Excerpted From YAVAPAI Magazine, March 2006, Pgs. 42-46

As home values rise exponentially in Yavapai County, many residents are tempted to sell their homes and “move on up.”  But a lot of families like their existing neighborhoods, and they would be content in their homes if it weren’t for cramped kitchens, dingy bathrooms and interiors with all the ambience of an underground cave.

If you want to stay put, but still add some light and life to that old house, a remodeling architect may be just the knight in white shining armor that you need.  Architects are often the missing link in a home remodel.  While a homeowner or a contractor might work with the existing walls and layout of a home, an architect can take in the overall structure and suggest tearing out walls, adding windows and any number of other changes that will make you feel like you’re living in a brand new house in your old neighborhood.

Remodels can completely transform a home and run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but little changes can make a big difference in comfort and energy consumption.  Every architect we talked with recommended that homeowners check the quality and installation of their insulation, and consider replacing windows with more energy-efficient models.

Those little things make a big difference, said architect Jeffrey Zucker, a partner in Catalyst Architecture of Prescott.  “Caulking, weather stripping, checking windows and insulation, those are easy things, although replacing windows is not a ‘cheap fix.’  But those give the most bang for your buck.  If you go camping and buy the best sleeping bag you can, but you get it too near the fire and it gets a hole in it, it’ll be worthless.  You’ll freeze where that hole is. It’s the same with that insulation in your attic – if it’s not installed properly it’ll be freezing.  Insulation is one of the biggest bargains out there.” 

Zucker also suggested that homeowners who want to remodel and increase energy-efficiency might look at sunrooms, the placement of windows, and the right kind of landscaping to enhance passive solar heating in winter and shade in summer.  “Landscaping plays a huge part, and you don’t have to have an expansive view to make it work,” Zucker said.

According to architects, aside from increasing the comfort of their home, homeowners most want to improve their kitchens.  A close second is bathrooms, and right behind that is the master suite.  Zucker said home offices and theaters, sunrooms, dens and libraries are all popular additions.  Zucker said a home obviously has to have “curb appeal,” but “once you get inside, the kitchen is pretty darned important.  Women tend to have a big say in (remodeling) decisions, and they are very interested in the kitchen.”

A good architect, Zucker said, can see things that “show up as opportunities. A client may say the kitchen is too cramped or dark, and I might think of things in a different way.  I can look around and say ‘tear out this wall or add a beam.’  If they don’t know what to do with a certain problem, I might be able to look around and say, ‘how about if we do this?’  I’ve been doing (architecture) for 30 years, and maybe I have the ability to see what the average person won’t see.” For example, he said, he had clients who needed to add a stairwell but were not happy about the amount of space it would take in their home.  He suggested placing the stairway outside the wall and closing it in with a solarium.  “They were pleased, and said they hadn’t thought of that,” he said.

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