Home Addition Planning

By Mark J. Donovan

January 18, 2012 5 min read

Over the decades, I've been involved in building many home additions. Prior to the start of each project, a tremendous amount of planning is done. My planning always starts with a blank sheet of 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper and writing down what the purpose of the addition is and the top-level features my wife and I want in it, be it a family room addition, garage addition or kitchen addition.

Once I fully define the main objectives of my project, I begin to sketch out the basic plans. Initially, I start out with a pencil, graph paper and a ruler. I draw the specific scaled outside dimensions of the addition, along with the various internal wall, door and window locations. In the process, I also find out the various sizes of appliances and plumbing fixtures that are required so that they can be drawn properly to scale in the plans. This way, I can confirm that the addition and all the various rooms or walls within it are of the right dimensions. By going through this level of planning, I can ensure, for example, a toilet wouldn't protrude out so far from a bathroom wall that the bathroom door couldn't close.

As part of my planning and sketching, I also make sure to show the exact locations of doors and windows, as well as how the doors swing open. I even go as far as to draw in footprint areas for the expected pieces of furniture to ensure there will be sufficient walking lanes and open space throughout the addition.

After sketching out the home addition floor plan, I then begin to sketch out exterior drawings of the addition. Of chief concern when home addition planning is to ensure that the addition will meld nicely into the existing home. For example, I focus on the addition's elevation and where the addition's roofline will tie into the existing home. More specifically, I develop detailed sketches to find out where the addition will intersect any existing windows or rooflines on the main home. I also determine how the base of the addition will match into the main part of the home. By paying close attention to these particular areas, you can help to ensure that your addition plans will tie in nicely with the rest of the home and, in many cases, prevent unwanted surprises down the road. The last thing you want, for example, is an addition that perpendicularly ties onto the backside of your main home with a roof peak that extends above the roofline of the main home. I've seen a number of these flubs over the years, and they look unsightly from the curb.

After fully fleshing out the paper sketches and drawings, the next stage of my home addition planning is transitioning them to the computer and a home design software package. With a home design software package, you can create all types of floor plans, views and elevation drawings. The software also offers the ability to integrate appliances, cabinets and furniture, and it even shows different types of wall and floor coverings in your home addition plans. I will say, however, it does take some time to come up to speed with these home design software packages, and that is why I always recommend starting out your home addition planning with just a pencil, paper and a ruler. This way, you don't get lost in the technical weeds of a software program while you initially are defining your addition. This said, home design software packages provide incredible value, as they can produce scaled drawings, various views and material lists. They also offer the flexibility to easily change dimensions and features of the addition so that you quickly can evaluate different options in planning your addition.

Another major part of my home addition planning is to go out and visit the building material stores to check out building products and prices. This way, I can develop a materials list and an accurate cost estimate, at least for the materials.

After completing my plans and printing them out, I visit my local building inspector to review the drawings and pull the permits. In the cases when I contract the work out, I provide the prospective contractors with copies of the plans so that they can quote them. I make sure that the plan provided to the contractors also includes my materials list so that the contractors have no choice but to stick with the materials I specify. This helps ensure that quotes from competing contractors are consistent, at least in construction and materials.

With this process of home addition planning, I've been able to avoid costly mistakes. I also have prevented many unwanted surprises, kept building schedules on track and kept contractor proposals honest. If there is one general take-away from this article that you should focus on, it is that you do your home addition planning upfront and not during the actual construction.

Mark J. Donovan's website is http://www.HomeAdditionPlus.com.

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