8 tips to save on home addition

An addition is a big expense. But are there ways it can be less of an impact on the pocketbook? Absolutely! Here are some of our best home addition tips and several ways to achieve significant savings on your home addition:

  1. Don’t overdo it. Whether it’s the huge size or the luxury-quality materials used, more is, well, more. Plan on purchasing quality materials so they will stand the test of time and the wear and tear an average home goes through. Be ready to invest a little more in areas that matter most, such as that perfect kitchen range or amazing soaking tub. Pick your spots to splurge but keep them to a minimum.
  2. Consider tax credits and refunds. Many states and the federal government are offering a number of tax credits at any given time to install energy-saving features, while many utility companies offer refunds for a number of different appliances, whether it’s a more efficient water heater, ground- or air-source heat pumps or solar and renewable energy resources. Investigating these options helps free up other money for luxury items.
  3. Get multiple bids. Once the addition’s design has been nailed down, talk to several different contractors. If one is significantly lower than the others, ask why – it could be the contractor is using poor-quality materials or cutting corners that will make the project cost more, instead of less, by the time it’s done. If you have bids that are significantly higher, ask why, because the contractor may not realize there’s some flexibility available in the design.
  4. Be flexible. Does the new entryway door have to be Brazilian mahogany or will a fiberglass or steel door with the appearance of mahogany suffice? Does the paint for the bedroom have to be a particular tone of Sherwin-Williams premium or will a slightly different tone of a store brand work just as well? Being flexible also allows others into the creative process, producing ideas that hadn’t otherwise been considered.
  5. Don’t be a mind-changer. Every contractor has horror stories about the client who changed their mind about the cabinets, paint or flooring three times while the job was underway and then got upset because the bill was much higher. Making changes to the plans during construction will increase costs for labor and materials. Change orders can make major changes in your budget and deadlines. Make the choice once, for certain, and stand by it. If something just doesn’t work, see if the initial materials can be sold to make back part of the cost.
  6. Request a cash discount and purchase/delivery discounts. If paying cash is an option, most contractors will give you a discount. They have better things to do with their time than chase non-paying customers and will reward cash payment accordingly. Along the same lines, if the contractor doesn’t have to spend their precious time at the store or arranging delivery, the end cost goes down.
  7. Require buying in bulk, at a discount warehouse or repurposed material. Almost all home improvement stores offer a discount to their contractors or on a job above a particular dollar figure. Like shabby chic or cottage style? Hit your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for vintage details. Most larger cities have at least one building supply discount warehouse for new items being closed out.
  8. Negotiate items that can be self-completed. If painting is considered an easy task, demand either a lower price or to have it removed from the bid. Able to lay laminate flooring? Take the same route. If a contractor realizes they won’t get the job if a few areas don’t go down in price, they may be willing to negotiate.

With these home addition tips in mind, the savings that can be realized on an average addition can be phenomenal. However, it’s important to remember that surprises do happen, and often they are costly. When building a home addition, it’s common to encounter what are often referred to as “hidden costs.” These are expenditures you didn’t consider when first planning your project or, later, after establishing a budget based on estimates by your architect and contractor.

Consequently, you need to pad your budget in anticipation of unexpected expenses.

Some costs are difficult for architects and contractors to predict, such as how many extras (change orders as mentioned above) you may request as the project gets underway or what problems may lurk behind walls and within floors and foundations. We could never cover all the costs that may be hiding in your project in this one article, but here are some hidden things to keep in mind when calculating your home addition costs:

Zoning Restrictions that Zap Plans
Before putting architectural drawings out to bid with the contractors you are considering, ask your architect whether project plans account for the current zoning restrictions set by your city, county or any other entity governing construction code. Zoning issues involve matters such as:

  • How far a property needs to be set back from its neighbors and the street
  • Building height and maximum footprint and
  • Whether accessory dwelling units, such as apartments over garages, are allowed.

Disruptions to Service Lines, Landscaping and Daily Life
If you are adding to the ground floor rather than building up, digging for the addition’s foundation may cause disruptions to water, power and telephone services by cutting lines when the locations of these lines are unknown.

Breaking ground and other construction actions, such as dropping tiles from roofs, also create landscape damage. The Bob Vila website suggests maintaining lists of plants that need replacement and checking seasonal sales.

If an addition project is major, some families choose to move out for the duration. So rent may be a cost to consider. However, if you choose to continue living at home, Vila notes, it may be wise to invest in extra childcare and pet care away from your home to decrease construction dangers. Vila also adds that costs for dining away from home may also increase.

Construction Permits
Make sure that your contractor has obtained all the permits necessary for your project. Although permits increase your costs, it is far more costly to be fined by your municipality for lack of these documents.

Trying to dodge the permitting process may also lead to a surprise building inspection concluding in an order requiring destruction of work already completed. For example, an electrical inspector may need portions of wall removed to inspect wiring.

Foundation, Roof and Wall Restructuring
A soils report is the kind of extra cost you may not mind, if it points out potential problems that need to be noted in architectural plans. Soil may vary significantly from one part of a property to another. Whereas soft, spongy soil necessitates wider foundation footings, expansive clay soil may call for supports called piers. In both cases, these additions to construction avert settling problems later, including fissures in walls and floors.

If your addition is difficult to join to your house’s current roof structure, resolution of this problem may increase charges for design time. However, this hidden cost is less expensive than fees for fixing a leaking roof after construction. Restructuring walls inside your current home to work with the addition may necessitate altering or moving a load-bearing wall. As the House Logic website notes this may add up to $4,000.

Electrical, Plumbing and Mold Remediation
As mentioned previously, walls and floors may conceal unpleasant surprises when opened up. Wiring and plumbing may not be up to code or may require upgrading and rerouting.

Writing at Lifehacker, Melanie Pinola recounts her own story about what she thought would be “a pretty straightforward bathroom remodel” until contractors discovered incorrect siting of the bathtub drain (an extra $2,000 to fix) and mold in the back of the drywall (a $3,000 correction).

As you can see there are definitely some things to keep in mind, and creating a buffer in your budget is a good idea because there will inevitably be some surprises. However, if you follow some of these home addition tips, you can save a lot of money in the long run and end up with a structurally sound and beautiful addition to your home.