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From Indoor Waterfalls To Mosquito Larvae, Learn From One Contractor’s Remodel Experience

Not to mention the five-year rule for waiting to recoup your investment

More than 15 years have passed since homeowner Dan Bawden completed a two-story addition to his rancher in suburban Houston, but he can recall details of the project as it if it happened yesterday. Highlights include mosquitoes breeding in the house, children scaling scaffolding, and weeks of grilled cheese dinners eaten on lawn chairs in the driveway.

Oh, and there was the accidental indoor waterfall.

Bawden’s remodeling horror story is particularly telling, given his career — he’s CEO of Legal Eagle Contractors, a company that specializes in major remodels. While his six-month project was well planned, he says nothing prepared him for the day-to-day reality of the massive build-out. “This project taught me so much about what our clients go through,” he says. He offers these critical takeaways for any homeowner planning a significant home addition:


 “Start construction during a two-month window of good camping weather — because that’s what your home will feel like.”

The first two months of an addition project—during demolition and moving mechanical systems—might feel like you're camping in your own home. 

“You’re most vulnerable and exposed during the first two months of an addition project,” says Bawden. This is the demolition stage when all mechanical systems (electric, plumbing, A/C) are disassembled and moved, and interrupted for weeks. Your new surroundings are exposed framework with no drywall, no roofing and plastic tarps for walls.

Bawden remembers this phase clearly. “The slightest rumble of thunder made us jumpy,” Bawden says. “We heard it one day while we were in church, so my wife and I grabbed the kids and raced home to find a wet, soaking mess in what was the den.”

“Answer one question when considering a major addition: How long do we plan to live in this house?”


“If it’s less than five years, I tell homeowners it’s not a wise investment,” he says. “It takes about 10 years for other houses in the neighborhood to catch up in value.”


“Reserve 15 percent of your total budget — and bury it in a coffee can 20 feet deep in your backyard.”


This reserve is not for heated towel bars or new decor; it covers the unexpected, which you need to expect, he says.

Example? The $1,000 to $2,000 you’ll spend repairing damaged landscaping post-construction. Or another common overage: an engineer’s last-minute review of a change to plans or materials. Because additions can fundamentally change the structure of your house, this expert eye will assess where and how much new weight will sit on the existing slab and other structural pressure points, says Bawden. Cut this corner and you could spend another $4,000 to $8,000 on repairs when unplanned weight causes beams to sag and your drywall cracks, he says, “or more, if the roof or structure falls in.”


“Build ‘out’ instead of ‘up.’"


A ground-floor addition can cost significantly less per square foot compared to a second-story addition because it doesn’t require the invasive removal or relocation of major mechanical and structural elements, says Bawden. Where he works in Houston, he says, a ground addition ranges from $140 to $180 per square foot, but a second-story addition is $180 to $250 per square foot.


“Earmark a set percentage of your budget for furniture and decor.”


For a 600-square-foot $100,000 addition, Bawden recommends adding 8 to 10 percent of the total for furnishing the new space. For every additional $100,000, that rate goes down 1 to 2 percent, he says.


Average cost of a family room addition.

Cost and value of adding square footage

Whether it’s a two-story addition, a master suite or an extra bathroom, the cost of adding square footage to your home adds some value to your home. But just how much should you expect? Here’s what you can expect to pay for the four most common home additions, plus the incremental value you may recoup based on resale value, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report:

Two-Story Addition

Average Cost: $171,056
ROI: 69.3 percent

Family Room Addition

Average Cost: $86,615
ROI: 67.9 percent

Master Suite Addition
Average Cost: $115,810
ROI: 64.1 percent

Bathroom Addition
Average Cost: $42,233
ROI: 56.2 percent

  • Note: Return on investment (ROI) is based on the total cost of the home improvement project recouped at resale of home. Example: A $171,056 two-story addition could add an average of $118,548 (+69.3 percent) to the value of your home at resale.

This information is of a general nature for informational and educational purposes only. It must not be taken as advice and does not signify an endorsement. Farmers Insurance is not responsible for any injuries or loss incurred.