What to Think About Before Starting a Home Addition Project

    Your kids want their own rooms, you need a home office, or you’re finally thinking about bumping out the kitchen to make some more room for entertaining. Welcome to the wild and sometimes thorny world of house additions. If you want to put an addition on your house, there are myriad factors you should weigh carefully before you get started. Mistakes with a major remodeling project like this can be extremely expensive.


    If you want an addition on your house, the first thing to consider is why. Presumably, you want more space and extra square footage, but it's important to decide exactly how the new room or rooms will be used, and have them designed accordingly. For example, an extra bedroom will need a clothes closet, a home office not so much.

    Red Tape

    House additions can get snarled in red tape. You’ll need to apply for building permits and find out about regional restrictions like limits on the number of stories you can have, or lot line considerations. For example, you may not be allowed to build within 10 feet of the property line. These permits can start to get complex in historical districts or regions like California’s Coastal Zone, where new construction tends to be tightly controlled. You might battle for six months or more just to get the permits to start building!


    Cost to remodel can also be high, and you need to figure out how you will finance construction. Taking advantage of a home equity line of credit can be an option, but if property values decline, you may find yourself underwater on your house. And don’t count on the addition to increase your homeʼs value, either. While a well-planned addition in the right market can definitely add to the value of a home, it might not necessarily pay for itself. Consider factors like added expenses for heating and cooling, property taxes, and maintenance, as well. In other words, the expense of an addition doesn’t stop when the last contractor leaves and you can finally move your furniture in and start using it.

    Cost Per Square Foot

    Depending on the type of addition, the costs per square foot can vary. Extensions that require a new foundation will be more expensive, as will those that require plumbing for water or gas. Your addition will likely (we hope!) need electricity as well as connection to heating and cooling systems. And, surprise! New HVAC equipment might have to be retrofitted if the addition increases the size of your home beyond the capacity of the existing system.

    Living With Construction

    Furthermore, you’re going to be living with construction for several months. That gets old remarkably quickly (especially when you’re doing some or all of the work yourself, because you never get to leave your job site). Construction dust flies everywhere despite the best efforts of careful crews, and workers tend to arrive early and get sawing, hammering, and more in the wee hours of the morning. Prepare for a few months of grumpiness.

    More Space

    Now that we’ve totally soured you on putting an addition on your house, let’s talk about some of the pluses. One advantage (which is probably most important to you): there will be more space in your home. A room can help you expand an existing room, or add rooms such as bedrooms, offices, and home theaters that make your abode more functional and enjoyable. That’s good news if you find yourself outgrowing your current residence but are not ready or willing to move. It’s often more cost-effective to build an addition than it would be to buy a bigger home.

    Suit Your Taste and Needs

    Better yet, you get to control the expansion to make sure it’s precisely to your taste. If you have particular needs you want to address (such as accessibility for limited mobility), they can be wrapped into the home addition. Be careful here, however, and make sure the addition keeps its value. For example, if you’re building a new master bedroom, add a master bathroom en suite, because most potential buyers will look for that feature.

    Don’t Skimp

    House additions can add considerable value when they’re planned and executed well. Get ready to shell out, because this is not a remodel where you want to skimp. Spending money on an addition now can make it more valuable later, in addition to reducing the need for future construction work to fix problems. Use high-quality materials and fixtures, make sure all the work is conducted with permits, and hire a remodeling contractor who is licensed to perform it. Unpermitted additions can be a nightmare when you go to sell your home or transfer the title to a family member.

    House Addition Ideas and Advice

    If you’re thinking about an addition on your house, you might want to start with local real estate agents to get an idea of the kinds of features that homebuyers look for in a property for sale. Here are some home addition ideas you can look into.

    • Second Story Addition - Adding a second story addition to an existing house is one of the more expensive remodeling jobs. This type of renovation requires an experienced engineer to create a new floor plan, reworking the house's plumbing and A/C systems. Demolition will include your attic, roof, and any walls that may get in the way. Depending on the square footage and extra space you are adding, this project can cost as little as $20,000 and up to $150,000.
    • Garage Addition - Building a garage addition can be one of the cheaper home addition options. The cost depends on the size of the garage you need and if you want the garage to be attached or detached to your existing home. A homeowner usually builds a garage addition to get extra space for cars, belongings, or to have a workshop. Some homeowners also do a garage conversion, where they convert their garage into a bedroom. Bedroom garage conversions do require different permits, so be sure you get those taken care of before starting any renovation. Garage additions can cost between $7,000 and $50,000 depending on how much space you add on.
    • Sunroom Addition - Sunrooms are also a more affordable option for homeowners who want extra space. Sunrooms are typically open with large windows to let the sunshine in. You can use this extra space as a living room or even a quiet office space. Like every addition, the cost of a sunroom depends on the square footage you add on. These projects can cost between $10,000 and $100,000.

    If possible, tour some homes to see how other people have done their additions, and compare houses of comparable value to your own to determine the best way to plan your addition. You might also want to ask friends about their experiences to see if they have any advice for you.

    s.e. smith writes for Networx.com. Photo by Tim Jarrett/Flickr Creative Commons.

    Updated February 8, 2018.

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