Understanding Additions and Remodels

Additions and remodels are improvements that homeowners can make on their house. There are as many different addition and remodel possibilities as there are people who own homes. From dormers to kitchen remodels, new flooring to entirely new floors, an addition or remodel can take on almost any shape or size.

The difference might seem obvious, but there are some distinctions that should be made between an addition and a remodel.

An addition will increase the overall usable size of your home. The most obvious example of this is adding a new room onto the house. Other things, like adding a dormer under the roof, will make that floor livable space as opposed to just an attic.

A remodel is a restructure of a room, either something as simple as a layer of paint or completely gutting the room and starting over. Most people think of remodeling their kitchen or bathroom. These refer to taking out cabinets, floors, and fixtures. Changing the carpet in a bedroom or remodeling a den also counts as remodeling.

One example of a remodel that can also be an addition is this article on converting an attic into a bedroom.

Considering whether to do a Remodel or an Addition

Some changes to your home are obvious. If your bathroom tub has a hole in it, you need to remodel and put in a new tub. On the other hand, when you realize that the kids are too big to sleep in the same room anymore, you might look at a remodel or an addition.

There are several different factors to look at when deciding between a remodel and an addition.

  • Cost – If you only have a few thousand dollars, adding a new floor onto your home is not a likely possibility. If you have more money, then you’re able to look at either idea as option.

  • Need – If all you really need is a kitchen that’s more user friendly, then adding a whole new breakfast nook to the kitchen might not solve your problem. On the other hand, if you’re starting with a kitchen that is so small that one person can’t stand in it, that breakfast nook can be a god-send. When calculating your need, look at the minimum you can do and you will be fine.

  • DIY – Very often, people want to do their own renovations. This is fine, but if you’re planning on adding a dormer by raising the roof of your house, you might need a professional to assist you. If you’re doing a remodel that involves a layer of paint and a premade cabinet, you might be able to handle it yourself. Much of this will depend on how much money you have to spend and how much skill you have.

  • Zoning – The laws that govern what homeowners in an area can and cannot do are called zoning laws. These laws are created and governed by your local city or county. You will need to consult with officials about most things you do. Painting isn’t necessary, but anything that involves taking out walls or changing roofs, etc. will need permits. These permits may require architects drawings and will have fees associated with them.

Estimating the cost of a remodel or an addition is not simple. The problem is that the variety of possible items and work can be impossible to guess at, at least until you’ve defined the project. You can look at ways to save money, though. This article talks about saving money on bathroom remodels.

Costs to consider when looking at an addition or a remodel

As was just said, calculating the total cost of any of these projects is nearly impossible without having a clearly defined project in mind, but here are some the items that you should look at when your start planning.

  • Permits and licenses – Make sure you have all of the right legal permits.
  • Contractor fees – If you are going to work with a contractor, you need to calculate how much that will cost. A contractor will add thousands to the cost of the project, but can save you a lot of pain and hassle.
  • Prefab or build from scratch – If you are putting an addition on your home or putting in kitchen cabinets, you have the opportunity to get prefabricated items or to have them custom-built. Pre-fab items tend to be less expansive and can move a project along faster.
  • Prefabricated items available – In most cases, there is a prefab option. For an addition, you can buy a room, a sunroom, even dormers that are prefabricated to simply attach to your home. Cabinets, windows, and bathtub surrounds are all easily found in prefabricated styles.
  • Custom items available – Of course, by definition, anything can be custom-made, but the most common are additions, dormers, and the like. Very often, nicer homes or homes that have an unusual design will require custom cabinets, etc.

This article is a good example of a look at prefab additions. Many of the items discussed in this article can apply to smaller items, such as cabinets, as well.

Choosing a Contractor

If you have decided that you need a contractor, there are some things that you should consider. In many cases and for many homeowners, they will need a contractor of some kind for almost every project. Whether it’s a plumber to attach a sink or someone to take care of a complete remodel of your home, making this choice can seem like a terrifying undertaking. It’s much safer if you start by asking for a few things and knowing some ideas.

This article gives you a brief guide on handling room addition contractors. We will review many of the same points here, as well.

Considerations for Hiring a Contractor

There are some things to know and some warnings that go into hiring a contractor:

  • If you are referred by a store or a website, they aren’t responsible for anything the contractor does. Unless the contractor works directly through the store, meaning that you paid the store and the store pays them, the store will not take responsibility for anything that the contractor does, good or bad.
  • Every contractor in every state must be licensed. You can and should ask for a copy of their license. You should also verify that the contract is active with the state. If for any reason their license is not active, you shouldn’t allow them to pick up a broom in your house, let alone do any construction work.
  • Insurance is the best buffer against damages or shoddy workmanship in your home. Ask you contractor for their insurance policy number and their insurance agent’s number. Call to verify that the insurance is active and that it will cover you in case the contractor messes up or simply disappears. Again, no insurance, no job.
  • References are important, but don’t rely on them. Just as when up apply for a job, a contractor will choose people who will say nice things about them. You can ask some pointed questions. “Did the job get done on time?” “Did they stay in budget?” “Did they show up when they said they were going to?” “Were there any surprises during your job?”
  • Look online for other reviews. Remember that online reviews tend to be from people who are either very happy or very unhappy. The most important to look at trends in the comments. Things like, “They disappeared for three weeks,” that get repeated by other will show a trend toward being irresponsible.
  • Subcontractors and employees are a problem. Here is what you need to know and this is very important: If a general contractor has employees, they must have workers’ compensation insurance. You need to ask for it. If they don’t and a worker gets hurt in your house, a lawyer can find a way to make you responsible. Subcontractors should have the same liability insurance that the general contractor does. You can ask the general to get you that documentation. With many larger firms, you will receive a contract that clearly states that they are responsible for everyone they bring to the job site. In that case, you’re covered, but be certain.
  • Get at least three offers. The first person might be great and might be the person that you settle on, but get other offers. If two out of three contractors give you much higher or lower prices, the third person is the odd one out. Also, if you get an opinion about a part of the project that doesn’t track with what others have said, you might need to do a bit more exploration.

This isn’t everything you should know about hiring a contractor, but it’s the really important stuff. It’s also important that you like the person. They might be in your house for days, weeks, or even months. If they annoy you on the first day, it’s going  to be a long project.

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