Home Remodeling Projects in Los Angeles

by Marc Jannone on December 8, 2011

Jannone Construction and Development
502 San Vicente #105 Santa MonicaCA90402 USA 
 • 310-989-3499

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There are a lot of reasons why homeowners choose to add on to their existing homes rather than go on the market for a new one.  If you are simply looking for some extra space, additions can provide what you need with far less disruption than a move.   And if you are particularly attached to your neighborhood, one where the pace of life seems to suit you perfectly, it’s a great idea that allows you to preserve the space you have already established. 

As with any project, building the addition yourself is an option to consider.  Doing it this way can allow you to set your own pace and perhaps accommodate a busy work schedule.  But on the same token, finding the time to actually do the work could prove difficult.  Most homeowners will choose to either manage the project while others do the work, or hand it all over to a general contractor with the experience to handle complicated issues as they arise.  In any case, knowing the scope of a project and what it entails will help you to choose wisely once you are ready to proceed.

To help you along the way, you should always first ask yourself the following: how is the addition going to affect my existing home? You need to consider, especially with older homes, that a new addition may bring to light certain inadequacies in your home that you weren’t aware of.  Existing aspects that were once acceptable to you, such as the roof, siding, and windows may seem worn and dated.  In addition, the essential systems of the house, such as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC may need upgrades to accommodate your goals.  By taking all these factors into account you can make sure your project will meet your family’s present and future needs.

Basic Types of Home Additions in Los Angeles

Bump-Out  Additions
These are least disruptive and least expensive usually, but that does not mean they can’t have a dramatic impact.  They can be from just a few feet deep to the length of an entire wall, and while the square footage gain can be minimal, they can allow you to add features that were otherwise impossible to have.  In pushing out an existing kitchen wall, for example you could create a new seating alcove or nook that provides valuable family space.  And by adding a few extra feet of depth to your bath you could install a built-in jet tub that would have otherwise been too large for the room.  

To see if a plan like this is feasible for you, you will first need to check the setback requirements for your area (meaning the necessary footage between your home and your legal property line). Prepare to address this issue by having accurate dimensions of your plans and a measurement of the distance between your home and property line.

Two Story Addition
If you need more space than a single bump-out can provide, but have no desire to forgo the expense of excavating an entirely new foundation, your best solution might be to build on top of your current frame.  A lot of homeowners with little existing yard space are reluctant to give up more of their precious outside property area, and so choose to build another level.  This is also the case when tight property lines which are already pressed by setback requirements rule out lateral building-on altogether.  This choice is likely to cost less than adding on a wing to the home, but nonetheless, it will also give you the option to dramatically evolve the face of your home by introducing new architectural features bridging the old and new square footage together.

Building- On
By simply building-on to your existing home you can add anything from a new room to a new wing in your house from any direction on the property.  It’s also a great way utilize lateral space if you have too much yard area.  This type of remodeling is best utilized for a home office, studio, master suite, or guest room.  A good example of a less dramatic variant on this is the los angeles garage conversion we recently completed.   In effect, repurposing structures already on your property are good ways to also build-on to your current livable space with far less cost.

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The most important component to a home’s structural integrity, its load bearing walls support the bulk of the weight the structure must endure.  Needless to say, any remodeling project must take care preserve the structural integrity of its load bearing walls—but that does not mean that once in place they cannot be modified.  When your plans call for a large open space, one in which load bearing walls cross between two rooms you want to connect, then the only option you have is to install a beam structure that can take the place of the former load bearing wall.   Strict building codes are set up to help you determine exactly what size this beam must be, and in almost all cases it is recommended that a structural engineer be involved to create a plan.

Using a stud finder, first check to see if the wall you have in mind is a bearing one.  If the wall is load bearing, you will almost always find that the ceiling and floor framing will run perpendicular to it.  An experienced contractor or local building inspector can help you to verify your findings.  Once you make the determination, you will then need to consult a structural engineer or architect to find the right size of beam needed.  The size of the beam will be determined by two factors: the length of the opening you desire, and the overall length of your home.  It takes an experienced tradesperson to make these calculations, which will have to be verified by a local building inspector in order to proceed.  In some rare cases, the size of the beam needed will require you to have new dedicated footings dug out and poured to support the structure.  The requirements for this will be determined by your local building codes, and your local inspector will be sure to let you know if this is the case.

For these long spans, a common material used is known as LVL, or laminated veneer lumber.  It is an engineered wood product that uses multiple layers of wood assembled with glue.  As such, it offers a number of advantages over milled lumber: it will remain straighter and more uniform, and it will resist warping and shrinkage.  This inevitably saves you money on onsite labor and this is why we use it in most cases where we are installing a large beam.

lam-beam-jannone
A laminated wood beam opens large areas where load bearing walls once were

Remember, a header, or beam is required to support the load over any framed opening.  This means all openings in exterior walls and over all interior load-bearing walls.  In recent years, a lot of homeowners have been opting for the large open spaces that these types of structures afford.  It’s a great way to create a flow within your home that gives you a lot of latitude with your decorating choices—especially with furniture and fixture placement.  But this is certainly the domain of construction professionals, so be sure to consult your local codes before you proceed.

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