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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

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

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.


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

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!

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