Ric and Marilyn Ott knew their 1974 Orem home was getting out of date. But buying a new home in Utah County, where property values have in some cases tripled since 1974, didn’t seem ideal, as they had already paid off their mortgage. So they starting measuring, reading and planning for ways to improve their existing house.
“We felt satisfied that we wanted to stay in our home because our family is starting to leave, and we don’t need a bigger place,” Marilyn Ott says.
“We decided that the main thing we needed was new kitchen cabinets and a new floor,” she says. “We didn’t want to change the structure of our standard rambler home, but we wanted to make it easier to live in.”
The Otts stripped their kitchen down to the bare walls, and then retextured the walls and had new cabinets installed. They also put tile down in the kitchen and dining room.
They’d heard it said that remodeling was harder on a family than building a new home, but they didn’t find that to be true.
“We were one of the fortunate ones, as we were only two weeks without a kitchen,” Marilyn Ott says. “We had a microwave and frying pan downstairs and a fridge in the garage, and it wasn’t too bad.”
Marilyn Ott says the key to easy remodeling is finding workers who will stick to a schedule.
“The people doing the floor came right on the button when we scheduled them,” she says. “So we didn’t have any down time on the project. Everything fell right into place.”
Now that the kitchen has up-to-date oak cabinets, Marilyn has started thinking of new projects.
“Once we did one room, we thought, ‘Hmmmm. It would be nice to work on this room, too.’ And then we started going room by room wondering what could be improved.”
While the area offers numerous vendors and contractors, the Otts worked with their neighbor, Paul Geertsen, who is the president of Rocky Mountain Windows and Doors Inc. in Orem.
“People often choose to remodel because they want to be able to stay in their same location,” says Geertsen. “If they like the neighborhood, they think about how they’ve already done their landscaping and perhaps don’t want to start over with a new home.”
Many of Geertsen’s clients simply want to bring their home up to current standards. In fact, the majority of people touring the Parade of Homes are looking for decorating ideas for their existing homes rather than considering a new home, he says.
“There are a lot of headaches that go with building a new home,” Geertsen says. “When a family decides to remodel, they can work in phases that fit their budget and schedule.”
In addition to money and time, family makeup is also driving much of the remodeling industry in Utah.
“Baby boomers’ needs are changing because a lot of the children have moved out,” Geertsen says. “Older people are knocking out walls and making a larger master bedroom with a larger master bath.”
Other trends are also following the change in family dynamics. Larger family rooms are needed to accommodate large family dinners, such as Thanksgiving or the traditional “Sunday dinner at Grandma’s.”
But creating more open space is just one option in the remodeling frame of mind.
Geertsen says Rocky Mountain Windows and Doors is fielding more calls than ever regarding the updating of windows.
“People are tired of the condensation,” Geertsen says. The motive for replacing windows is 50 percent aesthetics and 50 percent energy efficiency.”
Geertsen says there are a vast range of types and qualities of windows, so securing more than one bid is wise. The average window from Rocky Mountain Windows and Doors Inc. would run about $200-$250 installed.
While using niche companies such as window dealers to do some remodeling is ideal, a general contractor may be needed for a more extensive project.
“Even if a general contractor gets involved, it’s going to be cheaper to remodel than to buy a new home,” Geertsen says. “Two years ago, Provo-Orem was rated the 5th most costly place to live in the U.S., and that can be attributed to land and labor — not supplies.”