Planning A Home Addition – Ten Tips To Consider

By Todd Fratzel on Design & Planning

Adding Living Space with an Addition

Every year thousands of home owners decide to add an addition to their home for increased living space, more functionality or simply a new look to their home. Before jumping head first into an addition to your home look over my list of the top ten things to consider when planning a house addition.

Home Addition

  1. Gather Legal Documents – If you’re serious about adding an addition to you home you’ll need to track down a few legal documents before you plan anything. First and foremost you’ll need to find an accurate plot plan of your property showing the property lines and the proximity of the existing and proposed buildings to those lines. This is extremely important because you’ll need to ensure the new addition isn’t built “outside” jurisdictional set-backs defined by local Zoning laws. If this step is skipped it’s highly likely a building built too close to the property lines will have to be torn down! Plot plans and surveys are usually available your local Registry of Deeds.
  2. Determine a Realistic Budget – Before you meet with a builder or architect it’s important to set a budget that you feel comfortable with. The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a design and stretch yourself thin financially. You should develop a budget that includes the hard cost of the project, a decent contingency number, increases to property taxes, utility expenses and even insurance. Stick to your budget and you’ll be stress free when the project is finished and ready to enjoy your new space.
  3. What Do You Need? – Determine what you need above and beyond what you might “want”. It’s really important to identify what exactly you need. If you need another bedroom don’t be tempted to add a hot tub! Be sure to write down a very specific list of the needs and functions the new space will provide. In addition, it’s always good to have a list of “special” items you might want to consider if the budget ends up “fat”. Instead of ignoring some of the finer things in life why not add a couple to your list and see which ones you might be able to do add if there’s room in the budget.
  4. Hire A Design Professional – Lots of us think we can design homes but the reality is Architects provide a great service and design amazing live spaces that the average person just can’t imagine. Often times the architect will also have a nice list of builders that you can speak with that are already “vetted”.
  5. Speak To Your Neighbors – One of the best things you can do early on when planning an addition is to speak about the project with neighbors. I can’t stress this tip enough. Rather than facing down an agree neighbor it’s best to approach them early on and take note of any issues they might have. It’s especially important if your neighbors are really close.
  6. Create A Short List of Builders – Checking references and getting recommendations is vitally important to choosing a builder that you can trust and one you’ll be glad built your new addition. Ask friends and neighbors for suggested builders. You can also ask your local building code officials and building supply companies. Once you’ve checked references then plan on asking at least three builders for detailed written estimates.
  7. Additions are NOT DIY Projects – There are some DIY’ers out there capable of building an addition but the reality is most folks should not attempt a building addition. The reality is if a bank is financing the project they will likely require that you hire a licensed general contractor. House additions are typically complicated projects requiring multiple trades and lots of coordination. DIY’ers just don’t have the relationship with sub-contractors to get them on the job in a timely fashion. General Contractors have relationships with multiple subs and the ability to make things happen in a timely fashion.
  8. Evaluate Utilities Before You Begin – Before you start designing the new addition it’s best to meet with an electrician and HVAC Contractor to determine the capacity of your existing systems. Long before you pick a builder you might as well find out if your existing electrical and HVAC systems can handle new loads from the new space. This is vital information to have while planning your budget.
  9. Check on Financing – A new addition sounds wonderful but it won’t be a wonderful experience if you break ground on the project before knowing where the money will come from. In today’s crazy real estate market, you’ll be required to bring substantial equity to the table.
  10. Realistic Expectations – My biggest piece of advice for anyone considering an addition to their house is coming up with realistic expectations. Be realistic with your budget, your needs, and your expectations. Often times people have wild dreams of an amazing addition being built quickly with no disruption to your home. Even small projects can take time and cause huge disruptions to your family. Just be sure you’re honest with yourself.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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