How to Plan a Room Addition Project

Building a room addition is a major construction job. In some ways it is actually more extensive than building a new custom home. Why so? Because a room addition requires all of the same construction phases and sub-contractors as building a custom home, plus the added phase of careful demolition. Moreover, it requires the extra complexity of having to ensure that it aesthetically and structurally ties well into the existing home. Consequently, when planning a room addition project it is best to work with an architect during the room addition design phase, and hiring a general contractor to oversee the entire project. This said, if the design of the home addition is relatively straight forward and the homeowner has experience in residential construction and working with subcontractors, then acting as one’s own general contractor is a viable possibility. Acting as one’s own general contractor could potentially save a homeowner 15 to 30% on the overall cost of the room addition construction.

Determining the Goals of Your Room Addition

The first step in planning a room addition project is to understand what your goals are for the new living space. For example, is the new living space to help support a growing family and if so, will the new space be for a bedroom, family room, or the extension of an existing room, e.g. expanding a kitchen. Clearly articulating the purpose of the additional living space can help in the next major element in planning a room addition.

Establishing a Project Budget

After clearly understanding what you want to build for a home addition, next you need to set a top-line budget for the project, and this budget amount should include for a ten percent contingency fund. Thus, the initial target expected total cost of your project should be set at ninety percent of what the top-line budget is. The contingency fund will help ensure you have margin to complete the project when cost overruns inevitably occur during the project construction.

Check with Local Building Inspector

Check with your local building inspector to determine if there are any legal issues that could prevent you from building your room addition. For example, are there set back requirements, lot size restrictions, easements, or covenants that would prevent your ability to build an addition onto your home?

Hire an Architect

Utilizing an architect is not necessarily a major expense, depending upon the type of room addition you envision. An architect can provide an array of services for you, varying from just providing you with construction blueprints, to literally overseeing the entire construction project. For most homeowners, however, simply hiring an architect to functionally design the room addition such that it ties aesthetically into the existing home is sufficient.

Hire a General Contractor

Obtain quotations from several general contractors and then interview them carefully to determine which one you think you might have the best chemistry working with on a regular basis for two to three months.

Make sure to check references and don’t necessarily pick the lowest price quote. Look for quotations that are fixed price, thorough, and that include detailed bill of material lists and scheduled completion milestones, as well as clear payment terms. This way you’ll know upfront what you’re getting in terms of construction quality, when the project will be completed, and when you’ll need to pay for services rendered.

In regards to checking your preferred general contractor’s references, make sure to check his or hers recent and older clients, as well as the Better Business Bureau, your state, and the contractor’s insurance company. Leave no stone un-turned when vetting a general contractor for such a major residential construction project.

Remember, the general contractor will be hiring all of the sub-contractors for your room addition project. The last thing you want is to have a subcontractor slapping a lien on your home due to the general contractor not paying the sub. It is critical that you make sure you are hiring a reputable general contractor that you can trust and depend on.

By following this simple set of initial planning steps you can help to ensure that your room addition will be built on time and budget and with minimal hassles.