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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cost of adding on to home twice that of using existing space

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer


A family in Murray asked us to help design an addition to their house.

This couple likes to entertain, and their small kitchen/family room combination isn't large enough to accommodate their guests.

After reviewing the couple's project, we determined that they don't actually need to add on because they already have plenty of space in their adjoining living and dining rooms — they just haven't been using it.

By adding a bay window on the second floor of this home just above the existing bay, there was enough room for a jetted tub, which freed up space in the master suite. It also reduced the cost of adding a bathroom by about $10,000.

Instead of adding on, all they needed to do was visually open and connect this space with their kitchen and family room.

We came up with a design that replaces the walls between the living room, dining room and family room with columns and beams. The design created a "great room" that allows guests to flow into the former living and dining areas while still maintaining contact with partygoers in the kitchen and former family room.

Working with the space this couple already has, rather than building an addition, will save the family about $50,000 in construction costs.

The cost to add on to a house is twice that of using existing space. Not only did we save them construction costs, but we also saved them future property taxes. Remember, the bigger the house or the addition, the higher the taxes.

Don't get us wrong: We are certainly not against additions, but we want you to carefully analyze your current space before you expand.

Can the space you already have simply be reconfigured to meet your needs? Or, can you multitask some rooms in your home?

For example, dining rooms can also be used as libraries, home offices can function as guest rooms on occasion, and laundry rooms and mudrooms can be combined.

If you've considered these things and have decided that you still need to expand, remember that the best additions aren't necessarily the biggest, but the most functional, comfortable and interesting.

We subscribe to the formula promoted by architect and best-selling author Sarah Susanka: Reduce the size of your original construction project by 30 percent and spend the resulting savings on finer materials and more architectural detail.

Adding concrete footings and foundations and extending the roof are major cost factors in a home remodel.

If you can design your remodel without these items, you will go far to control the cost. This can be accomplished structurally in two ways: Your floor can be extended over your existing concrete foundation wall by cantilevering the floor joists.

This involves adding new joists along side the existing ones. They must extend back into the house at a ratio of 2:1, meaning that if you want to extend the floor out two feet, the joists must continue back into the room a minimum of four feet.

This requires pulling up the flooring and underlayment, though this is much less costly than adding new footings and foundation.

For instance, adding just two feet to one side of a kitchen allows you to put in a bank of cabinets while maintaining (or enlarging) the kitchen's open floor space.

This principle works well for adding other small areas, such as bay windows, window seats, closets, etc., and eliminates the need to pour a new concrete foundation.

If you can't expand, look around to see if you can "borrow" a few feet from a room or space adjacent to the room you want to enlarge.

For example, you can capture the space from a closet to add to a bathroom, which would allow enough space for a new shower or bathtub.

Similarly, if you have a large roof overhang of 2 to 4 feet, you may be able to tuck in a small addition under your existing roof, saving the cost of altering your roof structure.

If you don't have such an overhang, you will need to build a new roof to cover an addition. In this case, it is less expensive to "overbuild" the new part, which is just what it sounds like: The new roof connects to the existing roof with a portion that is built over the current roof. Avoiding tearing off any part of your existing roof will save you money.

Too many homeowners put their money into the sheer size of a home rather than into its quality.

What these homeowners don't know is that a well-designed home with high-quality materials and features better serves its owners and reaps financial rewards when it comes time to sell. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at ask@renovationdesigngroup.com.

© 2009 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.


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