Room Additions and New Homes
We need more room in our house. Should we build up or expand out?
It's generally cheaper to put a second story
addition on an existing house than it is to expand out into the yard because you do not have the
expense of another foundation. However, consider these variables before making your final decision:
- Will your present foundation support a second addition? Whether it is a perimeter concrete
foundation or slab, you will need the local building inspector's approval first. As a rule of thumb,
a perimeter concrete foundation must be 8 inches wide at the top to support a two-story house.
- If you have to reinforce your foundation before you can build up, compare those costs to a new
foundation for expanding out.
- Are there height limits in your area that will restrict addition of a full second story?
- Will a more visible second story fit with the neighborhood?
- Will your neighbors approve a second story? In some areas you may have to get their signed
approval before you can add on.
- If you build up, you may have to add bracing to the existing house's walls, which means removing
part or all of the siding.
- Building up means removing the roof overhead for several weeks, and even if it has never once
rained in your area before, it will after the roof is off.
- Expanding out into the yard reduces your yard space.
- You have to get equipment into your yard or dig the foundation ditch by hand. Concrete can be
pumped to sites that a truck cannot reach.
- The house must remain a certain number of feet away from the neighbor's property. Check if your
outward expansion will meet these setback requirements.
- If you add a bathroom in the expanded-out addition, what are problems surrounding the waste
line connections under the house?
How much will it cost to add on?
Labor and material costs
vary too widely from city to city, from state to state, and from region to region
to give a definitive response to this universal question. But
as a very loose guide, plan on paying $80 to $120 per square foot for
remodeling construction and $100 to $150 a square foot for new construction.
You will be able to refine this figure significantly once you enter into serious
discussions with a contractor.
Should I hire an architect?
For larger projects, ImproveNet strongly recommends
that you hire an architect or designer before you hire a contractor. Why?
There are alternatives, depending on your own expertise and the amount of time you can devote to
overseeing the construction project. You may opt to buy an hour or two of a contractor's time to help
you define your own thinking on the project, to pull all the living spaces into a cohesive form, then
finalize these ideas with your contractor.
- You'll save money. A complete, well-defined plan means the contractors you eventually contact
can bid accurately and competitively, typically saving you more than the added cost of the design work.
- You'll improve quality control during the construction process because an independent third
partyyour designerwill be monitoring the progress of the work.
- You'll get a better design. The benefits of excellent design input should not be underestimated.
You'll be living with the results for a long time; don't shortchange yourself.
But keep in mind that plans must be drawn, submitted, and approved by the building inspector's office before
you can begin a project. Depending on the project's complexity, decide who will draw the plans: you, your
contractor, or the architect.
Another value of an architect is that he or she can not only draw the plans and shepherd them through the
approval process, but also can oversee all the construction, ensuring it is done right.
Can I convert my porch into another room?
Structurally, such conversions
are generally quite straightforward. But it will change the appearance
of your house and will remove the age-old link between the house and
the neighborhood of people sitting outside and talking with passing neighbors.
To be fully aware of all the options that such a change might encompass,
including types of windows, lighting, plumbing, and exterior finish, talk
to an architect first. The architect will invariably have a wealth of
ideas for you to draw on.
Should I buy an existing house or have one built?
Building instead of buying
is not for everyone. Having a home custom built offers many advantages.
By working with an architect, you will have an efficient and beautiful
home that works for you and fits the building site. On the other hand,
building your own home can be a very stressful experience as well as a rewarding one.
You may spend more money than if you simply chose a pre-built or existing
home. Building is not a perfect science, but a learning experience. You
may not reap immediate resale value relative to your expense if the right
buyer and appraiser are not involved in the sale. So if you have found
that perfect piece of property on which you would like to build, contact
a local architect or designer who is experienced with design and construction
issues in your area and can also provide initial site evaluation services.
Keep your design and expectations simple and efficient. Your construction
costs can vary significantly depending on many factors, which may include
your region, the site, the design, local construction activity, as well
as other factors.
What should I ask my contractor?
You will want to find
out how busy he is and how he intends to supervise your house. Will he
do it himself, or rely on a superintendent? How many jobs does each person
run? What type of contract does he usually use: cost plus, lump sum, etc.?
Is he used to building homes of the quality you hope to build? Most builders
have some standard building products and methods they insist on. What
are his, if any? What type of warranty does he have? Ask about his license
and insurance and that he provide you copies of them. References should
be checked. Did he finish on time and budget or within reason? Was he
reasonable to work with? How often did he have job meetings? Did he keep
a clean and safe job site? Why should you choose him over his competitors?
Look at samples of work and ask about budget ranges for certain types of projects.
Can I be a self-contractor on my house?
Being a homeowner/contractor
is a step taken by many with the idea of saving money. You may save money,
but you must weigh that against the innumerable headaches and delays you
will incur as a presumably inexperienced builder. You need to line up a
crew of people who know what they are doing, someone to oversee that crew every
hour, pay them, and complete all the tax forms. You have to get all the
permits sufficiently in advance that work does not stop while you wait for
a permit. You have to line up all the subcontractors: electrical, plumbing,
painting, drywall, etc. It is almost a full-time job unless you have a construction
superintendent you trust to do all this work on his or her own. Here's one
the best thing you can do is to pay a contractor as a consultant. That
way you make the calls, etc., but he supplies the subs and suppliers. I
charge 20% on my contracts and often I can buy materials and subs for
less than you and add the 20% and still be under you. You will find there
is a difference in pricing between a homeowner and a contractor. Suppliers
expect numerous projects from me a year and only one from you. As most
discounts are based on annual volume, it all makes a huge difference.
What if an employee is injured on your jobmake sure you are paying
all required insurance on each of your employees. Sales tax as well if
your state requires it. Also make sure you have appropriate insurance
for the project. You will want a builder's risk package as well as a general
insurance umbrella in case someone accidentally gets injured on the site
[not a worker]. You can do it, just protect yourself and your assets by
doing it right. If you choose not to hire a consultant, make sure you seriously
check out referrals on everyone that might work on your job and contact
your local building department to learn what is required. Talk to your
How much will it cost to build a new house? Remodel?
Prices vary widely, as
you can imagine, for materials and labor. How large and complex the project is,
your choice of fixtures, all weigh heavily. For very rough calculations,
plan on $110 to $150 a square foot for a new house, from the foundation
to roof and everything inside. Remodeling costs are lower, again very
generally from $80 to $120 a square foot. If you have several bids that
are far apart in price, go over every detail with the contractor, looking
to see what is different and what might be left out of one bid.
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