By Jill Nagy
Many people who buy a house in Saratoga Springs decide to change it: things like redoing the kitchen or bathroom, add a master bedroom suite, or turning the backyard into an outdoor family room.
Bob West, president of Old Saratoga Restoration, speculated that it is almost inevitable. “People want to be in town,” he said, and “the housing stock is quite old. Most houses require work.”
Kitchens are at the top of the list, he said, then bathrooms, then adding extra space. Typically, they are investing $300 to $500 per square foot in a remodeling project, he said. For $100,000 or so “you get a really pretty looking kitchen.”
Kim Hinman of Hinman Construction, agreed. “The focus is more on the kitchen and bathroom end of things; mostly the kitchen,” she said. One family she recently worked with bought a house a year ago knowing they would redo the kitchen. While they were at it, they had her take out the back wall and added six more feet to the house.
She also sees a “tremendous wave” of interest in outdoor areas with facilities for relaxing and cooking, including pizza ovens and weatherproof television sets. “That’s not one of our focus areas,” she said, “but we do it.”
Not too long ago, a kitchen remodel meant some new cabinets and appliances; “if you redid the bathroom, the plumber picked out the faucets.” Now, she said, “it is primarily the full remodel.” Hinman estimates costs a bit lower than West: $50,000-$70,000 for a kitchen, for example. Quality cabinets alone, she noted, can cost $15,000-$20,000.
A Hinman remodel is usually a two-step process. After an initial meeting, she goes to her computer and prepares some designs and budgets.
“The last thing we want to do is design something not within a client’s budget,” she said. She keeps in mind that “everybody has their ‘it’ thing and it is always different.” I(t could be a fancy hood over the stove or a tile cook top. Once there is agreement on the design and budget, the construction can start and it may take four to six weeks, including time waiting for cabinets.
We try to keep it simple, she claimed. “We overthink it so they don’t have to.”
Some people go through the design phase and stop for a while she said. Others seem to get carried away once remodeling starts. One project she described began with the addition of a master bedroom. Then, it grew to include a family room and laundry. They had to replace some of the siding, then did the rest of it. “Then, we did the roof as well.”
West is more likely to rely on an architect or decorator for the design work. “A lot of design is on the fly,” he said. “There are many surprises in older homes. You almost require an architect for an addition or an extensive remodel.”
In recent years, tastes have changed radically, West noted. Bold colors have been replaced with neutral shades. People are looking for an uncluttered look with clean, crisp lines. As life and technology get more chaotic, he said, people are looking for a calming, soothing atmosphere at home.
Tastes in surfaces are changing also, he said. There is a lot less granite and more of other solid surfaces, including marble and “manufactured surfaces. Quartz is super popular today.”
While West specializes in remodeling, his company also builds custom houses. He said he just completed work on a 6,000-square-foot house that looks traditional on the outside but is “quite modern” on the inside.
The Hinman company also sticks pretty much to remodeling work. Her husband, Jami, began as a carpenter doing framing for area builders. About 30 years ago, he began Hinman Construction Within three years or so, he decided to specialize in remodeling. It is primarily a family business, including two adult children, Caroline and Jesse. Both have business degrees.
Unlike Hinman, who loves her computer-based design and drawing programs, West is a refugee from computer science. He has a degree in the field but, although he likes data and logic, “I found computer science quite dry, quite boring, and very predictable.”
Construction work, he finds, is just the opposite. He grew up living next door to a master carpenter and worked for him while he was in high school and college.
By Jill Nagy