When dissatisfaction with your current home strikes, it can be exciting to launch into a plan for a new addition. A new living room, bedroom, or more can add value to your home while improving your quality of life.
On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost-per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.
Define your needs
To determine if an addition makes sense for your situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.
If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”
If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.
Types of additions
“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first-floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.
Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.
For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb appeal of your house.
For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.
Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.
You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition, which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.
Requirements for a legal apartment
While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:
Some communities have regulations against “mother-in-law” units so they have zone-approval requirements.
In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exits, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.
In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.
The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is in a more expensive real estate area or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.
You might be wondering how much of that money your efforts might return if you were to sell the home a couple of years later? The answer to that question depends on a number of variables, but the average “recoup” rate for a family room addition is typically more than 80 percent.
The bottom line
While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.
Ask a homeowner which room they would most like to improve, and most will point to the kitchen – the starting point for every meal and the heart of the home.
Ask those same people why they don’t move forward with a kitchen remodel, and many will say the project seems so overwhelming they don’t know where to start. If your kitchen needs an upgrade, here are some step-by-step suggestions to get you started.
Gather your thoughts
The steps that follow will all progress much easier if you take time beforehand to form a strong opinion about the desired look and layout of your new kitchen.
Start by reviewing kitchen magazines and photo-heavy kitchen remodeling guides and/or websites. Compiling clippings and printouts in a notebook helps you refine your vision. Clip or print the photos that capture your imagination, add notes, and draw circles and arrows around the things you like most.
Once you have a clearer vision of what you want, search online for better examples and new solutions, if necessary. If you live with a significant other, share your ideas with them and don’t allow yourself to become too committed before getting buy-in from them. Contractors and sales associates will expect a unified front.
Focus on the flow
Another major factor you’ll want to consider is how your new kitchen will be used, and by whom:
- Do you want to cook with others?
- Do you want family and guests to gather in the space while you cook?
- Do you want to serve meals in the kitchen?
- Do you want to display your dishware?
- Where would you like things stored for maximum efficiency?
Imagine yourself happily cooking and entertaining in your new kitchen, then note the key elements necessary to make those dreams a reality. Having a list of your desired kitchen features and storage needs will help ensure your plan meets your vision.
Determine your budget
According to the annual Remodeling Magazine survey of costs, a “midrange,” “minor” kitchen remodel will cost homeowners living on the West Coast about $23,000. Those same folks can expect to pay about $70,000 for a midrange “major” kitchen remodel. Determine what you can afford before you start work to ensure that your vision is within reach, or to help prioritize what’s most critical.
What to do with the cabinets
Replacing the cabinets is one of the most expensive improvements you can make in a kitchen remodel (typically consuming 20 to 40 percent of the overall budget, according to Architectural Digest).
Consider refacing instead. This can include one of the following: 1) Installing completely new cabinet doors and drawer fronts or 2) installing new wood or laminate veneer over the existing cabinet and drawer fronts or 3) simply refinishing the existing cabinet and drawer fronts.
Shopping for contractors
The contractor you choose will determine much of the cost, the pace of your project, the amount of disruption, the final results, and your level of satisfaction. So be thorough in your search:
- Ask friends and family for referrals and advice.
- Interview at least three of the leading prospects in-person.
- Ask to see samples of past work.
- Look for someone who complements your operating style (similar personality and communication style).
- Once you’ve narrowed your choice to one or two, ask to speak with a few past clients.
You’ll be tempted to latch onto the first contractor who gets rave reviews from a friend or family member. But remember: You and your project are unique, and it’s worth the time and effort to be rigorous in your search.
If you’re planning to replace appliances, here are three factors you’ll want to consider:
Finish – Stainless steel is still the most popular option, but beware: smudges, fingerprints, water spots, and streaks will be obvious. Black stainless steel has a warmer feel and is better at hiding spots.
Extended warranty – According to Consumer Reports, extended warranties are hardly ever worth it because today’s appliances are so reliable. And if something does fail, it’s often less expensive to just pay for the repair.
Unbiased testing and reviews – Before making an appliance purchase, use the information resources available through Consumer Reports.
A final note
Moving walls and extending your home’s foundation are both very expensive options. If your kitchen plans call for these architectural renovations, perhaps you’ve outgrown your home and need something larger (with an already-improved kitchen).
Photo Source: FleetCarma.com
Electric cars help lower emissions and fuel costs, improve fuel economy, and bolster energy security. And considering the volatility of gas prices—and their general skyward trajectory—electric fuel shows promise as an economic alternative. But switching to an electric vehicle entails more than new driving habits and a conversation piece with strangers. It’s also a lifestyle update. From setting up a charging station in the garage to maintaining optimal temperatures therein, check out these useful garage preparation tips to assure your electric vehicle battery is in tip-top shape.
Selecting a Charger: Level 1 vs. Level 2
Charging an electric vehicle is more involved than charging your smartphone, and you’ll likely need a home station charger. That said, make sure you familiarize yourself with the two main levels of electric vehicle chargers supplied by home-based charging equipment and most public charging stations so you can choose the best one for your home and car.
Level 1 Chargers
A Level 1 cord set charger delivers a standard household current of 110 or 120 volts and comes with most plug-in vehicles upon purchase. It’s outfitted with a three-pronged, household plug at one end that’s connected to a control box by a short cord. A longer 15-to-20-foot cord running from the other side of the box connects directly to the vehicle itself.
- If you have the time, a Level 1 could be the way to go. But be forewarned: What you get is, more or less, a trickle charge that affords roughly three to five miles per charging hour. For instance, the Nissan Leaf takes around 24 hours to fully charge on a standard 120-volt household outlet.
- The upside is, Level 1 equipment doesn’t entail an elaborate setup of high-power circuit breakers or dedicated electrical lines, which are required by major appliances like stoves and refrigerators.
- Because cord sets are portable, plug-in vehicles can be charged virtually anywhere there’s a standard outlet. Provided the circuit isn’t a household outlet that’s patched into the same circuit as other demanding appliances—in which case you could trip a circuit breaker.
Level 2 Chargers
You can also consider installing a Level 2 charger, which delivers 240 volts and replenishes pure electric vehicles in about three hours—which is about seven to eight times faster than Level 1 equipment. Unlike the simplicity of Level 1 setups, though, Level 2 chargers may warrant the services of a professional due to the rigmarole of electrical codes, equipment setup, and necessary inspections.
- Level 2 chargers cost anywhere between under $300 to over $1500, the price ultimately depending on cord length and amperage.
- Level 2 outputs typically range between 16 to 30 amps, but professionals often recommend around 30- to 40-amp systems—an adequate overnight charge for most plug-in electric cars.
Installing a Charging Station
It’s worth mentioning that the “charger” you’re installing is technically referred to as Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE). This is the wall-mounted box with cord and plug that delivers electricity and functions as a communication and safety unit for the actual charger situated inside the vehicle itself. The EVSE ensures the battery doesn’t overheat and shuts the charging session down if there’s a short circuit, power surge, or any other type of faulty hardware.
If you’ve opted for a Level 2 ESVE, you’ll likely need to reach out to a professional electrician to wire up equipment and determine where the ESVE should be situated in regards to where your vehicle is parked. Notwithstanding factors like outdated wiring, meters, and breaker panels, updating the garage for your electric ride should actually be pretty straightforward.
Cost of Installation
The installation cost generally hinges on the work involved—such as the amount of wire that needs to be run, whether additional or replacement breaker panels are necessary, and the cost of labor in your area. This could vary between just a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. It’s also worth looking into your local. utility company’s offerings, as you may qualify for special rates or a rebate when you install an ESVE.
Fall is an ideal time to tackle maintenance projects both inside and outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Control where the water goes: Water in the wrong place can do a lot of damage. Start by ensuring that gutters and downspouts are doing their job. (Don’t attempt this talk yourself if you have a two-story house with a steep roof; hire a professional instead.) If your home is surrounded by deciduous trees you may need to clean out your gutters a few times a year, especially in the fall. Check to make sure your gutters are flush with the roof and attached securely, repairing any areas that sag or where the water collects and overflows. Clean out the gutters and downspouts, checking that outlet strainers are in good shape, and are firmly in place. Finally, check that your downspouts direct water away from your house, not straight along the foundation.
If you haven’t already, you may want to consider installing gutter guards. Gutter guards create a barrier- so water can get through to your gutters, but debris cannot, limiting gutter buildup (and the time you spend cleaning out your gutters). There are DIY installation kits available or you can always hire a professional to install a premium system.
If you have a sump pump under your house, now is a good time to test it. Run a hose to be sure draining water travels directly to the pump (dig small trenches if needed), and that the pump removes the water efficiently and expels it well away from the foundation. For more information about how sump pumps work go to howstuffworks.com.
When it comes to leaks, early detection is crucial: Check your roof for leaks. The best opportunity to catch leaks is the first heavy rain after a long dry spell, when roofing materials are contracted. (You can also simulate rain with a gentle spray from a hose.) Check the underside of the roof, looking for moisture on joints or insulation. You can mark these spots on the underside, and then- unless you have a lot of experience, have a roofing specialist locate and repair the leak. Don’t wait for leaks to show up on your ceiling. By then, insulation and sheet rock have been damaged and you could have a mold problem too.
Just say no to rodents: Rodents are determined and opportunistic, and they can do tremendous amounts of property damage (and endanger your family’s health). As temperatures cool, take measures to prevent roof rats and other critters from moving in. Branches that touch your house and overhang your roof are convenient on-ramps for invaders, so trip back branches so they’re at least 4 feet from the house. If you do hear scuttling overhead or discover rodent droppings in your attic, crawl space or basement, take immediate action. The website www.thisoldhouse.com has several helpful articles on the topic.
Maintain your heating and cooling systems: Preventative maintenance is especially crucial for your home’s heating and air-conditioning systems. Fall is a smart time to have your systems checked and tuned up if necessary. Don’t wait for extreme temperatures to arrive, when service companies are slammed with emergency calls. Between tune-ups, keeps your system performing optimally by cleaning and/or replacing air filters as needed.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, a professional inspection and cleaning will help prevent potentially lethal chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, always keep a supply of dry firewood or sawdust-composite logs so you have a backup heat source in an emergency.
Catch some air: Insulating your home is a cost-efficient investment, whether you’re trying to keep the interior warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Aside from more major improvements like energy-efficient windows and insulation, there are some quick fixes that do-it-yourselfers can tackle. If an exterior door doesn’t have a snug seal when closed, replace the weather stripping; self-adhesive foam stripping is much simpler to install than traditional vinyl stripping. If there is a gap under the door (which can happen over time as a house settles), you may need to realign the door and replace the vinyl door bottom and/or door sweep. Air also sneaks inside through electrical outlets and light switches on exterior walls. Dye-cut foam outlet seals are a quick and inexpensive solution; simply position them behind the wall plates.
The month of November brings the end to daylight savings time, for most of us anyway, and the start to the holiday season. Don’t be left in the cold, jumpstart your preparations with this quick checklist.
Check Your Fire Safety System
Test your smoke alarms and CO detectors to make sure they’re in working order. Locate your fire extinguisher and be sure the gauge shows that it has enough pressure. If it isn’t already stored in or near the kitchen, re-locate it closer to the oven for quick action should Thanksgiving dinner go up in flames.
Clean Your Garbage Disposal
Don’t let a stinky garbage disposal ruin your appetite, keep it smelling fresh with a few pieces of lemon rind and some ice cubes. The lemon cleans and deodorizes the odor causing bacteria and the ice scrapes away any debris, as well as sharpen the blades.
Check and Repair Other Plumbing Issues
Run the water in each sink to determine if it’s draining properly.
If your bathroom sink is not draining quickly, a great natural way to clear debris, with ingredients that you likely already have in the house, is to put ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of vinegar, then plug the drain and let it sit for an hour. When you unplug the drain, pour boiling water down until it drains quickly.
Send a snake down your tub drain, then add a hair trap to each drain to prevent future blockage, especially when you have guests over for the holidays.
For a slow kitchen drain, the likely cause is a build up of fat, oil, or grease (FOG drain clog). The best way to clear this kind of clog is with 2 liters of water and a few tablespoons of dish washing detergent. Pour slowing and keep pouring until the drain is cleared.
Pull Out Your Winter Essentials
For those of you in cold climates, get out the shovels and replenish the ice-melt bucket before the snow and ice hit this season. Don’t get caught in the storm, make sure they’re easy to access or easy to pull out when the weather forecast calls for below freezing temperatures.
It’s also a good idea to get out your snow gear and toys. Don’t miss an opportunity to play in the snow because you can’t get to your shed to pull out your snow boots, gloves, or sled!
Check and Replace Floor Protectors
Prevent damage to your floors by checking any pads on your chair legs as well as the rug mat.
Make sure the pads on your chairs, sofas, and tables are intact so when you move them, they won’t rub and scuff or dent flooring. Lift the rug to double check that the rug mat isn’t causing damage to the floor as well. Sometimes, the adhesive can stick to the floors, leaving a residue that’s almost impossible to clean, this is especially important on cement floors.
Prepare the Guest Bedroom
Has it been a while since anyone, besides the dog or cat, has slept in the guest bed? This is a great time of year to wash the sheets and clean the room in preparation for holiday guests. And don’t forget the cobwebs in the corners! Organize and re-stock the closets so your guests can easily access more blankets and towels during their stay.
Once you’ve completed your November checklist, you can sit back with your hot apple cider and know that you’re ready for the holiday season.
Your roof is one of the most important and expensive assets of your home, but no other element is quite as valuable. While the average lifespan of a roof is about 15 years, careful homeowners can extend the life of their homes without enduring too many hardships. Take a look at these three quick maintenance tips to help your roof last.
Keep Your Gutters Clear
Debris that accumulates and clogs your gutters adds extra weight and pulls at your roof’s fascia, which can be a costly fix. Look down the length of your roof for any signs of sagging or bending – that’s a sure sign your gutters are carrying too much weight and pulling at your roof.
Don’t forget the downspouts either, and don’t be fooled by easy-flowing water. Moss and algae buildup on and around your roof can slowly eat away at your roofing material and severely compromise its integrity.
Focus On The Attic
The exterior of your roof isn’t the only area you should focus on as your attic is your roof’s first line of defense against damage with a two-pronged approach: insulation and ventilation.
Insulating your attic has the double benefit of keeping your home’s internal temperature consistent while also preventing vapor and moisture buildup on the underside of your roof. When combined with proper ventilation your attic can stay dry and keep your roof’s rafters safe from moisture damage.
A great way to keep properly ventilate is to add a fan or dehumidifier to the attic.
Catch Problems Early
Check on your roof regularly, an easy time to remember to check is with every change of the season, or after a significant storm. Catching small issues early on will save you money in the long run, so utilizing the services of a reliable, professional roofer is an invaluable asset. As with any working professional, it’s a good idea to establish a working relationship with a roofer and even consider scheduling a yearly checkup for your roof just to make sure there aren’t any problems sneaking up on you. After all, spending a little each year to maintain your roof is a lot better than dropping $15,000-$50,000 on a new one, right?
As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your home from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep you and your loved ones safe and warm throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple of weekend days should be more than enough to knock this out:
Cracks & Leaks
Examine your entire house for any cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards, to your basement and foundation. With unpredictable winter weather, these cracks and leaks are how the outside gets in, causing cold drafts and water damage.
Luckily, most cracks don’t require a professional to handle it. Depending on your house type and age, it’s likely you’ll be able to do it yourself with supplies from your local hardware store.
Windows & Doors:
Gaps and breaks in windows and doors is another way to let the winter in your home, and they can let heat escape, raising your heat bill throughout the season.
Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Additionally, add weather-strips and or a door sweep to prevent drafts and keep the heat in.
Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, the buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak.
Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.
Protecting your pipes from freezing should be your number one priority this winter. A burst pipe can quickly become a disaster in any home.
Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.
Annual checks are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. Replace filters if you use a furnace and clear out any vents and ducts that carry heat through them. If you have baseboard heat, wipe them of dust and remove any debris that might catch fire.
Fireplace & Wood Burning Stoves:
Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%, increasing your bill about $200.
Bring your patio furniture inside or cover it for the winter. Don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including the hose and planting pots. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks and holes in your home and foundation as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season.
If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any limbs that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.
Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up to date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids – especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.