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Adding on: DIY or Contractor?

Updated: Jun 25

You've been in your home for longer than usual these days which may have you thinking it's time to add on to the space. Perhaps it's a spring of spontaneity or an item on the list of things you've been hoping to do for a while— whatever it may be, adding square footage can increase property value and more importantly, make your living situation a bit more enjoyable.

First and foremost, the great debate: do-it-yourself (maybe ask a "handy" friend) or use a licensed contractor? DIY and help from handy friends sound budget conscientious and even fun; however, when adding onto your home, whether 100 sq or 1,000 sq ft, the safest way to go is with a licensed general contractor.

A contractor will manage the entire project for you, including subcontractors (those with specialized skills). Not only that, contractors are up to date on local building codes, pulling permits and locating the professionals to complete jobs such as plumbing, electric and HVAC. Even going the route of managing subcontractors yourself, by utilizing professionals in various trades, you are protecting yourself and your home.

Two things come to mind for us at Fôrt and Hōm when it comes to adding onto a property or home: safety and legitimacy.

Safety –– Licensed professionals are trained and specialized in their respective crafts; their expertise and experience provide assurance that the job will be done properly and safely, with all codes followed. These professionals will take care of the most important step, pulling a permit with the city, and assist with the final inspection, protecting the homeowner against the potential damage or lawsuits resulting from a bad construction job. Contractors also hold insurance which protects both parties in the event an issue with the final project arises.

Legitimacy –– Licensure and insurance serve as protection for both homeowner and contractor. Pulling a permit legitimizes the job by having the property’s square footage updated on public record. If this step is skipped or otherwise missed, when it comes time to sell the property, any square footage added without the proper permits will not be included in the appraisal and property value. "Under Permitted" square footage raises red flags for buyers and causes increased issues with the sale.

So, you've decided you’re ready for that addition and are about to begin searching for the right contractor to take care of the job… where to start? Here are three things to consider beforehand—


It's important to set a budget. Creating a range to stay within, or a number to stay below, will make planning easier and help direct the spending – be it for contractors, materials or something else. Another important part of a budget is setting a small emergency fund aside for the project should unforeseen issues arise such as electrical, plumbing or foundation problems. Reducing the element of surprise by maintaining a small emergency stash will preserve the main budget and ease worries.

Project Size

A general understanding of how much square footage you want to add to your home or renovate will influence the budget and timeline (ex. we'd like to add 500 sq ft to the back of the kitchen). Renovating the basement or master suite? Adding an entire second floor? Looking to remove a wall off the kitchen to create a laundry room? All of these projects will require a decent amount of work to ensure they’re done properly. Knowing the size will reveal the simplicity – or complexity – and will aid your contractor in creating a timeline.


We know there is nothing like instant gratification, but there is truth behind "good things come to those who wait." Time of year and potential length of the project should be factored into your decision-making process. A contractor will be able to provide a timeline estimate based on the size (as mentioned above) and availability. Remember: the importance of a timeline will set realistic expectations for all parties involved, especially for yourself. Open communication with your contractor will also help; they’ll work to meet your needs in as realistic timing as feasible. (A second floor to your home isn't a weekend project, unfortunately.)

Keep in mind your home is your biggest asset. Do things safe and legally.

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