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Remodel Design Guide: Feasibility Study

You’re considering a home remodel, but you don’t want to spend the money to develop a design just yet. Instead, you want to know if the project you have envisioned can be built on the budget you have to work with. Before you shell out the cash to have a professional designer draft your remodel plans, you need a feasibility study to help you explore what is possible.

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to find themselves in the awkward position of wanting a remodel but not knowing if their proposed design will fit their budget. At Lamont Bros., we know that this can be a frustrating situation to be in. To help our clients work through that challenge, we’ve developed an affordable, effective feasibility process that allows homeowners to explore their options without committing to the full design process.

This article will discuss how our team at Lamont Bros. conducts a feasibility study. After reading through it, you should be able to identify the process of a feasibility study and whether your remodel project could benefit from one. Specifically, we will discuss:

What is a feasibility study and why might you need one?

A feasibility study is an exploratory process with the end goal of determining whether or not your proposed remodel is feasible. Through this process, you and your design team will figure out if the design you have imagined is a.) possible to construct and b.) within your budget range.

Not all remodel projects need to go through a feasibility study before beginning the design phase. Rather, feasibility studies are a less expensive way to identify potential challenges that could derail a remodel project before you spend the thousands of dollars required to develop a final design. Think of it as a warm-up lap on a race track — you want to be aware of the track’s layout so you can more safely navigate any sharp corners.

At the end of the feasibility study, your team should have:

  • A clear project scope and vision for the project
  • A narrowed-down budget range
  • An agreed-upon means for project financing
  • A design & construction roadmap for the project moving forward

Below are a few reasons why you might consider doing a feasibility study before jumping into the design phase. 

You are unsure if your dream design will fit within your budget

Let’s say you have an idea of how much a major home addition could cost, but it’s a wide range. Before moving into design, you want to know if you can even afford what you want to build. The problem is that you need to narrow down that wide range to a more helpful estimate. 

To do this, a design team would need to take a closer look a the structure of your existing home and help you develop your imagined design into a more specific vision. After some exploratory research, the design team can provide you with a more precise budget range.

Your proposed project may or may not be possible to build

Perhaps you’re not even sure if the idea you have for your remodel is possible to build. It may be that city zoning restrictions prevent you from adding on to a side of your home. Or maybe the root system of a tree near your house could prevent you from expanding your basement.

In any case, it’s a tragedy to go through the entire design process only to discover after the fact that your designs are unbuildable. In a feasibility study, your design team will examine common issues that can derail the construction process to ensure that won’t happen to you. 

Your remodel project is especially complicated

Even if there are no major feasibility concerns to speak of, some large project types still benefit from a feasibility study as an added safety net. Most additions, ADUs, and basement remodels involve a significant amount of design and permitting work.

For complex remodel projects where the design costs are above average, a feasibility study gives you a head start on planning and gives you a chance to double-check any potential roadblocks before you pay a designer and engineer to draft your design plans. 

Home additions are generally complicated enough to warrant a feasibility study.

What is the process of a feasibility study?

When you and your design team do a feasibility study, the first step is for you to communicate your expectations for the project. 

What issues are you experiencing with your home’s current design? What features would you like your remodel to have? The more specific you can be, the better your design team will be able to gauge the project’s feasibility. They won’t need every single detail at this point in the process, but a clear understanding of your remodel expectations will go a long way to making the feasibility study successful.

Once your design team understands what you want to accomplish, the feasibility study moves through a checklist of potential issues that could derail the project. 

Below are the most common questions an effective feasibility study seeks to answer:

Does the project require a land survey?

Municipal zoning laws place heavy restrictions on how and where residential structures can be built. Setback laws can require a home to be a certain distance from the property line. These restrictions are especially important to consider when working with a home on a small lot. There isn’t much space to work with, so planning is important.

Sometimes, a remodel project requires a land survey to determine whether the proposed remodel would encroach on a restricted zone.

A land survey will help you and your team identify construction boundaries.

Will the project require lead or asbestos containment?

Hazardous materials including lead and asbestos were used in residential construction throughout the early 20th century. As a result, it can be a challenge to remodel historic homes

Any time you do construction on a home, it can release those hazardous materials into the environment, potentially you, your family, or your neighbors. That’s why construction law requires strict containment measures on any remodel project with lead or asbestos contamination. These containment measures require the expertise of a specialized hazardous material contractor and can cost over $10,000. 

Does your contractor need to subcontract out specialized skills?

In today’s labor market, skilled tradesmen don’t come cheap. If your proposed remodel design has any features that require a specialized trade, the feasibility study will seek to explore the costs associated with that.

For example, let’s say your home has old knob-and-tube wiring that needs to be completely re-done. The cost of such a job could be astronomically expensive. Depending on the size of the re-wire job, an electrical specialist may come out to do a quote during the feasibility study. That way, you’ll have a professional’s evaluation of the situation when you decide whether or not to move forward. 

Are there concerns about the structural integrity of the home?

When working on a home remodel, structural integrity is one of the most important things to consider. Before any other remodeling can take place, your build team has to ensure that the structure is secure. 

If it isn’t, repairs will have to be made. This process often involves a structural engineer and tens of thousands in labor and material, which can add significantly to the cost of the original remodel.

Then there’s the issue of existing load-bearing walls. Most home additions tie into load-bearing walls, and most open-floor plan remodels involve taking out some interior walls, as well. If your proposed remodel will affect the structural walls in your home in any way, the feasibility study will involve an engineer coming out to pre-flight the concept. The engineer will be able to assess what work will need to be done to maintain the home’s integrity.

Remodeling often involves structural changes to the home, which can be expensive.

Do you know how you are funding your remodel?

Another thing your team will discuss with you during the feasibility study is how you plan to fund your remodel. You don’t need to have all of the details worked out at this point, but you should have a set plan for where the money will come from and how you plan to secure it. Will you need financing? If that’s the case, you should at least start that process so the funding is available once the project is ready to start.

How to make sure your feasibility study is a success

If the process of a feasibility study sounds daunting to you, don’t worry. Your design team will spearhead the study and do most of the heavy lifting. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure that the feasibility study accomplishes what it needs to.

Communicate with your team about what could derail the project for you

Some challenges can derail a project simply by making it impossible. Other challenges derail a remodel because the homeowner can’t or won’t deal with them. You need to identify what those “hard stops” are for you. 

Perhaps it’s a budget constraint – you don’t want to do a kitchen remodel for any more than a set budget. Or maybe, it’s a process issue. You might not want to have to live through the 6 months of construction it will require to build your proposed design.

In any case, you should communicate with your remodel team about what would prevent you from moving forward.

Secure funding for your remodel

The process of paying for a remodel can look different from person to person depending on their financial situation. If you have a set amount of cash ready to pay for your remodel, the process is pretty simple. 

However, if you plan to secure funding through a loan or line of credit, you should begin working to secure that funding quickly. The reason is that the amount of funding you can secure will directly influence your budget. So, the more you know about how much and what type of funding is available to you, the better picture your design team will have to work with during the feasibility study.

Make a categorized list of expectations

At Lamont Bros., we encourage our clients to list out the features they want in a remodel by priority. The three categories we use are listed below.

Need to have: These are the non-negotiable items. If you can’t get your “need to haves,” then there’s no point in remodeling. Items in this list typically relate directly to major design flaws in the current home or necessities you can’t live without.

Want to have: The features in this category are the things that could actively improve your quality of life, but aren’t necessary. When designing a remodel, the “want to haves” are the items your design team will work to incorporate only after the “need to haves” are solved.

Nice to have: If you happen to have some budget left over after all the other features on your list, then come the “nice to haves.” Most appropriately described as “luxuries,” these items aren’t necessary to the functionality of your remodel, but rather serve as an added level of comfort.

Think about it like this — let’s say your family is growing and you need to add an extra bedroom. In that situation, the bedroom is the “need to have” item. 

Though not necessary, including a new bathroom with the new bedroom would add convenience and functionality to your home. This would be considered a “want to have.”

Now, in said bathroom, you might consider spending several thousand dollars to install a steam shower system, which would fall under the “nice to have” category.

Does your dream remodel need a feasibility study?

By now, you should have a solid understanding of how a feasibility study can benefit a remodel. You should also be able to identify whether or not you need a feasibility study for your upcoming remodel. Now, take the next step! Learn more about the remodel design process by visiting our Design + Build page. 

Want to learn more about how a full-process remodeler like Lamont Bros. can help transform your home? Click the button below to schedule a free consultation with a member of our design team. We’ll work with you through the entire process of remodeling your home, from initial drawings to the final nail.