home addition project Bay Area CA

Where Do I Start When Adding an Addition to My House?

The start of a home addition project is always exciting. You can feel the thrill as you start to imagine all of the possibilities and potential outcomes. There’s also a fair number of perks to this decision, such as expanding your living space, enhancing the value of your property, and making your house feel like a home. That being said, planning a new home addition is a big undertaking. But don’t let that deter you! The first step is always the hardest, so knowing where to start can make all the difference.

When contemplating a new addition, the first step is to ask yourself these three questions:

  • What need(s) will this addition fill?
  • Is this decision cost-effective?
  • Who is going to build it?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can move on to researching and planning other vital aspects.  

In this article, we’ve provided some tips on how you can approach adding an addition to your home, so you’re successful right from the start. After covering the first steps you should take for this process, we’ll cover other vital things you should know and do to have the addition of your dreams.


Start By Asking Yourself the Big Three

Additions are a nice project to ponder from time to time, especially when you feel your house doesn’t have enough space or is missing that one room that will really make it the perfect home. However, there’s a big difference between daydreaming about a new home addition and actually taking steps towards obtaining one.

Before you embark on this extensive but fulfilling journey, there are three things you need to ask yourself:

  • What need(s) with this addition fill?
  • Is this decision cost-effective?
  • Who is going to build it?

We call these questions the “Big 3” because they’re questions every homeowner should ask before making more definitive steps towards their home addition project, like applying for loans or purchasing materials.

Let’s cover each question and its significance in more detail, so you know why you’re asking them and what each entails.

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What Need(s) Will This Addition Fill?

First thing’s first, the decision to have a new home addition doesn’t always have to stem from a need. If your family has the extra funds to add a small bump-out addition or an extra bathroom and just wants them, by all means, treat yourself! However, it’s always important to ask yourself why you’re doing it before you do this.

You want to ask this question for two reasons:

  1. To ensure you can’t achieve the goal of your addition in an alternative way
  2. To ensure the addition you choose fulfills your need(s)

The first reason is vital for individuals contemplating a new home addition who are unsure if they can financially justify the decision. Home additions aren’t cheap by any means, regardless of how extensive they are, so you want to make sure if you’re installing one out of a dire need, that these needs can’t be fulfilled else how.

For example, a growing family might decide they need a home addition as a playroom because their house is too cluttered with toys. However, a better alternative might be to improve your home’s storage, so it is easier to keep it organized. Alternatively, it might be cheaper and less challenging to fund a finished basement or attic for a playroom than an addition. It never hurts to take a step back and ask yourself if the addition is the best way to solve your issue.

Once your certain addition is what you want, we suggest you pinpoint a clear goal or need that you want that addition to fill. This might be a space to entertain guests, work more productively, or even just relax. Whatever the need or goal is, write it down, and think about what type of addition will help you fulfill it best.

This will help you stay focused down the line when you have to make bigger decisions about your addition. Whenever you’re in doubt, always refer to your primary need/goal and ask if this decision works for or against it.


Is This Decision Cost-Effective

Some might argue this is the question you should ask yourself first, but we often find that you find a way to make it work financially when you have a genuine need for something. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should go out and fund an entire second-story addition on a whim.

Before you progress too far into your home addition project, you need to think seriously about the financial logistics and repercussions of this decision.

Some questions we think you should ask yourself here are:

  • Will you be able to obtain funding for the addition?
  • Can you fulfill your need or achieve your goal with this budget?
  • Will this additional work be in your home’s favor in terms of value?
  • Is there a better way to increase your home’s value while still having an addition?


Most people cannot fund a home addition out of pocket, so the first question is really crucial. While it’s important to consider if this is a wise decision for you financially, this might be a moot point for some people since you need decent credit and financial history to acquire a loan for home additions from lenders. So, take a hard look at your financial standing and decide whether you’re a good enough candidate to receive a loan, and then consider if you can handle the debt that comes with it.


If you’re confident you can obtain a loan for a home addition and you can handle the payments for it, the next step is to choose a budget that works for you. This budget will help you determine what kind of addition can fulfill your needs while still being cost-effective. You’ll want to choose a budget first before you get your heart set on a swanky addition and then discover it is twice what you’re comfortable borrowing.


The last two questions to consider referring to the value of your home. Additions are a fantastic opportunity to increase your home’s overall value, so you’ll want to optimize this opportunity as much as possible. When budgeting and choosing materials, make sure you check the math and confirm that your addition is increasing your home’s value by more than you’re paying.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to use additions to upgrade rooms that will increase the home’s value more and repurpose another room to fulfill your need (ex. if you need a playroom or office, add a master suite and repurpose the old master as the playroom or office).


Who is Going to Build It?

This last question is something you should consider sooner rather than later in your addition process, as it will significantly affect all other decisions you make down the line, particularly when it comes to your budget and timeline.

While it would be nice to just screw an addition onto any house, adding these expansions take a lot of time, hard work, materials, and skill. Therefore, it is important to decide in the very beginning whether this is something you’re prepared to take on yourself as a DIY project or if you’re more confident hiring a professional contractor.

If you decide to go the DIY route, know that this is usually the most time-consuming choice and has the biggest margin for error, as most additions require skill sets that range from electric to plumbing to architecture and many more.

Not only will you have to either know or learn all of these skills (which will require a significant amount of practice, research, and trial and error), but you’ll most likely have to be certified or licensed to perform them on your home to create your addition. Otherwise, whatever you create won’t be legal and will most likely be torn down, and/or you’ll be heavily fined. So, think hard about if you’re up for this challenge.

We recommend homeowners turn to a trustworthy, licensed, and insured local contractor for their home addition. These professional teams will ensure your addition follows all legal codes, is complete in a timely manner, and adheres to all of your desires. They will also help you plan and design your addition from day one if need be.

The only downside here is that they’re more expensive than the DIY route, and you risk hiring a team that doesn’t meet your quality expectations. This is why it is vital to seek references for any contractor you’re considering and to research them thoroughly before hiring them for the job.

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What Other Things Should You Know Before You Start an Addition Project?

While these “Big 3” are a great start to your home addition project, there are a few other things you’ll want to know as early as possible.

When initially planning your new home addition, make sure you research the property lines and building codes that pertain to your residence. You’ll also want to consider the long-term costs of this addition and remember that additions come in all shapes and sizes.

It’s certainly tempting to start designing your new addition and pick out the materials and features you want most in your new home expansion, but we urge you to think about and research these points as well because some can even bring your project to a complete halt.


Property Lines and Building Codes

The importance of property lines and building codes for your home addition can’t be understated. This is something many homeowners look over or are unaware of until it’s too late.

Property lines are legal real estate boundaries that will dictate whether you can build an addition and, if so, where. Usually, your property lines will only allow you to build up or build-out, so knowing this information is vital before you even decide what kind of addition you want or where to place it.

Building codes are another important legal restriction that requires your home to adhere to specific regulations and requirements in order to be deemed “safe.” If your addition violates these codes, you will either have to reconstruct it to adhere to the codes or demolish what violates them.

This is one of the reasons why hiring a professional contractor is beneficial because they’ll constantly check building codes as the project progresses to ensure every aspect of your addition is legal and safe.


Long-term Costs

Another element homeowners tend to forget when contemplating a home addition is what it will cost them in the long run.

Often, people are so consumed with the mammoth initial cost of home additions that they neglect to do the math of what it will cost them when it is complete. Monthly bills like electric, water, heat, AC, and more are going to increase with this addition, and you’ll want to make sure you’re capable of handling this extra cost before building an entire floor or room you later can’t afford.


You Don’t Have to Go Big

Some of the most popular additions homeowners purchase are sunrooms, master suites, and kitchen expansions. While these are all fantastic ways to enhance your home, they’re also some of the largest home addition options available.

Adding an extra room or even an extra level is one of the most efficient ways to increase your home’s overall square footage as well as value, but remember, you don’t always have to purchase the big fancy addition to fulfill your needs.

Bump-out and dormer additions are smaller and more affordable options that might provide just enough extra space to fulfill your needs without requiring an entire room. Mudrooms can also be smaller-sized additions to help increase your storage and organization while diverting clutter and traffic from your main entrance.


Final Thoughts

Deciding to purchase a home addition can be a thrilling and relieving step for any family home, but while we want you to stay excited about your home’s future transformation, it’s important not to forget the essential tips we’ve discussed here.

Knowing as much about home additions as early as possible will only benefit your project. It will allow you to avoid potential issues and plan your addition’s construction with ease. So, before you get started on your home addition project, ask yourself the Big 3 questions, and don’t forget to consider size, property lines/building costs, and long-term costs.

Element Home Remodeling East Bay is a home addition contractor in Oakland that designs and creates home additions that add value and quality of life to your home. We specialize is open and modern designs and can design and build the perfect addition for your family.  Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Element Home Remodeling

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