We settled on some floor plans for the addition.
This happened months ago, but we’re finally getting close to having a construction contract, so let’s discuss. Originally, we wanted to keep the existing footprint of the house and add a “cozy” (some would say “cramped”) master bedroom and bathroom on top of the kitchen. We mentioned to the designers that we’d be open to expanding the footprint into the back yard by a couple feet if that would make things fit better. Our back yard is not big, so if the house grows, there’s a real impact on the yard – which is why we weren’t interested in an option presented by another designer to simply build a one-story master suite in the back yard, past the kitchen.
We ended up with about a 6-foot extension into the yard. To allow for a king bed? No. For a nice airy bathroom? Nope. Closets? Nah. The extra space will help with those elements, but the reason the design grew so much was: stairs.
We had originally asked for a spiral staircase from the new kitchen to the new basement, thinking that it would save space. While that thinking was correct, our architect was also correct in pointing out that spiral stairs aren’t as functional as standard stairs. The addition will remove our existing side entrance, stoop, and steps to the back yard, and until we get a deck (a future phase), the basement exit will be our only exterior door other than the front door. Which means we might need the stairs to the basement to be full-width. We looked at several stair layout options and eventually settled on a design with two 90-degree turns that allowed for a nice refrigerator/pantry nook in the kitchen and for our new half-bath to be tastefully tucked away. To get enough vertical clearance for the stairs, the house had to grow into the back yard a little.
There are plenty of other details of the plans that we could discuss. The ones we are most excited about are:
- Replacing the wall between the kitchen and dining room with a three-seat bar
- Having more storage in the kitchen
- Gaining a better view of the back yard
- Using the new basement room as a home office, for “funny-looking train” layouts, storage, a workshop, etc.
- Not having to put the laundry basket in the hallway in order to stand in the laundry room.
Having a master suite will be particularly nice. No more walking down the hallway past the boys’ room to use the bathroom or take a shower in the morning. A closet that is wide enough for most of our clothes and deep enough for a standard clothes hanger. Endless possibilities (separate rooms for the boys, or a guest room, or an office, or a playroom…). A better view toward downtown. A view of the backyard from the second floor. Amanda made about a dozen of her own sketches of different layouts for the space, and in the end, we switched from the layout we had been using during most of the design process to a different one that allows for windows on three sides of the room.
We expect to sign a construction contract for the shell in a couple weeks: demolition, digging out the basement, masonry and concrete, framing of the new addition, windows, and siding. That should start in October, when we’ll enjoy the bounty of local restaurants (and leftovers) because we’ll have no kitchen. When that’s finished in a couple months, we’ll chip away at wiring, plumbing, drywall, floors, etc. with help from Amanda’s dad (and occasional help from a professional). Our plan is to have a second contract with the same company at the end for kitchen cabinets and interior trim.
We decided to do the middle part of the project ourselves to save money. We knew we wanted to do some parts ourselves but realized that in order to pay for the entire project, we would have to do as much by ourselves as we could. As a result, we will technically be our own contractor for those parts. We might hire people, but we’ll save the 20% management fee a contractor would charge for overseeing subcontractors.
This has all taken waaaaaaay. longer. than we thought. We took a trip to Baltimore in late July; we had originally planned for that trip to be the first week of June, by which time we had thought we’d be without a kitchen and could avoid being here for part of it. We pushed it back to July, but by the time it was clear that construction would still not be underway by the end of the summer, we just went ahead and took the vacation. Part of the delay was because the scope of the project expanded a lot beyond the original idea of just adding a third bedroom. Another reason for the delay was that every step we went through with the designer and contractor took longer than they said it would, and those delays added up quickly.
The ultimate test of whether the delays led to a perfect design should come in a year (or two, or three, depending on how we perform as a contractor), when we get to test out the finished product by living in it for years to come.