We’ve had home additions on the brain lately. Maybe it’s the house a few blocks away that’s in the middle of adding what looks like a garage (see below). Maybe it’s our new favorite show on HGTV- “My Big Amazing Renovation.” Or maybe it’s just our reoccurring daydreaming about what our house would look like with a second story (all part of our plan to never ever move).
Whatever it is, it led me to this article on RightContractors.com which has some pretty good reminders for anyone contemplating some extra square footage by way of an addition. It underscores the importance of maintaining design consistency- both interior and exterior – with your existing space, as well as with the neighborhood. And of course since the site focuses on helping you find the “right contractor” they mention that it’s a crucial first step to find a GC, architect or engineer who can keep those factors in mind.
We’d love to have a contractor or architect help us brainstorm a waaay-in-our-future addition (second floor? bump out into the backyard?). But preferably not the person responsible for the obvious line between old and new roof on our neighbor’s addition… or the obviously bricked-over window created when the previous owners of our house turned their porch into the den that we inherited:
Have any of you guys done the home addition thing? Or seen someone else do it particularly well… or especially poorly? Any tips or advice for the rest of us? Think we should take the plunge and at least get a free estimate… even if it is just for fun in these penny pinching times?
My current fantasy is to finish out our attic into a 3rd bedroom/bathroom that could also be used as a home office! I’m hoping that finishing an existing space wouldn’t be as expensive as an addition, but I really have no idea if we even have enough room up there. My rationalization is that since it is supposed to take the real estate market years to recover from the current mess, it would be good to make our house as liveable as possible.
gena rodsan says
We are currently finishing a 2800 sq ft addition to our house. We’ve gone from a 2028 sq ft queen anne Victorian ( C1850 ) to 4800 Sq ft.
The reason for our add on was that our 17 year old son had a heart transplant on 12/15/07. He has had some resulting physical limitations and can no longer climb steps – not good in a an old Victorian. So, we started with the idea of an elevator and it spun into a 3rd floor, 1000 sq ft “apt” for he and his twin. Oh, and that meant adding on to our MBR suite and why not a gym for his PT, and what the heck lets add a laundry room on the second floor and sure, the third too. You get the idea !
The addy has taken wayyyyyyyy longer than anticipated and not one inch of our home or our property has gone unscathed. We’ve stayed in the house and the twins are sleeping in the living room and my husband and I are in the sewing room and it’s CROWDED ! We way went over our $$ budget too.
Worth it ? I think it will be. Would I do it again ? Well, for our reasons, of course, for fun – I’m not so sure. I do love our home, we’ve been here for over 20 years and I didn’t want to leave and now we’ll have a house not only for us to age in, but to leave to the boys for their own future families.
Oh, and today ? They’re out there in the pouring rain finishing up or LAVENDER siding !!!!!!!!
Do it. Now’s the time.
Jean &amp; Andrew says
Oh, don’t get me started. Leslie is bang on. Our family of 3 1/2 lived in our basement during our winter major home renovation. I was pregnant (hence the “1/2”) and our roof was completely ripped off. Oh, just the memory of hearing those workboots hit the floor above us at 7 am each day and reaching out into the freezing cold from under our covers to turn on our space heaters – I cringe. Let’s see…we had a rambler to which we added a second floor and bumped out the back. Sound familiar?
My recommendations: to any contractor’s estimate, add at least 10% (+) for overruns — unforeseen conditions/ modifications to be made along the way. You’ll also need to budget for the rent you’ll pay wherever you’ll be residing during the renovation. Also remember that short-term rentals (less than a yr. duration) are pricier than yearly leases. Oh, and of course you’ll want to find a place that accepts pets (added fees there). Will you be moving everything in your home into storage? If so, add on those storage costs (but maybe you can put most of it into your garage). Finally, however long you think you’ll be out of the house and paying rent + your current mortgage, add a couple months to that.
Sorry, but we’ve been there. Sounded great before we did it and had previously enjoyed doing some home improvement projects ourselves. When the project is of that magnitude, however, and the pace is so fast that the daily control of it has left your hands, it just isn’t fun and quality suffers. The general contractor’s game is to pay out to their subs as little as possible from what you pay him so he can maximize what he pockets. We had some subs of questionable skill level working on some major line items (HVAC, plumbing, electrical) when some of the originally-proposed subs weren’t available the week they were needed. Because the work had to get done at that time in order to keep the contractor on schedule for his other upcoming jobs, he got whoever he could. Things like this happen under general contracts. In hindsight, we wish we had just moved into a larger space and fixed up the new house on our own, less overwhelming, terms.
MaryB in Richmond says
I think you might be wrong about your neighbor’s roofline; I think it might be that they’re having the new addition step down at the same change as the small (utility room?) piece does now.
I love it when other people do construction.
And, yeah, if you can afford it this is *exactly* the right time to be doing construction. Keeping the skilled tradesmen busy is very nearly a social obligation these days.
I agree with the others that said now is the time, go for it! Contractors (at least from what i’ve heard and seen in my area) are itching for work and pricing low so you won’t look elsewhere. At least get an estimate, you might be pleasantly surprised at the cost!
Oh, yes… get an estimate! At least you’ll know how much you need to save up if this is what you really want to do.
I think it’s imperative to get a good architect. I am not sure about VA but in CA you can do your own design and have an engineer approve the structural components and get a permit to do your addition, on your own. I hate seeing those “I just added a box on top of my garage” additions.
Also, I feel the additions should be proportional to the rest of the house. If all your bedrooms are small adding a master bedroom (or whatever) that is 4 times larger then the rest of the rooms screams addition.
I agree with others who have said that now is the time to get at least an estimate.
I would love to see a floorplan of your house and possible ideas of what you would like to do.
We live in a house that benefited from an addition. Our 4-bed, 2-bath Colonial used to be a 2-bed, 1-bath home. The addition, done sometime in the 60s or 70s (I think; house was built in the early 40’s), added on the extra bedrooms, bathroom and a big beautiful sunroom. Miraculously, it all looks consistent — helps that the addition is on the back of the house. I highly recommend having professionals involved!
Oh don’t mind my silly husband’s musings about an addition. As he may have failed to emphatically stress, we are about a decade away from seriously entertaining the idea (although we do daydream about it all the time). At the moment our three bedroom house suits us just fine (I currently clean two almost-always-empty guest bedrooms!).
But thanks to all of your super helpful tips we’ll certainly know what to do (and not do) when we’re knee deep in children and bursting at the seams. Until then we’ll just keep imagining that master bedroom with an adjoining master bath- and maybe some french doors leading out onto the patio… a girl can dream, can’t she?
Hey guys – I’m going to post this with your post so that you can reference it whenever the time comes to do this. My Aunt just finished an enormous renovation/addition to her house, and I was talking to my Uncle (an electrician) about it. He said he would never do it again (apparently all the dust, etc. was crazy, and it took several years to complete), but IF he did, he would definitely hire a GC. They decided not to cause he figured he could do it himself – which he could, but he said that contractors working for a GC are much more committed – his workers would get a call from a GC and go do that job even though they had committed to finishing something on his house (causing crazy delays for them). Getting an estimate now may not be a bad idea so you have a ballpark figure to save for, but I bet that since the prices of materials and labor varies so much that it’ll be a much lower figure than you’ll get in 10 years :)!
Hi. 4 years ago my husband built a family room addition to our ranch house – 18 x 20 with a peaked ceiling, 13ft at the highest. It has 2 french doors and an oval window at the peak. I haven’t got around to posting about it yet on my blog. My husband is a high school physics teacher w/no construction experience. When he built it during his summber break he hired someone to do the foundation and the electrical work. There were moments when it was crazy (I was up on scaffolding 14 ft up in the air trying to hold onto rafters as he nailed them to the side walls)but the savings were incredible as compared to the 100k+ estimates contractors in the DC area gave us. If you add on to your house, out or up, consider being your own general contract and/or doing some of the work yourself. It’s a bit stressful but so is hiring someone.
Mike and McGee says
I initially liked the idea of adding a set of stairs and finishing out our attic. I was envisioning an open area at the top of the stairs that could be a play area for the kids, plus another one or two bedrooms and a bathroom. However, after actually going up into the attic and looking around, we really don’t have room for it. IF we could find the space to do something other than a spiral staircase, we’d probably only get one good-sized room up there.
So it looks like our only option would be to remove the roof and add a second floor. Since we’re replacing the roof right now, the idea of ripping off a fairly new roof isn’t all that appealing. We don’t have room to add onto the back of the house, unless it’s just a small sunroom, and it’s not possible for us to expand on either side.
I'll remain nameless says
Remaining nameless to protect the innocent… LOL We live in a rental (rambling ranch that you’d love) and originally thought we’d try to buy it at the end of our lease. The size and layout are perfect for our family. The location is excellent. The yard is a great size. HOWEVER… Someone did some renovations along the way and didn’t do them well. They added a fireplace in the living room with tons of brick that seems to be sinking the foundation down into the ground. The ceiling has cracks that are getting worse by the week. There are plumbing issues in the addition that make us think the plumbing was done badly. And there are other little things that you wouldn’t notice on a walk-through, but are really aggrivating as we live here longer. It’s really disappointing because we love the house, but there is no way we would ever buy it in this condition. So my advice is to make sure that things are done correctly! I don’t know if this was done by bad contractors or by home owners that thought they could do it themselves, but they’ve ruined the house.
We recently wrapped up an addition although we’re still getting settled. We added about 500 sq ft including a new master suite and dining room to our 1200sq ft ranch and though it was a ton of stress and work, we are thrilled with the results. Lots of little things are left to do but the last contractor finished on a Saturday and I went into labor on Sunday so work is much slower now. Anyway, with the right crew and plans it is a great time to do it.
(I’m still catching up on archives!) I think it’s great that you are living in your house for a while before adding. I just don’t understand why people buy houses and then throw additions on them before they even live in the space – might as well start new. We lived in our house for 7 years before we broke ground on our addition. I’m glad we waited and I’m glad we did the addition. It took 6 months and was not all that painful of a process. We moved out of the house, we have a 3 year old, a crazy dog, and I was pregnant – we’re officially crazy. But, it all worked out in the end and we are so happy. I tracked our progress on a blog http://www.arlingtonhomeaddition.com Come crash any time you want!