Cover story: Condo redesign involves special considerations

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Mr. Coplen said most condo owners choose to stay in the home while it is being renovated, as long as there is one working bathroom available.

From a design perspective, condo dwellers sometimes have fewer options for renovations because load-bearing walls, plumbing and gas lines cannot be moved.

“A condo remodel can be a fun design challenge because of the small scale,” Mr. Coplen said. “A lot of people want to simplify the space and make it as functional as possible. A typical project is to take an older condo that has been broken up into smaller spaces and create an open, loftlike feel.”

Mr. Kirstein said condo buyers often want to redo the kitchen, bathrooms and flooring and move walls. Sometimes, though, structural elements or utilities prevent contractors from being able to redesign the interior as much as buyers want.

“Combining units can be interesting, too, but contractors need to work with the building managers to create new entries,” Mr. Kirstein said. “Sometimes it is possible to take the former kitchen of one unit and use the plumbing penetration to create a new master bath.”

Popular projects for many condo owners, Mr. Coplen said, include replacing parquet flooring with hardwood flooring and upgrading the kitchen with tile or stone flooring, stainless steel appliances and granite counters.

“Storage is always at a premium, so condo owners also want to convert small spaces into storage by adding cabinetry or sometimes buffering out a wall to create a small closet,” Mr. Coplen said.

Mr. Millholland said condo owners often are looking for a sleeker and more modern style than owners of single-family homes.

“In baths, condo owners are adding heating floors, which can be done electrically; frameless glass showers and marble flooring,” Mr. Millholland said. “If space is an issue, we can put in smaller appliances to make the kitchen more functional, build cabinets up to the ceiling and even build shallow storage space on one wall.”

Mr. Kirstein recommends that buyers considering purchasing an older condo and remodeling it should consult with a contractor before making an offer to find out what changes they feasibly can make to the home.

Contractors say that while the labor costs may be higher on a condo remodel than a single-family home because of the constraints of working in a smaller space, those costs are offset by the fact that framing supports are in place and the projects often are more limited in scope.

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