Need More Space? Here’s What to Consider Before Building an Addition

Brian Hogan
Feb 27, 2021 8:30:00 AM

Your house was almost perfect for your family back when you bought it — you loved its size, style, and potential just as much as you loved its idyllic neighborhood setting. Fast-forward to today, and you still love your home; you just wish it was a bit… bigger.

Family room addition with fireplace flanked by build in shelving on either side and window seatsMaybe your growing family needs more space, or your aging parent is planning to move in with you in the near future. Maybe you’ve always wanted a larger kitchen, another full bathroom, an extra bedroom, or a three-season sunroom with a view.   

Whatever your inspirations and aspirations happen to be, a well-built, functional, and seamless home addition can add more space and value to your property. But before you go shopping for new fixtures, finishes, and furnishings, it’s important to reflect, assess, plan, and prepare. 

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Here are a few key considerations to contemplate or address prior to reconfiguring the roofline, bumping out the main floor, or otherwise “breaking ground” on your addition:    

Define Your Objectives

It may seem like an obvious first step, but that doesn’t mean it’s a straightforward one: before you begin planning your addition, identify and define your goals — make sure you know exactly how you want to expand your space and why you want to do it. 

Taking the time to carefully consider why you want or need more space is key to determining the type of addition that will help you achieve your goals. Other important factors like budget and return on investment (ROI) may inevitably shape your goals, but it’s still good to get clarity on your needs and wants right from the start. 

In some cases, homeowners are surprised that what they thought they wanted isn’t actually the best solution for their needs. For example, you may decide you need more square footage for a playroom because you’re tired of storing your kids’ toys in the family room. 

But once you look around and consider how you use your space, you may realize that you’d be better off adding a new primary bedroom suite and turning your old bedroom into a playroom.

Assess Return on Investment

One reason the previous example is a better solution has to do with increased home value: a primary bedroom suite offers a higher ROI than a multipurpose room that simply boosts square footage. Let’s face it — you want your addition to strengthen your investment just as much as you want it to enhance your daily life. 

It’s not that you’re going to turn a profit on your addition; additions are among the costliest home improvement projects, after all. But for every renovation dollar you spend, you probably want to recoup at least 50 to 60 cents in added home value. To maximize payback, it helps to add amenities that are highly sought after in your area.     

As you might expect, kitchen expansions, new bathrooms, and primary bedroom suites tend to be the addition projects with the highest ROI; two-story additions also pay off when it’s time to sell. ROI rates vary by project and region, and they change as home improvement trends come and go — use the Cost Vs. Value tool to compare Midwest regional ROIs against the national average. 

Elegant master bath with a clawfoot soaking tub under a large picture window with a vanity and large glass surround showerBe Realistic About… Everything 

Every homeowner who opts to build an addition wants the same thing when all is said and done: a stunning new space that makes life easier and blends in seamlessly with the rest of their house. 

You can achieve that goal, but you’ve got to do it realistically, meaning within your means (find out how much financial leverage you have and set a reasonable budget) and within the means of your neighborhood (you don’t want the value of your home to greatly exceed the average market value in your area).

This latter point is quite important — regardless of your budget and potential ROI, it’s critical to understand what’s right for your area as well as your immediate neighborhood. If you aim too high with your addition and remodel, you run the risk of winding up with diminishing returns.

Put another way: just as you wouldn’t hang an art print in a gallery of masterpieces, you don’t want to create a high-value original masterpiece in a neighborhood of low-value art prints. 

To effectively manage your remodeling budget, you have to recognize your priorities. Separate project needs from project wants, and then rank them according to their level of importance. 

And don’t forget to be realistic about the future costs associated with an addition, especially if you’re increasing the size of your home — more square footage usually means higher property taxes and increasing energy bills. 

Understand local regulations

Zoning restrictions and building codes are the local rules you’ll have to play by when building an addition. Before you start planning your project, study your municipality’s regulations and ask questions. 

If you live in a historical home, for example, your addition and remodeling options may be quite limited. Environmental concerns can also limit your options. If your home is near wetlands, local zoning regulations may dictate how much of your property can be covered with impermeable materials (from paving to structures).  

While local residential zoning laws vary, you generally can’t build anything within 20 feet of the front of your property; within 7.5 feet of either side; or within 15 feet of the rear. There are also height limits in most residential areas, so check local zoning laws before you set your sights on that third-story addition.   

And remember, even when you’ve defined your goals, set realistic expectations, and done your research, your home addition project is just getting started. We’d love to help you see it through. Or, if it all seems overwhelming, we've got you covered too. As an established design-build firm, we are experts at taking your vision or concept and guiding you through the due diligence required to make your addition a reality. We will make it easier.  Contact us today to get started.

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