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When Bad Additions Happen to Good Homes

Additions can add real value to a home, both in terms of the extra space afforded to the occupants and the increased resale value; except when the addition goes terribly wrong!

Here are some of the top problems with additions, and six tips for ensuring that a bad addition doesn't happen to your home.

The Patchwork Quilt.

This is the home that has undergone a series of additions patched on to the home without thought to aesthetics, function, or even smart construction.

The Patchwork Quilt often represents short-sightedness by a homeowner who responds to short-term needs by adding a little more room to a home rather than taking the time to forecast long-range needs, such as a growing family, incoming aging parents, launching a business that requires a home office, and other life changes that could necessitate more space.

Bad additions on the back of Wilton Ct home before Clark Construction remodel.

A Clark Construction client purchased a Patchwork Quilt that had strangely modified a historic home. We had to undo the bad additions before remodeling the home to the higher standard it deserved.

The Toupee.

When a homeowner partners with a contractor who doesn’t understand design, an addition can come up short in the looks department. They don’t create an addition that flows seamlessly in the style of the existing home. It’s like a really bad toupee that is so obvious to everyone but the wearer; the roof on the addition doesn’t match the rest of the roof (color, material, pitch). Or the overall look of the new space is out of proportion to the original architecture or done in a style that is completely out of sync (e.g., contemporary on a Colonial). This is particularly important when renovating historical and /or vintage homes.

man drinking coffee in kitchen while it rains inside due to leaky roof

The Shortcut.

This addition is often not recognizable immediately. It’s a case where the contractor has cut corners in materials and craftsmanship, creating a shoddy result. For example, the foundation wasn’t done with quality materials and will eventually crack, settle, or shift. Or the roof materials or the craftsmanship could be inferior, leaving the homeowner with an equally poor (and wet) outcome.

Quite often, correcting mistakes to additions are extremely costly and may require simply tearing them down, repairing consequential damage, and starting over.

The Disappearing Contractor.

This case happens far too frequently. A contractor under-estimates the cost of the project in a desperate bid (literally) to secure the job. If the homeowner won’t come up with more money to fund the project, the contractor walks away from the project and the addition sits there, incomplete, while the homeowner feels cheated (and rightfully so) by an unethical contractor.

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To avoid having a bad addition happen to your good home, here are six tips to help you carefully screen the companies you’re considering for the remodeling project:
  1. Research and interview reputable design/build companies. Review their portfolios and note their skill at designing a range of projects, attention to detail, and level of experience. Have they done hundreds of projects or just a few? Experience matters!
  2. Ask about their design tools. Do they have 3D capabilities so you can get a clear picture for how your addition will look?
  3. Check references from their past clients for whom they have constructed additions. You need a firm that understands the intricacies of this type of design and construction.
  4. Visit the homes they’ve remodeled, as well as projects that are under construction. In this way, you can see how they work. Does the crew work efficiently? Are they professional, knowledgeable, and respectful of the property? Is the jobsite neat? Note the materials and determine if they are using the quality you expect.
  5. Discuss your expectations in terms of budget and timing. Work out a budget range that you are comfortable with, right from the start, before the design process begins. Ask for clear guidelines as to what will affect the price. Make sure that the contractor makes it a practice to take his tradespeople to the site so that no extras are overlooked that could have been avoided by doing proper investigative work up front.
  6. Choose a company with a reputation for completing their work on time. Ask about the systems they have in place that ensure timely progress.

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