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Top Five Unexpected Concerns You May Encounter When Planning a Home Addition

Building a home addition involves many elements of your home, including structural, electrical and mechanical. These types of concerns may not rank above design and finishes during the early planning stages, but these issues could push your budget beyond expectations or put the project on hold, unless you and your general contractor understand how to handle them properly.

Structural Stresses

Different types of home additions can create varying types of structural stress. Ground floor additions, such as bump outs and garage extensions, may put stress on the existing foundation. Your general contractor should schedule a soil inspection, providing proof that the area around your foundation can handle the added weight and expanse of an addition. If it cannot, additional support will be added to your foundation or an entirely new foundation will be dug and poured.

The condition of your home's foundation will also be assessed and any cracking, crumbling or other obvious signs of weakness will need to be dealt with before construction on the addition starts.

Upper floor home additions may also cause structural stress in cases where inadequate support beams exist on the ceiling of the main floor. Many bungalows or older homes have 2x8 ceiling joists on the main floor. Your contractor cannot build on top of that framing without adding extra beams to beef up the structure and ensure adequate support for an upper floor addition.

Plumbing Overload

Does your home addition include any new plumbing fixtures, such as a bathroom, kitchen or laundry? If you are merely moving fixtures from another location in your home, your plumbing system will experience little effect. But some home additions involve upgrades to the plumbing, such as adding a high-end fridge with water cooler capabilities or including a laundry tub alongside the washer and dryer. These changes can effect the entire system.

Your plumbing was designed for a certain number of fixtures, with some wiggle room for expansions and changes. But adding fixtures to the design can put strain on pipes, valves and drain systems. Think about having a plumber look over the new design and recommend any adaptations to incoming water lines and drains.

In some cases, your general contractor could simply add a new plumbing system for the additional fixtures. This works if the existing plumbing is antiquated and replacement is not an option. Most home additions that create a strain on the plumbing system involve work on that system, increasing capacity or expanding the system to cover a wider area.

Building Code Problems

You'll need to apply for a building permit when tackling a home addition. An inspector will review the plans of your new space, as well as the existing systems in your home. Because you are adding with new construction, a grandfather clause may not work for uncovered building code violations. In cases where the revamped structural, electrical and mechanical systems do not comply with code your building department will force the issue.

This often happens on older homes where knob & tube wiring or inadequate levels of insulation exist. You cannot build a home addition without addressing the code issues, and that type of work will quickly eat up the budget.

You may need to update the wiring and/or electrical system, replace old plumbing with newer or larger products, increase the amount of insulation or change it out entirely, improve ventilation or air flow inside your home or add support to the walls and/or roof.

Hazardous Building Materials

A common concern with older homes, this could occur with newer homes as well. It pays to have your home fully inspected before planning a home addition, in order to detect any hazardous building materials (such as lead paint or asbestos) and any other dangerous conditions (such as mold growth). Expect everything to be put on hold should these situations be uncovered in the middle of your project.

Lead paint and asbestos must be completely removed using specialized equipment and processes, and you must stay out of the house for at least a few days to avoid contamination and health risks. Mold should also be removed and the area treated to avoid regrowth. Your HVAC system should be cleaned well after these cleaning and removal processes, in order to remove fine, air borne particles that could create a health risk for your family members.

Be sure to choose healthier building materials for your addition as well, opting for durable, natural products whenever possible. A home renovation project often disturbs allergens and creates stress—two things that contribute to poor health. Make sure the effort is worthwhile by ensuring your newly renovated home contains healthier designs and products, from the paint selection to the framing and flooring.

Inefficient Heating and Cooling

Depending on where it is located, your home addition could be difficult to heat and cool. Maintaining comfort in your new living space drives most design decisions, including the size, shape and finishes of the new room, but comfort is much more than a visual aspect. You may not think of it, but moving warm and cool air around this shape may be hard and costly.

Your existing mechanical system is based on the home without any addition. Pushing air through this area can be challenging, unless the initial design includes an HVAC designed for the new shape. Air flow is helped by ventilation and when a new room is added to the mix, that ventilation may be thrown off balance.

The rest of the house needs to be fairly airtight, unless you want the warmth and comfort created in the home addition to be absorbed by the balance of your home. Think about how heat distribution works and how to get the new shape of your home working together for optimum comfort.

Are you planning a home addition? These unexpected concerns can put a proverbial wrench into your plans, pushing the budget far beyond your original numbers and creating much more work for your contractor. Think about how structural stresses, plumbing overloads, building permit violations, hazardous materials and inefficient heating can be taken care of within your design and construction plans. Then plan to stay flexible and take each challenge as it comes.

Posted by: diana
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