Addition Strategies

Remodeling can give you the "new" house you want without the hassle of moving.


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Additions can be simple, particularly when you take instruction from Marty and Bill Alexander of Cincinnati, Ohio. With four children off on their own, the Alexanders considered moving but didn't want to give up their home or neighborhood of 20 years. So they brought in remodeling crews to add a 15 x 16 sunroom onto the rear of their home.

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The project's tricky goal was creating the cottage look the Alexanders wanted outside, while giving interiors a more contemporary treatment. This was accomplished with siding, shingles, and gables outside and a band of windows opening up new views from the inside. Mary says, "It's wonderful to sit in here because now I can look out at the birds feeding."

Only Way to Go

Ann and Cliff Miller had one child and another on the way a few years ago, and they needed more space. They didn't want to move from their Lake Forest, Illinois, bungalow because Cliff, a landscape architect, had fashioned their yard into a park. So they built up, transforming a 900-square-foot two-bedroom house into a towering three-story with five bedrooms, a new kitchen, and 3,000 square feet.

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Although the aim had been to leave as much of the original house intact as possible, only two lath-and-plaster walls went untouched. To keep on budget, Cliff took the reins as the project's general contractor, and the couple made intelligent sacrifices: they put carpet where they would have preferred wood, and they initially left some areas unfinished.

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The Millers estimate they spent less than half as much renovating as they would have purchasing a similar existing house in their area. But the project wasn't easy. "Maybe we took on more than we had expected -- although it's worked out wonderfully in the end," Ann says. The family rented a nearby house during the six months their home was in shambles. Cliff's scheduling, supervising, and occasional nail-pounding chores almost added up to another full-time job. But the results were worth it.

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The three-story oak stairwell adds a dramatic element and serves as Ann's "built-in exercise machine." She also got plenty of exercise searching for the estate-sale treasures she used in her living room, such as the table, chairs, and knickknacks. Cliff salvaged the bookshelf from a manor awaiting demolition and reused it here. Ann says, "Old things fit in well here. The home keeps that sense it is a settled, lived-in house."

Additions are to housing what algebra is to math. You wind up with wrong answers if you don't know the right formulas. Here are some strategies that will put you in the plus column:

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  • Determine the skill level of the professional you need to hire. A remodeling contractor may be right for a simple sunroom addition, but you'll probably need an architect if the expansion will affect every part of your home.
  • Stop by city hall during the early thinking stages of your project. You need to be aware of lot setbacks, height restrictions, and any other regulations that might affect your plans.
  • The less impact on your present structure, the cheaper remodeling will be. Changes to the roofline, radical alteration of the floor plan, and moving plumbing walls will drive up costs.
  • Contact a heating and air conditioning (HVAC) professional to gauge the demand of the addition on your present system.
  • If you plan to sell the house in the future, keep in mind that remodeled kitchens return more on investment than any other room in the house.
  • Take this project as an opportunity to upgrade your home. For instance, if you have inefficient single-pane windows, replace them with new energy-saving windows. Or, if your aged wood floors are damaged beyond refinishing, put down new flooring.
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