Increasing living space with additions, pop-tops, ADUs & more | Home addition planning Part 1

The number one project ArcWest is being asked to help clients with right now is expanding living space via a variety of home addition strategies, from popping the top of older homes to building new ADU structures from the ground up. We suppose we have the Covid-19 pandemic to thank for this trend – all this working and schooling from home is driving homeowners and families to rethink home spaces and search for more room to spread out.

Although, prior to the pandemic we began seeing increased interest in (Multi-Gen) multi-generational accommodations in existing homes, as well as new builds across the board. Whether it’s an independent living space for elder parents to move in to reduce housing expenses, or young adults moving into the parents’ home for economy, the need is real due to the high cost of housing in today’s market.

Given the number of inquiries we get on this topic, we thought it might be helpful to spotlight a few examples of ways to gain more space, things to think about as you’re planning, and links to real world examples so you can get some ideas.

Adding onto your home is a significant process and taking the time to plan accordingly will pay off in the end. Here are just a few of the many things to think about when considering adding habitable space to your home or property. Of course, you’ll want to do plenty of research and select partners whom you can trust to help guide you through the process.

  • Zoning – Identifying your existing property zoning is a critical first step. This will help you determine if you can go up or out, and if you’re considering an ADU, whether such a structure is even allowed. In Denver, you can find your zoning and learn about the zoning code here: Other cities such as Arvada, Lakewood, etc. have similar search features.
  • Historic District or Landmark status – If your home is situated in an historic district or is designated as a landmark property, this adds a planning layer to the overall process. Often properties designated as historic landmarks or inside locally designated historic districts require a special design review to ensure that projects preserve the properties’ key historic character-defining features and qualities.
  • Budget – Your budget is an important factor in evaluating your options. For example, popping the top of a home is much more intensive (and thus, expensive) than extending a house with a main floor master bedroom addition. Not to mention that the costs of amenities, utilities, finish materials, and fixtures can vary significantly. Having a clear budget range in mind will help with ruling in/out various options and ultimately designing a realistic and achievable end result.
  • Timeframe – It’s important to set a realistic timeframe for your project. Adding on to your home involves many steps and a variety of vendors – from architects and engineers, to designers and construction companies. Add in cities, districts, permits, and approvals, and you have a lot of moving parts. Bringing it all together in a cohesive manner takes skill – and patience. Planning an addition, from architecting a design (6 to 8 months minimum) to move-in ready (can take an additional 10 to 12 months from construction), can require a potential timeline of 16 to 18 months, and sometimes longer. So allow yourself plenty of time.
  • Goals – Before you start looking for and talking to potential partners and vendors, it helps to outline the goals you’re looking to achieve. Think about the style you want and find some images that demonstrate your desired look that you can share with your vendors. Browse projects and examples on sites like Houzz, Pinterest, and others and save links and images of things that appeal to you. All of this will help you begin to build a clear picture of your end result.

While these are only a few things to think about, we hope it provides some foundational elements to begin your home addition planning process. In our next article, we’ll explain several options for expanding your living space as well as links to a few real world project examples for inspiration.

Next Steps

If you think you’re ready to take the next step and engage an architect to help you design your addition, ArcWest Architects can help. With more than 15 years of experience helping clients in Metro Denver design and achieve the homes of their dreams, we can help guide you through every step of the process. Request a consultation today.

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