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Must-Know Tips for Building Home Additions

Must-Know Tips for Building Home Additions

Sometimes you just need a little more room in your home. If you’re thinking about expanding your living space, here’s what you need to know before construction begins.

Rather than moving to a larger house, many people look to home additions as a way to upgrade their living space. Not only does building a new room or second floor allow everyone to have their own personal space, it also can make a great investment for those looking to add value to their home. In fact, primary bedroom, bathroom, sunroom, and second-story additions all have the potential to boost resale value.

When considering a home addition, it’s important to know that they can be costly — generally running between $20,000 and $75,000 depending on the scope of the project and the materials involved. Also, renovations can take weeks and even months to complete. Sometimes the project is so disruptive to the household that families may choose to relocate while the work is being done, adding more inconvenience and cost. But regardless of the project, there are six things that must be done to plan, budget and design a home addition.

1. Define Your Goal

Why do you need a home addition? Whatever the answer — extra room for the kids, a guest bathroom or a formal dining area — be sure to share those intentions with your contractors. They often have experience and can pinpoint the most efficient way to execute the project so that your goals are achieved with minimal disruption.

2. Get Familiar With Permits & Restrictions

Home additions inevitably require permits and inspections from your local authorities. It’s important to comply with building codes as they will help prevent trouble in the future. The permits and inspections are there to document that the work was done properly, which is especially important when trying to sell a home. Not learning about required permits could undermine the safety of your new structure. You can familiarize yourself with regional restrictions by going to your county or city building and zoning websites.

The most common types of permits are those for gas, plumbing and electrical work. However, many more verifications can apply depending on where you live, such as access to sewer or well water sources or how many stories you can have. Other restrictions dictate how close your building can be to a neighbor, the street, or nearby lots. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll have to carry out a property survey to confirm your planned addition won’t be in violation of property line regulations.

It’s not uncommon for the homeowner (not the contractor) to be the one responsible for requesting and securing these permits, so it’s essential to clarify up front who will be handling each part of your renovation process. Homeowners’ insurance in most cases will not cover any damage resulting from failure to comply with permit requirements.

3. Establish the Budget

In general, the costs associated with a remodel can be hefty. For a ballpark price, first look at the current home value. A major addition will likely be at least 10-15 percent of that number.

Once you consult contractors to figure out the cost of your renovation, you then have to figure out how to fund the construction. Do you have enough saved? Do you need a loan? Can you apply for a home equity line of credit? Ultimately, your budget must be covered by the funds you have available. You may find some flexibility in payment terms, with many contractors offering generous payment plans instead of a large lump sum payment.

Some budget-saving options include doing some of the initial demolition yourself, buying your own materials, taking on the primary project manager duties, or going with vintage or second-hand fixtures. Keep in mind that each of these options requires you to trade money savings for your own time and work.

4. Find Your Contractor

When looking for a contractor, get multiple bids before settling on the best option. Compare timelines, terms and customer reviews. Always look to the experiences of previous clients before making a decision. The most important element in this stage is communication — make sure contractors fully understand your needs and budget. It’s also a good idea to make decisions ahead of time on how to handle any unexpected problems.

Instead of giving a contractor your maximum budget amount up front, prepare them to work with only 80-85 percent of the available funds. Having this cushion will make it easier on everyone when unforeseen costs pop up — and they inevitably will.

5. Determine the Design

The objective of your project and the local building codes will weigh heavily on the design for your home addition. That being said, you’ll be able to personalize the space through certain finishing touches. To ensure that your new addition is cohesive with the existing home, it’s a good idea to consult a professional designer. If the new space varies too much, the boundaries between old and new may be obvious and cause your home to feel disconnected.

6. Setup Schedules and Timelines

Working closely with your contractors, put together a schedule for the whole project. You’ll not only want to ask them for a completion date, but also dates throughout the project for interim milestones. This will help you figure out when to make installment payments. In addition, these interim milestones will serve as indicators for whether the overall project is on schedule.

For instance, ask your contractor how many workers will be on site daily to get the work done. If the answer is six and then there is a week where only three show up, delays can be expected — in addition to a potential breach of contract. Also, inquiring about when flooring or painting will be done are simple indicators because they tell you that other major work behind the walls, like electrical and plumbing, are all finished.

Be sure to let your contractor know about any significant life events, like travel or illness, that would prevent them from accessing your home. And once again, communication is key. Keep those lines of communication open. Sometimes seemingly little things can put a kink in your timeline. Try to stay flexible and be available to discuss project details — even those that may seem minor.

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