Washington Acres

Addition Miscalculation

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We knew when we bought our 2 bedroom 1 bathroom home that it would eventually need an addition. Adding two more bedrooms will allow us to have a guest room and each of the boys can also have their own room. A second bathroom will also make life a lot easier when the kids get older.

Originally, we thought we’d add onto the front. But we would have to move our septic tank and lose precious driveway space. So as much as I liked something like this, we had to come up with an alternative.


The only other place to fit an addition is on the side of the house with the sunroom. We figured we can tear out the existing sunroom and replace it with a two level addition. I envisioned something like these houses with a deck overtop most of the lower addition.

I was expecting that the cost would be around $30,000 for a weather-tight shell and a basic design. We could finish it off ourselves out-of-pocket. Boy was I wrong!

Several contractors have visited to provide an estimate, and not one has gotten back to me wanting to do the job. One guy said that something like that would probably be around $50,000 and that we should scrap the deck over the addition and just do a wrap-around deck if we want it to be less expensive. I’d be fine with that, but was never told what it might cost.

That was the first problem. Another contractor said that if we are adding bedrooms, we will probably need to upgrade our septic. I never even considered that. After contacting the County, I learned septic systems are sized according to the number of bedrooms. Our septic was replaced in 1998, but only sized for a two bedroom house.

So on to an engineer for septic planning. I hired one to come out and consult with us and take some measurements. Before his visit, he guessed the upgrade would cost $10,000-$15,000 if it was a regular ol’ system and there would be no complications. Initially I was ok with that, hoping it would be closer to $10,000 (especially if we did some work ourselves).

Yesterday I heard back from him and he said it’s likely that we will need a (spendy) mound system because of our soil type and high groundwater. Not only that, but we will need to move the drainfield from the backyard to the front and there is barely enough space to accommodate an expansion to a 4 bedroom. In other words- one big expensive headache.

Quickly realizing my initial guesstimate was way off, I decided to see what this wonderful addition plan might cost. I was planning on getting a home equity loan (after current work is done and the house is appraisable). The interest rate is at 5% with excellent credit and terms are up to 180 months. Because I was originally hoping to keep the payments around $300, I calculated a few different amounts at the max term to make the monthly payment affordable.

Amount Montly Payment Total Paid
$30,000 $237 $43,239
$50,000 $395 $71,172
$65,000 $514 $92,524

We *might* get away with it at $65,000. But that’s over $90,000 with interest and I’d be paying for it until I’m fifty. FIFTY!!! I don’t want to think about that. Is this addition really worth it? I quickly realized that it’s not.

So what to do? I remembered that the house’s original plans had a second bathroom upstairs in the loft area. I am fine with that. And if we just add an office, we gain an extra room without needing to upgrade the septic. We can always do that later if we decide to convert it to an official bedroom.

We can do the bathroom later- DIY and out of pocket. But I want a contractor to build a weather-tight shell for the office because we are just not experienced enough to do that ourselves. The great idea was to put it where our old moldy storage addition used to be.

Storage area attached to south side of home

Storage area attached to south side of home

There are a couple problems with my new great idea. One, the husband doesn’t really like it. And two, the footprint of the office would go beyond the footprint of the old storage addition. This is an issue because our drain field is located right there in the grassy area and the house needs to be at least 10′ away from it. The image below shows the anticipated footprint in red.

Next steps? 1.) Convince my husband that being house poor until Micah is in college is a bad idea. 2.) Find out if the office would be in the way of the drain field. 3.) Find a contractor that’s available and willing to help us build a weather-tight shell.

If we can catch a break with this, I expect labor and materials for an unfinished but weather-tight 10’x12′ office addition to be somewhere between $5,000-$10,000. The fees and interest on a $10,000 loan are a little different than higher loans, but we could pay it off in 5 years with a $188 monthly payment and $1,790 wasted on interest. Much better than paying on a loan until I’m 50!

And because I’m always searching for ideas…


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