When budgeting for a home improvement project, hiring an experienced designer or trade will simply help you do it right the first time and save you so much money in the end. Here’s how we are trying to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish with my Mom’s sunroom project.
I cannot thank you enough for your so helpful contribution and comments regarding my Mom’s sunroom projectlast week, now we know what to do, I am so grateful!
What I didn’t mention last week, was my Mom also wants to add a front entry or at the very least a portico.
So, after we read all your advice on what to do with her sunroom,(thank you for helping us think through the options!), we realized that to do BOTH properly would cost more than her budget will allow, so we have adjusted the sunroom plans.
Now, we need your help with what to do with the front entrance (photo further down).
So first, here’s what we learned about solariums or sunrooms:
You MUST have a proper foundation (in other words, NOT what we have).
All that glass will be a lot of maintenance and my Mom is a clean freak so that will drive her nuts. My Mom and Sister’s family live really close to a chicken farm and the crows pick up chicken parts and sit on her roof and eat them and she’s constantly finding beaks and feet on her deck (I know so gross) which would now end up on the glass roof instead.
Keeping it to the rather tight dimensions of the existing deck as planned totally limits the possibilities. Many commenters said that was NOT a place to build from because inevitably we would want it to be bigger, and you’re totally right.
Keeping the threshold the same as the inside was also a really good point regarding aging in place. Someone said her Mom was no longer able to go into her sunroom because of the steps going down into it.
Heat is NOT as big of an issue here in the West coast because we get a lot of rain, but when it is sunny, because my Mom’s deck faces West, it does get HOT.
I cannot tell you how grateful we are for all your generous advice.
A new home improvement project plan
What we’ve decided to do now is remove the old deck, build one that is at the same level as the inside and make it bigger. We will then put a roof on it very similar to the one on my house (below) for shade and shelter.
Mine has plastic panels in front of the windows and then its metal where we don’t need the light.
My deck was existing when we moved in, obviously it could be more fabulous, but, as I’ve said, my garden was a much higher priority. And it’s very practical and we get so much use out of it in the warmer months. I work out here all summer with my laptop and enjoy the garden view.
I think this is what my Mom really needs, a sheltered space to relax outdoors. Right now, because her deck has no cover, it’s like she lives in an apartment because it’s basically unusable.
My patio | See the latest photos here
Okay so here’s the front of my Mom’s carriage house (below). This was taken right after it was built but it’s the best photo I have:
For those who are wondering, a carriage house is technically a home where there’s a garage underneath and the living space is all on the second floor. We cheated a little and Mom’s kitchen, sitting area is on the first floor.
We chose white siding because my Sister’s house (below right) is white. Our valley really is so pretty in the summer.
When you walk into this house, there’s literally no entry. You are standing at the bottom of the stairs that go up to the second floor, and she does not have an official coat closet either. Her coats go into a closet that was technically designated as a ‘pantry’ right past her kitchen.
Because of the West coast rain, she can’t leave her shoes outside, but having no mudroom is challenging because the gravel from the driveway gets tracked into the house.
Some kind of portico to soften the transition is needed.
There are many options, starting with less expensive portico similar to this:
Moving up to one with columns:
Here’s another idea that would incorporate a pergola over the garage. But what we really need, is someone with vision and someone who can come up with a drawing for the best solution that suits Mom’s budget.
And if we go all out and do it right the first time, this kind of space for a mudroom/entry would be so great (below).
Budgeting for Home Improvement Projects
There are so many things to consider when tackling a project like this. And often labour takes the lion’s share of the budget. My Mom also thinks that she would save money on both these projects if she hired a carpenter who charged by the hour instead of giving her a flat rate quote.
Her retirement savings has certainly dropped by 30% (like the rest of us) and she’s worried the world is coming to an end and it’ll never recover.
Ever been Penny Wise and Pound Foolish in Your home improvements?
However, the bottom line is, and I have learned this personally by experience and from working with thousands of clients over the years, that for most things in life”You get what you pay for.”
Shouldn’t we pretty much say that this applies to EVERYTHING? I’m trying to remember a situation when I actually got something amazing for a bargain basement price. It’s extremely rare.
The most obvious way to lose money and end up unhappy, is when you buy furniture or finishes without a plan.
Recently, I helped a couple choose colours for their renovation. They had already bought the subway tile before choosing anything else and it turned out to be the wrong white for the countertop they wanted so at that point they had two choices. Scrap the non-refundable tile or choose Plan B instead of Plan A.
By the way, that mistake is pretty much the cost of my fee right?
Now that is NOT the worst example since they called me BEFORE a bunch of other decisions had been made as well.
This happens often. You choose everything, cross your fingers, hope it works out, and then when everything is installed you call the decorator hoping that the right paint colours can fix your mistakes.
I really wanted to mention this here (to help my Mom) because I would also love it if you’d post comments about a time when you hired someone you thought was going to save you money and instead cost you countless hundreds or thousands later when you had to fix the botched job that was done by the ‘cheap’ labour or the cheapest ‘quote’.
I’ll never forget talking to a painter who said there are all kinds of ways to make a painting quote ‘cheaper’. For example, painting the siding with a roller without using a paint brush to get the sides. The paint job might ‘look complete’ but it’s definitely not. You get what you pay for.
The experienced designer or the experienced trade/company will simply help you do it right the first time and save you so much money in the end. Besides, it’s best to decide on a price at the outset, and not have the cost snowball. Or worse, languish in some annoying unfinished state because of a casual commitment on the part of a part time contractor.
Always create a home improvement plan
One thing that is certain, is that it makes the most sense to have a really well thought out plan at the outset of any project. So I want to thank you in advance for your thoughts and insights. It will really help us examine all the angles and help my Mom get the most out of her budget.
And if you are someone with vision that could help us create the best plan, perhaps we could do something virtually? Email me here.