DIY House Addition: Things you need to know first.

The Story:
We say we’ve been seriously contemplating the addition for about a year, but it’s really been a month since we’ve begun to formulate anything resembling a workable plan. That month has turned us into a cohesive unit more than the previous three years combined. DIYing a house addition together has got to be like fast-forwarding through the first five years of a marriage, and we have professional help for that kind of pressure in our DIY arsonal as well, should we need it to keep from murdering each other with power tools at some point in the future.

So here we are… the one with the ideas, and the one with the practical nature. Though if you would ask, I would tell you I am also practical, it’s just that I don’t let silly little things like the Laws of Physics get in the way of believing I can make anything happen.

MysteryMan refers to that as Utter. Insanity. And I refer to him as a Drama. Queen. What can I say? It’s part of what makes our relationship work. And you’ll probably be able to tell who wins the majority of our arguments by whether or not the Memorial house is still standing in a year.

This period of time before we break ground is both the calm before the storm, and a whirlwind of details, fact-finding, paperwork, and mental exhaustion. And we’re both looking wide-eyed into future, waiting for the adventure of the next couple of months to begin.

The Project:

The art of putting on a house addition is the art of amassing enough information about enough subjects to distract yourself from losing you mind. At least, that’s my theory, and fear not, we’ll be putting that one to the test very soon.

Some of that gathering-of-miscellany is not only helpful, but productive as well. When you’re working on a short timeline, there are things you need to know in advance to avoid hemming and hawing away valuable construction time.

The very first thing you need to do: Go to Wal-Mart and buy a big-ass 3-ring binder. This will be your bible. The holy book of all things house related. Treat it such.

I’m a big fan of binders in general, and you’ll probably need a trunk-full before you’re through (I have binders with design ideas, binders with floorplans, binders with installation guides, and binders reminding me to eat, sleep, and shower on a regular basis.) The idea of the Bible Binder, came to me when I was reading Susan Lang’s book, Designing Your Dream Home. (The book is chock-full of lists and details to help you make sense of the before-you-build insanity. It doesn’t have all the answers, but it has something better… the questions you didn’t even know you should be asking. It also has an excellent organization plan for when you’re designing your home.)

Now I am a planner, but I plan in big, broad strokes. Some of the details I need to decide on in the moment. But the big ones? The crucial plays? I’m pretty sure these are the ones you need to know ahead of time.

The Obvious Ones:

  • Financing – How much you got, and what you can get for it.
  • Contractors – If you’re not DIYing every last detail you should have a plan for what parts you’re doing, and what parts your hiring out. And then find the best people to do the job. Compare and contrast. Do not close your eyes and point to a random name in the yellow pages. Trust. Me.
  • Paperwork – Building permits, utility companies, Miss Dig (or other mark-your-shit-so-this-doesn’t-happen-to-you companies), project schedules, and grocery lists.

The stuff you might not think about until too late:

  • Exterior materials, color, and trim- Why? Because you don’t want to be pressured into picking out the color of your roof at the last minute. Those things last 3o years and mostly you can’t paint them. Also, you’ll need to know for your windows and doors–other parts of your house that need to go on sooner rather than later.
  • Interior trim- Again, windows… But here’s another thing. If you’re going with any kind of stained wood, figure out what your stain-finish combo is going to be ahead of time and write that shit down in your Bible, along with names and swatches of every single paint you use.
  • Flooring types- Wood and carpet are no big deal, but ceramics or anything even cooler than that (like this flagstone floor I’m never going to have) require a lot more support when you’re putting in the floor joists.

Things you might not have before you start building, but that you should keep in your House Bible as you progress:

  • Paint colors, finishes, and swatches labeled by room
  • The standard wood-stain-finish combo for any of your trim (and any deviations)
  • Names and numbers of all the contractors that you hire
  • The date you buy any flooring, appliances, fixtures, windows, and anything else that comes with a warranty (write down what the warranty is as well, and keep the receipt in a pouch in the binder, unless you have a better filing system)
  • The measurements from any corner, sill, or other immovable point to the first stud on all your walls (and the spacing thereafter).
  • The location of any conduit you (with great planning and foresight) ran through the main wall(s) to accommodate any future cable, electrical, phone, or audio needs (so they aren’t wall-fishing every two years until the end of eternity)

While this thing certainly is helpful before and during construction, it’s most helpful 5 years down the road when you get DIY-addition-amnesia, forget how horrifying the 15 months of construction were, and think you want to do some actual work on your house again. Or put up that one piece of trim that’s been missing for the last half-decade.  Not that I know anything about that, because I always finish one project before moving onto another one.

Hey look! MysteryMan’s eyes just rolled so far back into his head he fell off his chair.

2 Responses

  1. I have a manila folder with the plans, and another with stuff like that. And then a box with warranties and instructions from stuff I’ve installed. And I’ve mostly stayed sane *twitch* 🙂

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