Q&A / 

A DIY Room Addition in 7+ Weeks?

DEAR TIM: I want to build a modest 25 x 20 foot single story room addition. It will contain a new family room with a half bath. After watching countless home improvement TV shows and reading many books, I am convinced I can tackle this project. I have accumulated 7 weeks of vacation time. My wife thinks I am insane. Is it possible for me to get a good head start on this job and then finish it up over several weekends? Is there something I missed while watching the shows and reading the books? Greg W., Hagerstown, MD

DEAR GREG: If you aren't already insane, you very likely will be at the end of your 7 week vacation period. Based upon the TV home improvement shows I have watched, I feel that many of the problems, difficulties, nightmares, and hard work of projects end up on the floor in the editing room. I can't tell you how many times at lunch my sub contractors and I would howl with laughter as we discussed what we saw on different shows. Books can also be deceiving. Just because you read the best medical text books, do you think you can operate successfully on yourself?

The average room addition project can be broken down to no less than 40 major tasks beginning with the initial foundation stakeout and ending with lawn restoration and landscaping. Some of these tasks can be completed in a day or two while others can last for several days or a week.

Residential contractors and sub contractors have a distinct advantage that you possibly do not possess. If I were to show up to help you, on any given day my truck would be stocked with nearly $15,000 worth of transits, levels, saws, masonry tools, drills, ladders, scaffolding, etc. Many of these tools - such as my pneumatic nail guns and the compressor that powers them - are huge labor saving devices. Renting tools like this can be expensive. Trips to and from the tool rental shop will eat into your valuable time.


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Extra helpers and laborers are a must. How many concrete foundation block do you think you will lay in a day if you have to constantly stop and mix mortar and restock the block? Who will help you hold the addition walls plumb while you brace them? Setting roof trusses can be done by one person but three people make the job go 5 times faster.

I used to tackle projects like yours with two experienced laborers. At the conclusion of the first week, we would be right on schedule if the foundation was complete and backfilled. Weather conditions must be perfect, concrete trucks and building inspectors must show up on time, and productivity must be high to achieve this goal. Depending upon the degree of difficulty in connecting the roof of the addition to the roof of the house, the three of us would complete the rough framing and roofing by the end of week two.


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Weeks three and four find multiple contractors and inspectors on site. Plumbers, HVAC mechanics, electricians, insulators are all working like well oiled machines if the scheduling is perfect. If you do this work yourself and fail your inspections, you will spend extra time and money redoing work already in place.

Week five is generally reserved by the drywall contractor. Even a job as small as yours will consume 5 days to hang, tape, finish, and sand the drywall. You can possibly shave 2 days off this if you use rapid setting type joint compounds. Beware! - setting type joint compounds are not rookie friendly.

Weeks six and seven on my job would find myself and my crew, the tile setter, flooring people, and the painter all trying to work in unison to bring the job to a close. Invariably work would stretch into the eighth week.

Do the math. You will quickly see that a typical room addition project can consume well over 1,000 hours of work when you add up all the workers' time cards. Even if you work at peak productivity for 60 hours a week, you will fall short by nearly 800 hours! Go give your wife a hug and get that wild look out of your eyes!

Okay, okay. I know, some of you still want to try to do the room addition yourself. Here is a great book that may help you! Working Alone is a unique book packed with more than 50 innovative tips and techniques. In this book, you'll learn how to handle nearly every aspect of home construction alone, from foundation layout to raising walls to building decks. You won't have to wait for a helper or pass up a job that seems too difficult to do alone. Get this book, it is a must have!

Related Articles:  Room Additions, Room Addition Task Timing, Room Addition

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2 Responses to A DIY Room Addition in 7+ Weeks?

  1. Dear Tim,I wish to build a garage and bedroom above it.This will attach in front of our 1930s bungalo.I have experience in plumbing and drain laying.I have also "run wires" for a sparky.I spent 6 years as a "dog man"driving piles here in CHCH..I know enough to feel dangerously confident...my questions are..1.Do I need a builder?
    2.If not legally I wonder of the practicality of being buried in red tape buy the powers that be.
    I do have time on my side as I will leave my job to achieve the building and I have many subbie contacts ....What do you recon mate?Regards Steve

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