Step-By-Step Guide to DIY or Contractor-Driven Room Additions

home addition

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Room additions are serious business and need to be treated seriously. That's why I was interested in Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Room Additions when it came my way. Too many homeowners, myself included, flounder when confronted with the huge task of building an addition.

Could a book cover everything involved in building an addition?

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As with other books in the Black & Decker series, it is graphic-rich and does not stint on step-by-step instructions.

The guide also steps back and answers basic "dumb" questions that many of us want to know, but are too afraid to ask:

  • "What is a room addition?" (Too complicated to fully answer here, but basically it can function as its own structure).
  • "What is a 'bump-out'?" (It increases the space of an existing room)
  • "Are sunrooms considered additions?" (Yes and no. Depends on the scale of the project).

Room Addition Bump-Outs

One feature of Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Room Additions is that it is at pains to describe, exactly, the difference between additions, bump-outs, sun-rooms, and other addition-y types ​of embellishments on your house.

Why should you care?

If you're just looking for loads of pictures of additions, this isn't really the book (though it does have plenty of photos). This book is more about helping you understand the totality of the room addition process.

Room bump-outs, as the book points out, are less expensive than full-on additions: less square footage, less electrical, less (or even no) plumbing or HVAC.

House Bumpout
Shutterstock / Black & Decker / The Complete Guide to Room Additions

Modular Unit as a Room Addition?

One way you can see the "totality" of room additions is by ranging far afield from what we consider a conventional addition.

Besides room bump-outs, the book even covers the option of adding on with modular housing units, pictured above. Pre-fabricated modules (similar to those units you often see acting as offices on construction worksites) are lifted into place by crane and tied into the rest of the house.

Will you add a modular unit to your house? I suspect that 98% of homeowners will choose a stick-built addition (built on-site from lumber), but it's always good to know what's out there.

Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Room Additions even goes farther afield to show you options short of an addition: basement remodeling, attic conversions, and garage conversions. In a sense, these non-additions might serve to talk you out of the expensive room addition.

Should you go one of those other routes--well, they've got a guide just for that, too. See our review of Black and Decker The Complete Guide to Finishing Basements

Modular Home Addition
Copyright Epoch Homes / Black & Decker Complete Guide to Room Additions

Green Home Addition

One great aspect of Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Room Additions is that it has a section on building a green or eco-friendly home addition.

How is this possible? After all, a room addition by definition isn't exactly eco-friendly. Well, it means bringing your room addition as close as possible to an energy efficient and healthy space that wisely uses our resources.

Don't assume that the builder will "build green." In fact, unless the builder markets himself as a green contractor, assume the opposite. But by being aware of what an eco-friendly room addition is, you can require these initiatives of any builder--green or not.

Green Home Addition
Creative Publishing International

Laying Out the Building Site the Room Addition: DIY or Not?

The moment of truth in Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Room Additions: laying out the building worksite.

Up to this point, everything could be either DIY or pro--assessing existing structure, preparing soil, financing, etc.

But here there is a detailed section on laying precise string lines for subsequent footer and foundation wall placement. If you're building your room addition DIY, this is the first "real" step you take that feels like actual construction.

Lay Out Building Site for Home Addition
Creative Publishing International

Room Addition Foundations: Detailed View

As another example of how the guide tackles "boring" but critical topics--which you find rarely covered elsewhere, you'll find a nice, detailed section on the various kinds of foundations available when building the room addition.

There is a huge difference between slab-on-grade, perimeter wall, and other types of foundations. Sometimes, you have no choice as to the foundation; other times, you do need to make an informed choice. This guide helps.

Room Addition Foundations
Creative Publishing International

Overall Assessment of Book

  • Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Room Additions aims to cover all aspects involved with building a room addition.
  • Because the topic is so vast, the book cannot cover everything, try as it might.
  • The book falls short of being a complete do-it-yourself guide to building your own room addition. You will need extra information.
  • But as a primer for dealing with contractors and architects, it's as much as you need--maybe even more. For example, if a contractor is building your addition, you won't need the step-by-step instructions on how to frame a wall or install a window.
  • Or do you? Another line of thought is that it can only help you to know what the subs are doing.
  • Excels in describing difficult projects: foundation, framing, HVAC, etc.
Complete Guide to Room Additions
Creative Publishing International