Knowing what housing additions you want and the projected costs, time, and regulations of the job make for easier, hassle-less extensions and additions. (Courtesy photo)
Knowing what housing additions you want and the projected costs, time, and regulations of the job make for easier, hassle-less extensions and additions. (Courtesy photo)

For the growing scores of people who are settling down, having children and sending them to local schools, many want more space. In this case, a settled family may begin room extensions, rather than opting to move into a new home. While renovations like this are expensive, a good plan, budget, and an understanding of the process will save time, money, and gray hairs. Options for extensions are manifold but their requirements vary, some even necessitating permits or caution towards zoning requirements.

The three basic steps for a room extension or renovation are simple: research and plan, choose a contractor carefully, and hold your contractor accountable.

In the planning process for renovations, especially the more expansive renovations, take note of these things: first, integrated planning. Make your renovation look like it is a natural part of the house. This can be done with assistance from designers or architects, or, if you think you have the skill, your own experience. Second, stick by your plan to the letter. The fastest way to make the renovation explode in costs is to move away from your original plan and make other changes. When you plan, plan in detail. Third, know the regulations surrounding your renovation. Fourth, when planning, consider where your family will stay during the renovations.

Room additions and extensions are considered “building out.” This kind of renovation may require attention to zoning restrictions and may reduce lawn space. In the process, the hired contractor will dig up the part of the yard where the room addition or extension will go, adding a new foundation or slab. A change like a room extension or addition is no small task. It’s expensive and the return of investment is not always as high as one would hope. There are other options, however. There’s the option of “bumping out,” where space can be added if your home’s finished floor is above the landscape. Bumping out is less costly and can still offer enough space to add furnishing, and to expand the space of the room. Reusing materials also makes renovations less costly.

Second-story additions offer a great addition of space and will allow your family to live in the house while the renovations are underway. Another option for adding space is adding a dormer, a space in an attic that can easily be finished to add to the living space in your home. Finishing a room is also an option for adding space. To “finish” a space is to make it a new space to live in and adding heating and insulation. Basements and rooms over garages are usually a good bet for a finishing job.

Cutting costs will likely be on any renovator’s mind. To keep costs down, make sure when you are planning, the renovation adds more value than the cost. Stick to off-the-shelf products instead of ordering made-to-order products, the price of the latter will build up and make the renovation more expensive. If you are trying to expand, survey the land you would be “building out” into, so look for trees, sewers or the like.

When searching for a contractor, consider what type of contractor you have found. There are four main types. There are chain stores, which frequently use subcontractors, have a permanent address, stand by warranties, and will likely remain in business. Commercial location contractors are often family-owned, or partnerships run out of a fixed location, meaning they will be far easier to contact. Traveling contractors, and anyone who comes to your door stating they want to help you make renovations, should be used cautiously.

Some questions to ask your prospective contractor: Do you do this type of work? Do you charge for an estimate? How long have you been in business? Do you have a license? Can you give me references to other customers?

A final piece of advice, in your contract, make sure that there are the necessary notices that may be required by law depending on where you live. Make sure that the description of the work is in depth and clear. Ensure that the dates are correct, as well as the deposits and payments. Remember: room extensions and renovations in general are a big task and should be approached with caution. Know what you are getting yourself into and be careful.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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