Tips: How to Start an Addition


Preface by Matt Fajkus:

"When adding to an existing structure, the most critical thing to consider is integration or deliberate separation of the old and new. In either case, a holistic scheme based on a clear idea is very important. In this piece, Yidan explains the key components of the architectural addition process."


Creekbluff Studio Addition

Creekbluff Studio Addition


Additions are small structures which are connected to the existing structure either horizontally or vertically. Adding an addition to your home is therefore like building a house: it requires a team of design and construction professionals and involves several phases. 


Your objectives of your sunroom addition may be different from somebody else’s project, even with a similar program. Is the addition to be used by yourself, dubbed a guest room, or merely to increase the resale value in the near future? Do you want more light in your house, need more living space, or have you always dreamed about a contemporary add-on to make your house more attractive? Having a clear goal can help determine how your addition should be realized, how much investment you should put in, and keep the project on track while better managing your own expectations.


Before you start seriously planning an addition, you will want to do an initial consult to see the possibilities of expanding your house. Restrictions on the lot itself such as zoning, rules from Homeowners’ Associations (HOA) and Historical Landmark Commission (HLC), if applicable, can be the deciding factors on what you could actually do. It is therefore recommended to get your architect, who has the knowledge and skills required to conduct a feasibility study, involved as early as possible. If you do not have an architect, we encourage you to interview a few to find the best fit. Trust and communication is the key to a successful project.


The cost of an addition varies widely depending on the nature of the project, the materials and the construction details. Hard costs are material costs that can’t be changed while soft costs are the consultant fees and labor that aren’t as easily budgeted. Think of hard costs as the lumber and the work of the carpenter as the soft cost. While budgeting and securing funding, it is also essential to include all of these soft costs involved. Budget for a rental as well in case you will not be able to/it is inconvenient to live in your home during the construction.

Another thing to keep in mind,  just because the exact way you want things is prohibitively expensive, does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t do the addition. It may mean you might have to look for alternatives to see if a more cost-effective solution exists that will achieve similar objectives.


An addition, being a design and construction project, will normally need to go through a standard design and construction process. Several phases are involved which offer more than just a drawing set, with each phase carried out with the intention of keeping a project on budget, staying true to the objectives and complying with code. It is recommended to work with your architect through every phase to ensure the smooth completion of the project.

Within the City’s zoning jurisdiction or in certain Municipal Utility Districts, a building permit is required before the construction can begin.

Additions: Flowchart


Multi-disciplinary professionals will be involved in building a home addition; it’s a complex process. Therefore, it is key to assemble the right team. We recommend to begin with an architect. After the initial consult, your architect can help to get a great team together, play the project manager role and keeps the project on track in terms of design and costs.

 “It is important to build something that will look and feel like part of the house – not something that’s tacked on… You want to think of the resale value,” says David Andreozzi, chairman of the American Institute of Architects’ Custom Residential Architects Network.

Written by Yidan DuPre