What are the Pros and Cons of Building an Addition to Your Home?

Whether it’s time to build that recreational room you’ve always imagined, or your family simply needs more space, a home addition can add more living area, enjoyment and value to your property. Building an addition to your home is often a bigger project than homeowners expect.

With runaway home prices, many homeowners are choosing to “grow” their existing home to get to the square footage they need, or finally transform their current property into their dream home. In this article, we will look into some of the considerations that go into planning a home addition.

Is expanding your home considered a remodel?

A remodel is the process of changing the functionality of an area of your home. An expansion could involve bumping out a portion of the attic, tearing down a wall to build a larger kitchen or adding another floor, so it definitely falls under that definition.

Defining the key objectives for your remodel

Do you actually need more space? Creating more space may seem to be the most logical solution, but sometimes the space you need can be created by removing some of the furniture or clutter or reworking the decor. Perhaps you’re holding a room for a family member that won’t really be moving back, or one or more rooms could be repurposed.

When you’re confident that an expansion remodel is what you need to achieve your vision, it’s time to look for design inspiration. Often, what you believed was the answer isn’t the best solution at all after you begin looking in earnest at how other people solved similar space problems.

Setting a budget and arranging the financial leverage

Adding square footage to your present home could be a sound financial decision; particularly when you consider the real estate listing and conveyancing costs of marketing and selling your home, buying another property, completing some renovations to make it home, and moving costs.

Even though the savings of expanding your current home are likely to be significant, the cost of an addition still represents a major investment for most homeowners. Many homeowners quickly discover that there can be a considerable gap between what they were hoping to spend and how much the expansion they want is going to cost. When planning a remodel, the budget is the first thing to discuss. Setting a realistic budget can avoid going over the top, but it also means not coming in so low you end up with an addition that does not meet your needs.

Your budget and ability to borrow the funds you need for your remodel will most likely determine the scope of your expansion project. In other words, you want to know what you have to work with before investing yourself too far into the planning process. In the current financial climate, you’ll want to talk to your lending institution at the early planning stage, even if you have stellar credit. Even people with phenomenal credit scores and dual incomes can have trouble securing financing in 2022.

Will you be able to recoup the cost of your home addition?

Even if you plan on living in your remodelled home for many years, it’s wise to consider its appeal to future buyers. You’ll want to speak with a licensed Realtor® or two before committing to your home addition.

Priorities will begin to take shape as you consider needs vs wants, how many years you plan to enjoy the benefits of your remodel and the potential return on investment if or when you sell the home someday.

Realtors® are frequently expected to accomplish the near impossible, sell an overbuilt home for the neighbourhood. A real estate professional can analyze the sold comps in your area, and produce comparable listings where bedrooms or bathrooms were added, second-story additions were completed or the kitchen space was increased. Having one of the nicer homes on the street should increase resale value, particularly if it currently is on the low end of the price range for your neighbourhood. What you don’t want is to be sitting on an overpriced home that is larger or more expensive than all of the other ones on your block.

Is it easier to extend your house up or out?

Whether you extend upwards or sideways will often be determined by function, available lot space and local bylaws. If you build horizontally, you will need to consider the surrounding area and obstacles like trees, utility poles, power lines and neighbouring property lines.

Your new addition will also need to complement the original structure. How will your addition tie into the house? Extending vertically is often the most practical and aesthetically pleasing direction to grow.

Whether you build upward or outward, municipal zoning ordinances and building codes will need to be checked, and your blueprints and plans approved before you will be able to obtain a building permit to begin work.

Popular home addition projects

1. Expanding your kitchen is one of the most effective ways to create a functional and beautiful space in which to cook, enjoy delicious meals, spend quality time with the family, and entertain guests. Realtors® almost universally agree that making the kitchen more spacious and useable will increase your home’s market value.

Your designer/builder may choose to modify your kitchen’s floor plan to better suit your needs. Custom finishes like cabinets, stone or concrete countertops, tile or glass backsplashes, under-mount sinks and designer faucets will make your new kitchen pop; contrasting the new engineered hardwood, tile, polished concrete or stone floors.

2. Adding or increasing the size of a bathroom runs a close second when it comes to return on investment. Family needs change and often it will take more than a few cosmetic changes to increase the functionality of bathroom spaces to match the requirements of a faster-paced lifestyle. Your designer/builder can help you redefine existing bathroom spaces so they work for you, or perhaps change the floor plan to accommodate an additional one.

3. Adding dormers will make your home look bigger and can add dramatically to its curb appeal. Dormers expand your attic or top floor bedroom or bathroom while letting in more natural light. The three most popular styles are gable, hip roof and shed dormers.

4. Adding a room over the garage is a way to create a rental apartment or bonus room over your garage while increasing your square footage and improving your home’s curb appeal. Your garage already exists, so the home’s footprint won’t have to change at all. Your builder will be able to determine whether the house’s structure and foundation can support the extra weight of the addition.

5. Expanding your laundry room, or relocating it next to bedrooms or main bathrooms on the second floor, is very practical and a hot selling feature. Laundry rooms tend to be afterthoughts when designing a house, but they are one of the most important rooms in a busy household. Some of the most desirable features include a side-by-side front loading washer and dryer, a large laundry sink, a spacious counter for folding clothes, additional cabinets for supplies and linens, a tile floor for easy cleanups, windows to let in some sunlight and a comfortable chair for waiting for the end of the cycle.

6. Bump-out add-ons are cantilevered micro-extensions of rooms that provide additional footage for specific needs. Some examples are window nooks, more counter space or a breakfast area in the kitchen, a walk-in closet in the bedroom or a soaker tub in one of the bathrooms. A portion of the outer wall is replaced, the bumped-out wall is built out, and a small roof often covers the addition.

Remodelling disruptions to your family and inconvenience to your neighbours

A remodel can significantly disrupt your lives, but it can also inconvenience your neighbours. Building your home addition will involve some planning, to minimize the disturbance and impact on not only your lifestyle but those of your neighbours.

Your renovation contractor will be familiar with the municipal noise bylaws and can help you minimize the impact of noise, dust, dirt and parking issues for your neighbours. If you’ve made the decision to begin the remodel process, you will want to speak with your neighbours personally to inform them of your plans, lay out a realistic timeline, and secure any necessary permissions. Get them on board early.

Delays happen, so it’s important to allow for that in your timeline. It’s far better if the project is completed in less time than the estimated completion date, rather than dragging on for weeks after the neighbours were led to believe the job would be finished.

BC Energy Step Code retrofits

The BC Energy Step Code is a building standard that has been designed to help government and the industry create a future in which all new construction in BC will be net-zero energy-ready by 2032. The province has also proposed the development of a new code that will address alterations to existing buildings by the year 2024.

If you’re planning an addition to your home, it’s a good time to speak with your builder about a BC Energy Step Code upgrade. To help homeowners offset the costs of energy-saving and emission-reducing retrofits, BC Energy Step Code Incentive Programs like CleanBC and Better Buildings BC encourage homeowners to make their homes more efficient sooner, rather than later.

Finding the right contractor for your expansion, and being a great client

If you decide to do this, a lot of money, time and emotional energy will be invested into the addition to your home. If it’s a substantial project your designer or architect, contractor and crew are going to be a part of your life for a while.

You need to have open discussions with your contractor, to establish realistic expectations and gain an accurate understanding of how many people are going to be in your home, the days and hours they will be there, and if and when portions of the home will be unavailable. If areas of the home will be unavailable, what workarounds will be in place to help your family function fairly normally during construction?

References, due diligence and the Better Business Bureau website are of course important but also check your gut feeling. Do you like your contractor, do you trust these people in your home with your family? Also, do you trust them to complete the project to your complete satisfaction?

It’s important to take your time finding and hiring the right people. But once you do, the success of the project requires you to let the crew do their jobs, avoiding micromanagement. If you’re likely to make adjustments to the project along the way it’s important that you fully understand how change orders will be handled.

Reid Madiuk

Reid Madiuk's been putting on a toolbelt since he was twelve years old, alongside his father, one of Whistler's first residential builders. As a third-generation Whistler and Squamish builder, Reid brings over 20 years of carpentry expertise to designing and constructing exceptional homes.

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