How to Accomplish a Stress Free Room Addition Build

Steps to Ensure an On-Time and On-Budget Home Remodeling Project

By Mark J. Donovan

I have had numerous people contact me over the years complaining about the bad experiences they had in their room addition or other major home remodeling project. In most of the cases the stories were the same. They had a bad home remodeling contractor. The project had major cost over-runs, and took much longer than the contractor said it would.

When I have responded to some of these people and asked them some pointed questions I always heard the same responses. Below is a list of my pointed questions, the responses I get from the people, and what they should have done instead to have had a stress free room addition or other home remodeling project.

Did you have a detailed set of plans and specifications for your room addition project?

Most said they had a set of plans, however, in the majority of the cases the plans were sketches or high level plans that lacked details that clearly spelled out every dimensional aspect and material to be used in the project. This is a huge mistake. Plans need to be meticulously generated in order to know exactly what your room addition or other home remodeling project will look like when completed. The plans also clearly identify the materials to be used in the construction project so that you aren’t surprised when you see the contractor install cheap non-name brand single pane windows when you thought he was installing double pane Anderson windows.

Did you sign a contract with the contractor for your room addition project and was it a fixed price contract?

Often I heard the person tell me that he/she did not have a signed contractor with the home building contractor. I also often heard they had a “Time and Materials Contract” with the contractor, instead of a fixed price contract. You should always have a signed contractor with a home remodeling contractor and a “Time and Materials Contract” is a terrible contract to sign. With this type of contract you are setting yourself up to be used and abused.

A “Time and Materials Contract” basically allows the contractor to bill you for hours and material costs (plus his markup) as he incurs them.

Home Addition Bid Sheets

Bottom-line, the contractor has no incentive to complete the project, and so as it drags on and on, and you keep paying and paying and paying.

Always sign a fixed price contract when building a room addition or any other home remodeling project. The fixed price contract should include the total cost of the project, as well as cost breakdowns and milestone payments, and include with it a set of detailed plans and a bill of materials to be used on the project. The contract should also include a timeline for completion of the project.

Did your contract, if you had one, include for contractor allowances?

In many cases the answers were yes to this question, which was the wrong answer. Contractor allowances should be avoided at all costs, including finding a different contractor for the project if necessary. A contractor allowance is money that is allocated to you to choose, for example, the type of carpeting or wood flooring to be installed in your room addition. Contractor allowances are also often used for choosing light fixtures, kitchen appliances, kitchen or bathroom cabinets, and landscaping.

In virtually every response I heard from people that said that they did have contractor allowances in their project, they had a bad experience.

How to Accomplish a Stress Free Room Addition Build

The typical problems were (1) “the allowance was so small I had to either buy the cheapest materials to meet the budget allowance or spend more money”, or (2) “I had to use a specific home supplier the contractor required and their products were low quality.”

Did you get multiple home remodeling contractor bids before signing a contract with one of them?

Most of the people responded with “no” to this question. They ended up finding a single contractor and didn’t feel motivated to ask any others. Again, this is a huge mistake. You have no other reference point to determine if that one contractor is overcharging you in his quote. Always get 3 or 4 quotes when doing a major home remodeling project or room addition build project.

Did you do reference checks on the contractor before signing a contract?

In many cases the people had not done any reference checks. In some cases they had done just one reference check. Both are wrong answers.

When considering signing a contract with a home remodeling contractor always check 3 or 4 of his references and contact the Better Business Bureau. Also, check with your state to ensure that his contractor license is valid and that there are no issues with him and/or business. Lastly, check with his insurance company to make sure that his insurance policy is up-to-date.

By avoiding these pitfalls and following my simple guidelines you can help yourself immensely in your goal of accomplishing a stress free room addition build or any other major home remodeling project.

For more help on building a home addition, see’s Home Addition Bid Sheets. Our Home Addition Bid Sheets provide you with the knowledge and information on how to plan a home building project, and what to look for when hiring contractors. They also include detailed cost breakdown tables and spreadsheets for estimating your own new home construction building costs.

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