Considering an addition?


There are many reasons for adding on to your home. You have probably tried to visualize reconfiguring your existing floor plan to get the functionality and utilization of space that you need but there is just not enough room. You have asked everyone you know, including your realtor friend, if they think it’s a good idea to expand your home. Comments come back like “you don’t want to over spend for the neighborhood” or “you might not get your money back if you have to sell right away” but you need the fourth bedroom and finding and moving to a new house is a pain. The kids are in school, you love the neighborhood, you like your neighbors, you don’t want to move and you think you would like to stay in your home another five to ten years, so you have made the decision to add on.


So now what?


There are a few things to consider when planning an addition to get that extra floor space you need.


First, can the additional space be found within the envelope of the existing structure? Sometimes crawl spaces under the main floor plan are large enough for additional rooms. In some cases attic spaces below the roof or with the addition of a dormer can provide the additional space needed. The issues are usually headroom, structural and access. Can these spaces be modified structurally to get the required headroom and comply with the fire and life safety requirements of the building code.


Second, if space can’t be found within the structure, an external addition may take place. Some additions take place over the existing foundation or “footprint” of the building. The issues with these types of additions are usually how to structurally support the new construction and height limit imposed by the permitting jurisdiction. Additions that create new foundations are possible if the following issues can be addressed: is there enough buildable property outside of any front, side or rear building setback lines? The governing jurisdiction can tell you what the setbacks are, but you will need to know where your property lines are. The total amount of construction area and impervious surfaces are regulated. Also new impervious surfaces create storm water run-off that must be dealt with and if your home is hooked up to a septic system, the county health department will want to make sure your system complies with current regulations.


Third, you may be able to build an assessory structure: mother-in-law apartment, shop, playhouse, studio etc. and subject to the issues of the paragraph above.


Additional potential issues are:


Fire suppression: A fire sprinkler system may be required for very large projects or where fire truck access is difficult.


Public improvements: some jurisdictions may require a new sidewalk, curb and gutter and half street right-of-way improvements if the value of the improvements meet a certain threshold.


When considering an addition, find an architect who can come see your home and help you plan your strategy. They can anticipate the issues as outlined above and help steer your project away from many of the more costly requirements.


Don Rasmussen