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Salinas, CA Building a Home or Adding an Attic or Basement

Salinas, CA Home Improvement Guide


Building and Remodeling
General Contractors; Architects; Remodeling Contractors; Home Builders

For some homes, the current living space just isn’t big enough. Too many people fight for the same bathroom, or there is no room big enough for the whole family to gather and enjoy each others’ company. If the walls of your home are starting to smother you, it may be time to consider building an addition, moving to a new home, or building a new home. With any of these options, there are a number of things to consider.

While additional space is wonderful, it comes at a cost and each option has inherent advantages and disadvantages. As you contemplate the choices, consider what provides the biggest bang for your buck, the least stress on family life and the greatest overall value. Not every house has enough room to structurally expand and some families may not want to leave their current neighborhoods. Whatever needs or concerns are involved in your decision, take the time to research your options. This section provides an overview of the benefits and considerations with adding onto your home, or building a new one and the requirements associated with either option. Learn how to take advantage of unused attic space or finally take the steps to finish the basement.


Building an Addition
Architects; General Contractors; Remodeling Contractors

Prior to picking up a hammer, evaluate the reasons behind wanting to add-on to your home. Knowing why you want to do it and what you hope to achieve can help determine whether expanding out or buying something bigger is the optimal decision. There are several advantages to building an addition which include providing increased living space, increasing home value, remaining in a desired neighborhood, and providing an open canvas to build a dream addition. But the biggest advantage is saving money. Creating an addition is considerably less expensive than selling and buying a new home. After totaling the costs incurred with selling fees, closing fees, moving expenses, disconnecting and reconnecting utilities, etc., the cost of an addition is significantly less than moving and buying new.

Despite these advantages, there are some disadvantages as well. Building an addition shrinks the size of the yard, disrupts family life during construction, and increases expenses. The larger area increases property taxes, maintenance costs of heating and air conditioning, as well as overall upkeep. Knowing this upfront helps to eliminate monetary surprises which diminish the value of the addition.

Before beginning any addition, consider the following to get the most out of the project and eliminate any undesired surprises.

Make a Plan
Determine upfront exactly what you hope to gain with the new addition. What type of room do you want to add? How much square footage will be added? Outline where the window, doors, closets, or appliances will be located. Once a plan is determined, review the size of the addition in comparison to the neighborhood. Make sure the increase in square footage is within the guidelines of the area. Overbuilding for the market will not produce a valuable return.

Determine Payment
With the plan set, determine how it will be paid for. Unless you have the cash or savings in place, a home equity or construction loan is required. Consult the Budget and Financing section of this guide for information and guidance on how to obtain the right loan for you.

Hire Professionals
To optimize the value of the project, consult an architect or contractors to help create the final plans. These professionals can help ensure that the design and aesthetics of the addition match the existing home, neighborhood, and building code requirements. They can help to avoid the pitfalls of creating an addition that is too large or too small, which could be an eyesore. Proper attention should be given to ensure rooflines, elevations, and wall structures match up to create a seamless exterior appearance.

If you decide to create the addition on your own, you should purchase a good home design software package. This helps create 3D renderings of the addition and the necessary plans for permits and inspections.

Obtain Permits
Know the legal limitations of the addition and what permits are required. Prior to starting, permission needs to be obtained from the local authorities. This requires submitting a copy of your plans for approval. If you hire an architect or general contractor, they can submit them for you. If you are handling the addition yourself, make sure the proper permits and approvals are obtained. In most states, formal blueprints or similar layout plans are required. Consult the Planning and Permit topic within this section for additional information and guidance on obtaining the proper approvals.

Set a Schedule
A home addition disrupts family life. Sit down with the family and discuss the timeline and expected noise, dust, and traffic that will take place at the home. Depending on the type of addition, eliminating access to certain rooms of the house can be a serious inconvenience. Work out an alternative plan and set expectations upfront to cut down on the amount of stress and disruption.

Sweat Equity
Determine upfront the amount of sweat equity you can dedicate to the project. This provides significant savings for a strong do-it-yourselfer. However, make sure you have the necessary time and motivation required for this type of project. Opting to handle some elements of the project yourself can slow down the schedule if your skills are limited or you are unfamiliar with building code. Having to re-do portions of the project not only pushes out the completion date but can potentially double the size of the budget. Choose projects that accurately fit your skill set to ensure that no time is lost and that the maximum budget limit is maintained.

Protect Landscaping
Trucks, dumpsters and other construction requirements take a toll on the landscaping. For trees, shrubs or flowers you might want to save them by moving to an alternate location prior to beginning the project. Pouring additional foundation takes out a considerable size of the yard and changes the overall landscape appearance. Determine upfront what is the most important to save.

Building Up or Out
The choice to build up or out depends on the existing structure of the home and your personal preference. Some homeowners may shy away from second-story additions as they require additional money for structural reinforcements, especially when building an extra bathroom. One-story additions require foundational support but can create extra value to the home especially for future buyers who may not like homes with stairs.

Internal Flow
In addition to considering the exterior flow of the addition, also consider the internal flow. Ensure the traffic flow and style fits within the interior of the home. While a new addition provides an open canvas in terms of design, maximize the look of the addition while creating a natural blend with the rest of the house. This ensures its elegance while not appearing entirely separate from the rest of the home.

Final Inspections
Once the addition is completed, a final professional inspection is required. In addition to this inspection, conduct one on your own. Make sure to fully inspect the inside and outside of the home to ensure that the quality and finishes are what you discussed with the contractor. Ask for any missed items to be completed or for anything not meeting your expectations to be redone. It takes time for the addition to settle and along the way you may find some cracking or additional fixes. Call the contractor again if this should occur. They should be willing to come out and do the repairs without an extra charge.

Popular Home Additions
When looking for additional breathing room, some rooms can create a larger bang for the buck or provide much needed space for certain family members.

Bathroom: Bathrooms are the most sought after room in the house and can often create discord and frustration if there are not enough for the size of the family. Adding another bathroom, especially in homes with less than two, provides the best equity value and peace for larger families.

Family Room: Creating a large gathering room for entertainment and games is a modern and popular choice. These rooms provide a necessary space that can grow with the needs of the family. For younger families it can be a playroom and can grow into a theater or entertainment room as the children age. After they leave home, it can then be transformed into a den or home office.

Sunroom or Porch: Especially in the South, the addition of a sunroom or porch is very popular. Exposing the house to large amounts of natural light and warmth provides a comfortable space for all to enjoy.

Home Office: As more people are working out of their home or opting to get more work done at home, this provides a great convenience.

Mother-In-Law Suite: To accommodate the need to care for aging parents, many are opting to build mother-in-law suites. This extra space traditionally includes a bedroom, bathroom, sitting area and kitchenette.


Building a New Home
Architects; General Contractors; Remodeling Contractors; Home Builders

If it is time to build that dream home you’ve always wanted, consider these important steps to ensure hidden surprises are eliminated and expectations are realistically set. No matter how much thought or meticulous care goes into establishing the budget, anticipate it going over the limit. It also requires a great deal of patience as custom built homes take longer than a general addition or remodel. Researching the process and anticipating some potential pitfalls helps alleviate stress and makes the overall experience more enjoyable.

Establish a Budget
Determining the available budget for a new build is the most critical step as it dictates the size and quality of the build. Most likely, a construction loan and mortgage will be required. Work with your lender to determine the amount of money available. This provides a guideline for the cost of the new build. Remember that the budget needs to cover more than just the cost of building the house. It also needs to include the lot, development of the lot, permits, and cost of hiring professionals.

Reduce the final number by 10-15% to provide a cushion for overages. It is almost guaranteed that due to changes, hidden problems and overspending, the budget will be exceeded. Anticipating it in advance avoids unnecessary headaches and worry.

Determine a Potential Cost
As this is your dream home, some design and material choices may already be decided. Use a free online building cost estimator to determine if your dream home design matches the available budget. This helps you assess the “must haves” against the “nice to haves” prior to hiring an architect or contractor. Having a predetermined design that is close to your budget cuts down on the time required for an architect, saving you money in return.

Major factors that significantly affect the overall budget are the size and shape of the home, lot preparation, and material upgrades. If the dream needs readjustments, reduction of any of these factors significantly reduces the overall cost.

Choose a Neighborhood
Based on your current family needs, find the ideal neighborhood. If you have young children, finding a location close to quality schools or a park may be more important. For those looking to retire, a tranquil location near a lake may be ideal.

Choose a Lot
Finding the right lot may be one of the most difficult decisions in building a new home. When considering the ideal lot, contemplate using professionals to help make the decision. Consulting the opinion of an architect or builder helps determine the required amount of site preparation. Building on a hillside for optimal ocean views requires more extensive excavation and grading which eats up money quickly. Requiring dirt to be trucked in, clearing trees, or removing rock also increases costs. Proper soil conditions, draining, and geographical hazards should also be considered and could become a factor when seeking permits. Not every design plan can be built on any lot. If the house plans are already determined, several lots may need to be considered before finding the right location. If the lot is chosen first, anticipate potential building limitations depending on the lot.

Also consider the overall size of the lot once the house is completed. Perhaps a large yard is more upkeep than you want to maintain. Developing on a smaller lot ensures a smaller yard and less maintenance.

Hire Professionals
When building a home, it is almost guaranteed that an architect and builder will be required. An architect designs the home and the custom builder brings it to life. Work with each of them to ensure that they see your vision. For help in finding an architect, consult the Architects and Builders section of this guide.

Hiring a Builder: As with any hired professional, take the time to research the choices and choose a builder that is right for you.

    Make a List: Start the process by making a longer list of possible builders. Builders can be found by contacting local builders’ associations within your area, browsing the real estate section of the local newspaper, talking with real estate agents, and visiting the Home Builders heading at MyYP.com.

    Narrow the Search: Start narrowing the list by researching their reputations and reviewing the quality of their work. Ask them to provide a list of the most recent builds they have completed. Drive by the homes to inspect the look and quality. Call the homeowner to ask them questions about the build and if they are happy with the quality. If builders are reluctant to share the names of clients, move on. Builders rely on word of mouth advertising and should be happy to display their work.

    Consult industry websites for information on the builder’s reputation. Many websites provide detailed information on complaints that have been lodged against builders.

    Viewing the Work: Once you see a demonstration of their work, inspect the detail and quality. Carefully look at the cabinetry, carpeting, flooring, trim work and paint. Review model homes they have built, attend home shows, and open houses they are sponsoring. These provide you with a good sample of the quality of their work and attention to detail.

Select a Plan
A couple of choices exist with choosing plans for a new home. Some home builders have a catalog of stock plans to choose from which can be slightly altered to create a more custom look. A truly custom home however, is one that is developed exclusively for the buyer based on their needs and desires. A custom design option requires an architect and is more expensive than selecting a stock plan.

Develop a Contract
Once you have everything in place, finalize the negotiation with a written contract. This serves as a protection to you to ensure the final product is what you want. Many contracts are written by the professionals and therefore provide more protection for them than you. Review every detail and amend any wording you are not comfortable with. Also ensure the proper insurance and liability coverage is included to protect you against any problems that may arise.

Obtain Permits
Before any work begins, permits must be obtained. If working with an architect or builder, they will submit the plans to the city or county for approval. Anticipate that it will take a number of weeks for approvals to be returned. A cost is also associated with the permit which varies by city.

Inspections
Throughout the building process, a series of inspections are required to progress. City inspectors will visit the site to verify the work meets building code and is being done correctly. If any work does not pass inspection, it will have to be re-done and inspected again before continuing. Multiple inspections can be expensive and if required too many times, permits can be revoked. Applying for another permit to continue is a costly expense. Work with the builder to develop protections in the contact against any work that requires multiple inspections and to cover any fines.


Planning and Permits
Architects; General Contractors

Before any home improvements or building can begin, a permit must be obtained. Permits are designed to protect the current home owner and future home owners by verifying that the anticipated work is within regulation and will stand up over time.

When and Where to Apply
Prior to any work beginning, plans must be submitted to local city and county building departments. Regulations vary by state, county and city so it is important to find out what is required specifically in your area. In most cases, an application outlining the proposed project and a set of plans must be submitted for approval. This can also vary by county and city so check with local building inspectors for a complete list of what is required. Some counties require a formal, certified set of blueprints and others accept software generated plans. Save time, headaches and money by researching beforehand the regulations and restrictions for your area.

Turn around time for the permit can take up to 6 weeks depending on the degree of remodel or building. Allow significant time in the schedule for obtaining permits as they often need to be approved by local fire officials, the planning department, and city committees.

Anticipate Cost
Permit costs are based on a percentage of the value of the project. Therefore, this is one area where it is not good to overestimate the value of the build. The actual percentage again, varies by city, county and state. Be sure to plan for these costs in the budget. Depending on the size of the project, permits could cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. As work cannot progress without them, failing to plan for the cost can halt the entire project. The fees cover a variety of services from connecting to city water, sewer and power to reviewing and approving the plans. More than one permit may be required before the project is completed. Separate electrical, plumbing, heating or health permits may also be required depending on the project.

Inspectors
Prior to approving the permit, anticipate for an inspector to visit the site and verify the information submitted on the application and plans. After the permit is approved, the inspector or a series of inspectors will revisit the site to inspect the progress to date. Anticipate the inspection and sign-off of major developments before the project can progress. An inspector may come out to approve the foundation before anything can be built on top of it, or an electrical inspector may come out to inspect the electrical work prior to closing the walls. A plumbing inspector may do the same. Depending on the requirements of the city, county, and state, each of these steps may require sign-off by an inspector. This adds time to the construction schedule and halts work until it can be done.

Failing to obtain necessary sign-off before continuing can be costly. Some inspectors may require walls to be opened or completed work torn down to fully inspect and sign-off on necessary steps. This will require the work to be paid for twice. Any work completed without a permit may need to be disclosed when it comes time to sell. A potential buyer can insist it be brought up to code, requiring the homeowner spend time and money to ensure that it is.

Inspections are also a security to the homeowner that the work being done is within building code and meet a high-quality standard. Building code ensures structural integrity is maintained and secured against potential geographical threats such as earthquakes and hurricanes. A third-party verifies that the work done by you or a contractor follow proper construction techniques and uses the proper materials. This brings peace of mind knowing that the project was done right and was reviewed by another authority.

Contractor Duties
When working with a general contractor, they should handle the responsibility for obtaining necessary permits. This can be a very valuable benefit when hiring a contractor. Make sure they are familiar with local building codes and the local permit process. Investigate the process yourself to ensure everything is done in order and necessary steps are taken to avoid any delays or unanticipated fees.

Work Requiring Permits
Any work that changes the current structure or adds electrical, plumbing or alternative heat sources requires a permit. This includes changing the structural footprint of the home, moving a load-bearing wall, changing the roofline, switching a stove to natural gas, moving the location of a sink, or installing new electrical wiring.

Smaller changes such as installing a new floor, replacing older windows, replacing a countertop, or faucet do not require permits. As long as no structure is altered, smaller projects can be completed without permits.

Posting
Once approval is received, the permit is required to be posted at the job site. It must be located in an area where it can be easily seen and must remain up throughout the entire process. Make sure it is placed in a location where it cannot be removed and is protected from the weather.




Attic Renovation
General Contractors; Architects; Remodeling & Repairing Building Contractors

Increasing space in your home does not always require increasing the number of walls. Sometimes extra room can be found within the existing structure. If space is tight and you are looking for some additional room, consider the existing, unused attic space already in your home. Depending on the current structure, transforming this space cost considerably less than pushing out the walls and adding a full addition. Expanding up into the attic can provide an additional bedroom, home office, or family room. To determine if this space is available for you, consider the following:

Consult a Professional
The easiest way to determine if the attic is an option is to ask a professional. A local building inspector, architect or contractor can take a look at the attic and indicate if a conversion is possible. They will know if the available space is compliant to building code or what needs to be done to make it compliant.

Existing Access
Consider how the room will be accessed. Is there an existing staircase or will one need to be built? Building code requires that adequate height and width specifications be met or a new staircase will need to be built. Adequate landing space is also required.

Framing Structure
Attics with a steep roof pitch are ideal for converting into living space. Depending on the slope of the pitch, the amount of room available can be considerably larger or smaller. The framing structure of the roof is a good indicator of whether an attic conversion is possible. Roofs supported by rafters can be converted into living space. If the roof is supported by trusses, most likely it will not be possible.

Adequate Headroom
Try to walk around the attic. Is there adequate headroom and floor space for a room? Again, building code has a say here as well. Ideally, a minimum of 7½ feet needs to be available with at least 50% of the attic accessible for usable floor space.

Reinforcements
Depending on the current structure, some attics require reinforcements to build supporting walls, strengthen the floor and provide adequate insulation for the room. Current rafters may need extra support to handle the added weight of dry wall and finishing materials. Floor joists may need to be sistered to provide adequate support to the lower level ceilings.

Lighting
Some attics already have existing windows. If it does not, consider adding some. This may be required by code, especially if the room will be used as a bedroom. Code requires the room to have at least one alternative exit to the outside other than the stairwell. Ventilation requirements also require a certain amount of natural light through their windows or skylights. To help provide additional standing room, consider adding dormers. Skylights are a great alternative to adding natural light and do not dramatically affect the roof line.

Heating and Cooling
Most attics are extremely hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. Installing additional insulation helps to keep the right temperature but it may not always be enough. Consider whether tying the attic into the existing heating and cooling system is an ideal solution. Perhaps it would be better to install a localized heating and cooling system specifically in the attic.

Bathrooms
If considering using the space as a bedroom, including a bathroom may prove problematic. Tying attic plumbing and electrical into the existing structure could require opening walls on lower levels. Including a tub requires floor reinforcements and tying into existing vents and drain stacks which may be difficult. Work with the contractor to determine what fixtures are possible.

If the attic is an option, renovating this room provides valuable living space at a fraction of the cost of building an addition. Consult with a contractor or to determine what can be done in your space and if the current structural configuration is conducive to renovation.


Basement Renovation
Architects; General Contractors; Remodeling Contractors; Drywall Contractors

Additional living space can also be found by looking in the basement. The majority of homes today have basements and many of them are unfinished. Finishing off a basement however, provides more than additional living space; it increases the value of the home – significantly more than the attic. Basements often double the amount of finished square footage providing much needed elbow room, leisure space, and equity in the home. Homes are much easier to sell when basements are finished; ensuring full value of the total square footage is achieved.

A significant amount of money can also be saved as a basement renovation is a fraction of the cost of building an addition onto the home. Working with the existing structure eliminates the need to pour additional foundation or reinforce the framing. As you consider a basement renovation, factor in the following:

Consider the Space
A basement provides much needed space for any family. Additional space means additional storage for sports equipment, holiday decorations, tools, electronic equipment, and linens. Living areas create the possibility for theater rooms, game rooms, gyms, home offices, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, a wine cellar, and a laundry room.

Start with a Plan
Prior to beginning any work, make sure you have a fully developed plan for the space. Create an objective that provides a guideline for determining the structural and design frame. If a bathroom or kitchen area is part of the renovation, adequate plumbing and electricity is required. Proper floor drainage also needs to be accommodated. For a theater room; cable, satellite and internet connections need be present. Outlining the use of the space focuses the direction of the renovation and ensures key elements are established and hidden prior to sealing walls and ceilings.

Inspect the Area
Check the basic condition of the basement to ensure there is no existing water or moisture problems. Inspect the foundation for any cracks or settling that may have occurred since it was poured. Any problems need to be addressed and fixed prior to renovation. Moisture problems most likely are caused by improper outside drainage. Foundational issues are often solved with hydraulic cement. Building around these problems will cause continuous disasters until it is properly fixed. Don’t pay for renovation more than once when it can be addressed prior to beginning any work.

Plumbing and Electrical
While the structure is still open, now is the time to bring in additional plumbing or . Hire a plumber or electrical engineer to help determine where pipes and wires should be housed to keep them out of the way. Oftentimes plumbing is installed underneath cement flooring so creating the plan upfront is ideal. Ensuring water drains are properly installed is also essential especially for wet bars, showers, toilets, and laundry.

Lighting
If possible, consider adding a few windows or French doors to exterior exits to bring more natural lighting into the space. Basements are naturally darker as they are partially or fully underground. Therefore, the opportunities for natural lighting may be somewhat limited. Supplement the lack of natural light by adding canned lights, track lighting, sconces; and halogen lights. Create a lighting plan before completing the ceiling and walls to adequately hide the wiring.

Flooring
While many options exist, consider the potential for moisture issues before selecting basement flooring. Wood is definitely possible but it may require creating a strong moisture barrier between the wood and concrete to keep it from warping. Carpet is a solid option as it provides a comfortable surface and creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. Regardless of the type of flooring, the basement floor needs to be leveled off prior to laying it down. Carpeting makes this process a little easier by installing a thicker pad and also creates a stronger insulation for the room.

Ceilings
Basement ceilings can be designed three different ways. A drywall ceiling provides maximum clearance but also requires significant upfront planning. As access to upper level plumbing traps and valves need to be provided, a drywall ceiling cut makes access more difficult. Dropped ceilings provide easier access but also cut down on ceiling clearance. Get the best of both worlds by opting for an industrial ceiling. This type of ceiling exposes everything and can be sprayed to finish the look.

Building code requires a minimum of 7½ feet from floor to ceiling. Many basement ceilings, especially in older homes do not provide adequate clearance for a dropped or drywall ceiling, which limits your choices. Work with your contractor to determine what ceiling options are possible in your basement. Some work around options may be possible.

Furnaces
Determine the most appropriate location for the furnace and assess whether heating and air requirements are adequate for the renovation. Furnaces create a significant amount of noise and positioning it next to a theater room may become a nuisance. Where possible, wall off the furnace or place it next to rooms that won’t mind the noise such as a wine cellar or laundry room. Ensure that adequate ventilation is also present in the way of air return registers.

Insulation
As basements are below ground, they have a tendency to be cooler than the rest of the house. This is a welcome relief in the summer but less than ideal in the winter. Adequately insulate all exterior walls to ensure maximum comfort levels are maintained and that the basement is energy efficient. Installing Styrofoam insulation ensures the walls are properly insulated. Take the time to insulate properly before sealing up any walls or ceilings.

Focused Layout
Design the basement layout to take advantage of existing elements. Minimize the amount of plumbing piping required by placing a bathroom or kitchen directly below existing first floor pipes. This minimizes the need for a dropped ceiling structure to hide the pipes in open theater or family rooms. If natural light in limited toward one side of the basement, move the wine cellar or theater room to that part of the basement. The lack of lighting won’t be noticed and supplemental lighting can be limited saving some money.

Support posts may need to be installed as they are required to bear structural weight. When this occurs, minimize their presence by burying them around walls if possible or creating a box around them with a decorative finish to increase their elegance and make them blend.

Consider a Professional
While renovating a basement may be one of the easier do-it-yourself projects, make sure you are comfortable with the time requirement and skill set needed before taking it on. Are you ready to dedicate the next 15-20 weekends to the project? Are you comfortable cutting into the concrete to install a pump-up ejector system to handle bathroom sewage needs? Be honest with yourself in terms of time and skill. While hiring a basement contractor or general contractor will increase the budget, it can save time and peace of mind in the long run as it will be done correctly and allow you to enjoy it sooner.

A basement renovation is a great way to add equity to your home and provide extra quality living space for your family. This can become the ideal room for entertaining and spending quality time at home.


 
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