So you’re considering adding an addition to your home. Or gutting your kitchen. I’d love to walk you through our project, should it help you pull the terrifying trigger. I have had many people ask how we lived through it all, or how much work was really involved, etc., so I’m hoping our experience will help anyone who is interested in building out their home.
To begin, I have two simple rules when it comes to construction:
- Expect the worst. Just know that it will not be fun, that it will be noisy and messy and loud, and that is will most likely cost more and take longer than planned. Then, when things are going well, you will be happily surprised! For our major addition, we came in right at budget and it was completed on time to the date. Score.
- As messy and loud and crazy as it can get, keep your eye on the fact that you are building out your home. That is a good, fantastic, and wonderful thing! I thought about this a lot.
Alright. I’m going to break our project down into four sections: pre-construction, exterior addition, interior construction and completion. Let’s do this.
Ah, it all begins with an idea right? Oh so fun are those moments spent fantasizing about your dream great room, kitchen, etc. Then it gets to the actual point of pulling the trigger and you realize, wow, this is going to take a lot of work just to be able to get started.
In our village, since we have under an acre lot, we had to get approval from the board to actually do this project. What that meant is endless amounts of paper work, forms to be filed out, plans to be tweaked, etc. We also had to receive a permit from our county. All of this went down during the frozen months of January and February, i.e. kids in Chicago don’t go to school, apparently. So a lot of this was going on.
Those would be my happy helpers visiting Lake County for a permit. I think it was about 3 degrees that day.
We needed to find tax bills, and sewer plans, and deeds, and set back lines, etc. Another thing I did, which I learned from my dad, was go to each and every home within three blocks, explaining to them in person what we were doing, showing them the plans, and asking for their signature in support. I was able to get 24 out of 25 homes backing us, and the one I was missing I could just never catch timing wise.
Alright. Once we had most things in order and an almost full set of signatures in support, it was time to attend a Village Board meeting to present our addition to the elected officials. This went fairly smoothly, I mean, it’s not like we are building an apartment complex here. A minor seven foot bump out was all that was being asked for.
From that point, we had to wait another four weeks for the board to then present it to the trustees. We attended that meeting, our home was called, and we were approved within minutes. None of this process was hard by any means, but it was time consuming and… drawn out. Oh and I spent $580 (!!!) alone on copying architect plans for numerous trustees who, I’m fairly sure, didn’t even open them.
But hey, we got approved! Yippee! Let’s get started.
Nope. Not just yet.
We still needed the village architect to get through our plans in detail. I’m telling you… drawn out. This was the perfect time to get all our stuff in order though. Appliance selections, shopping for counter tops, hardware, cabinets, etc. Most of our major decisions were decided prior to construction even beginning, and then when final measurements were made, bam, all we had to do was pull the trigger and things were in production.
So the above kept us busy, and then we waited some more. And made corrections. And tweaks. And finally, we received the word to pay even more money, shocking, and then voila, our permit would be issued!
Happy. Dance. I was really proud of this little piece of paper!
So, aside from hugging it all day, I decided it was a good idea to bake our neighbors a treat thanking them for the support and asking for their patience of the next few months. I mean, we are going to be some seriously annoying neighbors for awhile, with dump trucks and diggers and dumpsters and noise and mud… etc.
So those were delivered out, our permit was hung in the front window, and it was time to get started.
Within a day of receiving our permit, the digging began. Our contractor was ready to go and so were we! What this meant was a lot of mud, piles of dirt, rocks, and this new toy for B to play on. To say he was obsessed was putting it mildly.
The first few weeks, aside from the back yard being totally unusable, we weren’t really impacted. We would watch the guys from the patio doors, digging away, and pretty soon it was time to lay concrete, meaning we had the new foundation for our addition!
Not pretty, but the foundation was complete. I remember asking my contractor at one point, I’m going to have a yard again right? Like a patio with grass? It all seemed so… gross. He laughed and assured me everything would be put back together.
Now that the foundation was laid, the next step was to actually build out the addition. So, you see the exterior portion of the home above? That all had to be demolished. So in order for us to be minimally impacted as possible, three feet inwards of that exterior wall a fake wall was built so we could still live in our (now smaller) family room with a working kitchen while the guys built it all out.
I remember the day they came inside to put up the wall and begin demo. Is this really happening? EEK! Obviously, the kids had fun with it. And we had all our friends and family sign it. Like a cast.
One giant coloring wall! And hey, they even gave me a window. So nice.
I remember when my contractor said we would still be able to access the dining room from the kitchen. Ummmmm…
…no. Not happening. But that’s OK.
So for awhile, like almost two months or so, we lived like this. Fake wall up, smaller family room and kitchen, but fully functional. Most of the noise and mess was all kept outside, and we would check on it from time to time through our little window and occasionally sneak in. I got in trouble for this. Whoops.
Oh, another aspect that I should mention that was going on: Wood. We were replacing all wood on the first floor, and that wood needed to acclimate to our home. So throughout the living room, hall, and dining room were piles and piles of wood, meaning the only room on the first floor actually fully useable and not affected was the master bedroom. Once most of the exterior addition was complete, they moved inside and would rotate rooms, moving the wood, ripping up the old floor (SO LOUD BY THE WAY), building the new sub floor, and laying down the new wood. Honestly, this was the hardest part of construction for me. It’s just that every room was pretty much unusable, we were climbing over piles of wood, walking on sub floors, there were nails and splinters and dust… etc. I was really happy when the master bedroom, dining room, and living room floors were complete. Really happy.
So, with the floors in progress and the exterior addition mostly built, it was time to put our yard back together. This was a very fun part for us. With the weather changing a bit (ever so slightly warmer), it was nice having the patio outside since inside was a bit rough. We also had a place to entertain! Yep, the disaster zone of our home didn’t stop us. Bonfires and grilling with friends, even through the chaos, was oh so fun.
Look! We have a patio. And a fire pit. And (some) grass! Not to mention, exterior walls and windows. Things were moving along, right on schedule.
So after almost two full months of living with a fake wall, it was time for the reveal. Part of me didn’t want that puppy coming down because, well, that meant my kitchen was adios. But we were dying for a sense of, well, space, that the addition brought to our family room. It was so hard to gauge with that fake wall up.
and now… time for the reveal! Here are the boys ‘helping’ take it down… (nice pants, by the way, B). Going…
Ahhhhh, look at that space! The light! We were so used to living with one teeny tiny window on that wall, it was so nice to see all the bright light and of course, the room to move around.
Next up was laying the floors in the addition. Obviously, B helped with that. Looking good.
Because we like to add more to the chaos, we also thought it would be great to add some woodwork to our ceiling. So, for a good week or so, we got to live with scaffolding and power saws. Fun! Again, so pretty. And quiet.
Alright. Now that the fake wall was down and the ceiling and wood floors were complete, it was time. Yep, time to say goodbye to the kitchen. Crazy to look back at this old photo…
Obviously, I had so much anxiety about this part. Cooking is what I do! I have to say, though, the anticipation was so much worse. Yes, it was weird to come home from picking B up at school only to see our kitchen IN the driveway, but getting the old all out meant we were one step closer to the project being complete. And that meant brand new cabinets with brand new appliances. Again, focusing on the positives. These are good things.
How did we get through it? Well, we kept our old fridge in the space up and running. So fresh smoothies and veggies and yogurt and lunch meats, etc, were all still ready to go for the boys. Obviously, we stocked up on paper plates and utensils.
We had no counter tops, so we used a bar stool to host the toaster and Keurig (a must). The grill was our best friend, and we kept so busy with L’s baseball schedule that many nights we weren’t even home at dinner time. And yes, there were many nights of (good) take out. And awesome meals from friends and family were a major bonus.
Here is where we often sat for a meal, taking turns. Funny, right? Note the wine. Necessary.
Pretty soon it was cabinet day, yippee! They arrived and we said a quick prayer that everything would fit. It’s like a puzzle and one inch off, things go bad quickly. Luckily though, we didn’t have any major issues and any minor ones our fantastic contractor worked out on his own.
So cabinets were in, but we were still missing some major players. Counter tops, appliances, hardware. Those arrived roughly week by week, and every piece was so exciting to see come in. And I would sigh a huuuuuuuuuge relief that I picked the right option.
One of my favorite photos from construction! It was so wonderful to have a sink again and there is something about a toddler in a sink…
Finally. We had the workings of a functional kitchen.
Ah, my favorite part. The end. Fresh paint on the walls, art work up, rugs on the floor, it was a real room! And we could not get enough. We were in love.
This photo is missing trim but you get the general idea… huge change from before.
I would, and still do, wake up in the morning and walk out into the great room thinking it’s a dream. The five months of construction were 1000% worth it. And thanks to our fantastic contractor, we finished on budget on time. Unheard of, right? He’s currently made his way to our wonderful cousins‘ home, as well as our dear friends‘ lake cottage. Keeping it in the family.
And with that, our project is complete. Many have asked what is next for our growing Cape Cod. Right now I’m focusing on helping a few others with projects in their home… it’s fun and I can still do the design thing, but I get to spend someone else’s money! I know M is appreciative of that.
We have some updating to the boys’ room to do (B’s nursery to a big boy room), and their bathroom is in serious need of some help, but right now we are going to pause and enjoy exactly what we have.