So You Want to Build an Addition?

Custom Home Addition BuilderBuilding an addition to your home is the best way to add more living space to your life without having to buy a bigger house. But before you jump into action, here are a few things to think about:

What Do You Want to Build?

Without considering the purpose of the addition, and how it fits in with the rest of the house, it can be a waste of money and may not fulfill your needs. But with so many options available, narrowing it down to what works best can seem challenging. Below is a list of some popular types of home additions, along with their pros and cons:

Home Extension

This entails building one or more rooms onto the side of the house, and in that sense, it’s similar to building a whole new house from scratch, then trying to attach it to your existing home. But these types of additions usually bring a considerable return on the investment. The biggest challenge is getting the addition to work well with your existing structure both inside and out. Whether you need an additional bedroom, a larger living room or a den, an architect can help you design the addition so that the interior spaces flow well, and the exterior structure matches your existing house design.

Garage Conversion

This can be a good choice because the costs are less than a home extension since the structure is already present and probably both insulated and electrified. The only real drawback is that you lose a garage, which could decrease your home’s worth.

Sun Room and Conservatory Additions

This is the best type of addition for those on a limited budget, and seasonal use can reduce your costs further. Conservatories are usually meant for plants rather than personal use, and cost a little more due to extensive glass use.

How much to spend building an addition?

This depends on both the type of addition and your location. A good contractor can help you work through this process by considering everything and creating an estimate. Be sure to set aside 10 to 15% of additional funds to cover contingencies. Building an addition will often have unforeseen additional expenses—from finding hidden issues during demolition; or for adding special touches “while you’re at it”.

What is the process for building an addition?

Before you can start building, you may first need to get approval from the local architectural review board, or your homeowners association, depending on where you live. As your contractor, Weston Construction can also explain the city or county’s building and construction rules.

Work with a contractor such as Weston Construction to establish the project’s process and procedures. Building an addition can be a messy business, and special consideration must be taken if you are living in your home during the construction. Develop a plan for phasing the project and protecting existing living space from the inevitable dust, landscaping damage, and general chaos. Set up procedures and communication plans for handling change orders and questions. And be sure to monitor the project as it goes along.

In the end, remember not to let your imagination run too wild. It’s always a good idea to think about whether your addition will work for 9 out of 10 people who might walk through your home when you do eventually put your house on the market to sell.

Todd Buck of Weston Construction can help you from the planning stages through the construction of your new addition. Give us a call today to get an estimate on your next building project.

Energy Efficient Building or Remodeling

energy efficient buildingIf you are building a new home, or doing a remodel, there are things you can do to make your home more energy efficient. Here are some items to discuss with your contractor that can reduce the costs to heat and cool your home.

Insulate and Seal

Air that moves through the envelope of your home wastes a lot of energy and increases your utility bills. So the first priority is to make sure that your home is properly insulated and sealed. Add insulation to the attic area to block heat loss in the winter. Don’t worry about finding and sealing all the little holes in your attic; your biggest savings will come from plugging the large ones. The areas where leakage is likely to be greatest: where walls (inner and outer) meet the attic floor, dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas), and behind or under attic kneewalls. You can ask your contractor to use additional insulation in the walls. Sealing air leaks throughout the home will reduce drafts, improve comfort, improve humidity control and reduce pollen, dust and insects from entering your home. Your contractor may have special tools that can pinpoint hidden air leaks in your home, especially around windows, doors, ductwork, and switches.

Your local utility may offer rebates for a professional home energy assessment and certain air sealing and insulation projects. Be sure to contact your utility company before beginning a project to see what incentives are available in your area.

energy efficient basement remodelBasement / Crawl Space Leaks

Check your home’s foundation to see if there are any areas that need to be sealed. Your basement or crawl space may need to be insulated if you experience cold floors in the winter; hot or cold ceilings, walls, or whole rooms; or uneven temperature between rooms. Second to the attic, the basement is one of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home. Look for common locations of air leaks in basements and crawlspaces, including between rim joists and under the sill plate, around windows, electrical conduits, pipes and vents that run up through the walls and the floor. Make sure your contractor uses low VOC caulking when sealing the leaks, to minimize the effect of harmful indoor gases. Sealing the home can trap indoor air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, radon and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and create unsafe conditions. Properly addressing this may require additional ventilation fans to maintain safe air quality in your home or repairs to eliminate the sources of indoor air pollutants.

Window Replacement

If you are renovating your house, consider replacing windows with new, more energy efficient models. You can get double or tripled paned windows, argon gas-filled, and low-e coated glass. Each of these technologies may cost incrementally more at the beginning, but will save on energy costs over time. Check the “R-value” of each window type you are considering. The R-value is the measurement of thermal resistance—the higher the number, the more efficient the window. Your contractor can help you determine the cost-benefit of each window type. Replacing old aluminum window and door frames with vinyl can also reduce heat transfer. Weather stripping placed around windows and doors will also improve performance.

Sealing Ductwork

Sealing your heating and cooling system duct work can not only save up to 20% of your heating and cooling costs, it also can improve indoor air quality. Sealing duct work gaps can help reduce asthma and allergy problems aggravated by particles entering the home’s air flow system. If you’re planning to install new heating and cooling equipment, a well-designed and sealed duct system may allow you to downsize to a smaller, less costly heating and cooling system that will provide better dehumidification.

Contracting for Energy Efficiency

Hire a contractor, such as Weston Construction, that understands and incorporates some of the Energy Star techniques into your new home construction or remodeling project. In fact, improper installation of new cooling and heating systems can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent, as well as reduce the life of the equipment. By hiring the right contractor, you will be able to:

  • Cut back on your heating and cooling bills.
  • Improve the comfort of your home.
  • Protect the environment.


It’s Easy Being Green

You don’t have to turn into a frog to go green. Adopting eco-friendly ways not only improves your quality of living, but also helps the environment. If you are renovating your current home or building a new house, follow these tips to make your house greener.

insulated windowsInvest in Double or Triple Paned Windows
The advantage of using double or triple paned windows is that they have a layer in between the glass (often filled with gases) that acts to insulate, so there is less heat / cold moving through the window. Low-E glass and windows filled with Argon gas can reduce heat loss up to 70% over single pane glass. This not only saves energy (money), but also keeps the interior temperature steady and more comfortable. The added benefit is it also has noise-reduction qualities.

Add Insulation
Adding insulation regulates the temperature of your home, but can also increases sound control between rooms and floors. There are several types of insulation to choose from. The most common is the type of fiberglass that comes in rolls or bats, and is easy to install. Another common type is a loose-fill blown-in insulation, often made of fiberglass, cellulose, or mineral wool. Cellulose is made of recycled newsprint, and most fiberglass contains some portion of recycled glass. Another option is a liquid foam insulation that is sprayed into the space and will expand, and then harden.

Solar Panels
We are not likely to run out of solar energy from the sun any time soon, which makes adding solar panels a great choice for going green. Replacing traditional energy sources with solar energy reduces your home’s green house gas emissions. But also helps reduce the money you pay to the power company. Dominion Power Company has a pilot program allowing homeowners with solar systems to sell the excess energy back into the grid for 5 years, which helps defray the initial solar panel installation cost. Installation of solar panels is getting easier and the cost continues to drop—making it an increasingly popular energy efficiency choice.

wood beamsUse Reclaimed Materials
Use reclaimed elements from older homes (called upcycling) such as old flooring, exposed wood beams, doors, architectural molding, etc. Recovering and reusing these gems is good for the planet by reducing material in landfills, but also gives your home unique character. There are many sources for finding these materials, including local businesses and national online matching services. In our area, there are lots of old barns and out buildings that can be sources of materials if you are ambitious and handy.

Get a Programmable Thermostat
Installing a programmable thermostat is a simple way to reduce energy usage when you’re not home. These thermostats are easy to install, and have timers to let you pre-set the temperature controls to suit your schedule, down to daily and hourly specifics. It also can automatically increase or decrease the temperatures during the night while you are sleeping.

Making green choices in the construction of a new home or renovation can not only save you money by reducing your energy costs, but will also make you feel good by helping out the planet. Weston Construction is very experienced in green building techniques. We’d be happy to discuss options with you on your next construction project.

Home Renovation Ideas that Are Worth It

Home remodeling projects can increase the value of your house, but knowing which projects return the most value can help you prioritize your wish list. Below are ideas and tips for home improvement that are popular and will improve the market value of your home.

add a deck1. Adding a Deck
A Deck addition returns the greatest value among the major popular remodeling projects. Owners can recoup nearly 80% of the investment at resale by adding a deck. It makes the house more aesthetically pleasing, increases outdoor living space and increases the value of the house. Decks made from wood have slightly better cost-value ratio than composite decks. But you also have to consider the maintenance on a composite deck is less time consuming and costly than wood.

2. Adding a New Room
Try converting an already existing space into a bedroom. You can convert your basement into a new bedroom, or you can add a room above the garage that can be used as an apartment. Create an Attic Bedroom for the best for cost vs value, owners can recoup up to 77% of the cost at resale. Think of creative ways to use your new space. For example, an attic can be used as a TV or game room. A basement can be used as a playroom for your children.

kitchen renovation3. Kitchen Renovation
Renovation in the kitchen can pay off because it is such a centrally important part of the house. The payoff is expected to be 67 to 79% of the cost in increased value of the home. One of the most budget-efficient ways to give your kitchen a new look is to change its color. Ask your contractor to use environment-friendly low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints that are free of harmful chemicals. Give your Kitchen a simple facelift by replacing old appliances with modern energy efficient ones. Since the appliances use less energy, your bills go down and you end up saving money.

bath remodel4. Bathroom Remodel
Remodeling the bathroom can recoup 60 to 72% of the initial investment (see last month’s blog post for the latest trends in bathroom remodeling). Look at unoccupied spaces in your house that can be turned into a bathroom. Consider the space you have versus the space needed before investing money. A bathroom with a bathtub and other accessories needs at least 35 square feet of space; a full bath needs 30 square feet; however a half bath needs only 18 square feet.

Smaller Projects

5. Adding Energy Efficient Windows
Investing in good quality energy efficient windows can save you up to $500 per year in energy costs, and will recoup up to 78% of the cost in home value. Not only do windows save money, they are eco friendly as well. Think about it, the more you use natural sunlight to light your rooms the less you spend on electricity.

6. Proper Insulation
Make sure you invest in energy efficient insulation. The initial cost is low, but can save you several hundred dollars per year in energy costs. In order to increase the value of the house, you need to add extra insulation, repair cracks, and look for air leaks around the house. One last tip is to replace old furnaces and air conditioners with new energy efficient ones.

7. Small items, big payoff
Other smaller improvements with big payoffs include Entry Door Replacement (101% recoup), Garage Door Replacement (88% recoup), Backup Power Generator (59%
recoup) and Siding Replacement (up to 80% recoup).
Items with the lowest recoup valuation include Sunroom addition (48%) and home office remodeling (38%)

Valuation estimates for this article were for mid-range projects sourced from Remodeling Magazine’s Annual “Cost vs. Value Report”. Weston Construction is a general contractor in Charlottesville, Virginia that can help with home remodeling projects to add value and enjoyment of your home.