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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

What You Need to Know When Planning a Home Addition in Portland

Posted by Lane Cooper on Dec 16, 2019 9:24:00 AM

Maybe your family is outgrowing your home and you don’t want to move, or you bought a small house that you’d always planned to expand. Whatever the reason, you’ll need to do some serious thinking before deciding to tackle a home addition in Portland, Oregon.

Think about why you're considering a home addition. Be as specific as you can about your needs and desires. What are your goals? Do you need more space for entertaining? Is your bedroom simply too cramped? Is your kitchen cramped and uncomfortable? Identify the specific improvements in living quality that you'd like to see. Then prioritize your list based on what's most important to you. Some people find it helpful to break their remodeling ideas into categories such as “Must-Have”, “Nice-to-Have”, and “If Money is No Object.” This can be a big help when you set your budget for the project (more on that below).

Your Dream Project

It’s OK to begin by dreaming. Imagine what you want the addition to do for you: Why do you need more space (for bedrooms, storage, or entertaining)? Where on your home would an addition be most useful (a wing, a dormer, or a second story)? Keep a list, or even a Houzz Ideabook, of ideas that inspire you, even if you think they might be costly. When you start attaching price tags to your ideas, you’ll be able to decide that the bathroom in-floor heating isn’t so important but the river rock fireplace is worth the splurge.


What Can You Afford?

Now look deeply into your pocketbook. How much money do you have in savings and liquid investments? How much equity do you have in your home that you’d be willing to borrow against? How is your credit rating? How much of a monthly payment could you add to your budget? To make things easy, we've written an article about the Cost of Adding a Home Addition in Portland. Knowing what you can afford (in general terms) will help you with the next step.

Set a Realistic Budget

It’s one thing to have a rough idea of what you can afford, but setting a realistic budget brings things into sharper focus. Will you finance your remodeling project, or do you have the cash on hand? If you’re planning to finance, make sure you have your loan set before you begin designing or building. When setting your budget, include a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses and upgrades you may decide to include. The amount is up to you, 10 to 20 percent of your budget is realistic. Budgeting may not be the most fun part of the remodeling process but setting a realistic budget can save you from a lot of stress later.

Think About Value—Not Just Cost

A successful home addition isn’t about getting the job done for the lowest price. It’s about getting the most value for the work done at a price that is within your budget. If you end up with an addition that doesn’t meet your expectations, the fact that you “saved” money won’t offer you much comfort. Nobody wants to pay more than they should for a job but keep your goals in mind and focus on the comfort, convenience, and sense of well-being you’ll have over a long period of time. Here are some additional thoughts about value versus cost that may be helpful.


Educate Yourself on the Process

You don’t need to be a remodeling expert in order to get the results you want, but it is very helpful to understand the basics so that you can communicate your wishes (and questions) to your remodeler. One way to do that is to download our free Portland Remodeling Guide. You’ll discover the essentials of the remodeling process, including how to design a kitchen to fit your lifestyle, how to evaluate different home styles and design elements, and much more.

Then, of course, it's helpful to know how to communicate clearly with your remodeler. Here’s an additional article that helps you understand how to effectively communicate your sense of style—and your wishes—to your professional remodeler.

Take the Survey

Obtain a survey of your property so that you know where your property lines are. Determine if you have buried oil tanks, septic tanks, cables, and drains that could interfere with an addition. Multnomah County’s online Survey and Assessor Image Locator provides a treasure trove of information, including assessor’s maps, property tax information, historic plumbing inspections, underground fuel tank records, and a list of building permits issued for the property over the years.

Get to Know City Hall

In Portland, any project that enlarges the footprint of a house requires a building permit. You also might need electrical, plumbing, or mechanical permits, depending on the scope of the project. If your work qualifies as a “major addition,” it will trigger additional requirements including notification of neighbors and the neighborhood association and a waiting period. You’ll need to make sure that any work done on your house, including during the years before you bought it, had the proper permits issued.

The city says there’s no “grandfathering in” of unpermitted work, and you’ll need to take care of that to proceed. The Bureau of Development Services’ website has a helpful summary of the steps you’ll need to follow and links to the city’s building code, zoning standards for setbacks and allowable building footprint coverage, engineering requirements, an overview of potential fees, and even an online fee estimator.

[Read MoreHome Additions Permitting in Portland, Oregon]


Choose the Professionals

An architect or designer will be the one to take your dream and put it down on paper. Then a qualified contractor will make that plan a reality. Consider a design-build company such as COOPER Design Builders, which will seamlessly transition the design and construction phases for your project. Choose these professionals carefully, checking multiple references. This will be the time to get cost estimates and see if your pocketbook can finance your dream. Your designer will work with you throughout the process, refining the plans as you go along and helping you choose such details as tile, carpet, bath fixtures, cabinets, doors, hardware, and lighting. Your professionals also will produce the site plan, floor plans, elevations, and engineering details that the city will need to approve building permits, and they often can take care of every step in the process..


City Hall, Again

Your professionals should be able to handle the permitting process, which could be daunting. The city will require a completed building permit application, four complete sets of plans, energy-efficiency forms and documents dealing with plumbing, electrical, and mechanical permits, neighborhood notification, asbestos and lead paint, erosion control, storm-water mitigation, and septic tanks or cesspools. The city will run your plans through its review process, which could take some time and involve adjustments on your part.

When you finally have your approvals in hand, your builder can get started, and you finally will be able to see your dream grow from the ground up!

Begin Your Search for a Qualified Remodeler

Who is actually going to build your new addition? Choosing the right builder is key to achieving the best results. Obviously, you’ll want to choose someone with the skills and craftsmanship to deliver outstanding results. But choosing the right builder can ensure that the remodeling experience is smoother and less stressful. Here’s an article the walks you through the process of finding the best Portland contractor. It also features a whole section on questions you’ll want to ask to make sure you get the contractor that’s right for you.

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Topics: Home Remodeling, Home Additions