Gem State Dream Projects: Tips for Home Building and Renovating in Idaho

When you make the decision to come and live here in Idaho, it says a lot about you. Just as the abundance of precious stones that gave the Gem State its name has attracted prospectors, so too has the natural beauty of this very special place drawn you to our treasured lands. But there’s one more thing that your choice reveals about yourself: You love your freedom.

With wide-open spaces and a culture that respects the privacy of property owners, establishing your own domain in Idaho brings with it a refreshing sense of providence, which can be expressed robustly with the way you shape your home. Nothing quite puts a stamp on your identity as does the way your home looks and is decorated. That goes for inside and out, from rooftops to basement flooring and everything in between.

So it would come as no surprise to us that in the act of relocating to Idaho, you might be inclined to either remodel your existing abode or even build your own castle. Thanks to the plentiful opportunities for acquiring pristine acreage, this is a place where you can really dream big and go big. Whether you’re looking to design your own house or want to upgrade that vintage charmer you fell in love with, Idaho is the place to do it!

While we love fancying your imagination and encouraging you to reach your building and renovation goals, it is prudent to take a breath before jumping in full force into the enterprise. After all, you won’t be building in a bubble. There are many real-world issues that come along when engaging in such a complex undertaking. The act of erecting or modifying a house encompasses many moving parts that will impact the outcome. And so, we should take the time for some considerations.

None of the challenges in your home project are insurmountable — you’ve totally got this! But a little prep doesn’t hurt either. A myriad of factors will be coming your way. The geography and climate will absolutely shape many of your choices. Finding good partners in your adventure will help ensure great success. Mentally preparing for budgets and “Plan Bs” will help make the journey smoother. And understanding legal and municipal considerations can preempt many a headache.

Even if you think you’ve been to this rodeo before, don’t forget that Idaho isn’t like everywhere else — which you obviously already know! It’s why you came here in the first place! Keeping that in mind means understanding the local regulations, grasping the realities of the environment and getting to know the community who will be a part of it all. Ready to get started? Here are a few considerations for building and renovating a home in Idaho.

Earth, Wind and Fire … and Water!

Let’s get started with the basics: No matter where your home is, you need to understand how the elements behave locally. In Idaho, you have four seasons that definitely make themselves known but are relatively mild — depending on where you live. Across the state, summers are warm and often not too hot. Autumns are pleasant and vibrant, with crisp feels and colorful foliage. Winters tend to sprinkle snow but aren’t big on blizzards, and springs are congenial and warm.

As you run across the gambit of these seasons, you need to be sure that your home is winterized. If you’re building, make sure it’s built into the design. If you’re updating your home in a remodel, make sure to throw that in. Smart thermostats, energy-efficient heating and cooling and draft-preventing measures like double-paned windows are all prudent. But some parts of the state mean taking extra care. Wind corridors may mean upgrading your roof and siding. Mountain homes may face higher snowfall. Do your research and protect your home accordingly.

Another thing to consider is the geology on and around your property. Different soil types might mean different approaches to landscaping and drainage. Geological assessments can guide you toward smart building choices. An environmental study can also inform you as to whether you are in an area that can face fires, tornadoes or other challenges. Lakeside homes may have to adjust according to how the water’s proximity interacts with the property. Gaining such knowledge and using it in concert with your contractors and design professionals can make all the difference.

Team Building

Perhaps the most important part of your Idaho building or remodeling project is building a team of professional and competent partners. Engaging talented designers or architects is the first move to make. You need to find someone who has the chops and, at the same time, shares your vision. This will be the fun part, where you will take that first step to make your vision become a reality. And it needs to be a really good first step!

Seeking the right fit can take a little work. Research local draft folk who have a track record in the area. Take your time looking at their project galleries and client testimonials. Ask friends and neighbors about their experiences. When you find a few candidates, interview them all. Get to know them. Feel them out. Choose the ones who listen, get you and are ready to work.

Contractors are the key piece of your Idaho building and remodeling team. Ideally, your designer knows the best in the local business and brings them aboard. If not, follow the same step of research. Look at their work, not only online but also see if you can visit a current construction site to see what kind of work culture they’ve established. The more time you take to check your candidates out, the better chance you have of being happy in the end.

Be prepared to take things one step further. Ask them for proof of their licensing and binding. Anyone who doesn’t come with solid accreditations and insurance should be ruled out, especially if they agree to cheaper rates. What you want is a crew familiar with local regulations and laws who don’t skip steps and can make good if they make mistakes. This will help you avoid running afoul of zoning issues or illegal structures. Finding legitimate professionals will protect you and them.

Official Business

Once you’ve come up with a strong team for your Idaho building or remodeling project, now you need to make sure your plan is not only practical and pleasing but also all lined up when it comes to some of the more mundane but essential concerns before you. Being fully compliant with the state and local requirements should be vetted before the first nail is hammered. Hopefully, your team can consult you well on that. Regardless, it’s good to at least have a general idea of how things work in your part of Idaho.

As a general rule of thumb, cosmetic alterations don’t require special permitting. Items like installing new cabinets or painting a deck are simple and not subject to municipal scrutiny. But here in Idaho, there are a lot of potential projects you’ll want to make sure you’re fully permitted for. Common work includes things like plumbing and electrical work, fencing, structural changes and additions. While these might affect a remodel, they will, of course, always apply to new construction.

We understand it can be tempting to skip permitting — but don’t do it! Sure, it can be a hassle to deal with. Worse though, if you move forward with all your hopes, dreams and funds only to face penalties down the road. In some municipalities, you could even be ordered to destroy a structure if it is deemed to be afoul of local ordinances. Even if that doesn’t happen, unregulated construction can be detected and hurt when it comes time to sell the home. Take the time to reach out to officials if you harbor any doubts about compliance.

Money Matters

Finally, let us never forget that these wonderful Idaho building and remodeling projects are serious financial endeavors. Formulate a budget working closely with your professional parties, making sure you are covering everything from labor to materials — and be prepared to be flexible. Sometimes, that tile you prefer or that expansion in the living room will end up not matching your initial budget plans. And that’s OK. You’ll just have to be ready for those surprises and be mentally prepared to navigate them.

Following along those lines, it’s also a very good idea to build a contingency into your home-building budget. Costs can run up very easily. Seasonal changes can affect the prices of materials. Unexpected obstacles can stretch labor costs as more hours than initially estimated are needed to do the job. Delays can occur due to weather, requiring a fix on landscaping work. In short, expect some surprises — which is fine. Dreams can come true, they just take a little hard work and persistence!

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