Planning for a Home Addition

Whether big or small, a construction project for a new home addition requires proper planning and foresight in order achieve your vision within your allotted budget.

Finding more room to accommodate a growing family’s needs poses difficult decisions, especially if finding a new home is not an option. Adding more square footage through a home addition is a great way to keep the existing flow of the house in tact while solving the problem of lack of space. When you consider the options to increase the space in your home some careful planning is required. It’s important to look at your existing structure and work with it, not against it, in order to reduce costs and increase functionalities.

1. Envisioning Your Finished Home Addition

Before talking to architects, designers, or contractors, a conceptual idea of your addition should be envisioned. It’s likely that you already have a strong opinion of what types of rooms your home would benefit from, whether it be a master suite, family room, larger kitchen, or even an entire second floor. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Will I be building upwards or around my existing structure?
  • How much money is in my budget?
  • What utilities will be required?
  • Who will benefit from the addition and what needs will they have?
  • Where are my property lines and what is my variance?
  • Is there a homeowners association that I need to confirm my build with?

Create detailed lists of needs versus wants which will be considered when going over budgets, and have a realistic idea of what can be accomplished within your time-frame. If your home addition requires opening up a roof or outside wall; things like weather should be considered, especially if you plan to live in your home while it is being renovated. Find inspiration for your home addition through architectural blogs, magazines or even neighboring homes. Don’t be afraid to knock on a neighbor’s door and ask for their contractor’s or architect’s information, you may be able to save money by using similar prints as theirs which the contractor will still have access to.

Consider what types of materials and finishes your home addition will have and how it will look and flow with the existing structure. Varying floorboards, molding, or baseboards comparative to the rest of the home will look out of place when your home addition should seem like it has always been there. This is even more imperative when looking at the house from the outside, using similar bricks and roofing material is a must in order to “hide” the addition. The last thing you want is to have your home addition look like it was just slapped onto your existing home.

Pro Tip: Pay special attention to ensuring uniform materials are used for all home additions visible on the outside of the house.

2. Creating a Budget

Before reaching out to architects or builders it is necessary to have a realistic budget in mind. Often times homeowners find themselves infatuated with neighboring designs but find out it is not financially possible for them. Creating a budget is difficult without design ideas and at the same time finding a design is difficult without having a budget. Look through your finances and find a number you are comfortable with spending.

Allotting at least 15% additional spending for construction as an “Over-Budget” category for smaller additions and at least 25% for larger additions. This Over-Budget category will be used for unforeseen problems such as rotting in framing, code compliance changes for electrical or plumbing, structural problems, or foundational issues. Even with the most planning and research possible there can still be unforeseen issues once construction is initiated. Documentation, permits, and drawings will account between 7% to 10% of your budget, while the general contractor’s end of things will be around 16.5% to 19%, the rest of the budget will go towards materials and labor. This can differ based on quality of materials and quality of finish you expect to receive.

Home Advisor states that average costs for home additions per square foot in 2017 slide between $80-$200. This will differ from state to state, and in many cases even city to city. While it may seem tempting to side with the lower cost per square footage, remember the general rule of thumb: Speed, Quality, Price; you only get to pick two. If your addition requires excavations and foundations to be made then an average of $75-$100 per cubic yard of concrete can be expected. Additionally roofing for your addition will cost between $80-$100 per square foot depending on type of materials.

Pro Tip: When creating your budget, be sure to include the estimated increase in future property taxes.

The Design Phase

Essentially what you want in order to streamline the building process is being able to get the permitting, architectural designs, important documentations, and even the contractor all done by the same company or firm. Having a architectural company that works directly with a builder or contractor is the best case scenario in order to maintain quality control of the entire building project.

Often times architects have builders that they tend to work with on a regular basis and is a good sign of quality workmanship and timely milestones. Architects and designers can be avoided when doing a smaller additions like a small family room with one entrance to the existing structure as a good contractor should will be able to plan themselves. However, when moving walls, changing the roofline, or changing the general flow of the home; architects will save time and headaches by providing plans that builders can follow, negating the risk of possible issues within the project.

While the architect’s and engineer’s fees seem like an extra cost to the project, the plans and foresight for the project will reduce your overall costs and will help guide both you and the builders through the process. Additionally, being able to hand prints to contractors during the bidding process will guarantee that all contractors are bidding on the same scope of work and not missing or adding anything accidentally, causing more accurate bids for you to choose from. Architect firms can also act as project managers for larger builds and act as an extension of your wants with the experience and know-how of what can and should be accomplished. They will deal with the day to day decision making and force timelines to be adhered.

Finding the Right Contractor

Once the final design has been approved a contractor is brought in. Selecting a contractor should be a process that takes a bit of time and research, the more effort put into finding a contractor will lead to a more streamlined construction project that is budget efficient. Using plans from architects or designers will allow home builders to accurately bid the project with less chance of itemizations being missed. Contractors will often give out references that you can call and confirm customer experiences with but asking a contractor for addresses to their current projects will allow you to scope out how professionally ran the job site is.

Using references from friends or family members is often one way to find a contractor however, if your friend or family member only has only used one construction company before then they will only be able to comment on their experience and not be able to compare it to anything. Using references from architects is much more valuable considering they not only have worked with numerous contractors but have also seen how contractors solve unforeseeable problems. Your contractor should have your priorities in front of theirs at all times and their goals should be to provide the best solutions for your needs.

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