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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 Jul 7, 2020 10:58:25 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.


Learn About the Field Insurance Remodel Program (FIR)

Portland’s Field Issuance Remodel Program, fully in place since 2006, puts selected builders on a fast track that can result in a permit being issued on the job site during a city inspector’s first> visit speeding up the remodeling process significantly.

This program works with a select few state-licensed contractors, architects, and engineers, including Portland design build company, COOPER Design Builders, that regularly build additions and remodel homes in the city.


Benefits of the Program

Although the program doesn’t relax any code requirements or lower the standards in state law or city code, it can make the building permit process less painful by:

  • Streamlining the process of submitting building plans and issuing permits.
  • Designating a single city inspector to do all the plan reviews and inspections on a project.
  • Managing the process of obtaining approvals from other city bureaus.

Which Projects Qualify

The FIR process applies to projects such as alterations of existing living space, conversion of non-habitable space into habitable space, creation of new living space attached to an existing dwelling, construction of a new detached accessory structure, and demolition of a detached accessory structure.


Which Ones Don't

You can’t use the streamlined FIR approach for work such as creation of an accessory dwelling unit, or mother-in-law suite; conversion of a single-family home to a duplex; projects on floating structures, manufactured homes, or shared garages; repair of fire damage; or demolition of one- and two-family homes. 

If you have a project that doesn’t qualify you or your remodeling company must get their permits through the normal residential permit process which can take much longer.


Speedier Outcomes

For you, the homeowner, all of this means that if you select a builder for your home addition or remodel who is a participant in the Field Issuance Remodel Program, you will get a professional who knows the ropes, and the city inspectors, and who is more likely to get your project up and running in a minimal amount of time.


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..


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 that 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.

remodeling starter guide

Topics: Home Remodeling, Remodeling Tips, Design, Planning a Remodel