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Originally published Friday, May 10, 2013 at 8:00 PM

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Additions require careful planning

Changing home’s footprint needs building permits to be legal.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q. What do I need to know about building an addition onto my home?

A. The first thing to know is that any time you build an addition, you are changing what is called the home’s “footprint.”

You will need building permits from your local city or county to have a legal project. This is critical because not following your city or county’s regulations for building permits can be costly, both in terms of penalties and in potentially being required to have work redone or in some cases removed.

A qualified remodeling contractor or design professional can help you determine what work is needed, create a realistic budget for the project, and create a schedule of construction that includes a detailed scope of work.

Washington state does not require that you hire a professional architect to craft plans for a remodel, but it’s a good idea to have plans professionally analyzed for feasibility before submitting them for permitting.

In some cases an addition requires an architect. If your project does, those costs could amount to 15 percent of your total construction costs. Some construction companies have design capabilities. These design-build firms fold the architectural fees into the construction budget, often at a discount because you’re hiring them for the entire process.

Engineering services could also be required by your local building authority. For example, you might need to have a soils engineer evaluate steeply sloped yard or where shifting or expansive soils are problematic. While that sounds daunting, getting your plans reviewed and making sure you have the proper permits will prevent unexpected budget surprises.

It is also very important before agreeing on a price for the addition work to make sure your agreement includes what is called a change-order policy. The change-order spells out costs for any alterations that you may want after the contract is signed. This protects both you and your contractor. And you will have a clear idea of what costs you could incur if you change your mind about what you want done or the materials you want to use after the contract is signed.

Other expenses to plan for when building an addition are increased insurance premiums and higher property taxes, which go hand-in-hand with the increased value of your home.

Finally, don’t forget about the likelihood of landscaping repair. Some of your new space may replace turf, shrubs, flower beds or even trees. And even though the contractor’s crew is careful, the daily construction process from heavy foot traffic to possible heavy machinery and staging materials could take a toll on remaining vegetation.

Every remodel includes the unexpected, from products suddenly on back order to weather delays. Knowing what to expect can help your family survive the process and thrive in your new space.

Jon W. Simpson, owner of JWS Design, is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council and provided the information contained in this article. If you would like more information or have questions about home improvement send them to Sorry, no personal replies. Always consult local codes and contractors.


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