the splurging for the parts of the project that will have the most impact, or mean the most to you. This might be in the areas guests will see, or it may be in the master bath – every project is different.
Phase work within a master plan – sometimes it make sense to break the project up into pieces, and implement them over time as budget allows.
Other Strategies to Control Costs
An open plan makes a house feel larger.
Limit moving of structural components.
Limit mechanical/plumbing/electrical work.
Limit extent of house affected.
Be creative with materials and finishes – sometimes the creative use of off-the-shelf materials can have more of an impact than more expensive “fancy” materials and finishes.
Let components of the architecture do “double-duty” – for example an exposed (perhaps colored?) concrete slab in the basement acts as both the structure and the finish floor.
Do some of the work yourself. Some clients act as their own General Contractor (G.C.), which can save contractor overhead and profit costs, and sales tax on the project. There are risks associated with this approach, so be careful.
Research and source building materials and finishes yourself.
On some projects the owners can stay in the house during construction, and save rental costs during the course of the project. There may be higher construction costs associated with this approach, however (for example the cost of taking more care every day to protect the inhabited portion from construction dust etc.), that may partially offset the savings.
If you don’t have one already, shop around for contractors – interview 2 or 3 to get a range of cost estimates. And don’t always opt for the lowest bidder!
Select a contractor early in the design process, and get their input about constructability and construction cost as the design progresses.
Do multiple cost estimates as the design is refined.
Keep long term costs in mind – for example, upgrading to a more efficient heating system can be a big up-front cost, but will pay for itself over time in reduced energy costs.
Consider adding an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit), or Backyard Cottage. This can be rented out, and provide income to offset its construction cost.
If you have a too-short, substandard basement, consider raising the house a couple of feet to turn it into a fully functional new space.
Consider recycling an old house! A client a few years back bought a house for $1.00 from a builder who was going to have it demolished. We deconstructed the existing dilapidated house on his lot, and had the house he’d bought moved to the site and installed on a new foundation/basement: http://www.seattlepi.com/default/article/Imagine-paying-just-1-for-a-home-plus-moving-1242517.php
Don’t make decisions based on some theoretical future home buyer. Unless you’ll be selling your house within a year or two, it’s better to make decisions based on your own goals and preferences.
Last fall the Seattle City Council put a moratorium on the creation of small lots in single-family neighborhoods. Now they’re revisiting the issue, to develop permanent legislation regulating houses on small lots. In their words the City “supports infill development in single family neighborhoods, including on legally established undersized lots. However, these lots should be clearly and legally delineated, and neighbors should be aware of the potential for new houses to be built. In addition, new houses on undersized lots should be modest enough to be proportional to the size of the lot”.
The DPD (Department of Planning and Development) offered preliminary recommendations, which the Council is reviewing: http://buildingconnections.seattle.gov/2013/03/20/preliminary-recommendations-for-developing-small-single-family-lots/
The local CORA group (Congress Of Residential Architects) developed our own response to this pending legislation. An important part of this proposes to replace the Mid Block, as the small lot development area of choice, with Corner Lots. If the City allows outright for corner lots to contain two houses, it would at the same time provide the additional development potential Seattle needs, in a way that actually IMPROVES those neighborhoods. As noted in the Walkable Livable Communities presentation I developed with some NW Ecobuilding colleagues, double houses on corner lots take those qualities we love about single-family neighborhoods – i.e. the opportunity for social engagement with neighbors (while doing yard work, taking a stroll, sitting on the front porch watching passersby, kids playing on the sidewalk, even just getting in and out of your car), the benefit of eyes on the street/added security, the architectural/aesthetic benefit of front facade/front porch facing the street, etc. – and extends these qualities to the side streets. The before and after sketches below illustrate this:
David Neiman, who’s led CORA’s efforts to critique the City’s proposal, argued our case on KUOW’s The Conversation (he calls in around 20:00).