For many folks, 2020 has been the year to stay home and figure out what really bothers you about your house. If you’ve decided that you need more space, you now need to decide if you want to move, build, or add-on to the existing house.

Is it Worth the Hassle?

Pro: If you stay and renovate, you get to keep any equity you’ve built up. Additionally, you can use that equity to do the work and not have to deal with finding another mortgage and facing a bigger payment. Finally, if your neighborhood will support a bigger house and you won’t lose value, you can probably recoup some of what you spent.

Con: Adding on to your house is disruptive and messy. Yes, but moving is more disruptive. With a little plastic and a focus on keeping “tourists” out of your addition, you can minimize the mess. However, it will take a little planning. Don’t open up walls to the outside during mosquito season or right before that big snow.

Do I Have to Hire a Contractor?

Yes, or you will need to pull the permits and learn a lot about building codes. Plus, unless you really know what you’re doing on the actual build process, you’ll have to hire a contractor to fix what you did, so beforehand is best.

Plus, a qualified contractor can help you walk through the site and determine what you really need. For example, your growing family may no longer work well in just one bathroom, so you may be planning to add a second bath on the second floor of the house. This process may or may not mean that your one and only bathroom will be out of commission for a short time, so your contractor has helped you determine when you will take the kids to see Grandma and Grandpa.

Other Ways of Increasing Your Space

You may also determine that in addition to more space in the house, you need more living and working space outside of the house. There are many outbuildings and steel buildings on the market that could serve as a pool house, a woodshop, or a craft space. Best of all, you could get it plumbed for an additional bathroom.

Can I Do Some Myself?

Pros of doing your own work: Pride, a sense of ownership, and reduced costs.

Cons of doing your own work: Bandages, emergency room visits, and an addition that really doesn’t make you happy.

If you’ve ever done any sheetrocking, you know that this looks easy on television and is heavy, awkward, and labor-intensive when you’re doing it alone. There are many, many projects that look fairly straightforward on a home improvement show that turn into nightmarish, labor-intensive, and possibly hazardous projects by the time you actually do the work.

For example, replacing a toilet seat is fairly straightforward. Replacing a toilet seat that has rusted to the ceramic base until the screws have crumbled away so you have to grind the seat hardware off the body of the toilet? Not so straightforward.

If you want to do your own painting, see if your contractor will get your project to what’s called “sheetrock finish”. This means the walls are up and ready to be primed and painted.

You can also learn to put up ceramic tile on a utility room wall or a sink backsplash. Don’t attempt to tile a shower surround; this process is much more fiddly and the risk of damaging your house can be severe.

What About Expense?

If you have any equity in your home, you may be able to go through your current mortgage holder to finance your addition or renovation, while a new house may take much more legwork to get the financing together. Additionally, what you save on a realtor can go right back into your existing home.

The worst way to waste your money and your energy is to refuse to renovate for you and yours, then update your house to sell it. Now you’re dealing with the hassle of moving and of renovating.

If you love your location and the schools are good, talk to a contractor and your banker about adding onto the house. Take care not to be the biggest house in the neighborhood at the end of your project. Keep an eye on expenses and do the work you’re capable of doing safely and well.