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Questions to Ask When Planning an Addition

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An addition to your home is one of the largest projects you can undertake as a homeowner. A kitchen renovation, bathroom remodel, or finishing a basement can change your home. But adding new space to your home is often the fulfillment of years of dreaming and planning. While you may have spent years considering your addition, when it comes to actually planning an addition, you need to ask yourself and your contractor some important questions.

What is my goal with this addition?

Every homeowner dreaming of an addition has their own goals in mind. Some of the most popular additions include:

  • Master bathrooms
  • Master bedrooms
  • Guest wings
  • Kitchen additions
  • Sunrooms
  • Family rooms
  • Extra bedrooms
  • Mudrooms

But as you consider the home addition you want, start by asking yourself a simple question: If I could rebuild my home from scratch, what would I do differently. It's a helpful thought experiment that can get you thinking about your family's needs and where they aren't being met.

Once you have an idea of your needs, consider more precisely what you want to achieve with your addition. For instance, if you're going to add a family room, how do you plan on using it? Will this room feature a television, fireplace, or another focal point? Will this be a formal space or a more cozy room for the family to hang out? What furnishing will you put in the space? Do you need added storage? How much room do you need for people to move around?

As you answer these questions, you will approach the point where you can begin working with an architect to design your new space.

Where is the best place for the addition, and how will it blend?

While the type of addition you plan on will have a lot to do with where you put it, there are other important factors. One of the most significant factors to affect the placement of your addition is the current shape of your home and your property. That includes both the interior layout and the exterior of your home. The shape of your property, the surrounding landscaping, and other features will determine where you can build out and where you can't.

When planning an addition, the goal should be to make the new part of your home look like it was always meant to be there. To achieve that, you need to carefully consider how your addition will blend with the existing structure. 

On the exterior, you can match the addition to your home by mirroring the siding, roof, and shingles on the rest of your home. You should also borrow from the architectural features of the existing structure. Look at the shape of the roof, pillars, steps, finials, and other small architectural features that can blend your addition with your home.

On the interior, you need to think about how your design will match the design of your home. Pay special attention to the area where your addition meets the existing home. If there is a wall, the transition can be relatively simple. But if there isn't, you need to consider how the flooring and walls will connect to your home. You could match the existing walls and flooring for a seamless transition. If you want the addition to have different floors and walls than the adjoining room, consider using a step up or down to separate the new space from your home and ease the transition.

What is your budget?

As you start working out your plans, much of what you can do will be determined by your budget. As a rule, building an addition is one of the most expensive home improvement projects you can undertake. But the size and scope of the project will strongly influence the necessary budget. Materials and design will also play a significant role in determining your cost. A simple design will cost less than a plan with complex architecture and intricate details.

In determining your budget, one factor may be how much value you are adding to your home. A well-planned and executed addition can significantly boost the value of your home. Whether or not you plan to sell in the near future, keeping that value boost in mind can help set your budget numbers. But experts recommend against planning an addition solely as a way to sell your home. It is unlikely you will get a 100% or more return on your investment. Instead, an addition should be about improving your home for you and your family.

Another consideration with your budget is not underspending. While a well-executed addition can add value to your home, a poorly-executed addition can drag your home value down. It is always best to set your budget and work within that budget to produce the highest quality you can. Avoid bargain-basement materials. It may feel like you're stretching your budget, but if your addition doesn't match the quality of the rest of your home, it could become an eyesore.

Make sure to build into your budget the money to hire an architect, or better yet, a design-build firm. The best way to get a high-quality addition is to start with a high-quality design-build team. A design-build professional will oversee every aspect of the project and act as a single point of contact. They will work with you to design your addition, then work with the architect, contractors, inspectors, and everyone involved in making your dreams come true. If you're planning an addition, work with a TrustDALE certified home additions expert to ensure you get the quality you are looking for.

How long will it take?

This is a question that homeowners often ask over and over. It can drive contractors nuts. But if you're asking your contractor, you're late to the game. Part of proper planning is setting a schedule for how the work will proceed and how long it will take. Issues can always come up, and no work schedule is a guarantee. But you should have a pretty good idea going in of how long it will take to complete your project. If you're doing it right, the longest stage of your addition project should be the planning stage. Planning can take from six months to a year. This includes coming up with a general idea of what you want, working with a designer to sharpen your ideas, and finally working with an architect to put all of your ideas into the form of detailed plans that your contractor can follow.

Are there zoning laws or other local regulations to consider?

Whatever plans you have, it is crucial that you check the local zoning laws and other regulations that may apply to your project. If you ignore the rules, either intentionally or accidentally, you could pay fines and may even be forced to undo your work. So before you move ahead with any plans, make sure you are absolutely certain that your plans are within the law. Sometimes zoning laws can be complicated and trying to navigate them yourself could leave you open to problems down the road. The best way to make sure you are compliant is to work with a design-build company. They can research the local regulations and are likely already familiar with them. Once your plans are drawn up, you should also send them to the city or county for approval. Often the permitting process involves a review of your construction plans. Just make sure you don't skip this critical step, or you could find yourself in hot water.