Start your remodel right with the design process

Start your remodel right with the design process

Submitted by Ten Directions Design

If you want to remodel or expand your house, start with the design process. This process can help you identify what's lacking in your house and how to correct those problems and improve your home. Only then are you ready to hire a contractor and get it built.

Working with a professional designer or architect is a great way to go through this process and come out with proper blueprints. A professional has a degree in architecture or interior design. Normally, only an architect can help you with moving walls and other structural changes to your house.

Get started with these seven steps:

1. Create a program or description of your needs and goals.
Start with a description of what doesn’t work as well as some of your dreams. Write down two groups: “must haves” and “wishes,” or write a numbered priority list of what you want. Bring out the tape measure, and estimate how many square feet you want to renovate or add.

2. Make a budget.
Do some research to find out the costs of similar projects. Ask friends and relatives. Also ask about design professionals they can recommend. Factor in cost bump-ups if other projects are more than a few years old. In a few steps we will have more information and ask a contractor – but not yet.

3. Begin the schematic design phase by hiring a designer or do it yourself.
Measure your existing house. Draw it up on a computer using residential software. Create schematic designs. These are floor plans that look at space planning: designing what goes where. No interior design decisions on countertops yet. Remember these principles:

  • Function
  • Circulation
  • Site conditions
  • Massing: exterior and interior
  • Light

Good references are the Sarah Susanka books and “Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander.

4. Get a cost estimate based on your schematic design.
Contact a contractor and give him a copy of your floor plan with some overall dimensions. He or she can use this information, along with some thoughtful questions they ask you, to create an estimate of what your project might cost. If the cost is too high, then you need to cut back on scope or quality.

5. Draw the blueprints or construction documents.
These need full dimensions, notes and must satisfy all zoning, building codes, structural requirements and energy codes. Prepare according to your locality’s requirements. Along with blueprints, prepare written specifications: finishes, fixtures and appliances. This is a great opportunity to think about "greening" your project with sustainable materials and energy-saving approaches.

6. Get your building permit.
Make multiple sets and copies of drawings and submit them to the proper agency per your local regulations.

7. While waiting for your permit, go ahead and contact contractors for bids.
Give them copies of your drawings and your written specifications, and ask for a fixed bid. You should be able to compare ‘apples’ to ‘apples.’ Pick the best bid.

Congratulations, you are ready to build (after picking up the approved permit).

Ten Directions Design specializes in designing new homes, residential remodels and interior solutions throughout Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Since 1990, the company has listened carefully to its customers and tailored its designs to match their needs while providing a balance of aesthetics and function.

As of Sept. 16, 2011, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.

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Ceil Petrucelli


Great article! Thanks for sharing such good tips and information.

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