Making improvements to your home can add comfort and satisfaction to your life. “If you plan to live in your home for another five or ten years, then it is worth it to make major changes,” says design engineer, contractor, and project manager Jim Pollard.
Doing home remodel in Taos, comes with its own set of challenges. Pollard quotes New Mexico territorial governor Lew Wallace, who said “All calculations based on experience elsewhere, fail in New Mexico.” He adds “This is multiplied by a factor of two if you are in Taos and a factor of four if you don’t make a plan.”
Pollard knows what is he is talking about. He has completed a number of major remodels of old adobe homes in the downtown historic area, in addition to building new custom homes in Taos. He points out that there can be a number of surprises and that not all homeowners are prepared for the cost.
A remodel project can be anything from a minor fix to a major renovation of the home. “When I think about home improvement and remodeling, I think there two different worlds, two different levels of cost and certainly different levels of skill. There are tons of things that can be done by homeowners themselves at cost levels of under $300, under $500, and under $1000. These things usually make a home more pleasing or more practical or more efficient, but don’t usually represent an increase in value for a home.”
For larger projects, more planning is needed. You may want to involve a design professional if you hope to make a major change to your home, including adding more space. Here are steps you can take to plan your home remodel:
After you know what projects you want to do, prioritize the list, so that the most important projects come first. You can identify phases that match your available funds, even if the phases need to happen over several years. Think about where you spend the most time and what changes will add most to comfort and quality of life. Be sure to consider changes inside the house and to the exterior landscaping, too.
Do some research to figure out how much your project might cost. You can look at resources on-line or talk to contractors and experts at local hardware stores. For remodel work, be sure to include a contingency to cover unexpected circumstances that may arise as you begin to open up walls and add some money for permits or other needed planning reviews.
Decide what kind of support you need. If it is a major project, talk to local design professionals to decide if you need to hire an architect or interior designer to help guide your project. If you or someone in your family have design or construction experience, figure out what kind of additional expertise you need for your project.
Working with your team, figure out what time of year you should begin your project. Think about when your construction funds will be available and if there are any firm deadlines that you must meet. Make a schedule that can be updated as things change.
If your project involves minor repairs or painting that you can do yourself, you might not need a design professional. However, if your project involves changing or adding to the space in your home, consider calling in someone with experience.
“I would always advise people to consult an architect or designer. They might have creative solutions that help you save money and be realistic about schedule and budget. Some offer a free initial consultation to help you see if their services can be helpful. The experience of designers can help identify some of the unexpected conditions you will run into so that you can stay on budget and your timeline,” says Alix Henry of Henry Architects in Arroyo Seco – www.henryarchitectstaos.com.
She recently worked with a family that had a two bedroom house. There are two children and the family wanted an additional bedroom, but they couldn’t afford to add square footage. Henry Architects worked with the family to figure out how to reconfigure their current space to accommodate an extra bedroom.
For those relocating from other places, there are different considerations to building in Taos and certain projects require the assistance of an architect, including converting a garage into a living space. Design usually represents a small percentage of the overall project cost. As Henry says “A designer can help you envision what you want. It is cheaper to do it on paper than build it and realize that it is not going to work.”
As you think about your remodel, consider how to make your life greener and more sustainable. The money you invest in green features can save you money in the long run and lessen your footprint on the earth. Passive and active solar features help make your home more comfortable during the cold months. Some homeowners generate enough surplus power that they are able to sell it back to the power grid. Other ideas such as capturing rainwater and treating the grey water from your home can be incorporated into landscape design.
Thomas Soule of Sustainable Builders encourages homeowners to do their own research and consult a design or building expert on what types of green improvements might be appropriate for their homes. “A professional can explain the pros and cons of different green strategies. Some techniques that improve a home include insulation, choosing non-toxic building material and finding ways to reduce drafts.” The Sustainable Builders website has a page that explores a wide variety of green features at www.sustainablebuilders.net.
Taos has designers and builders who focus on green design including:
Zero E Design www.zeroedesign.com
Living Designs Group www.ldgtaos.com
Magee Design www.jedmagee.com
Taos Mountain Builders www.taosmountainbuilders.com
Michael T. Levy www.taoshighspirits.com
Kitchen and bath
Bathroom remodels are the top project undertaken by homeowners, followed by kitchen renovation, window and door replacement and property damage repairs, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. Bathroom and kitchen remodels are the improvements most likely to add enough value to pay for themselves if you sell your house, say realtors.
Because we spend a lot of time in these rooms, it makes sense to have them be functional and beautiful. There are projects that can be done by do-it-yourselfers such as painting cabinets or adding backsplashes behind sinks and counters. Even refinishing and updating flooring may be done by homeowners, perhaps with the assistance of a contractor specializing in floors. Upgrading lighting can be another relatively low cost way to update and brighten your space.
For projects beyond this scale, you may want to consult a professional designer or builder to help you navigate necessary permits and avoid costly mistakes.
Websites with helpful suggestions on remodeling projects include:
This Old House www.thisoldhouse.com
Do It Yourself Network www.diynetwork.com
Whatever home improvement projects you take on this year, make sure that they enhance the pleasure and comfort you feel living in your home.