Opening Your Floor Plan While Saving Money

Wendy Weir
Published on December 13, 2015

Opening Your Floor Plan While Saving Money



Opening your floor plan, is not usually what most people have in mind when they start feeling cramped in their home. Do you love your neighborhood but find, with your growing family find that your home is too small? Here are some before and after examples on how to save money opening your floor plan, on  your existing home.

Here is one set of examples on opening your floor plan, which makes the home seem like you have increased the square footage. Here are before and after photo’s of the kitchen and office. To see the specific step-by-step process on opening the floor plan without adding any addition square footage read  Open your floor plan? Idea’s, $ saving tips and more .


Office – Before and After


Think About Your Needs

It is often a very tough decision when determining to stay where you are and renovate your existing house, or you move to another, maybe newer, house? How do you make that decision? Some people will say… buy something new. Some might say, tear it down and build new, while there will be others who will tell you to stay and try opening your floor plan on your existing home.

So how do you make that tough decision? Here are some criteria to help you make a rational decision to stay put, remodel my house or move.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Your answers will certainly help you decide on your next move.

Why do you feel your home is too small? Starting from here – you can decide what your specific needs are. If your current home could meet those needs with a more efficient layout, then a renovation might be the better choice for you. Think about bedrooms, bathrooms, the kitchen, and shared areas. Maybe you can add space by developing the basement or attic, adding a second floor to a ranch or even adding a basement if you have the proper land for it. Usually a large yard with a ‘slopping hill’ works the best – then a basement can easily be dug out behind your existing home. It is easy to make an addition directly above the new basement or walkout – whichever you choose. 

First and foremost – check the building and use restrictions for your neighborhood. These are part of real estate zoning laws.  You will probably also have bylaws for your Homeowners Association, and you may need to get variances or approval from neighbors for certain work. Additions also require inspections from the city municipality where you live. This often seems intrusive, but in the long run,  you want the city or township where you live to make sure your builder or general contractor has followed the codes and requirements for their work. Never use an unlicensed builder or contractor to save money! If they haven’t gotten their builder license, or their ‘contracted’ plumbing, heating ,electrical and mechanical sub-contractors aren’t licensed … walk away! Make sure you copy or photograph ever contractors license before they start work on your home. Here are 18 Tips for Finding a Reliable Contractor.

Don’t go for the lowest bid choosing your builder or contractor, no matter how much lower their bid is – there is a reason for it being lower, and you get what you pay for. Maybe they don’t carry worker comp for their employees. If one of them gets injured, your homeowners insurance is now on the ‘hook’ for that, as well as you, for the deductible and whatever your insurance doesn’t cover.

Here are some photographs, for an existing ranch style home with no basement.

011 This home went from a 3 bedroom, 1.5 Bath, living room, dining room, and kitchen to a 5 bedroom, 3.5 bath, home with a new master suite, family room, walk-out basement with bedroom and full bath. Then using ‘wasted space’ an office was also added, without adding on!

Additionally, you must know what constitutes the legal requirement for a bedroom. This varies from state to state and a walk-out has its own requirements as well.


The existing home was not disturbed during construction and was not ‘opened up’ to the addition till it was nearly complete. This avoided all the mess most people live through during construction. As can be seen here, the hill behind the home was ‘dug out’ and boulders were placed as retaining walls to create the walk-out. Lastly, a lower level patio and deck were added after the 1st floor family room, master suite and walk-out were built.

The Most Important Factors For the Walkout



Ideally, the best sites when renovating or building homes with a walk-out basement happen to be in hilly areas. The higher the slope on the property, the easier it is to build a nice walk-out.  First, the costs involved are much lower because there is not as much soil, clay, dirt, rocks or tree roots to remove. Be very careful here, removing large trees roots will most likely kill the tree, eventually, and that can also make the soil unstable. Be sure to choose a location with no trees, or trees off to the sides.

Figuring Costs

Removing soil, and hauling it away are only the beginning. Next, think of how you are going to support your new retaining walls. There are many different ways to do this, rail road ties work well, but eventually they rot, and need to be replaced. The best material to use are boulders, they last forever.

Here is a quick Video – outlining a few of these suggestions – on Building Walk-Out Basements via Home Design

How To Dig Out a Basement   By Carl Heldmann – Nationally Acclaimed Author and Home Builder


Don’t Stress

Whether you decide to renovate or move, you’ll likely encounter stressful situations. However, being well prepared and organized can help you avoid any and all potential pitfalls of the choice you make. If you decide to move, you will need to sell your current house. Be very careful about buying a new one and selling yours at the same time. Don’t loose focus on selling your home because you’re devoting to much time to finding a new one. Make sure its staged appropriately and everything is well maintained so you can keep up its appeal to potential buyers. Don’t let the challenge of finding a new home impact your ability to sell your current one.

Ensuring that your sale and closing dates are compatible is another difficulty you might encounter. If your home sells before your new home is available, you will have to find a short-term place to live, and you may need to put your things in storage. This is not an issue, if you foresee it as a possibility. Talk to your friends and family and find a well located storage area just in case. If you purchase a house before your old one sells, you may need to carry two mortgages at the same time. If this is part of your plan, be sure that your bank is willing to offer you bridge financing before your make any firm decisions. If you’d rather avoid this just be sure you’re on top of your scheduling and keep an open line of communication with all parties involved to avoid any confusion.

If you decide to renovate, or are considering opening your floor plan, there are additional things to consider. Personally, I have always lived in the house while it’s being renovated. Your contractors will need scheduled access to your home. You’ll most likely want to be present for a fair amount of the work as well, to make sure it meets your expectations.


On top of that, the work being done will often cause a lot of dust and dirt in your home. To minimize this possibly discuss some ideas of daily clean up with you contractor. Also remember that some days you may have to go without power or water if they need to shut down services to do work. Finally consider unexpected expenses and potential delays in time. Projects almost always run over budget and over the estimated time frame. The numbers your contractor gives you is just an estimate so plan accordingly.

Financially Speaking

If you decide opening your floor plan or remodeling in other ways, decide how you will fund the work before you sign any contract. Again, remember that any number your contractor gives you is really just an estimate. The job is almost guaranteed to cost more in the end. You may not be able to resist picking out expensive fixtures when the time comes, or you might encounter unexpected areas behind your walls that need repair. Make sure you can afford both the cost of the work and have a large contingency fund.

You will also want to consider the resale value of your newly renovated home. If you are hoping to recoup even some of the cost of your renovation, ensure that you are not over-improving your home when compared to the other homes in your neighborhood. If your house has significantly more bedrooms or square footage than the others around it, you still won’t be able to sell it for significantly more money than your neighbors’ homes. You don’t want to own the best house in the neighborhood. You have are considering investing a lot of money in your home, opening the floor plan is the least expensive way to do that. You are adding on, but you can make it look much larger without the added costs.

If you decide to move, make sure that you can afford the type of new home that you want. Be sure that you have a realistic idea of what your current home will sell for. You will need to be pre-approved by your bank for a mortgage before you put an offer in on a new home. Also remember that the size of house you can afford will vary drastically depending on the location you choose.

Another expense to consider when moving is the closing costs. Commissions paid to real estate agents, transfer taxes, lawyer’s fees (uncommon but possible), and title insurance are some of the usual closing costs.

When looking to increase your living space, remember that both opening the floor plan or other types of renovations can be good options. When buying a home, Avoid These Common Mistakes Buyers Make.  Knowing exactly what your requirements are, planning everything carefully and not trying to do more than you can handle, will make your upgrade go as smoothly as possible.

Wendy Weir Relocation – Real Estate Agent, Relocation Specialist, Birmingham, MI

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Opening Your Floor Plan While Saving Money
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