I am often asked if it makes sense to remodel a home in phases, and the answer is unequivocal… it depends.

On one hand, there are some great deals to be had today while the remodeling market is depressed; you’ll get more for your money now than you will later when the market recovers. And it always costs more to build a project in parts than it does to build it all at once. Think “economy of scale”.

On the other hand, there’s plenty of situations where phasing the work is a good way, if not the only way, to go. As an architect devoted to residential remodeling, I’m seeing a strong uptick in people taking this course lately.

So here are a few issues that commonly factor-in when considering a phased renovation:

  • Timing – A smaller project can finish sooner. If you have a baby on the way, that’s a strong motivator!
  • Financing – If you are funding your renovations with a home equity loan, you might first want to tackle projects that deliver the maximum boost in home value. Then the house will re-appraise at a higher value, your equity will increase, and you can tap that new equity for the next phase.
  • Uncertainty – For any number of reasons, people are sometimes unsure if they want to commit to the entire project now; but they still want to get something done and feel like they’re “moving ahead”.

Many of my clients in the older neighborhoods of Washington DC and surrounding suburbs (Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Potomac, etc) choose this path with great results. But the critical step is to first develop a “Master Plan” — a vision of what you want the home to eventually be, and how you are going to get there.

This bears repeating: YOU NEED A MASTER PLAN! Do not try this yourself at home — someone’s gonna get hurt. Seriously, you can waste a ton of money if the phases are not thoughtfully planned with an eye on the big picture. A small up-front investment in architectural design will reap huge dividends.