Planning an Addition in Northern Virginia
After you decide to build a home addition, the next step is making a plan. The more planning you do, the more satisfied you’ll be with the outcome. You’ll form a better vision of what you want and are willing to spend and ensure construction goes smoothly. Doing the proper planning can also help you clarify whether your project is a do-it-yourself (DIY) worthy endeavor or one that needs to be done by professionals.
Steps for Planning an Addition for Your Home
Adding an addition to your home is an exciting project. You’ll get more living space and a fresh design to match your personality, lifestyle and design preferences. You might even add to your property value in the process. To get the most out of your addition and eliminate some potential hang-ups, dedicate plenty of time for planning. Here are some of the pre-planning steps to build an addition for a house:
1. Set Goals
Building an addition is an excellent way to give your home more space and functionality without moving. Many people building an addition have that objective in mind. With so many types of additions possible, it’s crucial to refine your goals and choose a specific expansion to fit your lifestyle and your home’s architecture.
As you plan your addition, consider precisely why you are building it. Are you looking for an entertainment space, more storage space or a way to enjoy more of the outdoors? Maybe your kitchen needs a bit more elbow room, or you’re running out of storage space.
Once you know what you’re looking for in an addition, narrow down your options. Some people might need to make several small additions to accommodate the property size or to fix space issues on both ends of the house. Others might want one large extra room or set of rooms. It’s also important to decide whether to build up or out. In a neighborhood where homes are close together, adding another story may be the best way to add usable space.
2. Organize Your Ideas
The next step is to think about a design and direction for your new space. Looking at inspiration pictures can help you get a clearer sense of your wants and needs. Many sources of inspiration can give you ideas for your addition. Home design magazines and remodeling and redecoration TV shows are fantastic places to get ideas, tips and tricks. You might also glean inspiration from social media like Instagram or Pinterest. Build a mood board or scrapbook full of the images you want to replicate.
3. Consider Your Current Floor Plan and Surroundings
Next, decide on a design that works with your current floor plan. Knowing how to design an addition usually takes a bit of architectural, interior design and engineering knowledge. It’s best to bring in a design-build firm to develop a functional layout that looks good from the inside and the outside. A design-build team can also render 3D models to visualize what you’ll get before you approve a project.
4. Budget Your Project
On average, homeowners underestimate the cost of home improvement projects by 34%. It’s crucial to take careful stock of your project and set a realistic budget. The specific features you want to add along with your material selection can affect your cost.
With the full design plan, make a list of all the materials needed and look at options your design-build team recommends. You may find your ideal materials cost more or less than you expected. Choose which areas you’re willing to splurge on and where you must stick to a firm budget as you select materials.
When budgeting for an addition, you can even apply for home improvement loans as you would a mortgage. First, look at your accumulated savings and any investments you can liquidate. Then, determine what other funds you’ll need. Look at your credit rating and expected monthly payments. If you have a high credit score and can pay off your loan with a lower number of large monthly payments, you’ll earn a lower interest rate.
Planning an Addition in Fairfax County
- Permit application: At a minimum, you’ll need a residential addition building permit. If you want lighting, electrical outlets, heating and air conditioning or plumbing, you’ll also need electrical, mechanical or plumbing permits. The county highly recommends having a licensed contractor pull the permits. When you apply, you’ll also submit building plans, site-specific plans and a property ownership form.
- Building plans: The building plans provide detailed documentation of the addition. It will include a scale blueprint, information about the designer, a list of materials and other specifications. Work with your design-build team, so all designs meet building codes and ordinances.
- Site-specific plans: The county also needs to review your project’s impact on your property. Any addition requires a house location survey or plat, which shows the design’s compliance with property size. You may also need a conservation plan and a grading plan detailing erosion, topography and sediment control.
- County review and permit issuance: After submitting all your documentation, the county will make a ruling and issue your permit. If you live in Vienna or Clifton, you’ll also need approval from your town. Once you have obtained your permit, keep it printed and posted at the job site.
- Inspections: After your permit is approved, your project will need to follow the county’s inspection schedule. The portions of your project in need of inspection include the footing, residential wall, plumbing groundwork, waterproofing, slab and insulation. You’ll also need two combined assessments. One will cover the building framing and mechanical, plumbing and electrical concealment. The next will cover the final building, mechanical elements, plumbing and electrical work.
Planning an Addition in Arlington County
Arlington County treats their permitting process a little differently. First, the county doesn’t have a residential addition permit like Fairfax County. Your first step here is determining which permit suits your addition plans. Most home additions in Arlington County will fall under their general residential building permit. However, the county also has a separate permit for accessory dwellings. If you plan on building an accessory dwelling, either for renters, a caregiver or a family member, you must have an accessory dwelling permit and a residential building permit.
The residential building permitting process involves submitting details of your building plan to the Arlington County Permit Office, either online or by paper. If you’re building an addition to an existing building, your full site plan will cover:
- General information: Your application will include a complete drawing of the building plans drawn to scale. They’ll also list your home’s address, code year, and information about the designer. If applicable, you’ll submit stamped Certificate of Appropriateness plans from the Historic Affairs and Landmark Review board as well. Any alterations to your existing home will need a complete asbestos inspection and awareness form, too.
- Department of Environmental Services (DES): All project applications must include a certified house location plat to scale. Your home addition may need to meet various requirements to ensure safe and responsible environmental alterations. For example, if the property is within a resource protection area, you must include a water quality impact assessment data sheet. You might also need a floodplain permit if your property is within a floodplain or flood buffer zone. Depending on your property and project specifics, you may also need a development plan, a civil engineering plan or a land disturbing activity/stormwater management permit.
- Zoning: The zoning information for your home will include the building height, elevations, exterior grade pre- and post-construction and lot coverage. If installing additional sinks outside of bathrooms or one kitchen, you need an additional sink affidavit. Plan your project so the structure is a certain distance from the front, side or rear of the lot and from the street following the zoning ordinance. Your application should also include existing and proposed floor plans with proper labeling.
- Inspection Services Division (ISD): You’ll want to include relevant information on all building areas requiring inspection. The application will show a list of load criteria, a foundation plan, footing details and a list of material specifications. You’ll also list specifications related to various emergency features, such as fire separation distances and fire walls, stair dimensions, door and window sizes for emergency escape and the location of safety glazing and smoke alarms.
- ISD Mechanical: The mechanical plans should include information about the HVAC contractor, mechanical layout, equipment list and duct layout. The submission will also need to have details about the home’s ventilation, heating and cooling.
- ISD Plumbing: The architectural plans must include plumbing fixture layouts. You’ll list various information about your addition’s drainage fixture units, sump pump connections, pipe sizes and water service locations.
- ISD Electrical: While you don’t need to submit any electrical information, you’ll need to ensure your plans comply with the building code. The electrical work will be inspected during construction. Your application will need to include smoke and carbon monoxide detector locations. If you are replacing or adding any exterior electrical equipment, your civil plans must show the appliance locations.
Once your application is submitted, the county will review your documents and forms. The permit office will notify you if anything is incomplete. If everything is complete, the office will contact you to pay your filing fee, if required.
With your completed documents in-hand, the necessary departments will review your application, documents and forms. You may need to revise your plan based on feedback from various departments.
Once your application is approved, you’ll pay the appropriate fees. You must wait until all associated permits are approved, including electrical, plumbing and mechanical, before you may begin construction. Once all permit payments are received, you’ll obtain your permit and can begin construction after it is posted at the worksite.
You’ll need to pass various inspections for residential building mechanical, plumbing, and electrical codes during construction. Schedule inspections for:
- Plumbing groundwork
- Foundation walls
- Rough-in for electrical, mechanical and plumbing
- Braced wall nailing
- Gas test for gas piping
- Final electrical, mechanical and plumbing work
- Final building work
Some residential projects need a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) before you may occupy the new space. You’ll need a separate application, review and fee schedule for the CO.
Hiring vs. DIY
The most important decision you’ll face when planning an addition is whether to do things yourself or work with a design-build firm. A few aspects of a home expansion project can be DIY if you are reasonably handy. For example, light demolition and cosmetic improvements, such as painting or installing flooring, are within the capabilities of a skilled DIYer. The advantage of choosing a professional for these aspects of the project is a trained hand and an experienced technique.
Hiring a pro is generally recommended for the bulk of additions for the sake of structural safety and integrity. Having a design-build team lets you keep all aspects of your project under one roof. The design-build business model allows the average construction project to reach completion 102% faster than the traditional model. Professional design-build firms offer other benefits such as:
Help With Permits and Inspections
Fairfax County specifically encourages homeowners to work with a professional to design and execute a home addition. Building codes are filled with technical jargon and can be confusing. A professional design-build firm can draw up compliant plans from the start. With a design in hand, they can also navigate the permitting process. They’ll submit all the paperwork to avoid additional fees and be responsible for notifying the county at the appropriate points during construction.
Plan Your Addition With Ideal Construction & Remodeling
Ideal Construction & Remodeling is a full-service design-build firm that can take your addition from drawings to finished construction. We’ve worked on many home expansions throughout Northern Virginia, including sunrooms, second-floor additions, accessory dwelling units, dormers and more. Our team includes civil engineers to oversee your project, and we can handle every facet of your construction, from designs to pulling permits and finishing. Contact us for your free in-home consultation to learn more and get started.