Save A Small Fortune

By Mark Donovan

March 16, 2016 4 min read

If you are considering building a room addition, the best way to minimize the cost is to build within your home's existing footprint. Build another bedroom by utilizing some of your home's unfinished space, or by repurposing an existing finished space. These options can save you tens of thousands of dollars compared with adding more square footage to the exterior of your home.

A homeowner can typically save 25 to 50 percent by working within your existing square footage compared to building out. Otherwise, you could be spending anywhere from $150 to $600 per square foot, depending on the desired architecture, the features you want and the real estate market conditions relative to where you live -- and that's not even considering furniture, other cosmetic details or construction labor costs.

Though the numbers might be scary, it's important to understand exactly what's required for a build-out, both financially and logistically. Consider the following practicalities before making your decision.

Creating another room outside of your blueprint requires excavation and foundation work. In addition, you'll have to do some demolition to your home, such as knocking down the walls adjacent to your add-on. Hiring an architect is highly advisable, and sometimes necessary, to ensure the new room is structurally sound, functional and matches your home's aesthetics. Making this new room seamlessly attached to your house will positively affect your resale value. That being said, hiring an architect, building contractor or interior designer can significantly increase the bottom line of the project. You will have to judge the value based on your property.

There are a few different ways to transform unused areas or change the functionality of a currently used room in your home. One way is to go vertical, by finishing a basement or attic. This could depend on what you'd like to use the new room for: It may be suitable for an office or storage closet, but maybe not for a guestroom for the grandparents. These expansions are beneficial because they don't require exterior construction, painting or landscaping. Otherwise, expanding your square footage will absolutely require exterior construction. You'd have to plan out (and pay for) exterior framing, siding, insulation, the installation of windows and doors, a new roof, painting the walls and landscaping. If the paint on the exterior of your house looks worn-out, you may have to repaint the whole house so the shades of paint match.

You may be presented with other unforeseen issues that you'll need to investigate prior to breaking ground. For example, does your lot even have enough space to allow an attached room addition to be constructed? Also, are there any covenants in your housing development or city council that may preclude you from building an attachment? It is highly advisable to check with your local building inspector to determine if an attached room addition is feasible.

So, if you are contemplating building a room addition and want to minimize the costs, think about building within your home's existing footprint. Not only will you save money, time and headaches but also you'll save in annual property tax bills.

Mark J. Donovan's website is at

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