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Designing a Family Room Addition

It seems like only yesterday that you moved into your new home—but all of a sudden you have three growing kids who lead the same active 21st century lifestyle that you do. Even if everyone is at home, it seems like each family member is always plugged into a device of one kind or another and you don’t spend enough quality time together. Bring your family together by creating a family room where everyone will want to hang out and have fun together. Don’t have the space? Why not consider adding a family room to your home? It may seem like an ambitious project, but planning your addition carefully will help make the process go smoothly.

Planning the Family Room

The first step in getting the family room you want is to make a plan for your room addition. Assuming you’re not planning to convert the basement, how large an area do you have available for construction? Do you know where your property line is? How close to the property line does your local municipality allow you to build? That may limit the space that you have. Once you know the area you’re working with, you can decided what the dimensions of the room should be. Will you need to include a door in the design, or can an existing door be adapted to lead into the new room? Will you need a door to exit from the family room into the yard? How many windows will the new room have? What kind of a foundation will you need to dig, or can you build over an existing concrete area, such as a patio?

Even though you’re only planning a single room, you should consider drawing a floor plan to make sure that you have all the elements of the proposed addition in a design that makes sense. If you’re not very gifted with a pencil, you can use an app like Draw Floor Plan for iPad or Floor Plan Creator for Android devices.

When you’re planning the room, don’t forget to think about the kinds of activities that will take place there. Will you be doing crafts and science projects, playing video games, and watching sports and movies? Depending on how you want to use your new family room, you may want to add running water, a mini-fridge, built-in shelves, extra electrical outlets, etc., to your design. Think about what kind of lighting you will need—task lighting for specific activities and ambient lighting to create a relaxed, casual atmosphere. If you’re installing an entertainment system or home theater, it will probably become a focal point of the room, so that may affect your layout and the placement of furniture.

Building Codes and Permits

When you’re planning an addition it’s important to check with your local municipality and make sure that your design complies with local building codes. The California Residential Building Code, for example, requires that alterations and “new elements” comply with the code in regard to requirements for building loads, electrical equipment and wiring, ventilation, seismic design and so forth. Once your design is completed, you will need to apply for a building permit for your project from the city. If you hire a contractor for your project, the contractor may be able to advise you on building codes in your locality and on the process of applying for a permit.

Construction Crunch Time

Once your planning and permitting processes are in place, it’s time to move on to the actual construction phase. Luckily, a single-room addition will be a lot less stressful than a renovation project that involves your whole house. However, it’s still a disruption to your routines. Maintaining good communication with your contractor throughout the project and being smart enough to take a break away from the house if the process is becoming too much will help you to survive the remodeling with your sense of humor intact. It’s also important to have a written agreement in place before the project starts that specifies the exact start and finish dates, the precise scope of the work, and how often cleanup is to be done. If the contract specifies that changes to the room addition should be approved by you in writing, that will also help to keep the project going smoothly.

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