Home Additions

6 Things to Consider Before You Begin Your Home Addition

Take great care when undertaking your project. Be respectful of the neighborhood. Renovations can bring a community together as much as they can tear one apart.

Be mindful of your surroundings. Pay attention to noise bylaws. Make sure the crew keeps the exterior clean and tidy. Take the time to consult neighbours about your project—a towering property may be considered disrespectful to those around you.

1. Getting an Estimate

Before starting your home addition, your very first question might be: "how much will an addition cost?". Asking this general question will not help you!

TrustedPros surveyed responses to this type question on our Ask the Pros Forum. The results ranged between $70,000 to $400,000 for a single, very specific project. That's a lot of breathing room!

A helpful tip: don't ask what "an addition costs", it will warrant responses that are as inaccurate as they are unhelpful.

The thing is that your project quote should be done by a contractor who has come by your property, and has had a detailed discussion with you about it. They need to know what you are looking for, and what your property is like. Home addition projects add onto pre-existing structural designs, HVAC, plumbing, foundations, electrical, piping, and gas lines—the list goes on. It's hard for a contractor to give you a general quote before they see what they are working with.

Start by having contractors bid on your project, and then have the best bidders come to take a look at your house.

Even if a contractor can give you a general price per square foot, this doesn't usually factor inevitable details such as specific materials, complications, local permits, and so on. Once you start including these facts, you'll find that "average" cost slowly rising higher and higher, which may disappoint some people. An "average" answer is not the answer you want from your contractor.

Nevertheless, the building cost (less mechanical work) for low-end home additions generally runs from $85 to $130 per square foot; more complicated projects are considerably more expensive.

It's recommended that you visit our Forum. Post a question to the TrustedPros professional community about your specific project to understand it from a contractor's point of view!

2. Fully Understand what you are Getting into with the Addition!

The fact is that most additions go beyond budget, schedule, and patience. With any renovation, you must factor in technical and logistical issues including: crew delays, scheduling conflicts, back ordered products, delivery issues, etc.

Be prepared for the unexpected. Make sure you plan a contingency fund between 10%-20%. This will help you cover additional expenses, in case you run over budget.

Additions aren't just about building, they are also about finding the right professionals to help make your life, and the job easier. You should try your best to find the highest rated professionals on!

The best professionals might cost you more. For example, the average hourly rate (before materials) for a fully certified (WSIB, Licensed, Certificate holding) Contractor, Electrician, and Plumber should run between $60-$90. If you need to hire an architect to help you create blueprints, the average hourly wage, according to the Canadian Government in late 2015, varies between $18.50-$62.50 (before materials).

Check out our article on renovation expectations and our Hiring Guide before you begin your project. It will help you understand the reno process, and outline how to hire the right tradesperson for the job.

3. Plan and Time your Addition Project Wisely

The time you choose to start your project is crucial! Contractors and builders will almost always be eager to begin your project. However, you must be comfortable with the project schedule.

Don't feel pressured to rush into things. Factor in seasonal conditions. Consider scheduling plans for the warmer months. Harsh winter storms may get in the way of the crew's work, and this can slow down your project. Wintertime may make living in your home exceedingly uncomfortable while construction is under way.

4. Be in Charge of your own Decision Making

It's recommended that you make all your own decisions. That way, you can be in charge of how the project unfolds, and feel like you are a part of the process. Be sure to know what you want for the addition. Try to visualize what the end-result will look like. After all, it is your addition! You should create it, and get what you want. However, it's a good idea to heed expert advice from designers and builders if your vision is structurally impossible!

5. Living in the home

Your project will dirty your house. Your privacy will be exposed, and your things will be packed up into boxes. This can get to be a nuisance.

Your home will run inefficiently. The plumbing will get a makeover, and the electricity will get turned off to install new wiring. Keep in mind that washroom accessibility and circuit function will be intermittent! This may go on for weeks. It will probably get frustrating and stressful. Try not to take it out on the crew.

These technical components to the project may take an unknown number of days within a month to complete. You might want to consider living in different accommodations during major changes. You may even want to move out for the whole project! For some projects, such as upper level addition, contractors ask families to move out for a short period of time. Imagine living in a roofless house! Keep in mind that relocating will add additional fees onto your project.

6. Ensure that your Project has a Permit!

Once you have seriously discussed and agreed on the project with all parties involved, gather the blueprints and project outlines. You should send these to your local Plans and Permits office either via email application, or in person. The office will tell you if your project requires a permit.

If your project requires a permit, meet with an officer and allow them to review the blueprints. Ask for their advice. They will let you know if your project fits within municipal building standards. Some cities do not allow height additions to residential buildings.

If your project is not cleared by the city, you will have to make design revisions. This can be a timely process with significant waiting periods, and repeated applications. It is worth it. Built structures without permits can result in serious future problems.

If you aren't convinced that permits are a big deal, read our articles which explain why you should care about them.

If your plans are cleared by the city, they will give you a building permit. It is mandatory to have a permit for any project that qualifies for one! You need to have a permit before you begin any project that is considered permit-obligatory. Additionally, the permit must be visible and available on the construction site at all times. Bylaw officers may come by to check on the project inquiring about the permit. If you don't have one, they can fine and penalize your project.

Take advantage of city inspector services. You can arrange for them to come by and vet your contractor's work throughout the duration of the project. This will help you ensure that the crew's work is up to code. Keep in mind that arranging appointments with city inspectors can be a timely process. This may extend or delay your renovation timeline.

So, what are you waiting for? Find the best peer-reviewed contractor in your area today!

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