Building a Home Addition

Building an addition on a home can be a costly and an involved process but it can also be the best option if you need extra space and don't wish to change homes and neighbourhoods. Whether you are planning to expand your kitchen, add an extra bedroom or an entire second story, all renovations, large and small, involve a number of important considerations. By keeping these points in mind and consulting professionals, you may save yourself time and money.

  1. Consider the purpose of the room and your requirements. For example, if you are adding an office, you may want to have a quiet room overlooking the backyard rather than the street. If you are planning a bedroom for a new baby, consider what use you may find for the room when your children have grown. Perhaps you hope to start a B&B or rent out a suite to a student. In either case, it would be practical to include a bathroom in the room.
  2. What is the traffic flow between the addition and the rest of your home? A well-planned traffic flow will make the most efficient use of space. Hallways are generally wasted space; careful configuration of doors and entryways can avoid long hallways. Another consideration is the distance between the new addition and key rooms in your home. For example, if you are building an office and you are a parent who is working at home, you may want the office to be placed near the child's room or the kitchen.
  3. Consider the access to your property for heavy equipment such as bulldozers and backhoes. A professional renovator should take a close look at your property to determine if fences, playground equipment or other obstacles will have to be removed first. You may also need to cut down trees or bushes to make way for equipment. The cost of planting new grass and landscaping after construction should be factored into your renovation budget.
  4. New work will have to comply with provincial building codes as well as local bylaws and zoning requirements. Municipal zoning by-laws can regulate the height of your home, the distance of your home from the road, the ratio of window to wall area, etc. A professional home renovator should be able to ensure that your renovation complies with the various regulations.
  5. The building materials used to construct a new addition may not match those used in your existing home. You may need to paint your home's exterior, install new siding, trim, and window shutters and upgrade flooring, countertops and fixtures.
  6. Another consideration is how well the new addition will fit into the existing architecture of your home. Ideally, the addition should look like it has always been there. It can be hard to imagine the final outcome by looking at drawings. There are 3-D renovation programs available on the market (or your renovator may have one) that can provide a more realistic view. To help make your addition blend seamlessly into your existing home, you may wish to include similar architectural elements (e.g. gables or a bay window).
  7. Will your renovated home look out of place in your neighbourhood? Consider the size and style of surrounding homes. If you are building a second story to create additional bedrooms, your home may be the only one on your block with two stories and so many bedrooms. This could make your home difficult to sell in the future. Maintaining a style that is somewhat similar to neighbouring homes is also important.
  8. Increased plumbing and electrical needs may exceed your existing services, requiring significant upgrades.
  9. You may need to upgrade your heating and ventilation systems to meet the increased demand created by the addition.
  10. Your home may have structural problems, which may need to be addressed before renovations can begin. For example, extra reinforcement may be needed in the roof and wall or cracks in the foundation may need to be repaired.
  11. If your new addition will extend out from your home, it should be built on a new foundation. A solid foundation will ensure that your new addition does not shift or sink and cause problems where the roof, walls and floor join the existing structure. A properly built foundation will also prevent moisture from entering your home. There are a number of ways to construct a foundation including sinking piers into the ground or excavating a full foundation. The option you choose will depend on the type of soil in your yard and the depth of the solid rock. A professional renovator should test your soil and explain the options in detail. He or she can also assess whether the existing foundation drainage system needs to be upgraded.
  12. Nowadays, most rooms are 'wired' in some way. Don't forget to run cables for telephone and computer connections, cable TV and security or home entertainment systems.
  13. Lastly, there is good news for homeowners who are planning to make substantial renovations to their homes. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offers a GST/HST tax rebate for "substantially renovated homes, major additions, and conversions". Homeowners can apply to receive a rebate on labour and materials if they hire a professional firm, or a rebate on materials if they do the work themselves. Please visit the CRA website to find out about the guidelines for qualifying: http://www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca/tax/individuals/topics/gsthstrebate/builders-e.html

Building an addition is akin to major surgery-if done in haste or by someone who lacks proper training, the result can be a costly second 'surgery'. By keeping the previous points in mind, you will hopefully be able to avoid the surprises and frustrations sometimes experienced by homeowners who choose to renovate.