When dissatisfaction with your current home strikes, it can be exciting to launch into a plan for a new addition. A new living room, bedroom, or more can add value to your home while improving your quality of life.
On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost-per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.
Define your needs
To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.
If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”
If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.
Types of additions
Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first-floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.
First-floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.
Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.
Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.
Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.
You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.
Requirements for a legal apartment
While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:
- Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it or zone-approval requirements.
- Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
- ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.
In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.
The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.
You might be wondering how much of that money your efforts might return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details, but the average “recoup” rate for a family room addition is typically more than 80 percent.
The bottom line
While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.
This weekend I spent the greater part of Saturday taking care of the ongoing household to do list and the transformation made a huge impact. There certainly is more to do, as is the nature of home improvement, but having a finite list of things to accomplish and making time to enjoy them made all the hard work worth it! Here is my top ten list of how to make the most of your time when tackling home-improvement projects.
1. Imagine your perfect place. Your home should reflect your personality, the way you spend your time, and fit your needs. If you want a place to entertain, to relax and meditate, to create art, nurture your children, or display your collections, you will want to consider your priorities. Once you have explored the possibilities the next step is to prioritize your to-do list in order to make the most impact.
2. Make a list. Some home project lists could go on and on (and on), so it’s a good idea to write out a list and discuss the details with the members of your household so you know where to start and who is responsible for what.
3. Prioritize. Once you know what needs to be done it’s time to prioritize the list. If there is something timely (like getting gutters before the fall) keep that in mind when prioritizing, but also think about those projects that will bring you the most joy in daily life.
4. Do one project that really makes a difference. I recently finished sprucing up the living and dining rooms with new curtains and new furniture for storage and display. These are the rooms I spend the most time in at home, so the difference is palpable to how I view my home. Now we are ready for a big dinner party which is one of the most important things in our household. From this experience, I realized that small changes and some cleanup can make a huge difference.
5. Keep it reasonable. Make sure your list is reasonable. The goal isn’t to get everything done in one weekend, which typically isn’t feasible anyway. Rather, you want the time you invest in your home to be enjoyable and give you the sense of satisfaction (and motivation to do more).
6. Gather your tools. Nothing will derail a project like not having the right tools. Once you know what you are going to accomplish make sure all your supplies are ready. You’ll be far more efficient if you hit the hardware store, fabric store, gas station, etc. prior to getting started.
7. Work together. Some projects are two-people projects. If you share your household, enlist other members to share the work. Some projects need two people to lift, spot, hand tools, push, pull, etc. If you live alone, have a work party by inviting a friend over to help. You can return the favor if they ever need help with a household project.
8. Enjoy the process. Blast music, take breaks, and step back to reflect on your household improvement. If you need to dedicate a weekend to doing your chores, you may as well still enjoy it!
9. Get the list done. If you’ve taken the time to make your list reasonable you shouldn’t have any trouble completing it. Doing so will reaffirm your sense of accomplishment, so when you look at what was done, you won’t be thinking about what you have to do next.
10. Bask in your success. Focus on the improvement, enjoy your space, and most importantly, use it! If you made your bedroom a sanctuary, light a candle and relax with a good book. If you reconfigured your kitchen for more efficient use, have your own Iron Chef moment and cook a huge meal. Just remember, all your planning and hard work should be enjoyed.
What are your tips for making the most out of your home?