Where To Start With Your Home Addition

Today we’re going to cover the most frequently asked questions about where to start with a home addition. The first question we’re going to go over is the actual starting point with your home addition. This actually applies to not only home additions, but to new custom homes and virtually any type of project you’re considering doing. Some of the things that you’re going to want to bring with you to the design meeting or your first meeting with the architect include things like, an outline concept of what you have in mind, any ideas you might have of what you would like to do with the project, photographs of the existing property, and also photographs of any architectural style that you like or any style elements that you want. We like to call the wish lists a dream book. It’s a really good way to set out some ideas and it doesn’t have to be complete by any means. For example, if you see a nice fireplace mantel that you’d like to have included in the project, just take a picture of it and include it in your documentation. We like to receive from you a bullet items list or outline detailing your wants for the project. It doesn’t have to be complete sentences, but it’s things like three bedroom, two bathroom, master bedroom with two walk in closets, or whatever the particular requirements are for your project. The better you know that the better we can develop what we call a scoping document. We also like to include the must have list and wish list. We like to see all those items even if you think it’s above and beyond your project scope to start with. There are possibilities we can get those wish list items in your project or maybe make some adjustments and make it work. The more information you can provide for us at the first meeting the better the outcome will be. Some of the things that we’re going to ask you at this first meeting are things like, what is your lifestyle. For example, particularly, in Southern California some people like to have outdoor kitchens, covered patios, and fireplaces. The weather is hot enough that during the Summer you really need shade to be able to use your outdoor space. Additional lifestyle items, do you have a particular hobby that you would like to have your own special room or display area for? Some people that have horses like to have trophy cases along the entry, or maybe your kids are in soccer, karate, taekwondo, and you’d like to display those trophy’s. Those are examples of special lifestyle considerations. The more of that we know about, the sooner we can get it into the project and make sure it’s the way you want it in the addition. These are all part of the discussion and they go into the scope of work. A room list is another item that is very helpful in developing the scope. Obviously how many bedrooms, bathrooms, maybe a den. Are you someone that likes what we call a great room or do you like a formal living room/dining room area? We ask you to put those in the bullet list as well.

Another question we get a lot is, what is the ideal size for an addition? This is one obviously depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what you have in terms of your existing home. A couple of things that may help, if your addition is anywhere near 500 sf it’s always nice to stay a little bit below that. This is because you will save development fees that are identified as school fees. Also if you keep the addition of your home under 50% in many areas, by the way this is changing all the time, you may not have to install sprinklers which is an additional cost to consider otherwise. You always want to do a cost benefit analysis on a project and that typically begins to relate to where are you in your neighborhood, what town you are in, what the market value of the home before the addition is and what’s the forecasted market value after the addition. It’s nice if you’re doing a project where you’re trying to develop a cost value increase, to look at adding bedrooms and bathrooms. Those generally give you the highest value. For example, going from a one bedroom or two bedroom house with one bathroom to a two or three bedroom with two bathrooms puts you in a completely different market. It's kind of fun to actually take a look at that and compare that to other homes in the area. These days it’s very easy to do this with redfin and Zillow. Just go online, punch in your own address and it will give you an estimated market value for your property based on the recent sales of homes in the area. This is a good thing to do. If you haven’t done it when you come in we’ll do it when we’re at the first meeting. However, it’s nice to do a little research to get an idea of where you’re going with your project.

Existing home styles comes up a lot. Take a look at your home and see if you can figure out what style it is. If it’s style you don’t like, tell us. We can change it if you like. We will work to produce an addition that is consistent with the existing style of your home. In fact the idea is to do the work and make it like it was always there. We don’t want somebody to drive up to your home and say “oh what a nice addition”, we want them to drive up and say “what a beautiful home, was it always like this?”. The planning departments like to see this as well. The more we can match the existing architecture, or if we create an entirely new style, the better they will like it and the quicker we can get it approved through the planning department. Sometimes we have to go through public hearings to do this and we’ll be happy to represent you on those types of meetings. It’s very interesting because there’s hundreds of “styles” of architecture. You can take a look at the styles in the Rancho Cucamonga area. We have modern, mid-century modern, which by the way mid-century is the mid last century that’s somewhere around the 40’s 50’s and 60’s, you’ll see a lot of mid-century modern homes in the Palm Springs area. They’re very contemporary and very stylish. These days not too many of them are in the Los Angeles area. There are some other styles like Mediterranean, you’ll see a lot of that up in the Santa Barbara area. Spanish revival, craftsman style. One of the nicest craftsman style houses in this area is the Greene and Greene house or the gamble house in Pasadena. This is a great example to take a look at. A very common style in this area is ranch or California ranch. It’s a single-story home and has a lot of particular details that express it as a California style architecture. There’s also more formal styles like New England style or salt box. However your house looks we can work with that style or we can look to develop a new style for it depending on what you want to do.

The next questions that get asked often is scheduling, what kind of information should you have going into a project, and understanding a schedule. One thing we find very interesting is a lot people don’t understand that getting the piece of paper with the red stamp on it from the building department that says “approved for construction” is literally about half the project. Half of the project is the design, engineering, and planning. The other half is taking the nails, wood, concrete and putting it together. We’re going to go through the basic elements or basic components of a schedule for an addition. The first portion of a project will be design and what we call as-builts which define the site and measure what’s on the site, what the existing building looks like, and what the lot coverage is. We do a lot of research in relationship to what’s already there on the property. After our research we develop a design which we call a conceptual design. We go back and forth with this design to make sure it matches with what you’re wanting to do then we develop the floor plan, the additions, and the elevations all to scale. Once it’s in a planning package format that’s approved, we can take those documents to the planning department. The planning department will tell us what we can do on a particular piece of property based on the zoning and specific site requirements. They will also show us the setbacks, building height restrictions, massing, and lot coverage. These are the basics that go into the planning package. Many people don’t realize that there’s a planning package to this process and then there’s a construction document package as well. The construction document package actually needs to go into the building department for their approval just like the planning package. Included the construction document package are details, structural engineering, green building requirements, and title 24 energy calculations. The building department is going to review how the project is to be built in conformance with California building codes or CBC. Once that’s approved then we’re ready to go and issue documents to contractors for their pricing and proposal. While we’re in the planning department we will also go to any homeowner’s association, or architectural review boards, so we can do that at exactly the same time and then once we have an approved set of drawings for that we can go to the building department. With planning department review there is usually a set of redlines they will give us or conditions they want us to include in the drawings. We will need to make those modifications and then resubmit the plans for approval again. Sometimes there’s a public hearing associated with certain projects or a planning commission review. They will issue comments and once those are approved we will finalize the construction documents and submit those to the building department. Once the drawings are in the building department it will take about four to six weeks for the review. Usually they’ll come back with a set of redlines and we’ll have to make modifications according to those and then we’ll resubmit the plans. Sometimes that takes two or three rounds in Southern California and that’s not unusual. Once that’s approved we will work with you to get pricing from several contractors to make sure our budget is consistent with what we have asked the contractors to build.

Another question that’s very common is the who, what, when, where, why, and how on financing. Financing all depends on whether you have the resources to finance the project yourself and then roll it over into a long term loan or maybe do a take out loan. A couple of basic things that can be helpful is to have an approved design package in order to be able to talk to the bankers or the loan brokers. There are several different types of loans you can take out, one would be a home improvement loan, another might be you may have enough equity in your property already just to pull an equity line of credit and then finance that in a long term loan. The basic information you’re going to need is an approved set of planning drawings for the loan officer to take a look at in order for them to know the size and rough cost of the project. Also it will be helpful to have a preliminary budget from a contractor to get an idea of where the project is going to be. It also would be nice to know what the anticipated equity is going to be when the project is complete. The more equity that we can show is generated by doing this project the more likely the lender is going to be happy to provide the funds for the project.

We hope these items that we reviewed today regarding how to get started and what kind of things you need to consider for your project have been helpful. Our goals and objectives are to help you understand the process so that you have an intelligent understanding of what is needed and how to efficiently move forward with your project in the most cost-effective manner possible. Schedule a free consultation now!