As we move through 2023, one of the most noticeable trends in home remodeling has been a huge increase in home additions. With the real estate market in it’s current state, many homeowners are looking to add a little much-needed living space, but without the drastic change and amount of work purchasing a new home requires. Whether you’re looking to bump-out a room, build up a second story addition, add dormers, or add an in-law apartment, addition projects are much wider in scope than most remodels, and working alongside a design + build contractor or construction management firm is your best bet for making sure every small detail is attended to.
In this blog, we’ll run though some average timelines for different addition projects, give tips on planning your home addition, and give some general tips any homeowner should know ahead of hiring a home addition contractor.
Planning Your Home Addition
The first step when planning a home addition is determining your goals, space needs, and budget. Consider how much space your family needs now and in the future. With clear goals, you can design an addition that truly enhances your lifestyle.
- Will you need an extra bedroom, bathroom, family room, or home office?
- What is your target budget and preferred addition style? (Traditional, contemporary, or matching your existing home?)
- How quickly do you need your project finished? (This can limit the scope of work you can accomplish.)
Permits and Approvals
One of the largest causes of delays in any renovation, but especially additions, is waiting on permits to be pulled or released by your local building department. This is one of the biggest pros of having a dedicated construction manager or contracting team: They are likely already familiar with local building departments and codes, and will be able to manage this process for you without having to repeatedly check in on permits and applications.
Most municipalities require zoning approval before you can obtain a building permit. Zoning laws regulate the size, height, placement, and use of home additions. Your contractor can advise if your proposed addition meets zoning requirements or if you’ll need to request zoning variances. The zoning review process usually takes 2-4 weeks.
After zoning approval, you’ll need to apply for local building permits. This ensures your addition plans meet building codes for safety, construction materials, and energy efficiency. The permit process involves filing detailed plans, forms, fees, and inspections. It typically takes 4-6 weeks to obtain a permit.
Hiring a Contractor
Finding an Addition Contractor
There are a few different kinds of contracting companies out there, and while most of them will happily quote your addition, you should be wary of hiring a smaller company that may have issues accommodating contingencies and changes throughout the project. Here’s a few types of contracting companies more suited to additions we recommend researching:
- Design + Build Firms – These firms are often larger than regular general contracting firms. They usually have their own architectural or design services in-house, which can save costs by cutting out external firms where plans are required. Most Design + Build firms are all-inclusive, and handle design, material purchases, labor, and management.
- Construction Management Companies – For homeowners looking to act as their own General Contractor or Project Manager, construction management companies act as a consultant and backup team, giving you the resources provided by hiring a contractor, but retaining the power to hire your own subcontractors, use external architects or designers, and overall have much more control over your project.
- General Contractors – GCs come in a variety of forms, usually mid-sized companies larger than a handyman service that may or may not have their own in-house labor, or use subcontractors. It’s important to get a feel for how large of a company a GC is, how their internal teams are made up, and what their limitations might be. Not all general contractors will be able to provide design or architectural planning services.
Bidding and Estimates
Once your addition plans are complete, you can solicit bids from general contractors. Provide each contractor the same set of plans to ensure equal, competitive bids. Contractors will estimate costs for time, materials, labor, fees, and profit margin. Compare at least three itemized bids before selecting a contractor.
It’s rare for contractors to give a transparent, itemized list on a free site visit, and oftentimes more thorough quotes will come with a small charge attached. While paying upfront for a quote might seem daunting, it ensures the quote you receive was accurately priced based on material and labor costs, and not a general ballpark estimate the company might struggle to meet.
Signing a Contract
Once you’ve selected a contractor and worked out your plans, it’s important to define your projects scope, timeline, and budget in a detailed contract. Some of the things laid out in the contract should include payment terms (how often you pay, and how much,) plans for addressing delays, and detailed information about how unexpected occurrences will be handled.
Design and Engineering
An architect can create detailed drawings and plans for your addition if the scope is large or complex. Architectural plans ensure your addition blends nicely with your home. When using an independent architectural firm, expect to pay at least $100-$200 per hour and allow 2-4 weeks for complete drawings. Working with a Design + Build Contractor or Construction Management firm increases the chances these drawings can be done in-house, which lowers costs, eases communication issues, and ensures everyone involved is on the same page.
A structural engineer ensures the addition is designed properly to handle expected loads. This includes items like weight-bearing walls, roof trusses, foundations, beams, and post/lintel openings. Their review takes 1-2 weeks and typically costs $1,000-$3,000. Again, many larger companies can accomplish this in-house at lower costs.
If your home addition involves demolishing an existing structure like a garage or porch, plan for an extra week and $5,000-$10,000 for demolition costs. Professionals will disconnect utilities, obtain permits, and properly dispose of debris.
Excavation and Foundation
Excavating, pouring footings, and building foundation walls takes 2-4 weeks. Excavation equipment is used to dig down to undisturbed soil and create a solid base. Forms are erected, steel reinforcing bars inserted, and concrete poured to create a sturdy foundation.
Framing and Roofing
Wall frames, floors, and roof trusses will be constructed next, taking 2-3 weeks. The wood-framed structure will be erected and sheathed with plywood or OSB. Expect inspections of rough electrical, plumbing, and framing before moving forward.
Shingles, metal roofing, or other roof materials will be overlaid onto the roof framing and sheathing. Flashing is installed and roof vents/skylights added. Scaffolding is used to access the roof safely. Roofing typically takes 1-2 weeks.
Windows and Doors
Energy-efficient windows and exterior doors are installed into the framed rough openings. This weatherproofs the addition and takes 1-2 weeks to complete. Allow extra time if custom-sized windows or doors are required.
Siding and Trim
Vinyl, wood, or other siding is applied over the weather barrier and sheathing. Decorative trim pieces are added around windows, corners, fascia, and other accents. Allow 2-3 weeks for siding and trim installation.
Drywall and Paint
Drywall sheets are fastened to the wall framing and finished over several weeks with joint compound, sanding, and painting. Expect 2-3 paint coats in your preferred colors. Painting alone can take a week or more.
Trim and Flooring
Wood trim is applied around doors, windows, and flooring. Hardwood, tile, carpet, or other flooring is laid after major construction is done. Trim and flooring together take 2-3 weeks to complete.
Utilities and Furnishings
Electrical, Plumbing and HVAC
Electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians will rough-in and finish installing wiring, fixtures, pipes, vents, and ductwork over several weeks. Countertops and other fixtures are also secured.
Appliances and Furniture
Installation of cabinets, appliances, lighting fixtures, and furniture finishes your addition. Place appliances and furniture accordingly. Caulk, install trim, and put finishing touches on the space.
Inspections and Completion
Throughout the project, inspectors will verify the addition’s structural integrity, safety, and compliance with building codes. When everything passes final inspection, obtain an occupancy permit. Thoroughly clean the addition, address any punch list items, get signed lien waivers, and celebrate your new space!