Q&A / 

Room Addition

DEAR TIM: I am pregnant with my third child. My husband and I know we need more room. We are thinking about adding two rooms to our 1,100 square foot home but don't have a clue where to start the process. We are afraid of getting ripped-off by contractors and have no clue how much this might cost. What should we do? Judith S., Boise, ID

DEAR JUDITH: Congratulations on your expanding family! Doing the math, I agree that you are a prime candidate for a room addition project. I can sympathize with you as the house I grew up in was small. It had a total of 980 square feet that four of us shared. But I survived and must say that as a child I didn't feel cramped for space. If you have to put the project off for any reason, I don't think your kids will mind one bit.

Although a room addition project may seem somewhat insignificant than building a new home, they are nearly identical in complexity. In many respects, building a room addition requires far greater skill. Not only do you have to make sure the room addition matches the existing home, that may be out of square and not level, but the workers must work around you and your family.

When building a new home, you simply don't have to match anything and the workers don't have to deal with people in bathrobes each morning. Since the projects are so much alike, I would do exactly what you need to do when building new.

You must determine what you can afford. Fortunately, interest rates are very low right now. This works in your favor as you can borrow more money. Visit with your banker, savings and loan or credit union and get pre-qualified. They will look at your existing finances and tell you how much you can borrow.

After you leave the bank, visit your local zoning office. Take with you several photos of your house taken from all angles. In addition, make a quick sketch showing your lot and where your house sits on your lot. Use a tape measure to determine how far away the front, side and rear walls of your home are away from the respective property lines. With your photos and sketch, the local zoning officials should be able to tell you the maximum-sized room addition you can build within the current zoning laws. If you need to build a larger addition, you can sometimes file an appeal with the zoning board. If you can prove practical difficulty or a significant hardship, you may be granted a variance.

You can use my Room Addition Checklist to help you get the addition of your dreams. My Checklist includes a large cost-breakdown table. I offer a 100% Money Back Guarantee.

A visit with several top real estate agents may be in order. Ask them if houses with room additions in your neighborhood are attractive to buyers. Ask what amenities within the room additions seem to appeal to the current buyers. The real estate agent may be able to point you to homes in your area that have room additions. Driving by these places may stimulate ideas in your own mind. Most importantly, ask what things turn buyers off. The advice you receive may be very helpful years from now.

Try to envision what space you really need. Draw a crude floor plan with actual dimensions. Use your existing room sizes to guide you. Soon you will know if you need 250 or 600 extra square feet.

Once you have a crude plan, call several remodeling contractors. Many good ones have a feel for pricing. In other words, they know that certain room additions cost so many dollars per square foot. It is not uncommon for a room addition to cost more per square foot than building a new home. The cost multiplier can be as much as 1.4 to 1.8 times the cost of building new. Don't be shocked if you receive preliminary quotes of $115 - $200 per square foot for your job. If the room addition has a new kitchen or bathroom, add even more money.

To get accurate bids from qualified contractors, be sure they fill out a detailed checklist. These forms ask pointed questions and force the bidding contractors to fill out a detailed cost breakdown. This cost breakdown allows you to see if each contractor has included all cost items. The Checklist also puts each contractor on a level playing field. Believe me, non-professional contractors run from these forms like vampires from sunlight. Be sure to use a Checklist!

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