How/if would you remodel this house?

mafs1482May 19, 2012

We own a 1968 raised ranch and we are trying to decide whether to remodel/add on or sell. Remodeling/adding on is winning right now because there's nothing out there even close to what we want. We like our neighborhood, we like our school district and everyone except me likes the house (I'm more of an old house person, but I think with remodeling this could be a place I'd love forever). We live in Iowa. I know that tearing down and rebuilding is sometimes suggested here, but that's not a viable option for us. Our house is close to the upper end of value in our subdivision just by being somewhat updated and not a foreclosure or estate.

Here's the current exterior. I edited the size down but it still shows up pretty big on my computer; not sure how it'll actually post.

Current lot and house. The longest side of the lot is 114'. The back is 56' and the front is 83'. This is just based on our measurements and the info on the assessor's site.

Closer view of the current floorplan with measurements. The rooms at the front of the house are bedrooms and wouldn't be affected by any remodeling (except we may need to move a window in the middle bedroom) so they're not labeled and I didn't put the windows in.

The best remodeling plan I've worked up so far. Basically, turn the current garage into living space, add a new garage and foyer to tie everything together, make the current living room the dining room and expand the kitchen to include the current kitchen and eating area.

The remodeled house on the lot. I haven't called the city yet and the only real info I can find is that new structures have to be 6' from the property line, so I've followed that.

If we did do this, it would likely be done a few years from now and it would make this house our forever home. What do you think costs would be on a project like this if we did the majority of the finishing work ourselves? A new house here goes anywhere from 130k-250k, but I don't have any firsthand knowledge of remodeling costs. I know I have to get estimates to be sure, but in the opinion of the experienced remodelers here could it be done for 25k? Less than 50k?

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Remodeling is more expensive than new construction. Relocating things and tieing in to the old stuff is where the costs start to mount up. Costs are also regional specific, with the Northeast and California sbeing the most costly area to remodel. Just national average costs for a kitchen remodel are around 55K for mid range, and for a garage addition, 60K. But you're not just proposing just the garage addition and kitchen remodel, you are proposing the repurposing of the old garage into living space, which will have additional costs of bringing it up to current code with insulation and HVAC as well as possibly even needing a new foundation to be able to be used as living space rather than garage space. Then you have to tie the new garage space into the old, and that will mean new roofing and siding that will match the old, or else all new for the house as well.

You're at 130K without even really trying hard here and going crazy with high end finishes. Add in the cost of the problems that you will find that will need to be fixed, and I wouldn't even think of starting a project like this without at least 150K saved for it plus 6-9 months budgeted to live with your relatives or friends. Now, if you DIY, it will take 4x as long and cost 75% of what it would cost if you had contractors do it because you get into scope creep a lot easier "because we don't have to pay for labor, we can upgrade the materials".

50K would not even begin to approach the cost, even in a very low cost area of the country.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 9:51AM
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Green, that's kind of what I was thinking. And I know the slab in the garage will need to be replaced as it's slightly heaved. I just wish 90% of the houses here weren't split entry/raised ranch so we would have a better chance of finding a new house.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 11:12AM
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I don't think this will necessarily hit as high as Green is saying. We live in the midwest, and labor costs here aren't anything near what they are on the coasts.

We paid a contractor $40K to build us 500 square feet of shell (we bought the windows) and we spent another $15K DIY finishing the inside (insulation, flooring, drywall, ceiling, electrical). Here's the before and after:

You're not moving plumbing except a bit in the kitchen, and adding/moving electrical isn't a big deal. Kitchen remodels may average $55K, but you can do one for $20K if you manage your scope creep and don't overbuild for the neighborhood.

So you do need to get some price estimates from local contractors, but if I were to ballpark it, with reasonable finishes, I'd guess:
$35K to build the new garage
$5K to convert the garage to LR
$20K to remodel the kitchen
$1-2K to convert the LR to DR (probably just flooring and electrical)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Thanks, weedyacres. I specifically didn't include a powder room in the garage because I knew plumbing would raise our costs to way more than I wanted to spend. The garage walls are finished but I planned on ripping them out for insulation, so hopefully wiring and all that wouldn't cost too much. Like I said, I do know that the slab needs to be replaced.

There's a local (well, regional) home improvement store that sells garage kits; I can get one the size I need for roughly $3000, which is materials only, not concrete or electrical or any of that. I'm wondering if DIYing the new garage and hiring someone just to build the new foyer and anything else we can't do would be a viable option. I know most contractors would prefer to do everything, but my BIL is a contractor so maybe he knows someone that would be more flexible. Having a contractor build the garage is also an option if they'd be willing to build from a kit. There is also a tree that needs to be removed for the new driveway (unless we curve the drive) but I'm fairly certain that'll run $1500-$2500.

I know DIY will take longer, but we basically live with my DIY projects all the time anyway so it wouldn't be that much of a change if we did go ahead with this. And this would probably be something that wouldn't be started until my youngest (three months old) is in preschool so I can have a few hours a day to work uninterrupted.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 1:38PM
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I think that Green Design's numbers are more realistic. Getting the garage to the same flooring level, with electrical, HVAC, walls ceilings flooring and windows is sure to cost over 5K in materials alone.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 7:44AM
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I'm confused; why would the garage need to be raised? Why wouldn't an inside step be sufficient?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 10:01AM
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What if you kept the garage as it is today (same place, same function) and added to the upper left corner of the house? If you square off the upper left corner (where the back door into the kitchen is) you could add about 190 square feet of new space, and it would adjoin your kitchen and living room.

Do you like open concept for the family zone of the house? Because with that space you could have a big great room with space for TV and eating and cooking.

That would probably save you a big chunk of money, but you'd want to be sure you can make it look right when all the spaces tie in together (outside and inside).

Good luck, I've been there and it's a hard decision process.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 3:50PM
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We could do an addition off the kitchen, but the back door is actually about a half flight of steps from the ground. Here's a picture from 2010 (the awnings--and balloons--are gone now):

I don't mind an open space but I would like to have an actual entry and dining room, which is why I was looking at adding on to the front. It annoys me to no end that the entry we have now isn't actually big enough to stand in while getting the kids inside.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 7:32PM
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How do you plan to design your rooflines? There's snow in Iowa (as I'm sure you know) but you'll have to decide how to make the rooflines work together, while having enough slope to let the snow slide off, easily.

I can see why you need a larger entry, but that might not be easy to do. Maybe add on to the back of the house (as suggested above) and include a mudroom off the back of the garage? It could have covered stairs up to the living room and also give you access to the backyard. Just another idea :)

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 5:12PM
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Here's a Sketchup pic of the best way I could figure out to do the roofline. Ignore the different colors and extra lines; they don't mean anything except I did this really fast.

Right now we rarely park in the garage, but we might use it more if we had a mudroom and connected entrance back there.

I've thought about just adding on a strip to the front of the garage that would expand the current entry, so instead of being 4x7ish it'd be 8x7ish and the garage would be 28' deep instead of 24' deep. That might also enable us to get a taller garage door, and I think the amount of roof restructuring needed wouldn't be bad since it already overhangs the door by the amount we would be bumping out. Plus we could turn the door to face the street and might also be able to create an entrance from the garage.

Would the costs be less for adding on to the back of the house? Wouldn't that have to be pier construction? I don't think that's allowed here.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 5:58PM
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I'm no expert, but you seem to be having the same problems I've having...roof lines and snow! When you do get a heavy snow, you have valleys, between your new entry and new garage...and between new entry and exisiting house. The snow will stack up there and not slide off. It must be so much easier, to design houses in warm climates! :)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 8:15PM
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I know, that's something that I hope an architect or designer would be able to resolve if we do move forward with an addition. Obviously the easiest way to fix it would be to remove the current garage roof and design something new, but I know that won't come cheap.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 1:40AM
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Roof lines are such a challenge! I finally changed my layout, because I couldn't come up with a realistic change in the roof lines that would deal with the snow load.

In our area, we'd have to dig down (4' I believe) for the frost that point, why not expand the basment and the upstairs? Would a pool room/rec room/hobby room be an added bonus? Maybe add on the living room to the back of the house and use a gable for the roofline that will tie into the existing garage?

Looking at your proposed plan, could you add move the living room to the back (off new kitchen/dining room) and access it, through french doors in the dining room and the door in the kitchen?

Also...looking at your kitchen remodel...what is the brown area, next to the window? Could you make that the new back door? Maybe open up a passage through the pantry and use that area for your mudroom? Then, you'd have a space for the kids to drop off winter items, from the front (as they get upstairs) and the back. Just an idea :)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 8:21PM
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The basement's actually fairly big. It has one finished room that's currently being used as a bedroom, then it has three unfinished areas: laundry/storage, office and sewing room.

The brown area in the kitchen is a desk area. The kitchen after is just something I put together quickly to have an idea of how I could use the space. That's the opposite side of the house from the garage, so we'd have to walk around the back of the house to access anything over there. The side yard is fairly narrow, too, because the first floor of the house (about four feet up) overhangs the foundation by a few feet.

The thing I worry about with adding on to the back of the house is that the current garage only has a small door, plus it has a built-in workbench to one side. I drive a minivan and it makes me nervous driving in there. I don't know how much we'd actually use the space if we added a mudroom and stuff in the back instead of adding on in the front. If we built a new garage, we would be able to frame a bigger door. If we don't do the addition I'll probably move the workbench to the back of the garage, as shown in the "after" of the new garage, but that won't take care of the door size.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:30AM
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OK, I just realized that I show the door opening the wrong direction on the drawing. It opens inward to the left, not the right. I'm wondering if changing it to how it shows on the plan would make the entry feel bigger or if it would just be another thing that annoys me.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Mafs- You might want to post this as a roof lines question and see if you get more responses. As I said, I'm no expert, but I don't see how this will work unless you make some major maybe replacing the garage roof with a taller one, so you can incorporate the entry with the same slope as the garage. Then, it might work with the garage roof as drawn, too.

Does that make sense? Make the current garage roof taller in the middle, so that it could slope down over the entry and you could still walk under the roof. Have you talked to a professional? Is the garage in good enough shape to become indoor living space? It might make more sense to 'rebuild' a bit of the garage and change the height of the you can give the roof a steeper pitch, while you're insulating, adding the new floors, windows, etc. Then, it might work...

I think it would be a great space, if you could get past those pesky roof lines. One other question, do you have to have the new garage even with the front of the house? If it's not a set back issue, I'd bring the garage forward a bit and have the mudroom in the back of the garage (not the living room) and enter the house through the new entry, not the living room. It would be a better use of space, you'd have a bigger living room...and the right/back side of the garage could be a larger storage or workshop space.

Best of luck with the remodel! :)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:29AM
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I just have those windows by the entry. One upstairs and one downstairs. Won't the entry block those?

Can you move the entry wall back a bit, so it's more even with the entry now? Maybe something like this? I added a courtyard between the house and the garage, with a bench and some's not covered, but you will have a nice entrance to the house, without the roofline problem...if you can raise the roof on the current garage (as discussed above).

That's supposed to be the mudroom in the back of the garage and an entryway into the new living room. This space is much more balanced now, with the fireplace...and I like the door to the backyard. It's a nice access, without the steps!

If you do raise the current garage roof, the living room could have taller windows and really take advantage of your views, out the back :)

From Cottage house plans

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:54AM
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It's just over 8' from the current garage wall to the window, so we should be able to avoid having to cover up or move anything.

I wonder if instead of raising walls we could change the type of roof. Maybe a gambrel would be easier to tie into, although I don't know how it would look with the house. A front facing gable would probably be even easier but the cost for that would probably be pretty high.

I like that moved forward. As far as I know there's no setback issue so moving it forward shouldn't be an issue (famous last words). The door to the backyard is actually already there, so that's one place we can save a little.

I haven't talked to a professional yet, mostly because the project is at least a few years off. Would a contractor be willing to do a quote on a project that won't happen for such a long time?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 11:26AM
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Mafs- I would have a few contractors come out and give you an idea what they think you would need to do, if you need an architect or not, what it would cost, etc. I wouldn't tell them you're not planning to do this project for some time...just that you're trying to decide if it's better to remodel or sell/move.

I wouldn't expect anyone to put any real time into the project, just come out and give you a general idea what would be involved, a ball park figure and if you need to change the roof lines. You can make it clear that you're not ready to start a project TODAY, but you are interested and want to see if it makes sense to remodel or not.

Right now, a lot of people are thinking about making changes to their home...whether it's remodeling, landscaping, redoing the kitchen, etc. It's not so easy to sell and move as it used to your situation is all too familiar.

You may decide that the entire project is too expensive, but you would like to make some changes, within your existing foot print. Again, a contractor can give you some idea what this might cost. Maybe opening up the living room to the kitchen/dining area and enlarging the entry are all you decide to still will be worth a contractor's time to come out and talk to you about it :)

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 5:11PM
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Mafs- Just in case your first choice turns out to be too expensive to afford, have you thought about a Plan B? Anyway you could rearrange your existing space and have a house that works better for you and your family...and maybe incorporates some of the features you like in older homes?

I don't know if this would work for you, but just a quick idea of what might fit in the space. Mainly it's switching the kitchen/dining room and taking out part of the wall to the living room. The windows would get bigger in these rooms and the kitchen door would be replaced with a slider. I made the deck bigger, you could have a BBQ, dining table and a few chairs to enjoy the view. It looks like you have a garage door back there, so I kept the deck narrower on that side.

In the kitchen, you have fridge, prep sink (great for the second cook/kids) the range with a nice hood above, and the main sink and dishwasher. Bigger window over the sink and above the buffet, in the dining area. I think new cabinets, some nice granite (if you like it) new would be a great space!

I did put little corner display cabinets by the fridge and slider...this might work better with a counter depth fridge, but those along with built in bookcases around the fireplace would give you that old house feel.

I did switch the doors on the pantry, so they're by the bathroom, but that's still much closer than going downstairs. Any chance this might work? Again, everyone needs a Plan B to fall back on...just in case :)

From Cottage house plans

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 5:55PM
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I like your plan; I hadn't thought of switching the kitchen and dining room around, but it might be viable. Most of the plumbing is currently accessible in the basement. My only worry is that if it's switched it's over a bathroom with a drop ceiling, so it might be a tad bit more difficult.

I had planned to remove the peninsula and add about a 5' wide opening to create more separation between the dining room and kitchen, but DH likes the peninsula so I'd have to talk him into that. He wouldn't care about building the walls, though. We'd also talked about adding a wall in the living room where it's currently a metal railing open to the entry, but I wonder if that would make the entry feel even smaller. Because of the garage roof overhang we can't add transoms or anything, although a sidelight is a possibility.

I've thought about expanding the deck, but I worry about taking backyard space away from the kids. If we do stay a lot of the backyard stuff would be reconfigured. We have a black walnut that we hate and would come down; it drops tons of fruit that we don't use (I tried one year and just ended up with fruit flies). There's also a patio that's small and not where we would want it and an overgrown cherry bush that needs to come out. There's a giant locust back there, too, but I'd like to keep that if possible.

I've always said my forever house would have to have a screened porch, so maybe expanding the deck enough to accomodate that would be an option. I've also considered just building a covered patio. The yard isn't very big, but I feel like if we reconfigured the space it would be a lot more user-friendly for us.

I want to thank you for all your advice. It's been really helpful and has got me thinking about a lot of different things I could do here. Other than style it really does fit most of our needs, and even the style isn't awful. It's just not mine, but with some tweaking I think it could be great.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 7:31PM
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Oh, I'm glad this helped! If you'd like a screened area, what if you screened the part of the deck off the dining room (the bump out) and have the rest open? It should work well with your roof line/gable on that side of the house...and you'd have a screened area for your table.

The BBQ could be in the open part, if necessary (by the garage) and you could still have the steps in about the same place. This way, you'd still have the view from the living room (and the light) and the screen door would be much easier to use/safer, than at the top of the stairs.

If you get rid of that black walnut, you could have some shrub roses! I don't know if you garden, but some of the old fashioned shrub roses are as easy to grow, as shrubs. They're often hardy to -20 or -30 below and you don't have to spray, prune, etc. Just find one that's right for your area and they're pretty, have a nice fragrance and easy to grow! Check out the antique rose forum for suggestions :)

Now, that I've digressed...the peninsula in the kitchen is a great idea...when you have the room. With your space, I think an open U or C shape is really going to work well. On the kitchen forum, most husbands (not all) but many really like shopping for granite (if that's what you want for the countertops) and ranges/hoods. I think it's very similar to BBQs and stone/patio. Yes, I know that sounds sexist, but it doesn't mean that it's not true! LOL

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 9:19PM
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I'm thinking about building the deck/porch at least partially around the side of the house since we never use the side yard. The only problem would be that the meters are at the back corner of the house, so they would have to be moved. I'm also not sure if setback laws would apply to that.

I'll have to go mark it off to make sure it wouldn't take up too much yardspace, but if we did build over by the garage I think it should be fine. It's just concrete over there right now.

I love roses, but I might wait on those until my kids are older. Lord knows they find a way to get hurt on everything as it is. There are a few different plants back there now, but they were just planted in a row along the back fence without any consideration for things like sunlight and growing area. There's not much back there I want to keep except for three peonies.

We could still leave the peninsula, but the doorway wouldn't be symmetrical. I'm not sure if I could take that :) . I love and hate the idea of designing a kitchen--there are too many choices and I'm known to change my mind a lot.

I think I am going to look into reversing the handing of the door. I'll tape it out on the floor to see how it feels, but I think having it open toward the "large" part of the entry will make the area seem bigger.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 12:16PM
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Designing a kitchen would be a lot of fun, though! I don't know what your style is...but do you like staineless steel appliances? Maybe make the range and hood a feature (seen from the dining room) and then use white or wood cabinets with a nice granite? It would be nice to decorate the spaces as one large area, since you would have the dining room open to the kitchen and also see the living room, from the table.

One nice thing about not having the's easier to stretch the table, when you have company. The peninsula wouldn't give you that much extra prep space, but it would make the space feel pretty tight and you have to keep walking around it. By making the kitchen/dining room all one will feel much larger and more open :)

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 4:59PM
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DH vetoed switching the kitchen and dining room, which I kind of expected. I do like stainless, but we've bought all new white appliances (except the fridge) so they'll be staying for a while. We need to get a new fridge next year, and I hate cleaning the textured finish all the white ones seem to have, so I might look at stainless steel for that. My problem with designing a kitchen is that I like so much. That, and I have champagne tastes and a beer budget, but I think that's a problem for a lot of people. I love the kitchen and building a house forums, but they can drive you crazy with all the fantastic stuff everywhere.

Since our house was built in '68, the peninsula has that typical half-circle bookcase under it. Well, it did; the shelves were broken so I pulled it out. But the counter is still there. I wonder if when the counter is gone (I think it overhangs about a foot) if the space will feel much bigger.

I would still like to make the doorway into the dining room bigger, I think. We're also going to add some sort of counter space behind the back door, whether it's from a built-in or from extending the cabinets next to it.

Here's something I drew up really quick. The screened porch is 10x12, the deck is 5 1/2x 14 (so not really big enough for much, but we could fit a table at the far end, which is why the stairs are more toward the middle). The stairs start with that large landing, then go down to the next landing and turn. I doubt they's need that much considering the height, but I did it that way anyway. The gap will have a railing, and underneath will be storage. The blue area is concrete; DH wants a place to play basketball and the kids want a place to ride bikes and scooters. The brown circle is the locust tree, the large white circle is a patio table, the small blue circle is a fire pit and the white rectangle is a potting shed. The line at the rear of the garage is the current fence; on the other side it's at the front of the house. I've also cut off the rounded end of the peninsula, widened the dining room doorway to 5' (might go down to 4'), moved the storage to the corner behind the door and extended the fridge to 36".

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 2:02AM
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If you like the kitchen/dining area 'as is' then I wouldn't pay the money to switch them. The screened porch might work better off the kitchen, anyway :)

I have white appliances...and that's what I plan to get when we remodel our farmhouse, too. Stainless steel is popular, but white is lighter and brighter!

The screened porch looks great and I like the way you added the deck and the stairs. It's so much safer to have stairs with a landing and a turn, then a straight shot down to the yard. A little table at the end of the deck sounds perfect. And, I agree with your DH about the concrete, since it will be such a great play area for the kids...and less mowing!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 3:33PM
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This is a big vote for white appliances. Some brands make them in a smooth, glassy finish if the textured finish bugs you. I miss my white appliances, when our oven died (control board for the dashboard died and had been discontinued) I wanted one with KNOBS as controls. I couldn't find that in anything but stainless so we got a Bertazzoni.

They make a white, but it was MORE $, sadly, so we are slowly switching over to stainless for the other appliances ( as the crap the PO purchased dies, they were really cheap so it's just the DW left now).

Just wanted to give a shout out for white appliances ... So much easier to clean!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 8:33AM
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