Category: Home Addition

Barry Shaw
March 21, 2018
Pop-Top Home

Denver New Home vs. Pop-Top: What Is The Difference In Construction Costs?

As a follow up to previous Blog re: this topic, below is a re-cap overview of our line item construction cost analysis requested of our Consulting services:

New home ‘overall requirements’ are different and more extensive, than when we ‘add on’ to the existing structure and therefore an increase in price.

Some of the additional items required involve significant site work, especially if there is a slope involved.

For instance, typically multiple retaining walls will be required to shore up aspects of the site, for the planned footprint of the new home/detached buildings/driveway/stairs/recreation areas etc. to be accommodated for at the proper elevations.

Also additional drainage work, above and below grade, will be required throughout the site. This would involve concrete culverts, underground drain pipes, terraced grades and usually retention ponds/storm water planters.

Around the lower part of the home, waterproofing the exterior walls from the bottom of the footings to above finish grade level, will be needed.

Regarding the building/structure itself, new two story concrete and rebar footings will be required, after excavating work; in lieu of using existing footings and typically adding some ‘pads’ for posts to bear on.

As well, new first floor/second floor/roof framing with up to date structural connections will be required by code.

Adjunct new materials (i.e. windows, doors, drywall, flooring, plumbing and electrical fixtures, tile work, paint, etc.) and equipment (i.e. hvac units/ducting, water heaters, kitchen appliances, etc.) and low voltage wiring, cabinetry, fire sprinkler system, closet work, etc., needs to be factored into this budget.

And all of the above is after demolition of the old existing home and other structures are taken off the site ($60,000+), if we’re not starting with raw land.

All in all, it will cost 50% or more to build your new home; but it will be exactly the way you want it to be and virtually maintenance-free with the latest technology implemented into the materials, systems and equipment.

For other Consulting services, including comprehensive line-item values, please send us an email with your inquiry.

Best Regards Always!

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Barry Shaw
March 7, 2018
Pop-Top Home

Denver New Home vs. Pop-Top: What Is The Difference In Architectural Fees?

We were recently contacted from a homeowner regarding our Consulting services, regarding a comparative cost analysis of Architectural services, for a new ground up home or adding a pop-top.

Below is a re-cap overview of the line item analysis:

The overall time needed for a complete set of architectural plans to be prepared for submittal to City agencies, is obviously somewhat more for a new home, but the driving factor regarding the cost increase, comes from the engineering required.

Additional structural engineering for foundations and framing; civil engineering required for site work/drainage/retaining walls, energy engineering analysis and new hvac, electrical, plumbing systems and equipment needs, all require extra time. Additionally, these details and specifications need to be coordinated with the architectural plans, in the proper places.

The above work is typically performed by our CAD drafters, with pertinent decision making and direction, coordinated by myself as the Architect for the project.

So in general, the Architect and engineering fee will be approximately 25%-35% more. As well, the construction cost ‘differential’ must also be factored into the overall budget, to obtain the total out-of-pocket expenditure for design and construction of a new home.

For other Consulting services, including comprehensive line-item construction cost analysis, send us an email with your inquiry.

Best Regards Always!

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Barry Shaw
March 2, 2015

Second Story Addition on (86) Year Old Home-Is It Safe?

Being a Los Angeles home contractor for several decades now, it’s likely that we will be presented with a request to build a second story addition on top of a very old one story home, that will also undergo a major remodel.

Typically a house of this era is built on a ‘raised foundation’, whereby there is a perimeter continuous footing (many times not with rebar in it) and ‘interior’ small concrete piers, supporting posts, girders and the floor joist/subfloor framing.

The raised foundation and framing systems could have been structurally upgraded over the years, but can remain mostly independent from an astute post and beam second story addition design, that we construct as an experienced Los Angeles home contractor, according to the latest seismic codes.

These posts and beams are secured with structural connections, all the way from the roof, down to the new footing pads.  These new pads are engineered with high strength concrete and steel reinforcing bars, that connect to the new post framing members, from specific details incorporated into our architectural home plans.

As a Los Angeles home contractor with an A+ rating, we ensure our Client’s safety, by verifying on the job, that this process is performed correctly. This is accomplished with a licensed Architect or licensed General Contractor from our firm, physically performing on-site observations, verifying that top quality construction methodologies are being implemented in the field.

To learn more about this topic and others that may be of interest to you, please contact us at: 

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Barry Shaw
February 26, 2014

Build During Winter Or Wait?

The timing of when remodel construction actually starts is actually one month after submittal of the architectural and engineering plans to the Building Department for a One Story Home Addition, or two months in the case of a Second Story Addition.  Therefore, this ‘readjustment’ time frame within the Design-Build package of services, is actually an opportunity to be utilized, with regard to Homeowner’s who choose to stay in the home and relocate within, as well as for Homeowner’s who choose to move out into a rental unit for the duration of construction.

Obviously rain water and moisture are considerations to be peppered for and abate, during ‘typical’ Winter months. Unfortunately here in Los Angeles, we are part of a CA State drought and not much rain to be concerned about, especially if the Design-Build Project is a One Story Addition. In this case, the openings or connections between the existing home and new One Story Addition/Major Remodel, should be covered with heavy plastic or tarps starting from the eave of one side of the existing house, going over the ridge/highest point of the roof and down the ‘opening’ to the ground, along with extending over the Addition part. Battening down with long wood planks and as few nails as possible, should withstand common wind pressures that could rip up this protective membrane. Simply covering the opening vertically with plastic will not protect the home, as water will find its way into the existing roof framing system and likely traverse down the rafters/ridge and into the house.

On the other hand, a Second Story Home Addition, one of which we are currently building in West Los Angeles, will involve removing much of the existing One Story roof structure, will pose a greater concern to be addressed, but will not negate construction during these months. In this case, there are many more ‘vulnerable’ parts of the existing home that need to be protected such as; the existing wood floor; drywalled walls and existing spaces that may not be part of the overall remodel like the Kitchen.

Mediterranean Second Story Home Addition

In this case, situations could occur where half of the existing roof is totally removed, preface to framing for the Second Story Addition and thus with an impending storm on its way, temporary rafters on a slope (preferably with plywood tacked down over them) and then heavy plastic installed as mentioned above, should shed the majority of rain and protect the existing home.

Also of importance, is the wood/lumber that is installed outside the home (i.e. if on the lawn, layed on top of wood ‘sleepers’), which should be covered with heavy plastic as well, in an effort to reduce the amount of moisture content that will thus be ‘contained’ within the walls of the home during construction. The Code allows a moisture content of 19% already, so additional moisture is certainly unwanted and should be avoided when possible.

Either way, the positive and rewarding result of building during Winter, is the fact that by the time Summer and the Holidays arrive, construction will likely have been completed and you will be living in and enjoying your new One or Two Story Master Suite Addition, Great Room and Remodeled Kitchen, or New Home.

To learn more about the possibilities for your ‘new home’, please contact us at:

Best Always!, Barry R. Shaw AIA, GC

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Barry Shaw
June 2, 2013

Family Expansion and Daily Living Considerations When Adding On To Your Home

Space for children, along with their friends, would be an obvious start for consideration.

These bedrooms, closets and bathrooms should be contemplated, designed and articulated with respect to boy/girl sexes not only as youngsters, but teenagers as well (i.e. two young boys sharing a bedroom may be ok initially, but a separate additional bedroom is likely to be needed as each grows up).

Also, a trend that has been developing, is for that same teenager who graduated college out of town to now find their way back into the home, as well as older in-laws who need some special care, seeking refuge in this home. Thus strategic planning in terms of the architectural design layout/location within the home, possibly with a separate outside entrance, insulated walls, handicap bathroom specifications, etc., should be evaluated.

Another trend, but less prevalent, is to utilize space designed as a junior suite, for rental purposes. In this case, the above accommodations along with other considerations such as an additional third car garage (granted that the property can accommodate this), a small independent stack washer/dryer area within the Suite, utility sink/microwave/under counter refrigerator, service area, etc., should be planned for. Depending on site conditions, if a detached two car garage is existing, adding on to this Garage to accommodate an independent Junior Suite space, may be a viable consideration.

Logistics of the family who chooses to live in their home during a two story addition, as well as their personal schedules, must also be considered.

For instance, we are typically on the job at 7:00 a.m. and ready to perform work. On the other hand, the parents and kids are still getting ready for their day, so a request may be given for us to start an hour or more later, thus losing time from the typical day. Sure, we can work later, but with regards to the other Trades that also need to integrate first thing in the morning (i.e. material deliveries), this inherently creates some ‘stand around time’ inefficiencies.

On the other hand, a one story addition can be ‘sectioned off’ from the existing home much easier. This then allows the family to go about their schedule, with much more privacy and our construction crew can go about their schedule with ‘business as usual’.

Another consideration with one or two story, is sound. Because the one story addition is sectioned off, sounds from saws, hammers, people and material being moved around will typically be muffled within the one story addition. With a two story addition, these sounds will likely transmit much more readily, throughout the home.

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Barry Shaw
June 2, 2013

Home Addition Size Considerations

A one story addition ‘footprint’ will typically be defined by regulations with respect to side yard and rear yard setback dimensions, as well as a percentage of the lot size, along with a bonus percentage (for lots not located in hillside zone or coastal area). Therefore, the larger the property, the more square footage can be added.

If the site has a detached garage, this may affect the size and shape of the one story addition. For instance, typically a ten foot separation is required between the garage and the one story addition, thus possibly impacting the floor plan design of the addition.

Given our above regulations, a two story addition can be up to 75% of the square footage calculated for the total one story addition allowance. As with a one story addition, height and step back considerations are code parameters that would be of planning considerations, during the architectural phase of the Project.

The type of residential zone that the property is located in will dictate the percentages of the above considerations and is the starting point for these evaluations.

A typical family with mom and dad and two kids, will likely covet their backyard spaces, in different ways. Planning for needs such as a BBQ/eating area; pool; half court basketball; maybe soccer space; grass area for the dog; etc. should be considered.

In this case, a second story addition, especially if the lot does not have a lot of depth, would probably be the preferred option for a home expansion. As stated previously, yes it is more expensive than a one story addition, but sometimes there’s not a lot of choice.

Also, master planning this out door space for ‘adult entertaining’, while the kids are young or even when they are no longer at home, should be thought of. For instance, level changes; semi-secluded seating areas; outdoor bars; access to the kitchen; music/sound considerations relative to the neighbors as well; catering and trash capabilities; etc. should be planned out in a landscape architectural design appropriately.

As well, strategic planning/planting of trees; shrubs; flowers; etc. should be visualized for current and future growth in terms of privacy/maintenance/smell/sun screening/visual color/etc. In terms of natural resources, watering requirements/conservation along with the possibilities of home grown herbs/fruits/vegetables and compost recycling, can optimize the outdoor/living environment.

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Barry Shaw
June 1, 2013

Building Home Addition Structural Costs

Setting aside hillside lots, lets consider a relatively flat piece of property for a moment, when evaluating building a home addition, either going up (adding a second story) or out (staying on one level).

Building a one story home addition onto the rear of the home will take up yard space, thus limiting outdoor play/recreational use, as well as limiting landscaping, pool and gardening abilities. Also, the longitudinal axis of the home will be projected, thus more of a distance to get to the entry door, front yard and parked vehicles. On the other hand, natural light via skylights as well as volume ceilings can be installed though most of the home, creating very pleasant and energy efficient spaces. Also, a one story set of plans can be approved of much faster by the building department and the addition can be built faster.

Building a second story home addition will provide a more ‘compact’ home, without taking up much yard space. Traversing up and down stairs is a consideration, that should be viewed as a long term condition. Logistics of access to the kitchen, garage and outdoor areas, is likely to be a less frequented decision, but will also likely be thought out much better. Architectural plans will take longer to approve of by the Building Department and permit fees a little more costly. Enjoying views that may be available is a big plus, along with first / second floor privacy that can be enhanced.

The structural part of the building will be an important influence to cost. The footings for a one story home addition, given acceptable soil conditions, can be of modest depth, thus less digging and less concrete needed. Also, the framing elements for a one story addition can be of all timber members. The other trades have less of an impact on cost.

On the other hand, the footings for a two story Home addition will be deeper and their will likely be the necessity for ‘pads’, contributing to more labor, concrete and rebar costs. Many framing members will now be of heavy timber, with much heavier connections. Also, it is likely that steel will need to be installed, with certified welded and bolted connections. After removal of the existing roof, there will be electrical circuits, plumbing and HVAC considerations to be rerouted, contributing significantly to costs.

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